By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Dean Ambrose and Triple H: I expected better chemistry between Ambrose and Hunter. It didn’t help that Ambrose seemed scripted to be overly cute with this lines. I like the Ambrose character when he’s angry and manic, not when he’s delivering a string of hit and miss one-liners. The reason I ultimately settled in on giving them a Hit is simply because I like the match they set up for the Roadblock live special. I also like that Hunter is more than just a guy who entered last and won the Royal Rumble only to inevitably lose the title in his only defense at WrestleMania. Nothing they did left me anxious to see Hunter face Ambrose or feeling like there’s a chance that Ambrose could win the title, but I am curious to see how the match will play out with both guys in key matches at WrestleMania.
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch: A good match with the desired finish. Okay, so we just saw the double pin finish on NXT television, but I’m all for whatever gets both of these women into a Triple Threat with Charlotte at WrestleMania. In other words, let’s have another silly finish on Smackdown! By the way, I loved Charlotte’s performance as she talked down to Banks and Lynch backstage, yet I also despised the way Becky and Sasha were scripted to just stand there and take it. Charlotte isn’t an untouchable McMahon family member, so her character shouldn’t be allowed to talk down to people like they do without any repercussions.
New Day vs. AJ Styles and Chris Jericho: A good television match. I must confess that the Styles and Jericho pairing does nothing for me. It’s never been a dream of mine to watch the two of them form a tag team. I want to see Styles in a variety of matches with fresh singles opponents, not chasing the tag titles. I am still holding out hope that a breakup is coming. The fact that the title match was set for Raw rather than WrestleMania left me even more hopeful that we will be seeing a split. And if we’re really lucky, Styles will face Jericho at Roadblock with the winner challenging for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania.
Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio: The Hit is due to match holding my interest once it started. It’s worth nothing that I’m a captive viewer because of what I do for a living, so there’s a very good chance that I would have given up on this grueling marathon of a show before the opening bell rang. WWE once again went back to the formula of having one of their top babyfaces wrestle a League of Nations member with the rest of the faction at ringside. I like the League of Nations members as individuals, but WWE has to know that the faction is ice cold. It’s also embarrassing to see them protected with a non-finish last week and an apparent DQ finish this week. There’s no reason to protect them while they are together. The faction was dead on arrival, and it’s time to have them go their separate ways and let the rebuilding process begin. By the way, I can’t ignore the latest ridiculous double stomp from Del Rio that required yet another opponent to hold himself in place before the move was performed. Del Rio needs to go back to using the Cross Arm Breaker finisher and use the double stomp sparingly and only when it doesn’t look hokey.
WWE Raw Misses
Undertaker and Vince McMahon: WWE had people buzzing. No matter how you feel about Shane McMahon facing Undertaker at WrestleMania, you were talking about it after last week’s show. I was anxious to see what Undertaker would have to say about Vince McMahon booking him without his blessing. Would it turn out that Taker was somehow tied into whatever Shane is holding over Vince’s head? Would Taker lash out against Vince McMahon and refuse to take the match? Nope, Taker is apparently content to face whomever Vince puts in front of him at WrestleMania. So Taker is not a heel, nor is he a babyface. Taker is apparently just coldblooded. This approach doesn’t damage the WrestleMania match with Shane, but it made for a big letdown of a followup segment.
Stephanie McMahon promo: Stephanie gave viewers too much solid logic when it came to why Shane isn’t the good guy. She made him out to be a sexist blackmailer who abandoned WWE. She didn’t do it in an over the top manner designed to make fans despise her. Rather, she went for realism or at least perceived realism regarding the McMahon family dynamic. I don’t think any real damage was done because the Stephanie character has been such a despicable heel that there’s no way the fans are going to turn on Shane to side with her, but I’m really not sure what purpose this segment was supposed to serve. No one thinks this is real. Fans are buzzing over the freak show spectacle match between Taker and Shane, not over the McMahon family drama. We’ve been there and done that for nearly 20 years. If anything, fans are excited because Shane represents hope for change from the tired heel authority figure and McMahon family storyline dominance.
Sheamus and Rusev vs. Kalisto and Sin Cara: Another League of Nations snoozer. I appreciated the good ring work even though I was struggling to keep my eyes open. Again, I like Sheamus and Rusev as individual acts, but there is no chemistry between them. No one takes League of Nations seriously and that’s not going to change. Heck, no one took this act seriously when Sheamus had the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and Del Rio had the U.S. Title. Speaking of champions, we have a U.S. Champion who can only beat Del Rio in every other match, and then loses to everyone else.
Ryback vs. Adam Rose: What did WWE expect viewers to feel? Ryback abandoned his babyface partners last week and then cut a heelish promo about how he deserves the spotlight. Then he faces Rose, who is part of a foursome is destined to appear on a future WWE Countdown list of worst factions. The Social Outcasts tend to be heels more often than not, so does that mean they wanted us to cheer when Ryback punched Rose repeatedly? Or was Ryback a heel because of the way he blew off the referee’s concern for Rose so that he could continue to punch him and then perform his finisher on him? Apparently Ryback was not a heel, as Michael Cole endorsed him by asking where this version of Ryback has been. None of this made any sense whatsoever.
Bubba Ray vs. Jey Uso: I was excited when the Dudley Boyz turn heel to feud with the Uso Brothers. I figured we would get some good heel mic work from Bubba, some character development from the Uso Brothers after all these years, and it would all lead to a big tag team showdown match. Instead, we’ve had some tame mic work from Bubba, zero change from the happy go lucky Uso Brothers, and we’re instead getting singles matches that make the eventual tag match feel like anything but a showdown. I don’t want the Dudley Boyz to be cast as hypocrites. I want the Dudley Boyz to be ruthless badass heels who will do anything to win.
Kevin Owens vs. Big Show: Big Show was counted out on Smackdown, so he returns the favor by laughing as Owens crushed his balls before being counted out at ringside. I get that it was payback, but none of this left me wanting to see more. Give Owens the mic.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Vice TV's "Dark Side of the Ring" executive producers Evan Husney and Jason Eisner discussing the March 24 second season premiere focusing on the Benoit family tragedy, plus their pro wrestling fandom, the show's name and origins, highlights of season two, Chris Jericho becoming the narrator, and much more...