By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Triple H vs. Dolph Ziggler: Another strong Triple H match. There were plenty of questions about his performance in the Royal Rumble match, but he has silenced critics with strong outings against Dean Ambrose and now Ziggler over the last few days. The near falls in this match were very well done and the live crowd totally bought in to the idea of Ziggler winning as farfetched as it seemed. Was I the only one who hoped that Ziggler was going to take up The Authority when they implied that he could be their guy? Babyface Ziggler has been lost in mid-card purgatory. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen heel Ziggler and I would like to see him cast in that role again.
New Day vs. Rusev and Alberto Del Rio: Raw finally started with a match rather than 20-minute talking segment. Okay, so New Day came out and pimped their BootyO’s cereal box to a crowd that initially viewed them as heels, but they got into the match quickly. Working with League of Nations was enough to make the crowd get behind New Day, and the post-match beatdown angle succeeded in making New Day look sympathetic. Are they setting up a tag title match at WrestleMania? Maybe a handicap match? Or maybe New Day bring in a fourth man for an eight-man tag match?
Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose: With the Triple H match behind Ambrose, they got back to heating up the Ambrose vs. Lesnar program heading into their match at WrestleMania. WWE wants you to think this is going to be a hardcore war. Ambrose brought a crowbar to the ring with him, and then Mick Foley presented him with his trusty barbwire baseball bat. The match meshes with Ambrose’s style, but it’s a bit odd for dominant wrestler Lesnar. The important thing is that it seems to be working with fans.
Sami Zayn vs. The Miz: A much better showing for Zayn than we saw during his Roadblock match. It was odd to see Miz take a shot at Kevin Owens. WWE is usually really good about showing recaps from past television shows, but in this case the live crowd (and a lot of television viewers) were left confused by Miz striking Owens from behind until the broadcast team reminded us that Owens walked out on their tag match. Owens has issues with Sami, Miz, and Neville. Unfortunately, Neville is going to miss WrestleMania with a fractured ankle, but it appears that WWE will be going with a big multi-person match for the Intercontinental Title rather than the Owens vs. Zayn match.
Chris Jericho: The babyface Jericho character came off like a dated weenie at times, yet his heel persona is tremendous. Jericho’s promo on the Toronto crowd at Roadblock was one of my early favorites of 2016, and his mic work on Raw was also very good. Jericho also deserves credit for improvising a finish that worked perfectly for his bitter character after Neville suffered the unfortunate ankle injury.
WWE Raw Misses
Shane McMahon, Undertaker, and Vince McMahon: For as much as creative goes above and beyond to make The Authority seem like they are one step ahead of everyone else, they sure do make Shane McMahon look stupid. This is the same guy who had leverage over his father in the form of the forgotten lockbox, yet still agreed to put his future on the line in a match against Undertaker in Undertaker’s own match. As if that’s not idiotic enough, then he goes on Raw and tells Undertaker the strategy he intends to use during their match. Of course, Shane didn’t help his own cause when he misspoke during the verbal exchange, and he has never looked more ridiculous than when he threw several harmless body shots at Taker and then did the goofball Shane Shuffle. What part of Undertaker’s 25-year career would make anyone think that a few body shots from a middle aged promoter’s son would be so damaging that it was time for a dance number? It would be one thing if Shane were the heel, but he’s a babyface who thought he wounded Taker enough to dance like a fool. Despite this flop of a segment, Taker vs. Shane still has more juice than any other WrestleMania match. However, they might be better off keeping these guys apart from now until WrestleMania if they want to keep it that way.
Roman Reigns: The Miss is not because of what they did with Reigns on this particular night, it’s simply an obvious acknowledgement of it being too little too late. An injury angle, a few weeks away, and then a dominating beatdown of the authority figure still wasn’t enough to turn the crowd in his favor. And it’s not like Pittsburgh was a hot crowd filled with fans who cheered the heels throughout the night. The adult male fans are rejecting Reigns as the top babyface. The only question now is whether Vince McMahon will concede in the form of a turn or if he is going to continue to shove Roman down the throats of fans and have him rejected on the biggest WWE stage in history. A double turn at WrestleMania is the logical choice. Will Vince finally accept reality?
Ryback vs. Sin Cara: The live crowd was hot for the first two segments of the show and used this match to come down. I had to laugh at Ryback being scripted to issue the WrestleMania challenge only to walk backstage. Wouldn’t you want to know if the champion accepts your challenge?
Naomi and Tamina vs. Brie Bella and Alicia Fox: We don’t know why Lana is messing with Brie Bella other than it’s WrestleMania time and they are setting up a match. There’s no history between them and their sudden rivalry feels so random. I’ve never understood the decision to put Alicia with the Bella Twins. There has never been chemistry between them and their tag matches are channel changing material.
Jimmy and Jey Uso vs. Bo Dallas and Adam Rose: The strange build to the Usos vs. Dudley Boyz feud at WrestleMania continues. The Uso Brothers simply won this match and then the Dudleys, who were on commentary briefly, simply headed backstage. There was zero physicality or even storyline progression, yet we found out after Raw that an Usos vs. Dudleys match had been added to WrestleMania. It’s good to see both teams get WrestleMania spots, but they deserve better storyline support than they have been given since the Dudleys turned heel.
Hotdogs: The idea of using The Social Outcasts as pitchmen is only slightly better than having Jared pimp sub sandwiches from prison.