By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
The Club feuding with John Cena, Enzo Amore, and Big Cass: Adding the fresh Enzo and Big Cass to Cena’s team rather than the one dimensional Uso Brothers was a good move. Enzo and Cass are over and they will get something out of teaming with Cena. For that matter, Cena will actually get something out of working with the cool kids.
Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz: A minor Hit in that I came away feeling conflicted. The Hit is for the match quality. I’m typically an advocate for giving Miz a sense of in-ring credibility, but his approach is still so chickenshit heel that feels like there’s no point. Fans don’t view Miz as a threat to the top stars. Having him hold his own with guys like Ambrose and AJ Styles should help, but I come away feeling it did more to harm his opponents than help him simply because the credibility is erased when he gets too cute on the mic. We know Miz can get mid-card heat and that’s fine. However, if he wants to be more than that then he needs to present himself as being more than a mid-card act at all times.
Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler: Another minor Hit for match quality. Rollins and Ziggler work very well together. The problem continues to be that Ziggler has been beaten down to the point that the fans don’t take him seriously when he’s working with a top wrestler. He has to work so
Team USA vs. The Multinational Alliance: A minor Hit. This could have been more fun if they had included some bigger names, but it was a harmless holiday show main event. I’ve had some readers complain that it would have been better if the foreign team had been all heels, but Raw is a worldwide product and one can assume that the American viewership was way down, so there’s no point in making the rest of the world look like cheesy villain fodder for the American heroes of the WWE Superstars television show. The real negatives of the match were the two eliminations with the chair being used on a partner and then someone who was already eliminated. Even the broadcast team was mocking the silliness of those eliminations.
WWE Raw Misses
Brock Lesnar hype: Lesnar’s return to WWE television should always be treated like a major event. WWE gave it the same level of hype they typically dedicate to hyping a talkshow segment for Smackdown. Give me a video package. Give me Paul Heyman hyping the carnage that Lesnar will leave behind. Hell, at least have the broadcast team act like Lesnar returning is something special rather than just a hook for Smackdown. By the way, I like that they are making the announcement on Smackdown. I just hope they are wise enough to make this announcement away from the live crowd for a change. Otherwise, word will leak quickly and this won’t be as much of a hook for Smackdown, and I’ll be left wondering why they didn’t just make the announcement on Raw. It will be interesting to see if there’s a reason they are making this announcement prior to Lesnar’s fight at UFC 200 rather than holding out until next week.
WWE Draft hype: I love Vickie Guerrero and I get a bigger kick out of the Big Johnny character than I probably should. Nevertheless, the use of the bumbling former general managers has set a lousy tone for the draft. Perhaps it would be acceptable if WWE were doing a better job of hyping the draft in other segments, but the only other people who have acknowledged it thus far are broadcast team members using corporate speak, Shane and Stephanie McMahon, and New Day. This is a mega event for WWE, but WWE has failed thus far to make it feel like more than just a special edition of Smackdown.
Food Fight: Vince McMahon loves his holiday food fights. And while I must confess that I chuckled at a few of these back in the eighties, the tone of the product is so different today compared to the cartoon days that it felt completely out of place. I truly believe the majority of the fan base wants the wrestlers presented in a realistic manner, and the product to feel sports-like. Instead, WWE scripts its “superstars” to come off as food throwing neanderthals. Vince McMahon wants WWE to be all things to all people, but he just refuses to admit that his brand of “haha” appeals to so few and turns off so many.
Summer Rae vs. Becky Lynch: The brief match had a dangerous spot with Summer appearing to go for a suplex that somehow turned into a nasty looking DDT. I don’t know which wrestler is to blame, but that was downright frightening.
Rusev vs. Titus O’Neil: Okay, Rusev’s “little weenies” line made me chuckle despite what I wrote about Vince McMahon’s brand of humor. The problem with the match was the presentation. Why not make a big fuss over Titus trying to take back the U.S. Championship from the foreign monster on Independence Day? WWE’s goal was clearly to fill three hours and not much else last night, yet they couldn’t find time to give this match the obvious buildup that would have made it feel bigger than it did?
The Social Outcasts: Is anyone other than Vince McMahon laughing at the majority of their attempts at humor? I like all three guys. I just hate them together.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Brian Fritz of Sporting News and Between The Ropes discussing WrestleMania 36, WWE television from the empty WWE Performance Center, his own travel woes, NFL free agency, and more...