By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins: The Hit is entirely for the match quality. I went into it feeling completely apathetic for a number of reasons, most notably that it’s hard to be excited about seeing the two of them fight over the title when their Triple Threat with Roman Reigns is just days away. However, the work of the wrestlers drew me in for the near falls down the stretch and I came away entertained by the Raw main event. The big negative is the way the finish was handled. If you want to have a cliffhanger then have a cliffhanger. It’s the night before the draft and Smackdown moving to Tuesdays, so it would have been perfectly logical to take that approach. Instead, they opted to have the scene play out on WWE Network without actually telling viewers there was going to be an update on WWE Network. Fans who went to the WWE website looking for clarification were given a recap of what happened on Raw and then told to check WWE Network to see how it played out. I don’t mind when WWE has a little post-Raw bonus scene on the network, but it’s too much to ask viewers to sit through three hours and 15 minutes of Raw and then require them to watch the network to find out the finish of a title match. And I assume WWE understood this too and that’s why they didn’t actually advertise the network bonus footage to their viewers. However, they didn’t even stick with the cliffhanger theme for viewers who didn’t go the network. Rather, they announced that Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon booked a rematch for tonight’s Smackdown. This isn’t a controversial move that will leave everyone anxious to see Smackdown or just buzzing about the product, it was just a poorly conceived stunt that was far more awkward than compelling.
John Cena, Enzo Amore, Big Cass, and New Day vs. The Club and The Wyatt Family: WWE won’t be able to have many 12-man tag matches once the roster is split, so why the hell not have one here? The match was solid and the right team went over with the pay-per-view just days away. The real plus to all of it was the mic work of Enzo Amore, who stole the show from other strong talkers and had his best Raw performance to date. The only negative of any of this was that it was a weak followup to the New Day and Wyatt Family compound video. New Day said they were proud that the mind games didn’t break them, but otherwise they were back to doing their comedy schtick as usual.
Daniel Bryan as Smackdown GM: Will Pruett and I said shortly after the roster split was announced that Bryan was at the top of the WWE wish list for this position and I’m happy that it came to fruition. The big question at the time was whether Bryan would take the job given the understandable difficulty he had with coming to grips with the end of his in-ring career. It’s good to have him back, and I really like the feelings of positivity and change that he and Shane McMahon represent as the Smackdown authority figures.
Seth Rollins’ empty arena promo: It was a nice change to hear him talk rather than deliver a typical wrestling promo in front of the live crowd. Of course, the key to this segment was the setting. The empty arena and Seth’s calm approach immediately grabbed my attention. It was nice to see WWE do something outside their norm and this turned out to be the most effective push they have given the Battleground main event. Dean Ambrose’s Ode To Max Headroom video was at the other end of the spectrum, but I applaud the attempt to shake things up from a production standpoint.
Sami Zayn and Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho: Did Sami really say that his match with Owens at Battleground could be their last match ever due to the brand split? Didn’t they already hype their Battleground match as their last match?!? Putting that aside, the match was entertaining even if it did have the feeling of a Smackdown main event in that it was fun while it lasted yet inconsequential at the same time. Here’s hoping that’s the last time I can make that comparison now that the roster split is here.
WWE Raw Misses
Stephanie and Shane McMahon: The only thing worse than Shane suggesting that Stephanie wakes up every morning wishing she had testicles was Stephanie talking about her lady balls. Is Shane being scripted to be misogynistic or is Shane the man ad-libbing while revealing himself to be a card carrying member of the He-Man Women Hater’s Club? WWE has to know that “lady balls” is not clever, it just sounds gross. The best thing about the draft is that we won’t have to see these awkward back and forth exchanges with Stephanie and Shane. Their game of insulting one another with smiles on their faces is painful to watch. I’m actually dreading the big four pay-per-views now simply because you know these two will be scripted to eat up time bickering with one another whenever their characters appear on the same shows.
Mick Foley as Raw GM: I like Mick Foley. Hell, we all like Mick Foley. He is a legend. He is a nice guy. He does great things for charity. Unfortunately, he also brings a huge feeling of “been here and done that” as the Raw general manager. I wanted to be wowed by Steph’s general manager, and instead we ended up with one of the usual suspects. We also ended up with a character that has been positioned as more of a fun loving goodwill ambassador than a leader or a great wrestling mind. The positive is that Foley brings balance by serving as babyface to Stephanie’s heel role. However, I truly fear that this is going to be nothing more than an emasculation. Will they even get through a single episode of Raw without Stephanie ripping into Foley? Can they make it through a month of shows without scripting Stephanie to slap the piss out of Foley?
Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch: Charlotte and Brooke have shown zero chemistry and I hope WWE calls off this pairing by splitting them up in the draft. Dana’s best asset is her mouth, but she rarely speaks now that she’s with Charlotte. The Natalya attack on Lynch was logical in that it furthered her program with Lynch, and it helped get Charlotte out facing Sasha. Ultimately, though, the entire segment felt flat and they did nothing to generate more excitement over Sasha’s mystery partner at Battleground by having Cole claim that she told him that she has it covered.
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...