By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte for the Raw Women’s Championship: A very good main event with a creative finish that saw Sasha use a handrail for leverage while applying the Bank Statement for the win. The big question is whether the game of hot potato that Sasha and Charlotte are playing with the Raw Women’s Championship is damaging the title. As ridiculous as it is that both women have already won the title three times in the 16 months they have been on the main roster, I didn’t come out of this match feeling like the title was damaged. Still, they clearly need to pick a direction and go with a long term champion, as they are definitely pushing it with these brief title reigns. Was anyone buying it when Mick Foley positioned this match as the end of their feud?
Paul Heyman addresses Brock Lesnar’s loss to Goldberg: There were a lot of ways that Heyman could have played this. For instance, he could have made the loss seem like a fluke or simply laughed it off in John Cena style. Instead, the disheveled and teary-eyed Heyman sold the agony of defeat. He also positioned Lesnar as being more unpredictable than ever, even noting that some people fail when they are put in a position where they feel like they have something left to prove. The big announcement that Lesnar will be in the Royal Rumble match was delivered well by Heyman, yet treated horribly by WWE. The broadcast team should have been awestruck. They should have spent at least a minute raving about how great the Royal Rumble match will be now that Goldberg and Lesnar have both entered. Instead, they spoke for a few seconds and then New Day made their entrance and everything just went back to normal. Weak.
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens: The Hit goes for match quality. However, the idea of Reigns challenging Owens for the Universal Championship at Roadblock feels flat. Reigns’s popularity doesn’t seem to have improved since he was pulled from the title picture in favor of becoming U.S. Champion, and I don’t think a return to the title mix is going to help either. If nothing else, the atmosphere should be strong in that the Reigns fans will obviously want him to win the title, and the anti-Reigns crowd should be very vocal while rooting against him. WWE lives for this reaction in the building even though you have to wonder whether it’s enough of a turnoff that they lose viewers who have no interest in seeing Reigns in the title picture.
Seth Rollins takes out Chris Jericho: The Jericho and Owens dynamic shifted this week and WWE went above and beyond to show viewers that Jericho would not interfere in this particular Owens’ match. Jericho was compelling as he shifted to being pouty and hurt after Owens told him to shut up. The attack by Rollins cemented that Jericho wouldn’t be able to swerve everyone again this week, and it was a logical move for Rollins given that Jericho’s character cost him the title last week. That said, shouldn’t the Rollins character be irked that Reigns inserted himself into the title picture?
Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn: Strowman continued to be showcased as a monster by plowing through R-Truth, beating up Goldust, and then roughing up Zayn in the post-match angle. Zayn is cast nicely as the underdog who won’t quit.
New Day vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: If only we had been given straight forward, ass kicking Gallows and Anderson when their feud with New Day started. Instead, we had nut jokes and silly skits, and Gallows and Anderson were never positioned as strong threats to win the tag titles. They were great last night as there was no comedy, and the duo went after New Day aggressively. I’m not sure why New Day is cheating to win. This week it was positioned as turnabout being fair play, but last week they cheated to beat fellow babyface Cesaro. I’d be fine with New Day turning heel if that’s what they are going for, but it seems like the timing is odd as they are cheating to hold onto the titles long enough to break Demolition’s record. Shouldn’t fans feel good about the trio reaching that milestone rather than see them as being desperate and the record feeling somewhat tarnished?
Rich Swann vs. Noam Dar: The match was fine and Brian Kendrick did a nice job on commentary of establishing that he was on edge heading into his title defense against Swann. Unfortunately, the segment ended on a flat note thanks to the oddball Swann promo.
WWE Raw Misses
Sheamus and Cesaro bar fight: The idea of Sheamus and Cesaro bonding after a bar fight was a good one. Unfortunately, WWE over produced the segment to the point that it was downright cheesy. In the cellphone camera era, why not show us some lower budget footage that we might see if this were a real situation and someone sold the footage to TMZ? WWE thinks they are making movies, but this corny scene wouldn’t have made the cut in a low rent, straight to DVD flick. Sadly, the most unrealistic thing about the segment occurred in the opening segment when the bartender and the attractive brunette (played by Tessa Blanchard) were talking about pro wrestling. Um, sure.
Tony Nese vs. Cedric Alexander: Alexander was in his hometown and thus received one of the bigger reactions a cruiserweight has received on Raw thus far. Rather than play into that and let Alexander get the win and a big ovation afterward, WWE once again had a wrestler lose in his hometown. And if this had somehow led to real heat for Nese then it would have been fine, but there was zero heat in him winning due to Alexander being distracted by Drew Gulak. No one gained anything from this.
Rusev vs. Enzo Amore: Rusev and Lana have scripted to play this too straight from the start. There’s nothing really unlikable about them in this feud. It would be different if they had positioned this as Enzo being apologetic last week and Lana being overly prudish in response. Instead, it was Enzo exposing himself to Lana and showing no remorse, which makes Rusev’s reaction feel completely justifiable.
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