By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and Braun Strowman: Any combination of Reigns and Rollins working tag or singles matches against Owens and Jericho has been run into the ground as a Raw match at this point (though I do like the shark cage dynamic for the title match at the Rumble), but the addition of Zayn and Strowman made this feel fresh. The long six-man tag main event was highly entertaining and I loved the way the live crowd bought into Zayn’s high cross body block near fall on Strowman just moments before Strowman regrouped and pinned Zayn. The post match brawl was terrific and it was nice to see Owens look like a credible heel rather than one half of a comedy duo by powerbombing Reigns through the broadcast table on the stage.
Brock Lesnar and the opening segment: Once we got through the usual occurrence of a Roman Reigns promo being interrupted, things picked up in a big way with WWE delivering some terrific hype for the star power of this year’s Royal Rumble match. They did a great job of showcasing some of the potential showdowns that could occur in the Rumble, and Lesnar was back in badass mode as he stood tall at the end of the segment.
Bayley: I didn’t include Charlotte in the Hit because the long setup was for Bayley was necessary, yet also went long and seemed to fall flat with the live crowd. Perhaps it would have come off better if Charlotte’s promo had been delivered in a pre-tape setting and they then went to Bayley calling her to deliver her response afterward. Either way, this is the first time that WWE has effectively showcased the Bayley character as the longtime fangirl living her dream since she arrived on the main roster. She came off like a woman of the people and someone who younger fans can easily identify with. This was the best work that WWE has done with Bayley since she debuted on the main roster.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows for the Raw Tag Titles: A “Dusty Finish” that resulted in the heels seemingly winning the tag titles only to have the titles taken away? WWE reversed the usual formula of the babyfaces getting the shaft. While it was a bit awkward, it was also effective in terms of breathing some life into the feud. More importantly, the work of the wrestlers in the match and the crowd’s favorable reaction also helped heat things up.
Neville attacks Rich Swann: Just when viewers were settling in for Tony Nese’s latest loss, the Neville attack occurred out of nowhere. Neville is a terrific as the ultra aggressive heel. He’s so good that I wish someone in power would realize that he doesn’t need the silly anti-America portion of his gimmick. Everything else about him is intense and believable, but there’s a moment of disconnect whenever he goes into that cliche schtick.
Nia Jax attacks Sasha Banks: It was cool to see WWE take an unconventional approach with the setting. Jax attacking Sasha as she was running through drills for the medical team made this stand out more than it would have had the same type of attack occurred during a regular segment on the show.
Cedric Alexander vs. Brian Kendrick: A minor Hit. The Alicia Fox love triangle saga still feels unnecessary for Alexander, but I must confess that it’s compelling enough that I find myself curious to see where it goes next. On the flip side, why did the referee watch Alicia push the rope toward Alexander to help him break Kendrick’s submission hold, yet do nothing about it? Also, Fox flipping out in such an over the top manner is probably the corniest thing on WWE television these days.
Overall show: Most of the misses were of the minor variety, and WWE did a tremendous job of selling the Royal Rumble match. I look forward to the Rumble match every year, but there’s an extra feeling of intrigue and importance this year due to the number of stars in the match. At this point, I don’t have a strong feeling about who will actually win the Rumble, and I can only hope they don’t blow it by foreshadowing the winner during go-home week. By the way, I wll open today’s All Access Daily Podcast with my thoughts on the way WWE handled the announcement of Kurt Angle being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
WWE Raw Misses
Jimmy Snuka tribute: As I mentioned before the show in members’ audio yesterday, I would have simply aired the tribute graphic acknowledging his death and simply left it at that. Instead, WWE delivered one of their longer tributes, and they did so for a man who was charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the 1983 death of his girlfriend Nancy Argentino. Defenders will be quick to point out that Snuka was never convicted. However, the judge dismissed the charges only because Snuka was deemed incompetent to stand trial, not because he was found not guilty. By airing the graphic, the long tribute video, and then a montage of social media posts from WWE personnel regarding Snuka’s death, WWE needlessly opened themselves up to criticism when a simple acknowledgement of his death would have been accepted by the masses and felt sufficient and responsible given the circumstances. And while everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the matter, please spare me any comments about how the tribute is understandable simply because Snuka has family working for the company. While I offer my sincere condolences to the Snuka family for their loss, stop and ask yourselves how the Argentino family would feel if they watched that glowing tribute.
Ariya Daivari vs. Lince Dorado: On a far lighter note, the miss is due to the lack of time the match received. To the credit of the wrestlers, they made the most of it with Dorado hitting that cool stunner, and they also had Daivari scramble to establish the Cobra Clutch as a submission hold heading into tonight’s “I Forfeit” match on 205 Live. WWE seems to be missing the boat on Dorado. He’s positioned as an enhancement wrestler, yet he always seems to get a rise out of the crowd with his flashy offense, which leaves me wondering what would happen if they actually spotlighted him.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Rusev and Jinder Mahal: WWE spent so much time putting heat on the heel duo, yet the babyface duo beat them clean. Perhaps the heels will get their heat back (hopefully without another awful visit to sensitivity training), but it just felt a little awkward to see the babyfaces win so decisively at this point in their feud.
New Day and Titus O’Neil: The least annoying of their recent skits, but still a minor Miss. The Titus character is so annoying these days that I didn’t even object when Big E put his spot in the Royal Rumble on the line in exchange for a simple promise that Titus would stop bothering them.