By Jason Powell
Check out my All Access audio review of this edition of WWE Raw at Blogtalkradio.com/prowrestlingdotnet.
WWE Raw Hits
Undertaker, Goldberg, and Brock Lesnar: WWE delivered a big one-two surprise punch with Lesnar and Undertaker. I question the decision to not advertise Lesnar and Goldberg appearing in the same ring together for the first time since Survivor Series. Granted, they advertised that locally, but it was never advertised on television, and surely it would have been a strong hook for this show. Nevertheless, the segment played out great and provided viewers with a nice tease for the loaded Rumble match possibilities.
Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn for a Royal Rumble spot: The added stipulation of Seth’s Rumble spot being at stake made the match feel more significant, just as the hard fought match put over the importance of the Rumble spot. The Triple H tease was a nice step toward his likely WrestleMania match against Rollins. It will be interesting to see what Rollins does on Sunday now that he’s out of the match.
Chris Jericho vs. Roman Reigns for the U.S. Championship: Quality hype for the Owens vs. Reigns match at the Rumble. I was really hoping they would play up Jericho’s fear of heights, as he did such a good job with that when they introduced the shark cage gimmick several weeks ago. Instead, they showcased Reigns by making him look strong against both of his foes. The addition of the shark cage to the Owens vs. Reigns match was a great call, as it really breathed some life into a tired program.
Bayley and Charlotte sit-down interviews: Creative has done more for the Bayley character over the last two weeks than they did throughout the rest of her time on the main roster. They finally took the time to establish her fangirl persona rather than acting as if all fans saw her NXT run. Meanwhile, Charlotte continues to shine as the the arrogant heel champion, and the Queen of Pay-Per-View billing continues to make me wonder if they are working toward something big with Ronda Rousey.
Sasha Banks and Nia Jax: A nice bounce back week for Banks after being roughed up by Jax recently. Sasha showed good fire while going after the monster with a crutch, and I like that Michael Cole was right there to point out that Jax was still standing. It’s good booking to send Banks into their first match with a knee injury, as it gives her character an excuse for putting over Jax. The only negative was that WWE didn’t let the angle breathe, as they cut away without showing any replays to have the broadcast team recap a previous segment. Slow down! You have three hours to work with.
Cesaro vs. Luke Gallows: A minor Hit for forwarding the tag title program. This wasn’t as effective as the Dusty Finish last week, but the distraction finish helped sell the idea of having two referees work the tag title match on Sunday.
Rich Swann vs. Noam Dar: A minor Hit for a solid match between two of the cruiserweight division standouts, as well as the post match angle with Swann calling out Neville. It’s always nice to see Swann be serious rather than play up the “outlandish” persona. While this title match build was decent, it wasn’t nearly as effective as the great video package on Swann and Neville that aired on last week’s 205 Live.
Braun Strowman, Titus O’Neil, Jinder Mahal, and Rusev vs. Kofi Kingston, Big E, Enzo Amore, and Big Cass: A minor Hit if for no other reason than I was convinced that Titus was going to introduce the Shining Stars as his team’s partners for a throwaway 10-man tag match. The post match angle with Big Show was also solid, though I did have to laugh as fans started booing the moment Strowman positioned himself so that his back was to the stage, as they realized that he was going to leave the ring without getting physical. It also would have been nice to have seen more Strowman carnage before Big Show appeared.
Overall Show: Raw found its groove over the last two weeks. After months of delivering countless long, plodding shows, things came together nicely as they did a good job of showcasing the Rumble match and the various Raw brand matches that will take place on Sunday. Best of all, they didn’t foreshadow the Rumble winner. There’s a real sense of mystery regarding the outcome of the match and the WrestleMania lineup, which sets things up for a really fun show.
WWE Raw Misses
Mustafa Ali, TJ Perkins, and Jack Gallagher vs. Ariya Daivari, Tony Nese, and Drew Gulak: This was the only segment that felt like filler in that it didn’t seem like it had anything to do with the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. And while it’s certainly acceptable for a three-hour go-home show to have one filler segment, WWE has to know that viewers roll their eyes the moment they see Daivari, Nese, and Gulak teaming up together. The moment they were shown on camera, it was painfully obvious that their opponents were going to win even though we had no idea who their opponents even were at that point.