Powell’s WWE Raw Hit List: Samoa Joe attacks Seth Rollins, Paul Heyman issues Brock Lesnar’s WrestleMania challenge, Triple H addresses Rollins, Kevin Owens vs. Braun Strowman for the Universal Championship

By Jason Powell

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WWE Raw Hits

Samoa Joe debuts: The wait is finally over. Joe blindsiding Rollins at ringside was terrific. The attack was vintage Joe in that it was violent and believable, and even fans who are somehow unfamiliar with his work had to take notice. Joe being positioned as Hunter’s heavy is an interesting approach. It’s a bit concerning that there’s only one Raw pay-per-view before the likely Rollins vs. Hunter showdown at WrestleMania, as I would hate to see Joe used as a bump in the road for Rollins to get over before he gets his match with Hunter. That said, being aligned with Triple H could also be a tremendous landing spot for Joe, and this segment left viewers anxious to see the next chapter.

Triple H promo on Seth Rollins: Mixed feelings. Triple H was built up as a returning god by Stephanie McMahon and the live crowd clearly saw him that way. And while Hunter’s delivery was strong and the logic of what he said was accurate (perhaps too accurate when it came to Seth’s failures as a babyface), he did nothing to turn the crowd against him. If the fans want to cheer Hunter and he has no interest in turning the fans against him, then it’s time to turn him babyface. So while this combined with the Joe debut was the hottest moment of the show, it would be nice to see Hunter work harder to build up Rollins and present himself as the heel. Using Joe to dodge Rollins will help, but hopefully there will come a point where Hunter is exposed for ducking Rollins out of fear rather than simply acting like he’s so far beneath him.

Paul Heyman issues Brock Lesnar’s WrestleMania challenge: Heyman delivered his best promo in some time while challenging Goldberg to a match against Lesnar at WrestleMania. It will be interesting to see if Goldberg simply accepts the challenge or if he makes Lesnar sweat. After all, Goldberg is expected to work a match at the Fastlane pay-per-view. Lesnar is a rare example of a monster who can can lose a match in 86 seconds and then be manhandled by the same opponent again in their next meeting, yet still maintain the aura of being the biggest badass in the company.

Kevin Owens vs. Braun Strowman for the WWE Universal Championship: Owens was fantastic in showing over the top arrogance after retaining the championship at the Rumble and then transitioning into all out fear of what Strowman could do to him once their title match was set. Most viewers probably saw the Roman Reigns interference coming a mile away, but it was logical and everything from the buildup to the actual match was entertaining.

Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn in a non-title match: A nice match that sets up Zayn with a title shot. It will be a long wait if they intend to hold off until Fastlane, so it’s possible this was done to set up a title match for television.

Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks: A nice followup from the Royal Rumble with Sasha showing heart by insisting that she face the monster again despite being injured. Jax continues to look remorseless and indestructible, and Sasha’s growing frustration appears to be leading to a heel turn.

WWE Raw Misses

Royal Rumble follow up: There’s a fine line between leaving viewers wanting more and downright neglect. WWE rightfully spent weeks building up the Royal Rumble match as a mega match, then barely addressed the fact that Randy Orton won the match. It doesn’t matter that Orton is a Smackdown wrestler. It’s not like Major League Baseball would have their American League broadcast teams ignore a major happening involving a National League player. Furthermore, Orton’s win actually could be Raw related. Well, maybe? They have yet to clarify whether Orton must challenge for the WWE Championship. If he can challenge for the Universal Championship, they haven’t told viewers whether he would move to Raw or if the title would got to Smackdown if he won it at WrestleMania. They also failed to address Reigns telling Undertaker that it’s his yard now. That was one of the key moments of the Rumble. And while they may be waiting to get through Fastlane to get to Reigns and Taker, that line was a huge talking point and should have been a big talking point even if the next chapter is a month away.

Neville and Rich Swann: A minor Miss due to Neville suddenly acting like a heel who was saddled with the King of the Ring gimmick. There’s good chemistry between Neville and Swann, and I liked most of their exchange. And while it’s cool to call Neville the King of the Cruiserweights, it seems like they ditched the awful anti-American part of his act and replaced it with campy heel WWE King dialogue. Neville is intense and believable on his own. He doesn’t need any of this.

Tony Nese vs. Mustafa Ali: Mustafa had a recent week to shine on Raw, and this was apparently Nese week. Is it all just meaningless 50/50 booking if the WWE Cruiserweight Championship isn’t involved? And while it was nice to see Nese get a rare win, they followed up the match by having Austin Aries point out his lack of charisma, which erased whatever good they did by giving Nese a clean win.

Bayley, Cesaro, and Sheamus vs. Charlotte, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson: Bayley lost the biggest match of her career yet she was all smiles and hugs backstage the night after. It was so bad that Sasha’s heelish line about not being okay with coming up short felt completely justified. And rather than put some heat on the new tag champions, WWE opted to give the Rumble babyface losers a feel good moment. Yuck.

Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Rusev (w/Lana) and Jinder Mahal in a tornado match: This was the moment when the three-hour Raw marathon fatigue set in. Sadly, anything involving Jinder Mahal feels flat, and Rusev is still being wasted as a mid-card comedy act. He might be good at it, but surely there’s more money in him being a real heel on the Smackdown brand. Make a trade.



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