By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Goldberg and Kevin Owens: Goldberg’s promises to his wife, son, and the fans felt like WWE screaming that he is going to win the championship on Sunday. Owens did a good job of stating his case and his character shift and alliance with Triple H and Samoa Joe makes the title change feel like less of a forgone conclusion than it did when he was one half of a comedy duo. The big thing missing from Goldberg’s act right now is emotion. Yes, he’s always fired up and fans are reacting to his his domination, but it would also be nice to hear why he covets the championship and what it would mean for him to win it at this point in his life. Nevertheless, this segment served as good final hype for the pay-per-view main event.
Triple H and Seth Rollins: Rollins suffered a bit during the interview portion and it didn’t help that the Green Bay crowd was downright lethargic throughout the night. It’s nice that the Rollins character is acknowledging the fact that he took the easy path by joining Triple H, but he came off as being more conflicted than truly remorseful. Perhaps it would be more effective if he chalked up his behavior to being young and foolish, and presented it as a cautionary tale for other young wrestlers who could be used by the Triple H characters. Things picked up once Triple H and Samoa Joe arrived. Hunter tore into Rollins yet also remembered to be a heel this time around by being cold and callous as he admitted to using up Rollins and then spitting him out. The presence of Joe in the background gave the segment the sense of danger that his character brings. The crowd may not have been hot for anything other than the Triple H entrance, but this was still a step in the right direction.
Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman contract signing: It was refreshing to see Strowman dominate Reigns throughout the entire build to their Fastlane match. This wasn’t the usual formula of having the wrestlers both have their moments on top during the build, it was several weeks of Strowman standing tall at the end. The great thing about all of this is that while Strowman stands tall, Reigns continued to show heart by getting to his knees and signing the contract. His character isn’t ducking Strowman despite being manhandled, he wants the match. In other words, both wrestlers benefitted from the build. This was much more effective than WWE’s usual approach with Reigns. It will be very interesting to see how they book the finish to this match on Sunday.
Samoa Joe vs. Cesaro: This wasn’t the mat classic that longtime fans of both wrestlers may have been hoping for, nor should it have been. Joe should not be having long, competitive matches at this stage of his main roster run. Joe should be dominating wrestlers and picking up clean wins. Cesaro was protected by selling a knee injury, and this is a match they can go back to when the time is right for Joe to work longer and more competitive matches.
Sheamus vs. Titus O’Neil: A very minor Hit for the brief match. Sheamus seems to have turned the corner. He was booked so poorly for so long that his character’s mere presence on television was a turnoff. It’s taken a long time, but the character is starting to feel fresh again thanks to his run with Cesaro.
Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows: Another very minor Hit for the simple formula of having one of the challengers pin one of the tag champions on the go-home show. Somehow, this actually felt like an upgrade for Gallows and Karl Anderson after watching Roman Reigns toss them both around in worthless handicap matches over the last two weeks.
WWE Raw Misses
New Day vs. Rusev and Jinder Mahal: The Oscars joke drew the type of silence that only a Nicole Kidman phantom clap can produce. The Green Bay crowd was tough, but the New Day act feels like it peaked. It was nice to see Jinder bickering with Rusev. Here’s hoping this means the split is coming and Rusev will be on to bigger and better things.
Cruiserweight matches: The cruiserweight matches seem to get shorter by the week. There was a recent week when the formula left me wanting to see more from the wrestlers in two matches. However, the more they stick with the formula, the more they define the cruiserweights as brief segment filler.
Bayley and Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax and Charlotte: After spending time attempting to justify Bayley’s decision to keep her championship last week, WWE gave us a tag match that was more about setting up an undercard match involving Jax and Sasha than focussing on the championship match. None of this really worked for me and I’m just not looking forward to the Bayley vs. Charlotte match as much now that Bayley is in the role of champion rather than challenger.
Big Show vs. Primo and Epico: A minor Miss for forgettable followup with Big Show coming off his strong match with Braun Strowman last week. The Big Show character feels content facing any old opponent(s) they line up for him. The character needs a purpose and direction. Show was flat for a long time, but they have a chance to do more with him now that he’s in great shape and fans were buzzing about one of his matches for the first time in a long time. This match didn’t set him back. Still, I was hoping they had something in mind to move him forward.