By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Seth Rollins, Triple H, Mick Foley, and Stephanie McMahon: An excellent final segment that made Foley look like a star rather than a mopey authority figure. Triple H and Stephanie hit hard with their comments on Foley, and one has to hope that he wouldn’t have had it any other way. Foley incorporated realism into his promos during his in-ring days. His promos certainly were not as mean spirited as their lines were, but the heel couple going so hard at him made it feel realistic and personal. The Rollins return was great. Rollins dropping the crutch and then showing off his new Kingslayer shirt before he hit the ring was perfect. This segment told the fans that Rollins is good to go for WrestleMania, and Triple H attacking his bad knee afterward put him right back in a sympathetic position.
Roman Reigns and Shawn Michaels: The surprise appearance of Michaels came out of nowhere and was terrific. This wasn’t corny dad joke telling HB-Shizzle, this was the legendary Shawn Michaels holding court. Michaels using his own history with Undertaker to let Reigns know what he is in for a WrestleMania made for compelling television. Reigns came off prickly, but he didn’t say anything overtly heelish that they can’t walk back if they don’t intend to turn him heel.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman: Heyman paid homage to the late Howard Cosell’s call of the George Foreman vs. Joe Frazier fight from 1973. I was five months old at the time of the fight, but Cosell’s call is so iconic that it can be mentioned in the same breath as Al Michaels exclaiming, “Do You Believe in Miracles?” after the 1980 USA hockey team defeated the Russians. Michael Cole summed up the story of the promo well by pointing out the difference that one F5 made for the confidence of Lesnar and Heyman. The real message was that The Beast is back. Here’s hoping they come up with a way to make the WWE Universal Championship feel significant. It’s being portrayed as if Lesnar is more focussed on avenging his loss to Goldberg than winning the brand’s top title.
Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho and Sami Zayn: The match was kept short and fans were left wanting to see Jericho get his revenge on Owens. It will be fun to see the build over the next two weeks in terms of how they go about putting heat on Owens going into the match. It would be nice if they could make the U.S. Championship feel more important. At this point, it feels like Owens wants it only to get revenge on Jericho for costing him the Universal Championship, not because it’s a title he covets. Notice a trend with the men’s title belts?
Dana Brooke turns on Charlotte: The fans cheered and chanted Brooke’s name when she finally had enough of Charlotte’s abuse. It worked well on this night and gives Raw another babyface that they were lacking in the women’s division. Meanwhile, I liked the finish of Sasha Banks being called out by Corey Graves for barely grabbing the tights of Brooke. It wasn’t an aggressive tight grab, yet it’s another questionable move on her road to at potential heel turn on Bayley.
Brian Kendrick and Tony Nese vs. Akira Tozawa and TJ Perkins: A minor Hit for good action from the cruiserweight tag match. You had to know Nese was going over in an attempt to justify his inclusion in tonight’s five-way elimination match. While WWE should do more with him, it felt like it was too little too late to validate the placement of a guy who has lost more than he has won in a No. 1 contenders’ match.
WWE Raw Misses
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Sheamus and Cesaro for a Raw Tag Title shot at WrestleMania: Oddly enough, this was the only thing WWE bothered to advertise in advance. It will be interesting to see if it hurts them from a viewership standpoint. It was hardly a surprise to see Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson get involved to set up the Triple Threat at WrestleMania. However, it was eye rolling to see Gallows and Anderson be put in the position to act like they were the only people in the world who didn’t realize their actions would lead to both teams getting the title shot at WrestleMania.
Big Show vs. Titus O’Neil: A minor Miss. Poor Big Show had to settle for working Titus O’Neil rather than Shaquille O’Neal. The miss is for WWE failing to do anything meaningful with Show coming out of his highly entertaining main event match with Braun Strowman.
Bayley vs. Nia Jax in a non-title match: My issue is more with the setup than the actual match. Nia complained to Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley about not being in the title match at WrestleMania. Stephanie didn’t put her in the match or even give her a chance to get into the match, yet Jax was suddenly satisfied and even happy about facing Bayley in a meaningless showcase match.
Austin Aries vs. Ariya Daivari: A minor Miss for Aries’ first Raw match. Last week’s Chicago crowd was hot for Aries getting physical with Neville, but the Detroit crowd felt lukewarm for this match. If they wanted to get Aries off to a hot start, why not put him on earlier in the show when the crowd is livelier? We’ll see how it plays out tonight, but it also feels like WWE is going overboard in foreshadowing Aries as the winner of the five-way to challenge for Neville’s title at WrestleMania.