By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins: My guard was up for this to be more of an angle than a match, presumably with the other three wrestlers in the Extreme Rules five-way getting involved and giving WWE an easy way out from booking a clean finish. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to see a full match complete with a clean finish. That said, I am perplexed by the way Reigns is playing his role these days. He’s stone faced during interviews and entrance, and he spends his promo time speaking generically about how he’s the big dog and it’s his yard. It makes it easy for the anti-Reigns crowd to dislike him, but I continue to wonder how this is supposed to appeal to the pre-Reigns crowd? Roman isn’t the same guy that his fans embraced. The man is suddenly joyless. If WWE intends to turn Reigns full fledged heel, then they are on the right path. If they are still set on booking him with the hope that most fans will eventually embrace him as a top babyface, then this character shift is baffling. I can’t see how this version of Reigns won’t turn off many of his existing fans, and it offers no incentive for his detractors to change the way they feel about him.
Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe vs. Bray Wyatt in a Triple Threat: A good three-way match that was laid out nicely with the heels working together and then against one another. Balor was booked to show good heart no matter the circumstances. Joe going over in the end was the right move, especially considering that he was duped by Wyatt again during the match. What does it mean for Extreme Rules? I assume they are holding off Reigns vs. Lesnar for a bigger show. Is it possible that they want to build up momentum for Joe heading into the five-way and then have him win it? It seems like a long shot to me. My pick remains Finn Balor due to the Paul Heyman promo from last week.
Dean Ambrose, Matt Hardy, and Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz, Sheamus, and Cesaro: A Hit for being a crowd pleasing opening match. On the flip side, it was odd to have the babyface champions go over clean rather than putting some heat on the heel challengers to make the champions look vulnerable heading into their title defenses. It’s especially odd when you consider that Sheamus and Cesaro have lost repeatedly to the Hardys in singles matches. WWE also failed to make the cage match for the tag titles feel as significant as it should.
Noam Dar vs. Rich Swann: The addition of Sasha Banks at ringside along with Alicia Fox made this feel fresher than the average cruiserweight match on Raw. It says a lot about the state of the cruiserweight division that adding a poorly booked wrestler from the women’s division makes a match feel more important than it would have without her. Here’s hoping that the announcement of Sasha appearing on 205 Live is a sign that WWE realizes they need to spice up the show somehow.
Austin Aries and Jack Gallagher vs. Neville and TJP: A minor Hit for the finish of the challenger forcing the champion to submit heading into their submission match at Extreme Rules. That said, it’s time to shake up this top four mix. We’ve seen this tag match before along with the various combinations of the two babyfaces working against the two heels in singles matches.
“The Drifter” Elias Samson vs. Zac Evans: It was wise to give Samson a squash match win and hopefully this won’t be the last one. The squash format gives him a chance to establish his moveset for the casual WWE viewers who didn’t see him or didn’t see much of him in NXT.
WWE Raw Misses
Extreme Rules go-home show: Raw featured some good in-ring action, but nothing really moved me when it came to my interest level in the pay-per-view. WWE did a much better job of building up the five-way main event on previous shows and the most effective push actually came during the initial announcement of the match via the graphics that showed each wrestler as a potential challenger for Brock Lesnar.
Bayley, This Is Your Life with Alexa Bliss: A dreadful segment with no comedic value whatsoever. The original Rock and Mick Foley version featured two characters who were ridiculously over. Foley’s lovable presentation was a riot, and the uncertainty of how Rock would respond made for compelling viewing. Nothing about this segment came close to packing the same punch. Alexa is a gifted talker and she did the best she could with this mess, but the premise was flawed and her guests from Bayley’s past were written in such a silly manner than none of their stories came off as believable. They keep bringing up Bayley’s relationship with her father, but it’s not like Raw viewers have even been introduced to him or his relationship with his daughter. WWE continues to have Bliss and the broadcast team push the question of whether Bayley will get extreme. She answered the question in my mind when she asked for the match despite Kurt Angle offering her an out.
Enzo Amore and Kurt Angle drama: Enzo has been laid out two weeks in a row by a mystery person or persons. Meanwhile, Corey Graves showed Angle something that made made him fear for his job security and personal reputation. Is it all one story or completely different stories? Meanwhile, Graves simply stated on commentary that he knew Big Cass checked out the footage that showed The Revival in the building last week. It seemed like a harmless comment, yet Booker T awkwardly asked him to elaborate. I was ready to chalk this up as a Booker T moment, but then angry Big Cass came out and demanded an explanation from Graves before awkwardly shaking his hand. I enjoy a good whodunit, but not when the presentation is this confusing.
Kalisto vs. Titus O’Neil: Does anyone really feel bad for a babyface when he’s pinned in under a minute even if the heel is holding his tights? The Titus Brand saga is getting Titus some television time, but I have yet to see how it benefits Kalisto or Crews in any way.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...