By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Kane returns during Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns: A fun surprise. I don’t think anyone predicted that Kane would be the fifth member of the heel team at TLC. Most of us assumed that Samoa Joe would be added given that he remains advertised on the WWE Live Events page and on the Target Center website for Sunday’s show. WWE handled it perfectly by having Kane return on the go-home show rather than bringing him back sooner and running the risk of him cooling off before the event takes place. The actual match between Strowman and Reigns was entertaining. They’ve had hotter matches, but they did a good job and the superplex off the middle of the top rope was quite the spectacle.
The Shield: WWE got it right by having the trio make their entrance through the crowd while dressed in their original gear. The reunion is going very well as the crowds are popping big for them. Well, unless Roman Reigns is flying solo. He got some boos when it was his turn to take the mic and he received another mixed reaction at best when he made his entrance for the main event. Vince McMahon is banking on The Shield turning the crowd in Roman’s favor. My guess remains that he’ll be cheered as long as he is with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, but the fans who rejected him before will do so again when he works singles matches. And even if I’m wrong, there’s no reason to think that the WrestleMania weekend crowd is going to support him if the plan is for him to defeat Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Universal Championship on the biggest show of the year.
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Titles: A quality tag title match that continued the good feud between these teams. We’ve seen better matches from these four, but this was a solid television match. It was surprising to see the heel duo lose clean heading into TLC. There was no reason to expect a title change, but it felt like they could have done something to protect Sheamus and Cesaro heading into the TLC match.
WWE Cruiserweights: A good night for the cruiserweights with the Cedric Alexander vs. Jack Gallagher match and the angle with Enzo Amore that put all the heels back on the same side. So much damage has been done to some of the cruiserweights that it’s going to take more than a few main event segments and a good night on Raw to make me feel like the division matters and 205 Live is worth watching, but at least this week was a step in the right direction.
Alexa Bliss and Emma vs. Mickie James and Bayley: A simple showcase win for James over Bliss heading into their title match at TLC. James also delivered a good promo and she is one of the rare wrestlers who was scripted to bring up the fact that she has a child at home. The fact that James pinned Bliss clean is probably a sign that the champion will retain on Sunday.
Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox: A minor Hit for a decent match despite Banks suffering a bloody nose from a Fox elbow. I can’t say that I have any desire to see the pay-per-view rematch given that Banks has beaten Fox in back-to-back weeks on television. Fox’s backstage beatdown just wasn’t enough to generate interest in yet another match between the two.
Jason Jordan, Titus O’Neil, and Apollo Crews vs. Elias, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson: A minor Hit for a match that ate up some television time, but did not seem to serve much of a purpose beyond that. I thought they might put the heel trio over to set up the need for a pay-per-view rematch, but none of these wrestlers are advertised for TLC at this point.
Overall show: Don’t be fooled by the lopsided Hit count. Raw was very good when focussing on the TLC main event, but nearly everything else fell into the minor Hit category. TLC is clearly a one match show with perhaps everything other than Asuka’s debut feeling like something one would normally expect to see on Raw rather than on pay-per-view.
WWE Raw Misses
Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt: Or should I say The Demon and Sister Abigail given that WWE is actually using those names in the official preview for the match. I felt bad for Balor as he had to act like the only person over age nine to believe that the Wyatt character is possessed. The Demon character usually looks great, but the orange Halloween version looked campy. I must confess that I have a strange curiosity when it comes to seeing how Wyatt will work as Sister Abigail at TLC, but it’s sad to see these two saddled with this hocus pocus nonsense.