By Jason Powell
Dot Net Members are listening to my 43-minute audio review of this show as well as 4.5 hours of the annual Raw roster evaluation with Will Pruett and I discussing every member of the roster. The members are also listening to the annual WWE Smackdown and Ring of Honor roster evaluations, meaning there is over 10 hours of roster evaluations recorded over the last few weeks in addition to our usual audio content. Join us on our ad-free website/mobile website via the Dot Net Members’ Signup Page.
WWE Raw Hits
Roman Reigns vs. Cesaro for the Intercontinental Championship: A terrific match that would have come off even better if there was any reason to think that Cesaro had a chance to win the title. It was just hard to buy into him taking the strap when he’s already a tag champion, so his near falls didn’t really register as well as they would have if he were a typical singles wrestler challenger. Even so, Cesaro did a masterful job of targeting the arm/shoulder of Reigns throughout the match, and I really enjoyed the intensity that Reigns brought from the start given the beating that he and the other Shield members took from Cesaro, Sheamus, and Samoa Joe at the top of the show.
Samoa Joe vs. Dean Ambrose: The involvement of Jason Jordan made the match. The follow-up to Jordan’s breakout performance last week was well done and he came out of this match with a stronger issue with Joe than he had going in and even a new issue with Ambrose. Joe getting the win was logical given that they are still working toward him challenging Reigns for the Intercontinental Championship.
Seth Rollins vs. Sheamus: The near weekly match involving a Raw Tag Champion and one of their challengers turned out to be a good one. The opening segment effectively put heat on the heels heading into the three singles matches involving the six wrestlers. It’s odd that WWE merely showed a graphic for The Shield vs. Joe, Sheamus, and Cesaro on Tribute to the Troops since these three singles matches and recent television angles set up that match perfectly. The broadcast team didn’t even acknowledge the graphic. I guess it’s another year with WWE taking the approach that what happens at Tribute to the Troops stays at Tribute to the Troops as far as their storylines are concerned.
Cedric Alexander vs. Tony Nese vs. Mustafa Ali vs. Ariya Daivari in a four-way qualifier for a No. 1 contenders match: A quality match with the usual hard work from the cruiserweights. This is not uncommon and it will only get the division so far. We’re still missing character development and quality storytelling. The only cruiserweights getting any real creative attention these days are Enzo Amore and Drew Gulak and that’s just not enough to make the overall division feel relevant.
Woken Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt: A minor Hit for their latest back and forth video package. These videos are introducing the Broken Matt character to the more casual fans even if this one didn’t feel like a major talker coming out of the show.
WWE Raw Misses
Braun Strowman vs. Kane for a shot at the WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble: The fans were nearly silent during the actual match and they understandably booed the finish. This feud just isn’t compelling and WWE’s obsession with long video packages recapping their recent history has become channel changing material. The cheap finish was weak and felt like more of a turnoff than a cliffhanger in terms of who will get the title shot at the Royal Rumble. Fortunately, they erased some of the damage by delivering weapons filled, crowd pleasing brawl after the match. By the way, my guess remains they are going with a Triple Threat with Strowman and Kane challenging Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. That match keeps Strowman out of the Rumble match and Kane’s involvement means Strowman can look strong despite Lesnar beating Kane. It’s not the most compelling match on paper, nor does it need to be given that the Royal Rumble match will sell the Royal Rumble event.
Raw women team up on Absolution: The women’s tag match earlier in the show made it seem like this was going to be another week dedicated to establishing Paige, Mandy Rose, and Sonjay Deville. And it even looked like they were going to double down when the trio got physical with Asuka. Instead, the rest of the Raw women got together and cleared the new trio from the ring. It made for a decent television moment, but where does the heel trio go from here since there’s no reason to think that the other women wouldn’t take the same approach if they try to work the numbers advantage again?
Finn Balor vs. Curtis Axel: Balor defeated the Miztourage members in back to back weeks. I assume they are killing time until Miz returns and feuds with Balor, but these matches come off like time filler given that there’s absolutely zero doubt in the mind of the fans regarding the match outcome.