By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
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WWE Raw Hits
The Miz vs. Roman Reigns for the Intercontinental Title: It felt too soon to go back to this match when it was first announced. Sure, they had a very good match last week, but announcing the rematch so quickly seemed repetitive. That feeling disappeared about halfway through what turned out to be another quality match. It was nice to see them double down with Miz going over as that gives him a boost and makes him a strong secondary champion. They also gave Reigns an out via the outside interference, and now he’s free to enter the Elimination Chamber. Will they give Reigns his win back over Miz by having him beat Miz in a non-title qualifier next week?
Braun Strowman vs. Kane in a Last Man Standing match and Elimination Chamber qualifier: The latest Strowman carnage angle didn’t look as impressive as some of his other big stunts. However, the broadcast team really put it over well and the repeated camera shots of the table that Strowman pushed onto Kane was a nice touch.
Elias vs. Matt Hardy in an Elimination Chamber qualifier: A minor Hit for the match and Elias going over to earn a spot in the Elimination Chamber. No one will view him as a real contender to win the match, but it will be good to see him in the mix with the top talent. Meanwhile, Hardy’s laugh off feud with Bray Wyatt continues. Wyatt’s video flash distraction gave Hardy an out for losing, but Wyatt laughing at Hardy on the big screen was more of the same. Here’s hoping that Jeremy Borash was hired in part because WWE intends to let him and Matt Hardy work their Broken Universe magic in Cameron, North Carolina soon.
The Revival vs. Rhyno and Heath Slater: Another win for Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder. The problem with the Raw brand right now is that there are no meaningful babyface teams outside of the makeshift duo of Seth Rollins and the injured Jason Jordan. WWE seems to have flipped Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, but they are not the type of babyface duo that that Dash and Dawson thrive against. The tag division is so depleted on Raw these days that I wonder if they will eventually turn Shemaus and Cesaro babyfaces heading into a program with The Revival.
Raw makeover: It was nice to see Raw get a fresh coat of paint in the form of the new graphics and the minor logo change. Dot Net Member Tyler England attended the show and indicated that there is also a new Raw theme song, but we’ll have to wait for a future show to hear it since they didn’t play the show opening montage this week. We also saw the return of Jonathan Coachman to the Raw broadcast team. There was a small part of me that actually missed Corey Graves calling out Booker T’s many mistakes during slow parts of the show, but it was a good first night for Coachman. If night one is any indication, Coachman’s run with ESPN has changed the way he’ll be positioned in WWE. It seemed like the Charleston dancing goofball persona has been pushed aside in favor of making him a more credible voice, which I’m all for. On the flip side, I was really hoping the selfie style promos were just a Royal Rumble month feature, so it was disappointing to see a new batch of them on Raw.
WWE Raw Misses
No Ronda Rousey: WWE never advertised Rousey for Raw, but they did let the world know that she signed a “full-time” contract. Thus, it was disappointing when she didn’t appear on Raw to follow up on her Rumble appearance. At the very least, it felt like there should have been some first-run material with her. Even a brief sit-down interview conducted backstage at the Rumble would have been a welcome addition to this show. Instead, WWE simply featured a Rousey recap video package. Where do I sign up for the “full-time” job that lets a person work one day and then disappear?
Asuka vs. Sasha Banks: I enjoyed the overall match, but there was something missing. Did fatigue set in for the live crowd on night three in the same venue? Was the crowd not as responsive because they’d already seen Asuka and Banks make their entrances earlier in the show? Did the fans sit on their hands rather than picking sides between the two babyfaces? Whatever the cause, the match did not have the proverbial big fight feel despite the fact that it looked like very appealing on paper. WWE attempted to load up the show with some strong matches and this stood out to be as the most intriguing match of the bunch. Unfortunately, the atmosphere was lousy and it hurt the way the match came off. It was also disappointing that there was no follow up to Banks eliminating Bayley from the Royal Rumble. Will they finally turn the miscast Boss character heel?
John Cena vs. Finn Balor in an Elimination Chamber match qualifier: After all these years, this is when Cena acted bothered by a live crowd? We’ve seen him stand in front of crowds that completely despised him with a big grin on his face. We’ve watched him turn booing crowds in his favor with strong and intelligent mic work. Yet this tired crowd somehow got to his character? This is another match that looked very intriguing on paper. I had high expectations when the match was announced, but it turned out to be a decent yet forgettable main event.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews for the Raw Tag Titles: It was a night of wrestlers dodging bullets. First, Sasha Banks was lucky to walk away from that suicide dive spot in the match with Asuka, then Sheamus stumbled and Crews took a rough landing off the powerbomb. Somehow, both wrestlers appeared to be fine and hopefully that was still the case after the adrenaline wore off. Putting that aside, the two wins that Titus and Crews scored over The Bar earlier this month didn’t make the live crowd buy into their chances of beating them for the tag titles. The tag division needs babyface tag teams and perhaps Titus and Crews can be elevated to the point that they seem like credible challengers, but I’m convinced that isn’t going to happen until creative pulls the plug on the Titus Worldwide nonsense and takes a more serious approach with them.
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