By Jason Powell
By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Dot Net Members are listening to my extended thoughts on this show in last night’s 47-minute WWE Raw audio review. The members hear my audio reviews of Raw and Smackdown after the shows each week. Join us on the ad-free version of the website and mobile website and hear all of our audio content by visiting PWMembership.net.
WWE Raw Hits
Ronda Rousey, Kurt Angle, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon angle: An excellent show opening angle to set the stage for the big mixed tag match at WrestleMania. The storyline gap is why Triple H and Stephanie wouldn’t simply fire Angle from his general manager position. Perhaps that will be covered and Angle fighting to save his job could even be added as a stipulation to the match. Most importantly, the live crowd reacted to Rousey as the star that she is. Hunter and Stephanie deserve a lot of credit for helping turn the fans in her favor so quickly thanks to their strong heel work. It was also refreshing to see Angle stand up for himself rather than be emasculated by Stephanie once again. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain the momentum heading into WrestleMania. The announcement that Rousey will appear on every Raw leading up to WrestleMania plays into their claim that she is a full-time wrestler at least as far as television events are concerned, but it also puts them at risk of overexposing her before the showdown match. At this point, though, the build has been fantastic.
Paul Heyman and Roman Reigns: A good segment that sets the stage for next week’s face-to-face showdown between Reigns and Brock Lesnar. Heyman offered a half-hearted rebuttal by comparing Lesnar’s match count to Undertaker working once a year. Surely it would have been easy for Heyman to pick apart the complaints about Lesnar being a part-time champion. However, doing so would have been counterproductive to the goal of making Reigns come off like the hard working challenger who respects the fans, the title belt, and the business opposite Lesnar’s spoiled and entitled champion role. I loved the subtlety of Reigns ordering Heyman to pick up the title belt while off mic as made it seem like Reigns is respectful of the title. The live crowd wasn’t as hot for this angle as they were for the Reigns promo last week, but that’s to be expected given that it set the table for next week’s show rather than the show they paid money to see.
Asuka vs. Nia Jax: Good storytelling with the focus being more on Jax losing than Asuka winning. Jax tapping out made Asuka look strong, but this was more about Jax’s reaction to losing the match. Jax showed great emotion as she legitimately cried while Alexa Bliss spoke to her about being bullied. It sure looks like the plan is for Asuka to challenge Charlotte for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. The big question now is whether they go with Bliss vs. Jax for the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania or if they will make it a multi-woman match, perhaps with Bayley and Sasha Banks in a four-way. More on that in a moment.
Bayley vs. Mandy Rose: The Hit is more for the post match angle than the actual match. Sasha Banks came to the rescue of Bayley only to be stiff-armed when she tried to make amends with a hug. It is concerning that even Bayley acknowledged that it was every woman for herself when Banks eliminated her from the Royal Rumble match and then went Lion King on her at Elimination Chamber. WWE dropped the ball with the Bayley character when she was called up to the main roster, but Banks has been miscast as a babyface since she was brought up. I really hope the plan is for Banks to turn heel, but there’s also a possibility of Bayley turning. Despite that concern, the storyline is compelling and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. By the way, one of the reasons I suspect they might be going with a four-way match at WrestleMania is that WWE creative rarely tells real stories with women unless they are in the title picture. Here’s hoping this storyline is a sign of change in that they are building to a singles match between Sasha and Bayley at WrestleMania.
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt: Don’t close the casket on this feud yet. After months of laughing, trading wins, and laughing some more, Hardy and Wyatt finally get to take their feud to the Hardy Compound. The best of the Broken Universe played out at House Hardy and the mere announcement that they will be filming Ultimate Deletion in Cameron, North Carolina resuscitated this lifeless program for viewers who watched the Broken Brilliance in TNA. Hardy is already hyping appearances by Queen Rebecca, Senor Benjamin, Vanguard 1, King Maxel, Skarsgård, and the debut of Lord Wolfgang. This should be a blast.
Braun Strowman vs. Elias in a Symphony of Destruction match: Poor Dave Mustaine must have been so excited when he noticed that the name the 1992 hit song was trending last night until he realized it had nothing to do with his band Megadeth. Anyway, this was just a minor Hit as they seem to be killing time with Strowman. Are they still planning to work him into the WrestleMania main event? If not, are they trying to fill time until Samoa Joe returns as a WrestleMania opponent?
Seth Rollins and Finn Balor vs. The Miz, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel: A fun match with Rollins and Balor taking minor jabs at one another by tagging themselves into the match at key times. The Miz promo before the match was top notch. His comments on Balor were tough, but it’s not like most viewers don’t think the same thing about the constant references to him being the first WWE Universal Champion and his “borrowed” too sweet hand gesture. I remain hopeful that Balor will be moving to Smackdown with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson for a heel run after WrestleMania. If that happens then the tough talk from Miz could actually help more than hurt Balor.
WWE Raw Misses
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. The Revival for the Raw Tag Titles: A minor Miss in that the fans had no incentive to root for either heel team. The Revival are just too damn good to be wasted. Their main roster push has been derailed by their injuries as well as injuries suffered by some of their potential opponents. One can only hope that the duo get a reboot coming out of WrestleMania, perhaps with a move to the Smackdown brand in a Superstar Shakeup. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to find out who will step up as the challengers for Sheamus and Cesaro at WrestleMania. My guess continues to be that the Authors of Pain will be called up from NXT.
John Cena vs. Goldust: More of an in the middle segment than a true miss. Goldust was among the last people I expected to come out and confront Cena. The Goldust promo was odd yet it was good to see the talented veteran utilized even if this was just a one off match. The Cena promo that preceded the match was a Hit. I still assume that they are working toward Cena vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania, but Cena’s scenario for the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania likely planted a seed of doubt with some casual fans regarding the outcome of the WWE Fastlane main event.
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