By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Dot Net Members are listening to my extended thoughts on this show in last night’s WWE Raw audio review, the 57-minute WWE Fastlane audio review, and my audio review of the Ring of Honor 16th Anniversary show. 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
John Cena challenges Undertaker: The highlight of the night. I can’t disagree with anyone who is leery of watching Undertaker put his health at risk again, but there’s no denying that the live crowds have been hotter for Cena teasing this match than anything else on Raw these days. This is a match that the masses want to see and Cena did a good job of getting them even more fired up about it. It was strange to hear Cena accuse Taker of ducking the match without acknowledging the possibility that he’s too hurt to wrestle or simply wanted to move on with his life, but that’s not the story they are going with. The WrestleMania card is coming together nicely and this is shaping up to be a terrific show at least on paper.
Roman Reigns and Vince McMahon: Roman being scripted to refer to Brock Lesnar as “Vince’s boy” was hysterical considering how often that label has been used to describe Reigns. It looked Vince’s latest attempt to get Roman cheered was going to take a page from the Steve Austin playbook, but then Vince “temporarily suspended” Reigns and that was it. The Stone Cold character never would have tolerated Vince boasting that he told him he needs to shut his mouth and know his role. I spent the rest of the evening expecting a big Reigns revenge angle and instead we got nothing. The Reigns character simply accepted his punishment and went home. That part of the story is a big Miss with me, but I continue to enjoy Vince’s ongoing quest to force his audience to like Reigns and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing what comes next.
Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins: A quality match with an especially good finish. The Miz TV segment was fun with both babyfaces seeing through Miz’s attempts to pit them against one another, yet the rivalry between them is strong enough that they ended up doing exactly what he wanted them to do. As much as I prefer singles matches at WrestleMania, this is a Triple Threat match that I can get behind in that it should be good in quality and the third man makes the outcome feel less predictable.
Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss: A solid angle that continued to make Jax look like a sympathetic figure. Hopefully she can deliver a strong promo to cement her as a babyface next week. Bliss and James delivered their lines well in the locker room, but it felt like they could have been scripted to be even harsher on Jax than they were. I couldn’t help but think that this was something that could have been effective had it been done for the Bayley character, who has yet to come close to being as sympathetic or feel good in nature as she was in NXT.
Ultimate Deletion teaser: They put the band back together again and even added Lord Wolfgang. All of the elements that made the Broken Universe so much fun in TNA were on display in the teaser video with Matt’s family and sidekicks such as Vanguard 1 and Skarsgard making appearances. Even Bray Wyatt delivered a follow-up promo that was easy to follow for a change. I am anxious to see the Ultimate Deletion and how it compares to their TNA video shoots, as well as to see how first-time viewers of the Broken Universe react to the madness.
Sasha Banks vs. Sonya Deville: The real story of the match was the demeanor of Bayley, who acted like she had no interest in being at ringside with Banks. It would be nice if they would explain why she even bothered to appear in Sasha’s corner, but the ongoing Banks and Bayley breakup is making for good television. I continue to hope that Banks will turn heel and play the role that comes natural to her. Will they have a singles match at WrestleMania? Will they be added to the Raw Women’s Championship match? Will their story play out in the women’s battle royal?
WWE Raw Misses
Tag Team Battle Royal for a Raw Tag Title shot at WrestleMania: As if the depleted tag team division didn’t look bad enough, now all of the contending teams have been destroyed by a single man. Most of those teams feel damaged beyond repair. I’m still holding out hope for The Revival, but so far their main roster run has been everything that fans fear when popular acts in NXT are moved up to the main roster. Believe it or not, though, I’m not opposed to Strowman facing Sheamus and Cesaro at WrestleMania. It’s not a match I would book and I’m still hoping that Strowman will be forced to add a tag partner (James Ellsworth?!?), but the potential handicap match is a unique attraction for the WrestleMania card and it’s much better than a forgettable gauntlet match designed to get all of the tag teams on the show.
Brock Lesnar fails to appear as advertised: Vince McMahon is so hellbent on making you like Roman Reigns that he’s willing to falsely advertise his WWE Universal Champion. He also gave viewers his word that Lesnar will be there next week, which is odd in that Lesnar is not even advertised as of this update on the arena or WWE websites. That could obviously change. Either way, it’s a hell of a risk to hope that fans will buy into the storyline enough to blame Lesnar and even the Mr. McMahon character rather than the company. And perhaps they could have gotten by without upsetting fans who paid money to attend the show had they delivered an unadvertised name of equal or greater value. Instead, no Undertaker and…
Ronda Rousey fails to appear as advertised: Last week, WWE touted that Rousey would appear on every edition of Raw heading into WrestleMania. It was a questionable move in that they run the risk of overexposing their special attraction before WrestleMania. Even so, they advertised Lesnar and Rousey and did not deliver. With Lesnar, I get that they are trying to tell a story, but why not have him make a dark match appearance for the live crowd? I have no idea why Rousey did not appear as advertised, but fans in Detroit who paid to see both former UFC Champions have every right to be upset. On top of that, WWE failed to deliver the advertised dark main event. The show simply ended when Raw went off the air. It will be interesting to see whether this affects business the next time the company returns to the Motor City or if the fans who are upset today will forgive and forget by then.
Asuka vs. Mickie James: It felt like the goal of the match was to create suspense over the possibility of Asuka’s undefeated streak ending rather than building up momentum for her heading into WrestleMania. No matter how hard they try, most fans won’t believe that Asuka is going to lose before WrestleMania. If she remains unbeaten coming out of WrestleMania then it makes sense create that suspense, but this stretch leading into WrestleMania should be all about making her look strong heading into the showdown match with Charlotte.
The Fabulous Moolah Battle Royal: A feel good corporate award named after a man who delivered hate speeches and now a battle royal named after a woman who has been accused of pimping out her trainees among other things that don’t exactly mesh with what WWE wants their women’s division push to represent. Why does this company continue to flirt PR embarrassment by paying tribute to such controversial figures? What next, a Dick Murdoch Award for minorities in pro wrestling?
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