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 and my 70-minute Q&A audio show from Monday afternoon. 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
Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns: An excellent beatdown angle that put heat on Lesnar and made Reigns look sympathetic. Obviously, it’s not going to work on fans who have made up their minds that they don’t want Reigns in the lead babyface role, and that group includes a good portion of the typical WrestleMania crowd. Thus, I still assume that Reigns is going to be booed loudly at WrestleMania and almost certainly the night after Raw. Even so, the company has navigated these waters before. They are obviously willing to have Reigns take his lumps during the biggest weekend of the year in hopes that the masses of non super fans will get behind Vince McMahon’s true chosen one post WrestleMania. The angle was not without it’s flaws. Reigns beating up three U.S. Marshalls who looked a lot like independent wrestlers was comically corny. Creative has entered full on Stone Cold mode with Reigns and while we have a good idea of how the WrestleMania crowd will respond to him, it will be very interesting to see if they make any progress with the casual fans.
Ultimate Deletion with Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt: The fact that a Deletion shoot actually aired on WWE television is a big win for the Hardy family. It took months of legal haggling, online mudslinging, and an eventual change of heart by Anthem management to make this possible. And even then, there was no guarantee that Vince McMahon would sign off on airing a Deletion video. Michael Cole may have been too strong when he acted embarrassed by the Ultimate Deletion, but the idea was clearly to avoid having him ruin the cool factor by giddily endorsing it. The actual video was fun. I enjoyed the TNA shoots more. Ultimate Deletion was lacking the cameo appearances that made some of the old shoots so much fun. It may have come off better for those familiar with the past Deletion shoots if they had not made it known that Matt’s family and various friends (Vanguard 1, Skarsgard, etc.) would appear, as they all would have been pleasant surprises rather than simply expected. Perhaps the feeling was that they needed to introduce those characters ahead of time to fans who didn’t see the TNA versions. There’s no telling whether they go from here. Will this be the only Deletion video or was this a one and done? Where does Bray Wyatt go from here now that he’s been “deleted” by Matt Hardy?
Braun Strowman vs. Cesaro: A comical skit prior to the match with Cesaro putting his foot in his mouth and then having Sheamus swerve him into working the match against Strowman. We didn’t get any answers as to who Strowman’s partner will be. The popular prediction is that Strowman and Elias will form an odd couple tag team, but the additional possibilities include everyone from Rey Mysterio to James Ellsworth to Samoa Joe. It will be interesting to see if WWE reveals Strowman’s partner on Raw or if they keep that a mystery and a minor hook going into WrestleMania.
John Cena promo: Cena was a little too over the top when the promo started, but he settled down and nailed his key lines, which included labeling Undertaker a coward. The waiting game on Undertaker is a unique and unexpected approach. I like that WWE didn’t put the full WrestleMania card out six weeks in advance. As much as Fastlane felt like a needless pay-per-view, it’s forced WWE to stagger a lot of the match announcements, which is a positive in that I don’t have that “let’s get it over with already” feel that I have in past years.
WWE Raw Misses
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville: The pre-match verbal exchange between Banks and Bayley made them both look bad. The writing made a case for both women being right and left the fans not knowing which woman they should be siding with. Worse yet, the fans gave Banks the “What?” treatment as she tried to make her case. Bayley showed good emotion with her response, but their bickering feels petty and is hard for fans to invest in. The actual match was fine and the issues between Banks and Bayley logically led to the Absolution duo getting the win.
Alexa Bliss vs. Asuka: The match was flat and the count-out finish protected a heel champion who doesn’t really need to be protected. Bliss continues to strike me as a pest heel and yet the company seems to go back and forth with that approach and making her a credible in-ring threat. Asuka felt like a non factor here and I hated the way they joined this match in progress given that she’s one of the few wrestlers in the company who has been established in a way that makes it seem like her matches can end at any time. The post match angle with Nia Jax going after Bliss and Mickie James was well done. I get the feeling that WWE doesn’t know what they have with James as a heel. She was a strong heel during her Impact Wrestling run and can contribute more on the mic. I realize that she’s there to enhance the Bliss act, but there’s a way to make her feel like more of a vital part of the act and less like the minion that she is now
The Revival vs. Titus O’Neil and Apollo: It says a lot about where both teams stand that the company didn’t televise either one of their entrances. It was good to see The Revival get the win and I am still holding out hope that they will be given a real push coming out of WrestleMania. The announcement of the Andre the Giant battle royal was flat, as I don’t think anyone took The Revival seriously when they claimed that they will be the first tag team to win the annual battle royal.
Finn Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson vs. The Miz, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel: Another issue with the opening segment was that no one came out to help Roman Reigns. The broadcast team was even calling for help, but then when they had Seth Rollins on commentary for this match they never bothered to address why he didn’t help Reigns. Something as simple as Rollins saying that he had not arrived at the building yet would have been sufficient. Instead, it came off like he didn’t help his Shield brother, yet he saved his WrestleMania opponent from an attack on the same show. The Balor Club trio is ice cold. Balor is over, but Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson bring him down more than he brings him up when they team together. I continue to hold out hope that the three of them will turn heel together and Gallows and Anderson will be rebuilt as a strong tag team, but at this point the thrill of seeing the trio teaming together as babyfaces is gone.
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