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. They members are also listening to my Q&A audio show, and my New Japan Pro Wrestling Strong Style Evolved audio review from Sunday night. They will also hear my audio review of tonight’s WWE Smackdown. 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, Roman Reigns, and Paul Heyman: WWE doubled down on Lesnar beating the hell out of Reigns. The goal is obviously to make Reigns look sympathetic while also establishing that he will keep coming back for me. And while this storyline is surely working with the Reigns supporters and would be wonderfully effective with everyone if there was someone universally loved cast in the protagonist role, but there’s still no indication that it’s winning over the detractors. Vince McMahon is trying so hard to get the masses to love Reigns. What happens once the story is told, Reigns stands tall as Universal Champion, and he still has the same number of haters coming out of this storyline?
Miz TV with Seth Rollins and Finn Balor: One of my favorite segments of the night was not without its issues. Rollins and Balor both looked like idiots for interrupting right when it appeared The Miz was about to come to blows with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. Was the idea that Miz bickering with his minions was a ruse? What were they going to do if Rollins and Balor had not interrupted them? Yet while there were some illogical moments, this was still one of the most entertaining segments of the night. The friction between Miz and the Miztourage was tense and believable, and I loved the way Miz silenced the hometown fans with a simple jab of “I live in L.A. now.”
Ronda Rousey, Kurt Angle, and Absolution: A minor Hit for Rousey getting the better of the Absolution duo following Paige’s offer to make her the fourth member of the group. It’s a shame that Angle’s return to the ring at WrestleMania feels so overshadowed. It’s great that he’s in such a high profile match and yet he feels like the least important person in the storyline build. Meanwhile, Rousey received a favorable reaction from the Cleveland crowd, but she didn’t get a big star reaction. Working with top heels Triple H and Stephanie McMahon is sure to help next week, but I still believe Rousey will be a heel at this time next year. And if she does turn heel, perhaps that distracting eye makeup will seem more appropriate.
Braun Strowman vs. Sheamus: A minor Hit for Strowman plowing through the other half of the tag team champions a week after he beat Cesaro. It will be interesting to see if they reveal the identity of his tag team partner next week or if that is going to be a WrestleMania Sunday surprise.
Nia Jax vs. Mickie James: A minor Hit for the logical story of Jax beating Alexa Bliss’s sidekick as they move closer to the Raw Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania. Are we ever going to get that big babyface promo from Jax? The fans like Jax, but it feels like we are still missing that big promo or sit-down interview where she connects with fans by explaining in a relatable and sympathetic way why the antics of Bliss and James upset her to the point of tears.
Asuka vs. Jamie Frost: Another minor Hit for a quick and decisive win for Asuka. I will take this over another competitive match with Asuka or a clunky verbal exchange.
WWE Raw Misses
John Cena vs. Kane in a No DQ match: I still can’t believe that the featured match on the penultimate edition of Raw before WrestleMania felt like it was straight out of 2003. Of course, it was a logical match given that Kane is the storyline sibling of Undertaker, but it still felt odd to look at the WWE website on Monday and see Cena vs. Kane as the featured segment on an important show in 2018. Cena emulating Undertaker was a nice touch. Unfortunately, Cena’s inner dork emerged and it was laugh out loud funny to hear him yell Undertaker’s name, and the final shot of a bug-eyed Cena doing the throat slashing gesture was about a cornball as it gets. WWE is taking a unique approach by waiting until the go-home show to have Undertaker show up. It’s not what any of us would have envisioned for the storyline build to their long awaited match, but it sets the stage for next week’s go-home show even if it ended this episode on a flat note.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon video package: The idea of a training video involving Stephanie had so much potential. I had flashbacks to Vince McMahon’s over the top antics with The Stooges boosting his ego heading into showdowns with Steve Austin. Instead, WWE opted to show a straight forward Stephanie workout video complete with a trainer endorsing her in a serious manner. Since when has Stephanie been portrayed as a serious athlete in WWE storylines? She’s a privileged character who abuses her power by tormenting and even physically abusing people who don’t fight back for fear of losing their job. This didn’t come off like Stephanie has delusions of grandeur regarding her ability to hang with Ronda Rousey. There was no hint of that being the case from Triple H or the trainer or even the broadcast team, and it conflicted with the fear that Stephanie has shown of Rousey in the past. This didn’t do any damage in terms of the build to her mixed tag match, but it felt like this could have been a lot more fun and done more to make viewers anxious to see a comically delusional Stephanie be put in her place.
Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali vs. Drew Gulak and TJP: The cruiserweights have been held off of Raw since Triple H’s crew took over the booking of 205 Live. They finally made their return in a tag match that featured four of the wrestlers who were abused by the previous creative regime. As such, this sent the message to viewers who have not been keeping up on 205 Live that nothing has changed. Drake Maverick sitting in on commentary was a nice touch, but there wasn’t anything else about this segment felt new and different.
Bayley and Sasha Banks: Both women are right. The Banks character is self absorbed, and the main roster Bayley character is a passive aggressive loser. Which wrestler are fans supposed to side with when both characters are coming off so petty and unlikable?
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas: A flat match that came off as filler and did nothing to sell WrestleMania.
Elias vs. Rhyno: See the match above. At least we were treated to an Elias insult song beforehand. The third hour of the show would have been bad in a typical week, but it was even worse on a show this close to WrestleMania.
NEW: Help support Prowrestling.net when you shop Amazon by starting your online Amazon shopping at Prowrestling.net/amazon. You are not charged extra, but we receive a small and very helpful commission on everything you purchase. Thanks for thinking of us every time you shop at Amazon.