By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Jinder Mahal vs. Jeff Hardy for the U.S. Championship: The show peaked with the first match of the night. WWE made a statement by having Hardy win the U.S. Championship in that they established that he’s a force as a singles wrestler. I liked the touch of having Kurt Angle call for any wrestler in the back to challenge Mahal. It was a little thing, but it provided a reason for Hardy to get a title shot that he had not earned since he was working tag matches prior to his injury. It will be interesting to see if Hardy remains on Raw. My guess is that he and the U.S. Championship at Smackdown bound, though they could also flip Seth Rollins and the Intercontinental Championship to Smackdown (despite his Monday Night Rollins t-shirt). It’s also possible that Hardy or Rollins drops their championship to a Smackdown wrestler at the Greatest Royal Rumble or WWE Backlash, so the company has multiple options to move a secondary title to the Tuesday night show.
The Miz moved to Smackdown: WWE only announced one Raw wrestler moving to Smackdown last night and they made the right call. It gave them a chance to write off Miz and his relationship with Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas on Raw, while also giving fans a night to anticipate Daniel Bryan finally getting his hands on his Talking Smack rival. The Miz seemed to be on the verge of cracking into the WWE Championship mix early last year before he was moved to Raw. I still wonder if Miz and Maryse were moved because of Mike and Maria Kanellis debuting on Smackdown with a similar heel husband and wife act. Miz spent the year in the Intercontinental Championship picture and did a terrific job, but hopefully this will be the year that he gets into that main event mix. Meanwhile, it’s going to be interesting to see what life after The Miz is like for Axel and Dallas.
Bobby Roode, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, Bobby Lashley, Seth Rollins vs. The Miz, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Curtis Axel, and Bo Dallas: A solid television main event that ended Miz’s run on Raw in an appropriate manner. I’m not big on WWE essentially burying wrestlers on one brand before the move to the other brand, but in this case it felt right that Miz would finally get his and even Axel and Dallas would abandon him. Bobby Roode being the mystery man on his team was a letdown. He and Lashley feel miscast as babyfaces because both men are so much better as heels, and hopefully that will be rectified soon.
Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler attack Titus Worldwide: The pairing of McIntyre and Ziggler is odd and even concerning, but there is also potential so I’m taking a wait and see approach. McIntyre is a good heel, but he’s a great babyface, so it’s disappointing to see him start as a heel. I hope the company intends to use him to breathe some life into Ziggler and this isn’t a case of creative thinking McIntyre needs Ziggler. The crowd’s “holy shit” and “McIntyre” chants were encouraging. Vince McMahon dubbing McIntyre the Chosen One back in the day was premature, but he has improved so much since his last WWE run that he has the ability to make the Vince character seem prophetic. Was the attack on Titus Worldwide the beginning of a quick feud or the Raw blowoff for Titus and company? In a perfect world, Apollo and Titus will end up on different brands so that Apollo has a chance to escape the undercard nonsense that is Titus Worldwide.
Ronda Rousey and Natalya: WWE is rushing to establish a storyline friendship between the two women and it’s definitely awkward given that Natalya has been playing a heel on Smackdown. I assume the idea is to split them up soon so that Natalya can serve as an in-ring teacher for Rousey. That’s a perfectly logical plan, but from a storyline standpoint they need to make sure that Rousey doesn’t seem like the only person on the planet who doesn’t see the Natalya turn coming.
Ember Moon vs. Mickie James: A minor Hit for Moon getting another clean and decisive win as she establishes herself on the main roster. It was encouraging to hear the crowd’s favorable reaction to her when she was teased on the big screen and for her finishing sequence during the match. Will James continue to be paired with Alexa Bliss or will they be split up tonight?
The Authors of Pain vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno: A minor Hit for AOP getting another win early in their run on the main roster. The repeated mentions of Slater and Rhyno being the first Smackdown Tag Team Champions lately have me suspicious that this may have been their swan song on Raw before being moved back to Smackdown tonight.
WWE Raw Misses
Roman Reigns: So were the Hartford fans also “booing wrestlers they would normally cheer” just like WWE claims the post WrestleMania crowds do? Most of WWE’s previous attempts to get Reigns over as a babyface were at least well written and would have worked if the same stories were told with a different protagonist. I have no idea what they are doing with Reigns at this point. This isn’t a case of the story being mysterious and compelling. It’s an absolute dumpster fire. Samoa Joe has played the surrogate for Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman over the last two weeks and delivered some of his best mic work in WWE. He’s also been spot on with his criticisms of the Reigns character to the point that creative seems to have written themselves into a corner in that the only comeback they could come up with for Reigns was having him call Joe a fat ass. What will it take for Vince McMahon to realize that Reigns has big money heel written all over him?
Raw Superstar Shakeup: WWE opted to please the Raw After WrestleMania crowd by debuting several NXT acts and bringing back Jeff Hardy and Bobby Lashley. It made for a great show last week, but it also set the stage for a flat first night of the Superstar Shakeup with too many of the moves being undercard additions.
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt vs. The Revival for a shot at the vacant Raw Tag Titles: Please tell me The Revival are Smackdown bound. They are such a talented team and they’ve been victims of bad luck with injuries and poor creative throughout their main roster run. They need a fresh start. Meanwhile, Hardy and Wyatt haven’t clicked with me yet. I’m happy to see Wyatt do something new, but we haven’t seen anything new and fun from Hardy since the Ultimate Deletion. On a positive note, the double team finisher Hardy and Wyatt used last night was a big improvement over the clunky one they had been using.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Fandango and Tyler Breeze: Sheamus and Cesaro are a great team that simply loses too often. They were beaten by Braun Strowman and a ten year-old at WrestleMania, and they followed that up with a loss to Breezango. And those are merely the recent examples. At this point, it won’t mean as much as it should if Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt beat them for the vacant Raw Tag Titles. The alternative of Sheamus and Cesaro regaining the Raw Tag Titles again isn’t enough to repair the damage that has been done.
Sasha Banks vs. Bayley: The feud between Banks and Bayley continues to be confusing with fans being given no incentive to cheer for one woman over the other. The Riott Squad trio attacking them during the match left me wondering if the plan is for Banks and Bayley to put their differences aside to feud with the trio. That would explain why we haven’t seen a definitive heel turn by either Banks or Bayley thus far. At this point, I’m all for Banks or Bayley being moved to Smackdown so they can simply move on from this mess. If they stay together, I hope their feud with Riott Squad is more compelling than the parity booking we saw on Smackdown during the trio’s time filling feud with Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Naomi.