By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Dot Net Members are listening to my audio review of WWE Raw, my Q&A audio show, and my audio review of the Impact Wrestling Redemption pay-per-view. They will also hear my audio review of Smackdown later tonight. Join us on the ad-free version of our website and mobile website and access a decade of written and audio content via PWMembership.net.
WWE Raw Hits
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman: A strong gloating promo from Heyman, who was out for heel heat heading into the Greatest Royal Rumble. Heyman held up his end of the bargain. Unfortunately, Roman Reigns wasn’t even given a chance to do his part. More on that later.
Jinder Mahal vs. Chad Gable: A fun upset win for Gable. I assumed this would be a showcase win for Mahal coming off his U.S. Title loss to Jeff Hardy last week. Did they double down on Mahal losses because they intend to give him a U.S. Title win at Friday’s Greatest Royal Rumble? If so, that means the Intercontinental Championship would likely to go a Smackdown wrestler on Friday or at the WWE Backlash event. I typically prefer that they don’t move the titles around from show to show, but I could get into a babyface Gable chasing foreign menace Mahal for the U.S. Title.
Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn: Just when it seemed like Strowman was losing a bit of an edge because he’s been involved in too many comedy segments and not enough segments with actual substance, the St. Louis crowd gave him the pop of the night when he took a hot tag. Lashley was also over, though I continue to believe that there is more money in him as a heel.
Sami & Kevin Show with Kurt Angle: A fun talkshow segment with some biting humor combined with silly moments such as the kid-sized lawn chair used for the guest. Will they have a pimped out La-Z Boy recliner for the heel guests they actually like?
Nia Jax, Ember Moon, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Natalya vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, and Liv Morgan: The story they told was that Kurt Angle was giving the women the same opportunity he gave the men the week before. Instead, it came off like the company was showcasing the women in the main event spot days before they take that big payday for running a show in Saudi Arabia, where the women are not allowed to perform. Putting that aside, the 10-woman tag match was solid and the Natalya injury angle that set up the unadvertised appearance of Ronda Rousey was well done. I still hope they take their time with this and establish Natalya as a babyface before her inevitable turn on Rousey, because they currently run the risk of making Rousey look foolish for being the only person who doesn’t see it coming.
Bobby Roode vs. Elias: A surprising clean win for Elias. After seeing Elias destroyed repeatedly lately, I assumed this would be more of a showcase win for Roode in his second week on Raw. Instead, they had Elias go over clean. Corey Graves tried to soften the blow by calling Elias’s win highway robbery, but there was nothing cheap about it. I don’t want to overanalyze Roode losing clean in week two when it’s possible that he gets his win back next week.
Alexa Bliss PSA: A really fun heel PSA with Bliss continuing to portray Jax as the real bully in their feud. This was excellent use of Bliss’s promo ability and it was genuinely funny.
Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler vs. Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews: A nice showcase win for the new McIntyre and Ziggler pairing. I still have no idea why these two are a team when McIntyre is more than ready to thrive as a singles act, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy their work together. The Claymore and Zigzag combo finisher they debuted last week and used again to end this match is great. Ziggler’s line at the end when he billed their team as The Show felt very similar to The Bar’s line.
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt vs. “The Ascension” Konnor and Viktor: A better week for the new Hardy and Wyatt team. The credit goes to Hardy in that he got the crowd behind them during the first minute of the match when he led them in applauding Viktor’s cartwheel.
Bruno Sammartino tribute: The onstage opening with the ten bell salute, the video package, and the various social media posts throughout the night all made for a classy and memorable tribute.
WWE Raw Misses
Roman Reigns: The St. Louis crowd was kinder to Reigns than most. It was the first time in weeks that we’ve heard the majority of a crowd at a Raw television event react favorably to Reigns. Perhaps WWE would have booked his segment differently had they known the crowd was going to be kind to Reigns. Either way, his brief response to Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman was as weak as it gets for a main event player heading into a title match. If they don’t want him to talk in front of the live crowd, can’t they at least feature him in some sit-down interviews?
No Way Jose and Baron Corbin: The Jose conga line feels so unnecessary. He’s a charismatic and likable mid-card babyface who doesn’t need a group of Rosebud rejects. It also doesn’t help to have Michael Cole endorse the gimmick and talk about how Jose is all about having fun. Corbin immediately became more likable to me when he said Jose is all about having fun while he’s all about ruining people’s fun before adding that Jose isn’t on his level. Vince McMahon’s zany fun loving characters always come off like being silly is more of a priority than actually winning matches. Why can’t they be fun while still expressing the same logical desire to actually win matches and titles like everyone else?
Seth Rollins and Finn Balor vs. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel: More of an in the middle. This came off like a time filling and mildly crowd pleasing match. And that’s fine, but it would have been nice to see some sign of tension between Rollins and Balor heading into their Intercontinental Championship match at the Greatest Royal Rumble. My guess remains that Dallas and Axel hook up with Elias as his personal security or roadies. They had some interaction with Elias while Miz was off making a movie and it seems like a logical landing spot for the duo.
Greatest Royal Rumble hype: This is a case of preferring quality over quantity. There was an abundance of hype for Friday’s event. In fact, it felt like they made more of a hard sell for this event than they did for even WrestleMania on its go-home show. The difference is that there was no real storytelling for the vast majority of the Greatest Royal Rumble matches. John Cena and Triple H even haven’t discussed their match. We have no idea why Undertaker is facing Rusev in a casket match. We don’t even know why the 50-man Royal Rumble match is taking place. The wrestlers are fighting for a trophy? No, not a future title match or some other meaningful reward, they are fighting for a trophy. The event itself certainly looks good on paper, but it doesn’t feel as hot as it should because it’s occurring too close to WrestleMania and the Superstar Shakeup week prevented the company from telling meaningful stories heading into the show.