By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Becky Lynch leads a Smackdown women’s invasion: Lynch once again shined and is the company’s hottest star. The live crowds love her and only stubbornness from Vince McMahon wanting to portray her as a heel could screw this up. The only real negative of the invasion is the oddball decision to have Charlotte follow Lynch’s lead along with the rest of the Smackdown women. Hopefully this will be explained away on Smackdown, but it’s moments like these that continue to make me feel the Raw vs. Smackdown approach to Survivor Series is not worth the hassle. On the plus side, the Smackdown women’s invasion was well done and I love that Corey Graves was quick to question whether Raw might respond on Smackdown, as that’s a great hook for tonight’s show. And while Lynch suffering the bloody nose was obviously unfortunate for her, it also created a tremendous visual and helped make this segment even stronger.
Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler: The best match of a show that was not filled with strong matches. Balor’s stock seems to be up as the company is in need of top babyfaces on Raw while Roman Reigns is sidelined. It was interesting to hear the broadcast team debate whether Drew McIntyre suggesting that he was above facing Balor, yet Ziggler was not, was an intentional insult directed at Ziggler. McIntyre’s line about not allowing nostalgia acts on Raw was also interesting and left me wondering whether he will be facing Undertaker in his final match at WrestleMania. Obviously, that can be big for McIntyre if he is cast as the man who ended Undertaker’s career, but what if WWE wants to send Taker out with a win? tt
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose: A Hit for these two, but a big Miss in terms of making the Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match feel significant. It came off like WWE was setting up an excuse for Rollins losing at Survivor Series by making him seem obsessed with Ambrose and dismissive of his match with Nakamura. It’s unfortunate because that’s a great first-time matchup for WWE and one of the real hooks for Survivor Series for me. On the plus side, Ambrose delivered a solid parking lot promo complete with the burning of his Shield vest.
Braun Strowman and Stephanie McMahon: I love that Strowman didn’t buy into the silly brand loyalty pitch made by Stephanie. Survivor Series comes off like a silly pride battle for rich siblings who use the wrestlers as their pawns. So by using the situation to negotiate, Strowman didn’t come off like a big oaf for once.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman: The actual segment was entertaining even if they failed to move me on Lesnar vs. AJ Styles II. Perhaps company officials feel the match sells itself. And while I have no doubt that I will enjoy it once the bell rings, it does not feel as must see the second time around. I liked the way Heyman was interrupted before he could deliver his “spoiler” guarantee. It’s hard to say if they took this approach because they intend to have Lesnar lose and wanted to protect that gimmick or if they knew fans would be assuming that’s the case and it was actually a red herring. Either way, it was a nice touch. Lesnar beating up Mahal and the Singhs was entertaining and yet also led to Brock being cheered by the live crowd. It really is sad to think of just how much Mahal has fallen since this time last year. Yes, the company was way too aggressive with his WWE Championship reign, yet they were also very unimaginative when it came to how he was booked with all those repetitive promos. If nothing else, it feels like his fall from grace should have been softer if only so the company could have gotten more out of having him put over key people instead of just losing every week. Speaking of which, there was zero followup to Apollo Crews pinning Mahal in a match they tried to make a fuss over last week.
Sasha Banks vs. Bayley for a spot on Team Raw: A minor Hit for a well worked match between two of the most underutilized wrestlers in WWE. The finish with the heels attacking the babyfaces was hardly a surprise and it continues to be sad that Sasha and Bayley are just spinning their wheels. By the way, why would Alexa Bliss put Natalya on a team filled with four heels?
Elias vs. Bobby Lashley for a spot on Team Raw: A minor Hit for getting Lashley on the Raw team in a way that protected Elias and set up the need for a rematch if they want to go in that direction. WWE needs to put Lashley and Brock Lesnar on opposite brands during the next shakeup so that Lashley can go back to playing a badass heel similar to his work as The Destroyer in Impact Wrestling.
WWE Raw Misses
Ronda Rousey promo: Ronda has been a terrific talker and her promos typically stand out as a major positive. But I have no idea why she, as a babyface, insulted a significant portion of the audience by ripping on millennial men. Rousey has enough working against her while working against the most popular wrestler on the roster at Survivor Series, and now they basically told a group of fans that it’s okay to boo her.
Tag Team battle royal: Braun Strowman singlehandedly beat up all of the participants in the opening segment. Oh, but Survivor Series teams must have meaningless captains and so they came back to the match and had four eliminations in just three-and-a-half minutes. As if all of this didn’t scream that the Raw tag division is a joke, then they announced that the tag team elimination match will air on the Kickoff Show. The only positive I can find in any of this is that AOP was spared from being included in this a week after winning the tag titles.
Ruby Riott’s insincere apology: Vince McMahon needs to issue a one-year moratorium on heel characters delivering insincere apologies. Viewers have seen these too many times and thus live crowds don’t believe them for a second. The worst example of WWE running this into the ground was when they had Alexa Bliss deliver an insincere apology on Raw and then followed up the very next night with Carmella doing the exact same thing. On a side note, Riott’s version of the Hart Attack clothesline was brutal. She’s a very good wrestler so I was surprised by how clunky that move was.
Ember Moon vs. Tamina: More of an in the middle than anything. I like the Nia Jax and Tamina pairing, and hopefully Moon will be cast as more than the fall girl used to establish the new heel duo.
Check below for the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Salina de la Renta from Major League Wrestling.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ring of Honor's PJ Black discussing the ROH Pure Title tournament beginning on ROH Wrestling TV this weekend, ROH's COVID-19 safety precautions, his run in WWE as Justin Gabriel with The Nexus, wrestling as The Bunny, and more...