By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins in a Falls Count Anywhere match for the Intercontinental Championship: A good brawl that was far more entertaining than their disappointing match at TLC. The Bobby Lashley interference was foreshadowed to a ridiculous degree in the opening segment, but I still enjoyed the match. It’s also a good idea to get Ambrose and Rollins away from one another for the time being. If Rollins is going to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania, then there’s no point in having him spin his wheels in a feud with Ambrose at a time when neither man can afford to lose. The alternative would be a bunch of cheap finishes that wouldn’t help either man.
Raw opening: A good segment despite the minor letdown of spotting that Bobby Lashley was involved in the brawl with Seth Rollins once the cameras stopped shaking long enough to actually make out who it was. Lashley is a great talent and he took a step forward last night, but he’s still paying the price for being booked poorly since he returned. Hopefully what we saw last night is a sign of things to come even though I assume he will come out on the losing end of his feud with Rollins.
John Cena, Seth Rollins, and Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre, Dean Ambrose, and Bobby Lashley: A good six-man tag match that set the in-ring heavy tone for the night. I also liked McIntyre being the person to interrupt Cena’s promo that preceded the match. The key to McIntyre clicking as the badass heel is exactly what he said in that while other heels talk about taking down Cena, his character actually needs to do it.
Gene Okerlund tribute: WWE jumped at the chance to put Hulk Hogan back on television in a role where he wouldn’t need to apologize or explain his actions. The ten bell salute and the video package were well done, and putting aside all of the obvious criticisms of Hogan appearing, he did a nice job, particularly when it came to keeping things focused on Okerlund rather than himself.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax: A minor Hit for Banks getting the win and earning a title shot at the Royal Rumble. The closing sequence of the match was a mess with Jax apparently not taking the huracanrana from the apron properly. There was no attempt to do the spot over again or replace it on the fly, they simply went right to the finish of Banks applying her submission hold. Here’s hoping one more time that this somehow leads to Banks turning heel for the first time on the main roster. I’m not holding my breath, though, as I suspect Banks and misused Bayley will be in the mix to become the first WWE Women’s Tag Champions.
Elias vs. Baron Corbin: A minor Hit. Corbin going over clean was a surprise. I guess the near collision with the referee spot was supposed to protect Elias somehow, but it didn’t really come off that way. Even so, Elias showed more in-ring intensity than usual. I assume we haven’t seen the last of this feud.
WWE Raw Misses
Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman segment: It may have been a coincidence, but it seemed like they were stalling as Strowman attempted to coax Lesnar into leaving the backstage area to join him in the ring. The support for this theory is that Lesnar’s entrance coincided with the college football national championship game going to halftime. Unfortunately, Lesnar’s lap around the ring was a letdown. Strowman reportedly hasn’t received medical clearance and thus he couldn’t do anything physical, but that doesn’t change the fact that this failed to get me more excited about their WWE Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble. Worse yet, Strowman came off like an oaf who couldn’t come up with a good insult to the point that Lesnar and Paul Heyman seemed to find humor in his failed attempts to get under Lesnar’s skin.
Ember Moon and Apollo Crews vs. Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox: And this segment seems to go against the idea that WWE was paying any attention to when the football game went to halftime. I can’t imagine why they would want the most throwaway segment of the night to air at a time when football fans were most likely to be flipping channels. As I noted last night in my live review, if there was one positive in this segment it’s that Mahal insulted the fans. It’s not that his insults were witty or drew major heat, it’s that the creative forces seem to have realized that there’s no heat in having him meditate and speak of peace.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. The Revival in a lumberjack match for the Raw Tag Titles: They didn’t do a good job of explaining why this was a lumberjack match, and having most of the tag teams at ringside just showcased the sad state of Raw’s tag division. Putting that aside, the body of the match was solid, but the unsatisfying finish just dragged things out in a way that made the heels seem sympathetic.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Will Pruett reviewing the NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 13 event.