By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Finn Balor and Brock Lesnar: WWE dedicated over 30 minutes to setting the stage for their title match and framing Balor as a threat to take the title. It was a good night for Balor, but they didn’t really sell me on the idea of him beating Lesnar. Rather, Corey Graves implying that it will only take one F5 to put Balor away left me assuming that Balor will kick out of at least one F5 and the focus will be on how much heart he showed by giving Lesnar a run for his money despite losing in the end. Nevertheless, these segments left me looking forward to the match more than I was going into Raw.
Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre: Good promos from both men followed by a quality match. While I’m normally all for clean finishes, this one was a head scratcher. Creative went out of their way to protect McIntyre during his tag team run with Dolph Ziggler. In recent weeks, McIntyre lost to Ziggler, was on the verge of being pinned by John Cena last week before it was broken up by another wrestler, and now he’s been pinned clean by Rollins. I’m not sure why they stopped protecting McIntyre. Does he have a big win coming that Vince McMahon feels will erase all of this?
Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs. Sasha Banks and Bayley: Good final hype for Rousey vs. Banks. Much like the Lesnar vs. Balor match, I view this as a slam dunk win for the champion even though I’m looking forward to the actual match. Could WWE surprise us with an upset in either match? Of course, but the point is that they didn’t really sell me on it in either case.
Lacey Evans: A strong true debut with Evans talking down to Alexa Bliss while acting as if she’s better than her and everyone else in the women’s division. Bliss came away from this looking like a babyface. I suspect they are working toward an Evans vs. Bliss feud. If so, I’m curious to see how Bliss will do as a babyface. Either way, Evans jumped out to a strong start on the main roster.
Elias vs. Baron Corbin: A minor Hit. Another win for Corbin over Elias. It seemed like they were trying to protect Elias by having Michael Cole call Corbin’s punch to the throat a cheap shot, but they didn’t go far enough with the criticism for it to register. Rather, it looks like Corbin is the dominant wrestler with a pair of recent wins over Elias, which surprises me given how high company officials seem to be on Elias.
Heavy Machinery vs. The Ascension: A minor Hit for the Heavy Machinery main roster debut. Otis Dozovic is being framed as a modern day Bushwhacker goofball. It seems to be working now and I expect the duo to get a nice initial push. My concern is that WWE has a history of running comedy acts into the ground quickly and thus I fear where Heavy Machinery will be a year from now.
WWE Raw Misses
Braun Strowman: Live crowds are still cheering Strowman and yet it feels like he’s cooled off considerably. The repetitive stunts, his failure to beat Brock Lesnar, the rough promos and awful “Beastie Boy” name he uses for Lesnar, his submissive interaction with the mighty Vince McMahon last week, and Lesnar showing no fear of him during last night’s segment have all played some part in this. Strowman telling Lesnar that he’ll be waiting for him if he beats Finn Balor on Sunday should have left me looking forward to an eventual match. Instead, it actually left me dreading the possibility of a Lesnar vs. Strowman match that I have no interest in seeing at WrestleMania. It’s a far cry from the excitement that existed for the first Lesnar vs. Strowman match last year. By no means is Strowman a lost cause and he remains one of the top stars in the company, but creative has to do something to heat him up again to stop this momentum loss.
Bobby Lashley: A minor Miss for Lashley going back into bodybuilding pose mode. Lashley is in a better place than he was a month ago, but he is at his best when he’s pushed as a badass wrestler, not a modern day Narcissist. With EC3 posing in a mirror backstage last week, please tell me they’re not working toward a corny bodybuilder vs. bodybuilder feud.
A Moment of Bliss: Everything prior to Bliss announcing her return to the ring at the Royal Rumble and Lacey Evans showing up was painful. I was optimistic when WWE announced this talkshow for Bliss, but the early outings have been so bad that I hope they scrap it now that she’s returning to the ring. And I think we’ve all had our fill of segments with a group of female wrestlers bickering with one another.
Kalisto, Lince Dorado, and Gran Metalik vs. Jinder Mahal, Sunil Singh, and Samir Singh: The broadcast team clearly didn’t care about the match and I can’t blame them. The Mahal act is ice cold and Lucha House Party is a one dimensional kiddie gimmick. It’s a shame because here’s a lot of talent in LHP.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. The Revival for the Raw Tag Titles: Roode and Gable are talented wrestlers who do nothing for me as a tag team. Meanwhile, The Revival are a phenomenal team, yet they are positioned as goofballs who lose far more than they win. Can anyone blame them for asking for their contractual releases? They were terrific in NXT and they are just the latest victims of Vince McMahon being handed hot acts and just plain ruining them on the main roster.
EC3: The brief shots of him backstage have been quirky and uninspired. His character just begs for a series of introductory vignettes and instead we’ve seen him mingling with undercard wrestlers outside Vince McMahon’s office, flexing in front of a mirror, and talking with Dana Brooke. They should be building anticipation for EC3’s in-ring debut, but instead he’s coming off like an undercard nobody.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and WOW head writer and lead voice Stephen Dickey discussing his career and the launch of the weekly WOW television series that airs Fridays at 8CT/9ET on AXS TV.