By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Powell’s WWE Raw Hits
Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch: The best verbal exchange in pro wrestling in ages. Lynch received a mega pop when she made her surprise appearance and she went on to deliver a great promo. Rousey fired back with a fiery and believable promo of her own (perhaps a little too believable with that line about how she could kill Lynch with her bare hands if she wanted to). This exchange and the crowd’s reaction screamed WrestleMania main event. I continue to fear that Charlotte Flair’s character will protest the way Lynch entered the Royal Rumble match and this will become a Triple Threat. As much as I enjoy Flair’s work, she’s just not needed in this match. The fans want the showdown singles match and WWE would be wise to deliver it on their biggest stage.
The Rousey promo that preceded the segment made for fascinating television. The live crowd rejected Rousey in a major way and she seemed lost to the point that Bayley was sent out earlier than planned. It was hard not to feel pity for Rousey given that she has worked her ass off and tried to say all the right things. At times she’s come off like she’s trying too hard to say the right things and thus comes off a little too precious. It actually reminds me of when fans started turning on Bret Hart back in the day. But the fan rejection is mostly about their love of Lynch. All of this gives Rousey great ammunition if she turns heel. She did everything right and the fans still rejected her, so now she (and perhaps her MMA friends in NXT) is going to destroy everything they love, particularly their hero Lynch. Will Vince McMahon dig his heels in Roman Reigns style or show that his recent claim of listening to the fans was more than just lip service?
Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins: A good opening chapter to the Lesnar vs. Rollins story heading into WrestleMania. Lesnar looked as dominant as ever, and Rollins begins his road to the championship looking like a sympathetic man with a huge mountain to climb. The stronger Lesnar looks going into WrestleMania, the more it will mean if Rollins beats him.
Finn Balor and Bobby Lashley: There were obvious similarities between Lashley destroying the wounded Balor and Lesnar doing the same to Rollins and yet they both worked. Balor did a good job of selling the beating he took from Lesnar and that made him easy prey for Lashley. An Intercontinental Championship program is a good landing spot for Balor coming off his loss to Lesnar.
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose: A good match with Rollins getting a momentum building win over his rival coming off the Royal Rumble moment. Nothing about this raised any red flags when it came to what we now know about Ambrose planning to leave the company once his deal expires in April. In fact, the match was preceded by Ambrose getting in the face of Triple H, which left me wondering at the time if there was a chance they would work a WrestleMania match together if Batista isn’t back in the fold.
Nia Jax and Tamina vs. Alexa Bliss and Mickie James in an Elimination Chamber match qualifier: Ambrose went from talking smack to Triple H and having the match with Rollins to being hit from behind by Jax. There was nothing about this that made me think the company is burying Ambrose on his way out the door, but I guess we’ll have to wait to see where it goes from here. I’m not a fan of intergender wrestling. To each his own on that. But Jax getting physical with the men in their Rumble match and this segment with Ambrose has given her character more of an edge. Jax’s double Samoan Drop finisher on Bliss and James was impressive and added to that edge.
The Revival vs. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder: A minor Hit. No, it has nothing to do with The Revival getting a rare win. It’s because creative didn’t just race into giving Hawkins his elusive streak ending win in his first match back teaming with Ryder. It’s something they can build to and as much as I’d like to believe that the Revival will be scripted to build on this win, I’ll be shocked if they’re not the team that Hawkins and Ryder eventually defeat.
Powell’s WWE Raw Misses
Ronda Rousey vs. Bayley for the Raw Women’s Championship: We saw the best and worst of Rousey on Monday night. As good as her segment with Lynch was, this was a clunky match with some blown spots and awkward moments. They managed to get things back on track enough that the finish came off well, but this was Rousey’s worst televised in-ring outing.
Braun Strowman vs. Drew McIntyre: Why did this match even happen? This feels like something that should have been saved so that it could be set up as an eventual big match. Fortunately, we didn’t get a clean finish, but we did get another beatdown by McIntyre and Corbin on Strowman. Here’s hoping this doesn’t mean we’re heading back to handicap matches or even the return of Nicholas at WrestleMania.
Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin: A minor Miss in the moment. I would hope that they are building to a redemption moment for Angle at WrestleMania, but it’s sad to see him mean so little at this point.
Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan vs. Natalya and Dana Brooke in an Elimination Chamber match qualifier: So Brooke was cocky before the match while telling Natalya that she’s better than her and Ember Moon. And then Brooke was shoved into Natalya to break up her Sharpshooter. Brooke was apologetic, yet Natalya blew her off. Maybe this will make more sense next week, but it made for an awkward segment and I can’t say it left me caring about what comes next.
Elias turns: The live crowd loved Elias and for some reason the company opted to turn him heel in a segment with Double J and Road Dogg. It’s fun to see the legends, but what did this actually do for Elias in terms of setting him up with something meaningful going forward?
Check below for the latest ProWrestling.net Live with Jason Powell and Will Pruett taking calls on the WWE Royal Rumble and NXT Takeover: Phoenix events.