By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Becky Lynch, Stephanie McMahon, and Ronda Rousey: The opening segment with Stephanie playing it straight while trying to encourage Lynch to have her knee examined was well done. I wish Lynch would have explained her reservations in her own words rather than Michael Cole trying to cover it later in the show. Cole said Lynch doesn’t trust Stephanie or the doctors and she’s afraid they will say she needs some sort of surgery that will cause her to miss WrestleMania. It left a gap. I get the idea that Lynch is afraid that the injury is serious enough that she won’t be medically cleared. But it came off like her character fears some sort of McMahon conspiracy to keep her out of the main event. I suspect they are trying to play on fan fears that Charlotte Flair will be added to the WrestleMania match, but there’s no established storyline reason for the McMahons to prefer having Flair in the match instead of Lynch. Despite all of this, the segment was effective with Lynch punching McMahon, which opens the door to some interesting storyline possibilities. The backstage confrontation between Rousey and Lynch was also well done even if Rousey’s promo felt a little wordy. All in all, though, another good night of build to the WrestleMania main event.
Ronda Rousey beats Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan: Rousey looked dominant over two women who are cast as sidekicks for Ruby Riott, and they wisely saved Rousey vs. Riott for a later date. It’s just a shame they felt the need to feed Riott to Rousey a while back, as they could have built up Riott for the last couple of months and positioned her match with Rousey in a meaningful way. Rousey lashing out at the booing fans came off as something that was planned to viewer in that the boo birds weren’t nearly as loud as they were last week, so it’s not like there was a good reason for her to be truly flustered. Either way, it’s interesting that Rousey was all smiles during her entrance and gave a young fan some merch, as that shows the company isn’t ready to make her a full fledged heel yet.
A Moment of Bliss talkshow: The best edition of Alexa Bliss’s talkshow to date. That’s not really high praise because the previous installments have been rough, but I did enjoy the segment with Nia Jax, Dean Ambrose, and EC3. Ambrose was especially entertaining on the mic, perhaps too entertaining in that he was getting laughs rather than heat. EC3 pinning Ambrose after this came off a little flat in that it felt like the type of win they would give a plucky up and comer rather than a rising star. It’s only one week and no real damage was done. That said, this all left me worried about EC3 will be positioned as a babyface. He’s a natural heel and the One Percenter gimmick screams villain, perhaps to everyone other than the one percenter who is booking the show.
Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins: A solid backstage segment with Ryder coming off like a normal person rather than playing up the tired Broski gimmick. Hawkins was down on his luck due to his losing streak and Ryder was quick to point out his own losing ways to bond with him, which quickly established the duo as lovable losers who are out to change their luck.
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Nikki Cross and Alicia Fox: The pre-match attack set a good tone for the match and was logical given the personas of Cross and Fox. But I hope creative realizes there is actually a big difference between Cross crazy and Fox crazy. Cross is compelling and believable, whereas Fox goes way too over the top and comes off campy. In other words, I hope the Fox character is tweaked if they stay together or, better yet, they just go their separate ways after losing this match.
Finn Balor vs. Lio Rush: Balor playing up his storyline injuries made him sympathetic and thus it felt like a good win when he beat a guy that viewers would normally expect him to plow through. It’s also interesting that Lashley spoke about how much better he is than Brock Lesnar. Lio Rush said similar things recently so this was more than just a few throwaway lines. I assume they are building to Lesnar vs. Lashley at some point, but it wouldn’t seem to make a lot of sense right now given that both wrestlers are heels. Whenever this match occurs, pray for Lio Rush, who is sure to be thrown around like a rag doll.
Mojo Rawley: A minor Hit for the seemingly unstable Rawley character’s second week of backstage mirror promos. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes and if Rawley can finally become a meaningful performer on the main roster.
WWE Raw Misses
Kurt Angle and Braun Strowman vs. Drew McIntyre and Baron Corbin: The finish was so bad that it ruined an otherwise Hit worthy match. It was nice to see Angle positioned in a meaningful way, and his pairing with Strowman felt logical given that both men have issues with the heels. But that finish made no sense in that it just didn’t mesh with anything we’ve seen from WWE tag team wrestling. I would actually be all for the company establishing firm rules for tag team wrestling so that we didn’t get so many matches that suddenly feel like tornado matches with all four men getting involved, but to do this out of the blue felt contrived.
The Revival vs. Heavy Machinery vs. Lucha House Party vs. The B-Team: The match quality was fine, but the Raw tag division is in such a bad place that I just didn’t care about which team would win. They really need to put the tag titles on The Revival this time. We’ve seen them get several chances and they always come up short, so seeing them win this match felt empty even though I’m a big fan of their work.
Elias vs. Jeff Jarrett: It’s great that Jarrett has been hired as a producer and had a moment in the Royal Rumble match, but the Jarrett and Road Dogg nostalgia trip lasted a week too long. Perhaps Jarrett could be a fun surprise at house shows.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom with Jason Powell and his guest Rich Bocchini (f/k/a Rich Brennan) discussing his work with Tony Schiavone in MLW, working for Michael Cole in WWE, his trial by fire in NXT, being produced by Vince McMahon, and much more.