By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Seth Rollins and Paul Heyman: Rollins got his mojo back after taking six F5’s from Brock Lesnar two weeks ago. I enjoyed the segment, but it actually felt a little premature for Rollins to regain his confidence given that we’re still nearly two months out from WrestleMania. The WWE Universal Championship match hype for WrestleMania started early and I’m curious to see what creative comes up with to occupy Rollins’s time between now and April. The handshake from Dean Ambrose came out of nowhere and it felt like something you might actually see on the go-home show, but more on Ambrose later.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. The Revival for the Raw Tag Titles: It’s nice to finally see something positive in the Raw tag division. The Revival are a terrific team and while there’s no quick fix for the division’s woes, putting the tag titles on Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder is a good start. They were tremendous as the NXT Tag Team Champions. They know how to get heat while making their babyface challengers look strong in dramatic matches. I’m still not sold on Roode and Gable as a team. They work very well together in the ring, but there’s no chemistry from a personality standpoint. The matching robes and the Glorious gimmick make them both one dimensional. I’m sure they will be in chase mode since the division is lacking quality babyface challengers, so it sure would be nice if creative would retire the Glorious bit and give them a real chance to become more relatable.
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Nia Jax and Tamina vs. Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan: I like the gimmick of the women fighting to avoid being one of the teams to start the Elimination Chamber match. It gave this match a hook, and makes the Chamber feel a little less random in terms of the order of entry. It’s been nice to see Bayley being made to look strong while she covers for the injured Sasha Banks. She eventually took the pin in this match, but she won over the live crowd with a strong offensive run before the finish. Making Banks and Bayley among the first entrants in the match helps give them an out for losing if Banks doesn’t receive medical clearance before Sunday, and it could also put them in position to beat the odds and win the match in dramatic fashion if Banks is good to go.
Braun Strowman, Kurt Angle, and Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre, Baron Corbin, and Bobby Lashley: The live crowd was hot for the final minutes of the match as the babyfaces hit their signature moves. Balor got the big win for his team and built some momentum heading into his strange handicap title match at the pay-per-view.
WWE Raw Misses
Vince McMahon replaces Becky Lynch with Charlotte Flair in the WrestleMania main event: WWE closed 2018 by having the McMahon family attempt to sell viewers on the idea of change. They claimed things would be different going forward and that they were going to start listening to their audience. If this move is any indication, they lied through their teeth. Vince McMahon is still booking the matches he wants to deliver, not the matches that fans want to see. Granted, there’s still a chance that this could lead to Lynch beating Charlotte at Fastlane or they do something else that leads to Lynch a singles match with Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania, but everything seems to point to WWE going with the Triple Threat match instead. Flair is already having some fun on social media with this and it’s good to see her slotted as a true heel again, but the real heat from fans who want to see the singles match is directed at Vince and the company for appearing to ignore their wishes again.
Becky Lynch apology angle: The McMahon family’s promise of change also seemed to suggest that they would be playing it straight as on-air authority figures. Less than two months later, Vince is already back to playing a heel role on television. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon played it straight in the angle with Lynch, but only time will tell whether this is yet another McMahon family ruse designed to make them look smarter than the wrestlers. In other words, would it surprise you if we find out that the Hunter and Steph characters were only nice to Lynch because they knew what the Vince character was about to do? Will this company ever move away from the tired heel authority figure gimmick? The actual apology angle was a mess and put Lynch in a bad position no matter what she did. She would have looked petty for not apologizing given the high stakes and yet apologizing to the McMahon family is not something fans want to see from her character. Perhaps the only positive I can find in all of this is that the company finally used Lynch as a hook throughout the show rather than have her pop up in the opening segment and then disappear. It will be interesting to see if her show-long dilemma caused more viewers than usual to stick around for the third hour.
Dean Ambrose vs. EC3: Huh? I’m open to the idea of a double turn. The Ambrose heel run hasn’t gone well, and EC3’s One Percenter gimmick screams heel. But this was just plain confusing. Furthermore, the introduction of the NXT call-ups has been awful. There’s still no indication as to which brand these wrestlers will land on, and none of them are being built up in a meaningful way. It seemed like creative was high on Lacey Evans before the Royal Rumble, but she hasn’t played a meaningful role coming out of the pay-per-view and wasn’t even on last night’s show. Here’s hoping that Evans shows up on Smackdown tonight.
Ruby Riott vs. Nikki Cross: Riott is a tremendous wrestler and she deserved a better build to her title match with Ronda Rousey. Riott’s match with Cross was well worked, but it was too little too late for Riott. I felt bad for the broadcast team as they attempted to sell viewers on the fluke possibility of Riott winning on Sunday. It certainly didn’t help the cause that they cut to a split screen shot during this match to show Rousey confronting Lynch backstage. Why not schedule that segment for the overly long six-man tag match?
Elias and Lucha House Party: Better yet, why not just erase this mess of an angle and give us more of Rousey and Lynch backstage? Elias’s heel song on the host city was entertaining, but the one dimensional Lucha House Party act does nothing for me. I like all three wrestlers involved, but they continue to be positioned as three interchangeable masked guys who clown around with party favors. WWE has to know that when Michael Cole tells viewers that a wrestler just “loves to have fun” it’s the kiss of death with viewers who don’t enjoy corny WWE comedy.
Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre: Granted, the match was just WWE’s formula way of setting up an impromptu six-man tag match, but the second referee running out to point out that Balor had his foot on the ropes when McIntyre pinned him was absurd. Think of all the screwy finishes we’ve seen in WWE over the years and for some reason this was the moment that a second referee cared enough to run out and correct the actual referee? Ridiculous.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom with Jason Powell and Will Pruett discussing the All Elite Wrestling rally in Las Vegas, the potential fallout from the partnership with Mexico’s AAA promotion, Kenny Omega signing, and much more.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Will Pruett on the Roman Reigns whodunnit angle, WWE heading into SummerSlam, AEW's October 2 premiere on TNT, the New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax Tournament through Day 11, and more (77:45)...