By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Roman Reigns: Giving Reigns a Miss for the announcement that he is in remission and is returning to the ring would be as dark as endorsing cruelty to puppies and kittens. Reigns delivered his announcement with class and seemed genuinely moved by the reception the fans gave him. The scene with Reigns and his mom sharing a long embrace at ringside was especially touching.
Batista angle: As a television viewer, I loved the way the company used the Ric Flair birthday party as a swerve to set up the surprise of appearance of heel Batista. I’m not a fan of the way this was handled in the building, but more on that later. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon appear to be shifting into babyface roles, so the idea of casting Batista as the heel in his feud with Hunter is logical. Heel authority figures are beyond tired, so this will be a welcome change (though I hope that they’re not setting up for a McMahon family feud between Vince and his children). Hollywood success story Batista returning to WWE as a babyface could have come off as Rock Lite, and he’ll clearly have more fun in the heel role. Batista’s heel run as the Kanye West sweater wearing egomaniac was brilliant, and I’m anxious to see what he has in mind for what may be his farewell run with the company.
Ronda Rousey and Stephanie McMahon: Rousey seemed overly emotional and struggled to get the right words out at times. And I loved it. Rousey was quirky yet real in that it felt like she passionately believed every word she spoke. The key moment of the angle was when Rousey told Stephanie to think about what women headlining WrestleMania would mean to Steph’s legacy and to her three daughters. Stephanie looked contemplative for a moment. She ended up standing her ground, but It was a sign of conflict within the Stephanie character. I assume she will come around and emerge from this storyline as a babyface or at least a neutral party. I must add that as much as I enjoyed the realism that Rousey brought to this angle, WWE is fighting against the tide by positioning her as a babyface.
Drew McIntyre vs. Dean Ambrose in a No DQ match: A minor Hit thanks to the work of both wrestlers. McIntyre has inexplicably been floating around without a meaningful place in the storylines, and Ambrose has been booked like a guy who is leaving the company. As such, it was hard to really care about the match, but it was hard not to take notice when they started beating the hell out of each other with one of Dean’s two belts (hey, folks, plumber’s crack is a real problem in this country). The post match scene with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins saving Ambrose from a four-on-one beatdown set the stage for another Shield reunion. I wonder if the idea is for Ambrose to get a second chance only to turn on Reigns and Rollins again to the stage for Reigns to take him out at WrestleMania in his WWE swan song.
Kurt Angle vs. Jinder Mahal: A minor Hit simply for Angle finally getting a singles match win on Raw.
WWE Raw Misses
The Revival vs. Aleister Black and Ricochet in a non-title match: Insert my weekly gripe about the way WWE books The Revival here. But the Miss goes beyond the new tag team champions now being 0-2 in televised matches since winning the titles. I’m just not a fan of Black and Ricochet teaming together so quickly on the main roster. The Black character strikes me as a dark, brooding, and mysterious loner, and it just feels too soon to see him teaming with someone regardless of their NXT history.
Finn Balor vs. Lio Rush for the Intercontinental Championship: A Hit for match quality, but a minor Miss overall. Rush has been positioned as a guy who can’t hang with other main roster wrestlers, so it felt odd to see Balor struggle to beat him in a singles match. And maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal if Balor didn’t win the title by pinning Rush in the handicap match only to then run away from Lashley at Elimination Chamber. It is worth noting that Rush appears to be headed toward a babyface run given the way he was competitive in this match and looked sympathetic while taking his latest brow beating from Lashley.
Ric Flair doesn’t appear in front of the live crowd: Batista spoiling the party was a really good television moment. But I felt bad for the fans who paid money to see Flair in person on his birthday and only got to see him appear briefly on the big screen. There’s just no reason in 2019 why WWE couldn’t have sent Flair out to the ring after the show went off the air. I’m all for WWE wanting fans to be able to suspend their disbelief, but Flair could have sold his injuries while appearing in front of the fans for a few minutes in the dark segment.
Bayley vs. Nia Jax: A solid match, but can anyone explain why Jax was protected in the Elimination Chamber only to lose clean here moments after they announced that she and Tamina will challenge Bayley and Sasha Banks at Fastlane?
Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley: A nonsensical segment that concluded with Strowman knocking Lashley down and then barking that he would never forget and was coming for him, Drew McIntyre, and Baron Corbin. Did Strowman have dinner reservations that prevented him from exacting his revenge on Lashley during this segment?
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and former WWE Smackdown lead writer Alex Greenfield discussing the NXT call-ups, Stephanie McMahon’s past contributions to WWE creative, the growth of MLW, and much more.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Mike McMahon of PWTorch.com discussing his background and podcast work, plus a long chat regarding Impact Wrestling coming out of Slammiversary, including a breakdown of the notable additions to the roster, and more...