By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
The Shield reunite: The story was rushed for obvious reasons, but they did a good job of bringing the trio back together in a believable way. Roman Reigns is in forgive and forget mode and had to talk Seth Rollins into the reunion. Dean Ambrose was apprehensive before he ultimately signed on. The reluctance of Ambrose was especially important, and it could also be the story coming out of the match. My guess remains that Ambrose stabs Reigns and Rollins in the back again either on Sunday or the next night on Raw. Vince McMahon showed discipline by not rushing Reigns into the WWE Universal Title match, meaning he’s left without a dance partner for the biggest show of the year. With Ambrose leaving once his deal expires in April, it would be logical if Reigns is the person scripted to take out the Ambrose character on the big stage at WrestleMania.
Drew McIntyre, Baron Corbin, and Bobby Lashley vs. Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, and Kurt Angle: The heel trio needed the win heading into their Fastlane match with The Shield. Braun Strowman was protected in that he essentially took himself out of the match by crashing into the timekeepers area. Balor taking the pin for his team continued the pattern of making him look like a weak Intercontinental Champion, though Lashley pinning him may be part of the build to a WrestleMania match between the two.
Triple H responds to Batista: A minor Hit. I liked the story that Triple H told in terms of Batista taking a moment away from Ric Flair. I liked most of the promo, as it successfully established that things are personal between Hunter and Batista. But I really could have done without Triple H’s latest attempt to make it seem like his angle is real, which comes at the expense of making everything else on the show seem fake. WWE loves to resort to realism when they want to sell a big match. Imagine if they just booked a realistic product from top to bottom.
Dean Ambrose vs. Elias: Elias pinning Ambrose was the right call both in terms of Ambrose losing on his way out, and giving his character another reason to be unstable. It was interesting that Elias brought back his version of Undertaker’s Old School move. Could they be working toward an Elias vs. Taker match at WrestleMania?
WWE Raw Misses
Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair: This storyline has reached the point of absurdity. Lynch was at the peak of her popularity and fans were clamoring for her showdown match with Rousey. WWE muddied the waters by adding Charlotte Flair to the mix. And now we get Lynch’s weekly Tiny Tim impersonation while the authority figures make her jump through tedious hoops such as obtaining medical clearance, apologizing for her actions, and now signing a hold harmless agreement. Charlotte Flair turned heel. And now Ronda Rousey turned heel. We’ve also been distracted by the actions of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon as creative left us wondering whether they were suddenly decent people or conspiring with Vince McMahon. Speaking of Vince, he got involved by taking away the title shot that Lynch earned by wining the Royal Rumble. All of this would be so much simpler and more effective had they just gone with a healthy Lynch heading into a showdown match with a dominant Rousey. No authority figures, no third wheel, just a simple showdown match between the most popular act in the company and the crossover star who was once known as the queen of pay-per-view. And spare me this tired argument that Flair needs to be in the match because she will make the match quality better. It’s not all about match quality, folks. Imagine if this same logic had been applied to some of the classic WrestleMania title matches. How did they get through Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant without adding Ricky Steamboat to make it a Triple Threat? How did Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior get by without Ted DiBiase? I realize tastes have changed and match quality is more important to fans today than it was back then, but a big singles showdown match still equals big box office. Fans were sold on Rousey vs. Lynch, but Vince McMahon just had to tinker with it and now this storyline has spun completely out of control.
Heavy Machinery vs. B-Team, The Ascension, and Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder in a gauntlet match: Heavy Machinery plowed through three teams in one night and thus eliminated the need for future matches against those teams. This is fine if they are going to settle in as a Smackdown act, but it’s puzzling if they intend to keep them on Raw. Either way, it feels like the creative forces in WWE find the Heavy Machinery act more fun than the fans do at this point.
Natalya vs. Ruby Riott: A match that occurred only to set up Lacey Evans doing her runway walk in front of Natalya. Riott Squad is a solid act that suffers from being booked to lose too many matches. The trio should feel dangerous, but all those losses combined with hokey acts of backstage vandalism have left them feeling tame and beatable.
Sasha Banks vs. Tamina: A minor Miss for a predicable match. It was obvious that Tamina would win given that Nia Jax lost to Bayley last week. Creative is already resorting to the tired formula they use for the men’s tag division by having the champions and challengers trade singles wins heading into a pay-per-view title match. In this case, they would have been better off having Jax and Tamina look like dominant monsters by winning a couple of squash matches while on the road to the tag title match at Fastlane.
The Revival vs. Aleister Black and Ricochet for the Raw Tag Titles: A minor Miss for Chad Gable and Bobby Roode intentionally costing Black and Ricochet the win by getting them disqualified. I suspect this is WWE’s way of getting to a Triple Threat tag match between the three teams on Sunday. Are Gable and Roode heels or just unlikable prick babyfaces who taunted a pair of NXT newcomers on the night they arrived and now cost another pair of NXT newcomers a title match?
Colin Jost and Michael Che: I enjoy the work of the Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” hosts. But it’s amazing how quickly WWE can make celebrities look like total goofs. I’m still stunned that Jost was scripted to ask Braun Strowman if pro wrestling is real. And I’m even more stunned that he was scripted to answer his own question by acting completely unfazed after Strowman picked him up by the neck.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Davey Boy Smith Jr. discussing what led to the Hart Foundation vs. Lucha Brothers match at MLW SuperFight getting physical, training at a young age, and much more.