By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Drew McIntyre vs. Dean Ambrose in a no holds barred match: A hot match with the wrestlers brawling all over the building. I was higher on the idea of Ambrose facing Roman Reigns at WrestleMania in part because McIntyre has been spinning his wheels lately. But this show turned out to be a big step in the right direction for McIntyre, who should have a terrific match with Reigns at WrestleMania. I just hope they find a way for McIntyre to bounce back quickly if they have him lose at WrestleMania, as the guy belongs in the main event mix.
Batista and Triple H: A minor Hit for a segment that more than held my interest and yet didn’t feel as hot as it should have. Batista was compelling and Triple H showed good intensity. But the segment basically consisted of Batista telling Hunter to give him what he wants, Hunter saying no a few times, and Hunter eventually agreeing to give him what he wanted. Here’s hoping there’s more to come and this wasn’t the only segment we’ll get from these two before WrestleMania.
Ronda Rousey promo: Angry heel Ronda is off to a strong start. Her logic for interfering in the Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair match was what it needed to be and hopefully the storyline chaos will end now that the match is officially set as a Triple Threat. No more McMahon family turns, hold harmless agreements, or doctor visits. And I’m still hoping that the Lynch character will find some miracle cure for her knee injury, because seeing her limp around on a crutch is quickly becoming more of a turnoff than something that makes her seem sympathetic.
Ricochet and Aleister Black vs. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable: A brief yet solid tag match. Watch The Revival attack Ricochet and Black after the match sure beat having the tag champs lose another non-title match on Raw.
Seth Rollins vs. Shelton Benjamin: A minor Hit for a good match involving Rollins and Benjamin, who has a legitimate connection to Brock Lesnar that was played up nicely by the broadcast team. It was a good night for Rollins as the focus shifted back to his WWE Universal Championship match. On a side note, it is a shame that WWE can’t be bothered to come up with an explanation for ignoring their own brand split rules.
Kurt Angle vs. Apollo Crews: A nice hometown sendoff for Angle. It was a bit odd to see him defeat a fellow babyface in his last hometown match, but it came off well and Kurt wrestling his final match at WrestleMania is a nice hook for the show. Are we getting another match between Angle and Baron Corbin?
The Shield’s farewell: A minor Hit for a nice but surprisingly uneventful segment.
WWE Raw Misses
Finn Balor vs. Bobby Lashley for the Intercontinental Championship: Balor pinned Lio Rush to win the IC Title at Elimination Chamber and then immediately ran away from Lashley. Balor had a competitive match with Rush on Raw recently before losing the title back to Lashley. Yes, the creative forces actually found a way to make Balor look weaker during his title reign than he did before it. It’s also not helping the title to have it change hands four times in the last three months.
Braun Strowman: It’s sad to think about how hot Strowman was going into the No Mercy pay-per-view match with Brock Lesnar compared to where he is today. That was the peak for Strowman. While it hasn’t been all bad since then, it doesn’t seem like creative has a plan to get him back to that peak level. Rather, it seems like creative has run out of fresh ideas for him, so they just have him destroy a car every few months. In fact, the latest car stunt was designed to sell a new play set that comes with a Strowman action figure and a car that looks very similar to the one he destroyed last night. Will Strowman even have a WrestleMania match or will his role at the biggest show of the year be to chase around Colin Jost and Michael Che in more bad comedy skits?
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A Moment of Bliss: Bliss introducing herself as the host of WrestleMania came off flat. I’m fine with her playing the host role, but the live crowd was either let down by her announcement or didn’t see it as a big deal.
Beth Phoenix and Natalya: It’s nice to see Phoenix back in the ring. Unfortunately, the live crowd didn’t respond to her as a returning star. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone given the soft reactions that Trish Stratus and Lita received leading up to their match at WWE Evolution. WWE hasn’t done a good job of making their female legends feel important over the years and they are paying the price for it now.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Ian Riccaboni discussing his decision to re-sign with Ring of Honor, getting emotionally invested in matches, the March 15 ROH 17th Anniversary show, the G1 Supercard at MSG, and much more.