By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Ronda Rousey and Travis Browne: Rousey’s match was what it needed to be in that she plowed through Brooke in less than 20 seconds. Fans don’t seem to be connecting with Brooke in any way, so there was no need to do anything here beyond making Rousey look like a world beater. The Hit goes to the chaotic post match angle with Rousey and her husband Travis Browne taking out security guards before exiting through the crowd. I’m looking forward to seeing what Browne’s role will be going forward, and heel Rousey is off to a strong start.
Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre: A very good match with a finish that left me with mixed feelings. McIntyre winning means he’s beaten two of the three members of The Shield and injured the third over the last two weeks. McIntyre looks strong heading into his WrestleMania match with Roman Reigns. For that matter, McIntyre’s win over Rollins can be something they play on to set him up as a top contender if Rollins wins the WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania. On the flip side, the Rollins character isn’t going into WrestleMania with much momentum. He played second fiddle to Roman Reigns during the brief Shield reunion, and now he lost a main event by distraction. The fans still love Rollins and hopefully the company will make him look strong over the next two weeks of television. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman were very good in their familiar roles and drew great heat from the hot Chicago crowd.
Batista interview: A compelling interview, yet one that left me wondering whether Batista will go all out for heat. Batista’s complaints about Triple H mesh with actual criticisms that others have made over the years. Batista seemed to be going for realism at the expense of coming off like a delusional heel. Still, I enjoyed his delivery and the short fuse he showed at the end of the interview. I just wish there was more time for his character to evolve prior to WrestleMania.
Finn Balor and Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush: The mystery partner turned out to be a letdown for anyone who thought it might be someone other than a main roster regular. Still, the match was solid and didn’t overstay its welcome. They forwarded the issues between Balor and Lashley, while also showing that Lashley couldn’t care less about the sidekick who helped him regain the Intercontinental Title.
Sasha Banks, Bayley, Beth Phoenix, Natalya, Nia Jax, and Tamina: More good than bad in this segment. The Phoenix promo was rough, but there was solid intensity with her and Natalya during the verbal exchange with Banks and Bayley. The heel duo got some heat by getting the better of everyone as they build to a three- or even a four-way at WrestleMania for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles.
Kurt Angle vs. Chad Gable: A minor Hit for another match on Angle’s farewell tour. It was fun to see Angle and Gable in the ring together, and it left me wondering may have been if Gable had been cast as Angle’s storyline son.
Ricochet vs. Jinder Mahal: A minor Hit for Ricochet’s two impressive moves making up for Mahal’s painfully dull offense. At some point, the company needs to do a better job of helping viewers get to know what the Ricochet character is all about. Fans who only watch the main roster shows know he’s from a small town in Kentucky and little more. Plenty of wrestlers perform flashy high spots. And while he may be a notch above most wrestlers in that regard, the key to his main roster success will ultimately be how much of a connection the fans feel with his character.
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: A minor Miss despite the Hit/Miss ratio, as Raw simply felt a little flat despite being so close to WrestleMania. The roster felt depleted without Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Aleister Black, no Smackdown crossovers, and no members of the McMahon family. And it’s tough to be excited about the new WrestleMania match announcements of the “get everyone on the show” men’s battle royal and Kurt Angle facing an undesirable opponent in his farewell match.
Elias vs No Way Jose: I feel bad for Jose. He’s a talented and charismatic guy, but the idea of saddling him with Adam Rose’s reject Rosebuds has make his entire act a huge turnoff. Elias had a solid night with his usual hometown sports team insults and the announcement that he’ll be the featured musical act at WrestleMania. Here’s hoping that WWE has a big name in mind to interrupt him on WrestleMania Sunday.
Kurt Angle names Baron Corbin as his farewell match opponent: The crowd summed up my thoughts exactly when they groaned and then booed the announcement. It’s a logical move from a storyline standpoint and yet completely unsatisfying. It would have been a decent hook if they had paid off the Angle and Corbin storyline with a match on the go-home edition of Raw, but fans had every right to hope for something bigger for Angle’s final match on the big stage. The frustration of the fans also played a part in Corbin’s upset loss to Apollo Crews, as the fans were still voicing their displeasure throughout the match.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Fulvio Cecere discussing the 350 Days documentary that included interviews with over 70 pro wrestling legends including Bret Hart, Ted DiBiase, Wendi Richter, Greg Valentine, and Bill Eadie, why pre-ordering the documentary is so helpful, a nugget regarding Fulvio’s run as Lt. Thorne on Battlestar Galactica, and much more.