By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Drew McIntyre vs. Dean Ambrose in a Last Man Standing match: A minor Hit for McIntyre being made to look strong both in this match and during his segment with Roman Reigns. The match was flat compared to their hot falls count anywhere match from a couple weeks ago. This was more lopsided with for McIntyre and it felt like more of a showcase match than a strong main event, but they accomplished what they needed to by continuing the big push of McIntyre heading into his match with Reigns at WrestleMania.
Seth Rollins and Paul Heyman: A solid verbal exchange with Rollins presenting himself as a man of the people while Heyman delivered his usual strong performance as the antagonist. The build to Rollins challenging Brock Lesnar has felt a bit disjointed. Some of that is attributable to Lesnar’s part time schedule, and some of it is due to Rollins missing time due to injury. At the same time, some of this has actually worked to their advantage in that their feud hasn’t been overbooked, which is more than can be said for the other top WrestleMania matches.
Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle in a non-title match: The headbutt to start the match was a great callback for fans who remember their first TNA confrontation. Joe controlled the bulk of the offense and did most of the heavy lifting and this turned out to be passable considering Angle’s limitations at this point in his career. The only negative is that it’s another loss for Joe as the U.S. Champion. Joe taking one fluke loss to Angle on his retirement tour wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for his other recent televised losses.
Triple H promo: A minor Hit for Triple H taking a playful approach by joking about the fans giving him a standing ovation during the commercial break and then noting that he was doing the job to an envelope that was stuck in his jacket. The meat of the promo was decent. Triple H is a putdown artist, so it’s par for the course that he’s tearing down Batista. But I can’t help but feel like this would be much more effective if they were building up Batista as a major threat to end the career of Triple H. Forget the approach that Hunter used and looked down on Batista. It’s time to focus on the lopsided match history between the two. The presentation feels like they want viewers to pay to see the movie star get his ass kicked when they should be focused on making Hunter out to be the underdog who is at serious risk of having his career ended by a guy who has had his number over the years.
Sasha Banks vs. Natalya: Banks didn’t get much of a reaction from her hometown crowd during the introductions, but the women won over the fans with the second half of the match. Beth Phoenix also got a moment to shine and it was nice to hear the fans react favorably to her.
WWE Raw Misses
Beat The Clock Challenge with Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair vs. Riott Squad members: A minor Miss. The company wanted the women to open the night to go along with the show opening hype for the trio headlining WrestleMania. But they took the lazy approach by going with a concept that was as silly as the Rousey character made it out to be. The entire segment felt rushed and didn’t move the storyline forward in any way.
Finn Balor vs. Bobby Lashley and Jinder Mahal in a handicap match for a shot at the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania: The hot potato game that Balor and Lashley are playing with the Intercontinental Championship has left me numb when it comes to caring about who ends up with the belt at WrestleMania. I assume we’re getting The Demon at WrestleMania. If so, Lashley needs to leave Balor lying to set up the need for The Demon character to appear.
The Revival vs. Ricochet and Aleister Black in a non-title match: Yet another television loss for The Revival. There’s a difference between making champions look vulnerable and making them look downright weak and unworthy. These teams work well together and they could have a very good WrestleMania match, but the presentation of The Revival as hapless losers continues to be a weekly frustration.
A Moment of Bliss with Braun Strowman, Colin Jost, and Michael Che: The segment did nothing for me and I couldn’t care less about Strowman feuding with the Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” hosts. On the bright side, WWE should be able to garner the mainstream publicity they crave by having Jost and Che in the battle royal.
Elias in New York City: You had to know Elias wasn’t appearing in the arena during the live broadcast (he appeared in a dark segment) when Lio Rush took the jab at the Boston crowd over Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. All three Elias segments were forgettable and the gag of the man stealing his money and guitar case didn’t feel original or comical.
Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews: It was perfectly logical to have Corbin beat Crews going into his match with Angle. I just didn’t make for very entertaining television.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Eric Bischoff discussing whether there are similarities in Vince McMahon’s WWE booking and Verne Gagne’s booking of the AWA during its dying days, a network shakeup that could potentially be an issue for All Elite Wrestling, Eric’s WrestleMania week show with Tony Schiavone in New York New York, and much more.
WWE is getting more mainstream publicity for their actual content (the women headlining) than they will for any SNL tie-in stunt. I know celebrity has been a staple at Mania since the beginning, but these guys ain’t it.
WWE would be better served making use of their hall of famers/household names as the celebs/honored guests, instead of using them in jokey throw away roles, like what will probably happen this year, with SNL guys visiting the APA table, or dancing with Teddy Long or something.
Hollywood word of mouth reported these SNL guys were arrogant and awful to work with when they hosted the Emmys. As a WWE fan, I just want better for the company, our entertainment and the production itself. To have something you can proudly show a non-wrestling fan and have them understand why this is so special, not why it’s a self-parody.