By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Undertaker and Elias: A well received surprise for the night after WrestleMania, especially since Taker did not appear on the actual WrestleMania show for the first time in years. There is some thought that this angle was designed to set up a match between Taker and Elias for the next event in Saudi Arabia. If so, it looks like they just gave us a full preview of the match finish.
Lars Sullivan attacks Kurt Angle: It looked like WWE was going to give Angle the feel good swan song appearance on Raw when he got some measure of revenge on Baron Corbin after losing to him in his retirement match at WrestleMania. Instead, it was a setup for the main roster debut of Lars Sullivan. It’s a shame that Angle was booked so poorly throughout his return run with WWE, but this did make for a strong debut for Sullivan. And it’s great to see him back following a leave of absence to reportedly deal with mental health issues that foiled his previously scheduled Raw debut months ago.
Becky Lynch and Lacey Evans: Lynch delivered a good promo that essentially ignored the controversial finish that occurred at WrestleMania. It’s annoying that the company is just moving on without acknowledging the obvious issue of Ronda Rousey’s shoulder being up at the one count, but the reality is that their casual viewers will either play along or even forget that this was even an issue until Rousey eventually returns and makes a fuss over it to set up a rematch. Evans punching Lynch was great and led to a good brawl. Most of the main roster regulars have been defined down by the booking, so Evans is a good, fresh, undamaged challenger for Lynch.
Finn Balor vs. Sami Zayn for the Intercontinental Championship: The match was fine, but the real story was Zayn heeling on the fans after the match. Zayn’s words were scathing and his delivery was believable. It will be interesting to see who ends up playing the defender of the fans role once Zayn is reestablished and settles into an actual program. It’s interesting that Zayn’s longtime nemesis Kevin Owens is playing a man of the people role at the same time that Zayn is lashing out at the people. Are they going to relaunch their longtime rivalry coming out of the Superstar Shakeup?
Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins vs. The Revival for the Raw Tag Titles: So much for no longer booking automatic rematches following a title change. I actually have no problem with it, because I really don’t know anyone who was complaining about former champions being granted rematches. The Revival dominated the bulk of the offense in the match, yet the new champions snuck out another win. It will be interesting to see if Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson losing over the last two days was done to free them of the tag titles before a move to Smackdown next week.
Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley: A minor Hit for Bliss returning to the ring. On the flip side, Bayley was essentially jobbed out a night after she and Sasha Banks dropped the tag titles. I suspect that this is leading to Bayley being moved to the Smackdown brand, as WWE has a bad habit of booking wrestlers who are about to swap brands as if they are leaving the company altogether.
Bobby Lashley and Dean Ambrose: A perfectly acceptable way to write off the Ambrose character. I don’t know that Lashley gained much from this, but perhaps the idea is that it will give him something boast about if he’s going to be an agitator for Seth Rollins and/or Roman Reigns. I’m happy that Ambrose stuck to his guns, assuming he intends to sign with All Elite Wrestling. I’m genuinely excited to see him unleashed creatively, as it should be a blast to see him play out his vision for his persona compared to the way he’s been booked in WWE.
Roman Reigns takes the night off from TV: Reigns appeared after the show for the Shield moment, but he did not appear on the live broadcast. And for good reason. He was booed loudly at WrestleMania after weeks of being cheered by other crowds. The WrestleMania weekend crowd is a different animal and the boos could be contagious in that other cities could follow suit. It will be interesting to see how he is received in Montreal next week. Is the honeymoon phase of his return already over or is the WrestleMania weekend crowd an aberration?
WWE Raw Misses
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston vs. WWE Universal Champion Seth Rollins for both titles: Of course, this turned into Kingston and Rollins vs. Sheamus and Cesaro after some lame interference out of nowhere by The Bar. WWE did such a great job of appeasing the night after WrestleMania crowd. The fans seemed more than happy to simply enjoy a quality show, but once WWE gave them a bait and switch they were quick to rebel. And for good reason. Under normal circumstances, I’d just assume that there would be some cheap interference to wipe away a match that big, but this was different because it occurred on one of the biggest editions of Raw each year. And they still could have gotten away with a bait and switch if it led to something more compelling than a throwaway tag team match. The night after WrestleMania edition of Raw was a pretty good show. It’s just too bad the company opted to leave us with a bad taste in our mouths at the end of the night.
Aleister Black and Ricochet vs. Bobby Roode and Chad Gable: Who would have predicted that the first sign of this crowd getting restless would occur during a match involving Ricochet? It says more about how flat Roode and Gable team are than anything else. Creative is trying to tweak their act by turning them heel. But they have to know that the Glorious gimmick is tired and played out even if fans play along when WWE comes to town a couple times a year. For that matter, Gable’s adoration of Roode makes him look like a goof, as he’s hero worshipping a mid-card wrestler. Yes, Roode has a long list of accomplishments outside WWE, but it’s not like those accomplishments are recognized in WWE. Roode and Gable are very talented and hopefully creative will strip away the flawed parts of their act and show them in a new light to coincide with the heel turn. On a side note, it was good to see Ricochet win with a Codebreaker. A move as dynamic as his 630 splash should not be something that becomes routine to viewers because he performs it on a weekly basis. Plus, the new finisher should take less of a toll on his body.
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The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...