By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe vs. Rey Mysterio in a Triple Threat for a spot in the No. 1 contenders match: A hot Triple Threat match. It was nice that the first match on the Raw that followed the Superstar Shakeup felt fresh. Sure, we’ve seen Styles and Joe many times over the years, and we’ve seen Joe vs. Mysterio more recently, but seeing all three men in a Triple Threat felt new.
The Miz vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Baron Corbin in a Triple Threat for a spot in the No. 1 contenders match: I’m still having a hard time accepting Miz as a babyface ass kicker. He beat up all three members of Sanity by himself on Smackdown, and he was able to hang for a long time in this match despite facing two heels who were aligned early on. Perhaps the new Miz will grow on me, but it’s jarring to see him in ass kicker mode after years of seeing him play a chickenshit heel character. Nevertheless, the match held my interest and the finish with Corbin stealing the pin was well done. I just pray that this means we’ve seen the last of the flat McIntyre, Corbin, and Bobby Lashley faction.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin to become No. 1 contender to the WWE Universal Championship: WWE set up a dream match with Styles challenging Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. WWE needed this. The television ratings are down and the Superstar Shakeup was a mess. Fans needed something to feel excited about and now they have it.
Cedric Alexander vs. Cesaro: A Hit for match quality. I really wasn’t sure what to hope for as far as the outcome was concerned because both men need wins. It’s hard not to fear that Alexander is being slotted as a good hand who plays the fall guy for bigger stars. That said, I assume we’ll be seeing Alexander and Sami Zayn soon given the way they awkwardly crossed paths on the stage.
Naomi vs. Billie Kay: A minor Hit for a quick and painless match. The story is that Naomi has the number of the IIconics, so I assume she will be getting a tag team partner soon.
Bray Wyatt’s Firefly Funhouse: Social media went nuts with fans either loving or hating this segment, but I don’t see how it can be anything other than a wait and see. I don’t think there’s any way that someone could watch the funhouse video and know exactly where this is headed, let alone whether Wyatt’s new gimmick will be successful. We don’t have an “in the middle” section in the Hit List, so I made the call to place it in the Hits section because the segment was compelling and left me looking forward to seeing what comes next.
WWE Raw Misses
Becky Lynch vs. Alicia Fox in a non-title match: A rough outing for Fox, who looked clunky in her first television match in recent memory. And even with the commercial break in the middle of the match, it shouldn’t take Lynch eight minutes to defeat an opponent as low on the totem pole as Fox has been positioned. The post match angle with Lacey Evans was well done and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing how Evans performs in the biggest match of her career at Money in the Bank.
Robert Roode vs. Ricochet: Roode’s mustache may have broken the internet last night. And, really, who doesn’t love a cheesy pornstache? But here’s the thing. Everyone loved the Glorious entrance music too. Once the thrill wore off, we were left with a one dimensional character who loved using the word glorious. And now? Roode has a mustache rather than a beard and he loves saying the word glorious. The point is that it’s going to take more than a mustache an infatuation with the word glorious for this to be more than a passing fad. Roode is a talented guy, but until I see there is more to his persona than a mustache, I will view it as a mistake to have him pin Ricochet clean.
Viking Raiders attack Lucha House Party: It’s encouraging to see WWE officials pull the plug on the poorly received Viking Experience name. And I actually thought this beatdown segment was well done and the power moves looked great. Unfortunately, the live crowd could not have cared less (although the IIconics pre-match mic work was met with a similar lack of enthusiasm). The fans just sat there in silence because they don’t care about the babyface trio and apparently many in this crowd don’t know the Viking Raiders. It’s one of those segments that could have played out identically in front of a more receptive crowd and it would have scored a Hit.
The Usos and The Revival: I’m looking forward to this program even though I sadly suspect that the Revival will be booked as little more than speed bumps. It looks to me like the company intends to move the pieces around to set up the Usos chasing the Viking Raiders for the tag titles. I enjoyed the bulk of the Usos backstage promo, but I could have done without them acting like they were falling asleep while The Revival spoke. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder were not boring in NXT. If they are boring on the main roster then it’s because the man who heads up the writing for the main roster has done a terrible job of booking them.
Superstar Shakeup: As if last week’s hard to follow shakeup show wasn’t embarrassing enough, WWE just randomly made a bunch of additional shakeup moves yesterday. Worse yet, they didn’t even bother to explain these moves during Raw. Samoa Joe and Cesaro just showed up as if they belonged on Raw even though neither man was moved last week. Andrade and Zelina Vega were introduced last week as Raw wrestlers, but now they are back on Smackdown. Aleister Black was labeled a Raw wrestler coming out of last week’s show, but now he’s been assigned to Smackdown. I applaud WWE for doing the right thing by being respectful of the real life relationships of some of these talents, but it’s not like these relationships developed since last week. How did they not take those relationships into account the first time around? And even if you can get past that, the lack of storyline explanation for the new moves is either a sign of laziness or Vince McMahon mistakenly thinking that fans don’t care about what he sees as small details.
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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...