By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Brock Lesnar destroys Rey and Dominic Mysterio: A fantastic angle with Lesnar beating the holy hell out of Dominic Mysterio right in front of his helpless father. Lesnar drew strong heat and the Mysterio duo was very sympathetic. It is strange that Seth Rollins and Ricochet both expressed their displeasure with what Lesnar did, yet neither man cared enough to save the Mysterios. That’s the only thing that I disliked about an otherwise top notch beatdown angle.
Cosmetic and broadcast team changes: The new stage looks terrific and I also like the new logo and graphics. It was even refreshing to see Charly Caruso’s name featured in a graphic given that the company often treats the backstage interviewers as nameless faces who hold the microphone and ask bad questions. The broadcast team is very much a work in progress, but they had a solid first night considering that they probably didn’t have much or any rehearsal time. I expect Vic Joseph to shine when he calls the longer pay-per-view matches, assuming he’s left to do his job and doesn’t spend the entire show getting an earful from his grumpy boss. Jerry Lawler was Jerry Lawler and that’s more good than bad. Dio Maddin? Who is he? Why should viewers care about what he has to say as a color commentator? Yes, I know he’s former NFL player Brennan Williams (and he should really go by that name) and he called a few weeks of 205 Live, but how many Raw viewers actually know that? It’s baffling that there was no effort made to introduce Maddin to the audience.
Miz TV with Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan: A good segment with Flair and Hogan doing their thing while poor Miz had to do his best to keep Flair on point. Someone backstage helped by calling for Randy Orton’s music to interrupt Flair before he could introduce him. Flair is always fun with a live mic and this was no exception. I’m not a fan of the WWE shows in Saudi Arabia due to the politics and because the shows have sucked, but the Team Hogan vs. Team Flair gimmick is a good idea.
Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler vs. Heavy Machinery for the Raw Tag Titles: A needed win for the new tag team champions. Tucker continues to be the designated job guy for his team, which is logical given that the fans are getting behind his charismatic tag partner.
Ricochet vs. Cesaro: Ricochet coming to the defense of Rey Mysterio when Cesaro was running his mouth and then beating Cesaro with Mysterio’s West Coast Pop was a nice touch. It was also good to get through a show without hearing about how grown man Ricochet wants to be a superhero.
The Viking Raiders vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: I was surprised to see the Viking Raiders get a clean and decisive win when it seemed like this feud was just getting started. My guess is that these teams are going to end up on opposite brands, so the decision was made to blow off their feud on television. Of course, this is WWE, so there’s always a chance that they do a rematch on Sunday or Monday and put Gallows and Anderson over and this becomes a parity booking feud.
Lacey Evans vs. Natalya: See Viking Raiders vs. Gallows and Anderson.
WWE Raw Misses
Seth Rollins vs. Rusev for the WWE Universal Championship: I get that this was more of an angle than a match, but I hate when WWE just abandons a match without bothering to book an actual finish. If they didn’t want Rollins or Rusev to lose then they shouldn’t have booked them in a match against one another. The Fiend attacking Rollins served as good final hype for their match at Hell in a Cell. Bobby Lashley making out with Lana on the stage was unexpected and bizarre. It was definitely a shocker, but only time will tell whether Lashley and Lana have chemistry and can pull off their end of this odd love triangle storyline with Rusev.
AJ Styles vs. Cedric Alexander for the U.S. Championship: A Hit worthy match that needed a better presentation. The same could be said for most of the matches on this show. They have three hours of time to fill and yet they can’t come up with time for the champion and challenger to comment on their match?
Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss: I was more excited about the Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks title match when it was announced than I am now that the build has played out. It struck me as a showdown match between a couple of wrestlers who could be positioned as in-ring equals, but the build has made Banks look weak and the match has become more about Sasha not being able to run away than it is a battle between two of the top stars of their division. Banks didn’t even get to go over strong going into the pay-per-view. Rather, she had to feign an injury in order to beat Bliss.
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...