By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode vs. The Viking Raiders for the Raw Tag Titles: It was nice to hear a live crowd get behind the hard working Viking Raiders. I can’t blame the past crowds for not immediately bonding with viking cosplayers, but the strong in-ring work of Erik and Ivar won over this crowd. Ziggler and Roode moving to Smackdown means this feud is either over or will be wrapping up shortly. It will be interesting to see who will be the first long term program for the Viking Raiders. By the way, given all the television time dedicated to AOP, it’s strange that Akam and Rezar were not drafted to either brand.
Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt angle: As corny as the Rollins promo was, I like that they established the hook that he was hunting The Fiend for a change. The closing angle with Rollins burning down the Firefly Funhouse set while the live crowd booed left me hoping for a double turn. Seeing is believing on that one given Vince McMahon’s modern day history of digging his heels in when fans reject his top babyfaces. Even so, I’m curious to see what this means for the Firefly Funhouse. Will it be magically reincarnated like Rambling Rabbit? Was this WWE’s way of wrapping up the Firefly Funhouse portion of Wyatt’s act?
The Street Profits and The OC: A good angle with The OC attacking the Street Profits and leaving them lying backstage, which sets the stage for Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins to finally work their first Raw match. They also teased a mystery partner for a six-man tag match against The OC. Hopefully WWE has something interesting in mind and it’s not just a main roster regular whom fans see on a regular basis.
Buddy Murphy vs. Cedric Alexander: A good match with the No. 16 pick in the Raw version of the draft beating the No. 11 pick. The idea of talented wrestlers such as Murphy, Alexander, Andrade, Samoa Joe, Humberto Carrillo, Ricochet, Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens, and EC3 being drafted to Raw under the creative direction of Paul Heyman is intriguing. Here’s hoping that Vince McMahon catches XFL fever and lets Heyman work his magic.
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair in a non-title match to determine the first overall pick in the draft: The match was fine, albeit a bit underwhelming considering the talent involved and the amount of ring time they’ve had together. It was surprising to hear Charlotte talk about how their feud has gone on forever only to have her end up on the Raw brand with Lynch. With Booker T being the latest person to tease a blockbuster trade, could it be as simple as Raw trading Charlotte Flair to Smackdown in exchange for “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt? Raw selected Charlotte with the third pick on Monday, and Smackdown selected Wyatt with the fourth pick on Friday, so their established value is similar enough that a straight up trade would be reasonable.
Andrade vs. Ali: A good spotlight match for Andrade and Zelina Vega. It was nice to hear from Vega, who was a huge part of Andrade’s NXT success. Hopefully the move to Raw will lead to the expected push that never materialized on Smackdown for the talented duo. Ali remained with Smackdown and one can only hope there’s a plan to get him back on track. He did a great job when he was featured in those handheld video promos and then the company just stopped running his vignettes around the same time they started booking him to take frequent losses.
Aleister Black vs. Eric Young: The fact that Black isn’t sitting backstage waiting for someone to knock on his door is good enough for a soft Hit. Black’s new submission finisher is solid, but I hope it’s not completely replacing the awesome Black Mass kick.
WWE Raw Misses
WWE Draft: The 2019 Draft was doomed before it even started because the company didn’t enforce the brand split rules or even the wildcard rule following the Superstar Shakeup. This draft didn’t create any new matchup possibilities, it actually eliminated a many of them. No one entered the draft feeling firmly established as the face of a brand like AJ Styles was for Smackdown at one time, so there just weren’t any major moves that felt surprising or even interesting. The idea of Fox and USA Network executives drafting their respective rosters was solid in that it eliminated the need for a McMahon family feud or other authority figures making the picks, but those campy war room shots on both nights and most of the celebrity draft skits were huge turnoffs. There were no NXT call-ups (unless you want to reach to count the Street Profits) or other big talkers. The draft just came and went. There is a little fun to be had when it comes to breaking down the new rosters, but the actual televised draft was uneventful and uninspired.
The Kabuki Warriors vs. Natalya and Lacey Evans in a non-title match: Does every match involving the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions have to be confusing? Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross seemed to bounce back and forth between being babyfaces or heels depending on their challengers. It looks like WWE wants the Kabuki Warriors to be heels even though the fans seem to like them and react favorably to Asuka’s mist spot. As if that’s not confusing enough for some viewers, they booked the duo to face Natalya and her handpicked opponent Lacey Evans. The question I asked in my live review of Raw is still in play. Did they want fans to cheer Evans because she was teaming with Natalya or boo Natalya because she selected Evans to be her partner?
Braun Strowman and Tyson Fury contract signing: The live crowd gave Fury the “What?” treatment and sent the message that less is more. The attraction match has been established. They can deliver additional hype via video packages or even pre-taped promos, but unless they want Fury to be booed, they need to pull back on putting him in front of live crowds between now and Crown Jewel.
Ricochet vs. Shelton Benjamin: The match was fine. The real issue continues to be the nonstop references to Ricochet’s desire to show that superheroes are real. He’s such a talented wrestler and he has main event potential, but this superhero talk is a weak attempt to cater to kids that turns off a lot of adults. You know what will appeal to kids that won’t cause a disconnect with adults? A really good, flashy wrestler whose goal is winning matches and championships. If they really want to go down this superhero road, then have the broadcast team make the comparison, but don’t ruin Ricochet by having him talk about his desire to be a superhero.
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...