By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
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WWE Raw Hits
Kevin Owens vs. Drew McIntyre: A pay-per-view worthy match with excellent near falls. The finish absolutely sucked with Triple H simply walking out before the show went to a commercial break and McIntyre disappearing before they returned (Dot Net reader Aaron attended the show and said McIntyre simply headed backstage when Triple H came out). Still, it didn’t erase the great work from both wrestlers. Furthermore, I can’t say that it surprised me to see the match end without a finish, as both wrestlers need wins and this is the type of thing they’ve been doing to protect McIntyre for that big push that may or may not actually happen. Triple H’s recruitment speech was strong in that it played on good storyline history with Owens and felt believable. It also sets up the possibility of Owens being the hero for Team Raw by remaining loyal or the less likely scenario of him turning on the brand and returning to NXT.
Paul Heyman and Rey Mysterio: After years of being a weak promo, Mysterio has stepped up his game in a major way during the twilight of his career. Heyman was excellent in playing up the “Miracle or Massacre” theme for the Mysterio vs. Brock Lesnar match at Survivor Series. It was a nice touch that he didn’t commit to a spoiler, as that will leave a lot of people wondering if there will be an upset, and it was also a smart move to let people know that this won’t be a brief match even if Lesnar wins because he intends to torture Mysterio rather than let him off the hook with a quick pin or submission.
Seth Rollins vs. Andrade: A well worked match with a weak finish that saw the kid friendly Lucha House Party trio attack top Raw babyface Rollins due to brand loyalty. What? Anyway, did Rollins really compare himself to Tom Brady? It’s one thing to work in a reference to win over the Boston crowd, but it seemed like he was implying that half the world boos him like they boo Brady because they are so damn good. Seth, people want to like you, but you’ve made it tough by boasting about your paycheck, throwing Jon Moxley under the bus, and coming off like a guy who is more concerned with pleasing Vince McMahon by being a good company man than being the voice that fans trust and relate to. Rollins and others in WWE continue to believe that fans are fickle and will reject the top babyface no matter who it is even though Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, and Seth’s own girlfriend have proven otherwise.
Akira Tozawa vs. Buddy Murphy: A good, competitive match. Murphy was the right guy to go over and I’m looking forward to his match with Aleister Black. It’s a bit concerning that WWE is booking another feud where both wrestlers have big upside and need wins, but they are both so damn good in the ring that this could be a rare case where both wrestlers get over regardless of who wins the match or feud.
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair vs. The IIconics: I’m including Lynch’s promo and her knockout punch of the security guard in this Hit. The actual match was just there, but Lynch was good on the mic and I like that her character has no sense of brand loyalty and is just fighting to fight. Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir attacking The IIconics and then outnumbering Lynch and Flair was effective in the continued build of Baszler.
Samoa Joe on commentary: We know what Joe’s post in-ring career will be if he’s interested. Joe was a very good heel color commentator. He also did a nice job as a panelist on last week’s WWE Backstage. Here’s hoping we get many more years of Joe in the ring before he makes the transition. On a side note, Vic Joseph is doing really good work as the lead voice of Raw.
WWE Raw Misses
Bobby Lashley and Lana: I’m still baffled by WWE officials feeling the need to list the real names of Rusev and Lana on the restraining order as if anyone is actually going to believe this over the top mess is actually a shoot. Anyway, Rusev is no longer allowed within 90 miles, er, days, er, feet of Lana. This obviously won’t last since Lashley vs. Rusev has been announced in my market for the TLC pay-per-view. It’s listed as a standard match, but let’s see if they come up with some type of stipulation (Lana on a pole?!?) that puts the restraining order on the line. Or maybe Rusev disappears and a mysterious masked man named Captain Bulgaria shows up and make Lashley and Lana’s life miserable. I’m only half joking.
The Viking Raiders vs. Randy Orton and Ricochet: The match looked appealing on paper, but you had to be pretty dim not to assume that there wouldn’t be a clean finish and the show would end with yet another big brawl. And these big brawls are fun once or maybe even twice, but we’ve reached the point of overkill and now they are just expected at this time of year due to the flawed Survivor Series brand loyalty concept rather than something that feels spontaneous. On a positive note, it was wise to have Triple H announce “open doors” for Wednesday’s NXT, as it should lead to additional viewers tuning into see which Raw and Smackdown wrestlers show up.
Humberto Carrillo vs. Karl Anderson: The match quality was Hit worthy, but this was hardly a major moment for Carrillo, who only won because the Street Profits rolled over Anderson when had Carrillo in an inside cradle. As if that win wasn’t flukey enough, Carrillo pinned Styles last week only after Randy Orton hit an RKO on Styles and then tagged in Carrillo to give him a gift win. And while I look forward to Styles vs. Carrillo for match quality reasons, it’s not like viewers have forgotten that Carrillo has already lost to Styles on multiple occasions.
Asuka vs. Natalya: The match didn’t feel like it served a purpose as far as Survivor Series is concerned. As such, it felt like time filler even though it seems like the company is starting to give Asuka some singles wins, perhaps setting her up for an eventual feud with Becky Lynch for the Raw Women’s Championship. I will gladly take that over yet another Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair match.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Vice TV's "Dark Side of the Ring" executive producers Evan Husney and Jason Eisner discussing the March 24 second season premiere focusing on the Benoit family tragedy, plus their pro wrestling fandom, the show's name and origins, highlights of season two, Chris Jericho becoming the narrator, and much more...