By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Seth Rollins and AOP: Rollins shines in his natural heel role. He seemed more confident than he has in a long time and is off to a great start as the heel kingpin. Rollins delivered a strong promo to start the show that included the good hook that he had a score to settle and it wouldn’t be popular with the fans. I like the way Rollins is standing back and letting AOP do his dirty work aside from the cheap shot Stomp he delivered on the fallen Rey Mysterio.
Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles: A good television main event with a final sequence that played on the house show finishes they were doing prior to their WrestleMania 35 match. The post match angle with The OC beating down Orton and the Viking Raiders was an obvious way to set up what should be a good six-man tag match for next week.
The Viking Raiders vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in a non-title match: I don’t know if we needed a nearly 20-minute non-title match, but it was a big improvement over the chicken shack corporate sponsor match from the pay-per-view. The logic behind this being a non-title match was weak given that the teams battled to a double count-out the night before. The obvious approach would be to book them in a rematch for the tag titles, but it seems like the creative forces were more concerned with giving Gallows and Anderson a non-title win and didn’t care how they got there. If nothing else, it’s nice that Gallows and Anderson are being positioned as a good team as opposed to weak henchmen sidekicks. Now if only WWE would end the corniness of having their Saudi Arabia trophy at ringside.
Asuka vs. Deonna Purrazzo: A good showcase win for Asuka heading into what appears to be a title match with Becky Lynch at the Royal Rumble. I was surprised to see Purrazzo pop up on Raw. I like that they played a brief video package on Purrazzo, which told viewers who are unfamiliar with her that she’s more than just a local enhancement wrestler. The Becky Lynch interview that followed the match was well done with Lynch establishing that Asuka has had her number while coming off as desperate to change that.
Samoa Joe: Can we clone Joe now so that he can continue to be the color commentator even after he returns to the ring?
WWE Raw Misses
Ricochet vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Humberto Carrillo vs. R-Truth vs. Matt Hardy vs. Andrade in a gauntlet match for a shot at the U.S. Title: There was some good in-ring action through the course of the long gauntlet match, but too many of these characters feel one dimensional and have yet to fully connect with fans. Ricochet is from a small town and wants to prove that superheroes can real. Tozawa is the stamina monster (even though none of his matches outside 205 Live go long). Carrillo is the rising star with bangs and dimples. Andrade is a cheating heel with a cheating manager. What more have we actually learned about these characters since they arrived on the main roster? And it doesn’t help matters that secondary title shots aren’t coveted. Wrestlers should have to earn title shots through the storylines, but we’re not far enough removed from wrestlers interrupting a champion’s interview, staring at the champion, and suddenly being named number one contender. In other words, this match had a lot working against it, and all the stops and starts for the commercial breaks didn’t help. And after all the time this match took up, it ended without a winner. I like the Andrade attack on Carrillo, but it was comical for all the wrong reasons when Mysterio said he would defend the title against Andrade anytime. In other words, the message was that Andrade could have done exactly what Seth Rollins did by issuing a challenge and saved himself the trouble of competing in this match.
Erick Rowan vs. Dante Leon: A soft Miss. It feels like they peaked with the jobbers going after the animal cage bit last week when the unnamed enhancement wrestler bought it to the stage in hopes of stealing a count-out win. This week was straight out of the horror movie playbook with the victim running and tripping while trying to run away from the monster.