By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
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WWE Raw Hits
Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio in a ladder match for the U.S. Championship: While there were some overly ambitious spots attempted, the effort was most certainly there. Andrade and Mysterio have yet to disappoint during their feud. The post match angle moves Humberto Carrillo into the challenger’s role. It will be interesting to see if the creative forces can finally get Carrillo to click in a meaningful way and where this leaves Mysterio.
The Viking Raiders vs. Seth Rollins and Buddy Murphy for the Raw Tag Titles: An unexpected tag title change. My guess was that Rollins and his new crew would make a play for title belt domination similar to the Four Horsemen back in the day or Undisputed Era in modern day NXT. And while they could still get there long term, putting the tag straps on Rollins and Murphy rather than AOP means it won’t be happening anytime soon. I assume this leads to Rollins and Murphy feuding with Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe over the tag titles. If so, what does that mean for the Viking Raiders and AOP? Sure, they could feud with each other, but that would be a feud in which both teams need wins.
Randy Orton vs. Drew McIntyre: An interesting match with The OC interfering to avoid having a clean finish. Orton hitting the RKO on McIntyre afterward seemed bad in the moment, but this wasn’t the typical RKO out of nowhere followed by Orton’s music and then a commercial break. McIntyre taking the mic and vowing to return the favor with a Claymore Kick and stating that he will win the Royal Rumble match struck me as another sign that WWE’s creative forces are serious about his push. And while I admit that it could be wishful thinking, McIntyre is my current favorite to win the Rumble match. The Vince McMahon led creative team typically loves to foreshadow to the point that it becomes detrimental in that they give away their plans. When it comes to this Rumble match, there have only been a couple of potential foreshadowing moments that have really stood out to me. Paul Heyman’s spoiler tease for Lesnar starting first and winning the Rumble is a possibility, but I don’t really see what purpose it would serve. The other potential foreshadowing moment is the tease of McIntyre and Orton being the last two men in the Rumble match. Of course, this could be as simple as Roman Reigns winning the Rumble, which requires no foreshadowing and would be the latest in a long line of mistakes made with the booking of his character.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman: Notice that Ricochet is not included in this Hit. I was fine with Lesnar kicking Ricochet in the balls because that actually gave Ricochet an out. I have a much bigger issue with Ricochet’s weak promo, which included him telling Lesnar that he wasn’t afraid to fight him, only to then show fear by hesitating before entering the ring. The strength of the segment was Heyman trolling the crowd with the ongoing spoiler talk of Lesnar winning the Rumble match. There’s just no way it should happen in clean fashion because it doesn’t set up anything compelling for WrestleMania. I can’t rule out Lesnar winning in some type of controversial fashion that sets someone up as his challenger without actually winning the Rumble match, but it seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Regardless of the Rumble finish, Heyman’s promo work has been strong and I like the hook of Lesnar entering the match first.
Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch vs. Kairi Sane in a non-title match: An entertaining match with Asuka interfering at different points and then attacking Lynch afterward. Lynch’s story throughout the build to her rematch with Asuka has been well done. She doubted herself early in the build and finally found her confidence in her go-home promo. Asuka has done a good job of finding a groove with her heel persona. I wish we had seen Asuka plow through more women in singles matches to reestablish her dominance, but the storytelling has been strong and it’s resulted in me looking forward an Asuka singles match for the first time in a long time.
Aleister Black squash match: A simple and effective squash win that makes Black look like a badass while continuing to establish his Black Mass kick as a vicious finisher.
Mojo Rawley: The WWE 24/7 Championship does nothing for me. R-Truth has had some good comedy moments along the way, but the actual title and all the cornball chases and the countless title changes via rollup finishes just don’t appeal to me. As much as I’d be happy to see the title disappear, Rawley taking a new approach with the title at least feels like something fresh and could help him break out of the undercard if the creative forces really get behind this new direction.
Erick Rowan vs. Matt Hardy: More of an in the middle than a Hit or a Miss. This was basically a repeat of last week’s pet cage spot with Rowan sticking his hand in the cage and being bitten by whatever is inside. I would complain about Hardy being wasted when he’s clearly worked hard to get himself in great shape, but his deal is coming up soon and this is a logical way to use him if they don’t intend to re-sign him or if they know he’s not interested in staying.
WWE Raw Misses
Women’s Royal Rumble match hype: It’s Royal Rumble week and WWE has only listed four entrants for the women’s Rumble match thus far. The hype has consisted of Charlotte Flair cutting cliche WWE royalty promos and nothing more. Does anyone know whether she’s a babyface or a heel at this point? Perhaps the more relevant question is whether anyone cares. Flair is so talented, but they need to pick a direction and break her out of this royalty rut.
The Street Profits: The first SNL Weekend Update spoof was lousy and the second version was somehow worse. Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins are a good tag team with tons of charisma. They have a cool factor that is fading with each clunky backstage comedy bit.
Rusev and Liv Morgan vs. Bobby Lashley and Lana: The match was fine for what it was, but this was a lousy way to close out the Raw brand’s go-home show for the Royal Rumble. Morgan showed good fire and it will be fun to see if she can come out of this soap opera drama looking stronger.