By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Edge and Randy Orton: This was the hottest angle on Raw in years. Edge’s emotional comeback speech set the table perfectly for Randy Orton to rip the hearts out of fans with his ruthless attack on their returning hero. It was a treat to see a live crowd go from pure adulation to near stunned silence. It’s rare that pro wrestling crowds in 2020 suspend their disbelief and buy into a heel attack the way this crowd did and that’s a testament to wrestlers and the way this was laid out creatively.
Drew McIntyre vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: I have mixed feelings on this match. I’m not a fan of burying Gallows and Anderson as a tag team. I wish they would have had McIntyre beat them in back to back singles matches rather than have him plow through an established team in a handicap match. That said, McIntyre is the priority and he came out of this looking strong. McIntyre announcing that he will challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania was a no-brainer given their interactions at the Royal Rumble. His promo was well delivered and he’s starting to develop momentum despite the fact that he never had an actual babyface turn.
Seth Rollins and Buddy Murphy vs. Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe for the Raw Tag Titles: I enjoyed the way the babyfaces outsmarted the heels before the match. The actual match was solid, though it did feel like they rushed to this tag title match when they could have built it up to be a meaningful Raw main event or even a pay-per-view match. Joe’s injury was reportedly legitimate and hopefully he’s okay, but it actually worked out well in terms of giving the babyfaces an out for losing.
Andrade vs. Humberto Carrillo for the U.S. Championship: We are looking at this match and the post match angle through a different lens now that WWE has confirmed that Andrade has been suspended for 30 days due to a Wellness Policy violation. I like the decision to keep the title on Andrade despite the suspension. And before anyone brings up the 30-day rule, um, Brock Lesnar. Enough said. Perhaps things would have been different if Andrade had been booked to face Rey Mysterio again, but they blew off that feud last week, at least for the time being. Carrillo is a talented wrestler who just hasn’t clicked as a personality yet. So even though he’s come up short in several U.S. Title matches, the timing wasn’t right for him to win the championship, which also would have suffered from changing hands again so quickly. The post match angle with Carrillo returning the favor of taking out Andrade with a Hammerlock DDT on the exposed concrete gave Andrade a storyline reason for missing time while also giving Carrillo a bit of an edge.
Becky Lynch promo: The Man’s swagger is back. Lynch was cocky throughout the promo about avenging her losses to Asuka and boasting that she’s beaten everyone there is to beat on the roster. Enter Shayna Baszler, who can point out that she holds a win over Lynch via the Triple Threat with Bayley at Survivor Series?
Rey Mysterio vs. MVP: A soft Hit. It was nice to see MVP get a match on Raw following his appearance in the Royal Rumble match. MVP losing the match is probably an indication that he won’t be sticking around, but if nothing else it was nice to see the character get closure on his WWE run. On a side note, I enjoyed the WWE website piece with MVP surprising his son who was in the crowd for his Royal Rumble appearance and I hope there’s a longer version of that story told on a WWE Network documentary on this year’s Royal Rumble event.
Aleister Black promo: Black’s series of squash match wins have effectively showcased his in-ring skill set. But I was happy to hear his post match promo signify that turning the page and will presumably face contracted talent.
WWE Raw Misses
Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka: The match was solid, but the finish with Kairi Sane interfering for the DQ occurred right after we saw Zelina Vega do the same thing in the U.S. Title match. The creative team didn’t have much time to come up with a reason for Andrade’s absence, but it was not a good look to have back to back matches end with outside interference. On the plus side, the buzz is that Flair will end up challenging Rhea Ripley for the NXT (Women’s) Championship at WrestleMania. I was down on the idea of a male NXT wrestler winning the Royal Rumble match and challenging for an NXT Championship because it could have been a turnoff for viewers who aren’t watching NXT and expected the Rumble winners to challenge for the WWE or WWE Universal Championship. It works much better for the women’s division because the alternatives of Flair challenging Lynch or Bayley are just not appealing. If Flair does challenge Ripley, it sets up a strong match that presumably gets the NXT (Women’s) Championship on the WrestleMania card and is a safe way to introduce the idea that Rumble winners can challenge for NXT Championships.
Mojo Rawley vs. No Way Jose for the WWE 24/7 Championship: I’m still open to the idea of the comedy belt being used to elevate Rawley. The Miss is for the awful introduction of Riddick Moss as Rawley’s “offensive lineman” with the idea being that he will watch Rawley’s blindside. Perhaps it will make more sense as we move forward, but it felt ridiculous in the moment to have R-Truth get to Rawley and even pin him to take the title on Moss’s first night in this new role.
Liv Morgan vs. Lana: Quick and painless. The Miss is really for WWE dropping the HLA bomb and never following up. Morgan revealed that she and Lana had a relationship, yet neither one of them have even been asked for comment by the backstage interviewers. Morgan has upside potential, but if there are no additional layers to her storyline with Lana, she needs to move away from this soap opera drama in order to reach it.
Erick Rowan vs. Branden Vice: A soft Miss for a straight forward Rowan squash and no new developments with the pet cage. I’m guessing this is because we’ve reached the point where they have to pull back on the mystery of what’s inside the cage because they don’t have a good answer.