By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Randy Orton and Matt Hardy: An outstanding segment. Yes, wrestlers should have been scripted to run out to help Hardy at some point. WWE has ignored that detail for so long that I’m finally becoming numb to it. Putting that aside, the performances were excellent. Orton is doing the best work of his career by showing that he’s conflicted one moment and then ruthless and sadistic the next. Hardy’s character showed heart just by showing up and being willing to fight despite his neck injury. This isn’t a burial of Hardy on his way out the door if he is leaving, it’s actually very good use of a potentially departing wrestler in a storyline that provides closure to his WWE run while elevating Orton in the process. There’s nothing in pro wrestling that I’m enjoying more than the Orton/Edge/Hardy saga at the moment.
Aleister Black vs. Erick Rowan: The match was entertaining and I got a kick out of Jerry Lawler having to backtrack after telling viewers it would be an upset if Rowan beat Black. Oops. Yet while the match was entertaining, it did feel like they could have done more with it from a presentation standpoint. Both men have been dominating enhancement wrestlers for months and so this felt like a bit of showdown match. We’ve heard Black ramble on with his deep thoughts promos, so why didn’t get promo time when he finally had an opponent worth talking about?
Charlotte Flair promo: I spent the majority of 2019 feeling completely underwhelmed by the Flair act. Her promos were mostly filled with WWE royalty cliches and she rarely was booked in a feud that that felt meaningful or that I actually wanted to see her in (see WrestleMania). The new year started the same way, but everything changed once she was booked to face Rhea Ripley at WrestleMania. The Flair act feels reinvigorated and her promos are so much better now that she has a strong program.
Angel Garza and Bobby Lashley vs. Humberto Carrillo and Rusev: A better than expected tag team match. I assumed the match would be good when Garza and Carrillo were in the ring together, but Garza and Rusev actually showed good chemistry with Garza making Rusev’s offense look great. If Garza is going to play the arrogant lady’s man, can they at least take the time to make up a quick story about him blowing off the engagement we saw on NXT television? With NXT being on USA Network, the days of the company acting like what happens on NXT stays on NXT should be a thing of the past.
Drew McIntyre vs. MVP: Another solid week for McIntyre as he continues to build momentum heading into WrestleMania. It will be interesting to see if they come up with an obstacle for McIntyre to overcome at Elimination Chamber. Erick Rowan could have been that obstacle and perhaps still could be, but it won’t mean as much now he lost to Aleister Black.
WWE Raw Misses
Becky Lynch promo It’s not that her segment with Shayna Baszler was bad. I admittedly put this in the Miss section to make a point. Lynch is leaning too hard into The Man persona. It feels like she or the creative team feel the need to go big with the character far too often. She stole an ambulance last week. She dumped a stack of money into the ring this week. The Man persona definitely has its moments, but it is moving Lynch away from what made her click with fans in the first place. Before The Man and before the big push, Lynch got over with fans because she cut believable promos that the fans connected with. I’m all for the swagger of The Man emerging from time to time. But we need to see more of what we came to view as the real Becky Lynch and less of the Stone Cold inspired character that feels like more of a persona than something genuine.
Kevin Owens and The Viking Raiders vs. Murphy and AOP: As noted last week, we’ve seen too many combinations of Owens and his crew facing Rollins and his disciples. I wouldn’t mind a big pay-per-view match involving these teams, but they have to give viewers a chance to actually want to see it. In other words, they have to stop making these big tag team matches a weekly fixture on Raw. The more they do these big matches, the the more trivial they feel.
Riddick Moss vs. Mojo Rawley vs. R-Truth in a Triple Threat for the WWE 24/7 Championship: As if the WWE 24/7 Championship didn’t feel worthless before, now it’s held by a wrestler who has yet to actually speak on Raw. The comedy of the 24/7 Title was hit or miss, but at least it had a direction during R-Truth’s 2,847 runs with the belt. I’m not sure what the purpose of the belt actually is at the moment.
Natalya vs. Kairi Sane: More of an in the middle than a Hit or a Miss. The purpose seemed to be establishing a beef between Natalya and Asuka heading into the Elimination Chamber match. I continue to wonder if this will somehow lead to The Kabuki Warriors actually defending those title belts they carry around with them, perhaps at WrestleMania against Natalya and Beth Phoenix.
Ricochet vs. Karl Anderson: A Miss for Ricochet continuing to feel ice cold despite getting a title shot against Brock Lesnar in Saudi Arabia. WWE has tried the small town nice guy act. They inexplicably tried billing Ricochet as a grown man who wants to prove that superheroes are real. How about playing into the real life competitive arrogance that Ricochet was viewed as having on the independent scene? He doesn’t need to turn heel, he can still be a babyface who is extremely confident in his ability to do things that other wrestlers simply can’t do.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Brian Fritz of Sporting News and Between The Ropes discussing WrestleMania 36, WWE television from the empty WWE Performance Center, his own travel woes, NFL free agency, and more...