By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Randy Orton and Beth Phoenix: Orton continues to deliver the best character work of his career. His explanation for taking out Edge was either heel logic or outright lying depending on the direction they want to take this. While I’m normally not a fan of man on woman violence in pro wrestling, the RKO on Phoenix didn’t cross any lines for me. Phoenix is a Hall of Fame wrestler and was billed as the powerhouse of the division, which made it easier for me to rationalize than if Orton had attacked a random woman with no in-ring history. Everyone has their own line when it comes to this type of thing and thus I’m not going to argue with those who felt it went too far, nor should those offended try to force those who felt differently to share in their outrage. Putting that aside, this was a hell of an angle that sets up Edge’s return and the showdown match at WrestleMania. Props to Byron Saxton for showing good fire while putting over how disgusted he was by Orton’s actions.
Drew McIntyre, Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman: Heyman did a great job of setting the table by playing up the idea that it was a fluke when McIntyre knocked Lesnar out of the Royal Rumble with a Claymore Kick. McIntyre responded by drilling a charging Lesnar with a great Claymore Kick. Lesnar made the angle by selling the first Claymore Kick so effectively. The angle could have ended with Lesnar stumbling to the back and it would have accomplished what it needed to. The second and third Claymore Kicks were just icing on the cake.
Seth Rollins and Murphy vs. The Street Profits for the Raw Tag Titles: The “now or never” aspect of the build was flawed in that the stipulation basically told viewers that there would be a tag title change, making it something that should have been announced at least a week out with the goal of enticing more viewers to watch the show. It was also never explained why this was their last chance to win the titles. They never bothered to explain whether the Profits would be forbidden from challenging for the Raw Tag Titles ever again or just while Rollins and Murphy held the titles. While the build and the use of the stipulation was flawed, the actual match was entertaining and the Profits got a needed win. I could have done without Kevin Owens basically gifting the tag titles to the Profits. Sure, it makes sense for his character in his ongoing war with Rollins and his crew, but it didn’t make the Profits look good. That said, they did announce a rematch for Elimination Chamber, so perhaps the Profits will get their clean win on Sunday. Does this mean that automatic rematches are no longer antiquated? Nah, it’s just the latest case of Vince McMahon showing that he can’t be bothered live by the rules that he establishes for his storyline universe.
Angel Garza and Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio and Humberto Carrillo: A good tag match with the babyfaces picking up a nice win as their ongoing feud with Garza and Andrade continues. Garza and Andrade stood out on paper as a strong tag team and they lived up to expectations in their first outing. I’d love to see how good they could be together after they’ve had time to develop tag team chemistry.
WWE Raw Misses
Aleister Black vs. The OC in singles matches: Raw was off to a strong start and lost all of its momentum the moment that AJ Styles announced that Black had to go through Karl Anderson to get to him. It made Black look like a moron for not reading the contract while depriving fans of the most appealing advertised match of the night. Anderson and Luke Gallows have been booked as bumbling henchmen. No one takes their singles matches seriously. It’s a shame because Anderson is so good in the ring, but they’ve become channel changing triggers. And it’s going to take a lot more than Styles taunting Undertaker by using his signature pin to make me care about another match between them. Taker vs. Styles felt flat when the match was rumored because Styles has been booked as a second tier player since he reformed The OC, and Undertaker squashing Styles at WWE Super ShowDown didn’t do their feud any favors.
Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane: Baszler’s Raw debut should have been a spotlight match where she plowed through Sane or another opponent to establish her dominance. Why was Baszler working with a fellow heel in her Raw debut? It says a lot about the sad state of the women’s division that the company couldn’t even find a moderately over babyface that fans actually care about to serve up to big bully Baszler. Is Becky Lynch out to prove Seth Rollins right when he said that fans turn on top babyfaces? I’m guessing that will be the story if the fans grow tired of the Stone Cold wannabe skits and now cosplaying Elton John, but the truth continues to be that Lynch is drifting too far away from what made fans like her to begin with. There’s still a month to get this right, but the creative forces seem to have lost their way with what felt like a can’t miss feud between Lynch and Baszler.
Ruby Riott vs. Liv Morgan with Sarah Logan as special referee: Riott Squad should have been a bigger deal than it was. The creative team never got behind the trio, and now they expect fans to care about them feuding with one another. The only good thing I can say about this is that the company is finally doing something with some female wrestlers who are not in the title picture. I like the wrestlers involved and I hope this clicks, but WWE really needs to make one of these women rather than attempting to make two or three at once.
Erick Rowan’s spider: There was little doubt that the payoff to the pet cage mystery would be a big letdown. But a mechanical spider?
Riddick Moss vs. Ricochet for the WWE 24/7 Championship: I wish I could say that I care about Ricochet being buried more than I do. They made him a joke of a character from the start with all the talk that he wanted to prove that superheroes are real and it’s never gotten better. I’ve simply become numb to the way they waste his talents. The 24/7 Championship needs to go away again. It was a comedy belt that appealed to some fans, but the gag ran its course and now it seems like the company has no idea what to do with it.