By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Drew McIntyre and Edge: A good opening segment with Edge celebrating his Rumble win and then being surprised that McIntyre was so complimentary of him even though Edge could choose to challenge for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. It was a good way to show that the McIntyre character is a good person and a fighting champion. Unfortunately, things fell apart with the Sheamus turn, but more on that later.
Bobby Lashley vs. Riddle for the U.S. Championship: Mixed feelings. It was a disappointing title match that made Riddle look like a pushover. But the segment ultimately achieved its goal of making Lashley seem unhinged and more dangerous than ever. I assume that Lashley is being built up for a WWE Championship match at some point, perhaps even WrestleMania, as the company isn’t even bothering to make anyone seem like a strong challenger to the U.S. Championship.
Damian Priest vs. The Miz: Priest being paired with Bad Bunny during his Raw debut was logical in terms of using the celebrity to help get the new guy over. Beating Miz means nothing these days, but at least it was a strong and decisive win for Priest. While Bad Bunny may not do anything for some of us older viewers, WWE needs all the help it can get when it comes to attracting a younger audience.
Carlito and Jeff Hardy vs. Elias and Jaxson Ryker: A soft Hit for Carlito’s return to Raw, and Hardy picking up a rare win. Of course, Hardy’s win was over Elias, who seems to be the only person that Hardy is booked to beat these days. Carlito looked clunky in the ring. Still, WWE officials are obviously excited about Carlito’s physique based on how much the broadcast team was fawning over it, so it will be interesting to see if this turns into a full-time run for him.
WWE Raw Misses
Sheamus turns on Drew McIntyre: A Brogue Kick. That’s it? Sure, we all knew that it was only a matter of time before Sheamus turned on McIntyre, but the actual turn felt uninspired. Longtime fans also knew that Paul Orndorff was going to turn on Hulk Hogan, yet the turn was so effective that that it still rates as one of the most memorable heel turns. Conversely, there was nothing memorable about Sheamus simply hitting McIntyre with his finisher and then walking away.
Edge vs. Randy Orton: The lack of fanfare for the match was baffling. It was not announced before Raw, and then it was mentioned during the show as if viewers were supposed to know it was happening. The actual match was decent, especially if you give a little leeway for it being Edge’s first traditional match back from injury, and because it took place the night after he went nearly an hour in the Royal Rumble match. But the finish was awful. Even if you enjoy the Alexa Bliss hocus pocus silliness more than I do, it was still a letdown that the final match between Edge and Orton ended with a campy distraction finish.
Alexa Bliss vs. Nikki Cross: The production tricks continue with Bliss’s wardrobe changes that are meant to suggest that she has somehow developed supernatural powers. There was a time when it felt like Cross was really clicking with the fans. Sadly, now she loses to Bliss, disappears from television, and then comes back just to lose to Bliss again.
Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin vs. Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik for the Raw Tag Titles: It was a rough night for the Lucha House Party duo, who were clearly off in performing some of their acrobatic moves. Kudos to Benjamin for using his strength to save a couple of those botched spots. While the match was rough, I’d like to see these teams get a second try, as they could have a much better match if Dorado and Metalik are on their game.
Asuka and Charlotte Flair vs. Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke vs. Naomi and Lana in a Triple Threat tag match for a shot at the WWE Women’s Tag Titles: A bad match. On the bright side, it looks like the Asuka and Flair partnership is coming to an end, which means Asuka can ideally get back to defending the Raw Women’s Championship while Flair feuds with Lacey Evans. Are they building to a Triple Threat with those three women? There was no sign of Rhea Ripley on this show, and creative hasn’t bothered to build up any of the other women on Raw to come off as credible threats to Asuka.
Mustafa Ali vs. Xavier Woods: The story is building to Ali facing Kingston. So why would they have Ali lose clean to Woods before getting to that match? Ali needs all the help he can get after being saddled with the Retribution leader gimmick. Ali needs heat and wins in order for this feud to amount to anything.