By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus: It was a baffling decision to air this match without advertising it in advance given all the time was invested in setting it up. Nevertheless, McIntyre and Sheamus came through with a terrific match that ranks as the best match on Raw in recent memory. The call to go with this match on Raw rather than at Fastlane leaves me wondering what they have in mind for McIntyre at this month’s pay-per-view. I wouldn’t complain if they went with a rematch, but it’s not like the finish of last night’s match came off like it was done with that idea in mind. I hope the plan isn’t to go right to McIntyre challenging Bobby Lashley because they have Brock Lesnar or someone else coming in to challenge Lashley at WrestleMania.
The Miz vs. Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship: After all the shenanigans, it would have been a huge mistake to go off the air without a title change. But the creative forces delivered the satisfying payoff of Lashley going over strong and putting an end to the least inspiring WWE Championship reign since perhaps Jinder Mahal won the title back in 2017. As bad as Raw has become, the company has done a good job of building up Lashley for this moment, and The Hurt Business feels like an even more dominant faction now that they hold the main singles championship and the Raw Tag Titles.
Overall show: The Hit/Miss ratio doesn’t tell the full story. While there were still plenty of negatives, the positives of the WWE Title change and the great McIntyre vs. Sheamus match made this a passable episode.
WWE Raw Misses
Damian Priest vs. Elias: Why in the world did it take Priest over 15 minutes to put away the musical comedy act that damn near everyone else beats in short order? Priest won the match and yet it actually felt like he lost something by taking so long to beat Elias.
Nia Jax vs. Naomi: I’m all for Jax and Shayna Baszler being booked as dominant heels. If Jax squashing Naomi was the norm for Jax matches, then I wouldn’t have a problem with this match. But this is the same Jax who recently lost matches to Lana. There’s no consistency with the way the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions are pushed.
Charlotte Flair vs. Shayna Baszler: Case in point, Flair plowed through Baszler in less than three minutes. This could have been a hot WrestleMania match had the creative forces booked Baszler even three-quarters as well as she was booked in NXT. Instead, it was a throwaway television match that accomplished nothing. That’s been the case with too many of Flair’s matches. The creative forces book Flair to be so dominant that they run out of credible opponents for her.
Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin vs. Braun Strowman and Adam Pearce in a non-title match: Forgive me when I roll my eyes if Shane McMahon ends up performing an over the top stunt dive onto Strowman in a WrestleMania match that’s far more competitive than it should be. Strowman’s character is now an absolute moron, and there’s no good storyline reason for Shane hanging around and messing with him. Shane has only been back for a matter of weeks and yet I wouldn’t complain if he just disappeared again like he did when Raw Underground went away without explanation.
Riddle, Lince Dorado, and Gran Metalik vs. T-Bar, Mace, and Slapjack: The Retribution act continues to be channel changing material. There are some talented people involved in this mess who could be real assets to the company if they weren’t stuck doing bad Purge cosplay.
U.S. Champion Riddle vs. Mustafa Ali: Riddle was beaten up by Lashley for weeks before he ended up winning the U.S. Championship. He followed up his title with with a television win over punching bag John Morrison, and now a distraction loss to Ali. The U.S. Title went from being held by the most dominant wrestler on the Raw roster to suddenly feeling like undercard fodder. On the bright side, Riddle and Ali are talented enough that they might be able to make people care about their feud if they are given enough time to deliver quality matches. That being said, if Riddle and Ali are feuding, where does that leave Keith Lee? Perhaps the better question is what’s going on with Keith Lee, as he isn’t even being mentioned by the broadcast team.