By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
WWE Champion Bobby Lashley vs. Sheamus in a non-title match: A slugfest main event involving two heels while babyface Drew McIntyre watched his next two pay-per-view foes from ringside. The post match angle with Lashley being distracted just long enough for McIntyre to drop him with a Claymore Kick was well done. Sheamus continued his streak of strong matches. I still wish they would add layers to his character. We know he’s Irish and that he was friends with McIntyre prior to their time in WWE, and that’s about it despite Sheamus being on the main roster for over a decade.
Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin vs. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods for the Raw Tag Titles: My initial reaction was that it was foolish to take the tag titles away from Alexander and Benjamin, especially after their faction leader Bobby Lashley just captured the WWE Championship. The post match angle with AJ Styles and Omos challenging New Day to a match at WrestleMania made it easier to understand. Still, part of me feels like the Omos in-ring debut is enough to sell that match, whereas Alexander and Benjamin need the tag titles to make their WrestleMania match feel meaningful.
Riddle vs. Mustafa Ali for the U.S. Championship: As much as I was hoping that these two would be turned loose in a longer match, it was fun while it lasted. The finish was creative in terms of giving Riddle a win, protecting Ali, and giving Ali a reason to be angry with his Retribution cronies. Here’s hoping that his frustration leads to the end of his awful faction so that the talented people involved can unmask and ideally thrive in new roles.
Raw Women’s Champion Asuka vs. Shayna Baszler in a non-title match: Asuka’s quest for revenge became tough to watch when she placed Baszler’s mouth over the exposed turnbuckle with the intention of kicking the back of her head. I get that Asuka lost a tooth in their previous match, but her reaction felt really over the top and downright sadistic for a babyface, and it actually left me feeling sympathy for the Baszler character. That said, I came away from this segment assuming that Asuka is turning heel. I’m all for it. Asuka’s frenzied promos were popular during the empty WWE Performance Center era of Raw, but it feels like it’s time for something new.
Drew McIntyre vs. The Miz: A soft Hit. The match had to happen given the way Miz used his Money in the Bank contract to steal the WWE Championship from McIntyre at Elimination Chamber. But even a brief WWE Championship reign wasn’t enough to boost Miz’s in-ring credibility. He’s the same pest heel who only wins when there’s cheating involved. The booking has made Miz and John Morrison big turnoffs through no fault of their own.
Damian Priest vs. Jaxson Ryker: This 35-second match beat the hell out of the bizarre 15-minute match that Priest had with Elias on a recent Raw.
WWE Raw Misses
Alexa Bliss and Randy Orton: Bliss sat backstage on her swing set and told Orton that he had a chance to take her out of his life at Fastlane. There was no mention of an actual match, yet Sarah Schreiber was scripted to act like Bliss had issued a match challenge when she interviewed Orton later in the show. I assume The Fiend will finally return on Sunday. This storyline has been become so ridiculous that I couldn’t care less.
Shane McMahon and Braun Strowman: This feud feels so random. There’s been no explanation as to why Shane suddenly felt the need to pick a fight Strowman. Shane just showed up, messed with Strowman, and then started insulting his intelligence. As if that wasn’t silly enough, now they’ve added Nickelodeon green slime.
WrestleMania announcement of Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre: That’s it? McIntyre doesn’t need to win a match at WWE Fastlane? Just a quick announcement at the top of the show without any fanfare? Don’t get me wrong, it’s the right main event for the Raw brand, but I’m surprised by how casually the match was announced and that they didn’t set up something for Fastlane to determine the No. 1 contender. Yes, McIntyre winning would have been predictable, but it’s not like they just skip the Royal Rumble match in years when the outcome feels predictable. I would be more understanding of the call to not have a No. 1 contender’s match at Fastlane had they felt the need to get the word out well in advance, but it’s not like there’s much difference in waiting six more days than they did to reveal Lashley’s challenger.
Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke vs. Naomi and Lana: It’s hard to take either team seriously at this point considering that they both lose as much as they win. Rose has upside and she’s not going to live up to her potential in this bad tag team. Meanwhile, Naomi has proven that she can be a quality singles wrestler, yet she’s wasted as Lana’s tag team partner.