By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
WWE Champion Bobby Lashley vs. Sheamus in a non-title match: Raw essentially picked up where it left off with a rematch of last week’s main event. It was another good match and it was encouraging to see Sheamus protected via outside interference from Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin, as well as the broadcast team doing a good job of establishing that he was fresh off a slugfest at Fastlane. Drew McIntyre saving Sheamus from the post match attack was a nice touch. It made McIntyre look good for respecting for his longtime friend coming out of their recent in-ring wars.
Drew McIntyre vs. Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin in a handicap match: It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Alexander and Benjamin, who entered last week’s show appearing to be in a good position for a meaningful WrestleMania match. But then they dropped the Raw Tag Titles, and now they lost this match, which carried the stipulation that they are now banned ringside during the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. Alexander and Benjamin have had a good year and deserve better than a spot in The Dre battle royal. Nevertheless, this was a well worked handicap match. McIntyre obviously had to go over and he gained momentum in the process.
Raw Women’s Champion Asuka vs. Peyton Royce in a non-title match: A solid match. I wasn’t as blown away as some viewers seemed to be based on social media reaction, but Royce was given a good amount of offense and hopefully they intend to do more with her. The post match angle with Rhea Ripley challenging Asuka to a title match at WrestleMania was basic and to the point. It will be interesting to see if they stick with the singles match or insert Charlotte Flair into the mix. It is worth noting that the match is listed for WrestleMania night two, which will be headlined by the WWE Universal Championship match, which many of us expect to become a Triple Threat match.
AJ Styles vs. Kofi Kingston: The pre-match verbal exchange was lousy. Most of the New Day duo’s comedy isn’t clicking with me these days, and Styles was in tongue-in-cheek comedy heel mode. But the actual match was strong and I was pleasantly surprised to see them avoid having a challenger beat one of the tag team champions in a non-title match.
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: It was a newsworthy episode with all of the WrestleMania match announcements, but the majority of the third hour was dreadful. The show dragged and they just haven’t created a big show feel for WrestleMania yet with only two episodes of Raw remaining.
The Fiend and Randy Orton: We’ve seen far worse from these supernatural segments, but this was still a campy turnoff. It was odd to see The Fiend and Alexa Bliss point to the WrestleMania sign and then have the WrestleMania match listed in graphic form just moments later. I realize they are running out of time, but it was still strange to see them announce a match that Orton’s character never agreed to.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax vs. Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke in a non-title match: We still get it. Rose and Brooke can’t beat Baszler and Jax. I remain baffled by the creative forces being so enamored with the lousy Reginald character. If they love acrobatics so much, why is Ricochet stuck in the locker room with the WWE 24/7 Champion chasers?
Jeff Hardy vs. The Miz: Can Hardy beat anyone other than Elias? WWE didn’t give Miz a boost heading into his WWE Championship reign, but they apparently felt the need to give him a win heading into a celebrity match with Bad Bunny.
Braun Strowman vs. Elias: Just when it seemed like the Strowman act couldn’t get worse, they introduced the Chugga-Chugga-Choo-Choo sound effects for his ringside shoulder blocks. The best thing about this segment was Shane McMahon and Elias singing about how stupid the Strowman character is. When they are done with this program, perhaps they can get more milage out of the song by retooling the lyrics for Riddle’s abysmal character.