By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
U.S. Champion Riddle vs. Sheamus in a non-title match: The show peaked with the opening match. Sheamus going over was an easy way to set up the WrestleMania rematch. I actually missed the silly birds that the production team added to Riddle kicking off his flip flops while I was covering the show last night. So we had Braun Strowman’s “Chugga Chugga Choo Choo” audio “enhancement” last week, and a flying birds effects this week. These are just the latest two displays of a company that lost its cool factor.
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: An awful night. WWE somehow managed to make me less excited about the brand’s WrestleMania matches than I was before the show. Why is Smackdown so much better than Raw? As much as Raw having a third hour is a problem, you could trim an hour of fat from last night’s show and it still would have been abysmal.
Drew McIntyre confronts various wrestlers: McIntyre won two matches, yet it didn’t feel like this was a good night for him. McIntyre is usually the coolest guy on the show, but he came off like Lashley really got to him by essentially putting a bounty on his head. Worse yet, wrestlers such as AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, and Riddle being content with their WrestleMania matches when they could have tried to take McIntyre’s place in the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania was terrible. It made those wrestlers look bad, it made the WWE Championship look bad, and it made WrestleMania look bad. The ultimate goal in WWE is supposed to be headlining WrestleMania in a world championship match, yet none of them showed any interest.
Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander kicked out of The Hurt Business: Why? The Hurt Business is one of the only things working on this godforsaken show. It was disappointing when Benjamin and Alexander dropped the Raw Tag Titles, but kicking them out of the group is a baffling move that puts them back in no man’s land. I hope there’s a plan to keep them relevant, but barring a swerve Hurt Business reunion, I have a bad feeling they will be chasing R-Truth around in no time.
Shane McMahon and Braun Strowman: Shane’s big expose consisted of him showing off Strowman’s fifth grade report card. This is one of the worst builds to a WrestleMania match ever. Shane insulting Strowman by taking shots at his intelligence should be easy heat, but the problem is that Strowman has been booked to be a moron that Shane’s comments ring true. With Strowman, R-Truth, and Riddle, how many simpleton characters does one brand need?
Game Night with Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, AJ Styles, and Omos: Big E has done well since New Day split up. I wish I could say the same for Kingston and Woods, but their comedy antics have lost their charm. Part of the problem is that comedy segments don’t click like they should when the overall product is bad (see Eric Young’s comedy throughout most of his TNA run). But the bigger issue is that Kingston and Woods seem stuck in comedy mode and never flip the switch into serious mode when the situation calls for it. The only good thing about the game night nonsense is that Omos didn’t play along.
The Miz and John Morrison: Much like New Day, Miz and Morrison’s comedy suffers from the rest of the show being so bad. I’m not looking forward to Bad Bunny vs. Miz at WrestleMania nearly as much as find myself hopeful that Bad Bunny will leave WWE television once the match is over.
Shayna Baszler vs. Naomi: A bad distraction finish that did nothing for Naomi. Worse yet, Baszler actually boasted about how dominant she and Nia Jax have been just a few minutes later. I wish the booking meshed with her claim, but it feels like they lose as much as they win on television. Meanwhile, WWE just wrapped up Jax and Baszler feuding with the Smackdown Women’s Champion and her WrestleMania challenger, and they’re going to do the same thing on Raw next week. Vince McMahon is stuck in a formula booking rut.