By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Big E and Bobby Lashley vs. Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens: It was a good night in terms of building to the four-way WWE Championship match for WWE Day 1. Lashley seems to be moving into a babyface role based on not only his issues with Rollins and Owens, but also because of the sudden friction between him and the MVP character. As much as I’d like to see Rollins and Owens form a long term alliance, I suspect that their partnership will be tossed aside in the four-way match.
AJ Styles and Omos: Their split is actually a bit of a mess. Styles is suddenly acting like a babyface without any explanation, while Omos is apparently playing the heel in their feud. As much as I wish they had done a better job of setting the table, there’s no denying that the split is compelling. And while I may be guilty of reading too much into things, I wonder if the plan is to move MVP away from Lashley so that he can become the mouthpiece for Omos. If that happens to be the plan, then Omos would shoot way up on my list of potential Royal Rumble winners, as I could see him challenging Big E for the WWE Championship or perhaps being part of a multi-man match that also includes Lashley. Yes, that’s way more than Omos is ready for, but Vince McMahon may see Omos challenging for the championship as the type of big attraction that his top show needs.
Bianca Belair vs. Doudrop: I was surprised that this match was billed as the final chapter. WWE books a lot of rematches these days, and it felt like they could have squeezed more out of this feud. No complaints, though, as I’d rather see them move on now before the feud gets stale. I assume they have something different in mind for Belair and I’m not really sure what that will be. The match was enjoyable and Belair performing her KOD on Doudrop was very impressive and got a genuine rise out of the crowd (not to be confused with all of the crowd sweetening the company has been doing lately).
Finn Balor vs. Austin Theory: I despised the finish with Theory looking like an absolute idiot for costing himself the match by opting to take a selfie while going for a lazy cover. The selfie gimmick is fine for a mid-card pest heel, but it seems like the creative forces want Theory to be more than that given how much time he’s been spending with Vince McMahon in those bad backstage skits. Hopefully Theory comes out of the McMahon skits with more of an edge than his character currently possesses. Meanwhile, I continue to get the feeling that creative isn’t really sure what to do with Balor.
Randy Orton vs. Chad Gable: A quick win for Orton to set up Otis stuffing another RKO attempt. Riddle was conspicuous by his absence this week.
Rhea Ripley vs. Queen Zelina: The theme of the match was that Ripley was better off without Nikki ASH. As much as I would like to believe that the creative forces genuinely feel that way, this continues to feel like a redemption story for the ASH character.
Overall Show: This holiday week episode had none of the bad sports entertainment nonsense that was all over past Christmas week editions. WWE took a business as usual approach and delivered a quality show. Everything had a purpose and nothing felt like filler. Raw was downright terrible in the months leading up to the WWE Draft. It has slowly improved since then and this was the best episode they have produced with the new Raw roster. Here’s hoping that whatever has triggered the creative improvements will continue because it’s nice to enjoy rather than dread Monday nights.
WWE Raw Misses
Edge, The Miz, and Maryse: When this feud started, I really hoped that Miz would somehow come out of it stronger and become more than a pest heel. And while I haven’t lost all hope, nothing that has transpired thus far has left me confident that Miz will change anything.
U.S. Champion Damian Priest vs. Dolph Ziggler in a non-title match: On one hand, I can appreciate the way that the company spent the last few weeks setting the table for next week’s title match. On the other hand, it’s tough to take Ziggler as a serious threat to win the U.S. Championship, especially when he’s still in a tag team with Robert Roode. I wonder if the plan is to have Priest retain only to have Veer Mahaan finally show up and attack him to set up the next U.S. Title program.