By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Big E vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins in a four-way for a shot at the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble: The match had its share of clunky moments and wasn’t nearly as hot as the five-way match at WWE Day 1, but the good outweighed the bad. Owens worked especially hard and it was surprising to see him perform a balcony dive. Lashley winning sets up a highly intriguing match with Lesnar for the Rumble. I’m open to the possibility of a title change if creative wants to work back to Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania in something other than a unification match. Either way, Lesnar vs. Lashley feels like a big showdown match, and the verbal exchanges between Paul Heyman and MVP should make for great television.
Damian Priest vs. Dolph Ziggler for the U.S. Championship: The stipulation that Priest could lose the title if he was counted out or disqualified was a decent hook, but the real drama of the match actually came from a pair of really good near falls for Ziggler. I’m still not sold on the idea of Priest’s character having a dark side. It continues to makes most of what happens in his matches feel trivial until he finally snaps. More than anything, Priest needs a strong challenger to work with now that he’s finished off Ziggler and Robert Roode. Will it be Veer Mahaan, who I understand is “coming soon to Raw”? Finn Balor is a man without a storyline direction, so perhaps they will work toward Priest’s dark side persona facing The Demon at WrestleMania.
Raw Tag Team Champions “RKBro” Randy Orton and Riddle vs. “Alpha Academy” Chad Gable and Otis in a non-title match: The Orton and Riddle comedy isn’t getting the reactions from the live crowd that it once did, but the duo remains over once the bell rings. Gable and Otis winning was the right call, as it finally gave one of the heel tag teams some juice.
“The Street Profits” Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins vs. Apollo Crews and Commander Azeez: A quick bounce back win for the Profits coming off their loss to RKBro at WWE Day 1. The push that Crews and Azeez received on Smackdown has not carried over to the Raw brand.
Edge, Beth Phoenix, The Miz, and Maryse: A soft Hit for a decent segment that set up the expected mixed tag team match for the Royal Rumble. Edge teaming with Phoenix remains the biggest hook for the mach, a Miz and Maryse are soft heels who fans don’t view as serious threats to win.
WWE Raw Misses
AJ Styles vs. Omos: A lousy match despite the best efforts of Styles. Omos looked really rough in the ring. He hasn’t shown much improvement when they’ve asked him to do anything more than his basic tag team match spots. Styles being squashed left me wondering if this was a case of him being written off the Raw brand. WWE has been known to have wrestlers take surprising losses if they are being moved to the other brand via the draft. There’s not a draft coming up, but I could see Styles being moved to Smackdown in a trade to help make up for the recent losses of Jeff Hardy and Drew McIntyre, who is reportedly dealing with a neck injury.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman opening: I enjoyed the segment, but the live crowd was clearly not sure how they were supposed to feel about the duo. Lesnar’s “acknowledge me” dig at Roman Reign was fun, but the line received a fair amount of boos. Lesnar established himself as a strong babyface on Smackdown, whereas Heyman never turned, he was simply fired by Reigns. As such, it’s understandable that fans aren’t sure what to make of him or what it makes Lesnar now that they have reunited. Of course, with Reigns missing WWE Day 1, the creative team had to make some major storyline changes, so it’s certainly understandable that things are a bit confusing at the moment.
Queen Zelina and Carmella vs. Rhea Ripley and Nikki ASH for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles: I get that ASH needs to lose repeatedly in order to tell the story that she’s the weak link of her team. And I appreciate that the match was kept brief due to it feeling so predictable. But I’m just not invested in this story. Here’s hoping that the payoff is something other than redemption for ASH and another tag title reign with Ripley, who feels wasted in this program.
Dana Brooke and Reggie vs. Tamina and Akira Tozawa for the WWE 24/7 Championship: I’m running out of things to write about how pointless the WWE 24/7 Title is. I don’t feel too bad about it given that the creative team ran out of good ideas for it months ago.