By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Bobby Lashley vs. Seth Rollins: This was fine for what it was with WWE putting two heels out there and letting the fans decide who to get behind. I guess we better get used to that with Rollins challenging Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble event. Speaking of which, while they couldn’t deliver a clean finish to this match since both men are challenging for titles at the Rumble, Lashley destroying Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin and the surprise appearance of the Usos helped close the show in a way that didn’t feel like a complete letdown.
Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and Doudrop vs. Bianca Belair and Liv Morgan: There wasn’t much to the three-minute match, but it accomplished what it needed to in terms of spotlighting Doudrop. I’m surprised that they are moving forward with the Lynch vs. Doudrop mach without adding someone to it. It’s an odd call to have Lynch face a fellow heel when they are still struggling to get fans to root against the Raw Women’s Champion.
Rey Mysterio, Dominik Mysterio, and The Street Profits vs. Robert Roode, Dolph Ziggler, Apollo Crews, and Commander Azeez: We didn’t get the rematch of last week’s six-man tag match, but the Profits got their win back over the same collection of heels who beat them. I wonder if we’ll get Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins opening the Rumble match in Demolition style.
Edge, Beth Phoenix, The Miz, and Maryse: The segment finally put some heat on Maryse, who had been coming off as sympathetic while putting up with her husband’s antics. Even so, this feud can’t end soon enough for this viewer. While it’s fine for a Rumble mid-card match, I look forward to seeing Edge’s character in more meaningful programs.
Alpha Academy and RKBro: The sports entertainment style graduation ceremony felt corny, but the live crowd seemed to enjoy it more than I did. Will Riddle go into Frank the Tank from Old School mode by delivering a highly intelligent answer to one of the questions in next week’s aptitude test? AEW already paid homage to that classic scene, but I will be surprised if WWE doesn’t put its own own spin on it.
Overall show: All things considered, this show was fine for what it was. Raw ran opposite the first Monday night NFL playoff game and WWE produced a show that felt like it was fine if you watched it, yet won’t leave those who didn’t feeling way behind on any of the top storylines.
WWE Raw Misses
U.S. Champion Damian Priest vs. Kevin Owens in a non-title match: The finish was obviously designed to set up Owens with a future title shot. Even so, it was also a weak finish in that no one bought into Owens feigning an injury, including Priest, who even told the referee that he didn’t believe that Owens was injured. While it’s nice that the babyface wasn’t the only person in the building gullible enough to believe a heel was legitimately injured for a change, it was arguably even worse that Owens was still able to surprise Priest with a kick and a Stunner to end the match.
Austin Theory vs. Finn Balor: I’m all for elevating young talent, but there are some issues. Balor has been defined down to the point that beating him doesn’t mean much right now. Worse yet, the Theory character is a naive simpleton. Aside from the occasional oafish powerhouse types, I can’t think of any naive simpletons who were cast as top level heels. So as much as Theory hanging out with Vince McMahon is meant to give him a boost, they really need to change the dynamic between the two at some point so that Theory stops coming off like a punching bag for the Mr. McMahon character.