Powell’s WWE Raw Hit List: Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley weigh-in, The Miz throws a birthday party for Maryse, Alpha Academy and RKBro academic challenge, Damian Priest vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Title, AJ Styles vs. Austin Theory, Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio vs. The Street Profits

By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

WWE Raw Hits

The Miz throws a birthday party for Maryse: This won’t be remembered as a great go-home segment heading into a Royal Rumble event, but it worked for what it was. While you had to know that someone was going to end up wearing the birthday cake, they were wise to make it a random security guard rather than Miz or Maryse. By avoiding physicality, they wisely left viewers waiting to see Edge and Beth Phoenix get their hands on the pest heel couple.

AJ Styles vs. Austin Theory: A good, competitive seventeen minute match that made Theory look strong in defeat. Styles feels like he’s spinning his wheels coming out of his forgettable split wit Omos and I am still surprised that he wasn’t traded to Smackdown to help make up for the babyface shortage. Speaking of Omos, how could they fail to make a big fuss over their giant entering the Rumble match? Anyway, this match was a nice step forward for Theory even though he lost the match. Hopefully his character will develop more of an edge soon because there’s only so far that his naive simpleton act can go. Theory has tremendous upside potential, but it’s on creative to develop a more main event persona for him.

Alpha Academy and RKBro academic challenge: As much as I often grumble about sports entertainment silliness, this was an example of sports entertainment fun. Upon first viewing, I missed Otis mistakenly misspelling his word in the spelling bee. His unintentional error actually made the skit even more fun. And it finally happened. For the first time in months, the Riddle character made me laugh. His line about calibrating his weed scale was a gem. I really like the idea of breaking this challenge into three parts. It obviously stretches out the comedy over a few weeks. More importantly, though, it should prevent these segments from overstaying their welcome.

Randy Orton vs. Chad Gable: This was a pleasant surprise. Orton won the match, but the match was laid out to make Gable look more competitive with Orton than he has in the past. So while Gable lost the match, I came away hopeful that his days of being the ultra weak link in his team with Otis are over. Sure, Gable probably be the guy who takes the losses for their team due to the nature of Otis’s powerhouse gimmick, but this competitive match with Orton seemed to be an attempt to give Gable more in-ring credibility.

Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio vs. The Street Profits: A Hit for a well worked tag match. I’m not crazy about seeing the Profits take a throwaway loss in a television match when the depth of the tag team division is so shallow, but the match was entertaining. The post match bit with the wrestlers taking turns throwing each other over the top rope was a groaner. While I get that they are trying to establish that it will be every man for himself in the Rumble, it just felt too lighthearted and silly. And it also seemed odd that the heel duo of Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode were the only team that seemed to be unified heading into the Rumble match.

Becky Lynch and Doudrop: There was some good mic work in this split-screen interview segment. It’s a shame that there isn’t a babyface in this feud because I have no doubt that they could deliver an effective build to a more traditional matchup. The dynamic is flawed, but I am looking forward to seeing what type of match they can produce on Saturday.

Bianca Belair vs. Queen Zelina: A quick showcase win for Belair before her character attempts to win back-to-back Rumble matches.

WWE Raw Misses

Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley weigh-in: The more I thought about this segment coming out of last night’s show, the more I disliked it. As I mentioned in last night’s Dot Net Members’ exclusive audio review, I started to think about casual viewers who might have been watching Raw now that the Monday night football games are finished for the season. WWE had a chance to sell them on a huge showdown match between two dominant forces meeting for the first time ever. Instead, Lesnar mocked Lashley and acted like he’s not taking him seriously. There was some entertainment value in this segment (see Lesnar busting out his “Yellowstone” attire), but the presentation of this match has left a lot to be desired. It’s a real shame that we never got a verbal jousting segment with Paul Heyman and MVP leading up to the match.

Damian Priest vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Championship: A fine match with a lousy finish. While I’m all for the Priest character developing a mean streak, the way they’ve gone about doing it is awkward. Nothing seems to matter in his matches until his character snaps, and even then it feels like there’s a 50/50 chance that he’ll be a meathead and get himself disqualified. Worse yet, we just saw the same finish in the Natalya vs. Aliyah match on Friday’s Smackdown.

Rhea Ripley, Liv Morgan, and Dana Brooke vs. Nikki ASH, Carmella, and Tamina: Both teams took more time making their entrances than the match was given. That’s not always a bad thing. (Goldberg squash match wins back in the day come to mind), but in this case it just felt flat and made the match feel fairly pointless. The only positive of the segment was ASH taking the cheap shot at Ripley afterward to continue the build to their eventual match.


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