By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Kevin Owens impersonates Steve Austin: An outstanding troll job. The live crowd went nuts when Austin’s music hit to open the show. They booed like crazy once they figured out that Owens was dressed as Austin. As if that wasn’t fun enough, the live crowd bit again when Austin’s music played for a second time, and they were enraged when Owens laughed at them. I loved this segment. It was my favorite Raw moment in 2022 thus far.
AJ Styles vs. Seth Rollins: I wasn’t a big fan of the way the creative forces got to this (more on that later), but the actual match was very good. The finish was a pleasant surprise in that they didn’t have Rollins take another clean loss. Rather, they had Edge attack Styles to preserve their WrestleMania match, which also screwed over Rollins in the process. This was followed by a good post match meltdown from Rollins, who stated that next week’s Raw won’t happen until he gets his WrestleMania moment. In other words, it looks like they have something planned for the opening segment.
Becky Lynch promo: This was a really well delivered promo that drew good heat from the live crowd. But I still feel like they need a really strong go-home angle because the build has been a bit disjointed with Lynch missing some time due to injury and Belair sitting out this week to sell last week’s injury angle. As much as I enjoy her work, Belair’s mic work can be formulaic and repetitive. Lynch has done her part. Now it’s time for Belair to deliver a money promo that makes the feud peak at just the right time.
Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio vs. NXT Champion Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode: While the match was solid and predictable, the post match angle with Miz snatching the mask of Rey Mysterio was effective. It’s been done many times before and yet Miz received really good heat for taking the mask from the legend. I also liked the little hook of Miz daring Logan Paul to wear Rey’s mask on next week’s show.
U.S. Champion Finn Balor vs. Austin Theory in a non-title match: Mixed feelings. The angle involving Theory and Pat McAfee was nicely done. And while I liked seeing Theory look credible against the U.S. Champion, Balor and his title feel like afterthoughts. Sure, we’re probably getting Balor vs. Damian Priest at WrestleMania, but they haven’t managed to heat up that feud. It initially seemed like a safe bet that Balor would come out as The Demon at WrestleMania. And while he may do that, I actually hope they save it because their feud isn’t intense enough to justify it. At this point, they would be wise to save The Demon for a time when the persona will stand out more than it would at WrestleMania.
Raw Tag Team Champions Randy Orton and Riddle vs. Chad Gable and Otis in a non-title match: I wasn’t crazy about seeing Alpha Academy take another loss going into WrestleMania. That said, it’s possible that the plan is for them to win the titles on the big stage or shortly after WrestleMania. While the post match angle with the Street Profits going after both teams seemed to confuse the live crowd, it served as a solid build to the Triple Threat tag title match.
WWE Raw Misses
Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville give Seth Rollins another shot to crack the WrestleMania lineup: Again? WWE would have been better off telling the story that heel Deville is trying to help Rollins rather than telling the story that the unbiased Pearce character is agreeing to give Rollins all of these extra chances.
Omos vs. Apollo Crews and Commander Azeez in a handicap match: It was disappointing to see Azeez fed to Omos in a singles match without any hype or build, and this was even worse. Crews and Azeez were a decent act on Smackdown, but it’s been all downhill ever since they were moved to Raw. They’ve been defined down to the extent that this didn’t even feel like a meaningful win for Omos.
Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley vs. Shayna Baszler and Natalya: None of the makeshift challenger teams have any semblance of momentum heading into the four-way for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles at WrestleMania. Whatever Baszler and Natalya gained from winning this match was immediately erased when the cowardly and disinterested Carmella character singlehandedly beat them up and left them lying.
Dana Brooke and Reggie vs. Akira Tozawa and Tamina in a tornado tag match: The live crowd’s near silent reaction to this match said it all. It doesn’t help that the heels are more likable and more fun than the quirky babyfaces.