By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins: A solid final verbal exchange heading into their rematch at WrestleMania Backlash. Rollins took some quality verbal shots at Rhodes, who effectively pointed out that he’s been a gentleman throughout the build to their second match. I am looking forward to their rematch as much as anything on Sunday’s WrestleMania Backlash card.
Bianca Belair, Asuka, and Liv Morgan vs. Becky Lynch, Rhea Ripley, and Sonya Deville: An entertaining main event that deserved a better build. Adam Pearce simply informing Devile of the match was weak in comparison to the build that most television main events receive. This was also a strange choice to close out a go-home show, as it didn’t really play into much when it comes to WrestleMania Backlash, at least in terms of the current lineup for Sunday’s event.
Ezekiel, Montez Ford, and Angelo Dawkins vs. Kevin Owens, Chad Gable, and Otis: A good six-man tag match that gave a rare win to Alpha Academy, who lost every television match in March and April. I continue to hope that someone in WWE had the foresight to have Ezekiel record promos as Elias that can be played on the big screen to support the ongoing gag that they are different people.
AJ Styles vs. Damian Priest: A good match with a logical stipulation that Priest is now banned from ringside for the Styles vs. Edge match at WrestleMania Backlash. I assume this leads to someone else interfering and joining the Judgment Day faction. Speaking of which, I’m still waiting for the faction to click. One of the big problems I see with the group is that they have no stated purpose or goal. It’s coming off like Edge became a super villain for no reason other than to mess with AJ Styles. Finn Balor is now aligned with Styles, meaning the two sides will likely engage in a feud that could produce quality matches yet will ultimately feel like everyone involved is just spinning their wheels.
Bobby Lashley vs. Cedric Alexander: Lashley needed a spotlight win. His feud with Omos is a step down from Lashley’s usual spot in the world championship mix. This match served as a quick reminder of how entertaining a dominant Lashley can be.
Veer Mahaan vs. Burt Hanson: I blame the Greensboro fans. Had they rallied behind local BBQ joint employee Bert Hanson, they could have willed him to victory Not really, but there’s only so many things a person can write about the same basic squash match format, which has been effective thus far.
WWE Raw Misses
The Bloodline’s appearance: The actual segment they appeared in with Drew McIntyre, Randy Orton, and Riddle was actually very good. I was really looking forward to seeing what would happen next when the six men were brawling going into the first commercial break. And then the show returned from the break and that was it for everyone involved in the segment. When Roman Reigns appeared on Raw the night after WrestleMania, his segment served as a glorified advertisement for the next edition of Smackdown. This segment was similar in that Byron Saxton hyped that all six men would be in the same building on Friday while wondering aloud what might happen. Raw already feels like a brand without a world champion due to Roman’s infrequent appearances on the Monday night show, and no Raw wrestler other than Cody Rhodes has expressed any recent interest in going after the company’s top championship. WWE wants Raw and Smackdown to feel equally important, but these segments and the title situation are sending the message that Raw is the inferior brand.
Mustafa Ali vs. U.S. Champion Theory and The Miz in a handicap match: A clunky second week for Ali. Sure, he was protected in that he lost a handicap match, but it also felt premature for him to lose this early in his return. Miz’s repeated zingers regarding Ali asking for his release and then sitting at home for months has to be sailing over the heads of casual viewers, and it’s really not all that interesting to those who know the public version of the story. It just wasn’t enough of a high profile story to justify working into the current storyline. Ali’s defense that Miz complains to the powers that be while he takes his issues to the fans wasn’t a very good line, as it left me feeling like he’d be better off following Miz’s lead since it’s obviously been more effective. On the bright side, I remain intrigued by the looming Ali vs. Ciampa feud.
Nikki ASH vs. Dana Brooke for the WWE 24/7 Championship: This Miss is more about the 24/7 division than the actual match. Brooke went from being the most obnoxiously happy female character in WWE to becoming a demanding lunatic once Reggie put a ring on her finger. It makes me wonder which creative team member is working through some marital frustration. I did like Doudrop approaching ASH and asking if she was ready to get serious. Here’s hoping that Doudrop gets a name change and ASH gets a gimmick overhaul. With a couple of tweaks, Doudrop and ASH can be quality challengers to WWE Women’s Tag Champions Sasha Banks and Naomi.