By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Cody Rhodes vs. Finn Balor: It was an encouraging night for Rhodes. There were no signs of the fans rejecting him because they want Sami Zayn to headline WrestleMania instead. Rhodes delivered a strong mission statement promo about his WrestleMania match and then transitioned nicely into the angle with Judgment Day that set up the main event. There were a couple of questionable moments during Balor’s end of the verbal exchange. First, it wasn’t a good move for Balor to label Cody as suck-up. It’s just not wise to plant the seed in the minds of fans that Cody is a kiss ass. Second, I didn’t care for Balor implying that Cody received special treatment by being the last man to enter the Rumble match. As logical as it may be for a heel to reach for conspiracy theories, it really needed to be framed that way by Rhodes or the broadcast team. Rhodes and Balor worked well together and produced a quality match. But the match also included the most baffling moment of the night it that it came off like Cody needed a distraction from Edge to be saved from taking Balor’s finisher and potentially losing the match. There was more good than bad for Rhodes on this episode, but there were also some moments that really should have been avoided.
Rhea Ripley announcement: As much as I would prefer to see Ripley challenge Bianca Belair at WrestleMania, Ripley did a good job of explaining why she chose to challenge Charlotte Flair. I love the way the crowd went nearly silent in anticipation right before she made the announcement. By the way, what happened to Belair? The broadcast team told viewers that she would speak coming out of a commercial break and yet she never actually appeared on the show.
Seth Rollins vs. Chad Gable in an Elimination Chamber qualifier: A good match between two top notch wrestlers. It looks like Maximum Male Models will end up courting Otis. I’d love to see that lead to Gable splitting away and getting his first meaningful singles push on the main roster, though seeing is believing. Rollins qualified for the Chamber match, but the bigger story was him declining to comment on Logan Paul eliminating him from the Royal Rumble. One can only assume that this is leading to Rollins vs. Paul at WrestleMania. If so, that seems to suggest that natural heel Paul will finally be cast properly in what should be a really fun match.
Bronson Reed vs. Dolph Ziggler in an Elimination Chamber qualifier: While I still think it’s crazy that Ziggler picked up a pair of near falls while Reed is being established as a monster, the only thing people will remember about this match is the Tsunami splash. While I look forward to see Reed in the Elimination Chamber match, I hope they have a creative idea for his exit given that I’d be surprised to see him go over.
Iyo Sky vs. Candice LeRae: This turned out to be a quality match despite a bit of a rough start. It was interesting to hear Corey Graves question why Michin didn’t do more to save LeRae from the Damage CTRL interference. I didn’t pick up on anything that suggested a Michin turn, so perhaps that was just Graves calling what he saw rather than him setting up the storyline direction.
VIP Lounge with Austin Theory: Theory had some good jabs at MVP, but it’s not like MVP felt sympathetic in this verbal battle between two heels. While the segment overstayed its welcome, I settled on a hit because I like the way it ended with Bobby Lashley accidentally spearing MVP. It was an interesting moment in that it could create more friction between the two or perhaps it leads to a remorseful Lashley reforming his alliance with MVP. Either way, I was surprised they spent so much time setting up Theory vs. Lashley when Theory will be defending the U.S. Championship in an Elimination Chamber match.
WWE Raw Misses
Becky Lynch and Bayley: I’m happy they are going to do the cage match that was bumped from Raw XXX, but I’m also more than ready for this feud to end. I’m sure Lynch and Bailey will produce a quality cage match, but Lynch really needs to get out of this program and move into something that rallies the fans behind her. Lynch remains a popular babyface, but the lack of strong heel opponents has brought her down a notch. Hopefully the creative forces have something good planned to heat her up again heading into WrestleMania.
Johnny Gargano vs. Baron Corbin in an Elimination Chamber qualifier: Fans should be celebrating Gargano climbing the ladder and earning a spot in his first Elimination Chamber match, but the focus of this match was on Dexter Lumis and his hatchet. I’m not a Lumis hater, but I hate that he and Gargano are tied at the hip.
The Miz vs. Rick Boogs: The Miz did his usual schtick and got a good rise out of the crowd. While it was good to see Boogs back after a long injury layoff, it was a really flat return. I was hoping that Boogs would grow his hair out again during his down time. He looks like jacked Freddie Mercury when he’s trying to play an ’80s metal head. The electric guitar routine was a big part of his appeal on Smackdown and now it’s been replaced by an awkward combination of air guitar and air drumming.
WWE has about a dozen wrestlers who are completely played out (miz ziggler at the top of the list) so what do they do with guys (and girls) like this? I don’t see wholesale releases like the old days but they also don’t run enough house shows to justify keeping these stale performers who have “name recognition” but who are painfully stale.
I can’t see Miz going anywhere. I wish they’d freshen things up and give him more in-ring credibility so that beating him actually meant something. But his mic work always gets a reaction. His reality show has done well. He’s always willing to do media appearances and is very good at it.
I could not agree more. I love Miz but he is really just a JTTS now. Which is a shame Maybe they could do some type of redemption story with him after WM