By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Cody Rhodes and Paul Heyman: An exceptional segment. It felt like some mistakes were made last week when Finn Balor labeled Cody a suck-up and suggested he had received special treatment by being the last man to enter the Royal Rumble match. Roman Reigns followed that up by stating on Smackdown that he preferred to talk about Cody rather than Sami Zayn, which drew loud boos from the live crowd. They got it right this week with Cody labeling Zayn a friend and wishing him well in his match against Reigns. I assume that the Zayn character will return the favor by eventually endorsing the idea of Cody challenging Reigns at WrestleMania. Either way, the long discussion between Cody and Heyman that was based around Dusty Rhodes was excellent. Just when it seemed like Heyman was taking a different approach with Cody, he pulled the rug out by claiming that Dusty told him that Reigns was the son he always wanted. Cody’s fiery response was terrific in that he made it clear that the match with Reigns was now personal. Only time will tell whether fans will stand by Cody long term if he wins the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania, but I came out of this segment far less concerned about whether the popularity of Zayn will cause fans to reject Cody during the build to WrestleMania.
Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley: It was Lesnar’s turn to get the better of Lashley. Lesnar seemed to be the most over wrestler on the show, which was supported by the live crowd chanting “one more time” after he hit the first of two F5’s on Lashley. It will be interesting to see how the Hurt Business reunion plays into Lesnar vs. Lashley at Elimination Chamber and whether that match will set up a final match at WrestleMania between the two.
Becky Lynch vs. Bayley in a cage match: This feud has been running on fumes, but they worked a satisfying cage match that was put over the top by the surprise appearance by Lita. It left me wondering if Lynch will team with legends to face Damage CTRL at WrestleMania or if this was the blowoff match to the underwhelming feud.
Edge and Beth Phoenix with Judgment Day: Edge’s latest return was very well received by the live crowd. They set up a fun mixed tag match with Edge and Beth Phoenix facing Rhea Ripley and Finn Balor at Elimination Chamber. Ripley has a title match at WrestleMania, so I’m curious to see what Edge ends up doing on the big show.
Asuka vs. Chelsea Green: I’m really digging the new look Asuka, who has to be considered the favorite to win the women’s Elimination Chamber match. I’m also enjoying Green’s new Karen role. I am surprised that she’s losing her early matches rather than building up the character getting her comeuppance somewhere down the road.
Montez Ford vs. Elias in a men’s Elimination Chamber qualifying match: The live crowd seemed drained coming out of the Rhodes and Heyman segment, but Ford was able to win them over with his flashy high spots. I hope Ford is in the Chamber match because they intend to give him an actual push and not just because someone has a crazy Chamber spot in mind for him.
Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin vs. “Alpha Academy” Chad Gable and Otis: A well worked television match with the obvious call to have Alexander and Benjamin go over in their first match with MVP back in their corner.
Damian Priest vs. Angelo Dawkins in a men’s Elimination Chamber qualifying match: A decent match with Dawkins having the standout moment via his impressive Swanton Bomb. Ford’s character showed a lot of after failing to get the pin. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but I wonder if they are starting to set the table for a Dawkins heel turn, especially after his partner Montez Ford successfully qualified for the Chamber match later in the show.
Carmella vs. Piper Niven vs. Candice LeRae vs. Michin in a women’s Elimination Chamber qualifying match: Carmella wasn’t the popular choice to win the match. Count me among the viewers who was hoping to see Niven win and then have a nice run in the Elimination Chamber match. That said, qualifying for the match is a nice moment for Carmella coming off of her long injury layoff. And if the idea is for the winner of this match to have a brief run inside the Chamber, then choosing Carmella for that role makes a lot more sense than having Niven enter the Chamber and make a quick exit.
WWE Raw Misses
Dexter Lumis vs. Baron Corbin: Even the throwaway match had a silver lining on this strong episode of Raw. The lousy Corbin and JBL alliance is over. Hopefully Corbin can be repackaged, though it’s hardly the first time I’ve had to write those words. Now if only the creative forces would stop wasting Johnny Gargano as the mouthpiece for the Lumis character. Perhaps I’m overly optimistic, but the Lumis drawing that showed Nikki Cross watching over the Gargano family left me wondering if the end result will be a Lumis and Cross alliance. I don’t want to see a mixed tag team feud with Gargano and Candice LeRae against Lumis and Cross, but at least Gargano would be done playing sidekick to the babyface serial killer.