By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Cody Rhodes vs. Finn Balor: Another good match from Cody and Balor along with some interesting Judgment Day developments. Every time it looks like Balor and Damian Priest have reached a point of no return, something brings them back together. In this case, it was JD McDonagh taking Sami Zayn during the post match brawl. McDonagh simply watching from ringside rather than being invited to celebrate with Judgment Day was nicely done in terms of leaving viewers wondering where he stands with the group. The overall segment kept Cody’s momentum going with yet another main event win, only to put the heat back on the heels in a major way with the post match angle.
Sami Zayn vs. JD McDonagh: It was surprising to McDonagh him lose this match, if only because Zayn had the double out of entering the match with the elbow injury and Finn Balor coming out to help McDonagh. But it was still McDonagh’s biggest night on the main roster. The match was well worked and yet it was an intentional afterthought by the time we got to the end of the show thanks to the McDonagh and Judgment Day developments.
Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura: A simple angle with Rollins carrying the promo segment and giving Nakamura a title shot, which will presumably be held at the Payback premium live event. I’m not sure why they avoided announcing anything for Payback on this show, but I assume that will change next week. Nakamura’s long comments in Japanese followed by his brief “translation” in English was comical. It’s unclear what Nakamura said that seemed to rattle Rollins at the end of the segment. I just know that there’s a sick side of me that would enjoy a “she was mine before she was yours” homage to the Ric Flair and Randy Savage at WrestleMania 8 program. Of course that’s not the actual direction, but I would take twisted pleasure in seeing doctored photos of Nakamura dating Becky Lynch from back in the day.
Trish Stratus vs. Becky Lynch with Zoey Stark barred from ringside: This match got a lot better once Stratus was able to remove the face shield. They had a pretty good brawl that fit the tone of their rivalry. The feud feels like it has already overstayed its welcome, so hopefully the cage match will be the blowoff.
Piper Niven replaces Sonya Deville as a WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion: I can’t blame anyone who despises the idea of Niven simply replacing the injured Sonya Deville as a tag team champion. I’m beyond burned out on pro wrestling tournaments, so I’m willing to throw logic aside and accept the talented Niven in this role. There’s some really fun potential in having no nonsense Niven teaming with Chelsea Green’s Karen of WWE character.
Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley vs. Indi Hartwell in a non-title match: The brief video package was a nice way to establish Hartwell as a likable babyface character for those who didn’t follow her NXT career. The actual match reenforced Ripley as a dominant champion, and the post match angle set up Candice LeRae to be the next wrestler to be fed to Ripley. The fans are just looking for an excuse to cheer Ripley. I continue to feel that a double turn that sets up Raquel Rodriguez as Dominik Mysterio’s new Mami would be a lot of fun.
Intercontinental Champion Gunther vs. Otis in a non-title match: This won’t go down on the long list of great Gunther matches, but it was fine for a television match. Otis was one of the few guys who seemed to give it as well as he got it when it came to the chop exchange with Gunther.
WWE Raw Misses
Chad Gable vs. Giovanni Vinci: As a longtime advocate for Gable getting a singles push, they lost me the moment that his character started with the “shooosh” line. It felt like this was the time for Gable to leave Otis and Maxxine Dupri in the back and take a more serious approach. I don’t expect him to beat Gunther. But why not use this an opportunity to see if the fans would embrace a more serious Gable rather than cementing him as an undercard comedy act who can’t even ditch the silliness when he’s headed into the biggest match of his career? Meanwhile, Vinci is ice cold as the silent guy who gets tormented by Gunther. That’s his entire character at this point. Winnipeg was one of the colder live crowds that WWE has played to in recent months, and they were at their flattest throughout what was actually a well worked match.
Drew McIntyre and Matt Riddle vs. “The Viking Raiders” Erik and Ivar: A Hit for match quality, but this felt like a match involving three underutilized acts. I’m warming up to the idea of seeing McIntyre in AEW if he can’t come to terms on a new contract with WWE. I just hope that Tony Khan has the foresight to start building up some of his bigger heels, which has never been his calling card. I’m also open to the idea of McIntyre turning heel in WWE. I’ve always felt that he’s a good heel and a great babyface, but he just feels like the odd man out of the main mix as a babyface right now. Riddle has been defined down and it’s hard not to wonder if that’s by design to some of his out of the ring issues. The Viking Raiders have a cartoonish gimmick and have taken too many losses. Everyone involved in this match should mean more than they do.