By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre: An outstanding segment with McIntyre showing genuine respect for Rollins only to snap once Rollins informed him that he was giving Jey Uso a title match. McIntyre’s character once again had a fair reason to be upset, as he correctly pointed out that he just beat Uso last week. I don’t know what the deal is with McIntyre’s contract dispute, but WWE officials would be insane to let him go. It’s not even about what McIntyre could do for AEW, it’s about what WWE would be missing if they lost this tremendous, still evolving character.
Randy Orton vs. Dominik Mysterio: This was exactly what it needed to be with Orton hitting the greatest hits and going over strong. It was a great night for Orton. The segment with Rhea Ripley was strong. His backstage segment with Jey Uso was compelling. Orton’s character comes off happier and more enthusiastic, but fans know that he’s always one RKO away from a turn. In other words, the enthusiasm could be an act, and he could be making nice with Jey to lure him into a false sense of security. This is The Viper. But if he’s going to stay on this babyface path, then one has to assume that he ends up moving to Smackdown. After all, his entire mission statement was built around getting revenge on The Bloodline.
Cody Rhodes and Shinsuke Nakamura: It was fitting that last year’s Royal Rumble winner who has unfinished business with the top champion was the first man to declare for the Royal Rumble match. Nakamura attacking Cody and spraying him with red mist sets up what should be a good television feud to keep Cody busy until the Royal Rumble.
Bronson Reed vs. Ivar: The Nashville crowd was clearly more excited about watching the stars deliver promos than they were about the matches that mostly involved mid-card wrestlers. Fans in multiple companies have been hot for big man matches recently, but this crowd was slow to get into this one. To the credit of Reed and Ivar, they got the fans with them during the post match brawl. And while clean finishes are typically preferred, the double count-out to extend a feud that’s just getting started was a good approach.
Chelsea Green and Piper Niven vs. Tegan Nox and Natalya for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles: A soft Hit for the tag team champions going over clean. The women’s tag team titles have bounced around a lot. The best thing the company can do now is stick with Green and Niven (or pick the team they want to hold the titles) and give them a long and impressive reign to make the titles matter.
WWE Raw Misses
CM Punk promo: Punk’s return at the end of Survivor Series created massive buzz that left many of us counting down the hours until Raw for his return to WWE promo. And while the promo was decent, I woke up today without the same sense of excitement that I had coming out of Saturday night. Coming out of Survivor Series, I heard from several lapsed fan friends who intended to watch Raw for the first time in years because of Punk’s return. Those fans were given a feel good homecoming promo. They didn’t get the rebellious Punk they remember, they got a happy to be back version of Punk, complete with him stating that WWE is home. I didn’t expect a pipe bomb with Punk airing past grievances or venting about his former place of employment, but I expected some sense of conflict. Perhaps the promo would have been fine had there been even a basic angle attached to it to give those lapsed fans a hook to keep watching. But they didn’t even make it clear when Punk’s next appearance will be. Obviously, the best is yet to come and I’m still looking forward to watching Punk’s return unfold, but I just didn’t come out of this show feeling like they did enough with Punk to build on the incredible momentum that they had coming out of Survivor Series.
Julius Creed and Brutus Creed vs. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods vs. Otis and Akira Tozawa vs. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa vs. Veer Mahaan and Sanga vs. Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci in a Tag Team Turmoil match for a shot at the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Titles: Bring back the commercials. The New Day act is beyond stale, DIY can’t get out of first gear on the main roster, Alpha Academy is just cutesy comedy, and the creative forces clearly have no idea what to do with Indus Sher. Kaiser and Vinci somehow feel slightly more meaningful than the aforementioned teams even though creative has never gotten behind them as a team. The Creeds going over was the right call, but it doesn’t feel like they gained much from beating this collection of damaged teams. Here’s hoping the Creeds shine brighter whenever they challenge for the tag team titles.
Nia Jax vs. Zoey Stark: Stark followed her loss to Rhea Ripley at Survivor Series with a loss to Jax on Raw. Her character shows heart before losing, I don’t even know if we’re supposed to consider her a babyface. She went from hanging out with Trish Stratus to palling around with heel Shayna Baszler. It’s hard to get invested in Stark’s character when I don’t even know what it is.