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PWTorch specialist Jon Mezzera kicks off 2016 with his Hits & Misses review of the first Raw of 2016 featuring Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus for the WWE Title.
Opening Segment: I’m not a fan of this repeat Austin vs. McMahon angle. It is nothing new. It has worked to get Roman Reigns better reactions from the crowd, but is it sustainable? I have liked some moments from it, even if I don’t like it on the whole. That was kind of the case with this opening segment. For one thing, I liked how Reigns interrupted Stephanie McMahon while she was still walking to the ring. I liked the fact that Reigns hinted at how The Authority couldn’t fire him because he was the WWE World Champion, but that they would fire him if he lost the Title, so that makes keeping it all the more important for him. I also appreciated how the segment was shorter than the talking segments that kick off Raw usually are. The performances were just ok. Reigns was too soft spoken to me. I’m tired of the heel talk from the McMahons about using their wrestlers. It doesn’t make me want to give them my money. It points to the stupidity of having heel authority figures in the first place.
Neville vs. Owens: I liked everything about this, although I could have used one week off for Neville to better sell the beat down from Kevin Owens last week. So while this was very good, it would have been perfect next week when Neville still could have been selling the rib injury. This was a good match that made Neville look very strong despite the loss. Owens came across strong getting the win in the end. Dean Ambrose added to the quality of the match doing guest commentary without distracting from it. I also liked the aftermath as Owens continued to beat up Neville so Ambrose could make the save. The Ambrose vs. Owens feud over the Intercontinental Championship is one of the highlights of WWE right now.
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch: This was a good match that ended with what appears to be the official heel turn for Charlotte. She and Becky Lynch had a good match which went nearly 11 minutes. They work well together. Ric Flair’s involvement was kept to the end which was good as it allowed Charlotte and Lynch to show off their talents in the ring. The ending made sense to give Lynch that win to set Charlotte off to snap afterwards. I could have done without Lynch hooking the tights. I understand that it was her way of fighting fire with fire, but I don’t think it was necessary and she could have been kept clean to juxtapose herself with Charlotte.
Del Rio & Rusev vs. The Usos: This wasn’t a great match, but it was good enough to get a Hit. It went 13 minutes and got better as it proceeded. It built well to the ending. I’m not a fan of Alberto Del Rio’s finisher. But, they played with it nicely here with one of the Usos avoiding it at first and getting the tag to his brother. That was a nice moment that led to a strong near fall before Rusev broke things up. And then I liked how Del Rio ultimately hit that double foot stomp with his opponent in a different position than usual for the win. So it worked for me.
Hyping Smackdown: WWE has done a good job of hyping the first Smackdown on USA. They announced a special appearance by John Cena last week. On Raw they announced Ambrose vs. Owens for the IC Title and Charlotte vs. Lynch for the Divas Title. That is three reasons to tune in. We also found out that Byron Saxton will be on too which undid some of the good that they had done already, but he has been better lately and is better at this point than Booker T, so that is something. They also did a nice job last week of hyping this week’s Raw. They should be doing more of this and not just because it was the first Raw of the New Year or the first Smackdown on USA. It is too easy to use their own shows to hype their own shows.
Kalisto & The Dudleys vs. The New Day: This was another good, but not great tag match. It was a bit overly long at over 16 minutes, but it was fun. We saw the same match on Smackdown which may have been a little better. There was a lot of talent in the ring and it was fun to watch. The second half was better than the first so it ended on a high note. But, I am getting tired of the formula for New Day.
Wyatt Family: This didn’t work for me. I am fine with WWE selling the fact that Bray Wyatt is a favorite to win The Royal Rumble with the back up of the rest of his Family. So, having them take out Ryback and The Big Show does make some sense. But, this was clunky. Part of my problem is that I am so far from sold on Braun Strowman. I absolutely hate his hug finisher. It doesn’t look like it hurts at all. Then, they made Big Show a babyface by having him stand up to fight the Wyatts. A stare down between Show and Strowman could have been a cool moment in the Rumble, but we got it here instead. So, if they go back to it in the Rumble, it won’t feel like a big moment. None of this was terrible, but it was bad enough to get a Miss.
Social Outcasts: Ugh. This was terrible. There is a reason why Heath Slater hasn’t gotten a push, and I don’t understand why he’s even on Raw. Curtis Axel has failed in multiple gimmicks over the years and proven time and time again that he isn’t close to his father in terms of his abilities. The best he ever did was right after last year’s Rumble when he claimed to still be in the match and started the AxelMania campaign to get into WrestleMania before it switched to Hulkamania instead. But we are far removed from that at this point. Adam Rose is a decent-at-best wrestler with a lame gimmick. Bo Dallas is a decent-at-best wrestler with a fun gimmick that he does go all in for. But, taking four wrestlers who belong at best on Superstars and putting them together isn’t a way to get them over. It is four lame wrestlers creating one lame faction. I keep chuckling to myself every time JBL says that The Wyatt Family are unstoppable because he always says the same thing about The League of Nations. They can’t both be unstoppable. But, I can’t imagine he will ever be saying the same thing about these losers. Slater’s match against Dolph Ziggler was bad. This made me want to change the channel it was so bad.
Jericho Return: Let me start by saying that I’m happy to have Chris Jericho back and he adds star power to the Rumble. But, this was a bad segment. It started off poorly with another in a line of bad New Day performances. Their countdown clock which transitioned into Jericho’s clock was way too convenient. Did Jericho know that they would have a countdown clock for him to interrupt? Jericho did have some good lines and there is a fun nostalgia to his surprise returns. But, this came across as him trying way too hard to duplicate his Raw debut promo on The Rock all those years ago. I don’t get having anyone on WWE talk about how the company’s ratings, attendance, and Network subs are low. His rooty tooty booty taunt of New Day was stupid. I hope that Jericho’s presence will be a boost in Raw’s quality, but it got off to a bad start.
Reigns vs. Sheamus: I am so over heel authority figures and heel referees. We’ve seen these tricks too many times with the ref hurting his shoulder or getting something in his eyes or getting distracted by something at ringside. It sucks. I would so much rather just watch a Title match between the Champion and top challenger than all these bells and whistles. I can’t be the only person who thinks Vince McMahon looked pathetic at his age with those arms. After all the goofiness, he made a huge mistake when he got up as if he could come over and make the count after Sheamus hit the Brogue Kick on Reigns. I’m pretty sure he was supposed to stay down, but forgot and got up too early and then suddenly had to sell an injury. It was clumsy. If it wasn’t supposed to happen, then it was a mistake in execution. If it was supposed to happen like that, then it was a mistake in writing. Either way it was a mistake. I had totally forgotten about Scott Armstrong as The Authority’s crooked referee. When was the last time he was even on? That came out of left field. I don’t look forward to seeing the poor ref who counted the three getting punished next week. I hope that ends up getting dropped the way they dropped the storyline of Tom Phillips getting attacked a few weeks back by Stephanie. I mean seriously. Wouldn’t he have sued her and WWE? Wouldn’t the board of directors remove her from power for assault and battery on an employee? All of this just shows how bad heel authority figures are. The Authority and Vince McMahon can’t go away soon enough for my tastes.
McMahon’s Announcement: I have mixed feelings about the announcement McMahon made to end Raw that Reigns will defend his WWE World Title in the Royal Rumble match. It makes sense given this storyline that McMahon would be trying to find ways to make Reigns lose the title and having to defend it this way is a major obstacle. Every year, there are only a handful of wrestlers who are legitimate contenders to headline WrestleMania, including the World Champion himself and his challenger at the Rumble PPV who aren’t in the Rumble match. So whatever the number of legit contenders is, you subtract two of them each year. That won’t be the case this year as Reigns will be in the match as will all the top challengers. That creates intriguing possibilities. However, I like my Royal Rumble to stay the same. I like the tradition of it. I don’t want to see a change. When someone is eliminated from the Rumble most years, their chance at WM’s main event is gone. But this year, you still need a challenger. So, it won’t have that same impact because that wrestler can still become the #1 contender which takes away from the impact of being eliminated from the Rumble. I’m also concerned that Triple H will come out #30 and win. If he comes out and eliminates Reigns but doesn’t win so that they set up their match for WM but we get something fresh for the Championship, then it might work. But, it is a mistake after everything they’ve been through to take the Title off of Reigns so soon again. So, I am more worried about the possibilities even if I’m intrigued by some of them.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at his NEW email address – firstname.lastname@example.org.
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For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section here.