SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
PWTorch specialist Jon Mezzera breaks down this week’s Raw episode with the Hits & Misses on the final Raw before the Royal Rumble…
Rusev vs. Reigns: After a poor opening of Raw (more later) including questions of how this match could even happen, the match itself was good. It wasn’t great and Roman Reigns’ offense remains too simple and one dimensional. But, I did enjoy some of the interference from the rest of The League of Nations and I have to admit to having a guilty pleasure in Chris Jericho’s super over the top horrible cartwheels as he was expelling them from the match. This also gave the WWE World Champion a chance to stand tall with a win over Rusev considering he wasn’t going to stand tall at the end of the show.
Becky, Charlotte & Ric Flair: This was the best part of Raw. After a long stretch of some really poor quality TV, we finally got to a very good moment with Becky Lynch restating her challenge to Charlotte for a Divas Championship at The Royal Rumble. Over the past few weeks, Becky has become the best babyface in WWE. Her performances have been great. Charlotte should be a heel. I didn’t understand turning her babyface towards the end of her run in NXT. So, it is good to have her as a heel and she is embracing the role very well. She was good in how she again turned down Becky’s challenge. And then came the hightlight of the segment with Becky turning things around by cutting that awesome promo on Ric Flair. Flair is such a legend that the fans want to cheer for him no matter what he does, but Becky is winning fans over to her to boo Ric. And I loved Flair’s response where he ultimately accepted the challenge on Charlotte’s behalf, while Charlotte stood in the background looking upset at her dad. This was great and I am really looking forward to their match.
Ambrose & Kalisto vs. Sheamus & Del Rio: After that great segment, we got a good match, the best match on Raw this week. This tag match went 13 minutes and was fun to watch from start to finish. These are four talented wrestlers given a chance to have a good tag match and they delivered. Kevin Owens was great doing guest commentary. This was a way to get some heat back for The League of Nations. It effectively built up to two Title matches at The Royal Rumble in Dean Ambrose defending the Intercontinental Title against Owens and Alberto Del Rio defending the Untied States Title against Kalisto. The ending was strong with Owens creating a distraction to allow Del Rio to hit Ambrose with a slick kick off the announce table. That took Ambrose out of the match allowing Sheamus to get the win (but this type of distraction allowed three heels to get wins on Raw so the bookers and agents need to work a little harder at coming up with different finishes so that 3 matches don’t end the same way on one show).
The Highlight Reel: This was overly long like many of the segments on Raw, but at least it was good. Jericho was much better on the mic here than he was at the beginning of Raw. I enjoyed his interaction with Paul Heyman. I liked that he was presenting himself as a legit contender to win the Rumble, although it was probably too little too late. I liked how Reigns interrupted Brock Lesnar’s entrance before Lesnar could hop on the ring apron, though I question how he controls when his music starts from where he enters through the crowd. The physicality at the end staring with Reigns spearing Lesnar, moving through the attack by The League of Nations and culminating with The Wyatt Family standing tall was all pretty good. I appreciate WWE selling the idea that Bray Wyatt is a huge contender to win the Rumble by having him and his Family dominate at the end, although I’m not sure anyone is buying into it. Earlier in the show, the announcers started to do a good job of comparing the Wyatts to other factions in the Rumble as being more united. The idea is that a member of The League of Nations is likely to turn on his teammates in order to win, whereas the other Wyatt Family members aren’t trying to win for themselves as they have such a strong allegiance to Bray. That is a good story to tell and Byron Saxton and Michael Cole were well on their way to telling it, but because you have to have arguments from the announcers, John Bradshaw Layfield contradicted them undercutting the story. Getting back to the actual segment, this was a strong ending to the show. I was hoping that after some statement from Wyatt about how nobody can stop him, the lights would go out and we’d get The Undertaker’s gong to end the show. I think Undertaker should be in the Rumble. He could win, or you could set up his WrestleMania opponent by having someone eliminate him (my vote would be Kevin Owens). He could be a surprise entrant, but I doubt they’d have Undertaker in the Rumble and not advertise it ahead of time.
Opening Segment: There were some good performances during the opening segment, particularly the fire shown by Rusev. But, it went on too long and ultimately was boring. I do prefer seeing Jericho interact with top level talent instead of a tag team like The New Day. But once again, he had nothing interesting to say. This didn’t get me excited about The Royal Rumble. It didn’t get me behind Reigns more than I was before. It didn’t get me hooked for the rest of the show. The crowd sounded apathetic to all of these wrestlers which is bad considering these are some of the top wrestlers in WWE right now. And it was ridiculous that Jericho would be able to make a match and name himself as the referee. They did acknowledge that later when Stephanie McMahon got angry at him, but why didn’t she put a stop to the match right away?
Natalya vs. Brie Bella: I am happy to see Natalya back on Raw after being gone for a while. But, this was very bad. The last time we saw Natalya, she had been attacked back stage with the most likely culprit being Paige. They had been feuding over Natalya trying to help Paige’s former teammates Charlotte and Becky. So, why did Natalya bring Paige out with her all buddy buddy to be in her corner against Brie Bella? That didn’t make sense. And I hate it when they use “Total Divas” to create storylines on the main WWE TV. So, I don’t want to see a feud with Paige and Natalya teaming up against Team Bella because Alicia Fox unfriended Paige on social media on “Total Divas.” And after all of that, they only gave them 90 seconds for a match without anyone being well defined in terms of a heel vs. face dynamic.
The Wyatts vs. The Dudleys & Ryback: This is more of the same. How many times are we going to see some grouping of The Wyatt Family defeating The Dudley Boyz with or without a teammate or two? It has become meaningless at this point. Yes, The Dudleys did win a tables match on Smackdown, but they got destroyed right afterward so the win became meaningless. This has been the most one-sided feud in a long time. The Wyatts should end up on top of this feud, but at least give the babyfaces some wins here and there so that the matches don’t become so redundant. This was boring.
Stephanie Emasculates The League of Nations: Again, this is just more of the same. We’ve seen Stephanie dress down wrestlers way too many times over the past few years ever since the start of The Authority. So, I’m not surprised by the fact that she would make these three heels look like wimps for implying that they are scared of Jericho. But, that doesn’t make it right. Why does Stephanie have to be better than everyone? How are we supposed to take this still relatively new heel stable seriously when they are emasculated by Stephanie like this?
Picking #1: This was another bad segment. If WWE didn’t realize that Vince McMahon doesn’t belong on TV any more, they should after this. He couldn’t even open the balls from the tumbler. I didn’t need the reminder from Stephanie about Mr. McMahon’s Million Dollar Giveaway as I was in the crowd for the first week of that crap back in I think it was 2009 at what was by far the worst wrestling show I’ve ever attended in 28 years as a fan. This went on too long as they were trying to be cute in revealing how every ball had Reigns’s name on it. It was predictable and it took up too much time for something so predictable. I’m not a fan of knowing who the #1 person is going to be. It does make sense in this case and the storyline calls for The Authority to make Reigns the #1 entrant into the Rumble. But whether he wins or loses, I can’t imagine him getting eliminated early. That means he is very likely to be in the match for the vast majority of it, like an hour. Who wants to see that? It is going to backfire. Getting back to this actual segment, Saxton and Cole didn’t show anywhere near the anger they should have shown being upset over the McMahons screwing Reigns. Saxton sort of questioned the legitimacy of the draw, but once again the heel JBL got the final word on the matter saying they shouldn’t buy into conspiracy theories. This was just so poorly produced.
“Main Event”: Even when there is a talking segment like The Highlight Reel scheduled to be the “main event” of Raw, I still would like to see a main event worthy match be presented as the main event match. WWE could have done that with Ambrose & Kalisto vs. Sheamus & Del Rio. Instead, they did what they almost always do in these situations and gave us a totally meaningless filler match that nobody cared about. I don’t even want to spend any time talking about this match. Nobody cared about it. And it is sad to me that Neville and Tyler Breeze are at the same level as guys like Titus O’Neil, R-Truth, and The Ascension at this point.
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.
Act now and become my 38th Twitter follower @JonMezzera (pretty clever handle right?). Just be aware that I don’t live tweet Raw, I don’t tweet much about wrestling, and I don’t tweet much at all. But, it would be nice to say I have more than 37 followers!
For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section here.