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PWTorch specialist Jon Mezzera breaks down Monday’s Raw with his Hits & Misses column…
Owens vs. Ziggler: After the Royal Rumble, Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens should have gotten the night off. But, that doesn’t happen in WWE. That being said, Owens did a great job of selling his injuries from their last man standing match the night before. He and Dolph Ziggler had nearly 9 minutes which wasn’t a huge amount of time, but they filled it well. This was a good opening match, though I would have liked to see it go commercial free (another thing that won’t happen in WWE). The only issue I have is that Owens was presented as a babyface. Maybe he is destined to be a babyface, but his so good as a heel and there is a major lack of top heels right now (case in point, WWE World Champion Triple H not to mention an ineffective League of Nations). It does make me wonder what is in store for him at WrestleMania. Sami Zayn? A.J. Styles? The Undertaker (probably not, but I think it has potential). My guess is that we’ll see a multi-person match for the U.S. Title (like they did for the IC Title last year) with Kalisto, Alberto Del Rio, Owens, Ziggler, Styles, Zayn, Neville, and another heel like The Miz.
Styles vs. Jericho: WWE did a good job with A.J. Styles’s Raw debut against Chris Jericho. I was surprised when he had a chance to talk in a pre-match interview with Renee Young, but not surprised when he barely got to speak before Jericho interrupted him. The match itself was very good. Obviously Jericho is past his prime at this point, but he can still go in the ring. Styles performed very well. It was surreal to see them wrestling. One thing I want to point out is the velocity that Styles gets when he leaps through the air. So often when even a good wrestler like Ziggler jumps at his opponent in the corner for a running splash, he looks like his is floating through the air and not landing with that much impact. Styles throws himself at his opponent. It might not look as pretty, but it looks a lot more painful. I would say that I don’t think he should tease The Styles Clash. I’m not sure the move should be banned nor not, but it might be. I’ve never been a fan of it (Crash Holly used to do it years ago as the Crash Test and Michelle McCool did it as The Angel Wing and I never thought it looked good when any of the three have done it). If WWE isn’t going to let him do it, then he shouldn’t tease it. They had the same problem with Hideo Itami in NXT with the GTS. He spent like a year teasing a move he would never get to do (at least on TV). I guess if you tease it enough and finally hit it, then that will be a big moment. But, I’m not convinced that’s actually going to happen.
— Kevin Nash (@RealKevinNash) January 26, 2016
The Rock: I’m going to go out on a limb and say that The Rock is great. I didn’t love everything that he did, but he was so entertaining that this long segment didn’t feel long. I enjoyed his interaction with Miz and The Big Show. I wasn’t a fan of his interaction with Lana which felt a little creepy. I could have done without his interaction with the fans dressed as wrestlers at ringside, but I understand why he did it and he was great in giving them their moment, but then putting the spotlight back on himself right away. I was not expecting The New Day to interrupt, but it worked well. Part of me says that Rock should be involved only with main eventers, but this was ok for this one night. New Day were fun. They got in some good lines, and Rock had some great comebacks. I assumed their feud with The Usos was over at the Rumble, but it looks like it will continue. I guess there isn’t another good option at this point in the tag division. The physicality was good at the end and the whole thing worked to remind the fans that Rock will be part of WM. But, at some point his role is going to have to be defined.
Miz vs. Kalisto: This was a good match to help establish Kalisto as a legit United States Champion. I was worried that he was going to lose his first match after winning back the Title at the Rumble. He and Miz had a good match that went nearly 10 minutes and ended with a very nice spot with Kalisto using the ropes to climb his way out of a Skull Crushing Finale to turn it into his own finisher, the Salida del Sol. I assumed that if he won, it would be with a leverage pin, but it was good to see WWE further establishing his finisher.
Main Event: WWE did very little, in fact practically nothing, to hype the main event tag match of Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus & Rusev. Reigns had a very brief interview with Jo Jo early on in the show, but they didn’t mention the match. I should give that a Miss, but I’ve already talked about it here. The match was a good tag team main event. Like Owens in the first match, Ambrose did nice job of selling the effects of the Rumble. I’m not sure I would say same about Reigns. The match was formulaic building to a hot tag to Ambrose and then after the heels cheated to once again gain the upper hand, building to another hot tag to Reigns. But it was well executed in that formula. Reigns was always at his best in tag team matches going back to The Shield days. I would rather seem him in these types of matches than long singles ones which is a problem for the guy that WWE sees as the face of the company. And the fans certainly respond better to Reigns when he is working with Ambrose, though they still like Ambrose more.
Opening Segment: This is part of the problem with Triple H winning the Royal Rumble to become the new WWE World Champion. It means more gloating from The Authority. Gloating from a heel works, but only if fans believe that the heel will get what is coming to them in the end. But, I don’t get that feeling from The Authority who always win. So when you get this type of very long (way too long) talking segment with Stephanie, Vince McMahon, and Triple H (seriously any one of them talking this much is bad enough), it just makes me want to change the channel. It was too long. It was boring. Triple H’s promo made him sound more like a babyface than a heel. It set up the idea that wrestlers had to impress The Authority during the show in order to be named as part of the Fast Lane main event to compete for a chance to face Triple H for the World Title at WrestleMania. However, given The Authority’s track record, was anyone really buying into the idea that they would actually make a fair decision?
#Social Outcasts: I chuckle a bit whenever Curtis Axel questions what the hell Adam Rose is talking about. But that is about all I like about this faction. I don’t care about Flo Rida. I don’t need to see him involved in wrestling angles or matches. I actually though Bo Rida won the rap battle, but what do I know? It just wasn’t good. I also can’t imagine that this is what The Dudley Boyz had in mind when they decided to return to WWE last year. If this is what WWE wants to do with this legendary tag team, I’m not sure it even makes sense to have them on the roster at this point. They almost always lose and the only time they win is against a team that is made up of acknowledged losers with the help of some rapper.
Goldust and R-Truth: Is WWE really doing the “not that there’s anything wrong with that” jokes in 2016? “Seinfeld” went off the air in 1998. I’m not sure when that episode aired during the show’s long run, but it was two decades ago. Goldust as a provocative potentially gay character worked in the mid-’90s, but 20 years later it seems like WWE still hasn’t caught up with the times where you have had so many shows with gay characters. “I don’t swing that way” felt totally outdated to me. It was tone deaf. And stupid.
Be a Star Video: I hate to give a Miss to something like WWE partnering with the Boys & Girls club to promote the Be a Star anti-bullying message, but when it breaks kayfabe like this, it bothers me. Titus O’Neil is a good spokesman for this project. Darren Young is, too. But, The Miz? He’s a heel. Big Show has been a bully. Stephanie McMahon is presented on TV as a power-abusing, terrible human being. And you want the fans to buy into the fact that she is a terrible terrible human being. So why should I boo her (or Miz) after she comes across so well here as part of this very important project? She is presented as having a split personality, so the fans have a harder time getting into her character.
Stephanie’s Announcement: I’m okay with a Fast Lane main event triple threat match between Ambrose, Reigns, and Brock Lesnar. I will take it over the six or eight-man match I expected them to do (this is where Elimination Chamber between the Rumble and WM made some sense). But as I said above, the fans like Reigns the best when he is working with Ambrose. If you want to get him over as a top babyface and actually get stronger babyface reactions (which he was getting for a few weeks at the end of last year), why have him face the more popular Ambrose? And the whole point of the show was the wrestlers trying to impress The Authority to get a chance to be in that match. I guess guys like Owens and Styles weren’t impressive enough, and yet someone who wasn’t even on the show was. That seemed to undo the whole point of the show. And the outcome is very predictable, though predictable isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My concern is that the match will end up too overbooked with The Authority, the League of Nations for some reason, and The Wyatt Family all getting involved.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at 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.