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…
2/1 RAW HITS
Opening Segment: While I didn’t enjoy Raw as a whole, I did enjoy the start of it. WWE is not doing a good job of presenting Brock Lesnar as a big deal in 2016. At least he was part of a good segment here with Paul Heyman cutting a strong promo about The Wyatt Family, the Fastlane main event, and the likelihood of Lesnar going on to WrestleMania to face Triple H for the WWE World Championship. I loved how he called Triple H the billion dollar trophy husband. That was a great line. The segment really got going when Dean Ambrose came out to introduce himself to Lesnar. Ambrose was very good here. WWE has the problem that everyone is expecting Roman Reigns to win at Fastlane, so they were actually trying to make it seem that Lesnar and Ambrose are also legit possibilities. This opening segment was part of that effort and it was just fun to watch Ambrose getting in Lesnar’s face and Lesnar’s reactions were spot on, too.
Owens vs. Ziggler: These two keep having good matches. Dolph Ziggler and Kevin Owens are very good wrestlers. They should have good matches against each other and they keep delivering. In this case, it was a match where Ziggler got his victory back in an 11-minute match. The problem is that we’ve seen it too many times already and with the 50-50 booking, you know we will see at least one more re-match between them. That will probably be a good match too, but each time they face it means less and less. And while I appreciate the announcers talking about the importance of wins this time of year to get onto WrestleMania, they don’t do a good job of keeping track of wins and losses so that discussion didn’t mean much.
New Day vs. Reigns & Ambrose: A pretty poor Raw got off to a good start as I said above, and it had a good ending with the main event tag match with The New Day against Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, followed by the fight afterwards culminating in Lesnar hitting an F5 on Ambrose. The main event went over 17 minutes and was a good tag match. I wasn’t impressed by Paul Heyman doing guest commentary. His personality is so heelish, but he is advocating for a babyface. He has mostly done a very good job with this in the past, but here he came across like a grumpy heel. I think the focus on Ambrose vs. Lesnar is a good idea to bring some doubt that Reigns is the inevitable winner at Fastlane.
2/1 RAW MISSES
The Usos vs. The #Social Outcasts: This was boring from start to finish. The Social Outcasts were not good on the mic. They aren’t good in general, but they have been better than this. And their match against The Usos was boring. It was all one sided until the very end with a hot tag and a quick win for the Usos. It was five minutes of rudimentary wrestling action with nothing to break up the monotony until that hot tag. It just did nothing for me.
Styles is So Short: I should be praising Miz TV for being a great segment. The Miz was great in his performance. A.J. Styles was good in reacting to Miz’s antics. In the end, Styles got to beat up Miz for being so disrespectful and it set up a future match between these two. But, I was taken out of what was otherwise a Hit by all the talk about Styles being short. So what? I don’t understand Vince McMahon’s (and Triple H’s) obsession with pointing out “flaws” of his wrestlers. Doesn’t he want to make money with Styles? Does he view Styles as a TNA or New Japan wrestler? If so, he should realize that Styles is a WWE wrestler. Being short shouldn’t be a flaw. Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Daniel Bryan, Chris Benoit, and Rey Mysterio are all short by WWE standards and all became top stars in WWE. And you didn’t have WWE pointing out how short they were other than Mysterio which fit in with his ultimate underdog persona, and Bryan whose stardom WWE fought every step of the way. Miz even compared Styles to Bryan. Bryan’s fans don’t want to see Styles as another Bryan, because we all know how that worked out for Bryan. This is not a way to get Styles’s fans fired up. Instead, they are going to be turned off by the prospects that this is how he’s going to be treated. I also hated how Miz said that the E in WWE is as important as the W. He shouldn’t say that on TV. Like “charisma,” “entertainment” is a word that shouldn’t be said on WWE. It should just be entertaining as a simulated sport where the best wrestlers are pushed for being successful in the ring. With a few tweaks to the script, this should have been great. Miz could have been disrespectful to Styles by not letting him talk while also putting over his career leading up to WWE without pounding us on the head that he is short. It all could have crescendoed with the attack by Styles without his size being an issue and without comparisons to Bryan. And then you have a very effective set up to a Fastlane match, although apparently they are facing on Smackdown instead. That doesn’t mean they won’t face at Fastlane, but WWE needs to do a better job of building to PPV matches without having the wrestlers face each other on Raw or Smackdown already (same goes for Ziggler vs. Owens).
Stephanie The Role Model: If this doesn’t show how stupid the heel Authority is, then nothing will. On a show where Stephanie McMahon is berating the two top babyfaces in WWE, and on a show where Stephanie and her husband are always portrayed as heels, jerks, assholes, evil bastards, etc., we are told that Stephanie is a role model for Good Morning America’s “Girls Power” special. This is even worse than last week’s Be a Star video. It is so frustrating how WWE refuses to keep kayfabe on Raw and Smackdown. If Stephanie McMahon is really a role model for girls, then she shouldn’t be playing a heel on TV. And if she has to be a heel on TV, then don’t talk about her being a role model.
Black History Video: I would love to praise WWE for celebrating Black History Month by lifting up former and current black stars. However, WWE has too long of a history of racist or bad stereotype characters for their black wrestlers to take this celebration seriously. The fact that this video was highlighting Mark Henry who was once known as The Silverback showed the contrast between WWE’s words about Black History Month and their actual history of promoting black characters like Cryme Tyme, The Godfather, and Sheldon Benjamin’s mama.
New Day Promo: This wasn’t a good promo from The New Day. They should be trying to get heel heat on themselves, or they should be turned babyface so that they can be as entertaining as they often are without upstaging babyface teams like the Usos. In this pre-match promo, they weren’t getting heat on themselves and they weren’t being entertaining. When the most interesting aspect of a promo is the Bullet Club t-shirts being worn by the fans being pointed out in the crowd, you know you have a snoozer of a promo.
What are they Doing?: I got the feeling watching Raw that WWE doesn’t know what they are doing with several members of the roster. They don’t know what to do with The League of Nations, so they have Rusev out to face Alberto Del Rio’s nemesis Kalisto (in a solid, but not quite Hit-worthy match) with Del Rio doing guest commentary. But, it didn’t feel like it was really important for The League of Nations as neither Sheamus nor Wade Barrett was on Raw.
I also get the feeling that WWE doesn’t know what to do with the Divas. They already started a program with Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte, yet on Raw you have Brie Bella beating Charlotte in a non-title match to presumably put her in the Title picture. That was a good match until the awkward “interference” by Ric Flair at the end, so it fell out of the Hit list. Later on, they side tracked Banks in her quest for the Divas Title and muddied things up with her suddenly working with Becky Lynch to fight off the former Team Bad. Now there is a possibility that WWE wants to save Banks vs. Charlotte for WM, so they are stretching things out by giving them both other matches at Fastlane. If that is the case, then they do know what they are doing. But, I’m not convinced they really know what to do, so they just keep coming up with random stuff on the fly.
I’m also not convinced that WWE knows what they are doing with The Big Show. So I guess he’s a babyface again? His 17 years of ping-ponging between face and heel must continue. But he turns without turning. I think WWE wants to make The Wyatt Family seem like a huge threat to keep them strong before WM32 (presumably for Bray Wyatt vs. Lesnar), so they will have segments like this where they triple team and beat up stars like Big Show. But, the fans chant for Show to retire, so are they really going to get behind him at this point?
WWE doesn’t know what to do with Tyler Breeze. I’ve never been a huge fan of Breeze, but he should be treated better than this. I think he is a good, but not great or special wrestler. I like the character as it is a fresh take on a classic pro wrestling archetype. I enjoy his performance as Prince Pretty. While I don’t think he should ever be pushed as a top star or main event level talent, he shouldn’t be a jobber. WWE is getting behind Titus O’Neil lately as he is getting some wins. But by this time, they should know what they have with O’Neil in terms of star power. Unless they give Breeze some type of push, how will they ever know what his ceiling is?
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.