SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
2/22 RAW HITS
Lesnar – Ambrose: I was not a fan of the first hour of Raw (more later), but the second hour got off to a good start with the segment involving Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman and Dean Ambrose. This was nicely set up before Raw with Lesnar’s attack on Ambrose in the parking area. This was some good mic work from Heyman about Lesnar always being the main event on every show no matter where he is on that show. I liked how he dismissed Ambrose as being out of WrestleMania after the pre-show beating. I like the idea of him basically making an open challenge to find Lesnar a WM32 opponent. The idea that Ambrose would be able to return right when Lesnar and Heyman were finishing up in the ring is way too convenient for me. And it was a bit cheesy how he was crawling to the ring. But, it still worked well. The best part of that was how Lesnar dismissed Ambrose and stepped on his head to step over him. Ambrose was then good in challenging Lesnar for WM. I am definitely more excited to see this match than the other two matches that have so far been announced for WrestleMania and more excited to see Lesnar vs. Ambrose than Lesnar vs. Wyatt which looked to be a strong possibility after the Royal Rumble.
Styles & Jericho vs. #Social Outcasts: This is a minor Hit. After the good series of matches between A.J. Styles and Chris Jericho, they needed a pause before each one of them moves on to something new for WM. I’m guessing and hoping for Styles vs. Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship, but I have no idea about a possible opponent for Jericho. But however they go, they have time to build to something new. So, I liked the idea of having Jericho put Styles over with his promo and then having them work together to face The Social Outcasts. Now, I don’t want to see Jericho & Styles as a team for long. But, if they can team up for a few weeks as a way to set up eventual singles opponents for each, then it will work.
Ryback Turn: This is another minor Hit. The feud between The Wyatt Family and Ryback, Kane & Big Show has been totally lackluster. I didn’t care about their match at Fastlane or the rematch on Raw. But the state of the heels in WWE is very poor right now. The top heel is Triple H, who isn’t really a wrestler any more and gets cheered over the top babyface Roman Reigns. Kevin Owens is the only credible top heel in the company. The League of Nations has been defined down and are apparently setting up a feud against another heel stable The New Day. The Wyatts have been defined down in this lackluster feud. Part of the reason that we are getting Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker at WM is that there aren’t any heels left for Undertaker to face. What heel can Jericho face? What heel can Kalisto face for the United States Title? What heel can Dolph Ziggler face? If they spend the next several weeks building up Ryback as a monster heel, maybe they can create in him a legit heel opponent for one of these babyfaces. But, it is still just Ryback, thus the minor Hit.
2/22 RAW MISSES
Shane O Mac: I know that he got a huge pop in the arena. I know a lot of people were excited to see him return. I know that they are creating a huge buzz with the announcement that he will face Undertaker in Hell in a Cell at WM32. I know that their options are limited by injuries to several top stars who aren’t available for WM32. But if your problem is too much TV time for the McMahons, the solution can’t be another McMahon. I’m not a fan of power struggle storylines. I would rather have a babyface authority figure which is where I suspect a lot of the excitement over Shane’s return came from. So, I am going to cheer for Shane to win. But, that means rooting against Undertaker. That doesn’t make sense to me. But if I cheer for Taker, then I’m cheering for The Authority. That doesn’t make sense to me either. Maybe the match will be changed, because why would Undertaker do this for Vince McMahon? But, there isn’t anyone else to face Taker. I don’t want to see this match. I also don’t want to see a 46-year-old non-wrestler dancing around like a goof and then taking stunt bumps off of the Cell. And while all of this had a great surprise element to it with Shane interrupting Vince’s trophy presentation to Stephanie, the segment took 30 minutes which was too long, and I don’t get excited about McMahon family squabbles. And I don’t understand pointing out problems with ratings and stock prices. That makes zero sense. Also, was it just me or did Shane totally no sell the idea of having to face Undertaker in HIAC?
Lucha Dragons & Neville vs. The New Day: My main problem with this match was despite the fact that it lasted 15 minutes, about half of that was during two commercial breaks. They had to catch up on the commercials after 30 minutes without a commercial to start the show. So they made up for it by having two in this match. It totally took me out of the match. They did have a nice long stretch of wrestling at the end after the second commercial, but I had already lost interest in the match by that time.
Charlotte: Charlotte has been doing a great job as a heel Divas Champion as of late. But, this was a poor promo from her. The Sasha Banks vs. Naomi match that proceeded it was solid with Becky Lynch coming to her aid to keep Tamina from interfering. But, Charlotte was bad on the mic here. Her announcement that Banks and Lynch would wrestle to become the #1 contender for her Divas Title at WM32 fell totally flat. Her tone was off. It didn’t work. I’m sure this was just an off night for her as she has been too good lately to think otherwise.
Reigns vs. Sheamus: The match itself was okay while it lasted, but the idea of the match being this really scary thing for Reigns was stupid. Who was buying The League of Nations as a major threat to Reigns when Stephanie told him about the match? And if you are Stephanie and you are setting up this match as a way to punish Reigns, why would you allow the referee to kick the rest of the League out of the match? This was just a set-up for Triple H to come out, but where did Sheamus go at that point? He could have helped Triple H get the advantage over Reigns in their fight. That would have given some rub to Sheamus, but I guess the great and powerful Game can’t have any help.
I have mixed feelings about the beat down itself. On the one hand, it was well-executed and memorable. It was brutal. The use of blood stood out. But, the babyface is getting booed and the heel is getting cheered. WWE had to know that was going to happen. And with upcoming Raws in places like Philadelphia and Brooklyn, they are going to have an impossible time to get cheers for Reigns. And it won’t help when Triple H is playing to crowd including doing crotch chops which he knows is going to get him cheers. But he isn’t going full babyface as he is still a heel as part of The Authority. So, the main event for WM32 is a huge mess right now.
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.
Act now and become my 44th 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, apparently I lost a follower last week and I need to get back on track to get up to 50!
For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section here.