SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Strowman vs. Rollins: I know I was in the minority who did not like the Last Man Standing match last week. But I stand by what I said that it painted Sami Zayn as a weakling who could not generate any offense against Braun Strowman without weapons. Compare that to how much offense Seth Rollins was able to get in against Strowman in this match. It isn’t even close. And he didn’t need weapons at all. Strowman has improved in the ring and Rollins was able to elevate him to a good match in this case. It was competitive. It was well booked. While the ending was a cop out, I understand why they went the double count out route. Afterwards, it was Strowman who tried to bring the chair into the ring and only then did Rollins use a weapon to defend himself. It was better than last week. He also used a chair first in the opening segment when he came to the aid of Roman Reigns who was getting triple teamed by Strowman, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. WWE has had their babyfaces not act like babyfaces too often (see Zayn’s cowardly attack from behind on Strowman a few weeks back), especially in the use of weapons, but in these cases Rollins’ use of a weapon was done in a babyface manner.
Neville’s New Move: I’m not sure it was the best move to job out Lince Dorado to Neville so quickly. I’m not totally sold on Dorado (I know many fans are), but he is too talented to be used in this way. However, I really liked seeing Neville busting out a new submission finisher, the Rings of Saturn. I suspect he will change the name and personalize it at some point soon (Rings of the King perhaps?). It is one of those submission holds that actually looks painful. It adds a new sadistic dimension to Neville’s heel character. It is interesting and smart that he seems to no longer be using the Red Arrow. It makes sense for him to not do a move that pops the crowd. Also it fits in with his character because he complains that the crowd only liked him when he did that move. So of course he would stop doing it. It leaves open the possibility to go back to it at some point down the line when he turns face. For that reason, he should talk about no longer using it and how he has so many other ways to beat an opponent. He has successfully used a big superplex twice and has the Rings of Saturn now.
Undertaker’s Announcement: While I didn’t like anything WWE did with the mystery of whether or not Undertaker would show up on Raw (more later), the actual appearance worked well. It felt special. It felt like a big deal. It held up Undertaker as being above it all which is how he should be treated. He is a legit contender to win the Royal Rumble so this should make the fans anticipate that PPV even more than they already did. I don’t think he will win it, but him winning to take on a new WWE Champion John Cena is a strong possibility. And like Goldberg, the Rumble can help hide his deficiencies given his age and wear and tear on his body. I am really looking forward to seeing what they do with him as it will clearly set up his WrestleMania match. Plus his performance was pitch perfect.
Reigns vs. Owens & Jericho: I had mixed feelings about this main event. I liked how Reigns attacked Owens & Jericho before the match. It made sense and played into the storyline in how he tried to lock Jericho into the shark cage at the top of the entrance ramp. Byron Saxton was terrible in complaining about how they were double teaming Reigns before the match had started when it was Reigns who had attacked them. The effort from all three of the wrestlers was strong. Again, I seemed to be in the minority who thought that Reigns vs. Jericho last week was a bad match. However, I found their efforts here to be better than last week. We’ve seen far too much of these three facing each other in various types of matches. It is hard to get excited about seeing more of Reigns vs. Owens at the Rumble when we’ve seen it so much already. Reigns needs to stop using the SuperMan punch so many times in his matches. Once at the most is enough. Some of his SuperMan punches were not well executed which is my only problem with the physical part of this match. The ending with Jericho and Owens getting the better of him because of their handicap advantage was well done. Like the match itself, I have mixed feelings about the ending. I like that Jericho won to become the new United States Champion. However, I am worried that this is a prelude to Reigns winning the Universal Title at the PPV.
Opening Bit: This Miss isn’t for the entire opening segment which is why I called it the Opening Bit. I am so tired of having to write about how tired I am of WWE focusing so much on the authority figures. I don’t care about watching an employee’s performance review. I don’t care about ratings. I don’t care about who is in charge of the show. I care about the wrestlers. So when Raw starts off with Stephanie McMahon talking about how it was time for Mick Foley’s performance review, I wanted to stop watching. I don’t care. Plus, didn’t WWE advertise that Undertaker would be on Raw? Stephanie acted like it was some rumor that Foley started. It was disjointed with reality. It was one of those moments where WWE wants to have their cake (advertising a returning Undertaker) and eat it too (creating a mystery about whether or not he will show up). The interruption by Rollins and Strowman didn’t help. The rest of the opening with the false start to the US Title match worked well enough so that part wasn’t a Miss.
Parlay Challenge: I have become a big fan of Jack Gallagher. I enjoyed his duel with Ariya Daivari on 205 Live a few weeks ago. He is fun to watch in the ring. He is unique. But his challenge of Daivari for a parlay felt forced. He should have these types of fun segments which play up his British / Extraordinary Gentleman persona every once in a while. But they shouldn’t do more than one per feud. If they have something clever in mind for a parlay, then save it for a time when you haven’t already done a duel with the same opponent. Is he going to duel or parlay with everyone he feuds against? So most of this Miss is for the scripting here, but Gallagher wasn’t good in his delivery either. It was his weakest performance on the mic so far.
Michaels, Enzo & Cass, etc.: This was bad. This was not one of Shawn Michaels’ better appearances to start out with. I understand having him on to hype his upcoming movie and the fact that The Royal Rumble this year is from his home town. But he just came out and said those things. It wasn’t in a bigger context until he was interrupted by Rusev. Now, Rusev was great in suggesting that Michaels should somehow insert Lana into his movie before it comes out next week. Their little exchange was fun. But then Enzo & Cass come out to do their annoying ass bit with Michaels looking like a fool for playing along with them. Naming movies that Rusev, Lana and Jindar Mahal could star in was lame. Hey everyone, we’re doing a penis joke! Yeah! And this all led to the match that nobody could possibly want to see, Cass vs. Mahal. Yawn. At least Michaels wasn’t acting like a heel by stabbing Daniel Bryan in the back or attacking Sting in the middle of a match.
Stephanie McMahon: Stephanie was a big part of the first Miss. She is a heel, but at times she isn’t. She plays a heel well, but that isn’t a good role to have in the first place. She undercuts the wrestlers too often like when she killed Sasha Banks’ gimmick of being The Boss. I get that she is a heel, but as has been pointed out by me and many others many times, she never gets her comeuppance like all other heels ultimately do (including her husband). Undertaker sort of put her in her place, but what does it lead to? Nothing. The scripting this week was terrible. But, I don’t think she understands why her character is so bad for business.
Gallows Loses: I’m surprised that Luke Gallows lost to Sheamus in this match. Part of me is happy that WWE did something to make the Raw Tag Team Champions look strong. But it came at the expense of their challengers. This is particularly problematic given the fact that Sheamus had been distracted by the fact that Karl Anderson had attacked Cesaro at the announce table. Gallows couldn’t even win after that distraction. This is the problem with WWE’s 50-50 booking and constant use of non-title matches. There is a way for Gallows & Anderson to get over as strong contenders for the Tag Titles where the Champs are kept strong too without 50-50 booking where neither looks strong. But, WWE won’t do it.
Bayley Loses: I know that it was in a tag match where her partner came into the match injured, and I know she was blindsided after a blind tag, but I don’t understand why WWE insists on making their Champions and #1 contenders always look weak. Bayley should not lose at all between becoming the #1 contender for Charlotte’s Women’s Championship and the Title match. Period. Period. It serves no purpose. Have the heel team take advantage of the injury to Sasha Banks and have her take the loss. I don’t understand.
New Day and Titus O’Neal: Oh man this is so crappy. Please don’t remind me of those horrible physical challenges on the original NXT. They didn’t even explain why he had to beat 12.7 seconds on his keg run. Booty Juice? Are you kidding me? I have liked a lot of what New Day has done over the past few years, but this was one of their worst segments ever. And it wasn’t just because Titus O’Neal is bad. I was curious to know where WWE would go with New Day after losing the Tag Titles. Now I wish I didn’t have the answer.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: RAW HITS & MISSES 1/2: Foley’s mistakes continue, Jericho’s sloppiness continues, Kevin Owens Show, Jinder & Rusev, more
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 68th 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.