SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment: This is definitely a different Kevin Owens and it works. He was very good doing his comedy routine with Chris Jericho, but it never felt worthy of the Universal Champion or the Raw main event picture. This is definitely the way to go. Owens cut a very strong promo, ignoring what he did to Jericho last week and focusing entirely on his Title match against Goldberg at Fastlane. It made me care more about their match and made me want to see more of this new more serious Owens going forward.
“Thank You Sheamus”: I don’t tweet much about Raw, but I did tweet twice about Raw this week. The first is when I said that the fans chanting “Thanks You Sheamus” for kicking Enzo Amore after their match were my heroes. This is kind of a Miss folded into a Hit because of the chant. Enzo and Big Cass came across as total heels to me here. They came across as the heels in their feud against Rusev and Lana. They were in the wrong a few weeks ago when they cost Cesaro & Sheamus in their rematch for the Tag Team Championship. I’ve always found them annoying, but they were presented as babyfaces. But, they aren’t any more. However, the fans are still largely behind them. I was disappointed they beat Cesaro & Sheamus to become #1 contenders this week, but I was relieved that we had a winner as I was expecting it to be a triple threat. And even at that point, Enzo was a total heel for his taunting of Cesaro. So, I was at least happy that a good number of fans in LA thanked Sheamus for the Brogue Kick at the end.
Kendrick vs. Tozawa: I felt that WWE went to Akira Tozawa refusing to be The Brian Kendrick’s protege too soon on 205 Live last week. However, I am enjoying their storyline otherwise. After they rushed into his refusal last week, I’m glad they didn’t rush into an actual match this week. This worked to show off Kendrick’s attitude and set up Tozawa for wanting revenge. I liked that they had Kendrick interviewed in the back afterwards. It was short and to the point and continued the storyline nicely.
Gallagher – Neville: Both Neville and Jack Gallagher performed well during their contract signing. I liked how Neville accused Gallagher of being an English stereotype. He was intense and believable in his talking down of Gallagher. Gallagher was good in talking about how this is his genuine self. I liked the line about how his mustache doesn’t come off at night. It is a little odd to draw attention to the fact that wrestlers are playing characters, but for whatever reason, it worked for me in this instance. The physicality at the end was also well done. Gallagher’s character is goofy, but he becomes serious when he needs to which makes him work.
Zayn Interview: Sami Zayn gave a good interview before his scheduled match against Kevin Owens. He wove together his past with Owens with his present issues with Samoa Joe. He tied the two of them together in a clever way. Owens and Joe have a connection through Triple H, but it isn’t an overt team at this point. So dropping hints connecting them further works well. This was a strong interview followed up by the strong beating from behind when Joe attacked Zayn on the way to the ring. That continued to build Joe as a monster heel. It also gave Zayn a chance to show his fighting spirit in how he still wanted the match with Owens. And Owens’ quick squash of Zayn at that point worked well for his newer darker character.
Lesnar and Heyman Interview: Any time WWE does something different with their presentation, it stands out. They have done sit down interviews like this one with Michael Cole talking to Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar plenty of times, but it still feels fresher than having them in the ring talking for a long segment. However, the presentation here is what made this particular interview feel fresh. Having Lesnar intimidate Cole out of the scene worked well. And then the way Lesnar sat right in front of the camera glaring into it while Heyman talked in the back was awesome. The scripting and performance of Heyman’s promo was good. But it was the staging with Lesnar in the foreground and Heyman in the background that made this work so well. They need to do something to get Lesnar back to that intimidating badass before his match with Goldberg at WrestleMania and this was a good step.
Strowman vs. Big Show: WWE has done a good job of building up Braun Strowman since he split off from The Wyatt Family as part of the brand split last year. He won a series of squashes over jobbers while demanding more competition. He was able to show more skill in his short feud against Sami Zayn and that cemented him as a monster. Over the past two weeks, he has won matches against legacy super heavyweights, Mark Henry last week and Big Show in this week’s main event. Both matches were good. This one was better. Both Strowman and Show performed well in this match. It was very well booked. It gave Strowman a chance to dominate early while also allowing Show a chance to fight back which ultimately made Strowman’s win a bigger deal. I wish both Henry and Show had been protected more over the past several months. That would have made these wins mean even more for Strowman. But in the moment, this was a good main event which helped but Strowman over.
Roman Reigns: Ugh. Just ugh. Last week, Roman Reigns got some praise for acting upset at the prospect of having to face the Tag Team Champions in a handicap match. This week was the exact opposite in how he had a chance to find a partner to face Gallows & Anderson, but instead decided to take them on by himself. I didn’t like how Reigns was presented this week at all. This backstage bit annoyed me. And of course, Reigns was able to easily fend off the two of them even when one had a chair in their handicap match. This does nothing for the Tag Champs. And in the end, he attacked a wrestler who had just been through the toughest match of his career (arguably) so that made him look like an ass. Then, he couldn’t even beat him up. I shouldn’t complain about that after he was SuperMan against Gallows & Anderson. In the end, he looked weak and like a jerk. I think they are trying to build up anticipation that he has no chance against Strowman, so when he wins at Fastlane it will seem like a big surprise.
New Day: Ugh. Just ugh. New Day are walking infomercials for their merchandise. I’m sure they sell a lot of it and are making great money with their cut of those sales. But, that doesn’t make for good television. I know they are still getting pretty good reactions from the fans, but their act is waring thin. I’m not into this whole ice cream angle. It is cartoonish and ridiculously silly. I can lend them my ice cream maker if they really don’t understand that they don’t have to invent a way to make ice cream. I did chuckle a little when Xavier Woods scared Lana with the trombone blast and she dropped her iPad. But despite that chuckle, it was still way too over the top. You can have humor in a pro wrestling show without going so cartoonish and silly with it. And having them hosting WrestleMania this year doesn’t make me look forward to the biggest show of the year.
Bayley Segment: This segment was off to me from the start. Notice that Bayley never said that she was from San Jose. She said she was from California to kiss up to the LA fans. I’m from a city a little over an hour from San Jose. I would never try to get a cheap pop in Southern California. If she had said she was from Northern California, San Jose or the San Francisco Bay Area, she would have been booed. On an aside, I just got an email while writing this from TicketMaster for a pre-sale of tickets for WWE Payback in San Jose in April. In the ad for seeing our favorite WWE Raw Superstars, they misspelled Enzo as “Enxo” and listed Sasha banks. Even if you don’t know how to spell Enzo, you’d think you’d know to capitalize someone’s last name. I’m sure I make mistakes, but I at least proofread these things.
Going back to the Bayley segment, at some point she should have mentioned Dana Brooke. She should have said that Banks was only there to even things out after Brooke had cheated. She came across very poorly here. When Stephanie McMahon demanded that she relinquish the Women’s Championship, she should have said that Stephanie never asked Charlotte to relinquish the Title after winning all those times with the help of first her father, and then Brooke. There was a way to tell this story without making Bayley look so bad. On another bit of an aside, my second tweet about Raw was about the super high heels Stephanie wore to make her tower over Bayley. They must have added a good four inches to her height. Is her ego that out of control? I believe sincerely it was a total calculation on her part so that she would look taller. Moving on, I didn’t like how Bayley played with the fans to make them think she was going to give up the belt. It was too emotionally manipulative to me. The match that followed was good, but I wasn’t really into it at that point because I was taken out of the whole storyline in the previous segment. At least Bayley finally mentioned Brooks on guest commentary, but it was too late at that point.
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Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at email@example.com. 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.