ALL-STARS & UNDER PERFORMERS: Jericho, Strowman, Stephanie, The Miz, Alexa Bliss, Mickie James

By Michael Souza, PWTorch Specialist

The Miz (Photo credit Scott Lunn @ScottLunn © PWTorch)

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

In a loaded week of WWE programming, both Raw and Smackdown ramped up their push towards Wrestlemania. Lets take a closer look at who stood out and who missed the mark.

RAW ALL STAR: CHRIS JERICHO

After WrestleMania 33 concludes we may be able to look back on this most recent run of Chris Jericho and call it the best in his illustrious career. How this program with Kevin Owens finishes up will play a big factor in how we view this run as a whole, and this Monday only expanded on how well Jericho has performed. Sure, Jericho was playing a heel for the last eight months, but most couldn’t help but laugh along and cheer with Y2J and what he brought to Raw each week. That being said, he was still a heel and had the task of explaining his actions at Fastlane while getting the crowd 100% behind him. Jericho was the star of the show Monday, with the highlight being his introduction of “The Friends of Jericho, cheer me on mannnnnn!” Absolutely brilliant. While many ardent fans are upset that the blow off of Owens-Jericho will not be for the Universal Title, they will still undoubtedly tear the house down at WrestleMania. Jericho confidently welcomed a match with his former best friend and made us believe that he is fully capable of coming out victorious. We are in for a wild ride with this program, and Jericho could not have kicked it off any better.

RAW NOTABLE ALL STAR: STEPHANIE MCMAHON

Say what you want about Stephanie McMahon’s on-air character lately, but this Monday she was fantastic. Steph is obviously someone that likes to take on a challenge because the Chicago crowd could not wait to rain down C.M. Punk chants until they were blue in the face. She as able to successfully defuse the raucous crowd on two occasions using different tactics that were equally effective and entertaining. I mean, did anyone expect her to call Punk a loser on live TV!? I also thought Stephanie interacted with the wrestlers in the ring much better this week. She was able to assert her power by stating facts and referring back to past matches and experiences rather than just degrading each person surrounding her. This is the version of Stephanie that could get over as a heel authority figure if she is consistent.

RAW UNDER PERFORMER: BRAUN STROWMAN

Speaking strictly from a storyline standpoint, it was not a successful night for Braun Strowman. With highlight packages highlighting Braun’s loss to Roman Reigns at Fastlane being shown throughout the night, he had the opportunity to come out and conclude the show on a strong note and get the revenge he was looking for. Instead, Braun was used as a pawn to set up the return of The Undertaker. Now, aside from his loss at Fastlane, Strowman has built up a reputation and resume that would surely give him the confidence to stand up to anyone in the WWE, right? Unfortunately, after a memorable stare down between Braun and Undertaker, the “Monster Among Men” backed down and exited the ring. Further, Braun was so in awe/scared of The Undertaker, he proceeded to walk through the crowd to make his way to the back, keeping as much distance between he and The Deadman as possible. Not a good look with less than 30 days until Wrestlemania, which is looking more and more like an Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal entry for Strowman.

SMACKDOWN ALL STAR: THE MIZ

After being on the losing end of a verbal battle with John Cena last week, The Miz’s performance on Smackdown had to garner some sort of vindication if fans are supposed to believe he is anywhere close to Cena’s level. Bringing more reality into his promo really helped the Miz grab fans’ attention, and while he is playing the heel in this story, many of us were nodding along to his claims of the plastic relationship between Cena and Nikki Bella. With so many conflicting reports of Cena’s backstage presence and influence, it leaves us wondering how much truth is behind what The Miz told us on Tuesday. Miz did a fantastic job of making us believe he has been a victim of the politics surrounding John Cena and vowed to expose him for everything he has tried to hide. He was confident, direct, and showed a much more serious side of himself which gave us the sense that Cena has really struck a nerve here. Much like what Cena did last week, The Miz furthered interest in a storyline that many fans did not want to see play out and got us more excited for this mixed tag match at Wreslemania.

SMACKDOWN UNDER PERFORMERS: THE WOMEN’S SEGMENT

Taking a look at this segment as a whole, it is so hard to make sense of any of it. For starters, when has any wrestler in WWE been given the opportunity to decide who he/she will be facing at Wrestlemania for their title? Alexa Bliss running through each name on the roster while ruling them out of a potential match was a blatant waste of time and an extremely poor way to start the segment. The constant interruptions from each woman who came from the back has been so played out as of late and the women bickering back and forth while forgetting their lines which made for awkward television. All the while, Becky Lynch is the only wrestler in the division who actually deserves a title match, as Mickie James has hardly been on the winning end of any match since her return and Natalya hasn’t been consistently competitive in years. Daniel Bryan making a match with “all available Smackdown women” leaves the door open for Naomi or a possible surprise entrant which could be exciting, but we are left with another multi-women match for a championship at Wrestlemania with much more confusion than actual story telling.

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: ALL-STARS & UNDERPERFORMERS: John Cena, Mickie James, Seth Rollins, Raw Women’s Division

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