SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Austin Aries vs. Noam Dar: I wish that half of this match didn’t take place during a commercial break. It is to be expected on the go home Raw before WrestleMania to get very little actual wrestling action, but it didn’t have to be this bad. With some better pacing and spacing of other things on the show, we could have gotten a seven minute match like this uninterrupted. Make the fans want to see more of Austin Aries in the ring by showing off how good he is in the ring. Noam Dar is a good opponent for him. What we saw was good. It made sense for Aries to debut his Last Chancery submission hold which he hadn’t yet used in his brief main roster run. Neville vs. Jack Gallagher later on in the show was also a pretty good match with the hilarious Marry Poppins leap from Gentleman Jack and a tap out victory for Neville with his submission finisher which he should be calling The Rings of the King (trademark Jon Mezzera, 2017).
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson: I got a kick out of the backstage interview with Gallows & Anderson making fun of Enzo & Cass. I laughed when they called them stupid and said “you can’t teach that.” They also attacked Cesaro & Sheamus in the back before their match with a ladder which led to them getting their revenge later in the show. This is setting up the triple threat Tag Team Championship match to be turned into a ladder match which is fine with me. WWE likes to do these multi-man ladder matches at WrestleMania and recently it has been for the Intercontinental Title, so I am happy to see it shifted to a different Title this year.
Kevin Owens’ Interview: I liked the fact that Kevin Owens finally put some focus back on the United States Championship. One of the biggest criticisms of the build up to WrestleMania has been the lack of focus on the Titles across the board. The hype for Owens vs. Chris Jericho has been more about Owens stabbing Jericho in the back at the Festival of Friendship, not about the US Title. So it was good to hear Owens talk about how angry he was that Jericho cost him the Universal Championship and how he was going to one up Jericho by taking the US Title from him. He also did what WWE required of all of their wrestlers which is to use their corporate speak by calling WrestleMania “The Ultimate Thrill Ride.” But, he is the only one to do it in an ironic way. I laughed at his delivery. His match later in the show against Sami Zayn was also good, but we’ve seen it too many times at this point for it to mean much. And it ended with the predictable interference from Samoa Joe and Jericho. It is a shame that Joe has nothing going for WM. But at least Jericho finally got to put Owens on The List!
Paul Heyman’s Promo: Just like it was good to hear Owens putting some emphasis on the US Championship, it was good to hear Paul Heyman finally putting some emphasis on the Universal Championship and how Brock Lensar lusts after the Title to prove that he is the center piece of Raw and thus the centerpiece of all WWE. I’m not sure I’m buying it. I’m not sure that Lesnar really cares about the Universal Title. It also has that too little too late vibe to it, but it was better than noting. And Heyman delivered that promo very well. He reacted to the fans well. I was surprised that the crowed was so 50-50 in their response to Lesnar vs. Goldberg. I was expecting this to be a pro-Heyman pro-Lesnar crowd. It will be interesting to hear the response on Sunday. The problem was that we’ve seen Goldberg spear Lesnar multiple times. It is disappointing to not hear from the Universal Champion on the final Raw before WM. It is disappointing to never hear from Lesnar himself. The physicality at the end was disappointing. So, I will call the overall final segment more of a mixed bag with the strong Heyman promo making it a minor Hit.
Opening Segment: I am glad that WWE has made the Raw Women’s Championship Fatal Four Way an elimination match. I advocate for all triple threat and fatal four way matches to be elimination matches (with eliminations from disqualifications and count outs). But, the announcers including Michael Cole lost all credibility for flat out saying that the elimination stipulation was a bad thing for Bayley. In a traditional fatal four way, the Champion doesn’t have to be pinned to lose the Title. Charlotte could pin Sasha Banks and become the new Women’s Champion. But with this elimination stipulation, Bayley has to be defeated to lose. She should be thrilled by it, but the announcers talked like it was the worst news for her. It was somehow worse for her. It made no sense. Corey Graves even said at one point that Bayley would have to beat all three of her opponents and at least Cole corrected him, but as I said above, this killed their credibility and insulted the intelligence of the fans.
Getting back to the actual opening segment, Bayley’s promo was ok, but she lost the crowd. It would have been a much more effective promo if she was talking about growing up dreaming of competing at WrestleMania and now she has a chance to win the Women’s Title at WM. She should not yet be the Champion. This goes in how poorly the women’s division on Raw has been booked this year. Charlotte was okay. While she can be good on the mic, her syntax and tone are sounding more and more rehearsed and unnatural to me. I’m trying to come up with the best way to put what I mean. It is her inflection and the pacing of her words that didn’t used to come across as so practiced and memorized like it does more and more, particularly tonight. This was followed up by more talking from Banks and Nia Jax. None of it got me excited for their match at WM. None of it got me excited for the rest of the show. The match that followed was fine, and I’m happy that Bayley got the win, but it wasn’t good enough to get a Hit.
Triple H – Seth Rollins: That was a rather tepid response for Seth Rollins. Yes, it was a positive response, but it was not a strong response. This isn’t working. And having Triple H acting like the alpha and the adult in the room talking down to the petulant child Rollins isn’t going to help. He literally ordered Rollins to sit and Rollins sat like an obedient dog. Nothing else that happened in that segment mattered to me at that point. I think WWE is trying to make the fans want to see Rollins get his revenge and pop huge for when he does at WM, but will it still matter to the fans at that point? The damage will have already been done. The physicality at the end worked well to give Rollins’ fans hope that he can compete despite the knee injury, but it won’t be enough.
Over the Top Rope Challenge: I’m not sure what the point of this was supposed to be. The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal is a fine idea. It should take place on the pre-show like it did two years ago and not on the actual show like it did last year. But, they should have done a better job of capitalizing on the match in the past. It did a little at first for Cesaro, but nothing in the long run. It did nothing for The Big Show. It did a little something for Baron Corbin last year, but not enough where you are left with this feeling that without that win, Corbin would still be in NXT. It should have been sold for the last year that Corbin had used that win to catapult him to a major position on the main roster. They’ve done a little better than in the past, but not good enough. So, we were left with this segment where WWE was previewing a match that nobody really cares about. And it mostly involved wrestlers whom nobody cares about. It is smart to have some bigger stars in the match, but this seems like a waste of Braun Strowman who has been one of the top heels on Raw for a few months now.
Roman Reigns – Undertaker: This was a case where WWE sent Roman Reigns in front of the Philadelphia crowd to tell those fans and all the other ones watching on TV who think the same way “F You.” That was a total F You promo where he basically meant that he knows the fans hate him and he knows the fans don’t like how he’s been pushed, but he is the man and all the fans have to accept it. If he was a heel, I could accept that. This felt like a heel promo to me. He is being totally disrespectful to one of the biggest stars in WWE history. But, I don’t think he is a heel. And I don’t think his motivations have been well defined for this match. I don’t really understand why he wants to end Undertaker’s career. I also was bored by Undertaker’s grave digging throughout the show. I also died a little inside when even Undertaker used the WWE corporate speak and referred to WrestleMania as “The Ultimate Thrill Ride.” This was bad.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE: WWE RAW HITS & MISSES 3/20: Triple H Promo, Sami-Joe, Strowman-Reigns-Taker, Highlight Reel, Aries-Nese, Goldberg-Lesnar
OR CHECK OUT JASON POWELL’S HITLIST ARTICLES AT PROWRESTLING.NET HERE.
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.