SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment: The Raw After Mania crowd often pisses me off. I am not a fan of fans who hijack the show for no good reason. To me, this crowd came across as much more engaged in the product and looking to react to what WWE was putting on in the ring, as opposed to just trying to entertain themselves. They never chanted for the announcers for instance, or CM Punk. There weren’t chants for wrestlers who weren’t on. They were intense and passionate, but I hate beach balls at sporting events (that’s what stupid Dodgers fans do once they finally show up to the game in the 3rd inning) and I hate the wave. So, there were some things that I didn’t like about the crowd. But on the whole, I appreciated this crowd.
That appreciation started right away with their reaction to the Undertaker video which started off the show. The long “Thank You Taker!” chant that then organically and slowly switched to a “Roman Sucks!” was awesome. WWE played into that expected reaction perfectly with Roman Reigns’ appearance. He was just scripted to have one line and to wait for several minutes to deliver that line. I’m not sure they expected all of the chants that they got at that point, but they knew a big negative reaction was coming and they played it off well. This was one of the most memorable starts to a Raw in a long time.
The Hardys vs. Gallows & Anderson: It was great to see the Hardys back in WWE at WrestleMania. I have mixed feelings about having them back as a tag team as opposed to putting them as singles wrestlers on opposite shows. But, I’m ok with it. We got a good Tag Team Championship match with them defending their newly won Titles against the former Champions, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson. There was a sloppy spot right at the end of the match, but otherwise this was a good match.
Neville vs. Ali: This was the first time that the crowd started to hijack the show with the beachballs which I’ve already talked about. They weren’t very interested in this match between Neville and Mustafa Ali, but that’s a shame because they were missing a good match. I don’t totally blame them because the purple rope switch is a big sign to the fans that it is time for a bathroom break. WWE needs to stop that. It is a disservice to wrestlers like Neville and Ali who are working hard to put on a good match, but the fans have been conditioned to not care.
Angle: I am a fan of having Kurt Angle named as the Raw General Manager to take Mick Foley’s place. He has done the authority figure role in both WWE and TNA in the past, so he has the experience. He can do a good job. I did laugh at some of his antics this week like his interaction with Enzo & Cass. I don’t want to see him go with a totally comedic role. But a little comedy here and there is fine. I am mostly giving this a Hit for the possibilities going forward.
Revival vs. New Day: This was a good role for New Day. They haven’t been wrestling much lately. They are a popular act for the most part, but they aren’t seen right now as a serious team that needs to be protected. But they still have star power so a win for a debuting team like The Revival means something. I was happy seeing The Revival get called up. They deserved it and had done everything they could do at NXT. It was the right time. They had a good, albeit short match with New Day and got a chance to get the win with their finishing move. I hope WWE uses jobbers for the next several weeks to help The Revival get over and establish themselves in front of non-post-WM crowds. WWE also needs to do a better job with establishing their characters and telling their story than they did with American Alpha last year.
Lesnar and Heyman: WWE seems to be positioning Brock Lesnar as a babyface coming out of WM. That was a babyface promo from Paul Heyman about how Lesnar had defeated Goldberg. It was a crowd that was pro-Lesnar and anti-Goldberg so it worked well here. Heyman was great. Lesnar was good in doing what he does. I liked how he interrupted Heyman at one point to whisper something in his ear. The idea of having a 1-on-1 match with the 2 in 23-and-2 was good. The wording and the way that Heyman delivered it was so strong. I was not expecting to see Braun Strowman come out at that point. That worked well. They should probably save Reigns vs. Lesnar for at least awhile until SummerSlam. They can draw some money with Strowman vs. Lesnar. But I do think Strowman needs to keep being built up. His lack of a WM moment was a detriment to him considering the work that he’s been doing this year. A feud down the line (or right away?) with Lesnar can be really good for Strowman. Overall, I am really curious to see where they go from here with the new Universal Champion.
Jericho Beat Down: Chris Jericho gave a fun interview previewing his scheduled match teaming with Seth Rollins against Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. The attack that came afterwards with Owens and then Joe beating him down and putting him through a table was well done. It made sense to get him off tv for awhile as he is going to tour with Fozzy. It also gave a free slot to have Angle finding Rollins a new partner which was a good spot to bring back Finn Balor.
Balor Return: Finn Balor was so new to the larger fan base when he got injured that you don’t know how some fans will respond. But, you can bet on this crowd responding in a huge way to him. So, it was smart to have him return in front of this crowd to send the message that he is a huge star and his return is a huge deal. There is criticism for the way WWE brushed away the fact that he was teaming with Rollins who injured him. It didn’t bother me much since it was a fluke injury in the course of a match. Rollins hadn’t tried to hurt him on purpose. He hadn’t injured him in the process of attacking him from behind (the way Rollins was injured by Joe). So, I don’t think that Balor would be out for blood against Rollins. But, I get the criticism. The tag match main event was good. The fans did do the wave for some stupid reason during the match. But, otherwise they were into the action. Balor got the win over Owens which made sense. Owens was the one who became the Universal Champion in the wake of Balor’s injury and they won’t go with Balor vs. Lesnar yet. Plus, Jericho is going away so we won’t get his US Title rematch for awhile. So, a Balor vs. Owens feud makes sense. Rollins vs. Joe was going to be in the works after Rollins vs. Tripe H. So, this all made sense to build to those singles feuds.
Raw After Mania Crowd Excuse: WWE had the announcers talk about this crowd (and they’d do the same on Smackdown) as bizarro world. They tried to frame it as being a crowd that reacts differently than other crowds. They act like they embrace it as if they are controlling it, but they aren’t. And to act like this crowd was acting opposite of all other crowds is ridiculous. They were reacting like all other crowds, just with more passion and intensity. They loved Undertaker. All crowds do. They hated Reigns. All Raw crowds do. They popped for Balor. They should. He’s a babyface who’s been out of action for several months with an injury. They cheered for Sheamus & Cesaro, which makes sense as they are babyfaces. The only difference is that they made up a song for them. They popped for The List of Jericho. So as I said before, I appreciated this crowd quite a bit (other than the stupid wave and stupid beach balls). But to hear the announcers try to frame the reaction as something that it wasn’t was very disappointing.
Superstar Shakeup: The announcement from Vince McMahon that we were going to have a Superstar Shakeup was expected but still disappointing. We are right back to the first brand split where the day after WrestleMania, Vince would show up to say “its time to shake things up again” and then announce a draft lottery (a contradiction in terms) the following week. I was talking to my brother on Monday afternoon. He stopped watching wrestling about 3 years ago, but still keeps track of things a bit through conversations with me. I filled him in on the brand split, the 9 Championships between the brands, the return of the Cruiserweights, the return of the Hardys, Goldberg vs. Lesnar, Undertaker still wrestling, Shane McMahon wrestling, and he said “what is it, 2003 again?”
The brand split failed before. I have seen no evidence to suggest that it will succeed this time. They are doing the same damn things that didn’t work before. I know I am in the minority here. In fact, I may be the only one who feels this way, but I don’t want to see the rosters shaken up. It has only been what, 7 or 8 months with these rosters? It hasn’t been a year yet. How are we supposed to get any type of sense of brand loyalty or an actual brand split, if you change the rosters so soon? I don’t like the idea of having an annual event to change up the rosters. If it has to happen, it shouldn’t be right after WrestleMania. If the idea is to get new blood on Raw and Smackdown, you are already doing that. They have new blood on Raw with the return of Balor and the Hardys and the debut of The Revival. They have new blood on Smackdown with Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger. They have some other NXT acts that are ready to be called up like DIY or Asuka. Create new blood that way which they are already doing and save the Superstar Shakeup for summer or fall. Or don’t do a shake up, but keep things fresh with more organic occasional roster moves like a trade here or there, or having Stephanie McMahon fire Sammy Zayn before WM only to have Shane hire him to Smackdown and have him win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal to rub it in Stephanie’s face. And if you are going to do a roster shake up, at least define what it will be. Don’t just have the announcers act confused and not actually say the format of the shake up. Do they even know what it will be at this point?
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE: WWE RAW HITS & MISSES 3/27: Heyman, Seth-Hunter, Undertaker-Reigns, Aries vs. Dar, Gallows & Anderson, Raw Women, Owens
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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 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.