WWE RAW HITS & MISSES 12/18: Itami’s debut, Stephanie’s announcement, Lesnar-Braun-Kane, Rollins vs. Jordan, Revival Return, Woken Matt

By Jon Mezzera, PWTorch Specialist

Matt Hardy comments on Jeff Hardy's recent arrest
Matt Hardy (art credit Joel Teach © PWTorch)



Rollins vs. Jordan: This match worked to draw out this angle a little and make fans want to see Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe down the line. Instead of getting the match this week, we will get it in the future and this match and the attack by Joe after Rollins’ victory should build anticipation for it. It was a good match with Rollins and Jason Jordan putting in a good effort for 19 minutes. I don’t like having two commercial breaks in a match. That takes away from the enjoyment of it. But I did enjoy it overall, and didn’t feel that the “Boring!” chant was fair at all. That’s a shot at Jordan who is boring outside of the ring, but I don’t find him boring in the ring.

Woken Matt Hardy: This week’s presentation was better without the videos cutting back and forth between Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. They had a Wyatt video early in the show and then later followed up with a Hardy one. Both were good. Showing Hardy uninterrupted is a better way to introduce his Woken character to the larger audience. We got a long bit with him talking to really start to connect with the character.

Hideo Itami Debut: This has not been a good few weeks for Finn Balor. His injury last year greatly derailed him as he is nowhere close to where he was as the first ever Universal Champion. I’m hoping that this was the end of his feud against The Miz-Tourage and that he can go on to something better now. The catalyst for the end of that feud was the surprise debut of Hideo Itami coming out to make the save after Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel were disqualified during their handicap match against Balor. They’ve been hyping Itami’s debut on 205 Live, but some of those videos on Raw the last couple of weeks would have been better. Either way, by saying his debut would come a day later, his actual debut on Raw was a nice surprise. It worked well. It got a pretty good reaction. I liked the heel Itami was playing against Cassius Ohno in NXT, but he is a good babyface as well. I hope he brings some intensity and credibility to the Cruiserweight Division.

The Revival: I’m glad to see The Revival back and healthy. Let’s hope they stay healthy this time. They were so good in NXT and have so much potential, but they might not be what Vince McMahon is looking for in a tag team act in 2018. Having them miss so much time with two injuries so early in their main roster run isn’t going to help. To me, it is a long shot that they ever get to that top status, but I am hopeful. Having a squash over Rhyno and Heath Slater is a good start. I am also curious to see where they are going to go with Rhyno trying to toughen up Slater. It has the potential to be comedy gold, or even take it in a serious direction. But it can also become Raw’s version of the Fashion Files, which I’m not a huge fan of.


Opening Segment: I said last week that I didn’t want to see a triple threat Universal Title match at The Royal Rumble, but that’s exactly what we are getting. Kurt Angle was hilarious in quickly announcing the match and then getting the hell out of the ring to avoid the fight that was about to break out between Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman and Kane. The brawl that followed made Lesnar look strong, but we already knew he is strong. To me it was more about making Kane and Strowman look weak. After they’ve been built up as these two monsters, Lesnar easily dispatched both of them. That was anti-climactic. It didn’t feel like a great use of Lesnar. It was not a great start to a disappointing Raw which has been pretty good as of late.

Alexander vs. Gulak: As I said, this was a disappointing Raw. Part of that was this #1 contender match for the Cruiserweight Title. After three weeks in a row with very exciting Cruiserweight fatal four way matches, we got a rather mundane singles match. It wasn’t bad. It was just not as good as I was hoping. Cedric Alexander and Drew Gulak are good at what they do, but they weren’t great here. Also, Gulak would have been a more interesting winner to me. I almost left it off the list. It really wasn’t bad enough to get a Hit, but Enzo Amore’s guest color commentary was so bad that it took the match to the Miss column. I wanted to hear Michael Cole grow a backbone and tell him “if you call me “kid” one more time…” I know he’s a heel and supposed to be obnoxious, but this was just too annoying and grating to me.

Joe & The Bar vs. Rollins, Ambrose & Jordan: This was another disappointing match. It was ultimately just an angle to set up Dean Ambrose’s arm injury with a possible set up for him turning on Seth Rollins down the line. If it comes too quickly (as I’m worried it will), it will be another disappointment after the recent Shield reunion. The bulk of this six man tag was the heels on extended offense. They had a long beating of Jordan early on, and then another longer beating of Rollins for most of the rest of the match. The tease of the comeback with Ambrose showing fire and taking out the three opponents on the outside was the only fun moment in the match. His real life injury was to blame, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed this. I didn’t.

“Main Event”: WWE has been building to a match of Absolution vs. Bayley & Sasha Banks & Mickie James. It could be a big Raw main event. But, this was not a real main event. It was not hyped like a main event. It was announced earlier in the show, but not presented like a big deal. We didn’t get any promo time from either team. They never called it the main event ahead of time. I see why they undersold it as it was only 3 minutes and ended in the same DQ as the handicap match earlier in the show. And I have to point out how weak looking Amber Rose is in the ring. Those stomps she was giving multiple times during and after the match have no force behind them. When Sonya Deville was laying forearms onto Bayley on the outside of the ring, you could see the force behind them. Wrestling should look like a real fight. Deville can do that. Rose can’t. At least not yet. She looks like she’s playing a fighter who doesn’t want to accidentally hurt her opponent for real. She doesn’t look like an actual fighter. I shouldn’t harp on it, but those were honestly some of the weakest looking stomps and kicks that I’ve seen in a long time. Moving past that, there was nothing to this match as it was just a set up for the brawl that followed to give Stephanie McMahon a chance to come out to make her big announcement.

Stephanie’s Announcement: Speaking of that announcement, I didn’t like how WWE did it at all. Stephanie came to Raw to make the announcement for the women’s Royal Rumble. What would have happened if the match had ended in a regular way without the brawl? What would she have done if the entire women’s roster didn’t happen to be in the ring at the end? That was overly scripted and took me out of the moment. Of course, Stephanie had to wear her 6 inch heels to make her look taller than all the women. Of course, she is so powerful and important that her mere presence would stop these women from fighting each other. I understand them being excited about this announcement. It is a huge opportunity for their individual careers, so it makes sense that they’d be excited as opposed to some general idea of wanting to “represent the women’s division.” However, it is hard to take it seriously when they are worshiping Stephanie, particularly Absolution who were totally out of character at the end. And Stephanie asking for a “Yes!” chant at the end felt like that moment in last year’s Presidential campaign when JEB! had to ask the audience to please clap after whatever statement he made.

As for the prospects of a women’s Royal Rumble… I’m not sure what to think yet. It has the chance to be good, but two Royal Rumbles on one show is the same problem that has occurred when we’ve gotten two Hell in a Cells, or two Elimination Chambers, or two Money in the Banks. The 5-4-3-2-1 countdown 28 times during the men’s Rumble might not seem as special after we’ve already seen in 18 times (assuming this will be 20 women) earlier in the same show.

Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at jmezz_torch@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMezzera.


NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: WWE RAW HITS & MISSES 12/11: Samoa Joe’s opening promo, Joe vs. Ambrose, Reigns vs. Cesaro, Wyatt-Hardy, Kane-Strowman, Cruiserweights

Or for another view on this week’s Raw from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section here.


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