SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
McMahons and Austin: The 25th Anniversary edition of Raw started off great with the McMahon family and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The bit with Shane and Stephanie introducing their father and giving him the cheap mahogany plaque to commemorate Raw’s 25th Anniversary was funny. Vince was great in turning the crowd against him after they were giving him a big star treatment. I laughed when he said that he plaque looked cheap and Stephanie responded that the Go Fund Me response wasn’t as strong as they were hoping. This was all predictable but a lot of fun when Austin came out. I enjoyed how Vince moved Austin’s attention onto Shane. Of course, Vince got his in the end and we got to see three Stone Cold Stunners. I wish we had heard from Austin. But, this was a good start to the show to get a big piece of nostalgia out of the way and keep the fans interested in the rest of the show.
Asuka: The eight woman tag match was fine. It was a good way to follow up on the opening nostalgia segment by featuring current starts. WWE was going to have a big audience, some of whom haven’t been watching much if at all lately. So take those viewers and introduce them to something new. Asuka is one of the best acts they have on Raw. Featuring her and other popular wrestlers like Bayley and Sasha Banks was a good idea. Having a long match worked well. But the real highlight was after the match when Asuka turned on her victorious teammates to send a message to the women’s roster that she is going to win the Royal Rumble. That wasn’t a heel turn. It was just a strong statement and one of the only times on this show that either of the Rumble matches was hyped.
Peep Show: I missed Edge the most on this show. I was hoping for a 5 second pose. I was happy to see Christian hosting the Peep Show. He didn’t have much of a role to play which was disappointing, but at the same time was probably for the best to help put a shine on a current act. That should be the point of the nostalgia acts on this show, and it was only a few times like this. I also enjoy the fact that the fans actually are responding to an act in Jason Jordan the way that WWE actually wants them to react. They want the fans to boo Jordan and he is doing a good job in his role and he is getting booed. He was almost booed out of the building here. His act with Seth Rollins is a highlight of Raw right now. Their feud with The Bar is working well and I am looking forward to seeing their Tag Team Title match at The Royal Rumble.
Elias: Elias had a good night in interacting first with Chris Jericho and then with John Cena. The Jericho bit with Elias being put on the List of Jericho was funny. It wasn’t a huge moment for Jericho, but it was entertaining and I’m guessing we’ll see more of him on Sunday. Elias had a nice bit in the ring singing about the nostalgia acts. With the unfortunate injury to Samoa Joe, John Cena needed something to do in the short term and a mini-feud with Elias has some potential. They had a good back and forth once Cena came out to interrupt the song. The physicality worked well with Elias getting the upper hand with the cheap shot low blow. I don’t think this will carry all the way to WrestleMania, and it shouldn’t. But, I want to see where it does go in the next month or so.
DX – Hall – Balor Club: The final bone thrown to the fans at the Manhattan Center was the best, at least in terms of what we saw on air. Shawn Michaels and Triple H were ok when they first came out. Michaels’ material was lame as usual, but ok. Triple H was better in playing the role he often plays in NXT which is so much better than the heel role that he usually plays on Raw. It was fun to see the rest of DX doing their bits and then Scott Hall coming out next. I like that they put over Balor Club. They were the originators of the 2 Sweet bit that was appropriated (or stollen) by the Bullet Club. So it made sense to have them all together, but they didn’t have to endorse Finn Balor and Gallows & Anderson like they did. The match against The Revival was nothing to talk about. It lasted about 2 minutes. But, it was a chance for each DX member to hit a signature move on a current wrestler, while ultimately putting Balor over by giving him the final move. This did feel like a special moment and a passing of the torch.
Closing Segment: Like Paul Heyman said, it was nice to see some relevance to today’s WWE in the final segment of the show. I didn’t like how all the legends were paraded out by Kurt Angle in anticipation of trying to keep Brock Lesnar, Kane and Brawn Strowman from destroying each other. I would’t have gone out there if I was one of those legends. They weren’t needed at that point. But at least the show ended with some physicality which built anticipation for a Universal Title match at the PPV on Sunday. I am not looking forward to that match at all, but this was at least something better than what they’ve done the previous two weeks.
Undertaker: It was nice to see WWE finally do something for the fans at the Manhattan Center. They got to see The Undertaker which was nice. However, the actual appearance from Undertaker was nothing special other than the mere fact that he was on. I thought he was going to announce his retirement, the way he was winding up and getting emotional. I thought he was going to say that it was time for The Undertaker to rest in peace, but he didn’t quite say that. It was too ambiguous. It felt too small in that venue. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were non-committal in their reaction to it. I hope he doesn’t wrestle again. I honestly don’t know why anyone would want to see him wrestle again.
Reigns vs. Miz: This Miss is for how this match was booked, not for the effort put in by either Roman Reigns or The Miz. Their effort was strong. The match had good action. But, I didn’t like how it was put together at the end. The referee clearly saw Bo Dallas cheating. I don’t understand why Miz wasn’t disqualified at that point. Instead, the referee ejected Dallas and Kurtis Axel from the ringside. Ok. I can sort of accept that instead of a DQ, but then they didn’t leave. As soon as they got back on the ring apron after he ejected them, he should have DQd Miz. That didn’t make any sense and made the rules totally irrelevant. The middle turnbuckle pad being removed was way too convenient. That just wouldn’t happen in real life. And then we get the SOS with Miz once again Intercontinental Champion. He is a more than worthy IC Champ, but I just wanted something different for him and for the IC Title. I’m bored with Miz as IC Champ. And of course we know this is all leading to Reigns taking the Universal Title from Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. I just hope he gets that Title shot in Elimination Chamber, and that a Smackdown star (or Cena) wins the Rumble.
Wyatt vs. Hardy: This was a very anti-climactic match. It was again nice to finally see something from the Manhattan Center, and the fans there were understandably happy to finally see something and met it with a “we got something” chant. Unfortunately, what they got wasn’t good. WWE has been building up to this match for a long time now with the entire Woken Matt Hardy gimmick coming out in response to Bray Wyatt. Their first match should have been a big PPV match. Instead, it was a throwaway 7 minute match in front of a small crowd on a show where it was forgotten by the end. It wasn’t a good sign for Woken Matt Hardy to lose so easily in his first big match. Ross and Lawler seemed disengaged from the product in talking about Sister Abigail, asking who or what she is, or whether she is a real person or not. Wyatt’s been pretty clear that she was his mentor who died. And Randy Orton burned her grave last year. So, if that was scripted, then I don’t understand the scripting. None of this worked.
Rumble Hype: Does anyone on Raw want to win the Royal Rumble? I wasn’t a fan of the selfie promos on Smackdown last week, but at least we saw people like Shinsuke Nakamura and Orton talk about wanting to win the Rumble (Orton’s was the best of the group). Other than having Asuka send her message, what happened to make fans anticipate the Rumbles? With so many unannounced women who will appear in the Rumble, why not have a few of the surprises actually announce their participation? For instance, The Bellas could have come out separate from the other former “female Superstars” and announced that they weren’t just there as nostalgia acts, but were there to announce that they are back and will be in the Royal Rumble. That would still leave 10 unannounced spots for surprises, but would give their fans something to look forward to (and they do have fans). Even given the anniversary theme to the show, there had to be some more things they could have done to have Raw wrestlers in the Rumble making a case for themselves as potential winners. Maybe WWE doesn’t want to make fans excited about the prospects of anyone winning since they are just going to have Reigns win instead. There was a lot of fun with the nostalgia acts. Not all of it worked. It was a failed opportunity to take a larger than usual audience who tuned in to see classic acts come back and turn them on to the current product to make them want to get back to watching the show on a regular basis or order the WWE Network to see the Rumble on Sunday.
For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section 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. Follow him on Twitter @JonMezzera.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: WWE RAW HITS & MISSES 1/15: Booker T commentary, Strowman antics, Jason Jordan, Rollins-Balor, Nia-Asuka, Revival Interview
A miss for the IC title match? Odd.
The writer must have enjoyed the show much more than the crowd chanting “refund” and “bullshit” For me, most of the show was a miss, minus the IC title match. We may have not watched the same show.
The “passing of the torch” moment reference made in this article is hilarious. So Dx passed the torch to Finn Balor and a couple guys who have been portrayed as jobbers lately. Be honest, they probably wanted to do to the too sweet thing just to take a jab at the real Bullet Club and especially the Young Bucks. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. The Balor Club is not the Bullet Club, not by any stretch of the imagination. The Bullet Club once included these guys, but in their current roles in the WWE, the Balor Club hasn’t accomplished too much A one night title reign and some comedy matches. Will they even be in the WWE in five years or a decade from now? I doubt it.