SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment: Stephanie McMahon did not seem to be playing her heel Authority role during the opening segment of Raw. I was fine with that. She was more just a neutral authority figure, introducing Asuka and announcing that Alexa Bliss will be defending her Raw Women’s Championship inside the first ever women’s Elimination Chamber match. Asuka was good in showing her excitement over winning the Royal Rumble. I like the idea that she is going to wait and see what happens at Elimination Chamber before deciding which Champion to face at WrestleMania. Sasha Banks was great in her interruption and challenge to Asuka. She has always been a better heel than babyface and I liked the heel tendencies she showed in the Rumble, then both here and later on in her pre-match interview.
Strowman Tips Over the Stage: I have not been a fan of most of Braun Strowman’s acts of crazy strength which mostly have come across as being physically impossible. This one felt much more believable. If you asked me ahead of time if he would be able to legitimately tip over the stage that the announce table sits on, I would have said “yes.” It was in the context of a Last Man Standing match, so it made sense that he would do it. It was impressive. It helped him win an important match to gain a spot in the Elimination Chamber match where he can then win a chance to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania.
Miz vs. Reigns: This is a minor Hit. It was better than their match last week. They needed to have Roman Reigns’ Intercontinental Championship rematch, so getting it out of the way now so that Reigns can move on to something else made sense. I am already sick of The Miz’s reliance on The Miz-Tourage to win his matches and hang on to the IC Title. But like last week, the wrestling action was good. The effort from Miz and Reigns was strong. The action was better. It wasn’t great, but good enough to just land itself in the Hit column.
Asuka vs. Banks: This was a good match that didn’t need at least one of those high spots. That spot with Sasha Banks flying through the ropes and getting kicked by Asuka was scary. The rest of the match was physical and intense. Banks followed up on her long performance in the Rumble the night before with a strong showing here against Asuka. The match went 14 minutes and went back and forth nicely. It seemed to be winding down where Asuka was going to get the win, but Banks made a nice comeback and was able to extend the match nicely. They were able to effectively tease that Asuka’s undefeated streak was actually going to come to an end. But, she still won in the end on a very nice sequence where she as able to reverse Banks into the Asuka Lock for the tap out victory.
Selfie Videos: If one wrestler does selfie promos as part of their character, that’s fine. We saw similar ones with The Shield way back in their early days. But now, everyone is doing it. It was way too corporate when several Smackdown wrestlers did them a few weeks ago talking about their chances to win the Rumble. That corporate feel continued on Raw with these selfie promos from The Miz, Finn Balor and John Cena. This seems like the type of thing that The Miz would do. It fits in with his character. The others should have been traditional promos. Everyone just happened to decide one day to do these selfie videos? Come on. The content of the promos was good. The presentation was poor.
The Coach: Jonathan Coachman wasn’t ever particularly good as an announcer. He was fun at times as more of a personality. He might be ok as a play-by-play announcer. He shouldn’t be doing color commentary. I know he has the one quality that Vince McMahon is looking for in a third announcer. But, if this were a real sport he wouldn’t be considered qualified to be a color analyst. Analysts should have actually performed in their sport like Troy Aikman on Fox’s NFL coverage. I want to see actual retired wrestlers in that position. Coach was bland and boring. He didn’t add anything to the commentary. He wasn’t insightful. He was just as inconsistent as Booker T was when it comes to being a babyface vs. heel. At least Booker T was fun in a car wreck type of a way, wanting to know what crazy thing he was going to say next. He was actually doing a better job the last few weeks. He didn’t seem as plugged into the product as he should have been. I hope he gets better, but he was definitely a Miss on night 1.
The Bar vs. Titus Worldwide: Did you hear that big pop for Titus Worldwide coming out as the challengers for The Bar’s Tag Team Championship? Neither did I. WWE should not push an act that gets crickets when it comes out as a Title challenger. They aren’t good. They aren’t over. Their previous non-Title matches were not good. This match wasn’t good either.
Cena’s Reaction: It was odd how John Cena kept reacting to his own negative reaction from the fans. What was he expecting? He has shrugged off much stronger negative reactions from the crowd. This just didn’t seem to fit in with his character at all. Coach’s only good moment was rightly questioning Cena’s concern over the crowd during the match. The main event itself was ok. Cena and Balor had a solid, but underwhelming match. But, Cena’s body language and facial reactions and even words responding to the crowd was head scratching to me. Is it a new direction they want Cena to go in? Or was it just a weird one night thing? I had thought Cena vs. Balor was a possible WM match after the Rumble, but not after this somewhat lackluster showing.
No Rousey: Ronda Rousey’s debut at the end of The Royal Rumble wasn’t great. I wasn’t as down on it as a lot of fans were, but it seemed that WWE sacrificed the moment in order for ESPN to be able to break the story that Rousey had signed with WWE as a full time wrestler. She should have said something. They made it feel like a huge deal on Raw which was good, but after her debut, I was expecting her to actually make an appearance on Raw. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. If she wasn’t going to be on, they could have done something more with the current roster to make her signing an even bigger deal. Other than Banks and Asuka, no other woman wrestler appeared. A series of those stupid selfies with the current roster responding to Rousey’s debut would have been fine. Where was Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss to respond to Rousey and the fact that she would be defending her Title inside Elimination Chamber? What do Nia Jax and Bayley think about it? On a bit of a side note, while the women’s Rumble was a lot of fun, WWE has to expand and develop the women’s rosters on Raw and Smackdown over the next year. They can’t rely on nostalgia to cary such a huge part of next year’s women’s Rumble. Sure, a few spots can go to nostalgia acts each year like with the men, but not 10+ like this year.
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 1/22: McMahons and Austin, DX and Balor Club, Elias-Cena, Taker, Reigns-Miz, Wyatt-Hardy