SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Cena vs. Miz: While I didn’t like the set up for this opening match (more later), the match itself delivered. The stipulation that whoever lost would have to enter the Elimination Chamber first was a good hook to add something meaningful to the match. John Cena and The Miz worked well together and put on a good match. It went nearly 20 minutes, although it was interrupted by two commercial breaks which is unfortunate. What we saw was strong. It was unpredictable. I could see WWE going either way with Cena or Miz entering the Chamber #1. While I was leaning towards Cena winning as he did, I was far from convinced.
Rollins Promo: Kurt Angle and Seth Rollins talked about Jason Jordan’s injury and Angle asked if Rollins wanted to get a new partner to take on The Bar. This Hit is for Rollins’ response. That was a great promo talking about how he didn’t want to be part of WWE, but wanted to be WWE. I liked that line. I liked how Rollins talked about his past including a link to the Bay Area where he cashed in Money in the Bank at WrestleMania 31. He told his story and brought it to the present and future in asking for a shot to get into the Elimination Chamber in order to make it to the main event of WrestleMania. As opposed to Cena who acts like he won’t get a match unless it is the Universal Title, Rollins said he doesn’t want any match, but he wants a Universal Title match. It was a strong statement to get himself into the main event.
Bray Wyatt Promo: In general, I liked having all the fatal four way participants cutting promos about their chances to win the main event and get into the Chamber. None were misses, but some were better than others, with Wyatt’s standing out as the best (although Finn Balor’s was also strong). I am not always a fan of Wyatt’s promo style where you often don’t understand what he’s talking about. This one was very good. I know he won’t win the Chamber match, but he gave his fans a reason to think that he will. And what I really liked about it is that for the first time ever, I started to look forward to a Wyatt vs. Lesnar match down the line. That could be good in the ring and has a chance to have some very good moments between Wyatt and Paul Heyman in the build up to it.
Bayley vs. Banks: Part of me says that this was another PPV quality match given away on Raw, but WWE can easily go back to this at a PPV including WrestleMania after a legit heel turn for Sasha Banks. Having her lose to Bayley made sense given where they will likely go with her as a heel in the near future. She and Bayley performed very well here and had a good match together. They’ve wrestled numerous times in the past and they pretty much always deliver against each other. It built into their storyline tension that they’ve had the last few weeks around their attempts to end Asuka’s undefeated streak. The attack from Nia Jax at the end worked really well to get her some heat heading into her match against Asuka. It also allowed Bayley a chance to try and protect Banks when Jax attacked from behind to show that they are still friends, at least on Bayley’s part. Jax was also good in her post attack interview.
Asuka Video: This was a great video on Asuka’s career in WWE. It made her look like a huge star and a great talent. They put over her streak in a big way. I loved the sports like feel that it had with legit stats. It was a great recap of her career in WWE thus far. But as I wrote last week, I am concerned that her streak is going to come to an end soon. Over the last few weeks, I felt that WWE was getting Asuka vs. Banks and Asuka vs. Bayley with the streak on the line out of the way before she loses. Here, I am concerned with the possibility that WWE wanted to do this video now before she loses in two weeks to Nia Jax.
James – Bliss: This was a good backstage scene to follow up on Alexa Bliss’ surprise save of Micke James last week. I liked how James wasn’t totally buying into Bliss’ act. Both performed well. The script was strong to have both make some good points. You could see by the end why James would work with Bliss now with the common enemy of Absolution even though she doesn’t totally trust her. The match that followed was fine, but nothing special.
Strowman: I wasn’t totally sure how to react to Brawn Strowman singing to Elias. It doesn’t really fit in well with his character. However, that might be a good thing. His character has been largely one sided with him yelling and throwing up his arms and doing crazy things like tipping over ambulances and announce stages. If he is going to really be a top star in WWE, he needs to be more than that. He needs to show more personality and have more sides to his character. I’m not sure this is the direction I would head in with his character, but I appreciate the fact that WWE is doing something new with it. I don’t want to see him go too far in a comedic approach, but a little like this before snapping back to the monster can work. He got his revenge against Elias and the spot with him smashing the bass cello over his back worked well, although Michael Cole way over sold it.
Reigns vs. Sheamus: There was a lot of good wrestling on this show and this match is another example. Roman Reigns continues to have good matches. Sheamus has been good as part of The Bar with some very good tag team matches over the past several months. Here, he had a good singles match against Reigns. Everyone knew that Reigns was going to win, but Sheamus looked more than credible in getting some believable near falls. They had some good counters and reversals as the match built to the hard spear on Sheamus as he flew off the top turnbuckle. One thing I will say about Reigns’ matches is that despite the overall good quality of them, they are getting way too formulaic. He never hits the Superman Punch on the first try. Never. He never hits the Spear on the first try. Never. He signals the Superman Punch, but doesn’t hit it. Then he hits it a moment later while avoiding an offensive move of his opponent. He signals the Spear, but gets kicked in the head instead. Then he hits it a moment later to win. His matches would be better if they didn’t all follow that formula.
Balor vs. Rollins vs. Crews vs. Hardy vs. Wyatt: The main event had a strong build up throughout the show which is great. The match itself was fun to watch. It felt like a worthy main event with a big prize on the line. Everyone in the match got a chance to get some shine and hit their big moves. I was assuming that Balor would win, but once Rollins got added to the match, I figured he had just as good a chance. So I should have seen the double pin coming, but I didn’t. That was a pretty good way of getting both of them in the Chamber match. It was well executed. And it was a nice cliff hanger of who would actually be in the match. I kind of like the fact that instead of just having them face each other next week, Angle announced after the show that both would be in which will be fine. With the Jason Jordan injury, WWE needed to do something new with Rollins.
Opening Segment: This was a good Raw, but it got off to a poor start. I’m sorry, but the whole notion that Cena has to win the Elimination Chamber to have any match at WrestleMania is so stupid. The show is like 6 hours long. Everyone healthy on the roster gets in a match. Cena is one of the top stars in the company and it is laughable that he would be the only person on the roster who doesn’t. So, I just didn’t buy into his entire show opening promo including his silly out of left field hint at an Undertaker match. The segment got better after The Miz came out. But, he was not good enough to save it, especially considering how the segment ended. The challenge from Cena was fine, but then it made no sense why Kurt Angle would have the match right away. The idea that after the Miz-tourage had beaten Cena down, Miz would get to start the match right away was terrible. It made Angle look bad as an authority figure.
Words on the Screen: Since I haven’t been doing Hits & Misses for Smackdown for several months, I haven’t had a chance to comment on how stupid the new style of promos is with the words flashing up on the screen during the promos. That has been a terrible addition to the last few Smackdowns. I was dismayed when they brought them over to Raw also. It is cheesy. It makes the show feel scripted and unreal. It didn’t make me like Gallows & Anderson any more. The whole “Nerd!” thing is ok, but adding the Nerd-O-Meter is terrible. If it has to happen, I can accept it more on a replay like they did with Nia Jax. She cut that good promo without the words which worked. Then they showed a replay of it with the words on the screen. I didn’t like that either, but at least it is clearly a replay. So I can accept that someone in the production truck added those during the commercial for emphasis. Again, I don’t like it even in that situation, but it is a little better.
Rousey Announcement: The announcement that Ronda Rousey would be at Elimination Chamber to sign her Raw contract was a total dud from Kurt Angle. It was a throwaway line before he moved on to talk about Jason Jordan. That should have been a big deal. Couple that throwaway nature to the fact that she wasn’t even mentioned last week, and you get the feeling that WWE isn’t taking her seriously as a huge star which makes ZERO sense.
No Cruiserweights: WWE has something good going with the Cruiserweight Division for the first time in a long time. I don’t understand not having them on Raw during this time to help sell the division and get more people interested in tuning in to 205 Live. Most of the Title tournament should be on 205 Live, but a match or two should be on Raw over the course of the tournament to hype it. I hope that’s the case going forward. And they should be featured in some way each week.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: WWE RAW HITS & MISSES 2/5: Reigns vs. Wyatt, Angle-Bliss, Selfies, Mickie vs. Sonya, Asuka vs. Bayley, Drake Maverick