SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Banks & Bayley & Asuka vs. Bliss & James & Jax: The opening segment with Alexa Bliss bragging about retaining her Women’s Championship at the Elimination Chamber was pretty good. I would have liked a stronger reason why Mickie James was still with Bliss. They didn’t end up interacting at all in the Chamber match itself. James had made it clear that she would work with Bliss because they had common enemies, but didn’t trust her. Yet here, they were buddy buddy. The physicality which set up the opening match worked well. The match itself was good. It further advanced various storylines. I liked the way Bayley refused to tag in to Sasha Banks, but came back to help the team win. It was like she wanted to win, but was trying to send her “friend” a message about what happened between them in the Chamber. Asuka still needs to declare at some point which Title she is going to go after at WrestleMania.
Cena Promo: I have not been a fan of the idea that there is a possibility that John Cena won’t be at WrestleMania. I’ve complained about that enough. Once WWE decided to go that route with his character, each individual part of the story can be judged as good or bad. This one was good. Cena’s performance was strong on the mic in talking about the situation. He brought up Undertaker to a huge pop (not something I’m interested in seeing, but obviously a lot of fans are). He didn’t explain why the match can’t happen, but made it clear (for now?) that it won’t happen. It was a good tease for that match if it does indeed happen. It also was a good tease for Smackdown since Cena promised to be on the next night to see what he was going to do.
Miz’s Promo: The Miz gave a good heel promo complaining about not knowing his opponent at WrestleMania for his Intercontinental Championship. He presented himself as the top star in WWE which is fine for his character even though it clearly isn’t true. He made his case for being in the top match at WM, but it was not a believable case given that he was the first one eliminated in the Elimination Chamber. But, that’s how a heel is supposed to talk. While I didn’t like the overall direction and presentation of the IC Title picture (more later), it got off to a good start with this promo.
Miz vs. Rollins: It continued nicely with this non-title match between Miz and Seth Rollins. It went 13 minutes and featured good back and forth action. Miz has gotten to the point where he pretty consistently has good matches. When he is in the ring with a great worker like Rollins, that match can certainly elevate to very good. I don’t see Miz as a great worker himself, but a good one. And while he has improved over the 12 years he’s been in WWE, I believe he has plateaued at that 3 star level where you know what you are going to get in terms of a good, but not great match every time out there.
Reigns: Roman Reigns gave a very good promo about Brock Lesnar. WWE has tried to do many things to turn Reigns’ haters around. The best idea they had was reforming The Shield, but that was derailed first by his illness and then by Dean Ambrose’s injury. Now they are trying to turn this Universal Title match into Reigns as a true WWE guy vs. Lesnar as a WWE outsider. I don’t know if it will work, but the first step was very good. I don’t know if Lesnar really no-showed or if this was planned. WWE did promise a face to face meeting between Reigns and Lesnar without delivering it. Whether or not that was the plan, the result was a strong promo from Reigns where he came across more likable than normal. I didn’t like the “pipe bomb” element of the script to suggest that he is going to get in trouble for what he was saying. That scripted “shoot” type of a thing didn’t work for me. But, the rest of it did. It will be interesting to hear Paul Heyman’s comeback and see where WWE goes with this idea going forward.
Rousey Angle: The Angle in the title of this Hit is for the angle, not Kurt Angle. This was a good follow up from the Ronda Rousey contract signing the night before. I would really prefer if Stephanie McMahon and Triple H would just go babyface or neutral and stop with the Authority heel characters. I don’t want to see Triple H wrestle. I don’t want to see Kurt Angle wrestle. I don’t want to see Stephanie McMahon wrestler. And while I’m very curious to see Rousey wrestle, I’m much more interested in seeing what she can do in a real match with a real opponent. So, I’m not thrilled with the direction WWE is going here. However, I did like the performance from Rousey. It was much better than the night before. She still needs to keep improving, but this was a step in the right direction. I also liked Stephanie’s quick apology for slapping Rousey in the face. Angle was ok. You could tell he was just saying he was lying about Triple H and Stephanie to keep his job while trying to let Rousey know that what he said was true. That worked fairly well. The surprise punch from Triple H to Angle moves the story in a new direction also. Follow up will be key. The ultimate destination will likely not be very good, but the journey has potential.
Replays: I understand the need to recap important angles on Raw to catch up fans who may have missed something, especially the night after a PPV. However, this week’s Raw seemed to go over the top with the replays. It started off with a long recap of the Ronda Rousey contract signing from Elimination Chamber. After that, the announcers recapped still footage of both the Women’s Chamber match and Asuka vs. Nia Jax. That was a lot of recap to start the show. They showed a replay of John Cena from the post-PPV show. They had another replay of the Rousey contract signing an hour into the show. We had a replay of the Braun Strowman – Elias encounter from a few weeks ago. They also had replays of Cena’s promo. They did a third full replay of the Rousey contract signing. By that time, I was getting over it. I know you need to treat things like that as bid deals, but you can go to far. Throw in other nice video packages like the Black History Month video (one we’d already seen, so technically also a replay) and the Warrior Award, and you had far too many videos on this show.
IC Title Picture: While Miz’s initial promo and the Miz vs. Rollins match were good, I didn’t like the overall direction that WWE is going with the IC Title heading into WM. They don’t need to have a firm challenger in place 6 weeks before the show. So, I am ok with some murkiness at this point. I’m just not a fan of this particular murkiness. The idea that Miz would have to have back-to-back non-title matches with Rollins and then Finn Balor made no sense. Even an obnoxious heel like Miz didn’t deserve that. The announcers were not good enough at pushing back against Miz’s complaints. When Corey Graves said that it was unfair that Miz didn’t know his WM opponent yet, neither of the other two said anything about how much time there still is, or how Angle won’t hand a title shot at WM to anybody, but that it needs to be earned. There were good babyface comebacks which they didn’t use. Graves who was unlikable and unreasonable for most of the show, was actually reasonable in this situation saying that while Rollins earned a title shot, that Balor hadn’t. I didn’t like how this made Balor look. It looks like they are heading for a triple threat match, which would not be my first choice. I am concerned that in the next 5 weeks, we will see so many other matches involving these three, that by the time we get to WM we will be tired of it and won’t want to see another iteration of the match.
Strowman Follow Up: One of the big stories coming out of Elimination Chamber was that Braun Strowman eliminated 5 of the 7 wrestlers in the match. It was a hugely dominating performance. After losing, he destroyed Reigns. It seems like he should be poised for a major match at WM. There were some rumors about him facing Miz for the IC Title. I didn’t think that was big enough for Strowman before the Chamber. After the Chamber, I know he needs to be part of something bigger. But, the follow up to his dominance at the PPV was weak. He was in a meaningless match against Elias. He cut a silly selfie promo beforehand. The match itself was ok and I don’t mind having Elias get himself purposefully disqualified with the fire extinguisher. I wasn’t a big fan of the chase that came after. In other circumstances, I would be ok with what happened. Building towards something over 6 weeks for Strowman at WM makes sense. We don’t need to know right now what he is going to do. But, he should have been positioned in a stronger way to capitalize on his Chamber performance. If you aren’t going to do something more with him the night after, then why do it in the first place?
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 email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMezzera.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: WWE RAW HITS & MISSES 2/19: Gauntlet match, Reigns vs. Rollins, Rousey video package, Wyatt-Hardy, Asuka speaks