Opening Segment: From a performance factor, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H have carried their storyline with Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle. That continued to be the case during the opening segment of Raw, but Angle was much better this week than he had been. Rousey continues to struggle in talking on the mic, but has gotten a little better. She rushes her lines and really rushed saying that her pick for an opponent at WrestleMania was Stephanie. She stepped over the drum roll which took away from the impact of the moment. The rest of the segment worked well to set up Triple H & Stephanie vs. Angle & Rousey at WM. The physicality was fun to watch, but did they give away too much too soon with Angle getting the better of Triple H and putting him in the Ankle Lock and Rousey getting a strong move on Stephanie?
Jax vs. Asuka: This was a good match between Nia Jax and Asuka. They did a nice job of having Asuka’s undefeated streak appear in jeopardy throughout the match. She ended up getting the win in the end with the tap out victory. But this seemed more about Jax than Asuka. They stayed on her after the loss to get that sympathetic reaction from the appreciative crowd after her strong effort in the match. Later on, they had the uncomfortable scene with Alexa Bliss sort of trying to console her and actually making her cry. A babyface turn certainly seems to be in the works here. I still don’t think Asuka has ever officially challenged Bliss for the Women’s Title, so she can still challenge Charlotte leaving Bliss needing a challenger. We’ll see where it all goes, but Jax’s size just says that he should remain a heel.
Cena’s Promo: I appreciate the fact that WWE gave a plausible explanation as to why John Cena would be on Raw to talk about the Smackdown PPV. The promo itself was strong with Cena having a clear mission to break Ric Flair’s record for World Championship wins and his desire to go on and defend the WWE Title at WM. He set up a potential triple threat match scenario if A.J. Styles cashes in his automatic rematch. Some fans might buy into that as a legit possibility. I don’t. But, we will find out on Sunday. The Goldust interruption was odd. I am amazed that Goldust vs. Cena had never happened before. But, I didn’t really need to see it here. It was okay. It wasn’t a Miss or anything. It was a decent way to kill some of Raw’s three hours.
Heyman: I didn’t love everything about the closing segment, but I certainly liked it enough to give it a Hit. Paul Heyman did a great job of selling the importance of the Universal Title, although the hyperbole making the champion the greatest person in the entire universe was a bit over the top. He was strong in putting Roman Reigns over in terms of defeating the Undertaker at WM last year, while doing it in a way to show that it still had meaning despite the fact that it was Undertaker’s only match that year. That was an interesting comparison to Brock Lesnar’s light schedule. The “bulls—-” line stood out. But, the rest of the liberal use of the word “bitch” from Heyman and Reigns sort of took away from the previous swear. WWE is doing a good job of presenting Reigns as the wrestler of the WWE and the WWE fans with Lesnar as the outsider selfish wrestler. I probably would have left Reigns off of this week’s show. It would have been fine just having Heyman on to respond to Reigns’s promo from last week. It isn’t a big deal, but wasn’t really needed.
Bayley – Banks: The inevitable match between Sasha Banks and Bayley (presumably at WM) should be presented as a heel Banks vs. a babyface Bayley. I’m not sure at this point that that is what WWE actually has in mind. While I liked what Bayley did last week, I may have been short-sighted in my praise. Corey Graves is the one defending her because he has a history of hating Banks. But, he’s the heel commentator. By not giving Bayley a chance to finish her interview and explain her actions, WWE left the fans hearing her hint at the fact that what Banks did was okay since it was every woman for herself in the Rumble and Chamber matches. So that makes Banks look more like a babyface and herself more like a heel. The best part of the segment was Paige’s promo. The match was okay at best. I don’t mind Banks making the save to drag out the storyline more. But, Bayley came across like a jerk and she is the opposite of a jerk. WWE did so much damage to Bayley last year and I’m worried this is going to make it worse.
Elias – Strowman: I continue to hate the “words on the screen” promos. I continue to hate the selfie promos, especially from a wrestler like Braun Strowman where it really goes against his character. I’m over the super feats of strength from Strowman, so I wasn’t impressed when he was able to stop Elias’ car from speeding off. I didn’t buy into the fact that Strowman would happen to be there waiting just in case Elias tried to get away. That was not believable to me. The “match” that followed was okay, but still falls into that same issue that I had last week which is that WWE isn’t doing a good job of following up on Strowman’s dominating performance in the Elimination Chamber. The quicker they get him away from Elias and onto something more meaningful heading into WM, the better.
The Mizzies: This was so boring. I seldom find The Miz boring, but I did here. I kept waiting for either Seth Rollins or Finn Balor to interrupt. Thankfully, it eventually happened. As a heel, Miz should make the fans want to see a babyface interrupt him. But, he should do it in a way that doesn’t make them want to change the channel in the mean time. He normally succeeds doing that, but not here. The mic work from Rollins and Balor was okay, but not particularly good either. The match that followed was fine. The interplay between Rollins and Balor as partners who don’t like each other and are trying to one up each other worked well. It all led up to Angle making the expected triple threat match for the Intercontinental Championship at WM which was fine. But, the Mizie Awards themselves were a definite Miss.
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.