SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Bruno Sammartino Tribute: WWE started off Raw with a very nice tribute to Bruno Sammartino who passed away last week. In addition to the 10 bell salute with the entire roster on the stage, they had a rather long video highlighting his life and career. It was nicely done and a classy way to start off Raw this week. And they continued to pay tribute to him with tweets from wrestlers and celebrities throughout the show.
Elias vs. Roode: This was a good match. I was surprised that they gave the win to Elias over Bobby Roode who has just come over from Smackdown as part of the Superstar Shakeup. But, I am higher on Elias as an act right now than the one note Glorious Bobby Roode. So, I am ok with the ending. I assume it sets up Roode to get a win back next week which is part of WWE’s stupid 50-50 booking. Roode is so miscast as a babyface and Elias could be a strong babyface. So, perhaps this feud could turn them both and be a boon to both of their careers.
The Miztourage: I enjoyed watching Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel trying to join up with Seth Rollins as part of a new Shield and then Finn Balor as part of a new Balor Club. These were fun scenes which played into all six of their personalities well. They set up their tag match which was fun. I was hoping to see something more between Rollins and Balor in terms of setting up their Intercontinental Title ladder match for Saudi Arabia. But, I am curious to see more from the Miztourage without The Miz and to see where WWE goes with them.
Drew McIntyre: After Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre vs. Titus Worldwide, Ziggler did some yelling and then McIntyre cut a very good promo. He was a strong babyface in NXT, but he certainly can be a strong heel on Raw and so far he is off to a good start. Unfortunately, right after he cut this promo, Ziggler got the mic again and started yelling. Then he gave that terrible line about not stealing the show because they are the show. I hope that The Show is not the name of their team. That’s terrible. The line is also far too reminiscent of the iconic “I am the Game” interview with Triple H and the much more recent “we don’t just set the bar… We are the Bar!” line. As I feared last week, Ziggler looks like he is going to bring McIntyre down.
Strowman & Lashley vs. Owens & Zayn: Braun Strowman running over Kevin Owens on the outside of the ring towards the end of the match was perhaps my favorite WWE moment so far in 2018. That was great from both Strowman and Owens. I don’t see a future in Strowman and Bobby Lashley as a team. They are too similar and too valuable as singles acts. But, an occasional tag match like this works fine. They both performed well in this match. So did Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Of course, Zayn and Owens should be pushed as top heels on Raw. I’m not sure who the top heel is supposed to be. So, they shouldn’t do too many jobs like this. Also, Lashley at some point needs to talk. They need to do a better job of reintroducing him to the WWE audience and help him connect beyond his athleticism. So, hopefully that comes soon.
A Moment of Bliss: Alexa Bliss was great in her faux public service announcement denouncing the so called bullying by Nia Jax. Her story about Jax stealing food from an old homeless woman was hilarious. Her fake sadness and shame at not stepping in and doing something at the time was also great. It makes you want to see Jax get her hands on Bliss, even though she won the Championship at WrestleMania.
Natalya, James, Rousey: Raw had a strong ending after a lackluster main event (more later). I liked the nastiness that Mickie James showed towards Natalya at the end of the match taking advantage of her injured leg. This was a great heel move for James and it worked nicely as a set up Rounda Rousey coming to Natalya’s aid. Their friendship was well established last week, so this made sense. I assumed it would quickly lead to Natalya turning on Rousey and setting up Rousey’s first singles match. That still may happen, but if WWE doesn’t think she’s quite ready for a singles match on a big stage yet, a tag match with her and Natalya against James & Bliss might work.
Heyman, Lesnar, and Reigns: This didn’t do anything for me. Paul Heyman did the best that he could under poor circumstances to try to position Brock Lesnar as a heel and make the fans want to see Roman Reigns defeat him for the Universal Title. The problem is that the feud isn’t working, so his promo didn’t work. It sounded exactly like every promo that he cut leading up to their match at WrestleMania. There wasn’t anything new. They are giving a Title match to Reigns that he didn’t earn. This is not a match that I have interest in seeing at this point, even in a steel cage. Reigns wasn’t any better. He has been so uninspired since WM. I don’t really know where WWE is going with this, and I don’t care that much at this point which is the problem.
The Sami & Kevin Show: I wanted to like this. I really did. I am a huge fan of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn and have enjoyed their heel antics as of late, even when they aren’t part of a strong storyline. The idea that they would have a talk show together was appealing. But, this didn’t work. I hope it will work in the future. Here, most of the jokes fell flat. It was far from their best work. They did have a few good lines and Kurt Angle was ok, but he didn’t do much to elevate the segment either. I did appreciate how he hyped the Greatest Royal Rumble by listing several wrestlers like Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho who have strong reasons to want to beat up Owens and Zayn and would be in the match with them. It also gave Angle a chance to announce the Owens & Zayn vs. Lashley & Strowman match. But, otherwise it was disappointing.
Mahal vs. Gable: Let me start by saying that I enjoyed the set up for this match. Jindar Mahal was actually good in making fun of Chad Gable. The line where he got him confused with the 10 year old Nikolas from WM was great. This is a better character (along with his entitled to a limousine bit from last week), than the generic anti-America gimmick he’s had. I’d go away from that and more towards this presentation. And both Mahal and Gable performed well in their match. That is a lot of praise for a Miss. I will call it a minor Miss due to how the match was booked. It wasn’t the effort from the wrestlers. It was the fact that it was basically a 9 minute squash match with a sudden surprise victory for Gable in the end. It was so predictable. WWE wouldn’t have Mahal dominate a match for 9 minutes like that and get the win. Strong wins like that only last maybe 4 minutes. If Gable had gotten in more offense throughout the match, even with Mahal controlling the majority of it, it would have been better. Or make the match shorter. WWE telegraphs the ending of their matches like this when they follow the same formulas over and over again. The wrestler who dominates most of the match like this always gets the loss.
No Way Jose: No Way Jose is being presented by WWE as the new Adam Rose. That is a bad thing. I can understand Michael Cole and Corey Graves being shocked when Booker T pointed it out. I can only imagine Vince McMahon’s head exploding. But, Booker was right. From a “best for business” stand point, he shouldn’t have said it. But, I liked that he did as it was what a lot of fans including me were thinking. I particularly liked how Cole and Graves’ defense of Jose over Rose is that this is a conga line without a bunny. Jose deserves better than this. He can be a fun character, without the conga line, who has fun (without Cole reminding the audience that he just likes to have fun), while also being serious when he needs to be. He got serious at times in NXT and it worked fine. The scripting with Baron Corbin refusing to wrestle Jose only to attack him later was fine. But, it points to a bigger issue which I keep harping on. When you switch several wrestlers like Corbin from Smackdown to Raw at the same time as you call up several wrestlers like Jose from NXT, then you get situations where Corbin and Jose both need to be established on Raw, but they can’t do that well when they are facing off against each other.
Main Event: I like the idea of having the 10 woman tag match as the main event, but it didn’t deliver. The women’s division on Raw isn’t that strong right now. The five heels in this match were Bliss, Mickie James and the three members of The Riott Squad. Bliss is great on the mic and solid in the ring, but not a great worker. Mickie James is great all around, but is being used as an enhancement talent at this point in her career. The Riott Squad are not good. Ruby Riott is the best of the trio, but none of them were ready to be called up when they were last year, and I don’t see that they’ve improved much since then. On the babyface side, Jax is good all around, but like Bliss, she isn’t great in the ring. Bayley and Sasha Banks are great in the ring, but have been stuck in a terrible storyline for months now. Natalya is a good worker and all around performer, but suited more as a heel than a babyface. Ember Moon has potential to have a great run on the main roster. So, while there is a lot of talent here, much of it isn’t being well utilized at that moment. And the match was flat and boring. It wasn’t anything special, and it wasn’t fun to watch. Even the big spot at the end with Jax jumping off the ring apron through the other women felt forced. The ones in the back like Bayley barely took any impact from it, yet they had to lay there and sell it for the rest of the show as if they were knocked out. The end of the show was strong, but it followed a disappointing main event.
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 4/16: Miz TV, Superstar Shake-up, Rousey-Natalya, Moon vs. Mickie, Riott Squad, The Bar, McIntyre, Joe-Reigns