Opening Segment – HIT: When fans talk about wanting a return to the Attitude Era, I never know what aspect of that era they are referring to. One of the aspects was unpredictability, the idea that anything could happen on Monday Night Raw. This opening had that feeling with the show starting off with a brawl in the back between Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley. That made the show feel unscripted, because the brawl had clearly started before the show came on. Once the dust settled, we had John Cena come out to give a promo about being in the Royal Rumble which was ok. Drew McIntyre came out to interrupt and was very good in his response. I was glad that this wasn’t a set up for Cena vs. McIntyre which could be a WrestleMania match. Then we had more interruptions from Lio Rush and Lashley and then the fight which included Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Finn Balor which set up the opening six man tag match.
Lashley & Ambrose & McIntyre vs. Rollins & Balor & Cena – HIT: That opening six man tag match was very good and lasted for 23 minutes. When you add that to the long opening segment, plus the follow up with Rollins and Triple H, Raw was certainly going strong for a very long stretch at the start. This had a lot of star power and was fun to watch from start to finish. It set up the main event with Rollins convincing Triple H afterwards that he deserved a shot at Ambrose’s Intercontinental Championship. It also furthered the budding Rollins vs. Lashley feud which will be continued going forward. It also further hinted at Cena vs. McIntyre which should be a big PPV match. Maybe Balor comes out of all this as the next challenger for the IC Title?
Mean Gene Tribute Video – HIT: The tribute video that WWE put together for Mean Gena Okerlund was very well done. It was touching. It was a nice trip down memory lane for long time fans who have fond memories of Okerlund being a big part of the AWA, WWF and WCW in the 80s and 90s. Mean Gene was a big part of those promotions and it was nice that WWE gave him a bigger tribute than just a picture and a 10 bell salute.
Hulk Hogan – MISS: The Mean Gene tribute did not have to have Hulk Hogan as part of it other than clips of him in the video which certainly had to be included. But, Hogan didn’t. For him to come out and say he was in character as that’s what Mean Gena would have wanted didn’t ring true. It sounded like corporate speak to show that this was the character of Hulk Hogan who is somehow separate from the man Terry Bollea who said such reprehensible things about black people. This felt like WWE using Okerlund’s death as a way to slip Hogan back on WWE tv in an “acceptable” manner. But, I don’t believe it was acceptable. And the sad thing is that Hogan was very good here. He was entertaining in a respectable way. He came across in a genuine manner. It did make sense to have him as part of the tribute. But, I can’t look past his past. I have seen a lot of people say that Hogan didn’t make it about himself, which I agree with to a point, but then why did the segment end with his music?
Roode & Gabel vs. The Revival – MISS: I hate to give this match a Miss as the four wrestlers involved in the match gave good performances. This had Hit worthy wrestling action, but is a Miss for the booking. The Revival shouldn’t be heels just because they want to bring dignity back to the tag team division. They shouldn’t be heels for complaining about getting screwed by poor refereeing in back to back Tag Team Championship matches. I didn’t understand why a mistake by a referee last week meant that the rematch had to be a Lumberjack Match this week. There was a disconnect there. Then the match with good action ended with another lame mistake from the ref. The storyline here ruined the match.
Corbin vs. Elias – MISS: Babyface Elias isn’t clicking as much as heel Elias had. Baron Corbin continues to be decent at best in both his mic and in ring work. I’m not sure why he’s still wrestling in dress pants and a dress shirt. Is that part of his character where he is in denial about being fired as the General Manager? If so, then that story hasn’t been told. The match wasn’t bad, but it was far from good. Both of these guys need to be in the ring with better workers as they aren’t going to elevate each other. Corbin looks slick on the spot where he’s thrown towards the turnbuckle and then slides under the ropes and comes back in the other side to clothesline his opponent. But, his opponent always looks stupid for not watching him go into the turnbuckle. Elias never turns his back when he throws a different opponent into the turnbuckle like he does when he throws Corbin. This is why I am against a wrestler having a regular spot that is based on defense. It forces their opponent to do something that they never do against any other wrestler.
Strowman – Lesnar – MISS: The second hour of Raw wasn’t nearly as good as the first hour. This was strange. The concept was ok with Braun Strowman coming out to call out Brock Lesnar who had been advertised for a face-to-face confrontation, only to have Paul Heyman say no with Lesnar gloating in the back, only to have Strowman say something to get Lesnar to come out and tease a fight, only to have him walk away in a heelish manner. It could have been good, but the execution was off. Strowman wasn’t good on the mic. Heyman was ok, but not as good as usual. The timing with Strowman’s lines and Heyman and Lesnar’s reactions was off. It was like Heyman and Lesnar were pre-taped and Strowman was trying to time his lines to fit in with the recording. That can’t be the case, can it? It felt that way. It was so awkward. And then Strowman didn’t actually have a good line to get Lesnar to go out to the ring. And if he was so set to get his hands on Lesnar, why didn’t he attack him when he was slowly walking around the ring?
Moment of Bliss – HIT: I like the idea of having Alexa Bliss host a talk show while she’s still injured. It was good to have it on the stage instead of the ring to set it apart from MizTV and other similar shows. Bliss did a nice job as the host. Ronda Rousey was ok here. She was better than she’s been at times on the mic, but still not great. I like the idea of her picking someone whom she wants to face and I’m fine with that choice being Sasha Banks, but the scripting of it wasn’t great. Nia Jax’s interruption worked well. She’s doing a good job with her heel character which has been problematic in the past. It also set up the #1 contenders mach of Jax vs. Banks.
Jax vs. Banks – HIT: There was a very sloppy spot at the end of this match with the weird hurricanrana on the ring apron. I’m not sure exactly how that was supposed to look or who was at fault, but I’m sure it wasn’t supposed to look like that. Otherwise, this was a good match. It went 14 minutes and had good wrestling action for most of it. Bayley and Tamina’s role at ringside worked well to add to the match, without distracting from it. Banks vs. Rousey is an intriguing match for The Royal Rumble and has a chance to be great.
Ambrose vs. Rollins – HIT: This was the type of match in terms of intensity and physicality that Ambrose and Rollins should have had at TLC in order to avoid the “This is Boring!” chant. It was predictable that Lashley would cost Rollins the win. Everyone saw that coming. But, the match was good before that and the attack by Lashley was well done. Lashley showed good fire and anger in his attack on Rollins. That was the most comfortable and in character he’s looked since his return to WWE last year. This allows WWE to move on from Rollins vs. Ambrose for at least awhile before going back to it at some point.
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 12/31: Ziggler vs. McIntyre in a cage, Seth-Triple H-Shane, Apollo Crews, Rousey & Natalya vs. Jax & Tamina