Braun Strowman – MISS: If WWE knew all along that Braun Strowman wasn’t going to be able to wrestle Brock Lesnar at The Royal Rumble, then they handled this situation terribly. If they just found out that he wouldn’t be cleared like they originally thought, then they handled this terribly. This was a horrible way to go about getting Strowman out of the Universal Title match at the Rumble. Strowman’s performance wasn’t good. Baron Corbin was part of why ratings have been down, so why is he all over the show including here? Elias’ song to point out that Corbin was hiding in the limo was odd. Strowman partially destroying the limo was ok, but having the unstoppable monster stopped by Vince McMahon sends the signal that wrestlers are secondary to authority figures, which is not a fresh new start. The stunt with him tipping over the limo was not believable and made worse by the cheesy way it was produced with like 5 camera angles. After being a monster for so long, he then simply walked out of the building under a small escort of security guards? They castrated Strowman on this episode. Why not have Corbin re-injure him? That puts more heat on Corbin and would have been far better to get him out of the Title shot.
Rousey – Banks – HIT: This is a marginal Hit. I don’t like when wrestlers who are set to face in a big Title match at the next PPV team up on Raw or Smackdown. I guess the idea is that Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks have too much respect for each other so they needed a set up a personal issue between them beyond champion vs. challenger. The match itself with them against Nia Jax & Tamina was pretty good. Rousey wasn’t in the match much which is ok. Banks forcing the tap out made sense to give her momentum. The interview that turned into a bickering session afterwards wasn’t as good. It made Banks look like a heel as she was over reacting to everything that Rousey said. Rousey came across better. Part of why this is a Hit is giving WWE the benefit of the doubt that they want to position Banks as the heel in this match and if that is the case, then this was better. If not, then they didn’t do a good job. I will see what happens next week.
Match Cutaway – MISS: I hated when WWE cut away from a match to show a movie commercial. I also hated it when they cut away from another match to show Dasha Fuentes waiting outside Vince McMahon’s office with a bunch of losers to see who might be named Strowman’s replacement for the Universal Title match. This sends the signal to all the fans watching that the matches don’t really matter. Why should I invest in any match from now on when WWE might not even show the whole thing? And the scene itself was bad with these losers expecting to get a title shot. Give me a break. I can’t even comment on The Revival vs. Lucha House Party because I was so taken out of the moment by this stupid interruption.
McMahon’s Announcement – HIT: Another marginal Hit. I’m not a fan of segments where several wrestlers come out to make their case for being the #1 contender to an authority figure leading to the authority figure making a multi-person match. It is formulaic and lazy. I always wonder why others don’t come out, but it was especially true here. Where were all those guys waiting outside McMahon’s office earlier in the show? I did appreciate later on when Jindar Mahal had a plausible excuse why he hadn’t come out, but what about the B-Team or EC3? I am giving it a marginal Hit for the performances themselves. The mic work from John Cena and Drew McIntyre was particularly strong. Corbin and Finn Balor were also good. I would not have had Corbin in the match as he shouldn’t be featured nearly as much as he was. He isn’t good enough to be in so many segments on the show. But, this set up a huge main event and put the focus on Balor as the underdog which would play out for the rest of the show.
Riott Squad vs. Natalya, Bayley, Cross – HIT: I like the idea that the new NXT call ups will be featured on both Raw and Smackdown for a few weeks before being assigned to a roster. Ultimately, Nikki Cross should be on Smackdown with Sanity. She could really help that group out as she was the most interesting one when they were all in NXT together. But for now, this was a good way to introduce her to the larger audience as part of a team with Natalya and Bayley against The Riott Squad. It was a good match. Cross got a chance to show off her personality and her skill in the ring. This was well done.
Balor vs. Mahal – HIT: This continued the storyline of building up Balor as the major underdog in the main event. Nobody would buy Mahal as a threat to Balor in this match to possibly take his place in the main event, so the pre-match attack worked well to put Balor at an instantaneous disadvantage. The match itself was solid to good with Balor fighting back despite the pre-match attack to win and keep himself in the #1 contender match.
Ambrose vs. Rollins vs. Lashley – HIT: Another marginal Hit. There was enough good in this Intercontinental Title triple threat match to overcome the bad, but not by much. The no DQ part of the triple threat matches makes no sense. Why not say that if a wrestler gets DQd, that wrestler is eliminated and it becomes a singles match? The constant interference from Lio Rush got ridiculous here. I didn’t like how Seth Rollins barely sold a HUGE spine buster from Bobby Lashley early in the match. Then later, he no sold a doomsday device. I know he was supposed to land on his feet to explain why he wasn’t hurt, but he didn’t. That looked bad. I also didn’t like seeing Rollins working with Dean Ambrose. That went away from their storyline and the promo from Rollins where he reminded us all that Ambrose was a terrible person because of what he did in light of Roman Reigns’ announcement about having leukemia.
Okay, that is a lot of negativity for this Hit. But, I did like the promos before the match hyping it. Ambrose, Rush on behalf of Lashley and Rollins all gave good performances in those promos. They built up the match well and made it feel important and serious. Other than what I talked about above, the match itself was good. It had those flaws, but had a lot of good wrestling action throughout. I assumed Ambrose would win, so the Lashley win was a surprise to me. I am a bigger fan of Lashley now than I’ve been at any other time since his WWE return. He is playing the heel character great and Rush’s more serious promos have been great so far. I like the win for him to become the new IC Champion. In the end, that won me over to get past those problems.
Moment of Bliss – MISS: After the announcement that the Women’s Tag Team Titles would be awarded to the winner of a six team Elimination Chamber match, the Moment of Bliss went downhill. The interaction between Alexa Bliss and Paul Hayman wasn’t good. Heyman was not as good as he usually is on the mic. It felt uninspired.Then we got the interruption from Otis Dozovic from Heavy Machinery which was very bad. I don’t remember him being a babbling incoherent weirdo like this in NXT. Did I miss something? Seriously, was he that incoherent in NXT? He wasn’t a fully functioning adult human being in this segment. Then after he left, the segment just ended abruptly. It was odd and bad.
Main Event – HIT: It was a mistake to have this fatal four-way on the same show as the triple threat IC Title match. They were too similar with the silly no DQ stipulations and the announcers constantly reminding us that the “cheating” was ok because it was no DQ. But again, it was a good main event. It was fun to watch from start to finish. The way that Balor had been set up throughout the show made him the predictable winner. Plus, he made the most sense to face Lesnar next. So, it was the right way to go even if it was predictable. Even though I suspect he will be squashed by Brock Lesnar, I am looking forward to this match more than I was Lesnar vs. Strowman. The endorsement from John Cena after the match was a nice touch too.
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.