SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – HIT: Smackdown got off to a good start with Becky Lynch coming out to talk about her Women’s Title match against Asuka at The Royal Rumble. I particularly liked how she put Asuka over, but also questioned her drive at the same time. It was a very strong promo. Asuka came out to get in her face, but didn’t get any mic time which worked well in this case to hide her biggest downside while showing her intensity. Charlotte’s interruption was a surprise, but it worked. She was good in going over the four possible Women’s Champions who she might face at WrestleMania after she wins the Rumble on Sunday. The physicality between Becky and Asuka was a good way to end the segment.
Naomi vs. Rose – MISS: This was not a good match. The follow up to the terrible hotel room scene last week did show the intensity of the feud, but the execution wasn’t there. It was rough to watch. I also didn’t buy that one shove into the ring post would be enough to finish off Naomi. Amber Rose should have hit her finishing move at that point (whatever that is).
Miz vs. Cesaro – HIT: I am not a fan of the Miz and Shane McMahon storyline. I did enjoy the match between Miz and Cesaro. It was good and fit well into the storyline with Shane and Sheamus getting involved at ringside. The fight afterwards was pretty good, but I’m still waiting for Shane to learn how to throw some good looking worked punches. The fact that Cesaro won and that The Bar dominated the fight afterwards to leave the co-besties in a heap leads me to fear that Shane and Miz will win the Tag Team Championship at the PPV.
Mustafa Ali Video – HIT: Mustafa Ali did multiple videos like this on 205 Live and they were all good. It was nice to see him do another one that was just as good if not better than those ones now that he is on Smackdown. He can talk. He has that special something to connect him to the audience. This made me want to see him get his revenge on Samoa Joe for the attack last week even more than I did before. My only complaint is that it should have come a week before their match, not just earlier in the same show as the match. That would have built more anticipation for it.
Styles – Bryan Face Off – MISS: My biggest issue here is Vince McMahon. Why was he a heel on Raw in questioning Finn Balor’s size, but a babyface here in yelling at and getting yelled at by Daniel Bryan? It doesn’t make sense. And he wasn’t needed. I’m not even sure how WWE wants me to feel about Bryan yelling at McMahon. For most of the last 20 years, we’ve been taught that we should cheer for anti-authority wrestlers who don’t like Vince. So, why am I supposed to boo Bryan for yelling at him? His focus wasn’t so much about the environment as it was about labor vs. management/ownership. Aren’t a lot of people on Bryan’s side in thinking billionaires like McMahon do a lot of harm and horde their money when there are starving people in the world? Bryan’s intensity was good, but AJ Styles was lost in the shuffle. He did start to paint Bryan as a hypocrite, but he didn’t go nearly far enough in that direction for it to really sink in. This didn’t do anything to make me more excited to see them wrestle at the PPV.
Ali vs. Joe – HIT: I was disappointed that this match only went 8 minutes. Joe winning clean made sense as they wanted to position him as a strong candidate to win the Royal Rumble. But after the strong build up with the video package earlier, it would have been nice if Ali had lasted longer. He did get in a good amount of offense and the match was good while it lasted. So I will call this a marginal Hit for the quality of the match despite reservations about the length.
Mysterio vs. Andrade – HIT: Did Rey Mysterio find the fountain of youth during his time away from WWE? I saw him some in Lucha Underground a few years ago and it seemed like he was limited to tag matches and wasn’t doing a lot other than getting a hot tag and hitting a few of his signature spots. Maybe he was doing more in Mexico? Maybe he did more than I remember there? Either way, it seems like he’s more youthful than he was in his last run in WWE. When you look at bringing back moves like the West Coast Pop and several other new moves that he’s been doing, and it seems like he’s totally turned back the clock. That spot where he slid out of the ring and hit a sunset flip throwing Andrade into the ring barrier was awesome. Andrade was good here too. Their match last week was great. This one was hurt a bit by the 2 out of 3 falls stipulation and the fact that it didn’t have a clean ending. However, it was still great.
Orton Stands Tall – MISS: I was guessing that Randy Orton would interrupt the end of Mysterio vs. Andrade with a couple of RKOs out of nowhere. Instead it was Samoa Joe who attacked both of them and seemed to stand tall. That was a strong way to cap off a good night for him, but then Orton hit Joe with the RKO out of nowhere. That was a cool spot, but it was heel vs. heel which doesn’t work as well. They could have had Orton stand tall over Mysterio and Andrade without sacrificing the strong statement that Joe had made. He got the win over Ali, and he could have attacked some other wrestlers earlier in the show and cut the same promo. That would have left Orton to interrupt the main even to stand tall. This wasn’t that bad, but it could have been better.
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.