SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Roman Reigns – HIT: Obviously Roman Reigns being in remission is a Hit. The way that WWE handled it could have been better, but over all it was also a Hit. I will just focus on the positive of how Reigns started the show and addressed the fans. He looked good. He sounded good. What I hope is that he takes this moment and builds on it to continue getting these great positive reactions. By that I mean that one of the criticisms against Reigns as a babyface was that he didn’t let the fans in with him on his journey. This real life scare led him to let them into his real life, so hopefully he will let them into his fake character going forward. Keep saying stuff like “this is OUR yard!” It will be interesting to see what they do with him at WrestleMania.
Ricochet & Black vs. The Revival – MISS: Why are Ricochet at Aleister Black a team? They don’t go together at all, and Black in particular comes across like a loner, that they don’t make sense as a team. Having The Revival lose again make them terrible Tag Team Champions. The effort in this match was strong, but it felt like the first half of what could have been a very good match. Plus, half the match was on the commercial break, so there just wasn’t enough to be seen on tv.
Lacey Evans – MISS: I don’t get what WWE is doing with Lacey Evans. She comes out once a show, interrupts something, walks around, doesn’t say anything, and then leaves. What’s the point? She is a heel (I think). So why does Renee Young yell so enthusiastically how excited she is to see someone so classy on the show? Did she not get the memo that Evans is a heel? Or are we supposed to like her for some reason? If so, they haven’t actually given us a reason to like her. The bit that followed her interrupting Elias with Dean Ambrose interrupting him also was weird. It was amusing at times, so I won’t give it a Miss, but it wasn’t a Hit either.
The Man – HIT: Ronda Rousey & Natalya vs. Riott Squad was a solid match before Becky Lynch showed up to interrupt. I don’t like this storyline, but she is playing her part well. This Hit is mostly just for her telling the cops to be careful with her hands as they were putting handcuffs on her because she will need them to hold up the Women’s Title at WrestleMania.
Ronda and Stephanie – MISS: WWE got to where they wanted to get with the fans chanting “Triple Threat!” wanting to see Becky added back into the Raw Women’s Title match at WM against Rousey and Charlotte Flair. It didn’t sound like a huge chant, but it was there. But, I can’t get excited for it. Stephanie McMahon’s character is all over the place. She was reasonable in the previous weeks, and it was her dad who took Becky out of the match. Here, she was acting more like her old heel self. I liked the fire that Rousey showed in demanding that the McMahons reinstate Becky for WM, but her delivery was rough. At some point, WWE has to realize that scripting her isn’t working. She has trouble remembering her lines and it causes her to stumble when trying to get them out. She would be so much better with bullet points, so she doesn’t have to worry about getting the words 100% right which leads to these awkward moments on the mic. I liked how she stood up to Stephanie and remained the Alpha in the situation. This should have been a Hit. But, the weird way she left the Title in the ring didn’t work for me. Does she want Becky reinstated because she wants to face the best competition like she told Stephanie? Or is it because she wants revenge on Becky for the crutch attacks which is what set her off here in the first place? Despite the positives, it was too much of a mess in the end.
Angle vs. Mahal – HIT: At this point, I’ve given up on WWE saving Kurt Angle for something important. If they do want to use him for a big moment, then having him winning his matches makes sense. So having him beat Jinder Mahal in a strong way like they did here is a good idea. It doesn’t make sense to have unannounced Angle matches, but he usually loses them, so the fact that he won this one makes it a Hit.
Moment of Bliss – MISS: So, is Alexa Bliss a babyface or a heel? At times, she seems like both. She was a heel in her remarks about Rousey. She was flirting with a babyface Finn Balor, but I’m not sure what to make of that. She made another unnecessary sexual innuendo. She was a babyface in the way she made fun of Lio Rush. She was all over the place. She is a great heel, but she can be a great babyface too. She needs to pick a lane and stick to it, and stop doing the sexual stuff. The interaction between Balor and Rush was ok, but how did Bliss have the power to make their match happen right now?
Balor vs. Rush – HIT: This would have been better if Rush had been treated like a more talented wrestling on Raw. He is treated better on 205Live, but on Raw he is just a guy who is great at avoiding his opponents. So, this didn’t make the Intercontinental Champion looking strong in how much trouble he had in defeating Rush. However, it was a good match. These are two talented workers who a decent amount of time for a match and delivered well. I wish it had happened under other circumstances, but it was a Hit for the effort from Balor and Rush.
Strowman vs. Lashley – MISS: WWE keeps booking matches where they don’t want one wrestler to lose. Usually, they have the match with a gimmicky ending. In this case, they didn’t have the match at all. They don’t have a good track record lately when it comes to not delivering promised matches. Here, they didn’t deliver a promised match. Instead of doing lame things like this, don’t book the match in the first place.
Ambrose vs. McIntyre – HIT: This was a good, intense, hard hitting no DQ match with Ambrose getting a rematch against Drew McIntyre. Unlike last week, this was a competitive match which helps Ambrose. As I wrote about last week, Ambrose still needs to be kept strong on the way out of the company, so that he means more to the person who beats him to send him away for good. He lost here, but only after Elias got involved. Of course, that is another example of WWE booking a match where they had to have a gimmicky ending because they had to have one wrestler win while protecting the other. The post-match attack with Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley getting involved leading to Reigns and Seth Rollins making the save worked well. It let Reigns get physical without asking him to do too much. I also was intrigued by the way that they left the injured Ambrose in the ring at that point. Where do they go from here? I am looking forward to finding out.
Bayley vs. Jax – MISS: Here is another match that WWE should not have booked. The first Women’s Tag Team Champion, Bayley has to be kept strong. One of her and Sasha Banks’ first challengers, Nia Jax should be kept strong going into the Title match. The announcers even said that if Jax hadn’t eliminated herself from the Elimination Chamber, she and Tamina would have easily won in the end. So, I was fully expecting a cop out finish here. Instead, Bayley won relatively easily. I guess I should take that. But, that totally undid the strong words from the announcers painting Jax as this unstoppable threat to the Tag Champs.
Flair’s Birthday Party – HIT: I have ZERO interest in seeing Batista vs. Triple H. I like seeing Batista back. I would like to see him in a program with a full time wrestler. I don’t like using legacy stars against each other like this. I don’t want to see Triple H wrestle anyone to be fully honest. But, I did like the segment. They made Ric Flair’s birthday seem like a big deal throughout the show. The special guests Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Ricky Steamboat and Sting were a nice touch. Batista showing up to ruin things was a true surprise. I really did not see that coming. Batista was great in his role. It ended the show on a nice cliffhanger. My only problem is that there was an entire roster of wrestlers on the top of the ramp to celebrate with Flair, but when they saw Batista show up and start dragging Flair through the backstage area, none of them went to stop him. They waited and let Triple H do it all the way from the ring. I know there has been criticism of WWE for not having Flair appear before the live audience, but I’m not covering the live experience. I’m covering the tv experience and this worked overall.
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.