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Shield Good Bye – HIT: WWE had a choice to make knowing that Dean Ambrose was leaving after his contract expires in April. They decided to get one more match with The Shield having a feel good moment as a team at Fastlane and then move on to something else for each of the three. We already knew that Seth Rollins would move on to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. After the opening segment, we didn’t know what they were going to do with either Roman Reigns or Ambrose, but by the end of the show we knew that they were going with Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre which is a great option. That was set up here in the opening segment when The Shield basically said goodbye to the fans as a trio. It was short and to the point and didn’t drag on or add a curveball which wasn’t needed. I also appreciated that they were still friends throughout the show, even if we aren’t going to see them as a trio in the ring together. The rest of the opening segment with Rollins talking to Paul Heyman was solid, but not quite good enough to get a Hit.
Rollins vs. Benjamin – HIT: This would have been so much better if Shelton Benjamin had gotten a series of victories on Smackdown over the past month or so. He would have seemed like more of a threat to Rollins. The storyline made sense and Heyman was good in fleshing it out on guest commentary during the match. It was a good match between two talented workers. But, it did suffer from Benjamin not being on tv in so long and not being a serious threat to anyone. So I will call this a marginal Hit.
Balor vs. Lashley – MISS: The entire Intercontinental Championship reign of Finn Balor was disappointing. I liked putting the Title on Bobby Lashley when they did. I didn’t like taking it off of him when they did, nor the way they did it when Balor got the win over Lio Rush instead of Lashley himself. That undercut his Title reign from the start. It turns out that the reign ended up being a very short one and ended in a flat way when Balor got distracted by Rush which allowed Lashley to get the better of him for the win. The match itself was decent, but not particularly good before the flat ending. Neither of these guys has something obvious set up for WM, so a rematch is possible, but do we want to see more of it?
Rousey – HIT: Ronda Rousey came across as someone who is trying to find herself as a heel. Mostly, she did a good job. She explained why she interfered to make sure Becky Lynch was added to her WM match against Charlotte Flair. She addressed the fans well in saying screw you. I did not like the lines about WWE being carny con artists. That stuff isn’t needed. The Dana Brooke interruption was odd. Like Benjamin, it would have meant more if we had actually seen more of her (not winning matches like Benjamin should have been as that would have gone against the story she told, but maybe seeing her trying to get opportunities). She did a good job with her defense of WWE and saying she was going to make her own opportunity. However, those two things contradicted each other. Why is she so hell bent on defending the company that isn’t giving her the opportunities she feels she deserves?. The physicality at the end with Rousey beating the crap out of her and slapping a referee got the segment back on track at the end.
Strowman – MISS: Braun Strowman wrestled Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title about four months ago. He was one of the top two babyfaces on Raw during Reigns’ absence. Now, he is right back to where he was awhile back just doing these big stunts showing off his inhuman strength. He is now on a path to be involved with two Saturday Night Live celebrities at WM with no apparent match. He may end up being in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, which is ok. But, it doesn’t feel big enough for him at this point. And the comedy stuff is a let down.
Elias – MISS: Elias is spinning his wheels in a big way. And he was downgraded on Raw from the PPV the night before. He went from being interrupted by Randy Orton to being interrupted by No Way Jose and his conga line. I swear we’ve seen this before. I don’t understand why Renee Young wants to hear him sing. The cheap heel heat is old. His ill-conceived babyface run last year continues to look like a mistake as now he has cooled off as a heel.
Jax vs. Natalya – MISS: The problem here is the booking. This feud got off to a fine start at the PPV with Beth Phoenix getting involved, but this was not a good way to follow up on it. First of all, I didn’t like the way that Nia Jax and Tamina came to the ring looking at Lacey Evans like she is a nobody. How is that good for a new act who hasn’t been established yet? WWE should not have had this match on this show. This was a time for more talking, less action. WWE needed to do a better job of re-introducing Phoenix to the audience. They needed to have a segment with her and Natalya talking about their friendship and getting Phoenix over with the fans before moving on to a match next week. Phoenix didn’t get a good response from the crowd. Phoenix looked bad for getting involved in the match so early on. It was like she had zero faith in Natalya’s ability to beat Jax. I like the idea of this tag match at WM, but this was a bad step. And then I didn’t like having Jax & Tamina fighting Sasha Banks & Bayley in the back afterwards. It makes me worried for a triple threat match at WM. They should have had a more clean break between those two teams after the PPV to allow them each to move on to something new at WM.
Triple H – Batista – MISS: “Give me what I want!” “No!” “Give me what I want!” “No!” “Give me what I want!” “Okay.” That sums up this bad back and forth between Triple H and Batista. They both came across as petulant children. This got off to a good start when Batista beat up Ric Flair two weeks ago. It has been downhill since then with Triple H’s over-indulgent overly insider promo last week and then this. The storyline seemed to be that Batista was going to have to do several bad things to anger Triple H enough to accept his challenge for a match at WM. But after only one thing, Triple H accepted (after that silly screaming back and forth). It was anti-climactic. Neither looked good. I didn’t want to see the match, but I at least appreciated the fact that WWE was positioning Triple H as the babyface and Batista as the heel. That made me more interested in it, but this did the opposite. And who didn’t see it being No Holds Barred? They can’t have a good wrestling match, so it had to turn into a walk and brawl. Yawn.
Angle’s Retirement Announcement – HIT: WWE isn’t going for a storyline to force Kurt Angle into retirement like I thought they would. Instead, he just announced that he will retire at WM. That’s ok. You can sell WM in part on being Angle’s retirement match. His announcement was well done. The idea that he would have one last match in his hometown of Pittsburg made sense and having it be against a friend like Apollo Crews where he can get a win without hurting someone was good. I am curious to see who gets that final match against Angle. Nothing was set up here. I’m thinking Baron Corbin.
McIntyre Attacks Reigns – HIT: I didn’t need to see Reigns vs. Corbin on this episode of Raw. So, the bait-and-switch was fine with me. The attack from McIntyre was very well done and was better than the match. McIntyre came across like a killer heel. Reigns did a nice job of selling concussion symptoms. Rollins coming out to check on him worked well. The scene after the commercial where he and Ambrose were helping him to the training room to be checked on also worked and fit in with what we saw at the start of the show. Ambrose played his part well in demanding a falls count anywhere match against McIntyre right then and there. This sets up Reigns vs. McIntyre at WM in what should be a very good match which definitely feels WM worthy and something good for both wrestlers.
Ambrose vs. McIntyre – HIT: The match ended up being a very good main event brawl. McIntyre and Ambrose were physical and intense in their fight all over the arena. McIntyre grew more sadistic as the match progressed to the end when they were fighting on the announce table. Ambrose got in a lot of offense early and looked good for most of the match, but in the end it was McIntyre who dominated. He looked like the baddest man in the company in his victory. It should make the fans want to see Reigns getting revenge for this Shield brother at WM. This was all very well done. I am just curious about Ambrose’s future. This could have been a way to write him off. There is no guarantee he gets a WM match.
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.