Shane Opens the Show – MISS: This is a marginal Miss. The script was good for Shane McMahon explaining why he turned on The Miz after their loss to The Usos at Fastlane. But, I wasn’t buying into Shane as a heel. He wasn’t believable. The heel persona fit Vince McMahon like a glove when he did it for the first time 20+ years ago. This performance felt forced. Also, I am so over the heel authority figures. I guess Shane isn’t playing up being an authority figure as much right now, but he still is. It is like we always have to have at least 2 evil McMahons and since Triple H and Stephanie are babyfaces now, we have to have a heel Shane to balance it out.
Eight-Man Tag – HIT: I am concerned that we are heading for a multi-man Smackdown Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania and this 8 man tag with The New Day coming in at the end featured five potential opponents for the Usos. I would rather see a strong two-on-two Tag Title match, but that isn’t likely to happen. The wrestling action was good here. The tag team division on Smackdown is strong with the four teams in the match, New Day and the Usos and that skill was on display in the match. I wish the referee had thrown the match out during the 8 way brawl for losing control of the match before New Day came out. But, otherwise this was well done and played into the New Day’s storyline of frustration.
Usos – HIT: The Usos continue to be cooler than everyone on the Smackdown roster. I really enjoy these promos from them. It was fun hearing them run down each of their possible challengers for their Tag Team Titles. Again, it points to the strong possibility of a six team match at WM which I don’t like. But, I enjoyed the promo.
Orton – Styles – HIT: This was a great segment. Randy Orton and AJ Styles were both very good here. The scripting worked. It clearly explained why Orton has a problem with Styles. The fact that he would be upset over the idea that Smackdown is the House that AJ Styles Built made sense. Styles was good in his come back. They got in good lines about each other with Styles pointing out how Orton had everything handed to him while he had to earn everything (a straight forward babyface vs. heel dynamic). Orton was able to poke fun at Styles while even bringing up his past in TNA and the Bullet Club. Those references are about Styles’ journey to get to WWE and fans who know him before WWE will get it. That didn’t seem like insider talk, the type we got from Triple H on Raw for instance. So it worked here.
Asuka vs. Deville – MISS: Asuka and Sonya Deville could have a good match against each other. This was just a 3 minute match to build up to Deville having a similar and predictable slip on the ring apron to what happened to Mandy Rose in her match against Asuka at the PPV. WWE is putting the focus on the heel team and not the babyface Champion. I would like to see Rose & Deville vs. Bayley & Banks. But, WWE doesn’t seem to be telling that story. Instead, they are telling the story of Rose and Deville breaking up. And they are not telling a story of a contender to face Asuka at WM (unless this is setting up a triple threat which is not great).
Lynch – Flair – MISS: The performances from Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair were strong. But, they didn’t have much to work with. The idea that Becky has been messing with Ronda Rousey as a way to trigger her to interfere in her match against Charlotte to cause a disqualification was a bit of a stretch. It also goes against her badass persona as The Man in that she didn’t plan to kick Charlotte’s ass and win the match. Instead, she planned to win via a DQ? Her line about how hard it is to mess with someone’s mind when she doesn’t have a brain was funny. But, the context of the joke was bad. Charlotte’s part was better. But, it convolutes things so much to have her involved. WWE should have a laser focus on Lynch vs. Rousey, but Flair’s involvement has muddied the waters. Listen to the reaction that Becky is getting now as opposed to the night after the Royal Rumble. She has cooled off. Her line at the end about how WWE didn’t need a queen, but needed The Man was strong, but it didn’t get the pop that it should have.
Joe & Andrade vs. Truth & Mysterio – MISS: I don’t like the idea of taking opponents in a fatal four way match and putting them together as partners. That might work for R-Truth and Rey Mysterio, but Samoa Joe should not be teaming up with anyone. That isn’t his character. He is too new of a United States Champion to be taking a loss in any match. I have been hoping for Joe vs. Cena at WM, and Mysterio vs. Andrade, but this makes me think they are going for Joe vs. Mysterio instead. That would be good, but not as good as the other two matches. Also, this is a lot of talent for only an 8 minute match half of which takes place on a commercial break.
Bryan & Rowan vs. Ali & Owens – HIT: This match also had a commercial, but at least it was 2 minutes longer to begin with. I also appreciate the fact that the WWE Champion didn’t lose the match. Rowan getting the win over Mustafa Ali made sense to give some credibility to Daniel Bryan’s muscle. It was a good tag match, but WWE has not done a good job with Kevin Owens since his return from injury. He has looked bad for taking Kofi Kingston’s place at the PPV. He didn’t actually take the loss in that match or in this tag match, but he still didn’t win the matches either. So he hasn’t looked strong upon his return. There doesn’t seem to be anything for him or Ali at WM which is disappointing.
New Day and McMahon – HIT: The show ending segment with New Day confronting Vince McMahon about his treatment of Kingston was a very strong way to end the show. This was Vince’s best performance in a long time. Each member of New Day was great on the mic. I love the idea that Big E and Xavier Woods are honest passionate advocates for their best friend. Kingston was great. The racial undertones are not comfortable. It is a little too much of reality creeping into my fake entertainment show. But otherwise, this was well done. It was interesting to hear Kofi build to asking McMahon what he needs to do. That is different than demanding the match and saying that you deserve it or that you’ve earned it. That led to the slightly awkward introduction of Orton as the first of five wrestlers whom Kofi will have to face in a gauntlet to earn his WWE Title match at WM. It felt like the segment was running long and they had to rush to play Orton’s music to move it along. But, that was a minor complaint about the otherwise good set up for a huge match next week.
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.