SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The Miz – HIT: The Miz has always been a heel. Even when he was recently in a babyface tag team with Shane McMahon, you didn’t really trust him. You didn’t really believe him. What was his angle? I assumed he was manipulating Shane to get what he wanted. I didn’t believe the things he said about his father. Plus as I mentioned multiple times here, I continued to root for The Usos over Miz & Shane because of their cool factor. So he was a babyface, but came across as a heel. So, this was the first time I truly saw him as a face, and it worked. He gave a good performance. The storyline is backwards with Shane challenging Miz instead of the other way around, but once you get past that, you get to Miz accepting the challenge in a strong way. I’m not looking forward to the match, because I don’t look forward to any of Shane’s matches. But, this was still a strong promo.
Banks & Bayley vs. IIconics – MISS: This was not a good match. Bayley and Sasha Banks were off on the beginning when trying to do a double team move. It looked like it was their fault. Billy Kay and Payton Royce are decent workers, but not that good. They are good enough to put on better performances and be elevated to a good match with talent like Banks and Bayley. But, that didn’t happen here. Also, this sets them up to be added to the triple threat Women’s Title match at WrestleMania making it a fatal four way. That doesn’t get me excited.
The KO Show – HIT: This is a minor Hit. I’m not sure that this is the best role for a babyface Kevin Owens, but at least he came across as likable here. The way he read the various quotes that Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Ronda Rousey about each other was a different way to go than having him ask them questions to rehash things we’ve already heard. Having Owens talk for them was ok in that way and then you got to the physicality between them which worked pretty well. But, the focus should be on Ronda, you know, the actual Women’s Champion.
Daniel Bryan Promo – HIT: Daniel Bryan gave a good heel promo on Kofi Kingston bringing up his own past by bringing in the idea that Kingston is a B+ player. It worked well to get heat on Bryan while making the fans excited to see Kingston win the Gauntlet match. The problem is that there hasn’t been enough heat on Bryan as the villain in this storyline, because the real heel is Vince McMahon.
Gauntlet – MISS: This was not nearly as good as the Gauntlet from last month which launched KofiMania. In that case, you didn’t know how long Kofi was going to last in the match. Here, you knew he would at least get to the final match. There was no drama in the first four matches. There was some good wrestling in Kofi vs. Sheamus and Kofi vs. Cesaro, but it didn’t matter. The idea that the evil genius Bryan would have Rowan purposefully get disqualified so he can hurt Kofi more made no sense. Just have Rowan beat him and then the gauntlet is over. This hurt Samoa Joe, the United States Champion who has lost matches on back to back weeks. He doesn’t look like a strong Champion when he loses (even on a roll up) to a man who had been wrestling for 40+ minutes at that point and had been destroyed by Rowan.
I loved that the wrestlers in the back were all gathered around watching and rooting for Kofi. The fact that Miz and A.J. Styles had mentioned Kofi earlier in the show in their own promos was a great touch. However, where were they to help Kofi? The announcers were clear that New Day had been banned from ringside. They didn’t say everyone was banned. Shouldn’t one of those babyfaces, particularly Mustafa Ali, have come out to help Kofi after Rowan was DQ’d? The next part of the gauntlet hadn’t started and Rowan had already lost. So, why didn’t someone come out to stop Rowan’s attack? Why didn’t Rey Mysterio come out to attack Joe after he lost and was still beating on Kofi? When they finally got to the Randy Orton “final” segment, they had Kofi win on another roll up, but this time Orton’s shoulders were clearly not down. That looked bad.
Then we get to Vince McMahon’s appearance where he added a sixth wrestler, Bryan, to the Gauntlet after it seemed like Kofi had earned the WWE Title match at WM. As I said after Vince took Kofi out of the Title match at Fastlane, why would fans get excited about any apparent hopeful moment for Kofi when Vince can just take it away again? That’s what happened here. Why should fans get excited next week about another chance for Kofi (and why give him another one?). Once the match happens, will fans actually pop for Kofi winning the WWE Title or will they expect Vince to come out and reverse the decision? They are doing so much damage to the product with this overly convoluted storyline with the terrible use of the evil authority figure. Another problem here is that with only two weeks left before WM, there isn’t a challenger for the WWE Championship. At some point, the announcers should be questioning who will face Bryan for the Title if not Kofi? This is so bad. By continuing to delay Kofi actually getting the Title shot, they are delaying actually putting a focus on the match itself. As I said before, the heat is on Vince, not Bryan. When are they going to actually focus on Kofi vs. Bryan?
The other issue is that by taking up more than half of the show building towards a match that isn’t happening (as of now), they didn’t do much to hype most of the other matches. The Styles interview was fine, but that was all we got for the hype of his match against Orton. Where was Asuka? They didn’t have time to build her storyline with Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. That’s another presumed match that hasn’t actually been announced, but didn’t get any development this week. They had a brief mention from Mysterio that he will face Joe for the US Title, but their storyline really just started last week with Mysterio getting the pin on Joe in a tag match. They aren’t doing much at all to build to that WM US Title match. They still haven’t announced a Tag Team Title match either. The Raw Tag Team Championship doesn’t deserve to be on WM at this point. I would have the Raw Tag Teams in the Andre the Giants battle royal. But, Smackdown’s tag division is strong. The Usos should have a Title match. Where was that story? There were just too many problems with the Gauntlet.
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.