In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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Orton – Hardy – MISS: I wanted to like this segment. I fully expected to considering how much I have enjoyed the storyline involving Randy Orton and Edge. Last week’s angle with Matt Hardy was very good and would have been a fine way to end Hardy’s run with WWE (if he is leaving). This felt repetitive to me. It didn’t add anything to the story. Orton was more sadistic in his attack on Hardy at the end, but it wasn’t that much worse than what he did last week. It didn’t advance Orton’s explanation as to why he attacked Edge. It went on far too long. It was being dragged out. And it made the whole babyface roster seem like a bunch of assholes for not coming to Hardy’s aid. I mean, the Street Profits came out to help The Viking Raiders and Kevin Owens at the end, but they wouldn’t come out to help Hardy? The length of the segment greatly drove home this part of it. They had like 10 minutes to come out and stop Orton. Orton and Hardy played their parts well. They have been great. There was a lot to like about this, but in the end it just didn’t work well enough, especially considering the positive reaction that Orton got from a lot of the fans which couldn’t have been WWE’s goal.
Rowan vs. Black – MISS: This was a solid match, but after weeks of both Aleister Black and Erick Rowan beating jobbers, it seems like their first matches against a stronger opponent should have meant more than this. They should have had some type of encounter this week to set up their match next week. This was cold. And while I have never been a fan of Rowan’s cage, it still feels like WWE should at least give an answer to that question, but they have gone away from it.
Charlotte Flair – MISS: Considering how good Raw has been, this episode kept going with a series of segments which were disappointing. They weren’t necessarily terrible, but they weren’t as good as they should have been. Charlotte Flair gave a good performance in this promo about Rhea Ripley. There were some good lines, particularly her final line about how everyone is the next big thing until they’re not. So why am I giving this a marginal Miss? Because, Charlotte came across as a babyface to me. Nothing about this made me want to boo her or to see Ripley beat her at WrestleMania. She was a heel at Takeover: Portland the night before. It shouldn’t just be that she is a heel on NXT but a face on Raw which it felt like here.
McIntyre – MVP – HIT: We finally get to the first Hit of the show, an hour into it. Like many people, I am sick and tired of the WrestleMania sign bit, but I do have to admit to being amused by Drew McIntyre’s take on it. His promo was strong. He continues to get good reactions from the crowd. Paul Heyman was good in his interruption with the tease of Brock Lesnar and ultimately introducing MVP. MVP was good on the mic too. His pre-match attack gave him an advantage which McIntyre easily overcame to get the strong win to continue his dominance heading into WM.
Becky – Baszler – MISS: This is another marginal Miss. I was not a fan of Shayna Baszler biting Becky Lynch in the neck last week, but at least it gave a start to what will be a big Women’s Championship match at WM. I guess it makes sense that Baszler would have to earn a Title shot against Becky, but having an Elimination Chamber #1 contenders match seems like an unnecessary step in the process. It feels like a big PPV match with a clear obvious winner. The focus is going to be 100% on Lynch vs. Baszler, so why pretend like the other 5 women in the match have a chance? Seriously, why is Sara Logan even in the Chamber? She’s never won a match! But, I did like the performances here from Lynch and Baszler. I liked the bit with Lynch giving the money as a downpayment on the fine that she will get for what she will do to Baszler when she gets a chance, but it brings up the question as to why Baszler didn’t get fined for her attack on Lynch last week. Baszler did come across like a star in her onscreen interruption. But, WWE would be better off just focusing on this feud without the Elimination Chamber.
Rusev & Carillo vs. Lashley & Garza – HIT: I got a kick out of the pre-match interview with Lana insinuating that Zelina Vega and Angel Garza are a couple, only to have them talk about how they are just business partners, while Lana was gazing lovingly at Bobby Lashley, obviously not paying attention to what they were saying. While I am sick and tired of the Rusev vs. Lashley feud, I am really into the Garza vs. Humberto Carillo (with Rey Mysterio and Andrade also involved) feud, so I had mixed feelings about this match going into it. In the end, the match was fun to watch, so it was a Hit.
Natalya vs. Sane – HIT: This was a short match which was disappointing, but it was good while it lasted. The purpose of the match was to continue to build some intrigue between Natalya and The Kabuki Warriors. They are presenting it as an angle that will play out in the Elimination Chamber, but it probably is actually building towards a Tag Team Championship match at WM with The Kabuki Warriors defending against Natalya and a mystery partner. It is good to start to tease that now and start to build towards it.
Rollins’ Sermon – MISS: Like the opening segment, this felt repetitive. Seth Rollins was starting to give a new wrinkle to his character with the idea that he is putting Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and The Viking Raiders behind him to move on to any other dissenters in the Raw locker room. But in the end, it was the Viking Raiders and Owens who attacked the Messiah Complex (seriously WWE, just give the group this name already!). It set up a 6 man tag main event which was the same main even as last week minus Rollins and Joe. It was hard to get excited about that match.
A.J. Styles – HIT: This wasn’t a great promo, but it was good to see A.J. Styles back after a brief hiatus due to the injury he suffered in the Royal Rumble. The Hit is for the tease that he gave to several WWE legends who could all be potential opponents for him at WM. If he had just mentioned one like Undertaker, it would have been too obvious as to who we will face. Now it seems like a tease of multiple opponents, so it might be Undertaker, but it could also be Shawn Michaels. Ricochet’s interruption also teased that it could be him as instead of facing Styles here, he faced Karl Anderson in what turned out to be solid match.
Main Event – HIT: While I wasn’t excited to see this match, the action in the match was still good. It was a nice long six-man tag to end the show. While I am getting tired of the various matches involving these wrestlers, they are all good wrestlers so they tend to have good matches like they did here. The Rollins run-in to cause a disqualification worked well to start the beatdown. It did make me wonder where Samoa Joe was. I don’t think the announcers mentioned him which was odd. I liked that the Street Profits came out to help the babyfaces at this point. It shows that more of the locker room is against the message of the Monday Night Messiah than just Owens and his crew. I am intrigued to see their role in this storyline going forward. I guess they just don’t like Matt Hardy.
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.