SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – HIT: Raw got off to a good start with this segment involving Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar and Drew McIntyre. Heyman started it off well with his promo talking about the WWE Championship match between Lesnar and McIntyre at WrestleMania. I could have done without the laughable line about this being the most stacked lineup in years. But otherwise, it was good. Of course, what this segment will be remembered for was the Claymore Kick McIntyre hit Lesnar with. That was great and Lesnar did a very good job afterwards of selling the effects. The surprise return of McIntyre on the stage for two more Claymores was equally strong. The crowd was very behind McIntyre. So far so good on the build to what should be the final match at WM.
Murphy & Rollins vs. Street Profits – HIT: I had mixed feelings about this match. The “now or never” stipulation for The Street Profits made zero sense. Who made that rule? They had gotten only one Title shot at that point. Why would this be the last one they ever get? The other issue is that this was their first Championship victory, so it would have been nice if that came without help from Kevin Owens. I can forgive it some since Seth Rollins was trying to use the Authors of Pain to cheat, so Owens was countering that cheating. I would have been better with it if they had won the Titles before. But, it does take a little away from their victory. However, it was a good match. It wasn’t long, but it was fun to watch from start to finish. It was nice to see how the Street Profits sold their victory as being a huge deal. This should set up a big WM match with hopefully a good stipulation between Rollins and Owens. It can’t be something like Falls Count Anywhere. Hopefully it will be something that keeps the rest of the Messiah Complex out of the match (Hell in a Cell?).
Moss vs. Ricochet – MISS: What the hell was this? It is hard to say that someone who just got a WWE Title match at a big Network Special is getting buried, but WWE didn’t do anything to make Ricochet seem like a legit Title contender going into his Title match last week against Lesnar. He could have had a spirited fight against Lesnar to come out strong despite the loss, but he lost in like 90 seconds. And now he’s losing to new comer Riddick Moss who has no credibility himself. He wasn’t a star in NXT. He was brought up and paired with the bottom of the card Mojo Rawley. He is the 24/7 champion which by definition makes him the bottom of the card. So what does that make Ricochet for losing to him?
Styles vs. Black – MISS: I see what WWE was going for here (as opposed to a Miss to come), so I wasn’t as bothered by this segment as I could have been. It was still a Miss. WWE wanted to get heat on AJ Styles who is going to face The Undertaker at WM. By having him put Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows in front of Aleister Black before facing him, Styles came across like a cowardly jerk. But, he can’t look cowardly against Undertaker. Having Black beat Anderson and Gallows protects him in taking the loss in the end (in the eyes of WWE creative), but why have the 2nd win come via disqualification? That doesn’t help Black at all. And it wasn’t really a bait-and-switch considering they did give the match eventually, but it was obviously not the type of match fans were expecting to see. They did get to a rematch for Elimination Chamber which needed some more matches, and it should be a very good match at that point, but it still didn’t make for a good stretch of Raw.
Riott vs. Morgan – MISS: If WWE had spent more time establishing this feud (and they got it off to a fine start), this match would have meant more. We needed to see more of Ruby Riott back in the ring after her injury. We needed to see more of Liv Morgan building her in ring credibility to connect more with the fans. We needed to have some type of story with Sarah Logan to make fans care about her involvement at all. Instead, we got this match far too early without the proper build and the fans didn’t care. They all played their parts well and executed the match ok, although when the fans in the building start to grow restless, it probably isn’t the time to go to a long neck vice rest hold.
Rowan’s Pet Spicer – HIT: I’m giving this the most ironic Hit in history for WWE finally revealing what is in Erick Rowan’s cage in the most anti-climactic way possible, with him just showing No Way Jose in the back. It was cheesy. The mechanical spider looked ridiculous. It is crazy that this storyline has been going for so long and this is what they do with it. But, at least it is over and hopefully we can all move on.
Baszler vs. Sane – MISS: This very long stretch of bad tv continued with Shayna Baszler’s Raw debut against Kairi Sane. The only good thing about this is that Asuka hurt her wrist so her first match against Baszler wasn’t wasted on this. Baszler’s first match should have been against a babyface. She should have plowed through her opponent. Having a long match against a heel made no sense. It got a boring chant. It hurt the Tag Team Champions who don’t have enough credibility to begin with and now they have even less. Baszler and Becky Lynch had a great face-to-face moment last November in the build to Survivor Series. This feud should have written itself, but has been botched from the start with the neck biting and hasn’t gotten better since. I did get a kick out of Lynch wearing Jerry Lawler’s crown doing guest commentary.
Mysterio & Carrillo vs. Andrade & Garza – HIT: I thought WWE could stretch this out to WM and give this tag match then. But, maybe that would have been too long? Either way, I won’t complain about getting it here, because after all of that bad tv, we got a great 20 minute tag match. These four all are great in the ring and work well together. It was fun to watch from start to finish. It was high energy and exciting with a level of athleticism that we didn’t get to see for the rest of the show. The babyfaces got the win, so it doesn’t seem like we would need a rematch. But, both Rey Mysterio and Humberto Carillo are in line for a United States Championship match against Andrade, so where do they (and Angel Garza) go from here?
Orton – Phoenix – HIT: After that match, the show continued with its strong ending with this closing segment with Beth Phoenix and Randy Orton. They both played their parts well. Phoenix showed emotion without overdoing it. Orton was great in finally giving his explanation for why he attacked Edge the night after WM. He was believable in how he showed his love for Edge and Edge’s entire family including Phoenix. He was getting the right type of heat from the crowd as he said that he loved Edge and his daughters more than Phoenix did. On a quick aside, I thought we might get some interaction between Phoenix and the Kabuki Warriors to plant the seeds for her teaming up with Natalya against them at WM, but keeping the focus on Edge vs. Orton was the smart way to go. The physicality does make me uncomfortable, but it did fit in with what they are doing. Orton is a popular legacy star who gets good reactions from some fans despite whatever he does. So doing things like this to kill those reactions makes sense. And the announcers were great at selling the seriousness of the moment. Edge vs. Orton is likely to have the most heat behind it going into WM.
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.