SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Triple H – Orton – MISS: I get that WWE had to scramble to re-write the show last minute after Drew McIntyre’s positive COVID-19 test. Having Triple H step into the main event against Randy Orton was a fine choice as a replacement. They had this opening segment to explain the fight at the end of the show, but it wasn’t good. The writing was the issue, not the performances. Triple H appears to not care about Orton beating the crap out of a group of legends and sending them to the hospital. He didn’t care when Orton burned The Fiend alive and voiced his endorsement for it during this segment. But how dare Orton make fun of Mark Henry and Ric Flair last week! That was the straw that broke the camel’s back to get Triple H to reprimand Orton? That whole thing was bad and just didn’t make enough sense.
McIntyre’s PSA – MISS: Everything that Drew McIntyre said during his PSA about COVID-19 was true. It was good to hear him say what he said and encourage his fans to wear masks and practice social distancing. The reason I’m giving this a “miss” is because I’m wondering where this has been for the past nine months. Why hasn’t WWE been running similar PSAs every week since April? McIntyre isn’t the first positive test that a WWE performer has had. It shouldn’t take a positive test to get celebrities and corporations to do the right thing.
Charlotte vs. Lacey – MISS: The wrestling action between Charlotte Flair and Lacey Evans was good. The issue is the Ric Flair heel turn. It was too predictable. The announcers made such a big deal about how Flair wasn’t supposed to be there and essentially telegraphed him turning on his daughter. The choreography of the two moments when Flair cheated to help Evans win was obnoxiously convenient as well. The pinfall trip spot wasn’t well executed. This is harsh, but I view Flair as a tragic figure who has made millions of dollars and wasted most of it on his stupid lifestyle. He is paying alimony to several women, he’s failed outside of wrestling, and it all stems from his playboy lifestyle which he still wants to live in his 70s. It’s pathetic and the fact that he wants to play up that persona in his return to WWE is just sad to me. Is that what his legacy is going to be?
Hardy vs. Ryker then Elias – MISS: WWE seemed short handed beyond McIntyre. Were there other positive tests that we don’t know about? Were some left off the show for precautionary reasons? They’ve been featuring Angel Garza, Asuka, Alexander & Benjamin, Lucha House Party, R-Truth, and Ricochet recently, but none were on this show. Instead, we got a bunch of double duty situations starting with Jeff Hardy facing Jackson Ryker in a very short match followed by a match against Elias. First of all, it’s crazy to have him wrestle Elias again after their recent feud together. Second, it’s crazy to have Hardy lose to Ryker in such a short match.
Shamus & Lee vs. Miz & Morrison – HIT: I got a kick out of watching Sheamus and Keith Lee as partners throwing around The Miz and John Morrison. It was interesting in the moment to see them working together. Having Sheamus come to respect Lee after Lee’s hard fought loss to McIntyre made sense. With this angle, they have a chance to stretch out a good storyline with Sheamus and McIntyre. A good, complex (not overly complicated) story can be told with those three that leads to a Sheamus turn down the line to finally get to his match against McIntyre. A lot of fans seem to expect Sheamus to turn and face McIntyre soon, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s get Sheamus & Lee as a tag team for awhile. I enjoyed this match. I loved the broken turnbuckle gimmick and Lee’s amusement at what happened, although it seems like that spot could have been saved for a bigger match.
Transition to Sheamus vs. Lee – MISS: I don’t mind Sheamus and Lee transitioning after their win in the tag match to fighting each other. It fits into their story and personalities. The match that followed was certainly good, but there was absolutely no transition. The announcers who were sitting a few feet away were as dumbfounded by what was going on as all the fans sitting at home. Just have the announcers say what happened. They show “during the commercial break” videos all the time. This would have been the perfect time to deploy that tactic. Instead, they did nothing which was a mistake. This was another situation where we got double duty from these wrestlers instead of featuring someone else. Having Sheamus hug Lee after their match worked ok, but again, it would have been better with an actual transition to the match in the first place.
Lashley vs. Riddle – MISS: WWE can’t help themselves with the 50-50 booking. As I wrote last week, the non-title match between Bobby Lashley and Matt Riddle should never have happened. Because Lashley lost then, WWE wanted him to win strong here, which means Riddle had to lose. They didn’t want that to happen either, so they had Lashley attack Riddle before the match to give Riddle an out. If you are going to do that, you have to have Lashley win right away. By having Riddle get a come back, it negates the unfair advantage that Lashley got before the match. If they had built to their US title match without facing in a non-title match first, they could have had a very good, long match where Lashley wins in the end, with Riddle looking strong in defeat. By doing it this way, Riddle is portrayed like a total loser. The fact that they then gave him a win over MVP afterwards (another double duty situation) didn’t help. It made him look even worse for recognizing that he can’t defeat Lashley, but he can defeat his semi-retired player-coach.
Styles vs. Gulak – HIT: This was a good, albeit, short match with AJ Styles beating Drew Gulak who needed to win in order to earn a spot in the Royal Rumble. I think Styles was supposed to be the babyface as Gulak was presented as being delusional. I appreciate the fact that WWE showed that wrestlers who declare themselves for the Rumble have presumably been cleared by WWE management already as having earned the spot based on their body of work. It makes sense for a wrestler like Gulak to be unable to simply declare himself a participant in the Rumble because that body of work isn’t there. Now, I’m not sure what Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose have done that’s better than Gulak to be able to declare themselves later in the show? Alas, that’s a different issue and a different division? I’m reaching.
Fiend Shenanigans – MISS: The brawl between Orton and Triple H was fine. After, you got the hocus-pocus nonsense with the Fiend’s special effects taking over the ThunderDome, Triple H’s magical flaming sledgehammer, Triple H magically disappearing, and Alexa Bliss magically shooting fire into Orton’s eyes. Orton sold that spot well, but it’s hard to take the situation seriously when we saw someone burned to death in the middle of the ring just a few weeks ago. A fireball in the face pales in comparison to a body totally engulfed in flames.
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.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S RAW HITS & MISSES: WWE RAW HITS & MISSES 1/4: McIntyre vs. Lee, Goldberg’s return, Orton with the legends, Styles vs. Elias, and more