SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – HIT: Drew McIntyre started off Raw with a strong promo talking about his upcoming WWE Championship match against Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania. He was very good. Lashley came out and interrupted and was much better on the mic than he was last week when he came across very shaky. This built anticipation for their match and also hyped the main event for this week’s Raw with Baron Corbin trying to take out McIntyre to cash in on Lashley’s bounty. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get excited about anything involving Corbin.
Woods vs. Styles – MISS: How is a 90 second match supposed to get me excited about a PPV match? I get not wanting to give too much away, but it is better to not give anything away at this point since we’re so close to WrestleMania. They are telling the story that New Day will overcome the physical presence of Omos because they have the chemistry that Omos and A.J. Styles don’t have. That’s been an ok approach, but it isn’t great.
Strowman – Shane – MISS: WWE does a great job with video packages which was the case on this last Raw before WM. That included a well put together recap of the feud between Braun Strowman and Shane McMahon. The problem is that the feud has been so dippy that I didn’t want to sit through a recap of it. I wasn’t into Strowman’s promo about being bullied for being stupid. It might be cliche, but the big strong guy usually is more likely to be the bully to smaller weaker kids. Shane wasn’t any better in his interruption. The handicap match afterwards wasn’t particularly good either. Elias and Jackson Ryker being this involved automatically brings the entire storyline down.
Asuka & Ripley vs. Baszler & Jax – HIT: It was silly to have this match at all and the outcome was very predictable. That said, the wrestling action was pretty good. I appreciate having Rhea Ripley firmly established as the heel against the firmly established babyface in Asuka. Ripley works well as both a heel and a babyface. I can see a good run for her as a heel leading to an eventual turn. Unfortunately, the rest of the women’s division on Raw (and Smackdown outside of Belair vs. Banks) is such a mess. I assumed we’d be heading towards some type of gauntlet match for the Women’s Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania. Instead we are getting one on night one to see who will face Baszler & Jax on night two.
Lashley vs. Alexander – MISS: I have major problems with what WWE is doing with Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin. Having them dumped by Lashley and MVP is not a way to establish them as a strong team or as babyfaces. Having them both lose easily to Lashley in back to back weeks doesn’t help, especially when they double team him before the match starts to give Alexander an advantage. Yes, the wrestling action in this mach was certainly “hit” worthy. Yes, it is more important to make Lashley look dominating going into WrestleMania, but where will this leave the former tag champs?
Bad Bunny – HIT: I was impressed with Bad Bunny this week. He did a nice job with his reactions to seeing the vandalism that Miz & Morrison did to his fancy car. I know there has been criticism about this not being relatable, but if someone put paint on my 2001 Mazda, I’d be angry. I don’t blame Bad Bunny at all. I liked how Damian Priest challenged Miz & Morrison to make the story culminate with a tag match at WrestleMania. That made the most sense from the start, so it is good to see WWE get there in the end. Bunny’s promo worked well. He effectively recapped his fandom for WWE, his respect for the business, and his love for the wrestlers, while being excited about his appearance at the Royal Rumble. He made a clear distinction between his respect for WWE and Miz & Morrison’s lack of respect for him. He was shaky at times during the English portions of the promo, but that came across as being because it is his second language, not because he isn’t good on the mic. He was much more natural when he switched to his native Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish, but I got what he was saying. It was effective and Miz & Morrison were good as their obnoxious selves. I am more excited about this now than I was before.
Riddle vs. Ali – HIT: There’s an old saying in wrestling that the best characters are the wrestler’s actual personality turned up to 11. That works great for some performers, but when you have Matt Riddle’s personality, turning it up to 11 results in the most annoying person in the world. Luckily, he is a great wrestler in the ring, as is Mustafa Ali. So, when you put them in the ring and give them 11 minutes to have a good match, they are going to deliver. Sheamus was good during guest commentary to add to the enjoyment of the match. He and Riddle should have a very good United States Championship match at WrestleMania.
McIntyre vs. Corbin – MISS: As I said earlier, I can’t get excited about anything to do with Baron Corbin. I don’t care what WWE has done to try to build credibility for him, I see him as a low card goof talking about being a king when nobody cares about him. For me, it hurts Drew McIntyre to take 17 minutes to beat this guy, particularly when he only wins after MVP accidentally distracted Corbin by giving him his cane. It was never clear if Corbin actually would have gotten a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania if he beat McIntyre. How would WWE officials allow that to happen? If he was just supposed to injure McIntyre like MVP said, why would the officials reward him with a championship match? So, the whole situation was stupid from the start. The match itself was fine, but didn’t work in context.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw each week. Email him at email@example.com.