SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Lesnar – Heyman – HIT: There was a lot of disappointment over Day 1 given that Roman Reigns had to cancel due to a positive Covid test. The main event which turned into a fatal five way with Brock Lesnar added was a good match. But, Big E losing was disappointing to a lot of fans. But, Lesnar has been a babyface so you want him cheered, especially since his program against Reigns is not over yet. Therefore, having him appear with Paul Heyman to start off Raw was a curious decision. Heyman hasn’t been a babyface and fans have enjoyed seeing him squirm at being caught between Lesnar and Reigns. Lesnar gets a bigger positive reaction if he’s on his own here. Of course, Heyman was great in his role. I got a big laugh out of saying that Reigns had been without his services for a week and already had Covid. It was good to hear Lesnar getting to talk too as he has done a nice job on the mic since his return at SummerSlam. This set up the main event fatal four way to determine Lesnar’s opponent at Royal Rumble.
RK-Bro vs. Alpha Academy – MISS: The problem is that Alpha Academy hasn’t been presented as serious threats to RK-Bro. Matt Riddle beat Chad Gable quickly last week. Randy Orton also beat Otis quickly last week with an RKO (are we supposed to forget that he hit that move already?). Gable never wins and while Otis had been protected, he was damaged with the loss and the fact that he got RKO’d even though that was supposed to be impossible. Now we are back to the RKO being impossible on Otis and Alpha Academy is back to being a threat by winning a very short match here. This is terrible storytelling.
24/7 Inter-Gender Match – MISS: This stuff sucks.
Vincent VanGoat – HIT: I enjoyed Becky Lynch’s gloating over beating Liv Morgan at Day 1 to retain her Women’s Championship. She clearly was trying to cheat to win the match, but was too far from the ropes to get her foot on it. That makes the scripting here a little different than it likely would have been as Morgan couldn’t complain about Becky cheating to beat her again. However, Becky was so great at being obnoxious that she did turn the fans who want to cheer her against her. Morgan was fine in her interruption but it felt like more of the same. I was more intrigued by Bianca Bel Air’s subsequent interruption. She clearly has unfinished business against Lynch and has a series of wins over Doudrop (why Doudrop deserves a chance to earn a title shot despite losing so much lately is beyond me). I was wondering if they would save Bel Air vs. Lynch for WrestleMania. But, who knows what WWE has planned at this point.
Vega & Carmella vs. Ripley & Cross – MISS: The storyline with Nikki Cross sucking and costing her and Rhea Ripley matches needs to move on ASAP. I agree with giving wins to Zelina Vega & Carmella, but they don’t mean much when the whole point of the storyline is that the woman they keep defeating is a total loser. It continues to do damage to Ripley. Please just move on to the next phase already.
Street Profits vs. Crews & Azeez – HIT: I am a big fan of The Street Profits and want to see them kept strong, despite taking the loss to RK-Bro at Day 1. They needed a strong win after taking that loss, and they got it here. Apollo Crews & Commander Azeez aren’t presented as a big deal, so it is ok to have them losing so quickly.
Priest vs. Ziggler – HIT: Damian Priest and Dolph Ziggler had a good match against each other for the United States Championship. They played well into the stipulation that Priest would lose the Title if he got counted out or disqualified. Robert Roode’s interference worked well. The wrestling action was good. There were some very nice believable near falls towards the end which added to the quality as it made Priest look vulnerable. But, Priest needs a stronger opponent to move his US Title reign onto a higher level.
MizTV – HIT: I got a kick out of Miz’s hypocrisy at accusing Edge of hiding behind Beth Phoenix. This segment wasn’t nearly as long or drawn out as I feared it would be, although it was longer than it needed to be. It was still amusing and got to where it needed in the end with the accepted challenge for an Inter-Gender match at The Royal Rumble. The issue is that while there is a desire to see Edge & Phoenix team up, their opponents are inconsequential. I get the feeling fans don’t want to see Phoenix beat up Maryse, they just want to see her wrestle again. Also, if I am Edge, I would want the tag match next week on Raw so that I could actually enter the Royal Rumble, but as a fan, it makes more sense to do it at the Premium Live Event instead.
Big E Interview – HIT: This was exactly what it needed to be. It sucks for Big E that Roman Reigns’ Covid caused him to lose the WWE Title (if the reports that the original plan was for him to retain the Title are true). He deserves to still be in the main even picture. He deserves to be treated better than Kofi Kingston was a few years ago when he lost the WWE Title in about 15 seconds to Brock Lesnar. He is already off to a much better start with this interview where he performed perfectly. He was serious and intense. He said everything he needed to. It gives me hope despite the fact that he ultimately would lose the #1 contender match.
Styles vs. Omos – MISS: I get that WWE is high on Omos, but I’m not. They must have big plans for him at the Royal Rumble. Is he going to win? Or just have a strong Diesel or Kane like appearance before being eliminated? They clearly want him to seem like a big deal in the way that he dominated AJ Styles in this match. I’m just not enthused about it.
E vs. Lashley vs. Owens vs. Rollins – HIT: The main event was a very good match. I thought they might save Bobby Lashley to face Lesnar at WrestleMania, but I am happy to be seeing it at The Royal Rumble instead. The action here was great. It was fun to watch from start to finish. We haven’t seen a WWE match go into the stands and onto the concourse in a while, so that worked well. The dive of Owens onto the other three from the entrance in the stands was great. I particularly appreciate how Rollins and Owens stayed working together with Owens’ masterplan the entire time. I can’t be the only one who assumed they would turn on each other at some point. It was good to see them each allowing the other to get a possible pin victory. Lashley hitting everyone with a spear in the end was a cool way for him to get the win. I am intrigued by the fact that Lesnar’s comment after the win was about seeing Reigns at Smackdown.
Frenetic Pace – MISS: I appreciate the fact that WWE did more than usual to hype the big matches on this show and recap the big events from Day 1. They did it throughout the show. However, Raw felt like it was going at a breakneck speed with the constant video packages over and over again, not just from Day 1 but also from previous Raws. All those videos added up to a lot of time which took away from the matches. RK-Bro vs. Alpha Academy was under 3 minutes as was Vega & Carmella vs. Ripley & Cross and The Street Profits vs. Crews & Azeez. That’s a lot of very short tag team matches. Omos vs. Styles was under 4. It makes the 9 minute US Title match seem like a marathon. The main event was long and there were a few longer promos. But, the combination of video replays and short matches made the show feel way too hectic.
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.