SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Ronda Rousey interview segment: A minor hit to kick off the show. I’m actually a bit intrigued by the match that Rousey and Sonya Deville will have due to Deville’s MMA background. I could see this having not having a clean finish next week and this subplot feud continue with Rousey and Deville after Mania. The Charlotte-Rousey push towards Mania is off to a well enough start and I imagine it’ll continue to ramp up as we get closer. I was glad that Deville’s transgressions were immediately addressed right after their return from commercial.
Sami Zayn & Johnny Knoxville in-ring segment: Sami Zayn continues to be greatly entertaining and if anyone can get this story over with Johnny Knoxville between now and Mania, it’s him. It’s not exactly my cup of tea as I’ve never been a huge fan of the “Jackass” TV show or movies. Having said that, the crowd really ate up this segment and it’s not always about what works just for me. My only hope is that come time for Mania they don’t end up putting the Intercontinental Title on Knoxville. These two do have good chemistry together and it should help get some extra eyeballs over to Peacock for WrestleMania.
Roman Reigns & Brock Lesnar in-ring segment: A really strong segment to end this show. Paul Heyman, Reigns, and Lesnar were all very good here. Worth noting is that Brock is also hell bent on getting his hands on Heyman at Mania just as much as he wants to go through Reigns. Ultimately, that might be what causes him to come up short. My interest is also piqued on who Brock will be facing at MSG next Saturday, March 5. There’s been no signs that this will be broadcast on Peacock but I think WWE should announce Brock’s opponent this Monday at Raw to help bolster what have been poor ticket sales at MSG. I can’t imagine WWE not delivering on a title unification match now that it’s been pushed so prominently. Although, I guess I wouldn’t be surprised either if there is a bait and switch with Brock losing at his WWE Title at MSG. I will reserve the right to make up my mind on which direction I think they’ll go when the announcement of Brock’s opponent for MSG is made.
New Day vs. Los Lotharios: This one just didn’t work for me. I know this feud isn’t over and they’ll probably have about a half dozen more rematches in the next few months but WWE really needs to bolster its tag team division. It wouldn’t have hurt The New Day to put over Los Lotharios strong here. I suppose the tag division in WWE just is what it is and that probably won’t change anytime soon. The match itself was good enough to be a hit but I just can’t get behind the booking here and just fear that New Day will still be the ones going over in the feud ultimately. On a separate note, it also pains me very much to see Big E clowning around in a terrible WWE tag team division when he was WWE Champion just two short months ago. But, I suppose that’s another gripe for another time.
Xia Li vs Natalya: Xia Li was drafted to Smackdown back on October 4 and didn’t debut until tonight (Feb 25). This was typical WWE booking and I could’ve predicted it. Natalya basically dominated the whole match but Li hits one big move at the end to put Nattie away. None of what was done in Li’s debut showcased her. Just because Li went over in her debut doesn’t mean she’s going to get over; not with this style of booking. Li was still made to be “less than” but happened to hit a big move to win. On a promising note, the crowd did like Li and got behind her. Here’s hoping that WWE will give Li more to showcase herself in the coming weeks. All too often, WWE-style booking will either go 50-50 from here or they’ll do their conventional style of booking where Li will not be able to showcase herself but will somehow eke out wins. That’s not exactly a formula for helping a “new” wrestler get over. I hope I’m wrong.
Sasha Banks vs Shotzi: The match was just there but they need to find something more to do with Shotzi. The post-match announcement by Naomi also felt very flat. If there’s anything that’s booked worse than the men’s WWE tag division(s), it’s the women’s WWE tag division. Nothing about the announcement excited me because the division is so far in the mud right now that I had to jog my memory on who actually held the Women’s Tag Titles after Naomi stated that they’d be the next champs. A lot of work needs to be done to revitalize this division. Only time will tell if this is the first step but I’m not optimistic. The only thing lamer than this was Megan Morant backstage immediately after saying “I’m not sure what Naomi means by the next world tag team champions?” Really? WWE’s continual bad scripting of its backstage interviewers continues to be a problem also. But, as I stated earlier, another gripe for another time.
Drew McIntyre vs Madcap Moss: So, based on previews for the show tonight this match was supposed to happen, then changed, then happened? Do I have that right? Another WWE trope of having way too many rematches has reared its head into this feud now. I’m assuming we’ll get this rematch at least one more time before now and Mania, maybe Moss & Baron Corbin in a 2-on-1 between now and then or possibly even those two in a tag match against Drew and a partner. I said this last week also (and I’m sure I’ll say it again) but it’s hard to believe this is the best WWE has for McIntyre heading into its biggest show of the year. All that being said, how is Moss wrestling LESS THAN A WEEK after falling on his head like he did in Saudi Arabia?! I am happy that Moss is, obviously, more than okay. He does have talent and is very athletic but is saddled with a terrible gimmick right now.
Entire show: Other than anything that involves world titles or celebs, this show really felt like it was just there. The in-ring action was nothing to write home about and the other storylines, thus far, are less than exciting. We still have quite a way to go and plenty of time to get a good build for WrestleMania. I feel like the best surprises and other strong builds still coming for WrestleMania will come out of Raw. I can’t see much more coming out of Smackdown considering the big stories with Brock/Roman & Charlotte/Ronda. Right now, all Raw has is Becky Lynch/Bianca Belair when it comes to big builds. Still up in the air worth noting on Raw is what Edge, Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Riddle, and Seth Rollins will be doing (with possibly a few of them intertwining). There is always the Cody Rhodes wildcard depending on if/when he shows up in WWE (and on which brand for that matter). I just can’t see anything from Smackdown standing out other than what was highlighted on tonight’s show for WrestleMania. But, I have been surprised before.