SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – MISS: There were plenty of good individual performances in this opening segment, but the problem was the face off between these two heel faction which didn’t work. I liked how the segment started with The Usos & Solo Sikoa talking about Kevin Owens. I continue to get a kick out of Prison Dom. But, WWE needs both of these factions to get booed, especially The Bloodline going into WrestleMania season. They are going to be cheered against Judgement Day especially when giving performances like this. Under other circumstances, this could have been a Hit, but the match up is off.
Kevin Owens – HIT: Sikoa vs. Mustafa Ali was a solid match to give Sikoa another strong win as he is being kept very strong. Kevin Owens showed great fire when he came out to drive The Usos from ringside and get some revenge on Sikoa after the match as well. He stood tall which was the right way to go after what happened on Smackdown. With the Bloodline ceremony set for Raw XXX next week, it will be interesting to see how Owens is involved in that.
Cody Rhodes Video/Announcement – HIT: It makes perfect sense to announce that Cody Rhodes will make his return in The Royal Rumble. An argument could be made to keep him as a surprise entrant, but everyone already suspected he’d be in it so it wouldn’t actually be much of a surprise. Those surprise #30 entrants have been played out in the past. Making this announcement adds to the enthusiasm for the Rumble.
Main Event Hype – HIT: WWE did a nice job making the main event 6 Pack Challenge to determine a #1 contender for the United States Championship feel like a big deal. Throughout the show, they had several of the participants interviewed or cut promos about the match and the importance of getting a chance to become the US Champ.
Street Profits vs. Alexander & Benjamin – HIT: This was a good, but not particularly special tag team match with some added intrigue of whatever MVP is doing to try to recreate the Hurt Business. I am at least somewhat interested in that angle which we would see play out more in the main event with Omos also involved. I do have to point out how bad the end of this match was with MVP very late on the spot where he was supposed to pull Cedric Alexander out of the corner. MVP is too much of a veteran to make such a rookie mistake.
Alpha Academy vs. Judgment Day – HIT: I am all in on a babyface run for Alpha Academy. They were clearly playing that role here and they won over the fans during the match. They are a very entertaining duo and can have a nice run trying to get the fans to cheer them instead of boo them. Plus, this was a good match. Judgment Day needed the win going up against The Usos for the Raw Tag Team Titles, so the ending made sense. If Alpha Academy is to be a babyface team going forward, getting some wins in the next few weeks would be a good idea.
Sky vs. Michin – MISS: The wrestling action in this match was fine. The problem is that WWE hasn’t done a good enough job of making Michin or Candace LeRae connect with the audience as singles wrestlers since their returns. The crowd was dead for this and I can’t blame them. Damage CTRL hasn’t been hot either, so you weren’t getting strong heel reactions for Iyo Sky either. I’m a fan of all four of these wrestlers, and a Tag Team Title match with Michin & LeRae taking on Kai-en-Sky could be good. But, I fear the fans won’t be invested in it at all.
Belair – Bliss – MISS: I didn’t mention Becky Lynch and Bayley’s confrontation from earlier in the show as it was just ok. It wasn’t bad, but not good enough to get a Hit either. I was feeling the same about this confrontation between Bianca Belair and Alexa Bliss. It was a fine way to get to Bliss accepting Belair’s challenge for a Women’s Title match at the Rumble. The physicality started off well and was bringing the segment into the Hit column, before the cheesy stuff at the end with Uncle Howdy getting involved to distract Belair and allow Bliss to get the better of her in the end. Nothing with Uncle Howdy is going to be a Hit as far as I’m concerned.
Reed vs. Tozawa – HIT: This is how you introduce a new act to the main roster. Give Bronson Reed squash matches like this one against Akira Tozawa. He looked great here. He is very good in the ring and got to show off some of his unique offense given his size and agility. Tozawa deserves credit for selling and also getting in some hope spots too. I am much more hopeful now seeing what they are doing with Reed than when he returned with The Miz a few weeks ago.
6 Pack Challenge – HIT: I appreciated that this match was an elimination match. It would have been so bad if it had been one fall. It took up a lot of time at the end of Raw with some good wrestling action. These are talented workers and they put on a good match. It was well laid out. The booking made sense from start to finish. Austin Theory added to the match doing guest commentary until Seth Rollins spit on him. As I said earlier, it also advanced the Hurt Business story with Omos and MVP getting involved. Bobby Lashley was the best person to win this match to face Theory next week.
Raw XXX Hype – HIT: WWE did a good job of making next week’s Raw XXX show feel special. Without football competition, with the line up they’ve announced and the fact that it is the go home show before the Royal Rumble, they better pop a big rating. Kudos to them for announcing several legit big stars for appearances, as well as the Lashley vs. Theory US Title match, the Lynch vs. Bayley Steel Cage match and the Bloodline Acknowledgement ceremony.
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.