SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – HIT: I had mixed feelings about the opening segment of Raw. Part of it is a holdover from my disappointment with the ending of last week’s Smackdown. I guess the fact that they are saying that The Rock vs. Roman Reigns isn’t yet official gives me some hope. Maybe they still do Rock vs. Reigns on night 1 of WrestleMania and Cody get the Title shot against Reigns on night 2, although Wade Keller has reported that has never been considered an option. Clearly a lot of fans were not happy with Rock. The performances from Seth Rollins, Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre were all strong here. McIntyre was spitting some truth. How does it all shake out? I am at least intrigued despite my concerns over Rock’s involvement and Reigns’ Title run likely continuing past WM.
Fatal Four-Way Tag Match – MISS: I don’t like the rules to this type of fatal four way tag team match. I hate the “tag out to anyone” rule. Just put one member of each team in the ring at the same time, with four in the match like you would get in a singles fatal four way. Then there were too many over choreographed moments for my tastes. There were two times when wrestlers had to stand on the outside, sort of fighting each other, waiting for someone to set up a slowly developing move from the top turnbuckle to jump and land on everyone on the outside. I wasn’t a fan of how the Creeds did all the work, but a babyface team in DIY picked up the scraps to get the win. That’s how heels win these types of matches. And, DIY just lost a Tag Team Title match. They shouldn’t have been in this match to begin with, let alone win it. There was a lot of fun wrestling action and I am a fan of all these teams. But, it was a Miss.
Baszler vs. Lynch – HIT: The outcome of this match was never in doubt. Becky Lynch is the most likely winner of the Elimination Chamber, so she was going to qualify for it. There are often “second chance” matches like a battle royal with all the losers of the qualifying matches, so I guess Shayna Baszler could have won with Becky getting in at the last minute. Getting to the match itself, it was good and went back and forth nicely. They worked well together with various attempts at submission holds, until Becky finally got the win with the Man Handle Slam. I’d like to see her actually get a win with the Disarm-Her. That was her finisher for so long, but she never wins with it any more. She should win with it in some of her less important matches, to actually build some suspense into her more important ones where she might win with it.
Ripley – Jax – HIT: This was a good, straight forward segment to announce that Rhea Ripley will defend the Women’s Championship against Nia Jax at Elimination Chamber, and continue to show Jax as being an unstoppable monster. It was smart to have her leave Ripley laying again.
Tozawa & Dupree vs. Ivar & Valhala – MISS: How could anyone in WWE watch The Royal Rumble and not come to the unmistakable conclusion that Maxine Dupree does not belong in a wrestling ring on national television yet? How could you let her wrestle in this match? If you didn’t know after the Rumble, you have to know now. This was the worst a wrestler on a major national brand can look. She has to stop wrestling in front of national audiences, go back to the performance center (or go if she never went), and spend at least 6 months training and wrestling in NXT house shows, before WWE can even think of putting her in the ring on Raw again.
Miz vs. McDonagh – HIT: I am interpreting what happened in this match as R-Truth purposefully messing with JD McDonagh and the rest of Judgment Day. I was disappointed that he was still trying to be part of the group in the backstage segment earlier in the show. But, I think it was part of a master plan with The Miz. I guess time will tell. This was a pretty good match, with Truth “helping” Miz win in the end. His motives were debatable, but the way he celebrated with Miz afterwards made it seem like it was a trick. That’s good if it is true.
Gunther’s IC Celebration – HIT: The celebration for Gunther being the Intercontinental Champion for 600 days was a good segment. I liked how he appreciated the celebration, while saying he doesn’t need one for every milestone since he will have the Title for 700, 800, 900 days, etc. The interruption from Jey Uso worked well. The brawl that ensued with New Day coming to Jey’s aid worked well also. This will be a good 6 man tag, and Uso vs. Gunther should be a strong way to bridge the gab for Gunther between now and WM when he will presumably face someone else.
Tag Title Match – HIT: This was a good rematch for the Tag Team Titles with The Kabuki Warriors defending against the former champs, Carter & Chance. There was one awkward spot when Kairi Sane leapt off the top rope and sort of missed Kaden Carter. But, otherwise the match was well executed. Carter & Chance hit some of their fun double team moves, but ultimately Sane was able to stop their Keg Stand finisher giving her team the advantage to get the win.
Sami Zayn – HIT: I was intrigued by Sami Zayn’s pre-taped empty arena interview. It was a good trip down memory lane to his WWE Title match against Roman Reigns at last year’s EC in his hometown. The Rocky/Rocky II metaphor was interesting. He doesn’t have a clear cut WM story going right now. McIntyre? Gunther? Rollins? I’m curious to see what happens with him.
Rhodes vs. Nakamura – HIT: We’ve seen enough of this match already, but the Bull Rope stipulation freshened it up a bit, with Cody continuing to play into his father’s legacy. I liked how this match was set up at a house show. It built from their pre-Royal Rumble feud. They have nice chemistry in the ring, so their matches are good even if over done. The attack from McIntyre afterwards was also good. A Rhodes vs. McIntyre match at EC makes a lot of sense.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Raw Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw each week. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.