Raw was really bad this week. It’s like the entire creative team was out to lunch or something. There was a big announcement, and the IC title match is set in stone now. But barring a great match between AJ Styles and Kevin Owens, this show was just hard to enjoy.
Stephanie and Roman opening segment: Minor Hit
I honestly thought they booked Roman well on this show. He wasn’t cutting bad jokes, he was acting like a serious badass man of action. Unfortunately it feels like too little too late to start booking the guy properly and expect a decent reaction. They should have been doing this months ago, not two weeks before Wrestlemania. The crowd booed Reigns, and it’s not going to get any more pleasant for the guy over the next few weeks. The segment was short and to the point, and I liked Reigns’ sign off: “I’m the Authority now.” It would have been much cooler and more effective had he actually been over.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens: Hit
A great 20-minute match that makes me just really want to see them get a proper program with each other. The crowd was into it. It felt like they went above the typical TV match we’re used to. The ending was weak though. Didn’t we just see this same distraction finish on SmackDown last week? I just don’t like the idea of a top babyface falling for the same heel shenanigans two weeks in a row, it just makes Styles look like a gullible idiot.
Zayn, Ziggler and Miz challenge Owens: Botch
Miz and Ziggler lose all the time, so why should they get a title shot? And I’m really disappointed with how little creative effort has gone into the Zayn/Owens feud. Sure, the diehard fans that follow NXT are already acquainted with them. But the casual fan has no reason to get invested in Sami Zayn or his feud with Owens as it is built entirely off of assumed knowledge. It’s like picking up a new TV series halfway through a season, so you don’t really care about the characters because you haven’t seen them develop and you haven’t seen a reason to get attached to them yet. Maybe they’ll fix this and give Zayn some more promo time but I’m not holding my breath for it.
Dean Ambrose and Terry Funk segment: Botch
It was nice to see Funk on TV again, even if it was briefly. But the segment was short and the promo kind of meandered and drifted off course and it didn’t really add anything to the Ambrose/Lesnar feud or the show in general. Ambrose being given a chainsaw is cool, but I imagine him sawing through a table is all we’ll see him do since, obviously, he won’t be using it in his wrestling match with Lesnar. They have these great promo guys who can help bring out Ambrose’s character, but instead they’re focusing on having them give him props. I look forward to next week when Sting’s baseball bat and Jim Cornette’s tennis racquet are bestowed upon Ambrose.
The New Day vs. The League of Nations: Botch
I found The New Day to be a bit off tonight. They were trying but the humour just didn’t find its mark with me for a change. That’s a largely subjective thing though, so this may well have worked for other people. I think I actually prefer them as heels feuding with babyface teams. I’m not quite sure that going full babyface is going to be a good fit for them in the long run, although I can see the need for them to do it. The one on one match between Rusev and Big E was okay, but it dragged a bit long for my liking.
Andre the Giant Battle Royal hype segment: Botch
Less than two weeks out they start hyping the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. I know they don’t care about the match and it means nothing to them, but would it hurt for them to start building it in advance? This just felt like filler for a match that has no importance. Big Show cuts a promo, Social Outcasts were cringeworthy, Kane stands tall at the end. I could not care in the slightest bit for this match. I at least cared last year because of the Miz & Mizdow storyline going into it. No reason to get invested this year.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango: Botch
A quick match. The match isn’t the problem here though. Halfway through, AJ Styles walks out to give Jericho a taste of his own medicine, but Jericho – the heel – proves that he’s not an idiot like Styles and doesn’t fall for the distraction. He wins his match decisively, then he avoids a beatdown from Styles, and then Styles is left in the ring failing to get a chant for himself going. This was just horrible. Despite an awesome match with Owens, AJ Styles came out of this show just looking like a complete doofus. What were they thinking!?
Stardust vs. Sin Cara vs. Zack Ryder: Botch
Ugh. It’s stupid, clunky booking. I’ll use this moment to rant about Wrestlemania, because this is a great example for WWE paying for their years of terrible booking mistakes. This card is a mere shell of the card it originally was, and yes, they had terrible, terrible luck with major stars going down with injuries. But my god, if they had just booked a couple of guys to look even remotely strong, matches like this wouldn’t look so weak. Kevin Owens is going to defend his title against five jobbers and an NXT call up that they’ve given no spotlight to. I’m sure it’ll be a great match, but no one’s going to care nearly as much about it as they should because it’s clear that almost everyone in this match is just there as a filler. Zack Ryder is in there. Zack. Ryder. And Sin Cara. And Stardust. And they’re guys that are lucky to get Raw matches, now they’re crammed into a title shot at Mania.
Roman Reigns attacks Triple H backstage: Hit
Yeah, the fans were booing, because it’s Roman. But I liked this segment. Reigns looked like a man on a mission, and they’re actually selling the idea that he’s a formidable opponent for Triple H. It was a cool moment, that obviously would have worked more if Roman wasn’t hated by most of the audience, but still.
Natalya vs. Charlotte: Botch
They had a great match at Roadblock. This wasn’t the same though. It was much shorter and not as good. And Becky and Sasha bickering on commentary was totally distracting. I don’t mind a single person on guest commentary because they tend to focus on their opponent and the match. This was like watching two segments at the same time though. I’m still excited for this triple threat, but that excitement is based almost entirely off of their NXT history and not what I’ve been seeing on Raw lately.
Bubba Ray Dudley vs. R-Truth: Botch
So this is what the endless weeks of bad comedy promos with R-Truth and Goldust has led to? Both guys getting beaten down like chumps and being rescued by The Usos? My interest level in this Dudley/Uso feud is basically on the same level as my interest for the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. So, zero, basically.
Vince McMahon’s announcement: Botch
A huge announcement that didn’t feel as big as it should have based on the way it was delivered. This should have been a big reveal with Undertaker in the ring so we could get his reaction. I’m not sure what’s going to happen at Wrestlemania, but this obviously adds some huge stakes to the match. If this really is going to be The Undertaker’s final Wrestlemania appearance, Shane McMahon is the last person who should be beating him. That honour should 100% go to someone on the roster that could kick off their career by retiring Undertaker. Also, the idea that Shane McMahon is a more formidable opponent to The Undertaker than Brock Lesnar is hilarious.
Dean Ambrose vs. Braun Strowman: Botch
A bad match. After a largely bad Raw, the crowd just didn’t have any patience for a slow main event featuring Braun Strowman. The finish was fine and all. But as the show went off the air, I found myself thinking “really? This is what they close with?” They really need to stack the show next week, because man, the go-home show for Mania needs to be leagues better than this show.