Matt Hardy (art credit Joel Teach © PWTorch)
WKPWP – Thursday Flagship – Keller & Powell talk possible “transformative” changes in WWE
(Search “wade keller” to subscribe in podcast app or CLICK HERE to subscribe in Apple Podcasts.)
Opening Segment with Seth & Co. – HIT: This is a marginal Hit. Raw started off with The Messiah Complex talking about what happened last week. The mic work from Seth Rollins was strong, but it is starting to get a bit repetitive. This whole issue is starting to get repetitive, but I am still enjoying it. Hopefully it starts to really go somewhere soon. Part of the problem with the opening segment was that the announcers had already announced the main event 8 man tag match which meant we already knew that Ivar and Samoa Joe were back healthy. So when Kevin Owens brought out both Viking Raiders and Joe ultimately made an appearance too, it wasn’t a surprise. I did like how they held Joe back to sneak up from behind to attack Rollins. The physicality worked. It did build anticipation for the main event, so it was successful in that way.
Lynch vs. Asuka – HIT: This was better than their Women’s Championship match at The Royal Rumble which was also good. Becky Lynch and Asuka had a very good Title match here. Kairi Sane’s involvement was kept to a minimum which worked to not take away from the work going on in the ring. The match got better and better as it went with a very strong finishing sequence. I always think a wrestler with a submission finisher should also have a non-submission finisher too which can be used on occasion, even if the submission hold is used most of the time. I wonder if Becky introduced that move by using the urinage for the strong 1-2-3 win.
Shayna The Vampire – MISS: I had to consult the PWTorch Standards & Practices manual under the section “Words Not To Be Used in Hits & Misses” to find out what I can’t write about how horribly stupid this was. Unfortunately, I can’t use most of the words that jumped to mind when I saw Shayna Baszler biting Becky’s neck after her win over Asuka. This was so cartoonish and over the top and unbelievable. Baszler is a badass, not a psycho. There is so much potential in her as Becky’s WrestleMania opponent without going to this type of cheesy crap (“crap” is luckily allowed). I fear that Vince McMahon doesn’t understand what makes Baszler so special and so he went with this gimmick to give her something that he feels she needs, when she doesn’t. The reaction from Becky was ok and I chuckled a bit when she drove the ambulance to the hospital (I don’t need to follow WWE’s S&P manual so I don’t have to call it a “medical facility”). But, it felt like WWE going for a joke after what was a serious angle after the biting incident. Becky was certainly much more serious in her promo upon returning to the arena later on, so the whole thing felt unbalanced. I also have issues with the timing of this. We still don’t know if Charlotte Flair will challenge Rhea Ripley or one of the other Champs, so this felt a little like they were jumping the gun. Any Baszler appearance could have waited a week or two and still had plenty of time before WM and would have been better timed.
Street Profits – HIT: This Hit is totally all about The Street Profits doing anything other than acting like stupid Raw hype men. It was good to see them in a match. It was good to see them getting a strong squash win. The match only lasted about a minute, so it wasn’t a Hit worthy match, but just seeing them do something different was. The 24/7 match afterwards with Riddick Moss getting a small package win over Mojo Rawley wasn’t good. WWE has gone away from what was possibly a good shift for the 24/7 title which is unfortunate.
VIP Lounge – HIT: This feels like a good use of MVP at this point. As he said in his verbal exchange with Drew McIntyre, the in ring part of his career is winding down. He can host the VIP Lounge, but this made me want to see him become a manager. He can talk, has a history in the company and a connection with the fans who gave him a good reaction when he first came out. He can use his abilities to help get other talent over at this point. He was good in being more of a subtle heel in dealing with McIntyre and making a pitch to become his advocate. McIntyre was also good in his role. He continues to connect well with the audience. I’m curious to see where they go from here with MVP and how they keep developing McIntyre before WM. Will MVP introduce a client next week to take on McIntyre at Elimination Chamber?
Garza – Carillo – HIT: WWE has done a nice job of introducing Angel Garza to the Raw audience. He and Zelina Vega are working well together. He comes across like he belongs on the big stage. It was good to see Humberto Carillo come out to attack him before his match against Cedrick Alexander. That is more of the intensity and edge that Carillo has shown since returning from the DDT on the concrete from Andrade awhile back. Garza had a short, but good match against Alexander. I’m reminded that Alexander is very talented and it is a shame how much his talents have been wasted. With Andrade out for a few more weeks and Mysterio out awhile too, I still feel like they can stretch out a tag match until WM.
Ripley – Flair – HIT: This is another marginal Hit. The mic work from Ripley in the back and then after her match was strong. Flair was also good in continuing to avoid announcing which Champion she will face at WM. It also served to hype Ripley’s NXT Championship match against Bianca Bel Air on Sunday and makes me wonder if Charlotte will be on NXT Takeover: Portland. The problem was Sara Logan’s role in all of this. If she had been at least protected a little in her Raw appearances awhile back against Charlotte, this might have felt different. But, she is a loser, so why would I care about her here? On a bit of an aside, Byron Saxton was once again terrible here. After Jerry Lawler said that Logan believes that Ripley should stay in her lane on NXT, Saxton said something like “tell that to Ripley” and I was like “Logan did tell that to Ripley, that’s why they are having a match!”
Lashley vs. Ricochet – HIT: This wasn’t great, but it was good enough to get a Hit with Ricochet getting a strong win over Bobby Lashley. I don’t like how WWE frames Ricochet as an underdog due to his size, but at least he isn’t talking about Superheroes being real. I could see WWE “getting behind” Ricochet via a roll up victory here, so I was pleasantly surprised when he hit strong offense on Lashley to take him down and hit him with his 630 splash for the win.
Orton – Hardy – HIT: If this was Matt Hardy’s final moment in WWE, then he went out on a very good note. Randy Orton is going to string out explaining his attack on Edge. WWE has to be careful with drawing it out too long, but this was a good step. He started to talk about it and said it hurt him more than it hurt Edge. That was enough of a tease to see where he might go with his explanation when he gives it eventually. The Hardy interruption worked well. That was some of his best mic work ever. He did a great job of bringing up his history with Edge, both the good and the bad, in a way that brought things back to Edge’s unfortunate retirement and his long road back. The attempted RKO out of nowhere worked well in the way that Hardy was able to avoid it and fight back, before Orton hit the move eventually. This was a much less conflicted Orton giving Hardy the conchairto than he was when he did it to Edge.
Main Event – HIT: This was another good Raw. There was one terrible thing. And there were some things which weren’t bad, but not good either. But overall, this was a good show with a strong main event ending. The eight-man tag had good wrestling action throughout. It was building to what seemed to be the babyface group getting the win, but The Messiah Complex pulled it out in the end with some cheating from Rollins. That should make the fans want to see the babyfaces get the big win more. But, where does it all go from here? Rollins wants to prove that he is the leader of Raw, and Owens, Joe and company want to prove that he isn’t. That isn’t a great hook for a storyline. The factions are interesting and they are all good wrestlers, so they have good matches, but at some point the story has to be more clear as to what is really on the line and where do they go at WM?
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. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonMezzera.