Monday, February 26, 2018
Most of WWE has been excellent in 2018. Other than Smackdown, the weekly shows are usually giving us high quality wrestling and some strong storytelling. Raw was on a roll heading into this Pay-Per-View. Could they keep it up or live up to the great Royal Rumble PPV?
Recently, we’ve been treated to high quality Kickoff matches. This felt more like the days of King Barrett vs. R-Truth. This was a fine television style match and nothing more. Anderson took a short heat segment, before Gallows got to run a bit wild. A Magic Killer on Axel scored the win for the Good Brothers in 8:49. Like I said, this was fine, but totally forgettable and basic.
This had potential to shit the bed or be really good. Thankfully, it was the latter. Bayley started against Sonya Deville and they had a fine exchange. Mandy joined next and the Absolution girls teamed up on Bayley for what was easily the dullest part of the match. It only lasted a few minutes, but dragged on since Sonya and Mandy aren’t that good just yet. Sasha came in to even the odds and the match really gained momentum. Absolution against Bayley and Sasha proved to be one hell of a battle. Mickie entered next and had a strong run. It eventually came down to Alexa against Bayley and Sasha. Alexa ran from them and climbed the Chamber, which was fun. Sasha turned on Bayley, of course, kicked her off a pod like this was the Lion King or something. Bayley got rolled up in a slightly awkward moment, leaving it to Sasha and Alexa. Alexa busted out Twisted Bliss off a pod, that Sasha countered into the Bank Statement, which also didn’t come off too smoothly. Alexa weathered the storm and won with a hanging DDT in 29:38. A great match with some very good moments sprinkled in throughout. All the ladies worked hard and bumped their asses off. A few things lacked at some points (the Absolution team up and the final segment between Alexa and Sasha), but this was mostly great.
I’ve enjoyed most of their TV matches. This was about as good as their last title match. There were several fun exchanges. Apollo took the heat, which made sense as he’s more sympathetic than Titus. However, the crowd still hasn’t been given quite enough reason to get behind the group, so they weren’t as into the babyface stuff as you’d want. Titus had a fine hot tag, though it was nothing special. The Bar put Apollo away with a tandem White Noise after 11:41. Very enjoyable tag team wrestling, highlighted by the Bar being their consistent selves, and by Apollo having one of his better PPV performances.
If Nia won, she’d join the WrestleMania Raw Women’s Title match. There’s not much interest in this, as we’ve seen it a bunch in NXT and even on TV recently. The concern of, “Can Nia be the one to beat Asuka?” wasn’t there. I will give them props for the shot of Nia stepping on Asuka’s mask before the match. That was cool. Anyway, the match was similar to their prior matches, though not on the level of the TakeOver or Osaka bouts. They did play off the finish of those, which was nice. Asuka rolled through a pin to remain unbeaten at 8:10, before Nia attacked her after the match. It was fine pro wrestling that played to what works for both characters, it just lacked anything to really make it even a little exciting.
Like Asuka/Nia and Titus Worldwide/The Bar, we also got this on television in 2018. Bray basically squashed Matt on Raw 25. That, coupled with the terrible segments between the two, made for one of the most unappealing matches in recent memory. That happens a lot with Bray, huh? Anyway, this felt like more television filler. There was little life or energy behind anything, and the crowd cared about everything but the stuff going in the ring. Matt got the win with the Twist of Fate in 10:10 and we can all just move on with our lives. The definition of a “nothing” match.
Ronda Rousey came out to sign her contract next, complete with Kurt Angle, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon in the ring. The segment moved along relatively fine, though Ronda is clearly still not comfortable on the microphone. She didn’t talk for a long time, but I still cringed a bit. Once Kurt Angle opened his mouth, the segment was saved. He hilariously confessed that HHH and Stephanie were still unhappy with Ronda for WrestleMania 31 (between this and what we find out was the Universal Title match, might as well call this year’s Mania WrestleMania 31: The Sequel) and they wanted to control her. With Ronda no longer talking, the segment took off. She put HHH through a table with a great looking spinebuster. Stephanie did slap her, but Ronda just gave her a look and she went running. Ronda signed the contract, setting up some kind of mixed tag at Mania most likely. It started slow and Ronda could definitely use a mouthpiece, but it ended with a bang and made me interested in Ronda. Success.
A seven-man Chamber should be wild. I was so happy that Finn, Seth, and Miz started. Their match on Raw in 2017 was the most underrated of the year. They started the match hot, making for some great moments. Things really picked up once Braun entered. He got most of the highlights and literally eliminated everyone until it came down to himself and Roman Reigns. I have to point out that the best spot was Braun launching Miz off a pod onto everyone below. Braun kicked out of EVERYTHING, surviving so much until the end. When it came down to him vs. Roman, it was good, but not on the level of their great encounters last year. Reigns hit him with everything in his power to pull out the expected win after 40:11. I did like how Finn and Seth lasted a long time (they were the last two eliminated before Braun) and got so much time in the match. They clearly weren’t afterthoughts. Watching live, I reacted to a lot of my friends were popping for, but missed a few things. I re-watched on my own this morning and liked it a fair amount less. It wasn’t as chaotic as you’d expect from something involving so many people and the final encounter wasn’t that great. It’s a very good chamber, just not the standout one I wanted, especially after the excellent gauntlet match on Raw.
Overall: Raw has been a very good show so far in 2018. However, their exclusive PPV performed like most of their others since the brand split. It was above average and nothing more. The two chambers were very good and certainly the highlights, but the rest of the card felt like filler. Even with Asuka/Nia being solid and the Tag Title match being good, they didn’t really feel special. Other than the Chambers, it felt like an episode of TV. The same goes for the Ronda segment, even though it was good.