Raw Review, 4/23

The show fitting starts with a ten-bell salute and a video tribute to possibly the greatest champion in the wrestling history, Bruno Sammartino. I’ve watched some of his old matches on the network, and while it’s a totally different from of sports entertainment today than it was then, you could tell just how much he meant to the fans and how “over” he was, as well as how dedicated he was to his craft. I’m glad they are giving him the recognition he is due, and that he reconciled with WWE and Vince before he died. If you haven’t watched his Legends with JBL interview on the network, I highly recommend it.

The 1,300th episode of Raw gets right to it with Lesnar and Heyman. Hostile crowd for Lesnar, I love it. I still don’t understand why the crowd will chant along with Heyman and then immediately boo when they’re done. Heyman is the best troll in the business, but why does he even bother bragging about Lesnar beating up on Roman? It’s supposed to be a heel tactic, but the crowd does nothing but cheer it. They do make a feeble attempt at a Roman chant. Usually I enjoy Heyman’s promos, but this one just dragged on. Roman’s music is a welcome interruption. It sounds like there’s more cheers for him than usual. I’ve softened my feelings on all the boos he gets, as long as he gets A reaction, it’s a good thing. That seemed like a pretty pointless interaction. I guess it was just to show that Roman still has confidence after his loss, but after all the physicality every week leading up to Wrestlemania, this segment fell flat with me. The crowd was into it though, so I guess that’s all that matters.

BOBBY ROODE VS. ELIAS
I would have like to see Elias troll the crown brilliantly once again. Bobby Roode bores me to death as a face. There was no build or promotion for this match, why am I supposed to care about it? And I get it, Bobby Roode says GLORIOUS. Enough. In general I really enjoy Elias’ matches, he’s a solid wrestler and has improved a lot from his NXT days. They gave these guys a lot of time and they had a really good match. But again, there’s just really no reason for me to care about it, there’s no history or storyline with these guys. I’m surprised Elias got the win with Roode being the new guy on Raw.

THE ASCENSION VS. DELETER OF WORLDS
Weirdly fun promo from Woken Matt and Bray Wyatt. They’re awesome together, I hope they remain a tag team for a while. I wonder if there’s any way back for The Ascension from being either a comedy team or jobbers. It’s mind boggling what they were in NXT compared to what they are on the main roster. They looked strong in this match, so hopefully this is a starting point on that road to recovery. We all knew they wouldn’t get the win, but at least it wasn’t a squash. I think they need to wrestle some squash matches against jobbers themselves. As for Matt and Bray, I’d like to see them win the tag titles.

THE SAMI & KEVIN SHOW W/KURT ANGLE
Sami and Kevin are expert heels. This segment does a really good job at building anticipation for Angle, Bryan, and Jericho getting their hands on KO and Sami. A big tag match is announced for tonight against Strowman and Lashley. I’m really looking forward to that one.

Axel and Dallas trying to re-form The Shield with Rollins is pretty damn funny. Hopefully this becomes a running gag with them looking for a new mentor every week.

TITUS WORLDWIDE VS. DREW MCINTYRE & DOLPH ZIGGLER
A tweak to Drew McIntyre’s theme song, it sounds bad ass. Apollo is too damn talented in the ring to be stagnating the way he is. His character just doesn’t connect with the crowd. Does he need a heel turn, or a character change? Could he win the crowd over if they give him the mic? I don’t know the answer, but he has the makings of a champion  on athleticism alone, but he’s relegated to a tag team jobber. The tandem finisher by McIntyre and Ziggler was awesome. McIntyre’s promo after the match hopefully means he’s ready to tear through the roster with a vengeance.

JINDER MAHAL VS. CHAD GABLE
Some backstage insults and shoving lead to a match that intrigues me, I thought it could be a very good one with their styles. Gable is a face now after coming to Raw. I was not disappointed by the match, Gable is great at selling Jinder’s power moves, and his comeback is awesome with his incredible athleticism. Old school tactics by Gable continuously attacking the same leg, but Jinder fails to sell it. The ending didn’t look great but overall I was entertained by the match.

I cringed as they let Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan have some mic time for the first time in months, but they kept it short and to the point and didn’t sound awkward and dumb. Some improvement there, especially from Logan. She was brutal before. Baby steps.

Dallas and Axel try to join the Balor Club. I love it, keep it going. I’d love for them to ultimately end up joining with Matt and Bray.

OWENS & ZAYN VS. STROWMAN & LASHLEY
Lashley looked excellent. It felt like he spent way too long in the ring without tagging in Strowman, but it made the hot tag extremely effective and the place came unglued, you could see most of the crowd on its feet. Strowman may be the most over guy on the roster. Lashley’s hesitation suplex is sweet. Sami plays the practice dummy for the last few minutes of the match to everyone’s delight. Strowman’s shoulder block on Owens looked brutal.

NO WAY JOSE VS. BARON CORBIN
Corbin pulls a predictable but sensible ambush on No Way Jose. Simple is best when it comes to good heel work.

Bliss tells a hilarious story about Nia stealing a burrito bowl from an old lady. The heels definitely get to have the most fun.

FINN BALOR & SETH ROLLINS VS. CURTIS AXEL & BO DALLAS
Why are they still being called the Miztourage after The Miz has left Raw, and why are they still using his music? This was an offensive showcase for Rollins and Balor. Fun and easy win.

NIA JAX, EMBER MOON, NATALYA, SASHA, & BAYLEY VS. ALEXA BLISS, MICKIE JAMES, & THE RIOTT SQUAD
Natalya is a face once again. It’s funny how simply switching shows turns someone face or heel. Ember Moon hit a vicious-looking suicide dive. I love watching Natalya in the ring, she’s such an incredible wrestler. I often wonder what it’s like for other women to get in the ring with Nia, knowing what they’re about to endure. Her dive off the apron had to be terrifying for all the other women. As I was typing “I’m not sure why they have Mickie continue to attack Natalya’s knee”, Joan Jett answered my question. Ronda is going to be wrestling Mickie on the European tour, so it makes sense to set up the feud this way.

A lot of fun matches tonight. Not a lot of storyline progression, but they are only one week removed from the shakeup and less than a week away from the Greatest Royal Rumble, so I guess that’s to be expected. What did you guys think of tonight’s show?

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