By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Braun Strowman vs. Seth Rollins: A well booked match with a finish mindful of protecting both men. Strowman wasn’t going to lose, and Rollins shouldn’t lose clean even to Strowman at this point. Thus, Sami Zayn interfering got them out of the match while also setting up next week’s Last Man Standing match. The jury is still out on Strowman in terms of whether he can be a long term success, but the company is doing a really nice job of making him seem like a main event monster.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston for the Raw Tag Titles: A good tag title rematch with the fans buying into the near falls from both teams. It’s good to see the fans are still into the rivalry between the two teams because there’s really no one else positioned strongly enough in the tag division to click with Sheamus and Cesaro.
Stephanie McMahon’s jab at CM Punk: You just know they have been sitting back and waiting to deliver this jab at Punk. They didn’t go out of their way to gloat right after he lost his UFC fight. Rather, they waited until Chicago and the first chant for Punk to drop the line. Punk is the guy known for the Pipe Bomb promo. He can dish it out and he can take it. It was a clever line that got the intended reaction from the live crowd.
Neville vs. TJ Perkins: An entertaining match, yet one that I would not have gone with. Neville just turned heel. He should have been showcased against an inferior opponent, not splitting offense with the former WWE Cruiserweight Champion this early in his heel run. Even so, Neville continues to shine as a heel, and I suspect we’ll end up seeing him feud with Austin Aries once the 205 Live color commentator is medically cleared.
Jack Gallagher and Ariya Daivari: It was odd seeing Daivari lose so quickly to Rich Swann when usual suspect Drew Gulak or another heel could have been inserted into the loser slot. However, Gallagher’s backstage challenge to a duel was so entertaining that it didn’t even matter that Daivari was defeated quickly and decisively, as I’m looking forward to the duel even more than the Swann vs. Neville match on tonight’s 205 Live.
Overall show: The bar is so low for Raw these days that it really doesn’t take much to please me. In this case, all it took was a straight forward show rather than the usual holiday madness or the horrible Slammy Awards show.
WWE Raw Misses
Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Championship: A flat main event. Think back to how great Owens was when he defeated John Cena to win the first match of their feud. The Owens character had a real sense of danger and credibility that has been completely erased in favor of comedy. And there are times when that comedy is highly entertaining, but it’s painful to see him reduced to playing the role of a pest heel champion who can only beat top babyfaces when Chris Jericho interferes. This feud with Reigns should feel like a showdown. Instead, their matches and their title belts feel insignifcant.
Bayley: The Chicago crowd giving her a ho-hum reaction speaks volumes. The same crowd a year ago would have popped huge for Bayley’s entrance even though she had not appeared on the main roster. Granted, some in attendance would have been unfamiliar with her because they weren’t watching NXT, but those who were would have more than made up for it. I have written repeatedly that WWE failed to create the underdog
Dusty Rhodes bear: WWE used the memory of Dusty Rhodes to set up a throwaway tag match on Raw. It doesn’t matter if Dustin Runnels approved it. At least one of Dusty’s children (Cody) publicly acknowledged that he was bothered by it. It was completely unnecessary and served as a weak hook for a throwaway tag match. Why go there?
Nia Jax vs. Scarlet: Scarlet’s pre-match story about being inspired by Sasha Banks was a moment of disconnect. I have no clue how Scarlet truly feels, but this felt far too contrived even on the off chance there was some truth in what she said.