By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows attack Roman Reigns: The story is moving at a quicker than expected pace. I really thought we’d see Anderson and Gallows essentially perform a replay of their beatdown of the Usos last week on them again or someone else. It was a pleasant surprise to see them move the storyline forward in a major way by having them reunite with AJ Styles and then attack Reigns. The question is whether Styles was in on the attacks or if his character is genuinely opposed to the actions of his friends. My guess is that he’s not in on it and that Anderson and Gallows will be aligned with someone else. Either way, it’s fun to have a storyline that has people asking questions and fantasy booking their own potential scenarios. It clearly enhances the main event of Payback in a big way. Cole claimed the main event had a big match feel right before the attack. At the point he said it, I disagreed with him because I just wasn’t buying into the possibility of Reigns dropping the title. I’m still not expecting that to happen, but they have created real intrigue as to what exactly will happen with Anderson and Gallows.
Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho: A good match that left me thinking future matches will be even better if they get a chance to develop more in-ring chemistry. I like the finish with Jericho going over. He has wins over AJ Styles and now Zayn, and it feels like he’s on a roll heading into his match with Dean Ambrose. More importantly, Zayn doesn’t need to peak too early in WWE. Zayn is an underdog character, so it’s logical to have him lose now to help establish him in that manner for the casual viewers. Of course, there’s a chance I’m giving WWE too much credit in that his losses may just be losses and they don’t have any major plans for him, but I sure hope that’s not the case.
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens: A good main event with both men working hard to end the London show on a high note. I really liked the moment with Owens and Apollo Crews crossing paths on the entrance ramp and I look forward to seeing them wrestle. Owens feels somewhat teflon at this point. I’d love to see him pushed as a dominant heel, but he’s so good on the mic that his recent string of losses have not stuck with him in a negative way.
Baron Corbin vs. Fandango: A good showcase match for Corbin with a nice followup to his recent dominance of Dolph Ziggler. I love the no nonsense approach that Corbin’s character took. He didn’t mug for the cameras or stick around to play for heat after destroying Ziggler. Rather, he walked to the back in business-like fashion. Corbin will get over as a strong heel if they protect him.
Cesaro and New Day vs. The Miz and League of Nations: The match itself was your basic Raw time-filler, but the London fans went crazy for the New Day entrance. Is Sheamus the new designated job guy for League of Nations now that King Barrett is out of the group? By the way, it will be interesting to see if Barrett shows up at the Smackdown taping on Tuesday. After all, if he doesn’t show up at either London taping, then you have to wonder when or if he will return to television.
Natalya, Paige, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte, Summer Rae, Naomi, and Tamina: A minor Hit for the live crowd treating each babyface like a star when they each tagged into the match. I also liked the finish with Charlotte tapping out to the Sharpshooter. I also like the announcement that Bret Hart will appear in Natalya’s corner for her Payback match against Charlotte. Sure, we saw this same scenario on an NXT live special, but I think it will actually work better and feel bigger this time around now that Charlotte has established herself as the women’s champion and Natalya is a challenger with momentum. Is anyone else surprised that WWE continues to use Bret despite all the negative things he’s said about Triple H and others in recent interviews?
WWE Raw Misses
Miz TV: After opening the show with a talk show segment, they came back to another talk show segment, and then announced yet another talk show segment for Smackdown. I get a kick out of the Miz and Mayrse act, but this felt uneventful. And while I gave the two matches that followed minor Hits, there’s no denying that this segment leading into those two matches felt uninspired and flat.
Shane McMahon: I have mixed feelings on Shane. I firmly believe that he is playing a vital role as the likable authority figure. However, this was not his strongest appearance. Some of the problem lies with the way the character is written and the way they are going overboard to give him credit for change that doesn’t feel all that significant. I especially laughed when he was credited with the main event as if The Authority never booked Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens before. That said, some of the problem falls on Shane, who has been hit or miss on the mic. His flat announcement of two Payback matches failed to make them seem important, and he continues to look uncomfortable more often than not. It would also be nice if they took the time to come up with a better explanation for Shane continuing to play the authority figure given that it goes against the WrestleMania match stipulation. I’m not opposed to them blowing it off, but it would be nice if Vince McMahon at least appeared on television to put things in his own words and explain whether Shane is a regular or is being assessed on a weekly basis.
The Vaudevillains vs. The Usos: I’m still not sold on the Vaudevillains clicking on the main roster. They only really clicked with me at NXT when they had the tag titles. And perhaps they can get a little something out of them if they give them a brief run with the tag straps. The gimmick was quirky even at the Full Sail studio, and it feels really out of place on the main roster. I hope they have a twist in mind because I think Simon Gotch and Aiden English are talented guys who are stuck with an undercard gimmick. Meanwhile, the Usos were attacked by Anderson and Gallows last week, but they didn’t even get mic time to address it.