By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Chris Jericho and Big Cass: It was refreshing to see an opening with new players including one veteran who is rarely in the opening mix and a main roster newcomer. Jericho was world class with his mic work and facial expressions. Cass is not a great talker, but he has come a long way. His big tell were always his eyes in that they displayed his uncertainty earlier in his career. Cass did really well in this segment and they set the stage for a main event that I was truly excited to see. WWE is selling viewers on this being a new era, and having Big Cass in the main event with Jericho really drove that home… until it didn’t happen. More on that later.
AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows vs. Roman Reigns and The Usos: I have mixed feelings on the elimination match. It worked for Styles and Reigns. Their interaction was strong and I liked the post match tension. Unfortunately, Anderson and Gallows are losing the aura they had when they debuted. Reigns doesn’t seem to have much trouble fighting them both off in shorthanded situations, and watching them get eliminated in forgettable fashion did further damage to the idea of them being a badass heel duo. Anderson and Gallows are interesting because of the mystery surrounding Styles and whether he is the player or the one being played. Styles is going to be fine regardless of how this all plays out. I’m not so sure about Anderson and Gallows given the way they are being booked.
Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler: Corbin needed the win after being defeated by Ziggler and then eliminated from the battle royal by him last week. Corbin gave up plenty to Ziggler during the match, but I really like the way he responds with explosive big man offense. I’m still not sure why creative felt the need to have Corbin lose rather than saving his first loss for a key situation.
Charlotte vs. Paige: A good match that helped sell what Ric Flair being banned from ringside could mean for Charlotte when she defends the title against Natalya at Extreme Rules. I didn’t like the way Flair came out late in the match because it sent the message that he could still show up at Extreme Rules and cause a distraction finish, but at least they had Paige win the match to show that his appearance backfired. Will Paige build on this win somehow or will she simply lose a rematch before Extreme Rules?
Sami Zayn vs. The Miz: We all assumed Zayn would win the match and gain a spot in the Intercontinental Title match at Extreme Rules, but it was still fun to see them get there. It took some time to get the crowd engaged, but they had them coming out of the commercial break and they kept getting louder up to the finish. We all know Zayn is great, but Miz deserves a lot more credit for his in-ring improvement than he’s been getting.
New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz: It was odd to see two champions lose non-title matches on the same night, but I really liked the Vaudevillains sneak attack on New Day. The Vaudevillains continue to grow on me as main roster heels. The act is quirky, but they usually make it work thanks to their promos. Much like Paige, The Dudleys getting the win left me wondering whether they will build on this or simply lose a rematch on television.
WWE Raw Misses
Rusev vs. Sin Cara: WWE finally put League of Nations out of its misery and then gave Rusev a battle royal win to make him number one contender to the U.S. Title. I was excited about a potential career resurgence for Rusev until they decided to have him lose to Sin Cara. The circumstances with Kalisto getting involved don’t matter. It was one step forward for Rusev last week followed by two steps back this week.
Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose: The angle itself was entertaining and Jericho did a great job of selling the frustration of watching Ambrose destroy the Lite-Brite jacket. The problem with the angle is that I never got over my disappointment of it replacing the advertised Jericho vs. Cass main event. Even as someone who thinks it’s way too soon for WWE to slot Cass as a top singles wrestler, I was still looking forward to the main event. Even if they book the match for Smackdown or even next week on Raw, it will lose some of the special feel that it had as a unique main event.
Kevin Owens vs. Zack Ryder: A minor Miss. I never bought into the idea of Ryder winning the match and taking the place of Owens in the four-way at Extreme Rules. The live crowd may have been feeling the fatigue of the marathon that is Raw, but they never seemed to buy in either based on how laid back they were during the match. Owens still kept things interesting. He continues to be the most consistently entertaining wrestler in WWE. Owens is a great upper mid-card act. Imagine what he could do if creative gave him something bigger. By the way, Owens appearing on ESPNews tonight should be really good regardless of whether we get the character or the man behind the character.
R-Truth vs. Fandango: I assume that Tyler Breeze being bumped off the ring apron by Truth means that Breeze will be turning on him, which will set up the seemingly inevitable Golden Truth vs. whatever the hell they decide to call the Breeze and Fandango team. Has WWE ever dedicated so much air time to the formation of any tag team?