By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro and The Miz: Owens continues to be the most entertaining man in pro wrestling and the weekly MVP of WWE television. As disappointing as it was to see the Cesaro vs. Zayn match go less than two minutes, I really liked the dynamic in the tag match. They teased the idea of Shane giving viewers a Smackdown rematch only to have Stephanie come out and create the more intriguing match with rivals teaming together. Owens yelling, “He’s the worst one!” after being paired with Miz was laugh out loud funny. The match was entertaining and I like that Owens was the last man standing with heat heading into Extreme Rules. By the way, I have no doubt that Owens will help make the Miz TV segment on Smackdown entertaining, yet I also have no desire to see it. WWE has to know that their near weekly announcements of talkshow segments on Smackdown is a lazy turnoff.
AJ Styles and Roman Reigns: A solid segment that set the stage for the tag match later in the show, as well as Sunday’s Extreme Rules main event. It’s good to see that WWE officials seem to be more comfortable with Styles on the mic. He will never be the best talker in the company, but he holds his own in short spurts when he’s given good material to work with. Creative still hasn’t made me feel like Styles is a threat to beat Reigns without help from Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. It’s not that Styles comes off grossly inferior, but rather he feels like he’s a notch or two down from Reigns. The match itself should tell that story if that’s what they are going for, not the build to the match.
Charlotte and Natalya contract signing: Charlotte continues to shine as the arrogant heel. I thought they might treat Greensboro as Bizarro World South by simply acknowledging the crowd cheers for the Flairs occurring because they were in Flair Country. Instead, they took on the challenge of having Charlotte try to turn the crowd against her. She succeeded for the most part. I like the way that her ego is growing to the point that she’s starting to big time her legendary father. It could be a sign that Charlotte is going to move on without Ric Flair, especially since she will likely win without his help on Sunday. I’d rather see them drag this out and use Charlotte’s occasional jabs at her father as a way to get her heat. The big letdown of the segment was that it felt like it was more about the McMahons than Natalya. I get the idea of having Stephanie and Shane involved if they were worried that Charlotte and Natalya might lose viewers, but that doesn’t mean the end of the segment needed to be more about them than the wrestlers. By the way, nice sister Stephanie and goofy older brother Shane are not compelling enough to warrant the amount of television time they are getting.
Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho: Let’s get the negative out the way. Ambrose’s delivery became very corny to close out the segment. However, the rest of the verbal exchange was solid. I can’t say the Asylum match does any more for me than TNA’s Lethal Lockdown or Raven’s Clockwork Orange House of Fun matches, but it fits the theme of Extreme Rules and it’s unique enough within WWE that it might be a selling point for some viewers. Jericho continues to shine on the mic and his new Gift of Jericho pose and the “drink it in” line crack me up and, more importantly, get good heat.
Becky Lynch vs. Dana Brooke: Lynch is a valuable commodity. She may not be cast as the top female babyface, but she is over enough that she can lose several televised matches in a row and still maintain the support of the fans. Lynch has developed enough credibility that it meant something when Brooke beat her. Brooke’s early main roster character is an obnoxious blowhard. She makes it easy for fans to dislike her and wish that one of the babyfaces would shut her up. She is still a work in progress in the ring though. It’s a shame that Emma suffered the back injury because they would have covered each other’s weaknesses well.
WWE Raw Misses
Big Cass promo: Cass has been the most vocal character about the new era in WWE, yet he’s also the guy dropping references to Steve Urkel and Fred Flintstone in the same promo. You know, because nothing says new and cool like Urkel and Fred Flintstone. It’s time to ease up on the concerns that Vince McMahon is going gaga over Cass’s size and wants to give him a big singles push before he is ready. Aside from the tease of a match with Chris Jericho that never materialized, it’s felt like Cass has been killing time until his tag partner Enzo Amore returns.
The Usos vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows: The match quality was a Hit and I enjoyed this outing more than the one from Smackdown. It’s just frustrating to see Anderson and Gallows losing early and often in their WWE run. They pose a threat to Roman Reigns in terms of cheating him out of the championship, yet he manhandles them both on a regular basis, and they already lose as many matches as they win. What happens to Anderson and Gallows once the Reigns vs. Styles feud runs its course? Here’s hoping there is a new leader of The Club (lousy name) or Anderson and Gallows could quickly become just another tag team in WWE.
The Shining Stars vs. John Skyler and Corey Hollis: The best thing I can say about the heel Puerto Rico tourism gimmick is that it’s not Los Matadores.
Golden Truth vs. Fandango and Tyler Breeze: I was shocked to hear the crowd get behind Goldust and R-Truth. Then again, they have been building up to the two of them teaming for five freaking months. I’m happy to see Goldust get a little something, but their comedy antics do nothing for me. I would be more excited about the Fandango and Breeze pairing if (a) Fandango changed his name, and (b) if it seemed like they weren’t put together just to be fall guys for Golden Truth. Congrats to WWE creative for adding a Golden Girls reference to go along with the mentions of Steve Urkel and Fred Flintstone. Is JBL writing promos?
Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio: The match quality was fine. The problem is that we’ve seen it countless times and we know that they just trade wins and losses. So now we head into a U.S. Championship match with a champion who lost a non-title match and a challenger who lost to Sin Cara. Riveting. The one plus in all of this was the way Rusev appeared to break Kalisto in half while applying the Accolade. By the way, is all of this leading to Rusev winning the title on Sunday just to drop it to John Cena? They can’t be going back to the U.S. Open Challenge again, can they?
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Brian Pillman Jr., who discusses his training, following his father's footsteps, his own career aspirations, being part of the Hart Foundation faction, his big match at the MLW Saturday Night SuperFight pay-per-view, working with Jushin Liger, touring the WWE Performance Center, and much more...