By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
The Club attacks John Cena: An excellent swerve. I believed the AJ Styles character when he said The Club should go separate ways. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows seemed to cement that when they attacked New Day early in the show and then put the tag division on notice. It was cool to see the turn play out so suddenly. Had they booked Styles and Cena to team against The Club, it would have given viewers plenty of time to consider the possibility that Styles was going to turn on Cena. Even if they didn’t think that was going to occur, it still would have been a finish that they would have considered as a possibility and the surprise would not have been as impactful. Instead, they did it in a way that caught most viewers off guard and in a high profile spot on a night built around Cena’s return.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. The Dudley Boyz: The live crowd was flat for a mostly atrocious first half of the show. The turning point came with the high energy promo by Enzo and Cass that brought the crowd back to life. It was surprising to see them plow through the Dudley Boyz in a regular Raw match. I thought they might try to drag this out until the pay-per-view and perhaps they still will, but this program was lopsided in the babyfaces favor even while Enzo was out with the head injury and Cass was manhandling both Dudleys by himself.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin: We saw shots of Ziggler from his college wrestling days. We watched Dolph put on amateur wrestling headgear. And then he kicked Corbin right square in the balls to avenge his loss at Extreme Rules. I laughed. I still wish this feud had been won by Corbin in dominating fashion, but I got a kick out of the babyface outsmarting the heel in this fashion.
Dean Ambrose, Sami Zayn, and Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens, Alberto Del Rio, and Chris Jericho: A good main event with entertaining backstage interviews from both teams.
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: WWE ran opposite a big NBA game seven showdown playoff game, and the first game of the NHL Stanley Cup final. They countered with a show that came off as if they were very aware of the strong competition and opted to wave the white flag. If you missed Monday’s show, go out of your way to see The Club turning on John Cena (which actually aired during halftime of the big NBA game), but everything else was missable in terms of storyline progression.
Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins: Rollins came out several times and left several times without saying or doing anything. The segment epitomized the idea of WWE not giving away anything due to the strong sports competition. Rollins played his role well and the Reigns promo was fine (aside from the tired Guy line explanation). Still, this went on much longer than it needed to and did not leave me anxious to see the next chapter of the top babyface who should be the top heel facing the top heel who should be the top babyface.
Shane McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and New Day opening: I get the idea of not sharing much information about the brand split, er, extension, but I don’t understand the decision to send the “nothing to see here” message in the opening segment. The hype for the split was lousy. Michael Cole’s corporate lingo explanation was absurd. Perhaps WWE should have held off on announcing the move until they actually had something to say other than that Smackdown is going live on Tuesdays. I realize there was strong competition, but I really came away feeling like WWE still doesn’t know how they intend to approach the brand split, which is downright frightening.
Stephanie McMahon scolds Charlotte: The only thing missing was the unanswered Stephanie McMahon face slap and then the emasculation of Charlotte would have been complete. This made zero sense. Not only did Stephanie slap Ric Flair two weeks ago, but she has feuded with her own parents over the years. So unless there’s more to the story and there’s some type of swerve in play, I have no idea what purpose this segment served other than to continue the farfetched Stephanie is suddenly a good person routine.
The Usos vs. Tyler Breeze and Fandango: I will laugh hysterically if WWE spent all this time building up Golden Truth only to split them up on draft night. That said, their feud with Breeze and Fandango is channel changing material for this viewer. There’s no denying that the casual fans seem to be digging it based on their chants, but the feud isn’t doing anything for me.
Rusev vs. Zack Ryder: I can’t stress enough how bad the new version of the Accolade is. It looked cool when Rusev locked little Kalisto in the move during their feud, but the move didn’t work with Ryder. Rusev basically pulled Ryder on top of him and it looked like the hold consisted of holding onto his face rather than arching his back. The good news is that there is no sign of Rusev dropping the U.S. Title to John Cena. Rusev needs to beat Titus O’Neil clean and decisively. Their feud needs to be about rebuilding Rusev as a monster heel, not about elevating Titus O’Neil through parity booking.
Natalya vs. Dana Brooke: Charlotte followed up the big angle with her father by getting yelled at by Stephanie McMahon and by serving as a distraction in this match. Meanwhile, Dana’s strength is talking, yet we still haven’t heard why she joined Team Charlotte. Natalya feels flat coming out of two really bad pay-per-view finishes. However, it is nice to see Becky Lynch back in the title picture.