By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
John Cena and AJ Styles contract signing: A good segment with Cena making up for last week’s promo that had him building up Styles only to tear him down by pointing out his failures since arriving in WWE. The two contract approach was a nice twist on the usual contract signing, and it effectively sent the message that this is a one-on-one match, not a match where fans should just sit back and wait for Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson to show up. Of course, there’s nothing stopping WWE from having a fourth Club member show up, but at least they sold viewers on the idea that this is going to be a one-on-one showdown. I’m not a fan of the obvious ban on mentioning TNA. I realize that TNA is a competitor in the sense that they have a show on cable, but TNA is so distant to WWE that one simple mention of the company that Styles mentions doesn’t suddenly make them a threat. That said, I couldn’t blame Styles if he doesn’t want his former employers mentioned. After all, they tried to create trouble for him the weekend of his WWE debut by going public with their silly term sheet story. Oh, and there’s that little issue with TNA making big money offers to Styles, Gallows, and Anderson and apparently not having enough money to actually make good on the payments in what normal people would consider to be timely fashion. By the way, if they almost had to pull the plug on Slammiversary and the Impact tapings due to money, why in the world is TNA still making offers to wrestlers they don’t have under contract?
Ambrose Asylum with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins: A good segment that finally teased the possibility that Dean Ambrose could win Money in the Bank and cash in against one of his former Shield members on the same night. I would have taken it a step further by teasing that he could even make their match a Triple Threat, but I’ll settle for them finally getting around to mentioning the Ambrose cashing in scenario. Rollins was very good on the mic throughout the segment, and Reigns continues to say very little. Ambrose performing Dirty Deeds on Reigns should have been played up more afterward. That’s a major storyline development that was just kind of brushed off as crazy Dean being crazy Dean.
Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose: The announcement of this match made one @prowrestlingnet follower label it the new John Cena vs. Randy Orton. It’s a tired matchup no matter how hard the wrestlers work, and you could almost feel the disappointment through the television when the match was announced as being the main event. Fortunately, the other Money in the Bank participants were added in various roles and it actually turned out to be a lot of fun and served as good final hype for the Money in the Bank ladder match.
Tag Team opening: New Day humor is subjective in that I hear from readers who strongly disagree when I dislike one of their segments, and then I hear from readers who strongly disagree when I like one of their segments. In this case, I enjoyed the lighthearted comedy following the moment of silence at the start of the show. I can’t believe Steph Curry’s shoes have received so much mainstream attention, but I am not an NBA fan and I was well aware of this “controversy” heading into Raw. In other words, it was timely ribbing. It was cool to see Enzo and Big Cass share the ring with New Day, and the Vaudevillains got some heat for interrupting them. The negative of the segment was the weak dialogue that Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows had to deliver. The badass tag team had to resort to a lame local sports team joke? At least they got the win in the eight-man tag match that followed.
Kevin Owens and Alberto Del Rio vs. The Lucha Dragons: The idea of putting Owens and Del Rio’s MITB spots on the line gave the match a hook. I don’t think anyone really expected them to lose, but they did a good job of making the stipulation count with Owens fearing that Del Rio was going to get them disqualified, and then reconsidering when he teased walking out on his tag partner.
WWE Raw Misses
Shane and Stephanie McMahon bickering: I assume their sudden bickering indicates that WWE has picked a direction for the upcoming brand split. After all, these two seemed to be getting along fine the last time we saw them onscreen together, yet suddenly they were at each other’s throats about everything. Stephanie even seemed to forget her past issues with Kevin Owens when she sided with him over Shane. None of this excites me. Shane’s proclamation that he would continue to run Raw with Stephanie and run Smackdown by himself seemed a bit selfish for his nice guy character.
Alberto Del Rio continuity: WWE delivered a classy, yet all too familiar tribute to start the show. Several people have pointed out that Del Rio was on the stage with the other wrestlers, yet the story later in the show was that he was late to Raw because he was held up at the airport thanks to the manipulations of Owens. There are a couple of ways to look at this. Perhaps WWE screwed up. If so, the lack of attention to detail is embarrassing. It seems more likely to me that they view the tribute as being separate from the rest of the show. In other words, the tribute is real, but the rest of the show is just scripted television. It’s a personal preference, but I am not a fan of this approach or anything that makes it difficult for viewers to suspend their disbelief. And before anyone argues that the tribute is more important than the rest of the show, keep in mind that WWE has taken the opposite approach by leaving select wrestlers out of past tributes.
Corporate Kane returns: The appearances of Teddy Long and now Corporate Kane are not leaving me anxious to find out who is in charge of Smackdown. Rather, they are reminding me of some bad eras in the show’s history. If Shane and Stephanie both want to run a brand, why in the world are they even bothering to interview anyone for the Smackdown position?
Sami Zayn and Cesaro: They both came off poorly backstage with Sami interrupting Cesaro’s live promo, and Cesaro talking down to Zayn. The broadcast team reminded viewers about their classic NXT match, but they had no chance to even approach it with the eight minutes they were given, including a commercial break during the match. Fortunately, the finish of the match was excellent and I’m guessing that’s what most people will remember about the match.
Charlotte and Dana Brooke: It’s too soon for these two to be having issues. The broadcast team was apparently so busy clowning around with Becky Lynch and Natalya that they missed the point of the finish being that Dana rolled Charlotte back inside the ring and cost her the match. They also didn’t make a big enough deal out of Paige defeating the women’s champion. The Charlotte and Dana pairing isn’t doing anything for me, and WWE failed to make their MITB match with Natalya and Becky Lynch feel meaningful in any way.
Sheamus vs. Zack Ryder: The thrill seemed to be gone for Ryder’s hope spot. Sure, the fans will still chant “Woo Woo Woo” once a match, but it didn’t seem like anyone was buying into his near fall over Sheamus. The post match angle with Apollo Crews was forgettable and hopefully they do a better job on Smackdown of setting up his MITB match with Sheamus.
The Shining Stars, Bob Backlund, and Darren Young: None of the vignettes have left me even remotely interested in watching The Shining Stars or Young actually wrestle. You’d think that would be the point, but instead it comes off like the creative team members are humoring themselves.