By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
The suspension of Roman Reigns acknowledged: Nothing makes WWE wrestlers look like corporate puppets more than when they are not allowed to acknowledge an elephant in the room. Fortunately, WWE opted to have Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Stephanie McMahon address the suspension of Roman Reigns. The only real negative of the segment was scripting Rollins to act like he was delivering an impromptu shoot only to have the production team take his cue to run the Roman Reigns apology on the big screen. It took away any chance that fans would suspend their disbelief long enough to believe that Rollins was saying something the company didn’t approve of ahead of time. Despite that poor attention to detail, Seth’s speech and the reactions of Ambrose and Stephanie were the most interesting aspects of the entire show.
John Cena vs. Seth Rollins: A good match made more interesting by the stipulation that Cena could earn a spot in the title match at Battleground by defeating Rollins. I’m happy they stuck with the Triple Threat match, but I like the way the stipulation made this match and the main event feel more relevant. The interference by The Club was expected, yet effective in that it added heat to Cena’s feud with the trio. In fact, I’m curious to see whether we get another Cena vs. Styles match or if they end up going with a six-man tag match with Cena finding a pair of partners to face the trio.
Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles: Cena got his revenge by playing a part in costing Styles the match. Some fans are complaining that neither match led to someone new being added to the Battleground main event, but there was no reason to add anyone. The match is about the three Shield members facing off in a Triple Threat match for the first time ever. Adding Cena and/or Styles to that match would have completely changed the dynamic for the worse and left the rest of the show thin on star power. By the way, it was nice to see The Club and Rollins get heat to close the show for a change.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn on The Highlight Reel: Good mic work from Owens and Zayn. I like the way Zayn called out Jericho for trying to stir the pot rather than be oblivious to it. Jericho continues to shine as the over the top heel who shows ass on a regular basis.
Rusev vs. Titus O’Neil: The best finish of the night. Okay, so a count-out finish is far from the most exciting finish, but it was the right finish in that it gave Titus a win to set up a U.S. Title rematch while still protecting Rusev. Titus has shown good fire over the last two weeks, yet Rusev continues to be protected as he is being slowly rebuilt ideally to monster heel status.
Xavier Woods: I am still fearful of the New Day vs. Wyatt Family feud due to the clash in styles, but I did enjoy the way Woods acted once Bray Wyatt arrived. Woods seemed like he was in a trance last week, but this week he came off as simply being captivated by Wyatt, who recognized it and is now trying to exploit it. While only time will tell what the end result of this part of the story will be, it has added an unexpected and entertaining wrinkle to the feud.
Alberto Del Rio: The Tampa crowd faded by this point in the third hour. Who could blame them? Nevertheless, they came to life when Del Rio blasted Sheamus with a kick and then abandoned him. I suspect this was nothing more than WWE playing into past tension amongst the former League of Nations members to give them an easy match finish, but I hope it was the first step toward Del Rio turning babyface. As good as Del Rio can be as a heel, WWE saddled him with a rotten return gimmick and he’s never recovered. Someone from WWE needs to watch his work outside the company to see just how effective he can be as a babyface.
WWE Raw Misses
Enzo Amore and Big Cass: The wave?!? Enzo and Big Cass are over big. The live crowd chants along with their usual mic work and they hang on Enzo’s every word. So why push it by forcing a silly wave request on the fans when they are already getting a great organic response? Here’s hoping this doesn’t become the norm. By the way, the Social Outcasts returned. No one cared. The gimmick sucks the oxygen out of the room and all three men would be more entertaining if they returned to being singles undercard wrestlers.
The Miz vs. Kane: WWE had to know that revealing Kane as a mystery opponent was going to be letdown. It seemed obvious enough that it would be Kane, but that never stops fans from getting their hopes up. The days of Kane qualifying as an exciting surprise for anything other than the house show crowd or perhaps something involving Undertaker have past. I got a mild kick out of Maryse faking the injury to get Miz out of the match until I realized that means we’ll probably be seeing more from Miz and Kane.
Overall show: There were more Hits than Misses, yet the show just dragged even more than usual. The live crowd seemed bored by the third hour and it made for a lousy television atmosphere. By the way, I can’t believe WWE didn’t give viewers any incentive to watch next week given that Raw will air on the Independence Day holiday in the United States. I assume the numbers will be way down either way, but you’d think they would offer some type of a hook so that fans will at least record the show. Then again, after seeing their nearly weekly talkshow segment plug for Smackdown, I just assume that Vince McMahon can’t be bothered to finalize much of anything until the day of a show.