By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
John Cena surprise appearance: A well executed surprise appearance by Cena. AJ Styles played it great by telling Enzo Amore and Big Cass that Cena didn’t care about them because he was too busy with his ESPY hosting duties. The “gotcha” smile that Styles flashed when The Club had Enzo surrounded was perfect. The fans popped huge when Cena’s music hit and he made the big save. My only complaint about the segment is that the beatdown of The Club felt rushed. The crowd was red hot and they would have been pumped if the babyface trio had worked over one of the heels with their respective finishers. Still, a very good segment and excellent use of Cena.
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro: I had to laugh at WWE for advertising every Raw match but this one on the Raw Pre-Show. Do they really think The Lucha Dragons vs. Fandango and Tyler Breeze is going to create more buzz than this match? Anyway, the clean pinfall was a nice surprise and it’s perfectly logical given that Owens has the big match at Battleground whereas Cesaro is not even advertised at this point. The angle with Owens and Sami Zayn was well done. It was classic Owens in that he got what he wanted by having Sami removed from ringside, yet he just had to rub it in by making his entrance while Sami was being escorted up the ramp.
WWE Raw Misses
Shane and Stephanie McMahon as commissioners: The McMahon family drama will never end. In a hilarious twist, WWE is mirroring it’s own creative bureaucracy. Vince sits at the top of the mountain and pits his children against one another as commissioners, and now the kids get to hire their own general managers to feud against one another. It’s bad enough that we had two authority figures dominating the storylines during The Authority Era, but now we’re going to have FOUR authority figures featured regularly?!? Hell, if they really want to torture viewers, they can reunite The Authority to run the Raw brand together. Three hours, half the wrestlers, and at least one overexposed heel face of the brand. What could possibly go wrong?!? Do they want viewers to hate Raw because Stephanie is running it? Are they really so worried about Smackdown Live that they intend to load it up with babyface authority figures, give it a fresh coat of paint from a production standpoint, and a bunch of fresh faces? Smackdown will be fine. Smackdown doesn’t have the albatross that is Raw’s third hour, nor will it have Monday Night Football as competition. Raw is the brand I worried about the moment they announced the split, and now they are giving viewers a reason to see it as the brand to root against.
Brock Lesnar followup: How did Vince McMahon not tell Lesnar that if he wanted to fight in UFC then he had to appear on Raw two nights later? This was a huge missed opportunity. At the very least, I thought they would have told us that Lesnar would appear at the draft next week. For all Raw viewers know, he’s not appearing until SummerSlam long after the bloom will be off the mainstream rose. This is the most buzz that Brock has had since he defeated Undertaker at WrestleMania. Rather than going all out to keep it going, WWE actually found a way to extinguish it.
Wyatt Family battle New Day at the compound: I loved the Wyatt Family house that WWE used early in the group’s main roster run. This was just an open field. And while the visual of all of Wyatt’s followers holding lanterns while wearing masks at the end of the segment looked cool, it was hard to view this as anything more than a joyless knockoff of TNA’s Final Deletion angle. Make no mistake, I’m happy they didn’t try to mimic the campy approach that TNA took with Broken Matt vs. Brother Nero, but WWE really should have waited to run this at a later date when the Final Deletion wasn’t so fresh in the minds of viewers. I’m guessing the defense would be that Impact had 410,000 viewers, so this was new to most WWE fans. Keep in mind that the Final Deletion caught on via social media as well, and it wouldn’t surprise me if nearly half of the Raw viewing audience was at least familiar with the angle. On the plus side, those who could get past the comparisons saw the Wyatts presented in a more more dark and violent manner. It’s also good to see that New Day are taking a more serious approach for this feud rather than simply goofing on the Wyatts in their usual silly style.
The Rollins Report: This wasn’t clever and it didn’t generate any good heat for Rollins. It was a corny gag that wasn’t even executed in an entertaining way. WWE has dropped the ball on promoting the first ever Triple Threat between The Shield members. Roman Reigns getting himself suspended did not help the cause, but why not use video packages to help sell viewers on the history between the three men? It was nice to see Dean Ambrose deliver a straight forward promo rather than going for laughs, but WWE has to know that Rollins and Ambrose just don’t feel fresh together. Their match will surely be entertaining, but the build to it just doesn’t feel new and exciting, and nothing they have done has left me anxious to see the Battleground main event.
Sheamus vs. Zack Ryder: Ryder was advertised for a U.S. Title match going into Raw and then he decided to ask for the same title match. Ugh. Obviously, plans changed, but who really thought it was a good idea to have Sheamus destroy him right before they announced that Ryder would challenge Rusev for the U.S. Championship? The idea was that Ryder was on a roll after scoring a couple of pinfalls last week. He didn’t have much momentum, but whatever he had was completely erased by this lopsided loss.
Darren Young wins the battle royal: The idea of Young winning the battle royal while wrestling on Raw for the first time since Bob Backlund became his life coach looks fine on paper. Having him win the match in such a completely flukey manner left me with no desire to see him face a heel champion who gets most of his wins in a flukey manner. The U.S. and Intercontinental Championships usually feel like mid-card championships, but this month they feel like undercard titles.
Sasha Banks vs. Dana Brooke: It felt like they were trying to elevate both women in the same match. Sasha is being spotlighted for a match with Charlotte, yet she was showing frustration in her inability to put away Brooke. I get that they are having a rematch on Smackdown and they wanted to make this match seem competitive, but it went on too long and I didn’t feel like Sasha came out of this looking better than she did going in.
Titus O’Neil vs. Heath Slater: I guess the idea is that Titus now has raw power given the way he was just throwing Slater around throughout the match. Nothing matters when The Social Outcasts are involved. No one takes them seriously, so beating them means nothing. Here’s hoping the Outcasts will be broken up via the draft so that they won’t be saddled with this awful gimmick. Don’t get me wrong, I assume they would still be booked as glorified enhancement wrestlers, but they would actually mean more as singles acts than they do as a trio.
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...