By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and Paul Heyman: Yes, the record does show that WWE didn’t even make it through two shows before having a wrestler cross the brand split line. I’d be pitching a fit right now if circumstances were different, but WWE played it right by having Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley race out with security. In other words, this was not acceptable in the storyline universe. It actually worked to WWE’s favor in this case because it felt like more of a surprise with Orton no longer being a Raw regular. Heyman’s promo was well done and breathed some life into a crowd that was clearly exhausted by the three-hour marathon that is Raw. I couldn’t help but wonder whether Lesnar was put on later in the show as a safeguard against a hot crowd potentially turning on him due to the USADA test failures. Any fears of this crowd turning on Lesnar were quickly erased when they chanted Suplex City once he entered the ring, and there even seemed to be a sense of relief in the smirk that Lesnar responded with. I hope WWE is wise enough to at least play up the possibility that Lesnar could return the favor on Smackdown even though it’s forbidden by the brand split. After all, as we learned last week, it’s not like WWE could suspend him.
Sasha Banks, Enzo Amore, Chris Jericho, and Charlotte: A good opening segment that left me fearful. These four were able to handle the ridiculously long opening segment without losing the crowd. However, is this a sign that Raw is already reverting to the usual formula with the long opening segment? Fortunately, the crowd loved the babyface duo and the heels delivered mostly strong mic work to counter them. Mick Foley also got his first truly strong reaction since he returned with the live crowd chanting his name when he came out to book the mixed tag match.
Sasha Banks and Enzo Amore vs. Chris Jericho and Charlotte: Many mixed tag matches from the past have been a complete waste of time. This was an exception in that the women have an established program, and Jericho and the red hot Enzo established their issues in the opening segment. I like the way they got the men involved in this. There is no longer that invisible barrier where it seems like the men aren’t even paying attention to what’s happening in the women’s division.
Seth Rollins and Finn Balor: Seth carried the segment, but Finn’s comebacks were solid and had the crowd behind him. The production team should get to work on producing a video that recaps his NXT run. The highlight reel stuff is solid, but work in some Balor narration or interview clips so the fans who don’t follow NXT have a better understanding of his story. I am looking forward to the Rollins vs. Balor match more than anything on the SummerSlam card and I hope WWE can get their casual viewers to feel the same way.
Rusev vs. Mark Henry: It was fun to see Henry run through his impressive history and then play the patriotic card and get the live crowd behind him. No one would have cared if they had just thrown this match out there with no build (see Titus O’Neil vs. Darren Young), but they took a moment to let Henry get himself over with the crowd and it paid off. The post match angle with Roman Reigns left me feeling like it’s a good program for Roman, yet it doesn’t mean as much as it should because Rusev hasn’t been completely rebuilt.
Seth Rollins vs. Sami Zayn: A minor Hit in that while the work was strong, the match outcome never felt in question. Rollins is the guy fighting for the championship, so nothing short of Finn Balor interference was going to cost him the match. It’s a shame because these two are certainly capable of tearing the house down under different circumstances. It’s just tough to rally behind the underdog when common sense tells you that there’s really no hope.
Braun Strowman and Nia Jax squashes: The second week of squash wins were effective. Nia is really starting to stand out as the powerhouse of the division. I just hope she’s ready for this role. Oddly enough, I have more concerns about Strowman than Jax at this point.
WWE Raw Misses
New Day vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows: Anderson and Gallows got their way by having the extra member of New Day banned from ringside, yet they lost the match in under 90 seconds because they were doing the too sweet hand gesture? Ugh. The post match beatdown was effective, but it wasn’t enough to erase the image of the two of them being schooled by New Day so quickly. Furthermore, this angle will be defined by the followup. History suggests that New Day will blow off the attack by clowning around next week as if nothing ever happened.
Sheamus vs. Cesaro: A hard hitting match that just didn’t feel significant despite Foley saying the winner would get a future title shot. When is that title shot? What title was he referring to? This appears to be classic WWE booking in that they take two guys who are in desperate need of wins and book them in a 50/50 feud that doesn’t help either guy. That said, this match did occur during the dead zone known as the third hour of Raw, so perhaps the fan support for Cesaro would be stronger if they have the inevitable rematch occur earlier in the show.
Titus O’Neil vs. Darren Young: The presentation of this match was atrocious. Yes, they did the pre-show angle with O’Neil asking what made Young great in the first place, but it’s sad that this is the best that WWE could do in three hours for two guys who have history together. Titus winning with a handful of tights would seem to make him the heel, yet he’s the one the fans actually seem to care about.
Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal: Even a tease of any combination of the Three Man Band was enough to send shivers down my spine. Jinder’s return was flat, but it’s not like his WWE past would be enough to make anyone excited about his return. There’s something with Slater that WWE just hasn’t tapped into. Instead of making him the groan comedy heel, I’d like to see him positioned as a fun loving underdog. The guy can always get a reaction on the mic and it seems like fans would get behind the idea of him trying to get a meaningful win.
The Shining Stars vs. Goldust and R-Truth: The lame Pokemon comedy isn’t doing anything for me, but at least keeping these segments short.