By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton video package: Brock Lesnar has no interest in standing in the middle of the ring and delivering a monologue style promo. He does not want to take part in scripted back and forth verbal exchanges with other wrestlers. However, this segment once again showed how great he can be when he’s featured in UFC style sit-down interviews. I love that Lesnar is the one guy who is allowed to swear (albeit censored). It never comes off as tacky or like he’s cussing just to get a cheap reaction. It makes it seem like he’s going to say and do whatever he wants and that WWE can’t control him (which is pretty much the case in real life as we recently learned). Orton held up his end well and I enjoyed the way they showed the historical footage of the duo from their Ohio Valley Wrestling days. A lot of fans grumbled about Orton being named Lesnar’s next opponent, but I believe WWE has won most of them over with the work they have done to give the match a big fight feel.
Enzo Amore, Big Cass, Chris Jericho, and Kevin Owens: Enzo continues to get Raw off to energetic starts. WWE fans love his promos and the chant along aspects that he and Cass bring. Jericho and Owens are great foils for Enzo and Cass. Jericho loses me a bit by going for cute comedy bits, but I am really enjoying the dynamic between these four. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a WWE tag match that didn’t involve the tag titles.
Seth Rollins and Finn Balor: Rollins delivered a good in-ring promo. He’s not getting the type of heat that he once did and I still strongly believe that WWE made a mistake by bringing him back as a heel when the fans wanted to cheer him. That said, I hope that they stick with Balor as the babyface and avoid any temptation of reuniting him with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. WWE needs fresh babyface stars. They missed the boat on Rollins when he returned, but I believe they can get Balor over as a top babyface on the Raw side. I would really like to see Rollins become the leader of The Club. It would breathe some life into his heel act and they could get them off to a strong start by giving them all gold at SummerSlam. I am surprised we are seeing Balor’s Demon persona so soon, but it is logical from his character’s standpoint since he is breaking it out for a world, er, Universal Championship match.
Braun Strowman vs. Jorel Nelson: Another simple and effective squash win for Strowman. I’m not sure whether they are setting him up for Roman Reigns or Brock Lesnar to slay or whether he’ll be ready to hang in an upper-card match, but I love the way he’s been presented since the draft, and his new look is a big improvement.
Cesaro and Sheamus: A minor Hit for a step forward in their program. It’s going to be difficult to get two guys over at once, but the physicality of their matches and the popularity Cesaro has with some fans helps. The real challenge is making Sheamus mean something again. They put heat on him by having him cost Cesaro the U.S. Championship. The key is the followup to that angle and whether Sheamus can start to generate consistent heat. By the way, I enjoyed the main event match between Rusev and Cesaro, but I wish WWE would work hard through the course of a three-hour show to make a U.S. Title match feel main event worthy rather than hiding it from viewers until the end of the night.
WWE Raw Misses
Rusev, Lana, and Roman Reigns: The wedding celebration segment was painful. It was as if WWE decided the best course of action to take was to bore the crowd to sleep and then introduce Reigns in hopes that he might be cheered more. Rusev continues to be hysterical, yet I continue to question whether that’s the right approach to take with him. There was a time when a Brock Lesnar vs. Rusev match felt like a big money showdown. At this point, it feels like that match would be all about Lesnar because WWE hasn’t done enough to protect Rusev’s monster heel status.
Mick Foley and Daniel Bryan segment: There’s no denying that Bryan was the most popular person in the building or that Foley is doing an effective job in his role as the general manager. I just don’t see how this segment was enough to justify WWE breaking the roster split rules. I had no problem with Orton and Lesnar doing it because it was portrayed as the two of them breaking the rules. In this case, Foley invited Bryan to Raw for a conversation their characters could have had on the telephone. I expected this to be bigger than it was or at least to serve a larger purpose than simply getting Daniel Bryan on the show. The one major positive of this was the way Foley stood up for the Universal Championship so passionately.
New Day and Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows: WWE shot comedic video with Anderson and Gallows mocking the testicular injury they gave Big E the week before. They did this knowing that the other two New Day members were going to take part in a segment with Sean Combs that preceded the Anderson and Gallows skit, yet included the same type of nut jokes. It’s impossible for Anderson and Gallows to get any heat from their spoof video when the babyfaces are making the same jokes at their own partner’s expense. As much as I’m entertained by New Day’s antics at times, I must continue to point out that they don’t sell anything. Sure, Big E took the night off, but the other two were right back in comedy mode without a care in the world aside from a throwaway line about how they had to call E.
Darren Young vs. Titus O’Neil: A poor match that actually had a botched move in the opening seconds. Young got better than expected reactions when he was feuding with the established heel Miz. The fans don’t seem to care about him now that he’s feuding with Titus in yet another case of WWE booking two guys who both need wins against one another. The fans at least react to Titus as a babyface. Why not flip the script so that Young and the crazed Backlund are the heels?
Neville and Sin Cara vs. The Dudley Boyz: When they set up the need for Neville to find a tag partner on the pre-show, I thought they might be going with Finn Balor. Instead, we got a guy who broke up with Kalisto because he didn’t want to be a tag team wrestler. Why isn’t Neville on Smackdown where he could actually mean something? The only notable aspect of this match was that they seemed to go out of their way to show Bubba shooting a nasty look at D-Von afterward. Could this lead to a WWE takeoff on the Bully Ray character that Bubba played so well in TNA? If so, he also belongs on Smackdown.
Sasha Banks vs. Dana Brooke: The setup for the match was strange with Sasha asking for a handicap match and then Foley booking her with a stipulation that would give her what she asked for if she lost the match. Why wouldn’t Foley just ban Brooke from ringside at SummerSlam? At the very least, why wouldn’t Sasha simply make that request? The match was over before it started and didn’t get me more excited about Banks vs. Charlotte at SummerSlam.