By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
The Demon King and Seth Rollins: A strong debut for Finn Balor’s alter ego. The live crowd chanting “holy shit” and “this is awesome” speaks volumes. I must say that I was more impressed by the production work for some of Balor’s entrances at NXT, so I hope they saved something extra for SummerSlam. Either way, I was skeptical of giving away the Demon King entrance on Raw, but this went extremely well and was the highlight of the final push for SummerSlam.
Charlotte and Sasha Banks: Charlotte dressing down Dana Brooke in a backstage moment was an effective swerve that set up the heel challenger taking out the knee of the new babyface champion. The live crowd was hot for the attack and even chimed in with a loud “Charlotte sucks” chant. It will be interesting to see if Sasha plays up a knee injury at SummerSlam or if it’s simply forgotten by Sunday.
Brock Lesnar and Heath Slater: It’s a rare treat to get Lesnar physicality on Raw and the live crowd popped big when they teased the possibility of a match. However, the crowd wasn’t as hot for Lesnar’s suplexes and F5 as they were as they built up to those moves. Is it because the fans like Heath Slater and want to cheer him? I hope WWE turns his quest for a contract into something the fans can rally behind rather than something they roll their eyes at with him being the comedy heel. Paul Heyman took the logical approach to delivering the go-home promo for SummerSlam. More than anything, Randy Orton needs to sell Smackdown viewers on the idea that he can beat Lesnar.
Big Cass vs. Kevin Owens: A minor Hit for putting a little heat on the heels heading into the tag match. Enzo Amore’s pre-match promo was brief and forgettable. I guess this wasn’t scripted to be his night despite the fact that he got the last couple of shows off to very energetic starts. Meanwhile, the Owens and Jericho team had a nice night with good heel mic work with the right mix of comedy in their backstage interview with Tom Phillips.
Mick Foley: I was down on the idea of Foley being announced as the new Raw general manager because I was really hoping for something fresh such as Kurt Angle. Foley has already won me over. He works in the hometown pop, but he’s not playing the happy to lucky character we saw when he showed up for comedy skits or to promote books. Rather, he is taking a serious approach at the key times. He showed fire while defending the Universal Title last week. He looked upset by Rusev and Lana hijacking this show. He got in the mix with the referees who were attempting to keep Cesaro and Sheamus apart backstage. In retrospect, there may have been sexier picks than Foley, but I doubt that any of those candidates would have been as passionate about the job as Foley clearly is.
Sheamus and Cesaro: Foley’s best of seven series announcement left me excited to see what type of series they can produce. I am always skeptical when WWE books two guys who need wins against one another, but this could be a rare case of both wrestlers actually benefitting from working together.
Nia Jax: Another dominant squash match win. They are quick and effective, and they are building anticipation for her first matches with the main roster women.
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: More of an in the middle type of show than an actual Miss, but this had to go somewhere. The Hit count may suggest that this was a strong show, but very little about this go-home edition left me feeling more excited about SummerSlam.
New Day vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows feud: It was nice to see Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods finally show that they are bothered by what Anderson and Gallows die to Big E. Granted, it came a week after they were involved in a nut joke segment with Sean Combs, and moments before they did their WWE Tag Team Champions swiveling intro, but I’ll settle for baby steps. The real issue is that Anderson and Gallows are neither funny nor generating heat. They barely had enough material for their lab coat skit last week, and going forward with it this week was overkill. Why is this feud more about testicles than tag titles? Why is a ball shot to the post a major injury, yet wrestlers routinely get their heads run into the ring post and it serves as nothing more than a set up for a commercial break?
Rusev vs. Roman Reigns: The match overstayed it’s welcome, but it would have been fine if this had been the U.S. Title match at SummerSlam. Unfortunately, the long match did not leave me anxious to see a rematch just six days later. I guess the idea was to show that Reigns could beat Rusev going into their title match. Did they really need to send that message? Is there anyone who didn’t think Reigns would win if there’s a clean finish? On a positive note, Rusev and Lana did a nice job with the opening segment with Rusev finding a nice balance between being funny and going for heat.
Sami Zayn: Zayn has been spinning his wheels since wining the “final match” of his feud with Kevin Owens. Zayn winning that match should have launched him into something bigger, but instead the guy doesn’t even have a SummerSlam match. If the Raw creative team doesn’t have anything for the guy, then WWE should orchestrate a trade to move him to Smackdown where he could be in the main event mix.
The Primetime Players vs. The Shining Stars: What a mess. The crowd continues to show that Titus O’Neil is the more popular of the two wrestlers, yet WWE continues to push him as the heel and Darren Young as the babyface. When this match was set up on the pre-show, I thought Titus was toying with Young and would turn on him during the match. Instead, it played out as if Titus was sincere in apologizing to Young in that segment and simply got upset when he assumed Young intentionally hit him. Where’s the heat in that?