By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Samoa Joe contract signing: The announcement that this segment would open the show immediately made me look forward to Raw. Mick Foley’s approach was an unexpected surprise. Foley did a nice job of expressing his disappointment with Stephanie McMahon and Samoa Joe with his intentionally flat introduction. Joe looked like a star and even like a hired gun as he headed out wearing his suit. The Roman Reigns confrontation was unexpected fun, and Reigns was believably intense while addressing Joe. A strong segment.
Goldberg, Kevin Owens, and Chris Jericho segment: Jericho putting Tom Brady on The List was timely and good for a chuckle. Goldberg putting himself on The List was a great touch. If Jericho put Goldberg on the list, the fans would have cheered Jericho for doing so. Instead, Goldberg flipped the script and got the big pop for writing his own name on the list. Jericho getting upset and accepting Goldberg’s challenge on behalf of Owens was fun. There’s no reason why Owens would actually have to follow through with a match he didn’t agree to, but I doubt most of the viewers are concerned with that. Overall, this was a nice mix of Owens and Jericho comedy and really good use of Goldberg in terms of making his appearances brief yet impactful.
Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns: WWE rushed into this match, but it was a hell of a hook given at the top of the show and paid off well in the final segment. Joe appearing to be on the verge of being spared and pinned was the big negative. Joe is a killer. He should not be made to look that vulnerable during his first match even though he did get the win thanks to Braun Strowman getting involved. All in all, though, a good night for Joe.
Nia Jax vs. Bayley: A solid match with Jax looking dominant while Bayley looked scrappy. This wasn’t a match that Jax should lose, and Bayley had to be protected going into her title match next week. Thus, using Charlotte to provide the distraction that led to Jax getting the win was nicely done. In retrospect, the finish of this match and the main event were a little too similar.
Braun Strowman handicap squash match: It’s been so fun to see the carnage of monster squashes return to WWE television. As a kid, I looked forward to watching Hawk and Animal destroy some hapless tag team on AWA television, and Strowman brought back some memories by manhandling his four opponents. I never thought Strowman was going to amount to much when he was with the Wyatt Family, but his new look combined with some good booking and good work on his part has won me over quickly.
Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn for the U.S. Championship: A minor Hit. It was good from a match quality standpoint, but WWE should have been able to get more out of this after having Zayn pin Jericho last week. This could have been heavily promoted as one of the bigger matches on this or a future show. Instead, it wasn’t designed to be anything memorable. In fact, I came away from this wondering if they opted to wrap up this program in a hurry because they intend to have Zayn play the fall guy for Samoa Joe at Elimination Chamber.
TJ Perkins, Jack Gallagher, and Cedric Alexander vs. Tony Nese, Noam Dark, and Neville: This was the best week for the cruiserweights on Raw. Granted, that’s not saying much, but I like the way they took the time to set up the five-way elimination match for 205 Live with the winner getting a shot at the WWE Cruiserweight Championship at Fastlane. The match didn’t seem to foreshadow who the number one contender will be. Instead, it focussed more on Neville once again walking out on Dar.
Akira Tozawa vs. Drew Gulak: A minor Hit. WWE tried to make Tozawa’s debut feel important by airing a video package and having the broadcast team play it up in a big way. The match was well executed and Tozawa looked good. A solid introduction, but Tozawa didn’t do anything so special that fans who were unfamiliar with him would be viewing him as the sensation that Michael Cole made him out to be.
WWE Raw Misses
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Titles: A flat tag title match that was clearly more about setting up something with Enzo Amore and Big Cass than anything. Why can’t creative just let Gallows, Anderson, Shemaus, and Cesaro work the type of physical matches that they are capable of? It would be so much more effective than overbooking their matches with multiple referees, silly finishes, and now another tag team sitting at ringside for no real reason other than to set up another crappy finish?
Xavier Woods and Big E vs. The Shining Stars: There’s no denying the live crowd loved New Day. Unfortunately, the Primo and Epico have been positioned as being such scrubs (again) that I impulsively check the time when I see them because Raw immediately feels like a marathon.