By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Kevin Owens’ opening promo: A unique Raw opening with Owens delivering the type of promo many of us wished he’d been able to deliver throughout his run as WWE Universal Champion. Comedic KO is entertaining, but strong heel Owens is big money. Owens presented a believable case for retaining the championship against Goldberg and made their match feel like more of a showdown than an inevitable lopsided squash. Owens teasing a comment on what he did to Chris Jericho only to then drop the mic was perfect. It put the focus on the title match where it belongs while leaving the fans wanting more regarding Owens vs. Jericho.
Braun Strowman vs. Big Show: This was so much better than anyone ever would have predicted. I assumed Big Show was going to put up slightly more of a fight than Mark Henry did last week before Strowman put him away. Instead, they went over 12 minutes and had the crowd with them from the pre-match “this is awesome” chant through the pinfall. The match was positioned as a breakout moment for Strowman, who performed moves we haven’t seen from him. At the same time, they actually protected Show by having him put up a better fight against Strowman than anyone else has thus far. The winner and the loser benefitted from this match. The angle with Roman Reigns attacking Strowman afterward was also a pleasant surprise. I have no idea why babyface Reigns felt the need to run out and attack the heel Strowman following a hard fought match, but the surprise was that Strowman still managed to get the better of Reigns.
Samoa Joe attacks Sami Zayn: “This is your world now.” Samoa Joe delivering that line in the midst of his latest prison yard style beatdown on Sami was one of the true highlights of the night. Joe’s attacks are violent and believable. It was quite the stretch that the referee didn’t call off the match between Owens and Zayn after the beating that Zayn took from Joe, but it did give Owens a chance to show off his ruthless side.
Neville and Jack Gallagher contract signing: WWE avoided having an actual cruiserweight match on Raw last night and I’m not complaining. They focussed on establishing the characters, which is a much better use of time than a Drew Gulak squash match loss of the week. WWE also addressed any of the criticisms of the Gallagher character through Neville’s rant about him being a stereotype, and Gallagher’s comeback that he is being the man he was raised to be was simple yet effective.
Nia Jax vs. Sara Pierce: Another dominant squash win for Jax. Her post match promo complaint about not getting a title shot seems to indicate that WWE is ready to move on from her squash matches in favor of putting her into something more meaningful. Unfortunately, Nia’s promo delivery is weak enough that the company would be wise to give her a mouthpiece.
New Day vs. Rusev and Jinder Mahal: This segment became a Hit the moment that Big E responded to Lana hacking their ice cream plans by pointing out that she is Russian. I can’t say I cared for much else and I continue to despise the way Rusev is wasted as an undercard comedy figure, but the Big E line was comedy gold.
WWE Raw Misses
Bayley keeps the Raw Women’s Championship: The segment was everything I laid out in the Hit List last week with Stephanie McMahon putting Bayley on the spot and encouraging her to forfeit the championship due to the interference of Sasha Banks. Stephanie’s points were spot on. There’s no way the squeaky clean Bayley character would possibly want her first championship win to be tainted by outside interference. The segment was perfect. And then Bayley announced that she was keeping the championship. What?!? The personification of good in WWE is happy to keep a championship that she didn’t earn the right way? The innocence of the Bayley character is gone. The little girls who look up to Bayley were told that it’s okay to keep something you didn’t earn. At least babyface Charlotte stated that she didn’t want Bayley to forfeit her championship because she would rather beat her in the ring for it. Wait, Charlotte is a heel? Is Vince McMahon so morally bankrupt that he has lost all comprehension of right and wrong?
Roman Reigns vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: I am officially giving up on Gallows and Anderson again. I did this a while back and then WWE renewed my hope by giving them the tag titles. By booking them in competitive handicap matches with Reigns, creative is showing that they don’t care about Gallows, Anderson or the tag titles. So let’s focus on something that WWE clearly does care about. This isn’t helping Roman Reigns. Vince McMahon obviously feels that Roman working against two heels makes Roman look like a badass. It’s one thing for a babyface to be forced into a sympathetic situation and put up a fight. It’s another thing entirely when the babyface is given a chance to pick a tag partner yet thinks so little of his opponents that he opts to go it alone. What Vince presumably finds noble actually comes off as a meathead move that makes Roman’s detractors roll their eyes in further disgust.
Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks: The sudden renewal of the rivalry felt flat. It didn’t help that it came moments after the baffling segment with Bayley, but the bigger issue is that they didn’t do anything to get viewers excited about going back to this feud. It wasn’t like Charlotte had been ducking Sasha and fans had some reason to be excited by Sasha finally getting her in the ring. Rather, it felt like they were just randomly going back to an overexposed feud while also booking Charlotte to lose yet another match on Raw.