By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Superstar Shakeup: Night one of the roster shakeup was well done. Sure, it would have been nice if they had explained from the start that the Smackdown wrestlers who appeared were officially Raw wrestlers (which would have made the Miz and Maryse spoof of John Cena and Nikki Bella’s entrance more impactful), but the format worked nicely in terms of Raw being filled with surprises while also making Smackdown feel like a must see show tonight. I would love to see WWE take the time to list the worked trades on their website after Smackdown tonight simply to make it all feel more realistic and less like Vince McMahon just decided to move a bunch of wrestlers around. I’m not holding my breath. Either way, this was so much better than the random draft lottery approach the company has used in the past.
Braun Strowman destroys Roman Reigns: Am I the only one who was waiting for cameras to follow Reigns to the hospital and then show Strowman showing up and pushing him out a fourth story window? Based on what we saw, Reigns would have emerged from that fall without a single scratch on his body in The Giant off of Cobo Hall style. This was fun, but I wish they would have gone the extra mile to make it look like the Reigns was more roughed up. Sure, it was absurd (and downright awesome) that Strowman was able to tilt an ambulance on its side. That doesn’t mean WWE couldn’t have attempted to make everything else look more realistic. WWE officials know this angle made Strowman out to be a huge babyface, right?
Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens: A solid match that felt fresh thanks to the wrestlers being kept apart since July’s brand split. The fact that Ambrose and the Intercontinental Championship were moved to Raw combined with the fact that Owens lost this match point aggressively toward Owens and the U.S. Championship moving to Smackdown. It was odd to see so many departing wrestlers losing matches on their way off the respective brands. It was always logical to have a wrestler lose on his way out when he was moving to a different territory or company back in the day, but aside from wrapping up specific programs, it felt unnecessary to show these wrestlers losing given that they still work under the WWE umbrella.
The Revival vs. New Day: A nice followup to last week’s injury angle and a cool finish with Xavier Woods leaping into the Shatter Machine. New Day seem like strong candidates to move to Smackdown given their losses and because it feels like this feud with the Revival should end without the babyfaces getting their revenge on the new main roster team.
Seth Rollins: A good babyface promo with Rollins doing his best to connect with the crowd by sending the message that he didn’t want to take the easy road by moving to Smackdown to avoid working for Stephanie McMahon. The fans got behind Rollins with multiple chants and while this wasn’t flawless, it was the best job he has done of rallying the crowd behind him with mic work. Barring a surprise move tonight, it looks like we may end up with the three Shield members back on the same brand.
Austin Aries vs. TJ Perkins: It was a pleasant surprise to see Perkins turn on Aries. Perkins was originally cast with a nice guy role complete with a kid friendly ring entrance. However, he came off like a natural heel whenever he opened his mouth. The fact that Perkins didn’t join Neville in celebration afterwards seems to indicate that he’s his own man, so it feels like a Triple Threat could be in the works.
Nia Jax vs. Charlotte: Nia’s shoulder-breaker on Charlotte was downright scary, and Jax continues to look like someone who should have spent another year in developmental. That said, the creative goal of this was to set her up as the new top heel on the Raw brand. With that in mind, her recent destruction of Charlotte was successful in that regard even if I strongly question whether Jax is ready for this push.
Finn Balor vs. Jinder Mahal: A minor Hit for Balor’s singles return match. There’s not the buzz for Balor this time around that there was when he was called up to the main roster. I would like to see WWE move him or Seth Rollins to Smackdown, but it looks like that’s not in the cards for Balor given that they seemed to start a program when Bray Wyatt popped up on the big screen and closed his promo by saying he would be watching Balor.
Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Sheamus, and Cesaro vs. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and The Shining Stars: A minor Hit for week two of the Hardys feel good return wins. There was no tension teased between the Hardys and their Payback challengers, nor should there have been since it would have been forgotten on this loaded show. We’ve had the feel good return wins and it’s time to get down to business next week. Fans who only watch Raw have yet to hear from the Hardys, so that needs to happen soon.
Alexa Bliss: A nice debut for Bliss in terms of establishing her arrogant character. Best of all, she heeled on the fans who were cheering for her by saying she didn’t need their approval. Bliss is still a work in progress in the ring, but she plays her character to perfection.
WWE Raw Misses
Sami Zayn: Angle looked annoyed by Zayn, and Cole labeled Zayn as neurotic. Sami is the hard working underdog. That’s more than enough to sell him. This new annoying pest approach they are taking with him is damaging. Until recently, I would have been content with Zayn staying on Raw for another year in the same role, as it can benefit underdog types to be cast the way Zayn has for a decent stretch of time rather than being given too much too soon (see Bayley). After watching the direction the creative team has taken with his persona over the last two weeks, I’m all for him moving to Smackdown with the hope that the Tuesday night team has a better character in mind for him.
The Miz and Maryse: The Miz has been a standout on Smackdown since he was moved to the brand in July. Rather than attempt to show the Raw audience that he’s an actual player or that things have changed since he last appeared on Monday night, Miz took Dirty Deeds from Dean Ambrose and was pinned later in the show by new pest babyface Sami Zayn. Oddly enough, it appeared Miz kicked out before the three count. He even protested after the match, but the broadcast team didn’t give it attention. Barring a trade back to Smackdown for Miz, it appears the King of Strong Style vs. The King of WWE Soft Style feud that seemed to be teased on Smackdown last week won’t be happening after all.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Jake Barnett co-hosting the Boom and Dot Net Weekly combo show. Jason and Jake discuss Becky Lynch announcing her pregnancy, Alberto Del Rio being accused of sexual assault, WWE's IC Title tournament, Mike Tyson appearing at AEW Double Or Nothing, Undertaker's Last Ride documentary, AEW Dynamite and NXT TV thoughts, and more...