By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Braun Strowman vs. Big Show: Another quality main event match from the super heavyweights. I enjoyed their previous television match more, but perhaps that’s because the quality of that match was such a pleasant surprise, whereas expectations were higher this time around. The ring collapse finish has been done before, but it’s been a long time and this was effective. The live crowd popped huge for the ring stunt, and it didn’t feel far fetched in that there’s no reason that there could not be multiple rings collapse. The lack of a finish was perfectly acceptable in this case. Strowman has the big pay-per-view match with Roman Reigns, and thus rightly stood tall at the end, but Show can cling to the fact that he was not actually defeated, meaning they can go back to this match.
Samoa Joe vs. Chris Jericho: A good match that didn’t need to happen. Jericho appears to be in farewell mode by losing matches on his way out the door prior to his latest run of shows with Fozzy. The problem is that he is also challenging for the U.S. Championship at Payback, so seeing him lose clean in this match felt awkward. I’m not suggesting that he should have won the match, but rather questioning whether Joe could have simply beaten someone else, especially since this segment felt like it was more about the good verbal exchange between Joe and Seth Rollins afterward. At least Jericho did a good job of trying to explain away the loss by saying he is more focussed on Kevin Owens. With Elias Samson drifting behind Jericho during his promo, one has to wonder if Jericho will be putting him over before he makes his exit.
Jeff Hardy vs. Cesaro: WWE billed this as a dream match during the show. So why not advertise it in advance? The only thing the company hyped was Braun Strowman opening the show. They easily could have hyped this match or the women’s four-way or Joe vs. Jericho, yet they went with bare minimum pre-show hype. The match didn’t live up to the dream match hype, but it more than held my interest. The live crowd wasn’t all that fired up, though some of that probably has to do with this being a match involving two babyface wrestlers who have no grudge. The nice guy approach of Cesaro and Sheamus is intriguing. It may not change before the pay-per-view, but the Hardys being apprehensive to shake their hands makes those moments tense and interesting.
Braun Strowman and Kurt Angle: The segment accomplished what a good opening verbal segment should by providing a hook to keep viewers watching. In this case, the hook was Strowman delivering the “or else” line, which viewers now know to interpret as him threatening to go on a rampage if he doesn’t get what he wants. And after his destruction of Roman Reigns last week, how could anyone turn away and risk missing whatever Strowman would do next? You can’t tip over and ambulance every week, but his backstage destruction combined with the main event made this another strong night for Strowman. Meanwhile, it was a quick night for Angle, but it was nice to see his character play it straight rather than go for laughs in backstage segments.
Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James vs. Sasha Banks in a four-way: The in-ring work was suspect at times, but they did a nice job of creating drama down the stretch. Cole proclaiming Nia Jax as his pick to win the match came out of nowhere and basically screamed that she wasn’t going to win. It was something that didn’t need to be said, as casual viewers would have seen her as the favorite without his prediction. Fortunately, there were three other wrestlers in the match so there was still good suspense in the closing moments.
Finn Balor vs. Curt Hawkins: The best surprise of the night was Balor appearing on Raw just a week after he reportedly suffered a concussion during his match with Jinder Mahal. The fact that WWE had Balor come to Raw to be tested was encouraging in that they wouldn’t ask him to fly if he was in bad shape, but there was no telling how long the symptoms would linger. Here’s hoping that Hawkins’ schtick about Big Show facing him last week and then main eventing this week carries over another week and they get Balor involved in something more high profile. Unfortunately, I suspect he’s in a holding pattern until Bray Wyatt finishes his run with Randy Orton at Payback.
TJ Perkins vs. Jack Gallagher: Corey Graves describing Perkins as the hand of the king was a nice line. The addition of Neville and Austin Aries at ringside made the match feel bigger, and the in-ring work was entertaining. I like the way they put heat on both heels coming out of the match. The announcement of TJP vs. Aries for tonight’s show left me more interested in 205 Live than usual.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: A minor Hit for a creative finish and the heels getting a win. Granted, the babyfaces will probably just get their win back next week or at the pay-per-view, but it was fun while it lasted.
WWE Raw Misses
Miz TV with Dean Ambrose: The verbal exchange was well delivered. Miz hit hard to the point that it was tough to tell whether someone was sending Ambrose a message or if this was merely a setup for one of Ambrose’s better comeback promos. The problem is that we just had a shakeup and both men were moved over from Smackdown, yet they reverted to an overplayed feud rather than give them both something fresh. Here’s hoping this is a short-term program designed to get them through Payback.
Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke, and Emma backstage segment: There were better acting performances when my middle school forced us to sit through the final rehearsal for a high school production of “Oklahoma” back in the day. I hate that damn song to this day.
Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews: The wonky Titus brand talk is an immediate moment of disconnect. I was hoping that Titus was transitioning into a different type of a heel role for a feud with Crews, but instead its all about the nonsensical brand character.