By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Finn Balor vs. Roman Reigns: The highlight of the night with strong in-ring action combined with some good drama in terms of the outcome. The negative of the match was the broadcast team making so many excuses for Reigns due to his storyline injuries only to have Reigns go over clean. The story told was that an injured Reigns is better than a healthy Balor. That said, it’s one loss for Balor to a top guy and they can easily turn this around by giving Balor a meaningful win, perhaps even in the five-way at Extreme Rules. The problem with that scenario is that if Balor was unable to defeat a one-armed Reigns, why would viewers think he has a chance to defeat a healthy and rested Brock Lesnar?
Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Title: A very good title match with a finish that set up the stipulation for the pay-per-view. Ambrose vs. Miz has been overexposed to the point that it was hard to feel any sense of excitement when the match was announced last week, but both men worked hard and breathed some life into their feud heading into Extreme Rules.
Alexa Bliss and Bayley: A little goes a long way. No, I’m not talking about the diminutive stature of Bliss or Finn Balor as the broadcast team does to the point of obsession. Rather, I’m referring to the kendo stick shot that Bliss delivered. The kendo stick strike looked good and Bayley sold it like she’d been shot. We’ve seen male wrestlers dish out countless cane shots that didn’t feel nearly as impactful as the single shot that Bayley took and it’s all thanks to the way she sold it. The kendo stick on a pole match sounds ridiculous, but if nothing else it should keep the number of kendo stick shots to a minimum.
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt: A minor Hit for a main event with no backstory. Sure, these guys feuded during the Shield vs. Wyatt Family days, but there’s no real issue between them other than both men being booked for the five-way. The fans seemed interested in the match but not enough to have a strong rooting interest. The post match angle was well done with Samoa Joe causing the disqualification and then Wyatt taking out Joe with Sister Abigail to sell the idea of it being every man for himself at Extreme Rules.
Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus: A minor Hit for the latest singles match in the ongoing tag team feud. Sheamus missed the first Brogue Kick on Matt Hardy on the apron, but it’s actually encouraging to see him pull back a bit given that he just kicked Jeff’s tooth out of his mouth. It was a bit awkward when he simply executed the move a second time, but they managed to move on from there without it being a major issue. I found it interesting that Sheamus and Cesaro had a really flat promo last week and they didn’t get mic time this week and Sheamus ended up losing yet another singles match to the tag champs. It’s a shame that Vince McMahon still has a hangup about using managers because these guys would benefit from the right mouthpiece.
Goldust attacks R-Truth: Goldust played the part of the understanding tag team partner during the backstage segment and seemed sincere in his attempt to boost the spirits of his apologetic sidekick. Therefore, the attack on Truth just minutes later was a real surprise. WWE can’t possibly go as far with the Golddust character’s antics as they did when he first arrived, but I hope they are sincere about doing more with the character beyond setting up an undercard program with Truth.
Alicia Fox vs. Sasha Banks: The match outcome was one of the real surprises of the night. Sasha is on the outside looking in as Alexa Bliss feuds with Bayley and tries to avoid facing Nia Jax, so Banks needs something to do aside from squashing Fox. Giving Alicia a rare win hurts Sasha in the moment, but it was a necessary move if they want to turn this into a real feud.
WWE Raw Misses
Neville and TJP vs. Austin Aries and Jack Gallagher: As much as I enjoy the work of all four men, the cruiserweight division is in a bad place. WWE has very good talent to work with, but the storytelling and presentation of the division are just plain dreadful. The cruiserweights in WCW delivered an energy boost to Nitro on most nights, whereas a mere camera shot of the purple ropes and other cosmetic changes used for the cruiserweights now feels like a cue to change the channel.
Big Cass vs. Titus O’Neil: Titus performing his own version of Enzo Amore’s entrance routine was mildly amusing. The home state crowd was hot for Enzo Amore, yet the act still feels like it has lost the spark that made the early Enzo and Big Cass Raw appearances feel must see.