By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Samoa Joe and Paul Heyman: A great segment with Joe calmly telling Heyman exactly what he was about to do to him. Having the camera mics pick up the conversation must have sucked for the live crowd, but it was a great touch for the television audience. Joe came off as ruthless and downright sociopathic. He was so good here that the sleazy Heyman character was sympathetic. This segment and Heyman’s phone conversation did a great job of setting the stage for the return of Brock Lesnar. And for once, Raw viewers were given reason to believe that Lesnar will do more than just stand by as Heyman cuts a promo. I have a feeling that Heyman did a lot more than show up and memorize his part of the script. This struck me as a Heyman production.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt: The online announcement that Raw would open with a Reigns vs. Wyatt match was flat. However, Wyatt set the stage nicely with his promo as spoke about avenging his Extreme Rules loss by targeting each of his five-way opponents. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be excited by Wyatt’s quest when he lost against the first man on his hit list. Even so, the long match made for a solid opening to the show. On a side note, how many times will Reigns look like a chump by stopping in his tracks when Wyatt does the crab walk pose? That’s a mind game that the Wyatt character should use on new opponents, not a guy he’s been in the ring with countless times.
Big Show and Enzo Amore vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: A minor Hit for a segment that probably would have played better earlier in the night when the crowd had more life. The backstage angle with angry and/or jealous Cass seemed to position him as the lead suspect in the recent attacks on Enzo Amore. In other words, Cass may have attacked Enzo twice, faked his own injury, and then been upset with Show for teaming with Enzo when he hoped that Enzo would be left to fend for himself. Of course, this could all be a red herring in WWE’s latest whodunnit.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno: A minor Hit for a quick squash win and promo that showcased the new tag champions the night after the pay-per-view.
WWE Raw Misses
Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins: WWE seemed more concerned with protecting Rollins and setting up his match with Bray Wyatt than going all the way with Joe as he heads into his match with Lesnar. Brock is the ultimate WWE monster. His matches are typically brief and lopsided. Joe should be plowing through opponents in an effort to make viewers see him as having similar traits. Instead, he appeared to be on the verge of losing to Rollins again and ended up winning the match only because of a Wyatt video flash distraction. Is WWE more concerned with protecting Rollins long term than setting up Joe for one pay-per-view? If so, what does that say about where Joe will be coming out of the Lesnar match?
Kurt Angle mystery: Angle obsessing over his phone was not a great followup to last week’s angle. At least it appears that whatever is happening with him and Corey Graves is separate from the Enzo and Cass story, which was unclear last week. I don’t expect WWE to give away everything in one night, but I was hoping for more storyline advancement than Angle staring at his phone. On a positive note, Joe getting in the face of Angle brought back some fun memories of their TNA feud and had to leave viewers wondering whether they could eventually have another match.
Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax for the Raw Women’s Championship: WWE’s past teases of Bliss and Jax received strong reactions from multiple live crowds. In this case, the crowd just sort of sat on their hands as the match played out. Perhaps the crowd was losing steam or perhaps they were just waiting for Mickie James or Dana Brooke to get involved somehow. The actual finish with Bliss using James and Brooke to pick up the disqualification win was true to her character, but none of this left me anxious to see more. I felt bad for James and Brooke being cast as absolute morons in that they thought it was a good idea to stand in the ring with Jax after costing her the match.
The Miz and Dean Ambrose: It feels like we’ve seen it all before. Sure, this time Miz was suspicious that Ambrose was either dressed in the bear costume or hiding in the gift box, but instead they went back to the ol’ cameraman disguise. Miz and Ambrose are both entertaining. The problem is that this feud has exceeded its shelf life. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel now that Ambrose has ongoing issues with Elias Samson. I suppose it’s worth noting that Miz struck Samson to get Ambrose disqualified on a recent show. Are they setting up a Triple Threat or will Ambrose and Samson move into a singles program? If the latter turns out to be the case, who is Miz’s next challenger?
Neville and TJP: It’s nice that WWE is trying to do something to get fans to pay attention to 205 Live. The problem is that they set up a match involving two heels, which doesn’t seem like a formula for viewership success.
Kalisto vs. Titus O’Neil: The Titus Brand clown show continued with Titus getting a taste of his own medicine in the form of Kalisto holding his tights while pinning him. Apollo Crews basically laughed at Titus losing, which begs the question of why his character is wasting his time with Titus.