Join us for live coverage of NJPW’s California events on Saturday and Sunday night and the Impact Wrestling Slammiversary pay-per-view on Sunday. Check out today’s Prowrestling.net All Access Daily Podcast with Jason Powell’s full review of WWE Raw at PWAudio.net.
By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe: Another terrific segment to set up the Great Balls of Fire main event. They accomplished the goal of showing that Joe’s Coquina Clutch finisher is lethal enough to choke out Lesnar, and it was helpful that Lesnar’s head turned red while Joe applied the hold. Joe was also great in the backstage segment with Paul Heyman. Joe continues to be at his best when he calmly states his violent intentions. Major props to Heyman for hilariously working in the “goodness gracious great balls of fire” line in such a cool and creative way.
Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns: A hot show opening angle with Strowman blindsiding Reigns and then tossing him off the stage and into the side of an ambulance. This brought back memories of Kevin Nash using Rey Mysterio as a human lawn dart by launching him into the side of a trailer on WCW Nitro years ago. I’m surprised the Ambulance Match hasn’t been made a No. 1 contenders match. It seems odd that Reigns was simply able to announce himself as the No. 1 contender at SummerSlam. Would his character retain that status even if he loses this match?
Women’s Gauntlet Match: A pleasant surprise in that the Raw women’s division felt too cold to be in the main event slot going into the show. Fortunately, the match heated up Sasha Banks in a big way. Nia Jax was protected in that she plowed through four women before Sasha even made her entrance. In fact, Jax even gained something in defeat. The Sasha vs. Jax portion of the match was long and competitive enough that it didn’t feel like a fluky win for Sasha, yet Jax still has the obvious out for losing. The post match angle with Alexa Bliss set the stage nicely for the Raw Women’s Championship match at Great Balls of Fire. By the way, I love that they focussed on Bliss and Jax in a backstage segment prior to the match, yet ended up going with Sasha as the winner. WWE’s over reliance on foreshadowing over the years came in handy for this swerve.
Big Cass and Enzo Amore: A strong followup to last week’s Big Cass heel turn. Enzo delivered his best performance to date as he followed his usual mic work with an emotional and believable appeal to Cass. Meanwhile, Cass did his best to convince viewers that he was remorseful. He was not successful in that the live crowd reacted with a “no” chant, but there’s only so much a person in his position can do to convince a jaded pro wrestling crowd of his or her sincerity. Cass’s big clothesline on Enzo brought back fond memories of Paul Orndorff’s awesome turn on Hulk Hogan back in 1986.
Finn Balor, Jeff Hardy, and Matt Hardy vs. Sheamus, Cesaro, and Elias Samson: A crowd pleasing six-man tag match that kept the momentum going coming out of the opening segment with Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns. It was cool to see Samson in this mix and he is the rare wrestler who seems to be clicking more on the main roster than he ever did in NXT. I feel guilty in confessing to minor disappointment that we didn’t get to hear the trio of Sheamus, Cesaro, and Samson sing before the match.
Goldust and R-Truth: A minor Hit for the brief beatdown attack by Goldust. The idea of Goldust having a personal cameraman is a nice touch. It seems like it could be a fun role for an undercard or NXT wrestler. In fact, this role seems like a better fit for Bo Dallas than forcing him into Miz’s entourage.
WWE Raw Misses
Miz TV with the Ball Family: WWE got its ESPN SportsCenter moment by bringing in the controversial LaVar Ball and his children. Company officials also got more than they bargained for when the youngest of the Ball sons dropped multiple N-bombs on live television. Even without that embarrassing moment, the segment was bad in that the live crowd didn’t seem to care about the Ball family. Even Los Angeles Lakers No. 2 overall draft pick Lonzo Ball did not get a big pop while making his first appearance since the draft in his new home building.
Dean Ambrose, Heath Slater, and Rhyno vs. The Miz, Curtis Axel, and Bo Dallas: It was a rough night for Miz in that his segment with the Ball family was a mess through no fault of his own, and his Miztourage of Axel and Dallas bombed here. The idea of Miz using two wrestlers as his entourage is a good one, but there is no sign of chemistry between the three acts. Obviously, we can’t pass final judgement after one week, but the personas of Axel and Dallas don’t mesh with what one would expect from hanger-on types.
Titus Worldwide: The only thing remotely over in the cruiserweight division these days is the title picture. Neville is a strong heel champion and he’s moving into what should be an excellent program with Akira Tozawa. So why is there so much focus on Titus O’Neil’s zany promoter gimmick? It was logical when WWE had Sasha Banks make an appearance on 205 Live to help bring some attention to the slumping network show. But where is the logic in putting a quirky undercard act in Titus at the center of the top cruiserweight feud?