By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe: The build to this match has been some of the best work that WWE has done in some time. One of my usual complaints this year has been that the Raw pay-per-views look good on paper, yet the build to most of the matches has been uninspired. The company put an end to that trend with a strong buildup for Great Balls of Fire. The final push for the match made Joe look like he’s champing at the bit to get his hands on Lesnar, while Brock and Paul Heyman played it calm and cool like they’ve been there before. An argument could be made that Lesnar should have been the one anxious to get his hands on Joe given that he put his hands on Heyman, but this approach showed that Joe’s character is not the least bit intimidated by Lesnar. I’m more excited about this match and the actual Great Balls of Fire event than I have been about any other Raw brand event since the brand split.
Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns: Reigns got some measure of revenge after being manhandled and tossed into the side of an ambulance last week. At the same time, they were careful not to make Strowman look weak. Reigns put Strowman through a table, yet Strowman was back on his feet before the show went off the air. Regardless of who wins on Sunday, I really enjoy the build to Strowman vs. Reigns matches because it’s one of the only times that creative makes it seem like Reigns is the underdog.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass: Enzo delivered a good show opening promo. It’s been fun to hear him sink his teeth into a storyline rather than simply recite the usual entrance route lines that he and Cass used for so long. Enzo’s promo was effective in terms of sending the message that the time for crying is over, and now he’s ready to fight his former tag partner. Both wrestlers have done a nice job on the mic to set up the match, and I am very curious to see if they can deliver a quality match on Sunday.
Finn Balor vs. Cesaro: A good television match that also managed to showcase Balor’s feud with Elias Samson, as well as the Cesaro and Shemaus vs. The Hardys feud.
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax: Jax looked like a monster by taking out Bayley early in the match, which led to Banks still overcoming the odds to win a glorified handicap match by pinning the champion Bliss heading into their pay-per-view match. The challenger has momentum thanks to this win and her big gauntlet match win the week before.
The Miz vs. Heath Slater: An entertaining title match with Slater getting some near falls that had the life crowd buying into the possibility of Slater pulling off the upset. The match also helped establish the threat of Curt Axel and Bo Dallas as Miz’s entourage and also set the stage for yet another Miz vs. Dean Ambrose title match at the pay-per-view.
Neville vs. Mustafa Ali in a non-title match: Neville’s best television matches since joining the cruiserweight division have been with Ali. Mustafa delivers some flashy moments and believable near falls, yet ultimately puts over Neville in strong and decisive fashion. Their matches are good enough that I’d like to see them establish Ali and then book him an actual title feud between the two.
WWE Raw Misses
Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt: Two weeks ago, Rollins and Wyatt impressed with a good verbal exchange. Wyatt shined by responding to some of Seth’s comments, and making his response feel personal. Unfortunately, this was a return to Wyatt delivering lengthy promos that had little to do with his actual opponent. In fact, most of his promo could have been in regards to anyone.
Cedric Alexander vs. Noam Dar: They work very well together and are two of the more watchable talents in the creatively uninspiring cruiserweight division. However, this feud has more than overstayed its welcome. It’s time to shake things up and get both men into something fresh.