By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Kurt Angle mystery: The best whodunnit stories are ones that surprise the audience, yet the viewer or reader can still go back and connect the dots in a way that shows the clues were actually there all along. That won’t expect that to be the case with the Angle mystery, as it has primarily consisted of Kurt and Corey Graves exchanging vague notes about the text messages they received. Yet while it won’t be an example of great mystery storytelling, this story has fans buzzing with speculation. I’ve received fan speculation tweets and emails with predictions for everything from Dixie Carter being involved (Raw will be in Nashville) to Kurt Angle having a lovechild that will be revealed as American Alpha’s Chad Gable. I don’t know if the mystery reveal will come close to living up to these types of expectations, but if nothing else they have fans talking and fantasy booking, meaning there is a lot of interest in where this is going.
Brock Lesnar, Samoa Joe, and Roman Reigns: The logic of Kurt Angle rewarding Reigns with a No. 1 contenders match despite Roman’s attempt at vehicular homicide at the pay-per-view was absurd. The idea that Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view match losers Reigns and Joe were the only guys under consideration for the SummerSlam title shot was bizarre. Nevertheless, this was still a fantastic segment. As often as Paul Heyman promos are brilliant, it was cool to see them shake up the formula by having Lesnar speak for himself and go face to face with both Reigns and Joe. There was an element of danger in that it felt like Kurt Angle could lose control of the situation at any moment. This was good television and everyone involved played their parts well.
Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: The Hardys already had issues with Sheamus and Cesaro coming out of the dramatic Iron Man match, and 24 hours later they established issues with Gallows and Anderson and The Revival. The heels all being against the Hardys and the brothers coming up short in repeated tries to regain the tag titles could be leading to the Broken Universe making its way to WWE. Either way, I loved seeing Gallows and Anderson get a win over a weary Hardy Brothers team. The Hardys didn’t lose anything because it was well established that they were not 100 percent coming out of the Iron Man match, yet Gallows and Anderson still gained something with their rare win, as did The Revival via their post match beatdown of the Hardys. The end result of two matches over a 24-hour period is that whether the Hardys end up Broken or not, they now have established issues with three different tag teams.
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt: The idea of the pay-per-view opening match headlining Raw didn’t excite me, yet whether intentional or not, it sent a message about the importance of pay-per-view matches if only for this month. Rollins and Wyatt had a better match on Raw than they did at the pay-per-view, and it was nice to see creative double down by having Wyatt win rather than take their usual parity booking approach.
Big Cass and Big Show: Cass delivered another quality promo and drew good heat from the live crowd. It was surprising to see Big Show dominate their brief skirmish, but perhaps the idea is that Show needs to be reestablished so that it will mean something when Cass eventually beats him.
Finn Balor vs. Elias Samson: A solid opening match that surprisingly did not crack the Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view lineup. Samson’s act is clicking more on the main roster than it did in NXT and he is improving in the ring. The dynamic between the broadcast team members regarding Samson is bizarre with Cole telling his oddball hitchhiking story and heel Corey Graves continuing to despise Samson. Perhaps it’s time to have Graves ditch his NXT holdover hatred of Samson to make things less confusing for viewers.
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax: A minor Hit for a rematch from last week that gave Bayley some measure of revenge after being taken out by Jax in the previous match. The negative is that Bliss’s character seemed to get away with taking the intentional count-out loss at the pay-per-view, as there was no talk of booking a rematch between her Sasha.
Cedric Alexander and Akira Tozawa vs. Neville and Noam Dar: A minor Hit for a match that set the stage for Tozawa getting another title match with Neville, as well as for tonight’s I Quit match between Alexander and Dar. Perhaps the best thing about the match was that the focus was on the wrestlers in the ring rather than on Titus O’Neil’s cheesy promoter gimmick.
WWE Raw Misses
The Miz, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel feuding with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins: The issues between Ambrose and Rollins are intriguing. I would love to see a heel Shield reunion, but the idea of the gang reuniting as babyfaces to face this particular trio does nothing for me. A good consolation prize would be Ambrose turning heel or even moving Rollins back to the heel role he thrived in. Either way, I suspect the plan is Miz, Dallas, and Axel vs. Rollins and Ambrose in a handicap match. Sure, there’s some minor appeal in seeing if Rollins and Ambrose can coexist, but it’s hard to be excited by the Miz-led side of the equation at this point. It’s still early in their run and hopefully it will click, but the Miztourage hasn’t done anything for me thus far, and Miz and Ambrose desperately need to get away from one another.
Goldust vs. R-Truth: All of the movie themed promos led to a poorly hyped and basic match on Raw. On a positive note, at least the Raw creative team is finding roles for their undercard talent. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel have actual roles on the show as part of Miz’s act, and Goldust and Truth went from making infrequent Raw appearances to getting weekly television time.