By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar: WWE capitalized on the buzz that Lesnar has created for his expected fight with Jon Jones by having Heyman take the “if you know, you know” approach with his reference to WWE forcing Lesnar to pay “the ultimate price.” And most viewers are well aware of the potential fight because it’s received so much attention. Heyman provided multiple hooks for the SummerSlam four-way main event by playing up the fact that Lesnar could lose the championship without being pinned or submitted, then he added the big hook by saying that if Lesnar loses the title then they both intend to leave WWE. Did they tip their hand in that this is a sign that Lesnar is going to retain? While that’s possible, it seems just as plausible that a Lesnar and Heyman exit would be temporary while Brock prepares for a UFC return. Either way, this felt timely, important, and served as terrific hype for the four-way.
Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman in a Triple Threat: It was surprising to see these three fight to a clean finish. And while Joe losing the match is sure to get some of his supporters worked up, it could just as easily be taken as sign that he’s going to win the title at SummerSlam. After all, WWE has been known to have soon to be champions lose going into their title reigns. The only negative is that Joe’s bragging rights of never losing to Roman is gone. Granted, anyone who actually remembers those matches knows that Joe only won due to Braun Strowman interfering or providing a distraction, but it was still something the company could have saved for a bigger moment for Reigns. Nevertheless, this was an entertaining Triple Threat match and it will be interesting to see if each wrestler gets a chance to shine in the weeks ahead, meaning this was Roman’s night, so we could get Strowman and Joe nights over the next couple of weeks.
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose: Rollins and Ambrose felt like they were spinning their wheels just a few weeks ago, but the ongoing storyline of jilted Ambrose refusing to trust Rollins again has breathed some life into both characters. It was a pleasant surprise that Ambrose still wasn’t on the same page with Rollins even after saving him from the Sheamus and Cesaro beatdown and then taking a beatdown of his own in the process. That easily could have been the moment that Ambrose opted to put their differences aside, but instead he had offered the paranoid accusation that Rollins put himself in the handicap position because he knew Ambrose would have to help him or Ambrose would look like the jerk. By dragging this out, it will feel bigger when/if these two end up on the same page and end up challenging the Raw Tag Champs at SummerSlam.
Matt and Jeff Hardy vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows: A nice bounce-back win for the Hardys. The big brawl on the stage added to the Hardys’ momentum, and it was encouraging to see Anderson and Gallows included in the brawl rather than simply being forgotten about while the Hardys fought with The Revival.
Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor: A minor Hit for Balor getting some measure of revenge on Wyatt by giving him his own dose of lights out tricks. I just hope they find a way to heat this up in a major way if they intend to have Balor break out The Demon persona at SummerSlam.
Akira Tozawa, Cedric Alexander, and Rich Swann vs. Ariya Daivari, Tony Nese, and TJP: A Minor Hit for a cruiserweight match that seemed more crowd pleasing than usual thanks to the big dives from the babyfaces. At some point, though, the division needs to be about more than Neville and his challenger of the month.
Elias vs. Kalisto: Elias has joined the ranks of Slash, Beyonce, Bono, and, well, Kalisto as a person who only needs one name. Farewell Samson. The match served as a glorified squash win for Elias, who comes off like a guy that creative is fairly excited about, yet hasn’t figured out where to slot him in terms of booking him in a real program. Meanwhile, if Kalisto is going to be nothing more than an enhancement type on Raw, then why not put him in the cruiserweight division?
WWE Raw Misses
Big Cass vs. Big Show: The live crowd ran out of gas during the last 30 minutes of the show and I suspect the thought of their Raw main event being Cass vs. Show had a lot to do with it. Granted, this seemed destined for a slot at SummerSlam, but it’s more of a mid-card match than one that fans are ready to view as main event ready. Meanwhile, Enzo Amore went from looking like a man hellbent on revenge regardless of the odds to suddenly feeling like a sad figure now that he’s counting on Big Show to get revenge for him.
Miz TV with Jason Jordan: A minor Miss for Jordan’s character being a bland nice guy thus far. Miz did the heavy lifting and did a good job of getting heat, but the story of Jordan being Angle’s son feels like something that made for an interesting payoff, yet creatively they didn’t think much beyond that point. Hopefully that’s not the case. That said, I like the idea of Jordan challenging Miz for the Intercontinental Championship and I wonder if the idea will be that he has to go through Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas to earn a shot at SummerSlam.
Bayley vs. Nia Jax: This was the point in the show when the crowd went flat and never bounced back. I blame the marathon nature of the show and an uninspiring main event more than the women. Even so, Bayley is supposed to be the challenger for the Raw Women’s Championship at SummerSlam, yet she was tossed around like a rag doll before getting a flukey count-out win. Perhaps there’s more to the story and this will make more sense if they intend to add Sasha Banks to the match, but it slowed the momentum that Bayley seemed to develop in recent weeks.