By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar: A very good segment with Paul Heyman boasting about Lesnar’s SummerSlam win followed by WWE doubling down on Strowman’s domination of Lesnar. I would save their first singles match for WrestleMania, but a case can be made for striking while the iron is hot with Strowman. Perhaps I have more faith in Strowman staying hot until April than WWE does. Or maybe Vince McMahon is still hellbent on the idea of Lesnar facing Roman Reigns in the main event of his biggest show. As much as I will enjoy the Lesnar vs. Strowman at No Mercy, it will be very interesting to see if the WrestleMania main event ends up feeling bigger than this match or if the company will regret not saving it.
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy in a non-title match: A nice match with a bit of an awkward atmosphere in that the fans enjoy both teams and cheered for spots rather than choosing sides. WWE would be wise to avoid mentioning how long the Hardys have been wrestling and not having wrestlers such as Rollins talk about how they grew up watching them. Talk like that is pushing them toward feeling like more of a nostalgia act than the relevant tag team that they are. WWE should have learned their lesson with the mistakes they made with the Dudleys last run.
Alexa Bliss: Boston’s Sasha Banks’s attempt to win over the Brooklyn crowd failed. However, they managed to make those fans boo Bliss scripting her to be the one who opted to have their rematch next week instead of holding it in front of the “Brooklyn fanboys.” Great stuff.
Nia Jax vs. Emma: A minor Hit for a simple squash match win for Jax. As much as I would like to see the company do more with Emma, this was effective in terms of keeping up Jax’s monster image.
Elias vs. R-Truth: A minor Hit for the work of Elias. His pre-match musical routine continues to draw good heat. The match was kept brief and served as a nice followup from last week. Where do they go with Elias from here? This doesn’t seem to be a long term program between him and R-Truth, so I’m curious to see who Elias’s next program is with.
WWE Raw Misses
Beachball Party and John Cena: Yes, playing with beachballs during wrestling matches is disrespectful. However, I don’t blame the fans for their actions on Monday night. How can you? WWE is encouraging their behavior. Top star John Cena endorsed their antics. WWE even showed one of the beachballs on camera. The company was so concerned with framing the scene as WWE fun that they made this feel like acceptable behavior. The truth is that WWE did not deliver a show that pleased the live crowd. The fact that this was the third night in a row in the same venue may have played a small part in this, but this was a product of fan disinterest. I don’t believe for a second that the same crowd would have resorted to these antics if the third night in the venue had featured the crowd pleasing NXT Takeover special. So while it’s easy to feel bad for the talent who were disrespected, don’t blame the fans, blame WWE for glamorizing the night after WrestleMania insanity and now endorsing the night after SummerSlam behavior.
Kurt Angle introduces John Cena: The Monday afternoon online Raw hype consisted of a tease that Angle was bringing back a notable wrestler. There was Undertaker speculation all weekend due to his presence in Brooklyn. And even if that was an unrealistic expectation, the fans had every reason to feel let down by Cena emerging as the mystery man, as he was advertised on the Barclays Center website for weeks. In other words, the fans expected Cena to be there, and I assume many of them thought the Monday hype was for another wrestler since they already knew they were getting Cena. The promo that Cena delivered along with his actions throughout the night were more about playing to the live crowd than anything. The Cena and Reigns interaction was shockingly flat. They started a feud on Twitter and WWE never bothered to mention it on television until last night when they acted like all of their viewers were aware of it. The two of them turned out to be great targets for a strong Miz promo, but this was the absolute worst setting for the launch a Cena and Reigns storyline.
Roman Reigns and John Cena vs. The Miz and Samoa Joe: The appeal of the match was apparently finding out whether Reigns and Cena could coexist, but it didn’t work because Cena was in happy go lucky mode while attempting to play to the disinterested and/or distracted live crowd. And who thought it was a good idea to book the two polarizing wrestlers as the babyface duo in the main event of a post-SummerSlam show in Brooklyn? Did they really think the fans were going to rally behind them? The first interaction between Cena and Samoa Joe should have been so much better than this. There was no talk of their history, and Joe’s involvement was made to feel rather random. The involvement of Miz in this match prevented this from feeling like a dream match. As much as I like the Miz and feel that he was on his way to being in the main event mix on Smackdown before the shakeup, he’s cast as a fluky Intercontinental Champion on Raw. He is booked to beat guys like Jason Jordan with help from outside interference. The character lacks in-ring credibility with the fans to the point that you had to know he was going to be the person pinned if the match ended with a clean finish. Even Reigns accidentally hitting Cena with the Superman Punch felt flat, and production apparently botched their chance to show Reigns acknowledging it as a mistake.
Finn Balor vs. Jason Jordan: Did WWE officials want the fans to highjack the show or did they really believe that Balor facing the dullest babyface character to appear on WWE television in ages was going to hold their interest? The fans had no reason to get invested in the second babyface vs. babyface battle of the night. I felt bad for both men because they were working hard, but the fans are not into the Jordan character. Jordan is very good in the ring and this is a match I’d like to see again if they manage to get Jordan’s character over perhaps even as a heel, but WWE should have known that this was not the right match to book in front of this crowd.
Gran Metalik, Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, and Rich Swann vs. Drew Gulak, Ariya Daivari, Noam Dar, and Tony Nese: Just another throwaway cruiserweight match. There was a lot of talent in the ring, but the number of wrestlers probably topped the number of seconds that creative put into thinking about the match. The problem with the division has never been the talent, it’s that it continues to be treated like an afterthought by creative. However, the division is so cold that the wrestlers have been damaged because the fans don’t see most of the cruiserweights as stars. Hopefully they have something in mind to give the division a spark and make it feel like more than bathroom break material.