By Jason Powell
Check out my appearance on The Ross Report podcast when the show is released tonight at Podcastone.com/The-Ross-Report.
WWE Raw Hits
John Cena and Roman Reigns verbal exchange: An attention grabbing, buzz generating segment. This was a great way to bounce back from last week’s lousy initial angle during which it felt like Cena was more concerned with playing to the beachball loving crowd than trying to do business. Cena bounced back in a major way and was scripted to tear into Reigns with the type of comments you might find from a Reigns hater on social media. Meanwhile, most of Roman’s jabs at Cena were easy for Cena to rebut, yet there were also a couple of nice jabs along the way. I’m not a big fan of worked shoots taking place on a regular basis. This segment shows that the approach can catch viewers off guard and make a big splash when they are saved for key times. There are also some negatives that go along with this approach, which Jake Barnett will lay out in today’s All Access Daily Podcast.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman: Heyman speaking highly of Braun Strowman was an effective twist. Heyman labeled Strowman the most worthy contender for the WWE Universal Championship and referred to his recent dominance of Lesnar as historic. It’s interesting that the Cena and Reigns segment featured two guys tearing each other down, whereas Heyman offered high praise for Lesnar’s SummerSlam opponent. Lesnar’s “Suplex City, bitch” line made for a strong close to the segment. I love that Lesnar isn’t suddenly showing fear of Strowman despite being “monster handled” by him two nights in a row. Showdown matches such as this one are better when both wrestlers show supreme confidence during the build.
Battle Royal For an Intercontinental Title shot: The call to introduce Big Show, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, and Finn Balor as entrants before the break was wise in that it showed that there would be some star power in the battle royal. I also liked that Jason Jordan looked strong at the end, yet was not the actual winner. Giving him the win and another title shot would have been overkill and likely rejected by fans. Meanwhile, Jeff Hardy is a fresh challenger and I’m genuinely curious to see if this will somehow lead to a tag feud for the Hardys or if the company is serious about doing more with the brothers as singles wrestlers. For what it’s worth, the Broken Universe started with Matt turning on Jeff.
Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship: A minor Hit for entertaining match with a surprising outcome. This is a Miss for the Sasha character, as it’s bizarre that WWE continues to have her win the title and then drop it back in her first televised title defenses. There’s a big difference between being a sympathetic babyface and being babyface who fails repeatedly. I assumed Sasha was going to retain when the match was announced last week. I was even more convinced that she was going to win when they kept playing up her bad history of defending the title. Here’s hoping this somehow leads to Sasha becoming the heel character that she should be playing. The post match angle with Nia Jax was also odd in that she splashed babyface Banks in the corner before attacking the heel champion. Thus, it’s hard to know whether this was a babyface turn or business as usual for Jax. My best guess is that they setting up a Triple Threat for No Mercy.
Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus and Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro: A minor Hit for two matches that filled a lot of television time. I felt bad for Rollins and Cesaro in that WWE kept the babyface duo out there forever by having them come out prior to a block of commercials and then they played a long video package once they returned from the break. The live crowd was excited to see Rollins and Ambrose when they came out, but they seemed to lose that thrill by watching them presumably stand in the ring for several minutes, making it tough for Rollins and Cesaro to get them fired up again. The second match won over the crowd and led to the teams splitting singles wins. This felt a little too similar to Sheamus and Cesaro’s recent singles matches with Matt and Jeff Hardy, but the wrestlers still filled the time well.
WWE Raw Misses
Emma vs. Mickie James: A feud over Emma claiming to have started the women’s revolution and what she’s tweeting on her phone? As much as I believe both women deserve camera time, they also deserve better creative. This was almost as painful as Emma’s new entrance music.
Pelvis Wesley and Elias: I get a kick out of Southpaw Regional Wrestling, but I have no desire to see the characters from that show cross over to regular WWE television. You have to feel bad for the fans in Memphis. Las Vegas fans have been subjected to the cliche roulette gimmick, England typically gets the phone booth and cab set, and Memphis gets the tired Elvis gags.
Enzo Amore vs. Noam Dar: A poor outing for Enzo with a botched version of Gail Kim’s Eat Defeat finisher. He also seemed to lose the crowd during his pre-match promo when he referenced winning money on the Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor fight.