By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Braun Strowman vs. John Cena: It was a questionable move for WWE to give this match away on Raw rather than save their first match for a pay-per-view. The fact that WWE didn’t even bother to advertise the match a week in advance and instead opted to wait until hours before the show to announce it makes the move even more of a head scratcher. Even so, the match was entertaining and served its purpose in terms of making Strowman look like a monster. Cena was protected to some extent by the DQ finish. The goal of the overall show was to make Strowman out to be an unbeatable force and this segment was helpful in that regard. Furthermore, they can still go back to Strowman vs. Cena in the future and while it won’t be the first time, it will still be a meaningful match.
Roman Reigns vs. Jason Jordan: A nice follow up to last week’s match between Jordan and John Cena. Reigns mocked Cena for taking “20 minutes” to beat “the rookie” last week (it was actually under 12 minutes), so it was logical for Reigns to take even longer to put away Jordan, which gave Cena some ammunition headed into their latest verbal exchange (not that he needed it). Jordan is having good matches, but the live crowd still doesn’t seem to be rallying behind him. Jordan has yet to connect with the audience as a character. The odd story of Kurt Angle being his storyline father seems to be doing more harm than good and his nice guy promos may have worked in the territory days, but they come across as boring in this era.
Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman: I love the approach of Strowman being built up as the favorite heading into the match with Lesnar. We’ve seen plenty of wrestlers built up going into a match with Lesnar, but none have dominated him the way that Strowman has. My initial thought was that they should keep the duo from getting physical last night, but the double down on the Strowman domination worked extremely well, particularly when he no-sold a German suplex. Strowman feels like a major threat to take the championship and regardless of what they have planned for the No Mercy main event outcome, the match feels must see.
Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Matt Hardy, and Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus, Cesaro, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson: A feel good show ending match. This did not feel like the ture main event of the show despite going on last. Rather, WWE loaded up the first two hours of Raw and then went lighter with the third hour. The match had a sloppy moment when Cesaro nearly fell off the top rope and then Matt Hardy tripped when he was supposed to break up a pin moments later, but the live crowd stayed with them and the babyface foursome going over closed the night on a positive note. It’s worth noting that Matt was more Broken than usual on this show to the point that the broadcast team even acknowledged it.
Sasha Banks vs. Emma: A minor Hit for a segment that showcased the women who will meet in the four-way match at No Mercy. Sasha needed the win after dropping the title recently and then losing the tag match last week. Meanwhile, Nia Jax intimidating Alexa Bliss on commentary was good fun.
Elias vs. Kalisto: A very minor Hit for being a nice showcase match for Elias, who continues to click more on the main roster than he ever did in NXT. Meanwhile, Kalisto continues to be wasted as a glorified enhancement wrestler. Is there a reason he’s not in the cruiserweight division at this point?
WWE Raw Misses
John Cena and Roman Reigns exchange: The first worked shoot segment between Cena and Reigns was the best. Fans were not expecting it and both men delivered their best lines during the initial exchange. Last week’s round two was a flat rehashing of the best material from week one. This week’s round three exchange was better than the second round, but it still left a lot to be desired, particularly on the Reigns side. Part of the problem is that there isn’t much to go after Cena about these days. No one has a better reputation for working harder, he’s worked with and even put over a lot of young talent, he’s had a nice level of success in Hollywood, and most criticisms of his character have been used by other wrestlers in past promos. So Reigns is left with rehashed material, name calling, or pure bullshit. Examples of the B.S. category include Roman telling Cena that he’s had more good matches over the last two years than Cena has had during his entire career. Or when Reigns suggested that Cena is having trouble breaking into Hollywood. Or when Reigns accused Cena of burying younger talent. Or when Reigns suggested that he’s selling more tickets than Cena. The only reactions Reigns seems to get in these exchanges are when he calls Cena names because there’s no much for him to work with and The Miz did it so much better before WrestleMania. Meanwhile, Cena, who is terrific at the insult game, has all new material because Reigns has been protected to the point that no one has been able to point out his flaws until now. As if Cena dominating the verbal exchanges wasn’t damaging enough to Reigns, Cena played the drug test failure card at the end of the promo. I have no doubt that the end game for this program is for Cena to put over Reigns either at No Mercy or somewhere down the road and then endorse Roman the same way that Rock did for him. Even so, is it really a good idea to have the most noble of all characters bring up Roman’s drug test failures when fans moved on? Coming from Cena, that’s the type of comment that will be remembered by the same younger fans the company desperately wants to support Reigns. So as much as these verbal battles are entertaining, they feel more damaging to Reigns than feud win over Cena will erase.
The Miz and Enzo Amore: Congratulations to Miz and Maryse’s unborn child for being used in a pro wrestling angle before even being born. I’m not sure how many other children can say that, but I assume it’s a fairly exclusive club. Putting that aside, the segment was bizarre with Miz and Enzo doing their own Cena and Reigns style worked shoot promo exchange. Enzo is good for a pop during his ring entrance, but creative has to figure out that fans who know about Enzo falling out of favor with the locker room are not all that enamored with the story, and most of the viewing audience has no f’n clue what they are talking about. Why are fans supposed to like Enzo when wrestlers and Corey Graves repeatedly tell us that he’s an unlikable d-bag? By the way, it was interesting that this match and the brief moment backstage with Neville laughing at Enzo were the only cruiserweight segments on the show. Will we see less of the cruiserweight talent now that Monday Night Football is back as strong competition?
Bray Wyatt vs. Goldust: The use of Goldust for Wyatt to tell the story that he and Finn Balor are just men under the makeup was creative, but it’s hard to be excited by the Wyatt vs. Balor feud. Wyatt needs to be positioned as the smartest and most manipulative wrestler in WWE rather than the guy who talks a lot, yet rarely wins feuds and never outsmarts anyone in a creative way.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Jake Barnett co-hosting the Boom and Dot Net Weekly combo show. Jason and Jake discuss Becky Lynch announcing her pregnancy, Alberto Del Rio being accused of sexual assault, WWE's IC Title tournament, Mike Tyson appearing at AEW Double Or Nothing, Undertaker's Last Ride documentary, AEW Dynamite and NXT TV thoughts, and more...