By Jason Powell
WWE Raw Hits
Roman Reigns promo: Do not adjust your eyes. No, I did not mistakenly place this in the wrong section. Roman Reigns actually delivered a strong promo. In fact, this was his best mic work since the night that a snowstorm forced the cancellation of the live Raw event and the company had Reigns and others deliver sit-down promos from their studios in Stamford, Connecticut. Roman finally got the better of Cena. Granted, it took Cena not being present and a bogus implication that Cena wasn’t there because he had gone Hollywood when in fact he worked a WWE live event in China the day before. Even so, this was a strong promo and the throwback to John Cena’s 2012 jabs at The Rock was a very nice touch. By the way, it would have been wise for WWE to schedule John Cena to appear on Smackdown tonight to deliver one final pitch for the match. His character is a free agent and therefore could appear on the Tuesday night show without breaking the rules of the brand split, and some crossover hype for the big show would have been a nice final push.
Elias vs. Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Bo Dallas vs. Jason Jordan vs. Curtis Axel in a Six-Pack Challenge: A nice television main event that felt significant due to the winner receiving an Intercontinental Title shot on Sunday. WWE has given away some huge matches on television lately, but this is an example of a fairly random match featuring mostly mid and even undercard talent that worked in the final segment because of what was at stake. As much as we all enjoy seeing big matches, the company would be wise to take this approach more often while being mindful of saving bigger matches for future pay-per-view events. This was the best night that Jordan has had since becoming Kurt Angle’s storyline son. His frustrated verbal exchange with Angle was effective and works either as an attempt to give his vanilla babyface persona more of an edge or if they are setting the stage for an eventual heel turn.
Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, and Braun Strowman interview: WWE was shorthanded without two of the four wrestlers who make up the top No Mercy matches being present in San Jose. They made the best of it in this case with the pre-taped interview. This segment didn’t change my level of enthusiasm regarding the Lesnar vs. Strowman match, but that’s not a negative since it’s a match that I was really looking forward to going into the go-home show. It was interesting that after weeks of domination by Strowman, they had Lesnar act as confident as ever and even gave him the final line.
Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax in a non-title match: Simple and effective with Jax dominating while Bliss did her best to elude her. I did roll my eyes when Sasha Banks came out and Bliss ran away in fear even though she’s beaten her, and clearly Banks was clearly the lesser of two evils for the Bliss character. The Bayley return was a pleasant surprise. I just wish the company would have made some effort to explain why she was added to the women’s title match at No Mercy.
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins vs. Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in a Triple Threat: A long match that ate up plenty of television time on a night when WWE was light on star power due to Brock Lesnar and John Cena not being present on the pay-per-view go-home show. Shemaus and Cesaro also had one of their better nights on the mic prior to the match. The “good brother” routine is flat, but Gallows saying “yep” or “nope” after Anderson’s lines was fun and has a chance to catch on with live crowds.
Curt Hawkins: The losing streak gimmick is a million times better than Hawkins cutting confident promos only to lose in short order to the surprise of no one. I hope they have a plan in place for the losing streak story. There’s plenty of ways this could go, but it would be fun if this eventually led to Hawkins getting a feel good win to end the streak somewhere way down the road.
Bobby Heenan tributes: WWE opened the night with a graphic acknowledging the legendary manager’s death, and then followed it up with two packages that featured tweets from major names, and then a video package that focussed on his time in the WWF. It would have been nice if the video package had included footage or even a still shot with Heenan and Nick Bockwinkel. They are an iconic duo and while their run took place in the AWA, there was nothing stopping WWE from including it since they own the AWA tape library. It also would have been nice if Booker T would not have picked the broadcast team’s tribute time to tell a lame joke at the expense of Michael Cole. That said, I can’t say I was surprised that the company focussed on the WWF years and I was pleased to see them pay proper respect to a man who played such a big part in the early success of the Vincent Kennedy McMahon years.
WWE Raw Misses
Bray Wyatt vs. Dustin Rhodes: The paint-free Goldust was compelling, but it turned out to be much ado about nothing. The Shattered Dreams kicks to the inner thighs of Wyatt was ridiculously tame and it made Dustin look bad when Wyatt simply blew them off and hit his finisher for the win. The post match promo by Finn Balor was well written and well delivered. That said, the Wyatt vs. Balor feud continues to feel flat.
Neville vs. Gran Metalik in a non-title match: Braun Strowman destroying Enzo Amore was a nice touch for the live crowd (and Corey Graves), but the cruiserweight match that followed was a letdown. Gran Metalik was one of the standout performers of the Cruiserweight Classic. Sadly, he has been positioned as a nobody in a division that has completely failed to create stars.