By Jason Powell
Check out my free audio review of this edition of WWE Raw and all of our daily podcasts at PWAudio.net.
WWE Raw Hits
Braun Strowman’s rampage: The backstage segments with Miz expressing concern to his TLC teammates were well done and built anticipation for Strowman’s return. The parking area scene was comically bad with a camera inexplicably inside Miz’s car, and the heel trio failing to escape their car as the garbage truck slowly backed up near them brought back memories of the Austin Powers steamroller gag. Um, reach to the front seat and unlock the doors, guys. We were also treated to the super campy shot of Strowman emerging from the trash that was dumped out of the garbage truck. Fortunately, things got better from there as Strowman played the babyface monster on the eve of, well, All Hallows’ Eve. Curtis Axel taking the beating while Miz escaped total annihilation was a nice touch in that it leaves fans waiting to see the IC Champion get his.
The Miz vs. Matt Hardy for the Intercontinental Championship: A good title match that took advantage of the widespread fan speculation that there will be a secondary title change before Survivor Series to avoid the currently advertised heel vs. heel match. The same approach worked on paper for the women’s championship match in that I bought into the idea of Mickie James winning and having a brief title reign to avoid the other advertised heel vs. heel match. WWE would be wise to continue to deliver secondary and women’s title matches on both shows before Survivor Series regardless of whether they actually intend to deliver a title change. Either way, it was refreshing to see Miz get an credibility building win rather than going over thanks to interference from his cronies.
Asuka vs. Stacie Cullen: A much better showcase of Asuka than at TLC or on last week’s Raw. Asuka looked vicious and dominant in this match, whereas her two previous matches were more competitive than expected. The approach taken in the Asuka vs. Emma seem especially odd in retrospect considering that the company released Emma just days later.
Samoa Joe vs. Apollo Crews: A good return for Joe, who did his best to turn the crowd against him with a pre-match promo. That said, I can’t help but question whether it’s worth the trouble. Whatever happened to listening to the audience? Perhaps they have big plans for Joe as a heel, but in general it seems like the company would be better off slotting the wrestlers who fans want to cheer as babyfaces and the wrestlers they reject as heels.
Nia Jax vs. Bayley: A dominant return win for Jax, who essentially steamrolled her enhancement wrestler opponent. Wait, Bayley isn’t an enhancement wrestler? While this is a Hit for Jax, I can’t help but feel like a match between these women should feel more meaningful than this match did. Meanwhile, Alicia Fox continues to go too over the top for my taste while playing the mentally unstable character.
Finn Balor vs. Cesaro: A nice bounce back win for Balor after being destroyed by Kane last week. On the flip side, Cesaro and Sheamus are losing too many matches to maintain the badass credibility they earned as a tag team. I get the formula of singles wrestlers beating tag team wrestlers in most cases, but it’s starting to make this strong duo feel like just another couple of guys.
Kalisto vs. Drew Gulak: The cruiserweight match was kept short and sweet. The highlight was actually Gulak delivering the “S-O-F-T” line rather than Enzo Amore’s usual “S-A-W-F-T” prior to the match.
WWE Raw Misses
Stephanie McMahon and Kurt Angle: Stephanie returned to television after a nearly six-month absence. By the time the segment was over, it felt like she’d never left. Stephanie plays her part well. The problem is that she’s been playing this role for far too long. Her character never changes. She shows up and emasculates wrestlers and other authority figures over and over and over again. The act is tired and continues to be damaging to the targets of her character’s scorn. Angle is a celebrated Olympic gold medalist, yet his character is just another pushover who stands there and takes it from Stephanie. Fans want to cheer babyfaces who stand up to authority, not men and women who trade their self respect for job security.
Daniel Bryan backstage segments: The idea of Bryan showing up without Shane McMahon’s blessing was intriguing. It ended there, though, as we were subjected to Kurt Angle looking up from the cellphone he’s always starting at or talking into during backstage segments and freaking out because nice guy Bryan was in his office. The lights out gimmick was awful with Bryan having to act like the cameraman wasn’t in the room with him before he was attacked by Kane. I am mildly curious to see if this attack will lead to Bryan getting onboard with Shane’s anti-Raw approach or if this will simply write him off television temporarily.
Alexa Bliss vs. Mickie James for the Raw Women’s Championship: A fairly flat main event. As someone who predicted a James title win going into the match, they never convinced me that she was actually on the verge of winning the title during the match. The big punch finish came out of nowhere to the point that it didn’t even feel like it was going to be the finish. The match presentation also left a lot to be desired. We heard Bliss attempt to get James fired in a backstage segment with Kurt Angle, who then set up the match. However, we didn’t hear more from Bliss and we never heard from the challenger, so it felt like just another match rather than a big showdown main event.
Kane vs. Seth Rollins: The match was shaky down the stretch with Rollins taking the hard bump off a suicide dive and then there appeared to be some miscommunication when he went for a springboard move a short time later. Is Kane simply rusty after a long layoff? My guess is they are working toward a Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Finn Balor vs. Kane, Sheamus, and Cesaro six-man tag match for next week. If so, why not advertise it a week out? Hell, why not advertise something for next week’s show?
Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in a Trick or Street Fight: A silly Halloween themed match that only Vince McMahon could love. Remember the buzz over Gallows and Anderson signing with WWE and the sense of danger that was created when they showed up during their first weeks on television? What the hell happened?