By Jason Powell
Check out my free audio review of this edition of WWE Raw at PWAudio.net.
WWE Raw Hits
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for the Raw Tag Titles: A good tag title match with a wise call in having the heels retain their titles. The restart by Kurt Angle was a nice swerve in that restarts typically lead to babyfaces going over. The fans love The Shield, but going back to Rollins and Ambrose as champions would have been premature and damaging to Sheamus and Cesaro. The interference of Joe sets up some some quality six-man tag matches between The Shield and the heel trio.
Roman Reigns vs. Jason Jordan for the Intercontinental Championship: This was a really good night for Jordan. He thrived in the opening segment and it felt like this was the first time that a live crowd got into booing him rather than sitting on their hands during one of his segments. His character is starting to click. There’s just enough plausible deniability in Jordan’s approach that Kurt Angle doesn’t seem like a complete dope for buying into his storyline son’s manipulations. It was also smart to have Angle show some frustration with Jordan before cooling down in a backstage segment later in the show. The match itself was entertaining and Jordan got in plenty of offense before taking the loss. Here’s hoping they can build on Jordan’s momentum next week and this show is remembered as a turning point for his character. By the way, they really need to avoid scripting Reigns to defend his “opportunities.” His empty “I work hard” defense isn’t going to win over a single detractor. It’s only going to remind them of how aggressively WWE has shoved Reigns down their throats as a top babyface.
Woken Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt: The Broken/Woken madness of Matt Hardy has finally made its way to WWE. And while there’s good reason to be apprehensive since there’s no telling how long of a leash Vince McMahon will give a gimmick he didn’t create, it’s going to be fun to watch it all play out. By the way, the idea of Wyatt wrestling while possessed by Sister Abigail felt ridiculous when he was feuding with Finn Balor. Would that bizarre concept actually fit in now that he’s entering the Woken Universe?
Paige vs. Sasha Banks: The match didn’t come off as being as special as it looked on paper, but they did a nice job down the stretch and the right woman went over. The distraction finish gave Banks an out for losing. It was surprising that they gave this match away on television when it seems like the most marketable singles match that Paige could have aside from perhaps Asuka.
Drew Gulak vs. Ariya Daivari vs. Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali: A crowd pleasing match that had the fans reacting to the bigger spots. Gulak going over felt flat. The cruiserweight division needs strong heels, but the Gulak character is quirky and lighthearted comedy relief. One can only assume that they had him go over due to his connection to Enzo Amore, but it’s hard to muster up much enthusiasm for the Gulak vs. Rich Swann number one contenders match that will take place next week.
Asuka vs. Alicia Fox: A minor Hit. Fox’s ridiculously over the top crazy woman promos continue to be a personal turnoff, but this was obviously just another showcase win for Asuka even if Fox got more offense than needed. The post match angle with Absolution surrounding the ring and letting Asuka walk away continues to build interest in their eventual showdown, and the attack on Fox was well done.
WWE Raw Misses
Finn Balor vs. Bo Dallas: A filler match that got Balor on the show while also serving as a reminder that he’s the odd man out as far as the current feuds are concerned. Perhaps they are setting up something with The Miz once he returns from the movie shoot, but at this point it feels like creative has no idea where to go with Balor and so they book him in mid-card, wheel spinning feuds. Balor could be a headliner on Smackdown. How about a trade involving Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson going to the blue brand in exchange for Bobby Roode, Chad Gable, and Shelton Benjamin? A heel Balor with Gallows and Anderson at his side would be great a foil for AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, while Raw gains Gable for an eventual feud with Jordan and perhaps Jordan’s new heel ally Benjamin, while Roode essentially plays the same mid-card babyface role on Monday nights instead of Tuesdays nights.
Zo Train: The lack of meaningful heels in the cruiserweight division is an ongoing issue and the idea of making four guys stand around and listen to Enzo’s rants isn’t doing anyone any favors. Gulak being paired with Enzo is fine and there might even be some appeal if Gulak’s oddball character turns babyface for a feud with Amore, but there’s no reason to make Ariya Daivari, Tony Nese, and Noam Dar look like lackeys. Meanwhile, most live crowds genuinely liked Enzo and his entrance routine. By turning him heel and pointing out how obnoxious he is, WWE has taken a popular act and turned it into a turnoff.