By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Dot Net Members are listening to my audio review of WWE Raw, my 83-minute Q&A audio show, and my audio review of the WWE Greatest Royal Rumble event from Friday. Join us on the ad-free version of our website and mobile website and access a decade of written and audio content via PWMembership.net.
WWE Raw Hits
Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Championship: Another strong match between Rollins and Balor with another win for Rollins. It’s coming off like the two are truly competitive and yet Rollins is simply the better man even though Balor noted that they were 2-2 in singles matches going into this match. I would be more concerned about an oddball heel Balor union with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel if the company didn’t have Balor playing the role of a walking PSA for inclusion. It feels like something that should be a company wide initiative rather than simply being something that is tagged on one particular wrestler. Anyway, this was a top notch match and the clean finish was a pleasant surprise given their interaction with Dallas and Axel earlier in the show.
Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Jinder Mahal vs. Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley, and Roman Reigns: The opening segment that set the stage for this match was a blast. The crowd provided yet another reminder that a huge portion of the fan base is not going to cheer Reigns no matter how hard Vince McMahon tries to make them. The love-fest for hometown heroes Owens and Zayn was a blast. The actual match was strong, though I can’t help but question the logic of having Strowman pin Owens clean. That finish made even less sense when they later announced Strowman and Lashley vs. Owens and Zayn for Backlash. Why not give the babyface duo something to avenge on Sunday? And if they didn’t want to put the heel trio over, another loss for Mahal would have been acceptable given his recent losing ways. Speaking of which, did they ignore Chad Gable’s big win over Mahal last week because they feared he would be booed in Canada or because they have already moved on?
Natalya (w/Ronda Rousey) vs. Mickie James (w/Alexa Bliss): Rousey is being overexposed. The live crowd treated her like a hero and chanted her name just seconds into the match and that’s great, but what happens when she starts appearing in these cities for a second and third time? It’s fun to have Rousey as a regular on television, but the question is whether they would be better off saving her for key appearances to make her feel more special. The match was fine and served as a setup for Natalya to play up her knee injury again and for the post match angle with Nia Jax running Alexa Bliss off the stage. The feel good moment with Jax raising the arms of Rousey and Natalya felt a little flat compared to the initial tension that the crowd reacted to when Jax was sizing up Rousey. It didn’t do any significant damage to a future match between the two, but I would have maintained the tension or simply kept them apart to avoid the big smiley babyface moment they went with that didn’t really do anything for anyone.
Sasha Banks vs. Ruby Riott: A good match even if the ongoing issues between Banks and Bayley are more of a turnoff than anything. Neither babyface is coming off well as they continue to come off like petulant children. Banks is a pure heel and I continue to hope the long term plan is to turn her. However, it seems like the short term plan is to eventually put Banks and Bayley back together to fight the Riott Squad.
No Way Jose vs. Baron Corbin: A minor Hit and mostly for Corbin’s latest promo about goofball characters who are more concerned with having fun than winning matches. WWE followed up the Titus O’Neil fall by having him fall again to create a distraction. Jonathan Coachman questioned whether the fall was intentional this time and I hope that’s what they were going for because the idea of Titus doing a weekly klutz spot is going to get old in a hurry. I feel compelled to once again state that WWE should ditch the dorky conga dancers. Jose has a likable personality and good charisma. The Rosebud Rejects do more harm than good.
WWE Raw Misses
WWE Backlash hype: There was a fair amount of hype including split screen ads that aired while chinlocks were being applied during two different matches. Let’s face it, it’s not a case of there being a lack of Backlash hype, rather it’s issues with the show itself. Backlash and the Greatest Royal Rumble were scheduled too close together. And while the Greatest Royal Rumble didn’t live up to expectations based on the strong lineup, there’s no denying that its loaded lineup makes the Backlash lineup seem underwhelming in comparison. There’s actually a decent chance that Backlash will be the better of the two shows from an in-ring standpoint, but I don’t sense a strong level of fan anticipation for this show or the majority of the matches.
Bobby Roode vs. Elias: The match and angle were fine until the production crew absolutely blew it by showing one too many replays. Roode was selling a throat injury and acting like he couldn’t breathe after being run throat first into the turnbuckle cable. The first two replays looked fine. The third replay was the perfect angle to show that Roode’s throat came nowhere near the cable. I realize it’s live television, but this was awful and completely ruined the injury angle.
Authors of Pain vs. Jean-Paul and Francois: The squash match was fine. The real issue was the post match promo by AOP. Their delivery was the type of over the top yelling that is normally reserved for nervous first-year wrestlers at independent shows. Worse yet was the duo talking about the Book of Pain and then saying “Center of destruction” simultaneously. This felt so scripted and completely unnatural.