By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Stephanie McMahon presides over the Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax contract signing: Stephanie was the MVP of the night for carrying this segment. It was wise to cast her in the role of the pot stirring promoter, as she is a much better talker than Rousey or Jax at this point. I’m not really sure why they felt the need to have her label Jax as lazy. Granted, that was the buzzword that caused Jax to react, but she did so in a way that made it seem like it was an ongoing criticism rather than the first time we’ve heard it on the air. That point aside, Stephanie did a spectacular job and the segment added some much needed tension between Rousey and Jax heading into their match.
Braun Strowman vs. Finn Balor: A good main event that was laid out well with Strowman dominating early, Balor getting the fun flurry late, and Strowman eventually shutting him down and winning decisively. The broadcast team did a good job of putting over the performance of Balor to soften the blow of him losing, and this was reenforced by Strowman showing respect for Balor rather than giving him another post match powerslam.
Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens and Jinder Mahal: I can’t imagine that nearly 45 minutes of Reigns top open the show was pleasing for the anti-Roman crowd. It started with his verbal sparring with Stephanie McMahon, who continues to be the only adversary that causes fans to side with Reigns. The match with Owens was solid and the tag match was actually made by the flashy offense of Rollins, who is over in the type of way that Vince McMahon wishes Reigns could be.
Ember Moon vs. Alexa Bliss: A minor Hit for Moon getting another win over the former Raw Women’s Champion. Bliss is good enough on the mic to get her heat back with one promo, so losing to Moon at this point isn’t doing any real harm.
Liv Morgan vs. Sarah Logan vs. Dana Brooke vs. Natalya in an MITB qualifier: Natalya winning the match felt like the logical move. It made even more sense with what felt like foreshadowing as she spoke after the match about winning Money in the Bank on the same night that Ronda Rousey will become the Raw Women’s Champion.
Elias vs. Bobby Roode: The Elias pre-match routine was a riot. He woke up a crowd that hadn’t made much noise since the Lashley’s sisters segment by getting them to sing about him only to shoot them down in classic heel fashion. It was hard not to cringe when they announced yet another match between these two, but pre-match attack by Elias and then Roode throwing the robe at him drew me in.
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: A minor Miss despite a few decent segments. Raw is dragging again. They were doing a better job of filling the three hours before the Superstar Shakeup left the brand with a bunch of heels who arrived damaged from their time on Smackdown. Raw has the players to turn this around, but it’s going to require recognition that several of the male wrestlers are miscast. Bobby Lashley and Bobby Roode are strong heels. Drew McIntyre could work as a singles wrestler as a heel or a babyface. All three men are all being wasted to some degree in their current roles. Of course, they also have the ideal top heel in the entire industry slotted incorrectly as the top babyface, but that’s an ongoing issue and there’s no telling whether Vince McMahon will ever back down.
Sami Zayn interviews the Lashley sisters: A horrible crowd killing segment. If this isn’t remembered as the worst WWE segment of 2018 then God help us all when it comes to what is yet to come. I felt bad for Zayn, who did everything he could to make this work. Zayn continues to be a tremendous heel, and I don’t know if Roddy Piper in his prime could have made this passable. Lashley playing the part of the big smiling babyface is unwatchable. I get it. He has the military background and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. The problem is that his act is just plain sappy. Nice guy Lashley failed to live up to expectations during his last WWE run and there’s no reason to think the same routine will work now. Someone in WWE needs to compile a best of Lashley as a heel in Impact Wrestling video and force Vince McMahon to watch it.
Baron Corbin vs. No Way Jose: A minor Miss for yet another match between these two. In fairness, I believe this was the rubber match between the two and the match had a definitive winner, which is certainly better than parity booking. Still, I’m not sure how much Corbin really gained from beating a wrestler who has been cast as caring more about dancing than winning matches. It’s a shame because Jose is charismatic and has a lot to offer, but his presentation makes him out to be a joke.
The B-Team vs. Fandango and Tyler Breeze: The live crowd’s flat reaction to the B-Team in week two was not encouraging. I get a kick out of the duo and I still believe there’s a chance they could click with fans. The post match celebration was fun. My concern is that WWE typically feels the need to top zany moments like this one. For instance, I enjoyed Alicia Fox’s crazy woman antics initially and then they had her go over the top to the point of absurdity. In other words, Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas celebrating their win on the broadcast team’s table and riding down the ramp on a chair was fun, but it’s hard not to fear how ridiculous the celebrations could be a month from now.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Chad Gable: A solid match that felt like filler due to the way Gable has been wasted. It will be interesting to see if Gable continues to have issues with Ziggler and Drew McIntyre and if that could lead to an American Alpha reunion once Jason Jordan is healthy.