By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor vs. Bobby Roode: It was hard to feel excited going into the two four-way matches when nothing more than “momentum” was at stake, but the hard work of the wrestlers made both matches highly entertaining. Owens was the MVP of the night with his plotting behind the scenes, his in-ring antics, and his overall performance in the match. I actually bought in when Balor hit Strowman with his finisher. Normally, one finisher from Balor wouldn’t be enough to pin Strowman, but they did a good job of establishing that Strowman was injured from the frogsplash through the broadcast table so it seemed at least possible that he would be pinned (congrats to Owens for overcoming his one week fear of heights?). Strowman emerged with the win and the company clearly wants him to be seen as the heavy favorite going into Money in the Bank. It will be interesting to see if they keep it simple by going with him as the winner on Sunday or if they have something else in mind.
Ember Moon vs. Natalya vs. Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss: A strong outing from the women heading into their MITB match. They continue to tell the story that Natalya wants to win the MITB contract on the same night that Ronda Rousey wins the Raw Women’s Championship. At the same time, they’ve established that Natalya is nursing a knee injury heading into the match, which seems to give her an out for losing. I don’t have a strong feeling about the outcome of the women’s match yet, but this four-way match left me feeling good about the potential in-ring quality of the women’s MITB match.
Seth Rollins and Elias: WWE creative has done a nice job of heating up this feud in a short period of time. It started just a couple weeks ago with Elias smashing Rollins with a guitar and knocking him off the broadcast table. Rollins got the last laugh going into the match by destroying Elias’s custom guitar in a crowd pleasing segment. I’m anxious to see how Elias performs in a match against Rollins. Elias is a terrific talker, but we’re still waiting for that breakout in-ring performance. Working with Rollins on Sunday gives Elias a real chance to shine.
Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax: Rousey came off well in this segment both in terms of her verbal delivery and by forcing Jax to tap to her submission hold. I’m still not sure how they want us to view Jax. She seems like the heel for this match. Is that a long term approach or will they have her back in babyface mode coming out of it?
Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler vs. Fandango and Tyler Breeze: A minor Hit even though it still seems bizarre to have McIntyre in a tag team when he could obviously be a player in the singles division. I was actually hopeful that he was going to attack Ziggler for costing them the battle royal last week with the idea being that he tried teaming with Ziggler, yet he had a zero tolerance policy for failure.
Roman Reigns and Jinder Mahal: A minor Hit in that they got the crowd to cheer Reigns and boo Mahal. Mahal’s beatdown was forgettable and it was hard to feel like any of this mattered anyway since it’s hard to imagine a Chicago crowd rallying behind Reigns. The live crowd’s reaction to Reigns vs. Mahal is the most intriguing aspect of their match at Money in the Bank.
Sami Zayn and Bobby Lashley: Another minor Hit. I had flashbacks to the lousy version of NXT that Vince McMahon labeled the next evolution in television when they started setting up the obstacle course. It turned out to be fine with Zayn simply taking a cheap shot at Lashley and garnering some heat heading into their match on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if the Chicago crowd plays along and boos Zayn or if they turn on “Smiling” Bobby Lashley, who is so much better when he plays a heel character.
No Way Jose vs. Curt Hawkins: Quick and painless. Jose continues to be brought down by the campy entourage, but it was nice to see them keep the story of the Hawkins losing streak going. We’ve seen him make random Raw appearances in the past. Perhaps the back to back appearances is a sign that they actually have a plan in place for the end of his losing streak.
MITB hype: There’s no way a viewer could have watched even ten minutes of the show and not come away knowing that MITB will be held on Sunday. The build to the event was drawn out because they had six weeks between pay-per-views and they raced through the MITB qualifiers early on. They have been spinning their wheels for the last few weeks, but when it comes to simply hyping the show they effectively bombarded viewers with nonstop plugs and did a good job of making it seem like an important event.
WWE Raw Misses
MITB participants on ladders in the opening segment: A corny opening with the wrestlers all standing on ladders set up in the ring and bickering with one another. You know it’s a bad segment when the highlight was Baron Corbin coming out and debuting his new shaved head look. Speaking of which, Corbin looked good (I maybe biased since I also shave my head), but why wouldn’t they get something out of this by having Corbin face someone in a hair vs. something match?
Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno: Wait, are the fun loving underdog Axel and Dallas the heels? I assumed the company wanted the fans to embrace the duo, but they worked against babyfaces in this match and are slated to challenge the babyface tag champions. Or are Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt the heels even though they never had an actual heel turn? This is all confusing and hopefully they have a good plan in place for this because the current approach leaves me wondering if either team can come out of this looking good.
Bayley vs. Ruby Riott: More of an in the middle than an actual Hit or Miss. The match that felt like filler in that it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the MITB event unless they go with a rematch on the Kickoff Show. The new bit with Riott drawing on her fallen opponent felt a little flat in that it didn’t seem to bother the live crowd.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Brian Pillman Jr., who discusses his training, following his father's footsteps, his own career aspirations, being part of the Hart Foundation faction, his big match at the MLW Saturday Night SuperFight pay-per-view, working with Jushin Liger, touring the WWE Performance Center, and much more...