By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
WWE Evolution announcement: The inclusion of Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H in the announcement with the talent standing on the stage created a vibe that lived up to the hype of this being billed as a historic announcement. In fact, I’m not sure why they opted to only advertise Stephanie for the announcement, particularly when Vince has been such a huge ratings draw over the years. It’s a feel good story to see the women get their own pay-per-view and the announcement came off well. Even so, it’s always fun to dissect why McMahon family members say certain things. For instance, they went out of their way to thank the talent, which is something we just haven’t heard much of over the years. Why now? Was it, as a friend theorized, an attempt to appease those in the locker room who were upset by the way the company handled the Hulk Hogan situation? Perhaps. Was it simply an attempt to humanize the McMahons by making them seem more caring? Are we finally moving toward Triple H’s “Proud Papa of NXT” character moving to the main roster? Was it simply a well deserved hat tip to the talent? Probably not. And then there’s the timing of the women’s pay-per-view and how it relates to the company’s return to Saudi Arabia later this year. At any rate, the announcement was well received by the live crowd and by the vast majority of fans online, and I am genuinely looking forward to the event. Here’s hoping it leads to better storylines for the main roster women going into and coming out of the pay-per-view.
Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley for a WWE Universal Championship match at SummerSlam: It seemed like it took them more time to find their groove in this match than it did at Extreme Rules. Once they did, they did a good job of creating suspense down the stretch with some quality near falls. Ultimately, you had to know Reigns would win to set up yet another match with Brock Lesnar for WWE Groundhog Day, er, SummerSlam. Make no mistake about it, the Hit goes for the quality of the Reigns vs. Lashley match, not for going with the so very tired Lesnar vs. Reigns match again. Many of us were resigned to Reigns winning the title at WrestleMania or the Greatest Royal Rumble. I tapped out and was simply ready for Vince McMahon to get it out of his system. Here we are months later going back to the same match with the same level of angst for Reigns combined with the company’s successful campaign to turn the fans against Lesnar. For the love of all that is good and holy, just get this over with so the company can finally move forward.
Seth Rollins and Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler: A good high energy tag team match that stemmed from a Balor vs. McIntyre singles match that resulted in a DQ. Teddy Long would be proud. Rollins pinning Ziggler was the logical finish in that it set up the announcement of their Intercontinental Championship match at SummerSlam, while also protecting future main eventer McIntyre. Was I the only one who wanted McIntyre to make good on his threat to permanently wipe the smile off Balor’s face? I enjoy the work of Balor, but smiling Finn continues to be a turnoff (but it sure would work if he were a heel). Will we get return of The Demon for the rematch with Baron Corbin? If so, they really need to put some major heat on Corbin and the silly height jokes are not going to cut it.
Mojo Rawley vs. Tyler Breeze: A minor Hit. There was no parity booking in this rematch. Rawley plowed through Breeze the same way he plowed through No Way Jose in multiple matches. The Bobby Roode promo that aired during the match was lousy, but I continue to believe that Rawley working with the talented veteran will help his development.
Natalya vs. Mickie James: A minor Hit for James getting a rare win. She is doing good work as Alexa Bliss’s sidekick, but she loses so frequently that it doesn’t mean anything when another wrestler beats her. It’s nothing a few wins can’t change and hopefully this is the beginning of the company building her up rather than a lazy setup to Natalya simply getting her win back next week.
WWE Raw Misses
Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas vs. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt for the Raw Tag Titles: I get a kick out of the B-Team, but their fluky wins aren’t doing much for them and are damaging a Hardy and Wyatt team that just hasn’t clicked. I have no idea what creative wanted the fans to feel when Hardy and Wyatt hit their finishers on Axel and Dallas after the match. Hey, whatever happened to The Revival? It’s sad that there apparently wasn’t a plan in place to do more with them coming off their wins over Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley.
Kevin Owens and Braun Strowman: Owens delivered another good promo. He will be money if the company turns him babyface somewhere down the road and books it properly. The Miss continues to be that Owens comes off as the sympathetic figure while Strowman continues to be terrorizing bully. On a positive note, at least they had the heel authority figure force Strowman to put his Money in the Bank contract on the line rather than make him look like a dope for agreeing to do so for no good reason. I assume this is also their way of letting fans know not to expect Strowman to use his MITB contract to make the SummerSlam main event a Triple Threat. It’s worth noting that Strowman threatened to cash in his contract whenever Lesnar showed up. Thus, I could see him trying next week only to have Owens attack him before the bell.
Sasha Banks and Bayley: I’m waiting for someone to make fan art of the duo similar to the Yaoi art with Tweek and Craig on a classic edition of South Park. I want to believe Sasah and Bayley are too happy to last in the world of pro wrestling and this will somehow leading to Sasha turning on Bayley. At this point, so little of this never ending story has made sense that there’s just no telling where this is going.
Authors of Pain and Titus Worldwide: AOP desperately need a mouthpiece. Fortunately, they didn’t make it Titus O’Neil by having them join the goofy Titus Worldwide act. That’s the most positive thing I can find about this segment.
Ember Moon vs. Liv Morgan: A minor Miss. I applaud WWE for avoiding parity booking, but did we really need to see Moon get yet another win over Morgan on Raw?
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...