By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
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WWE Raw Hits
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman: After years of Suplex City and simply standing by while Heyman delivered the promos, the company finally added a new wrinkle to the Lesnar character. No, I’m not talking about his fondness for The Backwoodsman magazine. Rather, it’s that he is now disrespectful to even Heyman. Lesnar was great as he questioned why he would even watch the show and later while grabbing Heyman by the face in the closing segment. Heyman delivered one of the great emotion shifts when he went from begging and pleading with Kurt Angle to let him keep his job to flashing his familiar devilish smile when Lesnar’s music hit. I love that Lesnar is so out of control and so egomaniacal that even Heyman can’t control him. I wish they would have taken this approach long before what may be his final match before heading back to UFC. The big question is whether these performances will do anything to sway fans who are booing Roman Reigns. Perhaps it will work in some areas, but seeing is believing when it comes to the SummerSlam crowd in Brooklyn. And while Lesnar bullying Heyman is probably only being done to establish Lesnar as the anti-WWE guy heading into SummerSlam, it sure does set up some intriguing storyline possibilities. My guess is Heyman disappears from WWE television when/if Lesnar goes away. That said, the table is set for Heyman to find a new meal ticket if they want to go in that direction. I’ve been pushing for a Lesnar and Reigns double turn since WrestleMania 31 with Heyman helping Reigns win the title. I’m not holding my breath. There’s another fun fantasy booking scenario with Heyman that I’ll save for the Miss section.
Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin: I enjoyed the lengthy opening match that gave Corbin a win back. This didn’t feel like parity booking. Rather, it felt like they are building up to a feud deciding match at SummerSlam. Furthermore, the post match attack by Corbin planted the seeds for the return of Balor’s Demon persona at SummerSlam. The feud is becoming heated enough that it feels like the timing is right for the Demon. And kudos to creative for not making the mistake of bringing back The Demon just to bring back The Demon. There should always be a good reason for Balor to shift to his alter ego.
Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre: A brief match by their standards, but it was fun while it lasted. The interference by Dolph Ziggler after Rollins performed the Stomp was logical in that it protected McIntyre from taking a pin, and the broadcast team did a nice job of debating whether or not that move was guaranteed to result in pinfall. The heel duo using their numbers advantage in attacking Rollins backstage has to leave you wondering if Seth is about to even the odds. In other words, will we see Dean Ambrose return before or at SummerSlam to help counter McIntyre being in the corner of Ziggler?
Natalya vs. Alicia Fox: A minor Hit for building up more fan interest in seeing Ronda Rousey get her hands on Alexa Bliss at SummerSlam. I like the way Rousey keeps coming close to getting some measure of revenge only for Bliss to escape unscathed. Don’t be surprised if they take advantage of Bliss’s double-jointed arm when Rousey puts her in the armbar at SummerSlam. The finish of Natalya vs. Fox could be something they come back to since it was Rousey arguing with the referee that led to Natalya being pinned. This won’t be the only reason that Natalya eventually turns on Rousey, but it could be the first in a series of incidents that Natalya points to while using heel logic to explain her actions.
Braun Strowman vs. Jinder Mahal: A minor Hit for the storytelling of Owens outsmarting Strowman and costing him the match by count-out. The stipulation for their SummerSlam match is that Owens will win the Money in the Bank contract if he wins in any way (pinfall, submission, DQ, count-out). Thus, this brief match told the story that Owens is a master manipulator who will enter the match with a plan to make Strowman beat himself at SummerSlam. That said, the new Mahal character is a bust so far. I hope it’s simply something he needs to establish before a radical shift because this version is going nowhere fast.
The Revival vs. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt: It’s good to see creative take advantage of the wins that the Revival scored at the expense of the bickering Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley tag team. The Revival have been the victims of injuries and poor creative since they were called up from NXT. Here’s hoping that the company presumably adding them to the Raw Tag Title match at SummerSlam is a sign that things are about to change.
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan: A minor Hit in that the goal of the match was simply to show that Banks and Bayley are on the same page. They have matching ring gear and a (horrible) new tag team name. Are they building them up for a fall or because they intend to introduce women’s tag titles? Either way, one of the things I enjoyed about Raw this week was that there was no filler. Every match and segment had a purpose, even it was something as basic as we had in this tag match.
WWE Raw Misses
Braun Strowman fails to confront Brock Lesnar: Did fans chant for Strowman or Roman or both during the final segment of the show? Either way, it was so bizarre that the company came up with a way to get Reigns out of the building, yet they did nothing to explain why Strowman didn’t make good on a threat to cash in on Lesnar once he showed up again. Heyman asking Brock what could possibly go wrong with Reigns out of the picture seemed to set the stage perfectly for Strowman, but Kevin Owens seemed to be the only person on the show who acted like this was even a possibility. It’s been established that it takes more than a few security guards to make Strowman leave a building, but why not cover the logic gap by having Stephanie McMahon make a heel ruling by phone that Strowman could not cash in until after his SummerSlam match with Owens or even the day after SummerSlam if they don’t intend to have Strowman cash in that night? Now let’s get back to fantasy booking. Again, I don’t expect this to happen, but they could explain all of this away by revealing on the post SummerSlam edition of Raw that Strowman didn’t cash in last night because his new heel advocate Paul Heyman advised him to wait for a key moment during or after the SummerSlam main event. Again, it’s a long shot, but the storyline reason has been established for the Heyman character to move on from the out of control Lesnar.
Ronda Rousey match announcement: Rousey’s first match on Raw should have been presented as a show stopping announcement. Kurt Angle simply booking the match backstage with a couple of mentions from the broadcast team wasn’t enough to make this feel like a major happening.
Akam vs. Apollo Crews: Kudos to WWE for realizing that they need to have the Authors of Pain deliver pre-taped promos rather than having them talk live in the ring. I just hope the writers got the corny author lines out of their system. A singles match loss won’t permanently damage AOP, but I couldn’t help but cringe when one half of the monster tag team was rolled up and pinned by a guy who has been defined as an undercard wrestler.