By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
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WWE Raw Hits
Dean Ambrose returns: Creative foreshadowed the return to the point that it was obvious. And it was likely intentional in terms of attempting to keep fans engaged until the end of the three-hour marathon that is Raw. It’s always cool to see pro wrestlers reinvent themselves following a long layoff and I wouldn’t be surprised Ambrose’s reinvention comes with a new attitude. Seth Rollins is over huge as a babyface, and Vince McMahon’s obsession with making Roman Reigns a beloved babyface is endless. As such, turning Ambrose heel in the near future feels like a logical move.
Ronda Rousey and Alexa Bliss: Rousey did a wonderful job of addressing the death of Jim Neidhart and delivering a lovely message to Natalya. It’s never easy to go from discussing something so serious into delivering a standard pro wrestling promo, but Rousey pulled it off nicely. The match between Bliss and Ember Moon was entertaining and gave Moon a high profile near win over the Raw Women’s Champion. They also did a really good job of keeping Bliss away from Rousey and leaving fans anxious to see Rousey get her hands on her at SummerSlam. The only negative was Alicia Fox shoving the legs of Moon in a half-hearted attempt to break up the pin while causing the DQ finish.
The B-Team vs. The Revival vs. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt for the Raw Tag Titles: The wrestlers involved all worked so hard that I was convinced it was a “we’ll show you” type of performance because they were being left off the SummerSlam card. Technically, Hardy and Wyatt are not advertised for Sunday’s show, but I was surprised when B-Team vs. The Revival was added to the SummerSlam lineup later in the show. The tag division doesn’t seem to be getting much creative attention these days so the wrestlers will need to deliver in the ring like they did in this match to keep the fans engaged in what they are doing.
Braun Strowman and Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens and Jinder Mahal: A solid time filling tag match that did a good job of keeping Owens away from Strowman. Granted, fans have already seen Strowman destroy Owens several times, but the live crowd seemed anxious to see the big man get his hands on his favorite chew toy again. Meanwhile, Mahal’s peace loving heel gimmick is somehow a hundred times worse than his foreign menace gimmick. Where is the heat in Mahal doing breathing exercises?
Renee Young on commentary: Young was fine in this role and struck me as legitimate candidate to become a regular on the broadcast team. She felt like Raw’s version of Byron Saxton in that her contributions were basic and inoffensive. It was refreshing that WWE didn’t go overboard in patting themselves on the back over their latest female empowerment moment. They gave Young a special introduction early in the show to mark the milestone, but then it was business as usual going forward. It’s worth adding that while Young was fine in the third chair, I’d actually prefer to see her remain the backstage interviewer. She excels in this role and she’s top notch as a host for post shows and the dearly departed Talking Smack. WWE would be better off spotlighting Young as the trusted backstage interviewer and putting her in positions to come across like a respected journalist who asks the tough questions rather than making her the forgettable third wheel on at the broadcast table.
WWE Raw Misses
Roman Reigns swerved by Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman: The performances of Reigns and especially Heyman were strong. Even so, this angle felt like a kick in the balls. You had to know that Reigns wasn’t going to accept Heyman’s offer. Still, it felt like we were just a handshake away from WWE finally correcting course. It was a big tease for what might have been. And once it played out as just another ruse it sucked so much life out of the SummerSlam main event. The intrigue over the possibility of a Reigns heel turn and him or the Money in the Bank contract holder forming an alliance with Heyman is all but gone. The ensuing Lesnar beatdown on Reigns felt tired and repetitive. We were treated to some great Heyman performances over the last few weeks, but now we’re right back to where we started with yet another Lesnar vs. Reigns title match with the only extra hook being whether the Money in the Bank holder will cash in. For the love of Roman’s sweaty chest protector, please end this on Sunday. Give Reigns his win over Lesnar so we can all finally move forward and get some fresh storylines.
Baron Corbin vs. Tyler Breeze: A minor Miss for a forgettable squash win for Corbin. I get the idea that Corbin was giving himself an easy match while attempting to stack the deck against Finn Balor, but it did nothing to raise my level of interest in their SummerSlam match. Here’s hoping The Demon shows up and they keep it short and simple on Sunday.
The Authors of Pain and Mojo Rawley vs. Bobby Roode, Titus O’Neil, and Apollo Crews: Creative dedicated a few weeks to building up Rawley only to have him lose back to back matches to Roode, who continues to be ice cold as a babyface. There was a time when Paul “Triple H” Levesque stated that he wanted a long term plan in place for NXT call-ups. What was the plan for AOP? I’m not blaming Levesque for this because Vince McMahon has the final call on the main roster, but it’s frustrating to see another strong NXT act wasted on the main roster.
Ruby Riott vs. Sasha Banks: And we’re back to Banks and Bayley trading meaningless wins and losses with the Riott Squad. Is this actually going somewhere or are they just filling time? Introducing women’s tag titles wouldn’t solve all the problems, but perhaps it would give pointless feuds like this one some sense of purpose.