By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
The Shield attack Braun Strowman: A hot reunion that closed a mildly disappointing show on a high note. And while the latest Shield reunion was well received, it must be noted that the actions of everyone involved came off poorly when you really think about it. Strowman keeps acting like he’s a noble person because he tells his potential opponents that he will be cashing in his Money in the Bank contract. And that would be noble if he didn’t want to cash in immediately after the champion worked a main event match against strong competition. Sure, Strowman’s approach is legal, but his character’s actions are not nearly as noble as he makes them out to be. Meanwhile, Roman boasts about being a fighting champion who will take on all comers and yet he called in help from Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to prevent Strowman from doing something that is within the MITB rules.
The Shield’s actions were morally shaky enough that some fans came away wondering if this was a heel turn for the trio. Michael Cole gushed over the Shield reunion to the point that he was giddily talking about having goosebumps. You don’t call a heel turn that way, you sell it with outrage and disdain. In other words, no, this was not a heel turn, but I am looking forward to seeing how they rationalize their actions next week. I see the Shield reunion as a necessary step that lets the company cash in while reestablishing the friendships before Ambrose eventually stabs Reigns in the back to set off that long awaited heel singles run.
Roman Reigns vs. Finn Balor: It was a wise move to have Reigns live up to his claim that he would be a fighting champion by giving the first title shot to the guy who dropped the title due to injury and hasn’t been given a title shot since then. The match was entertaining even if there was no reason to think that Balor had a chance to capture the title. A case could be made for Balor coming out as The Demon last night to counter the match outcome predictability. Fans who assumed Reigns would win would have been far more open to the possibility of a Balor win because The Demon never loses. Granted, it would have ended the aura of invincibility for the Demon persona, but that’s not such a bad thing in my mind. As it stands, viewers are left wondering why Balor would break out the Demon persona for a match with Baron Corbin one night and not use it for his long awaited title shot the next night.
Ronda Rousey and Stephanie McMahon: I loved Rousey inviting the other women to come up from the floor and her line about Stephanie wanting them at ringside to put herself above the other women. The most important line was Rousey saying that she’s not Brock Lesnar and then emphasizing that she wants to be a fighting champion. The physicality with Stephanie was a repeat of their night after WrestleMania angle. It felt repetitive, but I’m hopeful that it was necessary in that they want to reestablish the issues between the two because Stephanie intends to bring in hired gun Shayna Baszler.
Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler: An entertaining match and a good return for Ambrose. Michael Cole was telling the story that Ambrose changed his in-ring moveset dramatically, which coincides with Ambrose’s new look. I’m anxious to hear Dean’s first promo to find out if he’s made any significant changes in that area of his game. Ambrose has yet to show off the zany side of his persona since he returned and I’m curious to see if that’s been scrapped in favor of a new attitude.
Triple H promo: A minor Hit. This felt out of place on the night after SummerSlam edition, but obviously the company has to spotlight his match with Undertaker when they are hoping to sell 80,000 tickets to their Australian stadium show. Hunter’s promo was solid. The big thing working against his match and the overall show is that the Greatest Royal Rumble was much ado about nothing. If this is going to be a similar style show in that very little matters from a storytelling perspective than it is what it is. If WWE wants it to be more than that then they need to do something to send the message that it’s going to be a meaningful event. This promo was not enough, especially given that Hunter’s own GRR match against John Cena was quickly forgotten.
Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Ember Moon vs. Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan: A good six-woman tag match even if it felt like just another meaningless match involving these players. The Riott Kick on Banks at the end looked terrific.
Elias vs. Curt Hawkins: An in the middle segment. The crowd didn’t really get behind the home state Hawkins in a big way. It’s hard to blame them since WWE doesn’t showcase his losing streak gimmick consistently. He disappears for weeks at a time and it seems like some weeks they want fans to root against him and other weeks they want fans to root for him to the end the losing streak.
WWE Raw Misses
No Brock Lesnar: This was fine from a television perspective in that he was never officially advertised for the Raw television show. However, the live crowd was shortchanged in that Lesnar was featured in local advertising and his absence was never acknowledged. Paul Heyman’s backstage appearance with Kurt Angle was borderline disturbing in that Heyman brought up the idea of a Reigns vs. Lesnar match at Hell in a Cell. And while Angle rejected the match, his character was sent on vacation, meaning there’s nothing stopping replacement Baron Corbin from booking the rematch. Reigns and Lesnar could have a hell of a match, but I think we’re all ready to move forward. I have no doubt that fans will eventually embrace Lesnar returning as a special attraction if they keep him out of the title picture, but it’s going to be a long time before there’s a real desire to see him face Reigns again.
Baron Corbin made temporary heel authority figure: It’s a Miss on the surface, but I hope it’s because they have a storyline idea in mind that requires Corbin to be in this role temporarily that does not involve booking another Reigns vs. Lesnar match.
Bobby Lashley vs. Baron Corbin: A minor Miss. The Brooklyn crowd was red hot for everything in the opening segment. Lashley’s music hit and the hot crowd cooled off and gave him a mild round of applause. It’s simple. Lashley can be a B-level babyface or a main event heel. It should be a no-brainer when he’s on a brand that is so desperate for strong heels.
Alexa Bliss vs. Trish Stratus announcement: Stratus is a true icon of the WWE women’s division and her return to the ring should be treated like a major event. Instead, it was casually put out there by the company during SummerSlam weekend and mentioned almost in passing on Raw. The company has announced Kickoff Show matches with more fanfare than they gave Trish’s return to the ring.
B-Team vs. The Revival singles matches: The matches were well worked and both Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder had good finishers. Still, nothing screams filler quite like meaningless singles matches involving tag team wrestlers. The crowd certainly felt that way given that they opted to do the wave during these matches.
Authors of Pain vs. Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews: The right team won, but this felt like more wheel spinning for AOP and just plain filler in general. Are we really getting a storyline romance between Crews and Dana Brooke?
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The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Frank Zarrillo discussing his film "The Wrestler: A QT Marshall Story", which includes appearances by Matt Riddle, Damian Priest, Gerald Brisco, Kevin Kelly, Steve Corino, and many more, the involvement of Marshall's wife and mother, and much more. Stick around after the interview for Powell's audio review of Wednesday's AEW Dynamite television show...