By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Triple H promo: The build to the Australian stadium show has been better than the build to Hell in a Cell thus far even though only one WWE Super Show-Down match is getting storyline attention. I remain concerned that the Australian event will ultimately feel as pointless from a storytelling standpoint as the Greatest Royal Rumble ended up being. Nevertheless, Hunter, Undertaker, and Shawn Michaels have done an effective job of making the last Hunter vs. Taker match that nobody asked for actually feel relevant.
Mick Foley and Elias: I gave this another look at the urging of a Dot Net Member and I did enjoy it more the second time around. Foley showed his usual good fire and it was fun to see him go at it verbally with the Elias character. The negative is that it feels like it should mean more to have Foley as special referee of the main event. The segment occurred during the final 30 minutes of the show and thus there was no time to really play up what it means or how Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman feel about it (beyond Braun’s quick threat to hurt Foley if he gets in his way). By the way, Foley booking Finn Balor in a match against anyone other than Baron Corbin is good for a minor Hit these days.
Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler vs. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas for the Raw Tag Titles: A minor Hit for the return match with a decisive win for the new champions.
Nikki Bella vs. Ruby Riott: A minor Hit for a match that was significantly better than the Bellas vs. Riott Squad tag team match from last week. I came away confused by Corey Graves saying that the Riott Squad want to have their own clothing company, reality shows, and a Youtube channel. The trio have been positioned as anti-authority and thus it feels like those are things that Riott Squad should mock rather than covet.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. The Ascension: A minor Hit for the mildly intriguing story of Gable being overzealous and Roode showing some early signs of being annoyed. I can’t imagine this tag team is long for the world.
Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush: I want to believe that Rush “motivating” Lashley will lead Rush becoming the mouthpiece for a heel Lashley. It seems unlikely that they are heading in that direction anytime soon though, as Owens is still blaming Lashley for taking out Sami Zayn. Even so, it’s an interesting pairing. With Rush, Drake Maverick, and Drew Gulak suddenly getting new roles on Raw, I can’t help but wonder whether the company is trying to give more exposure to the cruiserweights or if they are finding roles for some of them because 205 Live is on shaky ground.
WWE Raw Misses
Final push for WWE Hell in a Cell: The Hit count is not always a great barometer for the overall show. The Hits are not as lopsided as I anticipated at the conclusion of Raw, but make no mistake about it, this was a lousy show. From a go-home standpoint it did nothing to leave me more excited about Sunday’s event. From an entertainment standpoint it left me envious of fans who opted to watch the NFL doubleheader.
Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman: I remain stunned that the closing angle of Raw featured the babyface champion leaving his heel monster challenger lying. Viewers have a hard enough time believing that Reigns will drop the title so quickly. And even if creative were to pull the trigger on a title change, it’s not like they sold anyone on the possibility with this angle. The idea to turn Strowman is off to a poor start. Strowman was arguably the most popular wrestler on the Raw brand before the abrupt turn. He went from getting mega pops to getting reactions that feel flat by top heel standards. The miscasting of characters in the never ending attempt to make everyone love Roman Reigns continues.
The Shield beat up most of the Raw heels: It’s bad enough that WWE has tied up all of the title belts in this feud, but now they are sacrificing most of the heel roster to make The Shield look strong. I had no issue with the trio working over the wrestlers who have been established as touring enhancement wrestlers, but the group that was fed to The Shield included Kevin Owens, Authors of Pain, and Elias.
Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs. Alexa Bliss and Mickie James: A minor Miss for a rough outing that exposed Rousey to some extent. The company has done a great job of masking her in-ring deficiencies in her past outings, but it felt like they left her out there a little too long in this tag match. Meanwhile, I appreciate the attempt to make Rousey seem vulnerable because of the rib injury angle, but it’s hard to imagine it actually left anyone thinking she will drop the title back to Bliss on Sunday.
Baron Corbin, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose: The idea was that Rollins strong armed Corbin into giving him and Ambrose a tag title match by accusing him of falsifying a police report. Corbin caved immediately even though there was seemingly no evidence that he was actually guilty.
Kevin Owens: KO quit the company two weeks ago. Naturally, there was all sorts of fan speculation about what it meant and where the story would go from there. He returned a week later and now the explanation is that Baron Corbin gave him the freedom to do whatever he wants and whenever he wants. Meh. Corbin is a heel authority figure and therefore he could have given Owens the same luxury without getting the fans excited about something that turned out to be so forgettable. By the way, they are running the excellent powerbomb onto the ring apron spot into the ground. It came off as ruthless and meaningful at one time, but we simply see it too often these days.
AOP vs. Ronnie Ace and Nathan Bradley: It feels like they are hitting the reset button by having AOP go back to squashing opponents. It hasn’t been that long since they last took this approach before and nothing came of it. I’d like to think this time will be different, but why in the world would the guys the company wanted to pass off as world beaters in this match be part of the heel group that had their asses kicked by The Shield in the opening segment?