By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Ronda Rousey vs. Ruby Riott for the Raw Women’s Championship: A good match that was presented horribly. There was no explanation for why Riott received a rematch after losing quickly and decisively the night before and creative did nothing to build up her chances. Worse yet, they failed to make Rousey defending the title on Raw feel like an event. It should mean something when Rousey appears let alone defends her title. And this new tradition of Rousey defending her championship the night after she defends it on pay-per-view should go away. This is the second time she’s worked the night after taking a severe beating in a pay-per-view angle. In this case, they didn’t even use the crutch beating she took from Becky Lynch to make an effective case for Rousey being vulnerable. As such, the Hit goes for the match and nothing more.
Aleister Black vs. Elias: I suspect I’m in the minority on this one, but I felt that Black was the most likely to have made the best first impression on unfamiliar viewers of the four NXT wrestlers. Black’s unique entrance helps a lot in that it sends the right message to WWE viewers who have been conditioned to know that elaborate entrances are typically reserved for top stars. And while Elias loses a lot of matches, fans still react to him as a star, and thus it meant a little something that Black pinned him clean.
Finn Balor and Ricochet vs. Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush: More of an in the middle for a match that overstayed its welcome. The broadcast team gushed over Ricochet while reading lame prepared lines about him, and he was put in a position to shine by being on the offensive throughout his time in the match. The new Intercontinental Champion? The guy who pinned Lio Rush to win the title and then ran away from Lashley moments later on Sunday night? He spent long portions of the needlessly long match selling for the heels. Was I the only person hoping that Ricochet would tell Balor afterward that he was actually there to challenge him rather than team with him?
Drew McIntyre vs. Dean Ambrose: A minor Hit for McIntyre scoring a clean win over a wrestler who is leaving the company. But what does this say about EC3, who lost a rematch to Ambrose last week and was nowhere to be found on this week’s show?
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: What was this? Why did they feel the need to call up four NXT talents when they haven’t even properly introduced the last round of NXT call-ups? There was a lot of grumbling about this live crowd on social media, but what did WWE give them to be excited about? Clearly, most of these fans didn’t know who the NXT wrestlers were, so you can’t blame them for not freaking out over witnessing the debut of wrestlers they weren’t familiar with. Blame WWE for not debuting the NXT wrestlers in a wrestling hotbed market where fans would be more likely to pop big for them. This was a poor show that featured some bizarre creative decisions. We saw the best of WWE booking last week with the way the company built up Kofi Kingston in short order, and we saw the worst of it on display with this three-hour abomination.
The Revival vs. Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano in a non-title match: Why? I enjoy watching these teams work together as much as anyone, but the decision to book this match out of the blue made my head hurt. NXT has been telling a great story with Ciampa and Gargano, and that was thrown out so they could team together on Raw? Sure, they have been playing up the possibility of the duo reuniting and they have teamed at house shows, but it’s hard to imagine that this is what Triple H and his NXT creative team had in mind. Did the company really want fans to root for Ciampa, who is one of the best heels in the game? And what about The Revival? They finally win the tag titles after being misused ever since they arrived on the main roster and they follow up their title win by having them lose a non-title match. Ciampa and Gargano gained nothing from beating The Revival because everyone beats The Revival. Furthermore, the actual babyface team of Bobby Roode and Chad Gable came off like condescending pricks during their backstage segment with these teams. And why did the selfish Ciampa suddenly care about representing NXT? Sure, the actual match was well worked, but this was a creative mess that never should have happened.
Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin in a tables match: Will this tired feud ever end? This was another match that dragged on longer than it needed to. This needs be the end of the program, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Strowman working with Corbin, Drew McIntyre, and Bobby Lashley.
Paul Heyman promo: Has he finally run out of things to say about Brock Lesnar? Heyman’s promo and video package felt repetitive. He’s still one of the best talkers in the game, but I guess there’s only so much even he can say about one man. And WWE needs to stop their new trick of sending out someone involved in the next segment to end the current segment before going to a commercial break. It was bizarre that Finn Balor came out and did his entrance routine while Heyman watched from the apron only to disappear by the time they came back from the break. On the plus side, I did enjoy the Seth Rollins rebuttal to Heyman’s promo.
Sasha Banks and Bayley promo: I’m happy that the company introduced the WWE Women’s Tag Titles, but it’s just not as monumental to the average fan as it seemed to be to the new champions. There have been several big and emotional moments for the women such as show stealing performances, getting their own pay-per-view, and ideally headlining WrestleMania. The creation of women’s tag titles was more along the lines of “it’s about time” than it was something that struck the type of emotional chord that Banks and Bayley were going for. I couldn’t help but how much of this was scripted and whether the duo would have called an audible if they had the freedom to do so once it became obvious that the live crowd wasn’t caught up in the moment.
Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado (w/Kalisto) vs Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins: A channel changing moment. But kudos to Corey Graves for putting an end to the terrible “(fill in the wrestler) just loves to have fun” line that Vince McMahon has Michael Cole repeat ad nauseam for his bad comedy acts.
Lacey Evans and Heavy Machinery: So the snobby debutant is now all smiles while hanging with the guys who identify themselves as blue collar solid?
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