By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Ricochet vs. AJ Styles in a non-title match: Putting aside the restart for now (we’ll revisit that in the Miss section), Ricochet and Styles had a good television main event that left me looking forward to a full length pay-per-view rematch. Perhaps I should be concerned by WWE’s ongoing pattern of having their secondary champions lose non-title matches on television, but this one felt different. There is no shame in losing to the Styles character, and hopefully this was step one toward on the build to Ricochet eventually scoring a big win over Styles.
Undertaker’s surprise appearance during Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre and Shane McMahon: There are times when it’s logical to advertise a special appearance in hopes of popping a rating and then there are times when it makes more sense to have someone show up unadvertised. It’s a gut call and in this case the company made the right decision. It was a nice treat for fans watching the show and a rare chance for WWE to generate that “anything can happen on Raw” feeling.
Bray Wyatt Easter Eggs: I missed Wyatt’s puppets appearing behind The Miz and Kofi Kingston while covering the show, but it was a cool touch for those who spotted them and good for generating some social media buzz for those of us who did not.
Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch to face Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans in a mixed tag match: You know a company realizes that the feud has run its course when they include the stipulation that the heels will never be allowed to challenge the babyface champions again if the lose at Extreme Rules. I’m more than ready for Rollins and Lynch to move on to defending against challengers, but the sad truth is that the company hasn’t built up any new heel challengers (see Samoa Joe going from losing the U.S. Title on Sunday to becoming No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship by default). So why does this match announcement get a soft Hit? The mixed tag match is actually an upgrade over the Rollins vs. Corbin tables match that had been advertised on the Extreme Rules host venue’s website.
The Viking Raiders vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson: The continuation of the story of AJ Styles calling out Gallows and Anderson for not taking things seriously enough. Anderson’s gloating was once again the downfall for he and Gallows. It’s a simple story to follow and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. Will Styles become the heel leader of a reunited Club?
WWE 24/7 Title segment: I’ve made it no secret that I’m not a fan of the 24/7 Title shenanigans, but I also acknowledge that there is an audience for it. The segment was fine in that it didn’t overstay its welcome, though I still have no idea why any of these characters would actually want the title when Truth has spoken about what a burden it is to be champion and Drake Maverick is playing up the idea that it’s already ruined his new marriage.
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs. Naomi and Natalya: The story continues with Cross being thrown off by Bliss’s heel antics, yet also giving in and shoving Naomi when Bliss asked her to. I suspect this is leading to Bliss eventually turning on Cross, which will lead to Nikki snapping and reverting to her crazed NXT persona. That said, I mentioned in my live review that there is a possibility that the story being told is actually Cross breaking bad. Either way, I’m enjoying the ride.
Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, Big E, and Xavier Woods vs. Daniel Bryan, Rowan, Dash Wilder, and Scott Dawson in an elimination match: I’m once again putting aside the restart until later. The Hit is due to the good in-ring action. I also liked the way The Revival had issues with Daniel Bryan from the start and how that led to his elimination from the match. Now that the Usos beat The Revival, hopefully this means the company will forget about back shaving and Ucey Hot and simply book the strong feud we know this can be with the Usos chasing the heel tag champions.
Samoa Joe attacks Kofi Kingston: A soft Hit for Joe’s latest beatdown and what appears to be a build for him challenging Kingston for the WWE Championship at Extreme Rules. I love Joe. I love Joe’s beatdowns. I love Joe’s promos. But I hate the way he’s been booked to lose so many high profile matches. WWE could make up for this by booking him to win the championship, but I suspect that their Extreme Rules match is a bridge to a rematch or Kingston facing someone else at SummerSlam. Even with all of the losses, Joe still has more in-ring credibility with viewers than Kingston’s recent challengers Dolph Ziggler and weekly television losers Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
WWE Raw Misses
No commercial breaks during matches: I love the idea in theory. The problem is WWE’s oddball implementation with screwy match restarts that feel so contrived. I love the way AXS-TV runs New Japan Pro Wrestling matches from bell to bell, but I doubt that WWE has that sort of flexibility with USA Network and all of their international television partners. The worst of the restarts was during the Ricochet and AJ Styles main event. The live crowd was up for the first two minutes of the match, then they did the reset by having Styles refuse to wrestle until Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson left the ringside area. Even if you can get past the referee allowing this rather than counting out Styles, the commercial break clearly brought the live crowd down and it took the wrestlers some time to get reinvested once the match restarted after the commercial break. I call for a happy medium. As much as it would be nice if they could structure the breaks to at least allow longer, uninterrupted main events, viewers have been conditioned to accept commercial breaks during longer matches. WWE can structure most matches to be short enough to be uninterrupted, yet still allow one or two multi-segment matches each week.
Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley tug-o-war: An arm wrestling contest followed by a tug-o-war. I can’t even imagine what type of gimmick match the creative forces have in mind for these two at Extreme Rules. Are they dusting off the old gameshow version of the NXT obstacle course?
Kofi Kingston beats Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens again: Zayn and Owens picked up a rare win at Stomping Grounds, then reverted to being the Washington Generals of Raw and Smackdown with their latest televised losses to one of the world champions. Yes, these matches served a purpose in that the idea was that Kingston was worn down when he was attacked by Samoa Joe. Nevertheless, Zayn and Owens have lost in-ring credibility with viewers because they have been booked to lose so many television matches.
Check below for the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Brian Fritz of the Between The Ropes podcast discussing WWE’s creative and ratings struggles, Bray Wyatt following the Firefly Funhouse, WWE Stomping Grounds, NJPW G1 Opening Night, and ROH’s issues, what would happen if AEW opted to run head-to-head with WWE Raw, and much more.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Todd Martin on his background, attending pro wrestling events in Japan, the NJPW G1 Tournament, why lucha libre companies haven't been as successful as NJPW in the United States, AEW optimism, covering pro wrestling and MMA, and more (68:57)...