By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley in a Falls Count Anywhere match: The actual brawl around the arena stood out because Lashley was booked stronger than usual. The brawl was done in a way where it looked like Lashley was holding his own with Strowman. He did give up the majority of offense like he and most of Strowman’s opponents typically do. The big attention grabbing angle was a fun way to start the show and the Paul Heyman era as executive director of Raw. The pyro was a bit over the top, but I liked the long distance camera shot and the way the broadcast team laid out, as it made this feel more serious than similar stunts. I also loved that the Raw set was still not functioning coming out of the break when the Viking Raiders made their entrance. It’s just a shame that they didn’t stick with the lights out approach for the remainder of the show, as it really would have created a unique and memorable setting. Unfortunately, it slipped into typical WWE angle territory as the show moved forward. Sure, they had some wrestlers wished both men well during their promos in hopes of selling it as something serious, but otherwise it felt like business as usual. In fact, I spent the remainder of the show wondering if they would cut to the hospital where the Falls Count Anywhere match would continue.
Samoa Joe, Erik, and Ivar vs. Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods: Joe choking out the WWE Champion with the Coquina Clutch was great. Kingston has been on a roll since winning the WWE Championship while Joe is fresh off a parity booking reign as the U.S. Champion, which included him losing frequent non-title matches and dropping the title just over a week earlier to Ricochet. Joe should always feel like a credible threat to any champion, but it was becoming hard to see him that way because he’s been booked to lose too often. That changed with Joe putting Kingston to sleep, and hopefully they continue to showcase him as a dominant monster with the remaining time they have left before their title match at Extreme Rules.
Undertaker appears: A minor Hit. This segment was nowhere near as hot as Taker’s surprise appearance last week when he saved Roman Reigns from an attack by Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre. Perhaps I’m reading too much into Taker’s promo, but I continue to wonder if the plan is for Taker to destroy Shane to write Shane out of the storylines. Shane has been overexposed on television lately and the timing feels right for him to make his exit either at Extreme Rules or perhaps in a rematch at the higher profile SummerSlam event.
Nikki Cross, Alexa Bliss, and Carmella: This continues to be the best of the mid-card storylines. Even the brief match between Carmella and Bliss was made to feel logical when they had Cross beat Carmella coming out of the commercial break as they continue to show that she’s more worthy of the title shot she won for Bliss. WWE has been doing a much better job with the mid-card storylines in recent weeks and that’s a big key toward making the three-hour Raws more palatable.
Lacey Evans vs. Natalya: A minor Hit for the simple approach of Baron Corbin tripping Natalya while the referee’s back was turned, which led to Evans hitting her Woman’s Right punch and scoring the pin. They didn’t go overboard with Corbin by having him all over the show despite the fact that he and Evans are facing Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch at Extreme Rules. By the way, let’s hope that Paul Heyman’s influence includes the ability to get Corbin out of the bad bartender outfit.
Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch vs. Mike Kanellis and Maria Kanellis in a mixed tag match: It was good to see talented talker Maria featured prominently, but I’m not sure where they go next with her ball busting act. Worse yet, I don’t know how Mike Kanellis recovers from being emasculated by his own wife. Honestly, I wasn’t sure where this segment actually fit in because I didn’t find it to be a Hit or a Miss, though I ultimately settled on the Hit section because it grabbed my attention and it’s hard to imagine viewers changing the channel as it was playing out. As for Rollins and Lynch, I still have concerns that showcasing them as a couple will do more harm than good. Perhaps the hope is that it appeals to more female viewers, but they run the risk of turning off the key 18-35 male demographic if they get too cute with it.
WWE Raw Misses
Ricochet vs. AJ Styles for the U.S. Championship: Yes, The Club reunion is a Hit in my book, but the actual match fell victim to Vince McMahon not allowing matches to continue during commercial breaks. When Styles scored a pin while Ricochet’s foot was under the bottom rope, there was zero sense of drama as to whether the title was going to change hands. Anyone who has watched the show lately had to know that this was just the latest clunky way to create the need for the match to be restarted after a commercial break. Vince’s awful edict has ruined any sense of excitement I would have for a WWE television match that looks good on paper. Viewers should look forward to a hot Ricochet vs. Styles main event, not assume that it will be a brief match that somehow includes a crowd killing, clunky restart. There has to be a happy medium. It’s okay if most of the television matches are kept brief, but they need to structure their commercial breaks in a way that allows for a longer match or two when the situation calls for it or simply go back to the old approach for the television main event.
The Miz vs. Elias in a best of three falls match: This was another product of Vince’s awful edict. Booking two falls to last all of one minute is utterly ridiculous. If they wanted to have a brief match in this segment then so be it. But they easily could have killed the whopping one minute that it took for the first two falls to play out by having Elias do a musical number or by having the wrestlers fight before the bell. Everything about these best of three falls matches feels forced and fake.
The Street Profits appear: Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins are charismatic and fun and they could be nice additions to the main roster if they are being called up. But what was this? Charly Caruso told us that the NXT Tag Champions were making their Raw debuts. Normally, we see debuting wrestlers in the ring. In this case, Ford and Dawkins delivered a promo and then came back to pick on Paul Heyman. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for introducing their personalities to non-NXT viewers, and it would be different if they had at least dedicated some promo time to building their first match for next week. But it wasn’t even positioned as if Caruso wondered what they were doing at Raw, so it just came off like two guys were given time to clown around for no good reason. By the way, it’s unclear whether they are being called to the main roster, but you have to feel for Paul Levesque and the NXT creative forces if that turns out to be the case. The Street Profits were given the NXT Tag Titles because the previous champions The Viking Raiders were called up to the main roster without notice.
Check below for the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and Bruce Mitchell of PWTorch.com discussing WWE naming Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff as executive directors of Raw and Smackdown, why Paul Levesque isn’t taking on a bigger role, AEW Fyter Fest, and much more.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features former ROH TV Champion Shane Taylor discussing how his background prepared him for the world today, his run with Keith Lee, why Kofi Kingston's WWE Championship win was so meaningful, and much more...