By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Ricochet vs. Drew McIntyre in a King of the Ring tournament match: The best KOTR match so far and the most enjoyable match that Ricochet has had on Raw to date. WWE made it painfully obvious that McIntyre wasn’t going to win the tournament by having Michael Cole, Renee Young, and Booker T all predict last week that he would win the tournament. A significant portion of their audience knows how this works and yet WWE just continues to spoil their own match results by refusing to acknowledge this obvious tell. McIntyre losing is fine because it means he won’t become a one dimensional king character. The alarming part is that there’s still no sign of creative getting behind McIntyre in a meaningful way.
Sasha Banks vs. Natalya: I did an about-face on the Banks promo. It felt flat in the moment, but in retrospect I believe it was be design. She didn’t deliver a passionate promo that was overly critical of the company because that could have led to a lot of fans rallying behind her. The company doesn’t want fans to choose between Banks and Becky Lynch, they want fans to boo Banks and cheer Lynch. It’s smart to protect the popular Lynch in this manner. The brawl following the promo was well done and Banks looked strong and ruthless during and after the match.
AJ Styles vs. Braun Strowman for the U.S. Championship: An entertaining main event with a weak finish. We’ve been told for years that referees can only call what they see, yet the story here was that the referee of this match called for the bell because he assumed that Strowman hit Styles with a chair. Yes, they used this finish during Eddie Guerrero’s run, but it still feels cheap and flawed. Ultimately, though, they saved the star power they had for the main event and I liked the hook of Strowman having a chance to put himself in contention to be a a triple champion at Clash of Champions.
Bayley vs. Nikki Cross in a non-title match: WWE isn’t even trying to explain why Smackdown matches are taking place on Raw these days. Is the brand split dead or will they bring it back when Smackdown moves to Fox in October? Putting that aside, the match was good for a soft Hit for solid in-ring action and the champion getting a showcase win heading into her latest feud with Charlotte Flair.
WWE Raw Misses
Lack of star power: Raw was missing live appearances from Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, Samoa Joe, R-Truth, and other familiar faces. I’m all for wrestlers having time off, but the talent shortage was notable enough that I felt the need to check to see if a portion of the crew was traveling to an overseas live event. There were a lot of complaints about Seth Rollins being featured in an interview backstage and the broadcast team later stating that he was in Hawaii. Upon further review, a graphic clearly stated that the Rollins and Braun Strowman backstage interview was conducted last week. That said, I did get a kick out of Corey Graves questioning why Rollins would be banned from ringside when he was in Hawaii.
Tag Team Turmoil: A match that included seven teams losing spotlighted just how weak the tag division has become. And it’s not like the division is light on talent. There are plenty of quality teams between Raw and Smackdown, and many of those teams were successful in NXT. Vince McMahon doesn’t care about the tag team division and it shows time and time again. Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode forming a team is fine and I get the goal of using this match to make them look strong, but they did so at the expense of the rest of the damaged division. Worst of all, this portion of the show was just plain boring.
The Miz vs. Baron Corbin in a King of the Ring tournament match: Miz lost the crowd with his “King Awesome” pre-match promo. Corbin winning the match was logical in that they are trolling the crowd by teasing the possibility of him becoming the KOTR winner. Even if they don’t go with King Corbin (and I sincerely hope they don’t), it’s logical for him to go deep into the tournament to play on the fears of the fans.
Cedric Alexander vs. Cesaro: A Hit for match quality, but a Miss for losing the crowd. It was asking a lot of the live crowd to sit through an eleven minute match involving Alexander. Make no mistake about it, Alexander is a talented wrestler, but viewers have no incentive to invest in his character because, well, he doesn’t have one. He told viewers recently that he’s a man of few words. Aside from memories of him dressing up as janitor Gary Garbutt one week, fans who only watch the main roster know very little about Alexander. On a positive note, I like that Alexander sold a knee injury throughout the match that can be exploited in his KOTR match with Corbin next week.
I have the first of my fantasy drafts tonight. As always, all of my fantasy football leagues are hosted by the highly recommended MyFantasyLeague.com.
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...