By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
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WWE Raw Hits
Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins: WWE saved the best segment for last and now the creative forces can only hope that viewers actually stuck around long enough to see it. McIntyre is doing outstanding work as the lead babyface of the brand. He’s confident and likable and has yet to deliver a bad promo since turning babyface. McIntyre comes off like his own man rather than someone who is reading word for word from a script. Meanwhile, I like the Messiah persona and Rollins delivered a good promo, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d heard it all before and fear that Rollins is already running out of fresh material. I hope I’m wrong.
Andrade vs. Apollo Crews for the U.S. Championship: A well worked match with a finish designed to protect Crews, who lost via ref stoppage due to a knee injury. It’s impossible to say whether Crews is clicking with viewers due to the empty venue setting, but I think it’s worth continuing to try. Pulling him out of the Money in the Bank match may seem like a step back, but there’s a good story that can be told with Crews rebounding from this setback. Of course, there was also a good story that WWE failed to tell when Mustafa Ali’s legitimate injury derailed his push, which led to Kofi Kingston’s rise to WWE Champion.
Liv Morgan vs. Ruby Riott: While I still believe that Riott is better than the “good hand” role that she’s booked in, I’m happy the creative forces gave Morgan back to back wins. I actually would have been just as pleased if Riott had won both of these matches. The key is that they are pushing one of the two rather than doing another parity booking feud that results in neither person gaining anything.
Bobby Lashley vs. Denzel Dejournette: A basic squash match win for Lashley. The soft Hit is actually for WWE getting back to the breakup of Lashley and Lana. Everything seemed to be heading in that direction coming out of WrestleMania, but then they seemed to be back on the same page when Lashley strangely spent last week’s episode of Raw tipping over tractor tires. There’s not much chemistry between the two and I’m all for the split.
WWE Raw Misses
Rey Mysterio, Aleister Black, and Apollo Crews vs. Andrade, Angel Garza, and Austin Theory: A well worked match that overstayed its welcome. A 25-minute six-man tag match with nothing at stake would feel like a time filler on a regular edition of Raw held in an arena filled with fans. With no fans in attendance, this struck me as something that would make a lot of viewers reach for their remotes.
Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, and Asuka brawl: The only match the company advertised for this episode of Raw was a Triple Threat involving these three women. They ended up brawling, the referee never came out, and the match never took place. We see a lot of pre-match brawls that simply lead to the referee pulling the wrestlers apart and then starting the actual match. So why would this be any different? I also cringed at seeing Baszler roughed up by Jax. If Baszler is winning the Money in the Bank match then so be it, but it’s a huge mistake if this is an indication that Jax is being slotted above Baszler on Raw’s heel depth chart.
Jinder Mahal vs. Akira Tozawa: Just when it seemed like there was no way that pro wrestling’s empty venue era could possibly get duller, Jinder Mahal shows up and says hold my beer. I sincerely congratulate him on returning to the ring following a long injury layoff. Now let’s hope that he spent that down time coming up with ways to spice up his painfully boring act. On a side note, why can’t WWE find someone who in the Interim NXT Cruiserweight Title tournament to do jobs on Raw?
Ricochet and Cedric Alexander vs. Chase Parker and Matt Martel: There’s nothing wrong with an enhancement match, but the company needs to make better choices when it comes to where these matches are slotted on the show. Raw already had that marathon feel by the time this match started and going with predictable, throwaway matches in the third hour can’t be good for retaining the viewing audience. On the bright side, MVP representing Brendan Vink and Shane Thorne in challenging Ricochet and Alexander makes next week’s rematch far more intriguing than it would have been without MVP’s involvement.
Triple H’s top ten career defining moments: A Vince McMahon impersonation and Stephanie McMahon getting upset with Hunter’s hands-on Trish Stratus tutorial? The list was all over the place. More than anything, I remain disappointed that Vince McMahon passed up a great rib by not showing footage of the actual Paul Levesque and Stephanie McMahon wedding while labeling it as Triple H’s top career defining moment. It sure as hell would have been funnier than the nervous hack comedy roast the old man tried to deliver on Smackdown.