By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins: The build to the match coming into the show left something to be desired, but it really came together nicely on Raw’s go-home show for Money in the Bank. McIntyre looked good in his match against Murphy, and Rollins had one of his better promos nights since taking on The Messiah persona. I came away from Raw looking forward to seeing the WWE Championship match on Sunday, so mission accomplished with this viewer.
Raw Tag Champions The Street Profits vs. The Viking Raiders in a non-title match: A strong tag match. As much as I cringe at WWE’s over reliance on having its champions lose non-title matches, the Profits dropping this match was part of the bigger story that The Viking Raiders have their number. I assume this leads to a title match at the pay-per-view, though nothing is official as of this update.
Last Chance gauntlet match for a spot in the men’s MITB match: This wasn’t a typical WWE gauntlet match, as the various falls were kept brief until the final two, and yet the match still managed to fill a lot of television time. AJ Styles winning was a nice bounce back moment and adds another dose of star power to the men’s MITB match. AJ’s promo about being buried alive at WrestleMania was strange (how could it not be?), but my guess is that he will continue to bounce back by winning the MITB match on Sunday.
MVP’s VIP Lounge: A solid segment that gave Shayna Baszler and Asuka a moment to get the better of Nia Jax after being destroyed by her last week. It was interesting that the preview for next week’s Raw hyped Becky Lynch as confronting the MITB winner. It seems to be an indication that the winner will be either Baszler, Asuka, or Jax since they are Raw wrestlers.
Overall show: Using the empty arena curve, this was an effective go-home show. WWE did a really good job of selling the unique elements of the MITB ladder matches being held at WWE Headquarters. They could have done more to play up the possibilities with the two matches taking place simultaneously, but they succeeded in terms of making these matches feel like spectacles. Things will actually get tougher for WWE coming out of the pay-per-view. Raw and Smackdown benefitted from having MITB qualifying matches because it gave those matches meaning and made the shows feel semi newsworthy. They really need to find a way to create stakes that viewers care about for their television matches going forward to avoid the vibe that very few of the match outcomes actually matter. Granted, that’s nothing really out of the ordinary for WWE television, but the empty venue era makes it a much bigger problem. How about a super sized King of the Ring tournament with 32 men or even simultaneous 16-man and 16-woman tournaments with matches that play out on Raw and Smackdown (and NXT if they want to go that far). Let the winner(s) pick their title match at SummerSlam or another pay-per-view rather than the “reward” being that they are saddled with the awful WWE royalty characters.
WWE Raw Misses
Cedric Alexander and Ricochet vs. Shane Thorne and Brendan Vink: A soft Miss. I came away with mixed feelings about this match. While it was nice to see Thorne and Vink get a win on Raw, the idea of giving them their first win at the expense of Alexander and Ricochet stalled whatever momentum the babyface duo had. That said, hopefully they can turn this into a compelling mid-card tag feud. We’ll see where it goes. On a side note, it was very strange that MVP wasn’t at ringside during the match after he was positioned as their backer.
NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair vs. Liv Morgan in a non-title match: Another case of stalled momentum. Morgan may have gained a little something by being competitive with Flair, but I think she actually would have benefitted more from simply winning a match against someone lower than Flair on the WWE totem pole. Is WWE really going to have Flair beat opponents twice a week on two different brands? There’s already been some pushback from viewers who feel Flair is over-pushed and this will only make things worse.
Jerry Lawler: No, he wasn’t actually on the show, but that’s the point. Lawler apparently flew from Memphis to Orlando just to introduce Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins for their contract signing segment last week. That was followed by Lawler not even appearing on last night’s Raw, which was also taped last Monday. I’m quite confident that Mike Rome could have properly introduced McIntyre and Rollins last week, meaning WWE could have avoided having a 70 year-old heart attack survivor travel during the pandemic. I enjoy The King’s work, but there’s no reason they couldn’t have him contribute during a segment by interviewing him via Skype.