By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Spectator wrestlers: Finally. Stephanie McMahon took a thinly veiled jab at AEW during a Variety interview back in March for having wrestlers work as spectators during their shows, so you had to know that WWE would put their own spin on things if they ever gave in. They opted to surround the ringside and entrance areas with plexiglass to put a barrier between the spectator wrestlers and the wrestlers working in the ring. It seems like a good safety precaution for the wrestlers in the ring, though I’m not really sure that having all those spectator wrestlers standing in the same general area behind the glass is actually safe for them. And it all felt rather pointless when so many of the spectator wrestlers hit the ring for the pull apart brawl at the end of the show. That being said, I’ll defer to medical experts when it comes to just how safe this approach is and whether it’s better or worse than what AEW is doing in the open air Daily’s Place venue. So putting all that aside and simply looking at it from a viewing experience standpoint, this was a major upgrade and a welcome change.
Edge promo: WWE’s ridiculous hype of Edge vs. Orton perhaps being the greatest wrestling match ever continues to be absurd for putting both men in a really bad position. Fortunately, Edge didn’t play along and his promo actually ran somewhat counter to the awful slogan, as he told the realistic story of having self doubt following his long retirement. It was a really nice touch to mention how many days he was retired and then adding how many matches Orton had during that time. I get that WWE is trying to be creative with their marketing, but Edge and Orton have done so well with their excellent series of promos, verbal exchanges, and angles that it’s sad to see them saddled with a marketing pitch that simply sets the bar too high.
Andrade vs. Apollo Crews for the U.S. Championship: Crews has been a likable babyface and they told a good story of him overcoming the knee injury that took him out of Money in the Bank match to win this title. And while there are too many cases of wrestlers throwing tantrums after losing on Raw lately, I did like that Andrade was shown expressing frustration after dropping the title. Of course, none of this will mean anything if WWE continues its terrible booking trend of having the secondary champions lose more than they win on television. I felt numb when Crews won because the championship has been devalued through all the non-title television losses. Here’s hoping that things will be different this time around for both the U.S. and Intercontinental Titles.
Nia Jax vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya in a Triple Threat: It was tough to go roughly 72 hours without seeing Flair on a WWE television show. Perhaps WWE can also have her work 205 Live and WWE Main Event and move one of those shows to the weekend to give viewers the fix of Flair that the company clearly thinks we crave. I enjoy Flair’s work (aside from the cliche royalty promos) and this really isn’t about her, it’s about the way the company is overexposing her. Nevertheless, this was a solid match with the expected result, including Natalya taking another loss to continue her frustration storyline.
MVP and Bobby Lashley: The main event with the Street Profits was fine, but I think MVP is better off spending the vast majority of his time working as a manager. He can still hold his own, but it’s better to make viewers wait to see the babyfaces get their hands on him than to have it happen routinely. Still, I continue to like the MVP and Lashley pairing, as it has allowed MVP to tell the story of Lashley needing to get out of his own head so that he can finally reach his full potential. Of course, we know that bad booking has been the real culprit for Lashley’s underwhelming run, but MVP’s mic work is helpful in terms of making viewers feel like this is a different Lashley heading into his title match. I’m not big on Lana’s over the top tantrums, but I do enjoy the way that she’s hanging around and trying to insert herself into Lashley’s affairs despite their falling out.
Kevin Owens vs. Angel Garza: It was nice to see something other than the expected outcome during a Raw match. The Garza chop-block prior to the match gave Owens a good out for losing, and yet this still felt like a big win for Garza. We need more unpredictability with WWE television matches and this is an example of how it can be done without damaging the person viewed as the bigger star.
Austin Theory and Murphy vs. Aleister Black and Humberto Carrillo: Black’s involvement in this tag match felt beneath him. He strikes me as a loner character who should work singles matches the vast majority of the time. And when he does team with someone, it should feel like a big deal because he does it so infrequently and there should be some question as to whether they can actually coexist as a tag team. But it was a good night for Seth Rollins and his disciples. Theory is a good addition to the Rollins’ faction and it was logical to have him go over by beating Carrillo. I like the element of danger that’s been added to the Rollins act via his attack on Rey Mysterio and the threat of a similar attack on Carrillo. The announcement of Mysterio announcing his retirement again next week feels like deja vu, so hopefully they have something good in mind to make it different this time around. My shot in the dark from last night’s live review is that Dominick Mysterio will get upset with his father for wanting to quit again and thus chooses to become a Rollins’ disciple.
Nikki Cross: I can’t say that the segment involving Cross, Alexa Bliss, and The IIconcis left me anxious to see another tag title match between the teams, but Cross’s promo was endearing.
WWE Raw Misses
The Street Profits and Viking Raiders: Another week of not so fun comedy gags. The comedy bit has overtaken the good story of the Viking Raiders being dominant over the Street Profits in actual wrestling matches. It’s a shame because the Viking Raiders having the number of the Street Profits was pulling me into their feud before the silliness started. Hopefully they can flip a switch and find a way to reignite the actual feud between the teams once it’s time for them to have actual matches again.
R-Truth and Gronk: It should feel like a coup to have Gronk on WWE television, but he’s been a turnoff every time out. Gronk is obviously willing to continue playing with WWE during his free time, so perhaps the company will get lucky and will end up getting some other NFL cameos during his segments. Either way, I just don’t care about R-Truth chasing the title the company seemingly created for his comedy gags.
Liv Morgan: We learned last week that Morgan’s mother was a hard worker even though Morgan said her mother rarely held a job. I’m still baffled by that one. This week we learned that Morgan has self-confidence issues that pro wrestling helped her overcome and now she’s living her best life. That’s all well and good, but I can’t say that any of this has actually made me care about her as a character. Perhaps there’s a better way to accomplish whatever the goal is, such as sit-down interviews. As thing stand, these are coming off like Morgan’s rambling self-absorbed moments of the week, which obviously isn’t what they are going for given than she is a babyface.