By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Seth Rollins vs. Aleister Black: Raw opened with one of its best matches of the year. This was a strong back and forth match and it was refreshing to see an actual clean pinfall. Rollins got his heat back with the post match attack on Black and Humberto Carrillo, and he also did a nice job of heeling on Rey Mysterio during his promo. Hopefully this is a step toward Black being pushed in the upper mix.
Rey Mysterio and Dominick Mysterio: The segment was odd at times with Mysterio explaining that he hopes to return only to then be asked if this was a retirement speech. And while Dom isn’t a convincing promo just yet, I still enjoyed the overall approach of him showing that he’s ready to fight for his father.
Apollo Crews vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. Championship: Another strong match, but it was marred by the expected heel interference finish. Worse yet, WWE stuck to it’s formula booking by turning it into yet another impromptu tag match. Still, it was a good night for Crews, who looked like a fighting champion for giving Owens a title shot and he looked strong by winning the tag match for his team. The win came at the expense of Andrade, who has lost so many matches lately that he’s starting to feel irrelevant. That said, it’s encouraging that they didn’t have Angel Garza lose the tag match, as it would have been a step back from his big win over Owens last week.
Raw Women’s Champion Asuka vs. NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair in a non-title match: The third strong match on this show and it gets a Hit for that reason alone. WWE’s creative forces have to know that these non-title champion vs. champion matches don’t feel important to begin with, and they are made worse when they end with finishes so lazy that they don’t even have the ring announcer declare a winner. On a side note, I laughed out loud when Tom Phillips pointed out that Nia Jax was the person wearing the Asuka mask, and Samoa Joe replied, “You think?”
Randy Orton promo: I loved the way Orton leaned into his reputation for coasting. It plays into his storyline with Edge as they attempt to show the differences between their character, and it also makes him even more of a heel to his detractors. Well done. Have you noticed that neither Orton nor Edge are playing into the company’s idiotic “greatest match ever” marketing push? Good for them.
Nikki Cross vs. Billie Kay: A soft Hit. Kay delivered one of softest knees to the abdomen that you’ll ever see, but she had a better in-ring outing than usual. Cross losing the match was perfectly logical given that the IIconics are labeling her the weak link of her team with Alexa Bliss.
WWE Raw Misses
WWE Champion Drew McIntyre vs. MVP in a non-title match: We get it, McIntyre is better than MVP. Now that MVP is a manager, viewers should be left wanting to see someone get their hands on him. Instead, McIntyre seems to hit him with a Claymore Kick every other week. The post match angle with Bobby Lashley putting McIntyre in the Full Nelson felt underwhelming because we saw so little of it. The show was taped last week so it’s not like the show was running long, they actually opted to end the show without showing how punishing the hold was to McIntyre. Strange.
Nia Jax vs. Kairi Sane: We get it, Jax is better than Sane. Sane’s tweet about having more heart offers some encouragement that she may actually beat Jax at some point, but it’s hard to tell whether that was just something she wrote or something the company encouraged her to write.
R-Truth and Rob Gronkowski: For every truly comical 24/7 segments, it feels like there are ten repetitive clunkers like this one. On the bright side, at least Gronk will disappear from WWE television. I enjoy watching him play football, but he’s been insufferable on WWE television.