By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Asuka vs. Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship: A strong match with a mostly clever finish. It seemed odd that Banks was selling as if she were out cold, meaning Asuka could have gotten a quick pin or submission win before rushing to the aid of Kairi Sane. Still, I like the finish with the unique stipulation that I think most of us assumed would lead to Bayley somehow costing Banks the title match. Instead, WWE continues to move forward with Banks and Bayley holding all the gold as double champions. They duo is ridiculously overexposed on WWE television, but they are doing a good job in the ring and the creative forces are doing a nice job of leaving us wondering when the split will occur. Bayley’s beatdown of Sane didn’t feel like a storyline career ender, but apparently it will be framed as such given that Sane issued a public farewell to WWE on social media last night.
Andrade and Angel Garza vs. The Viking Raiders vs. Cedric Alexander and Ricochet for a shot at the Raw Tag Titles at SummerSlam: Most WWE television matches feel so inconsequential that I actually forgot that the Street Profits beat Andrade and Garza in a non-title match last week. With that in mind, can anyone explain why the company had Andrade and Garza lose to the tag champions last week when they knew they would be having them win this match to earn the title shot at SummerSlam? Even more confounding is that the tapings for last week’s show and last night’s show were held on the same day. On a side note, Alexander and Ricochet lost constantly and therefore didn’t do anything to warrant a spot in this match from a storyline standpoint. As such, it felt like they were in this match to lose and that’s exactly what they did. Despite all of these issues, the match itself was a Hit for the in-ring work and because I am still looking forward to the tag title match at SummerSlam.
WWE Champion Drew McIntyre vs. Dolph Ziggler in a non-title Extreme Rules match: A soft Hit for a rematch that just didn’t need to happen. The Ziggler character has been beaten down to the point that it’s not even fun to see him beaten up. As much as I enjoy crapping on his terrible entrance theme, it honestly is part of the problem. Ziggler is a strong in-ring performer, but he desperately needs a makeover. It feels like he’s had the same basic look and entrance theme for an eternity and they have become the look and sound of a perennial loser. Why not shake things up? The post match attack by Randy Orton felt as formula as it gets, but I am looking forward to his match with Drew McIntyre at SummerSlam as much as any WWE match held during the pandemic.
Overall show: While there are plenty of issues that we’ll get into below, this show worked for me from an entertainment standpoint. The in-ring work was strong, there was a title change, and there were a couple of newsworthy SummerSlam developments. Yet while I was entertained by the episode, there are mistakes being made that continue to work against the long term success of this company. Paul Heyman was known for accentuating the positives and hiding the negatives of his talent in ECW. In WWE, it’s felt for years like the powers that be identify the weaknesses of their young talent so they can justify booking them poorly. Why is it that Paul Levesque and his creative crew can get so much out of many of the same wrestlers in NXT, yet Vince McMahon and his crew find reasons to bury the younger talent? The transition from McMahon as head of creative to Levesque is long overdue and sadly there is no indication that McMahon is ready to concede that it’s long past time to hand over the creative reins.
WWE Raw Misses
Aleister Black: I enjoyed the bulk of the Seth Rollins and Dominick Mysterio confrontation. But what in the hell is this company doing to Aleister Black? The character screams badass loner, not hero worshipping Rey Mysterio sidekick, nor guy who suffers a new injury on a near weekly basis. WWE desperately needs to create new stars, yet they keep pissing away the readymade candidates they call up from NXT. There was a time when most NXT viewers were excited to see their favorites called up to the main roster. Now there’s a sense of dread that’s been created by Vince McMahon’s awful track record of wasting or downright ruining the wrestlers sent to Raw or Smackdown.
Bobby Lashley vs. Mustafa Ali: The pattern continues. WWE gave Ali a win in his return match last week, then felt the need to kill any momentum he may have had by feeding him to Lashley. I have no problem with Lashley, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, MVP, Big Show, and Edge being featured prominently, but the company has to start mixing in some younger talent in truly meaningful positions. Raw is no different than WCW Nitro in its over reliance on older stars at the expense of the wrestlers who could carry this company into the future.
Murphy vs. Humberto Carrillo: A Hit worthy match from an in-ring standpoint, but why should viewers care about a match involving Seth Rollins’ henchmen and Rey’s other buddy? Murphy needs an actual character beyond sidekick to the star, and I fear that Carrillo is already cemented in his slot as one of the many younger wrestlers who loses more than he wins.
Nia Jax vs. Shayna Baszler: Why is this feud happening? They are both heels and while it’s easier to have heel vs. heel matches without fans present, it doesn’t mean that viewers aren’t tuning out because they have no rooting interest. I have no desire to see either wrestler turn babyface. Baszler is a star when pushed as a dominant heel bully. How Vince McMahon fails to see this is just beyond me.