By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton: An excellent McIntyre promo with Orton also holding up his end nicely. I really liked Orton finally pointing out that he’s already made his money and could easily walk away, yet he enjoys dishing out RKO’s and punt kicks. On a show filled with absolute creative madness, it’s no coincidence that the most positively reviewed segment of the night featured a no nonsense verbal exchange involving the champion and his top challenger. It’s just too bad that nearly everything around these two is so damn bad right now.
Apollo Crews vs. MVP for the U.S. Championship: Crews retaining the title and announcing that he’s giving his old version of the U.S. Title belt to his kids because he wants them to have the first belt he won in WWE was a nice touch. The match was fine. The only negative was the announcement of a rematch between these two at SummerSlam, as it felt like this match should have closed the book on their feud.
Seth Rollins and Dominick Mysterio: A solid angle to set up their pay-per-view match. It was fun to see Samoa Joe stand up to Rollins, though it was also felt strange when Joe just sat down and let Mysterio fight off Rollins and Murphy on his own. Even so, it was fun to see Joe being a badass again, and I’m genuinely looking forward to Rollins vs. Dom at SummerSlam.
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: An abomination. You could sense the desperation of the creative forces coming through the television. While some will be inclined to praise the company for recognizing the need to shake things up and try new things, the approach they took resulted in one of the worst television shows I’ve seen since the dying days of WCW. As such, the excuse that they at least tried something new is a major reach. Vince McMahon could stand in the middle of the ring and light his hair on fire and it would be something new, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to lead to a turnaround. We saw an underground fight club, ninjas, a wrestler poisoned, and Molotov cocktails. Vince McMahon is creatively bankrupt and clearly has no idea how to pull himself out of the mess that he’s created. He needs to step aside, but he won’t step aside. So it’s time for him to give up on the hot-shot and stunt booking. This isn’t something that can be fixed in one night. While the approach he is taking may produce short-term ratings gains, it is not the long term answer. The only way out of this mess is to get back to the basics of pro wrestling booking with real character development while investing in the future by creating new stars.
New faction: I assume the new faction was the group of wrestlers who threw Molotov cocktails at what the WWE website describes as the WWE Performance Center generator. I also assume that they were behind the dastardly moves of making the lights flicker and the mics cut out occasionally, and, wait for it, knocking over some boxes backstage. Gasp. For all I know, this will turn out to be the greatest faction since the Four Horsemen (Evolution doesn’t come anywhere close to the men who held up four fingers no matter how much WWE wants to pretend otherwise), but their first night was about as destructive as the silly Riott Squad backstage segments that resulted in petty acts of teenage vandalism. By the way, were the new faction members actually supposed to look just like Akira Tozawa’s comedy ninjas? No matter where this leads, I just hope that this isn’t a faction filled with mid-card wrestlers who piss and moan about not getting chances even though we’ve seen them lose a million matches on television. We already have Dolph Ziggler for that.
Shane McMahon’s Raw Underground: More like Shane McMahon’s Raw Backroom. If you found some enjoyment in this, I recommend Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport shows on FITE TV, which is an excellent presentation of the warped and overly produced version that WWE presented. Shane McMahon is 50 years-old. Can we stop pretending that he’s the fresh face who will bring youthful energy and real change to WWE?
The Street Profits, Andrade, Angel Garza, and Zelina Vega: They actually said that Montez Ford may have been poisoned. This was a throwback to Shawn Michaels collapsing in the ring back in 1995. The original angle was a turnoff, and this was just plain hokey. WWE seems incapable of telling a common sense story involving tag teams on Raw. They had a good one set up with the Viking Raiders having the number of the Street Profits and somehow turned that into a series of silly sports entertainment games. A basic storyline involving the Street Profits attempting to defend their tag titles against a good heel team in Andrade and Garza should have been more than enough, but they went ridiculously over the top again. Are we inching closer to WWE killing one of its characters in Lucha Underground style? Laugh all you want, but keep in mind that Vince McMahon tried to kill his own character at one point before the Benoit family tragedy forced him to call an audible.
Raw Women’s Champion Sasha Banks vs. Shayna Baszler in a non-title match: A clunky match between two heels with a non-finish that was never explained. For the life of me, I can’t understand why Vince McMahon finds booking Baszler so difficult. She’s a badass bully similar to one of his favorites Brock Lesnar. Paul Levesque booked Baszler to perfection, whereas Vince doesn’t seem to have a clue.
Nia Jax and Pat Buck: With all due respect to Pat Buck, most Raw viewers have no clue who he is. Yet they are being asked to care about him as one of the random suits that represents the company during pull-apart brawls because Jax is picking on him. Worse yet, he apparently has the power to suspend wrestlers indefinitely. Do all producers wield this power or only when it’s convenient to use as part of a poorly constructed storyline?
Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and The IIconics: The Riott and Morgan reunion should feel significant, but WWE creative booked the original trio so poorly that fans have no reason to care if they get back together. It’s like holding a reunion for the 2014-2015 New York Knicks team that finished with a 17-65 record. It also doesn’t help matters that Riott and Morgan are reuniting to face a pair of pest heels who lose far more than they win.
Shelton Benjamin vs. R-Truth vs. Akira Tozawa in a Triple Threat for the WWE 24/7 Championship: Why does this title still exist? They ran out of good ideas somewhere around the seventh of R-Truth’s 847 title reigns. And on the same show that they wanted us to view Hurt Business as badasses who win shoot fights, Benjamin couldn’t even beat Truth and Tozawa to keep his comedy title belt?