By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Randy Orton and Ric Flair: The Orton vs. Kevin Owens match was well worked and found the right balance in terms of making Orton looks strong while having Owens show heart by putting up a good fight. The post match angle with Orton and Flair was fantastic. Orton blaming Flair’s ego for putting him in the match with Owens was good storyline logic. Orton looked ruthless, Flair was sympathetic, and Drew McIntyre showed great fire while staring down Orton afterward. But the big question I have is whether this was a swerve. The timing of the lights going out when Orton delivered the punt kick to the head of Flair could definitely be due to WWE officials not wanting Flair to be involved in anything physical. But this is the same company that had Christian take the punt kick to the head even though Christian is not medically eligible to wrestle due to head trauma issues. So could this have been a ruse by the Orton and Flair characters that will lead to Flair helping Orton defeat McIntyre at SummerSlam? They would still need to explain who turned off the lights at just the right time, but this would all play nicely into Flair’s “Dirtiest Player In The Game” monicker.
Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley vs. Asuka in a non-title match: The best match of the night with pay-per-view worthy in-ring performances from both women. Bayley and Sasha Banks still feel overexposed by appearing on both shows every week, but they continue to deliver consistently in the ring.
Seth Rollins and Dominik Mysterio contract signing: This was a brutal initiation for Dom, who took one hell of a kendo stick beating from Rollins and Murphy. Rollins was on top of his game throughout the angle and was especially good while looking into the camera and taunting Rey Mysterio before dishing out more punishment to Dom. The only negative of the segment is Samoa Joe being more concerned about keeping his broadcasting job than helping out young Dom just isn’t true to his character. Whether babyface or heel, the Joe character is a hot head who is not afraid to break rules or cross the line. It was awkward when he allowed Dom to face a two-on-one situation last week, and really bad when he sat silently and watched Dom take a vicious beating only a few feet away from the broadcast table. Nevertheless, I am really looking forward to Rollins vs. Dom at SummerSlam.
Bianca Belair vs. Zelina Vega: A pleasant surprise. Vega wrestles so infrequently that my guard was down, but she and Belair put together a really nice television match. Vega has been adamant that she did not poison Montez Ford (I can’t believe I had to write that sentence). Of course, she could be lying or it could be clever word play in that while she didn’t dose Ford, Andrade or Angel Garza did. But they may also be working toward the reveal of a mystery culprit. Angelo Dawkins is a possibility, but it feels too soon to break up the Street Profits. And it would be mind numbingly stupid to have Belair poison her own husband. As bad as a storyline revolving around a poisoning is, I would be all in favor of the Viking Raiders being revealed as the guilty parties if it meant they they would drop the comedy act and feud with the Profits in actual matches rather than silly games. On a side note, the Angelo Dawkins vs. Andrade match was a middle of the road type of match that filled a little television time.
Raw Underground: A soft Hit. Dabba-Kato and Arturo Ruas looked strong in their beatdowns of unnamed opponents. That’s still about the best thing I can say about this concept, which desperately needs more structure and storyline purpose in future weeks. If nothing else, I am hopeful that Kato, Ruas, and others will receive solid introductions in this format before leaving the backroom and finding their way into the traditional WWE ring.
Overall show: This was a nice bounce back edition following last week’s train wreck of an episode. More than anything, I am pleased that the SummerSlam build is leading to traditional matches rather than stunts like the Greatest Match Ever or another batch of cinematic matches. Here’s hoping that this approach will continue and they don’t revert to stunt booking for pay-per-views coming out of SummerSlam.
WWE Raw Misses
Retribution: WWE Antifa continues to underwhelm. After chainsawing the ring ropes on Smackdown, they followed up by throwing cinderblocks through the WWE Performance Center glass door and running away. They also tipped over a car, which doesn’t feel very impressive considering the number of times we’ve seen Braun Strowman do that on his own. There should be a growing sense of excitement regarding the identities of the masked individuals, but this is going so poorly that I’m actually hoping that certain wrestlers are not involved in this mess.
U.S. Champion Apollo Crews vs. Shelton Benjamin in a non-title match: Why are the creative forces obsessed with having their secondary champions lose televised non-title matches so frequently? Yes, Vince, weekly viewers do remember how many times this has happened even if you do not. On the bright side, I liked the way that MVP called off Bobby Lashley from putting the Full Nelson on Crews with the logic being that he needs Crews to be healthy enough to make their title match at SummerSlam.
Liv Morgan vs. Peyton Royce: A rough match involving wrestlers in a tag team feud that just hasn’t clicked.
Cedric Alexander, Ricochet, Erik, and Ivar vs. Akira Tozawa and Ninjas: The Viking Experience on the ninja looked amazing, as they shot the masked man higher in the air than even Montez Ford gets on his frogsplashes. But that was the only thing to like about this match. The ninjas are insulting and look ridiculously low budget. Worse yet, they look too similar to the Retribution faction. Finally, the gag of R-Truth winning and losing the WWE 24/7 Championship has more than run its course.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features referee Rob Page discussing the difficulty of reffing tag matches in the modern era, making three counts if a wrestler's shoulders are down even if it wasn't the planned finish, the growth of F1rst Wrestling, and more...