By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
None: I was feeling optimistic about the WWE product coming out of SummerSlam. The pay-per-view entertained me, ThunderDome has made the shows more watchable, Keith Lee was announced for Raw, and Roman Reigns showed more of an edge in his return and could give Smackdown a boost. And then this show happened. It was a creative mess and another example of how Vince McMahon can still produce some quality pay-per-view events, but his week to week booking is abysmal. I used to wait for the creative turnaround. Now I just wonder how much worse it will get. There are plenty of talented people involved the creative process, but the man in charge needs to get out of their way. He won’t. So there will be glimmers of hope from time to time, but it’s sadly hard to see how this will get better.
WWE Raw Misses
Keith Lee debut: I can get past the shirt and the gym shorts look and even the downgrade in entrance music. And it was encouraging when Lee was booked to show no fear of Randy Orton. But the match between the two made no sense on multiple levels. Orton was on the verge of taking out Lee after a five minute match in which Lee barely got to show any of the athleticism that helps make him so special. How could the creative force(s) think that this made Lee look good in his Raw debut? Even more baffling, how could they possibly think that this would make viewers who lack familiarity with Lee want to see him in rematch with Orton at WWE Payback?
Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins and Murphy: After all this time, the first tag team match involving the father and son duo was announced along with some other matches at the top of a Raw show. I thought for sure that they would announce this match for Payback and make a big fuss over it during Raw. And we may get a rematch on Sunday, but they missed out on their chance to make Rey and Dominik teaming together for the first time feel special. Whatever happened to Mysterio’s latest eye injury? Sure, he has the protective covering on his mask, but they went from making it seem like he may never wrestle again to suddenly just throwing him in the ring without explanation. On the same night that they want viewers to fear that Drew McIntyre’s career might be in jeopardy no less. The Retribution attack at the end of the match felt flat. Rollins looking satisfied by what they did teases the possibility of his involvement. I hope this is a red herring, as the last thing he needs is more nearly mute followers who get no character development.
Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley vs. Shayna Baszler in a non-title match: What in the world are they doing to Baszler? Was her backstage verbal exchange with Nia Jax some odd tribute to Vince McMahon’s 75th birthday since he’s in the demographic that would be most likely to appreciate references to Haystacks Calhoun and The Addams Family? The match ended with Jax interfering for the DQ. Jax has basically been bullying Baszler, who plays a much better bully than Jax does. And they stopped fighting because they were being laughed at by Bayley and Sasha Banks? And why are Baszler and Jax are getting a tag title shot even though they’ve never actually wrestled a tag team match together? None of this makes sense.
Kevin Owens and Aleister Black: As much as I’ve enjoyed Owens over the years and thought that he would make a strong babyface, his super nice guy routine is painful. And he has to know that the tie over the t-shirt thing isn’t original or charming. Black attacking Owens after suffering eye damage at the hands of Seth Rollins and Murphy made no sense in the moment. We’ll see what they come up with for Black’s explanation, but it better be more than him blaming Owens for not coming to his rescue. This could turn out to be an entertaining feud, but it’s off to a strange start.
Shelton Benjamin vs. R-Truth vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Cedric Alexander in a four-way for the WWE 24/7 Championship: The joke stopped being funny months ago. Some of us would argue that it wasn’t funny to begin with. What good has this belt done for anyone other than R-Truth? Why are the insulting ninjas still appearing on television, particularly when their masks are similar to those worn by Retribution?
Asuka vs. Sasha Banks in a lumberjack match for the Raw Women’s Championship: A bunch of lumberjacks who just stood there and looked at each other. Great. There was no storyline need for this to be a lumberjack match. It’s not like Banks was a threat to run away when she was trying to get her title back. I assume the lumberjacks were there only because somebody wanted Baszler to stop Bayley from interfering and they couldn’t come up with a good reason for Baszler to be at ringside. Asuka and Banks had a really good pay-per-view match on Sunday, but they didn’t have a chance to have another quality outing due to the way this match was structured.
Angel Garza vs. Montez Ford: It’s time to pull the plug on the Street Profits feuding with Garza and Andrade. The feud has been ridiculously one-sided and the matches have lost whatever appeal they once had. On a side note, it’s sad that a strong team in the Viking Raiders have been reduced to repeating jokes about a turkey leg, and Ivar being cute while “not so much” for Erik. What a waste.
Bianca Belair, Liv Morgan, and Ruby Riott vs. Zelina Vega, Peyton Royce, and Billie Kay: Filler. Belair has a ton of charisma and could be a star in the women’s division, but she was clearly called up without a real storyline plan and now she’s just spinning her wheels. Sadly, we can and have said that about so many call-ups who were hot acts in NXT, yet have gone on to be completely wasted on the main roster. Will the madness ever end?
Apollo Crews and Bobby Lashley in an arm wrestling contest: That wacky Crews stole a win in an arm wrestling match that nobody cared about. Great. And then he once again eluded two more members of The Hurt Business in a way that made the heels look like buffoons.
Natalya, Lana, and Mickie James: WWE’s latest incarnation of the Mean Girls did a gag where they teased a career highlight video for James and had the screen stay black. A normal person who was the butt of such a corny joke would just roll their eyes and move on with their day. In this case, poor Mickie James was scripted to run to the ring in a rage and attack both women. No one came out of this looking good. I’m sure the Natalya vs. James match that stems from this will be good if they are given enough time because they are both talented, but I don’t think the build is making anyone want to actually see their match.
Raw Underground: We’re a few weeks in and there doesn’t appear to be a real direction in place. It’s just a series of brief fights that haven’t led to anything. Is there more to this concept? WWE couldn’t even be bothered to follow through with the first Raw Underground fight they actually advertised a week out in Dolph Ziggler vs. Ivar.