By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Seth Rollins, Murphy, and the Mysterio family: I enjoy a good callback as much as the next guy, but the strange homage to the Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio paternity battle over Dominik Mysterio was just plain lousy. Once we got past that nonsense, the angle with Aliyah storming off the stage after her father referred to her as a naive 19-year-old was solid. Murphy apologizing to Aliyah backstage was a nice step toward her taking a turn for the dark side.
WWE Raw Misses
Overall show: Dreadful. The simple goal of a go-home show is to make you excited about the upcoming pay-per-view. Raw failed to offer compelling hype for the previously announced matches, and somehow managed to create new title matches that left me feeling less enthusiastic about the show as a whole.
Retribution: I enjoyed the cold open with Retribution tearing up the ringside area. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. Dominik Dijakovic, Mia Yim, and Mercedes Martinez wore masks that gave away their identities, and Dio Maddin’s hair completely outs him (only Shane Thorne wore a mask that didn’t expose his face). And while all of that would have been fine if the idea was that this was the identity reveal night, the broadcast team had to play stupid by not calling out any of these wrestlers by name. It was also stated that Retribution signed contracts with WWE. For some reason, Tom Philips had to say this means that the group can do whatever they want, which doesn’t even make sense. We also learned that the group is bitter with wrestlers who earn money working for WWE on the same night that they also signed contracts to work for WWE. If nothing else, it should have been positioned as a mystery person in WWE management signed the faction to a sweetheart deal that gives them special privileges. But it wasn’t played up that way. Rather, viewers were left to wonder why a company would hire a group of invading wrestlers who have interrupted its television shows repeatedly. None of this makes any sense whatsoever.
Seth Rollins and Murphy vs. Angel Garza and Andrade vs. Dominik Mysterio and Humberto Carrillo for a shot at the Raw Tag Titles: I just can’t give a Hit to any match that leads to Garza and Andrade getting yet another tag team title match. I actually like them as a team and once looked forward to their feud with the Street Profits, but it’s turned out to be a ridiculously overexposed and lopsided feud that just won’t end. Didn’t Garza and Andrade break up last week? Heck, don’t they break up every week?
Braun Strowman vs. Dabba-Kato at Raw Underground: My assumption was that Shane McMahon’s MMA playground was a way for WWE to introduce some new talent in a unique manner. Dabba-Kato has been by far the most compelling of the new talents to appear at Raw Underground. While I didn’t expect him to beat Strowman, I sure as hell didn’t expect to see Strowman dominate Dabba-Kato and knock him out cold. What a waste.
“Retribution” Mace, T-Bar, and Slapjack vs. Bobby Lashley, Shelton Benjamin, and Cedric Alexander: The Retribution faction looks like something out of The Purge and their names seem like something spit out of a random pro wrestling name generator. Even if you can get past those issues and all the other problems that I laid out earlier, there’s still the issue with them being manhandled in their first straight up match before the DQ finish. Can anyone explain why the renegade heel gang’s first opponents ended up being a heel faction? Apparently, we’re supposed to dislike Hurt Business when they beat up two babyfaces who are portrayed as scrubs, yet we’re supposed to cheer for them when they stand up for WWE during the same show?
WWE Champion Drew McIntyre vs. Keith Lee in a non-title match: A repeat match from last week with the Randy Orton interference finish that I actually expected the first time around. The McIntyre vs. Orton feud has cooled off. Orton has lost to McIntyre and Lee recently, and it didn’t help Orton when McIntyre took him with three Claymore Kicks in one night. Perhaps the biggest thing working against McIntyre and Orton for me was the announcement that they will meet in an Ambulance Match rather than a traditional match. The Ambulance Match will probably conclude with a finish that protects the loser in some way so that they can book a Hell in a Cell match as the blowoff to the feud, but there’s just something that feels underwhelming about an Ambulance Match compared to a standard match for this viewer.
Zelina Vega vs. Mickie James for a shot at the Raw Women’s Championship: Vega went from being a manager who rarely wrestled to somehow scoring a spot in a No. 1 contenders match. Why are they rushing through everything in the Raw women’s division?
WWE Women’s Tag Champions Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax vs. Natalya and Lana in a non-title match: Lana has been put through a table twice since her husband stated that Vince McMahon can kiss his ass. Coincidence? Um, sure. Putting that aside, it was hard to look at Riott Squad as credible challengers when they seemed to be backing away in fear of the tag champions.
Raw Women’s Champion Asuka vs. Peyton Royce in a non-title match: The match seemed designed to set up Royce for a future title shot since Asuka was unable to put her away before Zelina Vega interfered. The creative forces raced through Asuka’s feud with Mickie James so they could rush into her match with Vega at the pay-per-view. There’s zero mystery regarding the outcome when they set up Royce as Asuka’s next challenger on the go-home show. Creative is burning through Asuka’s potential challengers. With Shayna Baszler tied up with a tag title belt, there are no compelling opponents for Asuka in waiting.
Cedric Alexander vs. Apollo Crews: More of an in the middle than a Hit or a Miss. It seemed like a last minute attempt to put over Crews heading into his rematch with Bobby Lashley for the U.S. Championship. But then they followed up the match by having Lashley put Crews in the Full Nelson again. It’s the same move that Crews submitted to when he lost the title to Lashley, and the same move that they previously cited as the storyline reason for Crews’s long absence. If they really wanted to make viewers care about the match, why not show Crews actually escaping the hold to make it seem like he has a fighting chance on Sunday instead of showing us that nothing has changed?