By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton: There’s not much left for these two to say, so they wisely kept the dialogue basic and tried to amp up the intensity by having them brawl early in the show and then again during the final segment. Byron Saxton did a nice job on commentary when he said he can’t wait to see their Hell in a Cell match because there’s no telling what they will do to one another. Whether the line was fed to Saxton or he came up with it on his own, he sounded sincere in his delivery.
Seth Rollins vs. Jeff Hardy vs. AJ Styles in a Triple Threat: A well worked match between three elite wrestlers. The finish with Elias attacking Hardy came off well. There’s no live crowd reaction to tip off viewers that someone has shown up at ringside, so it’s legitimately surprising when a wrestler makes a surprise appearance.
Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods vs. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler for the Raw Tag Titles: A good match even if the outcome was never in question. I have no idea why the company structured the show so that the announcement of Roode and Ziggler moving to Smackdown wasn’t saved until after this match took place. Sure, they told us that Roode and Ziggler could take the Raw Tag Titles to Smackdown if they won, but did anyone actually believe that would happen?
WWE Raw Misses
The WWE Draft: The annual draft should be so much better than it is for so many reasons. The WWE Draft was inspired by pro sports drafts, yet Vince McMahon’s lack of interest in pro sports always shines through. There’s no strategy talk. Something as simple as stating that Smackdown passed on a singles wrestler in favor of a tag team because it was a necessary pick after Raw loaded up on tag teams earlier would go a long way. Or perhaps Raw needed to take a female wrestler because they were at risk of having a light women’s division due to Smackdown’s early approach of loading up its women’s division.
The WWE broadcast teams tell us every pick is good or great. This does not happen in sports drafts. There might be a consensus first overall pick, but the bickering usually starts shortly thereafter with the talking heads making their case for why one player should be selected higher than the other. Teams also make questionable decisions in sports drafts. When Ricochet was selected with the first pick of the third round on Friday night, there was no debate as to whether this was a good pick or. reach by the Raw brand. It could have been framed as the people behind the Raw brand being big believers in his upside, but instead it was just another pick that was accepted the broadcast team.
The broadcast team never bothered to ask why Raw would draft The Miz and John Morrison with the final pick in the third round, which turned out to be one pick ahead of when the brand selected Smackdown Tag Team Champions Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods. For that matter, no one questioned why in the world Raw declined to take all three New Day members when they had the option to do so. Should Big E feel snubbed? Had the order of picks been reversed, someone representing Smackdown could have explained that they feel Big E has big upside as a singles wrestler, and they feared he would not reach his potential if he shared a brand with Kingston and Woods. There are so many interesting stories that could be told, but WWE continues to take the laziest approach possible.
Of course, the biggest problem with the draft is that they’ve made it feel pointless by breaking the rules of their brand split. They don’t keep most of the wrestlers away from each other long enough to build interest in first-time matches. Vince McMahon panics when the ratings drop and his first inclination is to create ways to bend the brand split rules with the wildcard rule or the brand to brand invitational. He would be wise to issue a mandate that no one will cross over for a full year. If moves need to be made due to injuries, they can always book trades. Create fresh and intriguing matchups by adhering to the rules of the brand split. And for the love of God, give up on brand supremacy at Survivor Series. These rosters were just assembled and it’s ridiculous to think that the wrestlers would care enough about their brand to fight for bragging rights just over five weeks from now.
Kevin Owens vs. Aleister Black in a No DQ match: This would have been a Hit had this been the blowoff match because Owens and Black ended up on different brands. They work well together, but their feud was hurt from the start by Black being more upset with Owens for not saving him from having his eye damaged than he was with the person who actually damaged his eye. This doesn’t feel like heel logic as much as it simply feels illogical. By moving both wrestlers to Smackdown, I assume they will just pick up their feud about nothing on Friday nights. I enjoy the work of both men, but they both need and deserve better creative.
Elias: I was hopeful that Elias’s time away would lead to a gimmick overhaul. It felt like he got what he could out of the delusional musician gimmick and it was time for a change. And speaking of illogical heels, it was well established that Jeff Hardy was not responsible for the hit and run on Elias months ago on Smackdown, yet Elias refuses to believe it. Does his dopey character also believe the pandemic is a hoax?
Ricochet vs. Cedric Alexander: A well worked match with the Eddie Guerrero finish. Quite frankly, I’m over the Eddie Guerrero finish. I enjoyed the fake chair shot spot when it was done mid-match and simply led to the referee teasing a disqualification. But it makes no sense as an actual finish because we have been told so many times that referees can only call what they actually see. I assume that Ricochet being finished feuding with Hurt Business per the match stipulation simply means that he’ll move into feuding with the Retribution faction. By the way, whatever happened to that Mustafa Ali promo that the company advertised?
Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke vs. Natalya and Lana: Rose and Brooke have shown no chemistry since being paired together. If things don’t improve, hopefully creative will pull the plug on them as a team as quickly as they did with Natalya and Lana.
Andrade vs. Angel Garza: The best thing I can say about this match is that it was nice to see Garza make a quick return from his injury. All that bickering for a throwaway television match? I am holding out hope that the main roster creative team is doing their own take on the Andrade storyline in NXT. Andrade struggled to make an impact in NXT until he aligned with Zelina Vega. Once they were put together, Andrade received a big push that culminated with an NXT Title reign. Here’s hoping that the idea behind their recent split is to have them reunite on Smackdown and for Andrade to get a meaningful push. Andrade is one of the only wrestlers who wasn’t drafted or moved to a brand via free agency, so hopefully they have a story in mind.
Dual Brand Battle Royal for a shot at the Raw Women’s Championship: Just another battle royal where the winner laid low at ringside before eliminating the more deserving entrant. Lana’s win sets up an unappealing title match against Asuka next week. And, of course, we got the obligatory spot with Lana being put through a table for the fourth time since her husband appeared on AEW Dynamite and said Vince McMahon can kiss his ass.