By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston for a shot at the WWE Championship: A strong match with a cheap finish designed to set up next week’s rematch. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but it struck me as odd that the stipulation for next week’s match is that Bobby Lashley and MVP will be suspended without pay for thirty days if they interfere. I’m surprised there wasn’t an added stipulation that Lashley would actually be stripped of the championship. My official guess is that we get a no nonsense match between McIntyre and Kingston next week, but I can’t rule out the possibility that they intend to write out MVP temporarily so that he can undergo surgery on his injured knee. Either way, McIntyre vs. Kingston was highly entertaining and I am looking forward to their rematch.
Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka: Another very good match between Flair and Asuka. Is there a roster shakeup coming? If not, I don’t understand why WWE keeps giving away Flair vs. Asuka matches without much fanfare. As much as I enjoy watching their matches, it’s a rivalry that should be protected by saving their matches for key pay-per-view showdowns rather than just put out there to fill television time.
Riddle vs. Xavier Woods: A strong television match. Both wrestlers worked hard and I really liked the intriguing finish with Riddle using the RKO to get the win. It’s a compelling development in his relationship with Orton, as we’re left to wonder whether Riddle is breaking bad or if Orton is going to take issue with his partner using his legendary finishing move.
Shelton Benjamin vs. Cedric Alexander: This wasn’t as good as their previous match, but Benjamin and Alexander work well together and I like the new “Prime” name for Alexander. As much as I knew that Alexander talking about the good run they had together was a set-up for him talking trash about Benjamin, I really wish these characters would be scripted to reunite as a tag team and return to the Hurt Business. I still don’t understand the logic behind splitting them up and removing them from the faction.
U.S. Champion Sheamus vs. Humberto Carrillo in a non-title match: Will Sheamus ever defend his championship? He’s having very good non-title matches, but this gimmick where he refuses to defend the title in open challenges is starting to feel a little flat. Still, I like that he’s working with Carrillo and now Ricochet. Sheamus spent a lot of years in mid-card purgatory and it’s been great to see him escape that slot and earn a more meaningful role.
Overall show: Raw has shown some signs of improvement over the last few weeks. They have done a better job of filling the three hours and we’re starting to see some different wrestlers spotlighted, albeit in undercard positions. Last night’s show was unique in that I can’t recall a show in recent memory where we’ve seen less of the backstage interviewers. Rather, the show featured longer matches and some brief promos about WWE going back on the road. While Jeff Hardy’s promo about returning to the road was the only one that felt energetic, WWE is doing a very nice job of making their return to the road feel like the major happening that it is.
WWE Raw Misses
Natalya and Tamina vs. Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles: WWE delivered a straight forward pro wrestling show until they went with the implied Lily finish in the main event. It’s bad enough that Baszler and Jax were never booked to be the dominant champions that the broadcast team constantly claimed while ignoring their repeated singles match losses. But now what should be a battle of powerhouse teams is being overshadowed by a doll with magical powers. Seriously?
Raw Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley vs. Nikki Cross in a non-title two-minute challenge: This felt like a no-win situation. While I’m happy that they didn’t have Ripley destroy the underutilized Cross in less than two minutes, Ripley is clearly the higher priority at the moment, and booking her to forget about the time made her look foolish. Is there character development coming for Ripley or will she just continue to be scripted to smirk her way through everything? Meanwhile, Cross has a likable personality and is good in the ring. It’s time to do more with her, and having her survive two minutes isn’t nearly enough.
AJ Styles vs. Jaxson Ryker: The heel duo of Styles and Omos continue to work with fellow heels Ryker and Elias. It’s probably a good idea to turn Styles and Omos since they are likely to be cheered when fans return, but an actual turn would be nice. Instead, we’re getting what comes off as confusing heel vs. heel matches.