By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Charlotte Flair vs. Nikki ASH for the Raw Women’s Championship: Why the hell not? I don’t expect ASH’s superhero gimmick to have much staying power and it’s not a favorite of mine, but it seems like they are trying to get as much out of it as they can while they can. The Flair vs. Rhea Ripley rematch was forgettable compared to their fantastic pay-per-view match the night before. The post match angle felt rushed in that Ripley merely ran Flair into the ring post and performed her finisher at ringside before rolling her back inside the ring for ASH. This wasn’t perfect, but it did end the show on feel good note.
John Cena opening segment: A good crowd pleasing promo to open the night. I could have done without his insider lingo, but he didn’t show any signs of promo rust despite the long layoff. The brief interaction with Riddle afterward gave Riddle a little rub, and I assume we’ll be seeing Cena do more of that for others since he’s going to be on nearly every Raw and Smackdown leading into SummerSlam.
Goldberg and Bobby Lashley: This SummerSlam feud doesn’t do much for me, but there’s no denying that Goldberg’s return was well received by the Dallas live crowd. While some fans will worry that Goldberg is going to beat Lashley because he beat The Fiend last year, it’s worth pointing out that the only other match that Goldberg has won dating back to before WrestleMania in 2017 is a 2019 SummerSlam match against Dolph Ziggler. Of course, this makes it silly that his character can show up for the first time since January and get a big show title match, but it’s not like storyline logic seems to be a real priority for WWE these days.
U.S. Champion Sheamus vs. Humberto Carrillo in a Championship Contenders Match: The feud is starting to overstay its welcome, but the camera shots of Damian Priest watching the match on a backstage monitor shows that they are on the verge of moving on. I like the idea of Sheamus using his face shield mask as a weapon even if Carrillo did look foolish for punching it. Has “non-title match” been added to Vince McMahon’s oddball list of banned terms?
Riddle and The Viking Raiders vs. AJ Styles, Omos, and John Morrison: A good six-man tag opening match. I’m not sure how the Viking Raiders pinning Morrison was enough to warrant a Raw Tag Title rematch next week, but the tag teams had a better than expected match at Money in the Bank and hopefully the rematch can top it. By the way, where is Randy Orton and will he be back to team with Riddle to challenge for the tag titles at SummerSlam?
WWE Raw Misses
Overall Show: A massive disappointment. The fun started with AEW’s recent return to the road and was followed by fans returning for the ROH and Impact pay-per-views, as well as a hot edition of Smackdown and the enjoyable Money in the Bank pay-per-view. I had my doubts that Raw would turn things around long term because they’ve never shown the ability to consistently fill the three hours in a compelling manner, but I thought the company could at least put together a hot show for the first night with fans back in the building.
NXT Champion Karrion Kross vs. Jeff Hardy: This was awful on so many levels. I’m all for WWE doing more with Hardy, but they’ve booked him to lose to damn near everyone this year. It’s so bad that he actually lot to Veer in a WWE Main Event match earlier this month. Meanwhile, Kross arrived as the unbeaten NXT Champion (and without Scarlett for some strange reason) and then lost to Hardy in less than two minutes. The fact that it was a leverage pin was no consolation. I don’t care where this is going, it made for a terrible debut for Kross while also making NXT look like a joke. This happened on the same night that WWE stopped counting Charlotte Flair’s NXT Women’s Championship reigns as part of her official title count. Does someone need to remind Vince McMahon that he owns NXT and it’s not a rival promotion?
Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal, Veer, and Shanky: Fans finally return and McIntyre doesn’t get a second of mic time. Rather, he beat the hell out of poor Shanky with a chair to the extent that I actually felt sorry for Shanky during the first wave of chair shots and then watched on in horror while he took twenty more. McIntyre was the Raw MVP during the pandemic era and he deserves better than this mid-card feud. Mahal is his buddy and I’m sure they will try hard to make it work, but it still feels like a big step down for the guy who was the face of the brand.
WWE Champion Bobby Lashley vs. Keith Lee in a Championship Contenders Match: A disappointing match and a lousy return from a long layoff for Lee. It’s hard not to wonder what the future holds for Lee in terms of his status with the company after seeing him lose clean in his return match while Corey Graves lit him up on commentary. The sad part is that Graves calling him out for not working with a sense of urgency felt like an accurate assessment of what was happening in the ring. Lee is a gifted performer and while it’s nice to see him back, it’s sad to see his main roster run going so poorly.
Alexa Bliss, Eva Marie, and Doudrop: A lousy segment that featured the return of Lily the possessed doll. I have no doubt that they will sell a lot of those dolls even if a fair amount of them will be used as gag gifts. But the Money in the Bank match is still fresh in my mind and it was telling that the live crowd cheered for everything Bliss did aside from whenever she teased using her hocus pocus powers.
WWE Women’s Tag Champions Natalya and Tamina vs. Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax in a non-title match: I don’t know if Natalya and Tamina are babyfaces or heels anymore. They were booed heavily at Money in the Bank, yet they turned around and worked this match against another heel duo. The best thing about the segment was Jax ditching Reginald. I couldn’t care less about the WWE 24/7 Championship, which makes it the perfect division for quirky Reginald.
Jaxson Ryker vs. Elias in a Symphony of Destruction match: A soft Miss for a match where both wrestlers worked hard. I got a kick out of the previous Symphony of Destruction matches, but it seems like we’ve already reached the point where it feels like if you’ve seen one these matches then you’ve seen them all. The Symphony of Destruction match is still good for getting a rise out of the live crowd, but it’s losing its charm from my spot on the couch.