By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Randy Orton and Riddle: Their segments were the only thing that really made Raw feel slightly better than usual. The fans are genuinely invested in seeing the odd couple work together, and the creative forces took a clever approach of making the fans wait a week to get the payoff of Orton agreeing to team with Riddle again. Ideally, they would have more time to stretch this out, but Orton returning so close to SummerSlam didn’t leave them with much time. The Orton vs. AJ Styles main event was fine and the finish was solid, but the real story of the show was the Orton and Riddle relationship.
Drew McIntyre vs. Baron Corbin: If nothing else, we were given a needed break from McIntyre working with Jinder Mahal and his henchmen. The Corbin gimmick continues to grow on me, and the creative forces are doing a nice job of making sure that he doesn’t become so sympathetic that fans start to pity him by having him beg babyfaces for the absurd sum of $100,000. Meanwhile, McIntyre’s sword gimmick is a groaner. It’s nice that he named the sword after his mother and all, but the gimmick just feels silly and unnecessary, and it’s hurting him and the heels he’s working with. As if fans didn’t have a hard enough time taking Jinder and his cronies seriously, watching them run away in fear of the possibility that McIntyre will slice and dice them on live television is making them look terrible. I can’t imagine there’s even a single viewer who believes that McIntyre is going to actually cut them with the sword, so the heels look like cartoonish morons for running away from him.
U.S. Champion Sheamus vs. Ricochet in a non-title match: A well worked match with a finish that further established Sheamus’s face shield as a weapon. It feels like Ricochet is being somewhat protected when he loses matches these days, so hopefully he won’t slip back into the abyss of talent that disappears from Raw for weeks at a time. By the way, did WWE already give up on the terrible “Championship Contenders Match” slogan for non-title matches?
NXT Champion Karrion Kross vs. Jeff Hardy in a non-title match: Kross never should have lost to Hardy or Keith Lee so early in his main roster run, especially while still holding the NXT Championship. There was speculation that he would go on a losing streak until Scarlett joined him on the main roster, but that doesn’t seem to be in play either. While this win over Hardy doesn’t undo all of the damage done to Kross or his NXT Takeover 36 main event with Samoa Joe, at least it was a step in the right direction.
Elias teases a change: It’s a risky move in that Elias’s wannabe musician gimmick gets good reactions from live crowds who see it in person once or twice a year. However, the one-dimensional gimmick has more than run its course as a television character. So while there’s no telling whether I will like what comes next for the character, I am wide open to the idea of Elias shaking up his act. It’s worked for Baron Corbin coming out of his tiresome cliche royalty act, so hopefully they have something good in mind for Elias.
WWE Raw Misses
Alexa Bliss vs. Doudrop: The winking Lilly finish must have been so confusing for fans in the building who weren’t watching the video screen. Meanwhile, it was just plain stupid for many of us who were watching at home on television. The Lilly silliness has its share of vocal defenders, but I continue to believe that they are far outnumbered by fans who are simply rolling their eyes at this nonsense. Meanwhile, it would be nice if creative would pick a direction for Doudrop. It’s still hard to tell whether they want fans to like her or dislike her.
Mustafa Ali vs. T-Bar: Speaking of picking directions, Ali begrudgingly agreed to team with Mansoor once, but they’ve been aligned ever since then without any explanation. The match was fine for a WWE television match, but it was hard not to think of how much better this would have been if these two were given more time, turned loose, and Dominik Dijakovic wasn’t stuck playing a bad character held over from the failed Retribution faction.
Damian Priest vs. John Morrison: What does Priest have to do to get away from The Miz and Morrison? It’s great that Priest will be challenging Sheamus for the U.S. Championship at SummerSlam, but even if he wins I’m worried he’ll be stuck defending against the drip stick comedy duo. And keep in mind that this is coming from someone who has defended Miz many times over the years and has always felt like Morrison could be a meaningful player if he just abandoned the silly comedy schtick.
Raw Women’s Champion Nikki ASH vs. Rhea Ripley in a non-title match match: The match was fine until the lazy finish with Charlotte Flair attacking both women. The creative team should be planning ahead by building up meaningful heels for Ripley to work with once the feud with Flair runs its course. ASH can get by working with characters like Doudrop and Eva Marie, but Ripley needs something bigger.