By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Finn Balor in a four-way ladder match for a shot at the WWE Championship: Someone had to become the top challenger Big E. None of these wrestlers were built up on Smackdown in a way to justify putting them in that position, so the ladder match was a decent way to move Rollins into that slot. Owens was the MVP of the match with some downright insane bumps. I like that the finish occurred a few minutes before the top of the hour for a change rather than having the usual convenient ending we get from most pro wrestling main events that just happen to end seconds before the show is scheduled to go off the air.
The Street Profits vs. Chad Gable and Otis vs. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler in a Triple Threat for a future shot at the Raw Tag Titles: I’m not sure what happened to the advertised Randy Orton and Riddle vs. AJ Styles and Omos match, but it seemed odd to make a match we’ve seen so many times the only advertised match for a show billed as a season premiere. Roode and Ziggler going over was fine to set up a television tag title match.
U.S. Champion Damian Priest vs. T-Bar in a non-title match: A decent television win for a Priest with a post match angle designed to establish his mean streak. Are they ever going to pull the plug on the awful T-Bar gimmick and give Dominik Dijakovic a real chance to get over?
Randy Orton and Riddle vs. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler for the Raw Tag Titles: A soft Hit for the highly predictable outcome of RKBro retaining. Roode and Ziggler have been cast as a scrub team way more often than not, so it’s hard to take them seriously unless they actually hold tag titles. Let the record show that this was yet another week where the Riddle comedy missed the mark.
Keith “Bearcat” Lee vs. Cedric Alexander: A decent spotlight win for Lee. Unfortunately, Lee comes off like a guy who is doing what he was coached to do rather than being himself. Are they ever going to explain why he’s adopted the Bearcat nickname? Sure, Bearcat Wright is a Hall of Famer, but what does that have to do with Lee? All of that said, it’s nice to see him being built up for what I assume will be a feud with Big E. Meanwhile, Alexander was a strange choice to put in this position. Any hope that returning to The Hurt Business would lead to Alexander and Shelton Benjamin receiving renewed pushes seem lost at this point.
Austin Theory vs. Dominik Mysterio: A decent spotlight win for Theory. If the plan is for Dom to turn on his father, he can take losses like this because they play into his building frustration.
WWE Raw Misses
Season Premiere: The new faces coming over from Smackdown are nice, but the problem with the show continues to be the stale and formulaic creative approach. Nothing about Raw feels new and fresh. It was the same old show with a slightly different cast of characters.
Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair verbal exchange: If Becky Lynch is a heel, then it’s time for her to start consistently seeking heel heat. As a regular viewer, I get that the idea is that they want viewers to see through her and side with Belair. But the live crowds want to cheer Lynch and she’s not giving them enough incentive to root against her. It was encouraging that WWE advertised the Lynch vs. Belair match a week out. Hopefully that match will be a turning point for the Lynch character to be more overtly heel.
Zelina Vega vs. Doudrop: As a viewer who was happy to see Vega finally get some creative love, I’m already over her cliche royalty gimmick. We’ve seen it all before. Charlotte Flair does a variation of it, and Baron Corbin ran it into the ground during his long reign as King of the Ring. Why can’t the company just use their tournaments to elevate wrestlers rather than turning them into cartoonish king and queen characters that scream mid-card at best?
Liv Morgan vs. Carmella: Carmella’s most beautiful woman in WWE gimmick is solid, but her new diamond mask gimmick isn’t doing anything for me. This feud needs a blowoff match so that both wrestlers can move on.