By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair for the Raw Women’s Championship: I never would have guessed that WWE would actually follow through with this match in the opening segment. With no other matches advertised, I had the opening segment pegged as an angle that would push the match back to later in the night. And while they really should be advertising more in advance, it was a pleasant surprise that they followed through with the match and delivered a good finish. It wasn’t a clean ending and nor should it have been unless they were going to put over Belair for some reason. The finish they went with was intended to put some heat on Lynch while giving Belair an out for losing. The attempts to get the fans to boo Lynch haven’t worked thus far and there’s only so many times they can book Belair to lose without it damaging her regardless of the built in excuses. Still, the match delivered and got the show off to a strong start.
WWE Champion Big E vs. Kevin Owens in a non-title match: A good main event with some quality storytelling. Owens trying to steal the pin after Seth Rollins took a cheap shot at Big E was a nice touch. I didn’t have an issue with Big E hitting the Big Ending on Owens afterward. A common complaint is that it made Big E look heelish, but I just didn’t see it that way. E was quick to tell Owens afterward that he knows exactly who he is. In other words, he wasn’t buying the Owens’ apology. This is an upgrade over WWE’s usual approach of making the babyfaces look like gullible morons. Whether Owens is staying or leaving once his contract expires (and I liked his look into the camera acknowledgement of the situation), a heel turn and a feud with Big E would be a lot of fun. As much as I would enjoy a Rollins and Owens alliance, I suspect we may end up getting a Triple Threat with every man for himself. Either way, this was a good night for Rollins in that his character clicked more than usual.
Rey Mysterio vs. Austin Theory: This wasn’t just a lazy DQ finish. It was actually very creative to have Dom slap Theory from the floor, which caused his father to be disqualified right when it appeared as if he was going to win. Theory antagonized Dom enough during the match that Dom has plausible deniability for going after him, and it also adds to the growing tension between father and son.
U.S. Champion Damian Priest vs. T-Bar in a non-title, No DQ match: It was nice to see T-Bar unleashed (at least by WWE main roster standards), but they absolutely must pull the plug on his gimmick and just pretend like Retribution never happened. Priest showed off his mean streak again this week and it’s good to see them add a layer to his character.
The Street Profits vs. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler: This was a potential turning point match for Roode and Ziggler. Had they followed up last week’s loss to Randy Orton and Riddle with another loss to the Profits, it would have cemented them as a pushover tag team. And they may still end up in that position, but this win kept them feeling at least semi-relevant for now.
Finn Balor vs. Chad Gable: The in-ring work put this in the Hit section, but Gable should mean so much more than he does. He’s in a better place than he was as Shorty G, but it’s still a shame to see someone so talented positioned as a wrestler who only wins if he benefits from outside interference or a distraction from Otis. We’ve only had two shows since the rosters were locked down, but I’m already getting the feeling that creative isn’t really sure what to do with Balor.
Overall show: The first hour and change of Raw was really good. And while WWE couldn’t maintain that quality for the full three hours, this was a much better show than usual. The Raw roster is deeper than the Smackdown roster coming out of the draft. And while I worry about a dip in quality for the Friday night show, I am optimistic for the first in a long time that the potential is there for Raw to become a consistently entertaining show rather than the three-hour train wreck it was for the better part of the year leading up to the draft. It’s especially encouraging that WWE produced a quality episode on Monday without using Bobby Lashley, Edge, AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, Bearcat Lee, or Karrion Kross. Furthermore, I am looking forward to seeing what they have in mind for Veer Mahaan and Tegan Nox.
WWE Raw Misses
WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Rhea Ripley and Nikki ASH vs. Zelina Vega and Carmella in a non-title match: The match was fine and the heel duo going over to put themselves in line for a title shot was logical. But they have to get Ripley out of this tag team. The ASH gimmick is undercard kiddie fodder. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but Ripley should clearly be doing bigger and better things.
WWE 24/7 Title: It’s the same thing every week. Have some fun with this silly title or, better yet, just put it out of its misery already.