By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Bobby Lashley vs. Ciampa for the U.S. Title: The creative forces did a wonderful job of setting the table in a way that made it seem like Ciampa was going to win the match. Paul Levesque is obviously well aware of the fan perception that Ciampa is one of his guys going back to NXT. Furthermore, Ciampa’s speech about Harley Race and then wearing the late legend’s robe to the ring along with his own red, white, and blue gear all seemed to point to a Ciampa win. This made Ciampa’s strong near falls even more believable, and ultimately made Lashley’s win feel far more surprising than anyone would have expected it to be had this match taken place a few weeks ago. On a side note, Johnny Gargano Watch 2022 continues.
Kevin Owens vs. Ezekiel: Owens carried his feud with Ezekiel and got more out of it than anyone could have possibly expected. But the feud ran its course, so it was alarming to see this match advertised. But they played it perfectly with the dominant and destructive Owens returning and looking downright sociopathic while surveying the damage that he did to Ezekiel. I’m not sure what comes next for Ezekiel/Elias, but I’m happy that Owens appears to be moving on to bigger and better things.
Bayley, Iyo Sky, and Dakota Kai feuding with Bianca Belair, Asuka, and Alexa Bliss: Bayley’s heeling on the crowd during her opening promo was well done. Belair starting the big brawl by punching Bayley was a cool moment for her character. Bliss and Asuka still feel cold as characters, so hopefully something happens along the way to give them boosts.
Seth Rollins vs. Angelo Dawkins: Rollins swept the Street Profits in singles matches over the last two weeks. Dawkins and Montez Ford both had good outings with Rollins, who is basically killing time until they heat up his feud with Riddle again starting next week. I’m still curious to see if Ford and Dawkins are splitting up, if this is leading to them getting one final shot at the tag titles, or perhaps both.
Finn Balor vs. Rey Mysterio: Another quality match, and I found myself more interested in the Dominik Mysterio character than usual. Dom shoving an apologetic Edge and then storming off was compelling. Rhea Ripley carrying out a bloody Dom to distract his father served as a rare distraction finish that didn’t feel lazy and predictable. I wonder if the the story is that Dom took a beating as an initiation into The Judgment Day faction.
AJ Styles vs. The Miz in a No DQ match: A well worked match that simply felt out of place in the main event segment. Miz loses to damn near everyone, and Styles has been spinning his wheels for far too long. I also wasn’t a fan of the match developing in a contrived manner within the show and magically becoming the main event. This approach was overused by the previous creative regime and it was disappointing to see it occur this early into the Pau Levesque era. On the bright side, the backstage scenes with the damaged car in the background followed by police running through an interview area and then Dexter Lumis being dragged off at the end of the show was all interesting. I actually missed two out of the three while attempting to keep up with live coverage, but I’m all for some semblance of subtlety returning to WWE storytelling.
WWE Raw Misses
Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky vs. Dana Brooke and Tamina in a WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship tournament first-round match: This was the strangest match of the night in that it felt like it should have been a brief showcase for the Kai and Sky team. Rather, it came off like they were trying to protect Brooke and Tamina for no good reason. Or perhaps they thought a competitive match would get the tournament off to a good start. Whatever the intent, they protected a team that probably won’t even be a team going forward, and the match was actually a disappointing start to the tournament.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Chad Gable: A Hit worthy match strictly from a match quality standpoint. Both characters feel cold. The latest attempt to make Ziggler mean something is a big uphill battle because he’s been beaten down so badly over the years and nothing really changes about his presentation to send the message that he’s new and fresh. Sure, this match took place in hour three, but most live crowds would come to life for a hometown wrestler far more than the Cleveland crowd got behind Ziggler. Meanwhile, it feels like the creative forces could flip the switch on Gable (with or without Otis) and he’s talented enough in the ring and on the mic that viewers would accept him in a bigger role.
Omos vs. Andrea Guercio and Spencer Slade in a handicap match: More of the same. At this point, it feels like Omos would be best utilized as a part-time attraction than as a weekly on-air character.