By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Drew McIntyre vs. Kevin Owens: The highlight of the night. The verbal exchange between the two was compelling as both men went with a similar theme of trying establish themselves as being real. The actual match was the best of the show and the DQ finish was perfectly logical. McIntyre couldn’t lose before his Clash at the Castle title match, and there was no reason for Owens to lose when he’s being rebuilt in his Prizefighter persona. It was so refreshing that Corey Graves actually told viewers that McIntyre won by disqualification. I hope I never have to use the words “apparent no-contest” or “apparent disqualification” again.
Bobby Lashley vs. AJ Styles for the U.S. Title: The presentation of this match was terrific. The production team did a really nice job with the brief video package that helped make this title match stand out as special. It should feel meaningful whenever a title match is defended and not just like every other match on the show. The actual match had a couple of awkward moments and yet it also felt pay-per-view worthy in that it was a first-time match involving two high end talents. It was interesting that Miz and Ciampa came out and didn’t factor into anything. I assume that Dexter Lumis popped up when he did because he is after one of them, though I can’t rule out that it’s a swerve and he is actually targeting AJ Styles.
Seth Rollins and Riddle: Rollins did a really nice job of setting the table for Riddle to announce that he’s been medically cleared. Riddle was still a lovable stoner, but his tone has taken a more serious turn. I can’t rule out that he’s taking this approach due to the tone of the feud, but I’m hopeful that it’s a change that will stick because he seems like more of a singles star rather than a Randy Orton fanboy.
Alexa Bliss and Asuka vs. Doudrop and Nikki ASH in a WWE Women’s Tag Title tournament match: This was the best of the three tournament matches to date. Bliss looks lost carrying the silly doll with her, but she and Asuka are a solid makeshift team. It was encouraging to see ASH ditch the cape, but hopefully the gimmick overhaul continues and carries over to Piper Niven dropping the ridiculous Doudrop name.
Dakota Kai vs. Dana Brooke: A quick and painless showcase win for Kai. Brooke seems to be the only wrestler who has any interest in the WWE 24/7 Championship since the creative shakeup. That’s an observation, not a complaint, as I couldn’t care less about the worthless comedy division.
Veer Mahaan vs. Beaux Keller: A soft Hit. This was a return to form for Mahaan in that he picked up a squash win and didn’t show any of the quirkiness that he seemed to develop during Vince McMahon’s final weeks as head of creative. The jury is still out on whether Mahaan will click as a monster heel, but I’m more interested in seeing him try than I ever would be in seeing him become another silly sports entertainment comedy figure.
WWE Raw Misses
Theory vs. Dolph Ziggler: A Hit from a match quality standpoint, but this felt completely out of place in the main event slot, much like AJ Styles vs. The Miz didn’t feel like a good Raw main event last week. Both matches conveniently developed within the course of the show, which is a disappointing creative carryover from the former boss. In this case, a trimmed down version of Theory vs. Ziggler would have been perfectly acceptable had it been slotted elsewhere on the show. As much as I wish the third hour of Raw didn’t exist, it’s not going away, so I don’t understand why they seem to be throwing in the towel after whatever match opens the final hour.
The Miz and Ciampa vs. Mustafa Ali and Cedric Alexander: The crowd was slow to invest in the match, which is understandable considering how beaten down the Ali and Alexander characters are. The fans did pep up as the match went on and it turned out to be mildly entertaining, but I still don’t feel like Miz and Ciampa have any chemistry together and I’m anxious to see them go separate ways. Kudos again the production team. In this case, it appeared from the live shot that the timing was off then Ciampa tried to hit Ali in midair with a knee strike, but they did a great job of disguising it by going with slow motion during the replay and then switching to normal speed right when they got to that point.