By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Johnny Gargano and Theory: The story of Gargano staying with WWE is pretty cool. Had he not taken time away from pro wrestling due to the birth of his son, I suspect that Gargano would have ended up signing with AEW. After all, he did everything there was to do in NXT, and the odds of Vince McMahon really getting behind someone his size seemed minimal at best. Paul Levesque taking over as the head of WWE creative was a game changer. Levesque knows what he has in the versatile Gargano and has shown the ability to get the most out of him. Gargano set the table nicely by laying out the titles and WrestleMania appearance that he grew up dreaming about, and the fans should be invested as he sets out to achieve those dreams. I was actually hoping that Gargano and Ciampa would reunite to give the tag team division a big boost. Maybe they’ll get back together again someday. But the angle with Theory came off really well. This has the potential to be an excellent feud if the creative forces can simply stick with the basic acknowledgement of the history of The Way and avoid making the larger audience who didn’t watch NXT feel late to the party.
Kevin Owens vs. Chad Gable: The best match of the night. Unfortunately, it was the third lengthy match with an abundance of near falls, so I was feeling a bit numb to the near falls by the time this match took place. Even so, both wrestlers came through with top notch performances. It will be interesting to see if Owens worked as a babyface because Raw was in Canada or if he’s sliding into a babyface or perhaps a “take on all comers” role. Here’s hoping that the new creative forces can heat up Gable either as a singles act or as part of the Alpha Academy tag team. Is Alpha Academy becoming a faction now that Gable dropped the line about adding new students?
Edge vs. Damian Priest: A match that exceeded my expectations. The adoration that the Toronto fans had for hometown hero Edge gave the match a big boost. Still, Edge and Priest worked hard and the match felt like it belonged in the main event segment, unlike the two previous shows where it felt like WWE was throwing in the towel on the third hour. The company took a much different approach this week with this match and Johnny Gargano’s surprise return both taking place in hour three. Will it pay off in the ratings today?
Finn Balor vs. Dolph Ziggler: A good match with a really bad finish. Ziggler putting himself in position and then watching and waiting for Rhea Ripley to punch him looked really bad. Fortunately, the body of the match was entertaining and the live crowd seemed to buy into the possibility of Ziggler pulling off the upset.
Bobby Lashley and AJ Styles vs. The Miz and Ciampa: The feud continues between the makeshift babyface tag team and their heel opponents who still possess no on-air chemistry. I enjoy Miz and Ciampa individually, but I can’t wait for them to go separate ways. The teams put together a solid match before the ringside commotion that started with a swerve in the form of a hooded man grabbing Styles, which set up Dexter Lumis pulling Miz over the barricade and into the concourse area. You’d think there would be a little more concern for Miz’s well being after he was abducted on worldwide television, but the show just sort of moved on as if kidnapping is just something that happens in pro wrestling. Sadly, I guess it is. My guess is that the man who grabbed Styles was simply there for swerve purposes, but it could be fun if Lumis has a disciple. And as much as I hoped for a darker heel version of Lumis, if they’re going to move forward with a comedic babyface Lumis similar to the role he played in NXT, then Miz is a good choice for his first feud.
WWE Raw Misses
Alexa Bliss and Asuka vs. Iyo Sky and Dakota Kai in a WWE Women’s Tag Title tournament match: A needlessly long match between a cold babyface team and the new pairing of Sky and Kai. Asuka really needed a character overhaul when she returned from a long layoff, and I’m not even sure what Bliss’s character is at this point. I don’t care how many Lilly dolls the company sells, the demented doll isn’t doing Bliss’s character any favors. On the bright side, the match finish was creative with Asuka putting Kai in the Asuka Lock, not realizing that a tag had been made, which led to Sky rolling her up for the win. I just wish that finish had occurred about eight minutes sooner.
Bayley vs. Aliyah: The Toronto crowd didn’t rally behind hometown gal Aliyah, and this turned out to be the most forgettable match of the night. It was a down night for the women’s division. Even the early verbal segment between Trish Stratus and Bayley’s crew was clunky. Bayley delivered some great mic work prior to her long layoff for ACL surgery. And while she wasn’t the only problem with this verbal exchange, it doesn’t seem like she’s rediscovered the magic on the mic since she returned. Is she just knocking off the rust or is she struggling to adapt now that things are not as heavily scripted as they once were?