By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Bobby Lashley vs. Seth Rollins for the U.S. Championship: Brock Lesnar attacking Lashley prior to the match felt like it came out of nowhere and that works for the destructive Lesnar character. Rollins goading Lashley into following through with their scheduled match despite being injured by calling him a disgrace to his country and the championship was well done. The actual match was brief and yet highly entertaining. The near falls in the opening seconds were both believable, and Lashley’s character got to show heart by surviving the early attack and even mounting a comeback despite essentially working with one arm. The new creative regime has done an excellent job of making the secondary singles titles feel important. There was a time not all that long ago that Rollins winning the U.S. Title would have felt beneath him, but that’s no longer the case.
Matt Riddle vs. Sami Zayn: A good main event with top notch storytelling. Jey tried to interfere twice, but Sami Zayn made it clear that he wanted to win the match without help. This ran counter to Roman Reigns telling Jey to make sure that the Honorary Uce won the match. So while Jey did what Sami told him, he’ll clearly be in trouble for not following Roman’s marching orders. On a side note, the crowd reactions to Riddle are fading. Riddle is still over and working with the beloved Zayn will split the crowd to some extent, but hopefully the creative forces have a plan to heat him up again.
Johnny Gargano vs. Austin Theory: The big issue with the early shows under Paul Levesque was that it felt like the goal was to protect everyone. There were too many distraction or interference finishes that felt like copouts. That wasn’t an issue this week. It actually would have been understandable if they avoided having a clean finish. It’s early in the feud and both men need wins, so it was a pleasant surprise when Gargano actually scored a clean pin over his former underling in The Way.
Rey Mysterio vs. Chad Gable: A good match and another clean finish. That said, I’m anxious for Gable to start winning matches and be booked as more than an undercard stepping stone regardless of whether that’s as a singles act or in the tag team with Otis. The real fun began after the match with Dominik Mysterio once again begging his father to hit him and then slapping Rey when he wouldn’t comply. Rey did an amazing job of showing emotion in footage they aired after the commercial break that showed him crying at ringside. The heat on Dom is off the charts and it should be a huge moment when Rey finally breaks down and chooses to face his son.
Bayley vs. Candice LeRae: Not only did this match have a clean finish, it was also an upset finish with LeRae pinning Bayley. I’m not sure what story they are telling with Bayley at the moment. She lost to Bianca Belair at Extreme Rules and then took the clean pin in this match, yet they seem to be working toward Bayley getting a rematch with Belair. If that is the direction, then I assume that Bayley will get this win back.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson help AJ Styles: Where is WWE finding the money for all of these returning wrestlers they once cut for budget reasons?!? Does this mean that Nick Khan wasn’t the mustache twirling villain that a lot of fans made him out to be when WWE made round after round of talent cuts? Anyway, Gallows and Anderson had an underwhelming run the last time they were in WWE. They never went to NXT, so there’s no history with Paul Levesque to look back on when trying to assess how they might be booked under his watch. They obviously give Styles some allies in his feud with Judgment Day for now and then it will be interesting to see how they are used once that feud runs its course.
DX reunion: A soft Hit. The opening segment with Triple H, Shawn Michaels, X-Pac, and Road Dogg in the backstage area was fun sophomoric humor. The in-ring segment was the greatest hits and nothing more, which was a tad underwhelming. At the same time, at least this was a rare case of a booker showing restraint with a segment he was involved in.
WWE Raw Misses
The Miz’s birthday party: Poor Maryse struggled to do her face-plant into the cake. I’m not sure if she was supposed to do a tease spot the first time or if she legitimately tripped. Either way, the actual cake spot looked bad, though I did laugh out loud when she was later shown looking disheveled in the backstage segment. The Miss is actually for the repetitiveness of the Miz and Dexter Lumis saga. It’s time to enter phase two of the feud and move on from the weekly skits that predictably end with Lumis choking out Miz.