By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Finn Balor vs. Karl Anderson: The Dominik Mysterio promo that preceded the match was a blast. The actual match was well worked and built to a really fun sequence with all of the respective stable mates getting involved. Rhea Ripley body slamming Luke Gallows was the most memorable moment of the night. I also enjoyed the way Balor stole the win with help from Ripley and then acted like he was so out of it that he had to be carried to the back by Dom and Damian Priest. The OC teasing the idea of bringing in a woman to help with their Ripley problem was intriguing. Their WWE characters don’t have any connections to female wrestlers that I can recall, so it will be interesting to see who joins or at least helps out the club. I would get a big kick out of ODB being introduced in this spot, but she doesn’t have any main roster WWE history and I’m guessing they will end up going with someone who already works for the company.
Austin Theory vs. Mustafa Ali: An entertaining match with fun Seth Rollins commentary. Theory wins the cosmetic award of the night for growing a beard that makes him look more rugged and less like a punk kid. As much as I’m pulling for Ali to get over, his mic work since returning has come off a bit petulant to the point that I thought he was going to be a heel when he returned and challenged Bobby Lashley. Ali showed that he can be a really good babyface in those homemade style video packages. Perhaps it’s time to revisit that approach.
The Miz vs. R-Truth: A soft Hit for the good dumb fun R-Truth segment. It’s not something I need to see weekly, but the occasional R-Truth comedy skit is good for a few laughs. Best of all, there was no mention of the WWE 24/7 Championship, so hopefully they’re just letting that awful title fade away. Is it wrong that I’m looking at flight costs because I want to try Carolina Mac & Cheese?
Omos faces four men in a handicap match: A soft Hit for the formula approach of building up Omos as he heads into his battle of the big men match with Braun Strowman. MVP is doing really good job of carrying the mic work for both men.
WWE Raw Misses
Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair vs. Bayley in a non-title match: As much as they tried to make this match feel like a big main event, the fact that it was a non-title match really worked against that. I get it, they wanted to give Bayley a win to prolong the feud. Unfortunately, Bayley’s character continues to feel ice cold. She just hasn’t been as fun as she was during her pre-injury heel run, and too many of her promos have included generic “insult the host city” jabs. On the bright side, the return of Nikki Cross was encouraging and hopefully we’ll see a repackaged Piper Niven again soon minus the horrific Doudrop name. Cross attacking Belair and Bayley seems to suggest that creative is setting up a three-way program rather than moving forward with the disappointing Belair vs. Bayley singles feud. The only thing I didn’t care for about Cross’s return was Kevin Patrick having to act obvious regarding her background. The new play-by-play voice should be building credibility with viewers by seeming knowledgeable, not coming off like he never bothered to watch NXT.
Baron Corbin vs. Johnny Gargano: This is the second week that JBL has provided a strong buildup only for Corbin lose me the moment walks out smiling and wearing a hat that feels like a holdover from his Happy Corbin run. The tone that JBL sets seems to call for a meaner and more aggressive Corbin than what we’ve seen over the last two weeks. The only improvement this week was that Corbin’s black ring gear looked much better than the gear he wore the week before. Meanwhile, Gargano carried a whistle, joked around with R-Truth, danced while wearing JBL’s hat, and scolded Miz for not including money in his “get well” card for Candice LeRae. I don’t mind Gargano temporarily talking for Dexter Lumis given that their characters have NXT history, but it feels like the Gargano character is too lighthearted. Gargano listed some big goals during his mission statement promo and yet it already feels like he’s clowning around in the mid-card rather than working his way toward something bigger.
Chad Gable vs. Elias: Elias feels really flat and they need to get Matt Riddle away from him. If Elias is turning, then perhaps they can get a month out of him feuding with Riddle, but I have no interest in seeing the two of them bond over music. The bong joke was cute last week, but it was a groaner when Riddle used the same line again this week. And paying homage to Happy Gilmore is cool, but outright stealing a line from the movie was weak. Worst of all, can anyone explain why Gable is still stuck in the mode of being the match loser who makes his opponents look good? Gable has a ton of upside either as a singles wrestler or even with a renewed push for his tag team with Otis. The fact that Paul Levesque has taken over creative and Elias is getting a bigger push than Gable is puzzling.