By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Seth Rollins and Finn Balor: When this feud started, we weren’t far removed from Rollins beating Balor clean in a semifinal tournament match for the World Heavyweight Championship. Balor felt like the third or even fourth person in his own faction and there was no reason to think he would beat Rollins for the title. And while I still don’t believe that Balor will take the title, the creative forces have persistently put heat on Balor throughout the build to his match. Balor was also featured in a strong video package that included some good mic work. I didn’t think it was possible a few weeks ago, but they’ve made me care about this program enough that I am looking forward to their match at Money in the Bank.
Intercontinental Champion Gunther vs. Sami Zayn in a non-title match: The dominant in-ring powerhouse meets the ultimate underdog. These characters mesh perfectly. The match was exactly what it should have been with Gunther looking dominant until Zayn made an excellent comeback down the stretch. I could have done without the finish that had Giovanni Vinci hitting Zayn with a crutch, but that wasn’t enough to ruin the best match of the night.
NXT Champion Carmelo Hayes vs. Finn Balor in a non-title match: I totally understand fans who feel this belongs in the Miss section because the NXT Champion was pinned clean in his debut match on Raw. It was not the ideal introduction of Hayes to main roster viewers and yet the match was laid out so to allow Hayes to perform his signature spots, which got over with the live crowd. I was entertained by the match and Hayes losing one match isn’t going to affect him long term. Still, it’s strange that WWE officials clearly want to beef up NXT’s television ratings while having the developmental brand’s top stars lose to main roster stars. There was no way that Balor was going to lose this match before his title shot at MITB, but they also didn’t have to book these two against one another. It left me wondering if the plan is for Hayes to get his win back in a title defense against Balor, perhaps at the Great American Bash PLE next month.
Ricochet vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: A good television match with the mild upset of Ricochet going over clean. They kept their issues with Bronson Reed alive by getting the better of him before he was ejected from ringside. I assume this is leading to a Triple Threat match, but I wonder if Reed will get involved in the Money in the Bank ladder match on Saturday.
Cody Rhodes vs. Damian Priest: I can’t remember the last time that a Raw main event received such a light push throughout the show. Cody mentioned the match during an early promo, and then said the bare minimum about it when he was asked to comment on either Priest or Dominik Mysterio during a later backstage promo. Priest never received any promo time. It’s odd that they seemed to be teasing a babyface run for Priest and the possibility of JD McDonagh replacing him in Judgment Day. With reports that Vince McMahon has been more involved in the creative process lately, I wonder if there are conflicting views on what to do next with Priest or if something that was planned for him is no longer in play.
Dominik Mysterio vs. Akira Tozawa: A basic match with Tozawa getting the rush of offense before Mysterio took advantage of a distraction caused by Rhea Ripley. This was perfect for Dom in that he looked vulnerable before getting the pin. The Cody and Dom verbal exchange was also well done. They played it really well with Dom landing one more cheap shot, leaving fans anxious to see Cody get his hands on the brat at MITB.
WWE Raw Misses
Ronda Rousey vs. Raquel Rodriguez: A two-minute match that did nothing to sell viewers on the WWE Women’s Tag Team Title match at MITB. It’s a shame that Rousey has been booked in a way that resulted in her losing the big attraction vibe and now feels like just another wrestler in WWE.
Women’s MITB ladder match summit: This served as a reminder of just how cold this match looks on paper. I’m sure the wrestlers involved will go above and beyond during the actual match, but the big hook of Becky Lynch trying to win her first MITB ladder match just isn’t very compelling. Zelina Vega using a flip flop in Puerto Rico was fun, but I cringed when she just brought one to the ring with her last night. The LWO revival was fun at first, but Vega and Rey Mysterio are the only two members who have distinctive personalities. The talented Santos Escobar’s entire babyface act seems to be expressing his respect for Mysterio, and Cruz Del Toro and Joaquin Wilde continue to be booked as throwaway sidekicks.
Viking Raiders and Alpha Academy: I actually enjoy both teams, but the dead serious Viking Raiders act just doesn’t play well with the silly comedy of Alpha Academy.