By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
Gunther vs. Tommaso Ciampa for the Intercontinental Championship: Another top notch title defense for Gunther. Ciampa delivered a quality promo heading into the match that surely won over some fans. There still wasn’t a lot of mystery regarding the outcome, but both wrestlers did their best to change that by having Ciampa pick up some strong near falls. The post match DIY reunion was fun for fans who watched the NXT Black & Gold era. I just hope that the creative forces have a plan to tell their story properly and don’t make viewers who weren’t watching NXT feel late to the party. Did they really run out of time and miss DIY hitting their signature move or was that intentional for some strange reason?
Rhea Ripley and the cold open: The big brawl at the start of the show was a good way to grab the attention of viewers. It was logical in that it featured Nia Jax and some of the wrestlers that she’s recently attacked, and I like that there was still friction between Ripley and Raquel Rodriguez. Ripley really stepped up with the fiery promo she cut on her fellow Judgment Day members. Although the faction members claim there’s no faction leader, Ripley clearly took on that role last night. It also packed a punch when she told Dominik Mysterio to regain the NXT North American Championship on Tuesday or don’t bother coming home. That’s a nice added hook for Dom’s rematch with Trick Williams.
Drew McIntyre: The McIntyre character is truly compelling. His refusal to play the savior is an interesting twist and it’s hard to argue with the logic of the character when he points out that the wrestlers complaining that he’s not doing the right thing aren’t practicing what they preach, nor did they help him during his feud with The Bloodline. It was interesting to hear him spoof Cody Rhodes’ opening line and once again accuse Rhodes of only doing the right thing for self serving reasons. I’ve said for a long time that McIntyre is a good heel and a great babyface. Perhaps that’s because two companies really got behind him as a babyface, whereas his heel pushes have been inconsistent. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes.
Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura: A unique final push for their Fastlane match. Michael Cole was really effective in cutting through the BS and getting Rollins to abandon the over the top persona to explain why he’s risking his career in the Last Standing Match. Cole’s concern made the match feel dangerous, and Rollins offered a solid explanation. The Nakamura video was polarizing with his character counting down while he was simultaneously attacking Rollins in the ring. I viewed it as Nakamura being so in control of the situation that he was able to plan his attack Rollins and have an idea of how much damage he was doing so that it went along with his count. It wasn’t for everyone, but I thought it was creative and it worked for me. And so has the overall build to their rematch. Nakamura was trading mid-card wins and losses, and now he feels like a legitimate threat to beat Rollins or leave him so weary that he’s vulnerable to Damian Priest cashing in his Money in the Bank contract.
Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci vs. Chad Gable and Otis: It looks like the creative forces are trying to give Kaiser and Vinci a bit of a boost heading into a program with the DIY duo. I’m not sure why these two were pushed as Gunther’s henchmen to begin with when they are actually a terrific tag team.
Ivar vs. Xavier Woods: Ivar is on a roll lately. The cosplayer viking gimmick limits him and Erik, but Ivar has had some entertaining matches with the New Day duo.
Bronson Reed vs. Cedric Alexander: Another solid showcase win for Reed. Alexander got some flashy offense in early, but this was all about spotlighting Reed. Are they building up Reed to be a future challenger for Seth Rollins?
WWE Raw Misses
Judgment Day defending the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Titles against Cody Rhodes and Jey Uso: Cody and Jey have never teamed together on WWE television and yet for some reason they have been gifted a title match. Even if you can get past that, the announcement just came out of nowhere and left me feeling like I missed a segment. I’m sure the actual match will be very good, but there really should have been a better explanation and a better build. I get that they were shorthanded with Finn Balor not being at the show, but they still should have been able to come up with something better than what they gave us. By the way, on a night when the card was dramatically changed due to injuries and presumed illnesses, it was really strange that we saw a minimal amount of Cody and we never saw Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn even though they were in the building.
Tegan Nox vs. Chelsea Green: The live crowd was nearly silent during Nox’s entrance. You have to start somewhere, but this meek persona isn’t clicking yet. I don’t know what to make of Natalya’s apology, but that seems to be intentional, as Nox’s character also didn’t seem to know how to react to the sudden change. Meanwhile, Green continues to be a really fun act that is limited by the strange decision to have her lose nearly all of her singles match.