By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw Hits
The final push for the men’s WarGames match: The big hype for Randy Orton’s return without mentioning him by name was well done. They couldn’t go into WarGames hyping a mystery partner for the babyface team because some fans in the host city of Chicago surely would have been left disappointed when it wasn’t CM Punk. The fans who attended Raw in Grand Rapids will disagree, but I like that they saved Orton’s actual return for Survivor Series. The company also deserves a lot of credit for thoroughly explaining the rules of the WarGames match and the significance of the WarGames advantage.
Drew McIntyre: The unique approach to McIntyre’s heel turn has been outstanding. McIntyre’s character doesn’t believe he’s changed and he doesn’t see himself as the villain. He feels justified in attacking Jey Uso because The Bloodline cost him the World Heavyweight Championship. He’s even acknowledging that some fans have remained loyal to him while disregarding what he considers to be fickle fans who don’t share his perspective. He’s still carrying the awful sword and doing the countdown before the Claymore Kick, which shows that he hasn’t changed, at least in his character’s mind. By the way, McIntyre’s main event match with Jey was solid and worthy of a soft Hit. The Future Shock DDT finisher felt like it came out of nowhere. It seems like they are trying to make a finisher out of a move that was only good for near falls for years. It shouldn’t take too long to accomplish this if that’s the plan, but it will take a little time to condition the fans to accept the move as a finisher.
Gunther and The Miz: The pro wrestler vs. sports entertainer dynamic is working nicely. Normally, I’d be opposed to a promo exchange that features both wrestlers tearing each other down, but it’s actually a logical approach given the dramatic differences in style. The fans have been supportive of Miz thus far, but I wonder if that will stick once Gunther lights him up with chops in front of the Chicago crowd at Survivor Series. Regardless, the promo work from both men made me care about their title match, even if Gunther retaining feels like a lock.
Nia Jax vs. Raquel Rodriguez: Perhaps it was due to being in the opening match slot, but this was one of the best crowd reactions that Rodriguez has received since arriving on the main roster. Her character is still generic and that really needs to be addressed, but the crowd got behind her repeated attempts to power up Jax. And even though Rodriguez collapsed under Jax’s weight and it cost her the match, she seemed to gain points with the fans for trying.
Becky Lynch vs. Xia Li: Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised when Lynch is able to get good matches out of wrestlers who are not known for their in-ring work, but this one exceeded my expectations. I expected a cheap finish to protect Li heading into her NXT Women’s Championship match on tonight’s NXT television show. Rather, she had a competitive match with Lynch and lost clean, yet did so in a way where it felt like she gained something in defeat. Nicely done.
Johnny Gargano vs. Ludwig Kaiser: A Hit due to match quality alone. The DIY reunion is off to a terrible start, which probably explains why they didn’t get a televised entrance. It could only help if the creative forces would stop putting them and The Creed Brothers in the campy backstage segments with New Day and Alpha Academy. The story of Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci fighting for Gunther’s approval is far more interesting than anything DIY have done since they reunited.
WWE Raw Misses
Natalya and Tegan Nox vs. Candice LaRae and Indi Hartwell vs. Kayden Carter and Katana Chance vs. Ivy Nile and Maxxine Dupri in a four-way for a shot at the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles: The match was actually better than I anticipated. The Miss goes to the laziness of holding a four-way match to determine the challengers of the month for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles. If they don’t have any interest in trying to build an actual women’s tag team division, then just send the tag titles down to NXT where there are more than enough women to put the tag titles to good use.
Jey Uso: McIntyre’s strong argument for holding a grudge against Jey begged for a good rebuttal promo that never came. Jey just continued to be happy go lucky and doesn’t have much of a character these days. He’s still clicking with the fans for now, but he really needs a creative direction. It was interesting that while Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, and Sami Zayn were all giddy during the build to Randy Orton’s return, Jey showed zero enthusiasm. Granted, he had just taken a loss and was the vicim of a post match beatdown. But they did go with a close-up of Jey while all of this was happening, so it may have been an attempt to show that Jey is uncomfortable with his new WarGames teammate. It would be logical for Jey’s character to have some concern. After all, the Usos beat Orton and Matt Riddle to unify the tag titles and then The Bloodline delivered a post beatdown during what turned out to be Orton’s last appearance before his long layoff.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Chad Gable: A soft Miss for a match that felt longer than it needed to be. Nakamura had an interesting thing going with his subtitle promos with the mystery of who he was calling out. There was no development on this episode, so I guess that will be a post Survivor Series story. As someone who really wanted to see Gable get a chance to be a singles wrestler, I’ve thrown my hands up. He never ditched the corny Alpha Academy humor. He’s a terrific wrestler, but I haven’t seen anything from a promo perspective to show that he can be more than Kurt Angle Lite. Hell, even Michael Cole slipped up and called him “Angle” at one point during this match.