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Owens vs. Cesaro: While I didn’t like the reasoning behind this match (more later), I thoroughly enjoyed the match itself. It was great to have Cesaro return from injury last week. He was very refreshing in that main event and again here against Owens. It makes sense that they are going to do Owens vs. Sami Zayn, and Owens vs. The Miz wouldn’t make sense, so it was predictable that Cesaro would get the win. But that predicability didn’t hurt the quality of the match. It went nearly 15 minutes and was very good. On many Raws this would be the best match and I’d be happy with it being the best match. Fortunately, this week it was the second best.
Dr. Phil: I was not expecting to give Dr. Phil a Hit. But, he actually played his part very well. I don’t know if he did a great job of learning his part, or if he’s actually a fan and that familiar with the product. Either way, he did a good job, particularly in confronting Charlotte about using Ric Flair as a crutch. His role was kept pretty small which was also good. He was solid in his speech about the women’s division in general. I did laugh when Byron Saxton said “I’m sorry you had to witness that” after the Women’s Championship match. That was a bit over the top. But, that’s not Dr. Phil’s fault. I also chuckled a bit at his walking out on Golden Truth before even trying to help them at all.
Natalya vs. Charlotte: That Women’s Championship match was a good match that went about 11 minutes. We’ve seen Natalya and Charlotte multiple times and they always deliver, especially when given 10+ minutes like this. They are very good at what they do. The fans were reacting strongly for Natalya. This is a wrestling 101 gimmick with the heel Champion having a manager cheat to help retain the title. It is getting heat on Charlotte and making the fans want someone to get that Title from her. It is effective and we are getting good matches at the same time. The fact that Natalya won should mean we will see a rematch, presumably at the next PPV.
Zayn – Styles: While I didn’t enjoy the opening segment, I did like the idea that Shane McMahaon would give Sami Zayn a chance to get into the WWE World Title picture after being taken out of the #1 contender match last week. That is the nice thing about having a babyface in charge. It made sense to have Shane kick Owens out of the arena, especially after Owens threatened to attack Zayn again. And I liked seeing Zayn getting some mic time to talk about what the match means to him and Styles interrupting to put in his own words about their match. All of that was a good way to build anticipation and actually promote their match (to borrow from Wade Keller’s mantra that WWE usually presents matches instead of promoting them).
Gallows & Anderson: This is a marginal Hit in the context of a Miss to come for the way WWE has handled debuting wrestlers in the past week or so. Having a new team like Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson debut by unexpectedly showing up and kicking the crap out of a very well established team like The Usos was a smart way to introduce them. Doing this type of introduction every once in a long while can help to establish the new act in a way that stands out from the more traditional ways that wresters are introduced. This L.A. crowd was ready for this surprise appearance by the former Bullet Club members, so they got a strong reaction, so this was a smart market to have them debut in. And the announcers did a good job of talking them up for the viewers at home who might not be familiar with them (are they going to acknowledge Gallows’s first WWE run at some point?) I am curious to see where they go with the team and to see if the rumors of a larger faction turn out to be true, and if so, who else will be with them?
Miz & Maryse: Maryse has already made a positive impact on her husband’s character. I have enjoyed a lot of Miz’s Hollywood persona, but her attitude towards the stage hands and Jo-Jo added greatly to that persona. She was very good and I kept laughing at her interactions while Miz just sat there with the cucumbers on his eyes. She was good. Miz was good. I look forward to seeing more of them going forward.
Zayn vs. Styles: As I mentioned above, Cesaro vs. Owens would usually be the best match on any Raw, but not on this week’s show. That is because we also got this great match between Zayn and Styles. This was practically a perfect match. Zayn and Styles played their parts very well with a respectful style of match befitting the face vs. face nature of the match. They got more intense as the match continued. It went nearly 17 minutes and was great from start to finish. It featured high energy well executed wrestling action. There were believable nearfalls. They worked very well together to build to the strong final sequence. Styles needed the clean win which is what he got. Zayn’s character is an underdog and he will easily bounce back from this loss. Plus we have his feud against Owens to continue to look forward to.
The Highlight Reel: I enjoyed Chris Jericho interviewing himself. It was predictable that he was his own guest as he was going over the top in hyping his guest but still very amusing. Dean Ambrose was good in his interruption with the note from Shane canceling The Highlight Reel and replacing it with The Ambrose Asylum. I am looking forward to seeing a Jericho vs. Ambrose feud. That is the type of feud that can help to elevate Ambrose after the disappointing way he has been used since his good WWE World Title match against Triple H at Roadblock.
Opening Segment: A good episode of Raw got off to a poor start. WWE needs a better story than just having positive social media reaction to Shane McMahon being in charge of Raw to overcome all the issues that Vince McMahon has against him. I would rather see Shane in this type of long talking segment than either Triple H or Stephanie McMahon. I am happier seeing a babyface authority figure than a heel one. But, I still would rather see a smaller limited role for the authority figure. I don’t want long talking segments start off Raw featuring any authority figure. And I didn’t find Shane to be very good on the mic. He didn’t show energy. I wasn’t thrilled with some of his announcements. I didn’t like his exchange with Kevin Owens. I mean, Owens should get his automatic re-match for the Intercontinental Championship. Why did he have to earn that, but Natalya who has lost several matches to Charlotte somehow earn her Women’s Title match? I just didn’t think this was a great start to the show.
Tag Tournament: I would love to see a bigger emphasis on the tag team division in WWE. But, that the division needs to be rehabilitated much more than this before we get to a tournament. I don’t understand having two new teams as part of the tournament when they have done nothing to earn a chance to become #1 contender to the Tag Team Championship. Plus, you are setting up at least one of those teams (if not both) to lose what will be one of their first matches on the main roster. New teams need to have nothing but wins for a few months when they first debut to establish their legitimacy. And after several months of building to Golden Truth being a team, the fact that they are teaming up for the first time was anticlimactically announced when the brackets were shown on screen. So why are two NXT call-ups who haven’t earned anything, a brand new team that hasn’t earned anything, the Social Outcasts who always lose and thus haven’t earned anything, and The Ascension who always lose and thus haven’t earned anything all getting this chance that none of them have earned? Being in the tournament should be something you have already earned. And yet, Owens had to earn his rematch?
Lucha Dragons vs. The Dudleys: Beyond the general issues of the tag team tournament, the first match in that tournament sucked. I guess the idea was that in order to give the Lucha Dragons an out for losing, they had Kalisto get injured during the commercial break that wasn’t even seen live. But, Kalisto is the most exciting person in the match and we didn’t get to see him at all. It turned into a squash with Sin Cara only showing a few bits of offense against The Dudleys. And the ending was botched with the Dudleys having to redirect in order to to the 3D.
Reigns – League of Nations – Wyatts: I didn’t get any of this at all. I hate Roman Reigns’s new motto. I’m not even sure what WWE’s goal with the line is. The League of Nations is stale. So, I’m not going to get excited when they come out to interrupt Reigns. It did nothing for me. I also don’t understand this sort of babyface turn for the Wyatt Family. I laughed when Michael Cole said that the Wyatts have had their issues with the League of Nations lately, when in reality they randomly attacked them for no apparent reason last week. That one random attack is the “issues” that Cole was referencing. This is terrible storytelling. And Shane came off as a huge dork when he said “I can dig it” about the possibility of Bray Wyatt and Reigns teaming up. I found this whole segment to be a mess. Wyatt has been so evil that he needs a strong well written storyline to explain a babyface turn. He can’t just suddenly and randomly attack another heel team like this especially one night after he attacked The Rock at WM32. And I don’t know what to think of the main event tag match for all of these reasons. I’m not buying it. WWE needs more strong heels and Wyatt should be filling that role. I don’t understand sort of trying to turn him face, if that is even what they are doing. And I’m not sure what any of this does to help build to Reigns vs. Styles for the WWE World Title.
New Wrestler Introductions: This is a Miss going back to last week. Between WM32 and Smackdown, six new wrestlers were introduced to the main roster – Baron Corbin, Apollo Crews, Enzo & Cass, and The Vaudevillians. This week we had the debut of Gallows & Anderson. That is eight in a little over a week. That is too many new wrestlers being introduced in such a short time making it difficult for any of them to stand out. None of them have had introductory vignettes. The only vignettes that they are doing is for the reintroduction of an old team in Primo & Epico. WWE has stopped doing intros for NXT wrestlers. But, there are probably millions of Raw viewers who don’t watch NXT. Having the announcers simply say “if you’ve missed this guy on NXT, you have really misses something” or “this guy has been awesome in NXT” isn’t good enough to introduce a new wrestler or tag team. Giving them squashes like Crews has gotten on these two Raws is good. But, Crews was first introduced in NXT in a series of vignettes to build anticipation for his debut. We’ve had a chance to connect with him as a character, as well as seeing his moves in the ring. But, he just shows up cold on Raw without any anticipation. And in two weeks we haven’t heard him talk. This week they did a half-assed vignette for Baron Corbin, with most of what they showed being from WM and last week’s Raw instead of more from NXT. WWE has zero clue how to introduce new wrestlers from NXT. They do nothing to build anticipation for them or to introduce them to a wider audience. That was the case with all of these guys and Sami Zayn before them. And Tyler Breeze last year. They are doing a disservice to these wrestlers. Not every wrestler needs vignettes and some variety is smart in how new wrestlers are introduced. But, they need to be spread out and overall have a better presentation to the new acts.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at email@example.com.
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