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5/16 RAW HITS
Opening Segment: This wasn’t a great opening to Raw, but a good one. I like that WWE gave A.J. Styles time to talk to start off the show. He didn’t get a lot of time, but enough time and he was pretty good. Roman Reigns then interrupted. He was fine in his role. They effectively hyped their Extreme Rules match at Extreme Rules while also hyping what I assumed would be the Raw main event of the Usos vs. Gallows & Anderson.
Zayn & Owens vs. Cesaro & Miz: I have to admit to throwing up a little in my mouth when Shane McMahon’s music hit after the Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn match ended with the brawl involving The Miz and Kevin Owens. That shouldn’t be the reaction when the authority figure makes an appearance, but what can I say? I did appreciate that Stephanie McMahon overruled Shane’s lazy idea and changed his Zayn & Cesaro vs. Miz & Owens Smackdown re-match into this match instead. The match had a lot of good wrestling action and the dynamic created by the two teams was fun to watch with neither getting along. I don’t want to see them doing these types of tag matches often (unlike say Lucha Underground where most of the Trios teams in the Trio tournament hated each other), but once in a while like this to take advantage of these personalities works well.
Ambrose – Jericho: This was a pretty good segment with Dean Ambrose challenging Chris Jericho to a match at Extreme Rules. The mic work from both Ambrose and Jericho was strong here. I love that Jericho is playing a heel, not trying to do a wink-wink kind of thing where he is still playing it for cheers despite being a heel. I’m glad that Ambrose said that he had the match cleared with Shane beforehand to explain why the cage was up in the rafters. I’m not sure what to think about the Asylum Cage match. It sort of reminds me of some of the gimmicky cage matches that TNA has had in the past that have made me roll my eyes. So, I’m definitely not sold on the concept yet. It sounds like escaping the cage won’t be a way to win which I like. So, I will wait and see how it plays out on Sunday to judge the match gimmick.
Usos vs. Gallows & Anderson: I don’t like how Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson have been treated as losers since their first night when they beat up the Usos. They seem to lose a lot and get beat up by Roman Reigns in two-on-one situations each week. And they lost here. But, it was a good match. These are talented wrestlers and their in ring ability was on display here. I felt that Reigns and Styles’ presence at ringside added to the match without distracting from it. The match went back and forth nicely and built well to the end. I think the new team needed the win more than the Usos, but I still enjoyed the match.
Final Hype for Styles vs. Reigns: The crowd was hot for that match and even hotter for the aftermath with Reigns and Styles and a chair getting involved. There were a lot of moving parts with all six of them involved, but it worked well. We got a little hesitation from Styles to use the chair, but later on he didn’t hesitate at all which seemed to fit in nicely with the story that they’ve been telling the last few weeks. I do think it was a mistake to have Styles hit the Styles Clash on the chair. I think they did it to give Styles fans hope that he would be able to do the same at Extreme Rules to win the WWE World Championship. But, the smart fans know that if we saw it on Raw, we aren’t going to see it again. And I really don’t understand not having this as the final segment of the show. I guess the theory is that the final hour ratings are lower so they put this at the start of the final hour instead of the end of the show to get more viewers for it, but it still felt odd to me to have this not end the go home Raw before a PPV.
5/16 RAW MISSES
Shinning Stars: I appreciate the fact that WWE is introducing a new act with a series of vignettes and then a squash match over two local jobbers. But, I don’t understand doing it with an old team like Primo & Epico who are returning when they won’t do it with totally new acts (at least new to the main roster). And the act is boring. Their vignettes didn’t paint them as big heels, only slight heels in terms of liking their home better than other places. Yawn. The squash match was fine, but the act is boring. And I don’t understand why they didn’t do more to talk up their past. They are former Tag Team Champions, but unless I missed it, the announcers never brought that up. So it is just sort of uninspiring.
Second Hour: The 2nd hour started off well with the Ambrose and Jericho segment, but the rest of the hour fell flat. It wasn’t necessarily all bad, but nothing was good. Much of it felt inconsequential. It started out with Dana Brooke vs. Becky Lynch which was okay, but exposed some of Brooke’s weaknesses in the ring. I am a fan of hers for sure, but she missed a lot of time with an injury in NXT and needed more time back there to get going again and continue developing her ring skills (love her character and mic work) before getting called up to the main roster. And Emma’s injury is only highlighting the issues further. Next came the Life Coach vignette with Darren Young and Bob Backlund which is terrible. Although apparently Shane liked it as we saw him and his sister talking about it afterward with the Dudleys interrupting. Next came the Golden Truth’s long awaited (I guess) first match which they lost and then the following backstage follow up, neither of which made me want to see more of this team, nor the team of Tyler Breeze & Fandango. The second hour ended with a truly Miss-worthy segment where The New Day traveled back in time or something. That was horrible. Don’t do tongue-in-cheek references to Kofi Kingston’s old Jamaican accent. The Vaudevillians are bad enough without having New Day making fun of them in this cheesy way. I hated that segment and it was a bad ending to a pretty bad hour of television.
Big Cass: This is really a miss for how Big Cass was scripted on Raw, not so much for Cass himself. In 2016 I don’t want to hear Steve Urkel jokes and as I wrote last week, I don’t understand making references to Bubba Ray Dudley’s brief stuttering gimmick from when he first came to WWE many many years ago. That promo was lame. Clearly WWE understands that Cass can’t work much of a singles match in only having his match against Devon Dudley last a minute. As much as I hate Enzo Amore’s character and find him to be the most annoying man in the world, I can see how his presence is definitely needed in this case.
Kalisto vs. Del Rio: We have seen this match too many times for my tastes. While there was some good wrestling here, the way the match was booked was awkward in terms of Rusev and Sin Cara’s participation. It caused some odd moments like when Alberto Del Rio was holding Kalisto in the ropes so that he could see Rusev beating Cara up in the back. And then after Rusev dragged Cara to the ringside area, it was odd how Kalisto kept the match going. Shouldn’t he have left the match to save his partner? Or were we supposed to believe that he didn’t realize what was happening? In the end, Kalisto looked bad for standing in the ring looking at Rusev allowing Del Rio to hit the back stabber for the win. Instead of just standing there, why not get out of the ring and attack Rusev? And Del Rio’s ridiculously long pose on the top rope setting up his horrible finisher was another awkward moment. And the announcers were ignoring the recent break up of Del Rio and Rusev’s team the League of Nations. It was bad.
Women’s Title Contract Signing: I like the idea of ending a Raw with a women’s segment, but not this particular Raw before Extreme Rules. And the players were all annoying from the McMahons who started it off, to Charlotte and Ric Flair to Natalya. I did laugh a little at Charlotte getting upset at her dad for needing to calm down, but didn’t think the scripting or performances were good from any of them otherwise. Stephanie trying to get over as a babyface was not good. I didn’t like the slap to Flair. The focus was on the McMahons and Ric, not on Natalya vs. Charlotte.
Jon Mezzera is PWTorch.com’s WWE Hits & Misses Specialist, providing his point of view for Raw and Smackdown each week. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section here.