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By Jon Mezzera, PWTorch Hits & Misses specialist
8/1 RAW HITS
Balor – Rollins: The first hour of Raw was pretty bad. I find it hard to believe that it was produced by the same people who made last week’s great Raw. There was only one Miss as you will see below (although that Miss covered three segments), but most of it was filler that doesn’t deserve mentioning. Things got on track with Michael Cole’s interview with Finn Balor to start the second hour of the show. The interview didn’t last long when Seth Rollins interrupted. I would have preferred to actually see a full interview with Balor to help him get introduced to a much larger audience than the ones who know him from NXT. But, it was still a good segment with strong mic work from Balor and Rollins. I liked the scripting here of Balor following in Rollins’ footsteps to set up Rollins being the likely first Universal Champion. But, Balor got in some good comebacks to Rollins’s claims. The bit of physicality at the end worked well too.
New Day and the Club: This was much better than last week’s segment. The New Day were entertaining in their pre-match promo. They didn’t go on too long and got in some good lines, although some were not as good. The match itself was far too short to amount to much with the flukey ending, but that makes sense given that this is the set up for a feud. The beating afterwards with Luke Gallows and Carl Anderson getting the better of New Day was physical and very memorable.
Jericho & Owens: I really enjoyed the work that Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens did together a few months ago. So, I am glad to see them teaming back up again at this point. The backstage interview with Jericho making up someone named Jim to watch his back against Enzo & Cass was hilarious. He and Owens have a great chemistry together both on the mic and in the ring, so I am looking forward to seeing where they go from here. And it was classic Jericho to call Tom Phillips Tim, and then when Phillips corrected him that it is Tom, Jericho corrected him again and called him a stupid idiot.
Rollins vs. Zayn: This was easily the best match of the show. While I like the use of squash matches, too many of the other matches on this show were too short. The Shinning Stars vs. The Golden Truth was only 2 minutes and was just a lame excuse for comedy. The US Title match and Young vs. O’Neil were short. The New Day vs. Gallows & Anderson was very short. At that point, Sheamus vs. Cesaro at just under 6 minutes felt like a marathon (that match was solid, but not good enough to get a Hit). Throw in the two squashes for Nia Jax and Braun Strowman, plus the barely there match of Mahal vs. Slater and you got a lot of matches on Raw, but not much wrestling. Even this good main event between Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins went under 12 minutes. I understand we aren’t going to get as much wrestling action on every Raw like last week, but a better balance can be struck.
Getting back to the match itself, this wasn’t a great match, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to get Rollins over with a strong win over a good opponent like Zayn, while playing into Zayn’s underdog persona. This worked well for that and featured good wrestling action. It did have the types of counters, reversals and near fall that you’d expect from these two. There were a few very close near falls when Zayn almost pulled off the victory. And it had a strong ending with Rollins winning clean after avoiding the Helluva Kick and hitting the Pedigree for the one-two-three.
RKO Out of Nowhere: WWE is building up Randy Orton’s chances of defeating Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam on his ability to hit and RKO out of nowhere. So in those terms, the ending of Raw was a Hit. The promo from Paul Heyman with Brock Lesnar in the ring was ok. It wasn’t bad, but it was far from Heyman’s best work. But the culmination of the promo with Heyman firmly stating that Orton cannot hit Lesnar with an RKO out of nowhere, only to be interrupted by Orton hitting Lesnar with an RKO out of nowhere was very strong. And it got a pretty big pop from the crowd. I liked that they sold the brand split by having Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley coming out with security to chase Orton away since he isn’t on the Raw roster. I do question having a Smackdown wrestler break the brand split in Week 2 of said brand split, but I guess since this match was announced before the Draft, it is okay.
8/1 RAW MISSES
Opening Segment: Wow, that was a terrible start to Raw. It went on far too long and while there were some good lines mixed in here and there, they were not nearly strong or numerous enough to save this otherwise horrible segment. Why all the Ric Flair bashing? Why would Sasha Banks get upset when Chris Jericho bad-mouthed Flair, when she had just made a one liner about Charlotte being the result of one of Flair’s one night stands? I like the “quiet, quiet, quiet” bit from Jericho. But it does go on too long, just like the rest of this segment. The sexual innuendo from Enzo Amore came across as creepy to me. And hearing him and Banks going back and forth with “how you doin’?” made me want to change the channel. And that was followed by more forced Enzo catchphrases. The mixed tag match that followed wasn’t much better (other than Kevin Owens doing guest commentary). The big problem is the format. When Jericho had Enzo down, why would he tag out to Charlotte which automatically brings Banks into the match? That got the injured Amore out of the match. It makes no sense. We’ve already seen enough of Banks vs. Charlotte, so I would have kept them apart in the ring until the rematch at SummerSlam.
Rusev vs. Henry: I didn’t care about this match at all. Mark Henry has barely been seen on WWE TV for a long time, so nobody was going to buy into him as a threat to Rusev’s United States Championship. The match was boring. They had a bunch of matches against each other when Henry was in a better place two years ago, but this one meant nothing. It was also only 6 minutes long and half of it was on a commercial break. It was really just a set up for Roman Reigns to come out to be Rusev’s next challenger. But, this reeks of desperation to me as a way to get more fans to cheer for Reigns by making him a pro-USA wrestler.
O’Neil vs. Young: Was this a heel turn for Titus O’Neil after making fun of his friend and former tag team partner and then cheating to win? I care so little about the former Prime Time Players. Then again, I’m honestly not sure if Darren Young is supposed to be a heel or face. I guess they are trying to build up how he might snap at any moment similar to how Bob Backlund started snapping on his second early ’90s WWE run. But he doesn’t come across as someone to cheer at this point, and neither did O’Neil for threatening to beat up Backlund.
Jinder Mahal: Yeah, Jinder Mahal will put butts in the seats. I understand with the brand split or extension or whatever it is called that they need to add to both rosters, but Jindar Mahal never did anything impressive to me (other than one deadpanned funny line in a behind the music 3MB moment when he claimed to be the funny one). Also, they have this new Cruiserweight division coming to Raw, so why add more lower-card wrestlers to the roster at this point? It was amusing how he was brought back by Heath Slater and then turned on him to get the contract, but why spend time on him?
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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For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting prowrestling.NET’s “Hitlist” section here.