SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
I was at Raw in Oakland this week for my birthday. I had a good time. It was a fun show to watch live, maybe better than on TV. I recognize there were issues (see Misses below), but I enjoyed it. The crowd was smaller than I remember for the last Raw I attended there (but that was 2009). The lower bowl was pretty much full, but the vast majority of the upper bowl was closed off, other than a relatively small number of sections across from the camera. But it was a hot crowd that stayed energetic throughout the show.
Kingston vs. Cesaro: This was fun. New Day was good, but not great in their opening promo. WWE is doing a good job of building the dynamic between Sheamus and Cesaro. Cesaro and Kofi Kingston had a good match, although there were a few sloppy spots. The slip of Kofi on the springboard was a bit scary, but I’m guessing he is ok. Sheamus was hilarious at ringside. We couldn’t tell what he was doing on his phone, but his antics were entertaining. Far too often in this situation, the champion loses to make him look vulnerable. So, it was good to see Kofi get the win when Cesaro was distracted by his partner on the outside.
Bayley attacked by Brooks: Like last week, it made sense to give Bayley another squash victory to help establish her after she was rushed too quickly into the Title picture and now needs to take a few steps back. Having Dana Brooke attack her afterwards got a ton of heat and continued the storyline from last week where Bayley attacked her and kept her from being in Charlotte’s corner for her Women’s Title defense. Charlotte vs. Sasha is continuing so it makes sense to have Bayley move on to something else and a program with Brooke can work. But the women’s roster is looking really thin right now, and Paige is apparently not coming back any time soon to help out.
Foley’s Hell in a Cell Address: I had mixed feelings about this segment, but on the whole I am giving it a minor Hit. I got a kick out of Mick Foley’s flannel suit. We got the big announcement that Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte for the Women’s Championship will be in Hell in a Cell. The fans were hyped for that announcement, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. The two of them have taken too many unnecessary risks in their regular matches, so what is going to happen inside the Cell? Also, do we really need three Hell in a Cell matches? I tried to start an “overkill! overkill!” chant, but it didn’t work as again fans were excited for that news. I loved Kevin Owens’ interruption saying he wants a long career and doesn’t want it cut short like Foly’s was by Hell in a Cell. Owens and Chris Jericho continue to do great work together. Their interview later on with Tom Phillips was also amusing. And of course, Jericho’s list continues to be a highlight of Raw. While I didn’t understand the motivation of Stephanie McMahon or Mick Foley of giving Jericho the chance to get into the Universal Title match at the PPV if he defeated Seth Rollins in the main event, it did add a big stipulation to make that match mean more.
The Club: WWE continues to rebuild Gallows & Anderson as a serious threat to the tag team division on Raw. I know I am in the small minority who do not like Enzo & Cass, so I was thrilled when Gallows & Anderson came out to attack them so we didn’t have to hear them misspell soft. Neither team has anything going right now, so a feud between them makes perfect sense. I just hope that Gallows & Anderson stay serious and intense and don’t drop down to the goofy level of Enzo & Cass.
Reigns & Banks vs. Rusev & Charlotte: I did not like the set up for this match (more later). I didn’t like the dynamic of the wrestlers involved in it. However, I enjoyed the match itself. The wrestling was solid to good throughout, although I’ve seen far too much of Roman Reigns vs. Rusev. I did like how Charlotte teased a babyface move by tagging herself in to the match at the very beginning, only to cement herself as a heel by tagging back out right away. This was needed after the opening segment (again, more later). During the commercial, Reigns got the biggest pop he can possibly get when he played to the crowd before tagging out to Sasha. She and Charlotte wrestled briefly before Charlotte tagged out again to bring the guys back in before the break ended. The hot tag would have worked better if Reigns had tagged out to Sasha instead of Rusev tagging Charlotte forcing Sasha to come in without actually getting tagged, but the ending at that point was very strong. I loved how Reigns leaped over the women to spear Rusev allowing Sasha to keep Charlotte in the Banks Statement to get the tap out victory.
Paul Heyman: I have ZERO interest in seeing Bill Goldberg wrestle. I wouldn’t mind if he saved someone getting bead up after a match and ended up hitting a spear and jackhammer on the opponent. That would be fun. But I don’t want to see him wrestle at this point and I don’t understand people who do. He’s too old and hasn’t wrestled in years and wasn’t that good to begin with. And I don’t need to see him wrestle Brock Lesnar again. That all being said, Paul Heyman was great in addressing the situation. I was thrilled to get to see him cut that promo live. His challenge on Lesnar’s behalf worked well. He did a good job of building up the legend and history of Goldberg. And the closing line leading to the mic drop saying that in Suplex City, Goldberg would be next was great. He almost made me want to see the match. Almost.
Jericho vs. Rollins: This was a good main event that went about 20 minutes. The crowd seemed pretty split between Chris Jericho and Seth Rollins. They worked well together and Owens’ was also good on his role on the outside. The wrestling action was good, but not great. I did not join in the This is Awesome chant. It wasn’t awesome, but it was good. There were some believable near falls. The guy behind me who seemed pretty knowledgeable about the product was buying into them. And Rollins was able to win in the end despite the cheating from Owens. The fighting afterwards also worked well to back up what happened last week with Owens once again bailing on Jericho allowing Rollins to hit the Pedigree to end the show.
In case you are curious, after the show went off the air, Rollins chased Owens away, then turned and posed for the crowd. Owens came back and attacked him from behind. They fought to the ring where Jericho had recovered and they double teamed Rollins for a minute. Sami Zayn then made the save. That allowed Rollins a chance to recover and Pedigree Owens to end the show. Also during the TJ Perkins match (solid, but not quite Hit worthy), a small CM Punk chant started, but didn’t last long and was quickly replaced by a slightly larger Delete chant that also didn’t last long. Most of the people sitting around me were confused by it.
Opening Segment: It was cool to see Sasha Banks start off Raw after her big Women’s Championship win in the main even last week. But, I was not a fan of Rusev’s interruption. It put Charlotte the heel in position to be a babyface by standing up to the chauvinistic Rusev. I didn’t understand that at all. And then Sasha and Charlotte are suddenly working together to drop kick Rusev out of the ring despite being huge rivals. And then Roman Reigns shows up to save the day and get booed out of the building. It did set up a big match for later in the show, and got the fans excited and energized to cheer for Banks and boo everyone else, but it wasn’t a great start.
Payday Commercial: WWE has done some of these commercials “hidden” inside a backstage segment in the past, and they are always cheesy. This one was really bad between Jericho and R-Truth. And Jericho while being very funny in his current role, is still part of a top main event program on Raw. So, I don’t like lowering him to the level of Truth for a stupid candy bar commercial.
2nd Hour Drag: As I said above, I enjoyed this show. It was fun to watch live. It didn’t drag out over the 3 plus hours as much as I feared, but it still did drag. That 2nd hour was mostly filler after Foley’s address which kicked off the hour. There were 3 matches that totaled about 5 minutes of actual wrestling. Squash matches are good and have their place on Raw. But, two of those three matches weren’t even squashes. It was fun to see Sami Zayn and Neville teaming up, and the Red Arrow is something to see live, but I would have liked to see more of the match. I didn’t care at all about R-Truth vs. Titus O’Neal, although I will say that the What’s Up gimmick is still over. And I don’t care about Braun Strowman vs. a few local jobbers playing off of the Warriors’ popularity. None of it was bad, but none of it was important. And it continues to serve as a reminder that a 2 hour Raw without some of this filler would be a better show.
For another view from the original Hitlist author, compare Jason Powell’s views to mine by visiting ProWrestling.net’s “Hitlist” section here.
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. Act now and become my 68th Twitter follower @JonMezzera (pretty clever handle right?). Just be aware that I don’t live tweet Raw, I don’t tweet much about wrestling, and I don’t tweet much at all.