SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment: This was a take off on one of WWE’s formulaic openings where several wrestlers come out to demand a title shot and then end up getting some type of multi-man #1 contender match in the main event. In this case, these five had already been named in the fatal five way Extreme Rules match to determine the #1 contender for Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship. I like that better, because in the typical scenario, I always feel like if any other wrestler, even Titus O’Neal or Heath Slater, had walked out to interrupt Bray Wyatt at the end, he would have been added to the match too. This was more logical. This was the best heel promo that Roman Reigns has yet delivered. I think he is still a babyface, but that was a 100 percent heel promo. It should be used to convince Vince McMahon that Reigns can still be a top star on Raw as a heel. It is not an either/or situation. He doesn’t have to push Reigns as the top babyface on Raw, but he doesn’t have to fire him or demote him either. He can have his cake and eat it too. Anyway, the rest of the segment was solid. It wasn’t great, but the mic work was mostly good. It set up a couple of big matches for later in the show and the physicality was fun to watch.
Ambrose vs. The Miz: I am so thankful for the Superstar Shakeup so that we can finally get a Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz feud over the Intercontinental Championship. As much as I don’t care about this feud and as much as I don’t want to see more matches over the IC Title between these two, I did enjoy this match. They have good chemistry in the ring which they showed here. I loved the spot when Ambrose went to the top turnbuckle with Miz on the outside being shielded by Maryse and Ambrose basically said, “I’m going to jump anyway, so you better move.” That was great. I also liked the ending where Ambrose blocked the attempted low blow and then just blatantly kicked Miz in the nuts to get disqualified. Unfortunately, as much as that ending made me laugh, it set up yet another match between these two at Extreme Rules where instead of getting some type of Extreme stipulation, they will have a regular match again, only the IC Title can change hands on a DQ. Yawn.
Alexa Bliss: I love what Alexa Bliss is doing. I love the fact that she isn’t trying to get cheered. She still will get cheered by some fans because she is so good at her job. But, she does have a great way of putting the fans in their place and also shutting down the lame “what?” chants. I loved when she called Newark the sweat glands of America. She did great mic work here. Unfortunately, Bayley is lost right now. Her push this year was terribly botched by WWE creative. Most of it is their fault, but she isn’t doing the best with a bad situation. Her promo was a bit clunky, but it was ok. Thank God that Bliss was still there to keep the segment as a Hit. Her response was awesome. Extreme Pogo Sticking and Extreme Hopscotch! That was great. The physicality at the end worked well to set up their kendo stick on a pole match for the PPV.
Reigns vs. Balor: I didn’t like how the announcers were so heavy handed in making it seem like Roman Reigns had no chance to win because of his injured shoulder, making him more of a Super Man for beating Finn Balor. That actually hurt Balor and made him look weak for not being able to win. It seemed like they were building in an excuse for Reigns to lose, but he still won. I was disappointed in that aspect of the match. However, the match was still very good. It went a good length at nearly 15 minutes and was fun to watch. That drive by pushing Balor’s ribs into the ring post was a nice twist on his traditional use of that spot. Reigns also did some hip tosses early which is a new move. He did a good job of selling. He isn’t a bad wrestler. But, he is totally mis-cast as a babyface. Also, Balor deserves to be given a bigger push, but I’m afraid that won’t happen for awhile after coming back from his horribly timed injury.
Goldust Turn: I would be fine with The Golden Truth being used as a jobber tag team. But, if Goldust has one more run in him as a singles star, which he probably does, having him turn on R-Truth to kick start something worked well here. I didn’t understand how the tag team turmoil match was booked last week. It seemed backwards to have the heel team run the gambit. I thought they might give Golden Truth some momentum by having them win a few of the segments, only to lose to Sheamus & Cesaro in the end. However, now that I see the turn by Goldust, what happened last week made sense. We’ll see where they go from here and what this truly leads to for Goldust moving forward.
Wyatt vs. Rollins: This was a good episode of Raw. It is still too long. I could do without a lot of the filler like Titus O’Neal vs. Big Cass. The announcing continues to be terrible (more later). But, Raw has been pretty good since WrestleMania and I’d argue better than Smackdown since the Superstar Shakeup (even though Smackdown arguably got the better of the Shakeup itself). This was another good episode culminating in this main event between Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins. The attack by Samoa Joe made sense to protect Rollins and Wyatt from having to take a loss in the match. The fighting afterwards with Wyatt turing on Joe after a short alliance worked well to end the show with Wyatt standing tall as the most likely challenger for Lesnar after Extreme Rules.
“New Era”: This was obviously not the first time that WWE has used the “New Era” monicker for the current era. But, it seemed like the announcers received a memo right before Raw went on the air and were told to emphasize the term this week. It was way over used. A lot of it had to do with the New Era vs. Attitude Era Tag Team Championship feud, but it was also used in terms of various happenings throughout the show which could change the New Era forever. It got tedious and is just the latest in WWE corporate speak which drives me nuts. On an aside, speaking of that Tag Team Title feud, I did not give Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy a Hit because it was too short at under nine minutes when you consider that after the commercial break we only saw 5 minutes of wrestling. I wanted to see more. And the botched Brogue Kick at the end took me out of it also. Sheamus and Hardy were good otherwise and I liked most of what I saw, so I am not giving it a Miss either, but wanted to mention why I am leaving it off the list.
Banks Loses to Fox: I enjoy Alicia Fox’s unbalanced character. But, I don’t understand having her get a win over Sasha Banks at this point. Building a storyline over an accidental mistake where she got her shoulder up when she was obviously not supposed to doesn’t make sense to me. If you want to cover for the mistake with a rematch, that is ok. But, then have Banks win again in a decisive way to make the statement that she would have won last week even if the referee had seen Fox’s shoulders during the three count.
Announcers: While the announcing is generally atrocious on Raw, largely because of Booker T, I have to say that it was particularly atrocious during the IC Title match. Therefore, that is what I will concentrate on for this Miss, but it was not the only bad announcing on the show. Corey Graves, who is not as good as I hoped he’d be at this point, said at the start of the match that these two have faced before, but the stakes have never been higher. What are you talking about? A moment later, Michael Cole said that Ambrose won the IC Title from Miz earlier this year. They’ve faced over the Title many times, so why does this match suddenly have higher stakes? Later, while discussing Ambrose’s stamina, Booker T said “there is a reason why they call him a lunatic.” What does being a lunatic have to do with stamina? Am I missing a link? And then you get Graves after the match doing the old Bobby Heenan “my monitor went blank” bit by refusing to acknowledge that Miz was trying to do a low blow before Ambrose did one. I’m just over that tired heel announcer bit. And then the supposed babyface announcer said that if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying and lauded Miz for trying to cheat. I never thought I would say it, but David Otunga can’t get back fast enough.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: WWE RAW HITS & MISSES 4/17: Miz TV, Seth Rollins-Samoa Joe, Big Show vs. Braun Strowman, Booker T, Bray, Emma-Fox-Brooke
OR CHECK OUT JASON POWELL’S RAW HITLIST AT PROWRESTLING.NET 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.