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Strowman vs. Owens: After a poor opening (more later), Raw got going in a better direction with this match between Brawn Strowman and Kevin Owens. The match was well booked to give Owens a good amount of offense while also allowing Strowman to dominate. They executed it well. Strowman has turned into a pretty good wrestler. Owens of course is a great wrestler. I wonder if Strowman will continue to do his running shoulder tackles on the outside of the ring in matches with other wrestlers. Owens’ selling of those tackles is what has made that move so memorable. Will it work against someone else?
Moon vs. Riott vs. Banks: This was a good triple threat match to have Ember Moon qualify as the first woman in this year’s Money in the Bank ladder match. I’m not sure why Kurt Angle would make a triple threat match with Ruby Riott where the Riott Squad can legally get involved. Bayley came out when they did to help Sasha Banks. I guess that furthers their never-ending storyline in a decent way. The match had good wrestling action with a nice ending.
Rollins vs. Rawley: Seth Rollins had a strong promo about wanting to be a fighting Intercontinental Champion. The idea of him doing a series of open challenges has potential. We’ve seen good things out of the US Open Challenge in the past. If Rollins isn’t going to win Money in the Bank, then I am glad that it seems he isn’t going to be in the match. He is going to be protected by focusing on the IC Title for now before he hopefully gets an opportunity at the Universal Title down the line (hopefully not too far down the line). Mojo Rawley was solid in his answer to the challenge. The match itself was good. Rawley looked strong and was elevated despite taking the loss. Rollins once again put in a great effort in the ring one night after helping The Miz have the best singles match of his career.
Reigns vs. Zayn vs. Balor: The main event was another good match. This wasn’t a good show, but had some good wrestling. This match had some really nice action, but had some drawbacks too. As exciting as the action was between Sami Zayn and Finn Balor, you knew the match wasn’t going to end until Roman Reigns returned to the ring. It was still fun to watch. The crowd once again not surprisingly totally rejected Reigns. I don’t know how long this can go. It is utterly ridiculous that he is still in the position as the top babyface in WWE despite these consistent heel reactions that he gets. It will be interesting to see the reactions that he gets in a feud against Jinder Mahal. I think the idea is that he is the one heel on Raw who won’t get cheered, but more likely they both will get booed and “you both suck” chants. It was interesting that Owens didn’t come out despite telling Zayn that he would have his back. I’m curious to see where they go with those two going forward.
Opening Segment: This was not a good performance for Kurt Angle to kick off Raw. It was poor. He isn’t great at these types of promos where he has to explain details about matches or upcoming PPVs. I honestly thought he said that both Raw and Smackdown would have men’s and women’s Money in the Bank matches at the show. I thought there were going to be four of them based on how he put it at the beginning. Luckily, I was wrong. Getting back to this segment, Strowman didn’t help things out. Did he just tell a story about killing a bunch of kids when he was a kid? That’s how I took it. Owens was easily the best on the mic here. I did laugh at his “bad monster!” taunt. But, it still wasn’t enough to save this opening segment.
Announcers: The announcing is atrocious on Raw. Jonathan Coachman’s Word of the Hour has already jumped the shark. He asked if anyone the size of Strowman had ever been in a ladder match before. Apparently he doesn’t pay much attention. Kane won a MITB match once. Mark Henry has been in one. Big Show has been in one. Coach also called Ember Moon too young. Why? Their constant bickering is getting so annoying. They continue to talk up Riott as a great wrestler while failing to decry her heel tactics. I still don’t understand why the babyface announcers love Elias but the heel announcer hates him. They are ruining his gimmick. They are also terrible in how they talk about The Deleters of Worlds. Michael Cole totally undercuts their gimmick. Graves’ catchphrase is “shut up!” I’m tired of hearing him yell that so many times each night. The three of them don’t have good chemistry at all. They are all partly to blame, but this week Coach was the biggest problem. He is making me start to miss Booker T. I believe I’ve quoted Jim from “The Office” before in saying “congratulations Universe. You win.”
MITB Selfies: These short promos throughout the show with various wrestlers talking about MITB were not good. Half of the wrestlers who did them aren’t going to be in qualifying matches for MITB. Breezango? The Ascension? Give me a break. Throw in Goldust and Zack Ryder trying to get a qualifying match from Angle, and you had a night of lower card wrestlers wasting time. At least Finn Balor was in a qualifying match, but his selfie promo was another example of his goofy smile bit that he’s been doing which is holding him back from being a true top star. Even the Natalya one which was fine in a vacuum failed, because her focus should be on her feud with Mickie James in order to continue to develop Ronda Rousey. Having her on at all without mentioning Rousey just reminded me that Rousey wasn’t on.
Lashley Interview: I guess this is a case of be careful what you wish for. I was one of the many WWE fans who had been wanting to hear from Bobby Lashley since his return after WrestleMania. I had heard from others whose opinions I greatly respect about how much he had improved on the mic during his time in TNA. I had heard about his greater confidence in finding himself as a character, particularly as a heel. WWE put together a nice video of Lashley’s career, as an amateur, in his initial WWE run and in MMA. That was the type of video that should have been played weeks ago. I was happy to see him finally getting some mic time with this sit down interview with Renee Young. Then he spoke and it was like, what was that? He was ok in his delivery, but the script of him talking about growing up with his sisters was terrible. Who cares? It didn’t get me behind him as a wrestler. It didn’t make me want to see him wrestle. It didn’t build anticipation for his first big solo feud. My wife mostly just watches the PPVs with me, so during Backlash she said “they brought Bobby Lashley back just to have him in a tag team?” She’s not even a Lashley fan, but she recognized how they have wasted him since his return.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JonMezzera.