SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment: WWE had a good follow up to Roman Reigns winning the Universal Championship at SummerSlam with this start to Raw. Having Reigns immediately set himself apart from Brock Lesnar by being a fighting Champion was a good idea. It was made even better by having him challenge Finn Balor since that popped the crowd. They were happy that Reigns was making a match that they wanted to see. Now, that meant that he would be facing a popular wrestler in the main event, which meant he’d bet booed, but it still made for a good opening. The rest helped with him making fun of Baron Corbin. Nobody was going to cheer for Corbin over Reigns at that point. And Kurt Angle was good in his role too.
Riott Squad vs. Bayley/Banks/Moon: This was a good 6 woman tag match, but I’m not totally sure where WWE is going with these teams. The Riott Squad has not been effective when they aren’t at full strength. They told the story that now that they are back to full strength with Ruby Riott returning from injury, that they have the numbers advantage over Bayley and Sasha Banks. But this week, they had a partner in Ember Moon, yet they still lost. So that was a little odd to me, but I want to know where they are going. Riott Squad should win some times without having the numbers advantage. And as I said, it was a good match.
Ambrose vs. Ziggler: This wasn’t as long as I would have liked. At just 10 minutes, I would have loved to see it go longer as it was very good while it lasted. It was nice to see Dean Ambrose back in a wrestling match after all of that time away with injury. Ziggler continues to seem more motivated with his in ring work as he has over the last few months since being teamed up with Drew McIntyre. It made me want to see a tag match with Ambrose and Seth Rollins against Ziggler and McIntyre, although with the Shield reunion at the end of the show, I’m not sure what direction they are going in.
Reigns vs. Balor: The main event made during the opening segment was also good. The fans were clearly behind Balor, but that makes sense given that he’s a babyface and very popular. The match worked well in how it was booked. It went back and forth nicely, with both guys getting in plenty of offense. I don’t think anyone really believed that Balor was going to win the Universal Title, but they were buying into the near falls at the end and the teases that they might actually see Balor win. Braun Strowman coming out towards the end was a little awkward, but worked to pop the crowd and build anticipation for the possible Money in the Bank cash in.
Shield Reunion: Due to illness and injuries, the last Shield reunion didn’t go as WWE had wanted. It didn’t end up really going at all. So, it makes sense to go back to it now that Ambrose has returned. It fits in with the long game of trying to get Reigns cheered by the fans which has been seen lately in their PR campaign against Brock Lesnar. This was the next logical step and the crowd went crazy for the rest of the team as they came out to save Reigns from the MITB cash in. But Strowman is so popular, that they were still cheering for him. They wanted to see him cash in that briefcase and win the Title. They were disappointed he didn’t get the chance. But they were super excited for the reason why he didn’t get that chance. They gave a “Holy Sh-” chant. They cheered when Strowman fought back, then cheered again when the Shield did the triple power bomb on him through the announce desk. By the way, it was a little too convenient that the announce table was back to ringside for this one episode of Raw instead of up by the stage as it has been most weeks. The point is that the fans were torn in this situation. As good as it was and as clearly Hit worthy as it was, it did bring up the idea that maybe Kevin Owens should have won the MITB briefcase at the PPV. If Owens had come out at the end to sneakily cash in MITB, he would have been cheered for sure, but not as much as Strowman. If Ambrose and Rollins had come out to save Reigns from Owens at that point, there would have not been any cheers for Owens. It would have been 100% positive for the Shield. That would have been a better use of the Shield reunion. I do have a lot of questions as to what this means for them and Strowman moving forward (and Ziggler & McIntyre too). Strowman doesn’t seem like the type who would get a group together to take on the Shield. Plus, they are all babyfaces. So while I did enjoy the segment and was excited to see the reunion, I have some definite reservations.
Lashley vs. Corbin: WWE keeps coming out with long matches for Corbin and they haven’t been good. That is why his short match against Balor at SummerSlam worked so well. He isn’t good enough to be part of these longer matches. This one wasn’t as long as other recent matches, but at 13 minutes it still dragged. Bobby Lashley wasn’t good enough to save the match. He isn’t over with the crowd enough either. Once again, Corbin had his opponent in the same headlock when the match returned from a commercial break. It is like he only knows that one rest hold. The Brooklyn fans in the arena gave the match a “Boring!” chant. Who am I to argue?
Triple H Promo: There were good things about Triple H’s promo talking about his match against The Undertaker at the big special show in Australia in October. Part of my Miss is for the fact that this was the night after SummerSlam and he’s talking about something that won’t happen for two months. WWE knew that they’d get a much bigger TV audience for this show than normal weeks, so it makes sense to capitalize on that audience, but I wanted to see other content that had to do with current storylines that builds towards the next PPV instead of looking that far ahead. And I don’t really buy the fact that Triple H was just sitting in his office, not expecting to wrestle on the card when he gets a call from Vince McMahon asking him to. Yeah, like he wouldn’t demand a spot on the card. And I didn’t get the segue between not wanting to wrestle Undertaker again, and suddenly saying yes. Did I miss a reason? He was pretty clear why he initially said no, but then said something like “because of that passion, I said yes.” It didn’t make sense to me. I liked the delivery. I liked some of what he said, but the timing and the rest of the negatives landed this promo on the Miss column.
Women’s Segment: There were good things about this segment, but ultimately it didn’t work. Some type of reason why the Bella Twins are back and part of the roster again should be given. I mean, at the PPV, they were just in the crowd watching the Raw Women’s Title match, so why were they with the rest of the regular roster here? And while I appreciate what WWE was trying to do with Ronda Rousey trying to not appear above all the other women, it didn’t make her look like a star. I liked that she pointed out that Stephanie McMahon was putting herself above the women on the roster, but the magnanimous “this is about all of us” didn’t ring true coming from her. She gave a good performance, but the script wasn’t good. And we’ve seen her break Stephanie’s arm before. This felt too familiar. And before she did that, I wish she would have had a stronger statement. She could have said she won’t break other women’s arms unless they deserve it, but when they are wrestling each other, she will make them tap out. That’s better for her character than just saying she’s looking forward to wrestling each of them at some point.
Constable Corbin: I don’t think that any problem with WWE creative can be solved by having more of a heel authority figure presence on their shows. Having a heel Constable Corbin in charge for the time being doesn’t make me look forward to watching the show going forward. It makes me dread watching. He isn’t good in the role. It isn’t a role that should exist any more. It is so dated and hated. And having an active wrestler in charge is such a conflict of interest that it doesn’t seem like something that would be allowed, even from Stephanie McMahon.
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. Follow him on Twitter @JonMezzera.