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First Hour Plus of Raw:Up through Rousey vs. Riott, it seemed to me that WWE had taken some of the criticism against the recent Raws and the very poor rating last week and made some changes to the presentation. They certainly seemed to be trying harder in that hour + time to get a better rating. They gave mic time to Dean Ambrose which is something many fans have wanted to see since his return. They featured multiple top stars in matches including Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Ronda Rousey. They didn’t do long video packages like they have been. They didn’t do a long segment about their charitable giving. They announced Rollins vs. McIntyre and an appearance by Shawn Michaels as ways to keep the audience invested in the rest of the show. And they kept the show moving at a good pace with hooks before each commercial break to keep fans interested. And a lot what happened during that stretch of Raw ended up as individual Hits.
Opening Segment:As I said above, it was good to hear Ambrose getting mic time this week. Having Raw start with Charlie Caruso interviewing him about what happened last week was a good way to start the show and to follow up on The Shield angle from last week. Ambrose was good in his sarcastic tone where you couldn’t quite tell how he really felt. This was furthered later on in the backstage segments with him and Seth Rollins and then Roman Reigns. I didn’t like the rest of the segment nearly as much as the beginning of it once Baron Corbin came out. I like the idea of his three choices for Ambrose. That fit in perfectly well with the current angle and his character. But, I didn’t like the fact that Ambrose didn’t make a choice.
Ambrose vs. Strowman:As the show continued on nicely, they went right to this match between Ambrose and Braun Strowman. It was a good match. Ambrose looked great in being able to hang with Strowman as well as he did. He got in a good amount of offense and sold well for Strowman too. The match went a nice length at 14 minutes. The ending made sense as Reigns came out to stop Strowman when he was trying to dish out extra punishment on Ambrose instead of pinning him. It played into his storyline of possibly being annoyed by the rest of The Shield.
Reigns vs. Ziggler:Here is another example of WWE going right to the next thing to keep the audience hooked without some long video or something not as interesting to lose the audience’s attention. WWE went right to this match between Reigns and Dolph Ziggler. It was another good match that also went a good length at 13 minutes. The Ziggler loss gave Strowman a chance to hint that he might be the weak link in their group which followed up nicely on some of the potential tension that they had last week when Drew McIntyre started to think that maybe he was too good to be part of it.
Rousey vs. Riott:There is criticism against this match based on how much selling Rousey did for Ruby Riott. But, I don’t mind it. I wish the match had more hype earlier in the show. They went to it late in the first hour to help keep that momentum going which makes sense, but it could have been later in the show to allow them time to get more mic work from Riott and Rousey beyond just the short selfie Riott Squad promo. I am a fan of Riott and they have given her big matches against Champions like Charlotte Flair in the past, so I don’t mind her getting that offense. She has something and is in a better position despite the loss than she was in before the match. Rousey is so over that she can sell like this without it hurting her. She did a good job of selling. It was a good match. We need to see more fully rounded matches from Rousey so this worked well to me. And that near fall with the roll up and yanking of the tights was very well done. That was one of the most believable near falls in a while on WWE tv.
A Moment of Bliss:I greatly enjoyed these segments when Alexa Bliss was speaking out about how Nia Jax is a bully. I was happy to see her bring it back here as WWE needs to start hyping Evolution in a better way. They haven’t done enough and this was at least something to kickstart the build to Bliss’ match against Trish Stratus. The story itself was funny. The line about Trish burping at her was great, but my favorite line was when she said that Trish tore up her autograph book and stepped on her foot. I appreciate the that Renee Young came out strongly to actually call Bliss a liar. I now want to hear a come back from Trish.
Rollins vs. McIntyre:This was another good match. Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre work really well together. The match went only 12 minutes which was disappointing, and other other circumstances, you’d expect the match to go longer. However, with Ziggler interfering and distracting Rollins, it allowed McIntyre to hit the Claymore kick for a quicker win than would otherwise happen. It was certainly a fun 12 minutes of wrestling to watch before that point. The fighting afterwards was a good way to sell The Shield as being at a disadvantage heading into the 6 man tag match in Australia.
Michaels/Kane/Undertaker/Triple H:This was a good final go home sell of the Super Showdown in Australia on Saturday. That show is clearly built around Triple H vs. Undertaker. There are plenty of other good looking matches, but that’s the focus. It is a match I don’t care to see. I don’t expect it to be good. I don’t have much interest in seeing wrestlers in their 50s. The four guys involved in the final segment are 49-53. I don’t want to see any of them ever wrestle again. But, WWE is doing a good job with the build up to the match. They have had mostly good segments with the various participants talking about it. They’ve had the good videos with WWE Legends making their predictions. In the final one, we got Shawn Michaels in his long awaited return since being confronted by Undertaker (that was how Michael Cole put it, “long awaited return” from what, 3 weeks ago?). It was nice to see Michaels being serious and intense and not doing any of the silly bits that he’s done far too often in his retirement. This isn’t DX. It is Shawn Michaels & Triple H. The promo was strong. Kane’s interruption was a nice surprise. I liked how Michaels figured out he was in the ring quickly, but still took a punch to the face. Undertaker’s appearance was an even bigger surprise. They nicely set it up by having Kane on first which made it seem like that was the surprise of the night. The physicality between them worked well, but Undertaker looked shaky in getting Triple H up for that tombstone. This was exciting and fun. But, I stand by my prediction that it will not be a good match. And I’m hoping that the predictions are wrong and that this won’t be a precursor for Michaels to return to the ring in a tag match at Crown Jewel. I will lose respect for Michaels to go against his retirement to take a big pay day in a country that is very oppressive towards women, homosexuals and journalists while stifling freedom of speech and freedom of religion on a show where women can’t appear.
Non-Title Matches:I don’t get the idea that somehow Baron Corbin was punishing Reigns and Rollins by not making their matches Title matches. They sort of explained that he wanted to protect the Crown Jewel main event Universal Title match. But, that doesn’t explain not having Rollins defend the Intercontinental Title. And the bigger issue is that Ziggler should be upset that he didn’t get a Universal Title opportunity. McIntyre should be mad that he didn’t get a shot at the IC Title. He won. He should be angry that he isn’t the IC Champion right now.
Bad Announcing:Renee Young should not say “a win is a win” when brushing off a babyface wrestler cheating by thumbing his opponent in the eye, even if it was her husband. This lack of consistency from the announcers makes it difficult to take the product seriously. In the next match, Ziggler was trying to get heel heat by cheating by raking Reigns’ eyes to get an advantage. But, the announcers barely made any reference to it. How could they after what Young said in the previous match? How could a babyface announcer possibly help Ziggler get heat for cheating when they dismissed a babyface wrestler cheating in the same exact way?
Stretch After Rousey vs. Riott:WWE had good momentum going in that first hour + of the show, managing to put on a good show for a long stretch, without doing annoying things like having so many video packages that they’ve been doing lately. But right after Rousey vs. Riott, they started going back to those things. They immediately followed that up with the first video package of the night with the one hyping Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch. They went right from that to the Bobby Roode vs. Konnor match which was not a good way to keep fans interested. They did have the fun Moment for Bliss next, but they followed that up with the disappointing B-Team vs. Revival match. I had been happy that they weren’t touting their charity work, but they eventually did have a Susan G Komen video for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a short acknowledgement of some representatives in the crowd. This was not long enough to get an individual Miss, but I’m guessing it will get worse and worse throughout the month until the 29th when we get a very similar segment like the one we got with Conor’s Cure last week. This long stretch of poor tv continued until we finally got Rollins vs. McIntyre.
Konnor vs. Roode:This Ascension vs. Roode & Gable feud is terrible. I guess they are setting up some type of break up for Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, but they just got put together. It appears that they were put together with the sole purpose of breaking them up right away which doesn’t make sense. Neither of them are coming across as likable at this point. They both look like losers since they keep losing to Konnor who has been a a joke. Nobody is going to care by the end of this angle. In fact, they don’t care now. The crowd was silent for this match.
B-Team vs. Revival:This was a terrible way to follow up on Revival’s very good match against Ziggler & McIntyre last week for the Tag Team Championship. They won over that crowd in a heel vs. heel match by giving a great babyface performance. Instead of capitalizing on that momentum, they appeared here against a popular joke team without even getting a ring entrance, and they lost. What a wasted opportunity! The attack by Authors of Pain afterwards was well executed, but it continues to point to the odd way that Drake Maverick is a totally different character on Raw than on 205 Live.
Elias/Owens/Lashley/Rush:I know everyone loved the start of this segment when Elias trolled the Seattle fans with the comment about them not having a basketball team. The reaction that the fans gave at that point was certainly entertaining with such a long sustained boo. It went on for a long time and was amusing to see Elias and Kevin Owens react to it. What they did in handling that reaction worked well. It was largely a typical performance from Elias. Lio Rush has potential, but he wasn’t good here. This was not his best work and didn’t get a good reaction when he came out and it lessened the pop for Bobby Lashley. He comes across as such a natural heel on 205 Live, so he doesn’t come across as a strong babyface mouth piece for Lashley on Raw. Owens vs. Lashley was ok, but not good enough to get a Hit. Corey Graves was right that this wasn’t much without John Cena. The match at Super Showdown feels totally unimportant. I also didn’t like having the Cruiserweight swatted out of the air by the heavyweight. That doesn’t do much for the 205 Live roster.
Fox vs. Bayley:Bayley is totally being wasted on Raw. What happened to her team with Sasha Banks? Why are they using her to just hype the stupid Mixed Match Challenge which is obviously not doing well on Facebook Live considering we got a tutorial on how to watch the MMC on Facebook Live from Michael Cole. Why aren’t they doing anything to build towards something with Bayley for Evolution? This is also a waste of Finn Balor’s talent. He isn’t being used at all on Raw and his mimicking Bayley’s mannerisms isn’t a great idea. Yeah, she’s popular, but in a different way than he’s popular. And the match itself just wasn’t particularly good.
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.