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Strowman and Lashley Explode – MISS: It seems like I’m in a minority of people who hated this stunt to kick off Raw. The Falls Count Anywhere match between Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley which started the show was going well. Then Strowman tackled Lashley through the screen causing a series of explosions. I hated everything about this. The explosions were cheesy. Corey Graves’ swearing felt forced and scripted. It wasn’t realistic that the announcers would be quiet for the rest of the segment. They would have been saying things like “get help out here!” The visual focus was the explosion. The verbal focus was the electrical equipment that was behind the screen. So were we supposed to think they got severely burned, or electrocuted? Come on. The big injury coming out of it was Strowman having a ruptured spleen. What about that would cause a ruptured spleen? He drove Lashley through the screen and landed on him with his 350 pound body, but Lashley was ok, while he had the severe injuries? And no burns? WWE did treat it like a big deal which is good. But, after the commercial, it is hard to take it seriously when the announcers are acting super serious while continuing to spout WWE Corporate speak with statements about Superstars safety, and how dangerous Sports Entertainment is, and how they’ve been taken to a Medical Facility since they aren’t allowed to say “hospital” (although I think the 8th time talking about it, Micael Cole accidentally let a hospital slip through).
Viking Raiders & Joe vs. The New Day – HIT: I am regretting my praise for WWE trying to do away with wrestling during commercial breaks last week. The various ways of getting around it like this where a match stops after 3 minutes only to be restarted with two more wrestlers added to it are getting old after a week. The second part of this match, the six man tag that went about 7 minutes was good. Here is where WWE protecting Kofi Kingston and keeping him strong since WrestleMania has been a good idea. Having Samoa Joe put Kofi to sleep with the Coquina Clutch worked very well, because we haven’t seen Kofi losing in these matches. This stood out. It made Joe look strong which he needed coming out of his United States Title loss to Ricochet at the last PPV. It is too bad that we see the other Champions in WWE losing on a weekly basis.
Street Profits – MISS: The Street Profits are a fun act and have been improving in NXT. I’m not sure they are ready for the main roster. They just won the NXT Tag Team Championship, so they should have a run with those titles before getting called up. There didn’t seem to be a storyline reason for why they had been called up. They were fine in what they did, but it felt too random to me.
Shane, McIntyre, Undertaker – MISS: This was boring. Undertaker’s surprise return last week worked well. But once you get past that Holy Sh-! surprise moment, you get Undertaker spewing the same tired generic dead man promo that we’ve heard from him since 1990. The Best in the Woooooooooooooorld! gimmick has run its course. None of this got me excited to actually see the match or answer why Undertaker came to Roman Reigns’ defense last week.
Miz vs. Elias – MISS: This was another match that suffered from the new format with the first two falls coming before the first commercial break, with the third coming after it. In the old system, this would have been a 10 minute match with 3-4 minutes coming on commercial. In the new system, we get two ridiculously short falls that take up about 2 minutes of time, then the commercial, then a third fall in 4 minutes. So there was about 6 minutes of wrestling. It feels like WWE could have put on a 6-7 minute one fall match without a commercial with just a little thought about when the commercials come. The wrestling between Miz and Elias wasn’t good to begin with, but when they were put in this poor position, it made it worse.
Becky – Seth – MISS: Becky Lynch and Seth Rollins are over in a big way as top babyfaces stars. Becky is cool, but she didn’t come across as cool while standing next to her not particularly cool boyfriend. Rollins can be cool, but he often comes across as a bit of a dork. The whole goofy back and forth with them joking about Rollins being impulsive didn’t work. It was weird hearing Rollins refer to Becky sleeping in her Title belt. Presenting them as a couple can work. It worked much better last week. But, it didn’t work well in this interview.
Mike and Maria Kanellis – MISS: This could have been a Hit in other circumstances. Mike and Maria Kanellis are part of 205 Live, but there was no reason why they would be on Raw, even with the Wildcard Rule. This was way too random, just because WWE needed another couple to face Lynch & Rollins in a mixed tag. They tried to tell the entire history and storyline of this couple in one night. They were introduced to the Raw audience in one interview, had a little backstory told by the announcers in terms of him taking her last name, to her getting mad at him for not doing well in the ring, to her telling him she’s pregnant, to her totally emasculating him in the end, all in one night. We haven’t had a reason to care about them, and they are already breaking up.
Bliss, Cross, Carmela – HIT: I continue to enjoy the storyline involving Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross and Bayley, even though I was initially hoping for a different challenger for Bayley coming out of the last PPV. This is working well. Carmella played a nice role this week in trying to convince Cross and Bliss is using her. The idea that Carmella beat Bliss but then lost to Cross was a good one. That worked to continue to show that Cross deserves the Smackdown Women’s Title match more than Bliss. I didn’t like how quickly Carmella vs. Bliss ended. But, otherwise, this was well done.
Ricochet vs. Styles – MISS: The work that Ricochet and A.J. Styles did in the main event was good. There was plenty of good wrestling action throughout the match. The problem again stems from the new no commercial break policy. So, we got a short match to start with the tease of Styles winning the U.S. Title, only to have a second referee coming out to tell the first referee that Ricochet had his foot under the rope for the three count. Then we get the match restarting after the commercial and end up with a match that was too short for the main event title match. Also, where was a second referee earlier in the night to tell the first referee that Baron Corbin tripped Natalya during her match against Lacey Evans? Shouldn’t someone come out to tell him that Corbin cheated? These types of endings happen far too often (including when Samoa Joe lost the same U.S. Title to Rey Mysterio) without a second referee. So, this doesn’t fit in with the structure of WWE. Now if a match isn’t elimination, or two-out-of-three, fans are going to look for something to happen to cause a short match to be extended, by outside interference, or a mistake by the referee in this instance.
Styles Turn – HIT: This was the highlight of the show and took up several segments throughout Raw which were almost all good (so you could say that this big Hit at the end of the show also includes multiple smaller Hits and one smaller Miss for the rest of the show). It was also the culmination of several weeks of storylines involving A.J. Styles and The Club, plus Ricochet. The performances from Styles, Gallows and Anderson in the various backstage encounters were all strong. Gallows and Anderson turned the tables on Styles in terms of going from him giving them a hard time, to them giving him a hard time. The one Miss was for Ricochet’s interview where he came across very poorly. He stumbled over his script which was bad, but he was also scripted to say that the next time he faces Styles, he would possibly be able to win. That was a very weak statement. I get that they are trying to juxtapose his rookie wide eyedness to Styles’ brash veteran cockiness, but it made him look bad. Otherwise, everything worked well to lead up to Styles’ turn at the end of the show. That was a big moment with him snapping on Ricochet after losing in the US Title match. I look forward to seeing heel Styles with The Club and to see if this can help Ricochet too, and to see if he gets some back up as well.
Follow me on Twitter @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.
For another viewpoint, check out Jason Powell’s original “Hitlist” column on ProWrestling.net covering this episode 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.