SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
24/7 Title – MISS: Last week was the highest rated show of the year, Raw Reunion. WWE might get some new eyeballs on the show from fans who tuned in last week, and want to keep watching (although last week’s show wasn’t very good and didn’t do anything at all to hook those lapsed viewers to watch this week). But, they started off this next Raw with the 24/7 title. That doesn’t make sense. Having a “mosh pit” mixed tag match for the 24/7 title was stupid. A mosh pit? What is this, 1993? The idea that the referee could actually see R-Truth’s shoulders or determine who was pinning him to give Mike Kanellis the belt was stupid. I appreciate the fact that they did something new with the title by putting it on the pregnant Maria Kanellis, but I’m still not interested in the title. And what’s up with that odd scene with her and Braun Strowman?
Gauntlet – HIT: The Guantlet was a nice stretch of wrestling to determine the #1 contender for AJ Styles’ United States Championship. Cesaro vs. Rey Mysterio kicked off the gauntlet with a good 11 minute match. I would love to see more from these two against each other. In fact, I would love to see a bunch of singles matches with these five wrestlers in various match ups. The Mysterio vs. Sami Zayn match was very short which is disappointing, but made sense and played well into Zayn’s character. It was a bit botched as Mysterio was obviously supposed to catch Zayn in a school boy, but he missed. However, they recovered well as the pros that they are and it wasn’t too bad. We’ve seen great matches between Mysterio and Andrade on Smackdown so it was nice to see them face here, even if it was just for 5 minutes. Again while I would have loved to see more of them in the ring against each other, the short time given the gauntlet situation did make sense. The final segment with Ricochet beating Andrade was also good, but short at 6 minutes. That’s another match I’d love to see down the line. Andrade was the predictable winner, but that’s ok.
Becky – Natalya – HIT: I had some mixed feelings about what WWE did with Becky Lynch and Natalya to build to their Raw Women’s Title match at SummerSlam. It was interesting to see Natalya training with Fit Finlay before the show, learning his tips on how to reverse the Disarmer into a Sharpshooter. The idea that Becky would be upset at this was consistent with her character who is upset that Natalya helped Ronda Rousey train for their match at WrestleMania. She was upset that Finlay was helping Natalya and even called him a traitor. However, kneeing him in the groin was a bit much. Becky vs. Alexa Bliss was a solid match, but Nikki Cross has now gone total heel instead of naive babyface being taken advantage of. The fake ankle injury worked ok. The beating with Bliss and Cross worked well, as did Natalya taking advantage of the situation to attack Becky with a Sharpshooter. The problem is that neither Becky nor Natalya came across particularly likable on this show. A submission match between them is intriguing, but the non-challenge from Natalya was just weird.
Using The Usos – MISS: There needs to be some disciplinary action taken against Jimmy Uso after his DUI last week. He has had two previous DUIs, and was arrested a few months ago for an altercation with the police, after his wife was pulled over for driving down the wrong way of a one way street. Jay Uso shouldn’t be punished for crimes of his brother, but he has had his own DUI in the past. WWE should take this seriously, and give Jimmy a suspension. What they did with the Usos was good this week (more later). They have tons of talent and have a strong connection with the fans. But, that can’t make up for multiple arrests in one year and potential issues with alcohol. I will move on from being uncomfortable with Jimmy on the show at all (seriously, just a few days after John Cena made fun of them for being arrested in the past), and objectively critique their work and how they were used on the show.
Triple Threat Tag Team Title Match – HIT: I’m really not sure what The OC had done to earn a Title shot at this point. I’m not a fan of triple threat tag matches, especially for a Tag Title. If all three wrestlers are in the ring at the same time for a singles triple threat match, why can’t all three teams have one wrestler in the ring at the same time for a tag team triple threat? I would like that so much more than these tired rules where wrestlers can tag out to anyone. I give WWE credit for explaining that a coin flip determined with two teams would start in the ring. I give the announcers credit for doing a nice job of telling the story of the match in terms of the rules and the stakes and what not. I give the six wrestlers credit for putting in a strong effort in the ring. This had good wrestling action throughout and that huge superplex onto the outside of the ring was pretty cool. The OC as the Champs to go along with Styles’ US Title makes sense. I enjoyed their celebration with Styles in the back too.
Viking Battle Training – MISS: Did I hear that right? What WWE is doing with these squash matches for the Viking Raiders is good. They look dominating and are establishing their moves and their impressive work in the ring. But, the rest of the presentation leaves a lot to be desired. Their name is stupid. Their outfits are dippy. Their characters (viking cosplayers) are not connecting with the audience. They are a very talented team who were over in NXT (and other places before signing with WWE). But, the whole Viking thing doesn’t seem like a major league wrestling gimmick in 2019.
Lesnar Destroys Rollins – HIT: I had some issues with this, but in the end the beating that Brock Lesnar gave to Seth Rollins was so physical, intense and memorable that I am giving it a Hit. Rollins’ match against Dolph Ziggler was solid before Lesnar interrupted. The beating that took place in the ring was great. It actually got hard to watch with those F5s on the chair, but that was the point, so it worked. However, where were Rollins’ friends? Where was Roman Reigns that entire time? Where were the Street Profits? They had a friendly moment with Rollins before his match and talked about how they were behind him because of the disrespect Ziggler showed to Shawn Michaels, but they couldn’t come out to help him? The announcers did do a great job of selling the beating.
After the commercial, I liked how they transitioned into the brawl with Reigns and Samoa Joe. It was good to see Reigns checking on Rollins with the Usos, only to have the OC jump them, so Reigns went to their aid, only to be jumped by Joe, so that he wasn’t there for the next part of the beating. That post-ambulance part of the beating was also vicious and memorable. Unlike the first part of the attack, they told a story to explain where Reigns was, which is good. However, it was not as believable. The idea that Lesnar would block the ambulance at first was fine, but once he moved out of the way and was walking next to the ambulance, it is totally unbelievable that the driver wouldn’t leave. That took away from the angle. The F5 on the stretcher was brutal and something we haven’t seen before. The whole angle sets up multiple possibilities going into the Universal Title match at SummerSlam. Will Rollins even make it to the match? Will the injury give him an excuse for losing? Will he win, overcoming the injuries?
“Samoan Summit” – HIT: I’m not sure what the Samoan Summit was supposed to be, but after a decent promo from Samoa Joe, it turned into a huge show closing brawl. Reigns came out and attacked Joe. I liked the intensity that he showed. It made sense to have Drew McIntyre attack Reigns too. They have a history which came into play here. Cedric Alexander has had a relationship with Reigns recently, so his save also made sense. It is nice to see Alexander sharing screen time with some of these top stars in the main event slot of the show. The brawl continued up the ramp where the Usos got involved, which again made sense. The OC coming out at that point worked well given their match earlier in the show and their fighting backstage. These brawls can feel random, where you are trying to figure out why certain wrestlers got involved. Here, it all was logical. The physicality was good. It was fun to watch. There were some big spots like Alexander leaping off the screen. Everyone got a chance to shine during the brawl, and the babyfaces stood tall in the end to send the fans home happy.
Commercial Breaks – HIT: It was also nice to see WWE go away from the recent trend of not having wrestling on the commercial breaks. While I initially applauded their effort to try to get rid of wrestling on the commercials, the way they ultimately went about it was annoying and unnatural. This week, they had a little bit of that with the Lynch vs. Bliss/Cross matches, but that felt much more natural and very much like something they would have done in the past, as opposed to the forced 2-out-of-3 falls matches or elimination tag matches, or some type of other odd break in a match leading to a “reset” after the commercial.
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 email@example.com.