SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Sasha Banks Promo – HIT: Sasha Banks did a nice job coming across as unlikable in her show opening promo. It wasn’t great. I was hoping for more from her since she was such a good heel in NXT. But, I think she was trying to be more subdued in order to not get cheers from fans who like her despite her heel turn. She was able to incorporate her real life frustrations over her role at WrestleMania into her character in a believable way. She explained why she left after WM and why she came back now. It did sound like she was getting mostly boos so that’s good. The fight with Natalya worked well to hype their match for later in the show.
Ricochet vs. Drew McIntyre – HIT: This was the best of the opening round matches in the King of the Ring tournament so far. It was one of the ones I was looking forward to the most and it did not disappoint. Drew McIntyre should be a main event act. Even if he wasn’t going to win, going far in the tournament would have been nice for him. I am hoping that being upset over losing in the first round will motivate his character to jump start something better for him. Ricochet is so talented that I can’t complain about him winning to advance. Plus as I said above, this was a very good match.
Corbin vs. Miz – MISS: The second KOTR match wasn’t nearly as good as the first, but that isn’t surprising. It wasn’t terrible. Given the two wrestlers in the match, it was probably as good as you could hope. But, The Miz was not good in his pre-match promo. That was definitely at the low end of his mic work which is a shame considering that is his strength. If I were Miz, I would not have done my finishing move here if I wasn’t going to win. You should protect your finisher, so having Baron Corbin kick out of the Skull Crushing Finale wasn’t smart. Corbin winning was predictable and ok, but I don’t want to see him moving forward. The show is better without him. The trolling he did afterwards was fine in the moment, but it is not a good enough reason to have him win the tournament, so hopefully he loses to Cedric Alexander next week.
Tag Team Turmoil – MISS: This was a gauntlet match. When I heard the Street Profits talking about it, I assumed that it was something special. Then, when they actually described the rules, I realized that it as just a gauntlet match. This was a terrible stretch of Raw. It reinforced the fact that they don’t have a deep tag team division on either Raw or Smackdown, although there are good teams that they didn’t use here. This was a bunch of jobbers. The only way it could have been good is if The Viking Raiders ran through the entire gauntlet, but I understand why they didn’t do that. Their squash of the B-Team to start was ok. Then you got the cheesy double disqualification to keep WWE from having either the Viking Raiders or The OC from losing. That is a copout. Then you get this totally random team of Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode making their debut. Shouldn’t you have to have been in a tag team match before getting into this type of match? They beat the Lucha Bros which is ok, but the fact that they went on to win the whole thing just makes a joke out of the tag division. While they were facing Hawkins & Ryder, I couldn’t even remember the last team that was going to come out. I had totally forgotten about Heavy Machinery. Ottis is over and gets a nice reaction, so why not run with that? They took two heels who aren’t over at all, who are cold as you can get and put them together and expect fans to take them seriously. It is stupid. This didn’t fit in at all with Ziggler’s latest delusional character.
Banks vs. Natalya – HIT: While the match was short at only 4 minutes, that made sense given the previous arm injury for Natalya which Banks was able to take advantage of. The match was physical and intense as it should be. I loved how Natalya tried to attack Banks before the match started to sell how angry she is at her. It fit in perfectly with their storyline. The final few moments of the match where Banks transitioned from her traditional Banks Statement into a modified version hooking Natalya’s bad arm was very well done. Obviously Banks needed the strong win in her first match back. Her post-match attack and her demeanor were spot on. The announcers were also good in discussing her new character. Even Corey Graves was better this week in explaining why he didn’t like her before, but why he sees value in her showing her true character now as a way to no longer hold herself back.
Alexander vs. Cesaro – HIT: This match didn’t get a good reaction from the crowd, as it didn’t have a real storyline for it. The announcers tried to put it in the context of Cesaro trying to injure Alexander so he can take his place in KOTR, but there needed to be some interviews with each beforehand to set the stage. It is a shame there wasn’t more context to it, or a stronger reaction from the live fans, because it was a good match. They told the story of Cesaro trying to injure Alexander’s leg. Alexander sold the leg injury well throughout the match, but was able to overcome it in the end. That makes him vulnerable heading into next week’s second round match up against Corbin.
Strowman vs. Styles – MISS: There was some good wrestling action in this main event United States Championship match, but the ending brought it down to a Miss. WWE sold this match in a large part by promising that there wouldn’t be any outside interference since the rest of the OC and Seth Rollins were banned from ringside. But, that didn’t end up happening with the referee getting knocked out. That was one of the better ref bumps in recent memory as he got out of the ring in order to avoid getting squashed in the corner, only to get knocked off the ring apron a moment later. But, that led to Gallows & Anderson getting involved with the ultimate cheesy ending where the referee heard a chair shot and saw Strowman holding the chair over a fallen Rollins and disqualified him. I will call this a marginal Miss, as the rest of the match had been strong before that.
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 on Twitter @JonMezzera.