SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – MISS: This is a marginal Miss as the opening segment did at least build towards the main event for this show, while also fitting in with the storyline coming out of Night of Champions with Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman, and continued to build towards Hell in a Cell. That is all Hit worthy. But, the execution wasn’t. I wasn’t a fan of having Rollins talk about being afraid of The Fiend. He used the beatdown as an excuse, but it sounded weak. His new mantra of “survive and prevail” is far from catchy. It felt forced. The fans didn’t really get into what he had to say. They perked up when Braun Strowman came out, but the segment still wasn’t great. Rollins didn’t sound great when talking about not wanting to defend the Universal Title against Strowman again. I get what WWE is going for, but having a top Champion sounding overwhelmed by challenges isn’t a good idea.
Viking Experience vs. The OC – HIT: Having AJ Styles kicked out of the ringside area during this tag match backfired as he was popular with the San Francisco fans, so they booed the referee for kicking him out. Other than that, WWE should be happy with the response. That sounded like the best response the Viking Experience have had on the main roster. They won the fans over with their skill in the ring. They had a good match against Gallows & Anderson. But, they still need to dump the Viking cosplayer gimmick for something more serious.
Becky Lynch Interview – HIT: The Michael Cole sit down interview wth Becky Lynch worked well to continue to build up the Raw Women’s Title match inside Hell in a Cell with Lynch defending against Sasha Banks. Lynch got a chance to talk about how she wants Banks at her best. She didn’t sound afraid like her boyfriend did earlier in the show. Her confidence and bravado is so important to why she got over as The Man.
Cross vs. Banks – HIT: This match was a little too long at 16 minutes. Sometimes less is better and a 10-12 minute match at this same quality would have been better. But, it was still a good match with Nikki Cross taking Sasha Banks to the limit. She nearly won multiple times, but Banks still got the needed win in the end to continue her hot streak which is so important for her heading into that HIAC match against Lynch in a few weeks.
Evans vs. Moon – MISS: It is good that WWE has a women’s feud that doesn’t have anything to do with a championship. Historically that hasn’t happened. The feud between Lacey Evans and Natalya is allowing Evans to work with a great veteran worker to hopefully continue to improve her own in ring skills. However, that doesn’t mean that a talented wrestler like Ember Moon has to be sacrificed. WWE often seems to get behind the wrong wrestlers for the wrong reason, and anyone in the company who thinks that Evans is more deserving of a push than Moon is nuts. The announcers did talk about how Moon has been losing her matches lately, so hopefully that means they have a plan for her, but losing streaks seldom lead to something good.
Gable vs. Corbin – MISS: This match wasn’t as good as their King of the Ring finals match last week. That match suffered from the outcome with Chad Gable losing to Baron Corbin which undercut the entire Gable overcoming being short storyline. But, it was a good match otherwise. This one just dragged to me. Gable’s comebacks didn’t have the same spark as last week which might have something to do with the fact that this wasn’t for the crown. Gable’s comebacks didn’t have the same impact in part because of how damaged he was losing that match and proving the heels correct. I am already over Corey Graves doing the king speak on commentary. Corbin was finally dressing more like a real wrestler lately instead of a waiter, but now he has the cheesy king outfit. That doesn’t help. And you also got the lame purposeful disqualification ending. I wish one of the announcers would have at least pointed out that Gable technically did win the match, because Graves basically said that Corbin kept himself from losing in a smart way, but he did lose!
AOP – MISS: I liked the vignette with the Authors of Pain last week, and was hoping that there would be a series of good similar videos featuring them before they make their in ring return. Unfortunately, week 2 wasn’t nearly as good as week 1. They came across as more robotic to me in their initial sit down interview. But, the bigger problem is that they were supposed to be proving how dominating they are by beating up a few losers in the hallway. That wasn’t a strong enough statement. Then the video cut back to them sitting down to finish the interview which was awkwardly timed.
Fatal Five-Way – HIT: It was nice to see some mic work from the wrestlers involved in this #1 contenders match for the Universal Title earlier in the show, other than Ricochet’s pre-match interview which was terrible. He is bad at that aspect of WWE’s version of pro wrestling. However, he is great in the ring and he showed it off here. This was a very good match with Ricochet, Styles, Rey Mysterio, Shinsuke Nakamura and Bobby Roode. The elimination format can be iffy due to quick unrealistic falls. However, that wasn’t the case here. Ricochet was the first to bet pinned, but it happened after several minutes of action after taking Nakamura’s well-established finishing move. That was totally believable as were the falls that would follow. The action was fast paced and fun to watch throughout. Mysterio winning worked well to continue his redemption storyline (perhaps an exception to the rule I mentioned above where a losing streak might lead to something good). The only issue here is that it doesn’t make sense to have Rollins defending the Universal Title before the next PPV since he already has a Title match scheduled. Just because next week in the “season premiere” they wanted a big match like this, but it is hard to take a season premiere seriously when they don’t have actual seasons.
Strowman vs. Rollins – MISS: WWE wanted to have Rollins in the main event so that The Fiend could once again show up and scare him like a little child. The problem is that they made him look like a loser before that point by the fact that he was dominated in this match by Strowman. He was basically unconscious in the ring before the lights went out. It looked like he as going to lose which isn’t a good thing for the Champion. Rollins did a great job of bumping for Strowman and there was some good wrestling action in this match, but WWE made their Champion look weak in order to protect another wrestler lower on the card. The attack from The Fiend was predictable but worked well to give that non-finish that they had to have. I don’t know that I would have had Strowman recover so quickly from the first mandible claw to stand up and charge at Bray Wyatt at that point. Sure, he got taken down by a second mandible claw, but some damage was done between. And for that entire long time, you had your Universal Champion cowering in the corner and almost crying because someone was wearing a scary mask.
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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 him on Twitter @JonMezzera