SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – HIT: It had become painfully obvious that something had to be done with Seth Rollins as the lead babyface on Raw. A heel turn was the way to go. It worked to shift his character to be a heel. He wasn’t that different from the babyface Rollins, but you could see how his frustrations over SurvivorSeries could push him to become that heel character. The town hall meeting format isn’t my favorite, but it worked here better than usual because it was a wrestler calling the meeting, not one of the McMahons looking down on their employees. The way it went down with wrestlers like Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio getting mad and walking out worked well (particularly Orton’s shall we say colorful gesture as he left). The way Rollins addressed the Authors of Pain in terms of needing them, as opposed to calling Orton a weak link for example, set the stage for what would happen at the end of the show. This also set up Rollins vs. Kevin Owens in the main event which should be something fans looked forward to.
Rusev Attacks Lashley – HIT: I am still against this whole storyline. But for once, it was good to see Rusev show some fire. So often during this story, he has looked like a sad puppy dog and/or a schmuck. Here, he ignored a restraining order to attack Bobby Lashley and beat the crap out of him. The beating was violent and memorable. He needed a win in this feud and this was a good one for him. It was also interesting to hear Lana in the interview later say that she is ok which shows that she only cares about herself.
AOP vs. Ryder & Hawkins – HIT: After the good vignettes building them up and reintroducing them to the audience at large, the AOP needed to get this strong squash win in their first match to show how dominating they are. This is basic stuff that worked well.
Hardy vs. Murphy – MISS: In general, I have no problem with Buddy Murphy getting a strong win over Matt Hardy. But under these circumstances, it was a Miss. This was Hardy’s first match (on Raw or Smackdown at least) in months. It felt like a waste of his first match back to just throw him out there without any build and lose in under 3 minutes. The wrestling was fine, but Hardy’s return should have meant more, and if you spend a few weeks re-establishing him, then a loss to Murphy would mean more for Murphy at that point. The other issue is that this was the fourth really short match in a row to start off Raw. I like the use of squashes, or even shorter more competitive matches. But, WWE should have spread them out throughout the show. We had a 1 minute match with Lashley vs. Titus O’Neal getting interrupted by Rusev, followed by the AOP squash, followed by a 2 minute Andrade vs. Akira Tozawa match, followed by this 3 minute match. I am intrigued to see the eventual Murphy vs. Aleister Black match.
Styles and His Challengers – MISS: This was an up and down segment, that had too much down for me. WWE did give the fans a lot of good wrestling after this segment to make up for the bait-and-switch of promising an Umberto Carrillo United States Championship match against AJ Styles. But, it was still a bait-and-switch. The beating was well done with Gallows & Anderson taking Carrillo out before the match, but where were Ricochet, Orton and Mysterio during the beat down? They all came out shortly after that to challenge Styles for a US Title match, and Ricochet looked concerned for Carrillo, but where was he a minute earlier? The mic work was Hit or Miss throughout the segment with those three and Drew McIntyre saying why they should get the title shot. Styles was good here and I particularly liked McIntyre among the challengers. But, the set up for the fatal four way was awkward and it took a little too long to get to it. Plus, I would have rather seen Rey Mysterio doing something to address what happened to him and his son against Brock Lesnar the night before, or responding to Rollins calling his son stupid in the opening segment instead of trying to get a US Title shot.
Fatal Four-Way – HIT: All that being said, the fatal four-way that followed was really good. It was the first long match of the night at 14 minutes and was fun to watch from start to finish. It was chaotic at times which worked in the context of the match. The OC getting involved to cost Orton the match planted the seeds for him to return in the Title match and ultimately what will be an Orton vs. Styles feud going forward.
Mysterio vs. Styles – HIT: That was followed by another good long match as Mysterio beat Styles to become the new US Champion. They played up the underdog aspect with Mysterio overcoming the beating from Lesnar the night before, plus the fatal four way right before this match, plus the punishment in the match itself to win. It isn’t surprising that Mysterio and Styles would put on a good match when given this amount of time. They are both past their prime in the ring if we are being honest, but they are both still very good workers. As I mentioned above, the ending with Orton getting involved to counteract Gallows & Anderson nicely sets up Orton vs. Styles going forward which would free up the new Champ to take on a new challenger, perhaps an Andrade? The follow up where Styles was mostly speechless, only mustering “Randy Orton” was a good little moment to emphasize the importance of losing the Title.
Owens’ Promo – HIT: Owens did a nice job in what started out as an interview by Charlie Caruso, where he actually showed respect to her in the way he took the mic to cut his promo. He was good in addressing what Rollins had said in the opening segment and where they were going with the main event and a promise of more Stunners in Rollins’ future.
Most of Charlotte vs. Asuka – HIT: Until the ending, Charlotte Flair and Asuka had a good 17 minute match. These two have a strong history against each other which was well played into at SurvivorSeries and followed up nicely with this match. They worked well together and had a good match. Kairi Sane was good in her “insurance policy” role at ringside, being chased away by Charlotte only to ultimately come back and help Asuka get the win.
End of Charlotte vs. Asuka – MISS: I wanted to give Charlotte and Asuka credit for the good work that they did for 99% of the match, but the ending was so bad that I have to point it out as a Miss. Charlotte totally pulled her hair back to expose her eyes (and protect her hair from getting more green in it) as she turned around to get the green mist from Asuka. It was terrible. The fact that WWE showed a slow motion replay of it which highlighted how Charlotte pulled her hair back made it even worse. Also, there was so much green all over the place, that it was ridiculous that the referee wouldn’t know what happened. I get that “you can’t call what you can’t see” but the referees have to know that she does this and if they see the green on her opponent, they should know what she did. Sometimes, Asuka and her opponent have done a very good job of hiding it so that the referee couldn’t see any green (if I remember correctly, the best example of this was when the Kabuki Warriors had a match on a recent NXT). That wasn’t the case here. It also made me wonder about Becky Lynch. Where was she on this show? I get not wanting her part of the town hall, but shouldn’t she have been on after standing tall despite the loss at the end of the PPV the night before? They seem to be going for her teaming with Charlotte against the Kabuki Warriors at TLC, but where was she here?
Rollins vs. Owens – HIT: Clearly the live Chicago crowd was not happy with the non-ending as AOP came out and beat up Owens to cause a disqualification. However, the action in the match before that was so good that I am still giving it a Hit. Plus, I wasn’t expecting a clean finish as this is the start of the feud between Rollins and Owens, so there was no way we would get a straight up 1-2-3 clean win for either of them. I am intrigued by AOP’s involvement. It was played up like Rollins was surprised to see them. I hope they don’t go back and change that. I hope he wasn’t part of the plan. It is more interesting to think about them on their own coming out to make a statement to impress Rollins as opposed to being some type of master plan. The stomps on the injured Owens to end the show put an exclamation point on his heel turn.
FOR ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW, ALSO CHECK OUT JASON POWELL’S LATEST HITLISTS AT PROWRESTLING.NET 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