SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Using a Crowd – HIT: I am among the fans who have questioned why WWE hasn’t gone the same route as AEW with having Performance Center trainees in the crowd to provide some noise and atmosphere in this empty arena era. WWE finally did just that on this week’s show with what looked to be pretty good spacing and the plexiglass separating them from the ring side area. I wonder if the plexiglass will stay after fans are finally let back in. I hope they are all safe. None were wearing masks and they certainly weren’t socially distancing when they ran in as security to try to break up the show closing brawl between Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley. There are certainly questions about the safety of doing this at all. So, I’m not totally sure this is the right thing to do, but it did make for a better viewing experience. I do question using any actual NXT tv wrestler and Shotzi Blackheart is hard to miss.
The KO Show – MISS: There were parts of this opening segment which worked well, but overall it wasn’t very good. Part of the problem is that the guests on the Kevin Owens Show weren’t particularly interesting. Asuka is interesting and the only true babyface among the group, but her act while fun isn’t sustainable. Charlotte Flair does her monotone droning. Natalya is in the midst of a heel turn, but this stage of that turn with her apologizing for her outburst last week wasn’t interesting. Nia Jax isn’t interesting either. The physicality at the end instigated by Owens himself was fun, but overall this segment just didn’t work for me.
U.S. Title Match – MISS: The effort from Andrade and Apollo Crews was strong in this United States Championship match, but the way the match was presented was poor. For one thing, WWE has been doing a good job of rebuilding Crews, so having him win the Title does make some sense, but Zelina Vega’s group continues to be defined down as losers. The match also only lasted 9 minutes. It seems like WWE is going for shorter matches in this era, which does make some sense, but a 9 minute US Title match after a pretty good build is going to be a disappointment. Also, we missed 3-4 minutes of those 9 on a commercial break. Also, we missed some of those minutes when they inexplicably cut to a backstage interview with Angel Garza which sent the clear message that the U.S. Title match wasn’t that important. I don’t understand that at all. And part of Crews’ finishing sequence on Andrade was missed when the director cut to Vega at ringside, again sending the message that the match wasn’t important. I did appreciate the post-match interview where we got to hear what this means to Crews.
The Messiah Complex – HIT: The backstage promo from Seth Rollins, Buddy Murphy and Austin Theory was very strong. It gave Rollins a chance to talk about what he did to Rey Mysterio and how important that was. It also gave his disciples a chance to talk about why they are following him. This was a good way to follow up on Theory joining the group last week. This worked well.
Nikki Cross – HIT: The IIConics were their usual annoying self at the start of this segment which was fine, and Alexa Bliss was also fine in her interruption. But, the star of the segment was Nikki Cross when she refused to be silenced by Payton Royce and Billie Kaye. Her promo at that point about why she became friends with Bliss and how she’s had to fight for everything she’s gotten in WWE was very well done. It was passionate. It was well delivered. The fight afterwards sets up a re-match for the Women’s Tag Team Championship which hopefully will be better than the first.
VIP Lounge – HIT: MVP continues to do a good job as an antagonist in both talk show host and manager roles. His interview with Drew McIntyre was a fun call back to the night when MVP started on this heel path when he tried to become McIntyre’s manager before his WWE Title match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. This was another good step in the build towards McIntyre vs. Lashley at Backlash. The Claymore to MVP at the end when Lashley was coming out worked well.
Owens vs. Garza – MISS: I was glad to see Angel Garza getting a win. I said earlier that Vega’s group needs wins and he is very talented so it is good to see him get a push. However, does it have to come at the expense of Owens? Owens got this huge win at WM, but then got hurt and also wanted to stay away for awhile due to the virus. Now that he is back, he isn’t being treated like a big star which he should have been coming out of that win over Rollins. They gave him an out with the pre-match attack which gave Garza the unfair advantage, however he still lost in about 4 minutes.
Golf – MISS: This is more of the same silliness from The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders. We were expected to take the Profits seriously during the main event, which was hard to do after watching this crap with them playing regular golf and then mini-golf against the Raiders earlier in the show. And having a heel like MVP calling them out doesn’t work since the heel shouldn’t be telling the truth.
Theory & Murphy vs. Black & Carillo – HIT: This was another disappointingly short match on this show, but it was really good while it lasted. Theory and Black needed the win so it made sense to have them go over. Aleister Black needs to be treated better than he has been, so at least he was protected by having Humberto Carillo take the pin fall here. The real Hit is for what happened afterwards when Rollins threatened to take Carillo’s eye like he did to Mysterio. That was a very tenses believable moment with Black having to back off to keep Carillo safe.
Edge – HIT: Edge continues to be one of the best on the mic in WWE during this era. The lack of a crowd hasn’t effected his performances at all. This didn’t fit in well with the “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever!” theme of his match against Randy Orton at the PPV, but I like his approach here better than that unbelievable marketing ploy. He was serious, and emotional in talking about his career and naming so many wrestlers he’s faced over the years. He sold some doubt which fits in with what Orton said to his face when he challenged him a few weeks ago. This should make fans want to see if he can overcome that doubt to be the Edge of old.
Charlotte vs. Natalya vs. Jax – HIT: This suffered from having nobody to cheer for. Asuka seemed to be cheering for Natalya who is the closest to being a babyface, but shouldn’t she want Jax to win to get revenge for her attacking Kairi Sane? Why did she throw Jax back in the ring? That wasn’t clear. And there were some sloppy moments in the match. Despite all of that, I am giving this match a marginal Hit. Most of the action was actually really good. They had some believable near falls. Asuka was fun for the most part on guest commentary. The predictable wrestler won the match which is ok as it wouldn’t have made sense to have anyone other than Jax win here.
Ric Flair – HIT: Once the stupid decision to build Edge vs. Orton as the Greatest Wrestling Match ever was made, having some of the all time great wrestlers like Ric Flair on to talk about the match and pick a winner makes sense. I’m assuming that Flair was just the first in a series that we will see in the upcoming weeks. Flair was good in the role and picking his old Evolution teammate makes sense.
Street Profits vs. Lashley & MVP – HIT: I got a kick out of Montez Ford “slapping hands” with the “fans” at ringside through the plexiglass on the way to the ring. The main event tag match was fun with Ford selling throughout for MVP and Lashley leading to the big hot tag to Angelo Dawkins. There was a lot of energy in the match. It had another cheap ending which we’ve gotten far too many of lately, but this one did work well in a vacuum with Lashley getting disqualified for holding Ford in the full nelson despite being the illegal competitor in the match. That continued to sell the move as a devastating new finisher for Lashley while protecting the Tag Team Champions. The brawl at the end with McIntyre coming out to attack Lashley worked well to continue their hype towards the WWE Title match. But, as I stated earlier, don’t undo what you’ve done with the social distancing and the plexiglass by having some of the trainees come out to break up the brawl.
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 Jon on Twitter @JonMezzera.
CATCH UP… HEYDORN’S WWE RAW REPORT 5/25: Alt Perspective coverage of the live show in a crowd free environment including McIntyre in the MVP lounge, Andrade vs. Crews for the United States Championship, women’s number one contender match, and more