SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Crews vs. MVP – MISS: This match bored me. It was well executed, but it wasn’t a style that got me excited to watch for 12 minutes. MVP dominated most of the match, before Apollo Crews hit his finisher to get the win to retain the United States Championship. It was good to see Crews back and to see him successfully defend the US Title and take the fake title away from MVP. I would be more likely to give this match a Hit, if it was the end of the feud. But knowing that we are going to get a rematch at SummerSlam, I am more down on the match than I would be otherwise.
Kevin Owens Show – HIT: I am a big fan of Ruby Riott and feel that Liv Morgan has potential. The IIConics can be a fun obnoxious heel due. Kevin Owens is usually good in his talk show host role. So you had some potentially good elements which came together in a pretty good segment. I liked that Riott explained why she turned against Morgan when she returned from injury. She owned up to her actions in a way that actually got her some sympathy. Morgan wasn’t immediately sold on re-forming a team with her, which makes her look good. The IIConics are so annoying that she was willing to team back with Riott to fight them so that makes sense. The match that followed was too short to amount to much, but was ok. I just hope that going forward, they come up with a different name than the Riott Squad. That made sense when it was Riott as the clear leader of the group, but now she and Morgan are being presented more as equals.
Technical Difficulties – MISS: I wasn’t intrigued by whatever was causing the various technical difficulties which happened throughout the show. We saw lights going out entirely or flickering briefly. We saw several mics go out for a few seconds before coming back on. We heard a loud noise which turned out to be a crate being tipped over (oh the humanity!). MVP used the flickering lights as an excuse for losing to Crews. We saw security footage of a group of masked men (apparently not ninjas as I assumed) blowing up some type of electrical equipment. Was that the new faction that was promised but never showed up? This was just all a mess.
McIntyre – Orton – HIT: This was by far the best segment on Raw and it was (shocker!) a straight up professional wrestling angle with the WWE Champion and his challenger talking about how they don’t like each other to build up their big Title match at the next PPV. Both Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton continued their streaks of very good mic work. They played off their histories and how Orton has had the backing of powerful people in WWE while McIntyre didn’t. This is such a much better “insider” angle that WWE usually does, where McIntyre was fired for his mistakes, but Orton wasn’t despite making more and worse mistakes. That isn’t the same as Dolph Ziggler bitching about not getting a push despite stealing the show every week.
Nia Jax and Pat Buck – MISS: I don’t care about Pat Buck. WWE hasn’t done anything to introduce him as an official to the audience. They haven’t defined who is making important decisions, so it was odd to see him suddenly having the ability to suspend Nia Jax. They want Jax to be unhinged and anti-authority, which is ok, but this isn’t a good way to go about it.
24/7 Crap – MISS: They want fans to take the Hurt Business seriously, but it is hard to do that when one of the three members of the group is involved with the 24/7 title and being upset about having the belt stollen from him and then losing it later in the show. Clearly the rest of the group was involved too in trying to help him retain the title. So, then when they show up as badass fighters in the final segment of the show, all I could think about was them fighting cartoonish ninjas earlier in the show.
Baszler vs. Banks – MISS: The first match ever between Sasha Banks and Shayna Baszler should have been saved for a major PPV. It was thrown together and was a big mistake having the match at all. It was thankfully kept short, but why exactly did the match end? Since when does a wrestler not in the match getting beat up by another wrestler not in the match stop the match? That was bizarre. This whole thing was a mess, with Baszler seeming like a babyface in her interactions with Banks, but a heel after the match with Asuka. This got us to the Asuka vs. Banks rematch for the Raw Women’s Title. But, too many mistakes were made to get us there.
Montez Ford Poisoned – MISS: Mysteries in wrestling can be fun, so it may turn out to be a good storyline of who poisoned Montez Ford? Right now, Angelo Dawkins and Bianca Bel Air think that it was Zelina Vega. I’m guessing that it won’t be that obvious. Does this have to do with the invading faction that was causing the technical difficulties? The problem is that I don’t really care. Poisoning a wrestler goes so far beyond the scope of what should happen in pro wrestling, that it took me out of the moment. Actually, I had already been taken out by the over the top fainting that Ford did twice, first during Dawkins vs. Garza, then during his own match a few minutes later. I might be more forgiving of this angle if it didn’t happen on the same show as so many other stunts like tech difficulties and the debut of Raw Underground (more later).
Rollins – Dominic – HIT: Dominic Mysterio was not good in his backstage interview where he challenged Seth Rollins for a match at SummerSlam, but he was ok. I am intrigued to see what WWE is doing with Buddy Murphy with him possibly questioning Rollins. Rollins going after Tom Phillips was ok, but turned out to be interesting given Samoa Joe’s response to step up and protect his broadcast partner. This was a good tease for Joe returning to the ring at some point, but he is so over the top as a heel for most of the time as an announcer, that it took away from him being a babyface against Rollins. His past verses the Messiah Complex made up for some of that. They dragged this out over a commercial which was ok, but the Hit came in the physicality from Dominic. He attacked Rollins and Murphy from behind with a kendo stick, but then the physicality worked well with him hitting a 6-1-9 and a huge dive to the outside. He showed that he has clearly trained to wrestle even if he hasn’t had a match in WWE yet.
Raw Underground – MISS: The tease for this was fine, but I wasn’t a fan of much of anything involved with this new innovation from Shane McMahon. A big problem was that the concept wasn’t defined or properly introduced. They just cut to the Underground area a few times to see glimpses of people fighting for some reason. What was the point? Who were they? Where did Shane find those fighters? Are they being paid? Why were there strippers? It was meant to come across as real, but then doesn’t that make the in ring wrestling fake? Most of what we saw in the brief fights was actually not that different from what we see in actual matches. Erik has been a cartoon character with the long program with the Street Profits. So, it was hard to take him seriously as a legit fighter. And he didn’t do anything that he doesn’t do in his matches, including his usual sequence of flipping his opponent over (not believable in a fight), kneeing him in the face and then screaming at him. He literally does that every single match that he’s in, so it was odd to see it presented here as something that would finish someone off in a fight when it never has in a wrestling match. Later, we saw Ziggler fighting. He has never been presented as a tough wrestler. It isn’t his persona. Yes, he has an amateur wrestling background to play into, but he loses all of his matches. Apparently, fighting like this is better for him and is perfectly legal in a wrestling match, so why doesn’t he fight like this in his matches? He might win. It was a weird disconnect to see those sports entertainers in this “real” fighting environment. Then we got to the moment which I already mentioned with the Hurt Business taking over at the end and beating up a bunch of guys. I had so many problems with this concept from start to finish. While I get that WWE wants to try new things during the pandemic like the cinematic style matches, I would rather see them just present good pro wrestling. That would be different.
I will end with a comment on the show overall. While it was certainly newsworthy and high energy, and while there were some good things on the show, there was just too much craziness happening. It was like a football team that is having a very bad season and in one week they fire the head coach, bench the starting quarterback, go to a no-huddle offense, and change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. The ratings are at historic lows and they have no idea how to produce a good wrestling show. So, they come up with stunts and put them all in the same show at the same time – technical difficulties, things blowing up, wrestlers being poisoned, an underground fight group in the backstage area. The fact that none of those things were actually good makes it even worse.
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 Jon on Twitter @JonMezzera.