SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Rollins – Dominik – HIT: WWE did a good job overall with the build towards the match between Seth Rollins and Dominik Mysterio at SummerSlam. It started with the contract signing which opened the show. Having Dominik have to sign a WWE contract was a nice detail. The work from Samoa Joe as the host along with Seth and Dominik was all pretty good. The idea that Rollins would allow Dominik to use a kendo stick was an interesting twist. Rollins’ match against Humberto Carillo was fine, but very short. I’d like to see Carillo given more of a chance, but he isn’t the focus right now. The post-match beating was what really stood out. That was intense and should make fans want to see Dominik get revenge even more than they already did.
Bel Air vs. Vega – HIT: Everything that surrounded this match was just ok. The mic work from Zelina Vega denying that she had anything to do with Montez Ford being poisoned was fine. Angelo Dawkins vs. Andrade was solid while it lasted, but at 4 minutes it was too short to amount to much. The post match interview with Dawkins and Bianca Bel Air was also fine. None of it was good enough to get a Hit, but it was all perfectly fine to fill time on a three hour show. The one Hit worthy part was the match between Bel Air and Vega. Vega doesn’t wrestle often, and when she does it is usually in a battle royal or mixed tag. She hasn’t been established as someone to take seriously in the ring, I partly feel that Bel Air should have won quicker. But it was still a strong victory. They both performed well, and it was better than I expected it to be.
Crews vs. Benjamin – MISS: The problems with this match started with the VIP Lounge which proceeded it. I don’t think Retribution is supposed to be a babyface group, but here you have a heel faction complaining about their disruption of last week’s show. I do like that MVP came across more serious than usual, but overall it wasn’t great. The big problem is that Apollo Crews just returned to defeat MVP to solidify himself as the United States Champion. Now, a week later he is losing in a non-Title match to make him look weak. WWE can’t help themselves when it comes to protecting their champions. I did like the aftermath when Bobby Lashley started to put the full nelson on Crews, but MVP stopped him to make sure he’s healthy for their US Title match at the PPV.
Retribution – MISS: Speaking of Retribution, what a lame group. They did some serious damage on Smackdown to make them look dangerous, even if it didn’t work that well. But on Raw, all they did was break a window and destroy a car. That doesn’t seem as dastardly as threatening the announcers, beating up fans and destroying the ring with a chainsaw. They came across as toddlers throwing a fit rather than a dangerous group of disgruntled wresters. And two hours later, how are they still somehow in the building to turn off the lights right when Ric Flair is getting kicked in the head (more later)? Again, the key issue is that when I see them, I think “lame” more than anything else. And if this is just a statement against the BLM protests which also at times involved looting and destruction of property, then it makes it all the worse.
Ninja Match – MISS: Last week we were supposed to take Erik seriously as a badass fighter in Raw Underground, and this week he’s back to being the goofy Viking cosplayer who isn’t as cute as his partner, teaming with two underutilized wrestlers against Akira Tozawa and a group of ninjas. Anyone who didn’t know for 100% certainty that the black ninja was R-Truth is an idiot. This is just all so stupid, and when you look at the great talent of the Viking Raiders, Ricochet, Cedric Alexander and Tozawa. In a bit of an aside, what happened to Mustafa Ali?
McIntyre Interview – HIT: Drew McIntyre’s run of strong mic work continued with this backstage interview talking about Randy Orton and their match at SummerSlam. It doesn’t have to be a long in ring promo to get across the point and to hype a big Championship match at a PPV. It also reminded the audience about the main event, Orton vs. Owens.
Raw Underground – MISS: This was a bit better than last week, but still not good. WWE still hasn’t answered the big questions about what the purpose of Raw Underground is. They didn’t answer any of my questions from last week, but at least they took the strippers away. There has been an argument made that this will be a good way to introduce a character to the fans, but if Dabba-Kato gets over in this atmosphere, how does he then transition into the ring where he ultimately will need to be to be a true WWE star? I’ve seen enough of Riddick Moss in NXT and WWE to know he’s not someone I’m going to get excited to see on my tv. This won’t help him out. It makes some sense to have Shayna Baszler in this atmosphere, but she’s already established as a badass fighter. She bit a chunk out of Becky Lynch’s neck in the ring. Why does she need to be on Raw Underground to be violent like this? This still isn’t working for me.
Asuka vs. Bayley – HIT: In the middle of the various Raw Underground segments, we got this very good match between Asuka and Bayley, where Asuka earned a Raw Women’s Title match against Sasha Banks at SummerSlam. This was a PPV caliber match. It went 15 minutes and was fun to watch from start to finish. Both Bayley and Asuka went for several submission holds throughout the match to tease tap out victories leading to Asuka ultimately getting that tap out win in the end. Banks played her part well at ringside trying to help Bayley get the win. It will be interesting to see who wins the battle royal on Smackdown and what WWE does with the two Women’s Title matches at the PPV.
Orton vs. Owens – HIT: This was another good match. Orton needed to win clean here heading into his WWE Title match against McIntyre, so it was good to see him win with an RKO in the middle of the ring over Kevin Owens. Owens is great, but he doesn’t have much going on right now, so it was nice to see WWE not hedging for a change and letting a heel beat a babyface clean. The fact that it came at the end of a good 13 minute match made it easily land in the Hit column.
Orton – Flair Angle – HIT: I had some issues with this as it felt like it was exploiting the death of Reid Flair. I also have a feeling that this whole thing was a trick and Flair will help Orton at SummerSlam. Time will tell, but for now I will say that this was a very powerful ending for Raw. Orton and Flair were both very good here. It fit in with Orton’s character to be upset about Flair getting him into the match against Owens with his giant ego in the first place. Flair defended himself well and put it in a way where he still does crave the spotlight, but does legitimately love Orton. The acting from both of them was spot on and believable. Having Orton attacking Flair fits in with his renewed Legend Killer persona. The timing of the lights going out was a bit too convenient for me, although it made sense to protect Flair. McIntyre showed great fire in running out to chase Orton off at the end. He looked like he wanted to kill Orton so his emotion added to the overall emotion of the segment. This was very well done.
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.