SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – MISS: I liked Randy Orton’s promo for the most part, making a case for him getting the WWE Title shot and not having to jump through hoops to earn it. But, the photoshopped picture he showed of his victims in the hospital together was so bad that it totally took me out of the moment. That is just not Orton’s character. I do not believe that he would go to the trouble of doing that for a joke. It ruined the moment. Kieth Lee looked better than last week in his ring gear, but his promo wasn’t strong enough to get the segment back on track. I also had issues with the participants in the three qualifying matches, and the fact that it was going to lead to an overexposed gimmick like a triple threat. How was Dominick Mysterio in a qualifying match? The attack from Dolph Ziggler didn’t get me excited for his match either.
Lee vs. Ziggler – MISS: Kieth Lee had a bad debut last week. He got a big win over Orton at Payback which is good, but the larger Raw audience needs to see him getting stronger wins and being portrayed as a bigger deal. Having him take 10 minutes to beat Ziggler (longer than Orton if I have the times right) is crazy. That should have been a 4 minute squash. Ziggler isn’t treated like a big enough deal for it to take this long for Lee to beat him. The wrestling action was fine here and Lee is getting over his Spirit Bomb finisher. But the length of the match was a huge Miss.
Women’s Title Situation – MISS: I enjoy Asuka’s antics, but she doesn’t have a strong challenger right now and I’m not excited about the various prospects. I don’t like the team of Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler. I don’t understand putting the Tag Team Championship on them, so I didn’t like their appearance with Asuka. Mickie James needs to be reintroduced to the current audience and built up before thinking about having her face Asuka for the Title. She has been gone for a long time with an injury and needs that time. She is also currently involved in a feud with Lana and Natalya which screams lower card, so I would not have any of those three on screen at the same time as Asuka.
Black Attacks Owens – HIT: I didn’t comment on Aleister Black’s heel turn last week when he attacked Kevin Owens. I was taking a “wait and see” approach as I was intrigued by the possibility of a heel Black, but wanted to see more of what they were going to do with him. We still will need to get a big promo from him to explain himself, but for now the second week of his heel turn proceeded nicely with him attacking Kevin Owens before his qualifying match against Orton. I prefer this to the interference finish that WWE does far too often. This gave Owens an out, while allowing Orton an easy pathway to the main event.
VIP Lounge – HIT: This was a good way to follow up on Bobby Lashley beating Apollo Crews for the United States Championship at the PPV the night before. The Hurt Business are a strong act and they all got mic time in this segment. It was good to hear a strong, short promo from Lashley so that it wasn’t just MVP talking for him. They followed up on the Title win while also pointing towards Crews vs. Shelton Benjamin in Raw Underground later in the show, as well as the upcoming six man tag match. That match was solid, but what happened afterwards with MVP holding Lashley and Benjamin back from attacking Cedric Alexander after he got the win was intriguing. However, having them beat him up in the back shortly thereafter did away with some of that intrigue. So I didn’t really get that part of the story.
IIConics vs. The Riott Squad – MISS: I had a ton of problems with this match. The first problem was that there didn’t seem to be a good enough storyline explanation for the stipulation where the losing team had to break up. The second is that while we did get a nice interview with The IIConics beforehand about their history and friendship and how bad it would be if they were forced to never team again, we got no interview with Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan. A match with this stipulation needs better build and an interview would have been a big part of it. The third is that Riott and Morgan should not be The Riott Squad. That name made sense when it was Riott as the leader with Morgan and Sarah Logan as her underlings. They are telling the story of Riott & Morgan getting back together as equals. The Riott Squad name is inappropriate for them now. The fourth is that the match only went 3 minutes. An 8-9 minute match would have been much more appropriate for the circumstances. I would have also preferred seeing a finishing move, not a leverage pin. The announcers made a big deal about how the loss meant that their friendship was over, but why can’t Payton Royce & Billie Kay still hang out and be in each other’s corners? They can’t team together, but why can’t they be friends? Their participation in Raw Underground was odd (more later). Plus, Kay and Royce are better together than as individuals.
Raw Underground – MISS: This continues to be bad. I laughed out loud (not in a good way) at the awkward way that Shane McMahon was scripted to talk to his bouncer about all the big fights lined up for Raw Underground later in the show. It was bad exposition as he would never talk like that to his bouncer if the camera wasn’t on him and he didn’t need a “natural” way for Shane to tell the audience about the big fights coming up. We were also told throughout the show that we were going to see an all new Titus O’Neal in Underground, but he ended up flat on his back, just like he has in almost every one of his matches in WWE. So how was that all new? The IIConics felt totally out of place there. They are not a regular roster act who should be in that environment. The big fight with Crews vs. Benjamin didn’t work well in the end as it just spilled to the outside and quickly turned into a six man fight with the Hurt Business dominating the babyfaces. I don’t mind the heels getting the better of the faces, but at this point the feud is so one sided, that it would have made some sense to give the babyface trio a better showing here.
Rollins vs. Dominick – HIT: While it didn’t make sense why Dominick would get this opportunity (ugh, sorry for that. As if you didn’t have to hear the announcers say that word 300 times on Raw), I was entertained by this match. Dominick continues to show that he has some good skill in the ring. I don’t think he’s ready for this big of a spot light, but he doesn’t look lost at all. Seth Rollins carried him to a good match. Of the three qualifying matches, this one made the most sense given the storyline to go as long as it did. It built well to the end with Dominick looking like he might pull off the upset victory, only to fall cleanly to the much better Rollins.
Street Profits vs. Andrade & Garza – MISS: This match would have been a Hit for sure if it had actually featured a finish. Instead, we got Retribution coming out and ruining what was otherwise a fun tornado style tag match. That puts much more heat on WWE than on Retribution. The Street Profits, Angel Garza and Andrade put in a very good effort here. So it is too bad that it meant absolutely nothing in the end. I did get a kick out of Garza escaping with the blond and I appreciated how Zelina Vega stood her ground against the female Retribution members. But, I do question why Retribution always announce their presence by flickering the lights before they attack. That gives their victims a chance to prepare.
Orton vs. Rollins vs. Lee – HIT: I don’t buy the argument that Lee was protected by not taking the pin from Orton in the main event. In my mind, Lee lost whether he got pinned or not. He took Orton’s finishing move and wasn’t able to stop Orton from pinning Rollins. In WWE’s world, this is the same as protecting Lee since he didn’t take the pin and his move finished Rollins off even if it was someone else doing the pinning. So in his two Raw matches, Lee has been in a no contest (or maybe he lost via disqualification?) and he lost in a triple threat. I am still giving the main event a Hit as Rollins made the most sense as the winner to continue his feud against Drew McIntyre and the match was good. The wrestling action was strong from start to finish. These are three talented workers so it isn’t surprising that they would have a good match. I do have an issue with the way Lee is being presented, but it could have been 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @JonMezzera.