SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – MISS: Raw did not get off to a good start. Seeing the entire Raw tag team division in the ring to start the show preparing for the battle royal just reminded me that the Raw tag division is pretty weak right now. Two of the teams only had one member represented due to injuries. You figured that RKBro and The New Day would both lose to face each other, which left several teams that weren’t very exciting. AJ Styles coming out and cutting down everyone was ok, but not great. The comebacks from a few in the ring including Randy Orton weren’t particularly good either. This wasn’t the exciting start to the show that you’d hope for. The battle royal itself was fine and The Viking Raiders were probably the best of bad options to win. They are talented and can be good challengers, but WWE hasn’t done anything with them since their return.
Elias vs. Ryker – MISS: As I assumed last week, I was not entertained by the follow up to the split between Elias and Jaxson Ryker. Neither of them is very good in the ring, so they aren’t going to have good matches against each other. Ryker doesn’t feel like a strong babyface and there isn’t a groundswell of momentum behind him. Having Elias’ new gimmick be to walk away from his matches doesn’t do anything for him either. Because of the lame finish after a short match, you know we are going to get a rematch probably next week.
Contract Signing – HIT: I’ve never been a fan of contract signings, but some of them are good. This one worked on a number of levels. The performances from Drew McIntyre, MVP and Bobby Lashley were all good. I wasn’t a big fan of McIntyre’s Robert the Bruce story, but it worked ok in the context of him failing to beat Lashley in the past. The power dynamic with MVP and Lashley coming out later in the segment on their own terms was nice. The idea that Lashley would want this to be McIntyre’s last chance at him as WWE Champion made sense, as did Drew’s comeback, wanting the match to be inside Hell in a Cell. Lashley looked good for accepting that challenge right away. These are two alphas not backing down. The sword bit at the end somehow worked too.
Ricochet vs. Carrillo – MISS: The action in this match was fine, but it was too short at 4 minutes to amount to much. The bigger issue is everything that surrounded it. Ricochet and Humberto Carrillo come across as petulant children in the way they react to Sheamus. Sheamus continues to shine on the mic, but he comes across as more likable to me than the two babyfaces. The non-finish with the double count out didn’t help matters as it always seems like WWE is doing the same thing over and over again to set up triple threat matches for their championships.
Kingston – MVP – HIT: I am intrigued to see where WWE is going with Kofi Kingston and MVP after the backstage conversation. I hope it points to something more serious for Kingston. It doesn’t have to be a heel turn, but that might work. Either way, I am looking forward to seeing what happens over time after this encounter with MVP trying to light a fire under Kingston.
Hardy vs. Alexander – HIT: Cedric Alexander as a young, cocky, disrespectful wrestler who feuds with long time veterans like Shelton Benjamin and Jeff Hardy can work. His pre-match promo this week was better than his unhinged yelling rant towards Benjamin last week. The match was short, but at six minutes, didn’t feel too short. It was good and interesting to see Hardy get a win. Alexander’s cockiness cost him as it did in his first match against Benjamin a few weeks back. I’m curious to see how he plays that character going forward. He needs to be successful, but with the cockiness too. If he goes on a journey to control his cockiness and channel it to become a success, that can work. It reminds me a bit of Andrade in NXT when he kept losing because of his attitude until Zelina Vega came into the picture and got him focused.
Ripley & Charlotte vs. Cross & Asuka – MISS: There certainly was a lot of talent in this match and some good wrestling action. But the constant bickering, fighting, and blind tagging between Rhea Ripley and Charlotte Flair was so bad that I couldn’t enjoy the match. I don’t find any of these characters worthy of cheering. I guess we are supposed to like Ripley, but she isn’t being presented well at all. Nikki Cross continues to over celebrate wins that she didn’t really deserve. Asuka is playing her same over the top cartoonish character, which is definitely getting old at this point.
Mansoor vs. Gulak – MISS: New wrestlers need to be given a chance to introduce themselves to the audience. Part of that reason is their character and personality, but a bigger part of it is seeing what they can do in the ring. Putting a new wrestler like Mansoor in a two minute match where he doesn’t get to show much at all of what he does, isn’t the way to go. I’m intrigued by what they are doing with Mustafa Ali trying to give Mansoor advice, but there was no reason to think that Drew Gulak would cheat. But he did, since that was the story that Ali was feeding Mansoor. None of this worked as a good introduction of Mansoor to the Raw audience.
Kingston vs. Riddle – HIT: This match had some of the same flaws as the women’s tag match above. It is hard to get behind any of these characters right now. Orton is a clear heel and has been for a long time. Matt Riddle is a goof and while he can be entertaining, he is often more annoying than anything else and his longing for Orton’s approval doesn’t always make him look great. I do enjoy their dynamic, so I’m not totally down on it. On the flip side, New Day come across annoying too, with the trombone distractions and what not. But, the wrestling here was very good. It isn’t surprising given the skill of Kingston and Riddle. They put on a good match, which played into Riddle’s recent attempts to mimic Orton in the ring. This time it backfired on him.
Alexa’s Playground – MISS: Everything about Alexa Bliss continues to be a big miss. This isn’t what I want in professional wrestling. Shayna Baszler was good in the beginning in not selling the evil doll bit from Bliss. When the lights flickered and the pyro started going off, that was ok as it can be explained. But as Baszler fled to the back, the segment got more and more idiotic. There were cameras everywhere she happened to be going which isn’t believable. There were clearly camera operators who were not nearly as concerned as they should have been by the fact that Baszler was apparently locked in the building which was suddenly and inexplicably empty otherwise. The mirror bit was cheesy. That type of actual hocus-pocus magic is crap. This didn’t make me want to tune in to see what happens next. It was a turn off to end the show.
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.