SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
McIntyre – Mahal – MISS: Having Drew McIntyre involved in a budding feud against Jinder Mahal doesn’t help Mahal as much as it hurts McIntyre. His star power is being lowered right before he finally gets to perform in front of live fans after helping carry Raw through the pandemic era. Throw in his silly stories that get worse each week (it wasn’t too bad when he was talking about Scottish history and legends, but when he starts to get into mythology or supernatural things like claiming his sword is made from a tooth of the Loch Ness Monster, he comes across poorly), and McIntyre isn’t looking at all like the top star he was in 2020. If Mahal didn’t really steal his sword, then why did he need to destroy Mahal’s motorcycle? That was very predictable. My bigger fear is that Mahal will cost McIntyre in the Money in the Bank match at the PPV. I don’t want McIntyre to win the briefcase, but I don’t want to see interference in that match.
Cross vs. Asuka vs. Naomi vs. Bliss – MISS: This felt like more of a series of carefully planned out spots than a fluid match. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. It’s hard for me to take Nikki Cross seriously in this character, in that outfit, or with her dippy new name, which I refuse to use. She is the only woman wrestler on Raw being protected and she doesn’t have a finishing move as she only wins with a rollup – a finish that is way overdone in WWE. I liked the presentation of Alexa Bliss more than usual this week. I didn’t see her disappearance as overtly supernatural as opposed to most of what she does, so I didn’t mind it. I liked her performance earlier on Alexa’s Playground more than usual too, particularly her glee at saying Doudrop. But, Doudrop continuing to take Eva Marie’s abuse and following her orders like attacking Bliss isn’t good for her character. She will turn on Marie eventually, but will the damage be done?
Viking Raiders vs. Styles & Omos – HIT: I enjoyed what WWE did with The Viking Raiders and AJ Styles & Amos this week to build to their Tag Team Championship match at MITB. The interview with the Raiders was good. I liked how they presented themselves as actual people who have an appreciation for Viking culture, but don’t have a delusional belief that they are Vikings like they often do. I’d rather drop the Viking bit all together, but if you are going to do it, this is a much better way to go. Styles was also good in his pre-match promo. Styles vs. Ivar was short at only 4 minutes, but good while it lasted. Omos vs. Erik was way better than I expected it to be. Omos is still very green, but he looked better than he has in any of his previous matches. This was a nice stretch of tv, and an effective way to fill time on a 3 hour show.
New Day Interview – HIT: I did not like Bobby Lashley losing to Xavier Woods in the opening match, but I will talk about that later. This interview was a nice way to follow up to help make Kofi Kingston look like a legit challenger to Lashley’s WWE Championship. New Day performed well here without the annoying stuff that usually permeates their mic work.
MITB Video – HIT: This was not as good as the better Royal Rumble history videos which I look forward to every year, but it was very good.
Sheamus – HIT: I have missed Sheamus’ presence on Raw as he recovers from a broken nose. He’s been on a few times, but not enough. I assume he is still not cleared for a full match based on what they did here with his United States Championship defense against Humberto Carrillo. If that’s the case, this was a good use of him during his continued recovery. He looked like a badass heel in attacking Carrillo before their match. Carrillo looked good for trying to wrestle despite the attack. Plus, they started the ball rolling on a Sheamus vs. Damian Priest feud which has a ton of potential.
Ricochet vs. Morrison – HIT: I don’t fully understand why Ricochet vs. John Morrison needed to be Falls Count Anywhere, but they certainly delivered a very good match in that format. Thankfully, The Miz’s involvement was relatively small. I would have preferred if it had been none at all, but that wasn’t going to happen. This match was exciting and fun to watch from start to finish. Ricochet and Morrison are in MITB to add excitement and crazy ladder spots and they got to tease some of what they will do on Sunday in this match which worked well. The ultimate ending with Ricochet splashing Morrison through the ladder was a great spot and a good way to end the match.
Ripley vs. Natalya – HIT: In the buildup to Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair, I would not have included a replay of the horrible footage of Ripley and Flair “fighting” with their crutches last week. That was one of the worst looking fights in WWE history. I’m still not sold on the presentation of Ripley on Raw, but this was a better week with her solid interview and then this good match against Natalya. Ripley obviously had to win, but it is a shame that a tag team champion had to lose WWE does far too often. The attack by Flair afterwards also worked well.
VIP Lounge – HIT: I didn’t give Lashley vs. Woods a Hit or a Miss. It was a good enough match, but I didn’t like having the WWE Champion lose like that. However, the way the rest of the show played out made it perfectly acceptable in the way that Lashley would ultimately respond to that loss. MVP was great in trying to cheer up Lashley, doing the exact opposite of what Lashley wanted at that point. Lashley gave one of his best performances on the mic when he finally appeared on the VIP Lounge. He proved he doesn’t need a mouthpiece, although I hope they don’t split him up with MVP any time soon. I just want to see them go in a different direction with their characters and relationship as was hinted at here in this great show-closing segment. I am also curious to see what happens at the PPV and how it will effect not only The Hurt Business, but also New Day. There are some intriguing possibilities and I wasn’t saying that a few weeks ago.
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.