SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Cena’s Promo – MISS: This felt out of place on Raw to have John Cena start the show to challenge a wrestler from Smackdown to a Universal Title match. I liked part of the promo from Cena, but it felt like he was trying too hard to pump up the crowd. The first crowd to see Monday Night Raw in 70 weeks shouldn’t need that type of a pump up to begin with. Cena also used too much insider terms talking about Roman Reigns being a gimmick and not being over. Having Cena end the Money in the Bank PPV was a nice moment and the fans ate it up, but I don’t like WWE following up on a legacy part time star facing Reigns with another legacy part time star (and we would get another one challenging Bobby Lashley later in this show).
Riddle & The Viking Raiders vs. Morrison & Styles & Omos – HIT: This is a minor Hit for a pretty good 6 man tag match. There was a lot of talent in the ring, plus Omos. It went a good length without overstaying its welcome. John Morrison gave AJ Styles a partner to share the load with which he doesn’t have in most of his tag matches. The bit at the end with Matt Riddle and the drip stick was silly, but I guess it is good to see the babyface outsmart the heels.
Symphony of Destruction – MISS: The effort put into this match by Ryker and Elias was good. It was better than their previous matches. But, we’ve seen them facing too many times already and I don’t care. We’ve seen them in a gimmick match already, so why have them in a different type of gimmick match? Ryker wins them all, so there is no difference and no reason to keep seeing them wrestle.
Flair’s Coronation – HIT: This was a good segment to set up the main event rematch between Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley for the Women’s Championship. Flair continues to do much better on the mic than she used to with her old monotone delivery. She handled the Becky chant and heckling well. Ripley was good too. They have faced enough and I am not a big fan of having PPV rematches one night after the PPV, but this was still well done.
Natalya & Tamina vs. Baszler & Jax – MISS: Natalya & Tamina were received as heels at MITB. They have been poorly defined, so WWE should have capitalized on that fan response to keep them heels. So it was a mistake to have them facing a heel team in Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax the next night on Raw. The match was an excuse to get to Jax turning on Reggie. That angle didn’t need the Tag Team Champions involved. I would rather see Reggie stay with Jax and have Baszler go off on her own as a singles wrestler than to continue in a bad team with Jax. If they are going to stay a team, it is better to do it without him, so that’s something. But, I was annoyed by Byron Saxton who has been so critical of Reginald for so long, but suddenly he is behind him just because he got dumped by Jax? The announcers need a constitution to their characters. It makes sense to have Reginald in the 24/7 division, but I don’t really need to see him in any role.
Sheamus vs. Carrillo – HIT: This was pretty much exactly what it should be. Sheamus got a strong win in the end which was mostly clean, while Humberto Carrillo got to show a lot of fire and look good despite taking the loss. It was a momentary lack of judgement by Carrillo in trying to punch Sheamus in the face, hurting his own hand which allowed Sheamus to capitalize with the head butt, taking advantage of his face guard. This was a fun match to watch. And now Sheamus can leave Carrillo behind (who hopefully will still get a meaningful mid-card feud) to focus on a feud against Damian Priest.
Lashley vs. Lee – MISS: When Kieth Lee accepted Bobby Lashley’s open challenge, I didn’t know who it was, since I didn’t recognize his music. Some of that is the fact that he’s been gone from WWE for 6 months. But, part of that is that he had lost his good NXT music in favor of this much more generic music. I was happy to see him back, but he did not deliver. This was a lackluster match. He and Lashley had several miscommunications. He was off and uninspired. Part of it is ring rust. But, he usually is so intense and has that great look of defiance which he didn’t show when he broke the Hurt Lock. But, the match was over about 10 seconds after that. This wasn’t a great way to have Lee return. He wasn’t going to beat Lashley, but he barely got in any offense. What type of message about Lee’s standing in WWE does that send? His return was forgotten about moments later by the return of Goldberg to challenge Lashley. And I certainly wasn’t excited to see him return after his last run. Why does he deserve a title shot anyway?
Mahal / McIntyre – MISS: This continues to drag down Drew McIntyre. It is a shame that when they finally got back in front of fans, that McIntyre isn’t involved in anything special. He was the centerpiece babyface of Raw for the pandemic era and deserves a lot of credit for helping carry the show for all those months. But, now he is just beating up Jinder Mahal and his lackeys with a chair. It is very disappointing.
Kross vs. Hardy – MISS: What was that? The NXT Champion making his Raw debut should have been treated like a bigger deal. They built it up a little, but not enough. Karrion Kross’ ring entrance with Scarlet is such a big part of his presentation in NXT, so why not make it part of his Raw debut? Where was she? She helps his act tremendously. I don’t get it. Having him face Jeff Hardy was ok, but Hardy coming out in front of fans for the first time in over a year to new music doesn’t make sense either. Give those fans the classic Hardy theme. He hasn’t been treated like a winner in months, but he beats the NXT Champ in 2 minutes? That makes the NXT Champion look very weak and NXT look bad by extension. That is stupid. Having Hardy cheat to win was bad. I guess it protects Cross, but it didn’t make Hardy look good, and I don’t understand why the announcers accepted it. Again, where is Saxton’s consistency? He’s alway mad about heels cheating, and Cross hadn’t cheated or done anything bad to Hardy to get the “an eye for an eye” argument. I can’t imagine a worse Raw debut for a top NXT star.
Flair vs. Ripley and the MITB Cash In – MISS: Flair vs. Ripley was my favorite match at MITB. It was great the way they turned that crowd around and won them over witch such a great match. This match wasn’t nearly as good. It is the familiarity and the law of diminishing returns. In a vacuum, it was a perfectly fine match. But, it didn’t work as well given the context. Are the fans supposed to be upset at Charlotte for getting herself purposefully disqualified? It is hard to be upset at her for doing that to Ripley, when Ripley did the same exact thing to Charlotte at their previous PPV Title match. So the end of this fell flat. Having Nikki Cross cash in worked well to get a pop from the audience, but it felt like too much on this show (more later). She isn’t a worthy Champion considering all of her wins are flukes, including the way she won the MITB briefcase in the first place. It also feels like Flair’s reigns are kept short so she can keep getting more and more Title wins to artificially compete with her father’s record.
Night After Mania? – MISS: I understand why WWE wanted to do it, but trying to force a Night after Mania feel into the night after MITB didn’t work well. There was too much going on. We got Cena on the wrong show, Jax dumping Reginald, the return of Kieth Lee, the surprise appearance of Goldberg, the Raw debut of Cross, a Women’s Title PPV rematch, and the MITB cash in and win. They don’t need to do all of that in front of the first Raw audience. What are they going to do for an encore next week? They won’t have Cena. They can’t do another debut for Cross or return for Lee. Spread these thing out and concentrate on having a good show that doesn’t have to have all of these special moments which don’t even count by the end of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.