SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – HIT: This is a marginal Hit. These parade of challengers segments are beyond played out in WWE. This one made sense as the challengers all just arrived on Raw from Smackdown via the draft. Everyone involved including Big E who started off the segment performed well. It was good for him to at least acknowledge that Seth Rollins didn’t deserve a Title match after he lost to Edge at the last PPV. I liked how they all brought up their career achievements and other things from their past like the way Rey Mysterio made a reference to his former feud against Rollins. This built up to the announcement that the four challengers would face in a ladder match in the main event which was a good hook for the rest of the show.
Street Profits vs. Dirty Dogs vs. Alpha Academy – MISS: This is a marginal Miss for a triple threat match that featured pretty good wrestling action throughout (other than that terrible spine buster/zigzag combo that finished it). I loved the clothesline/german suplex double team move from Otis and Chad Gable. If they get a push (which would be smart), I hope that’s their finishing move going forward. The first problem with the match is that on a show which touted a fresh start, the first match was a big match up of teams that were together on Smackdown. The point of the draft should NOT be to get the same matches we’ve seen before, just on a new night. The point should be getting entirely new match ups. The other problem was the interference from Omos. Having distractions and outside interference during matches is certainly not a fresh start.
Queen Zelina – MISS: When I was a guest on Wrestling Night In America recently, I questioned why WWE couldn’t do a Queen of the Ring tournament for the first time without it being at the same time as the King of the Ring tournament. Now that we’ve seen two similar coronations with wrestlers acting stupid as if they have actual royal power over WWE, I stand by the comment that the two tournaments should not have happened at the same time. I like Zelina Vega (she seems to have lost her last name), so I don’t mind her getting a push. But, she is much better on the mic than in the ring. Now, that good mic work is going to be ruined with the overly scripted, cheesy, overdone royalty gimmick. And what was the deal with that terrible English accent that kept going in and out? If you can’t do an English accent, then don’t try. It’s ok. Her match against Doudrop was fine, and I will give WWE credit for giving her a win in the rematch instead of doing their usual 50-50 booking.
Lynch – Bel Air – HIT: It remains a stupid decision to turn Becky Lynch heel upon her return from maternity leave. However, Becky is embracing the role and doing a great job with it. She hasn’t changed that much from her babyface The Man persona. But, she has tweaked it just enough to be a heel without losing credibility for totally changing herself which can happen in a heel turn. Bianca Bel Air was also very good here. She continues to improve and find her voice as a top babyface star. In the past, there have been times when she has been over bearing which can turn fans off. That was not the case here. This got the fans firmly behind her and against (the still very popular) Lynch. Fans should really want to see their Women’s Title match next week.
Damian Priest – HIT: I am curious to see where WWE goes with Damian Priest. I was never a fan of his Archer of Infamy gimmick, so I was glad to see him no longer pantomiming shooting an arrow at the big screen during his entrance or at his opponent during the match. I do like his calm and cool persona, but now he appears to be shifting to a hot head. That can work. I am willing to take a wait and see approach to the new presentation of his character. They are still behind him. He is still the United States Champion and judging by the way he was presented in this match against T-Bar, they are planning on having him in a significant role going forward.
Carmella vs. Morgan – MISS: We saw enough of Carmella vs. Morgan on Smackdown for it to feel special on the Raw “season premiere”. Again, how was this a fresh start? The match was fine, but another short match. 2-4 minute matches should not happen between wrestlers who are presented as being equals. There were several of those matches on this show, which should utilize jobbers to lose instead of supposed “Superstars”. This was hopefully a blowoff to this feud so that both can move on to actual fresh matchups on Raw. For that reason, I liked that this was a clean victory for Carmella (I would have been fine with a clean win for Morgan too). But, give them more time to actually have a good match.
Short Matches – MISS: As I just said, there were too many short matches on Raw which hurt the credibility of the losing wrestlers. Zelina should win her first match as Queen, but did it have to come at the expense of Doudrop in 3 minutes? Dominic Dijakovic is a talented wrestler who could still mean something on Raw with a repackage, but he’s losing in 3 minutes. I talked about Carmella vs. Morgan. Kieth ‘Bearcat’ Lee needs squashes at this point, but why does it come at the expense of the super talented Cedric Alexander who is back in The Hurt Business. Bobby Lashley wasn’t on this show, but I worry for him going forward after losing to Goldberg and having his henchmen looking so ineffective. I’m sure Lee will squash Shelton Benjamin next week. I continue to enjoy the build of Austin Theory and he is actually fresh on Raw. Having him beat Dominic Mysterio made sense, and fit into a potential storyline of tension between Dominic and his father. I had no problem with this match, other than the fact that it was the fifth short match in a row. Luckily, the last two matches on the show were longer to make up for it.
RKBro vs. The Dirty Dogs – HIT: Ir would have made more sense to have this match next week. I don’t like the heel challengers being put at a disadvantage for already being in a match while the babyface Champions weren’t. But, the match itself was quite good. It is not surprising given the talent of Matt Riddle, Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. There were a few sloppy spots, but they recovered from them quickly like the pros that they are. The match built well to the strong exchange of leverage pin attempts between Riddle and Ziggler which led to Riddle getting the win to retain the Championship for his team.
Rollins vs. Mysterio vs. Balor vs. Owens – HIT: This was a very good ladder match main event to determine Big E’s next challenger for the WWE Title. It was long without being too long. There were some memorable ladder spots. These are four great wrestlers given a chance to shine. It did have the same issue of being four Smackdown wrestlers all coming to Raw to face each other at the same time, but they hadn’t had a lot of interaction against each other on Smackdown for the most part (unlike say Carmella and Liv). Rollins as the only heel was the predictable winner (especially since they just did a babyface challenger in Drew McIntyre and they aren’t likely to do it again right away), but that still worked. This was a fun match to watch from start to finish. I also appreciate the post-match interview with Rollins. WWE should do that more often to help reinforce the importance of a big win like this.
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.