SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Opening Segment – HIT: This wasn’t a great way to start off Raw, but it was good enough to get a Hit. I liked the start of the segment a lot. The mic work from Bobby Lashley and Big E was very strong. MVP was good as usual also. This was clearly positioning Lashley as more of a babyface. It was interesting to see him questioning MVP some and setting him up to get beat up by Big E. That was a little odd. What was his plan? What would have happened if Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins hadn’t attacked Lashley on the outside? That part was off, but the physicality afterwards which would eventually lead to the tag match main event worked well. MVP’s line about Lashley being acknowledged certainly planted the seed for a potential match against Roman Reigns down the line.
Bel Air vs. Doudrop – HIT: I’m not sure we needed three matches between Bianca Bel Air and Doudrop. Hey WWE, not all match ups have to be feuds. But, WWE did a fairly good job of building up the idea that while winning the matches, Bel Air wasn’t strong enough to hit the KOD on Doudrop. That mini story culminated in this good match where she finally was able to lift her up and hit her finishing move for the ultimate win. She didn’t get jumped from behind like last week, so that suggests the feud is over. Hopefully they both move on to something meaningful. Could Bel Air be a back-to-back Royal Rumble winner?
Balor vs. Theory – HIT: As expected, Finn Balor and Austin Theory had a good match. It could have gone longer and nobody would have complained. I was a little surprised that Balor didn’t win with the crucifix pin after Theory’s cocky selfie moment. That would have given Balor the win while having Theory’s cockiness led directly to his loss. But, he lost after a more definitive coup de gras a minute later. That worked well. I felt afterwards that this doesn’t have to be a string of matches. Let it be a win for Balor and a loss for Theory, and let Vince McMahon point Theory in a new direction for a new opponent. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be the case.
Omos Turns on Styles – MISS: This angle took up a lot of time on Raw. There was a backstage segment when AJ Styles walked in on Omos and The Miz talking. Then there was a long MizTV segment which oddly painted Styles as more of a babyface, even though it seemed like he was being positioned as a heel in his upcoming breakup with Omos. Then came Styles & Omos vs. Mysterios which ended with Omos refusing to tag into the match leading to Styles taking the loss. The problem here is that I didn’t care. And the sound of crickets from the live crowd suggests that they didn’t care either. I’m ok with Omos being presented as a heel, but that didn’t seem to be what they were setting up the last few weeks. Maybe that led to the disconnect with the audience? Maybe they want to see Omos as a babyface and are disappointed. Either way, I’m not excited about seeing them wrestle or seeing what WWE does long term with Omos.
Orton vs. Gable – MISS: This match was certainly Hit worthy in terms of the quality of the wrestling action, but is a Miss because it only lasted 3 minutes. That kills credibility for Chad Gable. He’s a stooge at this point. Ottis is being protected which is good, but I still continue to question the muddiness of the booking where WWE is telling a story about RK-Bro vs. Alpha Academy who are no longer in the RK-Bronament so they aren’t getting the next Tag Team Title match. And while Ottis is protected, his partner is a loser which means the team as a whole hasn’t been presented as a serious threat. So if you want to build up Ottis as a singles star, that’s ok, but there have to be better ways to do it.
Priest vs. Ziggler – MISS: Damian Priest and Dolph Ziggler worked well together and had a good match, but the booking is the problem. Priest has been one of the few protected acts in WWE lately. I didn’t like seeing him take a loss to Ziggler, even if it was a count out loss due to a distraction from Robert Roode. It played into his recent character where he loses his temper and snaps, but it was still a loss. WWE has to find ways to build challengers for their Champions other than having the Champion lose a non-title or “championship contender” match.
Theory Attacks Balor – MISS: Hey WWE, not every match up has to turn into a string of matches. It is ok to build to a match, have the match once, and then move the wrestlers on to something new after that one match. They can always come back together for another match down the line. I was disappointed when Theory attacked Balor backstage to continue their feud. The rematch will undoubtedly be good, but it feels like lazy storytelling. Theory’s following segment with McMahon was also bad. I mean it was really terrible. I’m losing faith that this mentorship will actually help Theory in the long run.
Cutting Edge – HIT: This is a minor Hit. The fact that Edge was smart enough to see through the ploy from Maryse made this segment a Hit, as babyfaces are far too often presented as stupid in WWE. Edge’s performance was strong. Maryse’s performance wasn’t as strong. Of course, she was playing a character trying to act, so maybe a poor performance makes sense as she wasn’t actually supposed to be sad or crying. Edge did look bad by seeing through the act but still getting beat up by Miz in the end, but I’m ok with it. The build to this Day 1 match has been up and down, Hit or Miss you might say. This was better, but the build is still dragging some.
Morgan Video – MISS: This was bad on so many levels. Why would Becky Lynch have several cameras filming her workout session with her students? I am not buying that Liv Morgan would go to her training facility to attack her. I am not buying that Lynch would know that Morgan was coming to attack her so she had a look alike in the ring to trick her. I am not buying that Morgan wouldn’t realize that the woman in the ring whose face was never seen by any of the dozen cameras at ringside was not Lynch. I’m not sure that Morgan should be so pleased with herself for beating up an innocent trainee. If you are going to do this, at least make it believable with one camera from a tripod in a way where you could believe Lynch would film her workout sessions. The in person mic work from Lynch was good, but she’s so good I still would rather cheer for her than Morgan who is just ok on the mic at this point.
Owns & Rollins vs. Lashley & E – HIT: This was a good main event as I expected. Lashley looked strong early on, continuing his dominant presentation. There was plenty of good wrestling action throughout which isn’t surprising given the talent in the ring. The mistaken spear onto Big E was well executed. It didn’t feel contrived like those spots often do. The post-match beat down positioning Rollins and Owens as a unified team who can work together well during the fatal four way WWE Title match at Day 1. But, how long will it last? And what role with MVP play going forward? I’m intrigued to find out.
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.