SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Lashley – Lesnar – HIT: Raw got off to a hot start with Bobby Lashley in the ring to call out Brock Lesnar. WWE is in love with the spear through the barricade by the time keeper spot. It is way overdone, especially when Lesnar is involved. That was my only nitpick complaint about an otherwise very good opening segment. Lashley needed to stand strong over Lesnar after what happened last week, so this was a good step in their feud.
The OC vs. Alpha Academy – HIT: This is a minor Hit for a good match to reintroduce Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows to the Raw audience in a win over The Alpha Academy. The issue is that we only saw about half of the match with the commercial break. There isn’t much to comment on. I still would like to see more in ring success from Alpha Academy.
OC – Judgement Day – HIT: The follow up to that match with Judgement Day coming out to mock the OC for still doing the old Bullet Club “Two Sweet” stuff was good. Some people might side with Finn Balor for making fun of AJ Styles for still doing that. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to do something to explain to fans who don’t know what is going on exactly what the Bullet Club is and some of the history. I guess they give enough for casual fans, but I would think they could make the story more engaging with a better explanation. We got Balor saying he started that old club, but that’s it. The highlight of the segment was Rhea Ripley getting Dominik Mysterio to accept Styles’ challenge for a match later in the show. That dynamic is a lot of fun.
Rollins – Ali – HIT: I continue to question why WWE wants one of their top heels in Seth Rollins to play to the fans for cheers with the humming of his song. It is counter productive to getting other babyfaces over against him. Mustafa Ali was very good here in challenging him to a future United States Championship match. I loved when Ali took Rollins’ sunglasses off. The fight at the end was good too.
LaRae & Belair vs. Kai-en-Sky – HIT: This was a good tag match playing into the feud between Bayley and Bianca Belair. It was nice to see WWE give their Women’s Tag Team Champions a clean win, even over an opponent like Candace LaRae who is still establishing herself on Raw. Dakota Kai & Iyo Sky needed the win more. I wonder if they are going to set up one of them against Belair at some point instead of Bayley to tease some dimension in Damage CTRL. Bayley has only pinned Belair in a tag match with their help. Here, they got a win over Belair (no, she didn’t take the pin but she was part of the losing team).
JBL – MISS: I haven’t seen anyone complain about the biggest problem I had during JBL’s promo (and again on commentary for the match that followed). JBL buried the entire current roster other than Baron Corbin by saying that Dolph Ziggler and the rest of the roster wouldn’t have made it in the Attitude Era. I don’t get why you would want a Hall of Fame wrestler to talk on air in any role about how the current wrestlers are not as good as those from the past. I get he is a heel, but there was no push back against the claim by Kevin Patrick. It was like Triple H’s “last of the smash mouth wrestlers” promo on the Undertaker back in the day. I’m dumbfounded by this. JBL also did the cheap heat bit by talking about Texas vs. Oklahoma. I’m in California and I don’t give a damn about college football, so what do I care about what he was saying? I also don’t think that Corbin needs a manager as he can talk for himself. Save JBL for someone who can’t. The Wrestling God gimmick wasn’t good, so bringing it back for Corbin doesn’t get me excited. Again, I understand that it is a heel act. Giving Corbin a character reset makes some sense, but he’s still just Baron Corbin who is going to have solid at best matches like this one against Ziggler. If you want to reset Corbin, then this would have been a good time for a stronger, quicker win. Yes, he beat Ziggler, but it took him far too long to get the job done to make a strong statement.
Styles vs. Dominik – HIT: This was a good match. I thought they were going to have a stipulation where everyone else was barred from ringside based on the segment earlier in the show. Once I realized that Judgement Day and The OC would be at ringside, I knew how the match was basically going to go. That said, it featured good wrestling action. Dominik continues to grow as an in ring performer. The one thing I would say about his in ring performance is that he should stop with the mocking Eddie Guerrero tributes. Whenever a Mexican wrestler in WWE or AEW does it, it comes across as pandering either for cheap pops or cheap heat. Let the man rest. It didn’t sound like it got much of a reaction from the live crowd at all, so maybe that’ll be a hint. Dominik getting the win with the help of Ripley made sense.
Gargano – The Miz – HIT: I like what they did with The Miz and Johnny Gargano. One of the problems with the Miz vs. Dexter Lumis story has been the lack of motivation for Lumis’ actions which often paint Miz as the more sympathetic character. Here, we had Lumis’ father-in-law strongly suggesting that there is a reason for what Lumis is doing and that Miz knows what that reason is. This is the first interesting wrinkle to the angle that WWE has added so far.
Elias – MISS: I am glad that the Ezekiel experiment is over, but that doesn’t mean that I’m particularly excited to see Elias back again. He is a dippy character who is decent at best in the ring. Having him interact with Matt Riddle before the main event brought Riddle down more than anything. Ever since Randy Orton’s injury, Riddle has done a very good job of walking the fine line between his goofy stoner gimmick and the more serious badass that he can be. He has found a good balance. Here, he looked like a total loser wanting to play with Elias. I also don’t understand having Elias at ringside for the US Title match. It greatly took away from what was an otherwise good match. I can’t give the match a Hit when a babyface is cheating. We are supposed to boo Ripley for cheating but cheer Elias? WWE has been a bit better about clean finishes, but this was right back to Vince-era quality crap finish. At least they gave Ali a chance to stand tall at the end of the show. I am intrigued by his potential push.
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.