SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The Usos vs. Riddle & Owens – HIT: The opening segment which set up this match for the Tag Team Championship was solid. But, the match itself was quite good. That isn’t surprising given the talent of the Usos, Matt Riddle and Kevin Owens. Owens was certainly a big upgrade over Elias. This was a good way to continue the feud between Owens and The Bloodline. It sets him up to potentially find another partner to take on the Usos (hopefully not Elias). The post-match angle with Solo Sikoa taking out Riddle worked to reinforce Sikoa as the muscle of the group. It was very well done. I’m curious to see what happens next.
Poker Tournament – MISS: I hate these overly Sports Entertainment segments. This took up too much time which is saying something on a 3 hour show which needs filler. The bits weren’t funny. It felt like it brought down The OC for being part of it. They need to get Johnny Gargano away from Dexter Lumis ASAP. Setting up a Dominik Mysterio vs. Akira Tozawa match wasn’t a good enough reason for these poker tournament segments.
Bayley – Lynch – HIT: WWE is doing a good job of setting up an eventual match between Bayley and Becky Lynch. The mic work from both of them was strong here as Becky interrupted Bayley. It was entertaining and pointed towards a big match down the line. The stare down between Lynch and Rhea Ripley afterwards was intriguing too.
Bayley vs. Ripley vs. Asuka – HIT: The first of the triple threat matches was pretty good. There was a lot of talent in the ring with Bayley, Ripley and Asuka. Bayley needed the win to elevate her as she’s lost too often since returning at SummerSlam. WWE needs to keep her strong before the match against Becky, so having her win clean over Asuka here was the right way to go. WWE probably should have thought about having two triple threat matches on this show. The other could have been saved for next week, but more on that later.
Rollins – Lashley – HIT: WWE set up a big match next week between Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley to determine Austin Theory’s next opponent for the United States Championship. They both performed well here in this face off. It was interesting to hear Rollins continuing to bring up Lashley’s loss to Brock Lesnar. We will likely get a rematch at The Royal Rumble (or WrestleMania?). Rollins did a good job of getting under Lashley’s skin. The physicality worked well. Poor Petey Williams. Neither Rollins nor Lashley is well defined as a babyface nor a heel at this point. I think they are both faces, but WWE just wants fans to cheer for either in this feud.
Not Including Ali Video – MISS: When Mustafa Ali was on 205 Live, he made some very good videos on his social media which were not well utilized by WWE television. He has something that he has shown in those videos which can connect with the audience, but it hasn’t come across on tv. I saw the video he posted about the importance of one day winning the US Title after Raw and couldn’t understand why WWE didn’t use it. If done well, an eventual win for Ali over Theory could be a major moment. But, they need to lay the foundation. Having a good, but short match interrupted by Dolph Ziggler didn’t help things out. I get the idea was to give Ali an out for the disqualification loss, and he can have a program with Ziggler, but Ziggler is also focused on Theory. Are we going to get a triple threat? Yawn.
Alpha Academy & Corbin vs. The OC – HIT: This was another match that was set up in the poker tournament, but they could have found a better way to set it up. It was a good six man tag that took up a nice amount of time. I don’t think it really set up anything, but that’s ok. A single Raw program to kill 15 minutes in a good match is fine. But, I’m not sure WWE has much in mind long term for any of these six wrestlers.
Lynch vs. Bliss vs. Cross – MISS: As I said above, having two triple threats to set up a #1 contenders match for Bianca Belair’s Women’s Title on the same show was a mistake. This didn’t feel worthy as a main event. But, they could have built anticipation for it by having it next week. Have the contenders match the following week. You have a long way to go before the next PLE at the end of January. Why not stretch this out a little? Lynch was the only one over in this match. They are doing a very slow burn on whatever is going on with Alexa Bliss. That is ok, but meanwhile she doesn’t come across like a star, or important in any way. I am a fan of going back to this crazed character for Nikki Cross, but they haven’t done anything to make her feel like a threat. The fans weren’t into this match other than cheering Becky. The ratings show that the fans weren’t interested in sticking around for this main event either. Damage CTRTL costing Becky made sense to continue to build their feud, but I am not excited about Bliss winning. Presumably, Lynch will cost Bayley next week setting up Bliss vs. Belair which will then lead to the next step of her rejoining Bray Wyatt, but that doesn’t interest me either. Been there, done that.
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.