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World Title Tournament – MISS: This Miss is for the structure of the tournament itself, not for anything in particular about how it was executed on this week’s episode of Raw. I am confused as to why Smackdown wrestlers are part of a tournament to create a new Championship which is intended to be a Raw Title. WWE already has the awkward post-draft situation where the Raw Women’s Champion is on Smackdown and vice-versa. Now they set up a situation where the Raw World Champion might be on Smackdown. How will that work? WWE should have done a traditional 8 man tournament of only Raw wrestlers. I don’t like the idea of having triple threat matches as part of the tournament either. That doesn’t make sense and just sets up situations where someone can easily cheat due to the stupid triple threat rules, or get pulled out of the ring by Brock Lesnar. It also seems to serve the purpose of giving wrestlers losses without taking the loss. The Miz who hasn’t won a match in a year being one of 6 Raw wrestlers in this tournament but not Gunther, Bronson Reed, or Braun Strowman doesn’t make sense. And why are they flying through the tournament so fast? We didn’t need both triple threat matches on this show. One could have waited. If that wasn’t bad enough, we certainly didn’t need the semi-final match either. Why not space things out to build some anticipation? After Smackdown, we will know the finalists with several weeks to go and they appear on different shows, so how do you build that match and span that time? I hated introducing the new title, and how they are going about the tournament is bad too. And while Cody Rhodes did a nice job on the mic introducing the tournament at the start of the show, putting the new title over while still keeping his eye on the Roman Reigns prize, it still feels like such a consolation prize to that actual WWE Title.
Rollins vs. Priest vs. Nakamura – HIT: While I didn’t like the idea of having the triple threat matches as part of this tournament, I did enjoy this match. Seth Rollins was the predictable winner, but predictable isn’t always a bad thing. I appreciate the fact that Damian Priest was still selling the knee injury from his street fight against Bad Bunny at Backlash. The match featured good wrestling action and built well to Shinsuke Nakamura almost forcing Priest to tap out to a knee bar, only to have Rollins brake it up with a frog splash followed by the pedigree for the win.
Lesnar Attacks Rhodes – HIT: The second triple threat match was solid. It wasn’t a Hit, but it wasn’t a Miss either. It made sense to have Brock Lesnar attack Cody Rhodes to take him out of the tournament and set up their rematch at Night of Champions. Lesnar was very good here being so menacing. The visual of his face after his bloody match against Cody on Saturday was very striking. He physically dominated Rhodes, but his verbal attack was just as memorable. WWE was good at following up on this angle throughout the show with multiple replays, scenes of Cody being checked on by the doctors (Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens’ presence was a nice touch), and ultimately Cody’s interview where he accepted Lesnar’s challenge for a fight.
Zoey Stark’s Debut – HIT: I don’t understand why WWE insists on having so many debuts in such a short amount of time. It is hard for anyone new to stand out when you are introducing so many new acts in a few weeks. But, some of the debuts are well done like this one for Zoey Stark. I am a fan of Stark’s work in NXT and hope she can become a star on the main roster. She had a nice debut. I liked her interview and the way she challenged Nikki Cross. They had a short match which allowed Stark to get a strong win over someone well known to the audience. It was simple, but effective.
Zayn & Owens vs. Imperium – MISS: The match was certainly Hit worthy in terms of wrestling action and could have been a Hit under other circumstances. But, this sent a terrible message to the Raw fans that Imperium are losers. The idea that Giovani Vinci & Ludwig Kaiser are simply henchmen for Gunther but not threats in the ring on their own was enforced by having them lose in their Raw debut. Yes, it was to the Tag Team Champions, but a loss is a loss. I’m not saying that they should have beat the Champs. I would have rather seen them in a match against another team whom they could beat. Or just get into a backstage encounter with the Champs, which doesn’t have to lead to a match. Do something else to build anticipation for Gunther’s Raw debut next week. They seem to be setting up a story where Gunther will arrive angry at his henchmen, but that’s very similar to what they are doing with The Bloodline on Smackdown.
Trish and Becky – HIT: Trish Stratus is doing a good job with her heel character. She is coming across very well. The joke of playing Becky Lynch’s music to trick the audience worked fine, although we’ve seen it many times in the past. Having Lynch come out and actually surprise the fans and Trish worked well. The only thing that didn’t work great about this angle is that it has only been a few weeks since Becky was there. They acted like it had been months.
Woods vs. Dominik – HIT: This match was just good enough to get a Hit. Dominik is great at what he’s doing outside of the ring and getting a huge amount of heat. But, he still needs to work on his in ring game. He isn’t smooth enough. But, Xavier Woods helped to carry him to a good match here. Rhea Ripley was great at ringside selling concern about Dominik possibly losing. The cheap win with Ripley pulling Woods out of the way worked well. I also got a kick out of Dominik’s mocking of the New Day Rocks chant afterwards.
Balor vs. Rollins – HIT: Balor wasn’t going to beat Rollins in this match. The ending was never in doubt. I feel like the tournament format played into this where doing something else with other wrestlers involved would have made the tournament less predictable. I guess we’ll see if the Smackdown bracket is similarly predictable. But, Rollins and Balor had a good match against each other which isn’t surprising given their talent. Ultimately, WWE got to where it needed to get with Rollins in the finals of the tournament and this was a good main event. But, everything could have been so much better with a different tournament.
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.
CATCH-UP: WWE announces Smackdown triple threat matches in world heavyweight championship tournament
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