SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Rhodes – Lesnar Saga – HIT: WWE successfully weaved the storyline about Cody Rhodes and Brock Lesnar throughout this episode of Raw. The show started with the video from earlier in the day of Lesnar attacking Rhodes and injuring his arm. They replayed that angle multiple times to drive home the point. Eventually, Lesnar made an in ring appearance to declare that Rhodes would not be able to fight him at Night of Champions. I got a kick out of him saying he was going to save the day with an open challenge. Cody interrupting to fight worked well, which also led to further injury to Cody’s arm. We got multiple attempts at updates on his health, but he never let anyone in to check on him. They tried to build intrigue over the fact that the match might get cancelled, but nobody was really buying into that element of the story. The closing scene with Triple H and Rhodes was very strong to put over Cody. How will the injury play into the match on Saturday? Time will tell.
Opening Segment – HIT: After the Rhodes/Lesnar video, Raw started its live portion with Paul Heyman talking about the Tag Team Title match at the PLE with Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn defending against Roman Reigns & Solo Sikoa. He was interrupted by the Champions. I like how Owens dedicated the Tag Title match to The Usos. They keep stirring the pot. Imperium interrupted and got the better of KO and Sami until Matt Riddle made the save to set up the main event. Last week, I said I hoped they would find someone other than Riddle as their mystery partner. It wasn’t anything against Riddle in general, but hoping they would do something other than the obvious. So, I was a bit disappointed at that part of this, but it was ok.
Reed vs. Ricochet – HIT: This was a good match between Bronson Reed and Ricochet. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very long at 8 minutes and we missed nearly half of it on the commercial break. So, I will call it a marginal Hit for the good action that we saw. Reed continues to build momentum, but for what? Also, what happened to Braun Strowman? I thought they might set up something here with Reed beating Ricochet up after the match for a Strowman save, but nothing happened.
Rollins Interviews – HIT: Just like last week, I enjoyed the final two parts of this long sit down interview with Seth Rollins. They effectively built up Rollins as a top star, juxtaposed what he wants to be as the new World Champion versus how Roman Reigns acts as the WWE Champion (I can’t list that whole ridiculously long name), put over the new Title, as well as his opponent AJ Styles. It feels like he absolutely has to win at the PLE.
Zoey Stark – HIT: I continue to like how WWE is introducing Zoey Stark to the Raw audience. They had a good video package on her. I liked her line about the time for heroes being over. She then got a strong win in a good, but short match against Candace LaRae. The match also further advanced whatever they are doing with LeRae and Nikki Cross, but there was no follow up on the introduction of The Way after last week. As a side note, I was also disappointed that WWE didn’t follow up on JD McDonagh’s introduction last week and the intrigue of Finn Balor having his eye on him as a potential new member of Judgment Day.
Mustafa Ali – MISS: I am not sure what WWE was going for with this short interview with Mustafa Ali talking about facing Gunther for the Intercontinental Championship. They didn’t do much to build anticipation for that match. Ali totally abandoned his Postive-Ali persona here, which was jarring and confusing. He was emasculated when he was interrupted by Lesnar. This did nothing positive for Ali or the IC Title match.
Nakamura vs. Balor – HIT: WWE tried to make a big deal about Shinsuke Nakamura coming to Raw in the draft a few weeks ago, but he isn’t getting treated like a big star in terms of his win-loss record. He was in a really good match here in a losing effort to Finn Balor. Of course, he had an out after Damian Priest got involved. Will we get Nakamura vs. Priest next week? I wouldn’t mind seeing that. Will Nakamura build a team to try to take down Judgment Day? I hope they have something good in mind for Nakamura and Judgment Day.
Rodriguez – Shotzi – MISS: We’ve seen Shotzi team up with Raquel Rodriguez before and it didn’t go anywhere. The fact that they had teamed together before made the announcers acting shocked that Shotzi would come to Rodriguez’s aid stupid. It is a shame that Liv Morgan got injured and will miss a long time. I would rather see Rodriguez as a singles wrester at this point. Seeing her with another random partner, even one she was randomly partnered with in the past is disappointing. I said last week that she needed to turn heel on Morgan. She can do the same with Shotzi but it won’t mean as much unless they take a long time to fully establish their team and friendship.
Stratus – Lynch Contract Signing – HIT: This was a good segment, carried by Becky Lynch’s look, attitude and closing statement. Trish Stratus was perfectly fine in going after Lynch and taking credit for laying the foundation for all of her success. But, the highlight of the segment was definitely Lynch’s strong response.
Zayn, Owens & Riddle vs. Imperium – HIT: The main event was a good six man tag. It was a bit shorter than it might have been on a different episode, but they still had the closing scene with Triple H and Rhodes to come. But it went a good length at 15 minutes. I still believe that Giovonni Vinci & Ludvig Kaiser should be protected more and be their own threat. However, having them take the loss here made the most sense. You had to have Owens, Zayn & Riddle win, and you had to protect Gunther. I said at the start that I was disappointed in Riddle being the mystery partner, but that had to do more with KO & Sami. I understood watching the main event that WWE is likely setting up Riddle as the next challenger for Gunther’s IC Title which I am in favor of. That has great potential. The video focusing on Riddle was very good, so they continue to effectively position Riddle as more of a serious act which is encouraging.
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.