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WWE Raw Hits & Misses: Number one with a bullet


WWE’s inaugural post-draft edition of Raw was a rare unequivocal home run featuring two major surprise outcomes and a whole host of positive production changes.

Of course, as always, yours truly found things to quibble over! Read on as I dissect the highlights and lowlights of Raw's successful trip to Pittsburgh.

-- The Hits --

Sasha’s Surprise Coronation

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who expected a Dana Brooke-related screwjob here to set up the inevitable SummerSlam rematch. Instead, in one of two genuine surprises on the show, we witnessed a truly memorable women’s championship victory for Sasha Banks.

Banks paying homage to her hero Eddie Guerrero by getting Brooke falsely evicted from ringside was the first hint that we might be seeing something special. One of the best matches since the beginning of the ill-fated “Divas Revolution” ensued with the sky-high levels of believable intensity capped by Charlotte’s bitter “You will never beat me!” before the finish.

Post-match displays of emotion by both Banks and Charlotte, paired with an absolutely rabid crowd reaction, served to make this feel even more meaningful. This was a huge hit for the beginning of a new era on Raw, and a rare example of WWE pulling the trigger at exactly the right time.

Number One With A Bullet

Finn Balor defeating Roman Reigns clean to become the number one contender for the abysmally-named Universal Championship was the second of those two genuine surprises. Balor making his bow by pinning the US champion in the best of the two fatal four-ways was a great start to his Raw career, but few expected a second victory to ensue.

Following Reigns taking the pinfall on Sunday night, Balor’s victory is another sign that the bloom is off the Reigns rose as far as Vince McMahon is concerned.

The desperate two-year battle against the wishes of the fans appears to be over. Perhaps now those same fans will finally recognize the undoubted ability of Reigns, who has proven his main event credentials time and time again since Fastlane 2015.

Speaking of Reigns, I really could have done without Michael Cole shouting “Vindication!” when the Big Dog pinned Chris Jericho to qualify for the main event. How exactly does pinning a guy in a four-way “clear one from an accusation, suspicion or imputation”? Are we to believe that the man’s urine turned heel on him? Idiotic.

Production Redesign

Look, we all know that the new logo is a dud. But little else about the revised Raw presentation was worthy of complaint.

Yes, Corey Graves, like JBL before him, represented somewhat of an avatar for Vince, using the irritating “head on a swivel” meme on two occasions and berating Byron Saxton. But Graves managed to be far less irritating in doing so, focusing more on calling the action rather than spewing dated references.

The new theme and announce position contributed to a fresh feel to the show, as did the decision to reintroduce ringside interviews, which worked to spectacular effect after the women’s championship match.

I was also a big fan of Saxton's in-ring chat with Braun Strowman’s chinless sacrificial lamb, at the end of which Saxton expressed a hope that the cowering jobber would “still have a career” after the match.

The newly-coiffed Strowman's match was one of two jobber squashes on the show, representing a welcome return to a method of getting performers over that has long been dispensed with. Recall that a green Ryback got himself over huge in mid-to-late 2012 by squashing job guys.

-- The Misses --

The Trouble With Three Hours

Having avoided this well-worn gripe in the column to date, Monday’s excellent edition of Raw left me feeling compelled to point out how much better it would have been with a reduced running time.

Nowhere was this more obvious than in the main event, a merely adequate 10-minute match played out in front of a spent crowd. In the two-hour era, both men’s fatal four-way victories would have served as precursors to a singles showdown the following week.

But with filling time a priority in the now four-year-old three-hour era, Balor and Reigns were instead forced to go again after wrestling 20-minute matches earlier in the night.

With a one-week build and more time, Balor’s brilliant elevation would have been even more thrilling than it already was.

Sonny? Oh boy

The always hit-or-miss New Day missed in a big way with their record-breaking tag team championship reign celebration on Monday night. While I was a fan of the Club’s violent intervention and subsequent fan intimidation, the “comedy” that preceded it was straight out of Dudsville.

Hopefully, the complete refusal of the Pittsburgh crowd to even raise a chuckle at any of the many repetitions of “Sonny Boy” will send a message to whoever wrote this turd of a segment. On a brighter note, I have no problem with a resumption of hostilities between these two teams with the only negative being the related wheel-spinning of...

Enzo & Cass

Drafting everyone’s favorite Certified Gs to the same brand as the New Day appeared to many to be a misstep from the WWE, and the events of Monday night did nothing to dispel those fears.

While we all loved Enzo’s Wu-Tang rendition, I’m sure few were quite as keen on the subsequent battle with the awful Shining Stars, which was only won thanks to the Golden Truth’s show-long Pokemon Go obsession.

The writers need to quickly concoct something significant to do for what is one of the hottest acts in the company, or risk them losing steam.