Raw misses big opportunities ahead of Hell in a Cell

The tease of a breakup of Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho's friendship never came to fruition on Monday night. Courtesy of WWE

It took until the final two minutes of Raw on Monday for WWE to deliver the one thing that had been missing throughout an underwhelming two-month feud between Universal champion Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins: legitimate heat.

Owens' powerbomb of Rollins onto the ring apron was expertly handled and a vicious callback to his first night with the company in December 2014, when he executed the same move on NXT champion Sami Zayn to kick-start their memorable feud.

Sadly, for as strong of a note as Raw ended on, it wasn't enough to put a Band-Aid over the previous three hours. Not even close.

In nothing short of a disappointing go-home episode ahead of Sunday's Raw-exclusive Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, viewers were left shaking their heads (if the social media response was any indication) following a series of missed opportunities and poor execution.

Raw has found a way to entertain in recent weeks, while consistently underachieving at the same time. The fact that the opening segment on Monday and the first 90 minutes of the show overall were dedicated to Chris Jericho finding his missing list was the perfect example.

The show has lacked depth and consistency to its most important storylines amid a flurry of unexplained turns and unfulfilled teases. The feud that has suffered the most from this approach has been Owens-Rollins, to the detriment of both superstars.

Their Universal title feud has been too much about everyone but the combatants themselves, from Roman Reigns' involvement in September to a recent focus on both Jericho and Rollins' ongoing beef with The Authority (despite Triple H's puzzling absence).

While Jericho's comedy has largely been Raw's bright spot in recent weeks, the constant tease of a breakup in his friendship with Owens never came to fruition and did nothing more than distract from a lack of direction to the overall feud.

There's still time to rectify that, of course, with an exciting match or plot twist on Sunday. But at the very least, Owens' powerbomb provided the perfect level of physicality to leave the audience wanting more heading into their Hell in a Cell showdown, as did his earlier promo before the match, when he stated he'll "leave a permanent scar on Seth Rollins and anybody watching" on Sunday.

In this case, it was better late than never.

Misguided Lesnar promo gets plug pulled quickly

For as much as Paul Heyman has done to establish himself as the company's best on the microphone, Monday's abandoned promo was likely one in which Brock Lesnar's advocate wishes he could have back.

Not only did the segment essentially waste a rare Raw appearance from the part-time Lesnar, it exposed a larger issue WWE has in attempting to promote Goldberg as a pure babyface in this feud. Not only is Lesnar much more beloved by the fan base, Goldberg has largely acted as a heel during interviews conducted outside the ring in his 12 years since departing WWE and was booed after winning his final match at WrestleMania XX.

Heyman's multiple attempts at inciting the Minneapolis crowd into chanting Goldberg's name only resulted in the opposite, as Target Center swirled with choruses of "Suplex City" and "Goldberg sucks" until Lesnar's music hit, bringing an abrupt end to the segment.

Despite how well-received Goldberg's return was last week, attempting to build on that in Lesnar's de facto home state of Minnesota, where he was a national champion collegiate wrestler, was a misdiagnosis at best -- and something even the great wizard of spoken word Heyman couldn't resuscitate on his own.

Foley delivers heartfelt warning ahead of Hell in a Cell

Credit WWE on paper for how well-written the contract signing was for Sunday's first women's Hell in a Cell match featuring Raw champion Sasha Banks and Charlotte.

The execution, however, left a lot to be desired, with the constant screaming from both Charlotte and general manager Mick Foley ultimately distracting from the overall message.

Foley attempted to dissuade the two female superstars from accepting a match this dangerous by pointing out how he "walked in a man" at Hell in a Cell and "walked out a shell of a man," referencing the health issues he faces today.

In theory, that's a great storyline, and one that asks legitimate questions likely shared by a portion of the audience watching at home. But to spend a segment warning female superstars about the match's danger and not do the same to male participants in the other two matches feels a bit like a double standard, which is something WWE is essentially trying to eliminate by holding its first women's HIAC match in the first place.

Either way, the segment closed on a high note with Charlotte saying, "See you in Boston," and Banks quickly countering with, "I'll see you in hell."

Hits and misses

  • A pre-taped promo from Rusev talking about all of the "despicable things" he plans to do to Reigns in their Hell in a Cell match on Sunday was well done for how little time he was given in the show. And considering how much he has elevated his game in recent weeks, particularly from a comedic standpoint, is was disappointing Rusev wasn't given a larger opportunity on Monday. Seeing a talent like "The Bulgarian Brute" take a backseat to longer segments going nowhere, including a rematch between The Golden Truth and The Shining Stars, is an unforgiveable sin for a go-home show.

  • It was nice to see a third-generation superstar like Curtis Axel, the son of "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig and grandson of Larry "The Axe" Hennig, have his family lineage presented as a prominent part of his gimmick. It was twice as nice to see him receive a babyface pop from his home crowd in Minnesota, where his predecessors grew to fame by headlining cards in the AWA. It has been difficult for Axel to break free from enhancement status over the past year and he quickly lost the brief momentum he had acquired on Monday when he was rolled up by repackaged Bo Dallas, drawing boos from the crowd. But this week proved that more time spent in the future telling his valuable real-life story can only help his character's chances of getting over.

  • From the files of missed opportunities, I still can't believe Jericho didn't take the time to put Braun Strowman's haircut on "The List" when he had the opportunity during their backstage segment.

  • By design, you don't hear much ad-libbed heckling between superstars and fans in WWE's current PG era. But cameras picked up Owens telling a ringside fan "your wife loves me" during the final minutes of Monday's broadcast. For as crass as the line was, it's exactly something Owens' heel character should be saying and a perfect departure from the recent slapstick comedy he has been entrapped with.

  • It's hard to hate on WWE for the poorly received arm wrestling segment between Bayley and Dana Brooke, which elicited chants of "This is stupid" from the live crowd. It was something different at the very least, designed to get over Brooke's strength and deplorability for targeting Bayley's injured shoulder. But did they drop the ball by not at least adding backward trucker hats, "Over The Top" style? You betcha.

  • Enzo Amore's baseball-inspired windup pitching punch on Karl Anderson was the kind of gimmicky move that only he could pull off. Well played.

  • There was a bit of irony in seeing Brian Kendrick petition WWE cruiserweight champion TJ Perkins to fix their match at Sunday's PPV considering the fixed reality of sports entertainment in general. But seeing Kendrick's once nasty heel persona reduced to losing cleanly to Rich Swann without a vicious response and outright begging Perkins in the locker room to let him win only makes sense if it leads to Kendrick winning the title in despicable fashion.

Move of the night

Just like Reigns' Superman punch, there are times when Cesaro's constant uppercuts can feel a bit overplayed. But this wasn't one of those times on Monday, as "The Swiss Superman" delivered an absolutely incredible shot outside the ring to an airborne Kofi Kingston, after The New Day member was launched over the top rope by Big E.

Line of the night

"With all due respect, Sasha, you have no idea what's in store for you! Because once that cell descends, once that monstrosity descends upon you, it is not just steel. It's more than the sum of its parts. It's a living, breathing entity but it's got no soul, no heart and no conscious. And it will haunt for days. It will keep you awake at night. Trust me, trust me. Just when you think you're over it for good, it will sneak up behind you. It will stop you dead in your tracks. It will make you cry like a child. It's an intimidating fact that when you're in that cell, you face not one opponent but two. You face your opponent and that demonic construction itself." -- Mick Foley explaining the dangers of Hell in a Cell to Sasha Banks