After a week of recovery from the wrestling hangover that inevitably comes with Wrestlemania weekend, the WWE seeks to keep our attention focused on their product with the annual “Superstar Shake-up”.
Tonight’s edition of Monday Night Raw saw the red brand start off the yearly talent swap with a strong line-up of picks from the rosters of both Smackdown Live and NXT. Andrade, The Usos, and the….ugh… Viking Experience are just a few of the names to join the ranks of WWE’s flagship show. Terrible name changes aside, the Superstar Shake-Up is designed to create surprising, “must see” moments as well as creating opportunities for new rivalries going into the upcoming year of programming. In my opinion, tonight’s Raw proved that this latest tweak on the original Draft concept still serves it’s purpose, but that’s not why we’re here. As always, you fine readers are here to discover what five things we learned from this week’s Raw. So, with the introduction out of the way, let’s jump right into it!
1. The War Who?
That’s right, people. We’re gonna go ahead and get this one over with. What in the blue hell is a “Viking Experience”?! It legitimately sounds like the name of an amusement park ride! As cliche as I know this will come across, the changing of a subtle Viking inspired gimmick like the War Raiders to the “they eat raw meat” gimmick of the Viking Experience reeks of Vince McMahon’s involvement. And further more, what was wrong with Ray Rowe and “War Beard” Hanson? Im going to guess the boss didn’t think those names were Viking enough. Let’s all just be thankful that Rowe and Hanson are both extremely talented individuals and hopefully that’ll be enough to get them through this god awful gimmick change.
2. A Punishment For Andrade?
It’s a known fact that if the powers that be within the WWE don’t approve of your off screen relationship, they’ll intervene in whatever way they deem necessary. The most common practice in recent years has been to place significant others on separate brands to limit time together while on the road. Tonight’s debut of Andrade can’t help but seem like more of the same. Neither Charlotte Flair nor Andrade have made any effort to conceal their growing relationship over the last few months, which very well may have ruffled some creative feathers. Sure, this could be pure speculation, but tonight also saw Naomi debut shortly after her husband made his presence known amongst the Raw roster.
3. Lana and Rusev are Marketing Gold
Keeping with couples, while also stepping away from the actual show, a commercial shown during one of the breaks tonight proved that Lana and Rusev are quickly becoming the go to couple when it comes to stepping up for sponsors. Not only are Rusev and Lana genuinely funny while working off their real life chemistry, but it would seem they both legitimately enjoy this new role they’ve been put into. It’s safe to say that should this trend continue, Rusev and Lana will certainly have a home at the WWE for a long time.
4. Lynch Will Defend The Titles Separately
Jumping back into the actual show, WWE has opted to illicit the cheapest of fan pops three shows in a row now by simply having Undisputed (yeah, I said it) Women’s Champion Becky Lynch attempt to cut a promo before being interrupted in some fashion. In a slight variation, this week featured Becky working a match against Ruby Riott. After Lynch secured the non-title victory, Natalya made her way to the ring to declare her intentions to challenge for the Raw Women’s Title specifically. Lynch defending her championships separately comes with a multitude of implications, top of the list being the possibility for multiple title defenses within a single night. So, I’m calling it now, it won’t be long before “The Man” becomes “The Ironman”.
5. The Champ Changes Camp
The biggest news coming out of tonight’s Raw has to be the addition of AJ Styles to the red brand. It’s obvious that any show that includes the presence of the Phenomenal One immediately flourishes. It would seem WWE wants to put more eyes on their Monday night programming, and adding Styles is definitely a step in the right direction. I know I’m not the only fan out there thinking of the match possibilities that come with AJ being on Raw. Styles vs Rollins, Styles vs McIntyre, Styles vs Balor 2! The possibilities are near limitless.
And there we have it, folks. In my humble opinion, tonight’s show was decent enough, but still lacked a certain sizzle. Hopefully the next few weeks will see some exciting developments as the newest members of the Raw brand settle into their new home. So, until next time, may all your kicks be super, and all your frog splashes five stars.
You can find me on Twitter @DrBenjaminStanz. Thanks for reading.