Following an above-average show last week, tonight’s Monday Night Raw sought to cash in on one of, if not the most powerful tool the world of marketing has seen in recent years… Nostalgia.
With the current state of affairs throughout the globe being negative more often than not, it’s easy to see why many people would want to be reminded of better times from their pasts. However, this is a tactic that has long been utilized within the business of pro wrestling. Any booker will tell you that the easiest way to fill seats has to be promoting the return of a beloved talent the fans haven’t seen in a while. Tonight WWE double-downed on the nostalgia pop with their extremely overhyped Raw Reunion episode.
Throughout the evening, we were presented with appearances from a multitude of former WWE superstars including Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Kelly Kelly, Rob Van Dam, and even a few cult favourites like Santino Marella, The Boogeyman, and the Hurricane. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t great to see so many former talents being welcomed back to take part in this reunion show, but I still have a job to do. As always, my weekly task is to give you fine readers a rundown of the positives and negatives from tonight’s Raw, then distil that information into a precise percentage of how invested we the fans truly were. So, with our introduction dutifully handled, let’s jump right into the good and bad of this week’s episode!
MizTV is quickly becoming the “go-to” segment for amazing promos on Monday Night Raw. Following an expertly delivered work/shoot promo from Dolph Ziggler last week, tonight’s MizTV featured Seth Rollins unleashing a verbal beatdown on absentee Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. Rollins mocked Lesnar’s appearance, declared Brock a “Seth Rollins Wannabe”, and even threatened to let out some physical frustration on the Beast’s advocate, Paul Heyman.
Spots like this are where WWE excels at playing with the realism of their storylines. Seth used the frustration I’m sure numerous fans feel concerning Brock holding the title again to endear himself even further. That ability to tap into raw emotion is what makes Rollins the best babyface in the company currently.
Staying with the subject of promos, but moving to the heel end of the spectrum, let’s touch on Samoa Joe’s moment of the evening. After making his way to the ring, Joe preceded to heavily bash the concept of nostalgia, citing it as no more than a cash grab tactic and just another way WWE has found to take the spotlight off the true stars of Raw, like himself. After running down The Usos and Rikishi’s involvement in the opening of the show, Joe would find himself confronted by Roman Reigns leading to the two taking part in a fairly good match.
All that aside, I’m highlighting Joe’s pre-match promo because like Seth’s promo earlier in the night, Samoa Joe was expressing an opinion shared by many of the viewers. There is undoubtedly a belief throughout the fanbase that episodes like this do nothing more than shift focus away from current roster talent. Whether or not you agree with the idea of nostalgia-driven shows hurting the current product, the fact of the matter is, you didn’t see Ricochet, Cesaro, or Aleister Black featured tonight…
Let’s wrap up this week’s positives with what, in my opinion, was the highlight of tonight’s entire show. The Fiend’s attack on hardcore legend Mick Foley. This was absolutely amazing! Foley is one of the most charismatic figures in WWE history. Everyone loves Mick Foley, and if you say you don’t, I just might fight you! That unprovoked promise of violence aside, having the beloved Foley come to the ring with the intent of sharing one of his favourite memories from Raw perfectly set the stage for a sinister attack by The Fiend.
Not only did the sudden appearance of Bray Wyatt immediately change the overall mood of the segment, but the way it was shot made it come across as almost surreal. Darkness overtaking the arena, the close-up reveal of Bray’s masked face with a gloved hand raised on each side, then as the lights return, the hand reading “heal” drops and the hand emblazoned with “hurt” instinctively curls into the Mandible Claw position. Suddenly, like a tightly coiled serpent, Wyatt strikes out at the stupefied Foley, locking in the submission hold that made Mick one of the most feared wrestlers of his day. This is what all of us wanted Bray’s new gimmick to be, and this is what we need to continue seeing to make this angle as successful as it can possibly be.
How is it that we didn’t get to see the likes of Ricochet or Cesaro tonight, but there was enough time in the show for the 24/7 Championship to change hands eight times?! Booking like this is exactly what killed the small amount of legitimacy the Hardcore Title had during the Attitude Era. Tonight’s Raw saw the title captured by Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, Kelly Kelly, Candace Michelle, Alundra Blayze, and Ted Dibiase before returning as the focal point of the current Drake Maverick/R-Truth rivalry.
Now, it’s obvious that Patterson, Brisco, Blayze, and Dibiase all held the title tonight to reference past events they’ve taken part in throughout wrestling history, but using the 24/7 title as a prop like this only implicates it as a joke belt even further. Continued writing like this only proves that we probably won’t be seeing this championship much longer.
It seems that the trio of Styles, Gallows, and Anderson are now referring to their reunited stable as “The O.C.” The emphasis is that this group is “The Original, The Official, The Only” club in professional wrestling. Not only does this new name seem to take shots at the current incarnation of the Bullet Club associated with New Japan Pro Wrestling, but they also seemed to be intent directed at making this heel stable appear dominating.
Of course, that all goes straight out the window when said heel stable backs down from a confrontation with a group of fifty-year-old retired wrestlers later in the night. This is exactly what Samoa Joe was referencing in his promo! You can’t expect fans to believe The O.C. is any kind of threat when they’re intimidated by a bunch of guys that can’t make it through a match without hurting themselves. Oh, and what about when we saw all these guys throwing up the “Too Sweet” together during Raw 25? WWE just going to pretend that didn’t happen? An undeniable example of shotty writing for the sake of nostalgia.
Finishing up with the negatives, let’s stick with the overall theme of both tonight’s Raw and this very article; nostalgia. As I said during the introduction, nostalgia has become such a powerful tool solely due to the fact that things are so rotten in the present-day culture that most of us would rather be reminded of better times of the past. With that in mind, why would WWE risk the minuscule amount of momentum they’ve gained in recent weeks just to walk us down memory lane once again?
I understand the financial aspect of going back to the well with the talent you know draw money, but by doing so you also make it seem like you have no faith in your current roster. How can up and coming talent expect to succeed when the moment ratings aren’t what they wanted to be WWE decides it’s time to bring Hogan or Austin back to spice things up?! It’s lazy to rely on what you know works instead of investing effort in what could work better. Honestly, it’s my opinion that the reunion theme damaged this episode before it even aired.
When everything is said and done, it’s my humble opinion that tonight’s episode of Raw was a step in the absolute wrong direction. After seeing a small glimpse of promise for the future in last week’s show, tonight only succeeded in dimming that growing ray of hope.
And there you have it, folks. Another Monday Night Raw in the books, and another exact percentage of how invested we truly were. With my task completed, it’s time once again to send you fine readers off as I always do.
So, until next week, may all your kicks be super, and every frog splash five stars!
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @DirtSheetDandy. Thanks for reading