With the “biggest party of the summer” in our collective rear-view, many fans tuned into Monday Night Raw to see just how WWE would follow their first TV-14 pay per view since 2008.
This week’s Raw seemingly featured a heavier emphasis on showcasing in-ring work than we’ve grown used to expecting from WWE, but that’s not to say there wasn’t major developments concerning current storylines as well. Featuring both a champion versus champion main event, and one of the most surprising returns we’ve seen in quite some time, tonight’s Raw certainly maintained the above-average quality we’ve started to expect since Paul Heyman took over the directorial reigns. However, there’s still that ever-persistent question left to be answered… In the end, how invested were we?
Ladies and gentleman, my weekly task is to affix my eyes to the television for three hours of Monday Night Raw, make note of the positives/negatives, and then boil all the information gathered down to an exact percentage of how truly invested we the fans were. So, with the introduction out of the way, let’s jump right into this week’s pros and cons!
I suppose there’s no point in avoiding what is possibly the biggest news of the night. “The Boss” is back! After an extremely heartfelt promo from Natalya detailing her loss to Becky Lynch at SummerSlam as well as the anniversary of her father’s death, the crowd erupted in surprise as Sasha Banks’ theme started and “The Boss” began making her way to the ring. Banks met Natalya with a loving embrace, but quickly launched an all-out attack on the injured “Queen of Harts”.
Unable to idly watch the assault of a respected adversary, Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch rushed to the ring to defend Natalya, only to find herself the victim of multiple steel chair shots administered by Banks. As amazing as it was to see Sasha make her long-anticipated return, the realization that she will be the next competitor to attempt to capture Lynch’s Women’s Championship is the absolute “icing on top”. This is undeniably one of the best examples of booking done right by WWE. No one can argue the massive amount of potential surrounding “The Boss” versus “The Man”.
Moving right along, let’s highlight a rare case of the nostalgia angle being used properly. Early into tonight’s broadcast, a vignette aired announcing the return of a classic WWE tournament: The King of the Ring! Starting next week, 16 men from both Raw and Smackdown will begin competing for the opportunity to be crowned the first King of the Ring since 2015. With stars the likes of Ricochet, The Miz, Cesaro, and Kevin Owens taking part, it’s safe to say this edition of the tournament could re-establish the formerly annual event. The important point to address is that there needs to be a high stakes reward set for winning this tournament. A cheap crown and forced king gimmick aren’t going to be enough to get this thing over this time around. Anything other than a future title shot at stake will kill any suspense built going into 2019’s King of the Ring.
Let’s wrap up this week’s pros by addressing the fact that WWE seems to finally be grasping the concept of women’s tag team wrestling. It’s definitely been a rocky start for the WWE’s fledgeling tag division. We’ve seen teams form only to quickly disband, unpromoted championship matches minorly featured on pay per views, and a title reign so long that many fans forgot the Women’s Tag Championship even existed. However, last week’s four-way and tonight’s subsequent title match between the Kabuki Warriors and Cross/Bliss appear to be the first signs of the women’s tag division being featured prominently on WWE programming. Sure, it’s not hard to dismiss the need for a women’s tag division when you cite the incredible success women like Becky Lynch or Charlotte Flair have had in singles roles, but how often is it that WWE has the opportunity to showcase the talent of Asuka, Kairi Sane, Nikki Cross, and Alexa Bliss all in the same match?! If you don’t think that’s one of the easiest ways the company can sell seats, then you’re out of your mind.
With the positives hammered out, it’s time to switch focus to the cons of tonight’s Monday Night Raw. Truthfully, I’ve been ignoring our first negative point for a few weeks now, but since this week’s episode was thankfully devoid of a Mike and Maria segment, I feel I might as well address it now. What is the point of both the Street Profits and the Viking Raiders involvement on Raw? Dawkins and Ford only make appearances to reference a played out Key and Peele bit that makes them come across as huge marks while actively belittling the NXT Tag Titles they always seem to be wearing, and The Vikings have followed so many smoky hallway promos with squash matches that I’m starting to think it’s the same segment looped into every new episode!
I miss the days when it truly meant something for an NXT champion to show up on Raw or Smackdown. Remember when Kevin Owens answered Cena’s U.S. Open challenge and ended the match with his foot on the United States Title while raising the NXT Championship high? That moment stands out because at the time it was rare and unexpected. Lately, anyone who finds themselves winning an NXT championship immediately pops up on the main roster doing something pointless before they even have their first title defence. Booking like this instantly kills any momentum these guys build for themselves in NXT, and the recent highly acclaimed NXT return of Tyler Breeze only proves this fact further.
The other major negative I have concerning this week’s Raw is the overhyping of the champion versus champion main event we were subjected to throughout the night. From the opening segment to the commercial break before the match, there was no avoiding the fact that United States Champion AJ Styles was going to face Universal Champion Seth Rollins in the main event. I can understand if this was the first time the two had ever faced off in the ring, but Styles challenged Rollins for the Universal Title at Money in the Bank in May! Oh, and did I mention that tonight’s main event didn’t have a conclusion?
WWE spent the whole night overselling a match that ended up being nothing more than a set up to an enviable six-man tag between the O.C. and the team of Rollins, Ricochet, and Strowman at a later date. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that the whole reason for this angle has to be the lack of a viable contender for Seth’s Universal Championship. The heavy emphasis on tonight’s match was most likely an attempt by WWE to sweep the question of Rollins’ next rivalry under the rug for the time being. However, with Clash of the Champions looming in the near future, it goes without saying that the Universal Title will have to be defended.
All things considered; tonight was an overall decent showing from the red brand. Usually, I tend to expect more from the show following a major pay per view, but this week’s wrestling driven episode served as a great palette cleanser coming off the marathon of programming that this past weekend offered. So, pertaining to this week’s edition of Monday Night Raw, I’ll say the fans were…
Not the highest investment rate we’ve seen recently, but probably the best you can expect coming off of nearly ten hours of wrestling from Saturday and Sunday night.
Well, with another Raw done, and our exact investment rate calculated, it comes time once again for me to bid you fine readers farewell the only way I know how.
Until next week may all your kicks be super, and every frog splash five stars!
You can find me on Twitter @DirtSheetDandy. Thanks for reading.