Six short days away from WWE’s “Biggest Party of the Summer”, tonight’s Monday Night Raw served as the “go home” edition of the company’s flagship program.
Storylines peaked, championships changed hands, and Roman Reigns nearly got hit by a freaking car! If tonight’s Raw was a preview of what we can expect from SummerSlam this Sunday, then it very well could be one of WWE’s better recent pay per views. However, the possibility of what SummerSlam could be isn’t the subject of this weekly article…
Every week, I’ve been tasked with watching Monday Night Raw, making note of the pros and cons of the episode, and then finishing up by giving you fine readers an exact percentage of how invested we the fans actually were. So, with the introduction out of the way, let’s jump right into the positives and negatives of the red brand’s SummerSlam “go home” show.
Let’s start off by covering the overall opening of the episode. Tonight’s Raw started off red hot with a “pipebomb” style promo delivered from Samoa Joe as he stood atop the commentary table. Joe made heavy reference to a social media video which had gone viral earlier in the day showing Joe responding violently to a WWE producer asking about his possible involvement in the attack on Roman Reigns last week. Presuming himself to be the top suspect, Joe demanded a confrontation with Reigns to prove his innocence while also maintaining a sense of dominance over the “Big Dog”.
This aggressive promo suddenly shifted drastically as Becky Lynch’s music hit, and we immediately jumped into an above-average opening tag team match featuring Lynch teaming with Charlotte Flair against Natalya and Hall of Famer Trish Stratus. This brilliant combination of intense promo and excellent “curtain jerker” matchmaking is how every WWE main roster show should start. Programming like this grabs your viewer’s attention and keeps it. Joe’s portion created an eventual face to face moment between him and Reigns to build towards throughout the night, while the women’s tag match perfectly showcased the wrestling aspect of tonight’s show. This is this balance between story and sport that WWE needs to maintain from here on out.
Moving on, we can’t highlight the pros of tonight’s Raw without touching on the latest appearance of “The Fiend”. In what may have been the most surprising attack so far, Bray Wyatt claimed yet another legendary victim. In an effort to elicit a hometown talent pop from the Pittsburgh crowd, WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle was announced early in the evening as the special referee for a match between Drew McIntyre and Cedric Alexander. Following Angle making his way into the ring, McIntyre would attack Alexander from behind during his entrance, leading to the two brawling at ringside. After this brutal exchange resulted in both combatants being laid out on the arena floor, a baffled Angle found himself enveloped in darkness as the lights within the venue began to go out. A roar of excitement erupted from the crowd as flickering beams of light revealed “The Fiend” with his right hand tightly clenching Kurt Angle’s lower jaw in the “Mandible Claw”.
In my opinion, the Bray Wyatt angle is by far the best storyline WWE has right now. Not only is it being handled expertly well, but having Wyatt continue to attack what seem to be random WWE legends amidst the build to his match this Sunday with Finn Balor proves that there is a bigger plan in place for Bray moving on from SummerSlam. I personally think “The Fiend” gimmick very well could be for WWE what the “Broken” Matt Hardy gimmick was for Impact a few years back.
Lastly, I’d like to finish off this week’s positives with two rapid-fire points. The first is going to be a quick moment of praise directed at the four-way elimination tag team match for the Women’s Tag Team Championship. Sure, it’s easy to forget these titles even exist, but this was an overall decent match with winners that I didn’t expect. Even if they did just happen to debut new matching ring gear tonight…
The second and final pro I have to cover is the personal “mark out” moment I got from finally seeing Luke Gallows sporting his trademark face paint. This throwback to the glory days of Anderson and Gallows in Japan can easily be interpreted as WWE hopefully being serious about the direction they’re taking the O.C. this time around.
Switching gears to the negatives of tonight’s Raw, let’s start off with the Lesnar/Rollins promo we were presented with. Completely ignoring the fact that having Rollins defeat Lesnar, and labelling him the “Beastslayer” only to turn around and have Lesnar reclaim the Universal Title via the Money in the Bank is utter insanity, is it really necessary for Lesnar to destroy the company’s top babyface on a weekly basis?
Typically, after a heel has recaptured a championship through nefarious means, they make a point of avoiding the person they beat because they know they’re outmatched when it concerns a fair fight. But Brock’s ego would never allow that! Instead, we’re forced to watch Brock destroy Seth Rollins two weeks in a row, with Rollins cutting a strange post-attack promo tonight. Why would any young talent want to sign with a company that would treat one of their best wrestlers this way? As long as Brock Lesnar continues to do business with WWE, there will always be a shadow that is impossible to escape for any member of the roster.
Continuing on, earlier in this article I praised the opening segment of tonight’s show for balancing the duel aspects of what modern wrestling should be. The truth of the matter is, even though Samoa Joe captivated fans by starting off the evening with an extremely realism based promo, the continuation of this angle throughout the night proved more pointless than anything else. Later in the night, Joe would reappear in the ring, pulling the classic “sit out” tactic. This would end after a few minutes when a ringside stagehand would tell Joe that Roman had arrived in the parking lot.
Excusing how impressive it is that said stagehand knew this before Roman had even exited his car, Joe quickly made his way to the parking lot to confront Reigns. A quick verbal exchange between the two suddenly ended when Roman jumped back in his vehicle to avoid being hit by another car speeding towards him. Now, it’s easy to see that this is very much a rehash of the Attitude Era “who done it” Steve Austin attack angle, which is the biggest reason it won’t work. Once again, WWE falls back on nostalgia to sell tickets.
Wrapping up the cons of this week’s show, let’s address the massive, bald, botchy elephant in the room. Goldberg. Does anyone want this? Seriously, is there someone out there who is just dying to see Ziggler vs. Goldberg?! Not only is this beyond ridiculous, but it very well could mean the possibility of a serious injury for Dolph. We all cringed through Taker vs. Goldberg, that’s where this story should have ended. But, no. Big Bill needs one more paycheck, so it’s up to Dolph to do the job. In my honest opinion, this will undoubtedly be the worse match of Sunday’s entire show.
This week’s Monday Night Raw was certainly of the above-average variety while still falling several degrees left of perfection. Similar to the journey AEW has been on in recent months, WWE is determined to define themselves as a company that can give its fans something they haven’t seen before, but they’re still finding nostalgia to be a hard habit to kick. With all these things taken into consideration,
Tonight’s Raw was, for the most part, what a “go home” show should be. Several of Sunday’s storylines were pushed, but not so much as to kill any organic interest fans may be creating themselves going into SummerSlam. I’m truly interested to see if this could be the turning point for WWE to reestablish their company as a force within modern professional wrestling.
Well, I suppose this article has come to an end, which means it’s time to bid you farewell as I do every week.
So, until next time, may all your kicks be super and every frog splash five stars!
You can find me on Twitter @DirtSheetDandy. Thanks for reading.