Having spent over a decade away from WWE, one thing about Monday Night Raw has become abundantly clear to me since weirdly returning to the product later in life: nothing ever really happens. Today’s Raw isn’t going to contain many shocking reveals, character turns, or–God forbid!–title changes. Anything of that magnitude simply has to be saved for monthly pay-per-view events, which aren’t accurately named any longer now that each one can be seen simply by having access to the WWE Network. There isn’t any competition from a rival company, and it would stand to reason that being the only game in town would cause a sense of complacence.
That’s why last week’s episode of WWE’s premier show was so refreshing. No, Seth Rollins’ six-month heavyweight title run didn’t come to and end, but the show’s content provided matches with direct implications. The premise was that eight of the men who won their matches at the previous night’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view would square off in pairs, and that the four winners of those matches would brawl for the right to face Rollins at November’s Survivor Series event. It was a lot of fun to watch knowing that the outcome would mean something concrete in terms of storytelling and match booking, and I haven’t seen a lot of that since my return to the wrestling world. Roman Reigns (Rollins’ old teammate in The Shield) predictably won, but the road to victory was a fun one.
This week’s Raw took another smart path in doing what it needed to do, and that is to start laying the foundation for what the rest of Survivor Series will look like beyond Rollins and Reigns presumably taking the main event. Bray Wyatt came out with his homeless family, sat in the middle of the ring in a rocking chair, and barked absolute nonsense for far too long. In spite of this, we can assume this (for sure) means his clan will be taking on The Undertaker, Kane, and two more wrestlers with gimmicks concerning hell or death or whatever. Paige took down Sasha Banks, Brie Bella, and Becky Lynch in a crazy and energetic four-way to punch her ticket into a divas championship match against Charlotte. During the process, she was super hot, and this was likely the best actual match of the night. NXT talent Tyler Breeze confused and then pummeled Dolph Ziggler in what will surely culminate in a battle of who has the very dumbest name or very blondest hair.
The main event of the evening was announced up top, with Triple H and Stephanie wisely cutting off Roman Reigns while he was attempting to discuss Roman Reigns-like issues. While I wasn’t paying much attention to what he was saying, I can only assume every word was nauseatingly virtuous and may or may not have addressed the fact that his hair simply couldn’t look any greasier. The two Authority members let Reigns know that he and a team of four other dudes of his choosing would face off against Rollins and his own fab four at the end of the night in a traditional survivor series match. What better way to promote the upcoming event, right?
Wait, I know! Why not have the commentary team repeat the phrase “traditional survivor series match” until the audience starts bellowing it in its sleep? I should particularly single out JBL here, because holy shit was he even more annoying than normal. Between his tiresome labeling of the night’s main event as “traditional” and his absolute, unshakable need to refer to Kevin Owens as a “prizefighter” a dozen times per broadcast, he was a complete broken record. Seriously, it was probably hard for him not to just blurt out “prizefighter” when either I hallucinated or Jack Swagger was randomly on my television screen.
All commentary issues aside, the main event was a fun one to watch. The Usos returned after half-a-year out of action to join their cousin Roman’s pal squad alongside Dean Ambrose and the square-necked food receptacle known as Ryback, while Rollins added all three wonderful New Day members and the prizefighter himself to his team. Things boiled down to the three former members of The Shield, with Reigns and his best buddy Ambrose left to dismantle Rollins and win the match. That sort of happened, as Rollins did a bit of his shit-kicker heel shtick (i.e.-trying to literally just run away) before busting out a steel chair and forcing his own team’s disqualification. The match worked to set the stage for what’s to come, but it wisely had very little direct contact between the two men who will vie for the company’s biggest title this month.
Speaking of that very title match, I’m really not sure who takes it. Rollins has enjoyed a lengthy stay at the top, and he is every bit the superior talent both in the ring and on the microphone. Still, the WWE creative team has been pushing Reigns hard as the next guy to inspire a whole lot of little kid t-shirts, and we’ve moved a long way from the Royal Rumble events that led to so many fans rolling their eyes and denouncing the overly-obvious babyface treatment of Reigns. It’s easy to get the sense that sooner or later Reigns will, um, take the reins; whether that’s in November, at Wrestlemania next year, or somewhere in-between is anyone’s guess.
- I keep forgetting that stupid Sheamus has the Money in the Bank briefcase and could theoretically also get a shot at the world heavyweight title whenever he chooses. Can someone just renege on that decision and give the briefcase to anyone else? Seriously, I don’t even care who gets it.
- The New Day would like for you to know that its favorite movie is Lone Survivor, but if you press them, it’s actually The Last Unicorn.
- That whole thing with Stardust dramatically observing Cesaro be a badass was pretty cool. I’m going to totally ignore that The Ascension were also present and pretend this leads to a feud between only Cesaro and Stardust during which one of them actually gets elevated to a title picture for real.
- So who will join Team Brothers of Destruction at Survivor Series, anyway? I have some suggestions. Up front I’ll tell you that one of them is Gangrel. Okay, I’m should probably stop.
- SOMEONE GIVE DEAN AMBROSE SOMETHING REAL TO DO. Roman Reigns can surely put on his own flak jacket thingy by now.