Written by Bill Bodkin
Monday Night RAW was a tale of two shows.
One show was an example of how, when handed not one but two game-changing injuries, the WWE can quickly, and logically come up with a solution.
The other show was one where it’s blatantly obvious the crowd is not going to get behind wrestlers that the WWE has constantly de-pushed, or under-pushed, which makes for painfully bad television.
First, let’s look at the positives.
The WWE was handed a staggering blow when it was announced that Finn Balor, who just won the WWE Universal Title (and was called up roughly a month ago), is out for six months. This is probably one of the worst hands the WWE has been dealt in quite a while. Yes, Seth Rollins’ injury last year was massive, and stories had to be re-written. This is infinitely worse because this was a new wrestler winning a brand new title — then immediately vacating. This hurts WWE from a creative, marketing, and business perspective.
However, what the WWE did in reaction was nothing short of brilliant. They had Balor come out and cut an honest, tear-filled promo about his sacrifices and how much it pains him to relinquish the belt. His exit from the ring, wistfully looking back at the ring, garnered so much sympathy from the audience. When he returns in six months (or so), the pop will be massive, and he’ll be an even bigger star than when he came to the main roster.
They then countered this perfectly with Seth Rollins walking out and stealing the spotlight from Finn. He’s becoming such a great, asshole heel as opposed to the cowardly heel he was a year ago with Kane and J&J Security running interference for him.
What happened after Seth got into the ring was an exercise in predictability — but that’s not always a bad thing. We had Sami Zayn come out which popped the crowd…as did Jericho, Enzo & Cass, and Kevin Owens. Roman Reigns, of course, got booed out of Brooklyn.
The tournament was announced, and the results were pretty predictable before it started. You knew Seth, Roman, and Vince’s new man crush Big Cass would advance. The question was would KO or Jericho be the fourth in the match. It makes sense that these four were going to be in the finals. Tournaments usually have some predictability. I’ve correctly predicted the first two rounds of the Cruiserweight Classic, and no one’s calling them out on it. So, I’m not going to kill WWE for this tournament. The matches in the tournament (for the most part) were highly entertaining.
The show also succeeded by replacing the mega popular Sasha Banks, with one of the most ludicrously lovable and popular women’s wrestlers possibly in WWE history — Bayley. She finally made her debut, to the shock of everyone, and the reaction was monstrous. While her match with Dana Brooke wasn’t the stuff of legend, it was classic Bayley. The audience loves her, and they’ll easily forget Sasha’s absence for the next month (or longer) as Bayley goes on to feud with Charlotte.
Those were the positives of the show, and they are huge positives. The negatives, however, cannot be denied.
The Dudley Boyz retirement angle was pretty terrible. Now some of this couldn’t be helped as they had to focus a lot of the show on the new tournament. Them’s the breaks. However, you made the announcement that The Dudleys were retiring — where were the video packages, montages, highlights, quick testimonials from the locker room or WWE/ECW alumni? The Dudleys are one of the most important tag teams in the history of wrestling, and they got a pretty mediocre farewell.
Part of this has to do with the fact they since their return to WWE a year ago, they’ve lost pretty much every match they’ve been in. The Dudleys were relegated to glorified job guys. So that’s why you needed some videos and testimonials to remind the casual fans how important these guys are. Trust me, you could’ve squeezed these in over that abominable Titus O’Neill promo.
So The Dudleys says goodbye. The Shining Stars come out, and predictability The Dudleys hit their final 3D in WWE. What I did like was The Club coming out and laying The Dudleys out, putting D-Von through a table. Sadly, the reaction wasn’t as big as it should’ve been. Why? Because The Dudleys, and The Club have lost consistently since their arrivals in WWE. They don’t have the monster credibility they should both have. And what’s worse is, you just created a great angle and you can’t use it. The Club putting The Dudleys through the table should’ve inspired The Dudleys to say “screw it — one more match!” and we get an all-out ECW-style tables match between The Club and Dudleys. The Dudleys would put The Club over (like they did last night), and The Club has been elevated. The Club can then take the old Dudley route of saying “We ran INSERT TEAM NAME out of the company!!” But no, we don’t get that.
The WWE also has done nothing for Neville since his quiet return to WWE. As the “surprise” opponent of Kevin Owens, the crowd reaction to him was nil. People aren’t invested in him anymore. He’s got the flash moves, but again, when you constantly lose, flash moves aren’t going to make you a credible threat in the eye of the audience.
As mentioned before Titus O’Neill’s promo was the worst. I think it’s time to cut bait on this guy. There are plenty of guys in NXT, and on the indies/touring internationally that could easily fill the role he’s been designated for. Sadly, Darren Young, who HAS potential is stuck in this feud.
Enzo Amore is one of the most over guys in the WWE, and is not in the title tournament. Statement made. Seriously, put him against KO instead of Neville. It’s a fresh match, it continues their storyline, and the heat on the match would’ve been through the roof.
How much longer is Braun Strowman going to squash guys? While I enjoyed the jobber’s “I like big sweaty men” promo (is this the LGBT character WWE was looking to introduce?), I’m wondering where this is all going. Is someone of note going to come out and challenge Braun?
How does Roman Reigns look worse every time I see him? At points in his match with Chris Jericho he looked absolutely lost, and he was telegraphing moves so obviously. I don’t hate Roman Reigns. I think, if booked properly, he’d be an amazing heel then an amazing good guy. However, this constant shoving of Roman down our throats, which could be the reason for his mental gaffs, is not helping him.
Next week we crown a new Universal Champion. This’ll be interesting…or do we already know who’s going to win?