Tonight’s Raw both benefits from and is hindered by a bit of a strange structure. Usually WWE has two ways in which it executes its Monday night show. It either latches on to a central idea, establishes it in the opening promo, and then uses it as a throughline the entire night, or it throws together a bunch of matches all while building up the main event. Tonight’s Raw is a mix of both those things. There’s the general throughline of Kane’s performance review, where an anonymous complaint has led to the HR department investigating Kane and his role as Director of Operations. It’s only partly a throughline though because it’s resolved by the two-hour mark.
Then, on the other hand, WWE spends much of the night building towards the main event, which sees Roman Reigns take on Bray Wyatt. There are a few segments that build this main event up, but they’re not substantial. Thus, most of the night falls into this weird place outside of a traditional Raw structure. It’s good because we get lengthier segments and more focused storytelling, but there’s also too much time given to a lot of spots that feel undercooked.
What that means is that much of the night feels somewhat fresh and exciting, but when played out over lengthy segments, the appeal wears thin. There’s also a significant amount of whiplash from one segment to the next. Where the first 90 minutes is spent largely on two segments, the rest of the show peppers smaller promos and matches throughout, and that leaves the pacing feeling off.
Those first 90 minutes really sum up the varying quality in tonight’s Raw. For the second week in a row Raw doesn’t start with a long promo, and that’s always a good thing. Instead, it’s the return of the John Cena United States Open Challenge, the best part of Raw ever since it became a near-weekly thing. As if having the Challenge back wasn’t good enough, this week’s opponents are New Day. They come out smiling and singing, as always, and immediately the show is off to a hot, fresh start. It’s by far the best segment of the night, and that’s before the match even starts. Xavier plays Cena’s entrance music on the trombone while they come out, call his title reign “booty,” and refer to themselves as Scrooge McDuck because after they win the U.S. title, they’ll be swimming in gold. What more could you want? It’s perfect.
The match itself is great too. As always, Cena is going to win–it’s going to be pretty great the day he loses–but what’s great is how the challenge shows off the opponent’s talent. New Day, when wrestling as a tag team, almost always put Big E and Kofi Kingston in the match. Here, Xavier Woods gets his chance to shine, and he hits a homerun. He plays the perfect weaselly heel who also has some talent. Plus, he gets away without actually losing, as Kofi and Big E jump in, prompting the Dudleys to come out. That of course prompts Kane to make a six-man tag match, which is also a lot of fun, even if it doesn’t have the same energy as the Challenge. Still, it’s hard to complain when the New Day are getting so much TV time.
That segment structure influences much of the first 90 minutes, with a Miz TV segment with guests Charlotte and Becky Lynch devolving into chaos and, again, a six-person tag match. While similar in structure, this segment is much more frustrating and is once again indicative of the way the Divas are being done a disservice. Now, it’s going to take time to move away from the team structure–you still have to try and tell a story, after all–but another tag match is hardly the way to go after having your new talent beat the longest reigning Divas champ of all time. Rather than continue to build that feud, one-on-one, WWE lets Paige once again insult the Bellas by invoking the men they’re with (ugh) and then have the whole thing devolve into a fistfight and then a tag match. The beats are just so predictable and stale. Paige turns on her team, then turns on Natalya–who of course has to come out as well–and that allows Nikki to get her win back. It’s such an underwhelming segment from talent that can do so much more. Can’t we get the Divas away from Miz TV and tag matches? Is it really that hard?
Outside of those two segments, the rest of Raw is building smaller feuds, and doing so rather quickly. Strowman and Harper are deployed to dispatch of the Prime Time Players in order to make the Wyatt family look strong, Neville and Stardust get a bit of time in before King Barrett comes back and spoils the party, and Randy Orton destroys Bo Dallas due to the power of the Buffalo Bills or something. They’re quick, mostly meaningless segments, and that leaves much of Raw feeling rudderless. There’s definitely some good stuff in tonight’s episode. The post-match brawl between Reigns and Wyatt benefits from extra time and a sense of maliciousness, punctuated by a few really great, physical spots, and the U.S. Open Challenge is always welcome. It’s not enough to draw attention away from the loads of filler though, which leaves this episode feeling like a pause before a (fingers crossed!) more meaningful, fleshed out build to Hell In A Cell.
- Results: John Cena defeated Xavier Woods (via DQ; United States Championship); New Day defeated John Cena and the Dudley Boyz; Big Show defeated Mark Henry; The Bellas defeated Team P.C.B.; Braun Strowman and Luke Harper defeated Prime Time Players; Neville defeated Stardust (via DQ); Randy Orton defeated Bo Dallas; Kevin Owens vs. Rusev ended in a No Contest; Romand Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt ended in a double countout.
- That spear spot at the end! That’s how you get people to like Roman Reigns again. Dude is on fire right now.
- Hustle, Loyalty, Booty.
- In case you missed it, New Day released a “Save The Tables” PSA video today. It’s glorious.
- Honest to god, Big E has everything you need to be a WWE World Heavyweight Champion. I really hope he gets a run one day, and as part of New Day.
- Why does every Divas segment involve someone calling their opponent a “loser” or doing the ol’ L on the forehead thing?
- I really don’t care about Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar at MSG, but that video package was solid. It’s smart to book Show as the guy who can beat, and has beaten, The Beast.
- I like to think that for that performance evaluation segment, both Seth Rollins and Kane came prepared with video packages that made the other person look terrible.
- Are we supposed to cheer for Kane? What’s the deal here?
- Of course Richie Incognito is the most hyped, out of control Bills player on screen.