Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Beast makes his return to Monday Night Raw

Illustration for article titled The Beast makes his return to Monday Night Raw

There’s a strange pacing to this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw that has a lot to do with the main event. That main event: Roman Reigns facing off against a handful of heels, a cruel riff on Roman’s “One vs. All” motto by the Chairman and CEO, Vince McMahon. That match is just another in a long line of “insurmountable obstacles” being thrown at the WWE World Heavyweight Champion week after week. While there’s the potential for the constant stream of “against all odds” booking to get tiring and too ludicrous, it works tonight for an interesting reason: by not building the entire show around the main event—in fact, it’s hardly mentioned all night—much of the rest of the card feels important. Sure, the pacing is off-putting at times, but it’s also nice to see WWE switch up its formula.

Admittedly, the show gets off to a sluggish start. Sheamus and Ambrose square off in a very long match, and it’s not particularly exciting. Both Ambrose and Sheamus fall into that strange category of wrestler where they’re fundamentally good wrestlers, but for the most part, are boring to watch. Each of them has value as an individual Superstar, but when put in the ring together, there’s no spark, no excitement. Still, I’ll take that sluggish, dull match over the horrendous Chris Jericho segment that comes a bit later. Look, most of us loved Chris Jericho at one time or another, but he’s become the embodiment of WWE’s inability to look to the future. His babyface character is insufferable. Just look at his shtick alongside New Day’s. It feels stale and out of touch, no matter how much he screams into the mic. Jericho is the wrestling equivalent of the stubborn Boomer in your life who insists that music these days is shitty and that Kanye West is the worst despite having never heard a Yeezy album. He’s the type of guy who uses the phrase “back-of-the-bus brothers” without thinking about how it might come across, no matter the actual intention. Jericho is trying to get “Rooty Tooty Booty” over and New Day’s shouting their faction name to the “Jumpman” melody. One of those things is good, current, fun, and inventive. One of those things is not.

Things pick up as the show goes on though. New Day and the Usos get some time for a solid match, even if it’s mostly ruined by the fact that Jericho is an asshole and breaks Woods’ trombone. Stardust, decked out in full David Bowie face paint, continues his feud with Titus O’Neil. It’s small matches like that that benefit from the show not focusing solely on the main event. These smaller feuds, which are often relegated to Smackdown, can be pushed forward and given some time on Monday night. As great as that is, the match of the night goes to Alberto Del Rio and Kalisto, the latter earning a shot at the United States Championship after beating Del Rio on Smackdown last week. The dynamic between the two is perfect, with Del Rio going full ground-and-pound, and Kalisto doing everything he can to evade the hard-hitting offense and hit back with his own high-flying maneuvers. There’s a number of near-falls that build tension in the match, and it’s all paid off when Kalisto pins Del Rio for the Championship win. There’s an argument to be made that putting the strap on Kalisto is misguided because his character is still being developed, but I think that criticism is outweighed by WWE doing something bold. Kalisto undoubtedly has all the tools to be a star, so why not give him that push and see what happens?

What’s truly baffling about the fact that most of this Raw doesn’t revolve around the main event though is that WWE still didn’t find any time to focus on the Divas. Now, the one segment from tonight was great. Having Becky completely lose control and beat up Charlotte before her match even started was fantastic, and the very loud, passionate “Becky” chants confirm that. The segment worked perfectly. But why was it the only Divas segment of the night? Sure, it was fun to see the Social Outcasts, complete with t-shirts and theme music, briefly take on the Wyatts, and the Sting video package was great; but was there no room anywhere for a Divas match? That stirring Becky promo aside, the Divas got four minutes of screen time tonight, which is inexcusable across a three-hour show.

That takes us to the main event, which probably would be a lot of fun if it wasn’t so predictable. Roman Reigns is booked to fight a bunch of heels, but the ending is spoiled early on. When Reigns spends all of the match fighting Kevin Owens, the other competitors on the outside of the ring just waiting to jump in on Vince McMahon’s command, we all know what’s coming. It was announced earlier that Brock Lesnar was in the building. Everyone saw him on the jumbotron. Hell, the crowd even starts chanting “We Want Brock” when Reigns is getting his beat-down. So when Brock comes out and destroys everyone, including Roman Reigns, it doesn’t pack the punch it should. Lesnar is always great, so the segment isn’t a bust—his intensity alone could carry three hours of Raw—but when the show cuts to black, it’s hard not to feel somewhat disappointed.

Stray observations

  • Results: Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus ended in a double countout; Titus O’Neil defeated Stardust; The Usos defeated New Day; The Wyatts vs. the Social Outcasts ended in a No Contest; Kalisto defeated Alberto Del Rio for the United States Championship; Charlotte vs. Brie ended in a No Contest; Roman Reigns vs. All ended in a No Contest.
  • Heyman isn’t wrong, FYI. The Royal Rumble winner vs. Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania would be huge. This leaves a Lesnar Rumble win open though.
  • The Becky-Charlotte feud is one of the best things WWE has going right now. Becky has become a legit pure babyface. That promo backstage was amazing. She had emotion, motivation, anger. Great stuff.
  • Also, Becky leaving the ring after beating up Charlotte was gold: “I’m taking your championship! I’m taking your arm!” Get it, Becky!
  • I was pretty sure Del Rio killed Kalisto when he just grabbed him on the suicide dive and threw him into the barricade.
  • That Sting video package, announcing him as an inductee into the Hall of Fame this year, gave me all sorts of feelings. WWE always nails those.