Goodbye, The Miz. Hello, Roman Reigns.
For the past several months, Monday Night Raw has been carried by one man in particular, and it wasn’t Raw General Manager Kurt Angle, or Braun Strowman, or Finn Balor or even Roman Reigns, no, it was The Miz.
The Miz has been the MVP of Raw since claiming the Intercontinental title, as the former WWE champion has carried the load both in the promo and in-ring department while the brand’s Universal champion enjoys his part-time schedule, appearing just often enough so that fans don’t forget about his existence. When Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman are away, The Miz’s IC title has become the default main championship on the show, and, if you didn’t know the Universal title existed and just tuned into a random episode of Raw this fall, you would assume that The Miz was the main champion.
However, The Miz dropped his title to Reigns last week and as he is away filming The Marine 6 -- I hope these never end, honestly. Adam Cole is going to make The Marine 13 in 2023 the best yet. -- so the Big Dog has taken his place. Reigns opened this week’s show, alone, and was met with a mild version of what John Cena has experienced from most crowds for the better part of a decade. With no pay-per-view for Raw until the Royal Rumble, Lesnar isn’t needed and the Intercontinental champion is once again being the main focus of the weekly program. This time, it really is his yard.
Here are three things that I took away from this week’s edition of Monday Night Raw:
Elias just might be a potential Guy on the red brand. Filling in for The Miztourage’s absent leader, the trio didn’t miss a beat. After weeks of bad segments and feuds -- remember when Jason Jordan was throwing celery at the Drifter a few weeks ago, and he was supposed to be the babyface? I love this company. -- the wanderer finally found a direction. At least temporarily, as Samoa Joe made it very clear later on in the night that he’s got his sights set on Reigns, and, perhaps, that shiny, white belt. Elias was given time in the ring against a serious opponent and it just worked. Elias looked like he belonged in the ring with the company’s biggest star, and that matters. The match itself wasn’t all that memorable, but I came away thinking that Elias’ ceiling may not be a mid-card act, but, in actuality, a potential top heel in a few years. For a roster littered with older talent, Elias is just 29-years-old, and he showed that he could be more if given the opportunity. I just wish he was two inches taller where he’d be kind of like Jinder Mahal but good.
I had forgotten how good Paige is on the mic. Something that has plagued the Raw women’s division has been poor mic skills of its top workers outside of Alexa Bliss. She’s been in a league of her own since moving to Raw, but she finally has somebody on the roster who she can actually have an entertaining back-and-forth segment with. Paige’s explanation for her actions made sense, and her line about erasing the term “diva” from the WWE dictionary was a home run. There’s depth to the Paige character, and it’s only going to get better as time goes on. I’m not sure what I’m more excited for: her inevitable match against Asuka or her first Raw promo opposite of Alexa Bliss.
Certain wrestlers have a natural aura of “cool” surrounding them. It’s natural and can’t be learned or developed much to the chagrin of Triple H who has tried to be a Cool Guy for close to two decades now. The Cerebral Assassin may never have had it, but Samoa Joe does. It may be the way he speedwalks to the ring, or it may be his natural look, or it may just be his propensity to put anyone and everyone into a coquina clutch whenever he feels like it. I’m not sure what it is, but the crowd wants to like him similar to the way they like Strowman -- except with Joe it just doesn’t feel quite as forced. Or maybe it’s just that Michael Cole hasn’t referred to him with his nickname thirteen times over the course of one episode of Raw yet. So why put him against Reigns now? This week’s Raw was about Vince McMahon’s crown jewel, but his decision to pit him against another wrestler that the crowd is going to get behind is a puzzling one. It isn’t cool to Actually Like Elias yet, but that is the case for the Samoan Submission Machine. We know how this story ends -- Reigns is going to get panned and Joe is going to get showered with cheers. This company, man.
Chase Thomas is freelance writer based in Atlanta, GA. He is the host of “The Chase Thomas Podcast” and has written for VICE Sports, The Cauldron, Hardwood Paroxysm, and more. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org.