If you smartly elected to enjoy a bit more shuteye Saturday morning and skipped WWE Super Show-Down, skimmed the results later on in the afternoon only to then tune into this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw, you might be under the impression that Triple H and The Undertaker’s “Seriously, this is the last time we’re doing this, we promise” match on the WWE Network special delivered in historic fashion. While it is very easy to pile on the WWE for their decision-making -- still waiting on my pyro or television-show intros to return -- it is also very to praise the company for their video packages. No matter how poorly a feud unfolded or how underwhelming a big-time match turned out, the WWE has always excelled at creating a video package that never fails to give the impression that this particular story they’re pushing is the hottest thing in the professional wrestling world. The video package that aired in the middle of Triple H and Shawn Michaels’ opening promo was all of that and more.
Not quite. Yes, the Chicago crowd was hot for this opening segment, they rejoiced when it became crystal clear that the Heartbreak Kid was coming out of retirement, and, you know, it was just kind of nice to open an episode of Raw that did not include the likes of Baron Corbin, an in-over-his-head Kurt Angle, Michael Cole obnoxiously shouting about the “Big Dog”, and the list goes on and on. Most weeks, it feels like the red brand is dead-set on not giving the paying customers what they want, but, on Monday evening, Vince McMahon threw the rowdy crowd a bone and gave thousands of people the opportunity to scream “Suck it!” at the top of their longs as the member berries the WWE fed each fan on their way into the arena had finally taken effect.
But should Triple H and Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker and Kane be the main program on the biggest show in the promotion in 2018? If the choice is simply: DX or more Roman Reigns’ solo work, you always go with the latter. The fans in attendance and the fans at home still love HBK and the fans at home still love to see the legends they grew up with pop up on their television screens from time to time. However, it seems highly unlikely that those same fans are also pumped about the Crown Jewel co-main event of DX vs. Brothers of Destruction in 2018. After watching that painful match in Australia -- or just the Undertaker’s last two WrestleMania appearances -- why would anyone *really* want to see Kane and the Undertaker wrestle anymore? They were really good and really fun for 67 years, but it is time to turn the page. If you are going to bring Michaels out of retirement, great, but it should be to elevate somebody like Adam Cole or Aleister Black or Seth Rollins or Tommaso Ciampa or even Daniel Bryan.
Here are three other takeaways I had from this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw.
According to my calculations, after tonight’s episode of Raw every single member of the Raw roster is now a heel. No, there is still Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, ugh, well, there have to be more, right? But the post-match beatdowns from Bobby Lashley on Kevin Owens and the Bella Twins on Ronda Rousey clicked. If there was ever a night to try turn heel, last night in front of this Chicago crowd was the night to do it. Lashley obviously wasn’t working as a babyface, and if you’re going to pair him with somebody like Lio Rush, who was jawing throughout an awkwardly long Lashley vs. Owens match, you had to turn him heel. Rush, through no fault of his own, has a voice that only works as a heel. The Bellas’ turn, however, was more interesting as Nikki has always seemed more naturally suited as a heel, while Brie will now have to navigate awkward waters with this character development as she is married to the biggest babyface in the company. (Granted, her botched kicks to Liv Morgan on a previous Raw made this heel transformation less awkward and far more realistic.)
Trish Stratus and Alexa Bliss must be protected at all costs. When it first became clear this match was happening at WWE Evolution, it felt more thrown together, less thought out. For as great as Miss Bliss is, she has never felt like this generation’s Trish Stratus. There was always something naturally likable about Trish Stratus, while there is always something naturally hatable -- shoutout to Sasha Banks -- about Alexa Bliss. But maybe that’s why this feud has clicked, as Stratus has been turned out to be a better foil to Bliss than Rousey or even Nia Jax ever were. Now you throw Lita into the mix and this tag-team match -- Mickie James included -- has all the ingredients for an enjoyable match.
So we’re doing this with Dean Ambrose, huh? Are we really doing this? At one point in the main event, the crowd was beside themselves calling for the Lunatic Fringe to get inserted into the match. Outside of Rollins, who was just as universally over, Ambrose was the biggest ticket item in Chicago Monday night. So why is the WWE teasing an Ambrose heel turn or at the very least a split from The Shield? Is it really a good idea to turn one of the few over babyfaces in the company that isn’t 58-years-old? We have seen the Wrestler Gets Fed Up With Losing And Turns movie countless times before, but with Ambrose it seems riskier. There is a difference between Alleged Babyface Bobby Roode turning on Chad Gable after losing to the Ascension every week on Raw for a decade-plus than Ambrose walking out on his brothers and going into the Me-First Business. Sure, it could work out as well as has for Becky Lynch on Smackdown Live -- the two do have a lot in common after all -- but the biggest reason Lynch is better off for her pseudo-turn is the person she walked out on has never clicked as a babyface -- Charlotte Flair -- while an Ambrose vs. Rollins feud, at this point in 2018, won’t have the same effect because people actually like the Burn It Down Guy. Now, if this leads to an Ambrose vs. Reigns feud for the Universal title, that is something that could work because Ambrose would thrive as the anti-hero in that scenario. Really, that’s where this story should go, with Ambrose going after the biggest prize in the company and setting his sights on the guy in the group that isn’t universally beloved by the WWE Universe. Unfortunately, we know this is leading to Ambrose vs. Rollins and that doesn’t do anybody any good.
Lifted from the Legal Pad:
Triple H just tossed his water bottle early on in his ramp-walking endeavor to kick off Monday Night Raw.
Speaking of Hunter, the man was dead-set on telling the longest mountain-climbing metaphor ever recorded. Mission accomplished.
“More of the same,” Corey Graves said, unironically on this episode of Raw.
Owens took flight again and got the crowd completely in his corner. His place on this show is an atrocity.
Week 93 of me complaining that Elias needs something else to do. ANYTHING.
That Liv vs. Brie opener to start the six-woman tag was super smart. It felt genuine and came across super well.
Michael Cole saying that Brie’s kick “sent Liv flying” was very strange and just a bold-face lie.
Is Natalya the worst best friend of all-time?
“You suck” chants for the Bellas after their beatdown of Rousey. This worked.
Hard to believe B ‘N B vs. Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox happened on television, but it did.
Are we getting Babyface Drew McIntyre soon?
“You’re just not any good.” - Baron Corbin with the line of the night on Heath Slater.
I wonder if the WWE thought out this World Cup thing. (I kid, of course they haven’t.)
That Kurt Angle moment was delightful and Corbin makes the best faces.
Who even are Nia Jax and Ember Moon as a television characters?
Shield vs. Evil Guys definitely had a big-fight feel to start the match. This was fun.
Roman Reigns flying outside the ring may be the best thing he does.