WWE Raw: The Top of the Mountain

Down goes another one. Braun Strowman, the gigantic babyface that just a few months ago was seen as A Guy who could be The Guy by professional wrestling fans and critics, turned heel on Monday Night Raw this week to close out the show. Earlier in the night, Strowman announced he would be cashing in his Money In The Bank contract at the Hell In A Cell WWE Network special in a hell in a cell match. Later in the night, Strowman showed the WWE Universe his true colors. First, he refused to enter the main-event match after Reigns tagged him in, he looked on as Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler kicked the Big Dog enough times to get themselves disqualified and then the Monster Among Men took his shot. First went Reigns, then went Dean Ambrose, then went Seth Rollins. The problem, of course, is that after decimating The Shield in brutal fashion Strowman couldn’t cash-in his contract and easily become the next Universal champion to end Monday Night Raw. The Raw commentary team tried to push home the point that Strowman was cerebral in his approach to dealing with The Shield, but had Strowman not challenged Reigns for the title at the next WWE Network special and instead jumped Reigns in that opening promo with the help of Ziggler and McIntyre, he would be the Universal champion.

Instead, Strowman finds himself in a familiar situation. Monday night was likely the first of many more heel turns and face turns for the Monster Among Men in his career. It happened with Kane, it happened with the Big Show, and it will happen with Strowman. For some, this feels different because a number of smart professional wrestling fans and critics thought he was an over enough babyface that might be good enough to make Vince reconsider establishing Roman Reigns as The Guy for this era. If you’ve been reading my work or listening to my podcast over the last year, you know that I never subscribed to this line of thinking. Strowman is talented, that is for sure, but he never looked like Roman Reigns, he never defeated the Undertaker at WrestleMania, he wasn’t on pace to break Hulk Hogan’s streak of consecutive WrestleMania main-event matches, he even lost both of his big-time 2017 programs with two of Vince’s favorite guys: Reigns and Brock Lesnar. Strowman has always had a ceiling, and, on my podcast earlier this year, I predicted that Strowman wouldn’t capture the Universal title in 2018 as much as the company might want you to think otherwise.

With Lesnar now out of the equation for the foreseeable future, it really is Roman Reigns’ yard now. The company spent half a decade to get Reigns to the point that he is at now, and they were never going to shift gears to a character like Strowman. Reigns moves the most merchandise, Reigns has the right look, and Reigns has the right people in his corner. He was the guy who finally took down the Beast, he was not also going to be the guy who was then immediately taken down by the Monster. It never added up.

Fans were despondent to close this episode of Raw, as the company boldly decided to turn one of the very few over -- seriously, this list includes AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Daniel Bryan -- and beloved babyfaces on the main roster right now in an effort to prop up Roman Reigns anymore. Ultimately, the choice was made to sacrifice Strowman for the greater Roman, and, although it will likely prove to be the wrong one, it was one the company was always going to make. You could see it after the Strowman vs. Reigns blood feud last summer or the short, terrible Universal title match between Strowman and Lesnar or even when Strowman won a match typically reserved for heels to kick their career up a notch. It was, as it always was, always about Roman and never about Strowman.

***

Here are three other takeaways I had from this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw.

  1. Kevin Owens said, “I quit.” Prior to this stunning announcement, Owens cut one of the best promos of his career as he answered Intercontinental champion Seth Rollins’ open challenge midway through Monday Night Raw. Owens is one of a handful of guys in the WWE these days that can deliver a hell of a promo and follow it up with a hell of a match. Owens was so entertaining in the match that he actually turned the Toronto crowd on Rollins late in the bout hoping for a surprising KO win. Whether it was the stunner that Rollins sold masterfully, or Owens smartly targeting the injured shoulder, or just the poignant slap fight the two top dogs engaged in during the match, it all clicked and it all felt like it should be Owens’ night. Instead, he ate some curb and that was that. All his friends are gone, Jimmy Jacobs, Neville, and even his best friend Sami Zayn, he didn’t steal away the Money in the Bank briefcase from Strowman, and Owens hit rock bottom. On a show where almost no character feels genuine, Owens stands alone. Come back soon, KO. This show needs you.

  2. Ronda Rousey was in the building, and this how you decided to use her? Getting through three hours of this show is hard enough, even on DVR, but, you know, something that might help in this department is including the show’s biggest draw in more than one throwaway portion of the show. Ronda Rousey is the WWE Raw Women’s champion and fans really like watching her do cool stuff every week. The decision to not involve the superstar in more segments, even if that means scrapping Finn Balor vs. Baron F’Ing Corbin for the 19th time, is mind-boggling. (Sidenote: How good was Alexa Bliss on the mic this week? Wow.)

  3. The Revival finally got the promo time they needed. I can’t believe I wrote that, either. The Revival are no longer drowning on the main roster, but the waters are still rocky. The B-Team run should have ended at SummerSlam, and their rematch on this show was the quietest the crowd was all night. Another Shatter Machine was hit, and the A-Team won, but then Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder grabbed a couple mics. They said what everybody already knew to be true: The Raw tag-team division has been an absolute joke and the B-Team are the biggest reasons why. Like Heath Slater and Rhyno from a few years back, their moment in the sun should have been brief. The Revival soared here, and, now that we know they’re getting yet another shot at the Raw tag-team titles next week, maybe this nightmare run will be finished once and for all.

Lifted from the Legal Pad:

  • Michael Cole’s “And here comes the BIG DOG!” to kick-off this week’s episode was especially bad. All of the cringe, none of the fun.

  • I don’t think the “top of the mountain” analogy was used enough on this episode.

  • It’s weird to see the Universal title just around consistently. It is nice, though.

  • Speaking of the Universal title, wouldn’t the best thing the company could do for Roman Reigns be having him dump the obnoxious belt for a new one?

  • Serious Dean Ambrose is so much better than Joke-y WWE Champion Dean Ambrose.

  • “I forgot it was a No DQ match.” - Baron Corbin.

  • How out of place does this Triple H vs. Undertaker stuff feel? It’s like when 205 Live would pop up on Raw earlier this year.

  • Dana Brooke is still a very bad professional wrestler. (She does a killer cartwheel, though.)

  • Saddest Triple Header Ever: “The Revival vs. B-Team, Brooke vs. Sasha Banks and Alicia Fox vs. Natalya”

  • Jeff Jarrett was phenomenal in those clips. Can somebody tell me again why he’s not Raw GM and Kurt Angle is?

  • “Bit of a strange move by Kevin Owens.” - Renee Young

  • Finn Balor could really use consistent promo time. What is his character now?

  • Release Jinder Mahal.

  • Really nice of The Ascension’s Konnor to get in shape.

  • Elias was phenomenal in that segment with Trish. Also, did Trish sound different to anybody else?

  • “Top Guys out.” - Dash Wilder

  • The only person who could love Alicia Fox’s hat more than me is Damon Lindelof.