A few days ago I was listening to Colin Cowherd on his radio show talk about former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin’s comments about his former teammate Cam Newton. Benjamin is on the Buffalo Bills now, and the former first-round pick probably hasn’t had quite the career he envisioned for himself when he decided to leave the Florida State Seminoles and enter the NFL Draft. His comments were harsh, but you can understand where Benjamin is coming from -- it certainly seems like it would be easier and more fun to have Andrew Luck or Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers throwing you the football each week than Newton. The former Auburn Tiger is an incredible athlete, won an MVP award, guided his team to the Super Bowl and is clearly a top-10 QB in the NFL. ( It’s easy to overlook how impressive it was for Newton to drag that 2017 Panthers team to the playoffs last considering the rash of injuries and the severe lack of talent around Newton to make it all work. He then almost beat the New Orleans Saints in their stadium in the Wild Card round.) Cowherd compared Newton to Russell Westbrook, which I don’t agree with, but his larger point can be attributed to the WWE and their handling of Brock Lesnar: You can’t be the soft parent first and then try and play tough later. It never works. It never will.
Lesnar has been treated like royalty ever since his return to the WWE. It started with an F-5 to John Cena and it may end with a sixteenth spear from Roman Reigns. No matter how Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar ends at SummerSlam, the storyline the WWE creative team and Vince McMahon have elected to follow doesn’t hold up. Vince gave Lesnar this unnecessarily long WWE Universal title reign; Vince gave Lesnar the contract that doesn’t require him to ever actually appear or wrestle on Monday Night Raw; Vince gave the go-ahead to Lesnar being the guy to end The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. Lesnar defeated Cena; Lesnar defeated; Lesnar defeated CM Punk; Lesnar defeated Braun Strowman; Lesnar defeated Goldberg; Lesnar defeated Roman Reigns. Lesnar, outside of Ronda Rousey and Cena, is the only actual superstar in the WWE. When he or Rousey or Cena are in the building, everything feels more important because while the rest of the roster aren’t actual superstars the Big 3 are.
Now, fans and Angle -- kayfabe-wise, of course -- are fed up with Lesnar’s indifference towards the fans, professional wrestling, Paul Heyman and anything that doesn’t involve an outdoorsman magazine. This could have all ended months ago, as expected, when Reigns took on Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania 34. Instead, Vince enabled Lesnar’s reign of terror to continue because Lesnar has that sort of negotiating pull. Since his return, the WWE has enabled Brock Lesnar to operate in a manner that is just now starting to really rub Angle and Reigns and everybody else in the back the wrong way. It doesn’t fly because this has been the case for half a decade now, and the powers that be gave Lesnar this kind of power, not the other way around. Lesnar has played this perfectly, and if/when he returns to UFC to face Daniel Cormier, he’ll be surrounded by enablers once again where he’ll get what he wants because he’s earned it.
Brock Lesnar isn’t the villain in the biggest storyline of the summer in the WWE, it’s the WWE themselves.
So what else happened on this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw?
Let’s dig in.
Ronda Rousey vs. Alicia Fox was everything it needed to be and more.
Before the actual Raw debut match for Rousey, we had a promo with Alicia Fox and Alexa Bliss that hit every note it needed to. There were only a handful of promos on this episode of Raw, but I’m glad we were gifted with this one. Fox’s quirkiness is both endearing and genuine, but she can talk -- really talk. Bliss, outside of Smackdown Live Women’s champion Carmella, is the best talker in the division, but maybe that isn’t the case after listening to Fox have her moment in her town of Jacksonville, Florida. Fox hasn’t been in the limelight in what feels like a decade, so it was always going to be tough to present her as a worthy first opponent for Rousey on Raw. This could have gone the other way, quite easily, but Fox was perfect from her talking points to her mannerisms to her actual match with Rousey. Yes, Rousey had another spectacular, entertaining match, but Fox was on fire and showed she not only still belongs in the division, but that she should be treated as one of the best talents in the division as a whole.
Kevin Owens is always a step ahead of the game.
Kevin Owens is a very good professional wrestler. Unlike Braun Strowman, he checks every box for what you want in a top guy -- he can talk, he can wrestle, he can work as a face or a heel, but, perhaps most importantly, he can generate something out of just about anything.
Strowman’s on-screen character isn’t the brightest one, as he’s lost to the Actually Bad Jinder Mahal in back-to-back weeks in embarrassing fashion because Owens has run off with a briefcase that doesn’t actually hold any value. It’s not a situation like the It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia episode where Mac eats Dee’s contract making it null and void because she didn’t make copies. Strowman is the Monster In The Bank with or without the physical briefcase -- somebody should explain that to him. (Not to mention Strowman failed to deliver on his promise to cash-in on Lesnar the next time the latter was around. Lesnar sat on a sofa for almost three hours reading every outdoorsman magazine available and Strowman never confronted him. Shame.) The MITB briefcase was meant for a wrestler like Owens, a heel who is always five steps ahead of the competition.
Owens vs. Strowman for the MITB briefcase shouldn’t be as interesting as it has been, but Owens finding unique ways to outsmart Strowman to get what he wants and become Universal champion again his way has worked. I could see either man walking out of Brooklyn with the briefcase, and while I hope it’s Owens, the fact that I’m this emotionally invested in this feud is a testament to just how good Owens is at his job.
Elias has a documentary crew now and other stuff.
They really are walking a fine line with Elias, aren’t they? The “Walk With Elias” catchphrase is over, he gets consistent promo time on Raw each week, but at some point, and some point soon, doesn’t he have to do something? Sure, Elias unsuccessfully tried to take the Intercontinental title from Seth Rollins a few months back, but, outside of that, Elias has been drifting. He now has an album that you can apparently listen to on Spotify, he had a documentary crew follow him around this week, and he’s not Mojo Rawley. All of these things work to Elias’s favor, but the company stumbled onto something real and potentially lasting in Elias. The Drifter is comfortable on the mic, has the look and has shown flashes in the ring. He needs a real feud or title run or something; he doesn’t need to be working trying to help Bobby Lashley get over in 2018.
Lifted from the Legal Pad:
- Kurt Angle remains the worst general manager imaginable.
- Baron Corbin was the best talker in the opening segment with Reigns and Angle. His match with the Big Dog was fun, the crowd was into it, and he’s fine.
- “I came to see Roman Reigns” sign appeared and I can’t believe that’s a decision people are making in 2018.
- Roode defeating Mojo Rawley clean was...odd.
- Why doesn’t Lashley care about the Reigns and Lesnar stuff?
- Poor Authors of Pain, but at least Rezar got the win here.
- Also, Titus O’Neil should not be wrestling ever. Just about everybody on the roster can wrestle in the WWE nowadays, but man, O’Neil cannot and should not.
- Kevin Owens Show should be a weekly staple.
- I lost track of how many times Owens cut off Mahal in that segment, but it was the best. Turning Mahal back into a comedy jobber is the right move. It just took too long.
- “We want Ambrose” chant was delightful. Raw needs him.
- Finn Balor got added to the SummerSlam card in the form of a WWE.com blip. Yikes.
- The Ziggler and Drew McIntyre vs. Rollins feud was running on empty a month ago. This should not be happening again at SummerSlam.
- B-Team’s new theme is...delightful? (The Revival should win the titles next week on Raw.)
- Everything about Ronda Rousey, Professional Wrestler is perfect, except for the constant hugging of her friend Natalya. The hugs have got to stop, especially after delivering the kind of quick, heated promo Rousey did after Bliss tried to blindside her after her victory over Fox.