Roman Reigns is still the WWE Universal champion; Ronda Rousey is still the WWE Raw women’s champion; Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler are still the Raw Tag Team champions; Braun Strowman is still a loser; Baron Corbin is still the best general manager on Raw in years; Brock Lesnar is still the crown jewel of the WWE.
So not much has changed on the red brand following Hell In A Cell on Sunday night. Perhaps that’s why this week’s episode of Raw felt like a rerun. One member of the Shield faced one member of the Evil Heels; Elias found himself sparring with Bobby Lashley again; Ronda Rousey was in the building but didn’t have an actual match; Dana Brooke lost a singles match; the show even kicked off with Michael Cole awkwardly welcoming us all to the show followed by the sound of Roman Reigns’ entrance music.
There was Lio Rush, though, which was very different. On a show that dragged, featured a Chad Gable vs. Viktor match, and just didn’t have a lot to offer outside of playing the classic hits, Rush stood out. He was given time, he was comfortable on the mic, he had the best interaction on the show with Elias, and may actually be the best thing that has happened to Lashley since returning to the WWE. The company has something with Rush, but they also have to be careful. As fun as it was to see the 23-year-old phenom navigate traffic in the form of Kevin Owens and Elias, Rush is too talented in the ring and on the mic to fall into the comedy-act zone. As should be the case for all young, talented wrestlers coming up from NXT or 205 Live, there has to be effective quality control to protect these guys long-term.
Outside of the Rush revelation, it was clear what this show was about: promote some more WWE Network specials. Less than 24 hours prior, the WWE put on a co-branded special, but within the first thirty minutes of last night’s episode, the company was already pushing both the Crown Jewel special in Saudi Arabia, headlined by Roman Reigns (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal title, along with the Superstar Show-Down special, headlined by Triple H vs. The Undertaker, as the WWE content machine keeps on churning. Lesnar returned in the main event of the previous night’s show, spoiling Strowman’s cash-in, and it just didn’t feel like a big deal because of all the different things going on. (It didn’t help Lesnar didn’t make an appearance, as a Strowman and Lesnar brawl to open this show would have made a lot of sense and served both men well. Paul Heyman is great, sure, but Strowman just ending the opening promo by angrily walking after Heyman with no follow-up was an abject failure.)
Here are three other takeaways I had from this week’s episode.
Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler were able to get the fans into another Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler match in 2018. This was no easy feat, but in ten minutes or so, the two superb wrestlers were able to galvanize a crowd that had fallen asleep after being treated with a Bayley vs. Dana Brooke match and an Authors of Pain squash. Fans really did get out of their chairs for a match that has happened at least 63 times since June 1. At least. To be clear, this is neither of the two’s fault, but the finish was solid, outside of Michael Cole yelling “Stomp!”, and now we can finally, please, for the love of God, move on from Ziggler vs. Rollins singles matches. Actually, what if they were to do a 90-minute Iron Man match at Survivor Series? Just picture it. I’m so sorry.
Why do I care about The Undertaker vs. Triple H in 2018 in a non-WrestleMania capacity? The Undertaker was fine here, his shots at Corporate Hunter were fine, but this felt like watching Undertaker dance with John Cena at WrestleMania 34 for eight minutes. This entire feud, from Taker to Shawn Michaels to Triple H all feels like the creative team stumbled onto some member berries and decided to build a special around it. (Member The Undertaker?) Kind of like Jerry Seinfeld’s “I’m Telling You For The Last Time” special in the late ‘90s, we know this is not the last time fans are going to see Triple H and the Undertaker nothing is permanent and the marketing doesn’t matter. “Last time ever!” Sure.
Well, Ronda Rousey almost competed in a match on Monday Night Raw. Sure, Rousey’s character not understanding the complexities involved in an open-challenge match wasn’t great, but this was still a step in the right direction. Fans want to see Rousey more often. They want to see her sling people over her shoulder and try and snap people’s arms. It’s never not entertaining, and if Rousey is going to be at every episode of Raw, you have to use her more. We may not have gotten to see a full Ruby Riott versus Rousey match, but the spear from the former alone showed this is definitely that should happen sooner rather than later. (Sidebar: It was nice of the Riott Squad to progress from graffiti and paper-tossing to attacking a member of the roster this week.)
Lifted from the Legal Pad:
“Went through hell, excuse the pun,” - Michael Cole, Embarrassing Dad.
Dean Ambrose going after McIntyre’s leg all match was a nice touch.
“How do open challenges work?” - Ronda Rousey.
Chad Gable entrance-bombing Bobby Roode is Actually Good.
The Ascension’s Viktor was rocking some very baggy tights this week. Somebody get this man a tailor!
Not a good start for Dana Brooke’s Post-Titus Worldwide run.
“He owns 26 Toyota Camrys.” - Corey Graves on Titus O’Neil.
“This is still Monday Night Rollins.” - Seth Rollins, confused quasi-main eventer.
Why hasn’t Drake Maverick cut a promo for AOP yet?
“I don’t know why you booked yourself in a Universal title match tonight?” asked Braun Strowman.
“Whose kid is this?” - Elias.
Somebody please save Kevin Owens.