WWE Raw: Two #Heels and a Monster

Braun Strowman is mad; Braun Strowman is annoyed; Braun Strowman wants revenge; Braun Strowman wants the WWE Universal title. In the Monster Among Men’s mind, that means finding capable reinforcements to combat the newly reformed Shield with. After his Money in the Bank cash-in moment was thwarted on Monday Night Raw just a few weeks prior by Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, Strowman turned heel. To explain his head-scratching decision to join forces with McIntyre and Ziggler, Strowman went with the played-out “You People” promo that is as lazy as it is boring. In Strowman’s mind, he had no choice but to enlist the two goons, or goofs if you recall how they fared in that No. 1 contender battle royal for the Raw Tag Team titles a few months back, to quiet the hounds until he, again, claims what’s rightfully his -- the Universal title.

In this opening promo, fans cheered at certain moments during Strowman’s monologue and booed at others. In a way, you could make the case that the story they’re trying to tell with Strowman is similar to the story they’re trying to tell with Becky Lynch on Smackdown Live. The general manager on Smackdown Live didn’t like the champion at the time, Carmella, just like the general manager on Raw didn’t like the champion at the time, Brock Lesnar, and welcomed a change. Lynch went on an unexpected winning streak, she was universally adored by the WWE Universe, and it seemed for much of the summer that the wind was blowing in the direction of a Lynch title run and an opportunity to prove she can be The Girl. Strowman, too, mauled his way through Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Jinder Mahal and more over the summer and, like Lynch, had the support of the WWE Universe and with a victory at the Money in the Bank WWE Network special, looked primed for a Universal title run and an opportunity to prove he can be The Guy. Of course, Charlotte Flair and the Shield got in the way, so neither got what they wanted and reacted accordingly.

The problem?

Lynch didn’t follow-up her “turn” at SummerSlam by saddling up with whatever is left of Absolution on Smackdown Live. Sure, she did have her “you people” promo because we can’t have nice things, but the feud is still strictly between Lynch and Flair. Had Strowman hadn’t aligned himself with anyone and focused strictly on beating up the supposed-babyface champion Roman Reigns, this could story could still mirror the one on Smackdown Live. When Strowman talks about beating up the Big Dog, eschews his tired catchphrases, or says anything other than lazy heel-speak, the crowd still cheers. Now, the crowd doesn’t what to do because they still care about Strowman but couldn’t care less about McIntyre and Ziggler.

The Shield vs. Strowman alone is compelling, especially when you consider how Strowman has been booked over the summer, that the only way to defeat this gigantic figure is to play the numbers game, which the trio did a few weeks ago on Raw. Strowman is right in his assertion that the reason Reigns is still champion because of outside interference, but Strowman also cashed in his contract prior to enlisting the help of Ziggler and McIntyre, which would have, checks notes, evened the odds if Strowman were to try and cash-in on Reigns after, say, a tag-team match in the main event on an episode of Raw. Instead of Strowman vs. the Shield, we’re getting Three Heels vs. The Shield, which doesn’t work.

It’s not even McIntyre or Ziggler’s fault, as we know both can bring it on the mic and bring it in the ring -- fans just don’t care. Pairing Strowman with them hasn’t elevated Ziggler and McIntyre, it has dragged Strowman down with Ziggler and McIntyre. This episode was strictly about making fans give a shit about McIntyre and Ziggler and doing their best to have you believe there is any chance in -- I’m very sorry about this -- hell that Strowman is beating Reigns at the upcoming WWE Network special. Neither happened. Sure, the trio looked good in the opening promo, the trio emasculating Acting GM Baron Corbin was fine, and their attack on the Revival clicked -- but then they had a competitive, long match with the B-Team. If you want to build this fall’s program on Raw around the Shield and Three Heels, that’s fine, but you can’t also have the Not Ambrose Or Rollins guys have 15-minute matches with two Matt Saracen’s on Raw. If McIntyre and Ziggler had been running roughshod over the Raw tag-team division similar to the way Strowman was running roughshod over the Raw main-event scene for the last few months, this would be a hot feud. Instead, it’s as cold as Alexa Bliss’s words for her hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

***

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

  1. What is there to say about the Bella Twins return? Obviously, Brie Bella was, well, a tad rusty in the in-ring department. Although, the less athletic Bella always seemed to wrestle like Blake Bortles plays like quarterback -- you just have to hold your breath, cover your eyes, and hope for the best. Thankfully, Nikki Bella was also in this match with the Riott Squad, who hasn’t missed a beat. Nikki picked up the win for the Bella Twins via a Rack Attack 2.0. Later in the night, the Bella Twins were seen backstage offering their services to the still underutilized WWE Raw Women’s champion Ronda Rousey in what came across as very disingenuous and heelish. The highlight of the Bella Twins’ return, though, was in-ring announcer JoJo’s 1,500-word opus on the Bellas before their match with the Riott Squad. Yes, the latter was given the “already in the ring” treatment, but it was for a good cause -- a very long ad read for the Bella Twins.

  2. Is this the best they could come up with for Kevin Owens? On one hand, it’s nice that the WWE has finally figured out what most fans have known for a long time -- Jinder Mahal should always be a comedy jobber and Bobby Lashley is low-key funny. On the other hand, inserting Kevin Owens into this experiment is not a good thing. Last week, we saw Toronto lose their shit for Owens in a fantastic Intercontinental title match with Seth Rollins, only for the former to lose, even after delivering a beautiful stunner, no less, and then just quit. I’ve already written extensively on why it made sense for his character to be this frustrated and to just say “fuck it” and walk away. It doesn’t make sense for Owens to return a week later, attack Lashley and Mahal and that be the end of that. It wasn’t treated as a big deal, and it certainly looks as though Owens is now being used as the latest heel to try and get fans to muster up some feels for Bobby Lashley. The Kevin Owens “I Quit” storyline wasn’t about Kevin Owens at all, it was about Bobby Lashley. Shame.

  3. What even is this Shawn Michaels and Undertaker and Triple H stuff? What year are we in? Why is this happening again? Why are they teasing one more match for the Heartbreak Kid? Sure, this promo between Michaels and Taker was far better than it had any business being, but didn’t we already do this? Didn’t Michaels already stick up for his friend in front of the Deadman? Wasn’t there an end of an era a few years back? Didn’t these three WWE legends dominate WrestleMania storylines for almost half a decade? The WWE trying to juggle the promotion of both the Hell In A Cell special and the Super Show-Down simultaneously was always going to end this way, but they were always going to make a lot of money either way. It’s like the old adage goes, “content over quality.”

Lifted from the Legal Pad:

  • “Pretty Humorous,” from Michael Cole is a new cringe-worthy line from Raw’s play-by-play announcer.

  • “Just look at us” - Drew McIntyre. If only it were that simple, Drew.

  • Liv Morgan doing the “You Can’t See Me” gesture at Nikki was a nice touch. She’s not technically sound, but she’s got something.

  • My final verdict on the Brie Bella Suicide Dive Conundrum: Sarah Logan was late on the first one, but it was all Brie the second time.

  • “Have you seen the night I’ve been having?” - Baron Corbin, Good GM.

  • Why was Finn Balor smiling at Corbin backstage? He should have been pissed at what transpired last week.

  • Are we sure Jason Jordan is ever getting cleared?

  • Release Bobby Roode.

  • Giving promo time before matches is a good thing. The Ascension was better off for it.

  • “Hi, Zombies.” - Alexa Bliss.

  • Would a Bliss and Elias romance angle be the worst thing? Asking for a friend.

  • Rousey should be throwing someone around every single week.

  • Drake Maverick in Authors of Pain gear is wild and I think I’m here for it. Does this make Maverick the Eric Young of AOP?

  • They’re trying to get the “my man” line over for Lashley. Not great, Bob.

  • Dana Brooke and Ember Moon took on Sasha Banks and Bayley.