So We Need To Talk About That Episode of Monday Night Raw

I enjoyed three hours of professional wrestling on a Monday night. Now, on the surface, this may not seem like a big deal, but, folks, I could not tell you the last time I enjoyed three hours of professional wrestling on a Monday night. Since the WWE elected to actively hurt their product by making their two-hour show a three-hour show, sitting through these episodes of Raw each week have been harder than it is for OJ Simpson to not tweet out fantasy football advice. To make matters worse, these episodes haven’t even been enjoyably bad like TNA was back when Claire Lynch was a thing and AJ Styles was going through some stuff and Hulk Hogan thought he could save the business. Obviously, I would like to enjoy a good product each week, but if that isn’t an option, I would gladly take a hilariously bad product over a forgettable, boring product. Monday Night Raw hasn’t been a train wreck since moving to three hours, it has just been like watching the Bills play the Jaguars each every Sunday afternoon -- it’s still football and you’re happy it’s still available, but it’s not Packers vs. Steelers. Quite simply, you know it could be better.

This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw was better. Now, who is responsible for this week’s creative choices is still up in the air, but does it really matter? What matters is that it seems as though the majority of WWE fans enjoyed this week’s episode of Raw and, these days, that is very rarely the case. This week, we saw a beloved faction reform in The Club; we saw a young-and-still-quite-green babyface get their big sympathy moment in Ricochet; we saw pyro; we saw fans become invested in the Bobby Lashley vs. Braun Strowman storyline; we saw an insane start to an angle involving Maria and Mike Kannelis; we saw Drake Maverick win back the 24/7 title. It speaks volumes that the worst part about this show was everything involving Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch, who, oh boy, have been extremely bad both in backstage segments and in-ring promos. However, if Rollins and Lynch making cringe-worthy comments is the worst part of a three-hour show, then you have to be happy about where things are headed. 

While Rollins and Lynch are trending down, Ricochet and Styles are trending up. During one backstage segment on this show, we saw Lynch tell her on-screen-and-off-screen hubby that she would advise him not lose her title and vice versa. Individually, these two are fantastic babyfaces. Together, they are the 0-16 Detroit Lions. From the dialogue, to the faces they make, it just doesn’t work. (It doesn’t help that Baron Corbin was phenomenal in his backstage work with Lacey Evans where he correctly pointed out how stupid Rollins was to give him and Evans another shot at his and The Man’s titles. Sure, Corbin is a loser, but his speaking-like-a-normal-human ability is top-notch; it’s just a shame he still has so far to go in the ring to belong in the main event of WWE PPV.  

It should be a problem that the Raw’s biggest storyline -- Lynch and Rollins versus Corbin and Evans -- has bombed, but Ricochet and Styles have saved the day. From their incredible main-event match last week to close the show, to their once again enjoyable main-event match this week, everything about this dynamic works. If you want fans to take Ricochet seriously you have to do what the company is doing from pitting him against the best wrestler in the company to giving him backstage segments that get heated to the point where he takes a vicious slap from the Phenomenal One to sending one right back. Most of the WWE audience didn’t have a reason to cheer for Ricochet or become invested in his character when he first arrived on the main roster, he was just a guy who could do cool stuff in the ring. Now, with his matches against Styles and his story now including the return of The Club, fans have a reason to root for Ricochet and the possibility of turning the latter into a top-tier babyface is no longer so far fetched. 

While Ricochet is finding his groove on the red brand, The Miz is still searching for his Styles. After losing his feud to Shane McMahon, the Miz has been lost in the shuffle. However, if you watched this episode of Raw you can’t help but wonder if the company is squandering Miz’s babyface run in a similar way to the way the company squandered Alex Riley’s back in the day. The Miz works as a babyface, both with his charisma in backstage interviews -- where Raw had at least 37 this week -- and in the ring. He’s figured out how to be a professional wrestler both as a top heel and a top babyface. He just doesn’t have any suitable dancing partner at the moment. The Universal champion is a babyface; the United States champion is a babyface; there just isn’t anyone currently on the Raw roster for Miz to have a big-time feud with. 

Or maybe it’s Cesaro? One of my favorite blips on this week’s episode of Raw was Cesaro dismissing the god-awful No Way Jose with two brutal moves outside the ring. It both looked and sounded painful for Jose and, once Cesaro was done, he left angrily. Cesaro, like the Miz, is floating. His work as a dangerous heel works, and with Sheamus gone, why not have these two collide. These two feuding would feel right as the Miz’s new persona is a guy who just wants to be taken seriously as a professional wrestler. He wants pro wrestling fans to adore him the way they have always adored Cesaro. You can work with Cesaro not taking Miz seriously; you can work with The Miz taking a beating from Cesaro leading up to a PPV match; you can work with The Miz having his SummerSlam moment by defeating the Swiss Cyborg. 

Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t what made this Raw really click was the Styles Turn. (Like the Styles Clash, but, you know, in a different sense. Hey, where is everybody going?) With The Good Brothers looking to have two feet out the door for months and months, to see the duo feature so prominently this week, to see Karl Anderson offer up his Hot Asian Wife to motivate Styles, to see three exceptionally good professional wrestlers motivated again was a breath of fresh air. It’s almost like Vince McMahon finally watched an episode of NXT, took a gander at Undisputed Era’s success, and decided he wanted a main-roster version of that. Pro wrestling fans love Adam Cole and that stable; pro wrestling fans love AJ Styles and that stable; it was about time this company just gave them what they have always wanted. Adding Ricochet into the mix was just the icing on the cake.