In watching tonight’s Monday Night Raw, a lot of the segments show that WWE is beginning to listen to the diehards within the WWE Universe. Some examples of that:
– The energy of the crowd is being acknowledged by the announcers of Raw in a celebratory way. Hulk Hogan signs and costumes are not being hidden.
– The Undertaker was given a tribute throughout the show.
– Roman Reigns apparently turned heel.
– The Hardy Boyz have returned and have the Raw Tag Team Titles.
– Kurt Angle has returned and is back as the General Manager of Raw.
– The Revival have gotten the main roster call-up.
– Mr. McMahon appeared on-camera in a lovable heel manner.
– Finn Balor has made his return after more than six months away.
But there were a few missteps tonight that have this writer scratching his head. As some examples of that:
– Roman Reigns is being positioned for a feud with Brock Lesnar. Tonight’s crowd quickly showed disapproval of that.
– At the end of the match between Sasha Banks, Bayley, Dana Brooke, Nia Jax, Emma and Charlotte, there was a scuffle between Charlotte and Nix Jax after they lost the match. Who were we supposed to be cheering for in that one?
– Enzo and Big Cass wrestled in a #1 contender’s match against Sheamus and Cesaro with the winners are going on to face Matt and Jeff Hardy. None of these teams are heels.
– Obviously the positives outweigh the negatives of this week’s Raw tremendously. It was one of the best episodes — if not the best episode — since last year’s Summerslam. Maybe even the best since last year’s Wrestlemania. It had surprises, it had high spots, it had humor, and it had both old-school talent and new storylines. Arguably something for everyone.
While it is refreshing to see that Roman Reigns has seemingly turned heel, if the end-game is a rematch with Brock Lesnar, WWE is heading back towards a backlash. Most of Lesnar’s feuds since his return in 2012 have been a “best of three” series; or at least that is how it has gone with Triple H, John Cena, The Undertaker, Big Show, and Goldberg. There are plenty of opponents who fans would be more excited to see against Lesnar; Balor, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura — who he tagged with in 2006 in Japan — and Kurt Angle included.
The tag division scenario can likely be resolved with the forthcoming draft shaking up the Raw and Smackdown Live rosters. Smackdown Live currently has The Usos, The Ascension, Breezango and The Vaudevillains — all heel teams — aside from American Alpha and the still-questionably-together Heath Slater and Rhyno. That’s one or two babyface teams and four heel teams. Some resetting needs to take place, unless some of the lower and mid-card talent can be paired together for reinvention purposes.
With regards to the women’s match, most of the action was fun to watch. But Sasha Banks’ teased heel turn was not acknowledged, with the dissent among the heel team being the focus. No one on the heel team has the women’s title. This also would have been an ideal opportunity to introduce one of the NXT women to the main roster, perhaps in place of Dana Brooke.
Debatable booking aside, the greatness of this episode has me compelled to watch Smackdown Live this week and to see what is in store for next week’s episode of Raw. Fingers crossed that Wrestlemania has given WWE that extra spring in its step on a long-term basis. If not, well, there’s still plenty of great original programming to enjoy on the WWE Network.