It’s time, once again, for an examination of last night’s episode of Monday Night Raw. It’s two weeks until Hell in a Cell and the participants in the main event of that Pay Per View nowhere to be found, but that’s to be expected at this point. However, The Authority are also not in attendance, leaving the show in the hands of the Director of Authority, Kane. With that to set the tone going in, let’s take a look at the show and discuss the things that, good or bad, certainly happened on Raw.
10. Can You Hear Me Now?
If you like listening to Stephanie McMahon berate flight attendants over a bad cell phone connection, well, this was the Raw for year. Nothing says “comic hilarity” quite like Triple H and Kane recreating “Who’s on First” over the participants in that night’s main event, as the audience pretends that WWE can’t afford a good cell phone provider and also doesn’t have their own private jet that they’ve mentioned many times over the years. Although watching Stephanie and Triple discover that there are only two seats left on their flight, one of which is in coach, is an episode of a sitcom that would probably be a least mildly entertaining. It continues to be baffling to see The Authority allowing Kane to have control over Raw, despite the fact that he’s clearly an evil demon from Hell who is trying to get revenge on their hand-picked champion, especially when Kane is scheduled for a match at the next Pay Per View that will cost him his job if he loses, giving him every reason to mess with the show format. But hey, at least the Chicago crowd waited until the last segment of the night to get bored enough to start a “CM Punk” chant. That’s actually progress.
9. Paige, The Unconventional Wrestler Sponsored By A Candy Bar
You might have noticed that the entire episode of Raw was sponsored by Payday, which led to such fascinating segments as Byron Saxton polling fans outside the arena as to whom they thought was “the most unconventional wrestler”. Apparently many people chose Paige, which suggests that wrestling fans don’t actually know the definition of “unconventional” (She’s got blue highlights and wears a leather jacket! That’s so crazy!), but which also led to a painful promo segment where Paige sarcastically accepted the award and stole a Payday that Saxton had inside his jacket pocket. Comedy! Right? Shockingly, that might not have been the worst portrayal of Paige on Raw, as she would later come out to do commentary for the Divas tag match, where she claimed that PCB wasn’t actually broken up and Natalya wasn’t actually replacing her (the new group, according to Cole, is called “Team NBC”, which seems likely to get some lawyers involved), and generally came across as creepy and stalker-ish. Because women are all crazy and obsessively hate each other for no reason, right WWE? Is this really the same company that gave us Bayley vs Sasha Banks just last week?
8. We Want Sasha!
Speaking of which, WWE made sure to run a package highlighting NXT TakeOver: Respect, specifically the work of Sasha Banks, who is quickly becoming everyone’s favorite female wrestler and is actually on an undefeated streak on Raw. And her reward for putting on a genre-shifting, critically acclaimed Iron Man Match last week was…to stand at ringside for a match between Nikki Bella and Naomi while the crowd gave her an ovation and chanted “We Want Sasha”. In fact, despite there being two different women’s matches on Raw, Sasha did not participate in either of them. Meanwhile Team Bella came away with victories in both instances, using hackneyed distraction finishes to pick up the wins and even having Brie Bella score a pinfall over the Divas Champion Charlotte despite not being the Bella who is facing Charlotte at Hell in a Cell. How long must we wait, WWE? How long before we get those Sasha Banks vs Charlotte Pay Per View title matches that were implicitly promised when you brought them up to the main roster? How long must we deal with the scourge that is Team Bella as the dominating force of the WWE Divas division?
7. The US Open Challenge Is Out Of Gas
With an increasingly heelish Dolph Ziggler (who was doing a full-fledged HBK impression on Monday) falling to Cena despite hitting him with roughly six dozen finishers, the list of people who could conceivably dethrone the United States Champion is looking slimmer than ever. What started as an interesting experiment that led to some great matches and even introduced future greatest heel of all time Kevin Owens to the larger WWE audience has lost a lot of steam the second time around, with Cena having barely competitive matches where the winner is even less in doubt than usual. At this point, Cena has run through essentially every possible contender to the title, which becomes an issue when you remember that he’s apparently taking a few months off after Hell in a Cell in two weeks, and there are no legitimate challengers currently available who could believably take the belt off of him. In fact, Cena doesn’t even currently have a match for the Pay Per View, because he’s spent the last several weeks feuding with The New Day, who already have opponents for that show and weren’t going to win the title anyway (despite, you know, having a 3-on-1 advantage). The only possible bright side is that, with the entire main roster having already fallen at Cena’s feet, there’s a decent chance we might get a shocking debut in the next couple of weeks to wrest the belt away from him.
6. Four Guys Going Nowhere
Hey, look, it’s Cesaro, King Barrett, Neville, and Sheamus, and they’re all in a match on Raw! On the same night, even! Those four guys are all pretty good wrestlers, so this should be pretty…never mind, it’s over. Well, that was fun while it lasted. It’s a shame WWE can’t find feuds or even a decent spot on their three-hour-long live show that airs every week for four of their best wrestlers. Especially since one of them is holding a briefcase that will almost certainly make him WWE World Heavyweight Champion at some point in the next year. But instead, none of these four guys actually has a real feud (Barrett and Neville are starting one, sort of), and none of them will likely have a match at the Hell in a Cell Pay Per View in two weeks. If you’re looking for a match that underlined just exactly how much talent WWE has on their roster, and are currently squandering by not actually using them in any meaningful fashion, you’ve found it right here.
5. It’s An Ending. That’s Enough.
Look, we’re all thrilled that WWE has apparently pulled the plug on the Rusev-Lana-Ziggler-Summer feud and freed us from an angle that has been going on for months and destroyed the characters of everyone involved. But WWE handled it in the worst possible way, by bringing in Lana and Rusev’s real-life engagement that they officially announced on Twitter this past weekend, despite the fact that it makes no sense to have them suddenly back together and even engaged when last week, Summer Rae was proposing to Rusev in the middle of the ring as part of the on-going story line! WWE basically just completely shut down a long-running angle because two of the participants, who have been booked on opposite sides on television, are engaged in real life. Because that sort of thing never happens to people working in television or movies, right? Oh wait, no, it happens all the time, and never gets mentioned because the entire world knows that there’s a difference between actors real lives and the characters they’re pretending to be. It’s okay to be happy that this whole thing is essentially dead and we’re probably headed for a Lana-Rusev on-screen reunion, but WWE took the laziest possible way out of the situation. Instead of writing themselves a story line with a clever solution, they just posted a TMZ article, blatantly broke kayfabe, and basically announced that everything would be as it always had been, and nobody should ever mention this again, under penalty of torture.
4. Roman Talks Too Much
Oh, Roman, why would they do that to you? WWE has spent weeks and months of trying to re-build Roman Reigns in the wake of complete rejection by the fans leading into WrestleMania 31, having him talk less and kick ass a lot more. And frankly, it was working. The fans were cheering again, Reigns was getting some of his aura back without the spotlight of the main event, and he was in a feud with several other wrestlers who could totally carry the load when it came to longer promos, while he delivered cool one-liners and hit big moves that made crowds cheer. And then WWE sent him out last night on Raw to die horribly in front of a notoriously cruel Chicago crowd, as he was given way too much time to cut a long0winded promo summarizing his feud with Bray Wyatt and looked completely lost, visibly forgetting his lines and turning a rabid crowd against him almost immediately. The truly stupid part was that they sent Bray Wyatt, who is much better at that sort of thing, out to talk afterwards, and had Roman respond with one of his great “tough guy” lines, which is all they should have done with him in the first place!
3. When Is Kane Not Kane?
Apparently, Corporate Kane and Demon Kane are now officially two different people, at least when it comes to Triple H preventing Corporate Kane from having anything to do with Seth Rollins. Frankly, anyone with even a cursory knowledge of professional wrestling, or the character of Kane, knew about six seconds after the Lumberjack Match was announced just what would happen three hours later. And in a ridiculous stretching of the concept of multiple personalities that would even have the devious and clever Director of Operations going “Yeah, there’s no way The Authority is going to let me get away with this”, it was the Demon Kane who fought Seth Rollins, despite being explicitly told not to. Because they’re not the same person, even though they are and we all know that they are, both in reality and on the show. But on this night, apparently the commentary team was told to pretend that this was totally an exploitable loophole for Kane to use, even though Triple H made no distinction between versions of Kane when he told him that he absolutely, positively, was not to touch Seth Rollins. If we weren’t 110% sure that Corporate Kane was getting fired in two weeks, we’d probably be more upset about being forced to pretend that this was in any way acceptable behavior for the soon-to-be-former Director. Of course, then we’ll still have Demon Kane running around, because he’s totally not the same guy, right?
2. Seth Rollins, Champion Loser
If there is ever a match where people basically expect it to end with twenty guys in the ring fighting each other, it’s a Lumberjack match. It’s a totally easy finish to book: one of the lumberjacks ends up getting drawn into the ring somehow, everyone else follows, the ref throws the match out and everyone brawls while the show goes off the air. It’s definitely a screwy finish, but fans are conditioned to expect it, and most importantly, it protects the wrestlers in the match from having to lose, which would be a good way to stop Seth Rollins, who has lost nearly every match he’d been in on Raw since SummerSlam despite being the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and is in danger of looking like the biggest loser on the planet, from losing yet again. But apparently WWE thought it was a better idea to have the referee ignore the entire roster piling in and out of the ring and have the last image of the night be Kane destroying Seth, hitting him with a Tombstone, and pinning him cleanly two weeks before their Pay Per View match. Sure, Seth will win at the Pay Per View, just like he did against Sting, but is it really necessary that he look like a complete idiot every single week leading up to the show? At this point, whomever actually beats Seth for the title won’t have accomplished anything, because they’re beating a guy who barely ever wins.
1. Tune In Next Week For A Show That Might Matter!
Hey, do you like Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin? Of course you do, everyone does, they’re some of the biggest stars in wrestling history. Well, you’re in luck, because due to falling ratings and half of them living near the arena due to the show being in Texas, they’ll all be on Raw next week! That will help cover the fact that half of a three hour show is filler! Plus, it’ll be nice to have both men who will be in the main event of the upcoming Pay Per View in the same building at the same time for the first time since SummerSlam. Don’t worry if you forgot about this week’s Raw literally thirty seconds after it ended, because nothing of consequence happened. Next week, though, there will be a bunch of WWE Legends in the building! Something will probably happen then, right?