WWE hit Buffalo, New York for Monday Night Raw this week, and it was all about finding some cohesion for the men's Survivor Series team that will go up against the SmackDown Live squad at the pay-per-view (PPV) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada this coming Sunday night. They did that. Kind of.
Click here to go back and read the full live blog.
The general theme of this show was sound. The idea was to book matches that would lead to each member of the Raw team's at Survivor Series figuring out a way to band together as a unit so they can be ready for Survivor Series. They took odd routes to get there, where they weren't REALLY working together but it worked out anyway and everyone seemed okay with it because of that.
They even got a pep talk!
The tag team and women's matches weren't given much focus but it was basically the same story there too.
Then it was time for the main event, where Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan bickered with Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley and it really came into focus that this is actually a brand war and how dumb is that? Why should we care about this at all?
There is no real fan allegiance to any one brand, or at least not one that lends itself to a storyline on television. The stars of SmackDown Live were not cheered for showing up to attack the stars of Monday Night Raw nor were the stars of Raw cheered for fighting back against an invading force.
Actually, everyone was cheered for everything. At one point, Stephanie even made mention of the fact that it made no sense for fans who paid for a ticket to come to Raw were cheering for SmackDown. She more or less admitted failure with that line.
Because none of this really makes any sense at all.
The bigger problem is there are no stakes. The only stakes I can see are which McMahon gets to brag that their brand won. That's lame, and does nothing for me.
There's also the issue of things like Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman turning on each other because they suddenly seemed to care more about brand loyalty than anything else. That's weird!
Once they started brawling it was fun enough. Who doesn't love a chaotic breakdown with dudes beating the hell out of each other and throwing dudes on other dudes?
WWE had one clear goal in mind for the build to the Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg match -- make sure fans will cheer for Goldberg. To that end, they've succeeded every step of the way. He is over to the WWE audience in 2016.
To a baffling degree, even.
To achieve this goal, they had some rules in place. He had to bring his family into it, using a shoot storyline -- that he came back to wrestle one more time so his son could see him do it -- to help reestablish his character. He also had to maintain the aura he once had as an ass-kicking machine who would rather fight than talk.
On the other side, Paul Heyman had to continuously make promises he was never going to deliver on. Brock Lesnar's presence, at all times, was a tease for what's to come. All we ever cared about with these two was watch the bulls run fast and slam into each other. Goldberg had to be the one pressing for that and Lesnar had to be the one consistently failing to do the same.
This way, Goldberg is the good guy who is trying to give us what we want, Lesnar is the bad guy if only because he's NOT giving us what we want, and we'll get the goods by tuning into the PPV.
It worked. They accomplished their goal. Whether or not you were entertained along the way is a different story. I wasn't particularly enthralled at any point, and I'm still not particularly interested in the payoff but your mileage may vary.
Sami Zayn def. Bo Dallas: This wasn't a squash, but was all about "building momentum" for the Intercontinental title challenger. He rallied the crowd in a post-match interview and it was all fine.
Cruiserwhat: An issue with the cruiserweights they failed to address on this show was why any of them would care if they were on Raw or SmackDown, and if they do why they wouldn't try to do something about it. This was a great chance to create some conflict within the division, with one side maybe wanting a better opportunity on SmackDown (or at least the perception of one) and the other maybe wanting to stay on Raw for the added exposure it brings. Something! Anything! What they did instead was have Brian Kendrick say he they can put their faith in him and everyone disagreed and then he beat Sin Cara in a match later. Much like everything else they've done with the division, this felt like a waste of time and did next to nothing to build to Kendrick's match with Kalisto.
The List: A quick tip of the cap to James Ellsworth for his utter devastation at Chris Jericho putting him on The List.
Final thought: As far as what they were trying to do, they had decent ideas and executed them well enough. The storytelling just isn't inspired and nothing is on the line.