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The Highlights and Lowlights of Monday Night Raw (May 23, 2016): Broken

This week, we start with the lowlights, because they engulfed the entire show for me. I think this one broke me. I don't know whether the episode was good or bad in a vacuum, and the reviews seem pretty positive, but I know in context, I hated this to death. Let's go into the whys.


Triple R

You had it, WWE. You had it. You found your universally over babyface. The crowd was ready. They were begging for it. You've been looking for a young, universally over top face for like a decade. It fell in your lap without you guys even trying.

...and then he went right back to being heel. There's no reason to do that. The crowd absolutely was more than happy to welcome him back with open arms, just like they did with an even bigger dirtbag heel in 2002, Triple H. When Triple H tore his quad, he'd been the worst heel imaginable for like 18 months and came right back as a face. There's no reason not to do that here, especially because traditionally Seth has been a better face whereas Trips is a better heel.

That said, tonight was honestly some of Rollins' best heel work, so credit to him for making the best of this unremittingly stupid decision they have made, but it can't fix the refusal of the man at the top to change what he has decided he wants to do. Reigns is his top face. It's never, ever going to change. Because as long as he gets a reaction, it means people are passionate, or whatever tired spiel JBL parrots right from the mouth of Vincent Kennedy McMahon five times a week.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a huge Rollins fan, and even I know he's clearly The Guy. As well as he did with the heel stuff, he actually came across natural and authentic being moved by the adoration before the turn, and his in-ring style is so much more conducive to getting cheers from the audience. And most importantly, the crowd really, really, really wants him to be a babyface desperately. But nope, we're just going to keep jamming this round peg into a square hole for no real reason other than sheer stubbornness.

And I don't blame Reigns a jot. This isn't on him. I love Reigns as an in-ring worker, as I went through pains to discuss yesterday on the site after another classic with Styles. I think he's one of the best in the world. And even out of the ring, when they actually let him be a dick he's great at it, and you can tell he's more comfortable playing that role, but Vince has decided that he's his next Cena and he doesn't care about anything else. That decision to let him play more of a tweener role is a big part of what made the Styles feud so good, because he wasn't actually a face. But after Seth's burn it all to the ground promo, he's certainly playing the face in this feud, and it's going to be dreadful, when if they'd just go with the crowd, it could be great.

And I know it's possible they can still build to the turn in the future. The problem is that unless they do a masterful job above the level WWE has proven itself capable of  doing in building to the turn, he'll never be more over than he was last night.

I hate wrestling. You know what, that's not true. Wrestling is great. I hate the stubborn millionaire who should be a billionaire at the top of this monopoly.


Well, this was a polarizing segment, wasn't it? Judging by the replies to Geno's tweets and the comments on his review, it's definitely one of the most divisive segments I can recall. At the end of it, I had trouble figuring out how I felt about it, until it finally clicked. I do think Charlotte did a lot of good in that promo. She's very much not my issue. I thought she performed it well. Was it uneven at times? Absolutely. But the content was often really strong, her delivery is improving (even if the What! chants threw her way, way too much), Naitch sold it well, and it further augments Charlotte as The Absolute Worst. All good things. In a vacuum, I absolutely see why people loved it. So why did I hate it?

The answer is because this is one of those examples of something that might have been good, but it's just not for me. It's not what I want the women's division to be. I'm not saying I'm right or wrong, I'm just saying it's not what I personally want to watch. I am so thoroughly tired of these soap opera family members being disowned or insanely over the top melodrama plots with the women. From a content standpoint, this was absolutely better than the abysmal Bella vs. Bella feud that could have been a fun jealous sister feud like Bret and Owen that instead turned into people wishing their family members died in the womb, or Paige's Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic winning performance of bringing Charlotte's dead brother into a feud, but from a thematic perspective, to me, it's absolutely the Same Old Shit. If this was the first time they did something like this, and it really stood out, I could totally get behind it because it absolutely got Charlotte a ton of heat. But it's not. It's routine.

It feels like Vince McMahon will never actually understand why the NXT Women's Division became what it was in 2015. It's just not something he'll ever get. The way women were presented in NXT as driven, athletic, and passionate three dimensional human beings is simply not how he views women. The women's division seemingly can't actually be about professional wrestling motivations. It always has to be over the top melodrama about disowning people or wishing people died or making fun of people for dying. A new belt and a new descriptor doesn't change that.

Maybe if and when Sasha is healthy they'll prove me wrong and show they actually get it. I hope they do.

Out of Da Club

RIP The Club, we barely knew ye. What a poorly designed and sloppily put together segment that was. The dialogue was all so stilted and unnatural, and I don't think it really presented AJ in a positive light at all. I have to assume this is building to AJ teaming up with someone who will inevitably turn on him and join Anderson and Gallows at Money in the Bank, which will also not make AJ look great if it's specifically someone really obvious like Finn.

And on top of that, AJ took a clean loss pretty handily from Kevin Owens. I love KO, but going from pushing uber-protected Roman Reigns to the absolute limit to losing to a guy who's taken clean losses to Dean Ambrose, Kalisto, and Dolph Ziggler has to be a downgrade. Of course he's not buried, but it's definitely positioning him on a level below where he was leading into Extreme Rules. Which is a pretty nice thank you for his superhuman performances in both those matches killing himself with insane bumps to help get Roman Reigns over.

I feel like I'd be letting you dear readers down if I solely focus on the negatives, so I might as well get to the couple of highlights.


Swiss Superman

Cesaro really is tremendous. He's just such an excellent wrestler. Obviously he's an athletic freak, but he's also got really great ring psychology as well which was on display here. Loved the way he knew just how to sell the injured arm. Sold very well defensively but also offensively in the way he knew just how little it made sense to use it, and he also had the big spot with the Swing where he lost his grip because of the pain in his arm. Great work from Cesaro, as always.

And while Cesaro deserves credit, so does Miz, who continues to be one of my favorite acts in WWE right now, and has greatly improved as an in-ring wrestler. You could make a real case that he was the best guy in the Intercontinetal Championship four way on Sunday, as his looming presence trying to steal the victory from the three tough competitors really was the fundamental underpinning of the entire match. It really gave gravity to all the exciting highspots. Without Miz, that match doesn't work. With him, it was one of the best matches of the year. And he continued his roll tonight with a really fine performance. Nothing too flashy, but did very well working the arm of Cesaro and making Cesaro the star of the match. Great stuff by the A-Lister, and obviously the pre-match promo was great stuff because he and Maryse are the new worst power couple with Trips gone and Steph trying to be nice.

How You Doin?

It's so good to have Enzo Amore back. Cass has lots of potential, but for the moment he absolutely needs the more polished Enzo to carry him on the microphone. Not necessarily Enzo's absolute best promo, but even an average Enzo promo is amongst the best on the roster and the guy is a volcano of charisma. It's crazy how over he is already.


So, yeah. I'm pretty thoroughly disenchanted with the whole shebang. I was already right at the edge during Mania and post-Mania Raw because the latter was very much a ‘show me' episode, and with the Styles victory, they showed me something interesting, so I gave it a shot, and I was rewarded with one hell of an awesome feud. This show didn't do the same. It ended that fantastic feud with a whimper, ended the potential of Seth Rollins to be the top face for the foreseeable future as everyone seems to want, pushed Styles down for the time being, and reaffirmed that the women's division just isn't going to be what I'm looking for.

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