This week's episode of Monday Night Raw was all about resetting the roster, introducing a few stars who have spent the past year making their name over on SmackDown Live. That included the likes of Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose, The Miz & Maryse, and Bray Wyatt.
It felt a little awkward.
Let’s get to reacting to it. For a full live blog from the impeccable Reverend Kain click here.
Shake, shake, shake
This was weird!
Part of the issue is how they set up the "Superstar Shake-Up" last week. We were told to expect trades, deals, and other moves between the two General Managers, Kurt Angle (Raw) and Daniel Bryan (SmackDown). When it came time to deliver on that, they made no reference to any such thing.
Instead, wrestlers from the blue brand just started showing up, like The Miz and Maryse kicking off the night still working the “Total Bellas Bullshit” schtick. Dean Ambrose was the guy to interrupt them, delivering Dirty Deeds to end the segment.
That's how those three were introduced. No mention was made of why they were chosen to switch over, or how it came to be that they were, just that they're here now.
Wouldn't it be something if they immediately feuded with each other? Talk about a fresh match-up!
Later, Curt Hawkins showed up for no rhyme or reason and was knocked out by Big Show because there is nothing more certain in life than Curt Hawkins getting beat up if he's in a wrestling ring.
Later still, Bray Wyatt, who has a WWE championship rematch with Randy Orton pending, a HOUSE OF HORRORS match no less, popped up following a Finn Balor match to tell him he would be watching. He'll handle his previous business but, to remove all doubt, he straight out told us "Monday Night Raw ... I'm here." It's an intriguing move, a big star switching brands, but it was hurt by the fact that it came with zero explanation.
Then, out of nowhere, they delivered an announcement all together on four undercard wrestlers: Apollo Crews, Kalisto, Heath Slater, and Rhyno would be making the jump.
Even later, Alexa Bliss interrupted what looked like Sasha Banks maybe thinking of turning on her friendship with Bayley to go after the Raw women's championship. She said she was here to save us from the nauseating Sasha-Bayley sideshow but before we could even get too far into that thought, Mickie James hit the scene to declare that she is back on Monday Night Raw. The end result of this segment was, somehow, Nia Jax standing over Bayley with the title in hand.
I suppose we're simply supposed to accept the idea that there was wheeling and dealing done behind the scenes and we don't need specifics. After all, placing a value comparison on wrestlers may not be smart business, all things considered. Perhaps we'll get more details during SmackDown, because they needed to maintain some surprises for the blue brand.
Speaking of which, there was some intrigue in how a few of the wrestlers on the Raw roster were booked on this show. Sami Zayn teased there being interest from SmackDown Live and Angle confirmed it, then he went out and beat The Miz later in the evening. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows were protected in their match on this show. The New Day were soundly beaten by The Revival while Charlotte took a clean loss to Nia Jax. They both very much felt like farewell matches, the way a wrestler would lose clean to put over an opponent before shipping off to another territory.
Elsewhere, Seth Rollins was given a tease of moving to SmackDown because of what happened to Stephanie McMahon during his match with Triple H at WrestleMania 33 but Angle showed up to say Rollins is too valuable so he ensured he wouldn't be going anywhere. That led to Samoa Joe hitting the scene to continue their issue.
It was exciting to see all these wrestlers appear and know the landscape will look a lot different than before but not so different it’s unrecognizable. But the lack of narrative surrounding the how and why hurt it somewhat.
Roman Reigns did an interview with Michael Cole where the cockiness of last week was gone, replaced with humility, a humble reflection on what he had to do to Undertaker at WrestleMania. That's in line with the character they've always presented, but it sure would have been something had he doubled down on just how much it seemed like he didn't give a damn last week.
Then, Braun Strowman happened.
Backstage beatdown angles are typically lame, mostly a simple way to get from Point A to Point B in a given story. They go through the paces and we get the general idea and accept it as part of the story while not really feeling much of anything. It just never feels like enough.
This was more than enough.
In fact, this may have been the best backstage beatdown angle in the history of Monday Night Raw.
First, Strowman threw Reigns into a wall, then through a table, then onto some crates, then drove an equipment case into him. That was enough for a stretcher job.
Next, Strowman came running in to grab the stretcher while Reigns was tied down to it and threw him off a loading dock. That was enough to seal this as a great segment.
BUT HE WASN'T DONE YET.
No, Strowman ran back in, laid two punches on Reigns while he was in the ambulance to make sure he couldn’t avoid what came next, then LIFTED THE AMBULANCE AND DUMPED IT ON ITS SIDE.
This is probably setting up for a Last Man Standing match -- it makes sense after all this -- and it's going to be incredible. It also makes clear they want Reigns to look vulnerable so he can ultimately overcome the physical challenge in front of him. If you're not down with that, it sure seems like Vince McMahon has two words for ya.
But whatever. This was awesome.
Other (seemingly) non-Superstar Shake-Up related business
- The Hardy Men teamed up with Cesaro & Sheamus to defeat The Shining Stars and The Club. It wasn't much of anything, mostly giving the Raw tag team champions a win against a team that doesn't matter, the Shining Stars, while protecting The Club and pushing that there will be a title match between the babyfaces on the winning side at the upcoming pay-per-view. It was fine for what it was.
- I’m really glad TJ Perkins turned heel on this show so I can call him a PIECE OF SHIT and not feel even a little bad about that.
- Emma tried to get Dana Brooke back under her wing by just saying "hey, you used to be under my wing, get back under it again" and Dana walked off to stand on her own two feet.
- Kevin Owens doesn't care about a Superstar Shake-Up. Neither does Chris Jericho, who will show up and Codebreak you.
Despite the sort of busted narrative here, this was an exciting show if only to see who showed up from the other brand.