What an underwhelming episode of Monday Night Raw.
Which is a real shame, considering this was the go home show to the No Mercy pay-per-view (PPV) this weekend, where they had multiple big matches to promote. There was a moment or two, some fun wrestling here and there, but most of it fell flat. It was uninspired.
- They gave away Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss, which is what they've been building up for months now, in a non-title match, then made it about the return of Bayley, who was just casually tossed into a match she's been nowhere near. Sure, she had a title match coming at SummerSlam before getting injured but this was a really weird way to put her back in the mix. They all but completely ignored Emma, and even if she wasn't ever going to be on this show they could have done more to promote the fact that, you know, she's a part of this too.
- The tag team division is getting booked like the women's division used to, just the same teams all going back and forth in the same matches over and over with little to no advancement of anything. The wrestling itself is typically entertaining enough, at least.
- Brock Lesnar in an interview setting is usually solid gold but it didn't much work for the story they've been telling with Braun Strowman. The message was fine but this feud has been all about physicality. I don't want a sit down interview for a feud like this.
- The Bray Wyatt-Finn Balor feud has suffered from how long it took to get us to a place where they're actually bothering to use it to explore Balor's character motivations. They should have started here. There simply isn't the same interest, and that's a shame considering how much this could do for Finn. Bray is still Bray, and I'm not sure what can fix that outside of a dominant run they'll never book him for.
- Curt Hawkins' losing streak is now his storyline, and that is a good thing.
- Enzo Amore is so hated, they literally sent Braun Strowman out to beat the trash out of his mouth for no reason at all. Michael Cole called it a message to Brock Lesnar but that's silly. What's the message? "I can beat up guys a quarter your size"? The message sure seemed to be "everyone hates Enzo, so let's send the biggest dude we have out to throw him around for a few minutes while we all laugh about it." That included Neville, who literally went out and laughed about it.
- I don't want to say Jason Jordan is hopeless because there's real potential when he's in that ring and gets to throwing dudes around but crowds consistently greet him with apathy or downright scorn. They are never going to get him over as long as his character is "Kurt Angle's son," because that's silly and no one buys it and even if they did it's still silly that this man is so ardently defending a father he met like a month ago. None of it works, and it needs to be killed dead or used to catapult him as a heel. It doesn't look like even The Miz is going to be able to get this guy over, and that's saying something.
There was one thing on this show that deserves a great deal of praise, though, and that's the promo Roman Reigns cut on John Cena.
It sucks it had to happen while Cena was gone but maybe that's for the best, considering it gave them some easy material to work with. The material, though, wasn't what came across so well here. It's the man himself.
And that's just the thing: Roman Reigns is a man. John Cena is a character.
They've been bringing that across all along but it's been lost in Cena's over the top schtick that has, to my eyes, overwhelmed Reigns throughout the program. Maybe that was by design, I don't know, but looking back it sure does feel like Cena was barking like a character and Reigns was a grown ass man standing there ready to fight.
I loved that he used the word "shit" and went back to saying "he's a fake ass little bitch." Reigns is just a big ass dude out here ready to throw hands. When he cuts loose, you feel that. You feel him. That's where his strength is, in just being that, not trying to measure up to Cena's over the top character. He's not that, and never will be. But he shouldn't ever be, because as good as Cena is at being that, that character SUCKED for a long, long time. It still does, in a way. Cena is just really, really good at turning it on when he needs to. That's why it's so great to have a guy like Reigns, who you connect with for being the opposite of a character, outright say Cena "sometimes says stupid shit." He totally does!
This was an outstanding piece of work by Reigns. He turned around weeks of looking like he was getting beat. He's going to win at No Mercy, because he should win, because he's better.
It's clear now.
As a final note, WWE did well in how it handled Bobby Heenan’s death. The video they ran brought me to tears while making me happy just knowing I get to live in a world he was once a part of and had such an impact on. WWE also did a great job of illustrating that. It was well done all around. All the best to his family.