Phoenix, Arizona was treated to a tale of two shows with Monday Night Raw this week. Let’s
burn break it down.
Who Needs Lesnar?
Gauntlet Match to start the show? Gauntlet match to start the show. And do you know what this Gauntlet Match proved to me?
Screw Brock Lesnar. We don’t need him.
I’ve never hated Lesnar’s soft schedule more than I did while watching this match. These 7 men wrestled for two freaking hours. TWO. HOURS. That’s a testament to the talent and depth of WWE right now. These guys deserve a championship to compete for, not this Schrödinger’s Belt situation with Lesnar as champion.
I do have some complaints, though, and we’ll get to them in a bit.
Roman Reigns sauntered down to the ring as the man chosen by GM Kurt Angle to begin the match. Charlie Caruso met him in the ring to ask if he had any nerves about the challenge ahead. His response was that he wasn’t worried for the Gauntlet Match in particular, but he certainly was about the Elimination Chamber. He touted the others in the match as “the toughest and best competition in the world.”
And god almighty if he wasn’t proven correct.
Seth Rollins was his first opponent and there was an awesome “Burn it Down!” chant before they ever touched. Rollins was unquestionably the standout on this show. The role he’s in right now is fantastic, too; he’s trying so hard to regain his former spot that Reigns has taken. He’s the alternative to Reigns’ top dog act and it’s incredibly endearing.
And WWE went a HUGE distance on this show in putting that over.
These two tore the house down for roughly 30 minutes. There were some great spots - Buckle Bomb into a Superman Punch, anyone? - and Seth Rollins would find a way to pick up the victory with a roll up.
This was Reigns’ third or fourth loss in a pretty short time span, which I’m sure will be the story heading into the Elimination Chamber. The crowd serenaded him with “Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye” as he left.
Rollins vs. John Cena was next. This match was notable for one particular reason: Cena was a jerk. Cena kept forcing count outs, demanding the ref to start a count. He told Rollins to stay down on multiple occasions as well – ordering his opponent to “give up,” in essence.
He even tapped the referee and openly taunted Rollins. This was uncharacteristic for Cena and the crowd got behind Rollins in a big way.
Rollins kicked out of an Attitude Adjustment nearly an hour into the damn show. If felt like this match would build to another Attitude Adjustment from the top rope, but Rollins fought out of Cena’s attempt to hit an Attitude Adjustment of his own.
The crowd adoringly chanted “Burn it Down!” for the effort.
And somehow, someway Rollins beat Cena with a Blackout in a Jericho-ian effort. Cena and Reigns in one night, Seth? Good lord, man.
What was even funnier was Cena’s interview during the next match. He made excuses for losing. Who on earth is this new John Cena?
The third match was Rollins vs. Elias. Elias would win in short order, leading to Finn Balor to make his way to the ring. Balor joined the crowd in giving Rollins an ovation before sliding into the ring.
And what followed was by far the weakest portion of this Gauntlet Match for me. The Rollins stuff was incredible because of the sense of urgency – he’s stated his case for how he feels and wrestled accordingly. WWE gave him Reigns and Cena to work through for the story as well.
Balor vs. Elias and Miz, however, lacked all sense of urgency. It was just your traditional face/heel stuff. Elias worked over Balor’s left shoulder – not the right one, which was surgically repaired – and they just…worked your usual babyface in peril stuff for over 10 minutes.
The crowd chanted “we want Strowman” briefly. And with good cause.
And this isn’t an indictment of Balor or Elias – quite the contrary. They were technically excellent. Balor went for a pin attempt and the seamless transition from that into an arm bar by Elias was incredible to me. Balor sold his injured arm like his name was Gohan. Balor’s not very good at dodging either, by the way.
But these two matches are a perfect example of what people dislike about today’s wrestling landscape. The matches were merely more of the same. We’re in an era where people want fresh ideas in wrestling and characters worth emotionally investing in. It’s the reason why Rollins was given a standing ovation on this show and why people – myself included – gripe about how Roman Reigns is booked. It’s just more of the same.
The worst part? Balor should be just as urgent and emotionally attached as Rollins was on this show. He’s never gotten his title rematch, he’s been screwed over by multiple wrestlers, he drew number 2 in the Rumble, and instead of being pissed off and angry with how he’s been treated, Balor just smiles and shakes it off. It’s maddening; I’m angrier on his behalf than Balor seems to be.
Balor would hit a Coup de Gras to win, and then they rinsed and repeated the same with the Miz. Only this time, the Miztourage helped by cheating. The fact that Balor Club didn’t come out to run those fools off was extremely puzzling as well.
After the Miz picked up the win on Balor, Strowman destroyed him. He won in short order with a Running Powerslam, called Lesnar “Beastie Boy,” and went back to beat the Miztourage up for a while.
Renee Young interviewed all the men in this match after they performed, which was a really cool touch. All in all, this was an incredibly unique use of two-thirds of the show so I want to give WWE credit for that. They knocked the Rollins stuff out of the park as well. But the rest of it was sorely lacking.
6-Woman Tag Match
Oh you wanted an original title? Perhaps WWE should have an original idea for the women’s matches, then.
Bayley continued her newfound aggressive streak, standing up to Mandy Rose. That was a storyline in this match, as well as Sasha Banks continuing in her own frustrations. There was a point where the referee missed a tag from her and she shouted in his face for a good while.
The crowd fell asleep for the bit where Absolution was in control. They’ll clearly work together in the Elimination Chamber. The other story to watch was Mickie James and Alexa Bliss; they were on opposing teams, but they never fought against each other. James kept looking to Bliss as if she would interfere, but Bliss would innocently raise her hands in response.
Banks picked up the victory by submitting Bliss. After the bell, Absolution assaulted the good gals and turned their attentions to Bliss. James would end up rescuing Bliss from a beat down, so it seems the “teams” within the Elimination Chamber are set.
But good grief. Find a better, more original way to tell this story than another 6-woman tag, WWE.
Best of the Rest
Jeff Jarrett in the Hall of Fame – They announced Jarrett during this show and I’ll have to admit to you that I’ve not seen much of him. If you’re a fan of Jarret, I’d love to hear some stories in the comments!
Asuka wasn’t ready – WWE used Renee Young a lot on this show, which is always a fantastic idea, in my opinion. Young presented good questions, but I wasn’t a huge fan of how Asuka handled the interview. Her accent is fairly thick and that’s going to be a challenge if they make interviews a regular part of her character work. Nia Jax assaulted her and ended the segment standing tall.
Here Comes Ronda – Ronda Rousey had a video package on this show to hype her appearance on Sunday. It probably did little to change your opinion, excited for her debut or not.
Titus Worldwide def. The Bar – So…I guess this means a rematch at the PPV? Crews can’t lose.
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt share a dueling promo – Hardy will burn, Wyatt will be deleted. They basically made a bunch of opposing claims. Not a fan of this. Feels like these two have feuded for a decade at this point and they’ve done absolutely nothing to make me sit up and take notice.
Shows like this one hurt my head. On one hand, having the Gauntlet Match last 2 hours was unique, ingenious, and incredibly fun. Seth Rollins was on fire during this show.
But then…what the hell was the Balor portion of the Gauntlet Match? What the hell was the boring, dueling Wyatt/Hardy promos? And what the hell is up with the women always having 6-woman tag matches?
Ugh. I want to give this show a great grade for the Rollins stuff and then…ugh.
This show should have had an amazing grade. They messed it up. UGH. Considering how this show started, I can’t believe I ended up with this grade. I really soured on the show after Rollins got pinned; once again, the creativity and story work are at fault.
Tell me if I’m wrong, Cagesiders. This was rough to watch after the first hour.