WWE returns to New Orleans, but the pay-per-view (PPV) Raw will be focused on ain’t WrestleMania.
For the third time in the last month, some Hall of Famer/Legend-types are a major focus of the official Raw preview on WWE.com.
And, look. We’re not gonna pretend Shawn Michaels and Undertaker’s tense verbal confrontation last week didn’t get our rassle-sense tingling. It didn’t really make us any more excited for Triple H vs. the Dead Man at Super Show-Down, but it did use the history between all three men and the sheer force of HBK and Taker’s personalities to get us interested in future WWE shows. The Game’s appearance tonight will probably continue to do that, possibly by officially involving Shawn in the match Down Under.
That’s great. Nostalgia and old guys in scripted-fights-which-probably-won’t-be-that-good-but--we’ll-love-anyway is all part of the spectacle we sign up for when we watch WWE programming.
But I’m more interested in the other veteran showing up to talk at us tonight.
Mick Foley isn’t here to tease us on the possibility of him wrestling again (thank god). No, he’s here to explain why that’s not a possibility. It’s Dewey Foley’s Old Man’s annual visit to remind us of the horrors of Hell in a Cell, this year timed to the 20 year anniversary of his falling off and through the demonic structure at King of the Ring in 1998.
Undertaker was Foley’s opponent for that career and life-altering match, so he’ll probably make mention of the Phenom’s upcoming “Last Time Ever” match at The MCG. But he’ll mostly be here to warn Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Mr. Monster in the Bank Braun Strowman about the toll a Hell in a Cell match takes on a wrestler.
With Hell in a Cell having become a destination on the calendar as opposed to a purely story-driven stipulation, reminders of what the match used to mean are more important than ever. And Foley’s “Ghost of Cells Past” routine may be nostalgia, but it’s at least nostalgia in service of the future. Some might scoff - especially the Reigns detractors - but Braun and Roman could very well be the Superstars WWE leans on 20 years from now to sell out stadium shows in new markets. We all might pop when a routine Monday is broken up by a surprise “RAWR” followed by Strowman strutting to the ring, promising to give some jobber those hands.
Mick’s General Manager reign may have devolved into unintentional comedy as he increasingly became an emotional punching bag for Stephanie McMahon. But he’ll always be one of the best talkers in the business, and he comes back to Raw to use the that gift - and the sacrifices he chose to make for our entertainment - to give back to the business, and help make the lastest Big Dog vs. Monster showdown that much better.
As much as I’m intrigued by another round of Michaels/Taker, make mine Foley.
The title scene
Braun isn’t Roman’s only problem. Reforming the Shield with Dean Ambrose and Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins was supposed to keep things just in the men’s division. But Strowman not only allied himself with Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre, those two won the Tag Team Titles AND recruited every heel on the roster (and even one from 205 Live) to make the Hounds’ lives miserable. A pair of brawls last week left Rollins cut up and all three Shield-men facing kayfabe criminal charges in Ohio, but that won’t stop them from looking for revenge this week.
Even though Alexa Bliss picked up a win last week, Women’s Champ Ronda Rousey still demonstrated her dominance of the Goddess. Everything will be a little more up-and-up this time, at least at the start, as we’re getting tag action between Alexa & Alicia Fox and Rowdy & Natalya. Not sure anything they can do will make Sunday feel less like a fait accompli.
Other stuff to keep an eye on:
- Rousey’s tag partners for Super Show-Down, the Bellas, aren’t advertised on WWE’s ticket page, but don’t rule those brand-hopping multi-platform Superstars out. The Riott Squad will probably talk some trash, unless they’re back to feuding with Sasha Banks & Bayley when Nikki & Brie aren’t here.
- The Boss ‘n’ Hugger’s match last week appeared to be a one-off to spin Dana Brooke away from Titus Worldwide, but we try not to read too much into anything that happens with Sasha and Bayles week-to-week.
- Speaking of stuff we don’t want to get our hopes up about, Chad Gable was on television last week, looking great as Bobby Roode’s new tag partner.
- If they stick together, they enter a very different tag division than last week, where DRAKE MAVERICK is steering the AOP ship, and The B-Team and The Revival appear to be enhancement talents instead of title contenders.
- Meanwhile, Kevin Owens quit for a week so he could come back and attack Bobby Lashley, Elias exists to promote Evolution and Finn Bálor is feuding with his boss, a man who is confused by make-up. Last week was rough, y’all. The less we think about it, the better we’ll all be.
It’s the Hell in a Cell ‘go home’ show!
What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?