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WWE Raw preview (Sept. 24, 2018): Respecting boundaries

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WWE takes things a mile high on Sept. 24 for Raw in Denver.

The Headliner(s)

Was planning to wade into these controversial waters before another site’s take on the subject caught the eye of the women’s roster, so I’ll start with some disclaimers...

  • Nothing but respect for the Bellas, and all of the wrestlers who toiled in WWE prior to #GiveDivasAChance, AJ Lee’s tweet and the NXT Horsewomen made the McMahons and fandom at larger realize women’s wrestling was worthwhile and marketable. It’s not like Kelly Kelly or Candice Michelle had the book, yet they and their contemporaries still went out there and worked hard to entertain us with whatever limited minutes and often degrading scenarios they were handed.
  • Nothing but respect to the Bellas for dedicated their lives, health and well-being to this business. How well or even if they succeeded in their attempts to improve is for wrestling professionals to say while we fans debate our opinions (personally, I think Nikki made in-ring performing a real strength prior to her injury and Brie... tries really hard), but they’ve taken the bumps and made the towns and that’s no small thing. Doesn’t matter if they’ll always be synonymous with the term “Diva” or how you feel about that and them - they’re pro wrestlers, damnit.

With those items in mind, maybe we can talk about how WWE is currently using Nikki and Brie in the same way we would any other member of the roster. Or maybe we can’t. Let’s find out.

Pushing the Bellas on two shows at once is an odd decision. It’s part and parcel with WWE’s reliance on older male Superstars to move the needle, but Undertaker and Triple H aren’t appearing on Raw AND SmackDown. Plus, the men’s roster is bigger and gets more time than the women’s, so while we complain about part-timers and Legends clogging up the main event, younger stars like Finn Bálor and Kevin Owens still get programs and television time even when Brock Lesnar or Mick Foley show up.

It’s not quite the same with the ladies. Even former champs like Bayley, Sasha Banks and Carmella aren’t in noteworthy feuds or angles these days. Meanwhile, Brie is involved in stories getting minutes on Monday and Tuesday nights, and Nikki seems likely to have a prominent place on both October pay-per-view (PPV) events.

Couldn’t the Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection be Women’s champion Ronda Rousey friends heading into Super Show-Down? They already have history with Riott Squad. Nikki could play the supportive friend to the Rowdy One until a turn or simple competitiveness sets up a title match at Evolution. Brie could stay focused on the feud she’s already in with her husband on SmackDown.

This leads to the same impasse we always run in to when debating the company’s reliance on the men of the Attitude Era. The Bellas have more name-recognition for casual fans who are needed to keep ratings up and houses packed. But when it comes at the expense of convincing those viewers that other wrestlers are worth paying attention to (a problem which could be worse for the women’s roster given their limited minutes), or if it alienates some hardcore fans to the point they choose to not watch or attend - is the short-term gain worth the long-term cost?

One pure upside is the spotlight being cast on the Bellas opponents in Australia, and especially their leader, Ruby Riott. As we saw when she speared Rousey out of her boots last Monday, Ruby is a heck of a worker. And for folks who want clear evidence the Divas era is over, Riott’s punk beauty is proof that in 2018, WWE is willing to give women who might not make Maxim’s “Hot 100” a chance.

So we’ll take tonight’s Ruby vs. Brie match. But we wonder if putting Bayley in Bella’s place wouldn’t just lead to a better match, but also to better future business for WWE.

The title scene

With a Triple Threat to build to at Crown Jewel and a six-man to hype for Super Show-Down, expect more elaborate scenarios like last week’s Baron Corbin title shot to manufacture interactions between Universal champ Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman, and their running buddies.

Said running buddies, Braun’s Dogs of War and Reigns’ Shield brothers, are still feuding with each other. But there will be a side-mission for tag team titleholders Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre tonight, as The Revival get a chance to get payback for Drew & Dolph stealing their shot at The B-Team.

Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins will probably end up involved in that somehow, too. Will it involve Rollins’ Intercontinental championship, or did Rollins win over the Show-Off last week take that belt out of the story? We’re all for some open challenge action. Rousey shouldn’t be the only one who’s allowed to hold those.

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- KO has free rein thanks to his deal with General Manager Corbin, and he’ll almost certainly use it when Elias locks up with the man who hurt Kev’s best friend. But Bobby Lashley has a high-flying man(ager) of the hour by his side now. Is Lio Rush enough to even the odds, and get Lashley out of the rut he’s been in since re-joining WWE?

- She may be too injured to compete in Mixed Match Challenge, but Alexa Bliss isn’t so hurt that WWE.com’s official preview for tonight won’t hype her next program. A week after Nia Jax returned to help Ember Moon defeat the Goddess’ lackies Mickie James & Alicia Fox, they’re reminding us Nia still wants revenge on her former friend for taking her title at Money in the Bank back in June.

- The roll Chad Gable’s been on ran right into an aggressive Konnor last Monday after The Ascension’s latest loss. Looks like the feud between Gable & partner Bobby Roode and Konnor & Viktor will continue. Not really much else to say about that.

- Speaking of things we don’t have much to say about, DRAKE MAVERICK’s arrival has meant lots of jobbers for AOP to squash. Probably time to move on to some bigger challenges.

- Taker and Trips aren’t advertised. No word Shawn Michaels or Kane will be around either. Maybe we can get Finn a match?

Two weeks until Super Show-Down!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?