This episode of Raw was pretty much a bunch of squash matches and Seth Rollins being the most insincere jerk in the world. That last bit, at least, is wonderful.
Actually, that’s not the best way to describe how he sounds. He sounds sincere enough, but only until you see how he’s setting it up so that he can whine and play the victim.
After berating the Raw locker room last week, Rollins took a week of radio silence to come back as a humbled “leader.” He decided to say “we” instead of “you” when talking about how Raw was terrible at Survivor Series. He also argued that we should all keep in mind how he was so very brave to speak from the heart - y’know, despite sounding like a colossal jerk.
(Just so you know, Cagesiders, for your own lives...speaking the “truth” isn’t an excuse to say mean things.)
Even the way Rollins ditched Kevin Owens was set up to whine about his lot in life. “Ooh, I tried my best to apologize and he just wouldn’t listen! I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t!” Rollins, c’mon man. If you’re a leader, you should be able to empathize with Owens and how he has to keep his guard up. And walking out on the guy like that was basically giving AOP the green light to attack him - even if you aren’t in cahoots with those two.
I loved how smart Owens was about that situation, by the way. The AOP wanted to fight Rollins and Owens and Kev just basically threw his hands up and said, “Nah I’m good. This ends with me getting beat to a pulp whichever way you slice it.” Whether Rollins is teaming with AOP now or not, you cannot take the risk of teaming with the dude under these circumstances. If Rollins was actually innocent, he’d understand how sketchy things look right now and not hold any of this against Owens. Instead, he grandstands and makes a big deal of being the victim.
Gimme a break.
Owens fought Bobby Lashley instead, but not before Lana tried to talk over him. That didn’t go well for Lana; I can’t remember what all Owens said, but his complete and utter contempt for hearing her speak was extremely relatable.
Sure enough the AOP interfered to disqualify Lashley, beating Owens up and dragging him off to god knows where. Rollins’ interaction with the AOP this episode sure seemed to imply that they’re working together, as did the “damned if I do” comment. If that’s the perspective, you might as well do the thing that benefits you the most, right?
Let’s see...by my count, there were five squash matches on this show. That’s about three too many.
Drew McIntyre vs. Akira Tozawa was the first, and it might be a little unfair to call this a squash, at least in the traditional sense...but c’mon. There was no doubt who was winning. Toss in the fact that this match was finished in 5 minutes or less, and I think you’ll see it at least proves the point I’m trying to make here.
Now since this was the first squash-like match, I really enjoyed it. Tozawa is always fantastic, and I’d love to see him carve out at actual storyline in the show at some point moving forward.
The second squash was Aleister Black taking down Tony Nese. I’m sure you can see a trend of the 205 Live guys being used a certain way, here. They’re getting more offense in than a complete squash, but they’re quickly overwhelmed by the offense of a guy WWE wants to establish.
Buddy Murphy was watching on backstage and interviewed after the match. Murphy said that Black is too intense and serious, and advised the man to relax and stay cool. Alrighty, Carlito. (Jokes aside, that dynamic might be really fun in the future. Key word there, however, is future.)
Andrade was out for his own squash next against Eric Young, roughly following the same formula as his usual matches. Instead of Zelina interfering, however, he crotched Young on the top rope to set up for his Hammerlock DDT.
Erick Rowan destroyed No Way Jose and his party line in record time once someone touched the burlap covering his mysterious cage. This has been a really amusing angle, but I’m almost certain I’ll be disappointed by the actual reveal. Can we just put off the reveal for a few weeks by making the cage grow and shrink in size or something? One day it’s glowing, one day it’s making growling noises, one day it’s oozing blood…
And finally, the Viking Raiders busted up some local talent, as is their usual motif these days.
Squash matches are not a bad thing. They help you - in theory - to either establish a character or to help contextualize how powerful they are. Hell, squashes are utilized in all different forms of storytelling, even if they go by different names. They were a problem on this show, however, for a few reasons.
Firstly, the value of a squash comes from its uniqueness. The best squash matches are going to have something happen that we’ve never seen before. That’s what made Braun Strowman’s squash matches so great when he was getting established.
So how can anyone’s squash be unique when you’re having more squashes on a show than long-form, competitive matches?
Secondly, there’s a drag on the entertainment they provide. All of these squash matches imply “keep your eye on this guy moving forward!” but...none of them were all that entertaining on this show. It makes for an underwhelming watch, which is the last thing you want when establishing stars, right?
I would have preferred one or two of these squash matches had been something else, something that developed the motives and personalities of these new characters. As for the rest, they needed more to differentiate them from one another.
Lana and Bobby Lashley got arrested - After Lashley fought with Owens, he had a promo to basically say he has no idea what AOP are doing or who they’re working for. Rusev ran through the crowd to beat Lashley up and left without the cops Lana had with her doing anything to stop him. Lashley bumped one of the cops in frustration and got ‘cuffed. Lana slapped the other, and got put in cuffs as well.
Stuff like this goes over way better than the stuff they were doing to establish the feud. And yes, the really appalling stuff helped to get the crowds making noise for this feud, but there’s still some major issues with how Lana is portrayed. It’s...we really need more from her than being some vapid, hollow character in 2019.
The Kabuki Warriors def. Charlotte - This was pretty interesting from a storyline perspective, but I had some issues with the actual match. Essentially, Asuka has been trolling Charlotte with that green mist, right? That’s been the most entertaining part of their feud to me so far.
Well, we got a long handicap match that featured no mist and lots of moments where Charlotte nearly won. That just seems odd to me. Asuka was a viciously dominant singles competitor as early as last year, and defeated Becky Lynch back in January cleanly. It just seems odd that she and a teammate would struggle so mightily to defeat Charlotte, even if she’s angry and putting on the fight of her life.
...I really think the green mist would have helped here. Even if it were after the bell, just to really rub some salt in the wound.
The OC def. Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, Humberto Carrillo - Okay Ricochet, shoot straight with me: You’re trying to prove that Superheroes can be real...how, exactly? What’s the measurement of proving that? Winning? Looking awesome before suffering an inevitable defeat?
Randy Orton and Drew McIntyre may or may not have a problem - Guess we’ll find out on the next episode of Dragonball Z WWE!
Tony Bush won the 24/7 Championship? - Is there a huge crossover in WWE and NASCAR viewers that I wasn’t aware of?
I thought the first hour was quite fun, but the show tapered off in a big way after that.