I am speechless. And not in a good way.
This show was all about some big-name NXT call ups and I’m struggling to describe how WWE delivered these new characters. Disappointing? Lackluster? Dare I say...boring? Triple H told us to expect Ricochet, Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, and Aleister Black on this episode of Raw and they were quite literally the story of the night.
So let’s see how they did, shall we?
Our first NXT appearance came from Ricochet when he came to the rescue of Finn Balor. We didn’t get an explanation of how Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush got back together after their apparent break up at Elimination Chamber, but I guess it doesn’t matter. Ricochet came to even the score and we got a tag match.
And of the four, I’d say Ricochet probably had the strongest night. He barely took a lick of offense from Lashley while Balor got the tar beat out of him. Ricochet also got the hot tag where he ran roughshod on Rush before having this cool spot where he led Lashley on a chase and did a backflip off the barrier, leading to a running dropkick from Balor. Ricochet also hit his ridiculous 630 to close the match and the good guys stood tall.
Ricochet had a promo backstage later in the night where he seemed to be fighting back tears. It was clumsily delivered, but that honestly might have made it better. He grinned by the end and promised that he was just getting started. Of all four men, I’d say Ricochet got the strongest reaction – but how could he not with the offense he displays?
Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano
Nope. I do not enjoy seeing Ciampa and Gargano treated as quasi-good guys. Nope nope nope. We must be an Alternate Universe edition of NXT or something.
Honestly, I should have been salivating at the prospect of DIY vs. The Revival. And instead, it felt like a 205 match. The in-ring work was incredible, but no one in Lafayette, Louisiana had any emotional attachment to the people involved. We got some oohs and ahhs, but not much else.
And when you consider what Gargano and Ciampa have accomplished on NXT...that’s egregious, WWE. Those two put on a heck of a performance but it was wasted on a crowd that doesn’t know them. WWE put them in a position to fail.
Chad Gable and Booby Roode being jealous of them also made no sense to me. Guys, it’s a non-title match. I’m pretty sure you could hit up the McMahons and get a non-title match against the Revival, too. DIY picked up the victory in a very good match, but none of this hit home. The Revival has no clout to give DIY, you know what I mean?
Our first impression of Black was his music hitting and Michael Cole grunting, “AW YEAH!” I hung my head in shame.
Are you the Kool Aid Man, Cole? Is this how you sell a new wrestler?
Black also got this ridiculous marketing elevator pitch or something from commentary. “He fights for the 9-to-5ers who never fit in...” Who cares? Not everything has to be so deep, WWE. Sometimes it’s fun to cheer a dude with cool tattoos who kicks people in the face. Why can’t that be enough?
Black promised to make Elias fade to black before having a match where Elias got in much more offense that I’d assumed he would. Black did get an awesome counter into his Black Mass, though, so that was good. And...yeah. That was it.
We didn’t get any sort of story for any of these guys. They just showed up one day and introduced themselves to the class. And that’s fine, I guess, but it feels like WWE did everything they could to make four special talents NOT feel special. Firstly, they announced their appearances up front; why would you remove the surprise from the equation? Secondly, they were in freaking Lafayette, a city that Google tells me has a population of roughly 126,000. Is that really the best place to debut some potential big players on your flagship show?
It just...it just wasn’t that fun. And that’s a shame.
Brock Lesnar hype videos – These are fine but they just...I just don’t care. We’ll get to WrestleMania and the match with Seth Rollins will be fun. Until then? It’s just whatever.
Ronda Rousey def. Ruby Riott – Why on earth would Ruby get a second chance at the title in kayfabe after her performance at Elimination Chamber? She got crushed.
Riott brought the fight this time, however, scoring a few near falls on the champion before finally getting put down. This closed the show and is pretty much just the calm before the storm coming next week, I’d imagine.
Braun Strowman def. Baron Corbin – So let’s get this straight; Corbin had McIntyre and Lashley backing him up in a no DQ match at Elimination Chamber. And on this show, in a no DQ match...they didn’t have his back.
Drew McIntyre def. Dean Ambrose - McIntyre got in Triple H’s face demanding a chance to replace Rollins...until Dean Ambrose strolled up and slapped him in the face. And now he’s over that whole “main event WrestleMania” thing, I guess.
And then McIntyre squashed him. Ambrose rolled up on Rollins afterwards while the latter was giving a promo and got accused of losing his mind. Ambrose’s response? A wide-eyed stare and shrug. “Eh.”
(That could also double as the review for this show, Cageside.)
Lucha House Party def. Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins – The lovable losers lost to some dudes that Michael Cole says “love to have fun.” Truly the lowest of lows.
Heavy Machinery and Lacey Evans shenanigans – Uh...hmm. I’ve got nothing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Kevin Owens is working us – Did you notice how Owens mentioned rediscovering what he fights for and panning the camera slightly to his son? Everyone seems to think that he’s coming back a good guy but with moments like that...well. Consider me skeptical.
Bayley and Sasha Banks talk about winning their titles – ...This wasn’t good, man. And some of it was how horrid this show’s crowd was, but I’m so sick of hearing people talk about history. And then Nia Jax and Tamina came out and OH GOOD THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED.
...sarcasm, by the way.
The NXT call ups were the only mildly interesting portion of this show. And even THOSE were wasted on a pathetic crowd who couldn’t summon the energy to make their debuts feel like a meaningful thing. I’m not even sure what the solution there would be other than to wait until they’re in a big market to debut NXT folks.
Perhaps WWE could market their “Road to WrestleMania” next year by only visiting big markets in the weeks leading up to their biggest show of the year? I dunno.
Never did I ever suspect I’d give a D on an episode that debuted Black, Ricochet, Gargano, and Ciampa, but Monday Night Raw’s here always good for a surprise, I guess. Your turn.