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WWE Raw preview (July 1, 2019): Failing upwards

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WWE kicks off a holiday week in Dallas.

The Headliner(s)

In the span of about 24 hours, Samoa Joe lost the United States championship to Ricochet at Stomping Grounds, then was announced as WWE champ Kofi Kingston’s challenger for Extreme Rules. He attacked Kofi on last week’s Raw to piss off the champ and get his latest title shot.

In the same time period, Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans lost Universal and Raw Women’s title shots, respectively, to Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch, then got a mixed tag match where both belts will be on the line. This was explained a little better - if the champs win, Corbin and Evans won’t get any further title opportunities against The Man and The Beastslayer.

WWE is counting on these “hey, the champions wanted them” match explanations to silence critics who want more logical storytelling (and who still remember when the McMahons vowed they were doing away with championship rematches and thought it might mean we wouldn’t get situations like Lynch vs. Evans for four straight pay-per-view (PPV) events).

The novelty of a real-life romance being used in a kayfabe match with stakes is supposed to excite us so much we’ll forget that neither Corbin & Rollins or Evans & Lynch have demonstrated a ton of in-ring chemistry. Seth being smitten with Becky is supposed to distract us from noticing how everyone except Vince McMahon and Kurt Angle has rejected the Lone Wolf as a main eventer.

One thing which will work, at least for this viewer, is Joe. It’s become pretty clear WWE sees him as a guy they can plug into main event programs and get an entertaining result, even as it’s become equally clear WWE probably won’t give him the WWE or Universal titles. But I’m down for a couple weeks of the Samoan Submission Machine saying evil-sounding $#!+ to Kingston before he eventually puts the bully down.

Whether any of it works for you, however, it’s pretty clear that other companies who are vowing to make wins and loses matter don’t have a very high bar to clear. The top company in the business routinely tells stories where their characters fail their way into title matches.

At least they recognize their are problems. Will see if this is one of the things a Paul Heyman-led Raw addresses.

The title scene

As of now, if the new Exective Director is on tonight’s show, it sounds like it will only be as Brock Lesnar’s advocate. The Beast still has a Money in the Bank briefcase he could use against either Rollins or Kingston, so Paul E. will have plenty of stuff to talk about if he does show. His client is not advertised, but as a certain Dead Man we’ll discuss more in a minute reminded us last Monday, you just never know.

Some who definitely earned a title shot, even if it was in another cliche way Heyman and fellow new Excecutive Director Eric Bischoff would do well to leave in the past, is AJ Styles. The Phenomenal One pinned a loss on Ricochet the night after he won his first main roster belt, and the preview for tonight’s episode is talking up a rematch with the red, white and blue belt on the line.

Did The Usos pinning Scott Dawson of Raw Tag champs The Revival set them up for a championship match? Or did the bad blood which emerged in last week’s four-on-four bout between the Top Guys and SmackDown Tag champs Daniel Bryan & Rowan point to something else?

Beat the champs, get a title shot also happened in the Women’s Tag title scene. With a win in Tokyo this past Friday, Kabuki Warriors earned a bout for The IIconics belts. Kairi Sane & Asuka are on the blue brand roster, so this may wait until tomorrow night. Unless... WILD CARD.

R-Truth and his 48/7 European Television Superstar title (aka the 24/7 championship) are hiding until he can’t hide no more. Will Drake Maverick or a new challenger try to pin him before he makes it to the SmackDown show?

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Well, that escalated quickly. And yet somehow slowly, too. Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley go from tests of stength to Falls Count Anywhere in Big D.

- He’s not advertised for the show, but he wasn’t last week, either. And we are in his home state. The Undertaker is set to team-up with the man who beat him at WrestleMania 33, and it seems like he and Roman Reigns should settle ownership of the yard before they face Shane McMahon & Drew McIntyre on Sun., July 14 in Philadelphia at Extreme Rules.

- It’s leading to another SmackDown Women’s title shot, but Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross are technically Raw Superstars, so we’ll be watching for signs of strength or weakness in their friendship on the red show.

- When he’s not watching his back for Joe or Brock, Kofi will either be wrestling with or watching his New Day brothers as they take on Viking Raiders.

- Some of his friends escaped the Firefly Fun House last week. Will Bray follow them out? How about a certain Fiend?

Two weeks until Extreme Rules!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?