I’m not here to talk about how much change Paul Heyman is or is not effecting in his new role as Executive Director of Monday Night Raw because, quite frankly, I have no clue what he is or isn’t doing. I just know that the show was much better last week, and while it wasn’t as good this week I still rather enjoyed it.
And that’s because so much of it made sense.
- WWE has pushed the Seth Rollins-Becky Lynch relationship so hard that it only makes sense to push the point that the stipulation of their upcoming match at Extreme Rules could very well have an effect on that. The match itself isn’t something anyone in particular was asking for, and many outright didn’t want, and this angle gives fans something intriguing to focus on, especially those who have strong feelings about WWE showcasing the relationship the way they have.
- To that end, it also makes sense to have Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans explain that they’ll succeed because the relationship they have is strictly business and unencumbered by emotions. That’s just good storytelling.
- I already talked about it here, but I love that Paul Heyman’s promo teasing Brock Lesnar cashing in his Money in the Bank contract at Extreme Rules was a genuine tease and not an advertisement for a thing that isn’t going to happen. It makes a hell of a lot more sense to do it this way.
- The Bobby Lashley-Braun Strowman segment on Raw last week went over really well, and perfectly set up a Last Man Standing match. So they booked one. Easy peasy! Even better, Rey Mysterio, a former champion returning from injury, was fed to Bobby Lashley, who was put over big in the form of squashing said former champion. That’s how you should heat a guy up ahead of a big match at a pay-per-view.
- The Viking Raiders are supposed to be big impressive guys who run through people. It only makes sense to showcase their ability to do just that. So they did.
- The biggest angle to this Ricochet/AJ Styles feud is that the latter has once again joined forces with Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows to reform The Club. It makes sense, then, to showcase just how difficult it will be for Ricochet to overcome such a big challenge. They did just that while also getting over that he might actually be able to pull it off (two out of three ain’t bad!). They also did well to get Ricochet over as a scrappy underdog who won’t quit and Styles as a surprisingly vicious heel who won’t hesitate to do what he has to do to win.
- Extreme Rules is a show all about stipulations, so Bayley and Nikki Cross were put in a Beat-the-Clock Challenge with the winner promised the ability to choose the stip (or in Nikki’s case, winning that ability for Alexa Bliss) for Bayley vs. Bliss for the SmackDown women’s title. The narrative here centers around Nikki’s failure to understand that Alexa is not her friend and is actually using her. The setup to a payoff got even better when Cross won the Beat-the-Clock Challenge and explained to Bayley she’ll tell Bliss to make it a 2-on-1 Handicap match so Nikki can help Alexa win the title. You shouldn’t need me to explain all the ways that sets this story up for its next chapter, and it’s great because there are multiple ways they can go with it to get where they’re so obviously trying to go. Remember, being obvious is not always a bad thing. What’s more important to me is that a story makes sense.
(Editorial note: I wrote this before WWE’s digital teams went ahead and announced that, well, actually, the story they told on television is not actually the story and the match is now a 2-on-1 Handicap. I’m not sure if this is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing or what. It’s at least possible they announced it as a formality and that will be added into the story on SmackDown this week. If that’s the case, it could work out much the same way I mentioned here. If not, well, some things never change, huh?)
- They spent the entire show building to the main event and Shane McMahon picking a scrub for a partner for Roman Reigns. When interviewed about this, Reigns brushed it off in like it was all beneath him while making clear he’s not to be played with and, in fact, it’s he who is doing the playing. Sure enough, McMahon chose a scrub but Cedric Alexander assumed said scrub’s identity. Reigns and Alexander still lost -- you gotta put the heels over headed into the PPV -- but Roman didn’t look like an idiot babyface unable to handle even the most see through plot from his enemies. This is no small thing in WWE, where babyfaces are often booked to look like complete dolts.
There’s also a lot of little stuff like characters from different stories interacting in small ways backstage and the language changing a bit that I really like. But I’m mostly just appreciative that someone, whoever it may be, is taking the time to make sure the stories we see on television make sense.
It’s a low bar to clear, sure, but at least they’re clearing it again.
It wasn’t all good, and there was plenty to dislike about this show, but WWE is definitely taking a lot of steps in the right direction.