Live from ThunderDome!
On a couple recent occasions in this space, we’ve advocated for the Draft as a “fix” for performers and the show itself. But as we approach the second part of this year’s roster restructuring effort on Raw tonight, it occurs to me we’ve been helping WWE sell... I don’t want to say snake oil. But the Draft is at best a placebo.
It sounds exciting in theory. But WWE doesn’t understand and/or doesn’t care what makes things like the NFL & NBA Drafts exciting for football and basketball fans. More importantly, though, they’re not interested in actually changing their main roster shows.
Which isn’t to say nothing happens. The kayfabe logic being used by the nonexistent authority figures making these picks is shite, but we do get some different match-ups out of the Draft. Performer and writers get new scenarios to try to make lemonade (or chicken salad, depending on your aphorism of choice) out of. 90% of the time it’s the break-up of a tag team, but it is something.
A given show can go on a hot or cold streak after the Draft, turning in weeks or even months of quality or crappy episodes. But we’ve also seen runs of good and bad programming start at other points on the calendar.
One of the things you’ll hear is that some wrestlers need “a change of scenery”. That very well might be true, but wearing a red t-shirt instead of a blue one during the month of November ain’t a change of scenery. Look at Kevin Owens, who’s changed brands in the last three Drafts. Has it led to a second run with one of WWE’s top belts? Or precipitated a fall down the card?
Nope. KO is where he is - an obviously valuable piece of the puzzle WWE can keep in the upper mid-card scene, and occasionally move into a main event role. But wherever he’s drafted, he’s unlikely to ever be pushed as one of their marquee attractions.
And there’s nothing wrong with that! Owens excels in any role the company gives him. Currently, that’s meant serving as a catalyst for Alexa Bliss & Bray Wyatt’s program on SmackDown while feuding with Aleister Black on Raw. His rivalry with Black will give us a No Disqualification match tonight, and with everyone in KO’s orbit in the Draft pool for tonight, that stipulation could lead to some revealing developments.
There’s every reason to get excited for that storyline, and whatever other angles Owens gets over the coming year. He’s an entertaining performer and a great wrestler. Likewise, look forward to matches we haven’t seen much of in the past, like AJ Styles vs. Drew McIntyre.
Fans give WWE a lot of crap. Sometimes it’s deserved. Sometimes it might not be. But most of us stick around because amidst the stuff we don’t like, they give us characters and stories we really enjoy. We also like talking to our friends about the good and the bad of Raw and SmackDown.
All that will continue to be true after the 2020 Draft is over. Because while some people and stories will move around, it’s still the same WWE.
The title scene
More than half the company’s championships are in play in some form or fashion tonight, so this will be a bit of a lightning round...
Drew McIntyre and the WWE title are sticking around on Raw, and headed to a third match with Randy Orton at Hell in a Cell later this month - even though McIntyre won the first two. The Viper did pin the the champ last Monday, in a six-man that also featured...
Potenital new challengers for Raw Tag Team champs Street Profits. Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler are being set-up as challengers for Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins, but new SmackDown Tag Team champions Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston were drafted to Raw on Friday. The New Day probably wants the smoke, and tonight may be their only chance to get it.
Raw Women’s titleholder Asuka is staying on Monday nights, and she likes to loudly remind the world that no one is ready for her. So tonight the ring will fill up with women from both brands, battle royaling for an opportunity to face the Empress. Past Asuka foes Bayley and Sasha Banks are getting ready for a Hell in a Cell match on Oct. 25, but they could be included in tonight’s bout- and SmackDown Women’s champ Bayley could be drafted to Raw before the night is through.
Even though their titles allow them to work all three of WWE’s brands, Raw used a pick on WWE Women’s Tag Team champs Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler. They made quick work of Liv Morgan & Ruby Riott last Monday, and await their next challengers. Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke? Sure, why not.
The Hurt Business is staying on the red brand, and United States titleholder Bobby Lashley may have finally finished feuding with Apollo Crews last week. Which is good, because he, MVP, Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander could be first on RETRIBUTION’s to do list. Intercontinental champ Sami Zayn is eligible to be drafted tonight.
One week and counting on R-Truth’s 42nd run as 24/7 champion. God is good.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- A week after he was revealed as RETRIBUTION’s leader, Mustafa Ali will address the people watching the show produced by the company the group’s sworn to destroy. Maybe we’ll find out whether he was the SmackDown hacker, and how revealing Dolph Ziggler & Sonya Deville’s plot to the world was part of his master plan?
- The entire Rollins/Mysterio drama moves to Fridays soon, but not before at least one more sermon from the Monday Night Messiah. Seth wants to say goodbye to Raw, and we’ll probably see Aalyah tell her dad & brother she’s not ready to stop texting Muprhy.
- He’s in the pool for tonight, but Braun Strowman proved last week he’ll show up wherever he wants, whenever he wants. And after his “exhibition” with Keith Lee ended with both of them flying off the stage, we figure the Monster Among Men will still be looking the Limitless One.
Two weeks until Hell In A Cell!
What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?