Live from ThunderDome!
Someone is going to win tonight’s #1 contender Triple Threat and go on to challenge WWE champ Drew McIntyre at TLC. And despite what the rumor mill said early last week, it looks like it will actually be one of the three men - AJ Styles, Keith Lee & Riddle - who are in the match.
There are arguments to be made for each man and ,especially with SmackDown likely (and deservedly) taking the main event spot on the Dec. 20 PPV, reasons to look forward to 20 minutes between McIntyre and any of the three. But I’m more interested in seeing what’s next for whoever loses the match.
Raw’s midcard is pretty barren. The Hurt Business is established, mostly by virtue of winning their feud with RETRIBUTION. MVP’s group holds the secondary men’s belt, and United States champion Bobby Lashley isn’t currently being chased by anyone in particular. The entire tag scene exists on the undercard, because this is WWE. Raw Tag Team titleholders The New Day are feuding with... The Hurt Business. That’s pretty much it*.
Some of this is a by-product of the brand vs. brand Survivor Series build, and the refreshing decision to give the brand’s men’s team a reward for winning their elimination tag match. But Royal Rumble will be on us before we know it, and that show’s titular match is better with lots of stories running through it.
Fortunately, the qualifying matches won by Lee & Riddle last week provide ready-made midcard programs. The Limitless One beat Lashley by disqualification (of course), which gives him a reason to request a shot at the red, white and blue belt. Riddle and Sheamus went toe-to-toe in a bout it felt like either could win, and there’s no reason either babyface shouldn’t want to run it back.
We need those kinds of rivalries to fill out the three hour show every Monday night. They’re also needed to continue providing new challengers for Drew and the brand’s other big stars. Lee and Riddle are currently in the main event picture without signature wins to put them there. Both look like they belong, but a more traditional build where they actually go over someone else would help fans connect to them (Bro’s 50/50 series with King Corbin may have worked for you, but it didn’t for me).
It’s an issue that plagued the RETRIBUTION launch, and currently has Angel Garza idling on the sidelines. Raw needs established middle-of-the-card stars for new acts to work with. Right now almost everyone is a WWE title contender or a bottom feeder. Hopefully McIntyre will get a new challenger tonight, and the powers-that-be can get to work strengthening the midcard.
* I remembered shortly after typing that Jeff Hardy and Elias are still feuding. But then I forgot about them almost as quickly. When WWE moves your program to Main Event, you’s the bottom of the card. Sorry Ricochet & Mustafa Ali.
The title scene
Raw‘s also going to need multiple men’s feuds, because they’ve linked the two women’s championships into the same story again...
She liked Lana’s moxie, so Raw Women’s champ Asuka joined up with the Ravishing One to stand up to those bullies - and WWE Women’s Tag titleholders - Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler. Jax was denied the chance to put Lana through the announce desk for a tenth time while the Empress pinned Baszler, and this one figure to continue until at least TLC.
But we are a week and counting into R-Truth’s 45th run as 24/7 champion. God is good.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- If the murder of Friendship Frog in the Fun House didn’t make it clear, Alexa Bliss pretending to beg for help so she could lure Nikki Cross into a Sister Abigail sure did. The Lexi Cross knew is gone. And it’s not clear Nikki can do anything about it.
- Perhaps she can interrupt “A Moment of Bliss” tonight to try and get through to her old tag partner? Alexa will welcome Randy Orton to her talk show. The Viper will probably have some questions of his own, seeing as an appearance by The Fiend cost him his match with AJ Styles last week. It’s not like Bray Wyatt hasn’t been warning him...
- Miz will appear, because he has both the Money in the Bank briefcase and a USA Network reality show to promote.
Three weeks until TLC!
What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?