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WWE Raw preview (June 29, 2020): Layers

Another show from the Performance Center in Orlando. This one was taped Saturday. We think. The pesky COVID outbreak makes it hard to keep track.

The Headliner(s)

The next challenger for Drew McIntyre’s WWE championship is almost as out of nowhere as an RKO. Dolph Ziggler wasn’t even on the Raw roster (to whatever extent that matters) this time last week. Now he’s the #1 contender, and will sign a contract for a PPV title shot on tonight’s episode.

When The Show-Off showed up last Monday, revealed along with his trapped-in-Canada tag partner Bobby Roode as the players-to-be-named-later in the AJ Styles “trade”, he argued that Drew owed him a championship opportunity based on their history. Ziggler was the first heel McIntyre played heater for when he was re-introduced on the main roster in 2018, and the duo won tag gold before the Scottish Psychopath decided to go his own way. His own way soon involved being Shane McMahon’s muscle, but that’s a whole nother story...

Using kayfabe history is much appreciated. But some worked shoot background could also spice this feud up, too.

McIntyre being motivated by his 2014 release is a frequent talking point in interviews and on Raw. It’s the backdrop against which his entire “fightin’ babyface champ” persona’s been shot. And the idea that the once Chosen One has had to fight for things others take for granted has shown up in all of his programs since winning the Royal Rumble.

Enter Dolph Ziggler.

Full disclosure - I’ve been blasé about Ziggler since before being blasé about Ziggler was cool. I was one of the handful of people who didn’t pop when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase back in 2013 (this was partially because I was a really big fan of babyface Alberto Del Rio, something I’ll have to reckon with for the rest of my days). DZ’s undeniably talented, but he’s just never been able to make me feel much of anything about his character or matches.

Love him or hate him, though, it’s no secret that Dolph’s decided to cash his Vincent K. McMahon checks, do whatever mid-to-upper-mid-card stuff WWE scripts him to do, and enjoy his life as a stand-up comic & political provocateur. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially since Ziggler rarely seems to phone-in his work the way guys like Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura can.

It does, however, make him a great foil for McIntyre. The current champ eats, sleeps, and breathes wrestling - and especially McMahon’s sports entertainment brand of it. It shouldn’t be the main focus, and I hope it doesn’t involve breaking out shoot names (between Undertaker/Styles and Edge/Orton, we’ve had plenty of that already this year), but it could add some spice to what is likely a one-off program for the champ.

Drew: You’re a cautionary tale for me, Dolph - a reminder to not settle for whatever I’m offered just for showing up.

Dolph: Sounds great, bud. But just wait until the fans turn on you and the boss loses interest. You’ll find out that for all your hard work and passion, you’ll end up just like the rest.

I’d like to see a few lines of dialogue like that thrown into tonight’s contract signing. It would make me say “oh, damn”. But then I was a Del Rio fan, so what do I know.

The title scene

McIntyre/Ziggler is only one of the contract signings we’ll see on June 29. Sasha Banks and Asuka will also sign on the dotted line for an Extreme Rules showdown for the Empress’ Raw Women’s title. There’s a long list of reasons why this is compelling stuff, including but not limited to seeing if they mention Wednesday night’s dream match between The Boss & Io Shirai, or how they tease the lingering issues between Sasha and her fellow Women’s Tag champ Bayley. Mostly, I’m hoping Kairi Sane shows up and we get at least one Role Models vs. Kabuki Warriors match out of the whole deal.

He’s been doing the honorable thing and resisting MVP’s offer of an alliance, and last week United States titleholder Apollo Crews paid for it when Bobby Lashley full nelson-ed him into la-la land. Crews will want payback, but MVP wants his old red, white, and blue belt back in his stable - and he’s got the numbers on his side.

They finally proved they’re better than their friends Erik & Ivar. Now it looks like Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins may be defending their Raw Tag Team championship against the ridiculously attractive duo of Andrade & Angel Garza, managed by the ridiculously attractive Zelina Vega. If only the Street Profits were associated with a talented & beautiful female who could even the odds...

It was more due to Lashley & MVP than his ninjas, but Akira Tozawa has the 24/7 title. He’s just keeping it warm for R-Truth’s 37th reign, though.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Rey & Dominik Mysterio called out Seth Rollins last Monday. They not only left with all four of their eyes, but they formed a quartet with Humberto Carrillo & Aleister Black to chase off the Monday Night Messiah and his acolytes, Murphy & Austin Theory. Will Rollins add a fourth to his team to help ensure his message is heard?

- It looks like we’re getting an Orton vs. Big Show match soon, which is fine. But for the love of god, please keep Ric Flair at home during a resurgent pandemic.

- One Flair who’s staying home right now is Charlotte. She was written out in storyline by Nia Jax last week, and looks to be taking at least a few weeks off for personal matters IRL. We’ll see what Nia does until The Queen returns.

- We could be getting a Riott Squad reunion, and Ruby & Liv Morgan might be facing the newly allied Lana & Natalya once they get back together.

Three weeks until Extreme Rules!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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