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WWE Raw preview (Aug. 17, 2020): Swerve?

It’s the last episode from the Performance Center in Orlando. At least for a while. This one taped last week.

The Headliner(s)

Our previous ‘sode ended with WWE champion Drew McIntyre escorting a group of medics as they wheeled Ric Flair out of the P.C. Flair had been low blowed and then punted in the head by McIntyre’s SummerSlam challenger Randy Orton moments before, the latest legend “killed” by the Legend Killer.

Or was he?

Those rapscallions RETRIBUTION were busy again last Monday, and the lights were flickering on and off during Orton’s betrayal of The Nature Boy. One such flicker occurred, conveniently, at the exact moment Randy put his boot to Flair’s head. My initial thought - and still a very likely explanation - is that WWE used the new group’s mischief-making as cover so The Viper didn’t actually have to deliver even a worked kick to a 71 year old with an extensive recent history of medical trouble. They’ve used other editing tricks to soften the blow (so to speak) on punts to Edge & Christian, two guys with neck & brain injuries. Maybe they just took the opportunity provided by Aces & 5’8”s to do something other than a rapid camera cut?

The alternate theory, floated by numerous commenters & tweeters, as well as Wrestling Observer Radio’s Bryan Alvarez, is that this a scheme plotted by the former Evolution members. Perhaps they had someone turn out the lights, knowing people would assume it was due to RETRIBUTION’s attacks on production. McIntyre would then think Naitch was off the board, opening the door for a surprise return that helps Orton win his 14th WWE World title.

It’s a level of cheating we haven’t seen from 2020 Randall Keith, but it could make sense if the goal is to protect McIntyre ahead of another run with the belt when fans return to arenas.

I’m not sold, but it’s a fun theory to think about. Another thing it makes me think about... could the announced Shawn Michaels appearance for tonight’s show give us some more clues, or even the reveal?

Waiting until the PPV would maximize the surprise, and the strategic advantage for team Orton. But WWE is pretty invested in having big moments happen on their TV broadcasts these days, and there’s lots of history between HBK and Flair to play off of. This would also stack the deck for Sunday, and you know how wrestling loves to give babyface main eventers things to overcome.

But Ric was probably punted out of storylines until after a COVID vaccine, right? Even if the most obvious answer is correct, the possibility of a short-to-medium length con by The Viper is fun to think about.

The title scene

Sasha Banks knows what she’s facing at SummerSlam, and it’s the same challenge her best friend Bayley has in front of her. Asuka is now gunning for both The Boss’ Raw Women’s title and Bay’s SmackDown one. What cracks will develop in The Golden Role Models alliance as a result? And will we find out who they’re defending the WWE Women’s Tag Team championship against at Aug. 30’s Payback?

MVP is invested in bending United States champ Apollo Crews ahead of their next match on Sunday, but last week he wouldn’t let his Hurt Business colleague Bobby Lashley break Crews. Will he continue to be as sportsmanlike tonight?

Zelina Vega swears it wasn’t her, but someone tried to break Montez Ford by poisoning his Solo cup. Bianca Belair doesn’t believe Vega, and beat her last week to send a message about messing with her man. The EST also vowed Ford would be back for Street Profits Raw Tag Team championship defense against Angel Garza & Andrade at SummerSlam.

He got his baby back, and that means R-Truth will need to have his head on a swivel to keep his 24/7 title. Good luck telling Akira Tozawa’s ninjas from the roving anarchists who jumped Big E & John Morrison on Friday...

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- There’s no mystery about the attack that opened last week’s Raw. Seth Rollins and his acolyte Murphy definitely left Dominik Mystery a bloodied & bruised mess after a vicious kendo stick assault. Things seem very likely to escalate on the last show before Dom’s official debut against Rollins in a Street Fight on Sunday, especially if papa Rey shows up tonight as teased by WWE.

- Social media snobs Lana & Natalya horned in on Mickie James’ return interview last Monday. James decline their TikTok tips, and tonight will try to prove Nattie isn’t the #BOAT (best of all-time).

- Liv Morgan & Ruby Riott’s reunion hit a snag when Riott’s attempts to neutralize Billie Kay distracted Morgan during her loss to Peyton Royce. Can these two crazy kids get on the same page?

- We should be getting our third helping of Raw Underground tonight. Shane McMahon will be there, and it’s safe to assume Dabba-Kato will be, too. What other new faces or repeat visitors will we see? And will the gimmick ever tie into what’s going on above ground?

It’s the SummerSlam go home!

What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?

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