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Raw recap & reactions (Nov. 15, 2021): Brand warfare is a joke

The Survivor Series go home edition of Raw lacked urgency and made curious decisions. But is it worth three hours of your life?

All Star Warfare

There’s something to be said about WWE paying lip service to the “brand warfare” thing this year. So, I’ll say it: They’re paying a lot of lip service to the idea of brand warfare this year. Which is probably why, if I’m correct, Jimmy Smith referred to Survivor Series as an All Star game. There’s less at stake than a Philly Chicken, and there’s a whole lot of “I” in team on Raw and SmackDown. Need proof? Of course you do.

This week’s show opened with the Big WWE Champion rightly calling out Roman Reigns. The Tribal Chief laid hands on King Woods, obviously crossing one of the champ’s lines. He promised to get medieval on Reigns’ hind parts, with hospital beds already reserved for each member of the Bloodline. They’re the the ICU if E has his way.

After a confluence of events, including a quick back and forth between Big E and Kevin Owens, the Usos got involved to deliver a message from the Tribal Chief. That whole “I” in team thing I mentioned earlier? Evident when the entire Raw locker room didn’t clear out to defend their champion from SmackDown invaders. Eventually Riddle showed up, but he and his tag partner have a date with the Usos at Survivor Series, so that makes sense.

Sonya Deville and the spirit of Teddy Long called for an impromptu tag match with Riddle x Big E facing Jimmy and Jey. But not before Seth Rollins danced his way to the ring. Did he help his Raw compadres? Of course not. Seth attacked them, which initiated a Randy Orton save, and a traditional tag match turned into a six-man.

I get it. The point was to get a Survivor Series “preview” between WWE’s two men’s tag champions and further the animosity between E and Seth. But the match only served to do one of those things. And with no real consequences involved, it didn’t do that well. Seth picked up the win for his team getting a pin over Riddle, seemingly unconcerned with Big E. Randy dished out an RKO to the Right Hand Man, left the ring with Riddle by his side, and once again chided him for, as Avon Barksdale used to say, playing away games.

But this brought us full circle. E had his own message for Jey’s “daddy,” which looked a lot like a Big Ending. And it just didn’t do it for me. E’s tone of voice and vicious demeanor called for, to borrow someone’s phrase, brutality. I wanted E to decimate Jey. The man engineered an attack on one of E’s best friends. No, one of E’s brothers. Rather than leaving me excited for whatever transpires between Jey’s cousin and the WWE Champion, I’m less excited.

There’s a disconnect between the rhetoric outside of the ring and the action inside of the ring. The Bloodline annihilated Xavier Woods. They even used steel stairs and told him to eat all that. Then Reigns took the crown Woods fought his whole life for, put it on his head, and crowned himself King Tribal Chief. And the best E can muster is a couple threats and a Big Ending? Nah, that ain’t it.

E’s promo and intensity said he’s choosing violence. E’s “message” was signed, sealed, and delivered with the same pen as usual.

Becky 2 Face

A lot of cats in WWE find themselves serving two masters at the moment. Becky Lynch is one of them as she’s juggling her cross-brand feud with Charlotte Flair and her on the horizon beef with Liv Morgan. Ordinarily, I’d dump on the idea of serving two masters because inevitably, one of those stories will feel less than.

But props to Becky, Liv, and WWE as a whole here because they managed to spin a couple plates in the air and not have any fall on anyone’s head. Becky came to the ring as a conquering babyface, soaking in the crowd’s adulation and responding to Charlotte’s latest promo in the fashion that made Becky a rock star. It felt honest, personal, and reminded everyone why their beef is everlasting.

But then Liv came to the ring and Becky switched sides like a water ride. Liv wanted her props for earning the number one contender spot. And Becky immediately went from enduring to condescending. The champ even brought out a Talking Smack clip of Liv telling the world Becky’s last words to her before she left to become a mom.

Becky believed Liv would be the champ by the time she came back. Rather than sympathize with Liv or even show some respect to her for finally getting in a position to fulfill Becky’s prophecy, the champ mocked her challenger.

Liv and Becky turned their history on its head for the foundation of this story. Becky did believe in Liv, but realizes that faith was misplaced. Liv wants to prove Becky and everyone else wrong. She isn’t blaming Becky for her lack of success since that fateful day in 2020 either; she just wants a shot.

Liv still needs more mic time to truly hang with Becky, because, yeah, no contest. But she did get the upper hand on her in this exchange with a quick counter out of the Manhandle Slam and stood tall with the championship in her hand.

They’ve got a lot more work to do, but this is a pretty dope start.


Take a Look at the Bad Guy?

There’s a nice Psycho II allusion WWE is telling with Kevin Owens. Earlier, he told us all to say hello to the bad guy. We didn’t believe him when he said he turned over a new leaf, so now he’s going to light every leaf on fire and laugh as the forest burns to the ground. KO says Big E pushed him to this and everything he does going forward is on E’s head. Psycho II saw Norman Bates in a similar position. Everyone believed Norman was the same psycho and wasn’t a new man. In the end, he gave in and became what everyone said he was because they wouldn’t let him be. If you’ve seen Psycho II then you know how that ends, but the story on KO is still in progress.

Owens and Finn Balor fought for two reasons: The latter needed a new opponent after Seth Rollins called an audible, and the former just wanted to beat someone up.

The match was good. Actually, it was very good. But once again, it was tell and no show. KO told us he was “breaking bad” this week, right? Commentary reinforced that point several times. How did he beat Finn? Fair and square in the middle of the ring. What did he do post match? Get his hand raised and stare at his fallen opponent. That’s it.

If you’re telling me this guy has a new attitude and ready to run roughshod over the competition, then, maybe show him doing that. So far, KO’s bark is a lot louder than his toothless bite.

Lack of Authority

First off, Bobby Lashley is a freak. The things that man can do in the ring with grown human beings is astonishing.

Okay and now the rest of the stuff. Austin Theory is in and Rey Mysterio is out as it relates to the Survivor Series team. Why? Because apparently Adam Pearce has an axe to grind with the Mysterios. And I don’t get it. Lashley dominated Dominik’s dad and Adam replaced the beaten down former champion with Theory, who attacked Dominik after the match. Apparently, Pearce “likes Theory’s style” so there we are.

Politics as Usual

That target on Bianca Belair’s back got a tad bigger as Tamina took aim this week. Tamina, feeling like Doudrop, wanted to take the former champ down a couple of notches to make a point. Yeah, that didn’t happen. The two put on an okay match that was just a prelude to Doudrop coming out and saying she...wasn’t going to take advantage of Bianca’s weakened state to attack her. I don’t get that. If you want her and you’re popping all that tough talk, go get her now.

Fast Money

The Street Profits and Alpha Academy both want to move up the ladder for the tag team championships. On this night, the Profits barely got the victory as the Academy pushed them to the limit.

50/50 Reign

Queen Zelina defeated Nikki A.S.H. while Rhea Ripley trounced Carmella. The story here is Nikki as the weak link of the Women’s tag team champs, and her absence from the women’s Survivor Series team solidifying that. Cool.

Colossus of Clout

AJ Styles and Omos don’t like the Dirty Dawgz. Omos made that clear this week when they dominated both men while AJ batted clean up. Meh.

Another week, another uneven show with logic that just doesn’t add up in spots where it needs to. Adam Pearce was Raw’s central character tonight, apparently under pressure because he “needs” Raw to win at Survivor Series. But, and here’s the rub, he’s in charge of Raw and SmackDown! There was an easy answer here if WWE wanted it: Put Pearce in charge of the Raw team and Sonya in charge of the SmackDown team, put something meaningful on the line, and let the story write itself.

Instead, we’re getting a storyline that doesn’t look right even through a funhouse mirror. Pearce needs E focused on Reigns? Why? The fact we got a very good match from two cats who normally have very good matches, and a fun tag match doesn’t paper over the lack of logic and incongruent character moments.

Grade: D

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your Turn.

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