In many ways, this week’s (May 24) episode of Raw felt like a rerun. At the very least, WWE struggled to fill out the three hour runtime with new ideas. This was evident when the show featured several rematches that we’ve already seen in recent weeks: Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka, Sheamus vs. Humberto Carrillo, Shelton Benjamin vs. Cedric Alexander, and Natalya & Tamina vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler.
The show began with a 20+ minute match between Drew McIntyre and Kofi Kingston that ended in a disqualification, with Adam Pearce simply booking a rematch for the following week and admitting that “nothing’s changed.” WWE was seemingly killing time with this match because they don’t have enough interesting stories on Raw to fill out three hours right now.
Most of the matches throughout this Raw lasted longer than I would typically expect, with even mid card matches getting video packages ahead of time to soak up additional time. With no appearances in the ring from superstars such as Randy Orton, Braun Strowman, Damian Priest, John Morrison, Angel Garza, Alexa Bliss, Jinder Mahal, Ricochet, Mustafa Ali, Mansoor, MACE, Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, T-BAR, Viking Raiders, Jeff Hardy, Naomi, and Lana, it felt like WWE was trying to fill out three hours with a severely short-handed roster. That’s hard to fathom, considering how large their roster is.
This episode was capped off with a show-closing angle teasing a match between Shayna Baszler and Reginald. Something felt way off here, because it’s hard to imagine a match like that being featured as the final hook for tuning into next week’s program.
WWE has a difficult challenge on their hands with keeping Raw fresh. That’s always been an issue to some extent in the three hour format, but that problem is hitting really hard right now. It’s ultimately an indictment on Vince McMahon’s stagnant creative vision and unwillingness to try new things. Keith Lee’s mysterious absence from WWE television really stands out during an episode like this that has no business stretching to three full hours.
Raw needs some kind of jolt in the short-term, especially with the NBA playoffs contributing to Raw landing its lowest viewership numbers of the year. That’s where Finn Bálor comes in to play. He’s been a top guy in NXT for more than a year and a half, and his latest loss against NXT champion Karrion Kross is a reasonable place to wrap up Finn’s story there. Raw is desperate for a talent of his caliber.
I don’t have any misconceptions that Vince McMahon is going to push Bálor in a significantly different way than he did in prior years on the main roster. Even so, Finn was occasionally pushed into big time matches against top stars like Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and
Baron Corbin AJ Styles. Finn’s presence can definitely make a difference on Raw in the short-term. On top of that, it sounds like Finn is interested in making this happen.
Raw desperately needs a shiny new toy right now, and fans are returning. It’s time to call Finn Bálor back up to the main roster.