I need to clear my throat for my best Vince McMahon impression. Welcome everyone, to Monday Night Raw!. This is your weekly recap written by me, the guy with the byline. Be sure to check out Claire’s stellar blog for more details of the night, then come back here for some insights. Back? Good. And before we get there, Happy birthday to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Let’s talk Raw!
Freakin’ All Mighty
There must be a better way to feature Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley on Raw. One week before their respective championship matches, pitting them against each other can’t be the brightest idea WWE had. Will it be a quality match? Of course. These two cats know how to tell a story and they’re both at the top of their physical game. But c’mon! The second WWE announced this match, it was clear a DQ was in the cards because neither man can afford an L before Royal Rumble.
We know the Uso’s are Roman’s goons and want to do work to make the Tribal Chief proud. Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin are scorned lovers with a desire to prove their worth to Bobby Lashley and MVP. It stands to reason all four of those cats want to make life miserable for Seth and Bobby. No argument there and the logic is sound. But why oh why is it a match between the two of them? Put Seth and Bobby in separate matches against different opponents and produce the same ending. Because, yup. the match ended in a DQ.
To make matters worse, I don’t know who I’m supposed to cheer for. Seth is clearly a heel, duh, but Bobby isn’t exactly dancing with the angels either. Bobby’s alignment seemingly depends on the week and whatever WWE needs done.
So instead of a compelling main event story, I’m watching two guys who I know can’t lose so the only question is how does the match end. And the way it ended wasn’t unique to this particular match.
I say this a lot but one issue with Raw is the lack of internal logic. Even if we get a good or great match, the internal reasoning for said match isn’t consistently there. This was one of those times. Cats like Seth and Bobby just deserve better than this. On Raw, Seth is wrestling Bobby for basketball reasons. On SmackDown, he’s sparring with Reigns on the microphone and sinking his teeth into an interesting psychological story playing on their history as a team and as individuals. Funny how that works.
The one thing of note, however, is Seth working Lashley’s knee. This knee gave Bobby trouble in the past, so one wonders—that one is me—if this comes back to haunt the All Mighty during his match with Brock Lesnar. And with Cedric and Shelton lurking, Bobby needs to deal with them sooner rather than later because he has to know they’re just itching to ruin his shot at the WWE Championship. Right?
A Spelling Bro-KO
Chad Gable is a gem. Cherish him and *ahem* acknowledge him, because he’s finding his groove like a DJ right now. I don’t want to say he’s doing a modern version of Kurt Angle’s early obnoxious character, but I also don’t want to not say it. The similarities are there and it’s working, so let’s enjoy it. Alpha Academy’s graduation ceremony, as part of their tag team championship celebration, was incredible. Mostly because of Chad.
But this is wrestling so you know where this is headed: Riddle showed up in graduation regalia, asked for a rematch, and Randy came out to a surprise. Between all that, Alpha Academy granted RK-Bro the rematch under one condition: The former tag champs must defeat Gable and Otis in mental challenge.
What’s a mental challenge, you ask? I imagine it’s like an academic decathlon. Or a sped up spelling bee. Or maybe it’s Chad’s version of Squid Game. Either way, there will be blood, tears, and laughs.
My enjoyment of this feud between Edge, Beth Phoenix, Miz and Maryse is known in these parts. While this segment didn’t reinvent the wheel or increase my excitement for their Royal Rumble match, it served its purpose. What purpose? Get the crowd to hate Maryse even more and give Beth more reasons to whoop her ass.
I’d say hitting Beth with a brick disguised as a purse is just the thing to make that happen. Maryse was less convincing here than previous weeks. She sounded so disingenuous as opposed to the last two weeks where her face and body language spoke very loudly. The set up was obvious but like I said, the hate for Maryse is strong. It’s simple, effective, and the best build for a match Raw has going for it at the moment.
If there’s one big knock on the segment, it’s the commentary. Homegirl hit Beth with a BRICK. And the guys at the booth sold it with the same emotion they would if it were a chair.
First off, Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins are hilarious together. The humor comes from the fact we all expect them to turn on each other at the drop of a dime. Seth’s appearance on the KO Show was filled with moments like this, especially when Seth easily offered his “best friend” as a sacrifice to an interrupting Damian Priest. I’m not sure how this translates when the two finally duke it out because none of us buy it. But Seth and KO are pros so they’ll figure it out.
But let’s get to the match. Damian Priest. Kevin Owens. United States Championship not on the line. Just a fun spirit of competition match. And unsurprisingly, it was a damn good match. My one knock is there was nothing on the line, no stakes, and as of now serves no purpose, but hey they did the best with what they were given.
KO got the W by faking out Damian and the ref, playing them both for fools when he faked a knee injury. Damian dropped his guard and got dropped by a stunner.
Raw kicked off with the standard back and forth between a champion and her challengers. Doudrop, Bianca Belair, and Liv Morgan all hit the ring with different agendas. Doudrop to warn Becky Lynch about the ills of getting what you ask for, while Bianca and Liv announced their intentions to win this year’s women’s Rumble.
Oh and then a relatively quick tag match happened, with Bianca and Liv in one corner, while Becky and Doudrop begrudgingly shared another corner. Becky and Doudrop obviously didn’t get along, engaging in a game of “anything you can do, I can stop you from doing so I can do it.” Becky hit a blind tag early in the match, only for Doudrop to repay the favor. Doudrop broke up Becky’s pin attempt on Liv, dragged Becky back to their corner, tagged herself in, and finished Liv for the 1-2-3.
After the way Raw ended last week, it was necessary to get momentum on Doudrop’s side and make her look like actual competition to Ms. Lynch and not an afterthought. With two weeks to go, there’s still a lot of work to do on that front. But we gotta start somewhere, right?
Random Tags for Rumble Prep
Every man for himself. We say it every year during the Royal Rumble, but it’s better to show instead of tell. The Street Profits and the Mysterios picked up the W over the Dirty Dawgz, Apollo, and Commander Azeez. While celebrating, the Mysterios tossed the Profits out of the ring, only for Rey to show his son just how true that “every man for himself” rule really is. Dominik dropped his guard and got tossed out the ring too.
Harmless, fun match that tells the story WWE tells every year but takes a different shape based on the individuals involved: Even the closest tag teams have no alliances when the WrestleMania main event is on the line. Not even blood is thicker than the Mania payday.
No glib headline here. Finn Balor took a clean L to Austin Theory this week. Why? Shrug. But if Austin didn’t win, Vince threatened to “beat him” in a very visceral way. I wanted to see it happen because if a man that old can do the things Vince said, that’s more impressive than any wrestling match. It’s hard to get into the match itself when Finn is crash test dummy in this weird thing between Austin and McMahon.
And no, it’s nowhere near as compelling or exciting as the last time Vince paired himself with a guy named Austin. To say nothing of the undertones of which WWE clearly isn’t aware. Plus? Vince just looks bad on television and the old man just doesn’t have his fastball anymore.
Almost a Match
Nikki A.S.H. showed a lot of aggression and beat the pants of Rhea Ripley before their match even started. So, yeah, no match. Just more set up for their eventual clash. Which is a good thing because a match this week feels too soon for them.
Omos pinned Reggie with one foot. That’s it.
Actually, I lied. Omos beat AJ Styles. Let me repeat that: Omos beat AJ Styles. And in the aftermath of that victory, he pinned Wrestle McWrestler (not his actual name) and now Reggie. So what was the point of him beating AJ? This is what happens when one books themselves into a corner.
I like Alexa Bliss and miss her. But these therapy session segments aren’t the move. The only good thing about them is they’re short and over before they begin.
Raw is...average. And that’s OK! This week featured Edge, Beth, Maryse and Miz doing dope work as usual, a fun tag match, a segment that sports entertained me, and a couple good matches. But on the whole, it felt like an average episode of a program that often just clears the bar.
Here’s hoping the Royal Rumble go home show is at least putting in an effort for an A.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.