Welcome to Randy Orton’s Monday Night Raw!. While Orton celebrates 20 years in WWE this week, Claire and I are covering every angle. Read her blog for the wrist locks and drop kicks, then come here to find out why it all happened.
Let’s talk Raw!
Monday Night Raw started with a tribute to Randy Orton. Riddle threw a mini celebration for his partner’s 20th year on the job, and invited Cody Rhodes to join the festivities. Cody and Randy’s history made it a cool moment, but Seth Rollins, decked out in his latest Candy Cane wear, made it a great segment. Seth reminded Cody of something we all have from time to time: It’s not always about him.
This led to an absurd moment where Ezekiel showed up! Seriously, he just showed up with a microphone, introduced himself to everyone—eliciting a very funny “Ezekiel, right?” from Randy—and gave his own verbal flowers to the Viper.
Kevin Owens said “nah!” very loudly and stopped the madness because Elias is hustling the entire world. Then came The Uso’s, because duh.
To make a long story short, Adam Pearce booked a four man tag match for Raw’s main event. The Uso’s, Seth, and KO in one corner, RK-Bro, Cody Rhodes, and Zeke in the other.
I love when feuds criss cross. Every man in this match has their own beef across the ring, so putting them together in a big match kills several birds with one gigantic stone. While the Zeke and KO feud didn’t get the smoothest insertion, I’ll allow it based on how entertaining this story is at the moment.
The entire match was built around Randy getting the hot tag. This was his night, so it only fitting the Knoxville crowd saw him as the hero.
Randy, in this role, provides so much energy to tag matches because he plays the hits. We got the snap powerslams, we got three cats suplexed into commentary tables, one hanging DDT, and free RKO’s for all the bad guys. In fact, one might argue the we got a delayed ending to the match just to see everyone fall prey to an RKO.
To the surprise of no one, Randy got the W for the good guys and sent everyone in the crowd home happy. This was a fun match designed to let the eight men involved showcase their skills. The only true story development we got was way before the match when The Street Profits declared they’re up next against whoever walks out of WrestleMania Backlash as unified tag champs.
The more I think about it, that lack of story progression is my one issue here. There’s nothing learned this week that we didn’t already know. It’s a longstanding problem within WWE that dope or potentially dope matches are booked before the story to get us there plays out. The reverse engineering results in several weeks of people running in place with no compelling narrative.
Do I want to see RK-Bro and The Uso’s wrestle? Of course. And with a title on the line, there’s a school of thought that says they don’t need the usual narrative twists and turns. But watching them wrestle each other in different configurations for weeks with no shifts in the story makes every clash less interesting.
Sometimes, it’s okay to just let your great wrestlers go wild in the ring, and we got that this week. But someone needs to keep their eye on the larger story and move that story forward. Just because your match features KO doing a very impressive senton bomb from the top rope doesn’t mean you get cut corners.
Power of Abuse
Every week, I stress the importance of logic in my professional sports entertainment. The matches, which are just extensions of the story, need to make sense. If Bianca Belair is defending her championship against a WWE official, then it makes sense for said official to bend the rules in her favor.
Of course Deville restarted the match after getting counted out. Of course she made the match no DQ after she got caught blatantly hitting the champ in the back with a chair. And, duh, she invited two other heels, Carmella and Queen Zelina, to join in on her reindeer games.
This match was less about Sonya’s battle with Bianca and more about the evolving story of her position within WWE. That means it was a lot of “gaga” for Bianca’s hometown crowd, designed to throw a lot of heat on Sonya. Hoisted on her own petard, Sonya sealed her fate when Bianca threw her head first into the same steel chair she brought into the ring. If musical chairs taught us anything as children, it’s that those who live by the chair also die by the chair.
Bianca dispatched Zelina and Carmella, hit the KOD on Deville, and celebrated in front of the home crowd.
But wait, there’s more!
Post match, Sonya berated the Queen and Mella. As it turns out, Sonya promised Mella and the Queen tag title shots if they delivered her the Raw Women’s title. Since that didn’t happen, that title match isn’t happening either. Sonya then slapped fire out of both women. Between Sonya’s slaps and Lash Legend’s kick to Nikkita Lyons a couple weeks ago, the women in WWE are hitting harder than the men.
We know Sonya’s time as Adam Pearce’s partner is in its twilight. How we get there and what happens as a result is where WWE needs to stick the landing.
Came From Tomorrow to the Big Time
ASUKA IS BACK! Becky Lynch returned and cut a promo that started reflexive and depressing, noting how she doesn't know who she is without the championship around her waist. Funny enough, the same thing she accused Charlotte Flair of many moons ago.
Once Becky’s promo turned defiant, she threw out a list of women she’s ready to defeat. Right when she got to the end, a familiar tune played Asuka made her return.
Becky played this perfectly, dropping the mic with the right count of comedic timing and the right amount of fear. Asuka made her intentions clear and Becky, as of now, wants no static with the Empress of Tomorrow.
I cannot wait for this.
Ali x Ciampa
Well, now we know what WWE is doing with Ciampa.
I’m a big Mustafa Ali fan and felt bad WWE didn’t give him his walking papers. The man wanted freedom and didn’t get it, despite the fact the company wasn’t using him.
Color me surprised when he interrupted Miz TV this week, throwing shade over Theory’s parade. Theory and Miz loved each other up until Ali arrived. As soon as Ali turned his attention to Miz after Theory rejected his United States title challenge, the U.S. champ used his connections to the boss to make a match between Miz and Ali happen.
And it was a solid match. Ali didn’t look rusty and Miz, as always, did all in his power to make his opponent look good. Ali didn’t get a dominating win either, beating Miz in a surprise roll up attempt.
While that’s all well and good, the intriguing thing was Ciampa attacking Ali after the match.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Make Omos Look Strong
Bobby Lashley won the Battle of the Arms, downing Omos in a pretty serious struggle.
Then Omos proceeded to destroy Lashley for wining, sending a message to the former WWE champ and looking like a beast. Lashley is going a lot for Omos in very little time. While the actual arm wrestling match wasn’t it for me, the post match beatdown hit the sweet spot.
Liv x Rhea
Liv Morgan went off on Rhea Ripley. The latter was in promo mode backstage, explaining to the world she became Women’s champion on her own and finally saw the light. Well, Liv tried to ensure she never saw anything ever again, much less a metaphorical light.
I’m not thrilled at the prospect of a match between the two, but it is logical and needs to happen.
Damian Priest put a whooping on Finn Balor. As is customary around these parts, let me get this out of the way: Poor Finn.
Finn was a pitstop while both men wait for an “injured” AJ Styles to return. After watching Priest disappear during his debut as Edge’s charge, it was good to at least get a full match. Even if it wasn’t the greatest match or the most suspenseful because, c’mon, Finn wasn’t winning this match. And if thought there was a chance of him clawing out a W, then I feel for you like Chaka Khan.
The real story here is Edge’s faction has a name: Judgement Day.
No, sir, I don’t like it. It’s a nothing of a name. I get the meaning but it feels like a first draft. While it’s good to finally give them a name, the group deserves better than this. Especially if/when they expand their numbers.
Veer is Still Here
Million Dollar Arm and Billion Dollar Hair, Veer annihilated another local jobber. That is all.
The 24-7 title scene, once the bane of my existence, is now something I look forward to every week. While hitting the high of last week’s wedding was impossible, they at least gave it their all this week with R-Truth as a marriage counselor. The counselor failed to tell Reggie, Dana Brooke, Tamina, and Tozawa he is also a certified referee as well.
Their inter gender tag match was very brief, but Tozawa picked up the W after going to the top rope, declaring his love for Tamina, and pinning Reggie. Tamina tied to steal the title from Dana after the match, followed by R-Truth even turning on Dana. Hey, the match was over and anything goes. Even a referee pinning someone and officiating their own match.
Special shoutout to Tamina for shooting her shot at Dana again before Tozawa interrupted. At the end of the day, isn’t that why we’re all here?
Raw was solid this week. An entertaining show that moved a lot of pieces forward (for the most part) and gave us some good matches. We got some big returns that should provide some juice to a show in need of star power. And most importantly? I wasn’t bored.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.