The entire WWE world changed since last we spoke. Seriously, that was a wild week. Vincent Kennedy McMahon is gone. And if you read any of the site’s coverage recently, you know it’s a good bet he’s gone for good. WWE is truly in a brand new era and uncharted waters. But I’m here to captain our journey through those tempestuous territory, cagesiders, while Claire co-captains better than anyone on the planet.
We’ll talk about how this show looks sans-Vince for many weeks to come but tonight, let’s focus on the show before the summer’s really big (ish) show.
Let’s talk Raw!
Raw started hot tonight. As the first AVKM Raw (After Vincent Kennedy McMahon), there are multiple purposes here. One, let the world know the show goes on and no one, no matter who they are, stops said show. B, show a sense of urgency for this new era which leads to the third goal of being just different enough while still keeping things the same. Eventually, we may get new creative directions or at least a new creative process. Triple H isn’t Vince McMahon but it will take a while to truly carve out his own vision. To say nothing of the fact WWE’s main roster product has a different set of corporate necessities than NXT.
There are more corporate partners, sponsors, and responsibilities. How Haitch juggles all of that might get him a prime spot in Krusty the Clown’s clown school. But it will also give him a winning formula. Vince’s creative direction, for the most part, was abysmal in my eyes. I want wholesale changes but I’m also not holding my breath for them. That said, as Stella will tell you, I’m always the optimist.
But I digress. Logan Paul and The Miz’s brawl set off the show but it was the next segment with Roman Reigns that truly took the opening from good to great. Roman basked in the crowd’s adulation and said he didn't feel like talking. Paul Heyman took the mic and does what he does best, including making at least one allusion to changes happening in WWE. This is Roman’s last match with Brock, something Heyman emphasized. So, yes, people, this is it. And maybe with Vince gone, there will be no more breaking Brock’s glass in case of emergency.
The segment hit another level when Theory hit the ring. While Reigns is tired of talking about Brock, he was quite the chatterbox for Theory. And with five words, Reigns put Theory in his place and possibly foreshadowed the young cat’s future:
“Your daddy’s not here anymore.”
That’s it. That’s all it took. Roman effectively showed the difference between he and Theory in that moment. In kayfabe and in reality, Theory was Vince’s chosen one. Will he sink or swim without him? Roman believes it’s the former. He doesn’t believe Theory knows what to do with the MITB briefcase and without Vince, needs someone to guide him. I don’t believe Roman buried Theory but this segment, along with the next first hour of the show, did the dude no favors. What Roman did show is Theory just isn’t on his level yet. Not on Brock’s level yet either.
And therein lies a larger problem within WWE and a very specific problem with Theory. No one is booked as being even with Brock and Roman. Theory is just another guy; he’s not presented as special. And when he’s sharing the same space as these two, he looks like a high schooler going against a professional.
The New York City crowd understood this almost immediately. New York is a tough town but if they’re not buying it, there’s a good chance no one else around this blue ball is either. I know I’m not. But I also went to college in Queens, so there’s that.
It was an intriguing opening segment that sold SummerSlam’s main event, showed Theory isn’t ready for primetime, and was meta in the best ways. For three hours, this was the only time that Raw truly felt like a go home edition for one of the big four events.
If you read anything above this line, you know the night didn’t start great for the man known as Theory. Following Reigns’ verbal assault, Theory found himself in Drew McIntyre’s clutches. Drew dominated the early minutes of the match, underlining Vince’s last pet project’s terrible night. Emphasis on “pet” because, yeah, that ish was weird. Theory fought his way back but not enough to keep the Scotsman down. Right when Drew regained momentum. Sheamus made his way to the proceedings because, duh, remaining a very big thorn in McIntyre’s side. The Brawlin’ Brutes—better name would be Wrestling Buddies—jumped Drew while Theory got his licks in for bad measure. Bobby Lashley’s music played and the All Mighty lent a hand to his former rival.
Adam Pearce, doing his best Teddy Long impression, called for a tag match between Sheamus & Theory and Bobby & Drew. And it was a good tag match with plenty of physicality. Sheamus got the award for moment of the match when he interrupted Bobby’s barricade spear spot with a hell of a knee lift. Ladies and gents, Sheamus watches the product!
Bedlam broke lose as it usually does in these matches, leaving Theory all alone in the middle of the ring with Lashley. But there was Dolph, dressed like Reservoir Dogs character, standing at the commentary table. Seriously, all the man did was use his phone. That reach out and touch someone effort distracted Theory enough for Lashley to slap on the Hurt Lock. You know what happened at that point.
Theory, after tapping out and licking his wounds, made his way to the back and caught a pair of superkicks from The Usos. A little payback from earlier. The Tribal Chief continued patronizing the young man in the most hilarious of ways.
There’s a lot here for anyone who likes unpacking things. But with Vince not only gone but the story seemingly getting worse by the hour, WWE is seemingly intentionally making Theory look like a chump who is in way over his head. I said before in this space that while he looks the part and can wrestle, his shortcomings get exposed when he’s working the mic with one of the top guys or just standing side-by-side. Maybe it’s a course correction. Or maybe I’m just looking too deep into it because the times, they are a changing.
My Tribe, Your Tribe
Montez Ford got his bloody moment. And no, not using that the way our British cousins do. Montez bled during this week’s main event. Tez, Dawkins, & Riddle wrestled The Bloodline. Son was leaking pretty profusely, but he kept going and wore the crimson mask like a champ.
Other than that, I wasn’t thrilled with this match. Which has nothing to do with its quality as much as it’s about the fact we’ve seen some version of The Street Profits vs. The Usos every week since Money in the Bank. There’s nothing new here from a story standpoint. We got it already: The Usos got the W at MITB in controversial fashion, Double J is the special guest ref in their rematch for basketball reasons, and the Profits hope their newfound aggression puts them over the top. Cool. Throwing in Reigns and Riddle harkens to their simmering beef but also opened the door for Seth Rollins to show at the end of the match and pounce. Reigns ended the match with a spear to all of Riddle’s abdomen, Seth sauntered to the ring, and enacted a few vicious curb stomps to his SummerSlam opponent. Seth showed his nastiness when he crushed Riddle’s skull on the outside floor and on a pair of steel steps. That, combined with the blood, showed a little more aggression than we’re used to on Raw.
So, first off, shoutout to the Mysterio family for watching tv the correct way. Saints, every single one of them.
Before we got The Mysterios vs. The Judgment Day, Rey shared his feelings on 20 years in WWE. It was sweet, honest, and a great moment for one of the best to ever do it. Rey captured my emotion as a 10-year old in 1996, and I haven’t taken my eyes off him since. Shoutout to Rey for just being consistently dope.
Now onto the match itself. Dom didn’t turn on his dad, they remixed the same ending from several weeks ago (Rey pulled Eddie’s chair trick after Finn tried the trick, but Rey followed it with a frog splash and a pinfall victory), and yeah, they got the W. But nothing moved the story forward...until Rey’s actual celebration with his family. The family lauded Rey, presented him with the original outfit he wore at Halloween Havoc ‘97, and then RHEA popped up. Yes, it’s in all caps because it’s great she’s back. Rey’s daughter wanted all that smoke with Rhea, but Judgment Day’s Nightmare wanted Rey. We got one of those vicious beatdowns courtesy of Rhea, Finn, and Damian, leaving Rey in pain and the rest of the family in anguish. I dug it a lot. And at SummerSlam, these two squads finally duke it out in a NO DQ match. Edge is showing up, right?
Alexa Bliss isn’t looking at Doudrop or Nikki A.S.H.; she’s looking past them. While the match wasn’t anything to write home about, the point of Alexa vs. Doudrop was clearly a blowoff. Alexa, in a pre-match interview, made her intentions clear: She wants the Raw Women’s championship. So, yeah, she dispatched Ms. Doudrop with plans for the fall.
Great Balls of Fire
For all the talk about balls, this was a flaccid segment.. Besides the fact we got Maryse and Logan verbally sparring about testicle size, complete with Maryse carrying a ball purse. Yes, a glittering purse shaped like testicles. Miz came down, talked a lot about his machinations for SummerSlam, Ciampa followed, and a dust up ensued. Look, WWE is misreading this thing with Logan Paul. Ciampa and Miz beat him down and rather than boo them, the NYC crowd chanted “one more time” after Miz’s Skull Crushing Finale. Maybe Nashville will feel differently, but last weeks’ crowd wasn’t completely on Paul’s side either.
Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch cut the talking this week. They just fought. That’s it. That’s all this feud needs at this point because there’s nothing new they can say to each other about each other. Let. Them. Fight.
Right and Wrong
Chad Gable is right: The Knicks suck. The MSG crowd can boo all they want but, come on, people. You see the product on the court.
Anyway, Alpha Academy faced the newly formed team of AJ Styles & Dolph Ziggler. Sorry, Big Bob. AJ appreciates what Dolph is doing with Theory and why. Dolph believes it’s his job to teach Theory a few lessons. To him. Theory didn’t earn a single accomplishment—thanks to Daddy—so yeah, why not take him down a few pegs? AJ is with that but Chad Gable thinks they’re jealous. So, for some reason, he and Otis defended Theory’s honor against these two rogues. It was a fine match but lacked any sense of “why.” Especially for the match before the main event. That said, AJ & Dolph have potential to be a very dope team.
This didn’t feel like a go home show. It had a spark when it started but then flamed out around hour three, which is an unfortunate curse of a three-hour show. Nothing happened that truly got me excited for SummerSlam or was presented in a way to make this show feel different than MITB or special. In Wire parlance, this was a 40 degree day. And you know how people feel about those.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.