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WWE Raw recap & reactions (Aug. 22, 2022): Triple H and Vince McMahon’s proxy war

Johnny Gargano is back! So what does that mean for Triple H’s ultimate vision for WWE?

A couple wrestlers didn’t make it over the Canadian border this week. But those who did showed up on this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw. Claire blogged about it while I talked about it.

You know what to do.

Let’s talk Raw!

Welcome Back, Wrestling

Johnny Gargano is back. That’s a big deal if you frequent this site or any other wrestling site on internet dot com. It was also predictable as Triple H begins remaking WWE in his image and bringing back those the former guy banished to an island of irrelevancy. The Toronto crowd greeted Johnny like he was Jesus riding through Jerusalem. The only pop louder was for Edge, so props to Mr. Wrestling. Johnny talked about fatherhood, his love for wrestling, reminded everyone why he was a big deal in NXT.

And then Theory happened. Props to WWE for not ignoring their NXT history, referencing The Way in a few clever if not subtle...ways, and furthering this idea that Theory has a chip on his shoulder the size of Las Vegas casino. Pointing out that he has everything Johnny wants is a nice touch as well. Johnny wants to win championships. Theory won them first. Johnny wants big matches in bigger spots. Theory has that too. This sets up an interesting master vs. apprentice story, where the learner surpassed the teacher in a very short time. How does the master feel about that? For all intents and purposes, Johnny was Theory’s father. The moment a son overtakes a father in a contest, that relationship changes. And not always for the better. Want proof? See the way Johnny kicked Theory’s teeth down his throat when Mr. MITB offered “peace” after running down his former tag partner. Either because of jealousy, being in his feelings, or just a lack of trust, Johnny left Theory laid out in the middle of the ring.

Gargano facing Theory as his first opponent makes a lot of sense given their history and the potential for longterm storytelling. But who ultimately prevails? That might be WWE writing themselves into a corner. If Theory truly is next, he can’t lose. A returning Gargagno, especially one the audience adores, can’t lose either. At least not so soon.

This almost feels like a proxy battle between Vince McMahon and Triple H. Theory was Vince’s project—no pun—while Gargano was one of Haitch’s prized pupils. I mean, duh, the man came back because his poppa is in charge. Theory fits Vince’s idea of what a WWE wrestler is and should look like. Gargano, well, does not. Haitch took a chance on guys like Johnny while Vince barely gave them the time of day. Philosophically, this might be the most important feud in WWE once it gets going. It might paint a clearer picture of how Haitch sees WWE and the type of athletes he wants in the company. But if Theory prevails, it just shows the old man is still in charge even if he’s “retired.”


New Music Who Dis?

Could Dolph Ziggler win on behalf of the locker room vets? That was the question when the Show Off went one-on-one with Finn Balor. Finn’s new music rocked. I hoped it was a new tune for Judgment Day as a whole since their current tune still sounds like Edge and has him in its DNA. My musical gripes aside, Dolph and Finn, to the shock of no one, put on a very good match that Dolph loss due to Rhea Ripley’s interference. When the match broke down to both men just throwing fists, Dolph rocked Finn with a vicious headbutt. It actually looked like he caught him in the throat. Finn found comfort in the arms of the ref, which was all a ruse! Rhea took advantage of the distracted ref, snuffed Dolph with a mean elbow, and a magically recovered Finn did the rest.

So the question here is how long do they keep this thing going where the men can’t hit Rhea? At a certain point, the heat on her for constantly interfering on behalf of her crew and dishing out violence in their name will get nuclear. If there’s nowhere to go with it, what’s the point? To say nothing of the fact the men look dumb for not employing their own female equalizer who has no problem knocking Rhea down a peg or three.

I like Finn getting in Dolph’s face before the match. Finn believes Dolph is going after the young talent just to remain relevant, which continues the Judgment Day’s reason for living. Good seamless storytelling that furthers the Judgment Day’s story while giving Dolph something to think about in losing.

The Tournament Marches Onward...

SKY & Kai prevailed over Alexa Bliss & Asuka in the tag tournament. It was an okay match but a tad sloppy at points. The best part was the action before the match when Trish Stratus showed up in front of her home crowd. Of course, Bayley’s crew interrupted the legend, which prompted an entrance from Bianca Belair, Bliss, and Asuka. Trish teased us with a match as she told Bayley she can go from “I am retired” to “I was retired,” which was a very good line turned into a very dope line when Trish took off her jacket and showed she’s still built for a fight. Just give me Bayley vs. Trish Stratus in the not-too distant future please.

Fights On like Tys-on

Kevin Owens is on a tear. That’s the story here and might be the same story for several weeks. Owens challenged Chad Gable when the latter told Toronto the Alpha Academy was recruiting. Gable badmouthed Toronto and rightly dissed the Toronto Maple Leafs for losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Look, I don’t watch hockey but I do know “ice” and “hockey” aren’t the first two things anyone thinks of when they think of any city in Florida. For a hockey team from freakin’—not Seth—Canada loses to that team, that’s unacceptable.

But I digress. Chad and Kevin put on a hell of a physical match that all came down to Owens’ determination vs. Gable’s arrogance. Once Owens got the W with the Pop Up Powerbomb, the Academy tried executing the typical post-match beatdown. But Owens wanted all the smoke this week. He bested both members of the Academy and walked away as the conquering hometown hero. I don’t particularly like one man making two men look weak, but I do understand how it makes Kevin look like a man on a mission. But if two men attack one, especially two former tag champs, they should prevail. Good match with some extra material I could do without.

Brawl for All

Raw barely started before we got our first fight. And I love it. Any time the show starts with a fight between two people who can’t help themselves, I’m happy. The two people in question were Riddle and Seth Rollins. They fought from the backstage area to ringside, showing an intense hatred for one another that all good feuds need.

Beth is Ready

Remember when I said someone needs to even the odds with Rhea Ripley? Of course you do, I just said it a few paragraphs up. Well, that someone might be—and hopefully is—Beth Phoenix. After Damian Priest and Edge’s good but not spectacular match, a victorious Edge had evil plans for his ex-disciple. Plans involving two chairs and Damian’s skull. Judgement Day made the save and before the numbers game went against Edge, the Glamazon came to her husband’s aide and wrestled a chair away from Balor. The Judgment Day backed off while Rhea and Beth kept their eyes locked on on one another.

Yes, yes, and yes. Like I said, Rhea needs her comeuppance and Beth is a perfect candidate to dish it all out.

Back Like She Left Something

Trish Stratus was all over Raw this week. She even instigated a match between Aliyah and Bayley! Yes, this was Bayley’s first match in God knows how long. And it was just...fine. Nothing awful yet nothing great. Bayley won after Aliyah put up quite the fight in her hometown and looked good while losing. But how do they not advertise Bayley’s first match on Raw in forever? This needed more pomp and circumstance and just felt like another match rather than the big deal that Bayley is in the division.

Surprise, Michael (Read that in your best Ghsotface voice from Scream)

Well, I figured this space was reserved for discussing the tag match between the team of AJ Styles & Bobby Lashley vs. Ciampa & Miz. Oh how wrong I was. Dexter Lumis showed up towards the end of the match, dressed in Riot officer gear, and kidnapped Miz! No, seriously, he yoked Miz by his neck, pulled him over the barricade, and dragged a kicking and screaming Miz into the bowels of Toronto.

Earlier in the show, Adam Pearce and a couple Keystone Cops walked around with Dexter’s picture. Clearly they were outsmarted by his Wil E. Coyote-style cunning. Dexi was even smart enough to have a decoy attack AJ Styles while he waited in the wings for Miz!

The opening, Trish, and Johnny’s return highlighted a solid Raw.

Grade: B

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

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