Raw airs tonight (May 8) with a live show from Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. This is the first episode of Raw during the three week build towards Night of Champions, which takes place on May 27 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The new Raw roster needs a heel turn at the top
Following last week’s draft, the new rosters for Raw and SmackDown go into effect starting tonight.
Here is the full list of wrestlers who were drafted to Raw:
- Cody Rhodes
- Becky Lynch
- Rhea Ripley
- Seth Rollins
- Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
- Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez
- Imperium (GUNTHER, Ludwig Kaiser, Giovanni Vinci)
- The Judgment Day (Finn Bálor, Damian Priest & Dominik Mysterio)
- Trish Stratus
- Matt Riddle
- Drew McIntyre
- Shinsuke Nakamura
- Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler
- Braun Strowman & Ricochet
- The Miz
- The New Day
- Bronson Reed
- Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar w/ Valhalla)
- Dexter Lumis
- Candice LeRae
- Maximum Male Models (ma.cé, mån.sôör & Maxxine Dupri)
- Chelsea Green & Sonya Deville
- Alpha Academy (Otis & Chad Gable)
- Dana Brooke
- Nikki Cross
- Johnny Gargano
- Akira Tozawa
- Angel Garza & Humberto Carrillo
- Piper Niven
- Riddick Moss
- Tegan Nox
- Xia Li
- Apollo Crews
- Indi Hartwell
- Zoey Stark
- JD McDonagh
- Katana Chance & Kayden Carter
- Indus Sher (Jinder Mahal, Sanga, Veer Mahaan)
- Odyssey Jones
WWE isn’t wasting any time showcasing the top of the men’s division, with six Raw wrestlers competing tonight as part of a tournament to crown a new World Heavyweight Champion at Night of Champions.
The six wrestlers chosen from this roster are Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins, Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Damian Priest, and The Miz. There will be two triple threat matches tonight featuring these six men, though WWE has yet to tell us the specific matches. Whichever wrestlers win the triple threats will then face each other later in the main event. By the time Raw is over tonight, five of the six wrestlers will be eliminated, with one of them moving on to compete for the new title at Night of Champions.
Cody and Seth stand out as the two obvious favorites, so perhaps they will each win a triple threat match and then meet each other later on in the main event. Shinsuke Nakamura is next in line after that, based on his hot return to WWE after a long time away. And I can at least squint and see a scenario where Finn Balor wins one of the triple threats, if WWE wants a heel in tonight’s main event.
The Miz and Damian Priest stand out as the two guys who have no shot here. Priest is doing just fine in The Judgment Day, but he’s never been a main event guy in WWE, and he just lost a match to a celebrity in Puerto Rico. His body is probably ravaged in kayfabe following that fight. I’d argue that nuclear heat magnet Dominik makes for a better choice, even though he’s never been a singles champion in WWE.
Then there’s The Miz, who has been presented as a joke wrestler for a long while now. He was squashed multiple times by Rick Boogs this year. He lost very quick matches to Pat McAfee and Snoop Dogg at WrestleMania. If the idea is for the new world title to be taken seriously as a top prize, then Miz simply has no business being in this tournament given how inept he’s been when the bell rings.
The most glaring omission on the Raw side is Intercontinental Champion GUNTHER. I don’t know if he’s still dealing with post-wedding matters and not available tonight, and perhaps that’s why he’s not booked in this tournament? He’s the top heel that this tournament desperately needs, because even Finn Balor doesn’t really rank near the same level as Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins.
In fact, if you rank the top heels on the men’s side of the new Raw roster, there’s GUNTHER, maybe Finn Balor, and then...it’s hard to find a third guy near the main event level. WWE clearly needs to turn someone heel to fix this problem, especially if the plan is to keep GUNTHER away from the new world title this summer as he continues defending his mid-card gold.
It would be a very bad idea to turn Cody or Seth right now, so that leaves Drew McIntyre, who is currently off TV but should be back soon. I think he pretty much has to turn heel whenever he returns to Raw. If not him, then maybe Matt Riddle or Braun Strowman?
Could a big heel turn happen as soon as tonight, or maybe at Night of Champions, screwing over one of these babyfaces in the tournament?
The rest of the title scene
We should find out tonight how WWE is planning to solve the problem they created in the draft when Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair was moved over to the blue brand, while SmackDown Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley is on the red brand. My guess is that Ripley will show up tonight as the new Raw women’s champion after an implied title swap behind the scenes with Belair. Anything involving a title swap is very dumb, so hopefully I’m wrong and WWE creative will come up with a better solution.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez were drafted by Raw, but their next booked title defense is scheduled for this week’s SmackDown against Damage CTRL. Go figure.
WWE Tag Team Champions Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are coming off a loss to The Bloodline at Backlash. Will Matt Riddle finally leave these guys alone now that he’s been separated from The Bloodline feud as a result of the draft?
Other stuff to keep an eye on
- WWE’s advertising doesn’t list Brock Lesnar for tonight’s show, but I wouldn’t be surprised if The Beast shows up to make sure that Cody Rhodes loses in the tournament. Brock needs someone to fight in Saudi Arabia, after all, and it doesn’t really make sense to start a new feud with only three weeks to go until that event.
- Becky Lynch hasn’t been around since Trish Stratus turned on her a few weeks ago. Trish has been running her mouth ever since. When will Lynch return to punch Stratus in the face?
- Which babyface will Bronson Reed take his frustrations out on tonight after being pinned at Backlash?
- Johnny Gargano, Indi Hartwell, Dexter Lumis, and Candice LeRae were all drafted to Raw. Does that mean The Way is coming to our TV screens in the near future?
- Now that the draft is over and the new rosters are set, I think it’s time for Maximum Male Models to make a full court press on stealing Otis away from Chad Gable’s Alpha Academy.
- Which NXT call-ups will be pushed right out of the gate on Raw? For example, could JD McDonagh be in consideration as a new member of The Judgment Day? Will Katana Chance and Kayden Carter immediately look for a shot at the WWE women’s tag team titles?
- The current free agent list includes names like Omos, Dolph Ziggler, Mustafa Ali, Von Wagner, and
Alexa Bliss Elias. Will any of them show up ready for a fight on Raw?
- Now that he’s officially back on the Raw roster, will Veer Mahaan be coming for the next couple of months?
What will you be looking for on Raw?