Last week’s episode of Monday Night Raw was a breath of fresh air for fans. It showed that WWE is finally willing to listen to their audience and take a few risks with new ideas outside of their comfort zone. It paid off well, and has renewed a lot of faith fans had lost in the company. And while this week’s episode attempted to capitalize off of that momentum, it was relatively tame in comparison. Storylines were pushed forward, the NXT call ups hit their mark, and the WWE world title feud heated up, but the show moved at a slower and steady pace as if it wasn’t quite ready to engage deeply in to storylines just yet. Maybe it was an episode dedicated to giving storylines a slow burn. Maybe it was the fact that the show was in London and the focus was more on in ring action due to that. Either way, the show felt like it was slower than the impressive episode that came before it.
What I liked
The show moved at a shower, but consistent pace. It tried its best to avoid resembling the stale product we were promised rescue from. And for the most part, it succeeded. Feuds were pushed forward in order to set the card for Payback, The vaudevillains and Enzo and Cass scored clean wins over top tag teams, and the in ring action delivered. And despite being prerecorded earlier in the day due to the time difference between the states and London, the audience wasn’t obviously edited during Reigns’ segment in the show. There are rumors that the audio was tampered with, but there is no way of confirming it at the moment. Hopefully, it wasn’t.
I also like how the Gallows and Anderson are being handled at the moment with AJ Styles. WWE is slowly introducing fans unfamiliar with the Bullet Club to their background, while teasing familiar fans with their reformation at the same time. It’s a perfect way to get the most out of their appearance on the main roster even before they officially have their first match. It reminds me of two storylines dealing with the NWO. One is how The Outsiders were first handled in WCW with how WWE is selling the team as a big deal elsewhere sort of invading the company. The other is how the former NWO was handled in TNA (yes, I’m comparing a WWE storyline to a TNA storyline). The Outsiders showed up during Hogan’s run with the company, and decided to carry out their old ways. Hogan, whom had moved on from his WCW days with the group, made sure they understood that he wanted no part of their old tactics. It feels like WWE is selling the concept of the indies taking on the big leagues with how they’ve handled their recent indie signings. It feels like this is their way of performing their own version of an Outsiders invasion with the Bullet Club, and it’s setting up for a big payoff at Payback.
What I disliked
My biggest issue with the show is how Reigns is currently being handled. He’s reached the point of “go away” heat from fans. Even Stephanie McMahon, as disliked by fans as she is, is able to at least speak on the mic without the crowd drowning out her dialog with jeers. He’s also had very little ring action since winning the title, which is possibly a result from the reaction he’s getting. So the worse thing WWE could do for a character considered bland and is currently gaining “change the channel” heat is to give him a bland and boring catchphrase to repeat every week to fuel that feeling fans get from him. It was delivered just fine the first time. Now it seems like a throwaway phrase is becoming his permanent opening statement every time he hits the ring for a promo.
Imagine if after nailing his “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass” comment, Stone Cold Steve Austin decided to use it as the opening statement in every promo he made each week. The powerful throwaway line would lose it’s steam quick and become an annoyance. Stone Cold said it once when it was in perfect context, and allowed it to live on its own. Sure, he may have referenced it a few times in his career, but the moment when he delivered it was perfect enough to give it life far after King of the Ring 96. Reigns delivered the line perfectly after Wrestlemania. It was the best time to deliver it considering how people were disappointed with the main event outcome, and it became the talking point of fans for a full week. But the use of it again last Monday killed its momentum, and the use of it this episode was enough to make eyes roll. Although I like Reigns’ new attitude, WWE has dropped the ball on him too many times for fans to gain excitement for him. And if he continues to come out and use the same bland catchphrase each week as his opener, WWE just might push his character in to becoming completely irredeemable. But aside from that and my dislike for Ambrose hosting a show, I have no major complaints with the episode.
While playing it safer than last week, this episode of Monday Night Raw still managed to remain entertaining throughout its running time. There were less replays than usual, and the matches did not disappoint. It was not as good as the week before, but it was definitely better than what we’ve endured in the past. So if this is the new standard for an average episode, then I’m completely fine with that. They can’t all be winners, but the least they could be is entertaining.