With the history-making Evolution Pay-Per-View in the books, and Roman Reign’s shocking real-life revelation a week behind us, what does World Wrestling Entertainment’s flagship show have in store for viewers tonight?
Last week’s Monday Night Raw kicked off in a fashion absolutely nobody saw coming. The indefinite leave of the Big Dawg will undoubtedly change Creative’s plans, and the WWE landscape in general, and we got some hints as to what those moves might be last week. With Drew McIntyre laying out Braun Strowman again, this time while he hyped his upcoming Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman, it looks like Strowman’s being lined up for the top babyface spot. Expect the Monster to have his focus split tonight, as he prepares to go into Crown Jewel for what is now a one-on-one match for a vacant title, while also keeping an eye open for a McBootToTheHead. Things certainly look to be set for Strowman to win his first Universal title next weekend, then defend against McIntyre in his first program. However, nobody would be surprised to hear WWE’s plans for Crown Jewel aren’t set in stone yet. Lesnar could still fly home from Saudi Arabia with the big red belt again. There’s an outside chance a returning Hulk Hogan shocks the wrestling world, joins that match, and wins it. Trying to predict wrestling these days is a little like trying to predict where a spitball will go if you hawk one out a car window on a blustery day, around a corner, doing 65-mph.
Plans for Dean Ambrose to turn on Seth Rollins were finally rolled all the way out, despite them capturing the Raw tag team titles. This backstabbing has been rumoured since back before Ambrose got injured. Rumours only got hotter when he returned, and tensions have been rising in recent weeks. But last week’s turn at the end of the show felt odd, mostly because the on-again, off-again super bros won the belts. Maybe it’s also because Ambrose and commentator Rene Young’s marriage is a long way from a secret now. Expect that to come up through the night on commentary, but it could be interesting to see how they deal with it. Will Young turn into a heel commentator herself? Certainly Reign’s leave of absence will have been the actual catalyst for killing The Shield again last week, so it’s not all Creative’s fault there are sloppy loose ends to tie up here. Will Rollins seek full retribution, or will the duo try to defend their tag titles as a fractured force? Expect Rollins to act in the bigger-man role, seeking to maintain his status as a singles and tag champ, while Ambrose plays the devil-may-care lunatic, just as likely to beat up his partner as his opponent.
You’d like to expect Finn Balor gets to capitalize on his win last week over Bobby Lashley. It effectively killed Lashley’s latest push, so it only makes sense somebody builds some momentum and heat from it. The rumour mill says Lashley’s working hurt, and last week may or may not have been to set him up for some time off. It didn’t play out like the kind of beating that would force the character off TV, so we should expect Lashley to get revenge tonight. With that said, there’s no mention of Balor, Big Bobby or Lio Rush in tonight’s official Raw preview, so who knows?
We can expect Elias to be leading off one of the hours tonight in North Carolina, and fingers crossed, he’ll be allowed to flourish now. The quick, clean win over Apollo Crews last week felt like a rushed and confusing wrap up to their two-week ‘feud’. It only made sense in hindsight once Elias cracked Acting GM Baron Corbin over the skull with his guitar. Creative decided to make some use of the fact Elias is over like Rover right now, packed his bags and moved him to the good-guy locker room. Expect the Drifter to land himself in John Cena’s vacant World Cup spot tonight, and beat up Corbin again in the process.
Expect some Evolution packages tonight, but probably not too many, in keeping with how they promoted the show on Raw. Especially since one of Raw’s major draws for the show, Alexa Bliss, only appeared at ringside after breaking her nose during the week. The major talking point for Raw coming out of the all-women’s show was arguably Nia Jax winning the battle royal to claim the number-one contender’s spot for Ronda Rousey’s Women’s Championship. So we should expect to see Rousey’s celebration tonight interrupted by Jax, if not the Bella twins. Nikki and Brie were both so much more enjoyable last night as heels, we should hope to expect to see as much of them going forward now they’re an entertaining act.
The WWE Universe feels like it’s in a weird place right now. Real-life controversy is preventing them from announcing where their next show is being presented; real-life health drama has taken away their lead character, and forced a major re-shuffle. The chips haven’t finished rolling into the spots they’re going to land yet. And things felt confused and muddled two months ago, let alone now. We’ve long been trained by the WWE that we watch a show where “anything can happen,” but we’ve become accustomed to being able to anticipate a certain amount of that unexpected. That’s out the window these days. Who knows, or could predict, what to expect next? It just doesn’t feel like right kind of mystery. It feels more like we can’t predict as fans what’s coming, because they don’t know as a company where they’re going. Hopefully, we can expect them to find their direction again soon. On a scoring system from 1 to 5, where 5 stands for “Better than a Post-Mania Raw!” and 1 stands for “Why not just run your first All-Midget show instead?”, expect tonight’s Raw to rate anywhere between 2 and 4.