WWE’s Monday Night Raw will be a taped presentation in North America tonight, with the live show in Manchester, England going ahead this afternoon. Getting tonight’s Expectations live online before the actual show begins might be a close call; nonetheless, let’s begin taking a look at what wrestling’s preeminent show may have in store today.
Tonight’s Raw follows last week’s very poor showing, and comes hot on the heels of Friday’s “global PPV event” Crown Jewel. The WWE Universe has seen the Monster Among Men, Braun Strowman, reduced to mere mortal by dominant force Brock Lesnar, who has once again reclaimed the Universal Championship, albeit with a little help from Acting GM Baron Corbin. The new/old part-timer champ is heavily rumoured to be on the show tonight, and it seems reasonable we can expect to see Brock and Paul Heyman appear, if for no other reason than for Heyman to boast about his ‘spoiler’ from last week being true. Is Strowman simply going to be booked into the same story arc Reigns had to struggle through before finally toppling Lesnar, losing several high-profile match-ups before finally getting his moment? Or is this just the beginning of another lengthy Lesnar reign, with nobody in Creative able to come up with a viable way to get the belt off him? Putting the strap back on Brock feels like a massive step backwards for the company, just weeks after they’d finally dragged themselves out of that predicament. But with the state of flux right now, who knows what to expect tonight. It feels safe to say we won’t expect Brock to defend the belt tonight, or on any Raw in the near or distant future. It also seems safe to expect Strowman to continue to be the top contender going forward – although do anticipate Corbin having to suffer some bruises in retribution for Friday.
The best thing would appear to be for the company to simply drop the obviously cursed Universal championship. The title is worth less now than it was the night Finn Balor first won it, and it’s hard to see how they recover the prestige. Kill the red belt, and let the Intercontinental Title be the main belt for Raw. Just don’t expect that to happen.
The World Cup of Wrestling from Crown Jewel certainly produced some interesting results, and at least one very good match between IC Champ Seth Rollins and eventual tourney runner-up Dolph Ziggler. Knowing the WWE penchant for return matches we’ve all seen a thousand times, expect Dolph to demand an Intercontinental title match tonight, and expect Rollins to defend. Whether the DQ finish comes because of interference from Drew McIntyre or Dean Ambrose is up for debate, but either way, Rollins is the one taking the beating. Is there any chance Creative make a big shift, and move the big Irishman to the babyface side of the roster to team with Rollins against Dolph and Dean? Or should we expect someone else – maybe Elias, Balor or Apollo Crews, perhaps – to stand by Seth’s side? With Rollins and Ambrose obviously set to do battle into WrestleMania next year, McInZiggles could find themselves woven into a different plot soon – perhaps also against each other.
Rollins and Ambrose are also, of course, reigning Raw tag team champions. Although since neither man was seen with a tag belt last week, and they’re obviously not on the best of terms at the moment, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not they’ll actually defend those belts. The tag matches on Raw last week felt like somewhat of a reboot for the tag division (which really hurt The Revival), and it seems like we can expect the tag titles to be vacated soon. At which point, they’ll probably book a tournament with several of the teams we’ve seen floundering in the division for the last couple of years. And people wonder why tag team wrestling is dead in North America.
Getting back to Balor and Crews, it seems like we’re conditioned to expect to see them on the show, just not to expect much out of them. It’s an obvious shame Balor isn’t being utilized to anywhere near his potential. Crews looked set to be getting some sort of push two weeks ago, which was then abruptly cut off last week. Expect to see both guys tonight, just don’t expect much out of either.
Elias had a mega-star aura to him last week. His aside to a fan as he drifted his way backstage towards Corbin (“Don’t cry sir, you’re gonna get an Elias performance, you’ll get what you paid for,”) and his quick one-liners backstage were reminiscent of The Rock in his heyday. His charisma is off the charts, and he’s the absolute most over performer on the roster at the moment, let alone Raw. So it’s safe to say we can expect him to be wasted again in Manchester, without even a song about United’s early-season struggles. Oh sure, he’ll be on the show, and it will be the highlight of the evening, but at the end of the day, don’t expect it to be anything meaningful in the grander scheme.
Of course, Crown Jewel featured the fan favourites from the Attitude Era in the main event, and we can expect to hear from at least one of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, or The Undertaker tonight. Are there any more ‘supercard’ events abroad on the horizon for these old timers to headline? Nothing’s scheduled along those lines in the near future, so these guys have some time to get back to mayoring, CEOing, hunting, and most importantly, resting. But we can rest assured that we haven’t seen the last of any of ’em. You can decide for yourself if that’s a good or bad thing.
Almost forgot about the ladies on Raw – hardly surprising, it feels like Creative forgets about ’em too most weeks. It would seem safe to assume we’ll see some continuation in whatever story is building between Tamina Snuka and number-one contender Nia Jax. Whether the pair wind up in confrontation, or a tag team, remains to be seen. Raw Woman’s Champion Ronda Rousey should certainly be in attendance, and that should prompt the appearance from Jax. Aside from that, who could try to speculate on specifics? It’ll be whoever Creative pick off the list of active talent available to fill spots in whatever match they’ve designated for women tonight.
WWE haven’t given their fans a good reason to watch Raw in a while now, and after last week’s debacle, it’s harder than it’s been in a very long time to be excited for the show. Expectations for Raw have hit an all-time low – however, every time someone says that, someone in Creative says, “Hold my beer.” On a scale of one to five, with five being, “Better Than Jericho’s Debut” and one being, “I Wish Gobbledegooker Was Back,” expect tonight’s Raw to rate a two. Your thoughts and comments are welcomed below.