Raw Expectations (11/12/18)


Tonight’s Monday Night Raw will be the go-home edition for the fourth, and arguably most diminished of the original Big Four WWE PPVs, Survivor Series. Given the annual show has only been allowed part of the last three weeks to build, don’t be too hard on yourself if you didn’t realize it was on this Sunday.

We can expect the company to kick the hype into high gear tonight for “the only night of the year Raw faces off against Smackdown”. To really rally fans behind the red brand, look for them to lead with the ever-beloved Commissioner Stephanie McMahon. Expect the fans in Kansas to rain down vitriol on Steph, despite the fact she’ll probably be playing the babyface version of her character this evening. The official preview says she’ll be addressing her brother Shane’s ‘victory’ at the Crown Jewel World Cup, so expect some sort of stipulation to be added to either a match, or the results of the whole event. Speculation online suggests Shane is heading for a heel turn, because God forbid there isn’t a McMahon in one of the show’s lead story lines.

Brock Lesnar was promoted to appear last week in the official preview, and then didn’t. It’s the last chance for the Universal champ to hop from side to side on television while his advocate Paul Heyman spoils Sunday’s result against AJ Styles for us, and the preview once again says he will be in the house, so let’s see. If Lesnar does appear, one would naturally expect Braun Strowman to take his opportunity to at least let the champ know things might have been different if Baron Corbin hadn’t been there with the belt. If, on the other hand, Strowman is still more concerned with the Acting General Manager, that will forecast his fall down the pecking order. Expect a wonderful promo from wrestling’s greatest orator Paul Heyman at the very least. And expect more Benny Hill-style hide-and-seek comedy bits with Corbin and Strowman, somebody backstage loves those.

Elias followed his level-up performance from two weeks ago to defeat veteran multi-time champ Dolph Ziggler last Monday. Ziggler could put on a quality match against a quadriplegic alpaca. Provided they keep using workers of his ilk to put over Elias, The Drifter will be at the top of the card soon enough. Expect him to be the best reason to watch this evening.

Another bright spot we should be able to look forward to is The Scottish Psychopath Drew McIntyre. [Aside, following last week’s debacle – Scottish, not Irish. Finn’s the little Irish guy, Sheamus is the big Irishman, Drew is Scottish.] There are a lot of predictions and rumours floating around online at the moment regarding Drew’s stock rising within the company while Strowman’s star may be fading. McIntyre is certainly on an upward trajectory lately, with his show-closing win over Kurt Angle last week receiving high praise from many corners. Will Angle seek revenge, or will he accept what seemed to be on display for everyone to see last Monday – that he’s simply too far past his prime?

With McIntyre’s post-match assault on Finn Balor, could we finally have seen the last of him taking on Bobby Lashley? Would it surprise anyone to see Balor versus Boring Bobby for the fourth week in a row? Something absolutely had to happen to break the monotony with these two guys, and not just meaning when they face each other. It’s not too long ago this match could have headlined any Indy show in America or Japan. With any luck, Balor is allowed to get out of this tailspin and into a program fans can get interested in against Drew. Who Lashley is assigned to beat up next is less obvious – perhaps Apollo Crews, he’s been enjoying some 50/50 booking of late.

The Raw tag team titles were rescued from a duo more intent on fighting each other than fighting together. Putting the straps onto AOP came out of nowhere, but frankly no team would have looked properly deserving at the moment. We can collectively hope this is the beginning of a true revival for the division – just don’t anyone hold their breath. The AOP probably should have beaten Rollins within an inch of his life in the handicap situation last week, yet nearly found themselves beaten by the one man several times. Expect to see the two behemoths and their mouthpiece Drake Maverick come out to launch a new era of tag team wrestling… it’s where it goes from here that’s anyone’s guess.

Speaking of the former tag champs, Intercontinental champion Seth Rollins keeps looking for answers from his on-again, off-again bromance partner Dean Ambrose. All Rollins keeps finding are Dirty Deeds DDTs. Expect more of the same tonight, on Sunday, and well into the foreseeable future, like April and WrestleMania. Ambrose has been talking at house shows this week, so he may well grab a mic and try to explain himself somewhat. Expect Ambrose to attack if Rollins is defending his title tonight, otherwise he’ll have to wait till it’s promo-time for The Architect.

It feels hard to get invested in the Survivor Series champ vs champ matches, because it’s hard to understand why the participants should care. They all have bigger fish to fry, such as Nia Jax for Ronda Rousey. A non-title exhibition match against Becky Lynch holds little consequence to Ronda, while looming defenses against Jax (with Tamina now firmly in her corner) should concern her. If Ronda wasn’t the special attraction, she’d be teaming tonight with Ember Moon to take on the future Raw women’s tag champs. Instead, expect Ember to be paired with Dana Brooks to be squished by Jax and Tamina.

After Ruby Riott and her cohorts shattered the sunglasses of the late Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart last week, you better believe we can expect Natalia to seek retribution tonight. Just don’t expect the audience to care any more than they did last week, when fans chanted out a 10-count as a heartbroken Nattie “wept” at ringside with Sasha Banks and Bayley. Poorly executed angles lead to poor audience reaction. With any luck, the lack of emotional investment by anyone outside of Natalia means this gets pushed under the rug and forgotten. Doubtful. Look for a rematch of some semblance of the sides tonight as they continue with this story, and captain Alexa Bliss naming her Raw Women’s Survivor Series team.

Things are starting to take shape following the Roman Reshuffle, although it may take a little longer for everything to make sense (or at least to forget the things that don’t). The champion and belt are back to occasional appearance status, so (aside from the IC belt), the guys who do come to work every week are ostensibly left to jockey for the position of number one contender. That can work out just fine, provided there is some belief in the competition. The problem with Brock’s last title run wasn’t him missing television, or not seeing the gaudy red belt every week. It was the foregone conclusion that Reigns was always the number one contender, leaving the audience with nothing to invest in. If we’re left each week with the feeling the top tier is swelling with viable contenders – McIntyre, Lashley, Strowman, Elias, for example – who are competitive against each other, we’ll have a reason to want to watch again.

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