It almost seems fitting that tonight, WWE’s flagship weekly presentation, Monday Night Raw, will be held in Milwaukee. One of the most boring shows on television comes to us from one of the least exciting places on the planet.
We’re a week removed from another of Raw’s worst episodes of all time, and just three weeks away from what looks like another forgettable PPV entry in Tables, Ladders and Chairs. With the brand’s top champ away for at least another month or so, his top contender off for bone spur surgery, and the top feud upsetting more fans than its pleasing with references to real life, what exactly can fans expect from tonight’s show? Aside from the inescapable feeling you could have been doing practically anything else for three hours and enjoyed it more.
Last week, the first match of the show featured most of Raw’s current main event guys. Including Stephanie McMahon and Acting GM Baron Corbin opening the night with the talky-talk, the segment got the best part of hour one, which meant things were pretty thin for the rest of the evening. Don’t expect Creative to put all their eggs in one basket again any time soon. Tonight’s official preview says Corbin will be taking on Finn Balor, in case you missed the match up everyone was sick of watching a month ago. It certainly felt like we were being led towards Balor going up against Drew McIntyre at TLC, but there’s a chance audibles are called because of Braun Strowman’s recent elbow surgery. It seems unlikely Strowman will be ready in three weeks, but it’s not impossible. Whether WWE decide to keep their plans for the card, or switch things up, remains to be seen. Trying to predict what they might do, when the company has shown it has no problem changing dispositions or entire characters on the fly as whims arise, is next to impossible.
Intercontinental champ Seth Rollins is scheduled to defend his strap tonight in an open challenge match, per the official preview. Another rousing game of hide-and-seek with his former Shield brother Dean Ambrose is also on the cards. Creative seemed to be obliging last week, keeping the pair apart and their build limited to promos, trying to use more psychological aspects than physical. Then, Ambrose said Roman Reigns deserved to get leukemia. It’s not just an issue of taste, which is debatable, it’s the lazy scripting, and undermining of their own story telling with is galling. The turn for Ambrose was teased for months, his feelings of frustration building. Reigns’ diagnosis, or at least the reveal of it, came out of the blue. To include lines like this for cheap heat, when the same result could have been accomplished without it, it Creative taking the easy way out. Then they had Rollins catch Ambrose, and get into a physical confrontation anyway. Last week’s column postulated they wouldn’t have the ideas to do anything other than the typical brawl week after week until TLC – maybe they shouldn’t have bothered trying in the first place. Anyway, expect Rollins’ challenge to be answered tonight by someone who’s not too busy – maybe Jinder Mahal, maybe Dolph Ziggler, or maybe Bray Wyatt, who returned from injury at Starrcade – and expect Ambrose to interject either in real life, or via JumboTron.
Raw’s other top match currently booked for TLC will see women’s champ Ronda Rousey taking on Nia Jax. Tonight, we should expect to see Jax and her new partner Tamina Snuka continue to establish their powerhouse team, pushing Jax’s credibility as a challenger for Rousey and her heat with the fans. The official preview says Rousey might have some words for SmackDown ladies Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, but it makes little sense to waste precious television time on a feud which, A) is being well-carried on social media, and B) won’t feature another match until at Royal Rumble at the earliest. It’s probably safe to assume Rousey will make an appearance tonight, it’s just the context left up in the air.
One of the worst things about booking in the current era of wrestling is the propensity for champs to lose non-title bouts to set up their next contenders. From the moment Bobby Rooooooo and Chad Gable were announced to be taking on AOP in a non-title match last week, everyone knew where this was heading. Everyone knows tonight’s title match will end in controversial fashion, leading to a tag title match at TLC between the two teams. And everyone knows AOP will leave TLC with the straps, then lose the next night on Raw, probably to Lucha House Party, in a non-title match. Nobody uses the ‘copy’ / ‘paste’ function more than writers at Raw.
And finally, expect the shining star of the show, the only reason it’s worth watching at all, Elias, to once again be outwitted by Lio Rush and beaten by Bobby Lashley. If there’s any silver lining to hope for out of this program, it’s a TLC match which should be won by Elias. Having said that, if he’s gotta go through three more weeks of having his heat and momentum crippled leading into that, it might be too late.
All in all, not a whole lot to look forward to, is there? You’d like to think everyone at the company realizes the tailspin the television shows are both in at the moment, and there’s a real sense of necessity to make changes and fix things. Then episodes like last week’s come along, and you’re left wondering if anyone at WWE even cares. On a scale of one to five, with five being, “As Good As Terry Funk’s ‘Forever’ Promo” and one being “Scott Steiner’s Trying To Do Math Again,” expect tonight’s Raw to rate a one.