It’s go-home week for WWE’s Monday Night Raw, with the red brand headed to San Diego, California, for their final presentation prior to Sunday’s Tables, Ladders and Chairs Network Special. Following what was a slightly improved episode last week, what should fans expect this evening? With rumours loudly going around the Web suggesting Vince McMahon re-wrote the last two episodes himself, with hours to spare before going live, should he expect any of his writing team to pick up a pen today – or even show up?
Thankfully, we did get more answers than questions last week in regards to the red half of the TLC card. The Scottish Psychopath Drew McIntyre will indeed take on the plucky Irishman Finn Balor. Balor caused the former Chosen One to lose to his former partner, and freshly-minted babyface, Dolph Ziggler last week. He also chipped in to help Elias finally smash his guitar over Lio Rush. Then, he was left in a crumpled heap by McIntyre to end his night. Expect tonight’s main event to include at least two of Sunday’s bouts, with McIntyre teaming with Bobby Lashley to take on Balor and Elias. If General Manager-Elect Baron Corbin and Ziggler end up with nothing better to do, expect them to be stuck in there too for a six-man match. Then expect to watch the faces go over, to balance their inevitable PPV losses this Sunday. McIntyre is not going to be derailed now. He’ll defeat Balor at TLC and head into a program against Ziggler through to WrestleMania, and he will be dominant in what should be stellar matches.
As for Elias, Lashley and Rush tonight, expect a lot of what we’ve been seeing over the last few weeks. The Drifter will probably offer up a song about Lashley and sucking, and The Almighty will try to get some revenge for the splintered guitar. There’s something just missing from this pairing. It could have something to do with both Lashley and Elias turning right around the same time, neither with very much motivation or reason. It could be the stale booking to build their feud. It’s probably a combination of both. Regardless, fan investment in Elias has slipped lately, there’s not a ton of interest being shown for this match, and they need to do something tonight to get the heat rising.
The most creative investment for TLC has been put into the Intercontinental title match between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins – if you don’t count the bout that isn’t expected to happen, between Corbin and Braun Strowman. Expect Rollins to prove tonight that he’s ready to roll Sunday against his ex-bro, and that Ambrose’s mind games haven’t worked on him. Also, expect the story at the commentary desk to advance tonight, after we finally got a fitting response from Rene Young last week. Turns out she’s not oblivious, or killing kayfabe, she’s just been trying to protect her privacy. This now has some extra potential.
Another thing with some real potential – we should expect Heath Slater’s debut as a referee. This whole angle came out of left field last week, Corbin booking Slater to take on Rhyno, with what turned out to be a zebra job on the line. Some have written this off as filler, but this was arguably the most creative spot on last week’s episode. Let’s take a moment to get silly, and use logic. There’s no way this is really a story intended to turn Slater into an actual full-time ref; hopefully it’s not just a sidebar for Corbin. It must be to begin to give the audience a reason to care about the Slater character. There are a few different ways they could go with this, and if absolutely nothing else, it’s something unique right now in a world typically lacking anything new.
The segment arguably missing any and all potential tonight will be the embarrassingly bad Alexa Bliss Press Conference. If this is even half as dire as the last two week’s worth of awful Q&A bits, it will be terrible. And frankly, how could it not be? What could possibly be done to turn this into something watchable? The sad misuse of Bliss, as a character she actually does quite well, is inexcusable. We’d all be better off with the same-old authority figure stories versus phony press conferences. Sasha Banks, Bayley, Mickie James, Alexa Fox and Dana Brooke deserve better too.
Also in the women’s division, with Natayla set to take on Ruby Riott in a tables match on Sunday, we can expect to see the two of them in a confrontation. Also, expect a table to be involved. Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey should expect to be once again confronted by her opponent this Sunday, Nia Jax. Her partner Tamina lost a lot of her lustre last Monday when she was so easily submitted by Rousey, so if Jax is to build real credibility headed into TLC, she’ll need to stand tall tonight. If Ember Moon still gets to be involved following her spouse’s social media post is anyone’s guess. Jax has made mistakes, and it hasn’t hurt her company standing. This wasn’t even Moon’s misstep, so hopefully there’s no harm.
In the tag division, expect lunacy once again, as the commentators gush, laugh and joke while Lucha House Party beat up the Revival in a handicap match – then wail, gnash teeth and rain disdain down upon the AOP for beating up Bobby Rooooooo and Chad Gable in a handicap match. And maybe some pee. There was a time, not long ago, when fans were begging for tag team wrestling to get some more of the spotlight. If this is how it has to be, just drop it. Very sad for a show which we can expect to open with an ‘RIP’ to tag team legend ‘Dynamite Kid’ Tom Billington.
The rumours say McMahon re-wrote last week’s show after the death of former president George H.W. Bush, in an effort to please and lift the fans in Texas. And while ratings weren’t good, the show was an improvement over recent efforts. So now we know, it takes someone prominent dying in the host city to get the company to up their game. And that’s a sad, sad indictment. On a scale of one to five, with five being, “Like a Monday Night Raw from 1999!” and one being, “Like a Sunday Night Heat from 1999!”, expect tonight’s Raw to rate a two.