Raw Expectations (12/17/18)


Following last week’s brick-by-brick destruction of the fourth wall, and last night’s TLC Network Special bringing some stories to their conclusion, what can viewers expect from tonight’s presentation of WWE Monday Night Raw?

The biggest talking point going into the night in Sacramento, CA., is the hyped return of Vincent Kennedy McMahon to “shake things up.” Viewers have been loudly telling the company for quite some time that Raw isn’t very good, and last week, the company fired back, telling their audience that… the show isn’t very good. Not their usual tactic. However, if they’ve decided drastic measures are necessary, they’ve set up any changes with a logical reason. And tonight, they’re bringing out the guy who can make those sweeping kind of changes. To many, the inclusion of the words “shake up” seems to mean he’ll be announcing brand switches for several wrestlers. A lot of speculation stems from the Baron Corbin story, and the fact Raw is without a General Manager, leading to a large segment of fans wondering who McMahon will appoint tonight. With ratings for both shows waning, could the Commissioner positions of both McMahon kids be in jeopardy? Or, could this finally be the long-awaited retirement announcement of McMahon? There could not be a bigger shake up to the Universe than that. It seems most reasonable to expect Corbin to play a part in the segment, so it’s more likely this will be a new General Manager announcement. Since Kurt Angle returned last night as the final man to get revenge on Corbin, it seems likely he’ll also have a role. Whatever way they end up deciding to go with this, and it could well be they won’t decide until 7:45 p.m., the first half hour tonight should be interesting.

One match we’ll get tonight, announced at TLC, will be Finn Balor taking on Dolph Ziggler. There’s no way this ends without an appearance by Drew McIntyre, who ate the loss last night thanks to Ziggler’s interference. This trio will no doubt be squaring off against each other in various matches from now to the Royal Rumble at least, so tonight’s match could end in a no-contest shmozzle, or be turned into their first triple-threat. There has seemed to be little doubt McIntyre was getting the rocket strapped to his back, so expect to see him standing tall come the conclusion of the program. Lately though, we’re really seeing the babyfaces coming across strong, so expect to see Balor’s cheeky grin at the end of any confrontation tonight.

Will Seth Rollins be thinking about trying to recapture his Intercontinental championship, or will he switch his sights to the Royal Rumble, and winning a shot at the Universal title? Rollins is one of very few who has competitive credibility against Lesnar, and is an early favourite among fans as a potential Rumble winner. While it would be an abrupt ending to his story with former Shield brother Dean Ambrose if that was dropped now, it doesn’t feel like the audience is engaging with as much emotion as the company expected. Maybe it’s because there are segments of the audience not comfortable with Roman Reign’s leukemia diagnosis being used, maybe it’s because we’ve seen these two go to war before. Rollins name-dropped Lesnar and the MIA status of the Universal title last week, so his moving-on is set up. Ambrose could decide to make an example of Corey Graves and punish him for pestering his wife Rene Young at the commentary desk again last night. Or, we could finally get the television return of Bray Wyatt as the new antagonist for either man.

Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey had her hands in both ladies title matches at TLC, defeating Nia Jax before ruining the night for Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. There can be no doubt, Rousey is on a collision course with both Flair and Lynch – one of them, or both, will headline WrestleMania against Rousey. But with both Lynch and Flair on SmackDown, how are we going to get to there from here? Will either of the blue brand girls be more inclined to chase back after Asuka and the title? Do Flair and Charlotte battle it out first, or does that just happen when they’re the last two at the Rumble? Raw will have to determine a new number-one contender for their title – the seeds are definitely well-planted for that to be Natayla, which has a lot of story line potential of its own. With some excellent story telling and booking really helping to elevate their top women’s stars, the midcard girls must be wishing they could get some Creative attention too. Things would be more interesting on the Raw side if the girls ostensibly building the tag division were to focus on Ronda and her title instead. Sasha Banks for one should be included in the hunt for the Raw Women’s strap, as should Alexa Bliss when she’s cleared. Expect to see something announced tonight for a new women’s number one contender to thicken the plot.

Elias beat Bobby Lashley on the pre-show, then got brutalized. The match, and the positioning of the match on the card, left both guys in right about the same spot they were in going into TLC. Where either of them go from here is anyone’s guess, just as long as they’re kept away from each other.

The Raw midcard got more time on TLC either beating up Corbin, or being in the Mixed Match Challenge finals, than they usually get on a Monday. Expect to see Raw Tag Team Champs Bobby Rooooooo and Chad Gable work tonight, hopefully not in a non-title match to lose to future contenders. It would be nice to see The Revival get a measure of revenge against Lucha House Party, despite it not playing into the whole face/heel dynamic. Will Heath Slater feed his massive family on a wrestler’s salary, or a referee’s? Will Apollo Crews do anything? With the feeling in the air of a full reset-button being hit somewhere, there’s some hope for these guys that they’ll get some sort of chance to shine. They’ll be recording six hours of Raw tonight including next week’s show, so the time will be there. Will opportunities arise?

So there ya go. Not a lot of solid forecasts or predictions for tonight as such, but we’re in strange territory. A Vinnie Mac opening on Raw gives your mind the freedom to believe literally anything could happen, because we’ve seen some good stuff before. Having said that, there have been some stinkers too, so nobody can be blamed for being pessimistic either. Let’s hope for something explosive to get the interest levels up as we head towards the Royal Rumble, and begin the slow crawl up the road to WrestleMania. On a scale of one to five, with five being, “She Went Through Two Ladders!”, and one being, “Your Table Didn’t Break,” expect tonight’s Raw to rate between two and two-and-a-half.

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