This weeks edition of Monday Night Raw had some pretty impressive matches. Whisper it quietly, but I think WWE Creative have finally found the key to building major matches on not-so major pay per views. Braun is a genuine star right now and the company is making all the right decisions when it comes to his momentum. It makes me fearful for what they can do to ruin it all, but I guess that’s part of the fun.
Roman Reigns and Jason Jordan opened the show, with John Cena glancing on from the sidelines. The story here is an obvious one, but it’s being told very well (and also helping to salvage what little momentum Jason Jordan’s singles run had). Both guys looked good throughout, with the match going just over the 15-minute mark. See, if Roman Reigns could muster matches like this every week, I’m sure a lot of those haters would turn back round. As for Jordan, being given long TV matches with these two main eventers will probably be as good as it gets for his main event push. If he can’t get over now, I suspect he won’t be going over anytime. I still think that whole “gold blooded” gimmick needs to be killed asap though.
It didn’t take long for Cena to come in the ring and mock Reigns for taking so long to overcome Jordan. It was here where Roman’s shine went a bit, as he wilted in the white hot focus of Cena’s promo work. I’m not slamming Reigns at all – Cena is one of the best talkers ever in WWE, but he needs to up the intensity. The problem is that every time Roman moves to do that, Cena effectively cuts him off at the knees. Roman mentioned about ticket sales and Hollywood, but Cena stole the limelight with his brutal put downs. If the plan is to have Reigns come out on top – next weeks go-home really needs to make Reigns look like the guy. Right now, he looks the second guy.
The women came out next and made their presence felt – Sasha Banks and Emma having a decent (if unremarkable outing). Sasha really needed a good win, after her recent collapse in momentum – plus Emma really isn’t going anywhere right now. She’s in the title match, sure, but I think most fans can already tell that she’s a bit part player to the Nia Jax/Alexa Bliss storyline. It’s why they’re not bothered about feeding her weekly to the other competitors (and probably why she’ll eat the pin at No Mercy). Sometimes in WWE, it’s better not to ask for something – the company has a habit of warping those desires.
Birthday boy Paul Heyman made his way to the ring and started trying to pitch Brock Lesnar as the underdog. Unimaginable you’d think, until moments later when Braun came out and no-sold Lesnar’s suplex. It was glorious and really just made Strowman feel like a legitimate badass. It needs to be said but Lesnar is great in this situation. Much like with Goldberg last year (and earlier this year), he knows the right time to sell for his opponent. While Braun probably isn’t winning the Universal Title anytime soon – it does make a potentially huge money match down the line. It worked wonders with Goldberg (Who Lesnar managed to coax a great feud out of) and is making a legitimate star out of Strowman.
Bray Wyatt and Goldust did a match, which signaled that both of these guys are in laughably poor drifts right now. Asuka got a nice little video package, showcasing that she’s heading to Monday Nights (Good, they really need her right now) while Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss bickered backstage. Bliss was desperate to try and rekindle the old friendship flame with Nia, even though not two weeks ago, she dropped Alexa on her head and ruined her big Championship celebration. No one seemingly taught Alexa that friends don’t drop friends on their heads.
In case there are any Kalisto fans in the house, your man made a brief appearance tonight – in a losing effort sadly. Elias beat Kalisto in an effective squash match. Since SummerSlam, WWE seems to have cooled on The Drifter a fair amount – pushing back against the Finn Balor teases they originally seemed to be running towards. It was all filler though for the John Cena Braun Strowman match – another case of the main event player doing the job for Braun. Cena didn’t lose the match (he got DQed) but there was enough here to really make Braun look like a million bucks. I wouldn’t be against these two competing more down the line, potentially for a title of some kind. The match they put on here showed some real potential – so why was it not on in the main event?
Look, I’m not into the business of micro-booking everything – but this seemed like an amazingly weird match to slap out in the middle hour of Monday Night Raw. At the very least, WWE could have built it ahead of time – give audiences time to anticipate. As it happens, the match was fine. But it’s a shame the first meeting between this two just kind of happened.
Speaking of potential, let’s talk about these shoot segments. It seems WWE has finally gone all-in on the practice of having their Superstars going all out on each other, as we got two this week. Roman Reigns and John Cena continued their little dance of words – while Miz buried Enzo 12 feet under with his promo. There’s an argument that less is more in entertainment – and that WWE’s overreliance on these will ultimately only turn audiences off them. It was weird seeing Enzo and Miz, two guys who previously haven’t had any beef, utilizing the tactic with wild abandon. I’m not saying it was bad, but it felt somewhat out of place.
It also had the unfortunate side effect of making the Cruiserweights look weak. Enzo has slotted right into 205 Live as the number one contender – ultimately showing up the division’s weaknesses. Yes, Enzo got there through laborious means – but Miz saying he’s a bad wrestler only makes the division look weak as a whole. It really makes me worry that WWE might slap the Cruiserweight belt on Enzo – something that would be the final nail in the division’s coffin. On a Monday Night Raw where the Cruiserweights didn’t even get a match – things aren’t looking good.
The main event saw Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy take on Sheamus, Cesaro, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in a forgettable eight man tag team match. It did its job of setting up the tag title feud moving forward – but it awkwardly felt sloppy and a bit rushed in parts. I’m not a fan of multi-man matches closing out Raw – if only because it usually ends up in a bit of a mess.
Overall though this was a solid episode of Monday Night Raw. The quality of the show has really stepped up in the last month, even though this doesn’t match the heights of previous weeks – it seems that the company has finally found its Monday night mojo. It also probably helps that Braun is such a beast right now that WWE can wheel him out in multiple segments. Tonight he had arguably the best two segments on the show. Unthinkable a few months back – but that’s just how things are in WWE right now.