WWE’s Payback pay-per-view was a pleasant surprise for fans – a show that excited and surprised in equal measure. With some great momentum and a lot of news from that show – how would the company follow up on tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw? Would Alexa Bliss still be standing tall? Would Brock Lesnar grace us with his presence?
Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Alicia Fox & Emma def. Bayley, Sasha Banks, Mickie James & Dana Brooke
Luke Gallows def. Enzo Amore
Jack Gallagher, Rich Swann & Akira Tozawa def. The Brian Kendrick, Noam Dar & Tony Nese
Apollo Crews def. Heath Slater
Austin Aries def. TJP
The Miz def. Finn Balor & Seth Rollins (#1 Contendership for IC Title)
WIN: They Actually Had Alexa Bliss on a Pedestal Standing Tall
If you were a Bayley fan, this segment got very rough very quickly. Raw opened to Alexa Bliss literally standing on a pedestal above the other female performers, and it was glorious. A nice visual for the momentum in the division right now, with the new Champion standing tall. Alexa spent a good 10 minutes berating the women’s roster – before homing in on Bayley. I am glad they didn’t have her step back from this confrontation, she actually went for Alexa when it made sense. Great way to not only spotlight Alexa’s great mic work but also a nice way to build to Bayley’s inevitable desire to take her down a peg or ten.
GOOD: Eight Woman-Multi Match
…Oh god dammit. I won’t lie, I wasn’t thrilled to see us returning to the Raw and finding every Raw woman slapped into a multi-person match. These matches don’t really work when there’s only one active feud in said division, as fans are just waiting for them two to face off. The brief time Bayley and Alexa got together was incredibly fun though, with Bayley actually showing development as a character. Who knows, maybe in losing – Bayley will become the kind of character that fans can cheer for again. Now if only WWE could find something to do with the rest of the women, we’d be singing right now.
BAD: Enzo vs Luke Gallows
So WWE follow-up that white-hot opening by slopping out the latest instalment of Enzo & Cass vs. Anderson & Gallows. Did you care? Did the crowd care? Does anyone outside of their immediate family care? It wasn’t an awful match, but it wasn’t worth getting excited over. In fact I can barely remember the match, and it happened only two minutes ago. Problem with so much 50/50 booking is you tend to forget most of it.
GOOD: The IC Title Is Made To Feel Important Again
With the Universal Championship on permanent holiday, it’s left the IC Title to carry the main event burden it leaves behind. What I liked about this segment was how Miz came out to actively challenge Ambrose for the title – stressing its importance and making it feel like a huge deal. Bringing Finn and Rollins into the title picture makes sense – as the pair literally have nothing else going on for them right now (With the possible exception of Bray Wyatt for Balor down the line). Strong segment for the secondary title.
BAD: Cruiserweight’s Compete In Their Own House of Horrors Car Crash
Is there a point to any of this? Six guys with no direction and an audience that’s struggling to connect. The Cruiserweight Division sits in the sun and dries out like a sad tomato. These multiman matches do nothing
GOOD(ish): Sheamus & Cesaro Explain Their Heel Turn
Some may disagree, but Sheamus and Cesaro needed this heel turn. The pair have been verging on unbearable for a while now as faces. Their logic was sound and while it was amusing to hear Sheamus rolling back the pairs face antics (“We never liked you guys”) at least its something new in a division that needs all the freshness it can get. They came out of Payback standing tall, and fans can see them as a credible force again.
BAD: Apollo Crews Overcomes Mild Indifference To Defeat Heath Slater
Crew’s slow heel turn continues with this somewhat pointless win over Heath Slater. I feel like WWE aren’t taking advantage of the potential here – Crews might as well be the same bland guy we’ve been mildly impressed with for the last two years. Inject some of that Titus Brand directly into his character – give him new music and new gear. Really make it feel like a big thing. Oh and Heath Slater is back jobbing again. It was a fun push while it lasted.
GOOD: Wyatt Confronts Kurt Angle
First things first – the way Michael Cole spoke about the House of Horrors match would make you think we’d seen a bonified classic. It was incredibly awkward, given the fresh mess they handed out last night. As for the conflict between Angle and Wyatt, I’m mildly curious over this one. Knowing Angle hasn’t been cleared to compete makes this conflict slightly less exciting – but the potential is there for something a lot more grand down the road. A nice change of pace for Wyatt who could do well as an increasing nuisance to Angle’s GM tenure.
GOOD: Austin Aires Takes On Perkins
If WWE want people to love the Cruiserweights, they’d be better just sticking Austin Aires out there as much as possible. The guy is the only member of the roster with the kind of natural charisma to sell the product, with yet another great match under his belt here. I also liked the Perkins heel antics, his post-match assault really layered on how his character is changing. Just a shame he still dabs and comes out to the most face-music in the company right now. Baby steps WWE, baby steps
GOOD: Balor, Rollins and Miz Put On A Classic
See, when people dump on Miz – I point to matches like this and say that he works so well with the top guys in WWE. Everyone looked amazing in this match – which had the crowd in attendance and on social media on their feet. There were so many thrills and spills throughout, it was easy to root for any of the three. Samoa Joe attacking Rollins was a nice way of protecting him, while Balor being assaulted by Wyatt nicely segways him into that feud. Miz winning ultimately makes sense, if only because he’s the only one that can benefit from another IC Title run. It needs to be said though, Rollins really needs to calm down his approach to the big spots in these matches. He almost injured himself and Finn Balor with a botched leap from the ropes. It’s not a tall order to ask for care when leaping round the ring.
If Payback was a pleasant surprise, the Raw after was a reminder that WWE’s flagship can be just as entertaining sometimes.
The main event was the clear standout here – with all three competitors looking like true main eventers. It speaks of the volume in talent Raw has that this match felt fresh and exciting, with audiences sat on the edges of their seats.
I’m also happy with the direction Alexa Bliss is heading in. WWE seem incredibly keen to position her as the main female talent on Raw, with another strong promo segment. It’s clear that she can hold her own both in the ring and on the mic – and it seems to be rubbing off on Bayley. For the first time in a long while, she seemed genuinely interesting as her annoyance and rage overtook her. I want to see the rematch, that’s for sure.
The rest of the show was hit and miss, the focus largely on continuing the stories setup at Payback. It wasn’t the worst Raw, but was a tall order to expect quality across the board.
A solid Raw, with a really strong main event.