RAW Deal: We’ve found a driver, and that’s a start
LIVERPOOL—Here’s a confession: no matter how imperfect it gets, I still love watching Monday Night RAW.
I think it’s compelling now more than ever, to be honest with you. Yes, I know there are a lot of you out there who don’t agree with my assessment of the product (and there are those of you who have nothing to do with pro wrestling, but still express your ridiculous rage about this column for absolutely no good reason) but I really do believe that it’s a compelling show, whether you love it or you hate it.
If you love it right now, I don’t think I really need to sell it, so you can skip to the next paragraph. If you hate it, here’s what you should at least consider: the WWE is competing with itself for survival, and that finally means that they’re taking steps to make the shows better. Switching up their style with a dormant WWE Champion? Making Survivor Series relevant again with an actual Survivor Series main event? I know I’ve been going on about this in the past couple of weeks, but in the WWE’s Age of Autopilot, it bears repeating that this is stuff we needed to see.
Absent true competition (don’t kid yourself; TNA isn’t a legit contender on the WWE’s level) they’ve still managed to put themselves in real risk by shifting drastically to a new business model in the WWE Network. Whether that was a calculated move to try and light a fire under the company’s rear end, we’ll never know, but it had to have been in some form.
So now you’ve got RAWs like this one, with a decent mix of solid television matches and dizzying plot routes. After stepping back from the moment, it was clear that some of Monday’s developments weren’t the best—like Ryback spanning the entire spectrum by starting face, then turning heel and tweener by the end of the night, Jack Swagger in and out of Team Cena in the span of 30 minutes, and Sheamus and Big Show both signing up for the Good Guys to help round out the teams. It’s overwhelming, and not always in the best of ways.
You know what’s great, though? When the craziness of the evening is perfectly punctuated by something you never, ever see coming. Luke Harper makes his return by hunting down Team Cena member Dolph Ziggler and delivering him to the shocked Authority, stating his case to be on the team. The company’s track record with unpredictability hasn’t always been good, but this one, the silliest segment of the night when you really think about it, just takes the cake. It’s the last punch in a three-hour battering, and it just works. It’s the perfect what’s-next question to get us through.
Compelling stuff, really, if you’re still with us on the ride.
- A handful of good, solid TV matches once again, from Rollins/Swagger, the Sheamus/Rusev U.S. Championship rematch, and Cena/Ryback. Ryback going postal on everyone is must-see; it’s amazing how it took them only three weeks to re-establish the Big Guy as a big deal on the roster again, no matter what side he plays for (or doesn’t play for). Their ability to still do that is really important in these lean months and especially going into the Road to Wrestlemania.
- Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt is finally picking up steam, and while it’s still not the best it can be, both men’s promo work is still a treat to watch. DEAN AMBROSE HAS A PEN! DO YOU KNOW WHAT HEATH LEDGER WAS ABLE TO DO WITH A PENCIL?
- These fine GIFs illustrate the magic of that very last segment:
- It really looks like we’re getting a four-team tag title match on Survivor Series. I like chaos like that. Bring it on.
- Okay, I guess I should explain that a little more. It’s simple—Luke Harper is a great wrestler and a great actor, while it’s even clearer that Dolph Ziggler is also a great wrestler. A feud between these two should produce nothing short of fireworks. Harper on Team Authority is also a from-out-of-left-field concept that is, at the same time, not so far-fetched when you stop and think about it.
- Adam Rose continues his descent into molly-driven madness. Isn’t it great when we’re given things we want?
- IT’S OFFICIAL! THE ENTIRE WOODS/KINGSTON/BIG E STABLE IS PART OF THE NEW DAY!
- I don’t think I still need to point out the giant hole of logic that exists by virtue of Rusev and Mark Henry being on the same team.
- The lack of Randy Orton on RAW was palpable. Not totally glaring, but you can still feel that he’s gone, and I want more meth-fueled Orton. On a positive note, that means quite a few guys are moving in some places for much-needed rubs.
- Grumpy Cat is hosting RAW next week. Whether that’s a high spot or a low blow depends on your feelings toward the meme. (Personally, I’m not a cat person and I’m already kinda sick of it.)
- On that note, Hornswoggle has been added to Miz and Mizdow’s little acting thing, and whether that’s good or bad depends on your feelings toward Hornswoggle.
- I do agree that everything feels rushed, in some form. While I love the Harper segment, I feel like it could’ve done without happening tonight; it could’ve happened either on this week’s SmackDown (to help give the show some of its prestige back) or on next week’s RAW. Too much just went on, and they still have enough breathing room to tell their stories. Not to worry, though, the new system’s still a work in progress.
Things you might have missed last week: Have you started watching Lucha Underground? No? Not yet? Well, this is a taste of what you’re missing:
Yes, that’s a full match.
Or if alternatives aren’t your thing, have you seen Finn Balor (the former Prince Devitt) debut on NXT last week?
Also, did you miss last week’s RAW? Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to most of those questions—especially that last one—are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast—featuring Mellow 94.7 DJ Stan Sy and wrestling writer Romeo Moran! On their latest episode, the Philippine Wrestling Revolution’s Chris Panzer and Ken Warren drop by to talk about their rematch on the upcoming PWR show, Terminus. Give it a listen here!
ERRATUM: Some literature nerds and English majors have pointed out to me that I got the title of last week’s column wrong, and I admit the error. It should have been “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Thank you for correcting me, and I made sure I got this week’s reference right.