Extra Mustard's Monday Night Raw Recap: WWE treads water as Night of Champions approaches
Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, Part 2,581
Night of Champions is three weeks away.
That is a thought that should terrify you.
If the WWE is already treading water in a moment where it should be laying tile to pump up its next PPV that’s… not a good sign. Case in point, tonight’s show starts with Triple H monitoring a debate between Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Kane, Roman Reigns and John Cena about who deserves to be the number one contender to face Brock Lesnar for the title at NoC. Everyone in the building knows full well that the answer to this question is John Cena, because John Cena has already been thoroughly advertised as the man cashing in his “rematch clause.” Also, wasn’t Triple H the guy who thoroughly engineered the circumstances for Brock Lesnar winning the title in the first place? Why would he be having doubts? The dust settles as Trips declares a three-on-three match to decide who truly deserves to compete for the title; Randy/Seth/Kane vs. Cena/Jericho/Reigns.
This is the sort of house-show headliner that equates to the WWE throwing up its arms and saying “man, I don’t know.”
Never mind the fact that a six-man tag doesn’t do anything to showcase the individual dominance ostensibly necessary to show yourself as a legit number one contender, let’s focus on how you and I knew exactly how this match was going to end as soon as it was announced. Seriously. Trips outlined the circumstances and I was immediately “JOHN CENA PINS KANE CLEAN.” I was 99 percent right, except it was John Cena attitude adjusting Kane and tagging in Roman Reigns for the pin. I am not insane, so I know not to expect a different outcome from the same thing happening over and over again.
Look WWE, if you don’t want people disappointed with your show just… do something different. You have three hours every week. That’s plenty of room! You could stretch out characters in all sorts of unique, interesting ways! But no, we get an autopilot rationing like this. Not only does that suck, it also reeks of an embarrassingly poor allocation of resources. We all watched SummerSlam, we know you can do better.
In My Head This Was Really Great
So I missed this part of the show, because I had to go grab some fresh air to quell the wrestling rage inside of me. But from what I understand there was a match between Miz/Cesaro and Ziggler/Sheamus that involved Miz constantly ducking out of the ring to get more makeup applied to his face. That sounds pretty great. I’m sure it was awkward and gawky and full of terrible JBL one-liners in practice, but in my idyllic fantasy-booked imagination, this is what wrestling should be all about.
The WWE Cares More about Total Divas than Wrestling
Total Divas, the tepid reality show starring the hired-as-models portion of the WWE’s women’s division, is entering its third season next week. So to promote that, we get a six-man tag between a bunch of girls who never ever seem to appear on Raw. Cameron, Rosa Mendes, and Eva Marie, vs Summer Rae, Layla, and Naomi.
To be fair, there were some good moments. I’ve actually sorta forgotten that Layla can go when she’s not trudging her way through Fandango storylines, (the same could be said for Summer Rae,) and Naomi looked great in her requisite why-isn’t-she-on-the-show-more 20 seconds of offense.
But mostly this was about Rosa Mendes causing some “drama” that I imagine will be iterated on to an unwatchable degree through the next year of Total Divas. Hey, you gotta get on the show any way you can.
The Most Boring Match You’ve Seen on Raw in Quite a While, but at Least the Rusev Stuff is Good
Mark Henry is old, slow, and can’t really move like he used to. Big Show is old, slow, and can’t really move like he used to. Together, they are old, slow, and can’t really move like they used to. They are tag team partners, because they are both big. Do you like watching big people trudge around the ring with painstaking carefulness? Do you like watching men wrestle who look like they can’t walk without pain? Then you’ll LOVE this tag match with Rowan and Harper.
Seriously, watching these guys wrestle just makes me kind of sad now. The lesser Wyatts are energetic, young, and stock an unexpected quickness, but all of that is wasted when you’re up against a couple vets who could shatter at any moment. Like, you’re not going to see Harper do his bananas between-ropes dive on Big Show, but you will see a lot of botched DDTs!
The point of this match was to put Mark Henry in a position to eat a superkick from an interfering Rusev, (he would later retaliate later in the night,) and that’s a feud I can genuinely get behind. I still mostly trust Mark Henry in the ring, and an all-out patriotic hoss-off with an acolyte like Rusev sounds genuinely pretty fun. Plus, it’d be the first time we’d get to see Rusev go up against someone of real consequence. That counts for something!
The Best Part of the Show Was a Comedy Bit That Involved a Commie Child
So Jack Swagger came out to the ring to Swagger Bomb Curtis Axel, who apparently is rolling sans Ryback right now as Ryback recovers from whatever was ailing him. This is all well and good, but this segment becomes something extraordinarily memorable when Bo Dallas comes out after the match, and demonstrates just how thoroughly Swagger let down his country by losing to Rusev twice in a row.
You guys, this segment literally ends with Bo Dallas bringing a mother to the stage, and saying that her son was a huge Jack Swagger fan going into the Rusev feud, but afterwards? “Now, he wants to be like…….. VLADIMIR PUTIN!”
This is great, great wrestling content. In kayfabe, there is a little boy somewhere in Iowa who was so crushed by his hero’s defeat that he’s now aspiring to be the iron-fisted leader of a restless state. If the rumors are true, and Vince McMahon has soured on Bo Dallas, he’s making a tremendous mistake.
A Bunny Beat Up a Man on Raw
Adam Rose fought Titus O’Neil. Adam Rose’s bunny started fighting with Heath Slater at ringside. Do you know how hard it is to explain to your parents/girlfriend/brother/whatever that you’re watching a man in a bunny suit beat up another man for work purposes?
I am happy that they’re hinting towards a heel turn for Adam Rose, it’s perhaps the only thing to save a character that was dead on arrival.
The Bella Trainwreck is the Gift that Keeps on Giving
You can bet that every week from here on out we’re going to get an absurdly hilarious Nikki Bella/Brie Bella segment. If you’re unaware, these are the twins who are currently dating/married to two of the most powerful men in the company, John Cena and Daniel Bryan. They can’t really work, but that doesn’t matter because Vince McMahon is the biggest carny in the universe and THEY’RE RASSLIN’ TWINS DAMNIT. So they end up getting a lot of prime TV while people like Emma or Natalya are barely on the show.
Right now, they’re feuding after Nikki turned on Brie at SummerSlam, and holy sh*t guys is it embarrassing. They are two women who are absolutely BUTCHERING lines with some of the most potent, hateful, “I NEVER LOVED YOU” haymakers you’ll see on TV. It’s great. I’ve never seen the WWE dedicate so much primetime to two performers who SO CLEARLY DON’T HAVE IT.
This week was a little bit better, because we got Steph in the ring too. Steph is actually good at her job, and is far better getting her heat than Nikki’s braying, flatline yelps. A few seconds later A.J. starts skipping down to the ring because Steph said something about granting Nikki a title match, which is something A.J. wants more. Paige then shows up, she says about four words before her microphone is snatched and the focus goes back on the Bellas who immediately become the least likable people in the building. Seriously, I wanted the segment to end with Paige and A.J. killing both of them and skipping out of the ring hand-in-hand. That didn’t happen, Brie punched Nikki, and we’re moving on.
This isn’t, you know, good. But it does carry that flag of unique, immesuarable badness that has sustained a healthy portion of the WWE’s legacy. By that standard, this is shaping up to be something for the ages.
I’m all in on the Dust Brothers Heel Turn Now
Last week I complained a lot about Goldust and Stardust turning heel on the Usos. They were weird cosmic hippies who talked a lot about reading cosmic lineage, and didn’t seem like the people who cared that much about titles, much less post-match punishment. But after a crazy-fun romp between Goldust and Jimmy Uso, I’m starting to get it.
Basically, Stardust slightly interferes by tipping Goldust’s foot on the rope (breaking an Uso pin,) which leads to a wicked Final Cut on Jimmy for the pin. The Dusties, much like last week, start to beat down on the hobbled Usos after the match, which culminates in Stardust getting a LEGITIMATELY SCARY look in his eyes and SLAMMING a steel chair against Jey Uso’s injured knee. Jey sold his ass off, and it painted the Dust Brothers as the sort of evil, unhinged weirdos who are capable of some devastating stuff if you get on their bad side. They’ve still goofy, just a twisted, evil-clown sort of goofy that erased a lot of my doubts I had about this swerve last week.
15 Solid Minutes of Introductions
You know how I know this Raw was bad? By my count, the main event started proceeding at 9:30 with the introduction of John Cena. We got a commercial break. We return, and watch the entrances of Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, Kane, and Seth Rollins. A few minutes of wrestling. Commercial break. It’s now 9:45.
We return, Jericho wanders around the ring before tagging in John Cena, who gets momentarily killed by a chokeslam, Roman Reigns does some Roman Reigns things. Eventually Cena gets tagged back in, AA’s Kane, tags in Roman for the spear, makes some angry faces at Triple H. It’s now 10:05.
That was a 35 minute segment. It took 35 minutes to watch John Cena AA Kane.
Here’s the thing, the match wasn’t even that bad! If I was at a live event, or if ANYTHING OF CONSEQUENCE happened this episode, I’d probably stay pretty enthused! But in a situation like this, it just feels like you called the WWE’s bluff.
I should remind you, there are still three weeks away from Night of Champions.