It’s important to give credit where credit’s due, and for the past three weeks, you have to hand it to them: WWE has put on three straight captivating episodes of Monday Night Raw. Three episodes in the middle of the summer, no less, which is usually a death sentence for any compelling storyline as we’re in the no man’s land between WrestleMania and SummerSlam. It’s easy to meet this kind of quality with entitlement and a “finally” rather than earnest praise, given WWE’s roster is absolutely stacked from top to bottom and the company continues to make money hand over fist in their television deals despite a bland television product. But rather than see this step up in quality as something that was owed to us, let’s take a step back and recognize the solid fundamentals WWE is executing to put on some entertaining Monday nights. It all comes down to one thing: consistent, logical storylines that are built upon week after week.
Far too often WWE seemingly forgets angles before they even have a chance to begin, or suddenly drops them in favor of something new. This hasn’t been the case for the past few weeks on the red brand, as virtually every Superstar worth caring about has a rival, clear motivations, and events that progress the story from week to week. Let’s run down some of the prominent ones from a kayfabe perspective.
Roman Reigns, Bobby Lashley, Brock Lesnar, and The Revival: Roman feels screwed by the company since being thrust into situations he finds unfair, and still coming away with victories that are taken right from under his nose. His one goal is to finally topple Brock Lesnar, who has managed to hold onto his Universal Championship through a combination of lucky calls (Greatest Royal Rumble‘s cage match finish) and, now, straight up ducking Roman since then.
We know WWE will not do anything about Brock essentially holding the title hostage, since Vince McMahon himself said in the lead-up to WrestleMania that Brock Lesnar does indeed have special privileges based on the revenue he brings in. Put the rulebook away, Jack Tunney stans: no 30 day defense clause technicality is going to do Brock in here.
Bobby Lashley feels that he deserves to pick back up where he left off in WWE and be slotted back in the main event scene, especially following a commanding win against Sami Zayn at Money in the Bank. He recognizes that Roman Reigns is the Big Dog™ in the Yard™ these days, and to claim his seat atop the card he has to take him down. He also believes if he vanquishes Reigns, Lesnar may actually rear his ugly head around these parts again.
The Revival, shrewd competitors frustrated with their lack of opportunities as of late, see this powder keg as a chance to make a name for themselves. They insert themselves into this budding rivalry, managing to eke out a surprise upset against two of WWE’s infamous pet projects. Last night on Raw, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder got yet another rematch against Reigns and Lashley, and took the opportunity to beat the hell out of a prideful-to-a-fault Roman, who refused to tag in Lashley at all out of principle. If Roman isn’t careful, his hubris could be his downfall, and the Revival exploited that to maximum benefit.
Seth Rollins, returning the favor after his buddy Roman made the save a couple weeks ago, came to the Big Dog’s side. His issue with Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre boiled over, however, as Dolph and Drew took this opportunity to isolate Rollins while Reigns was getting his face rearranged with a Shatter Machine.
Which leads into the next major story on Raw…
Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre, and Roman Reigns: Seth Rollins has been on top of the world since winning the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania, the culmination of a hot streak the likes of which he hasn’t enjoyed since his WWE Championship run back in 2015. Everything just seemed to be clicking for the Kingslayer — that is, until Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, two seasoned vets with chips on their shoulders the size of Ohio, set their sights on the Intercontinental Championship. The roll Rollins was on led him to take a page out of John Cena’s playbook and institute the Intercontinental Championship Open Challenge, which Ziggler gladly answered a few weeks ago and shockingly came away with the prestigious title.
Simply taking the title from Rollins wasn’t enough for Ziggler and McIntyre: following a classic rematch wherein Ziggler retained the title through shady means, they wanted to make a statement and put the rest of the roster on notice. The champ and his bodyguard took to beating down the Architect, drawing the ire of Roman Reigns, as if he doesn’t have enough on his plate already. Ziggler has been ordered to defend the Intercontinental Title once again at Extreme Rules in a 30 minute Iron Man Match following the controversy, and while Roman had his hands full with the Revival on Monday night, Dolph and Drew put the screws to Rollins, softening him up for the bout on July 15.
Baron Corbin and Finn Balor: Baron Corbin’s arrogance knows no bounds since he was personally appointed Constable of Monday Night Raw by Stephanie McMahon herself, and he’s taken to using his newfound platform to make life for little guys like Finn Balor hell. Balor’s been on a Universal Championship hunt of his own, but as the entire scene has been held in abeyance by a temperamental Beast, he’s taking the opportunity to put Constable Corbin in his place, cutting down the big man with verbal jab after verbal jab, which will no doubt lead to the power-hungry Corbin looking to teach Balor a lesson.
Sasha Banks and Bayley: The mega-friends finally exploded, as Bayley lost her cool following a tag team loss to the Riott Squad and months of petty bickering and trust issues between herself and The Boss, Sasha Banks. This led Kurt Angle to order both to attend mandatory counseling, or risk losing their job. As many has guessed, the counseling is being facilitated by none other than Dr. Shelby, who did such a good job with Daniel Bryan and Kane’s anger management sessions that just last week Team Hell No reunited with the Hug Heard ‘Round the World, five years later.
Kevin Owens and Braun Strowman: Kevin Owens is afraid of Braun Strowman. Very afraid. Leading into Money in the Bank, KO attempted to form a coalition with the other competitors in the men’s ladder match to take the Monster Among Men out. That plan failed spectacularly, and ended with Owens being tossed off a 20 foot ladder through a table. Since then, Owens has attempted to make amends with Strowman, even teaming with Mr. Monster in the Bank on Raw, but Strowman saw through the ruse, putting Owens in a … ahem … s----y situation this Monday on Raw.
Me: Pro wrestling is a misunderstood and underrated art form capable of strong, emotional storytelling.
Also me: /gleefully watches one man shove a s--t-filled port-a-potty containing another man off a stage#WWE #RAW #WWERAW
— AiPT! Wrestling (@AiPTwrestling) July 3, 2018
Not only are these storylines logical, simple, and consistent, but many of them intertwine with one another, making Monday Night Raw a joy to watch in almost every segment. A three hour show that usually feels like it will never end has been flying by in the blink of an eye, thanks to most segments providing solid entertainment. These are just the main story threads on the red brand right now, but damn near every wrestler on the show has some kind of storyline: The B-Team Cinderella story is continuing against the insanity of Deleters of Worlds. Ronda Rousey is haunting Alexa Bliss even while being physically suspended from the show. Hell, even Mojo Rawley and No Way Jose have had a logical, week-to-week progression.
Yes, it sucks that Raw is functionally without a world title scene right now while Brock Lesnar does whatever it is that Brock does; storyline or not, Brock holding the title hostage does nobody any favors. But in his absence, Raw has had to get creative, and from top to bottom, they’ve been doing just that. These storylines are simple, Wrestling 101-type stuff, but most of the time, that’s all pro wrestling needs to be. As long as wrestlers have clear motivations for wanting to fight their opponent and new layers are added to the story every week, it’s going to be an entertaining show. So let’s toast to Raw for delivering for almost a straight month what is so often sorely missing from WWE: logical consistency.
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