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Raw Is Torture: Another creatively bankrupt episode has broken us

Another three hours of Raw leaves Jay and Darius broken and disinterested.

The road to Survivor Series is underway and the name of the game is brand warfare. The Monday Night Raw roster looks to find out who will be the Best of the Best, and while the matches on Sunday, Nov. 22 will prove which show is the best in-universe, watching both shows can paint a pretty plain picture of which show is reigning supreme.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly wrestling podcast, PTW!

SmackDown gets rave reviews, with Roman Reigns and Bayley in particular making a lot of noise in the past few months and past year respectively. It’s got high drama, familial distress, heel turns that build slowly, and the recent renaming of Chad Gable.

Raw has RETRIBUTION looking like goobers, Lana going through tables, Tucker looking sad, and — in all fairness — two decently compelling main stories with the stacked Survivor Series build and the now Fiend-infused continuation of the endless McIntyre vs. Orton feud.

So, the show is flawed. But for all of its quirks, the show has this weird level of charm that you can get some enjoyment out of — as long as it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

This Monday’s episode of Raw had a pretty standard format (Miz TV leading to chaos leading to the night’s main event) while also furthering go-nowhere feuds like Elias vs Jeff Hardy. And while Orton’s shoot-y outbursts in the opening segment started to instill hope for the episode’s overarching plot, it fell apart for the reason most things on Raw fall apart: it’s a three hour show, and that is tiring.

But, while the format of Raw has more or less been the same since the mid-2010s, this week’s recap does feature a change: one half of our regular Raw review team is on currently taking part in a totally real and legitimate tournament in South America and will be MIA for the time being. 

For now, Darius is here to try and fill his shoes this week, and with Jay retaining his role as Raw reviewer, the PTW co-general managers of the year hope to add a little spice to this tired and tiring Monday Night Raw!


Jay: Hey Darius, it’s time for our weekly flogging. What do you think is going to start the show tonight, a 15 minute Drew McIntyre promo or a 26 minute Randy Orton promo?

Darius: My money’s on a random Miz (and Morrison) TV segment ending with The Fiend showing up and being a face(?). I will say that, since this is my first time actually sitting down to watch Raw since the draft, finally watching the new intro I’ve been hearing about is pretty nice.

WAS I RIGHT ABOUT THE MIZ?

Jay: You were right about The Miz. I see the prognostication skills that carried to the office of the PTW General Manager of the Year have not dulled in your time away from the red brand. But despite Raw being terribly, terribly dull lately, The Miz’s suits are always on point. Look at that thing! I can’t pull that off. And last week with the teal. Woof. 

Darius: This Randy Orton guy is kind of mean! I’ll never feel sympathy for the Dirt Sheet crew, but he just came after Lucha Underground and Impact Wrestling with that “minor leagues” subtweet. Dario Cueto will be hearing about this.

Jay: Dario Cueto can’t hear anything down in the depths of the obscurity he was tossed into. But that was actually a great Orton promo. It was short, the furthest thing from sweet, and very effective. And here comes D. Mac! This isn’t terrible. …Dare I feel…optimism? 

Darius: Real talk, that was all pretty good. Xavier Woods’ “I miss Shinsuke” was appreciated. The RKO was outta nowhere. While Miz and Morrison weren’t particularly amazing in the segment, no one did anything bad. And, just because it’s my favorite tag team of all time teaming with one of my favorite guys in WWE right now, I’m actually a little hyped for the main event (though Drew McIntyre is no replacement for the New Day’s real captain, Seth Rollins).

Oh Jesus, right when I was feeling good, now I have to watch Elias, Hardy, and Riddle. I’m sure it’ll be a solid match, but Elias and Hardy don’t excite me and Riddle makes me feel guilty watching him. (Though I acknowledge that all accounts are only alleged for now and the man is innocent until proven guilty. Still. Nah.)

Jay: Yeah, it’s a very scatter-shot, “hey these guys came to work today” sort of feud. I do always have respect for Elias considering his gimmick should not have lasted a year and here he is on the third year of it. Plus, he invested enough in the character to — somehow — pull off two actual, functioning albums despite not having any formal training. But, yea. Riddle. Ew. 

Darius: You know what else is “ew”? Everyone talking incessantly about Jeff Hardy’s addictions. The guy’s a little older and a lot less entertaining now in my opinion, but the guy is very respectable. When I was a kid, every boy I knew loved Jeff Hardy, and that continued for years. He’s a veteran, a surefire Hall of Famer, and someone who gave his all to the sport. If you’re going to talk about his demons — which, yes, are a part of who he is — at least do it with taste. Portray him as a hero. But nah, he’s a drunk-driving, wrestling-addicted mess who never learns. Thanks, Sheamus and Elias (and Vince and the writers and probably Jeff himself).

Something fun, though: I think Elias is Randy Savage’s illegitimate child.

Jay: You think? I mean Savage, according to numerous sources, was very, very meticulous to details. You’d think he’d use protection, no? 

Riddle is kind of what’s wrong with wrestling right now I think. Controversy aside, he’s just a guy who does wrestling moves. What do you know about him besides, “he says bro a lot?” Oh, no. Riddle won. Ugh.

Darius: Riddle kind of had to win that. I don’t know, it just feels “right,” as rough as that is to say.

As for his character, I think Riddle’s character had some fun nuances prior to the main roster (or maybe prior to NXT; I can’t remember fully). He’s super chill before and after a match, but he’s also an intense, no-nonsense MMA fighter who’ll snap on you if you’re not a bro. He’s ditzy, but also cocky and aggressive. And I like that kind of dude…even if I’m not sure I like THAT dude. Jury’s out — literally. Also, I forgot Sheamus is on Raw. Why is every bane of Jeff Hardy’s existence on Raw?

Jay: Because they move Sheamus and Jeff Hardy and Elias every draft and their draft cycles synced.

Darius: By the way, I love RETRIBUTION. It’s a bad, poorly booked gimmick. But I love them and want to hold them close to me. Everyone better put respect on Mustafa’s name.

Jay: Darius, great minds man. RETRIBUTION is currently terrible but they’re trying and they’re different. That is so much more than what I can say about 75% of the other characters WWE trots out every Monday and Friday. I just wish they’d go with them.

Darius: Hold on, hold on. Drew Gulak’s proposal that he acts as the Owen Hart to Hurt Business’s Nation of Domination is my jam. Inject it into my veins. MVP is a bad CEO for not letting it happen. Drew’s clip-on tie is genius. This is why RETRIBUTION is better than the also-very-good Hurt Business. Do not @ me.

Jay: Listen, clip-on ties are underrated. They’re highly tactical and ties are terrible. When was the last time you tied up? I think it was 2016 for me. I’ve got into several arguments about it at work as well. Ties are Lacey Evans: superfluous and unnecessary. 

Darius: First, the last time I wore a tie was probably pretty recent since I spent a lot of time looking for jobs until last week. And second, I think I figured out the key to watching WWE: just go all in on its quirks. Because you know what I love just as much as RETRIBUTION, Drew Gulak, and the late Raw Underground (R.I.P.)? Lana going through the announce table. I want her to fight her heart out against Shayna Baszler, and I want her to almost win. Almost. 

Jay: You see, that’s the thing. Jason and I have talked about this probably every week — they need to lean to the quirks, but they don’t. 

If I had my way, Raw Underground would be the Mos Eisely of the show and be a hub for storylines to start and progress. RETRIBUTION would be running around causing all sort of havoc. And Lana would get put through a table every other segment with Drew Gulak training her how to avoid being hurt by tables. 

Darius: If Vince would just pass me the book finally, we’d have WWE Champion Slapjack, Women’s Tag Champs Lana and Eva Marie, 24/7 Champion Slapjack again, US Champion Tall Guy with AJ Styles, and Raw Women’s Co-Champions Asuka and Drew McIntyre and Keith Lee.

Yo, this Veteran’s Day video caught me off guard with the Space Force mention. I know it’s a thing — there are commercials for it, and my dad gets Space Force mentions in his emails when he’s doing Marine stuff — but it didn’t feel real until tonight. I guess having a Steve Carell show about it before the general populace knows the Space Force is real will have that effect!

Back to the show, Lana just went for a roundhouse kick and hit nothing. Shayna just stared and wobbled, trying desperately to sell something. I love them both.

Jay: They’re doing what they can. And WHAT. THE. F***. All we wanted was a table break. I am sad.

Darius: I had a whiplash of emotions. First, no table spot. Second, Sheamus in a fedora. He reminds me of one Darius Melton circa 2012. High school was a dark time.

Jay: Hahah, Fedora Darius was best Darius I’m sure.

Jay: Let’s try to figure out what Braun is going through. Why the farmer gloves? Why the tight shirts? Is he trying to settle down and wants to fit in on Farmers Only?  

Darius: Braun’s trying to come to terms with the fact that he is, in fact, a train. But he doesn’t know how to fully transition into this role, so he just wears the clothes he was wearing at home until he can figure out how to have the WWE sewing team put his caboose outfit together. He’ll get there. I believe in the monster.

I’ll also say, despite it all, Riddle calling Keith “Bro-Lee” is pretty great. I really like that those two are friends in-universe.

Jay: Hmm, that was Jason’s theory about Braun as well. He’s likely nodding his head in agreement during his off-time from the tournament in South America.

But it will take more than sly Dragon Ball Z references for Riddle to climb out of the social black hole he created for himself.

Darius: Speaking of black holes, whoever decided that Keith Lee is wearing singlets now needs to be volleyball spiked into one. It’s 1000% worse than Farmer Braun, and infinitely worse than my new favorite referee, AJ Styles.

Can I just have Nikki Cross vs The Fiend? Just have WWE go for it? Also, what kind of sway does Nikki think she has trying to get Alexa to choose between her and The Fiend?

Jay: Darius, you wanna feel old? Titus O’Neil has been around for 10 years.

Darius: Man, I was watching the Prime Time Players a decade ago? Hold on, that reminds me: game show NXT was way more recent than any of us think.

Speaking of games, seeing Sheamus and Drew together reminds me of my favorite wrestling stable of all time, The United Kingdom from WWE 12. Sheamus, McIntyre, Barrett, Regal, specifically not Del Rio (I believe Regal said he didn’t want him on commentary). I genuinely thought for a second that when Sheamus was talking about teaming up with D-Mac back in the day, he was referring to a 9-year-old WWE Road to WrestleMania storyline.

Jay: Ha! Yeah! I remember that. I think that was the last one I played too. 

So do we think Taker’s “Final Farewell” as Survivor Series will be just that or will it lead to a match?

Darius: I’m of two minds. First, my more hopeful thought: that AJ Styles match really did make him feel like a big man again, and even if it was a movie, he still legit cut his arm up punching a window, so he can retire feeling good.

My less favorite thought: Undertaker comes out, tries to retire, Sting comes out, they have a match in Saudi Arabia, it’s bad, Undertaker wrestles until he’s 87.

Jay: Eww. Sting was running on fumes back in 2009 of TNA. He gutted it to 2013 TNA. And then had exactly four matches in WWE (two of which where schmoz fests) and had to hang it up.

Darius: I love that Sting had a match on Raw more recently than Brock Lesnar. Also, whoever put a Nia Jax segment directly after a Titus O’Neil segment hates me. How dare they put Asuka in here?

Jay: You know, I swear you can pinpoint when the writing team can’t deal anymore. The opening segment was fine and that, typically, leads to the final segment. Then the 8:25-9:30 segments work well enough but it’s then that big hump. That long stretch between 9:30 and 10:40 where they really can’t deal. They probably loved Raw Underground because it took half that 10-11 pm time off their hands for the most part. 

Like, look at it. We’ve already had Riddle and Nia Jax/Baszler twice tonight.

Darius: In a sense, I feel for them. I get tired booking shows in WWE Universe mode and that doesn’t even take an hour to finish. Putting together three hours of real TV every week with Vince breathing down your neck has to suck. Heck, I’m having trouble even writing this paragraph because I’ve had to think about two hours of Raw beforehand.

So when they use every-week shortcuts like Elias concerts, Miz TV, and Raw Underground, I get it. When you have all of your top guys in one Survivor Series build and need to use your thin bottom roster and double-up on Matt Riddle, I get it. But it still makes for same-y TV, and that’s not great.

Jay: No I definitely agree. It must be nigh-impossible and I don’t mean to hate it. I just think it’s a gargantuan task but now — I do kind of want to run an experiment. I kind of want to chart the segments over the next coming weeks to see when they start running on fumes to pinpoint when they start having trouble. You know – start reusing Lana and Nia, etc. 

What good will that science do? Absolutely nothing. But it will give me some sort of reason to slog through this. 

Darius: You want to talk about reusing segments? Tell me if you’ve heard this one: the show opens with a heel talking in the ring. A former member of the Authority (likely Seth, Randy, or Hunter) is there. Chaos ensues, and a tag match is the main event, specifically a six-man tag. Someone goes over on the night. They probably won’t go over at the pay-per-view.

I feel like that was every episode of Raw in 2014, ‘15, ‘16. I stopped watching in ‘17, but it’s still the standard episode.

Jay: So what you’re saying is that you’re in?

Darius: Angel Garza is on my screen, so maybe. But, now that his promo is over, Tucker is on my screen and I literally thought he was just Curt Hawkins but tall, so that was weird. Then, before I finished typing that second sentence, two different men became 24/7 Champion.

Jay: From now on, Tucker will be known as Tall Hawkins. They’ve been doing this since May 2019, Darius. 

Darius: But there used to be some sort of charm to it. Watching Tucker betray Otis only to become a two-time 24/7 Champion and still not walk away from the segment of champion is just a huge yikes from me. That being said, Gran Metalik was champion for a few seconds, so this is a 5/5 episode for me.

Jay: Haha! That’s probably the closest he’ll get to a title. 

Darius: Am I wrong to be hopeful for the ensuing Mustafa Ali vs Ricochet match? Two guys who were favorites of mine in 2017, one in the indie scene and one in the criminally underrated 205 Live scene?

Yes. I am wrong.

Darius: I will say they did the WWE Heel Thing to Mustafa’s move set. Come back from commercial break and our boy is mid-rest hold instead of mid-Spanish fly. For shame.

Jay: Haha well at least they’re not giving each other package piledrivers into tables during commercials. 

Darius: I’m so mad at how long this show is. My boys are wrestling. I don’t think it’s a bad match. But I’m also asleep with my eyes open right now because it’s 10:35 and wrestling naturally ends at 10 on the dot, 9:57 on Fridays.

Jay: Darius, Raw has beat me into a delirium but did — did RETRIBUTION win?

Darius: Aye, RETRIBUTION did win. It was over Ricochet, who, in terms of main roster titles, is lower on the totem pole than Apollo Crews, but it’s still a win. Someone tell T-Bar to grab the champagne. I feel like he’d just love A Little Bit of the Bubbly (a joke that would land a lot better if Dijakovic had beef with Jericho instead of Omega, but I digress).

Jay: Darius, we did it! It’s the main event. We’re almost home!

Darius: Okay, you know how NXT will be like, “Watch next week because Io Shirai is wrestling,” and AEW will give us the whole card to get hyped over, and NJPW does the same thing but for an entire tour? Those all work.

WWE telling me that Orton vs. McIntyre #79 is happening next week filled me with such an intense, cold dread that I just can’t. I mean, I will, but I also cannot.

Hey, you know what I will say? This is a very handsome main event all around.

Jay: Yeah, I’m telling you. The first and last segment of Raw are typically fine but that 9:30-10:35 stretch is just brutal. 

Darius: I’m not even talking quality; I was just looking at Randy Orton and thought, “Dang, he’s looking good with the scruffy beard,” and then it cut to Morrison, Drew, and Xavier and I was like, “Man, that’s why they’re the main event.” Not big meaty men, but as John Silver would say…actually, I can’t repeat anything that man says.

Jay: Haha. Silver. If only more than 50 people would watch 30 min of BTE.

Darius: Orton’s actually a genius not wrestling this match. Like, McIntyre beat him up a lot this year. In a tag match, facing the New Day a week before your title match is unreasonable. I can’t blame him for sitting this one out, especially when it’s also weakening The Miz.

Just waiting for The Fiend to show up at some point, though maybe that happens next week during/after the title match?

Jay: Yeah, overall, it was a decent main event. But I. Am. Spent. I don’t think my mind can take many more 3 hour Raws.

Darius: Agreed. It was long. It was dragging. It almost put me in a coma. Three hours is too long for a wrestling show, and I’ll never suffer through it again!

So, anyway, I’ll see you here again next week, partner.

Jay: Yup.

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