I did not want to watch Monday Night Raw this week. Last week’s review ended with my Co-General Manager of the Year Jay Barrett and I vowing never to watch Raw again, and while it was a joke, I did spend the better part of the weekend thinking to myself, “I sure hope Monday never comes, because that’s three hours of my life I will never get back.”
But now that those three hours have passed, I have to say: Raw was markedly better than I’ve seen in a while.
Don’t get me wrong: the show had major flaws, and we will talk about each of them in detail here in a bit. But whereas last week’s episode was solid for the first hour and a half, this episode actually didn’t make me genuinely upset until almost three hours in, and that was only because they took everyone on the roster that I’m not a fan of and shoved them in my face for five minutes straight.
Neither of my co-hosts could make it this week, as both Jay and Jason are out somewhere looking for the real Undertaker with Leslie Nielsen. (You can’t have Brian Lee show up to Survivor Series in his stead.) So, left to my own devices, I figured we’d change up the format this week.
Instead of a trip through our live reactions, let’s gather all our thoughts together and break down The Good, The Bad, and The RETRIBUTION of last night’s Monday Night Raw.
The best thing on the show — as is the case nine times out of ten — was the New Day. I’ll always have a bias for “ya boys,” but Kofi and Woods’ delivery of the entire “Jerk Business” promo was stellar, even if the punchline was absolutely not a good joke. Then, in the match itself, Cedric Alexander almost died thrice for my entertainment. I love all of these guys.
I realized watching this show that The New Day and The Hurt Business are two of my favorite acts for opposite reasons. The New Day are warm and inviting; they tell jokes, feel like a brotherhood, and come off as absolute stars because they’re comfortable with how silly things can be. But The Hurt Business are mean and aggressive; they willingly fight all of Raw Underground’s roster and the full numbers of Retribution, and they come off as absolute stars because they’re just so cool. The teams are distinct, but their chemistry made them fit together like puzzle pieces.
However, while their promo and match was arguably the “best,” there is no argument for them having the “biggest” impact of the night. Their title match went the way that most of us assumed, as The New Day retained their titles and will face off with the Street Profits in a match that’s not quite a “dream match,” but is still quite interesting.
The biggest moment of the night was clearly Drew McIntyre defeating Randy Orton for the WWE Championship, which was something I wanted but not something I expected — which is rare for me to feel with WWE.
Watching SmackDown last week, Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre had star power that visually crackled when they were in the ring together. I figured they threw us that bone to hype us up for their eventual match way down the line, as Roman and Drew feel so important now that their match is Mania-worthy (which is funny since the Mania one kind of wasn’t).
The fact that Drew McIntyre is now the WWE Champion single-handedly cost me $10. If Orton fought Reigns, it would be so that Reigns could beat someone whose worthiness of the WWE Championship was already dubious since he’d lost to McIntyre twice beforehand. But with McIntyre there, I’m genuinely torn on who’s got this, and while it will probably still be a Roman Reigns victory, I’m only 51% sure of that. I have to see this match.
Three last good things: Bray Wyatt vs The Miz was a solid match, even if it was one I really didn’t want to see when it was being set up. Sheamus and Drew McIntyre’s sword-based friendship is definitely an interesting development (and is, in hindsight, a total setup for the next WWE Championship feud). And, the TRUE biggest and best moment of the night, AJ Styles’ associate ACTUALLY SPEAKS.
A lot of “the bad” is actually “stuff I’m pretty conflicted on.” I do have hard opinions on a few things, e.g. the feud between Jeff Hardy and Elias needing to end as soon as possible, but a lot of my gripes with the show come in the next category.
One thing I question, even if I’m not sure how many people will agree with me, is the nature of Alexa Bliss’ relationship with The Fiend. I just don’t like it.
Back when I wasn’t watching even a second of WWE programming each week, I heard a lot of fans raving about the pairing of Alexa and The Fiend on SmackDown, and while I cannot retroactively talk about a show that I didn’t watch, I can say that their act now on Raw is not really adding much positively to Bray’s character — specifically Funhouse Bray.
I’ve seen a lot of people compare Alexa’s role to Harley Quinn’s, with Bray standing in for the Joker. The thing is, the two male characters don’t go together (despite The Fiend looking like New 52 Joker), so while Alexa’s schtick is fine and she does look cool aesthetically when she’s with The Fiend, seeing her tonight with Funhouse Bray made me realize that Bray’s character doesn’t feel “complete” anymore, at least to me.
Speaking of incomplete characters, Nikki Cross’ arc is a bit of a doozy, huh? I don’t think she was the most compelling character in NXT, but after SAnitY got called up to die, she really carved out a spot for herself on the roster. Playing the monster who doesn’t know how to quit against Asuka; playing the harbinger of doom during the “Who Attacked Aleister Black?” saga. Some say she was over-acting at the time, but at least her character wasn’t stuck in the same spot for three months.
Alexa and Nikki broke up a long while ago, and it exposed the biggest problem Nikki has had since her call-up: the character they gave her after NXT was entirely “Alexa Bliss’ best friend.” She did have the Jekyll/Hyde predicament of being this sweet girl who flipped out in the ring, but in terms of goals and aspirations, she was and still is an entity entirely focused on Little Miss Bliss.
But Alexa has moved on. With Bray, her main focus is on The Miz, Randy Orton, RETRIBUTION, whoever Bray Wyatt is dealing with. It makes sense that Nikki wants to resolve things with Bliss, but I’ve now seen Bliss say definitively that they’re done at least twice, and I think it’s about time Nikki moves on to bolster the otherwise thin Raw Women’s Division.
I will say this, though: Bray and Nikki’s staredown before the Miz match was dope. But, if you’re not building to a Wyatt vs. Cross match at TLC, get that out of my face, cowards.
RETRIBUTION is my favorite thing in WWE, and it’s also the worst thing in WWE. It’s something I love yet also acknowledge is bad, but even with all of its flaws, I’m still so hopeful that something good will come out of it.
With that being said, the most “RETRIBUTION” thing of the night was actually the booking of Lana and Nia Jax.
Lana wanting to prove her worth to her team and booking herself in a match with Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler is compelling. I want her to succeed, and even though I know she’s going to fail now, I feel like she’ll have to get a win eventually, and when she does, it’ll be a surprise.
That being said, this is WWE. They do great things sometimes, but they also do hurtful things. I watched The Revival get clowned on by The Usos after they asked for a release. I watched The Ascension get buried for saying that they’re better than the Road Warriors (a line that was written FOR them). I watched Dean Ambrose’s heel turn, and they weren’t even trying to bury him there.
So, when fans make much ado about Lana being put through tables every week because her husband ran off to AEW, I can’t put it past the company. When I hear theories that WWE specifically paired Lana with Nia Jax in hopes an injury might happen, I’d love to write it off as unreasonable, but I can never be sure.
Yet, Lana is on TV every week. She has a storyline. She won a battle royal and fought Asuka for the Women’s Championship. Lana’s kind of winning overall, even if she’s losing nearly all of her matches.
Now, the other most RETRIBUTION thing about this week’s Raw is RETRIBUTION.
I do love RETRIBUTION. I’ll think about MACE throughout the day and blush. I named all 88 Pokémon in my ‘dex “T-BAR #1–88”. I have Cody’s neck tattoo but of SLAPJACK’s face. I’m a ride or die fan.
But then I watch them wrestle the Raw men’s team, and they’re all in the corner reaching their goofy hands out to SLAPJACK, and it’s like I’m falling into the void from Get Out. For the briefest of moments, my brain drifts and I remember that RETRIBUTION sucks, even though I don’t want them to. Even if I know they have the potential to be the best.
Mustafa Ali is an amazing promo guy despite the WWE system. T-BAR is a criminally talented performer who’s both huge and athletic. SLAPJACK and RECKONING — names aside — are two incredibly solid wrestlers in their own right, and while MACE isn’t Mr. Perfect out there, he’s incredibly likeable and has a solid backstory with being replaced on Raw commentary.
You look at all of that and wonder why they lose at almost every turn, have to run with their stupid names, wear goofy costumes, and commit at best petty crimes. Then, in the same breath, they get sweet nameplates during their entrances, are consistently on TV, and have an entrance that hypes me up (even if I’ve heard an equal amount of people say they hate it).
And, hey, they actually won last night! I was prepared to write a whole thing about how much it would suck if the dysfunctional team beat the well-oiled machine, but it didn’t happen. Maybe things are coming up Milhouse! Or, maybe, they’re just being set up to lose again. Who knows.
For tonight, we celebrate. I’m getting a second SLAPJACK tattoo.
Tonight was the opposite of last week. Whereas I walked away last time saying, “That was cool, BUT it did suck because of this other thing,” this episode left me feeling, “Even though that part sucked, it was actually cool because of that one moment.”
Nikki Cross looks dumb, but at least there’s cross-pollination between her storyline and the greater Bray Wyatt story! RETRIBUTION has a lot of work to do, but they pinned a team of upper-midcarders! Hardy and Elias bored me to tears, but it was short this week and it was intense! Miz and Morrison were…there!
We got a WWE Title change, an amazing tag title match, a sense of storyline progression. I count this week as a win, especially since I am going to watch Survivor Series now and I wasn’t planning on it at 7:59 p.m. on Monday night.
How are you feeling about Raw and Survivor Series, though? Did Monday’s show keep you as interested as me, or were my expectations just low? Are you excited for Survivor Series, or is it just another brand vs. brand show to you?
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!
Do you love wrestling? Do you have strong opinions on AEW, WWE, NJPW, Impact, ROH, and the independent scene? Do you like to write about wrestling? Then we want you on our team. AIPT is currently recruiting wrestling writers. Apply to write for AIPT today!