Monday Night Raw has a long way to go until its next PPV. With SmackDown Live claiming sole ownership of December's Clash of Champions, Raw doesn't have a single PPV until the joint-brand Royal Rumble. That event takes place on January 28th, which means that Raw has ten whole weeks to fill if you count back to Survivor Series. That is a ton of time in this day and age when very little is given away on the weekly shows and the blowoff matches are always on the PPV. For an already sluggish show that's been struggling since before Survivor Series, that extended stretch between PPVs might as well be a death knell.
To give credit where it's due, it looked like WWE understood that the stretch could be brutal for the show's entertainment value and immediately tried to build some momentum by having Roman Reigns win the Intercontinental championship from The Miz last week. It wasn't just that it was a great main event match; it signaled to the viewer that despite the 10 weeks in between PPVs, memorable things could happen on Raw. It was a way to calm the fears of people like me who watch every week, suggesting that if you tune in next week you won't be disappointed.
The good: Roman Reigns...and not much else
Now that we're here, I'm disappointed. More than that, I've doubled down on my worry that Raw is going to falter in the next several weeks, buckling under the weight of too much time to fill before a PPV. This week's episode is the very definition of, well, take your pick: it's either "slog" or "filler." Whereas last week's show followed a well-composed story from A to B to C, this week's show is filled with inconsequential moments. There's very little on this show that hits the mark, despite some of the intentions of each segment.
That doesn't mean there's no hope here. While most of Raw is the type of dull that makes you wonder why you put yourself through this each and every week, there are moments that show some promise. They don't necessarily work, but there's something there to keep some intrigue alive for the next few weeks. The most notable moment might be Matt Hardy losing a match to Bray Wyatt, and thus beginning the process of him becoming "broken." He screams in the ring and involuntarily starts a DELETE chant. He's losing it after a few losses and the injury to his brother, and it looks like we're finally on our way to the best thing the Hardys have done in years.
Much like last week, Roman Reigns is also part of one of the show's best segment. He has a great title defense against Elias that serves the purpose of getting the relatively new superstar over, while also allowing for the Miztourage to continue to tell a story despite the absence of The Miz. On top of that, Samoa Joe attacks Reigns after the match. He screams that if Reigns is looking for guys to step up, Joe is going to be that guy. There's no way a feud between Joe and Reigns over the Intercontinental championship goes wrong, so you can file this segment under tonight's mostly empty "good" column.
The mixed bag of Paige's invasion
The other moment worth mentioning is the next step in Paige's invasion of Raw. This week her and her cronies, Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, beat up Bayley and Mickie James before their scheduled six-woman tag team match, and then confront and attack Sasha Banks in the ring. There are two sides to this segment: on the one hand, the storytelling angle works really well. Having Paige be angry that her injury didn't let her reap the rewards of a women's revolution that she started provides relatable, clear motivation. It's an improved version of what Emma was doing. On the other hand, the segment itself is a little flat, mostly because it goes on for a long, long time. By the time the three women lay out Sasha, it's a relief that the segment is over, and that's no way to continue to underscore the viciousness of your new heel team.
Killing time, and our will to live
Outside of those three segments though, Raw is a struggle to sit through. Rollins and Cesaro have a good match, but it's yet another instance of Raw refusing to broaden the scope of its tag team division. I know the show is strapped with injuries right now, but this has been a problem for months. WWE is seemingly incapable of telling multiple tag teams stories at once; SmackDown Live is in the same boat. Then there's all the cruiserweight stuff, which is working to set up a new #1 contender for Enzo, and yet every match still looks like it's moving in slow motion. Why don't they let these dudes wrestle legit cruiserweight matches? Why are we sitting through rest holds and a ton of taunting?
I know these are all questions and that's not necessarily critical insight, but this Raw barely deserves critical insight. It's the dumpster fire emoji come to life. The final stretch of Raw features Asuka murdering Dana (while Cole misidentifies the Asuka Lock); Jason Jordan challenging Kane and then getting injured in their match; Kane then getting challenged by Finn Balor; Kane beating up Balor with a chair; then Braun Strowman beating up Kane and sending him into the crowd with the same throat injury The Monster Among Men suffered last week.
Kane. Kane in the main event of Raw in 2017. And what's worse is that it's only one aspect of a truly terrible show. Eight more weeks to go, folks.
- "What's a Zo Train?" Not even Kurt Angle bothers watching 205 Live.
- Bray Wyatt tells us that we're all dead. What he forgets to mention is that we'll all wish we were by the time the show ends.
- I'm down with Jason Jordan as the whiny heel who doesn't recognize that he's the whiny heel, but we need to get there real quick.
- When Kane was the focus of the show's opening video package, you just knew this whole episode was going to go off the rails.
Seth Rollins defeated Cesaro; Samoa Joe defeated Titus O'Neil; Bray Wyatt defeated Matt Hardy; Rich Swann defeated Noam Dar, Akira Tozawa, and Arya Daivari; Roman Reigns (c) defeated Elias (Intercontinental Championship match); Asuka defeated Dana; Kane defeated Jason Jordan via countout; Finn Balor defeated Kane via DQ; Kane defeated all of us via boredom.