After a No Mercy where everything felt very right until it felt oh so wrong, ending in yet another dull Brock Lesnar win, Raw is charged with making sense of the fallout and moving things forward. Much like Sunday's PPV though, this week's episode is a strange beast. There's a lot of good throughout the three hours, but it's also a show that feels off-kilter. To put it simply: if the one-two punch of Mickie James and Alexa Bliss cutting an in-ring promo, and Enzo main eventing with a championship celebration, threatens to steal the show, something weird is going on. That off-kilter feeling is both a blessing and a curse, contributing to an incoherent structure while also supplying a feeling of admirable uncertainty.
Teasing The Shield
It would seem that after No Mercy, Raw is hitting the reset button on a number of feuds. While the PPV only had one title changing hands, Raw makes it clear that for many of the night's competitors, they're moving on to new feuds. That begins immediately, as Miz TV kicks off the show with special guest Roman Reigns. I was expecting a pretty casual stroll through Roman's match with Cena, but instead we get a full, heated segment that ends in a match later in the night and a tease of The Shield vs. The Miztourage in the future.
I mention the consequences of the segment because I think the match and the post-match beat-down add a lot to what's otherwise only a decent opening segment. Don't get me wrong, The Miz running down Reigns for being egotistical despite not holding a championship is good stuff, and Reigns being dismissive of the Miztourage plays right into his smug character, but it's not until later that things start to heat up. After Reigns pins The Miz, Dallas and Axel jump the Big Dog and beat the absolute hell out of him. Finishers, chair shots, the whole deal. It's a brutal, impactful statement, but more than that it's the start of, hopefully, a slow burn approach to this feud.
Rollins and Ambrose don't come out for the save, and that's a good call. Maybe they will make the save eventually, maybe they won't—lord knows that Reigns has more than enough kayfabe power to beat them all 3-on-1 at a PPV—but delaying any sort of gratification is smart. As for the potential of a Shield reunion to get Roman over…well, that's complicated, so let's save that for when/if it happens. Reacting to the event and not the prediction of the event is always a good choice when it comes to pro wrestling.
Killing time, with nothing else to do
Outside of that segment and match combo, and two more later in the night, the rest of Raw largely just spins its wheels. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because there's some good wrestling and some fun segments peppered throughout the night, but it just feels like there isn't much to latch on to. For example: Elias beating Apollo Crews again and then getting into it with Titus is a nice way to move that feud forward, but it's not exactly a segment that's going to linger in our memory. And that's fine! A three-hour show needs its ups and downs, and better the downs be somewhat engaging than totally inconsequential, like Jason Jordan teaming up with Matt Hardy just for the hell of it, or Sheamus and Rollins going one-on-one because there's nothing else for them to do.
Finally, a reason to call Ambrose a lunatic
On the more inspiring side of the random filler is Braun Strowman vs. Dean Ambrose. The match and the segment that builds to the match is perfectly executed. Curt Hawkins is looking to end his losing streak, only to have Braun Strowman answer his challenge and throw him through a table and the LED stage display. Then Braun, who's grown leaps and bounds on the mic in such a short time, gets vicious and screams for a true challenge. He's pissed off about losing to Lesnar and ready to beat the hell out of someone. But who would dare to go up against The Monster Among Men after such a display of violence? Well, Dean Ambrose, that's who. Ambrose answering the challenge, and his post-match analysis about it being a bad idea with Rollins is the most insightful character moment he's had in ages. Where WWE loves to just tell us Ambrose is unhinged, segments like this show it, and that's much more rewarding and useful.
The cruiserweights and women shine
But now, we get to the two strange but also weirdly compelling parts of Raw: Mickie James and Alexa Bliss kicking off a feud, and the entire Cruiserweight division uniting against Enzo Amore. Yes, you read that right, both a Cruiserweight segment and a random pairing of superstars steal the show tonight. Mickie James and Alexa Bliss' segment works because it just feels so natural, with Bliss going after Mickie's age while she responds with a list of her credentials. It's a heated, pointed segment that immediately kicks a fresh feud into high gear.
There's nothing new about Enzo Amore and Neville doing battle, but there's no denying that the Cruiserweight segment that ends the night is one of the best pieces of storytelling the division has seen on Raw. Enzo, having convinced Kurt Angle to allow him to have a championship celebration, is out in the ring comparing himself to John Cena, Batista, and The Rock before every other member of the division comes out. Then Enzo starts to run them down too, insisting that he did the impossible and made 205 Live relevant (and he's not exactly wrong). When everyone has heard enough, Neville makes his way to the ring with a single purpose: "I'm here to end you." And that's exactly what he does, superkicking him into oblivion before hitting a Red Arrow.
I love this segment. It's a perfectly rendered piece of pro wrestling storytelling. There's Enzo starting to lean on his natural heel tendencies, the acknowledgement that Enzo, despite how annoying he is, is a draw that brings in money and eyeballs, and Neville shifting in the direction of a babyface, getting to be the one to lay down the law and do away with (for now) the obnoxious, undeserving Cruiserweight champion. This is an angle that has legs, and much like many of the seeds planted this week on Raw, hopefully it's given plenty of room to grow.
- I love Reigns' line reading when The Miz imagines a Shield vs. Miztourage match: "It would be terrible for you, are you kidding me?"
- What is up with Booker T this week? That dude was all over the place.
- The latest in Corey Graves running down Michael Cole. "You are absolutely egregious, Cole."
- It's good to see Rollins and Ambrose easily getting their chemistry back. That was a delightful backstage segment.
- So Goldust is a heel again? I can't keep track anymore. He's like the new Big Show.
- "Did you get my texts?" Confirmed: Sasha and Bayley are totally breaking up.
Matt Hardy and Jason Jordan defeated Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel; Elias defeated Apollo Crews; Braun Strowman defeated Dean Ambrose; Seth Rollins defeated Sheamus; Roman Reigns defeated The Miz; Finn Balor defeated Goldust; Bayley and Sasha Banks defeated Emma and Nia Jax.
What did you think Raw following No Mercy? Let us know in the comments below!
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