Considering how truly chaotic and unpredictable Tables, Ladders, and Chairs was on Sunday, to say that Raw had a lot of aftermath to dig into would be an understatement. Would there be any fallout from Kurt Angle inserting himself into the main event? What's next for Asuka? Would Roman's absence continue to threaten the storytelling driving The Shield's reunion? Would Finn Balor finally start to build some momentum after his stellar inter-brand match with AJ Styles? This week's Raw answers those questions as it starts the build to Survivor Series, and it's a mixed bag of satisfying and truly mystifying answers.
Examining the aftermath of TLC
Before getting to a lot of the bad stuff from this evening, including what's bound to be an ALL CAPS rant about the way WWE treats Finn Balor tonight, let's start with something truly compelling and unique. I'm talking about how Raw starts out with a full hour of interconnected stories that all build out of last night's PPV, and specifically the main event. It's a remarkable hour, structured to have segments bleed into one another, examine the fallout from last night's PPV, while also setting up some Survivor Series matches. That's A+ stuff.
Now look, not all of it is good, because Kane has to come out at some point, but let's consider the match he has with Balor the cutoff point. Up until then Raw delivers a tight, near-60 minutes that tells the crowd why they should care about Survivor Series, and why they should care about the people coming to the ring. There's Kurt Angle announcing a bunch of Champ vs. Champ matches for Survivor Series—oh man, I am so excited for The Usos vs. Rollins and Ambrose. There's The Miz absolutely ripping into Angle for his management style and his need to hog the spotlight. There's Rollins and Ambrose coming out to protect their new buddy. And on top of all that, there's AJ freakin' Styles spending one more night on the Red brand so that he can beat up The Miz and The Bar.
AJ Styles and The Shield bring the house down
The six-man tag match that follows is all sorts of great. Not only does AJ Styles get to do his thing on Raw, even getting the pinfall victory, we get to see Ambrose and Rollins working the crowd into a frenzy. It's difficult to overstate just how rejuvenating The Shield reunion has been for everyone involved. Before Roman got sick he was looking like the simmering badass we all loved a few years back. Tonight, we get confirmation that Ambrose and Rollins are perhaps even more energized by this move. In particular, there's a sequence before the second commercial break where Rollins gets the hot tag and runs roughshod over everyone, and the crowd is going insane! It's the most energized Rollins has looked since he hit Roman Reigns with a Pedigree at Extreme Rules last year.
The simple truth is that Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins feel at home in The Shield. Those are the characters they are destined to be. It's the truest expression of who they are, and the faction allows them all to balance each other out. It just feels so good to have that energy and presence back. We just need Roman back in the mix.
Now, if only Finn Balor wasn't getting destroyed by Kane 24 hours after beating AJ Styles clean as a whistle on a PPV, we could call this first hour something special. Seriously, this is how Raw caps off its stellar first hour, by having a rising talent eat three chokeslams from a part-timer who's involved in an election? I guess I promised a lengthy rant here, but I can't. I'm just so disappointed that Balor had to go out there, one night after delivering the match of the night on a PPV, and lose pretty damn handily to Kane, of all people. I'm livid.
The midcard gets its moment to shine
Raw certainly has a tough time following all of that up, but to the show's credit, there's plenty to love elsewhere. Elias and Jason Jordan continue their feud, and I think it's a productive one for both guys. Elias is a guy who's found his spot on the midcard, and can be used as a placeholder before Jason Jordan moves on to something else. It's a perfectly fine midcard feud, and sometimes that's all you need. Alexa Bliss cuts a promo that's delightfully self-centered, which makes it all the more rewarding when Mickie James comes out and plants her face first into the mat. Plus, we get another great cruiserweight match, this one a 10-man tag match that's about as chaotic as you'd expect.
That's the kind of solid, if not exactly mind-blowing stuff that Raw needs to do each and every week in order to construct an entertaining three-hour show. There needs to be a diversity of presentation, matches, and segments, and the middle of the show accomplishes just that. But, we're on our way to Survivor Series, and that's where most of the focus remains.
Paul Heyman in fine form
That means we get Paul Heyman cutting his best promo in ages, completely laying into Jinder Mahal as not only unworthy of a fight with Brock Lesnar, but also unworthy of his WWE Championship. He calls him the "make-believe Maharaja" before cutting down the Singh Brothers for doing his gimmick. It's a truly vicious, funny, truthful promo, and is notable because of how different it is from every single one he's cut in the last three feuds Lesnar has been a part of. Heyman was on autopilot—a really good autopilot, it should be said—during the feuds with Randy Orton, Samoa Joe, and Braun Strowman, but with Mahal he's given a superstar that allows him to really get nasty. Mahal's reign has been so controversial, so drawn out, that part-timer Lesnar looks like a godsend in comparison, and Heyman plays right into that.
Setting the stage for Survivor Series
With the Champ vs. Champ matches all set, all that's left is for Raw to determine is the captain of its women's team, who will be getting their own 5 vs. 5 match this year, and announce who will be competing for the men. Angle puts Alicia Fox, Bayley, and Sasha Banks into a Triple Threat to determine who will be team captain, and for once the show follows through with a great storytelling decision. Banks or Bayley is an easy, safe call, but putting Fox over is legitimately exciting. It's fresh, it gives Fox her due after weeks of stellar performances, and it adds a feeling of unpredictability to the next few weeks, and the PPV itself, as the team forms.
As for the men's team, WWE goes the slightly typical route of having Shane McMahon and his SmackDown Live roster invade the end of the show and destroy everybody back stage. Look, it's an admittedly goofy segment because it forces you to abandon all idea of who's a babyface and a heel and just roll with the insanity, but that's kind of why I love it. Do I wish there was more motivation behind McMahon's move? Absolutely. Does it ruin the segment? Not for me. It's a whole lot of fun watching Rusev, complete with a toque, superkick people into oblivion, and there are even smaller moments that make a lot of sense, like Chad Gable pushing to the front of the line so that he can attack Jason Jordan first.
More than anything though, that final segment has me anxiously anticipating SmackDown Live. It has me itching to see Shane and his roster get their comeuppance. For now, that's enough.
- AJ Styles can do no wrong. That's all I really have to say about that.
- Well I'll be darned, there were actually "ROMAN" chants during the post-match beatdown by Kane.
- Asuka vs. Emma wasn't as good as their PPV match, and I don't know why they did it again.
- "You people hand out chants like Halloween candy." - "The Goddess" Alexa Bliss
- "Anything is strong compared to Aaron Rodgers' collarbone." YES, Elias.
- The welt on Jason Jordan's arm after the guitar shot was something else.
AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins defeated The Miz, Cesaro, and Sheamus; Kane defeated Finn Balor; Asuke defeated Emma; Jason Jordan defeated Elias via DQ; Alicia Fox defeated Bayley and Sasha Banks; Kalisto, Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, Gran Metalik, and Mustafa Ali defeated Enzo, Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari, and Noam Dar.
Who do you think has the edge headed into Survivor Series? Let us know in the comments below!