The last few weeks have proven again and again that Roman Reigns, the character that is, isn't working. He's always been, in the parlance of WWE, "polarizing," but it's so much more than that lately. This isn't just overexposure and a mixed reaction to it. This is getting to a point where it's full-on revolt. Look, WWE isn't about to go bankrupt or anything, and nobody is going to stop going to shows, but it's clear that the fans packing the arenas—or barely packing them, considering reports on recent ticket sales—are sick of Reigns. He's being booed in every main event, and while WWE might like to say that such a reaction is great, that any noise is good noise, that's simply not the case. There is such a thing as bad heat, and that's what Roman is getting right now.
The Roman Reigns problem persists
It's the storytelling itself that's the biggest problem. The storytelling acts as the umbrella, covering all of the other issues. Just look as this week's opening segment. The whole thing is built around the idea that Reigns is some sort of anti-authority Stone Cold figure, being screwed by the man again and again. WWE is doing everything it can to garner sympathy for the Big Dog: having Angle stand opposite him and parrot lines from the Authority, or pairing Reigns with Jinder Mahal, another man who the audience despised seeing at the top of the card for months on end. None of it is working though, as Reigns gets booed again, and the storytelling continues to be laughably transparent and uninspired.
When this week's Raw isn't focusing on the story of Reigns and Jinder that nobody asked for, it's not a half bad episode. Usually the shows from London, England have a strange feeling to them, as if they're somehow both phoned in and shooting for at least one or two shocking segments. This week's show is much more traditional. It looks a lot like the most recent episodes of Raw, where high-stakes matches that set up the next PPV are flanked by a few dull segments and the same old problems with the women's division. There seems to be no escaping that structure at the moment, as just about everything this week is, while mostly entertaining, also pretty familiar.
A stagnant tag team and women's division
Let's start with the rather meaningless, which is essentially the tag team titles and the women's division as a whole. The former are stuck on Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt right now. The problem isn't that Hardy and Wyatt are bad tag team champions, but rather that Raw doesn't seem to have any immediate plans for them. It's one of those moments where the titles don't feel important because the division doesn't feel important. There's a great couple of segments that establish a fun underdog story with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel, now known as the B Team (that's Best Team for the uninitiated), but the tag team division largely remains stagnant. Wyatt and Hardy are wrestling the same matches, the Revival are an afterthought, and there are no real contenders in sight.
That's the same story of the women's division. They get a whole lot of nothing tonight...again. The qualifying match for the Money in the Bank ladder match is good for what it is, with Alexa Bliss getting the win, but the only other segment is, yet again, a six-woman tag team match. WWE seems to have no idea how to build the story of Sasha Banks and Bayley's crumbling friendship. As of now, they just kind of glare at each other and exchange some passive aggressive remarks. That means there's no other story here. Every other woman is just a bit player in this saga that's moving along at a snail's pace.
At least we have good wrestling
It's difficult to capture the spirit of Raw right now because it's such a weird mix of very bad and pretty good. It's a baffling three hours, defined by moments that make you roll your eyes, and others that truly leave you smiling. Braun Strowman and Finn Balor as a tag team deserves a smile. WWE building a title match between Ronday Rousey and Nia Jax from a courteous red carpet introduction deserves the eye roll. This is a weird show right now, seemingly unsure how to fill the six weeks between Backlash and Money in the Bank, and yet filled with a lot of good wrestling. Maybe that's enough for now. The storytelling may not be spot on, but the wrestling is compelling enough to carry the show. In other words, Raw might not be great overall right now, but there's the guarantee that you'll see at least a few good matches each week.
- Last year I went to SmackDown Live in Toronto and everybody in the arena cheered Jinder Mahal when he faced off against Randy Orton because we were all so sick of that nonsense. WWE is now repeating itself with Roman Reigns.
- Your Money in the Bank ladder match qualifiers from tonight: Alexa Bliss, Kevin Owens, and Bobby Roode.
- It's cruel for WWE to make me choose between The B Team and Breezango.
- "Everybody knows that's my hat!"
Seth Rollins (c) defeated Kevin Owens (Intercontinental Championship match); Bobby Roode defeated No Way Jose and Baron Corbin (Money in the Bank qualifier); The B Team defeated Breezango; Natalya, Ember Moon, and Sasha Banks defeated The Riott Squad; Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy defeated The Revival; Alexa Bliss defeated Bayley and Mickie James (Money in the Bank qualifier); Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre defeated Braun Strowman and Finn Balor; Kevin Owens defeated Elias and Bobby Lashley (Money in the Bank qualifier).