It's always a bit strange diving into three hours of Monday Night Raw after a really good SmackDown Live PPV. It's disorienting. Questions about Sami Zayn's motives are still running through my head, and now I have to reckon with Bray Wyatt turning into Sister Abigail and going full voice manipulation like Kanye on 808s & Heartbreak? The shift is almost too much to handle. With that said, I can hardly blame SmackDown Live for Raw's relative failures this week. There's a fair amount of stuff to love tonight, but it pretty much all revolves around The Shield. When the focus is elsewhere, the show loses all of its magnetism, which is a troubling sign with TLC only two weeks away.
A missed opportunity with Mickie James
We'll get to all the good Shield content you're looking for in a bit, but let's take a page out of the Raw playbook and throw in a lot of bad stuff first. Look, the story of Raw in recent weeks and months has been that it's absolutely killing it when it comes to the main event scene, but struggling to run good programs elsewhere on the card. Every weekly episode does enough to hook us on something big happening around the main event—brief pause here to lament the constant absence of the Universal Championship—but then fills the rest of the time with stagnant, lazy storytelling.
The most egregious example of such storytelling is happening in the women's division. If I was being generous, I'd say that it's good to see WWE telling two different stories with the women's division. But such generosity isn't warranted when Raw can't seem to tell any actual stories. Instead, we're forced to sit through stale jokes about Mickie James' age (she's two years younger than both current Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and former WWE Champion AJ Styles, by the way), and yet another multi-woman match in lieu of a match that might actually contribute to some sort of meaningful feud.
There are two missed opportunities here. Firstly, with Asuka impending debut, Raw had a real chance to tell a story by bringing in the history of these women within NXT or having Angle lay out his reasons for why he'd allow a certain competitor to get the first crack at Asuka. Instead, he just throws them into an elimination match and that's all the build we get. Similarly, when it comes to Mickie James and Alexa Bliss, there's plenty of potential in highlighting Mickie's age. Having Bliss point out her lack of success since her return while attributing it to her age could be a fruitful angle. That could force Mickie to question herself, and position her as an underdog chasing the title. But no, instead we get jokes about how old Mickie looks, coupled with a black-and-white highlight reel of Mickie's career. It's juvenile stuff.
Sister Abigail, is that you? Nope, just Bray Wyatt
While the women's division boasts the most disappointing storytelling, there's plenty of complacency to go around. There's Bray Wyatt turning into Sister Abigail, which involves his voice changing and a veil being placed over his head. There's no other change; the rambling promos and silly imagery is still there. It doesn't matter how many times Finn Balor says he's "chilled" or "freaked out" by Wyatt's antics, because there's no follow through. A shift in direction for Bray Wyatt is good on paper, but this feels like putting a band-aid on a gushing wound.
The downfall of Enzo Amore
Falling somewhere in between the listlessness of the women's division and the pure joy of The Shield reuniting is everything that's going on with the cruiserweights. The division isn't exactly lighting Raw on fire, but it's delivering competent, fun, character-based storytelling on a weekly basis. I can't say that Kalisto is my ideal babyface in a division that has some better options, but I appreciate that Raw built a solid story around Enzo's entitlement. Enzo losing the cruiserweight championship in a Lumberjack Match is the perfect end to his rise to the top. The man who cheated his way into a title couldn't outrun a division set on establishing some ground rules and trying to restore some amount of integrity to their division. Enzo's ego caught up with him, and he got what he deserved. That's basic pro wrestling storytelling, but a return to the basics is exactly what the division needs.
The Hounds of Justice are hungry
Finally, that brings us to Raw's hottest feud, and one of its more compelling, intertwined stories. I can't state enough how incredible the reunion of The Shield is. It's an emotional, badass story that's told throughout the night rather than in a single segment. Every single note along the way is pitch perfect. There's Reigns, Ambrose, and Rollins coming out to interrupt The Miz, Axel, and The Bar at the top of the show, surrounding the ring as they did back in the day and laying waste to guys who can't stop running their mouths. That would be enough to make this a successful reunion and a good tease for TLC.
But Raw has so much more. When, later in the night, Braun Strowman destroys Matt Hardy and then goes to carry him to the back, The Shield steps out to confront the Monster Among Men. They immediately become their old selves, taking down the big man and then powerbombing him through the announce table. It's an electric moment. When you then add in the backstage segment where all three guys talk about how good it is to be back and how they "run this business now," and the announcement that The Shield will face not only The Miz, Cesaro, and Sheamus in a Table, Ladders, and Chairs match at TLC, but will also have to contend with a fourth man in Braun Strowman, you suddenly have a feud that's can only end in complete destruction.
This is more than just the promise of destruction though. It's also a focus on telling stories that matter, and that often connect with each other. All of these guys have history in different feuds, and that adds depth to their impending collision. This is more than just throwing The Shield back together. It's giving them a sense of direction, history, and camaraderie that feels relevant to what they've been going through individually. It's thrilling to watch Raw tie in multiple stories to make something feel even bigger than it already does, adding layers upon layers of tension and intrigue.
- I'm mostly behind the slow build with Jason Jordan, but I am growing really tired of commentary hitting the same notes every week, arguing over the same points and putting Booker T on blast.
- Elias threatens to not sing a song for once. "Just kidding. I like the sound of my voice too much."
- There are few things more satisfying on Raw than Corey Graves' bone-deep hatred for Enzo.
- Man, The Shield got some new shirts made real quick.
- Who had "Matt Hardy's match with Braun Strowman will be better than Brock Lesnar's" in the pool?
- "I've been here a decade and only have one shirt!" Alicia Fox should be doing so much more.
Jason Jordan defeated Karl Anderson; Elias defeated Apollo Crews; Braun Strowman defeated Matt Hardy; Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher defeated Mustafa Ali and Cedric Alexander; Emma defeated Bayley, Alicia Fox, Sasha Banks, and Dana Brooke (Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match to determine who will face Asuka at TLC); Kalisto defeated Enzo (c) (Lumberjack Match for the Cruiserweight Championship).
What did you think of Monday Night Raw? Let us know in the comments below!