Kurt Angel comes out and starts to run down the card, but Steph comes out and interrupts him just for the sake of interrupting him. She tells us that there are “no hard feelings” or her part or Hunter’s for anything that happened with Kurt and Ronda.
Steph returns to the dynamic she has with everyone babyface GM (and something they’ve already beaten into the ground with Kurt several times) that she says she thinks he’s doing a great job, but with her leadership he’ll start to do even better. Yes, Steph keeping her negative opinion of Kurt behind a relatively clear veil of polite respect is consistency of character… but with the scheduled that WWE uses Steph on (she’s basically a part-timer who shows up on TV only when she is needed for a certain feud or storyline), it makes it feel like them going back to the same well with Steph every time rather than the show feeling fresh and new.
And while I’m on the subject of Steph’s schedule… if she hasn’t been overseeing Raw much over the past six weeks then what the hell has she been doing? This is her kayfabe job, so how does she just disappear for months at a time and go completely unmentioned as if she has no influence over things, when the past five years of her character have made it infinitely clear to us that she has specific directions she wants things to go in? Quite frankly, it’s out of character for Steph to not be spending her entire day manipulating things on Raw to favor the people she wants them to favor, and yet she often disappears for months at a time, suddenly ceasing to care about her most recent goals or vendettas.
Steph tells Kurt that she will be the one officiating tonight’s contract signing between Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax because Kurt “let [his] emotions get the better of [him]” during the previous contract signing, which resulted in Ronda getting mad at Hunter & Steph for completely legitimate reasons. I’m still waiting for an explanation of why Steph hasn’t fired Kurt for this (especially if she thinks he isn’t doing a good enough job running Raw and is making mistakes, as seen in her recent intercessions on behalf of Kevin Owens).
Steph accidentally said that the title match will be a “Money in the Bank Ladder Match.” Whoops.
Steph uses this idea of Kurt’s emotions getting the better of him to transition to Kurt’s handling of the Roman Reigns situation. I have no memory of anything happening with Roman and Kurt that could in any way be described as Kurt’s emotions getting the better of him.
This did serve to create an excuse for Roman to come out, however, which, quite frankly, he should have done earlier. Roman seems like he’s supposed to be the kind of guy who comes out right away when he has an issue with someone that he wants to resolve, not the kind of guy who will Steph finish plugging her stuff and talking down to Kurt first.
Steph threated to fire Roman. The fans cheered. Roman responded to Steph by telling her that if she didn’t start speaking to him in a more respectful manner, Roman would go backstage and take his anger out on everyone else. What an asshole. More smug douchebaggery from Roman, followed by more crap from Steph. More crap about the McMahons supposedly not wanting Roman to be champion and oh my G-d I just want this crap to END! Not just this segment but this whole Roman Reigns title chase bullsh*t. Either but the belt on the guy and just accept the boos or take him out of the title picture, but stop with this stupid crap designed to get us to cheer him. Like… do they really think that if they start telling people that “management doesn’t want Roman to be the world champion” on their fake wrestling show that people will actually start to believe it? We know the show is a work, therefore we know is angle is a work! The whole reason people started booing him so much in the first place is that management decided for purely aesthetic reasons that he had to be the next top star and face of the company even though he had nowhere near the ability to fill that role at the time the decision was made!
Kevin Owens eventually came out and managed to get himself booed by saying that he likes Roman and trying to start a “THANK YOU, ROMAN!” chant (because Roman took out Jinder last week). Steph had told Roman that she doesn’t play favorites, so Owens, who Steph is clearly favoring, backs up Steph’s claim. He rests his arm on her shoulder like they’re friends… but Steph being Steph, she has to yell at him for it. Steph then gets to be the one to tell the fans that they’re going to see Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens and that the match is going to be right now, ensuring that she is the one who gets the big pop. This segment SUCKED. It was everything I hate about both Steph and Roman, combined with Kurt’s complete and total inability to say anything in his capacity as general manager that doesn’t sound like he’s delivering a speech he’s spent weeks practicing in the mirror, combined with the “long opening talking segment” trope. I’ve got two days of Best of the Super Juniors to catch up on. Why am I wasting my time watching this show?
ROMAN REIGNS vs. KEVIN OWENS- 6.75/10
They were having a very good opener when Jinder Mahal ran in for the DQ. On the one hand I like this finish, but I really wish they hadn’t waited more than fifteen minutes of wrestling to do it when the exact same thing could have been accomplished in eight minutes.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- fine
Owens and Jinder beat Roman up until Seth Rollins came out to make the save. We cu to a commercial rather abruptly, and when we returned we were in the middle of…
SETH ROLLINS & ROMAN REIGNS vs. KEVIN OWENS & JINDER MAHAL (w/Sunil Singh)- 7.25/10
They had a great match, with Owens and Rollins particularly shining… but I’m having a lot of trouble getting into these WWE matches when I know that their results will be totally irrelevant.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- Jinder beat up both babyfaces with a chair, though most of his focus was on Roman. This was a good little angle. After a commercial break, they announced Roman vs. Jinder for MITB.
SAMI ZAYN INTERVIEWS “THE LASHLEY SISTERS”- not as bad as I was expecting.
They’re dudes in drag, so you know they’re getting speared. One of them didn’t even pretend to be a woman. This was terrible, but at least it was over with quickly. They claimed that Lashley bullied all of them and lied last week. I actually enjoyed Lashley coming out and “playing along” to make fun of them, and the three “sisters” clearly looking uncomfortable because they knew they knew Lashley could flip and just start kicking their asses at any moment. Sami & Lashley exchanged words, which led to the “sisters” attacking Bobby, who fought back and beat them all up. This could have been a lot worse than it was. We dodged a bullet on this one.
In hyping up the contract signing, Coach called this “the biggest match in the history of the Raw Women’s Championship,” which only makes sense in kayfabe if you are coming in with mindset that Ronda Rousey is a bigger star than everyone else in the division. I’m not saying that that isn’t true (especially to a mainstream audience), but it’d be nice if we didn’t say things that rub in the fact that Ronda is a much bigger star than everyone else because it doesn’t help Ronda and only makes the others look worse.
(And even with Ronda being a bigger star than everyone else, I’d still argue that the biggest match in the history of this title so far has either been the Charlotte vs. Sasha blow-off or the title match at WrestleMania XXXII, as both of those feel much bigger to me. And a lot of that really has to do with Ronda being such a non-presence on TV since Mania.)
RENEE YOUNG INTERVIEWS ALEXA BLISS!- fine
Alexa claims that Ember’s win over her the night after Mania doesn’t count because she had no time to prepare for Ember. She chose to illustrate this point via a lecture on military history. Every time I think Alexa can’t get any hotter, she finds a way to surprise me.
That being said… this promo, while not out of character, did come off as rather rehearsed, which is the sort of thing that wouldn’t otherwise bug me except that so much of tonight’s talking has come off that way. It’s the kind of thing that snowballs.
EMBER MOON vs. ALEXA BLISS! (w/Mickie James)- 4/10
Basically everything they did on the outside looked hokey and overdone, especially Ember going into the barricade. It did, at least, serve to set up Alexa’s work on her shoulder, which was the story of the match. Then we returned to over the top antics with Mickie’s attempt to interfere and ejection from ringside. Ember took out Mickie, kicked out of Alexa’s roll-up, hit the Eclipse, and got the win.
STEPH, BALOR, & BRAUN BACKSTAGE- bad
Steph is alone in her office. Whereas most authority figures on WWE TV in this situation would be talking to someone on their phone, Steph is just sitting there and smelling a rose. Also present is a table with a fruit basket (which actually appears to be all apples) and a small framed picture of her father that I guess she carries around with her wherever she goes?
Balor and Strowman come in. I guess the office has no doors because their presence startled Steph. They say they came here looking for Kurt but Steph tells them that she took over his office for the night. What, there wasn’t a second empty room? Or if there was, they didn’t even bother to tell the wrestlers “hey, you’re boss isn’t going to be in his usual location so if you need to find him here is where you should go?”
Steph offers them some fruit and Braun accepts, calmly taking an apple from the basket like a big goof. They want a rematch against Ziggler & McIntyre but Steph tells them no and tries to sow dissension between them, then books them in a singles match instead. Braun then squished the apple with his bare hands (though I guess bear hands would work, too) and said “I like competition.” This was a stupid, pointless segment that teased me with a match I actually wanted to see, only to replace it with yet another inconsequential, wheel-spinning match between Money in the Bank Ladder Match competitors.
Um… I’m pretty sure I just heard Corey Graves tell us that Baron Corbin collects human skulls and that he intended to murder Jose tonight so that he could add his skull to his collection. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE GLOSSED OVER! At the very least someone should let the cops know! And in case you thought this was a random one-off comment, Graves later said that Corbin would MURDER COACH AND MOUNT HIS HEAD ON A WALL for daring to criticize Corbin. Corbin the serial killer won the match.
KURT ANGLE & PEOPLE IN THE STORAGE BAY- Chad Gable finds Kurt, and once again we have it emphasized to us that that meanie Stephanie McMahon has stolen Kurt’s office and thus he now must reside here in the bowels of the arena. Because apparently those are his only two options: fancy office or basement storage facility. He can’t just sit in catering or something? On the bright side, though, there is apparently terrible cell service in this basement, so maybe Kurt will actually have to put his phone down and do his f*cking job for once.
Chad Gable shows up and Kurt tells him he would have rather out Gable in last week’s qualifier instead of Jinder, “but management had other plans.” So we’re back to the heel authority figure out to screw all of the babyfaces shtick again. Just great.
Dolph & Drew showed up to make fun of Kurt. Chad Gable stepped up to defend Kurt’s honor. Kurt booked a match between Gable and Ziggler. That sounds like it could be pretty great.
TYLER BREEZE & FANDANGO SELFIE PROMO- hilarious promo and merch plug.
THE B-TEAM vs. TYLER BREEZE & FANDANGO- squash
Because this was a match that I needed to see again.
WOMEN’S TITLE CONTRACT SIGNING- HORRENDOUS!
One thing that most wrestling writers (myself included) don’t talk about enough is the meaning of little moments to individual fans. It’s the sort of thing that comes up when discussing John Cena and Make-A-Wish-esque activities, but for the average young fan, we tend to overlook these things. Go and watch Ronda doing the high fives on her way to the ring. That first little girl she high-fives and the little boy about six rows in front of her are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited that “RONDA ROUSEY GAVE ME A HIGH FIVE!” That’s a moment that is going to stick with them forever.
Steph brings Nia out first, then Ronda. After the aforementioned high-fiving, Ronda immediately starts to be a jerk to Steph for no reason. Why does this company have no idea how to book a babyface?
Speaking of, Steph has them both sit down, then asks Ronda “how does it feel to leapfrog the entire Raw women’s division- women who you have said are actually far more deserving of this championship opportunity than yourself?” Steph’s got a good point there.
Ronda responds by saying that she was the one that Nia challenged, not them. Okay… but if you feel that they’re far more deserving then you shouldn’t have taken the match. Or at least told Nia that you’ll face her once she has gone through a few of the others first so that you can rack up an appropriate amount of wins to challenge for the belt.
Stephanie then proceeded to cut both women’s promos for them, even moving from one side of the table to the other depending on who she was talking as. Meanwhile our champion sat their looking vapid and uninterested while Ronda sat there with this look of 15% confusion and 85% boredom on her face (which, come to think of it, describes me at the moment as well). Can someone please buy Stephanie Ronda Rousey and Nia Jax action figures so she doesn’t have to waste time on our TV doing this?
After several minutes of this the antenna hidden in Robo-Nia’s hair started working and she was once again able to receive the commands being transmitted to her from the production truck and so she suddenly snapped to life and started acting like a person rather than a prop in Stephanie McMahon’s one-woman show. Apparently Nia is tired of being called “lazy” and claims she has been called lazy for her whole life. That might be true, but this is the first time we’ve heard of it on WWE TV, so it feels like they’re just making it up on the spot so Nia has something to get angry about. She says she’s going to beat Ronda, which is the special signal for Ronda to become a person again as well. Ronda was meh. Her verbiage when she tries to be angry is very stiff. It comes across like she’s trying too hard.
CHAD GABLE vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER (w/Drew McIntyre)- 3/10
They had a short match which Dolph won after McIntyre interfered. Why did they only give this match five minutes?
MONEY IN THE BANK QUALIFYING MATCH: Natalya vs. Dana Brooke vs. Liv Morgan (w/Ruby Riott) vs. Sarah Logan (w/also Ruby Riott)- 3.5/10
All of the entrances took place during commercials except for Nattie’s, which they spent telling and showing us that Nattie is BFFs with Ronda Rousey, which made Nattie seem like just as much of a bit player as if they had cut her entrance out as well. Also in the category of making people seem unimportant, Titus O’Neil was nowhere to be found, even though one of the wrestlers he promotes through his brand was wrestling in this match for this (as they’ve told us many times tonight) “career-changing opportunity.” Said career-changing opportunity was won by Ronda Rousey’s Friend Natalya.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS RONDA ROUSEY’S CANADIAN FRIEND- Nattie tells us that her greatest strength going into the MITB match is that her training partner is Ronda Rousey. And what better training partner could you want for a Ladder Match than Ronda Rousey? Her Ladder Matches against Miesha Tate are the stuff of legend.
(By the way, none of the past four matches have gone more than four-and-a-half minutes.)
THE DRIFTER SINGS- Good, but of course he’s got plug the fact that WWE’s stock is at an all-time high first.
BOBBY ROODE vs. “THE DRIFTER” ELIAS SAMPSON- 4.75/10
The Drifter jumped Roode from behind before the bell. The Drifter eventually won after Roode got cut off when he hurt his knee. This match did manage to pass four and a half minutes, but we haven’t had a match go more than eight since the Jinder & Owens vs. Rollins & Reigns match. Braun Strowman bowled The Drifter over after the match for no reason.
BRAUN STROWMAN vs. FINN BALOR- 6.75/10
Hey! What do you know? This made it 10:35. Longest match in two hours.
Yet another in a seemingly endless series of bad and boring episodes of Raw. I really should have caught up on BOSJ instead.