OPENING SEGMENT- You’ll notice that I am reviewing an episode of Raw that is almost six days old, after several weeks of not watching the main roster at all. Hearing about this segment is the reason I felt like I had to watch this show (this segment and the US Title change are the only things that were spoiled for me), and this segment definitely lived up to my expectations.
We open the show with the whole roster surrounding the ring and Seth Rollins, dressed in a douchy black-on-black suit and shirt in the ring for a “town hall.” Tom Phillips tells me that Seth is the one conducting the “town hall” because he is the “locker room leader.”
Who died and made Seth king? I’m serious here. Who is ordering these people to stand around ringside, listen to Seth’s speech, and ask him questions? Do AJ Styles or Randy Orton or Drew McIntyre or Charlotte Flair or KEVIN F*CKING OWENS really seem like the type of people who say to themselves “well… Seth Rollins has summoned me to his town hall, so I’d better go. I wouldn’t want to ruffle any feathers?” F*CK NO!
The fans immediately chanted “CM PUNK!” at Rollins, who had quite the comeback prepared, telling the fans “I tried to bring him here, but he’s too happy sitting behind a desk in Los Angeles, talking about a change he’s too afraid to make himself.” Ouch.
Seth’s next response to the fans was not as good, as when Seth said that this was about the Raw roster, he was met with some cheers, some louder boos, and even louder NXT chants. He then talked about how NXT “mopped the floor with” Raw at Survivor Series, which led to even louder cheers. Seth tried to play this off as fans being disappointed in Raw’s performance because “just like all of you guys, I’ve been a fan of Monday Night Raw my entire life.” Does it even occur to WWE how f*cked up their logic is? They assume that because we all (hypothetically) like watching Raw that we’ll want to see them beat the other brands… even though hypothetically we all like watching Smackdown and NXT, too.
Seth tells everyone that they sucked at Survivor Series. The fans chanted “YOU SUCKED, TOO!” at Seth, who admitted that he did, too. Seth gives an inspirational speech about how they all have to step up their game or else Raw will continue to be the C show and not the A show.
Seth asks if anyone has anything to say, and when no one does, Seth calls out Orton. The fans all chanted “RKO!” but then started to boo when Randy just turned and walked away. They started to cheer again when Seth got irritated, and I laughed my ass off at Randy retreating up the ramp while making the jackoff sign. It was pretty perfect.
He then called out Charlotte, who also walked out him instead of answering, which made everything feel completely scripted instead of the natural reaction it felt like when Randy left. The same thing happened with the Authors of Pain, which is even worse because Seth kind of has a point that for two guys who talk about how much they want to hurt people, them being absent from these big matches was a little bit odd.
Rollins calls out Rey for failing to two what Seth has done twice this year- beat Lesnar- even though Rey had the help of “a lead pipe and your stupid kid.” Rey walked out rather than respond, and other people soon began to do so as well, leaving Seth alone in the ring. As we saw everyone clearing out, I noticed that Seth’s own girlfriend didn’t care enough about his speech to even show up.
The only guy left was Owens, who Seth verbally attacked as “Mr. NXT,” then called lazy and said told him that he could never have his spot. Seth realized what he had said and tried to apologize, but Owens stunned him and walked off as we headed to a commercial.
Was this segment perfect? Absolutely not. There are a number of things I would have changed to clean up little logic holes or bring the story out more, and Becky’s absence betrays that horrible WWE ethos that teaches that if something that logically should happen would create an issue for your storyline, it’s okay to just sweep that thing under the rug and ignore it instead of refining your booking to explain why that doesn’t happen. I’ll get into how I would have fixed these problems a little later, but first I want to talk about what this segment was.
This is the beginning of a wonderfully-executed (well… so far) and much-needed heel turn for Seth. First of all, unlike previous years, the results of Survivor Series are actually leading to something here. Seth came out here and was a self-important dickhole, but in a way that flows naturally from egotistic characteristics that those of us who haven’t liked his behavior during his big babyface push starting in January have found so off-putting. It also flows naturally from the babyface character he has been this year; someone who sees his own abilities and the validation many fans have given him through their cheers as anointing him as the next John Cena-esque “locker room leader” type of figure who needs to step up and give the big speeches and must defend WWE from existential threats like Brock Lesnar and must motivate his Raw colleagues to being their show back to the top, all for the good of the fans. And, in some ways, I think it piggybacks off of the arrogance he has shown on Twitter in recent months that has irritated a lot of fans, where he comes off of mostly blind to the reality of things outside of his own personal sphere even though he thinks he has an understanding of it, and thus doesn’t understand how dickish he comes off. This has all of the makings of a fantastic heel.
Now why couldn’t Vince have just given in with Roman Reigns as quickly as he did with Seth Rollins?
So how would I have changed things? Firstly, I would have had the announcers make the point that Seth went to a USA executive to pitch this segment, and that the USA executive has compelled everyone else to show up here. This makes Seth seem even more self-important, as well as explaining why everyone is sitting here listening to him.
This presents a conundrum in the form of Aleister Black, so I think I would have done an angle before the show with him and Murphy to explain why he isn’t here (he was ejected from the building) and to build a match for next week.
With Becky, I wouldn’t have done what they did with her at the end of the PPV and instead I would have had her be injured so she isn’t here, either. Then, next week, when she does show up, I’d have her try to point out to Seth that he was, in fact, being an asshole, have him argue that he was only acting in Raw’s best interests, and after a few weeks of similar issues, I’d have them break up. This both takes away something likable about the newly heel Seth (his connection to the top female babyface), and gets rid of the plot hole that WWE so often has where two people will be in an acknowledged kayfabe relationship, then one of them will be turned heel and no one ever asks the other one why they are dating this clear jerk.
Over the next few weeks I would start to build a stable for Seth of soft heels (characters who are heels because they’re mean rather than douchebags or cheaters so that Seth won’t have any qualms about hanging out with them) so Seth can think that he is inspiring people to be better. The people I would choose are Buddy Murphy (who will realize he needs some help after losing a great match to Black) and the Authors of Pain, who will see Seth as someone with stroke (he got a USA executive to order everyone to come listen to him) who can actually get them booked so that they can beat people up. Thinking he was inspiring people, Seth will become even more annoying to everyone else with this “locker room leader” speeches. He gets into fights that his group helps him win, and he excuses it with the idea that getting everyone to listen to him is what is best for Raw. I don’t really know where I’d go with this other than having Owens opposing him on a regular basis, with a rotating cast of others, depending on who Seth and his group have annoyed at the time. A Ricochet vs. Buddy Murphy feud seems like it could be a good way to elevate both guys.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS SETH ROLLINS- great!
Both Seth and Charly emphasized that Seth’s intentions are noble, but Seth got pissed off and challenged Owens to a match tonight.
LANA SERVED RUSEV WITH A RESTRAINING ORDER IN THE AIRPORT- Well… at least Rusev won’t get humiliated this week if he’s not at the building.
TITUS O’NEIL vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/Lana)- no rating, great segment
Okay… maybe Rusev is in the building. He jumped the barricade and kicked Lashley’s ass (Lashley wins by DQ). Just as he was about to put Lashley through the announcers table, the police came out and arrested him. Then he broke free and even while handcuffed, managed to knock Lashley off the stage with a shoulder block, then kick a big piece of the set over onto him. He was then dragged off by the cops while shouting “I’M BACK!”
Speaking of things being back, Miz & Mrs. is coming back in January! HOORAY!
Speaking of other things being back, when Raw came back from a commercial break, they showed us footage from during the break of Lashley being stretchered off.
AUTHORS OF PAIN vs. ZACK RYDER & CURT HAWKINS- no rating, fine squash
This match is happening because AoP attacked Hawkins & Ryder before they had a title shot last week. How the hell did Ryder & Hawkins earn a title shot?
Anyway, AoP squashed them. This was our second short match/squash-type thing in a row (Titus got zero offense in on Lashley in the short time that their match went before Rusev ran in).
AKIRZ TOZAWA vs. ANDRADE “CIEN” ALMAS (w/Zelina Vega)- 2/10
Another short match. Are we going to get any decent-length matches tonight?
ALEISTER BLACK PROMO- Is this all he has been doing while I’ve been gone? Because it’s all he was doing when I stopped watching, too?
MATT HARDY vs. BUDDY MURPHY- 2.75/10
Matt Hardy is back! And not Broken! Oh crap. He’s wrestling the guy who Aleister just cut a promo on. We’re getting a f*ck finish, aren’t we?
Holy sh*t Murphy won clean! The match was excellent for the less than three minutes it got
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- good
Murphy grabbed a mic and began mocking Aleister Black. Aleister came out but Murphy stayed to fight instead of the expected running away like a coward. Aleister won the fight, which disappointed me because I thought it would have been better to do a pull-apart to set up what should be an awesome match for next week, but I guess we get the match either way. Hopefully they give it time.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS CHARLOTTE FLAIR- bad. Or at least I think it was bad because I think she’s supposed to be a babyface. Maybe she turned and it’s a great heel promo on another heel.
Charly asked Charlotte if getting into a fight with her teammate last night a very captain-like thing to do. Charlotte defends herself by claiming that she never said she was a team player, but that she had to be the captain because she was the only one qualified. She then bragged about all of the times she has beaten Asuka before. This was a total heel promo. She even came off like a heel while saying that the only way Askua can beat her is with the mist.
The thing they are advertising SD around is that there will be a new Firefly Funhouse character. Really.
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH: AJ Styles(c) vs. Humberto Carrillo- no rating, never happened, okay segment
Carrillo got jumped from behind by Gallows & Anderson during his entrance. He got to fight back a bit, but was eventually taken out with a Magic Killer on the steps. Ricochet came out to check on him (along with some referees). The heels made fun of Carrillo, then made fun of Ricochet. Ricochet responded by telling AJ off for not being a true champion and challenged him to a title match. AJ turned the match down. Randy Orton came out and challenged AJ to a title match, but AJ turned that down, too. Then Drew McIntyre came out and explained why he deserved the title shot. He had some pretty compelling arguments, but he’s clearly wrong about having never had a singles title shot before, as he is a former IC champion. AJ claimed he was injured.
Rey Mysterio limped out and told everyone he was injured from fighting Brock but he won’t let AJ cheat the fans out of a title match. AJ says that none of these men have done anything to earn a title shot. Ricochet suggested a four-way #1 contendership match for a title shot later tonight. Gallows & Anderson thought this was a good idea, which annoyed AJ, but he gave in.
WINNER GETS A US TITLE SHOT LATER TONIGHT: Drew McIntyre vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Randy Orton Ricochet- 7.5/10
Great four-way action. Randy had the match won but was taken out by the OC. Rey won with a roll-up on Ricochet soon after, and the camera showed us AJ being happy about this because he thinks Rey is the most beaten up of any of them.
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH: AJ Styles(c) (w/the OC) vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.- 7.75/10
This was a GREAT match, although Lawler was pushing the “miracle” stuff WAY too hard on commentary. I would love to see these two have a babyface vs. babyface match someday before Rey retires. The OC got ejected from ringside but came back after a ref bump that didn’t look very good. Randy Orton coming out to help Rey was good, but I would have liked to see Ricochet out there, too. I don’t necessarily think it was the right time to take the title off of AJ, but all of the stuff they did tonight does set up a whole bunch of possible match-ups, so that’s good.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS KEVIN OWENS- awesome!
He said that unlike Seth, he has always known who he is and been himself. Rollins, he says, is constantly trying to be the person he thinks the company needs him to be. He vowed to kick Rollins’ ass later and hit him with a stunner.
CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. ASUKA (w/Kairi Sane)- 6/10
This was a good match that dragged on for way too long, and to go through all of that just for a mist finish… and especially with the execution of that. It looked like Charlotte was deliberately pulling her hair out of the way so that Asuka could mist her.
ERICK ROWAN vs. A JOBBER- squash
The jobber got to see whatever it is that Rowan keeps in the cage and talks to, and was scared. My theory is that it’s a little robot, and this is the completion of his total rejection of Daniel Bryan’s pro-nature ways. Hopefully this jobber will go on Twitter after tonight and just tell us all what’s in the cage.
SARAH SCHREIBER INTERVIEWS AJ STYLES- He’s so upset about losing the title that he can’t even talk. This would have been good if they hadn’t gone on with it to the point of making it comical. Eventually he managed to get out the words “Randy Orton.”
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS LANA- good stuff from Lana. I’m sure people will jump on her odd smiling at the end, but that felt like something very deliberate to me, like she already has a plan for revenge.
KEVIN OWENS vs. SETH ROLLINS- 6.75/10
This was a good match, but not quite main event quality, but I think I’m willing to forgive this for the post-match angle. The finish saw the AOP come out during a double-down, with one author menacing each guy. Owens made the first move and slapped whichever one was towering over him, so the other came over to help his buddy out and they took Owens out two on one. They then turned to Seth who seemed ready to fight, but the Authors turned away and left, and Seth was so frustrated at losing to Owens by DQ and not having anyone to take it out on that he attacked Owens and hit him with two curb stomps. This was a fine way to make Seth more heelish via doing something he probably wouldn’t have done if he were calmer, and based on everything else they did, I understand why they felt that this had to be the main event instead of something with a clean finish.
This was definitely the best episode of Raw in MONTHS, and the first one I can remember in a long time that didn’t have anything stupid happen. I know that sounds like a low bar, but that’s what this show has come to. They followed up on Survivor Series well (other than Becky Lynch being totally absent from the show), and the two-man booth was much more tolerable than the usual three, although I’d prefer it even more if the second man was someone other than Lawler. This was a good show that laid the foundation for a good future, and I will definitely make a point of watching Monday’s show.
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