So I've made it one of my resolutions in the new year to write a lot more for Vundablog. One of the things I'd like to start doing is recapping all the major weekly wrestling shows, including Monday Night Raw, SmackDown Live, and Lucha Underground. Easier said than done for someone in grad school but I'll do my best for all my adoring fans.
This week, Raw emanates from Tampa, FL. Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn are preparing for a Last Man Standing Match. Oldberg is here to get people chanting his name. Bayley has just had her shot at the women's title stolen away by Charlotte's lawyers. And everyone else is pretty much just treading water until they can set things in motion for the Royal Rumble. So let's get to it!
-We open the show with a disappearing Mick Foley saying his new year's resolution is to write the name of the city he's in on his hand so he remembers where he is. I laughed, not gonna front. Especially when he pretended to think he was in Jacksonville.
-Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho mercifully interrupt. Owens rightly questions why Roman Reigns gets title shot after title shot after title shot. I love the fact that Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho are basically the embodiment of my own personal feelings about things. Goldberg: "Where has he been the last 12 years? And more importantly, who cares where he's been the last 12 years?" Steph and Mick Foley arguing over who consulted who about the decisions they made recently: "OH MY GOD WHO CARES WHO CONSULTED WHO?!?!" Same, Kev. Same.
-Steph is not happy that Smackdown beat Raw in the ratings last week and that Smackdown is being called the "land of opportunity" because the REAL land of opportunity is right here on Monday Night Raw...so she books two marquee matches involving the four guys who have basically main evented every PPV and every Raw for the last, what, 2-3 months? Touché, Steph.
-Also, instead of, you know, banning both Owens and Rollins from ringside for Jericho's US title match with Reigns--which would be the most obvious and fair thing to do--she makes them wrestle to see WHO gets banned from ringside. Because getting to interfere in matches is a privilege, I guess.
-Owens v. Rollins is fun because of course it is and ends in a disqualification because of course it does. Land of opportunity!
-Next we finally get a fresh match-up (sort of) between Cesaro and Karl Anderson which is a REALLY good bruising, physical match. I really enjoyed this match a lot. The finish wasn't exactly revolutionary or anything but it works with Sheamus trying to stop Gallows from interfering but accidentally knocking Cesaro off the ropes and costing him the match.
-I also actually really liked Sheamus on commentary here. He does a good job of putting over Gallows and Anderson but more importantly he emphasizes the fact that outside the ring, he and Cesaro are two totally different people but when they're on the same page, (which Corey Graves emphasizes by pointing out times when they haven't been) they are unstoppable in the ring.
-New Day seems like they almost feel liberated by losing the tag titles. They're loose and charming and charismatic in a way they haven't really been in a while. I also really liked the Titus character here more than I have in a really long time. Everyone here feels like they're being more themselves than they have been in quite some time and they have great chemistry together. Titus accusing Xavier of being the weak link in New Day and Xavier stepping up and challenging him to a match (and winning) was a great little mini-story and I hope they do something with it instead of just forgetting it happened and moving on like they so often do and probably will. Xavier so rarely gets to be a focal point for New Day and when he does, he shines so brightly (like the storyline with the Wyatts in July or the recent tag title matches on Raw).
-Despite Steph's alignment problems continuing, I liked her interaction with Bayley. I feel like it did a lot for Bayley's character for Steph to belittle her for being ordinary while lauding Charlotte's pedigree and her diva-like presence and charisma. That's why people love Bayley--she's relatable. And I feel like that's gotten lost somewhere along the line because WWE thinks we love her because she's quirky and started trying to force a bunch of "quirks" on her and tried to treat her like a typical Monday Night Raw character and give her stilted lines to deliver. This segment went a long way toward remedying that.
-Noam Dar is a f*cking gross creep but hey, at least he's a HEEL who's sexually assaulting his co-workers, unlike Enzo Amore. Progress!
-Raw still has absolutely no idea what to do with the cruiserweights = DISTRACTION ROLL-UP!
-Brian Kendrick and TJ Perkins have yet another match in their Best of 1,000 series and it's just as bland and pointless as all the other ones. The only upside is that it gives me an excuse to make Kendrick Perkins jokes.
-Also, can we please get Austin Aries wrestling on Raw already? That moment when someone calls him out in the ring and he stands up from the announce table and slowly removes his sunglasses is going to be LIT.
-I was grateful for the dearth of words from Enzo and Cass because Enzo in particular has quickly gone from one of my favorite things about NXT to one of my least favorite things about Raw. I know we all kind of expect people from NXT to get ruined when they move up to the main roster but has anyone been ruined nearly as much as Enzo? He went from beautiful, free-flowing verbal chaos to a steady stream of straight up verbal diarrhea in a matter of months. It's so depressing.
-I also don't really understand the point of having Cass look like a beast for like two minutes and then getting instant critical'd by a kick from Rusev.
-I really feel like the time is now to break up Enzo and Cass. I think they would both benefit immensely from going their separate ways. ESPECIALLY Cass.
-I LOVED the idea of Bayley facing Nia Jax for the number one contendership to the Women's Championship. It's a fresh matchup, it calls back to their feud in NXT, and it subverts the "_________ HAS PINNED THE WOMEN'S CHAMPION" trope. I was really excited about the idea of this being the main event. Spoiler: it wasn't. Unfortunately, despite subverting one of WWE's worst tropes, this match falls victim to an even worse trope: the distraction finish. It's really, really disappointing to watch WWE totally sh*tcan Nia and Bayley's NXT history and put forward the premise that Bayley needs a distraction from Sasha to beat Nia instead of, oh, I dunno, having her f*cking guillotine choke her to death again (see above)?
-I also hate that costing someone a match is one of like three things you can do that will make them angry enough to want to fight you at a PPV.
-Sadly, Oldberg interrupts their serious discussion to spew variations on "you're next." Our latest gem: "YOU'RE FIRST." *slow clap*
-So from there the segment starts out as the living embodiment of my love of JeriKO and my hatred of Goldberg--especially Owens asks if he's supposed to be intimidated by Goldberg yelling "JACKHAMMER" in his face and throwing furniture and then throws all the remaining furniture out of the ring--and ends up as kind of an overbooked mess with Paul Heyman coming out to advocate for Lesnar followed by Reigns coming out to face off with Goldberg followed by Strowman coming out to eat a double spear. Whatever.
-I just hope Goldberg and Lesnar eliminate each other from the Rumble quickly and we can get back to watching the guys who bust their asses 300 days a year jockeying for a spot in the main event of WrestleMania. If I have to watch Lesnar or, worse yet, Goldberg blaze through hard-working young talent rapid-fire, I might just spend the entire Royal Rumble screaming at the top of my lungs.
*All photos courtesy of WWE.com