Pro Wrestling

10 Observations From The Final Raw Before Money In The Bank Source:

With the Money in the Bank Pay Per View just a week away and all the matches set up ahead of time, this week’s Raw needed to do just one thing: make people want to watch the Pay Per View this Sunday. And to their credit, that’s exactly what WWE tried to do, giving time to all their advertised matches, setting up big confrontations between their biggest stars, and of course, ending the show with a chaotic brawl, the whole time making sure to remind us that the brand split (and more importantly, Smackdown going live and moving to Tuesdays) is looming ever closer. So, let’s take a more in-depth look on just what WWE did in order to entice people to get hyped for Money in the Bank, especially after last week’s mostly tepid offering.

10. It’s Gotta Be The Shoes

Maybe we’re just old, but we’re not sure what the big deal about Steph Curry’s new shoes is. Perhaps we’re just not “shoe guys” like Kofi Kingston. The point is, The New Day has long been the bastion of timely humor that usually sounds forced when it comes from the commentary desk, or shows up five years after everyone stopped caring. It’s actually part of what makes them so unique in WWE at this point, and is why they’re a month away from becoming the longest-reigning WWE Tag Team Champions in history (okay, not really, because Demolition still holds the actual record, but WWE has messed up their title lineages so badly that there are always ways to justify things like this). That said, it was good to see the tag division get so much time to show off, even if it was more than a little uncomfortable to hear Enzo talk about Francesca II like that. The match that followed was also pretty good, and as always, it’s a shame that The Vaudevillains have such an obvious shelf life, because English and Gotch are really good workers who don’t deserve to be relegated to jobber status as quickly as they likely will be. The good news is, at least they haven’t been banished to the green screen version of Puerto Rico like another tag team we assume WWE has mostly forgotten about. Source:

9. Playing To Titus’ Strengths

Let’s be honest about Titus O’Neil. He’s a great ambassador for WWE, he’s charismatic as heck, and in a tag team, he’s one of the best hot tags in the business due to his energy and explosiveness. Also, he’s not Jack Swagger, which is several points in his favor. Unfortunately, as a singles competitor he’s not very good, and frankly, if he hadn’t got suspended for grabbing Vince McMahon, how many people would even be talking about him right now? That said, he’s not a bad first feud for Rusev, because he does have a lot of sympathy from the fans, and it will look impressive when Rusev crushed him on Sunday. And to WWE’s credit, having Rusev attack him before his match on Raw was absolutely the right move, because it increased support for Titus, it made Rusev look like the killer he hasn’t been for quite a while, and it saved us from a Titus O’Neil singles match. Hopefully the US Title match on Sunday is just as short, brutal, and ends with Rusev standing tall as the real champion of America. Source:

8. Insert Fire-Related Pun Here

So, after we got slightly senile Teddy Long stumping for control of Smackdown last week, this week is Corporate Kane’s turn to try and become the man in charge of the brand. And we have to be honest, when he’s not wrestling, we sort of love Corporate Kane. He’s just so aggressively congenial that it’s almost more sinister than anything he did while he was wearing a mask. His entire persona screams that he’s up to something (admittedly, his constant references to fire and burning things might also contribute to that), even if he might not actually have any ulterior motive. Maybe he really does just want to run Smackdown and make honest and just decisions in the best interests of the company. It’s possible. Did you think The Undertaker writes letters of reference for just anyone? I can’t imagine he’d do it just because they’re half-brothers, after all, Kane did try to kill him on several non-consecutive occasions. Source:

7. The Guy, The Man, And The Lunatic

So, the most recent Shield reunion seemed like a battle between intensity and irreverence. One on side, you’ve got Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, locked in a serious confrontation over betrayal and who actually deserves to be champion, which is only slightly ruined by the fact that WWE continues to undercut Seth’s clearly inspirational story by maintaining that he’s a slimy weasel. To be fair, Roman Reigns actually cut the type of promo he should have been cutting for months at this point, as it was short, to the point, and implied impending violence, with no wasted words. Of course, on the other hand, you had Dean Ambrose in the role of Don Rickles, always there with a joke or quip. Sure, it was funny, but it somewhat undercut the seriousness of both the blood feud between former Shield members and the fact that Ambrose himself could potentially be WWE World Heavyweight Champion after this Sunday. Unfortunately for Ambrose, his status as a serious main event player has seriously waned since WrestleMania, and he’s back to being the comedy guy, rather than an actual contender. Despite the last-minute attempt, there’s no way we’d consider Ambrose a favorite to walk out of Money in the Bank with the briefcase, which is too bad, because we’d really like to see that Shield Triple Threat before the brand split throws everything into chaos. Source:

6. Hey, Remember Paige?

In the ongoing Samuel Beckett tribute called “Waiting For Sasha Banks”, WWE has booked themselves into a corner in the Women’s Division. Obviously, another Charlotte-Natalya match is not something anyone particularly desires, Becky Lynch has no momentum after her feud with Emma was cut short, and most of the rest of the division is injured. So, we get a throwaway tag team match at Money in the Bank, and we’ll just quietly ignore the fact that WWE seems to care less about the division now that Ric Flair isn’t part of it, shall we? However, this week’s women’s segment truly baffled us, as Charlotte not only lost basically cleanly to Paige, who would be a perfectly serviceable feud for Charlotte that would also result in good matches (in fact, their abbreviated Raw match was already pretty good), but also teased dissension with Dana Brooke, who just last week re-affirmed her dedication to the Women’s Champion. It’s almost like they forgot Money in the Bank was coming up, and are building feuds for the PPV after this one instead. On the bright side, Becky and Natalya will probably get a moral victory this Sunday, in lieu of either of them ever getting a chance to be Women’s Champion. Okay, so that’s not much of a bright side, but it still counts! Source:

5. Anyone Can Win, But Should They?

It’s one of those fun weeks where we get to make assumptions based on conflicting information! Word is that Sami Zayn is getting a “Daniel Bryan” sort of push, where he loses a lot but just tries so hard and is so gosh-darned likable that the fans support him in droves. And to be fair, that’s basically Sami’s entire schtick to begin with, because he is a nice, down-to-earth guy in the vein of Bryan and you just can’t help but want to see him do well. It also helps that his mortal enemy is one of the worst people on the planet, but that’s not relevant to the current discussion. The fact that people love Sami even thought he loses is why we’re okay with things like him losing to Alberto Del Rio last week. On the surface, it makes no sense, because Del Rio’s current career direction is a downward spiral, but he is the sixth guy in the Money in the Bank match so he needs to seem credible, and Sami doesn’t really get hurt by losses. But then this week, Sami beats Cesaro cleanly, courtesy of an awesome Code Red finisher, and honestly, as great as it is to see Sami win, if there’s a guy who really needs victories to remain relevant, it’s probably Cesaro. That said, if they want to do an extended Cesaro-Zayn feud post-Money in the Bank, playing off their original “respect” feud in NXT, we would be all for that, mostly because the matches would be incredible. Source:

4. When Respect Should Have Been Enough

After this week, we find ourselves once again questioning just why AJ Styles needed to turn heel on John Cena as part of this feud, or at least why he had to do it right off the bat. This week, Cena tried to goad Styles into a one-on-one match with The Club banned from ringside, so that Styles could try and prove he’s the better man, and Styles…agreed with Cena, signed the contract, and will presumably have a straight-up match with Cena at Money in the Bank. Assuming no other shenanigans are in play, couldn’t this whole thing have gone down without Styles going fully to the dark side? In past face-face feuds with guys like CM Punk and The Rock, they’ve been allowed to remain good guys while still saying some pretty nasty things about Cena, because they were feuds over respect between equals. That’s kind of what it felt like between Styles and Cena this week, as Styles wasn’t necessarily acting like a heel, just a guy who wants the respect of the guy who has dominated WWE for over a decade. Once again, we feel compelled to ask why WWE didn’t just have the first Styles-Cena match as a face-face affair, and afterwards, if they really wanted, they could have Styles turn heel in frustration if he loses. Now, Styles is almost stuck in a lose-lose situation, because if he can’t beat Cena one-on-one without The Club this Sunday, what’s the point of the feud going forward? And if he does beat Cena cleanly, any excuse Cena comes up with to get a rematch is only going to sound hollow to the fans, and blatantly come across as “Cena needs his win back”. Of course, if you follow that line of thinking, it’s pretty clear that someone is going to interfere this Sunday. The only question is, who will it be? Source:

3. Kevin Owens, Actual Child

In many ways, Kevin Owens is a literal eight-year-old. He pulls girls pigtails, he starts fights on the playground, and yes, he is a massive tattletale. While his plan to have Alberto Del Rio removed from the Money in the Bank ladder match was transparent as hell, you have to admit, it made you mad, because you’ve probably been in Alberto Del Rio’s position at some point, watching another kid smile sweetly at an authority figure while trying to get you in trouble (which, to be fair, you probably earned, but that’s not the point), then skipping away while you face the music, making faces behind their back the whole time. Somehow, they always get away with it, those jerks. Or maybe we’re just projecting our own childhood experiences, we’re not sure. Anyway, at least Owens didn’t succeed at his plot, because everyone in WWE already knows that he’s the real problem child, but you have to admit, it’s fun to watch a heel so masterful that he can almost make you feel sorry for Alberto Del Rio, even if it’s just for a second. Plus, he also speaks two languages, although unlike Del Rio, he doesn’t feel the need to do it all the time. You have to respect that. Source:

2. Just Advertise The Post-Match Brawl, Instead

Listen, nobody cares about a main event of Dean Ambrose vs Chris Jericho. They fought each other what seems like a dozen times in the past few months, and really, we’re just waiting to get to the fireworks factory that is the traditional show-ending brawl between all the participants in a multi-man match. It happens before the Royal Rumble, it happens before Survivor Series, and yes, it happens before any Money in the Bank Pay Per View. Honestly, it’s the only reason we’d even bother to watch a main event singles match between Ambrose and Jericho, which had absolutely no stakes and only really happened because the other four participants already competed that night, and this was the only combination that hadn’t faced off at some point since the Money in the Bank participants were decided. The good news is, the brawl eventually happened, and first of all, kudos to Cesaro for managing to fight the entire time without losing his sunglasses, but also, we’re glad that it didn’t end with people doing big spots off ladders to sell the show. After all, you should make people watch the PPV to see those spots, even if it means Raw ends with the vaguely uncomfortable scene of Chris Jericho sitting cross-legged on top of a ladder. The good news is, he’s not winning anyway. Source:

1. A True Go-Home Show

Speaking of traditional PPV-selling brawls, unlike the last couple of Pay Per Views, this the closest WWE has come to an actual go-home show in a while. We didn’t get wasted segments with Golden Truth, or further developments in the endless Dolph Ziggler-Baron Corbin feud (although they will fight one more time on the Money in the Bank pre-show, apparently). Almost everything that happened on Raw this week served to sell the matches at the Pay Per View. Most of the first hour was given over to the Fatal Four-Way for the Tag Titles, every other match got its own featured segment, and the rest of the show was filled up with matches related to the Money in the Bank ladder match. It wasn’t a good show, and it wasn’t a bad show, but in many ways, it was the show that had to happen. Actually, it was a fairly fun Raw that flowed nicely, did what it had to do, and left us interested in the Pay Per View this Sunday, so we’re going to say it accomplished everything it needed to. Source:

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.