Did you catch Hell in a Cell last week? Alright, wasn’t it? We have the full lowdown on a surprisingly competent pay-per-view event from WWE, one that is traditionally not one of their strongest, but we’re here to discuss the Raw that followed on Monday. Did it escape the usual trap of simply repeating what we saw not 24 hours previously, or did it do what it should always be doing and further storylines as we start the build towards Survivor Series?
Up first – growly men growl at one another, once again, and use a lot of mic time to set up a match for later. This time it was Strowman demanding Lesnar show up, following the Beast’s shocking (and unwanted) surprise appearance that ended Hell in a Cell’s main event, much to the disappointment of the audience. You can use your own gif of Vince having himself a happy here, but frankly nobody could give two tosses about Lesnar any more. He’s only here for the money, he doesn’t bother to wrestle, just please god get rid.
We didn’t get Lesnar – instead we had his ‘advocate’ Paul Heyman and a door (it made sense, trust me), announcing a triple threat match for the Saudi Arabian PPV in November, before ‘Constable’ Corbin wandered out to book himself against Reigns for the Universal Championship. Now, I’ve always rated Baron Corbin and felt he’s never been served well by WWE, but this current iteration as a cunning General Manager throwing the entirety of Raw to suit his own agenda is working nicely.
We finally had some action as Dean Ambrose took on the monstrous Scotsman Drew McIntyre, because WWE likes to delay its tag matchups by having varying combinations of the guys involved fight each other in singles bouts for weeks until it’s time for an actual fight. McIntyre won, because of course he did, and the day he flattens Ziggler and ends their partnership (most likely after dropping the belts) will see him on a great singles run in pursuit of the Universal championship, but either way the lads put on a great show.
Sadly, Gable and Viktor (of The Ascension)’s bout that followed had none of that quality. A rushed, scrappy match between two guys with zero chemistry, all it’s doing is delaying Roode’s heel turn and frankly nobody cares about it by this point.
Undertaker returned to announce Kane will be his backup for his final (definitely final this time honest) bout with HHH next month, a reminder that Kane is an elected mayor now and this whole thing is either great or awful depending on your perspective. Personally, this many consecutive appearances by post-WrestleMania 33 ‘Taker feels like it’s further damaging his mystique, because his entrance should always feel like a mini event rather than just another lengthy promo. Hopefully he and Trips can put on a good show, but it’s painfully clear ‘Taker is many years past an acceptable retirement point now. Let’s not sully one of the greatest legacies in professional wrestling if we can at all avoid it, eh?
READ MORE: WWE Hell in a Cell 2018 – Recap/Review
Dana Brooke – who is much better now than you may remember – briefly shone in an otherwise distinctly squash-y match against Bayley, but when AOP strutted out to steamroller yet another pair of ‘local competitors’, well… I mean, come on. All this ‘Dogs of War vs Shield’ business aside, why are AOP not getting into a big ticket rivalry with McIntyre and Ziggler right this second? The big lads are bruisers but know how to put on a great show, and it’s getting sad to see them wasted like this.
Ziggler got his spotlight in a match against Rollins that both men questioned – another step in the storyline of Corbin abusing his power, which is nice – but both men sold their injuries from Hell in a Cell nicely in a bout that felt like a nod towards them returning to a ‘mutual respect’ relationship. I’d be okay with that – we need to get some fresh blood back in here, because Seth’s open challenge for the Intercontinental belt was A Good Thing, and we can always use more of them.
Likewise, Ronda Rousey needs to be on TV every week defending her title, especially with Alexa Bliss now sidelined with injury. This ‘beatdown leading into beatdown’ assault by the Riott Squad being broken up by the Bella Twins further reinforces this writer’s opinion that the Bellas need to stay out of the ring, but anything that helps Rousey look good has to count for something. She’s trying to fit in and catch up to her own reputation and is so far doing a great job of that, but lazy booking that sacrifices more former NXT stars like Ruby Riott is not the right way to go about it.
Bobby Lashley has found a new lease of life with the blingtastic Lio Rush as his spokesman, and while his match with Elias showed much promise before ol’ KO broke up proceedings, there should be a good program still to come from these guys. Lashley is a legend who needs a decent run to remind people how good he is, and the same can be said for Elias – over with the fans through his character, he needs more opportunities to showcase his top-flight wrestling ability.
Elsewhere it was great to see Nia Jax back at last, after both an injury and a murky political situation seemed to keep her out for far too long. She could have an excellent program with Rousey, as could the always-impressive Ember Moon, seen here flattening Mickie James and Alicia Fox to remind us how those two have no momentum or relevance without Bliss as their leader. I still question whether the Women’s division should have a dedicated tag section given the frequency of teaming up singles competitors that’s been happening for years, but let’s see what Evolution brings us and take it from there.
Finally, our main event saw Corbin try to steal the title from a battered Roman Reigns – very much in-character following Corbin’s failed Money in the Bank cash-in – and Corbin using a chair and then restarting the match as a No Disqualification was a great piece of storytelling. I can’t recall the last time a GM deliberately manipulated the show to suit themselves so heavily (I’m sure many a WWE nerd will helpfully correct me on that one), but I’m loving this angle so far.
Strowman, Rollins, McIntyre, Ambrose and Ziggler all dutifully piled out to liven things up, and Reigns hit the Spear to put Corbin away. If that sentence sounds repetitive, it’s because these six lads and their feud is now all starting to muddle together – there’s a Tag Team belt, the IC Title and the Universal Championship in the mix here, hogging all of Raw’s Men’s titles in one ungainly smush of manliness. It does the show no good to have everything be so focused, because the writing team have no choice but to keep pitting the same guys against the same guys week after week, and that is the last thing the audience wants or needs.
Hopefully, we’ll get the belts off McIntyre and Ziggler and onto somebody fresh so we can develop some new feuds, have Rollins build up a new roster of Intercontinental challengers and get Reigns finally up against guys like Lashley and McIntyre for his own belt. How soon that happens is another matter, but it’s absolutely what Raw needs right now.