If your patience is gone for WWE’s booking woes, you are not alone.
This week’s edition of Raw from Albany, New York, featured yet another step in the wrong direction during a post-WrestleMania hangover that only seems to be getting worse by the week. Considering how much WWE has been in the news of late regarding its new TV contracts for 2019 and beyond nearly tripling in value, this continues to be a disconcerting trend.
Monday’s episode featured three-plus hours that lacked electricity, creative storytelling or big reveals. Instead, WWE rolled out a handful of matches involving big names but almost nothing at stake save for a brief women’s Money in the Bank qualifying match. And that’s not counting a comedic segment involving Bobby Lashley and his sisters that may go down as one of the worst in company history.
If that wasn’t enough, WWE creative went back to the well on pushing Roman Reigns as a sympathetic babyface (once again borrowing red-hot Seth Rollins to do the work) and failed to score big during a Nia Jax-Ronda Rousey contract signing that offered plenty of potential.
Raw continues to go through the motions, leaving very little incentive that hope (or help) of any kind is on the way. Considering the company is as financially strong as any point in 20 years, there may not be enough incentive to change the status quo until SummerSlam draws closer.
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Jinder Mahal gets even with Roman Reigns
Raw opened with general manager Kurt Angle being interrupted by commissioner Stephanie McMahon, who claimed she has no hard feelings for Angle or Ronda Rousey from WrestleMania because “I’m a leader and will always do what’s best for business.” After McMahon called out Angle for letting his emotions get in the way of his handling of Reigns, out came the “Big Dog” to retort. McMahon referenced Reigns’ “Samoan temper” and recent bad attitude, to which Reigns threatened he would use to take out the entire locker room if his recent issues weren’t handled. Kevin Owens came out to mock Reigns until he annoyed McMahon by putting his arm on her shoulder, which led to the booking of a singles match between them.
Roman Reigns def. Kevin Owens via disqualification: Reigns acted as a physical heel throughout, complete with a methodical beating. After Reigns hit a spear on the floor late, Jinder Mahal suddenly appeared to force the DQ by attacking him from behind. Owens added to the stomping until Seth Rollins ran in to huge cheers to even the sides.
Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns def. Jinder Mahal & Kevin Owens via pinfall: Classic tag team psychology was used as Reigns worked from underneath the entire match until the hot tag to Rollins. After a wild scramble to set up the finish, Rollins missed a Stomp before rebounding to hit Owens the second time for the 1-2-3. As Rollins and Reigns walked back up the ramp to a loud ovation, Mahal came out of nowhere to attack with a chair. His extended assault on Reigns ended with Mahal raising his arms and screaming. During the commercial break, Angle booked a match between the two at Money in the Bank; he also scheduled Rollins to defend his intercontinental title against Mahal next week.
WWE committed nearly the entire first hour to rehabbing Reigns after an almost unforgiveable month of puzzling booking decisions. The use of Rollins, currently the most over and red-hot superstar on the brand, seemed to have a positive effect, even if it came across as desperate. This mini-Shield reunion produced big cheers, which set up Mahal’s attacks well. The problem was that it took 52 minutes to tell the story, and the end result was the announcement of a pay-per-view match offering little meaning that almost no one wants. Once again, WWE can’t seem to pick an identity or direction for Reigns, presenting him as both an authority-defying bad ass in one instance before demanding sympathy from fans by leaving him twice laid out moments later.
Bobby Lashley segment signifies a new low for Raw
Sami Zayn pranced out to introduce Lashley’s three sisters, in hopes of exposing who he really is as a person. Out came a trio of male local enhancement talent dressed up as women, each holding a prop — a broom, military helmet and crying towel — to help illustrate how Lashley used to torment them. Lashley came out with a smile on his face and began to mock each sister. After Zayn finally set Lashley off by telling him that his family thinks he’s “garbage,” the trio of sisters attacked Lashley from behind. Lashley went on to rally, whipping one with a towel before hitting his finisher and using the broom to crotch another before throwing her over the top rope.
With apologies to “The Old Day” segment from 2016 and the “This Is Your Life” from 2017 featuring Alexa Bliss and Bayley, this was the worst Raw segment of the modern era. No, really. If Lashley’s return to WWE after 10 years hadn’t previously been bungled enough, this was the final nail in the coffin. Nothing about the segment worked, including Zayn’s ambitious attempts to salvage it. The writing throughout this feud has been so cringeworthy that one has to wonder if someone other than simply the viewers are being ribbed. Grade: F
— WWE (@WWE) May 22, 2018
Nia Jax, Ronda Rousey sign contract for MITB title bout
McMahon served as the moderator and helped stir up some tension throughout the contract signing by asking pointed questions. Finally, Jax snapped and admitted that she only called out Rousey to make a name for herself. She also echoed McMahon’s words by vowing Rousey would be unable to get the armbar on her. After both signed the contract, Rousey said she’s happy the truth came out and reached to shake Jax’s hand. “That’s OK because I am going to take your title,” Rousey said, while examining Jax’s limb closely, “and your arm.”
This may go down in history as the first contract signing in WWE history that didn’t end with violence and/or a table getting flipped. (And, if you’re wondering, that’s not necessarily a good thing in this case.) For as hot as the crowd was for Rousey’s entrance and the prospect of her escalating the WrestleMania feud with McMahon, the air quickly came out of the balloon. McMahon was typically strong in her delivery, especially when pointing out the lack of weight divisions in WWE and Rousey’s history as a sore loser in UFC. But the idea of flipping Jax back to a heel so quickly after the organic success of her anti-bullying angle with Bliss feels rushed. Rousey also continues to struggle just enough on the mic to help this segment fail to sizzle.