Apr 19, 2022
Seth Rollins on the April 18th episode of Monday Night Raw
My threshold for enjoying WWE television is incredibly low these days. Some might argue even unfairly low. All I ask of RAW, for example, is for it to have a discernible through line and for that through line to slightly entertain me. This week’s episode had the former, but couldn’t muster the latter. The opening fifteen minutes, as expected, was a promo between Seth Rollins and Cody Rhodes wherein Rollins spontaneously booked the main event of the show; Cody vs a mystery opponent of Seth’s choosing. It’s important one not ask questions like, “How does Seth have this power?” or “How does RAW go to air each week without a main event booked?” When one does ask such questions the thin fabric that represents RAW’s narrative universe unravels. So if we set such obvious constructive criticisms aside, give the show the benefit of the doubt, and just stare at the screen, what are we left with?
We’re left with a variety show the fluctuates wildly in tone and quality from one scripted segment to the next. There was a time when I took RAW seriously, thought about it seriously, and wrote about it seriously. That version of me would have found no joy in the double-commitment ceremony segment and dismissed it as crap. Today, I enjoy it because R-Truth is funny and it’s at least being honest about its intentions. The Cody/Seth drama can’t make up its mind about what it is. One moment Seth is a dancing Joker, the next he’s complaining that Cody had an unfair advantage at Wrestle Mania for the second week in a row, and the next we're booking serious matches that have the potential to be "clinics". The overall story is attempting to do something serious with its mentions of Cody’s family history and focus upon in-ring action. But it’s not crackling with spontaneity. It’s lumbering from one story beat to the next and doesn’t even deliver a good match with a good finish.
The rest of the show didn’t fair much better. After a short, messy tag titles match against Naomi and Sasha Banks, Rhea Ripley turned on Liv Morgan. Later, walking in the back with an invisible camera in her face she was waked for an explanation by an interviewer and didn’t give one (all of this despite the explanation already being clear; she was tired of losing due to Liv being inept).
Next, Sonya Deville cut a labored promo about being a competitor first and a WWE official second, which prompted Bianca Belair to come out and almost KOD her latest rival. This culminated in a backstage segment where Bianca paid her fine - one dollar. It’s around this time I start to wonder, “What weird kids’ show am I watching?”
The next segment inspired that same question, Kevin Owens giving Ezekiel a lie detector test.
This was mildly amusing thanks to Owens and Gable, but it’s unclear who this is for and where it’s going. Most of the humor comes out of the fact that Kevin Owens is clearly right, that Ezekiel and Elias are one and the same, but that everyone else around him can’t seem to see it. This story is predicated on such a thinly drawn comedic narrative that I’m left wondering what Owens' Wrestle Mania experience was for. He fought Stone Cold Steve Austin in the main event and now he’s giving wrestlers goofy lie detector tests?
Veer, who we are meant to take as a serious threat, dispatched a jobber in a squash match and then choked him out after the bell. Officials had to come in and remove Veer’s hands from around the jobber’s throat in what was a formulaic heel beatdown. It’s impossible to take Veer seriously because his segments and his presentation are so familiar.
The one area of the card that does crackle with some life, surprisingly, is the RAW tag division. Between RK Bro, The Street Profits, The Alpha Academy, and now The Usos, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Through months of good character work, Riddle and Randy have managed to make the Randy Orton hot tag one of the most entertaining things in all of present pro-wrestling. The Street Profits won their match against RK Bro after a distraction from the Usos’ music. It was never made clear who played that music despite the street profits alluding to someone playing it for them in the back. The segment was simply meant to establish the Street Profits as a threat to RK Bro’s titles and it was mostly successful.
Finn Balor and Theory had a decent match that ended with Theory as United States Champion. Despite the narrative that Theory is Vince McMahon’s protégé, I can’t shake the feeling that he’s similarly destined for midcard obscurity in the years ahead.
Nothing about the character explains why Vince McMahon would take a liking to him. And very little of what’s been presented, be it in backstage segments or matches, shows why it’s good to be Vince McMahon’s protégé. Like many of RAW’s stories there are little holes and leaps in logic, which is also why so much time is spent on exposition each week. Perhaps if RAW constructed simpler narratives it wouldn’t have to spend so much time and energy reexplaining everything.
That brings us to the main event, a serviceable match between Kevin Owens and Cody Rhodes that wasn’t about anything (other than Seth’s attempt to throw Cody off his game). It ended when Rollins, on the outside with Owens, screamed at Owens to get his “fat ass” back in the ring. To this Owens tossed his hands in the air and shouted, “This is your match” and walked away, thus causing Cody Rhodes to win via count out. Rollins then shoved Cody off a turnbuckle and into a barricade, a weak ending to a weak A-story.
I was left feeling, “Why did I just watch all of that?”
To better explain that feeling, understand that I know exactly what I’m getting into when I watch RAW. Years and years of disappointment have cultivated my aforementioned low expectations. It’s when RAW can’t even rise to those low expectations that I’m left feeling like I completely wasted my time.
Three hours is a lot to ask of someone, because RAW isn’t just RAW, it’s also all the adverts for fast food, vaping, and drugs. It’s an absolute slog to sit through and that’s why double-wedding segments are so welcome. They break up the monotony with hilarity, which inspires some kind of emotion even if it’s the result of so-bad-it’s-good-television.
One day, I’d like to watch a RAW that’s so-good-it’s-good television.
But today is not that day.
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