RAW went from a whole lot of nothing to say to a whole lot of something to say in a matter of minutes with its shocking, satisfying and question-filled conclusion.
Before we get to there, a couple of points along the way.
It was fun watching Bayley and The New Day team up against Anderson and Gallows and Dana Brook. It was mainly nice to see a fresh combination of wrestlers interacting with each other. Bayley was clearly having fun and that was carrying right over to the audience. Her final transition from an armbar into her Bayley To Belly suplex finisher looked great. Dana also continues to display entertaining heel chops with her constant verbal battering of opponents. I am afraid that in the current pattern she will be diminished as just a jobber to whoever is gunning for Charlotte. RAW should make an effort to utilize more wrestlers in the women’s division and play up some of Dana’s strengths.
It is usually a delight to see Paul Heyman do just about anything but the segment with Stephanie McMahon was just utter confusion. They crisscrossed so many points, leaving none of them clear. On one hand we think Steph issued a 500 dollar fan as lip service to the idea Lesnar should be punished, yet isn’t taking it seriously and doesn’t care about what happened to Shane. This would make sense and lead to intrigue down the line. But instead of being appreciative, Heyman comes out and mocks her. Why? Shouldn’t they be on the same page? Then Stephanie tries to verbally castrate Paul and demand a genuine apology. Why? It seemed she didn’t care about Brock’s recklnessness. Then Heyman does apologize. Then he explains why Stephanie is in a tough spot with the company. Then he smirks and Stephanie storms off. Yeah. I couldn’t make it more confusing if I tried.
While some ambiguity is good, the creative direction and nature of characters like Stephanie need to be decided on and more clearly defined. It is like they don’t know what she is; how could we? It is also very difficult for her to come off as a bay face. She has a naturally abrasive way of speaking, gathering lots of push back from fans. Which is a good thing. If that’s what is intended. But to hear her talk of women’s revolution and say it in such a way that you want to boo her every word, it’s not gelling together.
In a far simpler bit of business to assess, Braun Strowman continues to look strong by knocking out unknown jobbers. This is not something to start whining about because it is repetitive. It is like a train slowly picking up momentum and set to hit a peak in due time. For now, its best to enjoy watching Strowman’s confidence grow and moves get more polished.
There is nothing more to speak of than the extremely topical main event, mainly so for its final minutes and result: Kevin Owen our new Universal Champion with a significant assist from Triple H who delivered a Pedigree both Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. This was great in many ways.
First it shows a continued commitment to moving in the direction of pushing new and different talent on the roster by not going with one of the expected and already tested candidates of Reigns or Rollins. It also can’t help but trigger connections to real aspects of the landscape – again the blurring is usually a good thing – you have Triple H coming out and giving the nod to someone who very much represents an NXT success story in Kevin Owens, and we all know how proud Triple H is of his project.
This potentially sets a new diagram of conflicts. Perhaps we will see Triple H continue to back talent from NXT regardless of heel or face alignment while Rollins and Reigns try to counteract. Perhaps Reigns and Rollins form a begrudging alliance with Stephanie, or maybe they will stand united against management. A concern I’ve seen expressed is that of Owens becoming a relatively powerless pawn of an established Authority. It could happen but I don’t get this in my read. If anything, lines seem drawn to put Hunter and Stephanie/Foley at odds with each other. This would be far more interesting, as the Authority as an active presence has long seemed diminished. Triple H had tremendous difficulty getting heat when he went against Reigns at Wrestlemania and would appear as a far more credible advocate of the newer generation of wrestlers coming up the ranks.
Another gripe, which echoes years and years of the same sentiment, was that Owens did not look strong by getting the pin after Triple H did all the work, essentially making Triple H the star. It’s a point I understand but was not bothered by in this instance. Some counters. First in this instance, Triple H is the star compared to Owens. I will be glad to see that reversed and there is plenty of time starting next week for Owens to shine. Second WWE is still very much about STORY, and Triple H interfering and screwing over Rollins and upsetting Stephanie and Foley makes for very good story points. OK, Owens could have hit his powerbomb finisher before pinning Rollins but that could have also been overkill to end a very long and busy match.
The future is buzzing with possibilities now that KO is on top. Lets give them a chance to develop.