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Raw recap & reactions: Raw turns XXX


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Sami Zayn’s MVP season continues as Monday Night Raw says hi to 30, and Brock Lesnar makes his triumphant return. Sorry, Bobby.

Let’s get ready to…turn thirty! Finally, Raw is XXX is here and what better city to get dirty in than Philadelphia. Yes, I’m still harboring ill feelings because of the Eagles but let me mourn in peace.

Claire is handling her duties for this anniversary while I’m handling mine, so, as always, read her musings first because she’s the best in the business.

Let’s talk XX


Judge Chief

There aren’t many acts in WWE who can hold down a 30 minute segment with no wrestling at all. Actually, there aren’t many acts in wrestling capable of such a thing. The Bloodline is one of those acts, particularly when Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn, and Paul Heyman get the spotlight. Raw XXX kicked off with the Trial of Sami Zayn, which sounds a lot like The Trial of the Incredible Hulk but unfortunately for Zayn, he didn’t have Daredevil as his lawyer. Instead, he got the most surprising defense lawyer but easily the most satisfying: Jey Uso.

After Paul Heyman presented several exhibits painting Sami as not only a coward, but as Kevin Owens’ co-conspirator, Sami got indignant. He felt betrayed and had no defense. This lack of response shocked The Head of the Table. No, that’s not right; it pissed him off. Seriously, Roman looked madder than me in high school when a friend said Ruff Ryders were better than the Wu Tang Clan. Where they do that at?

An incensed Roman beckoned Solo Sikoa for Sami’s execution. The Street Champ lined Sami up for the Samoan Spike while Sami sat motionless, fully accepting his fate. But right before Solo’s right thumb came down, Jey stopped his little brother, much to Roman and Heyman’s surprise.

That’s a moment. Nothing else after that mattered simply because of Jey and Sami’s history. As Jey pointed out, he didn’t like Sami. He actually hated Sami. For that guy to make this complete 180 and become Sami’s chief defender? For the Right Hand Man to put that status on the line and go against the Tribal Chief’s wishes for someone who isn’t biological blood? To quote Buster Rhymes, that’s monumental sh*t. Stuff like that is why the Bloodline consistently stands apart on any show.

And that’s before Jey rolled out his own footage showing Sami helping the Bloodline in so many big spots, cross cut with Sami’s emotional reactions. My former partner in crime tweeted that Sami’s one of the best two performers in wrestling and he’s not number two. I can’t argue with her on that even if I wanted to do so just for fun. Sami sold that initial indignation, that disappointment, and then the adulation that Jey had his back. His emotion crescendoed when Jey said he loves Sami like a brother.

After Jey, Jimmy, and the crowd put their 1s in the air for Sami’s continued Bloodline residence, Roman found him not guilty…for now. Sami’s final test comes at Royal Rumble, so Roman doesn’t want to see him or hear about him until then.

But future events made that a little hard since Sami and Jey continued what is my favorite storyline in wrestling. During the tag team title bout with the very hot Judgment Day, Jimmy Uso hurt himself. Jimmy dove over the ropes onto an unwitting Damian Priest. But in doing so, yeah, Jimmy hurt his knee. The referee threw up the X to make us think it’s real, and then the world’s worst authority figure, Adam Pearce, showed up with a message: If Jimmy can’t compete then the Usos forfeit the tag titles. You know wrestling and you know simplicity, so of course Sami stepped up to the plate on Jimmy’s behalf. The little things, like the way Jey hugged Sami after Sami volunteered his services, truly make this whole story worth it.

And, of course, Jey and Sami walked away with the W after showing some incredible tag team chemistry. They even finished off Judgment Day with the 1D! Perfect, all of it was perfect. I have no idea how this boils over Saturday and what new twists rears its head, but I know I can’t wait to see it.


Extracurriculars

B-Rock…

All of this stuff is subjective so keep that in mind when I say I didn’t like the way the no DQ match between Austin Theory and Bobby Lashley started. Before the match, Lashley noted that nothing he does to Theory is punishable and he relishes that fact. He even told MVP that he didn’t need him and Omos last week and definitely doesn’t need them tonight. No excuses for Theory and nowhere to run.

So with that said, why start the match with traditional fists and kicks? Lashley and Theory started this thing like a regular wrestling match. While that makes sense for Theory, Lashley playing it safe after the ding ding bugs me. Eventually we did get the violence. Tables, fire extinguishers, and…Brock Lesnar.

This wasn’t much of a match so much as it was a gateway for Lesnar’s return. The minute Lashley put Theory through a table, Lesnar music echoed through the Philadelphia streets. For those who don’t remember, Lesnar cost Lashley the U.S. title months ago. Then the two wrestled at Crown Jewel where Lesnar got the win but Lashley destroyed him during and after the match. Brocks wants his revenge and he picked the perfect time. He F-5’d Lashley, then F-5’d Theory right on top of Lashley for the 1-2-3.

Something tells me Lashley might need MVP’s help after all…

Execution wise? The whole thing felt rushed. And I’m sure a lot of that has to do with the show being out of sorts post-Bloodline. Raw even ended abruptly, so they were clearly pressed for time. But to that I say lose the Miz and KO segment before this match and give these two some more time. But like Trips said, booking this crap isn’t easy.

19 Years…and That’s it?

You know that big cage match between Bayley and Becky Lynch WWE promoted? The one they told us was the first time in 19 years—2004 for the math challenged like myself—and was such a humongous deal? Yeah, it happened with a whimper. Barely a whimper. Bayley hit the ring and then Becky entered. Dakota Kai & IYO SKY attacked, and Damage CTRL locked Becky in the cage while they went to work on the former Women’s champion. WWE officials eventually broke the lock and Damage CTRL did what roaches do when the lights come on, but that was it.

Le. Boo.

Degenerates

I will never get tired of D-Generation X. I’m a ‘90s kid and they were important to my formative years, for better or for worse. Well, worse if you ask my middle school teachers, but look at me now! Anyway, they entered the ring accompanied by…Kirk Angel. Or, as people not The Rock call him, Kurt Angle. Once they finally noticed Kurt in the ring with them, that stopped everything in its tracks. But it was all setup for what followed because Imperium’s music hit and business picked up.

Now, of course, DX isn’t fighting Imperium. Despite the fact GUNTHER, Ludvig Kaiser, & Giovanni Vinci believe DX makes a mockery of the mat, the degenerates didn’t want the smoke. Triple H stepped up and said he’s retired. Shawn said he’s too old, X-Pac has a mean case of shin splints, and Road Dogg didn’t even front with an excuse.

Enter Seth Rollins. But Seth needed partners. Enter the Street Profits. But then we needed an authority figure to sanction the match. Trips says he just books this crap, he doesn’t actually call any major shots. Enter Teddy Long, the king of the tag match, playa. And then from there, DX finally listened to Angle when the olympian revealed a referee shirt underneath his DX shirt. And with all those pieces firmly in place, we got a damn good six-man tag match with Imperium on one side of the ring and the Street Profits & Seth Rollins on the other. This whetted the appetite for a Street Profits vs. Imperium program, and, of course, Seth vs. GUNTHER. The Profits & Seth got the W after Seth hit Vinci with a curb stomp.

This was a fun segment that actually worked seamlessly. Why wouldn’t Imperium have beef with DX? Why wouldn’t Seth come out in defense of Triple H? And the Profits always want a fight. Especially when said fight is against a team like Imperium. Kurt always wanting to be in DX is a bit of a stretch but we got three hours and you gotta get the legends on the show somehow. E for effort, T for nice try. A for overall quality.

Send the Undertaker to an Undertaker

LA Knight said it but I believe that headline in my heart. How dare he interrupt Los Angeles Knight? Taker came in rocking the American Badass gimmick, which makes a lot more sense with him shopping for kicks with Complex and all the other things he’s doing now in retirement. Can’t imagine that man wants to get in that deadman outfit anytime soon. And I ain’t mad at him.

But I digress. After Taker showed up and Knight backed out of the ring to fight another day, Bray Wyatt showed up. Caught between a Badass and a grown man who plays with puppets, Knight backtracked into the ring and found himself in the Badass’ grip. But Taker literally passed Knight to Bray, who executed a Sister Abigail on his Royal Rumble opponent. Taker then whispered sweet nothings in Wyatt’s ear and exited the ring.

What did he whisper? Backstreet Boys are better than N’Sync? Team Jacob over Team Edward? George Clooney is the best Batman? I’m more than positive we’ll never know but please use the comments to give me your best guesses.

The passing of the torch moment did little for me if only because it feels a few years too late. To say nothing of the fact Bray’s win-loss record is quite doo doo in comparison to the Undertaker, so it feels like Taker endorsing a guy who talks a big game but loses even bigger. Which is the exact opposite of Taker, who talked little but won big.

Creepy

Before I get to the thing Alexa Bliss did that creeped me out, there’s a bit more preamble. Ric Flair showed up and hyped Charlotte Flair. The SmackDown champion entered the arena, hugged her dad, and walked to the ring. She ran down her resume, thanked some of her opponents (though she didn’t think Becky or Bayley), and said Raw is still her show.

Well, Bianca Belair had notes.

The Raw Women’s champ said this is her show. Which, for basketball reasons, brought out Sonya Deville. Deville bemoaned the fact no one gives her props or the spotlight. And she wants a match. Charlotte said she owes Sonya but the champ should take her…for reasons.

So, yeah, we got a match between Sonya and Bianca that was fine but in light of the steel cage match we didn’t get, this feels odd. Bianca won because duh, and then immediately got the mic and had words for Bliss. Alexa showed up, cut a promo in a mirror towards Bianca and reiterated that she is Bianca’s only challenge. Her looking into the mirror while making it look like she’s looking directly at Bianca creeped me out. I don’t know why, but it got me in my soul. Maybe my soul watches too many horror flicks.

Unlike the DX segment, this was stifled. You ever hear dialogue in a movie that doesn’t work but it’s clearly the writer trying to connect dots in the plot or give exposition? Yeah, that’s what this was. No need for the match, although I understand doing it since having a big anniversary show with no women’s match is a terrible look. And clearly that steel cage match didn’t happen for a reason, so they called an audible. I’m sympathetic to that but within Raw’s narrative, and the night’s context, it felt like the puzzle piece that just doesn’t fit.

Stunned

Miz complained about the lack of Miz TV during Raw is XXX. He wants his 30th anniversary moment. Kevin Owens hit the ring and provided said moment with a couple stunners. KO also informed Roman that his time as champ is up…and KO’s time is now. Did he say those exact words? No. But that’s the gist of it.

APA Poker (I barely know her)

Clearly WWE had a lot happening this week because Raw was not only XXX, but packed. They used a couple poker segments to throw in legends like Diamond Dallas Page, Alundra Blayze, Ted Dibiase, IRS, Jimmy Hart, the Godfather, and Ron Simmons. I loved the joke that Simmons renovated the APA Protection offices and really wish we got JBL in the APA gimmick rather than the wrestling god gimmick. But that’s because wrestling nostalgia tickles my fancy. These were fun segments that will either work for you or not simply based on your affection for said alumni.


This was a fun and chaotic show. That said, it wasn’t perfect. Several things were clearly rushed, and the lack of cage match hurts. Especially since the only other women’s match on the card felt impromptu and didn’t amount to much. Shows like this often get by on nostalgia so throwing in a go home aspect, along with juggling who gets camera time is a lot. Especially since some people can or can’t make it to the event based on their schedules. What started as a very good show ended up being a good show, with the best moment of the night still being the first one. That’s a high note to match and nothing else came close.

Grade: B

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.




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