Imp’s RAW Adventure
And now for something completely different. As we count down the final weeks until the wrestling landscape in America completely changes come October, the excitement is building as we witness all the minor changes WWE are making to set themselves for this new era.
I’m not just talking about AEW’s impending debut, WWE’s move to FOX is massive for the company and NXT being promoted to USA is equally as era defining. A change is a foot, it’s such an exciting time for the industry. Even if I’m not going to be able to legitimately watch much of it as WWE’s moving their programming to BT Sport come 2020 and like hell am I paying another additional £20 on top of all the subscriptions I already have.
Take my viewership AEW, you’re on free TV and I’m skint.
Talking of subscriptions, I’ve spent the last month of my life on New Japan World religiously following the New Japan thrill ride that is the G1 Climax. It was an utter joy to cover that tournament with SirSam on this site, a pinnacle of quality on the wrestling calender. But that’s over now and I’m kind of… New Japan-ed out, I need a break and jumping on board the hype in the American scene is really the perfect remedy.
I’m not someone who likes to watch one sole thing, I have variety in my entertainment. Hell, I’m currently watching both Bojack Horseman and The Alienist on Netflix, only ‘slightly’ different tones in those shows. So to change things up I’ve decided to try out a train of thought whilst watching RAW column, jotting down how I feel in the moment and make watching RAW take twice as long after I keep pausing it all the time to write something.
So no riffraff, this thing’s already 2,500 words long without me banging on and on in the intro.
Time to watch an entire episode of RAW! I’ve heard good things as of late.
Oh, hi, King.
Monday Night RAW
August 19th 2019
Roman Reigns vs Dolph Ziggler
Kicking off a sports entertainment show with a wrestling match? Ludicrous.
Immediately there was an example of a minor production/creative gripe that grains on me over the course of a WWE TV night of fun: lines commentators say that sound so scripted it comes across as a table read where everyone’s playing the in script ‘Beat’ notes. Cole, “Roman Reigns has been having his own problems of late. Someone’s trying to take out… The Big Dog.”
Just a minor thing, I’m aware most people don’t think like that whilst watching a telly show. Also as someone who’s only been paying side attention to WWE this summer, the VTR recap of the attacks on Roman are hilariously produced. It’s like a daytime TV insurance claim ad. Only they then bang on about how the car and rig came ‘close’ to lucky Roman and neither actually hit him. They’re still liable, mate!
After El Perro Grande stands there watching a video for 3 minutes, Mr Ziggles comes out and chats shit (so Jaimie Vardy fans know what comes next). The thing is, the crowd are actually reacting to everything he’s saying… did… did the Goldberg match at SummerSlam actually work? Kudos to WWE I guess. I’d just assumed it wouldn’t lead anywhere, but two weeks later and Dolph’s still reeling from the loss. A pause to applaud the continuity, wrestlers living in a shared world rather than individual write off stories. When I kind of stopped watching WWE back in May that world building necessity really was not present at all.
The match itself was a fun show opener, of course Ziggler was going to ultimately ‘get banged’, but Jesus Christ does that man sell a Spear like a drive-by. Reigns has developed into a damn great back and forth, give and take kind of wrestler. It’s one of the traits I bang on about when eulogising Kazuchika Okada’s greatness, he makes his opponents look just as great as he does himself. You sell for me, I’ll sell for you.
Yet another fun Big Dog match, the story is utter bollocks though. That said, for me its bollocks enough that it’s come back around and turned funny again. So I’m enjoying it, WWE sports entertainment nonsense and its finest.
And no, I’m not invested who orchestrated the attacks or carried them out, I’m enjoying it but it’d be a tad of a leap to say I’m actually caring about the story. I’m just here for the ride, maan.
An Interview With Sasha Banks
AKA I Says Nothing Cus I Is A Baddie Now
First off, an absolute fire promo from Becky Lynch. If you simply must follow an attack with scripted promos, then that was arguably one of the better ways to do it. Short, to the point and raised a whole bunch of relevant questions. Yeah, where was Sasha this whole time? You’re right Becky, what has she done to deserve all this hype when she left in such a cold state?
So Jerry Lawler’s in the ring putting over King of the Ring before introducing Sasha, but *GASP* the lights start to turn off as we enter the Silent Hill of The Fiend! Bray attacks yet another Hall of Famer without hint or warning, I love it. Everything about this is right up my street, you have no idea when The Fiend will next show up, continuing to build the mystique. Really it’s just nice seeing WWE not rush a new, exciting character to the peak, build this creepy fecker for as long as you like.
Back to Sasha, the actual interview came an hour or so later. I say interview, I mean more a character bit with Blue Banks showing off her new found attitude, a reintroduction to The Boss rather than an exposition dump. Again, well done to WWE for holding back, everything comes off as so much more effective this way. Miles better than the tactic in recent times to just have their wrestlers point blank explain every nook and cranny of their motives, because no one in real life talks in exposition mode.
So I really liked this little bit with Sasha, it’s like we’ve been teased with getting more info twice now and each time pushed back. A great way to keep me interested over the course of the show, especially with one final visit to come.
I saw a lot of negative reaction to this final segment on Twitter, like we all collectively sighed at WWE once again pulling the, “Yer da’s gon te hell,” line. There are certain things they just cannot keep themselves away from, dead relatives, babyface champions fighting for their family and women’s rivalries almost exclusively containing the line, “You used to be my best friend!” There’s a reason I’m seemingly hit with the repeat thought that WWE have run out of stories to tell, creative likely haven’t in reality, but they damn sure repeat stuff a lot.
If you really simply must bring up Natalya’s dead relative, this wasn’t the worst version WWE has pulled (for recent worst see Paige/Charlotte). It is highly unnecessary however. Fans in 2019 aren’t going to boo Sasha Banks for that line, they’re going to log on to Twitter and berate the creative that wrote it.
Sasha was great though, the novelty of the heel Boss sure hasn’t worn off for me yet.
2019 King of the Ring
It’s prestigious now!
Why do the lions look so sad?
The last tournament 4 years ago in 2015 that ended in a Network special was a far cry from the highly regarded tournament of the past. Instead of crowning moments such as Macho King, Bret Hart or Austin 3:16, we had King Sheamus killing his main event heel run dead and King Barrett fading into Kick Off show obscurity before a granted release.
WWE once again taking the tournament seriously in their words is great to hear, I’ll just wait to see it’s backed up by action. The matches tonight gave great hope in that regard: a G1 style tag preview with Ricochet & The Miz vs Drew McIntyre & Baron Corbin, something I’m all for going forward over the course of the tournament. It just adds that little bit more to what was previously, ‘Hey, here’s a tournament match. Enjoy.’
The matches themselves had an aura of importance. Samoa Joe vs Cesaro was hard hitting from the start, uppercuts and suplexes galore. Joe’s in this weird tweener place where he’s been in the vicinity of babyfaces whilst still being a dickish character, Cesaro’s in his normalcy of putting on great matches to no reward (I mean the character, not the bloke playing him, of course he’s got lots of lots of money in reward).
This was the perfect opener though, gave the tournament that important feel after both men were willing to throw so much into their match. The state of your tracksuit though, Cesaro. Such an epic entrance to reveal such an average attire.
Cedric Alexander vs Sami Zayn was a fine second match, nothing to write home about compared to Joe/Cesaro. It was just ‘fine’, a tad of a downer from how much I enjoyed the first, but this one 100% suffered from where it was placed on the card. Post mid-show lull and immediately following the Sash Banks promo, the crowd were quiet for the majority of it.
Doesn’t mean it was a bad match though, just an entirely forgettable one. In years time when WWE has this tournament in a compilation on the Network, you’ll see this one and likely have no memory of it ever happening at all. Get ready for Cedric to sell Corbin’s offence in the next round like a boss though.
I might make a note of this each week if I continue this (please let me know if you’d like me to!), but by the end of each RAW I feel like it outstayed it’s welcome. So to look further into that, when does that feeling set in? What point triggers that feeling? If it is even that simple of course.
For me, this week’s episode was flowing by extremely well, from the opening match to the first King of the Ring offering, I was having absolute blast. But part way into the second hour I started to feel it. I’m not saying these segments were particularly bad, but they did completely disrupt the flow and took me out a tad. I started to look at the time and sigh at how much was remaining, like having the 24/7 skit, followed by Dominic’s ‘amazing’ acting and then the SmackDown Tag Team Champions Big E & Xavier Woods coming out and reminding me the Wildcard Rule is still a thing.
Not one segment was inherently bad, but one after the other? It’s a whole stretch of the show somewhat separate from the rest of the momentum, half an hour that feels like it’s padding out the show time. Again, not one segment was pointless (the FTRKO formation was all the awesome), but it brought the show to a halt for me.
Just imagine if the segments had gone from the first King of the Ring match and straight into Sasha Banks’ interview, the down time’s gone and I’d have no place to lose focus. I enjoy the silliness of the 24/7 title and Cole explaining to people how sound booths work like Jerry Seinfeld, “You know, those audio guys always got those booths sound proofed, you can’t hear anything!” But that doesn’t change the fact the flow of the show was kinda broken in order to include them. That’s fine on YouTube, not so much as an actual show.
The OC vs Seth Rollins and the Brown Straw Man
Well Gallows & Anderson Weren’t In The Main Event Because They Were Going Over
And we close the show with our new RAW Tag Team Champions! I remember the Noughties being ripe with this, but the Teens (or whatever this decade is called) hasn’t really been that exposed to two lads in a world championship feud become tag champs. It builds animosity, a nice way to slowly progress the heat between the two without re-treading normal mediocre tropes.
Especially since Braun had only just turned heel this time last year and was a babyface again come WrestleMania, WWE essentially has a goodie-versus-goodie scenario here and that’s intriguing enough for me given the company normally steers away from such a collision.
This title match was also a perfectly fine main event, with lots of interference from AJ Styles swinging the momentum back into the favour of the champions to keep things interesting. Not forgetting the challengers had an automatic momentum swing of their own in the form of Braun Strowman, all Gallows & Anderson had to do was stop the WWE Universal Champion from making a tag. Easy right?
Yes Gallows & Anderson are the experienced team, but Rollins is no tag rookie and he’s also the freakin’ champion. So for me it made all the sense in the world he could keep withstanding the Tag Champions’ offence, right until AJ Styles would get involved that is. The US Champion was the influential force, a massive effecting factor. Meaning the writing was on the wall as soon as Strowman had enough and went for a wee ringside jog.
Poor Gallows & Anderson had no chance against Strowman and a ‘free to join in when he wanted’ Seth Rollins, the ending sequence was fun as hell and all the championship ogling just added to it. Makes me laugh how earlier in the night they had Seth outright say, “I know you’ve been eyeing my WWE Universal Championship, Braun Strowman,” subtlety’s never been their forte, has it?
A fun match though, moves things on nicely to Rollins’ eventual defence against the big lad.
Imp’s Final RAW Grade – Totally watchable
I don’t really do formal show rankings, for me they don’t really represent enough of the 2,000 words of this column when simplified down to a letter or number. However I’d 100% say this show is ‘Totally Watchable’, outside of that 30 minute period in the second hour, the show flowed really well and most segments were building to something or at least relevant to another.
Really even the stuff I’m calling padding was extremely relevant to SmackDown, it just felt separate from the rest of the show after a couple of other mini side segments. The Wildcard Rule doesn’t seem to be disappearing yet, a tad of a shame given it’s one of the year’s most universe destroying additions. Seriously, WWE’s universe had very little consistent world building after WrestleMania and it’s taken until SummerSlam to really make any changes.
King of the Ring is shaping up nicely, only bit I paused the TV at and questioned was ‘8 superstars from RAW, 8 superstars from SmackDown’. Mostly because the Wildcard Rule has confused things so much I have no idea which superstars are from which brand, like I swear they had Andrade on the SmackDown side… was he not on RAW this whole time?
The matches are shaping up nicely though, the presentation around the tournament all is making it feel important as hell and the matches indeed do have that feeling of urgency. Longevity is the thing here though, can WWE keep building and continue to make the King of the Ring feel special? The past few iterations have fallen away to the mid-card or a Network special, so call me sceptical of this having the same positive feeling in a month’s time.
But now to hear from you, what did you think? What did you make of this week’s RAW? Is the King of the Ring shaping up nicely? What about Sasha Banks’ return to the dark side?
Comment below, rate and those emojis are there too if you’re that way inclined. I’m sure to remember to not get distracted and actually check. I did pretty well during the G1, I was genuinely replying to people and everything. Shh, that’s an achievement for me.
Imp & The KISS Boys – G1 Climax 29 Review w/Jeremy Donovan – talking the G1 Climax Finals on LOP Radio, joined by the founder of Social Suplex and one of half the Keeping It Strong Style podcast, Jeremy Donovan!
Imp’s most recent columns:
NJPW G1 Climax Finals Review – Top 5 Matches & MVP feat. Imp & Sam
Imp’s AEW Adventure – Fyter Fest MEGA Review
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 1: Becoming The Ace
Imp’s NJPW Adventure – The Story of Hiroshi Tanahashi Part 2: The Ace of the Universe