The opening segment has all four McMahon’s come out and do a promo about how the WWE is “giving power to the fans.” They’re doing a hard “reset.” This is a “fresh start.” Full disclosure, I’m writing this in hindsight. I’m not writing this as I watch in real time, so I know how this “fresh start” ends. Every so often the PR world adapts to the market and there’s this new trend of companies admitting they suck and that they’ve changed. This is very similar to the time Domino’s had a marketing campaign that admitted their old pizza sucked, and that they knew it sucked all along, but that they’ve created a new pizza recipe. However, once you tried it, you realized it was still a $16 pizza you regretted having immediately after swallowing.
This, by the way, is the same thing as a boyfriend/girlfriend who treats you like shit and apologizes, swears he/she’s changed, and then throws you down some stairs once your guard is down.
Their fresh start, in case you’re wondering, is that the McMahon’s are once again the authority of the WWE which you may recognize as the opposite of a “fresh start.” They let the fans know that they’re “giving power to the players,” and we all know how well that worked out for GameStop. The problem with “giving people what they want” is that, aside from just being a PR mumbo jumbo buzzword, it doesn’t really mean anything for a show that’s written to not always give the people what they want. The moment the WWE gives the title to the next Jinder Mahal the audience will have a total meltdown despite it making sense in the story. Everyone wanted Dean Ambrose to be heel and we saw how that went at TLC. The audience wants something, except they want it literally the way they want it without any detouring, and that’s an impossible promise to make.
Prepare yourself for a lot of disappoint – which also happens to be the RAW tagline. WWE Monday Night RAW: prepare yourself for a lot of disappoint!
This segment is interrupted by Baron Corbin. You may recall Baron Corbin as that guy you don’t want to recall. He begs for his job back as interim GM but he wasn’t prepared for his greatest rivalry yet – Stephanie McMahon and Triple H’s inconsistent flip-flopping characters! Stephanie McMahon is the one who made Baron Corbin the Constable and Stephanie McMahon is the one who sent Kurt Angle packing and Stephanie McMahon is the one who appointed Baron Corbin as the interim Gm. So naturally she hates his guts. The only thing missing from this equation is for the Big Show to save Baron Corbin, but punch Triple H in the face, allowing a babyface to make the pin, then chokeslam a make-a-wish kid and highfive his parents. They all take turns mocking Baron Corbin which is definitely what you expect from 4 babyfaces with all the power.
The entire segment came off as a contest to see who can create the best Twitter hashtag. Hashtag YoureTheAuthority, hashtag Reset, hashtag FreshStart, hashtag ShareThisColumn. That’s the theme of this entire show. It’s a Twitter feed. Yes, a fresh start sounds like a fun thing to discuss on the internet. In the moment the opportunities sound limitless. It’s also really important to point out that the four McMahons are portraying a character of their real-life positions by promising something IN-CHARACTER to give the illusion that they’re actually promising it in real life. They’ve done this exact same act before except they called it the Authority and they were considered heels. They were considered heels because they would say they were doing things that were “best for business,” but then they’d do the opposite to a lot of heel heat. That was kind of the point. Imagine what will happen when they – as babyfaces – say they’re going to do what’s “best for business” and then put the title on literally anyone other than Seth Rollins or Braun Strowman.
Even better, should they actually put the title on anyone we want them to put the title on with us in charge, they can then blame us for being wrong about what we wanted. Genius! It was us, Austin! It was us, Austin! It was us all along, Austin!
Baron Corbin Versus Last Week’s Segment
If you’d like to know my review of Baron Corbin versus Kurt Angle then just copy and paste someone else’s review of TLC’s Baron Corbin versus Braun Strowman match, but replace Braun Strowman’s name with Kurt Angle and replace my interest with a suicide note.
It was a fun segment, sure, but it was a fun segment when we saw it the night, too, and guess what? It’d be a fun segment the next week and it’d make my reviews that much easier. That’s kind of the point though, isn’t it? They said at the top of the hour that this would be a fresh start, and then began with a match that is literally the culmination of a feud we’ve been watching for months and is just a repeat of what we saw the night before. If that’s considered a fresh start then I’ve got great news: The clothes I’m wearing right now are technically brand spanking new and I plan on wearing them again tomorrow, and if I don’t feel like doing laundry tomorrow, then they’re brand new again! My mother is going to love this news.
Baron Corbin loses and he’s no longer in the running for the GM of RAW position, and thank god! I mean the idea of a mid-carder being the GM and using it as a way to elevate his credibility as heel is fresh so we wouldn’t want that getting in the way of our fresh start. Instead, welcome back the McMahon’s for the first time for the seventh time.
Dolph Ziggler versus Last Week’s Segment
I’m starting to see a pattern here. This match could have been good except it was interrupted when Drew McIntyre came out and caused a disqualification. This is totally different than last night, you see, as Dolph Ziggler interfered but it did not cause a disqualification. Totally fresh take. Drew McIntyre nails a Claymore on both men and that’s the segment. It’s a lateral move as all three men were already mad at each other so this achieves nothing other than getting them to next week’s RAW without putting in any effort.
Dean Ambrose versus Tyler Breeze
In what is not-arguably the first “fresh” thing to happen tonight, Dean Ambrose makes an open challenge to anyone in the back and Tyler Breeze of all people answers. You guys remember Tyler Breeze, right? Well, apparently no one in the audience did as he came out to almost no sound. I realize this was supposed to be a special moment, but the problem is that the WWE spent a good portion of Tyler Breeze’s year telling everyone that he wasn’t anything special (outside of NXT), so to expect him to get any kind of reaction is ridiculous. He even does the babyface “fired up” chain where he nails the heel and throws him outside of the ring and celebrates except at this point everyone has already changed the channel and I’m referring to the people in the actual audience here.
Tyler Breeze gets in plenty of offense and is made to look strong, but the WWE is trying very hard to get the Dirty Deeds over as a “Stone Cold Stunner” type move where he can hit it out of nowhere and get the win, so Tyler Breeze loses in the blink of an eye. Nothing wrong here other than the match being unusually short.
The next segment was so predictable that my aunt guessed that one of Dean Ambrose’s gas squad members was actually Seth Rollins, and not only does she not watch wrestling but she’s dead. Seth enters the ring, gets in a few cheap shots (again, this is the babyface, right?) and Ambrose retreats to the back. Fine segment, lacked creativity, and distracted from the fact that Tyler Breeze was seconds away from winning. This angle between Rollins and Ambrose isn’t getting over and it’s a shame. I’m actually enjoying Dean Ambrose’s old school heel character. I think the WWE expected him to be the next Triple H-esque heel and he’s not off to a good start.
We get a few “coming soon” promos for NXT talent and that makes sense. The WWE is in panic mode and they’re calling people up, but blowing their load too soon wouldn’t be smart. That’s not an overnight process. As nice as it would have been to see those new faces debut live on RAW, it wouldn’t make any sense to rush it. I’m very interested in seeing how they portray EC3 on the main roster, especially since his gimmick is more-or-less a parody of people like Vince McMahon and the millionaire’s club.
Segment: Lashley, Elias, Lio Rush
The less said about this segment the better. Poor Lashley. The WWE brought in a mouthpiece for him to disguise his flaws and ended up creating an ass load of new flaws – an ass load we got a full shot of two weeks ago during Lashley’s flexing segment. Thanks, WWE, I hate it!
Tag Team Contender Match: Lucha House Party versus The Rival versus B Team versus The Authors of Pain
This is battle of “who has been used worse.” I firmly believe the Lucha House Party could be a great gimmick if the WWE would stop portraying them as a joke. What is that annoying noise they kept making during the match? That question is directed at Bo Dallas’s yell. I also firmly believe that the B Team is terrible and the WWE severely overestimated how many people enjoy watching two half-naked men roll on top of each other in the middle of the ring and ohhh… Never mind.
The winner here is The Revival, and this may actually be the first “fresh start” that ended on a positive note. This is the only thing that has happened so far that actually advances something new and creates interest in the next RAW.
Women’s Gauntlet for Contendership
This match attempted to advance as many women’s feuds as possible which was fairly easy since the 8 women in this match take up the 9 women on the roster. This match took 1/3 of the show. The reason was pretty obvious: The WWE had 6 hours of television to write. The gauntlet match appeared to end the show to those of us watching at home, but in reality, it was just the midpoint for the live audience. It was a clever bit of booking on the WWE’s part except for one itty bitty teeny tiny problem: They forgot to have a good ending.
Natalya won. Okay. Then, Ronda Rousey came out. First, Ronda is a terrible, awkward actress. Her emotions range from smiley face to “just waking up to an alarm set for work in the morning but you know you have a second alarm set” face, and she switched between the two expressions THREE times in 30 seconds. Second, they hugged. Fine. She even raised Natalya’s hand. Sure. But then they teased tension over a hand shake. After a pause, they shook hands and the camera really focused on this. Did I miss something? Is there a universe where hugging someone means slightly less than coddling hands? This segment could have only been made to feel less awkward if they had a sloppy make out session in the middle of the ring, then teased tension over exchanging cellphone numbers.
The show… the ENTIRE show… ended with Natalya smiling and looking up at her dad. This, by the way, is an angle that has failed to get over in the midcard section of the women’s division, so why not end the show you’re trying to portray as the “FRESH START” with it? Natalya managed to get herself over big as a babyface at TLC despite struggling almost her entire career to do so, but it had nothing to do with the WWE shamelessly using death-porn to do it. In fact, most references to Neidhart received almost no reaction including the jacket that Natalya desperately wants to mean something to a generation of kids who have no idea who Jim Neidhart is. I guess mocking the dead isn’t as big of a meal ticket as it used to be, huh Orton?
Overall, don’t get your hopes up for a “new” RAW. What we saw was four in-character authority figures pandering to the fans to create a buzz about a product that absolutely didn’t change and – god forbid – won’t be changing. Hashtag Fresh Start.