The Raw Rundown
Reverse Hipster What mattered
Xavier woods vs Riddle
Woods and Riddle had the match of the night. This was such a treat. We rarely get to see Xavier in singles action, and we have witnessed Riddle have great matches with everybody. As you already know, if you read our five things that need to happen this year, I am pushing for Xavier to become king of the ring, and Rob is pulling for Riddle to be world Champion.
I think they both made a strong argument for each respective goal. These guys had a PPV quality match, and I am not even upset that Xavier lost because when you have math like this, there is nothing to be ashamed of. I also loved that this was a face vs. face match it was an exciting dynamic we don't see a lot. The highlights for me were when Xavier guerrilla pressed Riddle and then dropped him in a gut wrench. Also, when Xavier slammed Riddle on the hardest part of the ring and Riddle sold like he was dying. Riddle highlights were the suplex off the second rope that looked so brutal that I'd understand if they banned it tomorrow. Also, the RKo on Xavier, I just love the surprise and the story of it that Riddle had to pull out a new move to put Xavier down.
2. Cedric vs Shelton Benjamin
I'm loving this feud. It's a lower card feud, but it feels very personal, and the wrestlers in the rivalry are very talented. So it has the potential to steal the show. This week I was impressed with the story. Cedric is quickly establishing himself as quite the heel. Also, Cory Graves turning on Cedric stood out and put Cedric over as an out-of-line Heel that needed to get his ass kicked. When Cedric won the match and backed up his promo via cheap tactics, it bolstered him more and made fans want to see him get beaten up. Also, Shelton looks good because he was dominating most of the match. I hope they have their final bout at Hell in the cell.
3. Main event Natayla and Tamina
I'm not a fan of having Natalya and Tamina face Shanya and Nia three times in a row. However, I'd be lying if I told you having them main event and win didn't outweigh that. I love that the women's tag team Championship was elevated to the main event level. Also, I like that they have advanced multiple stories. Alexa Bliss is still attacking Shayna and Nia, and now we know Shayna and Reginald have a match next week, which is a payoff to the tension they have had since he joined the team. Also, Natalya and Tamina got another win, and now hopefully, they can feud with a smackdown tag team. My pick would be the Riot squad being that Natalya helped train Liv.
4. Sheamus vs Everyone
Sheamus continues to be an excellent United States Champion. This week he beat Humberto. They had a good match, and I'm glad to see they didn't just drop Humberto off the face of the earth. He has been working hard, and it's nice to see Humberto get to go out there and compete. After he lost, he and Richotet just went on an Arial assault on Sheamus. I think this leads to a triple threat, and I think it will be a great match. These are all good workers. The united states championship scene is vibrant right now.
I'm loving the Eva vignettes; she elevates her profile every week. This week was probably my favorite. Because in her last run, people knew she was a model but didn't realize she was a fitness model who kept herself in excellent shape and was strong and athletic as hell. I feel like she ate this gym montage up. After this one, I could genuinely see her being put up against anybody in the woman's division. I'm glad they showed off her athletic credibility.
6. Kofi vs Drew
I hope Kofi beats Drew. I'm not a fan of Drew hanging around Bobby forever. However, I think the feud with Kofi is interesting. I think Kofi taught Drew a lesson this week by showing Drew shouldn't take him lightly and pointing out that he beat Bobby and Drew and hasn't. This match only ranks so low because it ended in a non-finish. However, that explains why they had the match so low on the card. I'm all in on this Kofi push. I was watching this Raw with my New Day unicorn shirt. I hope Kofi and Drew main event next week, and Drew loses. He needs to leave Bobby alone for a while.
7. More Matches
Raw felt smoother because it seemed like it was built around longer matches rather than segments. I think this a winning formula, and they should stick with it for a while—more long matches with good story's backing them up.
Rob’s What mattered
1. Xavier Woods vs. Riddle
Wow, what a match. New Day owned this night, and maybe just maybe, New Day owns WWE. After watching SmackDown last week, Big E presented himself like a future world champion, making me think maybe Kofi Kingston wasn’t the only New Day member destined for a world title. After this week’s Raw, I think Xavier Woods one day deserves that recognition too. We already knew Woods was the best all-around promo for the New Day, but he had maybe his best singles match to date here. Woods brought out creative moves I’ve never seen from him before. If this doesn’t lead to a singles title, can we at least hope for King of the Ring?
With Riddle, the team of RKBro is so interesting, and their feud with the New Day has been fantastic for both teams. Riddle continued his streak of having amazing matches on any show with any superstar. Riddle is charismatic, character-driven, all-around great in-ring, and this week, he showed he can sell his ass off to get over the offense of his opponent. His facial expressions were memorable and drove home the desperate offense of Woods. Riddle won hitting an RKO and the intriguing story of his alliance with Randy Orton continued. The commentators hinted that his alliance with Orton is an attempt to ride Orton’s coattails to the top at the cost of abandoning some of his morals. So not only was the match great, I’m excited to see what continues to come out of this storyline.
2. Kofi Kingston vs. Drew McIntyre
I loved this match, and I loved that it was the first match on the show to get the viewers hyped early. The match was just reaching an incredible pace when Bobby Lashley interfered. Kofi Kingston and Drew McIntyre have great chemistry, and I’m excited to see how they one-up themselves next week. I liked the decision to have the big fight pour over onto Lashley and show the side of Lashley that is easily frustrated and make rash decisions. We’ve seen a lot of champions jeopardize themselves by getting too involved in number one contender matches. MVP was there to hold him back in the backstage segment with Adam Pearce later in the night, but this could be some great foreshadowing that Lashley’s temper could be his downfall. The upside of this whole feud is undoubtedly the potential for Kingston to get another world title run. His rise to the top last time was unmatched, and he had an underrated reign. Kingston’s rise back to the world title scene feels unexpected but fresh, with new competitors in the picture for Kingston to have great matches with.
3. Cedric Alexander vs. Shelton Benjamin
This feud is on the verge of not mattering, but the in-ring talent is too good to be denied. It’s extra upsetting this match wasn’t on the Hulu recording. I still think the premise of the feud is really interesting: former tag partners, in-his-prime Alexander vs. veteran Benjamin, and they have very similar careers as underutilized mid-card talent. Alexander cut one of the best promos of his career, and Benjamin responded with a fire we haven’t seen in him in years. Alexander won with a cheap thump to the eye in order to tie their series so far, showing that maybe Alexander does need to cheat to beat Benjamin. Maybe Benjamin is better than Alexander in a straight-up match. I hope WWE does something to progress the story a little and give them a gimmick match and lots of time for the rubber match of their feud.
Reverse Hipster What Didn't matter
You just couldn't let it happen could you
I feel like I need to go to another language to express my frustration with this adequately. So as Cory Mathews once said, it was agoobwah. Last week Asuka and Charlotte a near-perfect match, maybe their best ever, and Asuka finally got a huge win, and I raved over it in the Rundown. This week they completely erased all of that.
I guess they must have had a panic attack backstage when they realized that Charlotte had actually lost. So they decided they would have Charlotte get a straight rematch because she is privileged and deserves a rematch anytime she loses. Also, they decided that despite Charlotte losing to Asuka last week, this would be an opportunity for Charlotte to win the title shot. So then she just beats Asuka clean even though Asuka's win last week couldn't even be completely clean. So now Charlotte is back in the title picture like always. Now she looks superior to Asuka again like she always has at every turn. Failing up to the title picture even though Asuka and Charlotte are technically tied one to one but just forget Asuka, right?
These two weeks are a microcosm of Charlotte's entire career and why people don't like her. She is obviously talented both matches were excellent. The first one was better. The second was a step slower but great nonetheless. However, her problem is her plot armor. She can't lose clean and gets opportunities other superstars don't get, like immediate rematches with title implications after a loss. She gets to go over a wrestler clean she wouldn't allow to beat her clean. She is super Cena on steroids. She just beat Asuka clean, a woman whose undefeated streak she snapped and now is going on to face a champion she crushed at Wrestlemania at her peak who had to rebuild herself afterward. That's my final point her plot armor prevents her from giving back to other superstars and makes her look bad despite being an elite talent.
2. Rhea and Nikki
From the outside looking in, this is what it looks like when you have fan support but not support from WWE. You have high-profile spots like a match and win over Rhea Ripley, but you get made out to look as weak as you can possibly look. I love Cross and think the world of her, which why I have to call this out as terrible. Rhea shrugging off Cross like a child and forgetting about the time limit and stomping Cross is not a win.
Be clear Cross did her absolute best with what she was given and pretended like she had just won the title, but this was trash before it started. Why was there a beat-the-clock challenge in the first place? Before the match even started, they ran Cross down as weak and communicated that it should only take two minutes to beat Cross.
If they wanted to tell the story that Cross needs to be taken seriously, they could have done it easily. Think about when Neville lost to Seth in his debut but proved he could hang. Even this same night, Xavier lost his match but looked great. WWE knows how to tell that story. There is a reason they presented Cross like this, and it's because they don't believe in her, and it's sad because they are missing out.
3. Ryker vs Styles
There are some good things about this match, like the fact that Ryker won. However, the bad outweighs the good to me. This was an excellent opportunity to establish Ryker in the ring, but this match didn't show us anything about him. Also, we get it Omos is big but does AJ have to look helpless for Omos to look dominant? I remember a little team called Jerishow that was pretty dominant, and the team made both guys look good, and Y2J didn't lose his in-ring skills in that team. I just want more from the champions, better matches, and a better story. The story of the champions seems to mostly be Omos is big, and they aren't delivering in the ring.
Rob’s What didn’t matter
1. Rematches and Replays
This week of Raw continued to feature straight up rematches of a lot of feuds going with no new storyline reason for the fight. Charlotte Flair and Asuka fought again. They have great matches together, but they’re in-ring work is overexposed in my opinion. It feels like nobody else is on their level, and WWE has done nothing creative to intensify their rivalry. Flair came out on top again, which feels like we already knew that going in. Flair will go on to face Ripley in another rematch of weekly show matches and WrestleMania last year. Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin faced off again in a rematch of two weeks ago. Even though I liked this match and the promo beforehand, the story of the feud is the same. The main event was ANOTHER rematch between champions Natalya/Tamina and challengers Shayna Baszler/Nia Jax. The story of the match was largely the same as their match on Raw next week. Baszler hates Reginald for interfering, exploding fire, and Natalya/Tamina win. Something needs to happen to make this story relevant or they need to move on. I think this was the time for Baszler and Jax to officially split up, but it still hasn’t happened.
Likewise, this week, Raw featured replays and recaps for nearly every feud that we saw. Even though they were well-produced, it’s a waste of time, and most people who view Raw see it every week or keep up-to-date on stories. It’s just frustrating as a fan to watch a three-hour show that spends almost a third of their time on replays from the last couple weeks (or worse replaying segments from earlier in the night multiple times).
2. Promos to start the show
Before I wrote The Rundown for weekly shows, I wondered why reviewers so often give negative reviews for opening with a promo. Now, I get it. Watching critically every week, we have to pay attention to the storylines, quality, production, and pacing of the night. I would wager to say over 75% of weekly shows start with a promo (usually by one of the main single’s champions or their challenger in the upcoming PPV). This is predictable, lazy, uncreative, and boring. This week, MVP and Bobby Lashley opened again. They are a great duo, but they start to feel stale when the open every Raw and make similar points week to week about “The Almighty”, how nobody is on his level, and complaining about how his challengers have been booked. The catalyst to finally get to the action was Adam Pearce booking the match between Drew McIntyre and Kofi Kingston, and the match that followed was excellent. I just can’t get behind Raw opening with the same promo every week.
3. WWE is back on the road
Look, I’m as excited as anyone for WWE to be touring again. Live fans make for a way better show, and we’ll appreciate them more than ever after the pandemic. The backstage segments were nice for seeing some underutilized stars get promo time, but I don’t want WWE to shove this down our throat for multiple segments every week for the next month. We get it, and we saw the announcement. On top of all of that, it doesn’t even matter that WWE is touring live shows again unless you live in Texas, as those are the only locations they’ve announced.
4. Adnan Virk (2021-2021)
After this week’s Raw, news broke that Adnan Virk was released from his role as Raw commentator. If that’s true, he will not be remembered. I don’t have any particularly strong memories of Virk positively impacting the product. But similarly, he didn’t do anything to negatively impact the product, which is maybe the true goal of a neutral wrestling commentator. In the all-time commentator rankings, he at least goes somewhere above Mike Adamle and the infamous “Jeff Harvey” call.
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