wrestling / Columns

Thoughts on The Raw Season Premiere

October 19, 2020 | Posted by Rob Stewart
WWE RAW The Fiend

Wait… is it Premier? Or Premiere? Spell check says they are both right. I think one is, like, the ruler of a country, and the other is a debut of something.

I honestly didn’t know those words were not both spelled the same way! Damn, Raw is teaching me English tonight.

One of them means Soccer or something, too, right?

Anyway, tonight was the season pre… the first episode of the season for Monday Night Raw. What season is it? No one knows; they won’t tell us. Raw did not used to have seasons. So were the first, like, twenty years of Raw one “season”? Something to think about. Wait, no it’s not.

Raw opens with Alexa Bliss telling us all to Let Him In, whereupon The Fiend appears! And you know what? It’s a good thing that I love Fiend’s entrance music, because he makes Undertaker’s old ring entrances look like sprints.

Fiend and Alexa stand in the ring holding hands when RETRIBUTION appears! The Fiend and Retribution? What an intriguing opening to this season of Raw! Can I be honest? I really want Retribution to succeed. Maybe it’s an inherent desire to see an underdog overcome the odds. Maybe I just appreciate Dominick Dijakovic’s Twitter game. I just feel so bad for these talented workers being stuck in a terrible gimmick.

The Fiend teleports away to avoid an attack, but The Hurt Business shows up to confront their foes!

MATCH 1: Retribution Vs The Hurt Business

An eight-man heels vs heels match is the first match of Raw’s, oh let’s say, 17th season. If they aren’t going to tell me, I’ll just make a number up.

Hey, do you think Retribution’s masks are a good idea? Because they aren’t. Poor T-Bar keeps fidgeting with his the whole time he is in the ring. The match is fine. Midway through, we get The Fiend’s music and theme leading us into commercial, but when the commercials end… the match is just going on as normal. Cool.

The Hurt Business go clean as a sheet over the gang that WWE has been building up for months when Lashley taps out poor T-Bar. After the match ends, The Fiend shows back up and just beats the holy hell out of Retribution, and… well okay then. Guess Vince is bored with these guys already. I’m sure glad we spent all that time building this stable just so they could blindly cycle talent in and out without any explanation and have them get embarrassed by The Hurt Business and The Fiend.

Wait… what is the point of T-Bar’s mask if it can’t even protect him from The Mandible Claw?

MATCH 2: AJ Styles vs Matt Riddle

This kicks off with AJ coming to the ring to tell us that Raw is better for having drafted him, and he now has an absolute mammoth of a bodyguard with him named…. um… Jordan. Jordan O. I’ll look the spelling of his name up later. But he’s a big boy. AJ doesn’t even come up to his shoulders. Cripes.

Riddle comes out, and then we get the referee begging Jordan to leave the ring so they can have a match. I simultaneously appreciate the display that this guy is so imposing, but also think a referee saying “I don’t care what you do out there, just please leave the ring. I’m just trying to do my job” is a bit wonky.

Commercials! I can look up Jordan’s name now. Omogbehin. O-mog-bee-hin. I’ll try to learn that, I promise.

(Or I’ll pretend I am Vince, and just keep calling him Jordan because people having first and last names is hard)

Styles wins, like, 95% clean, but in a way that protects Riddle well enough when Jordan threatened the Original Bro on the outside. When he fled into the ring, Styles caught him with a Styles Clash. Decent enough match.

Then we get a recap of the Orton/McIntyre feud. Hasn’t Drew beaten Randy twice already in PPV title defenses? Why does this feud continue? Besides the fact that WWE has not built up any other challengers for Drew in the last three months, I mean. And if Orton wins… are we going to keep getting PPV rematches? I suppose… this feud has been well and good, but I wish at Clash of Champions, Drew had defended against someone else as a bit of a break in the monotony.

Tonight only WWEShop.com is having a sale on titles and T-shirts! Except they have sales pretty much every single night WWE is on TV. Which is, according to my calendar, almost every day ever.

Drew McIntyre has a promo with some really good fire. Great old school promo from Drew. Put his opponent over. Sell the upcoming show. I was slightly disappointed earlier in the year when Drew won the Rumble because it felt so sudden and forced of a push for him, but dude has shown up every single day of 2020. I was wrong, okay. He earned this run. I hope Orton doesn’t end it.

MATCH 3: Asuka vs Lana

Before Raw, I watched Asuka discover what a Kinder-Joy egg is on YouTube, and I, too, was shocked by what they actually are! She and I both thought it was a chocolate egg thing with a toy inside, but… nope. It’s a half-and-half split thing. Strange. I have heard tale that some schools have banned these treats. Has anyone else heard that? Weird.

Asuka wins quickly here because of course she did. This was just a vehicle to get to the end-match where Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler show up and attempt to trash everyone. They do succeed in putting Lana through a table, but Asuka fights off Shayna and flees.

I don’t know for sure where this is going, but I’m here for a Triple Threat title match between these three. Asuka needs to avenge Shayna’s having punked her out at Elimination Chamber.

I’m… REALLY over this commercial with the two cowboys and their Mountain Dew Vending Machine Horse. I mean, I’m glad the one cowboy gets a new Mountain Dew every time it airs, but I feel like I’ve seen it at least three times in the first 71 minutes of Raw.

WHERE IS MY LULULEMON MI–

Not even kidding, it came on as I got that far into typing that. I’ve tapped into my latent mutant powers yet again! Tell me more, Mirror From The Year 3000!

Shayna and Baszler are still in the ring after the break, and they issue an open challenge (I think) which is answered by… everyone? Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke come out first. Then we get the new team of Peyton Royce and Lacey Evans. After that, the Riott Squad shows up, and we have a four-team battle!

MATCH 4: Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax vs Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose vs Peyton Royce & Lacey Evans vs The Riott Squad

Poor Billie Kay.

Commentary is confused as to whether this is a title match or not. This is the second 8-person match of the night already, and I guess this season of Raw is about getting everyone on television.

The title match implications are irrelevant, luckily, when Baszler and Jax win by way of Nia pinning Lacey. It’s actually not a bad match for a quick little effort from all eight ladies. It was fast paced and enjoyable.

The cowboy is getting another Mountain Dew. That’s four.

Also, who the blue hell is this Chrisley guy that USA is always advertising. Was he famous before he had a TV show?

CONCERT 1 (shrug): Elias

Elias actually has a whole band tonight; no straight acoustic chair session. WAIT, he actually gets to play?! No interruption? That’s new!

Elias gets two songs deep, teases leaving, then comes back for an encore, but is chased away by Jeff Hardy after a gnarly guitar riff, dude.

Miz and Morrison challenge Tucker to a tag team match, then laugh at the unlikelihood of his finding a new tag partner.

Backstage, Elias is fuming about his thwarted encore. He challenges Jeff to a match at Hell In A Cell. Man, remember last week when it seemed like this feud was going to be built well? Those were good times.

Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods then challenge Sheamus to a match that commentary told us was going to happen before the last commercial break. What a startlingly unexpected development!

MATCH 5: Kofi Kingston vs Sheamus

Man, Sheamus just can’t get away from the New Day. Big E is “in” the Thunderdome, and I still appreciate this feature of WWE’s. The current usage of it to show other talent watching from across shows is a nice touch. I have nothing bad to say about The Thunderdome… as long as Michael Cole isn’t describing it as “visually pleasing” because that gets creepier every time I think of it.

I was today years old when I finally put it together in my brain that Sheamus uses a Cloverleaf because he is Irish and, you know, four-leaf clovers. Literal years of his using that move and I never put that together until now. I just started thinking “He’s not from Texas, so why does he use the CloOHHHHH!”

Not the most fluid match between the two–they kept fumbling around like they were me and my first girlfriend in 9th grade and we had no idea what our bodies were for–but it was appropriately competitive. I didn’t really want either guy to lose, but it felt like Sheamus needed this more. Alas, he did not get it.

We get a promo from Retribution afterwards which is just a quick way to marry these guys with the seemingly abandoned Hacker gimmick. Now Ali can spy on you OR jump you with thugs! To be fair, it’s a really spirited promo by Ali, who put a lot of soul into it. It just feels really forced as a story point. “I used to hack into cell phones! But then it was more fun to throw Molotov Cocktails at transformers!”

I CAN’T HELP IT, GUYS; I REALLY WANT THESE FOLKS TO SUCCEED IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING. I’m a Retribution mark.

And you know what? I spent the promo studying T-Bar’s mask. There is no way The Fiend got The Mandible Claw on him. I call shenanigans. What if Dijakovic is secretly working for Wyatt all along?! What a twist!

Mountain Dew #5 for the cowboy. That poor guy is never falling asleep tonight.

Poor Titus O’Neil tries to join The Hurt Business, but they jump him. He means so well.

MATCH 6: John Morrison & The Miz vs Tucker & El Gran Gordo!

Wow, The Miz with a FIRE promo before the match that did more to build up Otis than anything else WWE has done since Money In The Bank. He goes off on Otis–disguised as a luchador here–as a joke who isn’t taking the Money In The Bank contract seriously. And now I’m engaged in Otis’ character development again to see if he starts taking this to heart. This whole lawsuit storyline may be underwhelming, but few people can build a story like Miz. Damn.

There will be people who get mad about this essentially being a cross-brand feud (“Oh no, the draft and the brands don’t matter!”), but they are using the isolation of Otis as a story point, and it’s working for me. The only thing about this that’s bothering me is how it’s turning Morrison into little more than Miz’ henchman.

MOUNTAIN DEW #6 ARE YOU SERIOUS WITH THIS COMMERCIAL, USA? I don’t drink caffeine, but even when I did, I didn’t drink Mountain Dew. Stuff is disgusting. This cowboy has really crappy taste in beverages. Dr. Pepper is better than Mountain Dew. Search your feelings; you know it to be true.

The match ends with a silly 24/7 Title run-in/distraction that costs The Miz. That was unnecessary. But WWE gotta WWE, even when they are doing something mostly right.

It’s 10:30, and we still have a Firefly Fun House, a “Message From Hell” from Randy Orton, and Keith Lee vs Braun Strowman. That seems like… not enough time. WWE has poor time management skills.

Firefly Funhouse Time gives a flashback to the beginning of the show. Then we get a flashback to Ramblin’ Rabbit’s many deaths. And then Mercy eats him again. All right. This is going nowhere. But the segment ends with Alexa Bliss joining the Funhouse.

There is honest-to-god another Mountain Dew cowboy commercial. What cruel Lovecraftian god allows this to happen? It’s 10:40… that HAS to be the last one. Right?

MATCH 7: Braun Strowman vs Keith Lee

I feel like WWE would 100% do the Superplex Ring Destruction spot here if they hadn’t just done it about a month ago with Braun and The Fiend.

They build the entire match around how Braun has badly injured ribs, presumably so Lee could win, but Braun would be protected. But then Braun wins anyway. Without even using the Running Powerslam. He did rely on a low blow, but… still. Hobbled Braun wins with a transitional move.

After the match, Lee kicks Braun low and essentially says this isn’t over. Can it be soon, though? Please?

We’re lowering the Hell In A Cell–still red!–at 10:54pm for a promo. It’s 10:55 when Randy’s music hits and he makes his way to the ring. Good thing we rushed through Lee/Braun and had a clip show Firefly Funhouse so we could meander with this. God, this makes me want to drink a Mountain Dew.

Randy takes a trip down memory lane for his prior Hell In A Cell experiences before Drew cuts him off. Drew breaks into the cell while Randy equips a chair from his inventory… and SORRY FOLKS, WE’RE ALL OUTTA TIME!

And that was it, the go-home Raw for Hell In A Cell. It was better than last week! Whereas last week felt like an endurance exercise to get through the three hours, this didn’t quite feel as taxing. Match quality was low across the board, as absolutely nothing was particularly noteworthy. But the promo games of Drew, Randy, Ali, and The Miz were about as on point as possible.

I’m taking the good and I’m taking the bad and I’m humming the Facts of Life song in my head because I’m an old man.

Just some shameless self-promotion time now. I watched Raw tonight. Tomorrow, I’m going to watch The Exorcist for the first time ever! Can you believe that? I’ve never seen it.

Anyway, head on over to my new site, SWOProductions.com for my review on the Exorcist, and a whole bunch more Halloween content for the next two weeks. Next week in particularly, I’m working with several other creators and podcasters to have a new Top Ten Horror Movie Villains/Monsters list every day!

article topics :

RAW, WWE, Rob Stewart