Monday Night Raw is managing to make the journey to Summerslam a memorable one.
A shocking (-ly hokey) reveal, fallout from a longstanding betrayal, and three 250+ lb men beating the piss out of each other–is there anything more pro wrestling? Raw dutifully delivered on all three fronts this week, moving several plot threads forward on a show that has recently felt more like the wrestling equivalent of Seinfeld–a show about nothing.
All in the family
Jason Jordan is the bastard son of Kurt Angle. I didn’t say everything last night necessarily made sense, but let’s look at the positives: WWE ran a storyline for two months that had a beginning, middle and end and also intersected with some other storylines along the way. And hey, the payoff could have been worse. A lot worse. While there are lots of questions coming out of it (why did Angle think having an upstanding, successful, well liked son would jeopardize his career? Who is blackmailing Angle, and why? Why did Angle keep his hand on Jordan’s shoulder for an awkwardly long amount of time during the sitdown interview?), it instantly gives a talented competitor the chance to shine on a way bigger stage. Jason Jordan, while maybe not the most exciting prospect to come out of NXT, is charismatic in the ring, an excellent technician and was one of the best hot tags in wrestling alongside Gable in American Alpha. While the reveal itself was clunky and plain silly, being Kurt Angle’s kayfabe son is a huge opportunity to prove himself. It’s not crazy to imagine him going for the Intercontinental Championship or even higher with the Olympic Gold Medalist–and Raw General Manager–by his side.
Fans of American Alpha have been clamoring for a Kurt Angle/AA meeting (no, not that kind of Angle AA meeting) for years now, and we’re sort of getting it now–it is somewhat frustrating that in true WWE fashion, we’re only getting about half of it after getting there in bizarre fashion, but on the other hand, this was pro wrestling ridiculousness at its finest. It’s best to not overthink moments like this and just go with it.
Will The Shield rise?
The Dean Ambrose/The Miz Intercontinental Championship feud, though they are two of my favorite guys on the red brand, feels like it’s been going on forever. That’s not to say they aren’t trying–The Mizzies and Miz’s issues with his wife were funny, he’s one of the best guys in the company on the mic and at generating heat and both have been selling intensity reasonably well, but something about it just isn’t clicking on the level it should be. Despite the addition of a long-overdue entourage for Miz (of course dubbed the "Miztourage" because #branding), the feud doesn’t feel interesting or necessary; like it’s just something for two guys to do while the main event scene clears up a bit.
Throwing Seth Rollins into the mix spices things up significantly, and gives all three guys involved a huge shot in the arm. Rollins and Ambrose both find themselves tangled up with The Miz, and both helped one another stave off the Miztourage last week. More importantly though, Rollins showed the most character development he has in months: he showed repentance and remorse over betraying his former brothers in The Shield. The two met last night in a verbal confrontation that saw Ambrose recall the events of over three years ago–longevity usually being the storytelling unicorn in WWE. The Shield was and continues to be a one of a kind storyline that will persist throughout all three men’s careers, and WWE has been surprisingly tasteful in intertwining their careers while not over-relying on their relationship to one another. Callbacks and mentions happen, but a whole storyline based around it is exceedingly rare, which makes it all the more exciting when it does happen. For their parts, Ambrose and Rollins both killed it, delivering truly raw emotion in a story nearly all WWE fans are heavily invested in. It was a refreshing way to kick off Raw, and is quickly becoming the standout reason to keep up with the show. And with The Big Dog also on the red brand, and a Dean Ambrose heel turn potentially looming, a full-on Shield storyline could happen sooner rather than later.
He’s not finished with you
While two Shield members opened Raw, one closed it: The Big Dog. During a match between Samoa Joe and The Big Dog (I’m trying to say "The Big Dog" as much as Michael Cole does in the average match, but god it’s hard. Did you know it’s also his yard?), Braun Strowman, the angry chicken to Roman’s Peter Griffin, stomped out to the ring to, well, beat the shit out of everyone, basically. If you told me a year ago Braun Strowman would become my favorite part of Monday Night Raw I wouldn’t have known what to say, but here we are: dude is huge, nasty, and looks like he’s actually inflicting violence on his opponents, and it’s fun as hell to watch. Joe and Roman have both been very entertaining lately in their own right, so this hoss fight was awesome.
One can only assume this will lead into a fatal four way match for the Universal Championship at Summerslam. It’s refreshing to see WWE booking for the future instead of the right now as they are wont to do. They still have four weeks of television to produce before the biggest event of the summer, and the last few weeks have shown they are on the right path to crafting well told, fun stories along the way.