Sometimes, the greatest things that happen in wrestling are the most predictable. Of course everyone loves a good swerve now and again (WHY SAMI, WHY?!), but a well told, slow-burn story can be incredibly satisfying, even if you can see it coming from a mile away. It’s been clear since Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins buried the hatchet and Roman Reigns turned his attention to The Miz, who several times invoked the name of The Shield, that the Hounds of Justice were reforming. That hasn’t prevented every step of the way from being some of the most captivating television WWE has been producing in recent months. Yours truly was there live when Ambrose and Rollins finally pounded that legendary fist bump once again in Boston a couple months ago, and though it was laughably milked and drawn out, when they finally did the thing, the roof blew off the place.
Release the Hounds
One piece was still missing, and though by himself Roman Reigns is forever swimming upstream in his quest for acceptance from the crowd, as a member of The Shield he’s indispensable. Though all the references and mocking The Miz and his lackeys have thrown Roman’s way in recent weeks telegraphed the reunion, the ending of last week’s episode of Raw created the type of rare, pure hype that makes wrestling the unique art form it is. The three men didn’t even need to say a word; just being in the same room, knowingly looking at one another, seemingly being on the same page for the first time in three years was enough to send fans into a frenzy.
They cashed in on that hype tonight. Anyone could have written the opening segment of Raw tonight, but that’s not to take anything away from it. This was a true, feel-good, mark out moment. Savor it — this is what wrestling is all about.
That later on, the newly reformed Shield wrapped up some unfinished business with Braun Strowman, giving the Monster Among Men some comeuppance in the form of a triple powerbomb through the announce table was the icing on the cake. It’s also a smart move to involve Braun, as it plants some small seeds of doubt that The Shield may have cut off a bit more than they can chew. No one would have believed The Miz, Cesaro, and Sheamus would beat a resurrected Shield, but those dudes plus Braun Strowman? You’ve got my attention.
The Season of the Witch
After what felt like eons, Bray Wyatt finally had something storyline wise to drive him forward rather than meandering around spouting god knows what to anyone who’ll listen. After intermittently bringing the mysterious Sister Abigail into his ramblings throughout the years, we finally got our first glimpse of her in the (decaying?) flesh last week, and it was, much to my surprise, pretty cool.
And somehow, in seven short days, WWE made me feel like a complete idiot for thinking a Bray Wyatt story had potential, because Sister Abigail didn’t just jump the shark, she was shot out of a cannon and entered orbit over it. Sister Abigail is not a fresh new female character or a horrifying alter ego of Bray. She’s Bray Wyatt speaking into a voice modulator talking in the third person. If The Shield reunion was everything that is great about pro wrestling, this was the type of segment that makes you embarrassed to tell anybody you’re a fan.
Let’s attempt to look past the atrocious presentation of this segment and try to unpack some of what was said. After Finn delivered the same tired promo he always does, Wyatt transformed into Sister Abigail via stock iMovie transition and explained via autotune that Bray is her special prince and that the darkness is so much stronger than the light. They tried to play this off as a Darth Sidious/Darth Vader relationship, but Bray came out looking more like Darth Jar Jar. This was an embarrassing joke of a mishandling of the last potential trick up Bray’s sleeve, and I say that as someone who has desperately wanted to believe in Bray Wyatt over the years. I loved Hawaiian shirt, cult leader, Waylon Mercy on PCP Bray Wyatt when the character first broke into the main roster. The “I’ve been listening to a lot of KoRn lately” version is just not doing it for me.
Somehow, it got even worse later in the show when Finn had to sell this atrocity like it was a legitimate threat — like Abigail’s words were "pure evil." This was pure something, but evil certainly isn’t the word I was thinking of.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact time that Bray’s career started going down the drain, but years from now, this bizarre, goofy storyline may just be the final nail in the coffin.
For the third week in a row the show closed out with the Cruiserweight division, in a surprisingly restrained, subtle tribute to lucha libre on Eddie Guerrero’s would-be 50th birthday. After General Manager Kurt Angle informed Enzo Amore that his Cruiserweight Championship defense would be moving up from the TLC pay-per-view to tonight on Raw, it was also announced it would be a lumberjack match, bringing the entire division into the storyline once again.
While it once again feels extremely bizarre that a show where the mother fucking Shield reformed and triple powerbombed Braun Strowman through the announce table was headlined by Kalisto and Enzo Amore, I have to give WWE props for putting so much behind the Cruiserweight division in a serious attempt at getting people to watch 205 Live. And it seems to be working — last week, 205 Live was in the top ten most watched shows on the Network, something that hasn’t happened in quite some time. Kalisto got the crowd behind him with some huge spots including a superplex off the top rope to the outside onto the entire division, and a Salida del Sol off the top rope for the victory.
Is the Enzo experiment over? Probably not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if after his contractually obligated rematch that will probably take place at TLC (let’s be realistic, during the TLC Kickoff show) they move away from the Realest Guy in the Room at the top of the card, but that’s only if they feel the show can comfortably subsist without all the focus on him.
The Rest of the Card
- Jason Jordan handily beat Karl Anderson, further cementing Gallows and Anderson as the most wasted tag team on the main roster. If the Good Brothers can’t put away a (…wait for it…) NEEERRRRD like Jason Jordan alone, how will they ever climb back to the top of the tag division with the likes of Ambrose and Rollins holding the belts?
- Elias does The Undertaker’s Old School move now? That’s about the only takeaway I have from this match, which seems to have been stuck on repeat for the past several weeks. It was pretty stunning how over both Elias and Titus/Apollo were, though, even despite (because of?) Titus’s intentionally horrific banjo playing. It would have been way better if against all odds Titus was actually an expert banjo player and busted out a pitch perfect version of the dueling banjos scene from Deliverance or something. Alas.
- There may not be much to the "lol isn’t Mickie James old?" storyline between her and Alexa Bliss, but they are getting a lot more mileage out of it than I thought possible. Alexa’s "Superstars of Yesteryear" presentation was pretty funny, and Mickie cut another pretty spirited promo, against all odds. It’s still hard to see this feud as anything more than a holding pattern until Asuka sets her sights on the Women’s Championship, but color me impressed it’s as entertaining as it has been.
- Corey Graves explained the women’s fatal five way best: "For some reason, all the women want to fight Asuka." Throughout the match, Graves echoed my sentiments exactly, as it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense why any of these women would actually want to fight the most untouchable female wrestler in WWE possibly ever. Graves also had a great line about eventual winner, Emma: "I don’t know what to say about Emma anymore. I’m so baffled by the fact that she exists." Yo, same.
This show exemplified both the best and worst of pro wrestling. The Shield reunion has been slow-burn storytelling done exactly right, with a payoff that, while predictable, couldn’t have been much more satisfying than it was. A couple hours later, Bray Wyatt’s 2spoopy4me schtick made me honestly embarrassed to be watching this show. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the show didn’t live up to the brilliance of The Shield’s reformation, instead ranging from forgettable to actively bad, but something we’ve all been dreaming of since 2014 happened tonight, and it was pretty awesome. At least we have that.