There’s much debate around whether RAW’s self-proclaimed “longest-running weekly episodic television show” actually means anything since no other company is self-loathing enough to put on over 999 HOURS of new, original, live, firework-filled content every week. So instead, this time WWE celebrated 25 years. Which is actually pretty neato.
Obviously Vince McMahon opened RAW 25, and even more obviously (the most obviously?) Stone Cold came down to drink some beer, swing some middle fingers, and deliver a few well-timed stunners to elderly fathers and their sons. But this “predictable” moment brought immense fun. The crowd was red hot, the McMahon clan provided flawless character/promo work (is anything more 2018 than Vince McMahon begging for mercy and claiming to live in a retirement community?), and Steve Austin once again proved his persona transcends pro wrestling – he carried the audience with him every beat of the way without uttering a single word.
This is why pro wrestling is the most popular form of theater on the planet. It doesn’t need words, just talented players. #RAW25
— Nick Hausman (@WZRebel) January 23, 2018
Three things, though:
- Why was Austin drinking Miller Lite? (blegh)
- Why did the McMahons say “Go Fund Me” so much? How about you just go FUnd yourself?
- Why open the show like that and get my hopes up for a nostalgia-fueled three-hour extravaganza just to break my heart into a million tiny pieces?
Undertaker came out with the lamest entrance of all time (does The Manhattan Center not have a light switch?) and name-checked a bunch of former world champions. WE GET IT, dude. You know people.
Speaking of knowing people… John Cena was nowhere in sight (get it?) because he was actually over in Barclays with front row “WWE – Walk With Elias” World Tour tickets. Before Cena came out, Elias owned the stage here (har-har) with his confident promo delivery and mannerisms. But having him one-up The Face that Runs The Place was a bold decision for what could be RAW’s biggest TV audience of the year, and set up an interesting Royal Rumble/Wrestlemania season dynamic between these two. Of course, that’s all undermined by the fact that we literally saw this mediocre match just under a month ago, but I digress… Still, there’s no denying Elias looked like a big star here.
As someone who often feels like the only Christian sympathizer (not that kind of Christian sympathizer, silly), seeing The Peep Show return had me waaayyy more pumped than it probably should have (also knowing WWE probably *actually* wanted Edge’s Rated-R-whatever-whatever talk show but settled for this because Edge demanded it and Christian said please). As it turns out, Christian wasn’t given much to do – but that’s OK, because Jason Jordan in full heel trappings stole the moment. If Elias had his star-making moment at the hands of Cena, then Jordan had it at the hands of the Barclay’s crowd.
DX was obviously going to come out and do their glowstick/Go NCSU Wolfpack/”back in my day, SUCK-IT” dad stuff. The surprising thing is that WWE gave Scott Hall a live mic on national television (while, also like true Christian sympathizers, praying nonstop) and THEN set up a Kilq & Klub passing-of-the-hand-gesture moment. It was actually really neat. I hope it signifies big things for Balor & posse moving forward.
The final segment between Kane, Braun Strowman, and WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar was more pain, more destruction, more superstars, more moar moar. It was more fun, sure, and probably the right Royal Rumble go-home moment, but it was also less than what we’ve seen in previous weeks. Why not tease the Lesnar injury until Sunday and create some intrigue?
Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and the recently-reformed Mickie James def. Nia Jax, Alicia Fox, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville in a three-segment “Remember the (Women’s) Rumble” promotional strategy that was fine enough. I’m surprised they let Asuka look so strong just days before the Rumble – unless, of course, WWE is just getting fans’ hopes up just so we can all feel especially indifferent when Ronda Rousey debuts Sunday and becomes queen Brock Lesnar incarnate of the women’s wrestling world.
In a great match and fun bit of storytelling, The Miz defeated Roman Reigns (mostly) cleanly to regain his Intercontinental Championship. I enjoyed how The Miztourage was used *just* enough to make The Miz feel slimy without actually undermining his big win. And while the phrase “looking strong in defeat” has become just another way for WWE to say “wins and losses don’t matter,” Roman Reigns lost nothing here in defeat… (except for his championship, of course).
Bray Wyatt quickly dispatched Matt Hardy in what I’m assuming is not actually the culmination of their battle between dimensions or whatever. Seriously, this felt like a “take your medicine and be happy” moment for the Manhattan crowd, but did nothing for this feud or either man’s gimmick. And the best part happened after cameras stopped rolling!
205 Live had a secret match in Manhattan. Lol.
-The Dudley Boyz still have close enough ties to WWE that we were bound to see someone put through a table. But can you explain why they had their RAW 25 moment in Barclays Center as opposed to the Manhattan Center aka The Hammerstein Ballroom aka the place they made their name during ECW? I’m asking for a friend.
-The APA stuff was fun. Dumb as ever, sure, but also, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase won a pancake in Poker. Say that five times fast.
-I get the whole “let us bring our stars of yesteryear back and celebrate their accomplishments” idea, but maybe next time do something more than just parade them around like a bunch of Trump’s beauty-pageant contestants.
-Manhattan Center folks paid HUNDREDS of dollars for what amounted to 1/4th of a RAW broadcast, an ICOPRO banner selfie opportunity, and a bad drinking habit.
-In perhaps the most interesting moment of the night, The Miz and Daniel Bryan shared a brief stare down before his IC Title Match. Isn’t this the dream feud well all not-so-secretly want if Bryan does return to action?
Overall Show: 15 Years out of 25
After weeks of hyping this as a “25 years of Monday Night Raw” celebration, it seemed like WWE tucked tail last night and opted to spend more time promoting Sunday’s Royal Rumble… which wouldn’t have been bad, except even that hype felt half-hearted. So instead of one beautiful RAW 25 celebration (the one I’ve sketched out in my Trapper Keeper), or a cohesive Royal Rumble go home show we got… heartbreaking mediocrity.
But I guess that’s par for the course in Pro Wrestling these days.
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