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Monday Night Raw Rants: The Club Reunites Edition

The Nerd Hub celebrates as The Club reunites this week with our WWE Monday Night Raw rants. We also celebrate the return of anything substantial actually happening on the show for the first time in weeks. Sure, Ricochet held off another challenge from AJ Styles in a repeat main event from last week. However, the big news emanating from American Airlines Center in Dallas involved Big Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and Styles turning heel together.

 

HEADLINE NEWS: AJ TURNS HEEL, REUNITES THE CLUB

WWE threw all kinds of swerves at us in the United States Championship title match main event. First, Styles appeared to have won the belt in the early going. He socked Ricochet with the Phenomenal Forearm and pinned his shoulders for the three count. However, replay and official John Cone informed the other referee that the champ got his foot under the rope. Therefore, the title change got negated and the two wrestled on.

What ensued became a seesaw affair between Ricochet and Styles. Ultimately, Ricochet came out on top as the athleticism of both took center stage during the match.

Enter The Club.

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson came to ringside, where they gave mock applause to the defending champ. Styles positioned himself in between his old running buddies and The One and Only, seemingly in a protective stance. However, Styles then suckerpunched Ricochet out of nowhere and announced his heel turn. Gallows and Anderson joined in for good, old-fashioned beatdown from The Club.

Don’t look now, but perhaps WWE may actually book guys we like being heel to challenge their babyfaces. You know, NOT Shane McMahon. The Club can band together and put fear into Universal Champ Seth Rollins, WWE Champ Kofi Kingston, Roman Reigns, Ricochet or Intercontinental Champ Finn Balor. Literally, any champion (besides Drake Maverick) WWE chooses to throw these guys up against would create a story likely to engage viewers.

 

BEST OF THE REST: BRAUN STROWMAN DESTROYING THINGS

WWE finally decided to end the weird contests between two of its biggest monsters. It let them do what monsters do at the box office each summer – destroy things. Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley ended the silly thread of arm wrestling and tug of war with a Falls Count Anywhere match.

The Almighty took it to The Monster Among Men a good portion of the match. Lashley whipped Strowman into the ring post before spearing him through the timekeeper’s area. Then, they took the action to the crowd. However, the assault on Braun continued as Bob smacked him liberally with a steel chair.

The babyface monster battled back with a huge running shoulder tackle. Then, he lobbed Bob onto the stage where he commenced to spearing him through a video board. It drew sparks from the board and an expletive from Corey Graves at the announce table. It also got a no-contest result as medics had to tend to both men.

You can tell Paul Heyman runs the show now on Monday Night Raw. This show smacked of Heyman if ever any show smacked of the “Paulrus” as The King calls him. Nobody knows how to cater to our inner big kid with violence and destruction more than Heyman.  The only criticism of this extension of the Strowman-Lashley feud I have is that it came out of left field. These guys went from tugging rope to blowing up sets in a week. However, that’s a huge improvement, so I’m not complaining.

 

BIG WINNER: MIKE & MARIA KANELLIS

When I previewed Stomping Grounds, I posited that WWE’s new contract extensions with Mike and Maria Kanellis likely meant an impending Cruiserweight Championship run. Little did I know, the couple would go from a near total non-factor on TV to a feud with the Universal Champ and Raw Women’s Champ.

Welcome back to the big leagues, Mike and Maria Kanellis. They set up a mixed tag match with Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch backstage. So, those of you cringing at WWE exploiting the relationship between Rollins and Lynch for entertainment purposes likely didn’t enjoy this. However, it certainly created an unexpected and entertaining twist to the storylines of the champs. They’ve both had unending rivalries with Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans lately.

However, the drama just began to unfold at the start of the match. When Becky Lynch tagged into the match, Maria dropped to the floor and grabbed a mic. She began berating her husband, Mike. She also claimed she couldn’t compete due to being pregnant. As Maria continued to lambaste her man, The Man made Mike tap out to the Dis-Arm-Her in the ring.

This led Maria to continue her rantings, saying that Becky Lynch represented the only man in the ring. Maria added that she’d ask Becky to impregnate her next time. Mike got left speechless as she walked off.

In addition to the Strowman-Lashley destruction content, this proved to me Heyman took charge this week. He’s stated in the past that Maria represents one of the most creative people with whom he’s ever worked. Apparently, he’s so confident in her abilities he didn’t care too much about pulling them from nowhere into this confrontation. Yet, many people tired of endless Lynch-Lacey Evans and Rollins-Baron Corbin content. So, this gave us something different for a change.

 

BIG LOSER: THE UNDERTAKER

Consider it part of my Shane McMahon fatigue. The Undertaker delivered a promo along with Shane-O-Mac and Drew McIntyre. The Dead Man vowed Shane and the Scottish Psychopath would rest in peace at Extreme Rules. In addition, Undertaker brought up their WrestleMania 32 tussle and claimed “The Best in the World” amounts to nothing but another lost soul among many.

Don’t get me wrong. The Undertaker is what he is at this point. He’s a nostalgia act trotted out to grab attention every now and again. However, this promo represents a cut-and-paste of any Undertaker promo you’ve seen for decades. It gets the job done, but it’s hardly unexpected or exciting.

 

HIGH FIVE

Street Profits – The NXT Tag Team Champs appeared on Raw in a meeting with Heyman. As always, Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins gave an energetic hype job of their impending main roster debut. These guys bring an electricity and energy to matches in a way that’s kind of lacking in the tag division right now. They will instantly help either show they appear on.

24/7 Championship Race – Drake Maverick outsmarted R-Truth to win his coveted title back as he also tries to save his storyline marriage. The champ came out as part of No Way Jose’s Conga Line. Truth couldn’t resist rubbing it in while Maverick sat ringside with his wife who told him he’d have to choose between her or the title. However, the 205 Live GM got the last laugh by smashing Truth with a briefcase and pinning him during some of the last moments of Raw.

Carmella – The former SmackDown Women’s Champion rarely gets to wrestle on the Blue Brand these days. However, she successfully defeated SmackDown Women’s title contender Alexa Bliss on Raw. Mella did wind up losing to Nikki Cross in an ensuing match. Yet, the Staten Island Princess had to get excited about being involved in something other than being R-Truth’s sidekick.

The Viking Raiders – Erik and Ivar teamed up with Samoa Joe to hand The New Day a beating. Don’t look now, but the former NXT Champs just keep winning. So, they can  make a big impact on Raw going forward. They just need the time and commitment from the WWE creative team to do it.

Cesaro – The Swiss Cyborg ruthlessly beat WWE sparring dummy No Way Jose to a no contest. The character reboot continues for the former member of The Bar. He’s a no-nonsense, physical villain out to smack the teeth out of any babyface. It’s the type of role he’s perfectly suited to pull off. He could easily work into any feuds involving faces the WWE wants to help get over.

 

LOW FIVE

Lacey Evans/Baron Corbin – The Lady of the WWE needed to play the numbers game to beat Natalya. Yes, the same Natalya who has virtually gone into the WWE Superstar Protection Program since Ronda Rousey jetted. Kudos for getting Evans involved with someone other than Lynch. However, she lacks teeth as a credible championship contender. This booking doesn’t exactly convince anyone she’s got the goods to take down The Man.

The Miz – The A-Lister defeated Elias in a Best-of-3 Falls match. He took advantage of The Walking Truth smashing his knee into the ring post with a decisive Figure Four. However, this feud just represents two guys whose career have stalled recently in the wake of Shane McMahon’s heel push. These guys turned in some of the best content for their shows in 2018. Now, they’re involved in a pedestrian, mid-card beef.

Nikki Cross – The WWE seemed to skip ahead in their to-this-point, well-paced storyline with Cross and Bliss. Carmella calling out just how reliant The Goddess is on Cross and then beating her gave us something fantastic. However, they should’ve cut the show for these three there. Instead, they gave us a rushed match to create doubt as to whether it should be Bliss or Cross facing Bayley at Extreme Rules. Sure, we knew we were headed there. However, this seemed like fast-tracking the story a bit too much.

Bray Wyatt – The Firefly Fun House segments grew to become one of the best things on Raw the past few months. So, we notice when Bray or The Fiend goes silent. Hopefully, this carries no significance in the plans for him.

The Revival/The Usos – Extreme Rules sits only a few weeks away, but the champs and their big rivals provided nothing further. Maybe WWE just wanted to give Street Profits time on the mic by themselves. However, their appearance possibly could’ve hit another level with involvement from either of these teams. In my opinion, even a staring match as they walk past each other could’ve generated some excitement.

 

RELATED: MONDAY NIGHT RAW RANTS: RICOCHET EDITION

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Monday Night RAW Rants: Stomping Grounds Setup Edition

Welcome to The Nerd Hub where we promise not to bait and switch our readers. Our weekly review of Monday Night RAW’s Stomping Grounds go-home show episode details another low blow to the fans. Undeniably, the quality of the performance at LA’s Staples Center improved over recent offerings, but still failed on a lot of fronts. At this point, I don’t fault the fans at Tacoma, Washington, for reportedly sluggish ticket sales for the pay-per-view show. Without further ado, let’s “break it down.”

HEADLINE NEWS: WWE GOES SEINFELD AGAIN

Jerry Seinfeld built a successful TV sitcom based on the concept of it being a show about nothing. Apparently, WWE Monday Night Raw writers want to copy that approach. After weeks of promising and backing out on Brock Lesnar briefcase cash ins, WWE marketed a show in which Baron Corbin would announce his guest referee for his match with Universal Champion Seth Rollins at Stomping Grounds this weekend. You guessed it. Corbin didn’t announce the referee.

To throw salt in that wound, WWE gave us a main event pitting Rollins against SmackDown tag team champ Daniel Bryan. Yes, WWE knows how to kick us when we’re down. Naturally, Rollins and Bryan didn’t get enough time to deliver to us the masterpiece they could make together. Meanwhile, we get sloppy seconds of Super ShowDown at Stomping Grounds this weekend with Corbin and Rollins again. If you consider it’s a match few wanted in the first place, Corbin and Rollins will likely underwhelm.

In addition, WWE built the whole show around the non-announcement. Rollins delivered chair shots to Corbin’s prospective referee candidates throughout the show. He delivered beatings to Elias, EC3 and Eric Young. (Apparently, Monday’s show was brought to us by the letter “E.”) Besides, the gimmick seems like its become more important than Corbin himself in that Stomping Grounds match. Therefore, WWE’s latest bait-and-switch booking seemingly hurts both Corbin and Rollins.

As for the main event, we got a great closing sequence. Rollins delivered a superplex that left both men hurting. The Architect followed up with a buckle bomb. However, Bryan countered with the LeBell Lock. Yet, the Universal Champ survived the submission hold and rallied with The Stomp for the victory.

However, Rollins had little time to celebrate. Corbin set up some Stomping Grounds heat by attacking with a steel chair. He closed the show by planting the Beastslayer with an End of Days.

BEST OF THE REST: NEW DAY TAKES OUT KO, SAMI & CORBIN

My ranking of this match rests solely on the quality of the in-ring content. You could argue this match continued to overexpose the same guys. It did. You could argue this match did nothing to set up Stomping Grounds. It didn’t. You could even argue the booking made little sense considering the card for Stomping Grounds. It didn’t.

However, WWE continues to abuse the “Wild Card” rule to the point that the brand split makes no sense. Therefore, fans would probably be better off if they considered the brand split over. For all intents and purposes, the wild cards killed off the purpose of making different brands in the first place.

That being said, we received quite an entertaining wrestling match. That’s reason to celebrate these days when WWE gives us less and less wrestling on wrestling programs. Xavier Woods struck first for New Day in a best-of-3 falls match with a rollup pin of Sami Zayn in short order.

However, the heels retaliated by going to work on Big E. They took advantage of his recent ring rust from time off due to injury and looked to be gaining the upper hand. Yet, things went sideways when Corbin walloped Sami Zayn with an errant clothesline. As a result, Kevin Owens got into it with the Lone Wolf. Eventually, that led Corbin to fend for himself against WWE Champion Kofi Kingston. Therefore, Corbin ate a Trouble in Paradise to give New Day the 2-falls-to-none victory.

The ring psychology of New Day taking advantage of the heels unraveling on each other worked. On the other hand, it made little sense to make Corbin take the loss. Plenty of fans already questioned his worthiness as a Universal Championship contender. He sure looks weak heading into what will likely be his second pay-per-view loss in June.

BIG WINNER: RICOCHET

The One and Only hit a 630 Splash on The Miz to win a Fatal 5-Way match which also included Bobby Lashley, Braun Strowman and Cesaro. As a result, Ricochet earned a match against United States Champion Samoa Joe at Stomping Grounds. Needless to say, this instantly became the biggest victory to date for Ricochet in his main roster career. Given the limited opportunities in WWE wild card world, this puts a lot of pressure on Ricochet to deliver this Sunday in Tacoma.

Meanwhile, Samoa Joe also needs to prove his lackluster program with Rey Mysterio hinged more on bad luck with injuries than anything else. Many cheered when the Samoan Submission Machine finally became a champion in WWE. However, he’s joined the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, Rusev, R-Truth, Jeff Hardy, Jinder Mahal and Bobby Roode to underwhelm as United States champ so far. In fact, you may have to go back two years for the Chris Jericho-Kevin Owens-AJ Styles feuds for the last time people got really invested in the United States title storyline.

Joe attacked Ricochet after the match, but the former NXT North American Champ fended him off and looked strong. Therefore, it feels like Joe will retain. However, this match will likely stand out on the Stomping Grounds card because its one of the few battles that’s not a rematch. Ricochet represented the best choice to face Joe and their contrasting styles should allow both men to shine at Stomping Grounds.

BIG LOSER: THE VIKING RAIDERS

It’s as if WWE suddenly remembered the former NXT Champions existed. Out of nowhere, Erik and Ivar appeared. Their inclusion on the Stomping Grounds go-home show for Raw felt puzzling, considering they aren’t on the card in Tacoma. However, they turned in this week’s squash match against independent talent. It’s amazing WWE can find time to get so many “local competitors” on TV when so many men and women on the main roster barely get a whiff of screen time.

Hopefully, the appearance of the Viking Raiders means plans are in the works to include them on RAW. However, we’ve come to expect little from excellent NXT tag teams once they hit the main roster. The squash match Monday represented the first time Erik and Ivar made TV since May 6 when they defeated Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder in a non-title match at Cincinnati.

So, it’s fair to wonder with such sporadic appearances for the Viking Raiders if they will get a push or if they provided filler. Since The Usos and The Revival are just getting started for their RAW Tag Team championship feud at Stomping Grounds, it looks like The Viking Raiders must wait for their time in the main roster spotlight a little longer.

HIGH FIVE

The IIconics – The WWE Women’s Tag Team Champs made a legit title defense and got involved in superb in-ring storytelling. It’s a refreshing change from the squash match shenanigans in which they’re normally involved. They defeated Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross as a distracted Bliss seemed more interested in her Stomping Grounds opponent – SmackDown Women’s Champ Bayley – who was ringside than helping her partner. Bayley actually cared more about looking after a willing but short-handed Cross in the ring.

Nikki Cross-Alexa Bliss – WWE kept this storyline going swimmingly. Bliss played the self-absorbed, conniving heel hungry for her championship shot at Stomping Grounds. Meanwhile, Cross showed the type of guts and resiliency that fits the development of her character. The involvement of Bayley showing more concern for Cross than her own partner also helped her character. This match proved a big win for all of the women involved.

Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson – The Good Brothers came up short again with a loss to The Usos in tag team action. However, the most important part of this week’s segment hinted at a reunion with AJ Styles. It’s no secret Gallows and Anderson have languished in the WWE. They had brief prominence with Styles at the start of their WWE run and briefly with Finn Balor. Therefore, they seem to lack the standout quality by themselves but shine with a big name leader. Here’s hoping WWE turns Styles heel and reunites The Club.

Roman Reigns – The Big Dog cut a promo admitting his disappointment over the loss to Shane McMahon at Super ShowDown. As a result, Shane McMahon appeared with Drew McIntyre backstage. They made threats, including McIntyre promising to disfigure Reigns to the point that will terrify his kids when they look at him. The mention of his family triggered The Big Dog. He laid out The Revival and put McIntyre through a table backstage. Then, he rocked McMahon with a massive spear in the ring. He sent the message that he’s out to kick McIntyre’s butt Sunday at Stomping Grounds. This is the Reigns people want to say. Save the long promos, and bring on more heel butt-kicking antics.

Bray Wyatt – Firefly Fun House kicked off with a gardening segment this week. Bray compared our minds to gardens. He said he knows what it feels like to be left out, . so he built the Fun House for us all to be together. Then, images of Wyatt as “The Fiend” flashed on the screen along with other cryptic visuals and the familiar “let him in” message reappeared.

LOW FIVE

Lacey Evans-Becky Lynch – The fresh feud these two started right after WrestleMania brought promise, heat and sizzle. However, WWE kept that party going now for the better part of the past two months. The Raw Women’s Champ and The Lady of WWE had another confrontation last night. This time, Lynch got the drop on Evans and left her reeling ahead of the rematch of their Money in the Bank match at Stomping Grounds. Yet, this gave us nothing new, nothing we didn’t already see week in and week out since late April. Here’s hoping WWE gives Lynch something fresh after Sunday before they kill most of her buzz.

R-Truth – The 24/7 Champion and Carmella got outed in lame disguises while watching The War Raiders’ squash match from the crowd. As usual, a parade of direct-from-catering mid-carders rushed to the ring to get a shot at Truth. However, he and Carmella booked out of the arena before he lost his precious belt. Sorry, but this whole concept needs a reboot because it’s garbage.

Paul Heyman – The Beast Incarnate’s advocate came out to blather more of his nonsense about the imposing threat of the beast. I know he has his fans, but I want to turn the channel every time I see Heyman these days. We get it. Lesnar still owns the briefcase. He’s coming for Seth. Blah blah blah blah. Don’t threaten us with a good time, Paul.

The Revival – The new Raw Tag Team champs fail to get a match ahead of the Stomping Grounds pay per view. Pardon me if this leaves me scratching my head. WWE wants us to take tag team wrestling seriously, but the only thing the champs do is eat a backstage beatdown from The Big Dog? As usual, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder deserve better.

The Miz – He’s one of the best Superstars in the company. However, he seems like he’s an afterthought lately. He seems to serve one of three purposes. First and foremost, he puts over Shane McMahon at all costs. Secondly, he hosts Miz TV to give us WWE’s tried-and-true formula for a match setup. Finally, he gets lumped in to a contenders match to eat a loss most of the time. Sorry, maybe I’m just a guy who appreciates Miz more than most, but I think he’s way more valuable than how he’s being used right now.

 

RELATED: MONDAY NIGHT RAW RANTS: SETH ROLLINS EDITION

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