Welcome to The Nerd Hub’s weekly breakdown of Monday Night RAW. This week, we break down the return of Bray Wyatt in his “Firefly Fun House” and usher in the AJ Styles era at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.
HEADLINE NEWS – AJ STYLES IS SO MONEY
WWE wasted no time in booking a showdown between RAW’s biggest stars, Universal Champ Seth Rollins and AJ Styles.
Styles defeated United States Champion Samoa Joe and Rey Mysterio in a triple-threat qualifier match. With the win, AJ advanced to the show’s main event against Baron Corbin. The Lone Wolf defeated Drew McIntyre and The Miz in the other qualifier. Then, Styles decked Corbin with a Phenomenal Forearm to get the 1-2-3 to secure his championship opportunity. He will face Rollins at Money in the Bank for the title on May 19 at the XL Center in Hartford, CT.
It caught many fans off-guard that WWE pulled the trigger on Rollins-Styles already. He just joined the Red Brand last week. Most everyone earmarked this match for SummerSlam or even WrestleMania 36. You’ll get no complaints from the WWE Universe. Nobody wanted Corbin to get a title shot.
BEST OF THE REST: RAW LOOKS LIKE SMACKDOWN
Pardon members of the WWE Universe if they had to check their calendars to make sure it was Monday and not Tuesday. Corbin and the re-introduced version of Bobby Roode, now known as “Robert Roode,” were the only match winners not on SmackDown Live in 2018.
In fact, the first Universal Championship triple-threat qualifier match featured three former SmackDown members in Styles, Mysterio and Joe. The Blue Brand domination continued with Naomi defeating Billie Kay of The IIconics in a singles match, Cesaro defeating Cedric Alexander and RAW and SmackDown Women’s Champ Becky Lynch beating Alicia Fox. Then, Styles won big in the main event. The Miz also played a prominent role in the other triple-threat qualifier won by Corbin.
BIG WINNER: BRAY WYATT
Nobody quite knows what to think of the Mister Rogers meets Dexter Morgan version of Bray Wyatt that debuted on Monday Night RAW this week. In a segment titled “Firefly Fun House,” Wyatt appeared in a taped scene with the look and feel of a PBS children’s program that featured the creepy bird and rocking chair doll featured in vignettes recently.
Wyatt spoke about being a bad man in the past. He said he changed after being punished in barbaric fashion for being bad. However, viewers quickly learned all was not well in the Firefly Fun House. Wyatt ended the segment by taking a chainsaw to a cardboard cutout in the likeness of his Eater of Worlds persona.
The WWE Universe on social media got so worked up on debating the segment that “#Firefly Fun House” and Bray Wyatt remained trending on Twitter for several hours over night. Whether you liked or hated the segment, Firefly Fun House got people talking. Consider that a win for Wyatt, who hadn’t appeared on WWE TV since August 13, 2018.
BIG LOSER: ROBERT ROODE
WWE hoped we might think their rebooted version of the former NXT Champion might compare to Ravishing Rick Rude, but instead it just seemed like Bobby Roode’s mustachioed evil twin.
Don’t get me wrong, Roode needed a heel turn. The only problem is that it’s probably a year too late. Any heat or buzz his character had died during the past year of a bland run with Chad Gable as the “Glorious” tag team. Roode got lost in the shuffle on his initial call-up to SmackDown Live and the move to RAW last year did him no favors, either.
The booking made no sense. Roode gets little buzz out of defeating Ricochet in his first main roster singles match since being split from Aleister Black. News broke earlier in the day that Black, his wife, Zelina Vega, and Andrade would head to SmackDown together, despite all three being announced on the RAW roster last week. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to start building up Ricochet.
WWE made a mistake in having Ricochet put over a rebooted Superstar with no traction. Of the two, The One and Only seems more likely to emerge as a breakout star this year, but WWE handed him a rough start.
1. Universal Championship Contenders – The two triple-threat matches provided must-see TV. Three of the greatest wrestlers of their generation – Styles, Mysterio and Joe – tore the house down in the opener. All three received spotlight moments before Styles got the win. Joe continued to look like an unstoppable monster. Mysterio continued to defy Father Time with breathtaking athleticism at 44 years old. The second triple-threat with Miz, Drew McIntyre and Corbin came off flawlessly. Corbin had the most steam coming off his WrestleMania win over Kurt Angle. Fans grumbled at his victory, but it made sense. Furthermore, it came in a slimy way with him stealing a win from McIntyre, who laid out Miz with a Claymore Kick. McIntyre still looked like a beast, and Miz got great babyface energy from the crowd.
2. Sami Zayn – Another week, another incredible, scorched-earth promo against the fans. Zayn addressed the accusations from the WWE Universe that he’s a bitter man. He not only disputed those claims, but added he experienced absolute jubilation away from WWE. He only started getting anxiety when he knew he had to return. Why? The fans. He’s holding every one of us online trolls accountable for our negativity. Then, he put the cherry on top, telling Des Moines fans to go to Hell.
3. Lacey Evans – The Lady of WWE picked her spot yet again. She pounced on Lynch as she had Alicia Fox in the Dis-Arm-Her and suckerpunched The Man to the mat. Then, Evans added one more good, stiff Woman’s Right for good measure. Though the match with Fox didn’t work well, the overall effect of the segment worked. WWE wanted more heat for Evans before announcing her title shot against Lynch at Money in the Bank and they got it.
4. Viking Raiders – Another week, another name change for the NXT Tag Team Champions. Fans universally panned the change from War Raiders to The Viking Experience last week. As a result, the Viking Raiders became a thing. Furthermore, WWE teased a potential title shot already. Erik (Raymond Rowe) and Ivar (Hanson) squashed The Lucha House Party before their match even started. Afterward, RAW Tag Team Champs Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins said they weren’t about to lose their titles to some smelly vikings. Call it a guess that we get another multi-team match for the tag belts at Money in the Bank.
5. Cesaro – WWE surprised us right before RAW aired with the news that the Swiss Cyborg will now call the Red Brand his home. Nobody knows yet if The Bar is disbanded. Cesaro’s tag team partner Sheamus remains out with a concussion he suffered on the SmackDown Live from Brooklyn right after WrestleMania. Sheamus remains on SmackDown as far as we know right now. In a hotly-contested match, Cesaro scored a victory over former Cruiserweight Champ Cedric Alexander. This means one of two things. Either Cesaro will receive a push and we will be in line for some tremendous technical wrestling in the singles title scene, or Alexander ate a meaningless L to a guy who wasn’t even on the RAW roster at the start of the day.
1. Naomi – In a little under five minutes, Naomi registered a singles win over Billie Kay. This appeared to try to establish the former SmackDown Women’s Champion’s ability to succeed on her own. However, the match had no time to develop, little storyline and questionable room to advance. The IIconics teased Naomi that she had no one to have her back since Bayley left for SmackDown. It seems like a set up to have Naomi team with someone else to challenge Billie Kay and Peyton Royce for the tag belts some time in the future. As usual, anything involving the women’s tag team division winds up being quick and confusing.
2. Cedric Alexander – WWE goes to the trouble of two different video packages to make a big deal out of his roster move. Then, they book him to lose to a guy we didn’t know would be on RAW at the start of the day. As mentioned above, no problems with this if Cesaro is getting a singles push. Otherwise, why did Alexander lose this match? It would seem a curious way to start a guy promoted from 205 Live.
3. Ricochet – Much like with Alexander, we find out The One and Only will actually get to work singles matches. So, naturally, WWE books him to lose to a guy who has flatlined on both RAW and SmackDown over the past two years. Well done, WWE booking gods.
4. RAW Opening Promo Segment – Little got accomplished after Triple H set up the scenario for the triple-threat matches and the main event. Universal Champion Seth Rollins got a home state pop from the crowd but fizzled on the mic a bit. Then, the endless parade of challengers made this predictable, set-up segment for the rest of the show get bogged down. Even though RAW lasts three hours, WWE put more than enough talent on this roster to avoid lengthy introductions that don’t go anywhere.
5. Lucha House Party – Kalisto, Gran Metalik, and Lince Dorado do little more than get squashed. It seems like a waste of talent. We already know the Viking Raiders are fierce and can demolish anyone. Serving up Lucha House Party like a pinata acted as filler and didn’t give us a whole lot we didn’t already know.