Last night’s episode of RAW (July 22nd) promised to be a reunion show unlike any other. The “biggest” ever was the term Michael Cole and friends threw around without any caution to the wind. In a literal sense, when looking at the number of WWE alumni to appear on the show, it was indeed the biggest ever. Yet, in terms of actual storytelling, it went down with all the grace of Vince McMahon attempting to stand up in a ring with two torn quadriceps.
While the point of these shows is to provide cheap pops for an old school audience who aren’t aware of the current roster, there has to be a line drawn where WWE use these recognisable names in order to put over the incredibly talented roster they currently have at their disposal in an attempt to try and bring back so-called “lapsed” fans.
This is especially important when WWE is on the precipice of a new “ratings war”. I say that loosely because we now live in an era where these rival shows will be on at different days of the week and can be viewed on-demand where you can enjoy as much wrestling as you please. That being said, there is access to A LOT of wrestling these days, so choosing your main staple for regular viewing will be important in the coming months and even years beyond that.
Going back to last night, there were several segments during the RAW Reunion that had no point to them from a storyline sense. Yes, I know this is wrestling we’re talking about and things don’t always have to make complete sense. After all, this is the same company that has introduced a wildcard rule where people just turn up when they want. This, in particular, was something that wasn’t used to its full potential last night.
Arguably, the biggest storyline in the company right now is Kevin Owens’ feud with Shane McMahon. This wasn’t mentioned or featured once on a show that did otherwise have SmackDown Live talents such as R-Truth and Roman Reigns. This angle should have been the centrepiece of the show where any fan would have been able to draw the instant parallel to Steve Austin’s legendary feud with Vince McMahon.
While there are differences in this story, it would have been great to see Austin team up with Owens to raise hell and help elevate the standing of the current roster by pairing new and old faces together. The teaming of old and new guys did happen to an extent but in all the wrong meaningless ways.
John Cena got the show underway, leading into a match between current tag team rivals The Usos and The Revival. The former were joined by their father (WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi) at ringside while the latter pair were flanked by D-Von Dudley, for no discernible reason other than he was in one of the greatest tag teams of all time.
When Seth Rollins was outnumbered by the now rebranded Club, the OC, he was backed up by the OG’s of DX and The Outsiders. This all came without any mention that these factions had met before at RAW 25 where they teamed up to form a Super Kliq and murdered the Revival, whose position in the tag team division has only just about recovered, despite being the champions and losing to The Usos.
Instead of positioning the former Kingslayer alongside HHH, WWE could have called upon the Authority’s history between Rollins and HHH to help further the main story arc of Owens vs McMahon. This would have perfectly furthered the issue that those in charge always take the limelight away from the main roster talent. In a way, this did sort of happen when Rollins was left out of the embrace between the Kliq members.
What we got in place of interesting storytelling was cheap laughs from the constant trading of the 24/7 Championship. This is fine as part of the regular weekly show – every wrestling event needs its comedic relief – but it was just a way for the company to shoehorn memorable faces into the show without any reasoning.
This was the main angle throughout the night which even allowed memorable female talent to claim the belt on three occasions. Alundra Blayze was one of the female wrestlers to win the title and teased throwing it in the trash before having it bought by the Million Dollar Man. This was a fun nod to the past but it didn’t make up for the fact that there were no women’s matches at all last night. Not once were any of the famous female faces used to elevate the feud between Becky Lynch and Natalya heading into SummerSlam. In fact, the pair resorted to brawling during “A Moment of Bliss” which wasn’t the best way to showcase the abilities of their two strongest female performers.
This doesn’t mean that there weren’t any smart decisions at all last night. The company seems to have restored faith in the abilities of Bray Wyatt by allowing his Fiend character to devour Mick Foley in the middle of the ring. This was terrifyingly brilliant and was the standout moment from a show that appeared to be thrown together at the last minute.
Yet, this joy was short-lived as sagging meat sack, Hulk Hogan, was on hand to give a speech about how great WWE is for allowing him to return and earn money again. That’s a whole other debate for another time but Hogan really shouldn’t be on a show dedicated to celebrating the past of Monday Night RAW, a show he spent the best part of the 1990s trying to have eclipsed by Monday Nitro.
The icing on the cake was, of course, the appearance of Stone Cold Steve Austin who didn’t raise any hell at all and in fact, was very nice about the people he got to see on his big day out. This is another instance where WWE missed out on something where their current talent pool should have had involvement. Yes, this was a RAW “re-onion” show, according to Hogan, but the whole point should be to mix the wealth of talent, young and old. This didn’t happen and the only current roster member amongst the smorgasbord of WWE alumni in the closing shot was, for some reason, Alicia Fox as though she is readying herself to be announced for the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2020.
The 24/7 Championship as the only plot device of a largely pointless reunion show is a solid metaphor for how unorganised and chaotic the whole affair was. This glorified piss up wasn’t for the fans, but for the ‘legends’ themselves. Understandably, this was just for one night where the audience might not be invested in anything long-term, but for the fans who do watch the show every week, this was a night of missed opportunities to finally generate some intelligent storytelling that didn’t happen. It was a waste of time.
Also, where the f*ck was Sid?