The biggest botch of the night on "Raw" wasn't from Nia Jax; it was from WWE.
Yes, it's difficult to balance two rosters with so much talent spread across an entertainment behemoth. There's no question about that. Making stars brand-specific requires a lot of things: scheduling, fit, crowd resonation. All of those are major factors.
But hyping an event like a "Superstar Shakeup," something that was planned months in advance, and then delivering a huge dudover the course of a three-hour show is just unforgivable.
Let's run down the ways this was a complete fail.
— First, Vince McMahon announced it on last week's "Raw."Aroster refreshwouldn't be a problem if it was given a little time to breathe and simmer and take place later — say, after Payback. What should be the company's version of a draft or a trade deadline like in other sports, what should demonstrate a frantic or hectic nature the way brand trades and drafts did in past iterations of the "Shakeup," came off really half-assed this time. Example: Apollo Crews was sent back to "Raw" before the show aired. What purpose did that serve? That leads into the next point:
— There was confusion for viewers. Oh, here comes The Miz to start the show. Does that mean he's officially a "Raw" guy? Is he off "SmackDown" or just paying a visit? We got no explanation of what was happening from the commentators. The crowd seemed equally baffled.
— The pacing of the show was terrible. This is not surprising for a 3 1/2-hour program, though. The company hasn't gotten pacing right since the move to three hours. The addition of the Cruiserweight division should have alleviated some of these issues, but it hasn't. There's still too much dead time and purposeless matches that happen over the course of the show. Sprinkling in random wrestlers joining the show doesn't help.
— Last, the show lacked that "Oh, my God" moment. Sure, there were pops for the Hardy Boyz and Alexa Bliss. But where was the big name to jump shows? Where was AJ Styles? The Miz has been red-hot lately, and it's good that he'll get a chance to show out on "Raw." Dean Ambrose on "Raw" opens the door for Kevin Owens to "SmackDown." But where was the guy? That didn't happen. Bray Wyatt is a good addition, but it'll be hard to take him seriously as a main-eventer when he loses to Randy Orton at Payback.
You can't help but get the feeling "Raw" is heading back down a directionlesspath. After turning out quality programming for months, it all went into the gutter when WWE jettisoned Kevin Owens as Universal champion in favor of Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, a move that was less than well-received.
While it's highly probable the company is doing well financially, the story lines and feuds have been generallyblah.The "Superstar Shakeup" was supposed to fix some of those issues, but all it did was further complicate things.
Last Monday, a returning Finn Balor was the crown jewel of the night. He main-evented alongside Seth Rollins. This week he had a fairly pointless victory overJinder Mahal before starting a program with Bray Wyatt. Could that feud turn out to begood? Of course. Both can wrestle and work the mic, and Balor is one of the few wrestlers on the roster who can resonate both with the kids and the 18-to-49 demo.
But a program starting now also essentially renders the Wyatt-Orton feud on "SmackDown" pointless heading into Payback. Bray is going to go into a feud with Balor while coming off two high-profile losses to Orton — unless, in some major swerve, Wyatt walks out of Payback with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. That seems unlikely at the moment.
All in all, this "Raw" was a dud,and it highlighted an underlying problem — well, maybe not just highlighted, but stamped, circled, underlined and asterisked.
There has been no sense of awe with "Raw" for the past few months. There has been no flash or pizzazz. "SmackDown" has done so much better with the talent it has; it delivers quality stories over the course of a two-hour show as it tries to balance an increasing focus on women's wrestling and a pretty meh tag-team division. It has worked since the split.
Let's hope the second night of the "Superstar Shakeup" corrects some of the missteps of Monday's show. If it doesn't, fans will be reaching for the ropes again.