WWE Raw: Fans return & changes made to mixed success


The return of fans to sporting events, particularly professional wrestling, has undoubtedly been a welcome sight and sound. However, fans returning doesn’t erase or make up for the shoddy writing and booking, particularly on Monday nights.

WWE has also made changes in their presentation, not just aesthetically, but also how their announcers commentate the show.

The return of fans and multiple changes on WWE Raw have been a mixed bag, with the changes skewing more negative than positive.

Now, let me be clear: I applaud WWE for trying different things. It was quite obvious in the last month or two that Raw, especially, suffered from what Wade Keller called senioritis waiting until they left the Thunderdome.

The first noticeable change happened to come on Smackdown as it was the first show back in front of fans but has carried over to Raw with slight modifications: the new and improved Tron.

It’s basically an extra, extra, extra-large 8K screen that even the biggest adrenaline junkies would think twice about jumping from the top. I’m talking about Shane McMahon, obviously…but he would jump, wouldn’t he?

The graphics and video shown on the screen are just so clean. Even though WWE has been lauded for their polished look and presentation the past two decades, the new Tron just adds more luster to the already shiny appearance.

Still, shiny appearances don’t always hide all the blemishes.

Some of the writing and booking decisions have been peculiar at best, downright baffling at worst. Having Karrion Kross lose to Jeff Hardy in 90 seconds on a rollup assisted by the ropes has been discussed as one of the worst booking decisions in recent memory.

It only looks more dubious after Kross submitted Keith Lee (his booking deserves some deeper analysis) and there were no comments from either Hardy or Kross. Is Kross going to explain to Raw viewers why he tells his foes to “fall and pray” anytime soon as well?

Having Nikki A.S.H. as Women’s Champion has raised some interesting dynamics. Based on her victory last week and the reception tonight, it seems the majority of the live crowd is behind A.S.H. She received some big pops tonight, both to start the show and when she entered for the main event match nearly two and a half hours later.

The fact the fans were still that energetic to see her nearly three hours in should be a positive indication.

She is also a pure babyface, something WWE seems to have had immense difficulty in creating the past six years or so. Her character is obviously geared towards kids and parents, so while I’m not keen to it (though I praise her for bringing it from inception to fruition), I see the appeal.

However, after she lost to Charlotte Flair last night, she said she was almost a superhero so she was proud because she almost beat Flair. She added that gave her the confidence to believe she can beat Flair, and there’s a rematch next week.

A.S.H. is the Women’s Champion, and in my opinion, titleholders shouldn’t be glad about almost beating their foe. As the top-ranked person, they should only be satisfied with a victory.

I’m not optimistic about the booking during her reign, but it’s only been one episode, so I want to be optimistic.

I digress. The booking and writing have long been a struggle with WWE, so I’ll move to other topics though those topics may touch on the booking/writing.

WWE has added some upgraded augmented reality graphics to wrestler entrances. They even introduced a little red robot last night, almost like their version of FOX Sports’ Cleatus only the size of WALL-E (the tweet is zoomed in, so it looks larger), though I’m not sure it was added or subtracted anything from the show. It was just there, really.

I really liked the graphics for Sheamus last week…but we didn’t see them last night as his entrance occurred during commercials. Some of the other ones haven’t really popped as much, like Rhea Ripley’s while some don’t even get the AR graphics, like Kross.

There are subtle stories that can be told through these graphics. With Sheamus’, the AR graphics tied back to his Dublin roots, and the animation fit him perfectly. Ripley’s fits her, but it seems rather bland and doesn’t really tell us much beyond what we already know of her.

I would like to see WWE be a little more creative with these AR graphics, just like with Sheamus.

An aside: A.J. Styles & Omos’ entrance also took place during commercials. Their match took place after Sheamus’, so that marked consecutive matches where not only did the entrance of the champion take place during commercials, off-screen, but the champion entered first, not second.

The champion should always enter and be introduced last, like the red corner in mixed martial arts, which is always the corner of the defending champion.

To the announcers, the first note is quick: Jimmy Smith is forcing transitions between segments. He takes something about the previous segment and ties it into the next with some wordplay. It’s fine if it happens once an hour, but Smith was making these transitions between every single segment. It also helps that it seems too deliberate and unnatural.

Lastly, one of the biggest talking points (aside from Kross) since last week’s show has been the introduction of the term and stipulation “championship contenders matches.” To be honest, I don’t even know if WWE yet knows what they mean by this.

The match between A.S.H. and Flair last night billed as championship contenders match, came after Flair was already placed into the Women’s Championship triple threat match at SummerSlam against A.S.H. and Ripley. What exactly does the match stipulation mean then for someone who’s already facing the champion in a title match?

There have already been a number of these matches over the past two shows since its introduction last week. What makes this match and stipulation even more confusing is that last week, they were billed as essentially being #1 contender’s matches.

It also just seemed like another way for WWE to rebrand their usual “beat the champion to earn a title shot” angle with a different sheen. Again, though, if you’re already in a title match and then you beat the champion in a contenders match, shouldn’t you theoretically be champion, or are we to treat this like a regular-season game?

WWE had a chance from the outset to establish clear and definable rules for this new/old match type, to clearly set the boundaries. They haven’t, and all it’s done is leave me puzzled.

Then again, this could just be another one of Vince McMahon’s whims that he tries for three weeks before acting like nothing ever happened (remember the words on the screen and selfie promos?).

Next. WWE is planning a return of Saudi Arabia. dark

While WWE has made some changes (sometimes change for the sake of change is necessary), most have not yet borne or may not bear fruit at all. The Tron is nice and the switch to A.S.H. seems to have taken, but how they book her from here will really be the indicator.

Again, at least they’re trying. I’m looking forward to clarification on what exactly it means and if there is any benefit for Flair for having defeated the champion in a contenders match after already being placed in a title match, but I’m not confident I’ll receive an explanation.

For all we know, they’ll just start calling them “ranking matches” next week and act like “championship contenders” never existed.