WWE Raw: The perils of 50/50 booking

WWE, Keith Lee (photo courtesy of WWE)
WWE, Keith Lee (photo courtesy of WWE) /

The past 20 years have seemingly taught us (through WWE) that 50/50 booking is the standard and that clean finishes are rare. Monday Night Raw is the champion of the 50/50 finish and it doesn’t help anyone involved.

However, last night’s WWE Raw was the epitome of why 50/50 booking in WWE has more negatives than positives, and it isn’t even close.

Three of the 10 matches last night involved 50/50 booking going back to last week, though a fourth could be argued with last night’s presentation of John Morrison losing two matches a week after defeating Riddle:

  • Mace & T-Bar defeated Mustafa Ali & Mansoor via discus boot from T-Bar a week after losing via a Mansoor wheelbarrow victory roll.
  • Keith Lee defeated Karrion Kross via popup Spirit Bomb a week after tapping to the Kross Jacket.
  • Nikki A.S.H. defeated Charlotte Flair in a no holds barred match by busting out her old NXT finisher, The Purge, an elevated twisting neckbreaker using the ropes a week after Flair pinned her with a rollup countering A.S.H.’s top rope crossbody.

(Raw had 10 matches for consecutive weeks, though most of the matches were under five minutes.)

I’ll begin with the first example. After the last week, the only booking option should have been to put over Ali & Mansoor again, ending the mini-feud. It would have established them as more than just a fluke after last week, helping in their rise to odd couple turned legitimate tag team threat.

The Chicago crowd was also really behind their hometown wrestler Ali, who received one of the better pops of the night. The crowd even chanted “Ali!” a few times before and during the match.

However, not only did Mace & T-Bar win, but they won more definitively than their opponents did last week.

Ali sacrificing himself to save Mansoor was a nice touch in Ali’s subtle face turn and slow acceptance of the energetic Mansoor, though.

Mace & T-Bar, as much as I like them as individual wrestlers, just haven’t been built as tag team threats since their departure from Retribution (and even during their time in the group). They are the perfect tag team for an up-and-coming team to test their mettle and win.

Maybe WWE has it planned that the rubber match goes to Ali & Mansoor, but having a rubber match in the first place is a mistake.

Ali & Mansoor should have gone on a journey of beating some lesser teams before actually running into their first roadblock with a more established tag team. WWE does have an issue with their tag team divisions, but this could also have been a good time to use jobbers, I mean enhancement talent, to build the new team (and any others, new or existing).

Moving to Kross vs. Lee, much had been made about Kross losing so unceremoniously to Jeff Hardy a few weeks ago via rope-assisted rollup, ending Kross’ undefeated streak. The planned story with Hardy was scrapped after he tested positive for COVID-19, and stepped Lee last week to face Kross in Lee’s return.

Kross is set to face Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship, yet here he is losing clean after winning clean last week. It doesn’t make the NXT Champion look very strong when he’s going up against someone in Joe that Raw viewers know, especially as he wears the title around his waist on Monday nights.

Also, Kross and Lee have a history that Raw hasn’t touched yet from when Lee lost the NXT Championship to Kross nearly a year ago at NXT TakeOver: XXX. After last week, having Kross go over last night (even though I want Keith Lee to be pushed) would have been a clean way for Kross to state in promos that he has Lee’s number or something similar, shifting his focus to another foe.

While Lee benefited from winning, how much does he benefit after regaining his loss from last week and losing so decisively to WWE Champion Bobby Lashley two weeks ago? How does Kross benefit from alternating losses with a win heading into a championship match most predict he will lose based on his Raw appearances?

Viewers/fans have a far better memory than Vince McMahon tends to think if his booking is any indication.

Now we turn to the curious case of Women’s Champion Nikki A.S.H.

I’ve written before how though I’m not keen on this character, I can see why some are (especially kids) and she does represent a pure babyface, something sorely lacking in WWE. I also wrote the success or failure of A.S.H. as Women’s Champion will mostly be based on how she’s booked (her promos are still a bit lacking in real substance, mostly consisting of babyface filler).

The last two weeks don’t give me much hope.

She lost her first match as Women’s Champion last week to Flair, albeit with a rollup. Her subsequent promo where she said she was confident because she almost beat Flair was straining logic and really reaching to connect to her name. Her subsequent gullibility in falling victim to Flair’s handshake ploy was rather ignorant considering, well, basically the entirety of Flair’s WWE career.

While she did challenge Flair to a normal rematch, WWE made it a no holds barred match a few days before the show. Both women put on one of the better TV no holds barred matches you’ll see in WWE, with A.S.H., in particular, taking some hard bumps.

However, this superhero did the very face thing of attacking Flair from behind with a steel chair during the latter’s promo earlier in the night. The Chicago fans cheered the attack, and Drew McIntyre mentioned earlier in the night how the crowd was “bloodthirsty” because they wanted to see him use the sword on Jinder Mahal, Shanky, & Veer.

Further, she didn’t necessarily win because of what she did in the match; Flair was arrogant and proceeded to crash and burn (hi, Steve Corino!) with a spear through a table. A.S.H. hit The Purge (I wonder what she’ll call it now?) to cement the victory, but she was dominated for most of the match and capitalized on a mistake.

I understand wanting to build obstacles for the heroine to overcome, including pitting her against two opponents at SummerSlam, but I’m not sure how much of it is working.

The fans did chant “This is awesome!” after a few of the big spots, but they barely reacted to her promo in Gorilla before the match or when she made her entrance. Maybe her performance last night won some fans over, but is it something that can be sustained? I guess we’ll find out by the time SummerSlam happens.

Side note: Rhea Ripley not winning the title at the pay-per-view will probably make her look weak if she doesn’t really have any difficult or dangerous matches before then, unlike her two foes. After last night, Ripley should kayfabe have the advantage because she was in a short, victorious match against Nia Jax where she took little damage.

dark. Next. WWE Raw: Two things done right on August 2nd

WWE, please, it’s OK to have winning and losing streaks, and it’s OK to have clean and definitive finishes! Trashing 50/50 finishes and focusing on developing a solid under, mid, and upper card where wins and losses matter, coupled with how they happen (delete the rollup!) would do wonders to aid what has been a lackluster show.

I’m not sure how WWE will pivot next week with Mace, T-Bar, Ali, Mansoor, Kross, Lee, Flair, and A.S.H. If last night is any indication, whoever lost last night will win next week, and we’ll be in the same cycle all over again.