THE SPECIALISTS TUCKER'S INSTANT REACTION - Raw 7/13: Is WWE on the right track pre-Battleground?
Jul 14, 2015 - 12:20:44 AM
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO BOOKMARK US & VISIT US DAILY
Instant Reaction - 7/13 WWE Raw
Report by Ben Tucker, PWTorch TV specialist
Overall Score - 8.0
Great wrestling, effective storytelling, intriguing surprises, a brisk pace, and a sense of urgency. This is what is needed to make a three-hour Raw work on a consistent basis. One week away from Battleground, I believe WWE is firing on all cylinders with the mid-card continuing to develop and the main event scene feeling full of life again now that the main-eventer of main-eventers, Brock Lesnar, has been on Raw consistently for the first time since March.
The key is always follow-up, and in the case of Monday's Raw, this point cannot be stressed enough, particularly in the case of the debuting NXT Divas. Time and time again over the past six months we have been told that WWE is "giving Divas a chance," when in reality the storytelling in the division has nose-dived even harder. The debut of the NXT women tonight was a strong starting point if the company is serious about rebooting the entire division, but warning signs are abound. Within five minutes Sasha Banks was already flip-flopping between being identified as an NXT Diva and having a loose relationship with Naomi, two traits that seem to somewhat counteract each other. I want to be optimistic, but Vince McMahon has never spotlighted women's wrestling. Ever. Alundra Blayze's "epic" Women's Title run was hardly ever featured on Raw, and she rarely defended the championship on pay-per-view. Trish Stratus and Lita main-evented Raw, an anomaly during an era of Raw Diva Searches and lingerie pillow fights. American wrestling has never recovered from Fabulous Moolah's national control over the division, and I doubt that the near-70-year-old McMahon will change his ways any time soon.
A questionable future notwithstanding, Raw excelled on its own merits, delivering an excellent 25-minute match between Kevin Owens, Cesaro, and the recently-returned Rusev, who performed incredibly well despite being out due to injury for the past month-plus. All three competitors are viable competition to the United States Title and could easily elevate the European Title-esque IC Championship if needed. John Cena has helped raise the mid-card from the dead, resulting in matches like tonight's triple threat feeling important. Tiers now exist again in WWE - the IC Belt is a gateway to the mid-card, the U.S. leads to semi-main events, and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is exclusively held for the most elite. It has taken three years, but WWE has finally managed to recover their tarnished titles post-draft.
As usual, anything involving Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar on tonight's show was gold. There is no way anyone could be made to believe that Seth Rollins can beat Brock Lesnar at Battleground, so WWE ran with it and sold the event on watching Rollins's ultimate beating. Heyman and Lesnar tonight provided yet another example of why they are a once-in-a-lifetime pairing, possibly the best combination of a wrestler and manager of all-time. Heyman is so perfect at conveying the power of Lesnar, while Brock is able to back it up with such an incredible amount of energy and strength. WWE needs to be thanking their lucky stars that Lesnar re-signed with them before WrestleMania as his aura cannot be topped in the industry.
Outside of the main aspects of the show, Raw was still competent. The opening tag team match featuring Big Show, Sheamus, Ryback, and Orton was entertaining enough, as was Stardust's return match against Neville (though his quest to remain a lower mid-tier heel will prove challenging considering real-life tragedies). Wade Barrett and R-Truth had another clunker, but life isn't perfect.
I thought Raw was focused, intriguing, engaging, and fun. A lot of questions linger for the future and in the realm of wrestling that is a good thing. WWE can return to the status quo if they want to, but amidst sagging ratings and aging main-eventers, now is the time to try as much "new" as possible. And so far, "new" is good.
THE TORCH REACHES MORE COMBAT ENTERTAINMENT FANS THAN ANY OTHER SOURCE
PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.
He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.
He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).
He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
REACHING 1 MILLION+ UNIQUE USERS PER MONTH
500 MILLION CLICKS & LISTENS PER YEAR
MILLIONS OF PWTORCH NEWSLETTERS SOLD
PWTorch offers a VIP membership for $10 a month (or less with an annual sub). It includes nearly 25 years worth of archives from our coverage of pro wrestling dating back to PWTorch Newsletters from the late-'80s filled with insider secrets from every era that are available to VIPers in digital PDF format and Keller's radio show from the early 1990s.
Also, new exclusive top-shelf content every day including a new VIP-exclusive weekly 16 page digital magazine-style (PC and iPad compatible) PDF newsletter packed with exclusive articles and news.
The following features come with a VIP membership which tens of thousands of fans worldwide have enjoyed for many years...
-New Digital PWTorch Newsletter every week
-3 New Digital PDF Back Issues from 5, 10, 20 years ago
-Over 60 new VIP Audio Shows each week
-Ad-free access to all PWTorch.com free articles
-VIP Forum access with daily interaction with PWTorch staff and well-informed fellow wrestling fans
-Tons of archived audio and text articles
-Decades of Torch Talk insider interviews in transcript and audio formats with big name stars. **SIGN UP FOR VIP ACCESS HERE**