HEYDORN’S RAW RECEIPT 5/31: Jimmy Smith gives Raw a boost in tone on debut broadcast

BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH ASSISTANT EDITOR


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw has wrapped. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and relive some of the madness.

-The Jimmy Smith era of Monday Night Raw kicked off in the right direction compared to Adnan Virk’s. Smith has a long way to go, but he was able to give the show a tone of excitement that was missing with Virk as the lead.

-Welcome back, Miz. I’m not sure how we survived the lack of obnoxious behavior brought to the table without you the last few weeks. Luckily, the air guitar playing during Rhea Ripley’s entrance made up for lost time. Joking aside, Raw gains a bit in star power with Miz back, but only in a way that doubles down on the painful, goofy, sideshow material we see on this show. Not exactly a positive ratings driver …

-The Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley program has devolved into petty high school, mean girl drama. Regina George would be proud.

-Damian Priest only saw the screen for a flash backstage segment with Riddle, but continues to convey a sense of star power above others on the Raw roster. He needs a feud with an upper mid-card opponent immediately. Sheamus, come on down.

-WWE needs to think about heating up a clear heel tag team and book them to win the tag team titles. Why? Orton and Riddle are surging. Their chemistry is fun to watch and both come across as likable. I’m guessing here, but a live audience would eat this act up. Thanks to their peculiar program with Elias and Ryker, Omos and Styles don’t fit the bill anymore. Time to pivot.

-Clearly, Shayna Baszler vs. Alexa Bliss is on tap at some point in the near future. Look, Baszler shouldn’t be doing any jobs for Reginald, but a Bliss feud is a giant step up for her. For better or worse, Bliss is a focus on Raw and her character regularly gets big chunks of time on the show. Baszler associating with that has the potential to drive her stock up if she delivers.

-Mace and T-Bar. Oh, Mace and T-Bar. Can we just get some logical context around these guys, please? Their promos are surely an attempt at such, but they’re so disconnected from reality that they don’t resonate. They come across as mindless bad guys on a ‘80s children’s cartoon – certainly, not what they’re going for. I hope.

-What happened to Sheamus on this show was criminal. Sheamus has regularly been a top performer on Raw and protected in his spot as United States Champion. So much so, that if booked properly, money was all over a feud with an up and comer like Damian Priest, or a returning legend like a John Cena. Taking the loss to two guys in Carrillo and Ricochet, who have been habitually defined down, hurts the ability to make something strong out of his run. I know they were distraction finishes, but that fact makes this worse because Carrillo and Ricochet don’t gain anything in winning. Inexcusable.

-Jaxson Ryker the babyface? Really, WWE?

-WWE did a nice job framing up the Kofi Kingston vs. Drew McIntyre main event. Both men cutting promos ahead of the match made it feel like a big fight. Both delivered nicely in those spots with believable words that fit their babyface characters. WWE needs to do more of this for their big television main events.

-Kingston vs. McIntyre worked well in the ring, too. The babyface vs. babyface style can be hard to work, but both guys were able to convey the emotion of wanting to beat the other by keeping it framed as an athletic contest with stakes and not some feud in which one of them acts heelish. McIntyre going over was obvious, but both guys did enough in the match to make you wonder.


CATCH-UP: 5/31 WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW RESULTS: Keller’s report on Jimmy Smith’s debut as lead announcer, Shayna vs. Reginald, Drew vs. Kofi, Rhea and Charlotte on Miz TV

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