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KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
JUNE 7, 2021
LIVE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA – “THUNDERDOME”
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
Commentators: Jimmy Smith, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves
Ring Announcer: Mike Rome
-Smith introduced the show as Randy Orton’s music played. Orton and Riddle made their way to the ring. The Viking Raiders, New Day, Mace & T-Bar, and Lince Dorado were already in the ring. Smith said they were kicking off Raw with a tag team battle royal.
A.J. Styles & Omos walked onto the stage. Styles thanked everyone for showing up for a “State of the Tag Team Division Address.” He said they’d be back on the road next month, and they want to defend the tag titles against the very best WWE has to offer. Styles said New Day are legendary national treasures. The did hip thrusts and gyrations near the ropes. Styles said regarding Mace & T-Bar, they only know that they’re big, mean, and like to fight, but otherwise don’t know much of anything about them. Styles said Dorado is out there alone because his partner got hurt, so he’s impressed he’s out there fighting alone. He told Dorado that he does amazing things in the ring he otherwise only sees in video games. He said he imagines he was Dorado’s favorite wrestler growing up.
Styles then said, “And then we have R-K-Bro!” A “Bro” chant was piped in. Styles said they’re goofballs, but it works. Omos said he and Styles are magnificent, stupendous, handsome, and phenomenal. Kofi said they are deplorable and detestable. “Or as we used to say in 2017-2018, Booty.” He said they still aren’t a registered tag team. Styles said they don’t need papers because they have the Raw Tag Team Championship. He said they’re just trying to be nice.
Orton said if he wants to be nice, he should shut his damn mouth. Riddle told Styles he has a lot of experience shutting up. He explained how he has to just lock his mouth with an imaginary key. He said it’s done wonders for his relationship with Randy. Riddle showed off a new t-shirt of a snake on a scooter. He started talking about his uncle with a pet snake and Orton had him lock his mouth with the imaginary key. Orton put the imaginary key in his boot. Miz’s music played.
John Morrison rolled Miz out in a wheelchair. Miz apologized for interrupting. Morrison called him brave for even being there. Miz said at Backlash, he was tragically injured. He said the division has become dry. Morrison produced his dipstick to moisten everything up. Morrison said, “Johnny Drip Drip is going to mop you guys up in this battle royal.” Graves called it an act of bravery to enter this alone. Morrison let go of Miz’s wheelchair to pose and Miz rolled out of control down the ramp. They did the slo-mo effect that they use for Morrison as Miz made terrified faces.
Orton and Riddle gave RKOs to each member of New Day before the bell. Orton gave Dorado an RKO also. Smith said they are underway in the battle royal (even though the bell hadn’t rung). They cut to a break as the rest of the wrestlers surrounded Orton and Riddle.
(Keller’s Analysis: The match wasn’t actually underway, technically. Rookie mistake by Smith.) [c]
-They showed Bobby Lashley backstage in the suite surrounded by five women fawning over him as he held the WWE Title belt over his shoulder. MVP stood behind them proudly.
-They announcers hyped the contract signing for Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre at Hell in a Cell.
(1) TAG TEAM BATTLE ROYAL – Winner Gets Raw Tag Team Title match
The bell rang to get the match officially underway. Miz watched from ringside. Styles joined the announcers on commentary. Morrison sprayed Lince with the the Nerf “Drip Stick” as he was trying to knock Morrison to the floor. Morrison then roundkicked Lince over the top rope to the floor. When T-Bar and Mace got in Morrison’s face, Morrison asked Miz for Drip Stick. Miz tossed it to him. (Good throw!) Morrison caught it and sprayed over Mace’s head. Mace and T-Bar then knocked him over the top rope. Next they tried to eliminate Orton, but Riddle made the save. They double-chokeslammed Riddle, then turned to the Viking Raiders. New Day joined in the fight and everyone started battling at once. They eliminated Mace and T-Bar on opposite sides of the ring, then cut to a break. [c]
Saxton explained both members of a team have to be eliminated in this match. The Raiders used a double-team move to attack Riddle and eliminate him. Orton was still in the match. New Day went after Ivar. Erik caught Xavier Woods with a surprise clothesline to eliminate him. Erik slammed Ivar into Kofi in the corner. (It was pretty clear Smith doesn’t know which is Erik and which is Ivar.) Erik bodyslammed Ivar toward Orton, but Kingston kicked them over first and Ivar landed on Erik instead. Styles called it a dumb move. Riddle re-entered the ring. Kofi kicked him. Orton tossed Kofi out of the ring. The Raiders then tossed Orton out to win. The Raiders yelled down at Styles & Omos afterward.
WINNERS: The Viking Raiders 11:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was solidly booked, but throughout felt more like a series of specifically planned spots and not really a chaotic brawl. It wasn’t obvious who was going to win.)
-Smith threw to a video package on Nikki Cross in the Beat the Clock Challenges.
-Backstage Sonya Deville was chatting with Adam Pearce about how excited they are to travel around the country again when Charlotte walked up to them and said she was publicly pressured into that Beat the Clock match. She asked for it to be stricken from her record. Pearce said she accepted the challenge and lost. Deville said there’s nothing else they can do. Charlotte said she tried to ask nicely. She said they’re both flustered and jealous. She asked for another match against Nikki Cross. Ripley walked in and said she actually respects Cross. She said if anyone deserves a rematch against Cross, it’s her. She said she just took her eyes off the clock. Deville offered Ripley & Charlotte a match against Cross and a partner of her choosing. Charlotte said she was willing to be professional about it, unlike her partner. As Charlotte chuckled, they cut away. [c]
-A commercial aired for NXT on USA with Ted DiBiase. Images aired of Cameron Grimes and L.A. Knight. He said they both have until Tuesday night and then he’ll make an announcement that’s absolutely priceless. He then broke into his over-the-top cartoon laugh.
-The announcers commented on a replay the Raiders winning the battle royal. Then they cut back to the Raiders who celebrated their win. Ivar said he’s hungry for turkey legs. Styles and Omos walked up behind them. Omos was chewing on a turkey leg. Styles said they’re wanna-be Vikings. He said they use electricity and mirrors, but apparently not deodorant. Erik said the way he lives honors the Vikings who came before him. He said if Styles doesn’t respect him, they have a problem. Omos took a big bite of the turkey leg.
-They went to Graves, Smith, and Saxton at ringside. They threw to a segment on Alexa Bliss.
-Bliss narrated a video package about how she was once lost, but she is now rescued by the darkness which taught her everything. It showed her introducing Lilly. They advertised Shayna Baszler visiting the Alexa Playground later.
-Elias strummed his guitar mid-ring. He said it’s Jaxson Ryker’s fault that they’re not Raw Tag Team Champions. He said he should have done what he said he was going to do, but instead he has become completely unhinged. He said for the sake of his career and his sanity, he had to get away. After a clip from last week, Elias said he saw in Ryker’s eyes a man who would go to battle, but he learned he wouldn’t go to battle for him. He said there’s an unwavering truth that WWE stands for Walk With Elias. They pipped in fans shouting, “Walk with Elias!” Ryker, with super-short hair and a trimmed beard, attacked Elias from behind. He punched and stomped away at Elias. Referees pried them apart as they cut to a break. [c]
-Saxton said he cannot wait for Summerslam in Las Vegas.
(2) ELIAS vs. JAXSON RYKER
A few minutes in, Elias just fled the ring and got counted out, tired of being beaten up. Ryker yelled at Elias and a huge string of snotty saliva dangled from his beard. (I hope Peacock edits *that* out of the archive edition of this episode some day.)
WINNER: Ryker in 3:00 via countout.
-They showed highlights of McIntyre beating Kingston last week.
-Drew made his ring entrance for the contract signing. [c]
-Back from the break, Drew was sitting in a chair on one side of the table with Deville and Pearce presiding over the occasion. Deville introduced Lashley. Lashley didn’t come out. Drew said he didn’t want to wait any longer. He said he knows what he was going to do anyway. He said he’d walk out there with “all of his external charisma” – the women and MVP and the suit. He said it’d be time for everybody to come aboard the Lashley train, imitating The Godfather. Drew said he’s heard him say he keeps getting title opportunities. He said he’s missing the point. He talked about a story he heard growing up about a Scottish King, Robert the Bruce. He said he lost some battles early and had to go in hiding for three months inside a cage. He said one day he looked up at the roof of the cage and saw a spider. He said the spider couldn’t quite get the web to stick because it was damp. He said the spider kept trying over and over, and he could relate. He said eventually the web stuck and the spider made himself a nice home. The Bruce tried again and was outnumbered badly but won Scotland’s freedom. He said his famous quote to his army was, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.” He augmented it to, “If at first you don’t beat Lashley, try again.”
(Keller’s Analysis: It would not be the least but unreasonable for McIntyre to explain the circumstances of how he has come up short previously, and note he hasn’t truly been beaten clean.)
MVP interrupted as Drew started to sign the contact. He said there’s some business to discuss before pen goes to paper. MVP said the champion was tied up being fashionably late. Lashley smiled and finally made his entrance, surrounded by the five women. Lashley entered the ring. Drew stood up. Lashley sat. MVP congratulated Drew for “manipulating yourself once again” into another title opportunity against Lashley. He said they lived up to their commitment not to interfere last week. He asked Drew how he’d reward Lashley for his compliance. Lashley told Drew to commit not to seek another title match against him every again if he loses. MVP said Lashley plans to be champion for a long, long time.
Drew interrupted MVP and said, “I accept.” He said he’d never face Lashley again for the WWE Title if he loses. He said he wants something from Lashley, though – a match where outside interference can’t affect the finish and no one else can lose on his behalf. He asked for it inside Hell in a Cell. MVP and Lashley briefly talked and then MVP said he accepts his terms. Drew vowed to tear the flesh off of his body and said he’d see him in hell, so enjoy his next two weeks. Lashley said he will meet him there and beat him there. He then began dancing with the women in the ring. Drew then smashed the table in half with his sword. That got Lashley’s attention. They had a staredown.
-Sarah Schreiber stood backstage and reacted to the segment, then interviewed Nikki Cross. She asked her about her “back to back victories” against Ripley and Charlotte. Nikki said this has been inside her all along. She said it doesn’t matter if you’re not prettiest or the strongest or even the most experienced. She said her tenacity and spirit makes her a winner. She said she believes in herself so the only thing she’d regret is not taking chances. She said her only choice is try. Schreiber asked if she’s picked a tag partner. Cross excitedly said she has. She introduced Asuka. She said nobody is ready for Nikki Cross and Asuka.
-Sheamus made his ring entrance wearing a facemask. Smith said doctors have ordered him to wear it due to a broken nose, and the man who broke his nose is wrestling next. [c]
-Graves said WWE Superstars are as excited to see the fans as the fans are to see them. It is labelled now a 25-city summer tour.
–Sheamus sat at ringside during ring introductions. When Ricochet slid into the ring, he smiled at Sheamus. Smith said Ricochet beat Sheamus last week thanks to a DISTRACTION from Humberto. Graves said Sheamus was humiliated twice and had his nose shattered in the process. Humberto came out second. They showed the nose breaking in slo-mo and then photos of Sheamus in the hospital afterward. Sheamus stood up at ringside before the bell and complained that Humberto gets a chance to earn a title shot against him despite breaking his nose. Sheamus said he’s under strict doctor’s orders not get physical or else he would. Ricochet and Humberto pretended to leap at him. Sheamus flinched and said it wasn’t funny. Ricochet then knocked Humberto off the ring apron from behind. As Ricochet yelled at Sheamus at ringside, they cut to a break. [c]
(3) RICOCHET vs. HUMBERTO CARILLLO
Sheamus joined the announcers on commentary. He complained that Humberto ruined his beautiful face. Smith told Sheamus he still looks great. Graves complimented Sheamus on his grit just showing up tonight. Humberto dove through the ropes and knocked Ricochet down at ringside. He then scored a near fall in the ring seconds later. Ricochet made a comeback. Humberto did a flip bump on a clothesline by Ricochet. Ricochet scored a near fall with a back suplex into a bridge. They battled on the ring apron, exchanging chops. Ricochet then landed a Spanish Fly on Humberto off the ring apron onto the floor. Both were down and slow to get up. The sl0-mo showed that Ricochet’s landing was probably worse than Humberto’s. Both were counted out. Sheamus stood, laughed, and said those two aren’t in his league.
WINNER: Double countout in 4:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Seems like we’re headed toward a Triple Threat match.)
-Backstage, Kofi and Xavier were chatting backstage. MVP asked for a private word with Kofi. Kofi told Xavier he’s got it. MVP said he was impressed with his match last week and earlier tonight. He said he’s not surprised, though, he came up short. Kofi said he has stuff to do, so make your point. MVP said prior to representing Lashley, he was a Kofi fan. He said he was so proud of his win at WrestleMania during Kofi Mania. He said they go back to Deep South together. He said he’s like a little brother to him. He said he gets goosebumps to this day. He said that triggered him to want to return to WWE because WWE had a champion he could relate to and be proud of. He said Kofi Mania was everything and then it just abruptly ended. He asked if he’s ever thought about why that happened. Kofi asked him to enlighten him. Lashley said it’s because he’s not Lashley. He said last week he saw a glimpse of championship-level Kofi, but then after the match ended, he shook Drew’s hand. He said Kofi Mania ended because he let it. He said there are no friends, it’s called show business. “I know you just want to be back here shucking and jiving with your friends,” he said. Kofi told him to watch his mouth. Kofi said his family and friends provide him motivation, and the last person’s opinion he wants is MVP’s. He said he does this to inspire other people. MVP said Lashley fights for the honor, prestige, and accoutrements that go with it.
(Keller’s Analysis: Intriguing. Anytime Kofi breaks away from clowning it up in Vince McMahon’s image of what he should be and instead gets real and dignified, it’s a good look. He seemed to be resistant to MVP’s advice on the surface, but hearing some things that resonated beneath the surface.) [c]
-Eva Marie said she has had to put in a ton of dedication and passion to get where she is today, and now she wants to show everyone how she practices what she preaches. She was shown working out. She said inspiring others comes from having the courage to show up and be seen. She said she’s going to show the WWE Universe a side of her that’s never been seen before. She said she’ll pull back the curtain and reveal what it takes to make hard work and resiliency effortless. “You’ve waited long enough,” she said. “Eva-lusion is coming to Raw.” The graphic said it’ll be next week.
-Graves was very excited and asked Smith and Saxton what they’d be wearing. Smith said that’s next week, but there’s more this week. They recapped Riddle coming to Orton’s aid in the battle royal before Orton ultimately was eliminated by the Raiders. Saxton announced Kofi would face Riddle later in the show.
-They showed Mansoor working out backstage. Mustafa Ali walked up and asked if he’s ready. Mansoor said he’s ready. Ali said he looks ready, but he’s not. Ali said what he’s ready for is a fair and square fight against Drew Gulak, but what is he going to do when Gulak pokes his eye or pulls on his trunks and is willing to cut every corner to win. He said he knows he is dangerous. He asked Mansoor what he’ll do when he realizes not everyone is playing by the same rules as him. “That’s not how this world works,” he said.
-During Jeff Hardy’s ring entrance, a soundbite aired with Hardy. He said locker rooms used to show respect to veterans, but “Cedric Alexanders” doesn’t. (Yes, Hardy called him “Alexanders.”) He said he expects everything to be handed to him. He said he’ll show him a lesson in humility. He said he will “extremely learn respect is earned.” [c]
-They showed Triple H ringing the bell for the Philadelphia 76ers game over the weekend. He used a sledgehammer.
(4) JEFF HARDY vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER
As Cedric walked out to the ring, a soundbite aired from earlier of a soft-spoken Cedric saying Hardy is a washed up has-been taking up time and space. He said he’s going to wipe the floor with a former great, Hardy, tonight. So far Jimmy Smith’s commentary consists primarily of seemingly random platitudes that don’t really mean anything. For instance, he said of Hardy, “A veteran fights their way out, it’s the only way they know how.” When Cedric climbed to the top rope, he mocked Hardy before leaping. Hardy kicked him mid-air and then landed a top rope Swanton for the win.
WINNER: Hardy in 6:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: I wasn’t expected Hardy to win, but it’s the only way a feud with Cedric would matter if that’s what’s planned. A soft-spoken cocky Cedric is so much better than a screaming out of his mind Cedric.)
-Backstage Charlotte walked up to Ripley and awkwardly unnaturally stood next to her side by side as they talked peripherally to each other. Charlotte told Ripley that she’s the more experienced Superstar, so she should follow her lead. She said she can handle Cross and she’ll take care of Asuka. Ripley said her championship makes up for her experience. She told her to follow her lead. An exasperated Charlotte said, “Uh, they never learn.”
-Nikki made her ring entrance.
-A commercial aired hyping Summerslam coming to Las Vegas in August. [c]
-Asuka’s ring entrance took place after the break.
NOTE: We are always looking for new volunteer contributors to round out our coverage of the busy pro wrestling scene. If you are interested, drop me a note at email@example.com.
(5) RHEA RIPLEY & CHARLOTTE vs. NIKKI CROSS & ASUKA
Ripley made her entrance followed by Charlotte. Saxton said he doesn’t think they can coexist. Smith asked, “The question is, can their disdain for Nikki Cross be larger than their disdain for each other?” Charlotte shoved Nikki to the mat hard on a test of strength. Charlotte asked Ripley to give it a try. Ripley locked up with Cross, then shoved her face-first to the mat. Cross rolled up Ripley for a quick two count, then tagged in Asuka. After a couple minutes of action, Smith complimented the chemistry and the frequent tags between Asuka and Cross. Asuka knocked Ripley to the floor with a hip attack. Charlotte went to check on her. Ripley told her to leave her alone and shoved her. Charlotte didn’t like that and elbowed her in the chin. They cut to a break. [c]
A few minutes later, Charlotte whacked Ripley to tag her in. Graves said he’s enjoying this “iron sharpens iron” situation. Ripley soaked up the blow and eyed Charlotte as she entered the ring. Ripley then gave Cross a delayed vertical suplex. Graves called it terrifying power. When Charlotte reached for a tag, Ripley patted her aggressively on the head to tag her in. Cross hot-tagged Asuka who kicked Ripley and scored a near fall. She rallied until Charlotte grabbed her boots from ringside. Ripley then gave Asuka a Northern Lights suplex for a near fall. Asuka came back with a hip attack for a near fall. Cross leaped off the top rope with a crossbody; Charlotte broke up the cover before three. Charlotte yelled at Ripley to get it done. Ripley had enough and hit Charlotte. They exchanged strikes. Charlotte raked Ripley’s eyes and clipped her knee from behind, then landed Natural Selection. Cross ran in and scored the three count as Charlotte turned her back on Ripley. Cross and Asuka celebrated on top of the announce desk as Cross’s music played.
WINNERS: Asuka & Cross in 13:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Charlotte seemed less likable than Ripley in this match and in their exchanges, so it seems they’re maybe turning Ripley face. The finish of the match also indicates she’s the sympathetic figure.)
-Bliss said Baszler did the unthinkable last week and told Lilly that she’s “just a stupid doll.” She covered Lilly’s ears and whispered it. She said Shayna is wrong, and if you don’t believe her, see what happens later when Shayna joins them. She said it’ll be a real scream and then started laughing maniacally.
-A commercial hyped Smackdown. The narrator asked, “Will an incensed Rey Mysterio avenge Dominik?” [c]
-The announcers recapped the Drew-Lashley happenings and stressed that the Hell in a Cell match is Drew’s last chance to wrest the WWE Title from Lashley.
(6) MANSOOR vs. DREW GULAK
They aired Mansoor’s entrance, but not Gulak’s. They showed Ali watching on a monitor backstage early in the match. Drew got in some offense early, but Mansoor countered a roll-up with a handful of tights and leveraged Gulak’s shoulders down for the win. Saxton said Ali gave Mansoor good advice.
WINNER: Mansoor in 2:00.
-Backstage Orton offered Riddle the invisible key. Riddle took it and unlocked his lips and let out a sign of relief. Riddle started rambling about visiting Burger Kings together in every state. He said his favorite place to go is Las Vegas. He asked if he’d come out to ringside for his match tonight. Orton said he’s not sure. Riddle said he’s got a sweet hoodie. Orton had Riddle lock his lips again and then he threw the key in a trash can. Riddle displayed a pouty face and scootered away.
-Kofi made his ring entrance alongside Xavier. [c]
(7) KOFI KINGSTON vs. RIDDLE
Coming out of the break, Smith said, “I hear fun, so that must mean New Day!” The announcers wondered if Orton would come out to ringside. A couple minutes in, Xavier played the trombone at ringside. (I hope everyone boos Xavier out of arenas starting next month when he does that.) Riddle was DISTRACTED by that, so Kofi took over. Smith said Kofi doesn’t take his foot off the gas even when there’s a distraction to take advantage of.
Orton made his entrance as his music played and walked aggressively toward Xavier. Kofi slidekicked Orton through the ropes. Kofi sidekicked Riddle in the face. Riddle rolled to the floor. Xavier played trombone in Riddle’s face. Orton slammed him onto the announce table. (If that doesn’t count as an official babyface turn for Orton, nothing should.) Orton helped Riddle to his feet. Kofi leaped off the top rope onto both Orton and Riddle. Smith exclaimed, “I cannot believe it!”
(Keller’s Analysis: Smith’s use of language is just imprecise and sloppy. What is there not to believe about what Kofi did? It’s not that big of a deal. It just feels like a random overstatement on his part. There are better words to string together to react to that move, and that’s been the case with most of Smith’s commentary these two weeks. He just isn’t accessing aptly descriptive words yet to accompany the happenings on the show. He could watch a lot of great announcers over the decades and get some ideas, perhaps. It’s early, of course, but there’s definitely room for improvement and it’d be nice to see him to put in the work to show improvement every week.) [c]
A few minutes back from the break, Riddle leg scissored Kofi over the top rope to the floor. Kofi avoided a knee from Riddle and then landed a forearm. Kofi caught his breath at ringside as the ref began counting him out. Riddle went after him instead, breaking the count. He asked for and received a fist bump from Smith, who complimented Riddle for a good Thai kick. Riddle looked at Orton before delivering a draping DDT off the middle rope. Orton yelled, “Go finish him! Give it to him!” Riddle pounded the mat to set up an RKO. Kofi blocked the RKO and went for a Trouble in Paradise. Riddle ducked. Kofi landed a Trouble in Paradise on the second try and got the three count. Orton looked dismayed at ringside. Xavier obnoxiously gloated alongside Kofi afterward. Graves said Riddle tried too hard to be Orton in the prelude to the RKO and only Orton can be Orton.
WINNER: Kingston in 13:00.
-A recap aired of the Bliss-Baszler segment last week.
-Backstage Nia Jax told Baszler things have been tense between them. Baszler blamed Bliss and also Jax for letting Reginald cost them the tag team titles. Baszler asked where he is. She said he’s at home recovering. She said Baszler was out of line. Baszler took exception to that. Jax said she’s never seen Bliss as unpredictable and dangerous. Baszler said she’s not intimidated by a blonde girl with a stupid doll. Jax said she has something planned. Baszler said she’s not scared and she’ll show her what she gets when she crosses the Queen of Spades. [c]
-Bliss sat on the swing set with Lilly inside the ring in ThunderDome. She told Lilly to be more open-minded. She said new friends come in different sizes, different shapes, and different blood types. Baszler’s music interrupted. Saxton said he doesn’t feel comfortable with Baszler in this environment. Baszler knocked over a hobby horse. Bliss said that wasn’t nice and she didn’t learn her lesson last week. She said she told Lilly she wants to give her a chance to be her friend. “All you have to do is apologize to Lilly,” she said. Baszler laughed at that offer. Bliss said it’s just two little words. Baszler said she’s more delusional than she looks. She blamed Bliss for being the reason that she and Jax aren’t the tag champs anymore. Bliss said she just wants them all to be friends. Lilly whispered something to Bliss. Bliss looked alarmed and told Baszler it’d be in her interest to apologize to Lilly. Baszler yanked Lilly away from Bliss and said, “I’m sorry; I’m sorry that you’re just a stupid doll.” She threw the doll to the ground. Bliss freaked out and attacked Baszler.
Baszler pushed Bliss off of her and Bliss rolled to the floor. Baszler looked down at Lilly and then stepped on her. Bliss looked at her alarmed. Baszler extended her arms and then stomped on Lilly. The ThunderDome screens flickered. Baszler walked back, looking a little spooked. She picked up the pace and then looked on from a distance. Pyro began blasting. Baszler retreated to the stage. Graves told her to get the hell out of there. Bliss cradled Lilly and smiled.
The camera showed Baszler returning backstage. The lights were dark. Things began falling over backstage near Baszler. Baszler blamed the stupid doll. She tried to leave, but the exit doors were locked. Lights flickered as Baszler found an unlocked door. THERE WAS MIRACULOUSLY A CAMERA WAITING IN THE ROOM to film her putting barricades against the closed door. Baszler said, “It’s not happening. It’s not happening.” Lights flickered. Baszler then saw a Lilly doll in a mirror. When she turned, it was gone. Baszler turned back to the mirror again and she saw Lilly. She kicked the mirror and let out a huge yell. The camera zoomed in on her face as she looked terrified and let out another yell as the show ended.
(Keller’s Analysis: I mean, this is pretty stupid, so if you enjoy it, you’re stipulating to enjoying something this stupid, which is anyone’s prerogative, and some hate this more than others, and some embrace this as long as it seems somewhat well-thought-out and well-performed within the context of whatever WWE’s universe is these days. The lights flickering and the pyro blasting, I can deal with, although barely. Once there’s a camera in a random room waiting for Baszler, it just feels like that crosses the line into something else that is a step too far by throwing in viewers’ faces that this was all scripted out step-by-step. Not that viewers don’t know that subconsciously, but they appreciate and are more absorbed when it’s not thrown in their face during the show playing out. It’s why wrestlers work hard to make moves look real and practice selling convincingly. The show is better when it is as realistic as possible. WWE has done this type of thing before – dash cam, for instance – and they’ve survived. They’ll survive this. But the cinematic aspects should be kept separate and walled off from the normal rules of engagement with how they produce the show more like a sporting event, and flowing from one aspect of the universe to the other within the flow of the same segment is especially off-putting. And because they made that choice of how to produce it, that’s what I’m thinking about instead of whatever else they were trying to accomplish. I know WWE crossed the line at different places for different viewers, but when you mess with the pro wrestling narrative structure this way, it better be worth it. I’m not seeing a compelling enough payoff to all of this to make it worth it. All that said, Bliss, Baszler, and Lilly played their parts well. Baszler in particular could have flopped badly in this situation, but all in all, she played it pretty well given the circumstances.)