OVER & UNDERS – WWE RAW (4/22): Damian Priest almost a main eventer, Johnny’s late arrival, Kaiser’s eyebrow, Old Day, Drew cooling off, the Weight of History, more

By Kevin Duncan, PWTorch contributor


Buckle up folks, because it’s time for the three hour lead up to the most rushed battle royal for a championship in WWE history. Let’s get Raw with the most overrated and under-appreciated moments from the longest running episodic show in history, also featuring the longest-running hype for it being a new era.


It was a nice touch by WWE to open with some in-ring hype for the battle royal taking place tonight. That said, they opened with an impressive wide shot that they sat on longer than they’ve been hyping that this a new era. By the way, did you know this was a new era? Anyway, in this new era, apparently we sit on wide shots so long that I feel like I’m actually there…in nosebleed seats where I can barely see. Then, now, forever together baby. Even if I can’t see you from afar.


This was a great hype package for the battle royal tonight, recapping how Liv Morgan injured Rhea Ripley. But, Liv Morgan is actually in the match tonight? How does that make any sense? New era, less logic? Why is she being rewarded for assault, and taking out one of the hottest stars in the WWE? On top of that, seeing the graphic showing all the participants really shows how thin the women’s roster is as far as viable main eventers. The main event scene for the Women’s World Championship is skinnier than a vanilla latte at Starbucks. On a side note, why does Natalya look like a French painter, or an Italian chef? What is that hat? Is she auditioning for a role in an art heist movie? Is this “Ratatouille 2”? Go back and look. It’s very odd, and I’m here for the amusement of its absurdity.


Great entrance by Jey Uso as always. It’s nice to see him not shove any fans on the way to the ring. I can’t let that moment go. It was too funny. The crowd tonight seems extra into Jey, which is a spectacle to see with the Yeet wave. Pat McAfee needs a Xanax, but he didn’t take away from the moment too much. Now, to the real meat of what I’m getting to. Is it just me or does Damian Priest feel like a TV star appearing in a big Hollywood movie for the first time? He had a presence, but still feels a little out of place and not quite at the level a top champ should be. He feels just a level shy of it. He’s almost a main eventer, but still just falling a little short as far as physicality and demeanor. I can’t quite put my finger on it other than saying he just feels less than say, a Seth Rollins or Drew McIntyre in the same spot. He had a decent exchange with Jey Uso, and I appreciate the little swerve of fake niceties.


Apparently the Yeet Wave is a great cardio workout, because Jey Uso seems wildly out of breath in the ring, even with a start and stop promo, allowing room for Yeet interjections. So much Yeet. At least we know it’s healthy now. Yeet off the weight folks. Just Yeet it off. I think Taylor Swift said that. My favorite moment of this back and forth between Jey and Damian Priest was them reminiscing about a wild night out, and Jey hilariously adding “We took an Uber.” Superstars ARE just like us!


During D.I.Y.’s entrance, if you go back and watch it again, you’ll see Tomasso Ciampa enter, then Johnny Gargano hilariously sprint out several moments later. Was he playing Candy Crush on his phone at gorilla? Was he running back from a bathroom break? Was Candice LeRae scolding him? We may never know. The only person even less punctual than Gargano was The Miz trying to backup rap with R-Truth during their entrance. His “What’s up” additions were so behind Truth’s that it almost sounds like an echo. Go back and watch it again. Miz may have pop culture wrapped around his finger, but hip hop is still completely out of his rhythmic ability. Miz rapping is like Donald Trump dancing. It’s ugly and feels like he’s trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Major props to Pat McAfee for pointing out that The Miz was off-beat. I feel seen, heard and validated. Thank you, Pat.


For the Awesome Truth versus D.I.Y. match we get our favorite ref, the rejected cast member of “Jersey Shore.” I can’t tell what’s more prominent with this over-muscled, fake-tanned cosplayer of a Footlocker employee, the boldness of his tan, or his boredom with his job. Even when R-Truth did a jump split that impressed every competitor in the ring, he looked more bored than a blind man in a 3D movie. This takes me out of the match a bit. At least act like you’re paying attention, and quasi enjoy your job. None of us have the job we thought we would. Embrace the detour. I’m not saying go as far as D.I.Y. and pat yourself on the back, but enjoy your work, sir.


I’m a big fan of the tandem Truth Crushing Finale finisher from Awesome Truth. I think tag teams should always have a double team finisher. It’s old school yet evergreen, because it’s effective in establishing them as an authentic team. The more of a team they feel like, the more justified they are as champs. On a side note, I’ve been waiting almost 20 years for R-Truth to yell “You can’t handle the truth!” He better give me this before he retires, or I’ll be very angry at him…even though I don’t know him in any capacity. I’m sure my disdain will be felt though, somehow.


Well, one thing is very clear in this backstage segment with Judgment Day and Santos Escobar. Dominik Mysterio is clearly dying his mustache now. I feel like this is purposefully noticeable. It’s just another heel move to get him booed more, and it’s effective. No one likes painfully obviously-dyed facial hair. John Cena even mocked one of the characters in “Peacemaker” by calling him “Dye Beard”. It doesn’t even match Dom’s eyebrows. Oh Dom, you’re a brilliant heel. You’re the best thing to happen to heels since the catwalk. You make me high on heels.


During the Imperium talking segment, am I the only one who is wildly amused and confused about Ludwig Kaiser’s eyebrow raising? I can’t tell if he’s imitating The Rock, is very suspicious of everyone in the audience, or if this is a medical side effect of having near zero body fat. I assume it has something to do with burning so many calories that his body is creating a skin vacuum, which is fueling some sort of natural facelift. Eyebrows aside, I like Gunther’s mission statement of going from hunted to hunter. I could do without yet another reminder of this being a new era, which it is in case you didn’t know, but this was solid.


New Day is starting to feel like old news. Their schtick is discrediting to the illustrious reign of Gunther. Also, I completely forgot Xavier Woods was the last King of the Ring. I get what they’re doing here, giving him credibility, but touting him as the last winner doesn’t elevate the spot in any way. It just reminds us how irrelevant the title is. I haven’t cared about the moniker since King Bookah, and the pinky raising of all pinkies. Massive credit to Gunther saying “This is beneath me.” He should be brushing off silliness such as this exchange. It works for him.


I absolutely loved Ludwig Kaiser’s turn on his Imperium brethren. It was pretty obvious it was coming by the amount of times he uncomfortably stroked Giovani Vinci’s head, but it was super effective. Ludwig has been on the cusp of breaking out for a while now, and this solidifies that. His kick to Vinci hit harder than every mention of this being a new era…combined. And that’s hard.


Man oh man, how Drew McIntyre has lost steam after losing at WrestleMania. He was hotter than he’s ever been, but being out of the title picture has really diminished his presence for me. The C.M. Punk angle is enough fuel to keep him relevant, but I do worry about where they go with him after. He would have benefitted from a run with that title far more than WWE will with Damian Priest holding it. He’s still a top of the line vessel, but I definitely feel like they’ve sucked some of the wind out of his sails. I will give him kudos for “Say ‘what’ if you French kiss your cousins.” Classic Drew, amiright?


Why on Earth would you feed Shinsuke Nakamura to Sheamus? First of all, in agreement with Drew McIntyre, Sheamus probably doesn’t need any more to eat. Neither don’t, so, sorry not sorry. Second of all, Nakamura has been reinvigorated lately after his feud with Seth Rollins. Sheamus is passe, distractingly covered in ring rust, pretty out of shape, and just too old guard for an era they keep touting as new. By the way, we’re in a new era. Just so you know.


In this Alpha Academy talking segment, the background players are absolutely hilarious. Akira Tozawa looks like someone just told him there’s no Santa Claus. Otis looks like someone stole his N64 controller. Maxxine Dupri looks like her high school bully just started working in the same office as her (probably Candice LeRae). They’re playing their sadness to a hilarious T here. That said, I think Chad Gable really needs to change his music. It’s too upbeat. Look how sad you’re making Tozawa. Embrace that evil side. Thank you! Brilliant move having Chad point out that he’s been training losers. That elevates him significantly, and makes him a smarter heel.


I’ve never found Ricochet interesting in the mic, like at all, but he showed some real personality tonight while talking to Dominik Mysterio. I also have a sweet spot for anyone who points out that J.D. McDonagh is a human bobble head. Consider me a fan now, Ric! Special mention to my favorite heel, Dominik Mysterio, emptily mocking Ricochet’s name like an angry kindergartner. Classic Dom. Apparently McDonagh is on Speed this week, in case you needed another reason to NOT tune in.


The backstage segment with Becky Lynch taking the mic and walking through the arena was gritty and fantastic. That pep in her step should get her back on track with the fans if she keeps being the person steering cool segments like this. I loved how they shifted from an interview with Candice LeRae, to a brawl between Nia Jax and Liv Morgan, into Becky taking the mic, giving a pep talk to Maxxine Dupri, all leading into an absolutely insane-looking entrance. There’s that fantastic production value I’ve been waiting for all night. I feel like I just ate my way through a fairly decent dinner, but the dessert is to die for.


Why did it take WWE so long to explain what Speed actually is? I kind of dig this concept of rapid-fire matches in a bracket-style tournament. For a show called Speed, they sure took their sweet time telling us what it actually is. Don’t name a dog Quick if it’s a Saint Bernard that’s going to take 30-minutes to fetch a ball, WWE.


Whoever tracks all of the ongoings in WWE deserves a raise. Let’s just get that out of the way first and foremost. It’s incredibly effective to throw around the weight of legacy and history when hyping a match. Hearing that this is the first battle royal in 17 years to determine a champion is very enticing. Hearing about the past winners of this type of scenario adds to it even more. Well done, WWE. It’s all still a little rushed and thrown together, but it’s a pretty damn nice save by throwing some statistics into the mix. I still feel like you’re handing me a turd sandwich, but at least you sold me on the value of manure in the world of agriculture first.


The women’s world heavyweight championship match was a little clunky, but the ending was right. They had Becky Lynch against Liv Morgan. Liv should have a ton of heat on her for injuring Rhea Ripley, and they want to push Becky back into being beloved. This dynamic should help Becky. Going into the crowd to celebrate was a nice touch too. She wouldn’t have dared to do that at WrestleMania with a pro-Ripley crowd. The rest of the match leading up to the final two felt pretty anti-climactic. This is largely due to them not having enough seeds of clashes to visit in the match, as they do in a rumble, but it’s understandable given the time frame. I thought Maxxine Dupri showed some fire in the match, and it was nice to see some effective shock from Indi Hartwell post elimination. I don’t think Piper Niven got much out of the match aside from a rub from going toe to toe with Nia Jax. But of course none of this matters as the draft is Friday. Like Thanks making storylines disappear with a snap, it’ll be fun to see how the dust settles on Smackdown. See you then.

RECOMMENDED NEXT: WWE RAW RESULTS (4/22): Pomares’s alt-perspective report on Women’s Title Battle Royal, Andrade & Ricochet vs. McDonagh & Dominik, Awesome Truth vs. DIY for Tag Titles

OR CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: Finn Balor provides an update on his future with WWE

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