Late last week, my friend Dave texted me to ask if I had Memorial Day plans. When I told him I did not, he asked if I wanted to go to the last ever Monday Night RAW at Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. Someone he knew had won tickets via the radio and couldn’t go, so he was now looking for people to go with him. I will say the experience was MUCH different from my last live RAW experience in the Barclay’s center in March of 2014, just before Wrestlemania XXX. The Barclay’s Center is much bigger than Nassau Coliseum and I had gone with a group of 8 die-hard fans last time. While Dave is as dedicated to WWE as I am, the other two companions of ours were not, and spent a decent amount of time asking questions (or texting.)
The tone was set for those of us in the building when Vince McMahon came out between Superstars and the actual start of RAW to say that there was a lot of history in this building and that WWE had made a lot of memories there. He promised a memorable evening. He did not deliver.
At the time of writing this article, I have not watched the actual televised episode of RAW from last night. I did hear quite a bit via Twitter that the show seemed slow, and I can concur that it seemed awfully slow in the building. A lot of the matches came across as slow (the Ziggler/Sheamus match elicited crickets, I don’t even REMEMBER Ryback/Barrett, though I’m told it happened) and the promos were too long. It’s hard to decipher when you’re in the arena, though, because every time the light cues change, you’re not sure if there is commentary happening, a clip, or a commercial.
In terms of really boiling down the story lines and promos of last night (minus the Diva’s stuff, which was limited and I missed it to get cotton candy,) I think there is one over-arcing point that needs to be asked:
WHAT STORY ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL?
Currently, the biggest issue that can be found in EVERY SINGLE STORY LINE that is leading into Elimination Chamber on Sunday is that there appears to either be NO STORY, MANY STORIES, or NO POSSIBLE ENDING. I recently talked about long-term storytelling in terms of last week’s episode of RAW, but clearly that was not something they attempted to do for this week. I understand they’re in a spot: the IC title is vacant, there’s suddenly a LOT of attention on the Tag Team division again, and we need forward momentum. But, honestly – nothing that happened last night made any sense.
I could (and probably will in the future) spend an entire post talking about this Rusev/Lana/Ziggler story. It makes me simultaneously thrilled and angry. I loved how she stood up to Rusev, but don’t understand why she needs to be aligned with anyone. Hasn’t she been training? Why not have her hit Rusev with some nutty finisher a la Sable/Mark Mero, and suddenly she’s a Diva (*gag*)? Instead she stands up for herself to Rusev as a little blonde embodiment of that Destiny’s Child “Independent Women” song and high-tails it to the nearest peroxide-blonde, tan guy? Not to mention – THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR ZIGGLER. Every time Ziggler gets aligned with a woman, there’s some sort of major fall-off for him in terms of crowd reception. Most recently, he got in the middle of the Summer Rae/Layla/Fandango thing and went radio-silent for a bit. I am all for a Lana turn, but that’s not what’s really happening here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sunday ended with Rusev as IC champ and Lana back on his arm (which is so terrible, now that they’ve established him as emotionally and verbally abusive. She’s embroiled in a domestic abuse story line, she CAN NOT go back to him without it being a massive instance of reckless story telling on the part of WWE creative.)
The tag title story is…fine? I guess? I like that they’re giving a lot of time to everyone and there’s no clear favorite (except that it’s clearly NOT The Ascension. Sad face.) But there’s no clear story line, just lots of gimmick-based talk. “These guys are heels, these guys are faces, we think.” This makes sense, as I’m not sure how you’d write a 15-person storyline (with 3 members of New Day, Nattie, & El Torrito). Plus they’re putting them in a gimmick match to, I don’t even know, sell the show? *sigh*
Diva’s: Paige used to be champion. Now Nikki is champion. Paige wants to be champion again. So does Naomi. But Naomi’s not #1 contender, Paige is. So Naomi sends Tamina after Paige. What? Where is this going, anyway? To a Naomi run-in? To her as champ? To Paige as champ again, which means in her first 18 months on the main roster she’ll be Diva’s champ more times than any other woman currently on the Diva’s roster? Either it’s time to give Naomi the belt (since Nikki isn’t even INVOLVED in the feud for her own championship) or maybe it’s time to start writing for the women like they matter. All of them.
Now that we know John Cena’s match with Kevin Owens is not a title match this Sunday, I’m not sure what the story here is, either. If Kevin Owens is main eventing the NXT shows as their champ and is wrestling the face of WWE on a PPV, where do you go from there? Is he going to be WWE World Heavyweight Champion by SummerSlam? Is this setting up an NXT invasion? That idea isn’t actually out of the question, considering how deep the NXT roster is at this point. Either they need to move some more people up (in particular Tyler Breeze & Charlotte) or they need to thin the herd. (More in this in the future, as last year’s mass WWE lay-off came mid-June.) I am not at all concerned about the level of this match – it should be a barn-burner. But what comes AFTER? If Owens loses, how does he go back to NXT and save face? He’ll be the guy who couldn’t get it done. If Cena loses, Kevin Owens becomes Brock Lesnar and John Cena is…what? The US Champ. The old guy. The veteran.
As for the main event – Dean Ambrose is not going to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Dean Ambrose doesn’t need a championship (though he WAS US champion in 2013/2014). He shouldn’t care about taking Seth’s title, except to piss off Seth. I am slightly concerned about the possibility of a Reigns heel turn, as I don’t think he is ready to be The Big Bad. He definitely doesn’t have the mic skills for it, and unless his heel turn is accompanied by a “I’m a Paul Heyman Guy” t-shirt, forget it. Where does that leave this story? A good, wild match, as Seth and Dean are wont to have, and then a Rollins win (most likely due to outside interference) and then…what? Dean goes back to mid-carding against The New Face of Boring Bray Wyatt?
Please, WWE. Even if you have to fly by the seat of your pants, put some thought into it. It was a shame to be at such a momentous occasion and be given such a bland story line. But it was even sadder to know the future doesn’t look bright for better story lines to come.
For the love of hell, prove me wrong.
The Lady J “To Watch” List
1. Rusev/Lana/Ziggler – please don’t make this into an after-school special. Let Lana be Lana!
2. Neville vs. Bo Dallas, in an actual match of NXT vs NXT. This is a feud that makes SENSE!
3. Something blowing up in Dean Ambrose’s face, hopefully not his career.
4. Elimination Chamber being over.