Venue: Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)
-Not a great idea to have an opening segment contract signing hosted by Stone Cold Steve Austin, the most over legend in WWE history, who personality and charisma wise completely dwarfs Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman, two performers who can run hot or lukewarm depending on the crowd.
-Huge pop for Austin. Not so much for Strowman. Usual pop for Rollins. Say what you will about Rollins’ face character, fans love that “Burn It Down” part in his entrance
-“Seth Rollins is a marked man. But the man aiming for him generally isn’t his tag-team championship partner.” – Corey Graves, forgetting all about that Ambrose heel turn.
-Not sure what exactly the contract signing accomplished. Did either of them even sign it? Austin outshined both Strowman and Rollins on the mic, and Styles looked a little goofy not knowing Austin’s standing right behind him waiting. It certainly didn’t get me more excited to see the match on Sunday. But at least everybody got to say their catchphrases and the crowd got excited for Austin’s entrance and the stunner on Styles. I’d wager a small bet that might be the loudest we hear them tonight unless there’s an unexpected Austin appearance later in the show. If it ends with Austin stunning either Vince or Shane it will be louder.
-Good work by Styles and Cedric Alexander in a match that felt much too quick. I like the continuity of Cedric’s left arm injury. Alexander could have done a better job of selling, though. He shouldn’t be throwing elbows with his hurt arm. Hopefully a DQ finish leads to those two facing off for the US Title at Clash of Champions in a match that’s twice as long as this one was.
-Seem like the Viking Raiders just turned face with that Cedric-saving run-in beat down on The OC. I’m not even sure if they were ever actually heels, though. All they’ve really done is beat up jobbers on the main roster so far, so it’s been hard to tell.
-Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Charlotte and Becky Lynch coming up next. That ring canvas is about to be covered with self tanner stains.
-“Charlotte with a chair in hand, looking to settle things down.” – Michael Cole
-Tag match was good but a bit of an oddly-paced clunky affair. Charlotte looked a little sloppy, especially on the big boot on Banks and the moonsault onto Bayley. Not sure why they needed to have Sasha tap on the outside to the Disarm-Her. Charlotte pinning Bayley leads me to believe Bayley will retain at Clash of Champions. I could see Sasha/Becky going either way on Sunday. One will probably have an interference finish. Doing both as interference finishes would be overkill, though.
-A lot of close up views from ringside cameras tonight. Not sure what MSG’s television setup is but there do seem to be less center hard cam shots tonight.
-Credit goes to Rey Mysterio and Gran Metalik for winning over the crowd with an impressive showing of the lucha style. The energy really picked up after the super kick on the outside, and there were plenty of exciting wow moments after that. Metalik needs to get away from the Lucha House Party and get a proper singles run on Raw.
-It wouldn’t be an episode of Raw without a video package for the Smackdown Live feud of Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan and Rowan.
-A “Baron Corbin/Corbin Sucks” chant from a split crowd. Don’t hear that one often.
-King of the Ring Semis triple-threat of Ricochet vs. Baron Corbin vs. Samoa Joe was about as good as expected. A bit surprised that Corbin got the win instead of Ricochet. Seeing how it played out, it makes sense to put Joe in there to eat the pin. Sadly, it’s basically all he’s used for at this point in his WWE tenure. I wonder what the storyline trajectory will be for Ricochet. Multiple losses to AJ Styles in their US Title feud and a come-up-short effort in the King of the Ring Tournament adorn his recent resume.
-Looks like a Corbin vs. Chad Gable, big bully vs. smaller underdog matchup for the King of the Ring Final. That one could be decent if they give it time. If we’re still judging the not oft-used Gable by his prime NXT days, he’s definitely a guy who is capable of carrying Corbin to a fun back-and-forth big strong heel vs. smaller quicker babyface match.
-They’re really ending Raw in Madison Square Garden with some type of 10-man tag house show BS? Imagine paying MSG prices for a show with this as the main event.
-A few minutes in, crowd is openly mocking this match with the wave. Not usually a big fan of crowds hijacking shows, but I can understand the frustration. Just ending the show with the Stone Cold contract signing would have been a better idea. Ending it with a longer, better Styles-Alexander match with a clean finish would have been optimal.
-Doesn’t seem to make much sense to have the go-home show for Clash of Champions started and ended by Stone Cold Steve Austin, a retired legend who I doubt is going to be in attendance on Sunday. Besides the Corbin win, this Raw was a glorified house show that did little to further the storylines heading into Sunday.
-Whatever momentum there might have been for the Rollins/Strowman Universal Title match seems to have been squandered. The who’s a face and who’s a heel dynamic in the Bayley vs. Charlotte Smackdown Women’s Title match only became more confusing. Is there even a US Title bout? And why no appearance by the Women’s Tag Champs Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross?
For all the hype and promotion about this show being special because it’s at MSG, this one just did not have a special or important feel to it at all. It’s similar to having Raw 25 as the Raw right before the 2018 Royal Rumble. Mixing special shows featuring legend appearances with key go-home shows just doesn’t work well.
There still promoting tickets for tomorrow night’s Smackdown Live in MSG on local television, so it will be interesting to see how they spin the crowd size for that one. I can’t wait for Undertaker’s 15-minute opening promo about how he knocked out Steve Austin at Summerslam right in the middle of MSG. Add in the video recap of the video recap of the Reigns/Rowan stuff and a Kofi-Orton match that’s sure to end in shenanigans and it’s not shaping up to be a blockbuster. But at least a big Chad Gable win could help matters.