After last night’s solid if somewhat uneventful Night Of Champions, there’s an air of complacency hanging over tonight’s episode of Raw. The weeks leading up to Sunday’s PPV promised change and shifts in power. There was mystery to who would partner up with Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose against the Wyatt Family, if Charlotte would manage to pull out the win for real after getting cheated out of the title last week, and whether Seth Rollins could survive back-to-back matches. The result of all those weeks of building mystery and intrigue? The two “surprises” of the night end up being the return of two stars from the ‘90s, Kane and Chris Jericho. Cue Xavier playing a sad trombone riff.

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The creative complacency that largely defined Night Of Champions extends to Raw, where so much of the three-hour show is spent underlining the events from the previous night. WWE has a bad habit of using the Raw after a PPV to book rematches, or at least variations on rematches. There are some good matches using that formula, but it still feels like WWE just hitting all the same beats it did the night before. That’s a shame, because the show gets off to a great start. When the Wyatt Family comes out to cut what will presumably be a lengthy promo, Reigns interrupts and says that this whole feud has always been about him and Wyatt, so why not get rid of his henchmen and the two can have a fight. Bray accepts and the two brawl. Of course it all devolves into chaos, with Luke Harper and Braun Strowman getting involved, prompting Ambrose to make his way out followed by a returning Randy Orton. It’s a great open to the show because it’s simple. These guys all hate each other, and for no substantial reason. Sometimes all you need in a feud is a lot of history and a lot of hate. It’s a feud that isn’t blowing the roof off, but remains one of the more reliable segments week in and week out.

If only there was a sense of consistency to the rest of the show. If only every other segment felt as alive as that one. Instead, we’re treated to the match from the Night Of Champions kickoff show next, with Neville and the Lucha Dragons taking on Stardust and The Ascension. To be fair, it’s a pretty great match. Most of the guys in the ring are significantly underused and obscenely talented­–not you Sin Cara, king of the botch–and the feud between Neville and Stardust is loaded with potential. The feud isn’t building though, and that’s frustrating, and no amount of in-ring talent can help with the lackluster booking.

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The night is filled with the kind of booking that goes nowhere and fails to be captivating. Charlotte takes on Brie Bella, and it’s another match where Charlotte takes a beating on her leg and still manages to come out on top. The end result isn’t a problem, but the match just doesn’t have much energy built into it. There’s still nothing driving the feuds in the Divas division. At least Paige cuts a great promo where she tells Charlotte that while she has the title now, it won’t be long before it all goes away. “There’s no revolution,” she says, and it’s a great capper to an energized, inspired, angry promo. The Divas division could use more of that.

Complacency might be preferable to the downright baffling decisions that dominate the rest of the night. Outside of Kevin Owens doing what he does best on commentary while pointing and laughing at fans dressed in Ryback gear, the rest of Raw is filled with disappointing decisions in terms of match results. First there’s Natalya making her triumphant return to the Divas division, only to lose to Naomi after a few distractions from the rest of Team B.A.D. Welcome back, Natalya! You literally have your old job of losing matches back. Then there’s Rollins and Cena having a rematch for the United States Championship. It’s a great match, as the two continually have great chemistry and Rollins is next-level in the ring, but the finish sees Rollins hit a Frog Splash only to have Cena roll through and hit an Attitude Adjustment for the win. I’ve defended Rollins losing in the past, but the regularity with which he’s being taken down is troubling. It’s not that he’s losing his position within the company or anything, but at what point does having your World Heavyweight champion regularly losing on television become a problem? At what point does it diminish any potential face run in the future? It’s not likely that Rollins is going to lose his position at the top of the card any time soon, but the consistency with which he loses, and how he loses, especially to Cena, is getting tiresome. He’s no longer a chickenshit heel getting his comeuppance; he’s just a champ who can’t get it done.

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More egregious than that finish though is the fact that Cesaro, the man who’s been on top of the world both as part of a dynamic tag team and as a singles competitor for months now, is losing to Big Show so that the giant can look strong before he faces part-time worker Brock Lesnar at Madison Square Garden during a glorified house show on the WWE Network. Now, one ridiculous ending to a match doesn’t mean Cesaro is suddenly losing his luster, but let’s say this all again in unison: how is Cesaro not being pushed to the moon? The guy has been the heart and soul of the upper midcard for months now, his already stellar in-ring work progressing and becoming more crowd-friendly every week. He has the look, the moveset, and the crowd backing to justify some sort of push. Just imagine him feuding with Owens over the Intercontinental Championship rather than having the dull Ryback coming out and stumbling over his lines and looking like a goon in the ring. Cesaro deserves so much more. The Raw after a PPV that tried to shake things up deserves so much more. Alas, like Seth Rollins at the end of the night, we were all dragged down to hell and left wondering how we got to this point.

Stray observations

  • Results: Neville and the Lucha Dragons defeated Stardust and The Ascension; Ryback defeated Bo Dallas; Charlotte defeated Brie Bella; Sheamus defeated Mark Henry; New Day and Rusev defeated Dolph Ziggler and the Dudley Boyz; Naomi defeated Natalya; Big Show defeated Cesaro; John Cena defeated Seth Rollins (United States Championship).
  • I legitimately forgot about the Sheamus-Mark Henry match until I typed out the results above.
  • Xavier Woods plays Rusev’s entrance theme on the trombone, talks about getting a piece of table removed from his buttocks, shouts about “Bulgarian tricep meat,” and screams “I’m not a baby!” at the Dudleys. Never change, Xavier.
  • Kalisto is the real deal. Can we just get him to partner with Neville instead of Sin Cara?
  • “You know, I always liked Bo Dallas.” Kevin Owens knows what’s up.
  • The Charlotte-Brie match wasn’t very good, but at least the fallout and the Paige promo suggests that things are moving away from the whole separate teams storyline.
  • WWE is beyond clueless if it thinks anyone is interested in a feud between Kane and Seth Rollins. What a joke.
  • Cesaro gets ripped off in his match with Big Show, but that suplex spot was great.

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