There was a brief moment at the beginning of Raw when I though maybe, just maybe, tonight would be different. I thought, as the glorious timbre of Big E’s voice told me not to be sour, that perhaps WWE was going full steam ahead with their best stuff. And make no mistake; New Day is currently WWE’s best stuff. I thought, okay, here’s WWE recognizing that with all of their big stars on the sidelines and ratings at the lowest they’ve been since the late 1990s, starting the show with the new big stars isn’t such a bad idea. And sure enough, New Day comes out and does their thing and it’s great…until Sheamus comes out. Before Rollins was injured, him and the New Day had some solid chemistry going. It seems WWE is trying to replicate that tonight with its opening scene, but here’s the thing; Sheamus is no Seth Rollins.

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To be fair to WWE, this week’s episode of Raw is very New Day-centric and that’s a good thing. They get the opening segment, a commentary spot during a tag match, a WWE Shop ad that’s actually pretty hilarious, and a surprise entrance into the main event. Considering how hot those three are, and how they can liven up just about any segment on the show, why not throw them out there and see what happens? After all, it’s a lack of spontaneity and unpredictability that’s been bogging down Raw as of late. There’s no better way to battle that then to throw three beautiful unicorns into the ring and embrace the power of positivity.

When New Day isn’t gracing our screens with fusion dances though, tonight’s Raw is rather listless. The biggest problem is that WWE seems focused solely on building towards Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns at TLC, and everything else that’s potentially on that PPV’s card is suffering because of it. There’s plenty of time on a three-hour show to progress every single potential PPV feud, but for some reason all of the energy is going to the one for the WWE Championship. That’s good for Sheamus and Reigns, and as of now their feud is looking solid, but it’s left the rest of the show feeling directionless. Consider for a second how many matches tonight don’t end cleanly. Rusev vs. Ryback ends in a count out; the Dudley Boyz and Tommy Dreamer (you read that right) vs. the Wyatt Family ends in a no contest; the Lucha Dragons vs. the Usos ends in a double DQ; and Reigns vs. Sheamus ends in a DQ. That’s four out of nine matches ending with no real decision, and that’s not counting Charlotte’s roll-up win, Alberto Del Rio dominating Goldust, and Sasha Banks having her second short match in as many weeks.

If we’re embracing the power of positivity for a minute though, there are some good storytelling moments within a few of those matches. When Alberto Del Rio wins his match and then begins to put a beating on Goldust, Jack Swagger runs out and goes after him. What works is that Swagger never gets his hands on him; Del Rio retreats as quickly as possible. I’m not invested in the MexAmerica gimmick in any way, and even the feud itself is just okay, but I’m always down to cheer for a face who can’t get his hands on a heel to finally get his hands on the heel. Delayed satisfaction is WWE’s friend, even in 2015, the age of instant gratification. Then there’s Charlotte agreeing to have a match with Becky Lynch despite being contractually obligated to only wrestle Paige for the foreseeable future. Becky proposes the match as a reminder of why they’re in this business; she just wants to go out there, have fun, put on a good match, and forget about Paige for awhile. That’s all and well, until Charlotte fakes an injury, Becky gets worried, and then Charlotte rolls her up for the win. It’s such a great ending to the match not only because it shows Charlotte has learned a few things from her father, but also sets up some potential dynamics for future matches. The small details matter, WWE.

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Despite those smaller moments, tonight’s show once again feels inconsequential. There’s only one more episode of Raw until TLC and outside of the bout for WWE Championship, nothing feels important. Dean Ambrose is apparently going to take on Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship at the PPV, and yet Owens isn’t even on the show tonight? Seems strange to me. The tag team championship feud is suffering from the same lack of build, with the Lucha Dragons and the Usos gunning for New Day but no real tension developing between any of the teams.

If I’m grading on a curve though, tonight’s Raw is an improvement on last week’s if only because it’s further removed from Survivor Series and has a ton of New Day. For at least one week let’s embrace the power of positivity, because if we don’t, things might get real ugly.

Stray observations

  • Results: Dolph Ziggler defeated Tyler Breeze; Ryback defeated Rusev via count-out; The Dudley Boyz and Tommy Dreamer vs. Luke Harper, Braun Strowman, and Erick Rowan ended in a No Contest; Alberto Del Rio defeated Goldust; The Lucha Dragons vs. The Usos ended in a double DQ; Sasha Banks defeated Brie Bella; Roman Reigns defeated Sheamus via DQ (WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, kind of); Charlotte defeated Becky Lynch; New Day and the League of Nations defeated Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and the Usos.
  • The League of Nations? I liked my name better: The Foreign Correspondents.
  • What the hell was “The Rosebush.” I love Adam Rose—he’s so good in the ring, but hasn’t connected with a main roster audience—but boy, that wasn’t good.
  • What’s everyone think of Ziggler winning with the superkick now? I dig it.
  • I’ll admit it: I like “Sheamus 5:15” as a gimmick.
  • Rusev is upset that nobody sent him chocolate covered strawberries when he was injured.
  • In related news: Ryback hates love. He only loves The Secret.
  • I popped so hard when the Dudeys mentioned their family because I thought they were bringing out Spike Dudley. But nope, it was Tommy Dreamer for an ECW reiunion.
  • Big E on commentary: “Let’s do something you don’t do, Michael, and go back to the action.”
  • I’m here for Sasha Banks mocking Nikki during her entrance and Brie in the ring.
  • Speaking of Sasha, she gets more than four minutes this week. She gets five!
  • Sheamus gets introduced before the title match and holds the belt upside down. Sheamus, you’re the worst.

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