If you’re still suffering through a Survivor Series hangover—if you’re still recovering from one of the more baffling and disappointing PPVs in recent memory—take comfort in the fact that you’re not the only one. If tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw is any example, just about everyone over at WWE is nursing a headache, dealing with blurred vision, and just struggling to work their way through an incomprehensible Monday. After generating some good will during the build to Survivor Series, WWE has seemingly squandered absolutely all of it with six hours of uninventive, frustrating, straight up terrible programming.

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I mentioned in my review of the Survivor Series go-home show that the varying number of weeks between PPVs allows WWE to dabble in different kinds of storytelling. Considering that there’s only three weeks until December’s TLC PPV, and that last night’s PPV saw a new champion crowned, you’d think that WWE would be in a hurry to establish new feuds or build on the one’s from the night before. Tonight’s show is an absolute mess though, filled with lengthy promo segments and tag matches, meaning that the whole thing feels utterly meaningless. With only two more episodes of Raw until the next PPV, such a lack of momentum is not just troubling, but completely baffling. Seriously, how does this happen?

If you were to base TLC card predictions on tonight’s matches, you’d be able to officially confirm that Roman Reigns and Sheamus will battle for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, assume that Paige and Charlotte will face off (again), and that Dean Ambrose might be gunning for the Intercontinental Championship. I don’t need WWE to explicitly lay out every match for the next PPV right after concluding the previous, but the point is that there’s so little going on tonight that it’s hard to imagine significant, engaging feuds being given enough time to properly build to TLC in the next two weeks.

There’s a meaninglessness running through tonight’s show that’s beyond comprehension. Take for instance the fact that Charlotte and Paige pretty much have the exact same Survivor Series match tonight. How is their feud supposed to be meaningful if they’re fighting all the time? It makes every match feel anti-climactic because there’s no end in sight, and no sense of pacing or structure. Tonight’s rematch ends in a double count out and Michael Cole once again yelling “not on the table” when Paige locks in the PTO, a move that isn’t any more effective or painful on the announce table. The complete lack of attention being paid here is ridiculous.

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Continuing the streak of meaninglessness, most of Raw consists of a series of tag team matches that have no rhyme or reason to them beyond “these guys fight sometimes.” You don’t always need a reason to have two superstars fighting, but coming off a PPV and having only three weeks to build to the next one, you better make the matches count. What’s the point of watching Stardust and the Ascension take on the Prime Time Players and Goldust, other than to affirm that Titus is seriously underrated? What’s the point of Kevin Owens and Tyler Breeze taking on Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler other than reminding us that they each had solid singles matches last night? Apparently WWE isn’t just satisfied with delivering a lackluster PPV Sunday, but it also has to make sure the following Raw makes sure we know just how dire things are.

I mean, this is an episode of Raw that pits Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch against one another and only gives them four minutes. FOUR MINUTES on a THREE HOUR show for two of the women involved in some of the best NXT matches of all time! How is the Divas division, and the young talent more generally, supposed to get over with the crowd and establish themselves as credible threats when they get no time to work? That lack of investment in the future of WWE has been a problem for a while, but it’s especially evident tonight. With Rollins, Cena, Cesaro, Orton, and Nikki Bella injured, the lack of depth within the WWE is on full display. What’s frustrating is that it has nothing to do with the talent—in fact, this might be the deepest roster WWE has ever had. The problem is that they’ve spent no time developing anyone outside of the main event scene, and when given the opportunity, they throw Del Rio into a title tournament and then put the strap on Sheamus. To reiterate: Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch only get four minutes, but there’s enough time for endless Survivor Series and Undertaker video packages, and stupid fast food ad with Mark Henry, Torito, and JBL. Oh, and a Heath Slater segment.

Not everything is bad tonight. New Day have a lengthy but hilarious segment where Kofi’s hair is done up as a unicorn horn, they struggle to even say the word “country music,” and Kofi breaks kayfabe (“this is me, not my character”) to say that country music sucks. Plus, there’s the main event, which is genuinely exciting. Rusev and Reigns put on a great match, and the crowd seems to be legitimately behind Reigns. It helps that Sheamus and Rusev are two heels who can get real heat, but still, the match just proves once again that Reigns is currently doing the best work he’s done post-Shield, something he’s been doing for most of 2015. There’s also shades of an interesting story there, with the Authority hiring muscle to wear down Reigns before his TLC rematch with Sheamus.

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It’s just a shame about the other two hours and forty minutes.

Stray observations

  • Results: Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt defeated the Dudley Boyz; Sasha Banks defeated Becky Lynch; Neville defeated Mark Henry; Goldust and the Prime Time Players defeated Stardust and the Ascension; Paige vs. Charlotte ended in a double count out (Divas Championship match); Dean Amrbose and Dolph Ziggler defeated Kevin Owens and Tyler Breeze; Roman Reigns defeated Rusev (DQ).
  • Kofi pointing his ride-on unicorn at everyone and shouting “SHAME” is everything I want always.
  • I totally forgot about Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper taking on the Dudleys until I typed the Results section above.
  • More Kofi, to the Lucha Dragons: “You didn’t have to translate, we speak Spanish!”
  • So King Barrett interferes in the main event because why not.
  • Why do the Wyatts keep going through the same motions? WWE builds them up to look like badasses (with Strowman being the latest example), only to undercut all that work and have them lose and look weak.
  • That MexAmerica promo was, of course, terrible, but Swagger coming back to Raw is promising. Too bad they’re having a match on Smackdown so that there’s no need for a PPV match.

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