Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.
- Results: The New Day (Xavier Woods and Big E) defeats Rusev and Jinder Mahal; Akira Tozawa defeats Noam Dar; Nia Jax and Charlotte defeat Sasha Banks and Bayley; Big Cass defeats Luke Gallows; Sheamus squashes Titus O’Neil in the second squashiest squash to ever squash; the Big Show squashes the Shining Star in the absolute squashiest squash to ever squash; TJ Perkins and Jack Gallagher defeat Tony Nese and Neville; Samoa Joe defeats Cesaro
- He wasn’t quite as explicit about his failings and his mistakes as I would have liked him to be, but an emotional Seth Rollins finally completed his face turn tonight by acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, his second WrestleMania-threatening injury is his just deserts after all the harm he caused as Triple H’s lackey and WWE World Heavyweight champion. The segment is a fascinating blurring of the lines between reality and storyline, in ways that won’t entirely resolve themselves until after Mania—after all, all reports indicate Rollins is only barely going to be cleared in a month’s time, and it’s difficult to see how he can perform without risking potentially serious re-injury. We also get more prosaic leaning on the fourth wall, as when he admits how lost he became, which is an accurate summation of the last few months of the Seth Rollins experience. Triple H did well to keep himself heel in his interactions with Rollins, eviscerating his former chosen one while taking a few well-judged swipes at the fans.
- Having Cesaro and Sami Zayn, Raw’s (and really all WWE’s) two great mid-card in-ring wizards, appear in the same penultimate segment is instructive to see the differences in how the show handles them. Even in what is starting to feel like perpetual defeat—that tag team title reign already feels like a distant memory—Cesaro is almost always booked strong, with him only losing because of injury, interference, or some other chicanery. But that’s kind of the point: what keeps Cesaro (the character, not the performer) mired in the mid-card is the lack of that certain fire that might allow him to, yes, overcome the odds and emerge triumphant. He’s got all the physical gifts, and he’s plenty intelligent in the ring, but he just can’t seem to find the passion that would, say, let him kick out of that first finisher. Sami Zayn, on the other hand, can sometimes come across like he subsists solely on passion, which once again takes the form of unchecked aggression against those who have wronged him. And as great as Zayn is as a performer, the in-universe character always appears a step or two behind the true main eventers once that initial burst wears off. Combine Cesaro and Sami Zayn and you’d have a bona fide main eventer. I mean, you’d basically have Daniel Bryan, but taller and vaguely (but not actually) French, so yeah, that sounds about right. Pushing one or the other even a notch up the card feels long, long overdue.
- I’ll admit I never fully bought into Samoa Joe on NXT, both because the more hardcore crowd was never really ready to embrace him as a heel and because he never quite seemed to click as well as he ought to with Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura. But that Cesaro match was a nice hint of what he can do with the right partner and plenty of time to work—Cesaro, Sami Zayn, and Seth Rollins all feel like ideal partners for him, to say nothing of a potential cross-brand match with a certain phenomenal fellow TNA veteran—and he may already be the best pure heel promo on Raw right now. Well, except maybe…
- Kevin Owens is likely losing to Goldberg at Fastlane. That’s fine, in the grand scheme of things, especially when all but the last two weeks of Owens’ run have been underwhelming, at least when you separate his title run from his now ended best friendship with Chris Jericho. It’s a bit of a paradox: The JeriKO stuff held Owens back from unleashing the fearsome monster heel he can be and is right now, yet it was that brutal betrayal of Jericho that let him unleash said evil on the world. So… I dunno, maybe Raw could have done that a few months back and gotten a bit more of a happy medium? The same goes for Rollins and Triple H while, we’re at it.
- That was a good Goldberg promo, in that I wasn’t actively embarrassed during any part of it. Also there were some legitimately good bits to it, but I keep my bars low for Goldberg promos, and I’m happy more often than not.
- I think we all knew WWE would get first crack at a joke at the Oscars’ expense. What we got was just sort of them, honestly. I kind of wish they had completely committed and inexplicably brought back the Slammy Awards for one segment, just to really commit to the gag.
- With that match with Shaquille O’Neal apparently not happening, it sure seems like WWE is still building up the Big Show for something, what with him making short work of both Shining Stars. Considering how good their Raw match was, a retirement hossfight with Braun Strowman at a PPV—maybe not Mania, but perhaps SummerSlam—could be a logical endpoint for Show, assuming he’s nearing the end of his run.
- Steph appears to be full-on heel now, focusing most of her ire on Mick Foley and the women’s division. The former appears to be building toward just the saddest exit imaginable for a hardcore legend—but hey, there’s time for them to pull this one out of the fire—while the other at least has the theoretical promise of a payoff in the form of a match. I’m not dying for Bayley or Sasha to face Steph, but at least they could give Steph her comeuppance in the way no male wrestler can really hope to do (give or take the occasional Roman Reigns spear).
- I love Luke Gallows as a promo and Talkin’ Shop cohost, but—ironically—he always looks like a bit of a nerd in his matches, mostly because he just looks so stiff and easily outfoxed. Some of that is down to his booking, sure, but he struggles to look dominant in defeat in the way that, say, Rusev can. And again, I say that as someone who earnestly wants the Club to pull it together and get back to whooping ass.
- The pace of cruiserweight action sure feels like it’s picking up! Both Tozawa-Dar and the tag match were quite a bit faster-paced than what we’ve gotten used to, with nary a rest hold in sight. Keep this up, Raw, and the cruiserweights could be salvaged yet, especially when characters are starting to take shape—just look at that adorable moment of TJ Perkins cracking up at Jack Gallagher’s antics on the way to the ring.
- I still believe in the Titus Brand, dammit! But, um, some days are more difficult than others.
- Seriously, how does Dana Brooke feel about all this mistreatment from Charlotte? And so continues the saddest, slowest face turn in history.
- If we’re using the old trick of predicting PPV winners based on who lost their go-home matches, then things are looking good for Neville, the Club, Sasha Banks, and…Bayley? Nah, forget that one. Things are looking good for Neville and the Club. Maybe Sasha, at a push.