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The October 23 episode of Raw was an explosive one that laid the groundwork for the Survivor Series pay-per-view via a wild and chaotic brawl to close the show.
Team SmackDown assaulted Superstars of Raw, leaving bodies strewn throughout the building before SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon issued one last warning to Raw general manager Kurt Angle.
Brock Lesnar formally accepted Jinder Mahal’s challenge for a match at the extravaganza, Alicia Fox picked up a big win to establish herself as the face of the female version of Team Raw and Asuka made her television debut.
What else went down, how did it affect the long-term storytelling and did it actually work or not?
Find out with this recap from Monday’s show.
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Kurt Angle kicked off this week’s show and was greeted with chants of “you’ve still got it,” just 24 hours after his return to the squared circle.
He wasted little time announcing that Survivor Series will feature the Best of Raw vs. the Best of SmackDown, then ran down matches for that show: Baron Corbin vs. The Miz, Natalya vs. Alexa Bliss and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. The Usos.
The Miz interrupted and demanded Angle resign.
Miz tried to strong-arm his superior but Ambrose and Rollins appeared. Angle announced a Six-Man Tag Team match pitting Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus against Rollins, Ambrose and SmackDown’s AJ Styles!
The segment introduced the matches that will be at the center of the Survivor Series hype and set up the night’s opening match while simultaneously continuing Miz and Angle’s ongoing issues.
That is the sign of an effective segment, particularly during a pay-per-view follow up. It sets the stage, announces what fans can expect to see and furthers any ongoing program all at the same time.
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The Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus controlled the majority of Sunday’s Tables, Ladders and Chairs match, only enduring real punishment in the closing moments of the match. Monday night, they would have the opportunity to make up for their loss by battling Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles in a huge Six-Man Tag Team match.
Styles, a SmackDown star, exploded into the match and unloaded on Cesaro as action broke down late. A momentary distraction by The Celtic Warrior allowed Cesaro to catch him with a big uppercut. A near-fall was had but was broken up by Rollins.
The action continued to breakdown, with The Shield, Miz and Sheamus battling to the floor.
Styles launched himself off the top rope and delivered a Phenomenal Forearm to The Swiss Superman for the pinfall victory.
After the match, the babyfaces’ victory was cut off by Kane, who cleared the ring and left the babyfaces lying as Michael Cole put him over hard.
AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins defeated The Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus
The match was little more than an excuse to bring together six of the most talented workers on the roster for a huge six-man tag match that followed up on Sunday’s pay-per-view main event.
The insistence by management on putting Kane over remains a mystery. Yes, Braun Strowman works well with monsters but the idea that Kane can hang with him is laughable, at best.
How many start-and-stop pushes involving Kane can fans be expected to sit through before the whole ordeal becomes mind-numbingly stale?
Sacrificing everyone involved in this match to make Kane look like an unstoppable force is hardly ideal.
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The Big Red Monster remained in the ring after the break and a video package recapping Braun Strowman’s downfall at TLC aired.
Kane took credit for dismantling Strowman, who had been so dominant in his absence.
Like Strowman, Kane demanded competition and the result was Finn Balor making his entrance to a big pop.
Well, listening to Kane come up with descriptive words to describe what he did to Strowman at TLC was fun but does anyone really think the mayoral candidate from Knox County, Tennessee has a chance against a physical force like Strowman in his prime?
And Balor, just 24 hours after a significant victory in a Match of the Year candidate against AJ Styles, deserves better than being fodder for Kane in his latest main event push.
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On the heels of a massive victory over AJ Styles at TLC, Finn Balor found himself beaten down and brutalized by Kane, who utilized a strength and size advantage to ground and pound his opponent.
Kane bent Balor backwards over his knee, working the back and neck of his opponent in an attempt to prove the dominance he claimed in his pre-match promo.
Balor sent Kane crashing to the arena floor as it appeared as though he would be able to create some space. He fired off a series of strikes and few flying forearms that barely stunned Kane. The Sling Blade followed, putting Kane down. The running dropkick followed and Balor headed up for The Coup de Grace.
Kane grabbed him by the throat and delivered a massive chokeslam that left him lying motionless.
He planted Balor with two more chokeslams for the win.
Kane defeated Finn Balor
Why, in the bluest of blue hells, is Finn Balor putting Kane over in 2017?
Just one night after one of the biggest wins of his career?
Other than to build credibility for a guy whose prime was 10 years ago, what logical excuse is there for sacrificing Balor in that spot?
Go ahead, I will wait.
There is no such thing as a logical excuse. None. Kane winning this match, against that guy, is a booking decision that only Vince McMahon would make after watching Balor’s performance Sunday night.
In that respect, perhaps this writer should not be surprised.
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In a rematch from TLC, Asuka made her Raw debut by battling Emma in singles competition.
Asuka bumped Emma off the ring apron with a flying hip attack but the Aussie recovered and worked headlock on her opponent.
Emma dominated the middle portion of the match in a repeat of Sunday’s match.
A dropkick from the middle rope, though, turned the tide in Asuka’s favor.
Another running hip attack scored Asuka a near-fall but Emma delivered a kick to the back of the neck that sent Asuka face-first into the corner.
The Empress of Tomorrow recovered and trapped her opponent in the Asuka Lock for the win.
Asuka defeated Emma
Corey Graves putting over the danger that exists when Asuka takes to the ring, only for Michael Cole to lean on “charisma and personality” is probably the most annoying thing on the planet right.
Graves gets the character, having been exposed to it in NXT, while Cole is selling something entirely to an audience unfamiliar with her. The inconsistency on the commentary team will only hurt Asuka’s character to get over with the masses.
In the ring, she is as fierce and good as ever, even if she did not have the opportunity to work the type of match with Emma that they had in London back in 2015.
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Raw women’s champion Alexa Bliss was frustrated with fans over a perceived lack of respect and appreciation from fans. She insulted AJ Styles and Finn Balor for receiving a chant despite engaging in a hand sign, then hurled a couple insults at Mickie James.
She tried to order fans to chant “you deserve it” in her direction until James interrupted.
The former No. 1 contender hit the ring, planted her with a Mickie T and said to the fallen champion, “Alexa…you do deserve it.”
Bliss is gold on the microphone but this did nothing but kill time and ensure the rivalry between Bliss and James continues for another month or so, regardless of the former’s upcoming match with Natalya.
Given the quality of their match at TLC, James vs. Bliss is a feud fans should be glad to see continue, hopefully to the same level of success as its first chapter.
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Elias was in the center of the ring, ready to grace fans with another intimate musical performance, drawing a chorus of boos in the process. With that said, “who wants to walk with Elias?” was greeted with a sizeable pop. Elias responded by criticizing Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and his fractured collarbone.
A huge pro-Packers chant broke out until Elias recapped the events of TLC and Jason Jordan’s interruptions of his performances.
The Drifter found his performance once again interrupted, this time by technical issues, much to his chagrin.
Jordan emerged from the locker room, who appeared to take credit for the sound difficulties.
A match between the two was announced for after the break.
If WWE Creative is not going to do anything between with Jason Jordan and Elias, there are worse options that putting them together in a program.
The sophomoric nature of the segments that have brought them together, though, has done them a disservice.
This was no different.
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In another TLC rematch, Jordan and Elias squared off in singles competition.
The Drifter wore Jordan down, trapping him in a headlock and keeping him grounded.
Jordan fought back into the match and sent Elias into the guardrail, only to suffer a guitar shot to the face.
The match ended abruptly, via disqualification, with Elias standing tall.
Elias defeated Jason Jordan
As an angle, this worked and added heat to the childish angles that preceded it.
Whether it can sustain that heat or simmers out, with Jordan going over at the expense of the more engaging Elias, remains to be seen.
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Universal champion Brock Lesnar returned to Raw, flanked by advocate Paul Heyman, and answered WWE champion Jinder Mahal’s challenge for a match at Survivor Series.
The Beast Incarnate was his typically intimidating self as Heyman worked his wizardry on the microphone.
Heyman scoffed at the idea that Mahal was a worthy challenger to Lesnar, let alone the WWE champion.
He promised Mahal was headed to Suplex City, then recalled the last time a SmackDown star set foot inside the same squared circle with him. He was referencing Randy Orton and touched on the referee stoppage, not to mention the backstage chaos that went on afterward.
He promised more of the same for The Maharaja.
Heyman could drum up interest for a match between Bastion Booger and Duke Droese if he had to.
He is so fantastic on the microphone that no match is underwhelming when left to him to hype and build.
Heel vs. heel is oftentimes a tough sell but Mahal has been built so steadily that the idea of Lesnar smashing him into the ground at Survivor Series is enough for fans to want to watch.
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With the leadership of Team Raw at Survivor Series up for grabs, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Alicia Fox battled in a Triple Threat match.
The contest featured the same Triple Threat formula that has long been part of the WWE, with two competitors waging war while the third powdered at ringside.
The finish was creative and saw Fox use the competitive natures, and clear friendship, against Bayley and Banks.
Late, Fox escaped The Bank Statement and sent Banks into Bayley, then pinned the latter to pick up the victory.
Alicia Fox defeated Bayley and Sasha Banks
Alicia Fox won a match.
Not only did she win a match, she is now the face of Team Raw for Survivor Series’ elimination women’s tag match.
Beyond that, this match continued laying the foundation for a rivalry between Bayley and Banks.
In every one of these multi-women matches they compete in, they always end up costing each other the match in a manner that will eventually lead to an explosive breakup, a heel turn and a series of emotionally charged matches.
That is the beauty of the slow build to that story rather than the expedited feuds the company is all-too-often guilty of booking.
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Prior to the match, the heels entered the arena and did the trademark dance of Enzo Amore.
Drew Gulak, in a humorous bit, read a prepared statement for Amore, whose voice prevented him from rattling off his spiel.
Amore, Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Noam Dar and Ariya Daivari battled Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, Kalsto and Gran Metalik in a big tag team match that still does not make any sense.
Late in the match, the action broke down, leaving Amore and Kalisto to battle for the victory.
Newly crowned champion Amore delivered a big DDG that nearly scored him the win. Moments later, Kalisto answered with a Salida del Sol and scored the pinfall victory.
Kalisto, Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, Gran Metalik and Mustafa Ali defeated Enzo Amore, Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Noam Dar and Ariya Daivari
A month ago, every single heel aligned with Amore hated his guts and actively kicked his ass in the middle of the ring. They were the subjects of his ridicule and lumberjacks instrumental in him originally losing his title.
Now, they blindly throw their support behind him, partnering with The Certified G for no real rhyme or reason. They just…do things.
And that, unfortunately, is the problem with the cruiserweight division.
Guys do things for no reason, hate guys for no reason and wrestle matches for no reason.
It is the single worst philosophy one could take when booking an entire division yet here we are, forced to watch it play out every Monday night.
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With Kurt Angle in the ring, ready to announce the Raw Superstars who would come together to battle Team SmackDown at Survivor Series, it appeared as though we were en route to a newsworthy conclusion to the show.
Shane McMahon and the SmackDown competitors entered the arena through the crowd and staged an assault on the red brand roster.
They chased Angle to the locker room before beating the unholy hell on any and all Superstars who got in their way. It was a violent assault, a furious onslaught that set the bar for the intensely personal war for brand supremacy that will unfold at Survivor Series.
McMahon wrapped the show up by promising to bring the same Superstars and decimate the remainder of Raw come the pay-per-view.
There are some who will champion the segment for its unpredictability but it did not make any sense.
Shane McMahon, one of the biggest babyfaces in the company and returning from injury following a gutsy Hell in a Cell performance, suddenly and inexplicably turned heel and led a renegade band of attackers that included the fun-loving New Day and babyfaces like AJ Styles, Becky Lynch and Bobby Roode, into war with Raw.
Why they would be so intent on doing what they did is a mystery that probably will not make sense when it is expanded upon Tuesday night so why even bother.
Just do things for the sake of doing them. Tell no stories, make no sense. The internet fans, still drooling over the possibility of an Attitude Era return, will eat it up.
The rest of the audience, though, will call it out for the nonsensical storytelling (or lack thereof) it is.