By Will Pruett
Full disclosure: To retain his sanity, Will Pruett watches the 90 minute edit of Raw on Hulu. He has no regrets.
The New Day has done something amazing over the last two years. It’s not just the Tag Team Championship reign (which I am personally tired of at this moment). It’s the revitalization of three characters WWE seemed done with. It’s the triumph of individual creativity working against the machine. The New Day’s long title reign and gradual embrace from the powers that be in WWE represents what wrestlers can become when their own voices are prevalent.
Look at what Kofi Kingston was before The New Day. His almost Jamaican act peaked in 2009 with an almost-transcendent Madison Square Garden performance against Randy Orton and quickly tanked. He was good for a creative stunt spot in the Royal Rumble on an annual basis and an occasional mid-card championship run. Kofi was stale at best.
What about Big E (formerly Langston)? While he debuted at the end of 2012 against John Cena, he quickly found himself in mid-card hell as a Dolph Ziggler sidekick and/or feud buddy. Big E peaked early and seemed too quirky to rise to the level many predicted for him when he was counting to five in NXT.
Xavier Woods was given the sad task of debuting as R-Truth’s dancing buddy. I cannot think of anything worse to do on WWE TV. He had to listen to R-Truth rap and pretend to like it. It was sad.
These three men didn’t mean much and weren’t doing much when they were put together. Originally it seemed like a weird Nation of Domination revival with the men only seeming to have race in common. Then the project seemed to be scrapped altogether. Finally, an endless series of vignettes with a choir promised a New Day was coming. The wrestlers debuted as sickly smiling babyfaces preaching the power of positivity and fans gave them a hard pass. It was obnoxious.
The obnoxiousness soon became their saving grace. As fans rejected the smiling positivity of The New Day, Kofi, Xavier, and E (or is it Big?) doubled down on it. They became intentionally obnoxious and crossed into delightfully antagonistic territory. They leaned into the perception of them fans already had and fans responded by joyously disliking them, until they didn’t.
The New Day was too fun to dislike. While not all of their comedy worked every time, more often than not, The New Day made fans of every ilk smile. Fans joyously chanted and clapped in an odd rhythm The New Day invented for themselves. It was a stunning turnaround.
Raw last night was bookended by New Day getting to celebrate a major accomplishment. They defeated the top four stars on Raw (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and Chris Jericho) to end the night. They celebrated becoming the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions in history. They celebrated overcoming the immense odds against them in WWE and making gold out of nothing.
Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods aren’t just talented performers, they are alchemists. Kudos to them as the shining example of letting a wrestler’s voice shine through. WWE needs more of the authenticity The New Day brings on their television shows.
And now for some random thoughts:
– While Raw was a delightful celebration of The New Day, the main event also served to leave me excited for Roadblock (end of the road, the road ends here, where we’re going we don’t need road blocks). The core four of Raw mixed it up in a fun way in the tag match main event. Seth Rollins and Chris Jericho should have a pretty decent match and the end of the show highlighting Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens left me wanting to see their encounter as well.
– As far as predictions, it seems like taking the Universal Championship from Kevin Owens would be a weird choice right now, but who knows? WWE has done weirder things. If Finn Bálor is returning soon, as advertised, one would expect a Bálor vs. Owens feud on the horizon. We already know that would lead to some good main events.
– Call me crazy, but Raw might get more bang for their storyline buck out of Eva Marie than they currently do Sami Zayn. I love Zayn, but up until this feud with Braun Strowman began, he was criminally underutilized. Maybe this is the breakout I hope it will be for Zayn, but putting Sami on Smackdown would have been a much stronger initial choice.
– Honestly, I’d rather all the wrestlers I enjoy end up on Smackdown. They actually know how to enhance characters and tell stories on Tuesday nights.
– The video package highlighting the feud between Sasha Banks and Charlotte was just amazing. It was the best piece of work WWE’s production department has done in 2016. I’m a sucker for feud montage music videos and this was a great one. I appreciate WWE leaving it to just these two women in the video and not trying to cloud the scene with Ric Flair or anyone else.
– I know I limit myself to the 90 minute Raw, but it would have been great to see another story being told with Raw’s Women’s Division. On that note as well, the Cruiserweights weren’t on the 90-minute show at all.
– Rusev and Lana’s story with Enzo and Cass continues to be problematic. I will heap praise on WWE for much of what they’ve done presenting Charlotte and Sasha in a completely non-objectified way. I will also heap criticism on them for the continued objectification of Lana in their stories. WWE is trying to have it both ways in their presentation of women and it’s honestly unacceptable. This whole story is making four formerly compelling characters my least favorite people to see onscreen.
– We need a 10 year moratorium on talkshow segments on wrestling shows.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.