McGuire’s Monday: With a new roster, WWE Raw can begin a much-needed new chapter tonight – if only WWE brass will let it happen

By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)

A new era, boy, yes it is. So much so that we’re going to see another match between two teams that have been fighting one another since before August. Maybe “new” means something different in the WWE Universe.

Regardless of that, our cynical minds are slightly less jaded going into tonight’s Raw because the draft did happen and it did shake up rosters and we have a new coat of paint (or paint of coat, depending on who you ask) on a show that desperately needs a kick in the ass. Tonight is the first night the new Raw roster will go into effect, so if we only get one opportunity to feel like the ship could be righted in any way whatsoever, that opportunity comes at 7CT/8ET this evening.

It’s not that Raw sucks; it’s just that it’s been soulless. OK, it might suck, too, but above all else, the red brand has been toiling away for so long now, and those three hours continue to feel more like six with each rematch, each DQ finish, each bland segment, that one has to wonder where the bottom actually is at this point. And if we aren’t there yet, can we get there soon so we can start climbing out of the hole? Please?

In any case, with the new Raw roster going into effect tonight (and us still getting that “new era” rematch between two teams that work so often together, they should form a union), I thought I’d reach into the depths of my dead brain to find five things that could help Raw turn this thing around, now that a new era is upon us.

Or something like that.

Let’s go.

THE MAN IS THE MAN

Well, you can’t say they didn’t spice things up with Big Time Becks coming over to Raw after Friday night’s oddly petty title exchange and all the reports that surfaced about Lynch and Charlotte Flair afterwards. There’s still a part of me that wonders it’s a work in an attempt to give the product a more real texture that it’s desperately needed throughout the last several months. And there’s no telling the lengths to which some may go to further a narrative if it means eyeballs will gravitate toward that narrative, so I continue to suspend judgment on all of that.

What I will cast judgment on, though, is Becky Lynch’s ability to carry a brand. Because she can. In fact, I think she’s going to have to carry this brand if this brand is going to return to some semblance of being OK. Big E has a lot of time to grow into a dominant, compelling champion, so I’m not taking anything away from him, but being the Smackdown Women’s Champion these days, while Roman Reigns is the hottest thing in the company, isn’t ideal. Not that Big E isn’t over; it’s just that Big E isn’t Roman.

And so Becky can return to that spot in her career where she was the most dominating force on any WWE television product because she will have the space to be the absolute biggest star on a program. Plus, she has a very good list of dancing partners that should protect her from having to run rematch after rematch every other week. We all know Bianca Belair is a star and those two should have a hell of a feud if they want to keep at it. But when you look down the list, you see a lot of other intriguing names as well.

For instance, we’ve never received the Rhea Ripley/Becky Lynch feud that could be a fascinating clash of styles. Alexa Bliss will presumably be back someday without the doll and the swing-set, and fans have been craving to see her return to normal for months now. Liv Morgan is in desperate need of a push and she has the fanbase to help sustain it, so imagine what those two could do together. Carmella is there. And could we finally see Mia Yim get an honest-to-goodness shot on the main roster?

There are a ton of possibilities with Lynch and which direction they decide to go. Don’t burn through them quickly, and don’t diminish some of these potential opponents, and Raw could be setting itself up for a great year in the women’s division.

RUN IT BACK … BUT DON’T

Rematches have become the calling card for precisely how lazy WWE has been with its booking tropes over the last few years. As I mentioned at the beginning, even with this supposed new era beginning tonight, we are getting a match we’ve already seen at least a dozen times. The short answer for figuring out how to remedy this is … well, stop it. Stop it, stop it, stop it.

The longer answer, though, is just as simple: Get creative. There are now 36 men and 14 women on the Raw roster. If I see Rey Mysterio fall into a program with Seth Rollins, I’m going to throw a baseball bat at my television. Ditto if WWE magically decides to break up the Hurt Business again after reuniting them a few weeks ago.

Instead, why don’t we get some fresh matchups rolling? Now, that doesn’t mean we rush it into the ring tonight — or even next week, for that matter. Program-building is an art and there are a million and one ways to skin a cat, as they say. So find one different than the one you’ve been running into the ground, WWE. Have some verbal confrontations tonight. Maybe an attack or two. Lay the groundwork for where you want to see things go without actually giving anything away on the first night out.

There’s hot-shotting, and then there’s WWE hot-shotting. It’s fine to hot-shot an angle here or there if you feel like the time is right or if the crowd won’t let up and you want to give them what they want. But WWE hot-shotting is opening a show with a promo, having a challenger confront whomever is speaking and then booking the match to kick off the second hour of Raw. Time can be your friend when it comes to this stuff. So, use it wisely, Raw, and stop feeling the need to shove the same five matches down our throats week in and week out.

Actually, that leads me to something else, too …

GIVE PEOPLE A CHANCE

For weeks and weeks and weeks, all you see on Raw is the same 12-15 wrestlers. As I said earlier, we have a total of 50 wrestlers from which the booking minds can choose on Monday nights now. Why can’t someone be elevated? Why can’t part of the fresh match directive include making a star out of someone who’s been whittling away on Main Event or the mid-card? Shoot, why can’t we even take a former star and make him or her a star again?

Case in point: Kevin Owens could use a solid story to tell and if he got it, he’d be eliciting chants in no time. Finn Balor came back to the main roster with a splash, but then a rope broke, Roman Reigns beat The Demon and the world felt like it was caving in. Then, of course, there’s the sad tale of Karrion Kross, who, if reports are true, will be receiving yet another makeover, but this time, let’s hope it comes with his fiancé, because that act was can’t-miss and somehow … well, we’re here.

Those aren’t the only names that could use a little bit of creative love. Zelina Vega came back to WWE and lost approximately 492 matches … but now she’s essentially the Queen of the Ring, so what’s wrong with firing her character up for a nice run? Tegan Nox should have big things in front of her, but will the Raw writers refuse to see the forest through the trees? And while we all know the Nikki A.S.H. character has an expiration date, can we at least wonder how it might work if she was booked to go back to her Sanity days? “Niki’s got a secret” was a lot of fun.

Better yet, though, how about pairing some of the young with some of the experienced? A Damian Priest/Balor feud for the U.S. Title could be very good. Ditto if Kevin Owens wants to get in that mix. Dominik Mysterio vs. Randy Orton has a lot of money written all over it. Keith “Bearcat” Lee working with Bobby Lashley seems like a hard-hitting fit. Taminia and Doudrop? Mia Yim and Carmella?

The matchups are there. What WWE choses to do with them will be perhaps the biggest key to turning this thing around. As for one particular name that could end up being in those matches …

A GOLD MEDALIST

Who knows if we’ll even see Gable Steveson on TV before the next draft commences, but let’s work under the pretense that we will, somehow, someway. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be wrestling right away and it doesn’t even mean that he’ll figure into a prominent story. But if WWE can somehow capitalize on the gold medalist’s stardom, it will be on the Raw brand because, well, that’s where he was drafted.

And it matters. It matters not just because of Steveson’s fame, but also because this is yet another young talent with an amateur wrestling background that has all the potential in the world. The question will be if WWE can harness that talent and use it in a productive, meaningful way. Because if it can, it will at least have one bright spot it can rely on as it evolves into the next era, whenever that comes and whatever that means.

The scary part here, of course, is that Steveson was drafted to the one brand that’s been building up a hell of a reputation as a dumpster fire over the last few years. Therefore, Steveson’s arrival is double-edged. On one hand, he could be the guy that comes in and eventually turns the programming around, single-handedly making Monday nights must-see again. On the other hand, he’s at a higher risk of having his opportunity squandered thanks to bad writing and lazy storytelling.

Whichever it ends up being, however, doesn’t matter because we’re all going to want to watch how the gold medalist progresses. I’d be shocked if we didn’t at least get a video package before the next draft comes around, but WWE never fails to shock us (and usually not in the best of ways). Then again, I’d also be shocked if we see him walk down the ramp tonight for a shot at Big E’s title out of nowhere and somehow, WWE gets to a new level of hot-shotting things.

No matter what it is, him being drafted at all suggests he’s got Monday night plans at some point within the next year. Let’s hope they turn out well for him and all of us watching, if only to add another layer to a brand that is currently layer-less.

THE SECRET SOLUTION

At the end of the day, though, there’s only one thing that matters in this whole scenario, and it’s not new faces, better writing or chopping an hour off the runtime. Instead, what WWE really needs to do is start listening — listening to its fan base when it boos, listening to its fan base when it cheers, listening to its fan base when it’s fed up, and, hell, listening to its fan base when they share those critiques in the ether that is the World Wide Internet.

I’ve always found it strange that a company so successful could be so committed so often to doing exactly what its fans say they don’t want to see. Now, I don’t think it’s as egregious as a lot of other people tend to argue — the WWE might be the evil empire in this whole thing, but I don’t think the powers that be look down a roster sheet, see a name like Chad Gable, and think, “Oh yeah, everyone seems to want to see him get a push,” and respond by saying, “So let’s definitely not do that” — but I do think there is a very obvious “We know what’s better for you” mentality that doesn’t sit well with some, if not the majority of, people.

So, quit being lazy and quit being arrogant. There are very few things worse in this world than a lazy know-it-all, yet that’s what the monster that is WWE has become. From a layman’s view, the answers are obvious and simple. Hire people who know how to write wrestling. Quit producing a television show that has a wrestling bent and produce a wrestling show with television aesthetics. Use variety. Quit holding the majority of the roster down. Book long-term stories. Announce next week’s card ahead of time.

Oh, and ditch the 24/7 title. Please.

The tragedy in watching Raw each week is that all of us who continue to stick with it believe that it’s only a week or two away from being good, and then a month or two away from being very good and perhaps a really well-thought story away from being great. The Raw roster is the best in all of WWE and I don’t even think it’s that close. It has more talent and variety than any of the other brands or shows the company produces. Missing with this set of wrestlers would be like having 1996 Michael Jordan on your team and not even making the playoffs. Randy Orton. Edge. Seth Rollins. The Mysterios. Bobby Lashley. AJ Styles. Becky Lynch. Bianca Belair. Rhea Ripley. I mean, come on.

It’s right there in front of them and right there in front of us. Will we still be standing there six months from now, though, if some changes aren’t implemented fiercely and quickly? Well, we can only continue to stick around for so long without seeing change before we feel it imperative to move on. And while it’d be a shame to move on from a weekly wrestling program that has so much history and lineage, WWE might leave us with no other choice.

Unless this roster — and a supposed fresh start — can prove us wrong.


Readers Comments (5)

  1. Francois Larocque October 25, 2021 @ 5:47 pm

    The booking in the WWE is so bad right now that within 10 years there will be a DVD or a stream titled:
    The rise and fall of WWF/WWE

  2. Not a chance!!!!!

    More like 5 years 😉

  3. OOOH Balor/Priest? Yes, please

  4. “With a new roster, WWE Raw can begin a much-needed new chapter tonight – if only WWE brass will let it happen“

    Ron Howard: “They didn’t.”

  5. Well,you got your wish in that if there is going to be new directions for some,it’s definitely going to be slow paced.

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