Monday Night Raw. The flagship show of the largest wrestling promotion on the planet. Whether you like the show, love the show, or hate the show, it's the most widely discussed wrestling vehicle anywhere on the internet. Everyone has an opinion about it. We're nearly halfway through 2017, and a full two months removed from WrestleMania, which many view as the "end of the season" for the WWE product. This is a good time to take a look at the entirety of Raw, and see how things are going, both positively and negatively. I've been watching the shows, looking at stats, and forming my opinions on ten things about the direction of Raw these days. The key word, of course, is "opinions", so your mileage may vary. Here are those ten opinions, in no particular order:
1. If they're not "Broken", I merely view Matt and Jeff Hardy as broken. The nostalgia of seeing the Hardy brothers back in WWE was fine while it lasted. They got a huge pop at WrestleMania, and fans have been enjoying their act since then, but the obvious is missing... the "Broken" shtick. It's why everyone wanted to see them in the first place. I don't know anyone that wanted to see the "normal" Matt and Jeff again. No, folks were licking their chops over the idea of seeing "Broken" Matt and Brother Nero on a much bigger stage than they had in Impact Wrestling. We wanted to see the promos, the vignettes, the over-the-top campiness of the entire thing. Let's keep it real right now... without the gimmick, Matt Hardy is merely a near-43-year-old wrestler who can barely walk these days. As long as Jeff is alive, he'll always be the same Jeff that can pop a crowd with his daredevil wrestling style, but Matt needs this. I get that there's a legal battle taking place (or no legal battle taking place, depending on which side you believe), but it's time to do something already. At some point, the crowd pops will die out (more so for Matt than for Jeff), and then you're stuck with more dead weight on the roster. Think it won't happen? Remember when The Dudleys returned? Their pop was one of the biggest you'll hear in the last decade, but then things began to fade away, and they were gone from the company in a year. Don't think something similar can't happen to the Brothers Hardy. It's time, WWE. Make a move.
2. Goldust deserves one final push. The extent of that push is up to a lot of factors, but he deserves something. He has been winning his battle with his personal demons for the last few years, and has found himself in, arguably, the greatest physical shape of his entire career. He's 48 years old, so he doesn't exactly have time on his side anymore, but he can still "go" in the ring. I'm not saying to make him the top guy on the Raw brand or anything (he isn't Jinder Mahal, after all), but an Intercontinental Title reign would be nice if they can build him up a bit. Have him come out on top in his feud with R-Truth, then have him go through another midcard feud or two before giving him the title shot. It would be his fourth time winning the IC strap, and would be a good cap on a Hall Of Fame career. The key is the build to it. He hasn't exactly done anything worthy of a title shot in a long time. It needs to be a slow build, especially since he's a heel and the current Intercontinental Champion is also a heel. It wouldn't be the end of the world if his Truth feud was the end of his career, but I do feel he deserves a little something before he hangs the boots up.
3. I'm so sick and tired of Bray Wyatt. If you've been reading my columns, you'll know where I'm going with this one already. Since his main roster debut in 2013, there isn't a single person on the WWE roster who has been as poorly booked as Wyatt has. Every week, he delivers a promo that sounds good on the surface, even if it's a little vague and on the rambling side. He follows those promos up with loss after loss after loss after loss after loss. It's impossible to take him seriously anymore. You just can't view him as any sort of dangerous threat, because everyone knows he won't be able to back up any of his words or promises. Even when it looked like he had turned the corner by winning the WWE Championship, he followed it up with one of the worst title reigns in recent memory, dropping it seven weeks later after some asinine story writing. He has gone back to his losing ways yet again, and it has gotten sad now. What makes it even worse is that he still gets a good reaction from live crowds. In fact, a lot of them are actually cheering for him. They want him to succeed, and apparently as a face, but WWE just isn't willing to give them that. They seem content to let him continue being random... attacking random opponents to start random feuds, which lead to random promos where he doesn't always make sense, which leads to random losses that also don't make sense. If they don't care, I won't, either.
4. Big Cass is going to flop hard as a singles heel. I like Cass. I really do. I'm not afraid to admit, though, that this rumored split between Cass and Enzo we're in the middle of seeing terrifies me. It will be an attempt at getting Cass over as a major singles heel, but I don't think it will work at all. Actually, let me correct that... it will work in the beginning, but will die a painful death soon thereafter. Enzo is one of the most popular wrestlers alive today with live crowds, and it's that popularity that will give Cass plenty of heel heat if he turns on his "little buddy". However, Cass simply doesn't have enough to stand on his own right now. Despite how over his catchphrase his, he is absolutely terrible on the mic. He sounds like a robot, and doesn't sound like he has any personality whatsoever until he decides to spell out "sawft" for everybody. He's one of the last remaining "big men" in the company with The Undertaker gone, Kane probably gone, and Big Show heading out the door, but he can't work like those guys can. Yes, he still has time to put things together. Yes, he's still relatively new to the business (if you consider seven years to be "relatively new"). Right now, though, he isn't someone who can go out there and wrestle for more than a few minutes before people begin to tune out. That's why his pairing with Enzo works so well. Enzo can take the beatings, then make the hot tag to Cass, who comes in and cleans house for a couple minutes. That is a formula that has worked in the world of professional wrestling for a long, long time. Once Cass inevitably destroys Enzo in their feud, he will move on to bigger and better things, where he will be exposed. That would mean WWE broke up one of its most popular tag teams for absolutely nothing. I'm hoping against hope that the company swerves the swerve, and reveals that The Revival are the ones who have been attacking Enzo and Cass backstage. It's just not time for Enzo and Cass to split up, and it may never be, depending on how Cass grows as a performer.
5. The man who should finally end Neville's reign atop the Cruiserweight division is Cedric Alexander. Everyone thought that Austin Aries would win the Cruiserweight Title at WrestleMania 33. He did not. Everyone thought that Austin Aries would win the Cruiserweight Title at Payback. He did not. Everyone thought that Austin Aries would win the Cruiserweight Title at Extreme Rules. He did not. Neville's reign has reached the four-month mark, which isn't Sammartino-like in any way, but it is as long as the previous three Cruiser champions, combined, have held the belt. If we're moving away from Aries as the top challenger, it's time to make a new one. I don't give a damn about TJP getting a shot, because WWE tried to push TJP already, and it didn't work. Crowds don't care about him at all. There is someone in the 205 division that live crowds do seem to care about, though, and that's Cedric Alexander. Just returning from injury, Alexander needs something he can sink his teeth into, and why not make that a shot at the "King" of the division? Matches between Neville and Alexander would be tremendous if given the right amount of time, which many of Neville's matches get these days. It's something fresh and new, which is what the division needs. Just an idea.
6. Braun Strowman is sorely missed. There aren't many "can't miss" people on the WWE roster right now, but Braun Strowman is one of those people. He made everything he did important, and it was something you had to see. When he was first sidelined with an injury, there was a lot of sadness from the WWE Universe. There still is, mind you, but people like Samoa Joe have been able to step up in Braun's absence. There is still something missing on Monday nights without the "Monster Among Men", though. His character development was coming along at such a rapid pace, and he had come such a long way from those days when he was the least intimidating member of the Wyatt Family. The good news is that he could be returning any time now. It was said that he'd be gone for several months, but two updates have changed that. The first update was that he would be returning before SummerSlam to build for a match against Brock Lesnar at the event. The newest update is that he is being promoted for a live event on June 18th, which could indicate an even earlier return than expected. As he made very clear, he isn't quite through with Roman Reigns yet. Honestly, I don't care who he feuds with when he comes back. I just want to see him terrorizing the Raw roster again.
7. Apollo Crews and Akira Tozawa need each other right now. I'm iffy on the story with Apollo joining up with Titus O'Neil. It gives Crews something to do, sure, but it also makes him look like a complete moron. He was blinded by the promises of money and fame with the "Titus Brand". Ummm... who would get blinded by that, considering Titus hasn't achieved anything remotely important since he and Darren Young dropped the WWE Tag Team Titles nearly two years ago. Then, Apollo looks even worse during his matches because he stops what he's doing to listen to Titus "coaching" him from ringside, allowing for his opponent to surprise him for the win. The promise that this story offers is a potential heel turn at some point, which would give Crews his first actual direction since signing with WWE. The company has not been shy about mentioning the history between Crews and Tozawa. They're legitimate best friends, going back to their days in Japan, wrestling for the Dragon Gate promotion and being teammates in the Mad Blankey and Monster Express factions. Having Titus interrupt a conversation between them during a backstage segment is a good move, with Titus praising Apollo for trying to recruit Tozawa to the Titus Brand. Chances are, it won't go anywhere, but pairing Crews and Tozawa would behoove both men. Raw could use a new tag team, and as mentioned, they already have chemistry in the ring. Crews needs something, and this could be a boost for his promising career, giving him something to do. As far as Titus O'Neil is concerned, it could go either way with him. Could he manage a heel team of Crews and Tozawa? I think so. Could they break away from him and do the tag thing as faces? I think so. I'm actually hoping for a heel turn, because there's more promise there. The story is easy to write, too. It isn't working right now, because Apollo isn't "buying in" like Titus wants him to, but once he does, things take off, and he brings Tozawa along for the ride, as well. The combination of size, strength, speed, and athleticism is something that would set Crews and Tozawa apart from other WWE tag teams right now. They work very well off of each other. The WWE Universe should really get a kick out of them teaming up.
8. Samoa Joe is putting in some career-defining work these days. I wrote a column saying that I wanted to see Samoa Joe take on Brock Lesnar. It's been a personal Dream Match of mine for several years now, and I never thought I'd be able to see it happen. After Joe won at Extreme Rules, I was thrilled. After watching the Extreme Rules post-show, I was... whatever is after "thrilled" on the scale of excitement. Joe's brief promo was incredible, and easily some of the best talking he's ever done. In a few short sentences, he was able to paint a picture of him being unlike anything Brock Lesnar has ever faced before. Fast forward to Raw, and my scale of excitement melted. The segment with Joe cutting another great promo, followed by Paul Heyman coming out to put Joe over as a monster, followed by Joe calmly and sadistically telling Heyman that he was about to use him to send a message to Lesnar... it was beautifully done. In a 24-hour period, Samoa Joe had done more to make himself look like a badass than anyone could have hoped for. Great Balls Of Fire can't get here fast enough. Wait... did I just type that? Jesus Christ. Well... the next Raw "pay-per-view" event on the WWE Network can't get here fast enough. The word was that the winner of the Extreme Rules Fatal Five Way would merely be a sacrificial lamb for Lesnar as "The Beast" builds to a match with Braun Strowman at SummerSlam. Does what happened after Extreme Rules change that at all? Does the company see something different in Joe than, perhaps, they saw heading into Extreme Rules? Are there panic rumblings with viewership for Raw hitting record lows, and the company thinking twice about not having the Universal Championship on someone who is there every week? Chances are, nothing has changed. Chances are, Lesnar still retains over Joe, but Joe has placed himself on the map. If there were any doubters of his abilities before, there shouldn't be now. Now, let's look forward to an absolute war taking place at... you know the name.
9. I don't know how you screw Bayley up, but Raw has screwed Bayley up. Bayley really should be a "sure thing". In NXT, she was one of the brightest stars on their roster, man or woman. Everyone loved her, whether they were male or female, young or old. People were getting upset that she wasn't called up to the main roster ahead of some of the other women in NXT, but when she finally did get the call up, those same folks were singing her praises. She was the "John Cena" of the women, in that she could be a hero to the younger generation and help to carry the company on her back for years to come. It has been misstep after misstep ever since. First and foremost, she was given the Raw Women's Title way too early. She didn't have to work for it. It was basically given to her, and that went against everything that made her such a loveable underdog in NXT. She didn't do the honorable thing after discovering that she only won the title thanks to interference from Sasha Banks, and again, that went against everything that the Bayley character was supposed to be. She has been exposed on the mic against women that are vastly superior in that area. She isn't viewed as "cool", which has made her face pops smaller than they "should be", with large portions of the adult male audience cheering for the women Bayley is facing. I'm not sure if the plan is still to have Sasha turn heel on Bayley, as it looked like they were doing a month or two ago, but at this point, that would be a huge mistake. Sasha still has the "cool factor" and the guys still love her, so she would undoubtedly get plenty of cheers against Bayley, no matter how evil or dastardly her turn was. I've thought and thought about it, and I'm not really sure what can be done to save Bayley. I won't go full Chicken Little and say that the sky is falling, but something needs to be done, and soon, or WWE will have permanently ruined one of NXT's biggest stars.
10. For the love of God, please don't bring Stephanie McMahon back to "feud" with Kurt Angle. If you haven't heard, the rumor is that all of this stuff going on with Angle and Corey Graves will lead to Stephanie McMahon making her return to television, where she will pick up where she left off with Mick Foley. She'll belittle Angle, tell him how bad a job he's doing as the General Manager of Raw, and continue to be the most bulletproof character in wrestling because nobody can ever get their comeuppance. As you may have heard on different Fightful podcasts in recent weeks, a possible extension of this rumor will lead to Angle's return to the ring against... Stephanie's husband, Triple H... with the match taking place as early as SummerSlam this year, or as late as WrestleMania 34. I do not, under any possible circumstances, want to see Stephanie on my television again. Her character was played out years ago, and only gets worse as time goes on. As mentioned, she's bulletproof, and that doesn't make for exciting television. She gets to talk to the women on the roster as if they were children, and she gets to emasculate every male she comes in contact with, all without them getting a chance to get any of their heat back. It's stupid, it's detrimental to the product, and it only happens because her name is McMahon. Cut it out. I don't care if Angle vs Triple H will be billed as one of the biggest matches of all-time. Keep. Steph. Away.
What are your thoughts about Raw these days? Do they match up with my opinions, or are you thinking differently? Hit me up on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), or down below in the comments section, and let me know what you think.