The Monday Night Raw season premiere aired Monday night, and like any WWE show, it was a mixed bag.
But from the show’s opening, it was clear that the company’s intention is to turn the corner into a new direction.
WWE isn’t always great at sticking to a new direction, which was evident in some of the lesser aspects of the show. But if the show is going to switch things up, there’s plenty from the Raw season premiere to suggest WWE is on the right track.
Here’s our look at the hits and misses from the Raw season premiere.
HIT — Brock Murders The Mysterios
The show opened with Rey Mysterio addressing the crowd to plug his scheduled shot at the Universal Championship in the show’s main event.
But Brock Lesnar had other plans, as he came out and murdered little Rey. Then, completely unprovoked, Lesnar dragged Rey’s son Dominick over the barricade and slammed him into the ring post before dishing out an F5. And then he murdered Rey again.
Lesnar segments like this are a dime a dozen. But most of them involve the Dominick-type character being a plucky underdog and standing up to the monster. This was just the monster plucking the kid out of the crowd and destroying him.
The emotion seemed genuine from Rey and Dominick, and the lack thereof was equally potent from Brock. The segment was horribly uncomfortable, and for a character like Lesnar, that’s absolutely perfect. It was an excellent beginning to the Raw season premiere.
MISS — MizTV
Oh my god. Do we have to?
This was — this was awful. Just absolutely awful beyond measure. Miz brought out Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair for a very special edition of MizTV. Whatever that means.
And for even people who hate the Miz, as a babyface or a heel, you had to feel sorry for the A-Lister during this segment. Hogan, as always, came prepared. Say what you want about him, but the guy shows up and knows his lines. Flair, on the other hand, came out and seemed to be winging it.
This was every bit as uncomfortable as the opening segment with Lesnar. But for a completely different reason. For about twenty minutes, Flair hijacked the Raw season premiere and left everybody else in the ring scrambling to pick up the pieces.
Considering the sad state of affairs Flair has found himself in, as covered by The Daily Mail, this is just icing on the cake. Miz and Hogan finally managed to regain some semblance of control and turn it back around to being a plug for this fall’s edition of Sweet Saudi Money, but the damage was done.
The whole point of the segment was to build a 5-on-5 tag match at Crown Jewel with Flair and Hogan as the coaches. Seth Rollins will captain Team Hogan, and Randy Orton will captain Team Flair. But Flair’s rambling just derailed the whole thing.
Also, any segment that can make you feel sorry for both Miz and Hogan is a bona fide miss. And a definite drag on the Raw season premiere.
HIT — The New Announce Team
As they say on the Internet, fight me.
I won’t say that I like the new announce team that debuted on the Raw season premiere. Vic Joseph, Dio Maddin, and Jerry Lawler didn’t exactly set the world on fire. But you know what else? They didn’t set my ears on fire.
This is a team that definitely has some bugs to work out, but they didn’t get in the way of the stories. They did what broadcasters should do. Joseph, Maddin, and Lawler did a job that was unnoticeable, as opposed to the dumpster fire that’s been Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Renee Young.
No bickering between Graves and Young, no “OH MY!” or “CAN IT BE?!” from Cole. Just three guys calling the action and throwing in an occasional word about what they think of it.
Sure, Joseph definitely mentioned way too many times that this was the Raw season premiere, but he didn’t make me actively hate him for doing so.
Should I really consider that a hit? I mean, I already typed it, so we’re kind of stuck with it. No going back now, I suppose.
MISS — The New Set
Wrestling fans are interesting people.
For some reason, the unveiling of a new set is something almost guaranteed to get us excited. I didn’t used to understand it, but considering WWE uses the same set for every show (including pay-per-views), this fresh coat of paint was a welcome change.
But it’s not different enough. It’s basically the old set on steroids. I should rephrase that, lest the federal government start knocking on Vince’s door again. As much as I want to applaud it for being different, it doesn’t change the feel of the show in any way.
The return of pyro was a welcome addition, but this just felt like a slightly glossier version of what we’ve been looking at since 2009 or so.
HIT — All Things Bray
WWE has something special with the Fiend. Bray Wyatt has been on fire for months, and he still hasn’t been derailed.
How that will shake out when it comes to this Sunday’s Hell In A Cell pay-per-view has yet to be seen. But his match for Seth Rollins’s Universal Championship within the confines of the Cell has definitely built more buzz for a title match than I can remember.
However, WWE is kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Fiend doesn’t necessarily need the title. He’s over without it, and Rollins just got it back.
But as long as the segments remain entertaining, that’s all that should matter. And Bray/Fiend continued to be entertaining on the Raw season premiere.
MISS — Pacing Issues
Look, I get that Raw is a three-hour show. But there has to be a better way to pace this material.
As an example, in the first hour, Roode and Ziggler came out ready to defend the Raw tag team titles. But there was a commercial break and a long backstage interview with Seth Rollins before the challengers, Heavy Machinery, finally made their way to the ring.
Like, the gap was so long, when WWE cut back to the ring, I had forgotten that the tag title match was even happening.
And this is by no means a new problem. But if there was ever a time to work toward correcting it, the Raw season premiere would have been the time to do it.
HIT — Tag Team Wrestling
Speaking of tag teams, it seems that WWE has remembered that tag teams are a thing.
The Raw season premiere didn’t just feature the tag title match, but for the third straight week, the Viking Raiders wrestled an actual tag team. You know, not just local jobbers. They faced the OC for the second straight week.
And the continuing vignettes about the Authors Of Pain suggests that tag team wrestling might be a new focus for Executive Director Paul Heyman.
I can get behind real tag team action as opposed to randomly cobbling guys with nothing else together into tag teams. Fingers crossed that the Raw season premiere will be a new dawn for tag team wrestling on Raw.
Don’t hold your breath or anything. Just hope.
MISS — Main Event Madness
The main event of this show was a mess-and-a-half.
Near the end of the main event, which saw Rusev finally get a worthwhile match in a challenge for the Universal Title, Bobby Lashley and Lana popped up on the stage. And it turns out they’re an item now, which distracts Rusev. Then the Fiend ran in to attack Rollins, and the match was essentially thrown out.
Also, Randy Orton and Baron Corbin were on the stage laughing at the misfortune as a backhand promo for Crown Jewel.
I really want to be glad that WWE finally remembered that Rusev is an asset they can do something with. And it was nice to see the Raw writers use a single segment to tell multiple stories, all fairly coherently. The Lana/Lashley dynamic is definitely an interesting way to go. But throwing the goofy love triangle together with the monstrous Fiend character was just too much of a clustered mess.
At the end of the show, the focus was on the Fiend and Rollins. But this was far too jumbled an ending for the Raw season premiere.
As with all things WWE, the Raw season premiere was a mixed bag.
The hits and misses were about equal. Ultimately, though, it felt at least marginally different. And after years and years of more of the same, that was a welcome feel.
I won’t put a lot of faith that WWE can keep the momentum going. Just because, you know, I’ve been watching it for a while. But I’ll take a good episode of Raw when I get one.
It may be a sad state of affairs when a “good” episode of Raw is something to be excited about. But when they’re few and far between, just being good makes the Raw season premiere an easy win.
All images courtesy of WWE.