With three hours and five minutes of TV time to work with on a weekly basis, Monday Night Raw should theoretically be able to squeeze in more than enough stories and matches to keep everything moving forward with room to spare.
But somehow it feels like almost every week, it gets down to the last 18 or 20 minutes before the bell rings for the main event -- and sometimes less than that. There are typically two or three segments that feel like they stretch on too long, and at least one or two moments that feel like they are there just to fill time.
You couldn't get a more apt example of "what might've been" than what happened on Monday Night Raw with its main event. Seven women were in a gauntlet match to determine the final entrant into the women's Money in the Bank ladder match, but with six different match-ups in store, there was less than 20 minutes on the countdown clock when Bayley vs. Liv Morgan finally got underway.
All you have to do is look at how much value a men's gauntlet match on Monday Night Raw ahead of the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in February had to offer. In a match that stretched to over one hour and 46 minutes, Seth Rollins lasted for over an hour and pinned both Roman Reigns and John Cena. Since that moment, Rollins has been the most "over" performer on the entire Raw roster, with louder and louder fan reactions by the week, and he's helped to carry the Intercontinental championship to new heights.
I'm not saying that Monday's main event needed an hour and 46 minutes, or even an hour. But are you telling me that it wasn't worth at least 30 or 35 minutes on a night like that? Instead of two backstage segments and a full in-ring barbecue designed to get food thrown on the B-Team (who have been good of late, to be fair) to set up a battle royal next week, maybe shave down a few minutes and give the women busting their asses a chance to tell a better story in the ring?
There was quite a bit to like about the match, even in an abbreviated format, but there were corners that had to be cut along the way. Morgan went out in an instant to a Bayley-to-Belly, and even though Sarah Logan fought a little harder, she too fell to a quick roll-up as Bayley reversed a deadlift German suplex. That led to a two-on-one attack on Bayley, which was convenient enough for Riott Squad leader Ruby Riott to pick up the pieces.
It took a couple of minutes for Riott to put away Bayley with a Riott Kick, and then Dana Brooke replaced Bayley in the ring. Brooke got in a couple moves, including a back handspring elbow, but she, too, quickly fell to a Riott Kick. Mickie James got a tremendous hometown reaction from the Richmond, Virginia, crowd, and she got some strong moments of her own in with a Frankensteiner, a baseball slide to the outside and a second-rope Thesz press. Her run came to an end when Riott rolled her up and grabbed a handful of tights, bringing the match down to Riott and Sasha Banks, the final entrant.
- TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) May 29, 2018
By the time they tangled, it was 10:59. We got six good minutes from Riott and Banks, each throwing all of their respective offense at one another at an accelerated pace. Riott pulled off another unique piece of offense when what looked like a monkey flip led her to bounce off the top rope and into a tornado DDT. Even though the Riott Squad got involved once more, Banks chased them off, locked on the Banks Statement and grabbed the final slot in the women's Money in the Bank match.
A solid match came to an end, with echoes of what might've been lingering in the air. What if Bayley had to fight through 10 or more minutes against Morgan and Logan before the double-team, making the eventual two-on-one attack even more heartbreaking? Then, what if Riott could've turned that window of opportunity into 15 or 20 or minutes of fighting through three straight wins, impressing even when she cut corners? Finally, how much better would Banks vs. Riott have been if there had been even 11 or 12 minutes rather than just six?
Riott has been the breakout star on Raw post-Superstar Shakeup, and it's quite disappointing to see her on the outside looking in as far as this women's Money in the Bank ladder match goes. The match will be less dynamic without her in it, and to not have a single representative of the Riott Squad involved seems astonishing given the attention they've received of late. With WWE not afraid to fudge the numbers and bend the rules on any number of logic-stretching outcomes, having five women from Raw and three from SmackDown would've made for a much more dynamic outcome -- due respect to Lana, of course.
- WWE (@WWE) May 29, 2018
Nia Jax goes from bullied to bully in less than a month in showdown with Rousey
Sudden changes in direction as far as the storytelling of WWE goes are par for the course, but there's always a hope that the shift makes at least a little bit of sense when compared with everything that came before it.
Sadly, this was not the case with what we got Monday night between Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey. After Jax spent the better part of the last six-plus months as an outspoken hero for the downtrodden and bullied, it's taken less than two weeks for her to go back on all of that to become a bully herself. After Rousey cut off Jax's entrance music with an entrance of her own, Jax stepped into the ring with an enhancement talent to show what she could do to counter an armbar, Rousey's signature piece of offense.
That in and of itself would've been fine, but when Jax followed that up by bragging that she could have ended the exhibition after that, only to go back for seconds and thirds on her helpless opponent, she stepped all over the line of good behavior. It would be one thing for Jax to start pushing her boundaries in order to try to step up to the task of beating a foe like Rousey -- but it's another thing entirely for her to do a complete 180 in personality without it making the slightest amount of sense with the narrative that's played out on WWE TV in recent weeks.
Whereas it might play to Rousey's strengths to make her more of an aggressive personality, as we saw when she blindsided Stephanie McMahon after WrestleMania, we're instead back to getting the smiling Rousey whose facial expression turns on a dime when she's angry. Few were sure what to expect in terms of how the story would play out when Rousey suddenly hopped the line to become the next challenger for the Raw women's championship, but it's safe to say that the circumstances she and Jax have been placed don't necessarily seem to be in the best interests of either woman in the long-term. But we shall see, starting with next week's scheduled match between Jax and Natalya.
- WWE (@WWE) May 29, 2018
Men's Money in the Bank crossovers
All four of the Raw participants in the men's Money in the Bank ladder match got entangled with one another in a pair of matches that were ultimately solid, if not spectacular. Finn Balor and Braun Strowman didn't quite blow things out like they did last week, but just as they did to close out Raw last week, they opened the show this time around in a rematch with at least a few memorable moments. Kevin Owens got involved on the microphone and then, as it seemed Balor was set to pull off a monumental upset of Strowman with a pair of Coup de Graces, interfered and triggered a disqualification before getting a ladder involved as a weapon.
After Kurt Angle stopped Owens from fleeing (thanks for nothing slow valet guy), he went on to face Bobby Roode. Owens ended up walking away with a roll-up victory, but then paid the piper when it came to Strowman's revenge. He took a pair of running powerslams and then Roode, who flew a little too close to the sun, got one of his own for his troubles. We're getting Balor versus Owens next week, which offers a lot to look forward to, and there's every reason to believe Strowman and Roode will cross paths as well.
- Seth Rollins has made a habit of having spectacular matches since becoming Intercontinental champion, and while his match against Jinder Mahal this week wasn't quite to the level of his contests against Balor or The Miz, it was still fun. There was plenty of outside interference, and even a chair shot to the gut during a referee distraction, but Rollins' IC title reign remained intact when he introduced the same chair and got his revenge on Mahal.
Prior to the match, however, Rollins ended an over-running Elias performance by tossing Elias' chair out of the ring. He paid for that after his match with Mahal, when Elias destroyed a guitar on his back and sent Rollins tumbling off the commentary table to the floor. As for Mahal, he'll look forward to a Money in the Bank match against Roman Reigns, who quietly missed Raw.
- Sami Zayn came out to make a half-hearted apology for last week's debacle, though he did blow a few minds when he revealed those were not, in fact, Bobby Lashley's sisters. Lashley came out to praise the troops for Memorial Day, and let Zayn know his sisters thought he was funny. A match was made for Money in the Bank, a handshake may have broken a few of the bones in Zayn's hand, and the faster we can move on from "Bobby Lashley's sisters," the better.
- The state of the Raw tag team division was in full focus on Monday night. Outside of a one-sided victory for Drew McIntyre (with Dolph Ziggler at his side) against Chad Gable (which told a solid story for both men), we got to look long and hard at what this once-proud division had become. Champions Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy beat The Ascension pretty convincingly and then, in an attempt to "win over" everyone else, the B-Team had a BBQ in the ring to try to make a title shot happen. Bo Dallas ended up covered in beans, Curtis Axel got a head full of potato salad and Rhyno eventually ate about 10 bologna sandwiches and got put through a table.
There will be a tag team battle royal next week to determine the new No. 1 contenders to Wyatt and Hardy, and it's hard to say that anyone in that ring during the BBQ feels like they deserve a shot. The Revival has had minimal forward momentum, Titus Worldwide has had a moment or two but feels as though their moment has passed for the time being, and Breezango, Rhyno & Heath Slater and The Ascension couldn't buy a win. That leaves the B-Team, who are still pretty much portrayed as a joke, Ziggler and McIntyre, who might lose some of their shine getting bogged down in this mess, and the Authors of Pain, who have completely disappeared from TV.
Other than AoP returning with a new focus and Paul Ellering back at their side, it doesn't feel like there's any easy way for Raw to triage its hemorrhaging tag division.