On a mediocre Raw, what stood out most was the presumed ending of the Rusev/Summer Rae storyline, though for reasons that are very unusual within the world of wrestling.
The much-maligned storyline between Rusev and Summer came to a screeching halt Monday. Normally, this would be cause for celebration. The storyline, which had been going on for way too long, was routinely one of the worst segments on the show. However, while ending the storyline is a good thing -- if it is truly ending -- it was the way they went about it that raised some eyebrows.
If you weren't aware, Rusev and Lana are actually in a relationship. They have been together for several years, and live together in Nashville. TMZ reported this weekend that they had gotten engaged recently. Great for the both of them. Here is where things get interesting. In the past, this would be an interesting report, but it's not something that would necessarily change anything about how the characters are portrayed on television. But we're in the Reality Era now.
Not only did they wink and nod toward it, they acknowledged it as true, referenced the TMZ report, and made it part of Raw. After Rusev lost to Ryback, Summer came in the ring (remember, she had proposed to Rusev last week), verbally ran down Rusev for lying to her and being with Lana, and slapped him, walking away to a cheer.
Now, forget for a minute that this changes everything they were planning, not just for Rusev and Summer, but presumably for Lana as well. It's hard to see her becoming a face now, if that was her plan. That is, unless they make Rusev and Lana faces. Either way, it makes the two inseparable.
So why acknowledge this happened? It really wasn't necessary. Everyone would have known that Rusev and Lana are in relationships, but many people already knew that they were. Would it really have been awkward to let them continue the storyline? We don't believe Kane actually has a split-personality, yet we're supposed to buy into that. How would the Rusev/Summer relationship be any different?
Over the past few years, WWE has been more intent on bringing reality into the storylines. You can say it started with CM Punk and his pipe bomb, but it goes back even further than that, to the winks and nods from D-Generation X and others.
Bringing real life into storylines has been kicked into overdrive over the past two years, leading Triple H to declare this the Reality Era. Normally, WWE creates a storyline with it, or adds to a current storyline by bringing up real-life facts. What they have not done before, though, is render a storyline meaningless because real life contradicts what's going on in a storyline.
This is the danger of the Reality Era. Most watch wrestling because of the characters, because of the storylines, and yes, because of the wrestling. We willingly watch knowing that these are characters that we're watching. We accept that these characters sometimes aren't who they are in real life. It sets an odd precedent to completely change a storyline because real life gets in the way. It's hard to complain too much. After all, hopefully this gets rid of a terrible storyline. But the rationale behind it has the potential to hurt the company.
Adding some reality to the storylines can enhance stories. Eventually though, WWE has to remember it's a television show.
The Rest of Raw:
-- Kane was left in charge after HHH and Stephanie McMahon were caught on a late flight. He used that power to put himself into a lumberjack match against Seth Rollins. And by himself, he meant Corporate Kane. When HHH and Stephanie eventually found out, they insisted that Kane change the match to facing anyone besides Rollins. We all know where this is going, right? Of course, Demon Kane came out to face Seth Rollins, and ended up throwing Rollins around the ring. Eventually, with the entire roster surrounding the ring, it became the heels first beating down the faces at ringside, then attacking Kane. Kane would fight back, and then eventually beat Rollins.
The question here is why have this match? We're getting this match in two weeks on pay-per-view. If this was to show why they needed to be in the Cell (right now it's not scheduled to be in the structure), then there were better ways to do it. Giving away the (arguably) No. 2 match of a pay-per-view two weeks early seems like a mistake. We'll see where they go, though.
-- The New Day continued their dominance, beating Randy Orton and Dean Ambrose to kick off the show. The way they're using The New Day continues to be a good sign. It's also great that they're continuing to allow them to conduct their entertaining promos before matches. There was a concern from some that if they turned up the intensity, that would mean they had to turn down the comedy. Monday night showed that wasn't the case. Beating Ambrose and Orton just adds to the list of major faces they've beaten over the past few weeks. I'm not dubbing them the next Shield quite yet, but it's certainly the right path.
-- John Cena issued an open challenge, which was answered by Dolph Ziggler. This match was interesting largely because of how Ziggler wrestled throughout. He used several heel tactics, including raking Cena's eyes and viciously headbutting him. Ziggler has been acting heelish over the past few weeks, and while he could incorporate more shades of grey in his character, I think they're teasing a heel turn with him. The match was also notable because someone proposed in the crowd, and Cena acknowledged it, while wrestling.
-- Roman Reigns beat Braun Strowman by countout. This is the first loss the giant has suffered since debuting, but at least it wasn't by pinfall. They announced that Strowman and Luke Harper would face Ambrose and Orton on the pay-per-view event. Before the match, Reigns and Bray Wyatt had a bit of a back and forth on the mic. Reigns actually did an OK job with his promo, and played off of the crowd chanting negatively toward him. However, he started rambling a bit, and the promo was floundering until the Wyatts came out. Reigns is certainly getting better on the mic, but they need to limit his time, because giving him a three-minute promo won't do him any favors.
-- The divas had a pair of interesting matches. The first match featured Nikki Bella beating Naomi. However, the story of that match was Sasha Banks, who was at ringside. Of course, she got the, “We want Sasha,” chants that have been echoing throughout WWE arenas for the past couple of months. Brie even got on the mic and started to taunt Naomi with that, which caused Sasha to attack her. During the distraction, Nikki hit Nikki from behind and beat her. In a more surprising match, Brie and Alicia beat Charlotte and Becky Lynch after Brie pinned Charlotte. It was a simple missile dropkick that beat Charlotte. It's very odd that Brie would pin the champion, especially with such a weak move. They seem to be jumbling up the divas division a bit, which is good, planting the seeds for a Team B.A.D. breakup, as well as making Brie more credible. I'm not exactly sure why they're doing the latter, but any sort of change within the division is good.
-- Sheamus and King Barrett beat Cesaro and Neville. We've seen Sheamus and Barrett tag in the past, and it wouldn't be the worst idea to continue the pairing. Sheamus needs something to do while he's carrying the briefcase, and Barrett also needs something to do. Adding another credible team to the tag division would help bolster it even further.
-- Kevin Owens beat Kalisto this week after beating Sin Cara last week. He got to show off his personality a bit, using some of the lucha taunts in the beatdown.
-- The Dudleys won a squash match over The Ascension.
Thoughts? Questions? Leave them in the comment section, email me or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also find my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/jobbing-out/id998790026?mt=2