In almost a culmination of these unique times, tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw is both the go-home episode for SummerSlam this Sunday, as well as the penultimate episode for the Payback PPV on August 30th. Despite some criticisms, I believe that WWE has done about as well as they could have during the Covid-era. Recently, we have seen some new changes to Raw, and the expectation is that that is only going to increase in the coming weeks. It’s an exciting time to be a wrestling fan, because we honestly don’t know what to expect from the unprecedented short turnaround between PPVs and we don’t know what changes may still be incoming between now and the end of August. Because of all of this, let’s assess where we are going into SummerSlam and have some fun with fantasy booking the title picture for each of the titles that can appear on Monday Night Raw. Spoiler: I didn't do the Women's Tag Titles because I don't think...anyone is really in that title picture at the moment.
The WWE Championship
Starting off with the brand’s top title, the current feud is seeing the challenging “Legend Killer” Randy Orton taking on the incumbent champion, Drew McIntyre. Since Extreme Rules, Orton has thrust himself into the title picture, but the two haven’t had a lot of interaction. An RKO and a Claymore out of nowhere have been their only physical interaction, and this past week on Raw when Orton “punted” Ric Flair, McIntyre came out for the late rescue and yelled at Orton as he slithered up the ramp. With the aptly named Payback right around the corner, I do think whoever wins at SummerSlam will be facing their opponent the following week, but let’s see who else may be in line for a title shot:
Bobby Lashley: If McIntyre comes out of all of this as the champion, I will be a little surprised. Orton has to be widely viewed as at least Co-MVP on Raw in the Covid-era. If McIntyre does win, I think that we will see a new challenger emerge and I think that Bobby Lashley has to be in the consideration. The Hurt Business has a ton of potential, but currently all 3 members are kind of rolled up into the US title picture (more on this later). I know Lashley was in the WWE title picture as recent as mid-June, but his recent Raw Underground performance reminded all of us of his sheer intensity and he has more potential than just being the muscle of the Hurt Business.
Seth Rollins: One of the most well-built storylines has been the “Monday Night Messiah” Seth Rollins feuding with the Mysterio family. He faces Domink at SummerSlam in a Street Fight and this should put a bow on their feud. After he is done with this feud, I think that inserting himself into the title picture again could work. I really want him to feud with Samoa Joe which has been teased, but without an idea on an in-ring return for Joe, the 2-1 advantage for Rollins could get interesting when taking on McIntyre. They could even use more interactions with Joe throughout his feud with McIntyre to plant further seeds for a rivalry between them. There’s opportunity here and I think it can be successful.
Kevin Owens: If Orton prevails at SummerSlam, or Payback, Raw will be entering a period of a heel as champ. In the typical good guy vs. bad guy trope, a face will need to step up to challenge Orton. One name that comes to mind is Kevin Owens. Having faced him on last week’s episode of Raw, there is an easy way to build this feud. Throw in Owens saying that he is tired of seeing nothing but destruction in Orton’s wake and that someone has to do something to stop Orton from doing whatever he wants and the rivalry continues. I want Owens to reclaim his place in the title picture, and then bring back the intensity he had when he first burst onto the main roster scene.
Edge: Obviously, these two have unfinished business. After the self-proclaimed “greatest wrestling match ever” it left fans wanting to see this pair duke it out over and over again. They are both phenomenal at what they do, have fantastic chemistry, and I can’t lie that younger me would love to see Edge have one more championship reign. Also, it would be a par for the course WWE move to have Edge return at SummerSlam since he was in the thumbnail of the video above.
The Raw Women's Championship
This whole situation is convoluted, but again has been booked very interestingly if not really well. From tag partners leaving the stateside company to a match confusingly ending because of outside interference, the feud between Auska and Sasha Banks (and Bayley) has been something to keep your eye on. Auska beat Bayley on last week’s Raw to secure her Raw Women’s Championship match at SummerSlam against Banks. This SummerSlam match increased in intrigue as surprisingly Asuka won a Battle Royale on this past Friday’s Smackdown to also face Bayley at SummerSlam. We don’t know if Banks will retain, Auska wins, or if Auska Two Belts is born.
Shayna Baszler: If Sasha Banks wins at SummerSlam, she will come to Raw the following night, potentially, confident as ever. Depending on what happens with Payback and Bayley’s match at SummerSlam, there’s a chance that Banks will be looking to finally appropriately celebrate her coronation as champion. Who better to put an immediate halt to celebratory proceedings than the “Queen of Spades” Shayna Baszler. Baszler has been very intriguing since returning to the Red brand. While she hasn’t had a match come to an official decision yet, she did turn up on Raw Underground to run through 3 competitors at the same time. She even cut a short promo on a previous Raw letting Asuka know that if she wins at SummerSlam, Baszler will be first in line to take that belt off of her. I think no matter who wins, Baszler is going to be in the picture next, and even with her threat to Asuka, I’d like to see her brawl with Banks.
Bianca Belair: Fresh Air, Belair. Amidst the changes coming to Raw in recent weeks, one of the returning faces has been Bianca Belair. She has tagged with Ruby Riott and she has handled herself in singles matches. She’s currently in a feud trying to bring justice to whoever poisoned her husband Montez Ford, but once more clarity is given here, she will be ready to get back into being the EST in Raw women’s division. I think she can work well against Asuka or Banks, but I’d particularly like to see her take on Asuka.
The United States Championship
As previously mentioned, I’m all in on the Hurt Business (even though Cedric Alexander needs to join already to be their young gun 4th member) and think that they have solid booking potential and a bright future. Not going to try to hide it, Apollo isn’t doing it for me. I think he has gotten better recently, I just don’t care about him as champion at the moment and the Hurt Business need some wins outside of the Underground to progress. Apollo has tangled with Lashley and Shelton Benjamin recently, but he will be taking on MVP at SummerSlam.
Shelton Benjamin: This may feel like a cop out to go with a fellow Hurt Business member, but I have really liked what I have seen out of Shelton Benjamin recently. If you don’t count him getting mixed up in the ludicrousness that is the 24/7 title, he has done well in matches and looked badass in Raw Underground. I think the Hurt Business can really succeed with Lashley in the WWE title picture, Benjamin in the mid-card title picture, and MVP managing the gold. MVP is the best talker out of all of them, but probably the least impressive in the ring. Let him do what he does best, and allow Benjamin and Lashley to go after the gold.
Ricochet: Okay hear me out. If you give Ricochet a mouth that he can fight behind, he can be really good. His literal worst quality is that he isn’t great on the mic. Let him do his flippy things and just give him someone to talk for him. If you have seen Lucha Underground, this worked GREAT with him as Prince Puma and his getting managed by Konnan. Konnan talked the talk and Ricochet flipped the flip. He has history with MVP so he could slide into this mid-card picture and maybe his turning on new teammate Cedric Alexander to focus on a solo title, could be enough to push Alexander to the Hurt Business.
Mustafa Ali: Here’s the thing about wrestlers that the fans are behind, you want to give them a shot to see what happens. I think if we had crowds right now, Mustafa Ali would’ve gotten a LOUD pop upon his return to Monday Night Raw. He has a following on social media, his own hashtag, and so I think it is time to give him a shot. I’m not saying we should launch him to the moon, but I think without fan reactions in person, you should go with what’s trendy on social media to get people to tune in. If it doesn’t work, it’s not like his title reign has to be super long.
Raw Tag Team Titles
The feud between the Street Profits and Andrade and Garza has taken an interesting turn since it seems that Montez Ford of the Street Profits was poisoned a few weeks ago. As of this writing we still don’t have a lead into who poisoned him, but all eyes are on Andrade, Garza, and their manager Zelina Vega. There are a lot of speculations about how this storyline will play out, my least favorite being that it was Angelo Dawkins, but WWE needs to stop breaking up great tag teams in an already struggling division. Hopefully the storyline goes a different way and we either have a statement victory by a team at SummerSlam, or I could see this feud trickling into Payback.
The Viking Raiders: I know what you are thinking, “Teddy, they were JUST in the title picture”. I know, I know. I hate how the Viking Raiders have lost their edge and they are just being booked horribly right now. We had a glimpse of their intensity when Erik participated in Raw Underground on its debut night, but I can’t take these guys seriously when they are faces. Turn them heel, turn them against the Street Profits, cut out the cute interactions, and have the Viking Raiders be dominant.
???: If Andrade and Garza win, who would their next feud be with? The Viking Raiders as faces don’t work, but they have history together. This new team of Cedric Alexander and Ricochet is probably the most likely, but that’s not exciting long term. I think Andrade and Garza have promise even if they disagree as a team half the time. I don’t believe it makes sense to give them a short reign so their first feud as champs will probably be with the Street Profits or with the Viking Raiders. Once they get a successful title defense in, don’t be surprised if a debuting tag team or faction takes the titles off of them. I think that if you have Andrade and Garza win at SummerSlam, and then win at Payback, the next night you debut a new team from either Smackdown or NXT to shake things up and immediately insert them into a feud with the champs.
This title just needs to go away. R-Truth is a national treasure and needs to be protected at all costs, but he is a 38-time champ and it’s just ridiculous. I think they could strike gold (pun intended) by doing away with the championship, but just letting R-Truth go around with the belt still claiming to be champion for a while. Otherwise, I really don’t care who is champion of this belt if it is anyone else other than R-Truth.
Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw is still the go-home show for SummerSlam so tune in to see how each of the title picture storylines advance into this Sunday’s PPV. Who do you want to see in the title picture post-SummerSlam?
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