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Tonight, Monday Night Raw embarks on its newest adventure, entering the WWE ThunderDome. For the past several months during the Covid-19 pandemic, WWE has aired all of its shows from their Performance Center. Raw first aired from the Performance Center on March 16th and during this time, Raw went back to basics: no pyro, no lighting changes, no fans; it was unsettling to say the least. As time progressed they added in some fans, and they excelled in their innovation with doing the best with what they’ve had. It’s been a season of highs and lows for various aspects of the company, so, as we tie the bow on the Performance Center and head towards the ThunderDome, let’s take a look at the best and worst things from Monday Night Raw that happened during this Performance Center Era. 

The Best: 

1) "The Legend Killer" Randy Orton

On the June 15th episode of Monday Night Raw, Orton opened the show with a promo telling us about the injury Edge sustained during their match the previous night at Backlash. He mentioned that their match re-lit the fire inside of him and reminded him of what it was like being the Legend Killer. On this episode, Christian returned and Orton ended up beating him in an Unsanctioned Match with the help of Ric Flair.

Since then, there has been a newfound intensity from Orton and even though he is a heel, the fans are eating it up. He has been dishing out devastating punts, taking wrestlers out week-to-week. Christian, the Big Show, and Ric Flair have all eaten punts and Orton was red hot going into his Championship match at SummerSlam. Even though Randy lost last night at SummerSlam to a surprise roll-up, I expect that to build tonight to a rematch at Payback. The must-see moments from Raw have largely come from Randy Orton who is my Raw Co-MVP during the Performance Center Era. 

2) "The Monday Night Messiah" Seth Rollins

Speaking of Performance Center Co-MVPs, the “Monday Night Messiah” Seth Rollins has entered the chat. Rollins made for a good challenger for Drew McIntyre at Money In The Bank, but then after that Rollins has been focused on obtaining the greater good for Monday Night Raw. He and Buddy Murphy have set their sights on Rey Mysterio, Aleister Black, Humberto Carillo and others that came to Rey Mysterio’s aid. Since then, they have had an eye for an eye match which saw Rollins pop out the eye of Mysterio, and a few weeks ago, Rollins caned Dominik Mysterio relentlessly. This feud has been built brilliantly (albeit with an odd stipulation in the middle) and it advanced further last night at SummerSlam. Rollins exhibited more of the intensity and mercilessness that we have now grown to expect from him.

This character has the ability to go for a title or just keep running through the division. Rollins is perfecting this character and you have to tune in to see what carnage he will wreak next. The thing that Rollins shares with Orton is everything they have done recently has just been on the money and practically perfect. 

3) Becky Lynch's Pregnancy Announcement

This is probably the most heartfelt moment we have had in recent memory. After Asuka won the Money in the Bank briefcase, the following night on Raw, Becky Lynch had the briefcase in the ring and was cutting a promo. Asuka came out, ready for a fight, and ready to challenge for the Raw Women’s Championship. Lynch opened the briefcase revealing the Championship in the briefcase. A little stunned, Asuka kept repeating she was ready to cash in. Lynch reveals that the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match was actually for the Raw Women’s Championship. This message sinks in on the new champion as Asuka races around the ring. Lynch reveals that she is happy for Asuka and she should go have fun being the champion because Becky is going to go be a mother. Asuka immediately breaks character being so happy for her friend, and the moment was amazing. 

4) Drew McIntyre

At Wrestlemania, Drew became the biggest face in the company when he bested “The Beast” Brock Lesnar. His title reign has been unprecedented to say the least. His championship celebration, his first promo as champ, all the perks that he had earned all fell more flat than they should’ve without fans in the arena. That being said, given the resources they have had, I think that McIntyre has done a very good job as champion. With title defenses against Dolph Ziggler, Seth Rollins, Lashley, and now Orton, McIntyre has looked great as champion. I still expect some sort of rematch at Payback, but for now, I am happy with the job McIntyre has done and I wish he would’ve had the reign he deserved. He catches a lot of flack and I know people are eager to see Orton take the belt from him, but honestly I think that McIntyre did about as well as anybody else could’ve given the situation.

5) Raw Underground

This one may seem like a shock if you have read previous articles of mine. I was not a fan of the first episode of Raw Underground, but I will be the first to admit that it is growing on me. It is new, different, and changes up the pace of the show. There are still things that I don’t like about it, but on the whole, it has made a lot of the wrestlers there look DOMINANT. I’ve had some ideas for changes in past articles, but I think overall, it is a step in the right direction at least for the time being. Each week a little more intrigue is created and you have to tune in to see who will be showing up next. Is it something I think happens long term? Probably not. But for now, I can't wait to see who shows up. 

Honorable Mention: Sasha Banks and Bayley

I know that they have only been able to go to both brands by being the tag team champs, but whether appearing together or competing solo, they have done very well advancing the storylines in the women’s divisions and have done tremendous work on both brands the last few months. 

The Worst: 

1) Tozawa and his team of Ninjas

This one has been weird to me. Tozawa has been re-branded as the leader of a pack of Ninjas that mainly seem content in just running around and tormenting R-Truth, or they are just used in squash matches for some faces. There was potential when Tozawa revealed a gigantic Ninja, but he appeared twice and we haven’t seen him since. This is a clear example of WWE not knowing what they are doing with this and they just need to cut it while they are only so far behind. 

2) Eye-For-An-Eye

I love the Rollins and Mysterio back and forth that we have seen. With Rollins’ win last night, I think that we are still in for more to come. That being said, what in the hell were they thinking with an eye for an eye match? They could have gone with an almost infinite number of better stipulations and this one is just a head scratcher. It played into the theme of the Extreme Rules PPV, and while I tried not including anything from a PPV here, you can’t leave this out. From the moment Rey announced the stipulation on an episode of Raw, it was doomed to fail. This was a move where they definitely should’ve called an audible. 

3) Ratings

The worst part about being a fan is that ratings drive the business and everyone these days seems consumed with ratings and demographics. The first episode of Monday Night Raw in the Performance Center saw upwards of 2.3 million viewers tuning in. Unfortunately, this height wasn’t sustained and ratings plummeted over the next few months reaching a historic all-time low of 1.561 million on July 13th. These low ratings have led to WWE implementing new changes like Raw Underground and…*sigh* Retribution…, but seeing as they experienced the worst viewership numbers in history, that’s got to be included in this list. Whether it was a product of the pandemic or just fans tuning out, it was definitely a cause of concern.

4) Aleister Black

For some reason, a few of the wrestlers that had an edge before the pandemic started completely lost it during the last few months. I’ve addressed the Viking Raiders failing as baby faces in a previous article, but I will focus on Aleister Black for this one. At the beginning of the Performance Center era, Black was doing his ass kicking thing. He would sulk over to the middle of the ring, sit criss-cross-appleasauce in the middle of the ring and wait for his opponent to get so unnerved they would make a rash decision to attack, and Black would hit black mass, get the 1-2-3, and look dominant.

In the weeks and months since though, he got thrown off a roof in the Money in the Bank match and then he got wrapped up in the Mysterio/Rollins feud. He is NOT working as a face. His persona has completely lost his intensity and I don’t even find myself rooting for him. Vince McMahon himself said that he felt like something has been missing from Black recently and I’ll just go ahead and put on my detective hat and solve this case. HE LOST HIS EDGE. Black has been invited to be on the K.O. Show with Kevin Owens on tonight's Raw so we will see what happens. In my opinion, he needs to rise up from the floor, be only focused on getting back to business, and kick someone’s head off. 

5) The Hurt Business

Yep, this has officially made the hate list after SummerSlam last night. WHY DO THEY KEEP LOSING? This trio, faction if they expand, could be phenomenal on paper. I don’t know if they are waiting until after Payback to pull the trigger, but they just keep losing. Lashley is the only one that looks good because he’s the muscle, but both MVP and Shelton Benjamin have had too many failed title shots recently whether it was MVP in the US Title picture or Benjamin in the 24/7. MVP lost on the KICKOFF show last night. I understand that there is hopefully long term booking here, but this group together could be BALLIN’, but at the moment they just keep LOSIN’. 

Dishonorable Mention: Retribution

Speaking of groups I am officially done with, enter Retribution. After only coming around the last few weeks, the hype surrounding this group was sky high. It was announced a new faction was coming to Raw, the mics were messed up, the lights flickered, some boxes were pushed over, and they also threw a Molotov cocktail-y thing at a breaker box/generator outside of the Performance Center. No member reveals happened that night. Okay, okay, slow reveal. If you look at just Raw though, they haven’t done anything and they are wreaking much more havoc on Smackdown. On Raw, they’ve thrown two cinderblocks through one window even though the first one broke it fully, they’ve seemingly flipped a car, they’ve attacked some of the production crew, but have been relatively silent the rest of the night after starting strong. Yes, they have gotten more involved on Smackdown, but they also started out with five members and on Smackdown this past week they had like 10 so I don’t know what to expect from this group anymore, but not in a good way.

They had a perfect opportunity this past weekend with Takeover XXX and SummerSlam to make an impact, but they didn’t do anything other than make the screen flicker a few times which apparently coincided with people breaking the rules getting removed from the ThunderDome so may not have even been Retribution. They entered with so much hype, but it is fizzling out fast. Hopefully with the move to the ThunderDome, they can destroy the Performance Center or something on Raw tonight because they need to do more on Raw. 

As you can tell, I picked some hot button topics and I may have used my article as more of a rant podium than impartial judge. But, what do you think were the best and worst moments for Monday Night Raw from the Performance Center? Tune in to Raw tonight for the first episode from the ThunderDome!

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