Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw is not only the season premiere of Raw, it is the go-home show for Hell In A Cell (HIAC) this Sunday on the WWE Network. The recent WWE draft shook up the rosters and so a lot of the build for this PPV seems interrupted and slightly disjointed. The rumor is also that Raw Underground is cancelled right when fans were starting to look forward to it. So, rather than focus on that, let’s look at the WWE turning over a new leaf after next Sunday and creating some new matchups going forward. 

1) AJ Styles, Elias, and Jeff Hardy

To truly capture the essence of the WWE, I am going to tell you that I am going to give you new matchups, and immediately give you something you have already seen before. There is history between AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy, and Elias from SmackDown. Elias returning to Raw last week and attacking Jeff with a steel chair assumes these two will feud, but I like the idea of Styles teaming with Elias for a little bit. Let them get on to a winning streak, getting the upper-hand on Hardy who maybe finds a friend in the locker room to help put on a solid 2-on-2 tag match to end it. If they use this feud to elevate Elias and have him get back to his popularity (or at least close without a live crowd), that’s a win for this feud.

2) Monday Night Matt (Riddle)

I am excited for this Raw roster for the next year. Yes, there was a lot of just brand switching for storylines, but there are some new ones that can come together. I think that Matt Riddle is going to be able to get a chance to grow and we can really see what his ceiling is. A storyline between him and someone like Angel Garza who is also finding his footing as a new singles competitor, or even someone like Shemaus or Bobby Lashley could work to get him accustomed to the red brand and for him to build some momentum. I know he had fought Sheamus previously on SmackDown so it isn’t “new”, but I think Riddle and his laid-back attitude would feud well with a serious wrestler like Bobby Lashley right now. I don’t want him to start teaming with Ricochet or anything, but I think if he can have some friends ringside to even the numbers game with he Hurt Business, it would help, but I think that the WWE could be on to something with a potential Riddle/Lashley feud. 

3) Lacey Evans Push and a Tag Run for Dana and Mandy

The inter-brand battle royale last week showed off the talent that both brands have and I think that Raw has some interesting ways it can go with a future title contender for Asuka. It’s no secret I’m not a Lana fan and I think the only way she wins tonight is to get absolutely demolished by Asuka at HIAC. So who is next in line? Give me Lacey Evans or Naomi. I want to see Naomi with some gold soon, but I think that you can build her up in a separate feud on the way. Lacey Evans facing off against Natalya at the end of the battle royale is something we have seen in the past, but I think it can help show the growth of Evans as she continues to improve and round-out her gimmick. I think there is a way to put Evans into the title picture and have her at least make for a worthy adversary to a dominant champ. I do want Naomi to eventually be the one to take the belt of Asuka though.

For the tag titles (and so I don’t awkwardly have six sections) they have dismantled Natalya and Lana, but in steps Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose. I think that we need to see more odd couple interactions from Shayna and Nia as champs, but I think that there is something with this new Brooke/Rose tandem. They seem to compliment each other well, and they both could use experience to get even better in the ring. I don’t think it is a David and Goliath story, but I think if you have them get away from anything involving The Miz, Morrison, and Otis, you can really start to build this team and set them on their way to eventually being tag champs.

4) Retribution

There seems to be so much confusion with what to do with this group. They are tired of being looked over so they want to dismantle the WWE organization and wreak havoc…but only on Mondays. And they want to be allowed in the building to wreak their havoc so…they sign contracts. And then so that they can continue to torment the Monday Night Raw set, staff, and wrestlers…they got drafted to Raw. I think the case for the members makes a lot of sense, and I think that Ali as the leader was GREAT long-term storytelling, but the WWE needs to make a decision with what this group is going to do.

They have planted seeds for a feud with the Hurt Business, but does this mean that they are going to do the typical dominant stable thing and have someone go main event, someone mid-card, and have the women go for the gold in their division?

Here’s what I would do. Ali can be the face of the group, order them around, etc, but I think he needs to be a mob boss and only wrestle when he HAS to, to prove a point. I think they need to build up these members as dominant and so for that reason, they need to stay away from the Hurt Business for the time being. The Hurt Business itself is still expanding and finding their place, so I think it would stop all momentum if these two groups just traded blows. If Ali really goes into his leader role, I think there is a way to incorporate MVPs business savvy-ness where they just mutually allow the groups to co-exist so that both can focus on their goals. Because theoretically, one group wanting to take over Raw and one group wanting to see it burn, don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

5) Literally Let Bray Wyatt Do Anything

The tandem Sister Abigails by The Fiend and Alexa Bliss last week on Andrade and Zelina Vega were absolutely beautiful and that was easily my favorite moment from Raw in recent months. When the lights went out, I assumed it was going to be Retribution coming out, but then the blood curdling high pitched screech played and it could only be one person.

When it comes to this new tandem, there has been a masterclass of storytelling here and I honestly can’t even guess where it is going to end up. That being said, my main complaint about the Randy Orton and McIntyre feud is that a) they missed the window to put the title on Orton and b) the mind games from Orton haven’t really been there. Sure RKOs out of nowhere are always great, but he hasn’t really tapped into the mental mind games that he has played with previous opponents. That’s where Bray Wyatt comes in. With the Firefly Funhouse coming to Raw, I think that after McIntyre wins at HIAC, The Fiend attacks him. I think that McIntyre’s response will be to physically try to overwhelm Wyatt in coming weeks, but I think that Wyatt should continually mess with him, plant red herrings, and really play with McIntyre’s mind. Plus, if he uses Bliss as his messenger at times, there is so much that can come from this and it will be must-see TV.

Phew that was a lot, but hopefully you tuned in to the end. What kind of directions do you want to see this roster go in as they go forward? Who do hope makes an impact tonight? Let me know!

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