Thursday, September 23, 2021

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RAW 04/16/18: Riott comes to RAW, new ‘Rowdy Hart’ Connection?

Last week was the prolific “RAW after WrestleMania” and it lived up to the hype! With Ember Moon’s debut and Paige’s in-ring retirement changing up the division, we were set for more with the “Superstar Shake-Up”… since the WWE hates calling them ‘drafts’ these days. Either way, we know that some big changes were on the way… though they might not be as big as we wanted?

First up was our big blow-off match, the one we’ve been waiting for, the NXT 2015 feud of the year, the feud that has been brewing on RAW since the end of last year: Sasha Banks VS Bayley.

After a bit of a shaky start, the action picked up. These two know each other well and we know that they can deliver in a nice back-and-forth bout. However, just as it seemed the end was near and Banks had locked her Banks Statement on Bayley, our first shake-up of the night appeared!

The Riott Squad (Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, and Ruby Riott) ambushed both competitors. Logan and Morgan hit Banks with their signature moves, while Riott laid out Bayley with her Riott kick. Just like with their debut on SmackDown, the Riott Squad have made their mark by being jump-a-hoes.

Next up, our RAW Women’s Champion Nia Jax is out for commentary as our newest NXT graduate to the RAW women’s division Ember Moon takes on the living legend Mickie James. Interestingly, there’s another seat placed next to Jax which is apparently for her rival Alexa Bliss.

It seems Bliss is a no-show as the match begins. It’s crazy to think that these two had a couple interactions in the Indies years ago and now they’re facing off on RAW. There’s a few bits that can be cleaned up, but for two workers that haven’t worked together in awhile this was decent.

During the match, Bliss appears on a cut-scene stating that she didn’t want to appear on RAW as she’s still taking that victim role and accusing Jax of being a bully. Jax takes the ‘I represent every big woman’ rhetoric on commentary throughout the match. The end comes as Moon hits a beautiful Eclipse that James sells to perfection!

Finally, we have our next “shake up.” Ronda Rousey catches up with her pal Kurt Angle backstage to talk about their victory at WrestleMania. Angle warns her that Stephanie McMahon won’t back down quietly so she should watch out, but for the moment he has a surprise for Rousey… her former trainer Natalya has returned to RAW!

Later in the night, Natalya is out to make her mark on the RAW women’s division by taking on Mandy Rose of Absolution. A standard match, with Natalya picking up the victory by making Rose tap to the Sharpshooter. But oh yes, it’s another beat down as Sonya Deville attacks Natalya from behind. However, Ronda Rousey runs in to make the save!

Deville and Rose retreat to the outside, but Deville isn’t scared. She rolls back into the ring and ‘squares up’ with Rousey… only to get completely pummelled by strikes and floored with a takedown. Ouch. Rousey tends to Natalya and it seems we have a face turn for the former Queen of “Black” Harts.

Thoughts: Well… that was nice, but nowhere near as much of a shake up as I expected. I figured the Bayley/Banks match was going to get interrupted… but The Riott Squad? I can’t say that I’m their biggest fan. Sure there’s potential and they’ve only scratched the surface, but I just see WWE switching 3 “enhancement talents” with Absolution and Alicia Fox probably going to SmackDown. When RAW has big face players like Banks, Jax and Moon around, you can’t help but think that The Riott Squad will be fed to them weekly.

What RAW needed was a big heel – since Alexa needs a break and Nia has turned face. So what did they do? They gave us Natalya… and then turned her face? This will be nice for Natalya as she is a solid player, but I can’t help but think that she’s going to be the face equivalent of Mickie. A mid-card role, which I feel is a bit beneath her. Although, the idea of Banks VS Natalya or Ember VS Natalya are exciting. Also, shout out to her awesome bejewelled ring gear, reminds me of that sparkly blue jumpsuit Beyonce rocked on tour in 2013 (we stan a legend here!).

So now we have a very uneven division with lots of popular and protected faces, but not enough truly established heels. Who knows, maybe The Riott Squad will flourish… but it’s clear to see that they are taking Absolution’s spot.

All eyes are now on SmackDown and they have the ball in their court. I love the idea of Absolution going to SmackDown and running of favours from former member Paige, it’s also very cheeky that they’re using her theme still. Sasha, Alexa, Mickie, Bayley or Asuka would be immense additions to the roster and could be perfect faces or heels at this point. And finally, I know Alicia Fox isn’t active at the moment, but moving her to SmackDown may be major for her career and we know she’d receive way more opportunities.

As for the RAW division, I’m going to embrace the new faces. It seems like they have a plan for Natalya/Rousey and The Riott Squad, despite being ‘lower-card’ will be useful in helping women like Ember Moon and Nia Jax go over as solid faces. We are going to lose a big star, whether that is Alexa, Sasha or Asuka, they have all done more than enough on RAW and could use the refresher on SmackDown anyway. I’ll be very interested in seeing how this plays out.

What did you think of last night’s Raw? Were these the draft picks you imagine? Who would you have liked to see move to Raw? Who may move to SmackDown? Let me know in the comments below!

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