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The October 2 episode of Raw featured the continued build to the return of The Shield but it was The Monster Among Men, Braun Strowman, who earned “winner” status for obliterating Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins at the top of the show.
The big man continued to rebound following his No Mercy loss to Brock Lesnar with a quality win and show of dominance.
If he is on a roll, Matt Hardy is the opposite.
The former tag team champion was once again paired with Jason Jordan, this time in a losing effort to Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. It was, yet again, an example of WWE Creative not knowing how to utilize the older Hardy without brother Jeff there to complete the package.
Mickie James continued to build momentum for herself ahead of TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, while The Miztourage’s Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas were cast aside in favor of Cesaro and Sheamus.
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Mickie James has become the lead babyface in the Raw women’s division, and as such, she was all over Monday’s show.
She found Depends and a walker in her locker room. From there, she confronted Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax, then beat the latter by disqualification when the Raw women’s champion interfered. James, the six-time champion, put an exclamation point on her night by catching Little Miss Bliss with a kick that left her lying at ringside.
Her eventful night was capped off by general manager Kurt Angle’s announcement that she will challenge Bliss at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs.
James has long been the hidden gem of the Raw women’s division.
Making her way back to the flagship show following this past spring’s Superstar Shuffle, she has been underutilized in a manner that made little sense, while others, like Bayley and Sasha Banks, were oftentimes overexposed in repetitive matches and stories.
A veteran of countless high-profile matches and moments, she has the potential to freshen up a division in need of it and, at the same time, add to her already-considerable legacy.
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The Miztourage’s Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas seemed to be heading toward the most important match of their career, a showdown with the reunited Shield at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs on October 22.
Instead, it now appears as though Sheamus and Cesaro will take their place, adding more star power to the program than Dallas and Axel would have.
It is a major disappointment for the lovable losers, who had seen their profile increase in recent weeks. As the heavies for The Miz, they had been involved in significant Raw matches of late. Their talents were on display, and they appeared to be getting over for the first time in years.
Instead of letting them get the rub that would come from working with former WWE champions like Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, they have been banished to the background.
Their lack of credibility has been confirmed.
Fans will not forget that when WWE Creative asks them to accept Dallas and Axel as credible foes for other tag teams because it has just shoved them aside for not being big enough stars.
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Braun Strowman survived a late onslaught by Seth Rollins Monday night and pinned The Kingslayer in an action-packed opener.
As if that was not enough, he obliterated Dean Ambrose, leaving the other half of the Raw tag team champions lying in a heap.
The Monster Among Men may not have defeated Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at No Mercy, but he has made up for it in the wake of that event, wreaking havoc and leaving broken bodies in his path.
Strowman has looked as strong after losing the pay-per-view main event as he did before it—a rarity in wrestling. The key to his continued dominance will be programming him with interesting opponents. The only potential problem with that scenario?
A lack of opposition that can convincingly put up a fight against The Monster Among Men.
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The absence of Jeff Hardy due to injury has already taken a toll on his brother Matt.
The former tag team champion has been shuffled into a tag team with Jason Jordan. Though the tandem is likely not permanent, it has provided a look into what WWE Creative has in store for Hardy.
There was no clear direction for him in the wake of his brother’s injury.
Rather than programming Matt with someone like Elias, he was paired with a Superstar whose connection with the audience is nearly nonexistent.
Monday night, Hardy dropped a match with Jordan to Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson.
While that may plant the seeds for a heel turn and feud with Jordan, it may also be another case of WWE Creative’s seeming inability to push the older Hardy.
We have seen it in the past when he was inexplicably paired up with Justin Gabriel and Tatanka when writers had nothing else better to do with him.
Hopefully, that is not the case this time, but the precedent is there.
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