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    Saturday, July 24, 2021

    RAW Food for Thought (7/19/21): Heroes and Nostalgia

     

    Nikki ASH

    Monday Night RAW came roaring back with a live crowd this week in Dallas, TX. So how did WWE reward them? With larger-than-life heroes and a heavy dose of nostalgia, of course! 

    It's clear that one of WWE's goals with their weekend in Texas was to emphasize the difference a live crowd brings to a show. Nothing gets a wrestling-starved crowd more ecstatic than the return and success of heroes, and boy did they show it! RAW kicked off with the crowd in the palm of John Cena's hands and it capped off with a new RAW Women's Champion in Nikki A.S.H.

    I did not see Nikki A.S.H's cash-in coming at all, to be honest. I thought she would cash-in after Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley's match at Money In The Bank. When that didn't happen, I thought SummerSlam would be the earliest date.

    The storytelling of her championship win was much better than I expected. WWE was able to tell this story of a woman who was always overlooked and used it to her advantage. It started in those Beat The Clock Challenges a couple of months back, creating an unlikely winning streak. The question for WWE now is how to book her as a competent champion while keeping her "almost a superhero" nature intact.

    However, the rest of the RAW heroes had success to varying degrees. For example, I'm not entirely convinced yet that people REALLY love Jaxson Ryker. Yes, a considerable amount of people cheered and clapped when he beat Elias in a Symphony of Destruction Match. But hardcore matches are fun and Elias did annoy the crowd so those have to be taken into consideration. I guess we'll see if I'm wrong in the months ahead. Also, it doesn't help that this match had no build whatsoever. Considering how painful and epic a match like this sounds, they could've at least wrote a segment where Elias challenged Ryker. 

    Keith Lee, on the other hand, was given a hero's welcome in his home state. Yes, he lost to Bobby Lashley but it took a lot of effort for Keith to go down. They even kept Keith's ability to prevent the Hurt Lock from locking in. I don't think his loss was detrimental to his return like some people think. Would it have been better if he came back against a midcard heel like Finn Balor? Sure. But taking up Lashley's open challenge immediately put him in the WWE Championship picture, at least. That's still a win in my book. 

    Speaking of Keith Lee, let's turn to the heavy nostalgia that RAW doubled down on, starting with Goldberg. Like everyone else, I would've much preferred Brock Lesnar to face Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam in Las Vegas. That being said, I'm still looking forward to this. I think SummerSlam this year deserves a mammoth face-off and Goldberg vs. Bobby Lashley is exactly that. Goldberg is obviously over the hill but as long as he doesn't repeat his 2019 Super ShowDown performance, I'm good.

    The other big dose of nostalgia this week is the return of Jeff Hardy's iconic No More Words theme. I actually predicted this song was going to return because WWE has been promoting this theme for weeks now on social media. They even teased it in this new video of a Jeff Hardy poem

    Unfortunately, that was the best thing about Jeff Hardy's match this week. WWE booked themselves into a corner by debuting NXT Champion Karrion Kross, seemingly at the last minute, in a match against Jeff. The nostalgic hero won at the cost of Kross' winning streak and the title's prestige. It wasn't a good babyface victory either because he obviously cheated. They should have honestly been in two different matches. 

    Overall, this was a great show thanks to the live crowd's return. They were loud, they were boisterous. WWE injected some new life into the show with the return and debut of truly larger-than-life characters. There were some head-scratching decisions but it was forgotten the moment all of Nikki Cross' hard work finally paid off.

    Final Grade: B+

    Monday Night Footnotes:

    • Humberto Carrillo finally got a fair match against Sheamus. It was nice to see the crowd cheer him on. Hopefully, management takes notice. 
    • The intimate Bro conversation between Riddle and John Cena was a thing of beauty. 
    • I've disliked Reginald ever since Carmella kicked him to the curb. His break-up with Nia Jax was the best thing to happen to the women's division outside of Nikki's win. May the new 24/7 Champion's reign last long.
    • Apparently USA is fine with Bobby Lashley saying bullshit but not with John Cena saying asshole. I don't get it either.
    • I love that Eva Marie and Doudrop now have matching outfits!
    • The sight of two big guys like Jinder Mahal and Veer hugging each other for comfort is funny and adorable.
    • I am honestly shocked that the "Johnny Drip Drip" gimmick is actually over with fans. I don't hate it but I assumed everyone else did.
    Image courtesy of WWE

    *****

    Kim Antonio is a contributor to Smark Henry and a lifelong fan of professional wrestling. He was first exposed to wrestling as a small child when his older cousin would practice finishers on him, which led him to hate wrestling. Later, he saw it on TV and was hooked ever since. He dreams of being a wrestling booker after watching Ready to Rumble and playing GM Mode on SmackDown vs. Raw. He hopes fellow fans will learn someday that there's nothing wrong with loving both shows of competing promotions. 
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    Item Reviewed: RAW Food for Thought (7/19/21): Heroes and Nostalgia Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kim Antonio
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