WWE Monday Night Raw Review (11.12.19)

A newsletter nine weeks pregnant with Rusev's baby!

When I watch Monday Night Raw, the main question I tend to ask myself is Why. No, I don’t mean Why am I watching this? You know why I’ve subjected myself to this three-hour endurance test of a television program: for you and this newsletter! You’re welcome by the way.

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When I ask Why, I mean I’m asking why things are happening, why two characters are mad at each other, etc. Motivation is one of the primary principles of good drama. Characters have to want something in order for them to be compelling. Our motivations and our drives are our reasons for existing. If a character in a movie decides to put on a dance contest, it’s helpful to know that they’re doing it to save their local community center, which is being threatened by nefarious real estate developers. If you don’t tell me why a thing is happening or what a character is hoping to accomplish through their actions, then I don’t have a reason to care and I tune out.

Which brings me to last night’s edition of Monday Night Raw: three hours of people doing things that don’t matter for no reason. The show opens with a promo from Becky Lynch. I don’t know why she needed to say anything before her tag match with Charlotte Flair against the Kabuki Warriors. The promo was not about the match, her partner, or her opponents specifically. It wasn’t even really about the Women’s Tag Team Titles. It wasn’t about Survivor Series, the pay-per-view you’re ostensibly trying to sell. It was a promo telling us something we already know: Becky Lynch loves to fight and will never stop competing. As we’ve heard a million times, Becky’s motivation is to be the best, unlike everyone else on the roster who also wants the same thing. If I wrote this promo, I would have gotten the script thrown back in my face, because it was about absolutely nothing.

When writing WWE television, the primary concern is not the fundamentals of storytelling. It’s not about each segment advancing someone’s story or enriching their character. It’s about filling time. Why does Seth Rollins and WALTER turn into an eight-man tag out of nowhere? Because you can get two segments out of the same group of characters, which fills time. Why does that match get made during the commercial break? Who made it? Why does this match matter? When the Singh Brothers defended the 24/7 Title against R-Truth, why did they even bother having a match in the ring if they could just leave at any point? Why does anyone want this championship to begin with? Did Drake Maverick ever have sex?

But let’s focus on Becky’s well-delivered, if unmotivated and redundant promo. It segues into a two-segment match for the Women’s Tag Team Titles. The match was fine, if completely devoid of drama. Charlotte and Becky, despite nearly murdering each other multiple times in the lead-up to this year’s WrestleMania (which I now refer to as “SchillingMania,” since it was the only Mania I have ever or will ever work on), get along just fine. They’ve tagged before, so I get that maybe they’ve moved past their tension, but now, as a writer, you’ve just undercut every single story opportunity between those two.

Fine.

I’m not even that mad about it. I just have to point it out.

What does bother me is the way WWE handles Becky Lynch, who was arguably the most compelling character in wrestling this time last year and now absolutely isn’t. Becky’s motivation was to prove something to her detractors, to the WWE office, to Charlotte, to Ronda Rousey. The chip on her shoulder made her volatile, aggressive, dangerous, defiant. Hers was a meta-narrative about the real Rebecca Quin overcoming the system that had anointed other people as the top stars, while she had to sweep up peanuts in the opening match. Now that she’s proved her worth by winning the title in the main event at SchillingMania, what’s the point? Why do I care?

Becky’s feud with Charlotte had personal stakes. It wasn’t just about the championship. It certainly wasn’t about who got to point to a WrestleMania sign. Fundamentally, it was about two former best friends torn apart by ambition: Charlotte’s silver spoon versus Becky’s scrappy dreamer. Pure, unvarnished, classic pro wrestling. Rousey’s presence was as the sprinkle of star power that made the story main-event-worthy. Of course, that simple, elegant, compelling rivalry had to be smothered to death by Paul Heyman adding slow-speed car accidents. To each his own, I suppose.

Since WrestleMania, has Becky had a personal reason to fight anyone? She fought Lacey Evans because she “dared step to the Man” or something. She worked Sasha Banks because Sasha also had a chip on her shoulder, except hers was more evil. I keep asking Why when watching Raw because no one cares to answer. This was the same issue Seth Rollins had as Universal Champion. What is he fighting for? Why is he mad? Rollins would cut these same generic promos that Becky does. “I fight to prove I am the best.” I don’t tune in to WWE to see if my favorite wrestler can “prove they are the best.” Hulk Hogan fought for America. Steve Austin fought to destroy a corrupt establishment. John Cena fought for honor and the basic ideal of doing the right thing. So, what does Becky Lynch fight for?

Well, let me tell you why the Becky Lynch character does what she does and what she fights for. Becky Lynch, despite having accomplished everything there is to accomplish as a woman in WWE, keeps trying to prove she’s the best because she is deeply insecure. All that posturing, all the self-aggrandizing catchphrasery is to mask her underling lack of self-esteem. Why keep reminding us how tough you are and how great you are? We get it. The lady doth protest too much. Someone call Dr. Shelby.

Speaking of counseling, it might be time to get some for Rusev and Lana. I’m concerned that maybe these two aren’t going to make it as a couple much longer. Again, I must ask why. Why does Lana feel the need to keep teasing Rusev? Why does Rusev keep coming out to the ring if he knows he’s about to be publicly humilated? Why does WWE keep giving Lana a microphone if her command of the English language is so poor? Will this ever lead to a match?

Whatever motivations were present at the start of this story are long gone. Lana pretended to be pregnant because…she’s a sociopath? She doesn’t seem to want anything from Rusev (money, attention, etc.), so what is this all for? One of my favorite angles of all-time is Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair, leading into WrestleMania VIII. Flair lies about having an affair with Miss Elizabeth, going to the trouble of doctoring photos to make it seem like they were in a relationship. Flair did all of this for reasons besides “I’m insane and cruel.” He did it as a form of mind games, to shake Savage’s confidence leading into their WWF Championship match. Flair was a master manipulator and a cunning competitor. He had a motivation. I have no clue why any of this Lana/Rusev shit matters, other than as a joke. As a camp spectacle, it works, thanks to Lana’s horrible cheeseball acting and Rusev’s perfect comic timing. As a wrestling angle designed to make me want to pay to see these two fight, it’s not working at all.

I watched most of this show begging for it to be over swiftly, but I did enjoy the actual wrestling in the eight-man tag and the six-man main event, so I’ll give it…

Final Grade: C-

What’s my motivation? I want attention! So, I’ll be back Wednesday for NXT and AEW Dynamite. Be sure to subscribe and share this post with other smart people.