Tonight’s episode of WWE Raw, the often hyped “Raw After Mania,” was nothing if not a bafflingly confusing and often disappointing affair that perhaps perfectly continued the theme of disappointment begun by Wrestlemania the night before.
There was almost never a moment in the entire three hour Raw broadcast that felt as though it had any weight or importance. For the most part, the entire show felt off, as though it was simply going through the motions in an effort to get out from under what commentary was quick to label as an atypical crowd and get on to business as usual in the coming weeks. Even the Raw debut of NXT talents like Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin, events which have in the last few years been enjoyable surprises for both those in attendance and viewing at home, instead felt like a boring bit of business as usual. There was, of course, one incredibly notable debut which went over well, but we’ll get to that later.
The theme of this entire Raw broadcast could practically have been “Just Kidding.” From the very open, it seemed as though it was constantly backtracking. Shane McMahon lost at Wrestlemania and won’t be in charge of Raw. Just kidding, he’s apparently in charge of the show tonight. Zack Ryder had his Wrestlemania moment and is now Intercontinental champion. That much was true, but just kidding, he’s not champ anymore, Miz is now – oh, and Maryse is back for some reason. Baron Corbin gets a big win and big debut by winning the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. Just kidding, turns out he’s a geek who can’t beat Dolph Ziggler. The League of Nations defeated The New Day the night previous. Just kidding, New Day gets their win back. The Usos beat The Dudleys with ease. Oops, just kidding, Dudleys get their win back. Moment after moment was used to undermine Wrestlemania and remind people that that WWE season more or less resets the night after their biggest show. It was baffling, even painful to sit through.
Of course, it wasn’t all completely awful. The main roster debut of Enzo and Big Cass went over incredibly well. The pair woke up a crowd that was completely disengaged, and Enzo proved that his mic skills translate perfectly from the small crowds of NXT to the large scale environment of WWE Raw. The main event Fatal Fourway bout was an excellent match featuring Chris Jericho, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and a returning Cesaro, which featured a surprising ending – and yet another just kidding moment – in which AJ Styles managed to avenge his Wrestlemania loss by winning the match, and the number one contendership, through a Styles Clash on Chris Jericho.
There was a great deal of Wrestlemania fallout which Raw did not address. Neither Triple H nor Stephanie McMahon were to be seen, nor was Dean Ambrose present after a disappointing showing against Brock Lesnar. Their absences were absolutely felt on a show that dragged frequently over the course of its three hours.
Overall, this was not just a mediocre Raw, but a tremendously disappointing “Raw After Mania.” If neutralizing the vocal, enthusiastic audience was the goal of this episode, then it succeeded with flying colors in cutting the legs out from underneath the WWE’s most hardcore and faithful fans, the sort of people who paid far too much and travelled far too distant to get the show they were given. But even as a show that could cater to WWE’s casual audience, this episode felt as though it fell flat, with a tone that was more or less incapable of pleasing either set of fans. Nothing is clear after this episode of Raw, although many questionable storylines have begun to emerge from the murky waters of the last 48 hours. Somehow, WWE has managed to wrap up their trademark weekend not by generating excitement but by perpetuating confusion and a sense of disillusionment with a product that continues to feel like something is missing in a big way.