It was months ago that WWE was trumpeting change to its television product and while they failed to deliver in some ways, there are other ways in which we can reasonably expect a significant shift.
The first episode of Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania 35 was a good indicator of that.
It was notable for who was there, like Kofi Kingston and The New Day showing up to challenge Seth Rollins to a winner take all title match, or Lars Sullivan finally debuting, or Sami Zayn returning, but it was also notable for who wasn’t there.
– Like Brock Lesnar, who has long lorded over the division as Universal champion and/or signed some new deal at the last minute to ensure he’s constantly in the main event scene. It appears, at least for the time being and well into the foreseeable future, that that reign is over.
– Like Ronda Rousey, who lost the Raw women’s championship to Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 35 and reportedly broke her hand in the process. Even if she didn’t, reports suggest she was headed for a lengthy break anyway. This is quite the shift, considering she’s been the focal point of the Raw women’s division for the entirety of the last year.
– Like Triple H, who is frequently called on for shows like this. For that matter, no member of the McMahon family, from Vince to Stephanie to Shane, appeared on this show for any reason. They weren’t even really mentioned save for Zayn’s promo on the crowd.
– Like Braun Strowman, who won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal but has been booked into such a strange corner that it’s unclear just what WWE should do with him. It also says a lot about that battle royal when the winner isn’t even on television the next night.
– Like Roman Reigns, who may have been kept off simply to account for an unpredictable crowd. There were loud boos for him at WrestleMania 35, and perhaps they didn’t want to take a chance with how he was received by putting him on live television for the world to hear. I guess in the pro wrestling world in front of a smark crowd, beating cancer only buys you a month or so of good will.
Yes, it’s only one episode for some of these names, and big change is coming anyway in the form of the Superstar Shakeup, but this year’s Raw after WrestleMania just felt different. I can’t decide if that’s a good or a bad thing.