Nothing like a Monday night in Newark, New Jersey!
Last Monday’s show, which will go down as the first Raw of the Paul Heyman era whether he’s fully assumed the Executive Director position yet or not, was an eventful one. And it’s most impactful twist may have been its last one (and one that was rumored to be planned prior to Heyman agreeing to take the job). After Braun Strowman smashed and Maria Kanellis said things you usually don’t hear outside the OB/GYN’s office, AJ Styles turned heel, joined forces with his former Bullet Club good brothers Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, and stood tall over United States champion Ricochet.
We’ve had glimpses of what the faction WWE calls The Club might be capable of in the past. We’ve also had plenty of villainous groups that mostly just bumbled their way to loses that served to put over a top babyface, from Nexus to League of Nations to whatever nickname you want to give Baron Corbin’s various posses.
A great way to signal that main roster WWE is going to be different would be to establish an AJ-led Club as a real force to be reckoned with. Not something that exists simply to make Roman Reign, or Ric, look strong. But a real threat to any and everyone on Raw.
They’ll need heroes to face off with, of course. And it looks like Ricochet will be one of them. And The Club also needs a young gun of its own. Someone who emerges from the group’s inevitable end getting a big rub, either because he usurped Styles (a la Kenny Omega in New Japan’s Bullet Club) or because he stood up to them (how Randy Orton’s revolt against Evolution was supposed to work, and how Batista’s eventually did).
Honestly, I’m not sure who that person could or should be. There’s not a young heel who jumps out at me as a good fit for the role. In fact, ruling out the possibility of screwing up NXT’s Undisputed ERA by bringing up Adam Cole to play the part, the most intriguing option I can come up with would be to have Ricochet take a trip to the dark side.
Outside his wrestling ability, the One And Only’s most appealing trait is his confidence. It’d be easy to turn that to arrogance for a run with The Club, and some time standing with three talented talkers would give Ric time to work on his own mic skills (the one weakness in his game). Heyman allegedly thinks he appeals to the younger fans, so market him for his swagger. That works as a face trait when the time comes to have him spin off from – or lead – the group.
There are other options. Even folks that don’t seem to fit (for examples – Aleister Black doesn’t strike me as a joiner, and Drew McIntyre needs time as something other than muscle if he’s ever going to be more than a second fiddle in WWE) could be repackaged for the role. SmackDown’s Finn Bálor is an obvious choice, but isn’t exactly that young. Perhaps Andrade, who could bring Zelina Vega with him to give the group a female presence?
But with or without a fourth man, The Club should cut a path of destruction through Raw for a while, if only to shake the fanbase out of our collective slumber and get more viewers to regularly tune in on Monday nights.
The title scene
Somehow, the Universal and Raw Women’s titles got mixed up with Mixed Match Challenge. After beating Mike & Maria Kanellis and ahead of their Winner Takes All Extreme Rules defense against Lacey Evans & Baron Corbin at Sunday’s PPV, Seth Rollins & Becky Lynch will take on the team of Andrade & Vega tonight.
The Usos still believe they’re owed a shot at The Revival’s Raw Tag Team championship, but top guys Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder may be too busy living the good life to give it to them.
Is Drake Maverick’s honeymoon over? Has his marriage been consummated? R-Truth doesn’t care. All he knows is that Hornswoggle has his 7-11 European Television (24/7) title, and he wants that baby back.
Kabuki Warriors are supposed to be next in line for a Women’s Tag Team championship match, and Asuka & Kairi Sane are SmackDown Superstars, so IIconic titleholders Peyton Royce & Billie Kay should be alright until at least tomorrow. Unless WILD CARD, I guess.
Other stuff to keep an eye on
– The Big Dog has a big date with Undertaker to face Shane McMahon & Drew McIntyre at Extreme Rules this weekend. In the meantime, Shane is picking his partner for tonight’s show, and if the Phenom gets involved, he’s out of Sunday’s match!
– Samoa Joe is stalking WWE champ Kofi Kingston now, but a man he put on the shelf returns tonight. And since SmackDown’s top title is a regular fixture on Raw these days, don’t be surprised if Rey Mysterio ends up involved in that program somehow.
– Team Red’s Alexa Bliss is also in line for another shot at Bayley’s SmackDown Women’s belt on July 14 in Philadelphia. But the Goddess may be having issues on her own team, where Nikki Cross may be starting to listen to folks who’ve been telling her Alexa might not have her best interests in mind.
– A ruptured spleen won’t slow Braun Strowman down. WWE.com’s official preview for tonight is already teasing a return from the Monster Among Men. I’d want to come back asap too if Bobby Lashley was paraphrasing lines from The Untouchables at me.
– Keep your eyes peeled for escapees from the Firefly Fun House. The only folks we haven’t seen yet are Devil Vince and Bray Wyatt himself (in normal or Fiend-ish form).
It’s the Extreme Rules ‘go home’ show!
What will you be looking for on Raw tonight?