Imp’s WWE Adventure
RAW’s NXT Call Ups Out of Desperation?
I’m all for the future stars of WWE getting a spotlight to shine, but I can’t shake this feeling of how random last night’s show felt. Four of NXT’s top stars made their Monday Night RAW debuts, my assumption being for one night only, they were just announced as, “They’re here tonight!” so whatever that means.
But again, when half of the last call ups are still in promos where they’re not allowed to speak, it feels a tad sudden to already be jumping onto the next lot. The whole thing seemed to reek of desperation, using the popular NXT brand to try and make people tune in to RAW. Why though? They’d just put on a great Elimination Chamber PPV on a road to WrestleMania folk are genuinely excited for?
What on Earth are they desperate about?
Unless there’s a much more worrying trend that’s reared its head once again. Not desperation, but the random ‘on a whim’ nature of WWE.
I’ll go through each call up from tonight to elaborate myself, just shouting, “YOU’RE CRAP!” doesn’t get us anywhere. So it’s worth explaining why last night’s RAW came across the way it did, how come just letting those guys go out there didn’t work as well as it should have?
Quick note: Interestingly all the call ups won, not even Charlotte Flair was allowed to win on her own RAW debut outta’ nowhere in 2014.
To start Monday Night RAW, Triple H came down to the ring and gave us a lovely run down of events so far. In the midst of this, he announced that four of NXT’s top stars were there tonight: Ricochet, Aleister Black, North American Champion Johnny Gargano and NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa.
It came out of nowhere, I’ll be honest it was so out of left field that I got a tad excited. I highly rate all four of those men, plus it’s not out of norm for four or so NXT chaps to have wee match on RAW. Be it a showcase tag match, accepting John Cena’s Open Challenge or losing to Natalya outta’ nowhere in 2014.
So this isn’t unheard of, it may have felt random but I won’t lie I was intruiged/excited. However there’s normally been a show to hype up or reason for the NXT brand to get that spotlight, like a TakeOver upon the horizon or that wrestler being a part of a WWE tour. This was something new, a spotlight used for no other reason than to shine on the wrestler’s themselves.
I immediately had one question though: what about those last four call ups? Well we got our answer later in the show when Heavy Machinery cut a… I’ll be generous and call it a promo, when Lacey Evans walked out, down the ramp and back up again without saying anything. Only for Knight & Dozovic to jokily do the same thing to end the segment.
Right, okay then. Also EC 3 isn’t allowed to speak yet. Although Bliss hit on him the other week, followed by him both winning and losing to Ambrose, so I guess he’s had the most character out of all them?
My point is it’s like WWE are jumping ship when they haven’t even left the docks yet. Like a kid who’s suddenly bored of his truck and launches it across the room to go and play with his Duplo blocks. Immediately finished with them and running over to the next new thing.
God, I sound like Kassius Ohno.
Lastly, Good Ol’ Sean Ross Sapp on the Fightful Wrestling Podcast revealed he’d heard wrestlers backstage had no idea about these NXT call ups. None more surprised than the previous crop from December. This was not a thing that had been in plans for a while, this genuinely caught everyone off guard.
Want to know why these call ups felt sudden and out of nowhere? Because they were.
Right, so the actual debuts.
The new Intercontinental Champion Finn Balor comes out to celebrate, gets interrupted by Lio Rush who’s desperate to prove to Geppetto that he’s a real boy. When Lashley attacks the new champ from behind, the two on one beat down is what calls up NXT’s superhero Ricochet to make his debut!
Kind of at odds with Triple H’s formal announcement, only for him to run out and take part in an unplanned match-up. I’ll let it slide though, it was fun so who cares? Which was the tone for the match: Ricochet gets his flippy shit in, Rush sells like a beast and Balor gets the better of Bobby to continue their feud. Fun all around, fun for all, fun for the whole family!
Ricochet was put over as a big deal as well, not acting Balor’s aiding sidekick but a strong force of his own. Constantly getting the better of both Rush and Lashley, playing off the unexpected nature of his participation. The villains weren’t prepared for someone like Ricochet, they had no idea how to fend him off as everything he threw at them was completely unknown.
The One and Only’s promo after the ad-break also added to it all, with him struggling to find the words to explain how amazing he was feeling having accomplished his dream. Just adding to the feel-good factor of the whole segment, getting us hyped for Ricochet whilst letting us know that was only just a glimpse of what that man is capable of.
This is when the thought crept in though, are these all debuts outta’ nowhere ala Charlotte in 2014 or proper call-ups? I found it really unclear and Twitter seemed to be somewhat confused, I’d just assumed this was a one off.
But that feeling was there, if this is a one off it feels a bit odd to have the entire show seemingly built around these NXT stars. Especially after a PPV on the road to WrestleMania, I was expecting them to build off of that hype instead of trying to source for some elsewhere.
Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano
Which leads me the second of our three NXT vs WWE matches of the night, the former DIY (Ciampa & Gargano) versus the current RAW Tag Team Champions The Revival. A feud which led to multiple Match of the Year contenders in 2017, with their 2 out of 3 Falls match winning WWE’s own award for that year. Cole tried to hype that up, but this was the match were things started to feel off for me.
It’s booking I normally complain about, but WWE even addressed it themselves with the answer of, “Just ‘cus.” Why were Ciampa & Gargano given a match against the RAW Tag Team Champions? Not only that, but its standard modern day WWE booking where the champions lose to the new and exciting team. Normally it’s used to set up a match down the line, but I assumed this was a one off night, so… nah, I must be critising too much. This is all fun so who cares, right?
The match was fine and exciting enough, however the entire time I felt this sense of, “Here you go, here’s that thing you like therefore you should be happy and enjoying it.” Well no, context is King, of which this had none. It was just presented like a reference to the source material in a video game movie. Including the thing we like without any consideration for the context, or if it fits in this new narrative, isn’t going to get that same desired reaction.
“But the Assassin’s Creed movie had that bit from the game where you jump into the hay!”
“Right… was the story any good though? Like did you have any reason to care about that bit where he jumped into the hay?”
“… no, not really.”
The tag match was fun, but we move on to next week assumedly without DIY and with tag champs who just lost to a couple of developmental lads. Yes, we got to see that thing we like, but there was no context so it was all just a bit of fun that ultimately didn’t add anything.
Not forgetting the Lafayette crowd who seemed to have no idea who these NXT geezers were and sat on their hands for most of the night, I’d argue Ricochet was the only one who came off as a star in spite of the fact they all won.
DIY/Revival was a damn hot feud back in NXT, but The Revival have been booked so ‘stop-start’ since their call up that it’s hard to get invested or really take them seriously. We all know how great they are, but two months ago they were losing to Lucha House Party in lower mid-card comedy matches. So why am I meant to take this match seriously again?
I enjoyed the thing, they’re fantastic wrestlers, but I didn’t care. Like Nemesis appearing in the 3rd Resident Evil movie, iconic villain in the game, did nothing for the film as he was just plomped into this new context.
Poor Aleister, in the dead crowd spot before the main event, when I’m ready for the show to just end. Well, I’ve actually been ready for half an hour already, but by this point I’m like… you know, proper ready.
He went one on one with the recently turned heel Elias, showing off his kicks and agility to a faint, “Ooo,” and polite golf clap from the crowd. Side note: following all the turns since SummerSlam is a mighty column in itself, I genuinely believe we’re in the 20s at this point. Lafayette had no idea how to react to Elias.
This was a decent debut beat down from Black, but the crowd was almost completely silent which really took away from it. Plus there’s the added confusion of whether or not this was a debut or showcase for the future, this was the peak moment of that question for me. Everything about this match sang debut, it was essentially a jobber match where the new star was up against a competent wrestler instead of an out and out Jobby McJobFace.
But I kept telling myself that it can’t be, this is just a one night special thing and we’ll get back on the road to WrestleMania next week. For some unknown reason, this was essentially a filler show and none of it was really cannon. Aleister Black beat Elias in impressive fashion, but it was like the crowd didn’t know if they were meant to care. Is this man around next week or not?
Are WWE Acting In Desperation?
Which was when I hit my conclusion, this wasn’t a desperate move to get fans to tune in, it was just a random thing done on a whim. There’s no AEW scare kicking them into making tag team wrestling not shite again, no fear of needing a quick source of hype to keep the fans interested or necessity to plead the viewers into tuning in. Just like so many decisions we’ve seen on RAW over the past few years, these NXT call-ups were done, “Just ‘cus.”
Yes, when business is down it seems you cannot do anything right, even if you are. But this week’s RAW was a perfect example as to why I no longer watch on a weekly basis, from week to week I have no idea what’s going to be cannon. When you show is 3 hours long that’s a big commitment, you simply need to give a reason for viewers to tune in and WWE is floundering in that department.
We’re now coming out of this mind bogglingly weird era of them going against the fans, but we’re now in one with inconsistent booking that’s difficult as hell to keep up with. Around 20+ heel/face turns since August, that’s mental! Who can keep up with that? Crowds will struggle to remember how to react to the wrestlers, you saw it tonight with Elias and Ambrose.
But these NXT call ups were the perfect example, when I’m watching the show and I have no idea how invested I should get because I have no idea if they’ll even be there come next week. No idea if they’re actions will influence the characters around them, will Ciampa & Gargano defeating The Revival cause have any ripple effects for the champions? Will the ease in which Black beat Elias have any effect on the musician?
Looking back at the past year, my assumption is no. I expect this week to be talked about in commentary as, “Remember that night those NXT guys had those rad matches?” and that be it. But that’s how I feel about RAW overall, I expect no character arc or narrative to last that long.
Change it, WWE. Actually, thinking about it that’s the thing should stop happening. I don’t tune in because everything changes on a whim at such a rate that there’s no point getting invested in anything. But this was all just one night of fun, right? It’s not like this every week. No, this is RAW, it switches and changes like this every couple of weeks.
This is like our 3rd NeEw EeRrAa already since Christmas.
Over 20 turns since August…
But what do you think? Did you enjoy the call ups? Where the more harmless than I saw them? Are WWE acting out of desperation or random whims? Comment down below and let me know!
Email Imp – [email protected]
Imp’s on LOP Radio every Thursday with Perfect 10 Wrestling! Talking through all the WWE Network shows from the past week!
Imp’s most recent WWE columns:
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