Posted by: Necci – Jul 14, 2014
WWE returns to Richmond tonight at the Coliseum for the first time in over six months, with the last edition of Monday Night Raw before this Sunday's Battleground PPV live on the WWE Network. Trust me when I say you don't want to miss this event, whether you're a wrestling fan or not. For wrestling fans, it's Monday Night Raw! It's the flagship show of the biggest wrestling promotion in the world. Yes, I know Richmond was always a NWA/WCW town, but it's been 13 years since WCW closed up shop and no matter what you think of WWF/E, it will never be as bad as that last year of WCW.
If you're not a wrestling fan, trust me when I say you will get tons of enjoyment out of going, even if you're one of those ignorant people who dismiss it as fake. As a lifelong fan of the antics inside the squared circle, I have taken many non-fans to wrestling shows (whether significant others or just friends) and they always have a blast. Always. The pure spectacle of WWE is something you just can't match in the entertainment world today and is why wrestling in 2014 is not only still popular, but relevant. Before tonight's show though, let's take a look five major things that are either scheduled for tonight or that we should just be looking out for:
The Main Event: John Cena, Roman Reigns, & Dean Ambrose versus Randy Orton, Kane, & Seth Rollins
This Sunday at Battleground, the main event will be John Cena defending his newly won WWE Championship for the first time in a Fatal Four-Way match featuring Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, and Kane. The other big match this coming Sunday will be the first time that former Shield members Dean Ambrose (who we recently spoke to) and Seth Rollins will lock up one-on-one in the ring. Tonight in Richmond is the "go-home" show before Battleground, and what better way for WWE to promote the PPV's two main events than putting everyone in a six-man tag match together. It may seem like lazy booking, but when you've got 52 weeks of television to fill up the year, there's absolutely nothing wrong with peppering shows with six-man tag matches here and there in order to intertwine feuds and shake up the typical singles matches that will surely end with some form of shenanigans (which may or may not make you roll your eyes).
This six-man tag match, if given enough time, has no reason not to deliver in the ring, as it has the three former members of The Shield who had so many good-to-great matches since they debuted in late 2012 that it's almost impossible to count. Couple that with the unique presence of Kane, the vehement hatred Randy Orton seems to acquire from an audience, and the way John Cena dazzles (and polarizes) a crowd, and hell, you've got a main event well worth the price of admission. Whichever team wins or whoever gets the pinfall is completely up in the air, but I think one thing you can bet strongly on here is that Roman Reigns, WWE's heir apparent to John Cena, will be in the spotlight once more, and may very well end the night standing tall leading into Sunday's PPV.
How Richmond takes to Roman Reigns will be interesting to see, simply because barring a major injury or backstage antics a la Randy Orton in 2004, we should expect to see Roman Reigns as the face of the WWE post-WrestleMania next year. A lukewarm reaction from a city rich with wrestling history does not bode well for any superstar, no matter how much WWE has invested into him.
The Return Of Ric Flair To WWE TV
This is all but confirmed by WWE, but the "Nature Boy" Ric Flair will return to WWE television tonight, and not as a one-time thing either. As publications like the Wrestling Observer have reported, this is the start of Ric Flair becoming a regular character on WWE television again. It's unknown what role Ric Flair could take, but there are a myriad of possibilities, both good and bad.
To start, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon recently fired Raw General Manager Brad Maddox, so Ric Flair could seemingly fill that role, even though the role is pointless with Hunter and Steph's current position in storyline. As an aside, let me just say that The Authority has been really good since last Summer, but not when the show looks like WWE in 2003 with Triple H spending twenty minutes in the ring on the mic nearly every week.
Anyway, Naitch could also be returning to TV in order to usher in the next Flair to WWE TV. Flair's daughter Charlotte has been in WWE's developmental system NXT since mid-2012 (and is the current NXT Women's Championship) and WWE might be ready to pull the trigger on bringing her up to the main roster with her father behind her to give her some credibility. Charlotte definitely is a natural in the ring, and delivered one of the best WWE women's matches of all time with Natalya at NXT Takeover back in May, but she still does have a ways to go. Even more, with WWE focusing on Paige versus AJ Lee, the implosion of the Funkadactyls, and the subtle building of the upcoming Brie Bella-Stephanie McMahon rivalry... well, it may be a bad time to debut her as she might just get lost in the shuffle, something that is very hard to recover from in WWE (right Xaiver Woods?).
Another possibility is that he could become a manager to someone on the roster, like The Miz, who recently returned to WWE television and was paired with Flair back in the beginning of 2013. I'm sure anyone reading this would agree with me though that the last thing we would we want to see is Miz paired with Ric Flair again (god, the horror of Miz applying a Figure Four) and there are so many other superstars (Dolph Ziggler) that he could be paired with that would be infinitely better.
No matter what his role is, the reaction will be huge for the 16 time (cough-really-the-number-is-at-least-eighteen-if-not-more-cough) World Champ, and especially in Richmond, which was one of the major cities of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling back in the 70s and 80s when Ric Flair really cemented his legacy as perennial NWA Champion. A couple of generations have passed since the days when a NWA Championship match meant a sell-out show in Richmond, but I think Flair still has a big following left here in Virginia's capital, and I can't wait to hear the Richmond crowd come unglued once the opening notes of "Thus Spake Zarathustra" fills the arena.
Sting Debuts... Kind Of
It's been heavily rumored since the end of March, but tonight on Raw, Sting will finally make his WWE debut... somewhat. Details are still shaky as to what Sting will actually be doing (or if he's signed), but we do know that he tweeted today's date last week as a means to pump up something on tonight, and all signs point to him being on the show tonight in some capacity. At the very least, it will be a commercial for his involvement in the upcoming WWE 2K15 video game, similar to Ultimate Warrior last year. At the most, hopefully he'll do something in the ring... hopefully with Flair (pure speculation on my part).
Whatever happens, it will be really interesting to see how the crowd reacts to Sting. He's the only major WCW star to never really appear on WWE television so that should mean something, but it has been over 13 years since WCW closed up shop. Yes, Sting has been a part of TNA since 2006, but most wrestling fans have never watched TNA, or even know it exists. It's been a long road with Sting speculation and rumors, starting with the rumor that came out right before Mania that they would begin building towards Undertaker and Sting at WrestleMania in 2015 at the post-Mania Raw back in April. Unfortunately, that didn't materialize, and it's been over three months of "what in the world is going with Sting and WWE"--which is either going to get solved tonight or get worse.
Bottom line though, something with Sting is happening tonight, and if he is in Richmond, you don't want to be telling the story years from now how you weren't there when Sting debuted on Raw.
The Feuds Roll On...
The two main feuds I discussed earlier will definitely be front and center tonight, but there's a lot of other storylines going on with some major developments in the past few weeks that just give us another reason to label this show as "can't miss." The biggest one I haven't touched down on would be the recently returned Chris Jericho's feud with Bray Wyatt, who is easily the most intriguing character WWE has developed in years. The two also have a match this coming Sunday on Battleground, so expect some type of trash talking or physical interaction between the two of them. While normally wrestling has too much talking, trust me when I say you want Bray Wyatt to talk. I just hope Bray makes his full entrance in the Coliseum, as it is up there with Undertaker's as one of the best entrances in wrestling history. On top of that, I hope Richmond got the memo to join in the visual of the entrance.
Other than that, we'll see the continuation of newly-turned good guy Jack Swagger taking his All-American role seriously against the Russian nationalist Rusev before their match this Sunday. Rusev and his mouthpiece Lana have been doing their "anti-American" schtick for months now, and while it seems dated in the sense that it worked in the 80s, it somehow is not coming off as stale here, which might just be a testament to Lana and Rusev's performances. Wonder if Lana will specialize her insults to Virginia's capital at all.
AJ Lee and Paige continue their rivalry, and Cameron and Naomi of the Funkadactyls recently split up, so we'll see more from that I'm sure. It seems Fandango is finally single as his two main interests, Summer Rae and Layla, finally dumped him for good. On top of all of that, I'm sure we'll see Damien Sandow in his imposter gimmick doing something to raise the ire of the Richmond crowd before promptly being beaten by whoever. My money's on him coming out as "Robert E Lee-dow," but it could really go anywhere. I wouldn't rule out him coming out in a Sting outfit either...
We'll also be seeing the Usos and the rest of the Wyatt Clan continue their rivalry, hopefully in some type of match, as the four have an unbelievable amount of chemistry. "The Inspirational" Bo Dallas will be on the show continuing his "Bo-liever" movement. Cesaro will surely be on the show tonight too, which is fantastic since he's one of the best in-ring talents in the company, but that also means we get to hear from the amazing Paul Heyman, who might tell us something about his client Brock Lesnar we don't know.
Finally, I expect WWE to pump up the recent signing of Japanese star KENTA which just happened a few days ago. KENTA's work in Pro Wrestling NOAH (and a few classics in Ring Of Honor) should get any wrestling an excited, but also cautious about how WWE handles him. For one, all of KENTA's major moves are taken by current superstars (CM Punk copied the GTS from KENTA as did Daniel Bryan with his running knee strike), but more importantly, WWE does not have a good track record with people who were huge stars before coming in (re: Goldberg and even Sin Cara) or even just wrestlers of Asian descent in general (re: Taka Michinoku and Yoshi Tatsu). We'll see a video tonight of Hulk Hogan signing him in Japan, but after that, who knows when we'll see him, as he's relocating to NXT in Florida to learn the WWE style and assimilate himself with living in America.
All in all, there's a ton of moving pieces for tonight's show, which is great considering that's something WWE often times gets criticized for, so it should make for a great and hopefully eventful show.
The Richmond Crowd
Finally, really look out for the Richmond crowd tonight. Richmond has an extremely rich wrestling history dating back to the glory days of the NWA, and it's just always been a great wrestling town. We've seen our share of momentous occasions too, whether it was Ric Flair going the distance with Ricky Steamboat in 1984, Mick Foley and Terry Funk having one of their all-time great brawls in 1998, Kurt Angle missing a moonsault off the top of the cage in 2001, or Joey Mercury getting his face just completely destroyed by a ladder in 2006. If anything, WWE has a lot to live up to tonight, in terms of delivering a momentous show--but the crowd itself has a lot to live up to as well.
Unlike other cities in the country, WWE comes to Richmond fairly regularly on a six month-ish rotation, and they wouldn't continually do that if they felt the crowd in Richmond wasn't good. Will we continue that trend tonight? Will we be another city in the long list this year to "hijack" a show with irrelevant chanting (i.e. chanting JBL during a Divas match) or will we be that city that is just red-hot for every single moment? Will we chant for CM Punk, who hasn't been seen on TV since January and has his contract expire soon? Will we chant “YES! YES! YES!” out of respect for Daniel Bryan, currently sidelined with the worst-timed injury in history? What will be the reaction for Flair and Sting (even if it's just a video package)? More importantly, what will be the reaction for the next crop of WWE superstars in Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, Rusev, Cesaro, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose?
There's a lot to look out for tonight, folks, and if you're reading this article in the first place, chances are you have some interest or at least mild curiosity about the WWE product. Either way, you should go out of your way to see tonight's show. There are still tickets as low as $20 available either on-line (order tickets HERE) or at the door, so don't worry on that front. It's WWE, and even for a lifelong fan such as myself, there will definitely be something tonight to make you roll your eyes. But in the end, the WWE has remained hugely popular worldwide for the ability to put on a live show that is completely unparalleled in the world today. In addition to all of the other reasons listed above, that reason right there is why this show is well worth your time, whether you've seen wrestling a thousand times or you've never given it a chance. Come on out. I guarantee you'll be entertained.
By Doug Nunnally