In January, the last time RAW, WWE's company’s long-running episodic television program, set foot inside the AAC, longtime WCW stalwart Sting made his first public appearance on WWE TV. Daniel Bryan — though hurt again and unsure when the company’s medical staff will clear him — wrestled his first match in nearly a year. The nWo, all in their 50s, decided to rehash late ‘90s wrestling beefs and discuss their own greatness. It was a “go-home” show for January’s Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View.
Tonight, RAW comes back for the final slew of WWE-related shows before next year’s massive WrestleMania 32 event. The difference between January and now? The most popular act in the company isn’t John Cena, nor is it Brock Lesnar, who’s more of a one-off special attraction than anything else. No, it’s three mid-card acts in The New Day (Xavier Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston) who have not only navigated through gimmick hell but have thrown in little wrinkles to make them the must-see act on the card every night. Everything else? All building towards another Brock Lesnar superfight.
The major build for this particular “go home” show revolves around Lesnar and the culmination of his 17-month feud with The Undertaker. There will be a “Legends Panel” featuring Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels where obviously they’ll discuss their times inside Hell in a Cell and there will be video packages to match. John Cena will show up, get booed, get cheered and ultimately be a placeholder as tonight is reportedly his last scheduled WWE TV appearance until later in the year or even 2016. Seth Rollins, the company’s current World Heavyweight Champion, will be dealing with another wacky gimmick situation with Kane, his opponent at Hell in a Cell. Given what Rollins has dealt with from Kane, from HR performance reports to identity switching, all of it will lead to a match at the end of the night that won’t make him look any stronger.
Still, a three-hour card should offer main-event fodder that's not just about the dudes. The Divas Revolution, a hashtag-like effort that has resulted in the Divas Division having longer matches and plenty of other problematic moments. The main storyline revolves around Charlotte, second-generation star and daughter of Ric Flair, defending her newly won Divas Title against former champion/model/face of WWE reality TV Nikki Bella. It should be a rather straight-forward storyline between two female competitors trying to top one another to be the best woman wrestler in the company, but nope, typical WWE tropes such as “jealousy” and “Women must be crazy, right?” have muddied most of the “Revolution." Letting women wrestle longer matches that aren’t seen as bathroom breaks is one thing. Giving women better character motivations is what will stretch it out, especially when you have a fan favorite in Sasha Banks and Team B.A.D.
As a prelude to Hell in a Cell on Sunday, RAW will pack the American Airlines Center with plenty of former independent favorites such as Banks, Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens and more — names and acts that have filtered through the company’s secondary organization NXT and blossomed. Six months from now, they’ll be in AT&T Stadium, tearing the house down for WrestleMania 32.
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One could beg and plead for a bit of fantasy booking to take place then and even now, but that’s what makes wrestling such a beautiful thing when done right.