RAW was back at Madison Square Garden for the first time in a decade last night, highlighted by the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin, who moderated the opening segment contract signing between Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins.
Rollins and Strowman, who are currently the RAW Tag Team Champions, will defend their titles on Sunday at Clash of the Champions before facing each other for Rollins’ Universal Championship later in the show.
Austin was perfect in his role as the facilitator of the signing. AJ Styles came out to interrupt and his back-and-forth with Austin — Styles obviously playing the heel — came across fantastic and Austin looked like he could still main event a pay-per-view himself, despite nearing his 55th birthday.
The only negative — and I’m really stretching here — was Rollins being the one to inform Austin that Strowman was concerned over Austin moderating the signing. Austin should have known that, if he watched RAW on a weekly basis, and it would have been smart for WWE to establish that Austin knew Strowman’s concerns before he got to the building. It’s a small detail, but Rollins informing Austin for the first time that Strowman was concerned means that Austin didn’t know himself, because he doesn’t watch the show.
Instead, Austin could have pointed out to Strowman that he knew he had concerns. At least that way, it makes it seem like Austin doesn’t miss an episode of RAW.
Again, a minor detail.
But on the whole, Austin’s involvement was exactly how WWE should be using legacy stars from his era. He came out and involved himself with today’s stars, received a huge reaction from the crowd and made Clash of the Champions feel more like a big event.
It just wasn’t enough.
To close the show, nostalgia was more than present as Austin hit the ring following a 10-man tag team match and celebrated with the babyface team in the only way he knows how … a toast of beer.
While Austin’s involvement was spot on, the rest of the show felt flat. The WWE always steps it up a notch for Madison Square Garden, and while the matches were good and the wrestlers certainly worked hard, I expected more memorable moments from WWE in its television return to MSG.
Let’s face it … Austin did the toast gimmick just a few months ago during RAW Reunion. It’s not like it’s been 10 years since we’ve seen that. It’s been 10 weeks.
Anytime Austin returns it’s a big deal. But WWE hyped its TV return to MSG, and to otherwise book a run-of-the-mill RAW that could have been taking place in Topeka was a mistake.
MSG is, and always will be, the homeland of WWE. Between the regular RAW set and the same cast of characters, the homecoming lost some of its luster.