Adnan Virk, the former MLB Network broadcaster, knocked his WWE RAW debut out of the park. However, there happen to be a few strands of irony in that well-worn baseball cliché as it leads me to a Pittsburgh Pirates urban legend that could, by all sorts of precedent, fit Virk’s current situation.
Back in the mid-1990s all the way through the early 2000s, the Pirates had an established catcher by the name of Jason Kendall. Kendall, who was ahead of his time when it came to witnessing the self-implosion of a once storied franchise, became a mainstay for the beginning of what has now become a Pirates tradition: a below .500 win-loss record partnered with a non-stop trading away of top players. This lack of competitive fortitude could break any man’s spirit, and as rumor has it, Kendall would fully embrace the role of “cynic behind the plate” by greeting new players in the locker room with the stinging zinger of “Welcome to hell.”
I wouldn’t go as far as calling WWE RAW “hell.” For the wrestling purist, it might be close, but I believe the ‘flagship’ show fits more the designation of purgatory. (Fortunately for Virk, he may simply be in the role of “new angel observing” rather than active participant in the “cleansing of sins” festivities.) At the very least, he’ll get a front row seat in seeing a franchise that continuously sets up its talent for failure (unless Vince eventually verbally beats him down over the headset). Despite that foreboding fate, I’d argue that Virk’s lack of experience behind the wrestling commentator’s table and more so at the sports desk only benefits the broadcaster.
“I’m so excited and grateful by what I think they hope I bring to the table, which is obviously energy and excitement, but I guess maybe a kind of pedigree that they haven’t had in the past perhaps,” the enthusiastic Virk told Richard Deitsch of The Athletic.
That genuine excitement and the Brockmire-like cadence added a much-needed personality in following up what was overall an enjoyable WrestleMania. Credit should also go to Corey Graves and Byron Saxton as they provided some bodies on base for Virk to knock in, but the trio was presenting a pig with lipstick on as the “RAW After Mania” fell way below the Mendoza line.
We started off with a ten-minute squash match of a legit world-beating badass turned scooter-skating geek in Matt Riddle then washed that down by jobbing out Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin to a returning Viking Raiders. The month-removed tag champs didn’t even get the honor of a broadcasted entrance. That’s three potential stars who shouldn’t have any business losing, losing, and as hurtful as that was, we weren’t done.
Damian Priest, fresh off what should be a star-making victory with Bad Bunny gets pinned by a shaken man in his skivvies in a ham-fisted effort to plug a reality show. A fate that would never be fathomed for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, let alone Fang Frost, and like a few of his colleagues, I could easily argue that Priest should be promoted to that level. Same with Mustafa Ali, but instead Vince aligned his former beleaguered Retribution members with Bobby Lashley to close out the program — a team in which Shelton and Cedric handled easily on a weekly basis.
Charlotte Flair’s return and promo following felt like a big deal, but like its greater product, the women’s division feels in disarray. That was only later highlighted by Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke, positioned as babyfaces, making the bizzare “better than a win” decision of cowardly high-tailing away against bullies Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler.
Purgatory, however, may not be better epitomized better than with forgettable storyline with The Fiend and Alexa Bliss. Actually, RAW wanted you to forget about it as both parties seemed to amicably move on from one another. Bliss, who has now befriended Lily,
the junkie stepmom of Forky from Toy Story, appears to be better positioned than her former possessor because Bray Wyatt, once again, gets sent through the turnstile of repetition. Bray, as talented as he is, was cooked a long time ago, but setting him under the heat lamp will continue to make this surreal meal a tough one to swallow.
I very much wish Adnan Virk only the best as he continues to be RAW’s lead voice of reason. I would recommend, like Brockmire (and perhaps a great deal of wrestling’s current fanbase), fixing himself a stiff drink to channel the great Gordon Solie as he sets up residence in the land of confusion.
Cheers, and welcome to purgatory.