The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 4/11/16: Headlock Masters

Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: It was the Raw after WrestleMania, so everything happened. Shane McMahon is in charge of the show for some reason, Apollo Crews debuted, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady (who I guess is just “Cass” now) showed up, Cesaro’s back, Maryse is back, and Zack Ryder already lost the Intercontinental Championship. That’s more than what happened on Raw between January 1 and WrestleMania.

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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 11, 2016.

Best: If We Keep Getting Raw Cards Like This, Who Cares If The Shane McMahon Story Doesn’t Make Any Sense

Since WrestleMania, the most confusing aspect of Raw has been Shane McMahon’s involvement. He showed up last week with Stunt Bruises to say goodbye, and Vince McMahon — the man who was previously being blackmailed out of power and somehow forced his blackmailer into wrestling the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania for the right to blackmail (?) and managed to come out on top in the scenario — made him stay and run the show anyway. Despite all the build up and stipulations and family war dynamics, all it took was Vince feeling temporarily upstaged by a short goodbye message to reroute the entire story and end with Shane in charge. This week, Shane is still in charge thanks to “overwhelming social media support.” Is … that how it works?

Taking a step back from what a small percentage of one lick of sense the story makes, it has one major result: great Raws. Last week’s Raw was the Raw after WrestleMania so you’d expect it to feel fresh and be good, but this week’s was even better. During the opening segment, Shane announces Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro (!) and AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn (!!). Not only are those great matches on paper, they’re both purposeful. Owens vs. Cesaro is to decide who’ll face The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship, and if Zayn can beat Styles, he’s added to the Styles vs. Reigns WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Payback. Good wrestling is great, but good wrestling for a reason is even better.

Best: Owens vs. Cesaro

I bet you are super surprised that Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro got a Best.

– Kevin Owens identifying himself as a “headlock master” might be the best in-ring moment of a very good Raw. “I HAVE THE BEST HEADLOCK!”

– THAT FROG SPLASH. The Bullfrog Splash might be my favorite move in WWE right now. That thing looks like it’d kill you. He should get a pin off that from time to time.

– I like what they’re doing with Cesaro’s shoulder injury, even if it has to be temporary. It’s kinda hard to buy Cesaro getting hurt sometimes, you know? He’s this tall, muscular guy with the strength of ten men who can snatch you out of the air into tilt-a-whirl backbreakers and spin you around a dozen times by your legs, even if you’re Great Khali-sized. Having his shoulder taped up gives his opponents a visible spot to attack, compromises most of Cesaro’s offense and actually forces him to be on a realistic defensive. I don’t want him to have an Iron Mike Sharpe arm cast forever, but it’s a nice dynamic. Owens just booting him in the shoulder repeatedly like an a-hole was wonderful.

– I love that not only did the match have a great reason to exist and get a lot of time, but it had a clean ending. Cesaro managed to avoid the pop-up powerbomb twice, once turning it into his amazing M. Bison Psycho Crusher European uppercut, and once turning it into a hurricanrana he was able to roll through to set up the Neutralizer. Cesaro being smart and showing off his technical creativity is just as important to the character as his strength and ability to knock you out with the middle of his arm.

– I don’t always love NPC McMahons bossing around the wrestlers, but I like that Shane McMahon responded to Owens’ threats to ruin Sami Zayn’s match later in the night by having him escorted away. I mean, it’s an open threat, why just sit around and let it happen? Years of weird authority general manager storylines have made proper protocol impossible to establish, but I’d love Raw to have a William Regal NXT situation where everyone realizes they have to listen to this dude if they want to keep their jobs, except for in extreme, rare circumstances.

Worst: Whoops, Sorry Zack Ryder

When Ryder won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania and lost it the next night on Raw, I got these big ideas in my head about them taking him seriously as a character and actually setting up an IC title feud. As it turns out, Ryder was just a transitional champion, possibly for the benefit of a WrestleMania Snickers commercial, and we’re moving on without him. Welp, sh*t the bed on that one. Way to go, optimism!

Best: A Tag Team Tournament!

There’s also a tag team number one contender tournament happening, and hell, if the shows keep being this good, name a f*cking pug puppy Raw GM, who cares?

New Day shows up to put over the fact that the tournament is sponsored by their butthole-themed novelty cereal. The Usos look like a lock in the top bracket — they (spoiler alert) run through the poor Social Outcasts and then only have either Golden Truth or the Vaudevillains to worry about — and the bottom is clearly a setup for The Dudley Boyz vs. Enzo and Cass. How great would it be if the tournament finals were Enzo and Cass vs. the Vaudevillains?

Of course, there’s a chance this is just a roundabout way to get to another Usos vs. Dudleys match, to set up another New Day vs. either or both teams match. I really hope Enzo and Cass can take the tournament, though, because Enzo Amore and The New Day are a thing that need to be forever connected. I don’t care if they’re best friends or blood rivals, I just want Enzo’s reaction to characters that are even more bonkers than himself.

Worst: Well, At Least Sin Cara’s Out In Round One

The Dudleys face the Lucha Dragons in round one, and with Kalisto’s United States Championship reign still happening, you can imagine how this goes. During the match, Kalisto takes a hard fall to the outside and just kinda stays there on the ground, leaving Sin Cara to face both Duds. We get a spectacularly awkward 3D setup that turns into Sin Cara just sorta jogging into a punch to the stomach (which admittedly looked like it was more on D-Von than Sin), and then a quick do-over.

I’m giving it a relative “Worst,” but just to say it, nothing on this Raw, not even the Dr. Phil stuff really, was offensively bad. This was just the comparative low point. I’m not sure if they’re going to use Kalisto getting hurt as a reason to split up the Dragons and maybe give Sin Cara a real character and motivation for the first time ever, but it’d be a hell of a lot better than keeping him as the tagalong who makes Kalisto matches 50% less exciting.

Best: Enzo Amore And Bubba Dudley Mic Battles

Even if the match wasn’t great, it set up another confrontation between the Dudley Boyz and The Realest Guys in the Room. YES PLEASE.

I’m glad the Dudleys got to talk a little here, because Bubba’s always been an underrated talker. Back in the ECW days he could get a crowd worked up better than anybody, and his Bully Ray run in TNA was spectacular before it turned into a weird biker soap opera about vest ownership, rubber hammer maintenance and trying to date Hulk Hogan’s daughter.

The two best moments are Bubba’s response to “how you doin'” — “We’re doin’ just fine, you need to shut your mouth and they need to shut their mouths” — and Enzo’s response to D-Von telling him the only reason he exists is because of them. “No no no Devon, the reason why I exist is because my mom and dad got it on, how you doin’.” I would’ve Bested it just for him calling D-Von “Devon.”

Enzo and Cass’ catchphrases are super important to keeping them connected to the crowd, but as I’ve been saying for years now, the best Enzo moments are the comments and phrases between the catchphrases. As long as we keep getting both, he’s gonna be something really special. He already is.

Worst: Dr. Phil Is Going Over Ric Flair And Booking Tag Tournament Matches

Dr. Phil, last name “Good,” shows up a few times on this episode. The first is in a backstage segment with Charlotte and Ric Flair, wherein he decides to psychologically deconstruct them and tell them what to do despite nobody f*cking asking him. That sets up two somewhat bizarre moments: Phil emasculating Ric Flair in a Woo’ing contest, and Phil sitting in on Charlotte’s match with Natalya to put over women’s wrestling but also say how disappointed he is that Charlotte keeps cheating. As celebrity guests go it was mostly inoffensive, but it’s also really goddamn difficult to imagine anyone clearing this and thinking it helped the show. “I’m an hour into this three hour wrestling show, I think I’m gonna turn it off … wait, is that Dr. Phil? Hold on, I need to hear what he has to say!”

The final Dr. Phil moment is a backstage bit with Golden Truth. Truth promised Goldust an audition with a top Hollywood producer during their interaction on Smackdown, and then Goldie finds out it was all a lie. Truth says them teaming up in the tag team tournament is the audition, and … I don’t know, at this point I kinda hope Truth and Goldust never actually team, but keep trying to get on the same page for the next 5-10 years. Like, at WrestleMania 40 I want them to still be trying to figure it out. Anyway, Dr. Phil shows up to talk to them, then changes his mind and leaves. What, you can’t figure out the relationship dynamic between the formerly-pansexual Oscar statue with electricity-induced Tourettes and his frenemy, the constantly-confused arachnophobic rapper who is followed around by an invisible child he both loves and resents? This is Wrestling 101, doc.

Note: all of this would’ve been accomplished by bringing on the Muppets and having Kermit sip tea in front of everyone.

Best: Charlotte Vs. Natalya

I grew up an NWA kid, which means I know a heel champion clearly losing by managing to keep the belt via some convoluted and occasionally unbelievable disqualification like the back of my hand. I’ve seen that more than I’ve seen my mom and dad.

That’s how Charlotte vs. Natalya ends. These two always have solid chemistry (besides occasionally not remembering how figure-fours work), and even though I’d like to see Sasha Banks or Becky Lynch doing … well, anything this week, Natalya’s a great first feud. Last week’s segment was flat because of the crowd and the post-Mania timing and expectations, but looking at the bigger picture, this gives Charlotte a feud that can has history and can involve a lot of good wrestling without having to end with a new champion. The crowd’s staying into these matches, too, which is great. They’re good. If you try hard to put on good matches, people who go to wrestling shows will eventually figure it out and like seeing them. Weird, right?

But yeah, Natalya ends up with Charlotte in the Sharpshooter and gets her tapping, but Ric Flair tries to interfere and gets Charlotte disqualified. Nattie wins, but doesn’t get the championship due to … uh, well, all the things Dr. Phil was talking about earlier. That should keep the feud going, and if they’re going to do it big at Payback, this needs to be the only time they actually wrestle each other before then. This is a great start, and should end with either Charlotte beating Natalya clean to show she’s able to stand on her own two feet, or (better idea) her cheating and getting away with it.

Worst: “His Wife Maryse”

Drink every time the Raw announce team identifies Maryse as Miz’s wife. You’ll be comatose by the end of a paragraph. I’m not sure if the announcers got a memo saying they didn’t hit Miz and Maryse’s real-life marriage hard enough during her return and just overcompensated, but it was like, “Miz was helped by his wife Maryse. Now Miz and his wife Maryse are backstage, where he and his wife Maryse are watching this match. Byron, can you believe his wife Maryse?” “No, I can’t believe that his wife Maryse interfered! What a wife. Miz definitely has a wife.” We get it, guys. You’re letting it to get to “my husband, Daniel Bryan” levels.

Best: Maryse Is Not A Farmer

Aside from that, I love the dynamic between The Miz and His Wife Maryse. Miz has never had a valet or partner or whatever that was totally supportive of him. He had Alex Riley, but that was largely about Riley being a future star and being mentored. He was more of a henchman than a supporter. Mizdow got over at Miz’s expense and was ultimately just mocking him. With His Wife Maryse, Miz has someone who compliments all the best parts of his blown-up Hollywood gimmick and truly buys into it without ulterior motives. She loves Miz enough to live with him in real life. I buy her legitimately thinking he’s a big star and wanting him to have all the little things in his rider. No blue M&Ms! It’s not about the color, it’s about you not doing what they asked!

I’m also pretty into this pushing Miz even further into the character, and him doing multiple takes of his promos is pretty genius. Sorry again, Zack Ryder.


The Usos vs. The Social Outcasts is what you’d expect, minus about 40 superkicks. The Outcasts actually do really well here for a few minutes until they decide to do a Bo Train — bless their hearts — and end up getting rolled up for the loss.

All of that is just set-up for the post-match attack, wherein Doctor Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson show up and light the Usos the hell up. They hit the Magic Killer — called by Michael Cole after the commercial break, which is progress! — and everyone puts them over as big New Japan stars who’ve been rumored to show up for months. It’s a nice acknowledgement of things that have become public knowledge, which is pretty important when you’ve got doing multiple interviews and features about them being rumored to show up.

I’m excited to see if they keep showing up to wreck the tag tournament, or if they’re just in it to keep the Usos from winning. I’m okay with either of those things. If you want to push forward my NXT homer idea of the Vaudevillains making it to the finals (or hell, the Golden Truth), this is your out. That way you not only get a tournament final at Payback (if you’re doing it there), you get an additional good-to-possibly-great undercard tag match as well. I’m not even sure I know how to write about Raws that have actual stories and build to matches I’d like to see.

Best: Sami Zayn Makes It Through This Match Without A Broken Neck

Speaking of matches I’d like to see, goddamn, AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn.

I think the lasting impression of this match for most people is how close to the precipice of paralysis Sami Zayn was for most of it. The scariest part was right at the end, when Sami tries to counter a sunset flip powerbomb with a backflip and kinda sorta ends up planting himself on the top of his head. It might’ve just been the angle, but OH MAN was it terrifying. He hits at just the right angle that he doesn’t break his neck and is able to come up to his feet and hit a dropkick, but listen to the crowd reaction. Everyone’s so busy murmuring to themselves about how they almost just saw a dude die they can’t enjoy a large portion of that amazing finishing sequence.

My favorite moment of the match (and maybe my favorite part of any Sami Zayn match these days) is the nearfall on the Blue Thunder Bomb. The struggle of that move and the 2.999999 kickouts are almost always next-level, and Styles gets so damn close to being pinned you can hardly believe it. Sami’s shocked reaction feels legit it was so close.

I’m also a big fan of the post-match segment they did with Shane McMahon congratulating them on their performance, and Styles showing Zayn all the love and respect he can. Poor Zayn is so broken-hearted because he missed a WWE World Heavyweight Championship opportunity, but Styles makes sure to note that Zayn’s gonna get a ton of them before he’s through. I love the respect here, and Zayn selling the agony of defeat better than anybody in the company.

Great match. Let’s do a dozen more. Maybe not all in a row, but a dozen more.

Worst: Puerto Rico Is The Only Place On Earth With Water And Sunshine

Primo and Epico have gone from “can’t stop smelling big flowers” heat to something much more complex, which appears to be “we like where we’re from and think you should visit it” heat. They’re like, “hey, Puerto Rico has some nice beaches, let’s go enjoy the beach,” and that’s … what is that? Is that even anything? Am I supposed to hate them because they think Puerto Rico smells better than Texas? It probably does. I hope there’s a swerve or a hook to these coming soon, and it’s not one of those New Day things where you think the clapping gospel choir stuff is a setup for a reveal that never comes.

Ah well, I’m gonna hate the sh*t out of these guys for knowing facts about their home.

Best: Scarves, Plants And Burials

First of all, Chris Jericho interviewing himself on the Highlight Reel because he wanted to have the biggest star in WWE as his guest is amazing. We’re probably never getting back the youthful, irreverent anarchy of WCW Chris Jericho, but elder statesman dickhead WWE Jericho is just as good.

Second of all, Dean Ambrose is in danger of devolving back into goofy dork Ambrose with his parking tickets and potted plants and whatever, but I liked this segment a lot. I’d prefer him back away from the comedy a little to keep the seriousness of the Triple H feud from Roadblock — the red wagon and the underwhelming match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania are a great example of what happens when you go too far back into comedy to show him being “unhinged.” I want actual deranged but physically confident Ambrose, not R-Truth.

But like I said, I thought the segment was good. Ambrose asking Jericho about his scarf and Jericho having to explain that it’s very expensive was funny, because honestly, that scarf is always on our minds. I’m down for an Ambrose/Jericho program, too, but I wish it was built on something more substantial than “I interrupted you once so now you’re interrupting me.” That’s not a terrible start, it’s just not creative or engaging, and Jericho and Ambrose deserve something a little more unique.

+1 to Jericho for keeping the “I’ll bury you” gimmick going, though.

Filler Best: Apollo Crews

The highlight of Apollo Crews vs. The Radical Mongoose for me was Bo Dallas on the outside. Bo’s supportive screaming voice sounds so strange. “I’M SO PROUD OF HIM! SO PROUD!” “HEY! EVERYTHING’S FINE MAN, EVERYTHING’S FINE!”

The win keeps Crews rolling, and that’s fine with me. I hope next week we get to learn a little about his character and what his goals and ambitions are. NXT got some of that, but Raw viewers who don’t watch NXT might not have any idea what the dude’s about beyond “very strong” and “able to backflip.”

Best: Holy Sh*t, Babyface Bray Wyatt

At (and before, honestly) WrestleMania, one of my major complaints about the Wyatt Family is that in the two-ish years they’ve been around, they’ve been treading the same water. It’s Bray announcing his intentions to destroy or change someone, the Wyatt Family attacking that person a bunch, Bray getting beaten, and then everyone sorta no-selling it to start the cycle again. Wyatt never seems affected by wins or losses, he can’t and doesn’t win feuds, his family of monsters are basically jobbers and their presence at WrestleMania was a six-second loss to The Rock. At the time, I didn’t care. I’m so sick of that one rinse and repeat version of the Wyatt Family that I immediately shut down when I see it happening.

On the Raw after WrestleMania, the Wyatts attacked the League of Nations. It was seen as a face turn to some, but it felt like the same cycle beginning again with a slightly misaligned opponent. I got some grief in the comments section for WWE doing what I asked and me still not being happy with it, but it didn’t feel different to me.

This felt different.

Earlier in the night, Roman Reigns shows up to cut the same (good) promo about how he’s not a bad guy, he’s not a good guy, he’s the guy. It’s just a new catchphrase for his 500th t-shirt I guess, but it’s thematically appropriate. The L.A. crowd wants nothing to do with him, and maintains a white noise of chattery boos every time he’s in the ring. He’s interrupted by The Lads, and aside from a brief moment of Rusev being hilarious on the microphone, it’s something you’ve seen a billion times before. Roman is like, “lol, are you still trying to feud with me,” and they come down to the ring to attack him. The Wyatts teleport in to stop them, and Shane McMahon shows up to Teddy Long the affair and make a tag team main-event. Lad 1 and Lad 2 against Roman Reigns and the previous world leader in trying to destroy Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt.

I didn’t expect much from the match, but it featured a real revelation: Bray Wyatt is kind of an amazing babyface.

I don’t want to get too enthusiastic about it or too hyperbolic trying to explain it, but it finally, finally felt like what Bray Wyatt needs to break that stupid f*cking cycle of failure and become the important guy he’s always needed to be. Bray coming in with fire off a hot tag honestly reminded me a lot of Dusty Rhodes, which is fitting. There’s something so physically off about him and he’s got such a natural internal charisma (the same sh*t that made us love him in NXT in the first place) that when he’s actually moving around and trying to get the crowd into it instead of stalking around like a slow, ineffective spider-man it’s AWESOME. It felt like we were waking up from a nap.

The best moment of the entire match is the finish, with Bray hitting Sister Abigail on Del Rio. Jump to the 2:45 mark in the video. When he goes for the pin, Sheamus steps in to break it up. Without looking back, Bray just sticks out an arm and points at Sheamus, and Roman Reigns comes rushing in and spears him. It’s like Wyatt was in control of Reigns for the moment and ordered him to jump Sheamus like you’d send a sabretooth tiger after an enemy in Far Cry Primal. I f*cking LOVED it. I also loved Bray being able to use Wyatt Family teleportation to stop outside interference.

God, I want this to continue. This was such a good Raw, and that makes two in a row. The terrified wrestling fan in me keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop, but if they can keep moving forward with the things that’ve worked so well the past two weeks and keep integrating these big name injury returns? It’s gonna be something special.

Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week

The Longest Tard

Strowman and Rowan is my least favorite type of Hamburger Helper


Dad that spends $750 on a scarf vs Dad that spends $750 on lotto tickets


Jericho is basically the Miz if he continued drinking domestic water for decades.

Skooch Banachek

Dr. Phil doing Flair’s “Woo” is like all the Bluth’s doing their impersonation of a chicken

Harry Longabaugh

Zayn has gone from Strong Style to making Styles look strong.

Frank Ducks

Sami Zayn Vs. AJ Styles is the fight that would happen in the parking lot if you put a Reel Big Fish concert and a Limp Bizkit concert in neighboring venues.


Awww, Anderson and Gallows ran in one match too early.


“Hey, Anderson and Gallows, what do you guys want to do for your big debut?”
“Well… for the last few years we’ve been mostly running in on matches and beating up asian guys.”
“Asian guys?”
“Yeah, just like… all the time.”
“…Would you settle for pacific islanders?”
“We’ll go get ready.”


Sami Zayn looks like a witness who goes missing the day before he is supposed to testify against the mob


Just waiting for Dr Phil to eat a snickers and turn back into Eva Marie

Thanks for reading, everybody. Let’s keep it going!