And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 4, 2016.
Worst: LOL WrestleMania
Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon:
Vince: EVERYTHING IS GREAT, DAMMIT, STEPHANIE IS THE BEST, I’M GONNA GIVE HER A PIECE OF THE GUTS AGGRO CRAG WITH MY DAD’S NAME ON IT.
[Shane McMahon enters]
Shane: dad I am blackmailing you
Shane: because steph sux and I want all the power, meaning “being GM of Raw”
Shane: a lockbox
Vince: any additional information
Vince: well I guess I am being blackmailed out of power, and since I don’t know how blackmail works there’s a stipulation; I will only accept being blackmailed if you compete in a Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania
Vince: also if Undertaker loses he’s fired, basically
Shane: lol u a bitch
Undertaker: YOU ARE THE BITCH
Vince: yes, we are all bitches!
Undertaker: you know why I will win? I have gloves.
Shane: watch out for my deadly BABY JABS
Undertaker: ARGH WHY DOES THIS HURT ME
[gets put through a table]
Undertaker: THIS IS STILL HURTING, SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS
Shane: I’m great at MMA!
Undertaker: hang on, I need to lie down
Shane: [jumps off Hell in a Cell]
Vince: WELL THAT WAS CERTAINLY SOMETHING, WASN’T IT FOLKS
Shane: oh hey just stopped by to say bye, thanks for everything
Vince: F*CK YOU YOU’RE IN CHARGE OF THE SHOW
And that’s where we kick off the Raw after WrestleMania. Vince McMahon wanted to keep Shane out of power so badly he put him in a match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania inside Hell in a Cell, threatened the Undertaker to his face and put the Undertaker’s CAREER on the line, and all it took to reverse the entirety of that, the most high-stakes wager in kayfabe WWE history, is Vince not wanting to be upstaged during a Raw open. I know Vince hasn’t been defined by a clear sense of logic over the past few years (or maybe ever), but what the sh*t, guys?
I’m trying to use my recent uncharacteristic optimism (sorry, everyone) to figure this out. Vince mentions in passing that Shane jumping off Hell in a Cell “got to him,” so maybe the big reveal is that Vince truly loves Shane because he reminds him so much of himself, but also hates his guts because he reminds him of himself? Vince has always had a self-loathing vibe around him. Most creative types do. Maybe the big reveal is that dying in a limo explosion and being in a politically-induced coma gave him brain damage and he’s been unable to mentally get from point A to point B for years, but he’s Vince McMahon so nobody who notices will bring it up?
The strangest part is that The Authority’s nowhere to be found. Sure, they lost the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania, but they’re still in power. Did they know this was coming? Was the Thunderdome skeleton parade a “welp, Vince is going to have a change of heart” farewell? The stakes at WrestleMania feel like the Survivor Series 2014 stakes crammed into one 24-hour period.
Best: New Day Is Now Worshipping A Giant, Magical Piece Of Cereal
Post-Mania crowds are always stuck somewhere between Best and Worst. They can turn regular segments into magic, and turn good segments into garbage. It’s all a dice roll.
An early example of a crowd making a segment great is this bit with the New Day, which (aside from the amazing moment of Xavier Woods admitting that he’s probably to blame for that Stone Cold Stunner he took at WrestleMania) is just them going through their catchphrases. The Dallas crowd LOVES IT, though, and the big sing-along that ensues is fantastic. The crowd doing the “WWE World Tag Team Champions” bit by themselves was my favorite part.
Actually, my favorite part is the fact that New Day preserved one piece of oversized butthole-themed novelty cereal from their WrestleMania entrance and are apparently worshipping it as a magical idol? They hold it up like Simba and sing to it, and during the match they use it as a recuperative pillow. I hope that’s not just a Night After WrestleMania thing, and becomes a regular part of their accessories arsenal. They got glowing unicorn horns and two generations of trombones over, they can carry around a piece of Super Mario Bros. 3 World 4 cereal for the rest of their careers.
Best: The League Of Nations Finally Figures Out That Wade Barrett Is A Liability
The League of Nations earned a title shot by defeating New Day at Mania, and they stupidly decide to put King Barrett on the team. This costs them, and everyone finally realizes that having Barrett in your squad is like letting Will Ferrell play on your MLB team, only for real and for an entire season. King Take-a-Pin eats a Brogue Kick, which for some reason* causes the Wyatt Family to attack.
* Yes, I am going to assume that Bray is still connected to Barrett via their time in The Nexus and this is setting up a big, final Nexus reunion before Barrett leaves. No, I’m not serious. YES I WANT THIS TO HAPPEN FOR REAL.
… Best? Worst?: Fella The Buzzards
Let me put it to you this way: I’m so burned out by and disinterested in whatever the Wyatt Family is doing that I Bested a Rock emasculation segment in the Best and Worst of WrestleMania 32. A Rock emasculation segment that ended with John Cena beating up a bunch of guys when he’s supposed to be injured. That’s like Carl Sagan Besting a Chick tract.
So when Wyatt showed up looking like Barney Rubble had a baby with Rob Zombie I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. It’s good that they’re moving in a different direction — as faces? Maybe chaotic neutral? — but attacking The Lads isn’t a way to get me interested. The Wyatt Family vs. The League of Nations feels like WWE only has room for one non-threatening 3-man heel team that should be kicking ass but has the stimulative powers of Dramamine and has let us down a billion times. Wyatts/Shield was incredible back in the day, so maybe removing Barrett from the equation and giving Wyatt something to active to do beyond gaspy speeches about lying will create similar magic.
I want the best for these six guys, I really do. Well, for four of them. Three and a half if we’re being honest about Sheamus. Okay, sorry, I want Rusev to do well. Go Rusev!
Worst: Poor Tyler Breeze
Tyler Breeze gets called up to the main roster and spends the entire time losing to the same new guys he lost to when they first showed up on NXT. Can Tyler be this year’s Emma and get sent back to NXT for a creative rehab stint? I know his stuff had kinda stalled there too, but Emma was dead-eyed and treading standing water and now she’s a badass aviator lady.
Best: U-Raw Nation!
Breeze is tasked with getting absolutely bodied by Apollo Crews, who instantly looks more at home on Raw than he ever has in NXT. That’s a brilliant call-up, in my opinion. As great as he is, he was getting lost in the shuffle of the cool indie guys who’d shown up before and after him. On Raw, he’s a f*cking snowflake. There’s no one exactly like him. He’s like Neville and Bobby Lashley became the same dude, like a backflipping little Goldberg who plays much bigger than he is. He’s strong, fast, has a great look and is an incredible athlete. We’ve described him pretty regularly as “can’t miss,” so maybe it’s just an issue of finding the right spot for him and letting it blow up.
As much as I want Breeze winning matches on TV, please don’t give him his win back on Thursday. You’re bringing up all these new guys. They’re fresh and exciting, and you can go anywhere you want with them. Steer as few of them into undercard 50/50 booking purgatory as possible, please and thank you.
Best: Leave The Memories Alone
Summer Rae vs. Sasha Banks brought back fond memories of the early days of the Best and Worst of NXT report, when Sasha had the acting ability of a trout and was getting dragged to the dark side by Summer Rae and the NXT Oculus. If the former NXT Women are truly the focus of the new Women’s Division (and by all accounts, they are) I hope they don’t forget that Summer was a formative part of that.
Summer insults Sasha before the match and loses via a rollup countered into the Banks Statement, so I’m choosing to believe Summer’s still looking out for her old friend and continuing to try to motivate her and steer her towards greatness.
Best: THE Guy
Say what you will about Roman Reigns, but this might be my favorite promo he’s ever done.
It just feels real. Roman knows he’s going to get booed out of the building by like 1/8th of the same WrestleMania crowd he dealt with on Sunday, so he’s relaxed and confident. He’s 0.8 LL Cool J, licking his lips and shrugging his shoulders and explaining that he’s not a bad guy, he’s not a good guy, he’s the guy. That’s awesome. That needs to be his point of view going forward. He can’t afford to do the John Cena “some a y’all like me, some a y’all don’t, that’s okay because when you buy your ticket blah blah blah” thing. He has to say, “some of you like me and some of you don’t, and it really doesn’t matter because I’m the best so deal with it.” Basically Baron Corbin with much higher stakes.
Reigns being interrupted by a parade of internet darlings was great, too, because it let him just sorta squint at them and let them destroy each other while he sized them up. Jericho shows up — don’t sleep on how much we all used to love Chris Jericho, Cool Dad or not — and sets up the seemingly obvious Roman vs. Heel followup for Payback. That brings out AJ Styles, then Kevin Owens, then Sami Zayn. That’s a hell of a trio to follow up with. Zayn and Owens start going at it for no reason, because they’re destined to do this forever, so Styles and Jericho throw hands as well. When it’s down to just Jericho, Roman spears him and bails.
What I love about this is the character dynamics, the character conflicts and Roman Reigns actually seeming smart and confident. He didn’t hike up his jorts like Big Match John and challenge everyone to a match, he just kinda stood there until everyone did their thing and put an exclamation point on it. That’s the Roman we loved in the Shield. He would just stand on the apron chilling for most of the match, and then he’d tag in and BOOM, you were dead. He didn’t say much, and he didn’t insist upon himself. He was just good as sh*t and a cool handsome prince. This felt a lot like that, and I dig it.
Best: End Of DZ
Speaking of Baron Corbin, he gets a great little promo about how he doesn’t care if you know who he is, he’s leaving a path of destruction and collecting spooky skull outerwear and winning enormous golden man trophies.
He wrestles Dolph Ziggler, which is a great pairing. Aside from the End of Days and the Deep Six, most of Corbin’s offense is pretty basic and unspectacular. A lot of clotheslines, boots, nerve holds, that kind of thing. A guy like Ziggler is at his best making the mundane look devastating, so throwing him in against Corbin just makes sense. The finish is simultaneously super dumb and kinda cool, with Corbin knocking Ziggler into the crowd and following him out, leading to a double count-out. Corbin (who chose to knock Ziggler over the rail and chose to follow him out) gets angry at the referee for enforcing the basic rules of pro wrestling, and takes out his frustrations on Ziggler via an End of Days on the floor. My favorite part is when Corbin’s screaming THIS IS ON YOUUU at the referee, and the ref just has this sad Michelle Tanner look on his face.
This is to set up a bigger match down the road, which I’m hoping ends with Ziggler’s jumping DDT getting countered into an End of Days. Otherwise, what’s the point? Give me a Fame-asser into a Deep Six while we’re at it.
Best: Building An Actual Intercontinental Championship Story, Or
I know a lot of you are ready to give this a worst, but let me explain my thought process.
Aside from that beautiful period when John Cena was United States Champion, WWE’s secondary championships have basically just been props for years. They don’t get a lot of great stories, even when guys like Kevin Owens has them. HE’s great, and a lot of the matches are great, but the actual stories don’t have a lot of substance to them. It’s usually just “____ pinned the _____ champion!!” in a non-title match (or tag, or whatever) to set up a singles for the belt.
So, Zack Ryder won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania. It was arguably the most unexpected moment on the entire show, a show that featured The Rock with a flamethrower and Shaq wrestling. Zack Ryder winning a belt was less likely than both of those things. The finish of that match was The Miz having a clear path to victory and taking too long because hubris, and Ryder shoving him off the ladder from behind at the last second. So, the logical followup to that is Zack Ryder vs. The Miz, right? A to B. Got it.
On Raw, Ryder shows up (with Lilian Garcia jumping the gun and halfway announcing an Intercontinental Championship match before the promo’s set it up) to thank his dad in the front row and just generally be an affable guy. This Zack Ryder is very, very easy to cheer for, ignoring everything between Hoeski and Rowley. Miz shows up and goads him into a match, and Ryder, still running on adrenaline and confidence from the night before, accepts. Miz has already won at this point, because he knows what he’s doing and Ryder’s just kinda coasting on momentum.
Miz ends up getting in Ryder’s dad’s face, and gets shoved on his ass. Ryder tosses Miz into the ring and thinks that’s the push he needed to win, but suddenly MARYSE returns from out of nowhere and gets in Ryder’s dad’s face herself. For a quick recap on why Maryse is one of the most underrated characters in recent WWE history, consult pretty much any of our NXT season 4 episode recaps. Ryder is rightfully like, “WTF, is that MARYSE??” and Miz catches him with a Skull-crushing Finale. The plan worked to perfection, and now Miz is the Intercontinental Champion.
This has a lot to it that I don’t like, like pushy family members in the front row (Ryder probably should’ve been disqualified, honestly) and distractions, but I think it works. Not only does it follow up on the finish to WrestleMania’s ladder match, it sets up both Ryder and Miz to be better characters. Ryder winning the title on a fluke and trying to defend it could’ve been cool, but it might be better to show that he CAN win the title, then have him lose it and set him up to chase it en route to a win he actually appears to “earn.” Does that make sense? It give us a reason to cheer for him other than “we liked him already and he won.” We get to see him win, now. For Miz, he goes from being a complete afterthought to a motivated secondary champion with a great valet he has real-life chemistry with (obviously). Miz always works best when he has someone to play off of. Bryan, Riley, Sandow, whoever. You’ve got an opportunistic heel who thinks he’s entitled to a championship he barely earned, and you’ve got a dedicated, passionate babyface with a reason to take it away from him. That’s a solid story. Most importantly, it’s the beginning of an actual story.
If they switch the title back on Smackdown and this just turns into Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio with white dudes from 2007, I’ll be happy to take it all back.
Worst: Los Botánicos
Or, “Peyton Boyce.”
Congratulations to Primo and Epico from upgrading their gimmick from “bull fighters” to “regionally enthusiastic guys who can’t stop smelling flowers.” They just keep smelling the sh*t out of those flowers, man. They are sad for you because you live in NOT Puerto Rico and can’t even SMELL these flowers. There are two ways to get me to like this de-packaged repackage:
1. Carlito shows up and turns it into a trio of guys in billowy shirts, or
2. El Torito gets repackaged as a flower, and they lose matches because they can’t stop smelling him
Worst: The Crowd Derails A Thing That Didn’t Look Great Anyway
As I mentioned earlier, these post-Mania crowds can make or break segments. Here’s one they broke, which didn’t look like that great of an idea to begin with.
The segment is supposed to be a presentation of the WWE Women’s Championship, which technically already got presented last night but go with it. They bring the women’s division to the ring (minus Brie Bella, who I guess is already gone) and then bring out Charlotte, who tries to do a “we all worked together and did it TOGETHER” thing and turn it into a funny, heelish “AND ALSO I’M THE ONLY IMPORTANT ONE AND MY DAD RULES AND I’M A FLAIR.” That’s what it’s supposed to be. What it actually ends up being is Charlotte trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B while the crowd spends 10 minutes doing Bayley chants they heard on NXT TakeOver: London. Just non-stop. It’s like a vocal wave, and Charlotte has to start and stop and start and stop and smile and collect herself a few times before she can find an opening. It’s brutal.
Then, we end up with NATALYA of all people challenging her to a match. Sasha Banks just bailed and Bayley never showed up, but hey, here’s Natalya. Charlotte and Natalya have good matches, but this doesn’t feel like the feud you launch into the day after the creation of a new championship and a triple threat match that arguably stole a WrestleMania. A flat challenge + an unruly crowd + high expectations + Sasha Banks just calmly leaving =/= excitement.
Worst: Everyone Except The Dudleys Forgets How Table Matches Work
The worst moment of the entire show for me in a walk is the Dudleys vs. the Usos in a tables match. It ends when the Usos try to recreate that double table splash from the WrestleMania pre-show and the Dudleys move. The Usos go through the tables and the bell rings, which is absolutely not how table matches work. You have to physically put your opponent through a table, they can’t put themselves through it. The Dudleys appear to know that and the Usos are knocked out (but assumedly also know that), and everyone else is just like WELP, THE TABLES MATCH IS OVER, LET’S MOVE ON.
The worst part is that it was clearly building to something that would let the Dudleys stick around and get interrupted by the Realest Guys In The Room, so they have to go to commercial and do a backstage segment while they figure out an audible. Just terrible.
Best: Enzo Amore Sets The Building On Fire
The good news though is that they just bring out Enzo and Cass anyway, and it’s SO WORTH IT. Nothing that happened immediately before it mattered, because Enzo showed up ready to drop the ultimate Enzo Amore promo on the Dudleys. Holy sh*t was this wonderful, from telling D-Von he’s going to “put his lazy eye back to work” to telling Bubba to “fall back like his hairline.” The post-Mania crowd is into every second of it and repeats everything they know, and it’s perfect. Enzo’s out here with fiber optic lighting hair just lighting everybody up.
That might’ve been the best “SAWFT” ever, although the pre-show at Brooklyn might still have that title. Regardless, Enzo and Cass looked like true stars, and I hope this plus the match at Roadblock gets them where they need to be. My only complaint (besides the whereabouts of Carmella to complete the ensemble) was Cole dropping the “they’re an acquired taste!” after watching everybody in the building happily scream catchphrases with them. Great stuff, otherwise.
Also great: Enzo and Cass are on Raw and The Vaudevillains are on Smackdown, so I’m gonna pretend American Alpha winning the NXT Tag Team Championship made all the other teams give up.
Best: Sami Zayn Reunites With A Ray Of Sunshine
It doesn’t end well for him and Renee asks him a question she should definitely already know the answer to, but it’s great to see our old NXT OTP reunited on Raw. Between this and Summer/Sasha, y’all got me emotional for the Hulu days.
Finally, we get to the main-event, made in a backstage segment with Shane McMahon. Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn, fatal four-way to name a new number one contender to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. As you might expect, Owens jumps Zayn backstage and powerbombs him through a table, taking him out of the match. There were rumors on Twitter during the show that Sami had gotten hurt again diving onto Owens earlier in the night, but it turns out he was just selling. How sad is it that the injury plague has got us nervous about wrestlers competently selling?
Anyway, it looks like it’s gonna be a triple threat match until it’s announced that Shane O’Mac has found a replacement for Zayn, and it’s motherf*cking TONY CESARO. IN SUNGLASSES AND A TEARAWAY SUIT. I don’t know if The Rock’s goofy tearaway pants to reveal he’s always wearing his wrestling gear is becoming a trope, but it’s so stupid I can’t help but love it. I hope Cesaro keeps it, and explains that those are his only two imaginable clothing options.
The entire match is great, but man is it good to have Cesaro back. He looks like something substantially greater than a million bucks, and I think I forgot how great he was during his injury. Like, I remember that he’s great at wrestling, but you forget how quick and powerful he is. Cesaro and Styles doing the AJ dropkick spot felt like we were watching the perfect version, with a huge sense of urgency and a snap to everything. By the time we got to him doing a triangle sprint to European uppercut everybody I was thanking the good lord baby Jesus for bringing him back.
I was hoping for Cesaro vs. Reigns at Payback (because those two are AWESOME together), but we got something maybe even better: Reigns vs. Styles. That’s the closest approximation to Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan we can get in 2016, and if they’re pushing Reigns into true tweener territory where he’s the Big Dog but legitimately doesn’t give a sh*t about what anyone thinks of him, pairing him with a super worker everyone likes is a perfect compliment. They’re both great wrestlers in their own way, but complete connective opposites. Styles has all the intangible stuff Roman hasn’t gotten due to circumstance and bad timing and bad booking (or whatever the explanation is), and Roman’s got the size and power and look Styles can never have. I am f*cking STOKED to see that match, and yes, I am already plotting out Bullet Club vs. Shield scenarios for the entirety of the summer. LET’S DO IT.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Cesaro is so strong that he was able to lift our spirits after last night’s main event.
WWE makes their wrestling show rated PG and their cartoon rated R
“Siri, set alarm for 2:51 AM for ‘Call Doctor if it hasn’t subsided’”
Michael Cole: “Enzo and Cass are an acquired taste!”
Raw Crowd: *unanimously love Enzo and Cass*
Mr. Royal Rumble, TheCensoredMSol
Mr. Ryder: “Enzo? Enzo Amore? Enzo Amore from Maple Drive used to shovel snow in da neighbahood? Whoa! How you doin? How’s ya ma?”
If Shane’s in charge why didn’t he just book himself into a winner gets permanent control over monday night raw match against king barrett?
Sami: “Tonight’s the kinda night…”
Kevin: “THOSE AREN’T THE LYRICS! HYPE CROWD!”
The Real Birdman
Zayn: “Great question Devin”
Renee: “Actually I’m Renee”
Zayn: “Sorry, I got kicked in the head a bunch on Friday”
Somewhere on that Beach, a lone bull horn is sticking out of the sand.
Percocet Shane’O’Mac is easily the best Raw GM and worst NXT GM.
Thanks, everybody. See you on Wednesday for What’s Left Of NXT!