Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: A lady got to celebrate her marriage by being forced into a bunch of cakes. Seth Rollins got into a promo fight about Irish mythology, Braun Strowman killed a guy named “Jorel,” and Enzo Amore and Big Cass think maybe you look like a homosexual. Maybe you all are homosexuals too!
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for August 15, 2016.
Best: Rusev, And Literally Nobody Else
This is one of those segments where if I break it down too much, I start typing in capital letters. I’m just gonna tell you what happened.
Rusev and Lana open the show demanding an apology from Roman Reigns, who interrupted their presentation of wedding slides by calling Lana a mail-order bride and punching them into some expensive wedding cakes. Reigns wanted a shot at the United States Championship, but his win/loss record has been pretty lackluster since returning from his wellness policy violation and like, why would a dude give you a title shot for insulting his wife and ruining his day? Rusev of course said no. Then, caking. Rusev went to management and was like, “what the hell, man,” and babyface-coddling Mick Foley was like, “Roman Reigns gets a title shot!”
This week, they want an apology. Mick Foley shows up and tries to get him to leave, and Rusev accurately points out that (1) Roman gets opportunity after opportunity after opportunity and it doesn’t make any sense, and (2) that Foley sucks. He says he wants the “real authority” and demands Stephanie McMahon, who of course now loves Mick Foley all of a sudden and thinks he deserves respect for putting his body on the line for this business. Rusev again accurately points out that he is the active wrestler and current champion of the show, so like, maybe the people running it should respect him instead of circle-jerking each other and giving the same tired dudes they’ve claimed to hate opportunities?
Roman shows up and once again throws Lana under the bus, and Rusev responds by calling him a “greasy pig,” which is pretty hilarious. Basically, here’s the situation: you’ve got the United States Champion, the top champion of the brand as of now, rallying against two authority figures for giving an undeserving pet project an opportunity because he acted like an asshole. That guy won’t stop insulting Rusev’s wife, so Rusev wants to fight him not for the United States Championship, but for HER HONOR. I know my “the heels are right and the babyfaces are jerky dorks” thing can be a little tired sometimes, but y’all, how the f*ck is Rusev the heel here? Because he’s insulting and aggro? Because he’s not from here? F*ck that. EVERYBODY here is insulting and aggro, and only one of them is doing it for observable reasons like personal pride, professional respect and spousal support. The other ones are out-of-touch, wishy-washy corporate types and a guy who visibly doesn’t give a sh*t about ANYTHING going on.
Don’t worry, though, they wrestle tonight. 6 days before they’re supposed to wrestle at SummerSlam. And it has a clean finish, with Roman winning and … winning Lana’s honor? I don’t even know. I don’t even know. I pretty much feel like Bret Hart watching the Attitude Era creep on me all the damn time.
Worst: A Best Of Oh Dear God No
First of all, congratulations to Sami Zayn for actually getting to be on the show this week. I’m very happy he defeated Kevin Owens at Battleground and is now able to move forward with his life and career, being absent for entire Raws and facing nobody at SummerSlam.
Hey, remember a few weeks ago when Cesaro beat Sheamus clean? Remember how they had a rematch on the next Raw, which Cesaro also won clean? This week, Cesaro helps Zayn give Sheamus yet another loss, and the payoff for this is, I am sh*tting you not, a BEST OF SEVEN SERIES BETWEEN CESARO AND SHEAMUS. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
The matches will probably be very good, so that’s a silver lining. But the rest of the dark-ass cloud is that we’re doing seven more one-on-one matches between two dudes we just saw wrestle twice. Somewhere on Smackdown, Dolph Ziggler is like, “sh*t, that’s what I’ve been trying to do with everyone, I couldn’t remember what it was called.”
This is a gift. That’s all I can say about it. “It” as a catchphrase is the new “you know where, down there,” and I could watch Jericho and Owens call Tom Phillips generic names forever. “I tell ya what’s not funny, Steven” is my favorite.
Watching a Jericho and Owens segment followed by Enzo and Cass is like a double feature of Waiting For Guffman and Madagascar. Enzo’s pretty much just Chris Rock as a sassy zebra, right?
I know the SummerSlam match is probably ending with Jericho getting an apron powerbomb, but maybe if I close my eyes and wish hard enough, he and Owens will stay best-worst friends forever. Also maybe Enzo and Cass will accidentally fall into some crates and get shipped thousands of miles away.
Best: Count Her Out, She’s Dead
In case you were wondering, Nia Jax’s opponent here (“Rachel Levy”) is Texas wrestler and Funaki student Delilah Doom, and man, is she great. Most of the response on Twitter was a mix of “she looks like Rainbow Brite” and “WHO IS THIS, SHE SHOULD MARRY ME,” and it’s all pretty accurate. She should probably be your favorite wrestler. She’s the size of one of Nia’s legs and dies a horrible death here — that bump off the ropes was so sick — and I hope somebody at WWE notices and gives her an actual shot in developmental. If you want the next Bayley, sh*t, there you go. SHE CAN BEAT NIA JAX BECAUSE THE OLYMPICS.
Also, for clarification purposes, she doesn’t look like Rainbow Brite. She looks like Loo-Kee from She-Ra. They should bring her into NXT as Loo-Kee, and then change her name to Kaval.
A supplemental Best to Nia, of course, for continuing to turn these squashes into serious violence business. “Count her out, she’s dead,” was a Mark Henry level ad-libbed in-ring insult.
Eh: The New Day And The Club Are Still Feuding About Each Other’s Balls
The Club’s microwave says “nads” on it. It’s not Puff Daddy yelling the word “nuts” weirdly loud, but it’s something.
This week, we get two balls-related tag team matches. The first is the New Day getting a win over the Dudley Boyz, who are continuing to do that thing tag teams do where they’re about to break up, so they lose via dumb sh*t like accidental clotheslines that would never, ever beat them otherwise. Nothing makes you more susceptible to wrestling offense than iffy self-confidence. Anderson and Gallows taunt them with nut sketches before AND after the match, because when you’re exploding eggs in a nads microwave you’ve gotta make sure everyone gets it.
Later, the Club defeats Golden Truth and gets jumped from behind by New Day, because babyfaces. They try to crush The Club’s balls with a trombone, but the Club is able to escape to safety with their In Living Color pickle jars. Look, I could go either way on this feud, but if they want me to love it, they need to go full Worldwide Underground, make the SummerSlam match no-disqualification, and have both teams find creative ways to rack each other for 15 minutes.
Worst: The Not Ready For Prime Time Players
A couple of weeks ago, Titus O’Neil pinned Darren Young with a handful of tights. Backstage, Titus argued with a 67-year old man and threatened him until Young ran in and attacked him. The next week, they had a rematch in which Young pinned O’Neil with a handful of tights. This week, because everything’s backwards and this episode makes me feel like I have a concussion, Young and O’Neil are tag team partners. SHOCKINGLY (~!!) the match ends with some miscommunication and O’Neil attacking Young.
If you want to know how well-put-together and exciting this whole thing is, listen to Michael Cole’s deadpan, “I guess Titus didn’t think it was an accident. So much for that reunion.” Cole can’t even do his phony interested announcer voice about it. Everyone’s bad at wrestling, nobody can get along, and adults can’t deal with even minor setbacks without irrationally lashing out. We aren’t cheering or booing any of these dudes, because nothing they’re doing is cheerable, and nothing’s important enough to be booed.
Best: Heath Slater
Tell me you watched this segment and didn’t want Slater to drag himself back in at the end, tell Lesnar he “didn’t hear no bell” and demand the fight continue. YOU’RE A LIAR.
I don’t know how an extended period of helplessness helps Slater in the long run, or why he’s trying so hard to be a contracted Raw or Smackdown Superstar if he’s proving you can just go to the shows and get in the ring and get regular matches on both Raw AND Smackdown. He’s having more matches on TV now than he did when he was on the rosters. But Slater is great, and seeing him step up to Brock Lesnar to PROVIDE FOR HIS CHILDREN only to be told Lesnar doesn’t “give a sh*t” about his kids was probably the best moment of the show. Heath Slater is the best moment of your show. That’s awesome, and also not a great sign?
Still though, this is the kind of angle where WWE could really do something creative or make someone’s career if they just put a little more effort into it. They need to learn “if yes, then what” storytelling. Point A to point B to point C. Let us follow the journey of these characters and learn about who they are, so when Slater shows up trying to get a job we legitimately care about the how and why. Don’t just use it as a funny way to present enhancement talent. I’m not asking for Heath Slater to become Stone Cold Steve Austin, but the Lesnar/Slater interaction legitimately had more layers and pathos than Bálor and Rollins, Titus and Darren Young, Enzo and Cass and ANYBODY or anything else on the episode.
But like I said, I wish Slater had gotten back in there at the end. This really needed Jim Ross giving Heath a “climb the ladder, kid, make yourself famous” moment. Heyman was great here, putting Slater over for standing up to Brock and not sneak attacking him like Orton, Brock was great here for being a Cro-Magnon bully “in heat,” and Slaters gonna slate.
The Cruiserweight Division Is Coming To Raw!
Up first, high-flying cruiserweight Jinder Mahal!
Best: Charlotte Sucks
The only legitimate heel heat on the night goes to Charlotte, and God bless her for it. First, she gets a great backstage bit with Dana Brooke where she bullies her and calls her an “epic failure.” The great thing about characters like Dana is that you want them to redeem themselves and stand up for themselves in situations like this, but they’re fundamentally weak-minded and just go along with the cruelty and insults. Game of Thrones is great about that. “Oh, here’s where they’re gonna … nope, still terrible, still evil, ah well.”
Charlotte wrestles TEAM BELLA’s Alicia Fox, beating her cleanly and by herself to show that aside from her love of taking shortcuts, she’s a talented and competent wrestler. The NWA used to do that with Ric Flair a lot, where they’d have him look like a cheating stooge against guys like Magnum T.A. and then show up on Saturday to just f*ck up a jobber’s world. That’s an important aspect of heel development that WWE doesn’t focus on enough … reminding us that the morally corrupt might have to cheat to beat their peers, but are still objectively among the best wrestlers in the world and should be able to win MOST matches without an issue. It’s why Kevin Owens might take a shortcut against Sami Zayn, but can just kill Alex Riley at will. If your heels can’t beat ANYBODY without cheating, there’s no reason to be compelled by the important times they do.
After the match, Charlotte goads Sasha Banks into the ring and springs her SURPRISE DANA BROOKE REEK ATTACK, giving her an opening to clip Sasha’s leg and put her in Figures four through eight. The best part is that the attack gets the crowd booing and chanting “Charlotte sucks,” which feels great because it’s IN RESPONSE TO A WRESTLING THING THAT JUST HAPPENED. It’s not just arbitrary booing or cheering based on what we’re told to feel, it’s a crowd being pissed that a wrestler they don’t like did something sh*tty to one they do. That seems like I’m stating the most obvious thing in the world, but occasionally having heels actually act like heels and faces actually act like faces goes a long way on modern WWE programming. It’s why NXT works, and it would work in front of Raw audiences if they’d do it more than like once every three cycles.
Best/Worst: The Demon King
This is one of those moments that’s terrible from an analyst point of view, because your feelings as a fan and your feelings as a person who’s interested in how wrestling shows are put together and why are put into conflict. From one point of view, it’s cool as sh*t to finally see the Demon Bálor on Raw in front of a big-league WWE audience. On the other, you’ve got to wonder why the hell they chose to do it six days BEFORE SummerSlam, and why they not only gave away the full Demon look and entrance but a good chunk of what a Bálor/Rollins match would look like. It’s not like most of us haven’t seen in before — he’s still a Juggalo with a bunch of belts stapled to a headband — but we’re trained to look out for/anticipate the big “star-making” moments, and the Demon debuting on pay-per-view would’ve presumably been one of those. But like, no skin off our backs for seeing it early, right?
My hope is that they popped the Demon cherry early so WWE fans would know about it, and Rollins can show up as his OWN version of the Demon at SummerSlam. All I want is Seth Rollins in Nakamura corpse titan paint. Make Finn up his main-roster Demon game. BELTS AND CHEST TEETH AIN’T GONNA CUT IT ANYMORE, KID.
Worst: “The Demon King!”
They probably should’ve said “The Demon King” a few more times. There’s nothing worse than when WWE sends out a memo to say a certain word or phrase, because they do not give a sh*t about timing or context. The mission statement is, “say it as much as possible.” Every new buzzword is Austin Powers noticing a dude’s mole.
Also, it sounds an awful lot like “The Demon Kane,” doesn’t it?
Best, But You Know: Rusev vs. Reigns
The main event is actually really good, as it should be. Rusev is great at dishing out believable punishment, and Reigns is Sheamus-like in his ability to believably take it. What he does with it after he takes it is usually a problem, but he’s exceptional at looking like he’s getting his ass kicked while it’s actually happening. Even though he’s wearing a bulletproof vest. Man, I’m trying to be complimentary here.
The match is a lot of fun, and as you might’ve expected, it ends with Roman Reigns cleanly pinning Rusev with a spear in the middle of the ring in a long match six days before they face off at SummerSlam. So, ignoring all the “my wife’s honor” stuff that pissed me off earlier, are they just going to do another long, good match? If so, why would they do it here, to promote one there? It’s a lot like The Demon King, where the only reason you’d imagine for them to do something like this here is to do something that defies your expectations there. Right? The pessimist in me could just say they’re lazy and don’t care about properly presenting even the good ideas they have, but is that really it? Is that always really it?
I want to see Rusev rip Reigns up at SummerSlam, obviously, but if this was a long, good match with a clean finish, doesn’t it feel like they’re gonna bait and switch the SummerSlam version? I could very easily see Rusev cutting one of his promos about being the best and keeping the belt for seven years only for Reigns to spear him in 10 seconds and win. Then this would’ve been the preemptive apology for anyone disappointed in that. Maybe SummerSlam opens with Reigns getting run over by a tank?
It’ll be interesting to see where it goes, and honestly I’m okay with even the lamest result as long as it doesn’t involve Lana falling in love with Roman for winning her honor or whatever.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Dumb Rusev was so dumb that Roman was able to beat him with a BLANK.
-Machka Game ’78
Hailing From Parts Unknown, on Karl Anderson’s balls almost being trombonered
That would have only been tragic for Hot Asian Wife
The Real Birdman
Goldust getting hit w/ Magic Killer when his finisher is the same thing just he does it himself
And your friend who hates wrestling just walked into the room
Screw the Demon King I want to see Corporate King
The Perfect Tim
“Heath screwed Heath” – Jinder Mahal
Full Nelson Reilly
Not the snacks table! They were gonna let Heath take the leftovers home to his two or more kids!
“The beast is in heat.”
Is Brock going to beat Orton or mate with him?
Byron: “Corey, you’re aware Heath’s kids have a mother?”
Corey: “I imagine she will die of grief.”
Dicks out for Heath Slater.
Thanks, everybody. That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you this weekend for NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn Brooklyn and WWF SummerFest.