Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: We waved goodbye to the week-old New Era with a regular-ass edition of Monday Night Raw. Enzo Amore tried to hook up with Sasha Banks, Mark Henry sadly competed for the United States Championship, and Titus O’Neil almost got into a fight with a 70-year-old man. New Era!
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for August 8, 2016.
Best: Bert And Ernie
First, let’s touch on the positives. Chris Jericho is the greatest. He’s evoking so much of what made him my favorite wrestler in the late ’90s right now, from the ridiculous facial hair choices and making up fictional people with absurd names to justify himself, to the terrible “insulting” nicknames that are barely insulting. Remember “Stinko Malenko?” That’s not too far removed from Enzo Annoying. Pairing him with Kevin Owens just makes it that much better, because oddly they’re characters that should get along, but are still kinda constantly at odds because they’re irrational jerks. Calling them “Bert and Ernie” is especially great. Enzo Amore is definitely Elmo (based on his size, appearance, and how everyone loves him for constantly screaming nonsense) and Big Cass has both the height and delivery of a Snuffleupagus.
Anyway, maybe you’ll feel me on this and maybe you won’t, but I’m officially off the Enzo and Cass train. They’ve reached that terrible level of trust in WWE where babyfaces who truly have something to contribute to the show are reduced to these weird, confrontational, homophobic cartoon characters. Remember what happened with The Miz? Miz was one of the best characters (and at the time, performers) on the show, and they were like, “people like you, tell Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes you bet they’re buttf*cking.” Enzo’s great, but less so when their material is “man code” jokes and telling his opponents they take baths together. Who does Cass think he is, Kevin Nash? Uh, don’t answer that. But I guess this is the same team that used to call Sylvester LeFort and Marcus Louis “sweet boys” all the time in NXT, so maybe I was just choosing to ignore it.
It’s not about social justice or anything, it’s just lazy writing. I want Raw to try harder, especially when they’re supposed to be newly refocused. Enzo is too talented on the microphone to go that route, especially against characters as routinely broad as Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. But yeah, this is the most obvious example in a while of putting something I love in wrestling against something I don’t, then making it impossible for me to explain why people are cheering in the wrong direction.
Worst: Long Enzo Singles Matches
By the way, I finally figured out who Cass sounds like. Al Franken’s Paul Tsongas impression. They should do a WWE Studios remake of Speed where Cass explodes if he speaks more than one word every three seconds.
The opening segment leads to Owens and Jericho hilariously puffing up to Big Cass and ending up in a match with Enzo, thanks in part to advice from the great Jimmen Marvinluder. The match isn’t bad, but shines a pretty bright light on how Enzo Amore shouldn’t be wrestling long singles matches. He’s better than he used to be, but he’s in that tag team for a reason, and his physical gifts compliment Cass’ as much as his personality. Those guys belong as two pieces of one thing, and if Cass hadn’t been at ringside to bang the mat at the right times, I think the match would’ve played out a lot worse. Sometimes Enzo’s offense makes Dean Ambrose look like Mike Tyson. It legit feels like the referee could kick his ass sometimes. That’s not a terrible thing, either, it’s just perfect for a tag team about a tiny fragile guy who runs his mouth and has a giant, slow monster backing him up. It’s Dario and Matanza Cueto, filtered through a bunch of season two episodes of Jersey Shore.
Best, Though: KO
“That’s not how you spell that word! That’s not how you spell that word! S-O-F-T. That’s right.”
Best: Son Of Jorel, Kneel Before Braun
Up next, Jorel Nelson joins such luminaries as James Ellsworth and Evan Anderholm on the list of spectacularly helpless, hopeless Braun Strowman opponents. He gets a pre-match interview where you can see his life flashing before his eyes, then gets his own entrance (!) before reconsidering and trying to leave.
I like these little narratives for the jobbers Strowman kills. Ellsworth was a physical incompetent who believed in hope. Anderholm was just in it for the money, and now Nelson is the guy who just existentially ended up here. Or he HAD hope or a dream, but lost it before we met him. These people are legitimately more interesting and nuanced than most of the roster right now.
Sadly the only Nia Jax content this week is a video package about how she’s a force that cannot be stopped, unless you’re Asuka, or Bayley two out of three times. I’m paraphrasing.
Worst: WWE Not Understanding Its Own Angles
Last week, Titus O’Neil grabbed a handful of tights to pin Darren Young. Backstage, Bob Backlund got in his face about cheating, and Titus was like, “a win is a win.” He knows everything about making wins. Young ran in and attacked Titus for bucking up to Backlund, and this week they have a rematch.
Now, the story pretty much everyone wants to see (and the story we thought they were gonna tell at Battleground) is Darren Young harnessing the power of the crossface chickenwing and going crazy to defeat people, a la Bob Backlund in the ’90s. Instead, Young’s “crossface chickenwing” is a cobra clutch that he’s only done what, once? And the story is that he’s totally fine, but wants to get wins any way he can, and will cheat to beat Titus.
I don’t even know. It’s one of those logic gaps that seems to spit in the face of the very simple, easy to enjoy story they were setting up. Where does this go? You’ve got Darren Young spending several months getting life advice from Backlund, having it pay off in his favor, then having him completely ignore that advice and cheating behind Backlund’s back? Already? He’s been back for how long, a month? What does any of this do for anybody? Titus was a Dad of the Year babyface fighting for America a month ago, and now he’s I guess an expert rudo, and Young’s learning from him instead? Is that what’s happening? Is nothing happening at all? Does anybody care?
Ignoring everything about the angle itself or where we think it should or shouldn’t go, consider how this looks for the live crowds, or even for people watching at home. Last week, good guy Titus cheats to win, and Young gets into a fight with him about it backstage. This week, wronged babyface Young cheats to beat Titus and brags about it. So to completely remove it from fantasy booking or what we think is best for whoever, who is the crowd supposed to cheer? Who are they supposed to boo? Who are they supposed to like? Is it nobody?
Worst: FRENCH MONTANA? You Don’t Say
Does Puff Daddy know he just inadvertently invited Frank the Clown to one of his shows?
Anyway, Puff Daddy shows up to be the “special guest star” of Raw, which means he talks to some wrestlers in one backstage segment. He gives Mick Foley tickets to see the Bad Boy reunion tour, which without Biggie is honestly a lot like going to see Queen with Adam Lambert. The best part is Puff putting over FRENCH MONTANA like he’s Roman Reigns. “Oh and DEFINITELY French Montana will be there!” OH THANK GOD. New Day shows up, and Puffy’s like, “the new WWE 2K17 soundtrack features FRENCH MONTANA,” and everyone’s like, “OH SH*T FRENCH MONTANA IS THE BEST.” I swear to God, all I want is for “French Montana” to guest star on Raw next week and for it to just be Jacques Rougeau with a cowboy gimmick.
The selling point of the scene is Puff Daddy saying, “how’s BIG E’s NUTS??”
For anyone wondering, said nuts are now being kept in an Anton Jackson-style pickle jar by Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. The Club are now testicle collecting, pun making doctors, which seems dumb but is legitimately a step up from their previous gimmick, “maybe white supremacists?”
The highlight of the video (assuming you aren’t 12 years old) (or maybe assuming you are) is the repeated clip of Big E being crotched on the ring post. It’s not that funny until you run it 10 times in a row from multiple angles, with still-frame spotlights on a guy’s crotch.
Important point: The Club should use this as their finish and call it the “Crotch Neutralizer.” You’re welcome.
The payoff to this story — keeping in mind that Nia Jax doesn’t wrestle and Sami Zayn doesn’t even APPEAR on this three-hour episode of wrestling featuring a three-part story involving Puff Daddy eating cereal and the Bullet Club putting eggs in a jar and saying they’re a dude’s balls — is a short Luke Gallows vs. Kofi Kingston match. It’s not much, but it’s not bad, and at the very least it allows Xavier Woods to finally show some f*cking fire when it’s time to save Kofi. That’s the one thing that concerns me the most about New Day … they don’t seem to care about ANYTHING, even life or death situations, which is why they’ve never had a hot feud with ANYBODY. If they don’t care, why should we? At least the fear of not having their testicles collected seems to have lit a fire under a third of them. Woods might be the only New Day guy trying right now.
So a Best for Woods, a middling Best for the match at least attempting to continue to tell a story, a super Best for Puff Daddy raising his voice to say “nuts,” and a Worst for everything else.
Best: Dueling Promos
The upcoming SummerSlam match for the WWE Universal Studios Orlando Championship gets some hype in the form of a live promo from Seth Rollins, and a taped promo from Finn Bálor. What’s funny about it is that Bálor’s pre-taped promo references Rollins’ live one from the same show.
Anyway, both promos are good, and also impossibly corny. Rollins does a thing about how Finn Bálor isn’t even Bálor’s real name, he took it because Finn means “hero” and Bálor means “demon king.” I love that “Seth Rollins” is doing this. Bálor Finnsplains Irish mythology, complete with graphics, and talks about how he’s going to summon them to power himself up at SummerSlam. I wish the promos had been reversed. “I TOOK THE NAME TYLER BECAUSE MY FAVORITE MOVIE IS FIGHT CLUB. THE LAST NAME BLACK SYMBOLIZES HOW EMO I AM.” I also wish Finn actually became possessed by these creatures, and didn’t just end up looking like a Juggalo with a bunch of belts on his head.
Joking aside, I really do hope Rollins debuts his own “demon” at SummerSlam to combat Bálor. That’s all I want. Either that, or for him to own the Crossfit Jesus thing and show up to wrestle in a toga and toe shoes.
Best: R-Truth Will Fight A Dog
I think Goldust hugging a Scooby-Doo mascot is as relevant to my interests as a wrestling segment can get. Also, R-Truth threatening to “go for the eyes” of a dog for trying to steal his tag team partner and, from what I can tell, locking him in a cartoon van full of flies. Do they know Scooby Snacks are dog food?
Best: Orton Vs. Lesnar, The Video
BROTHER, I cannot tell you how much I loved this Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar SummerSlam hype video. The more I watch it, the more I adore it.
Orton: It all began in 2002, we came up in a developmental territory together and there were a lot of great guys. We became forever connected by fate and passion.
Lesnar: I DON’T GIVE A F*CK ABOUT RANDY ORTON I WILL EAT HIS FAMILY
Orton: Brock and I share a number of interesting parallels
Lesnar: I WILL PUNCH HIS F*CKING DICK, WATCH ME, I’LL PUNCH THE SH*T OUT OF HIS DICK PAUL
Orton: At SummerSlam, we’ll compete to see who the better man is. I will give it my all to become the best!
Lesnar: I WILL PUT YOUR F*CKING DICK ON A HOAGIE AND EAT THAT SH*T, I WILL EAT YOUR D*CK RANDY IT WILL KILL YOU
Here’s my response:
Lesnar’s gonna fold Orton in half like the back of a MAD magazine at SummerSlam, and I’m excited for it. No truer statement ever spoken on WWE TV than, “Yeah I know who Randy Orton is, but I don’t have a relationship with Randy Orton, nor do I give a f*ck about Randy Orton.” Heart eyes.
Note: the fold-in of Orton’s tattoos makes George Bush’s face. And a bunch of skulls.
Best/Worst: The Dudley Boyz Are Breaking Up Again Probably!
First point: Why are Neville and Sin Cara tagging? Didn’t Sin Cara agree to end the Lucha Dragons so he could be a singles star? And why the hell isn’t Kalisto on this show, feuding with Neville over the Cruiserweight Championship already?
Second point: Are the Dudley Boyz breaking up again so Randy Orton can have exclusive rights to calling stuff Somethingville?
Worst: Commissioner Foley
My least favorite TV character makes three terrible decisions on the night.
Rusev and Lana decide (for some reason) to reenact their wedding in front of a WWE audience. Lana probably should’ve reenacted what she was gonna say a few times before she got a live microphone, but I digress. Basically they show up looking like beautiful humans and do the most heel things you can do to the WWE Universe: having personal lives outside of wrestling, and being in love. They HATE it. And to their credit, Rusev and Lana do everything they can to be as condescendingly heel as possible for like 10 minutes, showing wedding slides and bragging about how expensive their cakes were and shouting RESPECT MY WIFE at like 10,000 rude-ass strangers. It’s boring, but it’s also kinda great.
Roman Reigns shows up, and the John Cena alarm in your brain starts going WOOP WOOP WOOP. He decides that Rusev needs a “best man” and gives a toast, which is, of course, calling Lana a mail-order bride and saying Rusev is a “Bulgarian sat-squatch.” Sufferin’ Sasquatch, son! Secret babyface Rusev decides to stand up to Roman and defend his wife, and in the melee she gets knocked into one of the expensive wedding cakes. Backstage, Vince McMahon is googling “vince mcmahon emmy?” and seeing what comes up. I’m kidding. Vince doesn’t know what Google is, he’s typing “me emmy” into AOL Keyword.
The bit is built around Roman wanting a shot at the United States Championship, and Rusev telling him no. Why would Rusev give him a shot? Because he interrupted his wedding celebration to challenge him? But the defining characteristic of Roman Reigns is entitlement, so when he doesn’t get what he wants, he throws a fit about it and goads Rusev into attacking him. When Rusev complains about this to management, Commissioner Foley does what Commissioner Foley does: he punishes the heel for no reason, and gives Reigns the title shot he didn’t deserve. THANKS, BUDDY.
This is one of those segments that should’ve been changed in the first draft of the script, but nobody got to it or thought about it for a f*cking second so it’s on live, primetime TV as produced by a billion dollar, global, publicly-traded corporation. Sasha Banks is worried about Dana Brooke interfering in her championship defense against Charlotte at SummerSlam, so she goes to Mick Foley and asks him to make the SummerSlam match a handicap match. First of all, what? Second of all, would it still be for the title? Are you asking for a 2-on-1 handicap match for the belt you just won?
Foley’s response is that he’s gonna make Banks vs. Brooke for tonight, and if Sasha wins, Dana is banned from ringside at SummerSlam. If she loses, she’ll have to face Charlotte and Dana in a handicap match. So … if she loses, she gets what she wants. If she wins, she gets something way more logical that is much better than what she wanted. So no matter what, she wins?
Wouldn’t the logical thing here be to have had Sasha ask for Dana to be banned from ringside, and for Foley to give her this high risk/high reward situation? Wouldn’t that have created drama for the match, and given Sasha something to actually fight for? Wouldn’t that have motivated Charlotte to want to help Dana win, because it’d help her? And wouldn’t that even create a scenario where you’re wondering if Dana’s gonna screw over Charlotte and try to steal the championship for herself? Wouldn’t ANY of this have been better?
Earlier in the night, Sheamus and Cesaro have their rematch from last week. I want to make sure I give it its own Best here, because it’s pretty great. Sheamus and Cesaro are a great pairing and have had a few low key classic matches — their one-on-one match from Night Of Champions a couple of years ago is criminally underrated — which would be HIGH key classics if they had any character development, story or consequence surrounding them. But yeah, it’s good stuff.
Anyway, as I was saying …
Foley invites Smackdown General Manager Daniel Bryan to the show and talks to him in the assumed planned main event of the evening, because the New Era is about the SUPERSTARS and the WRESTLING, and not the authority figures in charge of it. The purpose of Foley bringing Bryan on the show is to chide him for making fun of the “Universal Championship” which, come on, deserves to be made fun of. They didn’t even try to set up a scenario where they could get the WWE Championship from Ambrose, they just immediately threw in the towel and decided to make their OWN WWE Championship, with BLACKJACK, and HOOKERS. If you believe some of the leaked belt graphics, it even looks exactly the same. So dude doesn’t try, takes the obvious route, gives his new super belt a cornball name and then brings the other show’s GM on HIS show in the main to publicly correct him about it being super cool. YOU’RE THE BEST, COMMISSIONER FOLEY.
They’re interrupted by Rusev, who says that the show already has a champion, him, and that he’s being undervalued and underappreciated. That brings out Cesaro, and Bryan is like, “I also think THIS guy is undervalued and underappreciated.” Foley’s response is to grant Cesaro that “championship opportunity” he’d been vaguely promising him, putting him (a guy who has already wrestled) in an impromptu United States Championship match with like five minutes of TV time remaining against a heel he’d already punished once tonight for having his wedding celebration interrupted.
On top of all that, how dumb is Cesaro for squandering that championship opportunity on a belt Zack Ryder and Titus O’Neil have been competing for for the past few months? Use that sh*t on the Galaxy Milky Way title, bruh.
If you’re wondering how that turns out, the guy Cesaro beat earlier in the night jogs back out and thumbs him in the eye, costing him a title opportunity and, presumably, setting up a rubber match for best-of-3 series of which he’s already lost the first two. Because for real, nobody wanted to do a once-over of this first draft, they were just like, “yes, this seems like a Raw.”
But don’t worry, Roman Reigns shows up to spear Rusev and you find out that the face that everyone cheers lost to help put over the face everybody boos. Here’s the good news: Roman got the Shield helicopter in the divorce.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Getting moved to the front row and having it be this Raw must feel exactly like ordering a pizza and having it be Little Caesars.
The Real Birdman
This hour of Raw is brought to you by my 7 year old nephew
Full Nelson Reilly
“What about the leprechaun, Seth? People were always after his Lucky Charms.What about Bono, Seth? He still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.”
“Maybe YOU can help solve a mystery.” – Finn Balor
We’re just down the street from Space Mountain which, as I understand It, is where Charlotte was conceived.
The Longest Tard
Anyone know when Roman is going to do drugs again?
I know we’re going to get the usual “Rusev is the babyface” spiel tomorrow, but there’s no bigger babyface move than getting newlyweds to stop talking about their damned wedding.
For a wedding party that involves Roman Reigns, you bring something old, something new, something borrowed, and something BOOOOOOOOOOO
ROMAN: Comedy is timing all…about.
“Please clap” – Roman
Thanks, everybody. Join me in this flaming dumpster next week when we ask, “no, seriously, where the hell was Sami Zayn?”