Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Enzo Amore got beaten up two straight weeks in a row for trying to hook up with Rusev’s wife, and thought seeing Rusev and Lana briefly fighting backstage meant this third week would be the charm. He went to a hotel to hook up with her and got lamps smashed on his body. As you do.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for December 12, 2016.
Best: Cesaro Goes Super Saiyan
The most important single thing in this episode is Cesaro getting, as Gran Akuma put it, “the hottest hot tag in the history of both tags and heat.” Watch the following video starting at the 1:39 mark.
This beautiful Swiss mecha-Jesus tags in and in more or less one big gesture hits:
1. the most beautiful springboard European uppercut ever on Karl Anderson
2. a 619, which Corey Graves calls the “Swiss-one-nine” on Anderson
3. a jumping dick to the face to a completely different person (Big E) on the floor
4. a running European uppercut to a third person (Kofi Kingston) against the guard rail
5. a jumping double-stomp to a FOURTH person (Luke Gallows) lying on the floor
6. a spectacularly-timed high crossbody back into the ring on Anderson
It’s one of those sequences that should’ve ended with him baseball sliding out of the ring to knock down Kevin Owens, the Universal Championship flying into the air and landing on Cesaro’s shoulder just as he’s shaking hands with Triple H. Like, this is the kind of thing some kid watching today’s gonna remember in 20 years, even though it wasn’t a “WWE Moment.” Absolutely fucking incredible from beginning to end. Dude took out every opponent he had in a three-team tag team match during a damn victory lap.
Best: The New Day, All Night
Here’s something I need to type, just to type it: Raw has been better lately.
It’s not where it needs to be. It’s still an hour too long, at least. It’s still in love with its own tropes, and it’s not as good a WWE-produced WWE-style TV show as NXT, or Smackdown. But over the past few weeks they’ve made some visible changes in the way things are booked and presented, and if it could exist detached from the past … I don’t know, 15 years of WWE TV, it’d probably be pretty good. We’re in a transitional period where if this sticks, the show could actually be really good by WrestleMania. Or at least like, this time next year. They suddenly remembered that putting at least one good match on each episode is a good idea because SOME people watching want to see good matches, even if we don’t expect to see them, and that’s helped. Basically what I’m saying is that you’re still gonna read me being pessimistic as balls and nitpicking everything that happens, but I’ve got more hope in a true turnaround than I’ve had in a while. I don’t want readers to think I’m not noticing the trend.
One example of this is how New Day was presented last night. If last night had been New Day’s entire title run, we’d all actually be celebrating them breaking Demolition’s record. They wrestled great matches, and they wrestled them as a team. The Freebird rule actually mattered for the first time, with New Day suddenly having to wrestle two matches and being lucky enough to have a third man to sub in. They worked their asses off, interacted with the important characters on the show (including the most important, Stephanie McMahon), and ended up getting pinfall victories over their two top tag team rivals and Raw’s four biggest singles stars. That’s crazy. It was also very, very good.
The backstage celebration the announce team promised to keep up with “all night” was pretty dumb, with Stephanie McMahon standing in the middle of a celebration full of champagne bottles for a trio of guys who routinely dump cereal on people and getting mad when she’s one of a dozen people who gets dirty, but as a counterpoint, Big E with a punch bowl full of Booty O’s. Also, check out the cameos from wrestlers like Brittany Blake, wrestling Hooters waitress Maria Manic (which should really be Brittany Blake’s name from looking at her, she could have a finisher called the “Manic Panic”), Renee Michelle and NXT’s very own knocked out Ferrari lady Deonna Purrazzo. And probably half a dozen Chikara guys we don’t recognize when they aren’t dressed like the Macedonian Molecular Marmoset or “Cool Ant” or whatever.
Kevin Owens talks Stephanie into punishing New Day by making them defend the titles again in the same episode, which sadly isn’t the Revival showing up and breaking their legs. It’s New Day vs. Team Kevin and Chris, which eventually becomes New Day vs. Team Chris and Kevin vs. Two-Thirds Of A Shield.
Like I mentioned earlier, Xavier Woods is the key here. I’ve never been a great fan of Woods in the ring, but you can kinda tell by how hard he works when he’s in there now that he doesn’t want to get stuck being New Day’s third man forever. They spent so long portraying him as the weak link that it’s nice to see him ostensibly fighting off four top stars by himself, and remaining the fulcrum in the center of the finishing sprint. All this stuff’s happening around him and he just hangs in there, getting flapjacked into a Codebreaker, wheelbarrowed into jumping knees and combo finished by everyone only to be the one who gets to crawl onto Jericho’s unconscious body at the end and pin him. I like that WWE’s main roster is starting to figure out that tag team wrestling works great these days when you base it on timing, teamwork and constant viable false finishes. Also, yo, Roman Reigns and Chris Jericho might be better at one, two, THROHHHH than any duo in the company right now.
I was worried when Cole started the show talking about how long it’d been since they’d started Raw with a match with such major consequences, New Day won and then were put into a second match that might’ve immediately negated all those consequences, but it ended up okay. New Day retained, they looked better arguably than they ever have, we got TWO great triple threat tag team matches that made everyone look like a million bucks and they finally, officially, for-realsies broke Demolition’s record. So now we’ve got the tag champs looking great, and a future where they might actually lose the belts and we can get the tag division back.
See? Raw’s getting better.
Best: Gentleman Jack
The cruiserweight division doesn’t have much to do again this week — sorry, guys who put purple electrical tape on the ropes during commercial breaks only to take it all off 90 seconds later — but the highlight is Jack Gala Her “calling his shot” and announcing his intentions to interfere in the Ariya Daivari vs. Lince Dorado match. Calling your run-in is one of the thing that made us fall in love with Edge and Christian back in the day, and while it might’ve been nice to see an actual match first, +1 to Jack Gallagher for continuing to get over and be great in the least possible way ever.
Worst: Not Jack Gallagher
The other cruiserweight match on the night is Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins, and I believe this is the first time we’ve seen the two go one-on-one. Wait, sorry, checked the part of my brain I had tarped off and this is actually the fifth time they’ve done this. Sixth if you count them being the point of a six-man tag. Gran Metalik was on Raw once, member?
If you haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on, Kendrick managed to wrangle the title away from Perkins’ bean bag chair and retain it via count-out, only to lose to Rich Swann on the debut episode of 106 and La Parka. Kendrick got his rematch on episode 2 with TJP sitting in on commentary, which ended with the classic “guy on commentary is surprised someone got thrown into him even though he’d wheeled his chair out from the announce table and was watching his rival wrestle in front of him.” Kendrick took his eyes off the prize and it cost him, and Swann retained. Now we’re doing Swann vs. Kendrick vs. Perkins for the strap at ROADBLOCK 2: THE BLOCKENING, and hyping that by doing another five minutes of Perk throwing dropkicks that look cool but sacrifice momentum for the enjoyment of like 5% of the crowd.
I’m glad WWE finally upgraded his ramp graphic to show him without the Cruiserweight Championship, at least. Here’s hoping Swann retains at Roadblock, and that Perkins just goes heels and plays up his natural disingenuous shitbirdery instead of trying to be a cool pre-teen that nobody but defensive guys on the Internet cheers.
Worst: Hey, We Want Some Story Or Character Development For Baylayyyy
Earlier in the show, Bayley is as important as Brittany Blake in the background of a New Day celebration party. Later, she takes on Alicia Fox in a feud about torn up Slam Crate teddy bears because Alicia thinks Bayley’s trying to hook up with Cedric Alexander. Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair are trading title wins and “making history” like four times a week and Bayley is feuding over stuffed animals and boys. And she doesn’t even like the boy. And Nia Jax is like, getting in her Xena jammies to hang out at catering and do nothing.
And on top of all that …
ON ? A ? THREE ? HOUR ? SHOW ? WITH ? ONLY ? ONE ? TWO MINUTE-FIFTY-FIVE-SECOND ? WOMEN’S ? MATCH ? AND ? A ? CEREAL ? CELEBRATION ? PARTY ? WITH ? MULTIPLE ? DROP-INS ? WE ? DIDN’T ? HAVE ? TIME ? FOR ? EMMALINA. Last week they said NEXT WEEK. This week, they say “soon.” This week I say, “she better debut at Roadblock,” followed by a great bit about how she should dance in with a pink snake sock on her hand and be like, “wait, isn’t Santino’s barbecue today?” Remind me to write that.
Best/Worst: Meet The Brauns
Speaking of people who were at Santino’s Twisted Tea barbecue, Braun Strowman is in action against Curtis Axel. Sami Zayn still wants a match with Braun, and Mick Foley still won’t give it to him. Sami’s like, “give me the match or I want to go to Smackdown,” and Foley is like, “you don’t get it, I’m not giving you a match with Braun for your own good, you’re trying to win a match, he’s trying to end your career, I can’t afford to let you end your career.”
And then he’s like, “hey Curtis Axel, go wrestle Braun Strowman.” Uh, thanks?
Strowman destroys Axel and cuts a promo about how Sami and Axel might as well be the same dude, because they look exactly alike — he’s got a point — and they can’t last two minutes with him. Nobody can. Keep that “two minutes” line in mind, because it becomes important later.
Having convinced Mick Foley to call Daniel Bryan and trade him to Smackdown, Sami Zayn wrestles his “last match on Raw” against Jinder Mahal, who is reaching 1997 Eddie Guerrero levels of unrealistically jacked. Especially considering that like, a year ago part of his indies gimmick was “chubby guy with too much chest hair.” I guess being a Raw undercard guy is like being in prison. A lot of time to yourself, and nothing to do but push-ups.
Anyway, Jinder gets in way too much offense, which is usually the best kind of Sami Zayn match. He makes even his easiest opponents look like they’ve got a chance to win. He’s maybe the only guy on the show who wrestles like he has to try to win matches. I don’t think that gets praised enough. But Sami of course finishes him off with the Helluva Kick, and Mick Foley trots out to announce that the Smackdown deal has been finalized. In the ultimate final insult, Foley is like, “we traded you straight-up for someone of equal talent. Eva Marie.”
Sami flips out about being insulted — he’s worth a hundred Eva Maries, a THOUSAND Eva Maries! — and Foley reveals that ho ho ho, it’s all been a trick, and he just wanted to get Sami fired up enough to survive Braun. He’s giving Sami 10 minutes against Braun at Roadblock, telegraphing an old school “go the distance” angle and setting up the match they’ve done a great job of building over the past few months.
There are, of course, problems.
First of all, Mick Foley’s kind of the Boy Who Cried Wolf of emotional outbursts at this point. This would’ve been way more effective if he hadn’t screamed in Sasha Banks and Charlotte’s faces for wanting to be in Hell in a Cell, hadn’t screamed in the faces of Team Raw before Survivor Series and hadn’t just generally been Old Man Yells At Clouding about everything on the show. Also, he’s a little like that art teacher who is way too critical of you and gives you Bs because he’s “trying to motivate you,” even though he’s giving stoner kids who aren’t trying As and is a fucking high school art teacher who should just chill and let you like drawing. I get what they’re going for and I want to love it, but it also feels a little too patronizing.
Second of all, this would work a lot better if Sami was a tiny newbie baby underdog, but he isn’t. He’s great at fighting from underneath and is the best seller on the roster, sure, but he’s also a former NXT Champion who has pinned Kevin Owens clean on pay-per-view and has been killing it for years. Braun Strowman hasn’t done any of that. Braun hasn’t done anything but destroy some jobbers. We’re not exactly talking Bryan/Triple H here.
Third of all, I kinda wish Sami had just punched Mick in the face and that had been the moment that made Mick reveal the motivation. I also could’ve justified it as Sami knocking some of his foggy amnesia loose and making him remember the character he’s supposed to be. But then again I wanted him to punch Foley after the match announcement, tell him to go screw and demand to be traded to Smackdown anyway. Shout-out to the crowd for cheering Sami leaving the show they’re at because he should be on a show where he’s got a chance.
All that said, I’m excited for Zayn/Strowman. I don’t think old school booking of stuff like 10-minute “going the distance” instances really works for modern WWE audiences yet, but I’m confident that if we’re continually presented with more examples and consistently have their benefits explained, it’ll start to work more.
Worst: My Pants Are On!
Really all we’re left to talk about is the fallout from last week’s Hotel Whoopin’, with Lana and Rusev promising a “behind closed doors” special that’s just a recap. And then they’re like, “haha stupid Americans, you thought we were going to show you our LOVE MAKING!” And everybody watching is like, “no, we didn’t, but sure.”
Big Cass shows up to cut a horrible, horrible promo about how his “pants are on” despite wearing briefs that offer way less coverage than Enzo’s boxers, and a fight breaks out. This is to set up Cass vs. Rusev at ROADBLOCK 2: ROAD HARDER, which could be fun. They should go corny old school with this, too, and book it as a hotel brawl. Or like, a Falls Count Anywhere In The Sheraton. Tape it like Halftime Heat. Get naked Enzo in there again and tie it all together. Shoot him out of a cannon at Rusev like he’s Gonzo or something. He’s already basically Gonzo.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
The Real Birdman
Daniel Bryan out here fleecing Mick Foley
“Alexa, please switch on Monday Night Raw”
Alexa: of course (Toilet flushes)
What an asshole, doesn’t Zayn know you’re suppose to put over talent when you leave a company?
How long does it take to get The Last Emmadactyl in captivity to RAW.
Emma’s new entrance theme better be produced by Dr. Dre, because she’s been pushed back more than “Detox”
Lana seduces another superstar next week
Lana: Now take off your pa-
Randy Orton: Way ahead of you. Say, where’s your gym bag?
Enzo “An American Trash” Amore has a nice ring to it
Full Nelson Reilly
Lana is in camo because trying to get in her skirt got Enzo killed in action.
So is Bayley suing WWE too? Is that why they’re taking away her history of being in the *actual* first women’s Iron Man match?
Kevin Owens is the true champion for being the seemingly only wrestler to not care about all these stupid talk shows.
That’s it for this week’s show, everybody. I’ll leave you with these wise words:
Be sure to click those share buttons and drop down into our comments to let us know what you thought of the show. And be here this weekend for Roadblock 2: Funny Tagline!