Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Sasha Banks won her third Raw Women’s Championship after feeding Charlotte through a stair railing and Banks Statementing her with it. Also on the show, The Club lost another g-d Tag Team Championship match, Seth Rollins pedigreed Chris Jericho onto the roof of a parked car and Sami Zayn got into a shouting match with Mick Foley about how Sami Zayn never wins matches.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for December 5, 2016.
As you might already know from following me on Twitter or that bit about the Dallas crowd sucking human butthole from the Best and Worst of TLC, Raw was in Austin on Monday, which meant I was in the crowd for this episode live. Shout-out to WWE for hooking us up with some sweet seats.
I wanted to bring this up for a few reasons, because it affects how I watch the show. First and most obviously, live wrestling is almost always better than wrestling on TV. Plus, I got to see the entire matches and did not have to be informed of when or when not Raw would be “rolling on.” Secondly, I didn’t hear any of the commentary, so I’ll have to assume Cole said something dumb about TJ Perkins being the first Cruiserweight Champion ever in history and misidentified something’s anniversary. Thirdly, if you want to look for me in the crowd, I’m the aging WCW fan in the nWo shirt trying to Too Sweet Big Show and having my kissy wolf face hand slapped.
Other notes from my fan experience include, “Chris Jericho told me to shut up and it made me feel like I won the lottery,” and, “TJP blew me a kiss for booing him and now I think I have to meet him at a hotel later where we’ll definitely have sex and nothing bad will happen.” Also, WWE seriously needs to institute a Purge clause where if “what” chants are happening, all crimes are legal.
So yeah, Big Show was here!
Best: Vintage Big Show
This week’s show opens with Seth Rollins cutting a promo about how he wants to call out Triple H, but knows it doesn’t work that way. There’s no way H is going to show up on one of these episodes going up against Monday Night Football because he plays the game and ain’t about to get blamed for bad ratings at this point in his career, so the only way Rollins is gonna get to him is, according to Rollins, by beating up Triple H’s “golden boy” Kevin Owens and taking the Universal Championship. I mean, he could just go to NXT and punch Scott Dawson, Triple H would be up his ass in a heartbeat. Interrupt one of his congratulatory selfies.
Anyway, Kevin Owens shows up and rightfully points out that Rollins isn’t getting another shot at him or the Universal Championship, because he already beat him two weeks ago. Also, two times before that. Plus now SPECIAL MOST IMPORTANT HANDSOME BABY Roman Reigns is now the #1 contender. So Owens reveals a bunch of matches, including Jericho vs. Reigns for the United States Championship tonight, himself vs. Sami Zayn — remember when that wasn’t ever going to happen again? — and Rollins vs. the returning AAAAAAAAH THE GIANT.
Show shows up smiling and waving at everybody so what happens next isn’t exactly a “heel turn,” but he’s being used as a method of punishment by a heel in association with other, bigger heels, and he’s been in that position before, so we’ll say he’s for all intents and purposes a heel. Because of this, our homie Big Show ends up taking issue with Kevin Owens barking orders at him, chokeslams Owens into the ring and bails on the match. Because fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Big Show gotta turn on a dime. It’s his defining trait. You hear “Big Show” and think “turns that don’t matter” before you think “tall.”
So we’re gonna give him a best for being the purest form of Big Show, and also for looking svelte as hell and rocking a beard that probably takes up more surface area than Alexa Bliss.
Best: Fight Forever Clap Clap ClapClapClap
Owens ends up in a match with Sami Zayn, even though they ended their rivalry at Battleground and aren’t really supposed to be fighting each other still. I hope there’s a segment next week where Mick Foley explains that he gave Zayn another shot at Owens because what Zayn said to him last week about shitting on opportunities for the young guys made sense, and he wanted to make it right. That’d be a great next storytelling step in the Foley/Zayn/Braun Strowman triangle, and go a long way toward making Commissioner Foley feel like a real person again.
Anyway, here’s a shocker: Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn was really good.
The best part of it is that Owens wins clean, which is something he desperately needs right now, especially against a guy who has proven he can beat him. Owens as Universal Champion has been defined by a bunch of handouts and run-ins, with Triple H basically winning the Universal strap himself and just handing it over, and Jericho helping him beat Rollins three times. We lost sight of the whole “Fight Owens Fight” thing where Owens is a grade-A a-hole but a great fighter who can straight-up pin John Cena without anyone helping him. He’s feuding with Rollins and Reigns, two seemingly unstoppable babyfaces, and he needs to feel like he alone is tough enough to stand up to them. I think it works a lot better when you do the Ric Flair thing, where you’re clearly good enough to win the match on your own, but a jerk because you choose not to. Or like, you lose confidence in yourself when the going gets too tough. Owens is out here having Jericho run in to help him use the bathroom without having to wipe his ass.
And hey, if we’re being generous to Commissioner Foley, we could have Zayn losing to Owens be a good reason for him to be like, “hey, I gave you another chance last week and you lost, again. You can complain about me not giving you chances, or you can make something of the chances you get.” Then Foley would actually be justified instead of basing his disappointment in Zayn on a match Zayn clearly got cheated out of without any backup from the Raw management team.
Best, With A Little Worst: Jag Gala Her
In the first of the “why are we spending five minutes putting purple tape on these ropes for a three minute match” match of the night, Jack Gallagher makes his Raw debut against Ariya Daivari. From our first edition of the Best and Worst of 205 Live:
Jack Gallagher is fucking delightful. He’s the best wrestler in the world if you pretend he’s Sheamus’ inner child. If you’ve never seen him before, he’s a little borderline albino ginger guy with underpants made out of the parachute you used to play with in kindergarten who wrestles like a World of Sport greatest hits and cuts promos like he’s the human under Jervis Cottonbelly’s mask. Listen to him. If you don’t want to hug him and ride around on penny farthings with him, something’s wrong with you.
That “a little worst” comes from the fact that Gallagher’s debut was ridiculously short, and he barely got to do any of the fun stuff that’ll eventually (hopefully) get him over in front of these Raw crowds and make him a breakout star. The people in front of me were laughing to themselves about how they couldn’t believe this guy was an actual wrestler, noting that wrestling has “fallen a long way since The Rock.” So maybe it won’t happen, but Raw’s gotta eventually be brave enough to stop half-assing these cruiserweight matches and let them fucking go. There’s no reason to put a guy like Gallagher in the ring and say, “okay, pick one cool thing you do and do it, spend the rest of the match in a chinlock. You’ve got two minutes.”
Worst: The Outlandish
I wasn’t a big fan of Samoa Joe becoming THE INEVITABLE Samoa Joe, but I think “The Outlandish” Rich Swann is worse. The dictionary definition of outlandish is, “looking or sounding bizarre or unfamiliar.” I love Swann, but this is WWE, what part of “this dancing black guy LOVES to have fun and is a great athlete” is unfamiliar? It reminds me of when they decided “unorthodox” was the only adjective they could use to describe Rob Van Dam. He’d do a clothesline and a vertical suplex and they’d be like OH MAN LOOK AT THIS UNORTHODOX OFFENSE! There’s another definition of outlandish that’s just “foreign,” so … the Outlandish Ariya Daivari?
The shorter version of what I’m trying to say is, “try harder at nicknames than asking an intern to google ‘list of adjectives.'” The Quixotic TJ Perkins!
Best: The Actual Match, Though
For a couple of reasons.
1. Swann vs. Perkins acknowledged Perkins’ history as the Cruiserweight Classic winner and first of the new era of Cruiserweight Champions, and played on the fact that Perkins actually eliminated Swann from the tournament. That’s a very basic kind of callback that works like magic, that I almost always expect WWE to ignore because they don’t think anybody will remember, and don’t think it matters anyway. It does. It helps a lot.
2. This was the most “cruiserweight” cruiserweight match they’ve done on Raw, which means it still wasn’t anything to call home about, but at least featured the general structure of what you’d expect to see on 205 Live or in the Cruiserweight Classic. If you’re gonna do these, you might as well do the version that works.
3. The crowd booed Perkins for pretty much everything he did, which is a great turn of events. And yes, it might’ve just been me by myself being very loud.
4. The best part of all is that they showed a great video package before the match of Swann’s title victory on 205, mixed with his “better know a wrestler” segment where we find out about what happened to his mom and dad. That had the entire arena misty-eyed and clapping before the match even started. It’s crazy how easy it is to get wrestling fans behind a character that attempts to engage them with what he’s doing in the ring, supported by a show that understands and clearly supports them with, “here’s why you should be engaged.”
Best: The Tussle In Texas
At first I felt bad for Titus, but then I was like, “at least he did as well as Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series.”
Oh Thank God Emmalina Premieres Next Week
If she gets repackaged as a Funkasaurus, I’m all in.
Best: Jericho And Reigns Tear It Up
Match of the night goes to Chris Jericho vs. Roman Reigns for the United States Championship. Jericho laid out exactly the kind of match Roman should be having: a steadily paced, not overlong back-and-forth that plays on his natural strength, athleticism and talent for creating “WWE moments” without leaving him out there for 25 minutes so his heated crowd reaction turns to uniformly bored, frustrated disgust. If you keep Roman in this safety zone, he’s one of the very best wrestlers in the world. And the answer here shouldn’t be “Roman needs to get better and wrestle different kinds of matches,” it should be, “we’re smart enough to know what this dude does well, and we’re gonna do it.”
I love that Roman can sometimes get into that Cena territory where defying the expectations of a “Cena match” (or a “Roman Reigns match”) makes it instantly more entertaining. With Cena you sorta know his rhythms and the timing of his comebacks and can watch it with your eyes closed and be able to point out everything that’ll happen. But the best Cena matches are when they go WAIT, WHOOPS, and switch it up. The first time Punk kicked him in the face during the “you can’t see me” taunt felt like diving into an ice cold swimming pool. They’ve coasted for YEARS on changing up small pieces of Cena matches and making them feel unforgettable. Roman’s got that sometimes. It’s why people reversing his spears or avoiding Superman Punches feel life or death. It’s also why when Owens sneaks out and superkicks him in the face to set up a Jericho codebreaker, you presume that’s going to be the shitty way the heels triumph and steal the US belt … and, probably, clear up Roman’s shoulder for the Universal strap. But then he kicks out, and you realize THAT was the obvious call, and everybody in the building (and watching at home) bought it. WWE is at its best when you can see them understanding how their own thing works, and doing the best version of it. Not just doing a version because they’ve got three hours to kill.
So yeah, a great match. I’m hard on Raw a lot, but the last three weeks have each had a very good-to-great match on them, and it’s a lot easier to accept the show as a three ring circus for everyone when something in ONE of the rings is for me.
Best/Worst: Sasha Banks And Charlotte Flair Make History! Look At Them Doing It!
At ROADBLOCK: DRIVING FURTHER IS PROHIBITED, “I only win the Raw Women’s Championship on Raw” Sasha Banks will defend the Raw Women’s Championship against “I only win the Raw Women’s Championship on pay-per-views, wink wink nudge nudge” Charlotte Flair in an IRONMAN MATCH.
To put it another way, here’s what Nia Jax thinks:
Like we’ve been saying since … God, July, Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair is always, always good. Always. It’s also the only match that ever seems to happen anymore, and you can get sick and tired of watching even the best match on an infinite loop. And it kinda feels like WWE wrote “Sasha and Charlotte MAKE HISTORY” on the whiteboard in permanent marker and have to come up with a new reason to justify it every week, so they’re like, “this week they’re main-eventing! Now they’re in a cage! Now it’s ironman!” In a month they’re gonna be like, “FIRST EVER BLINDFOLD MATCH BETWEEN TWO WOMEN IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF A YEAR ENDING IN SEVEN” and we’re gonna get video packages and backstage interviews about how much it means to them.
But that match is gonna be really, really good. They could probably make a blindfold match good.
Best: Hey, We Want Some Fox-ay
Like Nia Jax, Bayley is stuck in this weird purgatory where the Raw Women’s Division only has two women in it, so she has to wrestle matches that don’t matter every few weeks to remind people she exists. This week she faces Alicia Fox, who (sorry for typing this for YEARS) is the poster child for “female WWE employee who should be doing something more interesting than absolutely nothing ever.” Bayley wins quickly with the Bayley-to-Belly, and moves on to the prestigious position of hanging out while Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair make history as the first women to compete in an Elimination Chamber, and the first to ever do the Elimination Chamber one-on-one.
Our National Tag Team Nightmare Is Almost Over
The Club faces Sheamus and Cesaro to determine who the number one contenders to the Tag Team Championship are, because New Day are the champs and they’re the only two other actual teams on the show. Enzo and Cass are having hotel porn romance nightmares — more on that in a second — and everyone else has the threat level of a hamster.
As you might’ve expected, the match ends with New Day getting involved and everyone brawling, causing a disqualification. That sets up next a triple threat match for next week, with both a team that always gets title shots they lose and a team that was only together to get that one title shot they lost taking on a team that can’t lose until they break Demolition’s record. Next week will put them at day 477. Demolition’s record is 478. So only one of two underwhelming things can happen:
1. New Day wins, causing their only two believable competitors to lose AGAIN, and they break a record they’re only breaking because Demolition sued WWE and WWE got petty about it, or
2. New Day loses only one day shy of the record, meaning all this disqualification and no contest and match getting thrown out bullshit to get them into record-breaking territory was for nothing.
At least we’ll be done and we can get the tag titles back into rotation and help somebody get over, right?
Worst Best: Enzo Amore Goes Full Al Wilson
If you haven’t been following along, here’s what you need to know: Big Cass played a “shower prank” on Enzo Amore by locking him out of the dressing room naked. Enzo decided to wander around backstage naked, where he ran into Lana. Lana’s character has the sexual development of “you got it dude” era Michelle Tanner and got weird about it, causing Rusev to get mad and beat up Enzo. Enzo was like, “she saw my dick by accident, that means she wants to HAVE SEX WITH ME!” The next week, Enzo reiterated his dick-seeing views, and got beaten up again.
This week, Enzo and Cass are backstage and just happen to see Lana and Rusev arguing. At no point is either of them like, “isn’t it weird that the people we’re feuding with are just having an argument nearby?” This INSTANTLY escalates to Lana removing her wedding ring and throwing it at Rusev, then remaining in place to be comforted by Enzo and Cass. And at no point is either of them like, “this seems fishy.” Enzo summons his inner sexuality by like, dancing in place and decides to pretend comfort Lana in the hopes of … I don’t know, having her stand nearby and make faces while he nonchalantly parades around nude, because the Realest Guys in the Room are really into CFNM Dancing Bear videos. This INSTANTLY ESCALATES to Lana being like, “hey, since you were opportunistically nice to me after seeing me argue with my husband, we should have sex. Leave the arena and come to my hotel room.” And at no point are Cass or Enzo like, “we’ve watched wrestling before, this is definitely a trap.”
So Cass ends up in a match with Rusev, never once putting together why Rusev might want him to be distracted and standing in the middle of a wrestling ring instead of following Enzo, and Enzo goes to wait for an Uber in a city that doesn’t have Uber. It was a whole thing. We’ve got a plastic bag ban ordinance too, so bring your reusable bags. Enzo runs into Ric Flair, and Flair’s like, “who do you think you are, Sting? Anyway, have fun in your SEXUAL RENDEZVOUS with a camera man following you that DEFINITELY WON’T END BADLY, WOO.”
Enzo heads over to the same hotel room full of an old man’s idea of sex props that housed Dawn Marie and Al Wilson’s honeymoon, the lesbian blackmail of Torrie, the Billy Gunn and Jamie Noble orgy and so many others. So, so many. The camera man is like, “I’m just gonna keep filming this shit until somebody tells me to leave.”
Meanwhile, Cass goes to the ring and uses EXPERT ACTING to explain the story:
Lana starts to seduce Enzo, and it’s here when he’s FINALLY like, “hey, maybe this is a bad idea, this has escalated too much, I should probably just go.” At least they let him have that realization at some point. It’s about this time that Lana reveals the shocking truth: Rusev is also in the hotel room now, and he’s going to beat this little Mogwai looking dude to death for trying to hook up with his wife.
What follows is a totally justifiable beatdown, based partially on what you might call “hipster smark contrarianism” but mostly on what you’d call “Enzo Amore being a goddamn idiot for not figuring this out sooner.” She saw your dick once, man, and you got beat up twice for it. Why’s she gonna wanna have sex with you now? Especially in the span of like two hours, during work. PUT IT TOGETHER, BRO.
The segment is dumber than dirt, but honestly pretty fun thanks to it reaching its logical conclusion. The only thing it needed was a switcheroo with Rusev stepping out in a red jacket and a blonde wig to rub Enzo’s shoulders. It’s honestly way too much like the infamous Ric Flair “dream date” segment, which I’m guessing is why Flair had a cameo in the story. The only difference is Dream Date had the heels being overtly terrible people without even the hope of justification, J.J. Dillon explaining why a cameraman is there, the payoff switched and … uh, Ron Garvin in drag again.
Supplemental Best for one of Danielle Matheson’s favorite things, pro wrestlers pretending to dial phones:
Next week I hope Enzo shows up and is like, “HEY, I BET LANNER STILL WANTS TO SLEEP WITH ME, BADDA BOOM” and Rusev runs him through with a broadsword.
Best: Ric Flair, Crying Leather Turtle
This week’s main event (for some reason) is Charlotte Flair’s “public apology” to her dad, Ric, for disowning him and making him cry on TV. Charlotte and Sasha are a ratings bonanza, apparently, so they’re going on last. Charlotte and Sasha make history by being the first women to main-event Raw with a segment about punching your dad in the face!
Charlotte’s story is that losing her title was hard, and watching her dad hold up Sasha’s hand instead of hers made her realize her mistake. So she lures Flair out there, with visions of Enzo and Lana hooking up dancing in his head, and apologizes to him. But I guess even a Flair can’t see an obvious Flair swerve coming, and Naitch gets slapped so hard he does his AH GAD SHIT thing and falls into the corner. Charlotte DOESN’T forgive him, and he’s still a terrible dad, and if he wants to be Sasha’s dad instead of hers or whatever THAT’S FINE.
Sasha runs out to make the save, but gets beaten up, and the show ends with a not-necessarily-main-event-worthy bit with Sasha just taking an ass-beating to set up Roadblock. And Ric cries a bunch again. Charlotte is awesome as hell with her trash talk here, and the show goes off the air with the crowd chanting CHARLOTTE SUCKS. So maybe they’re onto something more than ratings? She’s like, the only person getting that on the entire show. Owens gets cheers, Jericho gets ALL the cheers, Charlotte gets “what” chants she turns into “Charlotte sucks.” That’s a skill.
Let’s hope that skill pays off when Sasha and Charlotte make history at WrestleMania by being the first women to fight instead the Punjabi Prison! And join us at 3:30 PM for the kickoff show, featuring Bayley and Nia Jax like, playing Uno, I don’t know.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Funny how game Lana is for pummeling shirtless men, yet can barely handle the thought of a penis. She must have watched wrestling as a kid like the rest of us.
Matt in New Jersey
I bet my wife a dessert of her choice that the title of Stroud’s “Best and Worst of Raw” column tomorrow would be “I’m Not Into This Type of Thing.”
That Enzo segment started off as USA Up All Night movie and became a full on a snuff film.
Cole: There’s a reason The New day have been champions for 470 days.
Yeah, because Demolition is suing WWE.
“Tribute to the troops?! We’re eatin’ tonight, kids!”
The Real Birdman
“Umm, yes there appears to an angry bearded man dragging a possibly dead smaller bearded man through the hallway”
And like that for Enzo, an impossible fetish is born.
That family in the next room over in town for UT’s Winter Commencement is having a terrible evening.
While Rusev walks in on Lana cheating on him with Enzo in room 704, Jericho will catch Owens having a coffee with Sami Zayn in room 706.
Big Baby Yeezus
Ric Flair would be the greatest uncle ever until you wake up hung over in a Mexican motel with your marriage in shambles and a drug cartel looking to kill you
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, click those share buttons, drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show, and if you see a lady fighting with her husband and she tries to smash you within the quarter hour … just say no.