Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Raw continued its “be as much like Smackdown as possible because Smackdown’s going live soon and will have to be more like Raw” tour. I don’t know, it doesn’t make any sense. Sasha Banks is back, the Social Outcasts are back, and The New Day dressed like the Wyatt Family and also like a millennial socialite’s interpretation of farmers. It wasn’t the best Raw ever.
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Note: There are no top 10 comments this week, because the holiday gave us about 1/3 the normal comments, and also we forgot to set the “live discussion” mode for the Raw thread that puts the newest comments at the top. Sorry, we were celebrating America. They’ll be back next week.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for July 4, 2016.
Best: Let’s Get Straight To The Pie Fighting
This week’s episode begins with Aiden English singing the Declaration of Independence, which is absolutely not a song, and it leading to a food fight. As you might’ve noticed, WWE is stocked with adults with the souls of Big‘d children. But yo, for real, why is Aiden English singing the Declaration of Independence? Aren’t there a sh*t-ton of USA songs? Did they use up everything public domain when Lilian sang the ‘Star-Spangled Banner?’ Is that why the “multi-national alliance” in the main event each entered to their respective nation’s national anthems and Team USA wandered out to ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever?’ It can’t be that hard to get Lee Greenwood to guest host Raw.
Anyway, as you may remember, WWE had a food fight once before, on a Thanksgiving 2000 edition of Smackdown. Oh, also once during an Alberto Del Rio interview. And Kelly Kelly and Layla had a food fight on ECW. Okay, WWE has a food fight on every holiday remotely involving food, from birthdays to New Years to Oktoberfest.
Highlights from this food fight include:
– Lana and Rusev booing the Declaration of Independence and everyone agreeing with them
– Miz and Maryse looking better than any two human beings should
– Sami Zayn, Heath Slater and Sheamus all sitting at a table together, because I guess the gingers get segregated
– Darren Young showing up in the background, which we’re officially referring to as “Make Darren Young Cake Again”
– The Shining Stars being at the meal and not just standing in front of a green screen with pictures of food on it
– Bo Dallas getting Carrie‘d:
– Heath Slater getting his arm broken by landing in a cake
– Kevin Owens continuing to be the greatest by hiding under a table eating chips while everyone food fights
– Owens triumphantly surviving the entire food fight unscathed, only to reveal himself too soon and get hit in the face by a PHANTOM PIE
– Kevin Owens’ eyes having cameras in them, allowing us to see the pie coming at him
Note: The person who hit Owens with a pie was John Cena, because we couldn’t see him.
Note: I’m gonna give up this UPROXX gig and start writing meme comments in YouTube videos.
Note: This really should’ve ended with Zayn running up and booting him in the face with a pie tied to his foot.
Worst: Titus O’Neil
Poor Titus O’Neil. The guy’s now lost two United States Championship matches on two holidays: Father’s Day and Independence Day. It doesn’t help that he showed up wearing Virgil’s pajama shorts. I know they’re going for an Ivan Drago/Apollo Creed thing, but Creed’s shorts had the wide stripes that, you know, made them look like the American flag. And I guess Titus is only figuratively getting beaten to death.
Did he just tell us to go celebrate with our hamburgers and bitter weenies?
Worst: STOP BEING MEAN TO THE SOCIAL OUTCASTS
I mean, at least let them get to the part of their Minutemen routine where they reveal they’re doing it for sarcastic reasons or whatever. There’s way too much “heel by reputation” happening in wrestling these days. Heel and face isn’t determined so much by what you do or why you do it, but how you were declared when you started. I feel like “heel with good qualities” and “face with admittedly bad qualities” would revolutionize WWE storytelling, because it’s how actual human beings work. I just wanted Bo to interrupt the interruption with, “WE WERE TRYING TO TELL THE NICE PEOPLE ABOUT AMERICAN HISTORY.”
Best: The Social Outcasts
Slater fifing with one hand (because he broke his arm on a cake, remember), Axel’s Meg White-quality drumming and BO DALLAS WITH A GUN. I don’t know why the Social Outcasts aren’t the most popular thing in wrestling. I want the Social Outcasts vs. Worldwide Underground right now.
(And not just because I’m holding on to my memories of Slabriel.)
Best: Enzo Amore Knows All The Presidents
I don’t know how accurate “ALL PRESIDENTS WOULD HATE YOU” is as a diss, but I appreciate him knowing all 43.
Best: WWE Promotes Sonic With The Wrestler Who Looks The Most Like Sonic The Hedgehog
It wasn’t Tyson Kidd alienating his wife by wanting to f*ck a sleeve of Burger King chicken fries, but it was something. I was hoping for a, “There’s only one word to describe how Sonic makes your stool, and I’m gonna spell it out for you.”
I’m also pretty sad they didn’t get to interact with those two drifting serial killers from the actual ads, and that the king of badly-timed Sonic promotions isn’t back from suspension yet:
Best/Worst: Who’s The Boss?
The in-ring confrontation between Sasha Banks and Charlotte starts off sounding super, super scripted — how many times can we say “sweetheart” in one conversation, you know? — but when Sasha starts in about what it means to be a boss, it gets pretty good. The only problem is that I think Charlotte’s so used to getting “what” chants that she steps all over Sasha’s reactions.
“When we step into this ring one-on-one, I WILL dominate you!” [crowd tries to ch-] “DOMINATE???”
“You’re not even in the conversation!” “No sweetheart, I AM the conversation!” [crowd tri-] “OH HOW COULD I FORGET”
It’s like trying to do improv with Michael Scott.
At the end of the day, even with a botched kick on Dana that got edited out of the YouTube clip, the story’s going where we’ve been wanting it to go since WrestleMania, and that’s a good thing. Sasha’s getting that Championship win over Charlotte, unless the writers room has agreed to absolute madness and six more weeks of winter*.
*In this analogy, winter is Natalya**.
**Natalya always represents winter.
Worst: Summer Rae Almost Kills Becky Lynch
Speaking of winter, here’s Summer.
As you know, I’m a Summer Rae homer. Whenever she shows up (in a wrestling capacity, and anything greater than SHOWER SEX TEMPTRESS or whatever), my talking point is, “SUMMER RAE SHOULD SHOW UP MORE OFTEN.” So it’s with great unease that I share this GIF of, depending on your point of view:
1. Becky Lynch botching a vertical suplex by jumping too early
2. Summer Rae botching a vertical suplex by going with Becky’s first jump even though she wasn’t ready, instead of taking her time and setting it up again
3. VERTICAL SUPLEX DANGEROUS
I also would’ve accepted, “Summer Rae watched round one of the Cruiserweight Classic and decided to wrestle like Kota Ibushi.”
(Be careful out there with your brains, everybody.)
Worst: Michael Cole
Before a commercial break, Cole refers to Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz as a, “rare champion versus champion match.” So rare that it also happened on Smackdown!
Best: Ambrose’s Dirty Deeds Setup
The Miz’s offense looks like Shibata’s compared to Dean Ambrose, but I do like how Ambrose has been setting up Dirty Deeds. Instead of just kicking a guy in the stomach and hooking the arms — read: “putting his arms under his opponent’s arms and kinda touching their back, hooking nothing” — Ambrose has started throwing his opponents backwards with a schoolboy rollup. When they roll through and try to get to their feet, the only natural response you’d have to a schoolboy, he grabs them and drops them. It’s at least a more varied way of getting people to bend over.
I do wish somebody would slide Ambrose some Drew McIntyre tapes and tell him to do it like this.
Best: Dolph Ziggler VS. Seth Rollins
The best match on the show in a walk is Dolph Ziggler in his Sanrio Stone Cold Steve Austin tights against Seth Rollins. It’d be so easy to rehabilitate our image of Ziggler if they just avoided his “wrestles the same guy over and over until you’re sick of both of them” trope and had some good, long, varied matches against people who can work. It’s not rocket science.
I think my favorite part of the match is that nearfall off the superkick, which is pretty much as close as you can get to three without it being three. Check it out at the 2:00 mark in the video. The ref really had to trust that kickout to get that close to the mat on three. He counts it like he’s doing the Curtis Axel YEEEE. Outstanding.
After the match, Rollins heads over to the announce table, climbs up onto it and starts walking between the two talking sh*t. Normally I don’t like the face cheapshotting the heel to settle a non-physical confrontation, but I’ll give Ambrose this one for the pacing and acting involved. When Rollins heads over, Ambrose says, “he’s not gonna do anything, he just gets very upset.” It’s a nice read of Rollins’ personality, and explains why he’s still a heel despite ostensibly being a total babyface.
The guy fought back from injury and cares more about wrestling than anything, but he gets f*ckin’ pissed about everything and it becomes a hassle. I know how he feels. I get the same way. He wants to be good and loved, but then his brain starts going too fast and it’s like whoops, I hit my best friends in the back with a chair and now I’m dressed like a Kamen Rider and hanging out with my bosses, whoops, I tried to screw over my friend and now Brock Lesnar wants to kill me, whoops, I can’t stop screaming and complaining about nothing and now even the patient people in my circle are trying to DDT me onto tables. Totally identifiable.
I like that as his character — sort of like Randy Orton, but for social interactions — and I like that Ambrose understands it and is honestly pretty cool with it since he’s currently on top, but can only be expected to put up with it in a peaceful way for so long. He’s gone from bloody hatred to a sort of understated, understanding pity, and that makes Rollins WAY MADDER than the hiding in trunks and giant Christmas presents to attack him.
Seth Rollins is high-functioning anxiety. He’s got all the talent in the world, but he f*cks it up for himself because he won’t stop getting his feelings hurt and getting indignant and trying to “make a stand” about every little change of plan. Roman gets all the chances and praise Seth feels like Seth deserves for working WAY HARDER all the time and feels like Roman couldn’t POSSIBLY understand, because he doesn’t feel that anxiety or care too much about things and therefore can’t possibly be alive. Dean doesn’t care either, and doesn’t have HALF Seth’s talent, but everybody loves him, especially when he acts goofy and stupid. He loses all the time and people still cheer him, and Seth won’t shut up about how little sense it makes. It alienates him from the people he desperately needs approval from, and if he’d just shut up and relax and let things happen, he’d be fine. But he can’t. He’s not wired that way. His curse is having to be bent the f*ck out of shape about everything forever.
I feel you, Seth.
Also, a supplemental Best for Ambrose sitting in at the Spanish announce table, and Jerry Soto telling him his Spanish sounds like Italian.
Best: Xavier Woods Turns A Corner
Two great things about the advancement in the Wyatt Family/New Day beef this week:
1. This is how you do Wyatt Family content on Raw. You can’t count on live crowds to pay attention to anything, so why have Bray waste his time and talent cutting those long gaspy promos every week, just to have everyone ignore and “what” them? Do them like Lucha Underground vignettes. Tape them in advance, let Bray speak in a natural (extra creepy) voice at his own pace with as much breath as he needs. Avoid the What chants, because it’s on the video screen. Use the setting, tone and special effects to keep the crowd paying attention. Then, rarely — as rarely as a champion vs. champion match — have Bray do it live. The crowd will be more conditioned to pay attention, and it’ll be a special thing, rather than the status quo.
2. Xavier Woods is finally reacting to the New Day like I’ve started reacting to New Day. They get threatened by cultist, brainwashy swampbillies with teleporting torture powers and INVITED TO WHAT APPEARS TO BE AN INDOCTRINATION MURDER CAMP, and instead of having any caution whatsoever, Big E and Kofi are like, “LOL TWERKY STINKY BOOTIES, BOOTY O’S MAKE SURE YOU AIN’T BOOTY!” Woods is like, “what the f*ck, guys? They are going to ACTUALLY KILL US.” I love it. I’m 75% sure the payoff is Woods just saying “sike” and shaking his butt on a pile of murdered compound corpses or whatever, but I like someone finally stopping and saying, “hey, we fight for a living, any chance y’all could turn it down a notch and treat this like a threat? We can watch Dragon Ball and share Crying Jordans later.”
Worst: You Know What’s Better Than The 4th Of July? PUERTO RICO.
These videos are really reaching. “Independence Day is a celebration of freedom in the United States. We’re also free in Puerto Rico, which is an unincorporated U.S. territory, which means our freedom is slightly better. Come to Puerto Rico! Or don’t, I guess.”
Best?: Darren Young Gets The Chickenwing
Can you master a hold by being told you’re allowed to do it? Let’s hope so. Now he can use it to win all the matches he isn’t having!
Vickie Guerrero is the f*cking greatest. They should let her run Smackdown, let John Laurinaitis run Raw, and do an elaborate thinkpiece on how being heel sometimes just means you’re abrasive and uncool. Vickie holding her hands at shoulder height and throwing back her head to cackle towards the heavens like she’s Ursula from The Little Mermaid forever.
Worst: Dolph Ziggler Is The Worst
Dolph Ziggler stopping security guards and making Vickie think he cares about her well-being only to throw her under the bus to get back to his phone call with his mom about how he lost a match but tried really hard is the most Dolph Ziggler thing of all time. It’s like having turds dropped on you from the ceiling as a personality type.
As always, shout-out to Ryback for being the only decent person in the history of Vickie Guerrero.
Best: The Club
One of the very best moments of the show is Another John Cena American Holiday Speech being interrupted by The Club, who promise to use all of their upcoming holidays to beat up John Cena. Luke Gallows and AJ Styles are going to dress up as Bushwhacker Luke and Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake (respectively) to beat up Cena on Halloween, and Karl Anderson says he’s gonna spend Christmas wrapping presents for his kids and “hot Asian wife” and then beat up John Cena. It’s so good. Who knew that Hobie Doyle and his bald twin sons would be the be talkers on Raw?
Worst: This Isn’t Going To End Well For You
First of all, The Club needs a fourth guy so they can convincingly “surround” a ring. Every time they cover 3/4 I just want Cena to calmly leave and walk to the back.
Second of all, Enzo and Cass show up to make the save for Cena, setting up what’s no doubt going to be a really f*cking good 6-man tag at Battleground. That said, it’s not going to end well for them. Cena goes through friends like toilet paper, literally and figuratively — ask Zack Ryder, The Usos or Cryme Tyme — and always wants to be saved, but rarely does the saving. Plus, as I sadly didn’t type first, this is gonna end with Enzo Amore in a neckbrace and wheelchair accidentally wheeling up and seeing Cena kissing Cass.
Best: That Goldust Bouncing Head For The Golden Truth Entrance Theme
It’s mostly been a Smackdown thing so far, so I haven’t gotten a chance to say how much I enjoy a subtitled sing-along entrance theme. I wish they’d done that with Test’s entrance theme so we could know what the f*ck the lyrics are. Not the “Test, this is a test” parts, everything else. I’m gonna go to my grave stressing about that mystery. Don’t copy and paste in those lyrics you found searching “Test entrance theme lyrics” either, that’s just something somebody typed 15 years ago and “Test entrance theme lyrics” are so unimportant that people just went with it.
what was I talking about
Oh, yeah, a couple of things I liked about this very short match:
– Goldust and Truth have a tandem finisher now, called “Solid Gold,” that’s a powerbomb/Side Effect combo. Now I just want to see them lure someone into a barn and hit it on a broken circular table.
– I like that Fandango and Tyler Breeze are so close now that they’ve become the same person. Player One and Player Two of the same character. It’s like when someone buys a dog and they start taking on each other’s characteristics, only they’re both the dog.
Thing I didn’t like:
– The Vaudevillains should start painting their faces and welcoming people to The Wasteland.
Worst: And Then This
This week’s main was actually the worst part of the show for me. WWE elimination tag matches drive me insane, because so much of the match is dudes getting instantly pinned with finishers or even transitional moves while their opponents stand around watching. It even happens late in the match. It kills any suspension of disbelief that these people on these teams actually want to win.
It was basically the pro wrestling equivalent of the show-opening pie fight, without any of the funny stuff that made the pie fight enjoyable. Here are the Dudley Boyz. They did a 3-D. It’s super effective! Oh no one of them got hit with a hip toss, now they’re somehow both eliminated. It’s 100% wrestling for the sake of wrestling, with a big United States flag above the ring ready to open when Team U.S.A. wins. What would’ve happened if Team World had won? Were you gonna drop Canadian, Swiss, Mexican and Irish flags?
Plus, the match ended with Big Show and Zack Ryder winning. Here’s a fun game: watch the last two months of WWE TV, then skip the first three hours of this episode and jump right to the end, with Show and Ryder woo woo wooing under a giant flag. Try to figure out what the hell happened.