Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: John Cena returned, and was immediately swerved and beaten up by AJ Styles and his friends. The McMahons twerked with The New Day, Big Show and Apollo Crews became friends for one segment (to set up a turn in the second, I’m guessing), and Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns advanced their feud by doing nothing. “Advanced” is pretty kind.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 6, 2016.
Best Worst: Am I Having A Stroke?
I’ve spent all morning checking WWE Fan Nation, making sure I didn’t accidentally eat the wrong cookie before Raw and hallucinate the opening.
So, we start the show with the Money in the Bank ladder match competitors in the ring, each on the top of an individual ladder, just kinda hanging out. Having a peaceful conversation. Kevin Owens is for real throwing passive-aggressive comments at Sami Zayn while they’re both on the tops of ladders. Chris Jericho’s there in underpants and a scarf, just chilling. They argue about Spanish. It’s SO WEIRD. Like, Lucha Underground has a dragon and a time traveler getting into cosmic nunchuck battles in bathrooms with a daredevil werewolf and it’s like a quarter as weird as this.
Eventually they all calmly descend from their ladders to fight each other (because of course they did, complete with another in an endless parade of Dean Ambrose “this is how tropes work!” jokes) until they’re interrupted by TEDDY LONG. This is not the assumptive Smackdown spoilers report and this is not a joke. Long shows up looking like the corpse of Mr. Peanut and puts them in a “disqualification match, six-pack iron man challenge match” where there “must be a winner.”
If that’s not enough to make you want to lie down, Stephanie McMahon shows up to PUT HERSELF OVER TEDDY LONG. Again, not a joke. Not an imaginary report I wrote when Raw got snowed out. She shows up, throws him out, puts everyone into singles matches — the ultimate insult to Teddy Long — and dances to his music. Also, Shane McMahon is “on vacation.” Did the manatees write this?
Best: Two Things
1. Chris Jericho calling Teddy Long a “bag of bones” and a “stupid idiot.” I never get tired of lazy, antiquated Chris Jericho name-calling. He was the only person holding this segment together.
2. Stephanie actually dancing to Teddy’s music, because Stephanie dancing is the best part of any Raw. She only loses a few points for not understanding the physics of the “Teddy Long bounces two imaginary basketballs at the same time” dance.
Money In The Bank Singles Matches Lightning Round
Cesaro vs. Chris Jericho
As mentioned, the Money in the Bank guys (minus one? Are we trying to trick people into thinking there will only be six?) get shuffled into singles matches. The best of these is Chris Jericho vs. Cesaro, because Jericho is on some next level sh*t right now and Cesaro desperately, desperately needs strong singles matches where he wins and does more than run back and forth throwing European uppercuts. Not that those are bad, he’s just too good to be a one-dimensional type of WWE star. Plus, Jericho’s sell of European uppercuts is the best.
One thing I liked about these matches, even if none of them were Best of the Year material, is that they ended cleanly with one guy hitting his finish on the other. It’s amazing that that doesn’t happen more often. With booking like this you’d imagine they’d send out Owens in Zayn’s match or Jericho in Ambrose’s or whatever, but they didn’t. Cesaro tapped out Jericho after a giant swing into a Sharpshooter, Del Rio beat Zayn with a 45-minute tree of woe double-stomp (more on that in a sec), and Ambrose pinned Owens after a Dirty Deeds. Just straight-up pro wrestling where one guy wins, without a lot of bullsh*t. It can feel like filler if it’s not exciting, but I’d rather have boring filler than boring shortcuts.
Sami Zayn vs. Alberto Del Rio
Zayn vs. Del Rio was pretty much the opposite of Cesaro vs. Jericho. The finish is Del Rio putting Zayn in the tree of woe for the double-stomp, taking way too long to finish the stomp, having it countered, then just coming back and doing it again. With another super-long setup. So it’s two impossibly convoluted tree of woe double-stomps, more or less in a row, with one of the best wrestlers in the world just hanging there upside down holding himself up like an idiot. The person who made that Del Rio’s finish should be fired, preferably out of a cannon, preferably into the sun.
The rest of the match is a slog, too. Del Rio bails so hard on Zayn’s barricade moonsault that Matanza’s eating his face right now. These two are objectively very good at what they do, even if Del Rio’s match success rate is somewhere around 15%, and they have some natural chemistry … but holy sh*t, whoever agented this and/or pep-talked Del Rio beforehand should take a damn break.
Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose
The last of the three singles matches is Ambrose vs. Owens, which I feel like we’ve seen a million times. It’s a very Smackdown kind of match, in that nothing really happens, the wrestling is totally fine, and we’ll forget the finish by Wednesday. It’s just wrestling that happens. I appreciate it for happening, but I probably would’ve equally appreciated it had it not. The march toward indifference!
The more I watch Dean Ambrose do anything post-Roadblock, the more I realize how good Triple H must’ve been to have pulled that character out of comedic oblivion for a hot second. Every time Ambrose does his diving gentle shove and barely clears the apron, my heart sinks a little. He’s such a good performer, and the Dean Ambrose character makes him feel like he’s wrestling in a fat suit.
Worst: Oh No, Not Again
Here’s Rusev vs. Jack Swagger. F*ck you.
Worst: Sigh, All Right, I’ll Write About It
I’d complain about this more, but I’m pretty sure Jack Swagger’s only still employed because they’re afraid to have evil guys from foreign countries and not have vaguely USA-themed jobbers for them to crush. WWE loves the idea that Americans will get pissed off at an okay guy from a different land beating a terrible person from this one.
So is Rusev squashing Jack Swagger to build to a match with Titus O’Neil, so he can beat Titus and … what, feud with Mark Henry? Is R-Truth available for some losses? There seriously has to be an idea better than “Jack Swagger loses to Rusev again.” Literally any idea.
Worst: The Same Joke Again, Or
Worst: The Same Joke Again
You know that Teddy Long gag from the opening that was weird, but weirdly self-aware and kinda funny? If you don’t, good news! They do it two more times.
With Shane visiting beautiful Puerto Rico (my theory), Stephanie devotes way, way, way too much time to putting herself over Teddy Long. I’m not sure why it happened once, much less three times. The first time, she makes him leave and dances to his music. The second time, she steals his idea for a fatal four-way Tag Team Championship match at Money in the Bank. In the third, he tries to set up a tag team match (again) to settle a Golden Truth/FaBreeze scuffle and gets thrown out. Yes, like in the open. It’s divided into two segments; one where he’s escorted out by security, and another where Stephanie confronts him to tell him he’s worthless. It’s like … I get it, but this guy hasn’t been on the show in YEARS, and it’s not like he was a beloved legend to begin with. She’s not throwing Daniel Bryan out on his ass twice, she’s punishing Teddy Long. What, next week is Shane O’Mac gonna pepper Mike Adamle with those little baby jabs and call him an asshole?
Best: Look At This Passionate Hero We’re Supposed To Boo
No, it still doesn’t make any sense why WWE would keep pushing Seth Rollins as a lifelong wrestling fan who works hard to get what he wants and struggled to overcome a career-threatening injury so he could get back the championship he never lost, only to spam the “cowardly heel” button every time he’s on live TV. It doesn’t make sense why they turn Roman Reigns into a cartoon character and dull what constitutes his natural charisma to jam a square peg into a round hole. Still, taken on their own, these video packages for the competitors in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match are GREAT, and add in-universe human interest to a match that Raw writers worked hard for two weeks to make the most commonplace motherf*cker.
The Seth one is really exceptional, but I liked the Roman one a lot, too. Shield Feels (Fields?) are a shortcut to my heart, what can I say.
I wish WWE would do this more often, and realize that they can “create character” and “tell stories” and “make movies” with pro wrestlers pretending to be human beings. Less guys standing face to face in a ring holding microphones, more utilization of your top-f*cking-shelf production team. Create these narratives in controlled, compelling environments that don’t rely on loosey-goosey-ass live crowds to succeed or fail. Take a lesson from Lucha Underground and do your character-building sh*t backstage where you can nurture it for as long as necessary and get it right. Don’t let 10,000 locals who want to scream “what” decide what lives or dies.
A quick supplemental Worst to the banning of the Curb Stomp, though, because now the story of WrestleMania 31 is that Roman Reigns speared Brock Lesnar so hard it knocked them both out, and Rollins pinned Reigns without doing anything. That stomp was a moment, ya jerks.
Worst: Remember Payback?
Sometimes I get what Raw’s going for and totally see why they did it, but don’t enjoy it.
That’s the Vaudevillains vs. Enzo and Cass rematch. At Payback, Simon Gotch tossed Enzo Amore into the ropes and accidentally concussed him. Here, they play on that by having Gotch try to hurt him again on purpose, and it sending Cass off the deep end. On paper, that’s a good call. You show how passionate Cass is about his “family” and show the dangers of pissing him off, and you continue to market this 7-foot tanned guy with long hair as the super secret next big thing. Note: Not that much of a secret.
In practice, it was a little much. Cass sees Enzo get hurt again and decides to stomp Gotch to death in my least favorite wrestling finish, the WWE’s equivalent of castigo excesivo, “you wrestled too much.” HEY, I’M THE REF, YOU’RE WRESTLING TOO MUCH. STOP WRESTLING. HEY I SAID STOP WRESTLING. WHY AREN’T YOU STOPPING? ARE YOU TRYING TO WIN? DISQUALIFICATION! RING THE BELL.
Cass dragging the little Vaudevillains around, hitting finishers on them and screaming in their faces while the crowd kinda tugs at their collars didn’t help. It didn’t connect like it was supposed to, probably because the logical followup to the Vaudevillains being dicks was “Cass does a bunch of moves and beats them” (or even “Enzo shows he’s tough and recovers, because he’s not gonna just die every time he hits the ropes”). The last thing you want to do is make Enzo look like he doesn’t belong in the ring. The thing at Payback was a freak accident. You don’t want Enzo’s character to be, “he can’t do what every other wrestler does constantly, because it might hurt him.”
Best?: Styles And Cena Are SHOOTIN’, Y’all
This is the kind of segment I would’ve loved when it was 1997, and we hadn’t had almost 20 years of these.
Cena calls out Los Clubs to confront them about swerving him last week, and to get in AJ Styles’ face for needing cronie help instead of being John Cena Jr. Styles brings up the fact that he’s seen the show before, and knows that Cena likes to “bury” guys like him. He’s keeping The Club around to make sure that doesn’t happen. “Bury” should complete your IWC bingo card, please bring all winners up to the front. I wish they’d cited some actual evidence, though. I wanted Styles to be like, “Kevin Owens beat you once, and then you had a bunch of rematches in a row so you could win all of them, and he never beat you again. Rusev did the same thing. Ryback did the same thing. EVERYBODY ALWAYS DOES THIS, IT’S AN OBSERVABLE TREND.”
Cena’s response is to namedrop the Bullet Club (siren emoji) and call Styles’ WWE run a failure. If you’ll recall, Cena’s only understanding of “success” is “you wrestled and lost to John Cena.” When Owens beat him clean as a whistle, he was like, “KEVIN OWENS, YOU AREN’T A MAN UNTIL YOU BEAT ME A SECOND TIME.” Then when he beat Owens, he was like, “it’s cool, we are respect buddies now.” Cena continually preaches that the future has to go through him, but never clarifies that it must literally pass through his digestive system.
The match is going to be dope, assuming it doesn’t devolve into the Club and the f*cking Usos brawling around while Cena pops up from something and hits an AA, so I’m not gonna worry. Except for in the middle of sentences about how I’m not gonna worry.
Worst: Nerfing The Flair Breakup, Or
Worst: The World’s Most Obvious Swerves
Charlotte’s promo was maybe the worst part of the show for me, because they won’t let her commit to anything. Remember when Paige was like, “your little brother killed himself because y’all suck,” and Charlotte got some weirdly misguided but honest motivation? They got scared of the negative response to it and instead of having Charlotte beat Paige’s ass, they double-turned them and ignored it.
Last week, Charlotte’s arrogance goes Full Flair and she tells her dad to f*ck off, and that he’s dead to her. He sobs and shuffles away, and she Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Goodbyes him. It’s cruel and unnecessary, and, you know, what a sh*tty person we’re supposed to boo might do. This week, she cuts a promo where she’s like, “hey Dad, that stuff I said about you being dead was meant professionally, you’re still great and I love you and I’m daddy’s little girl and we’ll hang out later.” WHAT? What the f*ck are you doing? You don’t have Stan Hansen break Bruno Sammartino’s neck and then have him come out at the next show like, “hey man, we’re actually just performers in the ring, I feel bad for hurting you. Get well soon!” No, you have him f*cking brag about it, because you want people to give you money to see Bruno come back and kick the piss out of him. Why won’t you let Charlotte do or care about ANYTHING? Why is “jealousy” and “mean girls vs. nice girls” the only sh*t you do?
It drives me nuts. You’ve dumbed down her only character development since WrestleMania to the point of irrelevance, and you’ve defaulted to Dana Brooke executing obvious swerves while Natalya falls over and Becky Lynch trips over her. Sasha Banks is at TGI Friday’s splitting a spin dip with Zack Ryder.
The only supplemental Best I can give here is Charlotte choking out Nattie with a body scissors and a Dragon Sleeper, which is at least a billion times better than the Figure Eight.
Worst: The Darren Young Stuff And The Shining Stars
Bob Backlund is stealing Darren Young’s car keys via satellite, and the Shining Stars (who are apparently never wrestling again) have devolved into a Dominican Lou sketch. They can’t even let two guys from Puerto Rico be in Puerto Rico anymore. Come to the green screen, purgatory for characters the show created but hates!
Worst-ish: Nobody Wins!
We end the show (woof) with The Club vs. The New Day, which probably would’ve been really good if it hadn’t been prefaced by three hours of cardboard and sprinkled with the presence of Righteous John Cena.
The most frustrating part is that they can’t seem to decide which story they want to tell. The Club works together to defeat the New Day, incapacitating Xavier Woods with a Styles Clash on the floor and then just picking them apart until one of them falls. When the match is over, the Club decides to keep beating on them, which brings out Cena. Cena stands tall for a minute, starts to struggle, then gets saved by The New Day. Everybody’s just kinda winning and losing simultaneously. It’s fine if you want to push that the sides are evening out, but that doesn’t feel like the story. It feels like Styles vs. Reigns again, but with five Usos.
It’s not bad necessarily, but it feels like a huge step sideways, especially when you had Styles and Cena getting at each other’s throats earlier in the night. It’s the match equivalent of those Teddy Long bits. You did it. It worked. Now wait a second before you try to do it again, or it’s gonna turn into a pile.
This was certainly an episode of Raw.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Is this Meta Night Raw?
Wouldn’t shock me if Cena beats him so hard that he goes back to being Festus.
No, no, no. Bad joke. Now is not the time for gallows humor.
Beige Lunatics, King of String Style
OKC is confused by New Day’s antics, because to them, “twerk” means “where I go from 9:00 to 5:00 every day.”
Teddy Long = 5’4″
Teddy Long’s Suit Jacket = 5’2″
Natalya: Dana, why did Charlotte treat her dad like that?
Dana: Don’t know. Dana only pawn in game of life.
*56K modem sounds inside Dana Brooke’s head*
The Real Birdman
NONE OF YOU ARE SASHA BANKS
Kevin Owens should be mic’d up in every match to provide his own color commentary.
Half pulling yourself up for ADR’s rope stomp is so dumb its stupidity exchange rate is like 5 ambrose rebound clotheslines
When you put “Alberto Del Rio” into Google Translate you get “Randy Orton”
Thank you for suffering through that episode with me. Wednesday is TakeOver! Let’s be here for that and be happy about a thing.
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