Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: WWE Payback happened, giving Raw a new Women’s Champion and sending the United States Champion to Smackdown. The Universal Champion is still on Raw, though, we think! Also on the show, Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns put each other in the hospital, although you’d think a dude vomiting up blood would have it worse than an extremely large, totally fine guy who fell into some empty cardboard boxes. But wrestling!
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for May 1, 2017. Damn, how are we in May already?
Best: Rise Above Haters
Now that it looks like Eva Marie’s never coming back, it’s safe for new Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss to steal her “literally put myself on a pedestal” gimmick.
Raw opens this week with a nice change of pace; the women’s division, the entire women’s division, and Alexa Bliss delivering a condescending victory speech to them from atop what looks like a birthday cake. It’s a great visual metaphor for how far above the rest of the division she is right now as an on-screen performer. Giving Bliss extended mic time every week is one of this Raw’s better ideas. She talks shit to Mickie James, talks shit to Sasha Banks, then has a great moment where she accidentally backs in Nia Jax and has to back her way out of it with phony flattery and camaraderie. I’m telling you, Bliss vs. Jax is gonna be the hot shit.
Eventually she gets to Bayley, and Bayley takes what amounts to a comparable amount of flack before taking the coward’s way out and flipping Bliss’ platform before attacking her. It’s like in jousting. You don’t aim your lance at the horse, man.
I spent most of today thinking about how weird it is that they had Bayley lose the belt without doing the Sasha turn and how unfortunate that was, but I realized that the turn wasn’t coming … Bayley and Sasha Banks were just straight up cheaters, taking cheapshots, teaming up 2-on-1, cheating to help the other win. Trifing-ass cheating-ass Bayley finally got her comeuppance last night, fairly losing the title she won with help and kept against the wishes of the company to Bliss. These are things I’m really typing.
More on that in a sec. Don’t get upset and start @’ing me yet.
A brawl breaks out, because as Riley’s Rules clearly state, you should never trust a girl. That leads to a 4-on-4 tag, replacing the scheduled 2-on-2 tag Tom Mike feels like a goober for having wasted time announcing earlier.
The good news here for me, from a character perspective at least, is that Raw appears to be pretty close to done with Bayley. She lost in her hometown, she lost to the champ in the Raw match the next night — with some clawing in the eyes this time, at least — and unless they’ve got serious observational problems, she’ll lose whatever rematch they do to set up Bliss vs. Banks. And don’t get me wrong, this is coming from a guy who has a tiny picture of Bayley giving him the Great Khali hug at the top of everything he writes. I love Bayley. I think when it comes to telling an emotional story in the ring, she’s as good at connecting with the crowd and performing, flaws and all, as anyone. But Raw Bayley is the dirt worst right now, and maybe some time without her as the focus would do us all a favor.
The other good news is that the Banks turn can still happen, if they want it to. Banks doesn’t have to win the feud with Bliss. She could expect the same help from Bayley that she gave, not get it, and get mad about it. Or she can ask too much of Bayley or something and get weird about it. There’s a lot of ways you can do it, and as long as the end result is “working on making Bayley a likable character again to people who need more than bright colors and flashing lights,” I’m into it. It’s not beyond repair.
The Part Where Raw Treads Water And I’m Not Even Sure What To Say
So, I guess Enzo Amore and Big Cass are still feuding with The Club. Not sure why that’s still going on. Are these teams only on Raw to fight each other? They had a match during the Payback pre-show that Enzo and Cass won, so on Raw, they do the logical thing and flip it 50/50. Karl Anderson distracts Enzo so Luke Gallows can pin him. I dunno. I don’t know why we’re still doing this. At this point I’m willing to trade more Enzo/Cass/Club matches for a commercial-based storyline in which Enzo discovers Rally’s and Cass walks in on him butt-fucking a Big Buford.
In other “LOL, wait, what” news, Apollo Crews has now won two matches in a row, which has apparently convinced him that being a part of the Titus Brand is a good career move. I hope Titus gave him an orientation pamphlet with a full guide for when and when not to touch Kurt Angle’s arm.
The best part of this match is that Heath Slater has digital inner tubes floating around on the stage during his entrance. I hope him and Rhyno team up with TJP and Toobin’ him to ringside.
So, after winning a haunted house match with the random help of three other dudes and still not winning the WWE Championship, Bray Wyatt has decided that he is REBORN. I’ll be honest with you, thanks to the haunted house match it’s going to be a while before I react to anything Bray Wyatt does with words. It’s mostly a general feeling of malaise, followed by that angry feeling you get when you wait through an entire commercial break on the radio for a song and you hear the first few notes of Coldplay.
The worst part is that Bray interrupts Kurt Angle updating us on BRAUN STROWMAN, and does so to (you guessed it) say absolutely nothing. As Mike Fitzsimmons mentioned on Twitter, I spent the segment hoping Angle would shoot a double-leg and choke Wyatt out, mid-cackle.
For fans of fantasy horror bullshit that goes nowhere, don’t worry, Bray returns later.
What We Did Inside The Purple Ropes This Week
Up first for The Lavender Hill Mob is a six-man tag, because whoever booked that 8-woman tag with the entire division in the open was like, “hey, do that again.” It’s Akira Tozawa, Jack Gallagher and Rich Swann against An Brian Kendrick, an increasingly Fred Savage-like Noam Dar, and Tony Nese. You can tell which team is going to lose by the Tony Nese.
It’s pretty fun for a Raw cruiserweight match, but really spotlights how backwards the presentation of the division is. In the main-event, you’ve got 190-pound Finn Bálor and only-over-205-because-he’s-taller Seth Rollins going balls to the wall, throwing caution to the wind and bouncing around the ring hitting intense, exciting, creative sequences. In this match, featuring nearly the entire division, there is one (1) dive sequence, all Jack Gallagher’s doing is headbutts, a chinlock is the most believable nearfall, and the finish is a dropkick.
Neville and Aries are doing really good work, and I wish they were just lighter wrestlers on Raw competing for a championship instead of the figureheads of a “division” built around the least adventurous wresting with the show’s least known characters.
Speaking of Austin Aries, the other cruiserweight match of the night is Aries vs. TJ Perkins, now simply known as “TJP,” which is appropriate because he is the Kentucky Fried Chicken of wrestlers. WWE’s fear of pronouns makes a guy with initials for a name hard to watch, because “TJP” is the only thing they can say. They try to call him “Perkins” a few times, but it’s still brutal. Also of note: TJP is so tiny he makes Aries look like a regular-sized guy.
Aries is pretty much doing the Lord’s work lately, so he gets one of the better Raw matches we’ve seen from Perkins. Perk’s starting to show a little edge, I guess, even though it’s hard to see with him still dabbing on a bunch of video game graphics in his entrance. Can’t he at least get one of the Mega Man bad guy themes? Gimme that Dr. Wily Skull Compound music.
Most of the edge comes after the match, when Aries is able to counter a TTYL into the Last Chancery. I love that he’s figured out creative ways to lock that in. I’ve never loved the move, but I’m a sucker for finishers you can grab out of nowhere. Anyway, Perkins responds to the loss by “handling the Austin Aries problem,” an attack triggered by Neville questioning him about his spot in the division. TJP’s gotta be the most impressionable guy on Raw. If you tell him to eat batteries with a little bass in your voice, dude would down a pack of double-As. He tries to break Aries’ legs, which I appreciate in a heel, and helps get Aries even more sympy heading into whatever they’re doing for the cruiserweight strap at Extreme Rules. Good stuff!
Also, before I forget, eternal +1 to Aries for selling his knee with the Chad Gable Memorial One-Legged Bridge.
Best: Tag Teams Are Doing Things!
Up first on the tag docket this week are Sheamus and Cesaro, who are still doing their neener-neener tandem entrance but now have cool matching angry friendship jackets, which rule. They briefly stop ruling when Corey Graves mentions they make Sheamus look like Travis Bickle, causing Michael Cole to reprise his role from that one WrestleMania 22 commercial. Cole doing DeNiro and getting like 60 seconds of dead air in response is pretty great, not gonna lie.
The Bar — is that their team name? Can I call them DeBarge? — make the very valid point that WWE audiences are so busy living in the past and worrying about the future that they miss what’s in the present, right in front of them. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. For the longest time writing about Nitro and NXT were the only things keeping me interested, because WWE’s Present was a nightmare. On Sunday I watched Randy Orton sell a fridge, then completely no-sell a fridge to teleport. Can you blame us?
Nothing of note really happens beyond that, as the Hardys show up to contest being a nostalgia act and hit the ring in response. Sheamus and Cesaro bail, because now they’re heels and that means they can’t ever fight. Pessimistic jokes aside, I’m all-in for this feud, and maybe for Sheamus and Cesaro to retire the kilts as everyday attire, and to get an entrance theme for both of them at once. The bloom is off that James Bond entrance.
Maybe the best moment of the entire episode is this backstage segment with Golden Truth and Kurt Angle. In it, we have two major developments:
- Kurt Angle instantly becoming the best Raw general manager of all time by citing someone’s iffy win/loss record as a reason he can’t just pull a title opportunity out of his ass, and
- Goldust and R-Truth feeling like actual characters again for the first time in ages by mentioning how the return of Angle and the Hardys has lit a fire under them, and how they want to prove that they’re still worthwhile veterans
That’s WONDERFUL. All you need to do with most of the middle and undercard is give them tangible personalities beyond surface level descriptions like “is weird” and “is crazy” or whatever and let us connect to them. With guys like Truth and Goldust, that should be easy as hell. This proves it. Give them a reason to be there, have them explain that reason, and then let them work to substantiate it.
Based on this segment, we’ve got a tag team turmoil match set for next week, with the winners becoming the new number one contenders to the Raw Tag Team Championship. You’ve got a lot already built in; The Club is endlessly feuding with Enzo and Cass, Sheamus and Cesaro are clearly going to be mega jerks and win, and now you’ve got a great underdog team in the Golden Truth. They won’t win, I’m sure, but they’ve given us a reason to hope they do, beyond how much we might have already liked them.
Best/Worst: The Miz Attends A Massive Dork Convention
Everyone wants a shot at the Universal Championship, but Brock Lesnar is barely a wrestler, so nobody’s getting one. That causes The Miz to come to verbal, surprisingly talk-show-free blows with Finn Bálor and Seth Rollins, Raw’s approximation of the Ouran High School Host Club. Dean Ambrose is also here, mentioning that by saying “Brock” so much, they sound like “a couple of chickens.” MY SIDES, DEAN, STOP IT. STOP IT DEAN.
The long and short of it is that since the Universal Championship doesn’t exist in this dojo, the Intercontinental Championship is the top championship on Raw — dear lord — and Finn, Miz and Seth will have a triple threat at the end of the show to decide who’ll face Ambrose for it next.
The highlight here is Ambrose trying to be funny and making a call to Kurt Angle mid-ring, and Miz and Rollins actually being funny with their reactions. I can’t decide which I like more; Miz’s angry old man stare, or Rollins leaning in like he’s just discovered there’s a hard cam.
Worst: Roving Reporter Dean Ambrose
An act in three parts.
Part the First: Ambrose steals Charly Caruso’s microphone in the middle of an interview with The Miz to ask Miz why he has so much hair gel in his hair, and whether or not he has to wrestle in a headband to keep it out of his eyes. Miz no-sells this, because he is neither a newborn baby nor a beetle-crushing simpleton and doesn’t find it funny.
Part the Second: Ambrose finds Seth Rollins backstage and engages in one of those hilarious, passive-aggressive sitcom arguments where it starts off friendly and gets contentious and they keep referring to themselves in third person. All it needed was for Rollins to put an egg in one of Ambrose’s pockets and smash it, and for Ambrose to, like, pour pancake batter down the front of Rollins’ shirt. If this was The Facts Of Life, this would be high-stakes.
Part the Third: Ambrose tries to get Finn Bálor to sound like a human being, fails. There is one good part to this, though, as it raises an important question.
Best: Has Finn Bálor Ever Eaten A Donut?
Ambrose tells him to “eat a carb” and Finn takes a bite of it, but I’m almost positive this is the first time Finn’s ever even SEEN a donut. His torso suggests that he was raised on a diet of boneless skinless chicken breasts and celery sticks. Dude got salmon with candles in it at his birthday parties. I’m surprised his body didn’t reject that bite, and I’m 90% sure he gagged and spit it up the second he was off-screen. Finn Bálor is that guy who can’t drink carbonated water because the flavor’s too strong.
Best: An Actual Main Event
To end the show, we get over twenty minutes (!) of great wrestling (!!) featuring young, exciting stars with something to prove (!!!) in a triple threat match with actual stakes (!!!!) that looks to put over the importance of a secondary title (!!!!!) and features run-ins, sure, but run-ins that make sense and advance the plot. Not sure I have enough exclamation points for all that.
As I mentioned, it’s the Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor for a shot at ridding Dean Ambrose of the Intercontinental Championship and making it seem important again. I love this pairing of talent, because they all bring something to the table. For all his shortcomings as a psychologically acceptable pro wrestler, Seth Rollins excels at getting a crowd hyped up and holding them throughout an exciting match. It’s one of the reasons his triple threat with Cena and Lesnar was so good. The guy gets the tiny cues, like slapping his leg a bunch before hitting the frog splash to simultaneously add some sort of bullshit rationale to what he’s doing AND get the crowd engaged. He’s movement. He’s kinetic. That’s valuable, whether his wrestling ever makes sense or not. Miz is the glue that holds it together. He’s the King of Safe Style, the guy who has evolved from “not catching people on dives” into a ring savvy veteran who can take two dynamic forces and keep them working together toward a common storytelling goal. Plus, he’s a colossal shithead, and matches like this need that. If it’s three Seth Rollins’, why does anybody care? Finally there’s Bálor, an undersized guy with a gimmick that could fall the hell apart at any second who NEEDS to look like the supernatural bad-ass NXT convinced us he was. If he doesn’t always feel unique and singularly special, we notice that he’s the size of Jojo and muscularly waifish and Miz should be able to step on him. But at his best, Finn transcends size and physicality, and becomes the wrestling equivalent of a Final Fantasy boss.
The match features two run-ins, which I’d normally give a lot of grief to. I think it works here, given the frenetic pace of the match and the winner-take-all stakes. The first is from Samoa Joe, who obviously got dicked over at Payback. His shoulder was up, you guys, dude’s not getting pinned on a fireman’s carry … I mean, at least not until he wrestles John Cena. He shows up to take out Rollins. With Rollins gone, it looks like Finn’s going to finish off the Miz, but WHOOPS, here’s Bray Wyatt — the man who made it very clear a few weeks ago that Finn would be his next target once he was done putting Randy Orton’s hand in a bowl of cold spaghetti and telling him it’s worms — to stop him. With Rollins AND Bálor taken out by external forces, ultimate shithead The Miz is able to steal a victory and a title opportunity. He can say he beat them both, when technically he beat neither of them.
I hope Miz wins the Intercontinental Championship when Braun Strowman runs out in shoulder tape and throws Ambrose off a bridge for being Roman Reigns’ friend.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
What? No! All Payback was to be confined to last night!
[Baron Corbin breaks up this match]
Go back to ROH!
Go back to New Japan!
Go back to…Real World/Road Rules: The Challenge 2 – Born in the USA, presented by Yellowcard
I’m actually amazed they didn’t have Finn say the donut was “too sweet.”
Bray: I rise from the hell of my own creation like an angel with burnt wings
Kurt: Mr. Wyatt, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
The more we get to know Dean and Roman, the more justified Seth seems in stabbing them in the back.
Substitute Teacher Kurt Angle doesn’t know how to deal with the chubby goth kid reading poetry
People really gotta tighten up those deletes. A stadium full of people heiling is not what wrestling needs right now
I sincerely wonder how Noam Dar feels about fighting a Gallagher
Skinner: We need a gimmick that’s witty at first, but that seems less funny each time you see it.
Apu: How about, “Gentleman Jack Gallagher ”
(Everyone laughs loud at first, then less, then the laughter tapers off)
Wow. Only a few weeks into the job and Kurt Angle is already phoning it in.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. At first we were like,
but then we were like,
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See you next week for Tag Team Turmoil, the possible return of happiness angel Braun Strowman, and The Miz Triumphant.