Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Sheamus and Cesaro won a tag team turmoil match, wacky Raw general managers the Miz and Dean Ambrose tried to put Braun Strowman in a “one arm tied behind your back” match against the guy who previously defeated him by making him stand in a dumpster, and a fan committed the worst of all possible sins, double-dabbing.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for May 15, 2017.
Worst: An Opening Segment In Reverse
There was some real Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 shit happening in this week’s Raw open as Kurt Angle booked a fatal five-way for Extreme Rules to determine who will face Brock Lesnar at WWE Dot Dot Dot Question Mark for the Universal Championship, then had to sit through five single-file promos about how each person in the match deserved to be number one contender. What’s everybody complaining about? Everyone’s like, “I’M the number one contender,” and it’s like, yes, based on what Kurt Angle just said, you are all exactly the same amount of number one contender.
It’s the normal WWE match build in reverse. Usually you’d have everyone show up at the top of the show one by one like, “YOU are the ones who are the ball lickers,” and then the general manager would say, “you’re ALL going to have a match!” And then he’d put them in singles matches against each other until that match. The worst part is that we’ve got three weeks until Extreme Rules and only this one booking strategy, so we’re gonna get five weeks of one-on-one matches between four of the five participants, with the wild card fifth running in on one of them. Settle in.
Let’s get the obvious pairings out of the way first.
The best match of the night by far is Roman Reigns vs. Finn Bálor, who mesh spectacularly well and bring out the best in one another. Putting Finn in the ring with a guy like Roman and having him be competitive is crucial, because if you don’t, we start to notice the ridiculous size differential between him and ANYONE he’s going to be wrestling in the WWE heavyweight division. If Super Roman has to struggle to beat him — and despite his flaws and penchant for situational no-selling, Roman is excellent at controlling the pace and portraying physical damage — you could rationalize that Finn vs. Brock wouldn’t be like a steamroller taking on a beautiful baby kitten wearing a hat made of belts.
I don’t like the kayfabe explanation that Braun Strowman is out for six months because he ran through an ambulance door, stumbled into a stack of empty cardboard boxes and got hit with a chair a few times, but Roman could have (1) a separated shoulder (2) multiple cracked ribs and (3) guts full of blood and not only be fine in a few weeks, but fine enough to pin a 100% Finn Bálor. In my head I go back and forth on whether I think it was more believable for Finn to hang with Roman plus all those injuries, or if Roman being that hurt and still winning makes everyone look a little worse.
Still, the match is really, really good. I get so caught up in the frustrating memories of Finn as NXT Champion (and the fact that he delivers promos like Dora the Explorer talking to the audience) that I forget how dope Prince Devitt is as a pro wrestler, and how much he deserves to be where he is. The guy’s got it. I wish they’d book him with a little prestige, though, and not cart him out every week and have the only difference between him and Seth Rollins be that one of them says “dude” a lot.
The other downside is that this (in theory) could’ve been a marquee match down the line, especially since it’s a rematch from Finn’s first night on the main roster and a battle between the first Universal Champion and the “only guy who can beat Brock Lesnar,” but it is what it is.
Match two — our main event of the evening because, like I said, this was all done in reverse — is the first-time-ever one-on-one match between Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt. One-on-one specifically, mind you, because we aren’t counting all those dope six-man tags between The Shield and the Wyatt Family.
The crowd’s not really into this one, because
- There’s a Samoa Joe run-in you could’ve called from outer space
- Bray Wyatt can’t win a match, and if he does, he can’t win it without someone helping him, which makes him hard to take seriously as a threat unless you’re five years old or Drew Barrymore from 50 First Dates
- Bray Wyatt does not make Seth Rollins’ Rep 3 in 1 Wood Plyometric Box for Jump Training and Conditioning look like bugs
After the match, Wyatt takes advantage of a fight he didn’t win by hitting Joe and Rollins with Sisters Abigail. Because it’s Every Man For Himself™ in the fatal five-way at Extreme Rules!
Join us next week when Bray Wyatt takes on Roman Reigns, and Finn Bálor vs. Samoa Joe with a Seth Rollins run-in. And the week after that when Samoa Joe loses to Roman Reigns and Finn Bálor wrestles Seth Rollins until Bray Wyatt runs in.
I tell you what, let’s stay optimistic. Let’s move on to a different division on the show, one not built on multi-man matches set up by a series of singles matches between the participants.
Worst: The Tag Team Division Only Gets One Story
Sheamus and Cesaro faced the Hardy Boyz for the Raw Tag Team Championship at Payback. To set this up, they had Jeff Hardy defeat Cesaro in a singles match, then had Matt Hardy defeat Sheamus in a singles match. The Hardys also won at Payback.
Now, after a heel turn and a tag team turmoil match that saw them defeat the entire division, Sheamus and Cesaro will face the Hardy Boyz for the Raw Tag Team Championship at Extreme Rules. To set this up, they have Jeff Hardy defeat Sheamus in a singles match. Let me guess, next week Cesaro will take on Matt Hardy?
Man, that’s frustrating. But still, let’s stay optimistic. Let’s talk about a division with more than four people in it.
Worst: The Cruiserweight Division Only Has Four People In It
son of a
At WrestleMania, Cruiserweight Champion Neville defeated Austin Aries. At Payback, Cruiserweight Champion Neville defeated Austin Aries. At Extreme Rules, Cruiserweight Champion Neville will take on Austin Aries.
Four weeks ago on Raw, Austin Aries and Jack Gallagher teamed up to defeat Neville and TJ Perkins when Aries defeated Perkins. The next week, Austin Aries defeated TJ Perkins. Last week, TJ Perkins defeated Jack Gallagher. This week, Austin Aries and Jack Gallagher lose to Neville and TJ Perkins when Perkins defeats Gallagher.
Remember when the Cruiserweight Division had a whole tournament of guys from around the world, with alternates and everything? Remember how fun and exciting it was? They’ve started blacking out the squares on TJP’s “character select” entrance graphics, so maybe they finally released the game and all the people you’d actually want to play with are DLC. If I send Raw 10 bucks can I get a fucking Gran Metalik match?
This feels like a very regressive Raw. Can I see something happy?
Ah, there we go.
Best: Cane Bayley
Alexa Bliss calls New Jersey the “sweat glands” of America — not exactly the Bret Hart enema promo, but what is — talks up her accomplishments, continues her skillful burial of “what” chants and announces that she is the only “goddess” in WWE. If we’re calling Athena “Ember Moon,” I guess you’re right.
So of course Bayley shows up like this:
and cuts a sketchy, unconfident promo about how she wants her title rematch at Extreme Rules. Alexa tells Bayley to go sit at the kiddie table and leave the championships to the adults, because she rules. Bayley, who is a good person and DEFINITELY an adult and NOT a child, shoves Alexa down for saying mean things about her. Cole says you “can’t blame her” for (1) interrupting Bliss’ promo time and (2) throwing the first punch. Alexa immediately kicks her ass and bashes her in the skull with a stick.
Later, backstage, Bayley refuses a straight-up championship match with Alexa because she wants her chance at revenge. You know, revenge for getting her ass kicked in a fight she started. Bayley, who is definitely an adult and not a child, makes Kurt Angle give her a match where she can hit Alexa Bliss with a stick.
The only way they can redeem Bayley at this point without sending her to Smackdown and starting over is having her show up to this match in a leather jacket like Atsushi Onita, smoke cigarettes and Irish whip Bliss into a bunch of exploding barbed wire.
Best/Worst: Record Of Low Blows War
The only actually advertised match of the week (and the only championship match) ends in a disqualification. The Miz goes for a low blow, fresh out of the womb newborn baby Dean Ambrose blocks it and responds by angrily kicking Miz in the nuts. It’s a logical finish for someone like the Miz who is always on the border of cheating, but it’s a little underwhelming. Especially since this is definitely not the last time we’re going to see these two fight.
The match itself is structured well enough and isn’t bad, but suffers from featuring Ambrose and The Miz, two guys who connect with the combined impact of a butterfly kiss. They know how to work a WWE crowd, though, and even though they went with the non-finish, it’s at least a match with the illusion of consequence. Is that better or worse than something like Finn/Reigns, which is exceptionally wrestled for no reason? Winning those singles matches doesn’t affect the fatal five-way at all.
It’s a tough call. I guess it depends on whether you’re trying to get lasting, episodic value out of a three-hour TV show, or just watching for the in-the-moment stimulus response. Neither one’s wrong. I just wish they’d put them together more often.
After the match, Miz demands a rematch against Dean Ambrose where the title can change hands on a disqualification. Kurt Angle agrees to it. Shout-out to Kurt Angle for trying to book the Extreme Rules pay-per-view with Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss in a Regular Match and The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose with extra rules.
By the way, if you play all these Drifter appearances backwards, you’ll hear a recipe for a really ripping lentil soup.
Best: Fox News
Here’s good news: Alicia Fox actually won a match!
It’s always weird when a match finish is obviously, blatantly wrong, and Raw has to wait a week and re-do it. It seems to happen a lot in women’s matches. Charlotte will get beaten one week but then be like, “hey, it turns out the referee completely forgot the rules of wrestling for a second so now I get another match!” Last week, it was Sasha Banks pinning Alicia Fox despite Fox’s arm being half a foot off the mat. This week they re-do it, and they can’t just completely re-do it and admit they messed up and recreate the moment they want, so Fox wins.
I’m not going to complain. Alicia Fox has been one of the most underrated women on the roster for … pretty much the entire time she’s been here, so if she can get a win without too much shenanigan and we can maybe please maybe move toward that oft-rumored Sasha Banks heel turn, I’m into it.
Best/Worst: The Apollo Bland
Study question: If Apollo Crews knew TItus O’Neil was supposed to wrestle tonight and not him, and had been trying all this time to tell him, why was he in his gear and oiled up? Did he like, just find out about it as they were walking out?
Titus Brand needs a $500 shoe to really bring this gimmick together. The match between Titus and Big Cass was more of an embarrassing comedy aside than a “match,” but it’s fine. I like Titus as Enzo more than Shoot Enzo at this point. I also enjoyed Apollo Crews’ … what was that, a heel turn? A literal heel turn, where he got booed for throwing an enzuigiri? Enzo kinda deserved it, though, to the point that even Big Cass didn’t seem to give a shit about him getting attacked. Hell, even Enzo himself was like, “I GOT A GOOD PICTURE” instead of “WHY DID THAT GUY HIT ME.” So either Apollo Crews is a non-factor even to people he is actively attacking, or Enzo realizes he deserves at least a large portion of his ass kickings.
Best: Nothing Gold Can Stay
And finally, we have the best moment of the night: Goldust finally, finally turning on R-Truth, mid-“what’s up.”
They telegraphed the hell out of this with the Golden Truth’s “we want to be important again” promo to Kurt Angle that got them into tag team turmoil only for R-Truth to lose the match for them in one fall. And before this (which is supposed to be a match with The Club, LOL), Truth is like, “hey man, I’m sorry,” and Goldust is like, “EVERYTHING IS TOTALLY FINE, WE ARE ACTUAL FRIENDS, I DEFINITELY WON’T PUNCH YOU IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD IN A MINUTE.” So it’s telegraphed, but man, it’s a good telegraph. It’s a telegraph that needed to happen a while ago.
The thing about Goldust is that, personal biases aside, he’s a goddamn Rhodes and still can go and should be doing something more valuable on your program that desperately needs names and heels and performers that won’t get hurt every couple of months than slumming it as the jobber tag team in a division of four. Goldust rules. Goldust has always ruled, and I hope we get an actual, effective heel run from him here instead of just a blowoff with Truth. I want a Jericho-like Goldust revival, where he takes what worked about classic psychosexual stalker Goldust, adapts the concerning shit into something that works in 2017, and just golden movie cowboy whoops the living shit out of people. Goldust is 1000% the man who needs to take the Intercontinental Championship from Dean Ambrose.
Not a lot going on this week, but we got a very good match and a long overdue heel turn, so we’ll pretend we watched a solid hour-long and two hours of recaps.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
With Strowman out, I expect Raw’s rating to…dive.
“Wow, Darren Young got ripped.” –Vince McMahon, probably.
So the actual physical address of the WWE Ring is Paige’s House, in Roman’s Yard, On Kurt Angle’s show, in Kevin Owen’s America, on Bray Wyatt’s world, in Finn Balor’s Universe.
The fact that a healthy Finn Balor couldn’t beat an injured, “not at 100 percent” (and the announcers sold this about a billion times) Roman Reigns is frustrating.
Braun will be back sooner rather than later, everyone. All you have to do is…Elbowlieve!
Alexa better have a giant mallet at Extreme Rules
“I can do things guys twice my size, like Roman, can’t do. For example, connect with the audience.”
You know, we harp on Dean for his “soft offense” but he’s the only member of The Shield left who hasn’t seriously injured someone.
The Real Birdman
Picture a match where Brock Lesnar sells a sling blade and doesn’t just shrug it off. I dare you
Cut to Braun in the hospital: “Yeah, I guess I’m finished with him”
And that’s our show.
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