The Best and Worst of WWE Raw 5/8/17: Gauntlet Legends

Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Finn Bálor took a bite out of a donut, and we spent most of our time pondering whether or not Finn had ever eaten a donut before. Because, seriously, look at him. I mean, he probably knows what a donut is, but to Finn Bálor, “do you want a donut,” probably sounds like a normal person’s, “do you want to swallow this rock I found lying on the ground.” Note: this week’s Raw report will be delayed as we continue to ask this question.

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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for May 8, 2017. May 8. Mate.

Worst: A Night Of Dean Ambrose Comedy

So right out of the gate, we find out that Kurt Angle is unable to attend this pre-taped Raw in London and has, for some reason, made Intercontinental Champion and sentient, upright-walking whoopie cushion Dean Ambrose General Manager for the night. In response, Stephanie McMahon (who is also not present, and who is supposed to be dead from a table fall or whatever, and who has not really been mentioned as a power presence or the FEUD WITH THE GUY I PUT IN CHARGE type since WrestleMania) has made Ambrose’s upcoming challenger, The Miz, co-GM.

This feels like one of those storyline conventions someone came up with on Monday morning and nobody had enough energy to come up with anything better, so they just pushed it through. Or Vince McMahon came up with it and nobody was brave enough to be like, “can’t the GM still be the GM if he isn’t there? Can’t he just make the matches before 8 on Monday?” And honestly, wouldn’t it be better if a GM WASN’T there every week? You’d save yourself a lot of wrestlers bothering them, or badgering them for shit they don’t deserve, or getting into arguments that require “settling it in the ring” right here tonight. You would just, you know, run a wrestling promotion? Snide armchair middle-management aside, not having that instant call-and-response would help you pace out the stories you’re choosing to tell, too.

And man, are we already back into Stephanie feuds with the GM territory? I really hope not. I hope they just got lazy and didn’t bother to come up with anything better. I really don’t want precious win/loss-savvy comedy GM Kurt Angle to turn into emasculated-ass, embarrassing-ass Commissioner Foley. That’s me preemptively worrying about stuff that hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve gotta work it out now so I’m not downtrodden as hell about it later.

The end result is one (or two) too many segments of Dean Ambrose being “crazy,” and my keyboard doesn’t have sarcastic enough quotation marks to emphasize that like I’d like. If you like Ambrose and think his “Harry from Harry and the Hendersons in a leather jacket” act is hilarious, you loved this. If you don’t, it was a mostly inoffensive but still totally wasted batch of time. Like, if Ambrose offered Miz a piece of gum and it turned out the pack had a little mouse trap mechanism on it and snapped Miz’s finger, would you be surprised? Would you have been worried if Miz shook Ambrose’s hand and got shocked with a joy buzzer? Would that even phase you? That’s Dean Ambrose. He’s Bray Wyatt if you think pictures of bugs and poor people houses are too scary.

And, conveniently enough, the co-General Managers end up putting each other in matches. Couldn’t they have just done a Pick Your Poison thing and skipped the nonsense in the middle? Open the show by saying Angle’s not here, but that he set up a Pick Your Poison for Ambrose and Miz earlier this week and the matches are signed, and they’ll find out who they’re facing when their matches start. It’s the same thing, and you could’ve avoided Dean Ambrose pointing at fake dog shit and saying, “that’s real dog shit!” Poop. Dean Ambrose would say “poop.”

Another example of how middling this all is is the Braun Strowman moment, where he says he wants Brock Lesnar to one of the biggest responses of the night, and is then put in a “one arm tied behind his back” match with Kalisto (who gets zero response), then refuses to do it, then does it anyway. … Cool?

The matches themselves are fine, but impossibly predictable, which is sort of the calling card of a pre-taped Raw. Nothing’s going to happen on an England Raw, unless there’s a British guy on the roster in mid-card title contention. They didn’t even break out the British phone booth or double-decker bus props for the stage this time out. They should’ve updated their props and had James Corden sit on the stage trying to get himself over for three hours.

Up first is The Miz vs. Finn Bálor, who increasingly feels like a wooden puppet that desperately wishes to become a real boy. He feels like he’s on “please don’t hurt yourself again” auto-pilot, going through the motions and hitting his dropkicks without a lot going on externally. He’s kinda starting to creep me out, though, as his “normal” persona seems weirder to me than his Demon. If he turned out to be an alien or a bug masquerading as a human or something, I wouldn’t be surprised.

The match is fine, but as I said, very predictable. Miz is about to lose but gets pulled out of the ring by Maryse. General Manager Dean Ambrose shows up and says “nuh uh,” the match must continue. Miz is upset, and Finn finishes beating him.

Miz responds by putting Ambrose in a match against Bray Wyatt, which is at least in the top 10 of current Superstar match-ups we’ve seen too many times. They do their normal match, and Ambrose loses when Miz hits him with the Intercontinental Championship behind the referee’s back to set up a Sister Abigail. Remember when Bray Wyatt only won his signature haunted regular house match with the help of three guys? Here he is pinning the Intercontinental Champion, but only after getting help from Miz. Are you terrified of him yet? He will haunt you forever with his doll collection and unsolicited help from others!

That’s the main event, by the way.

Best: The Tale Of The Tape

Look how exaggerated this thing is:

It’s like Gandalf’s about to battle Frodo. They should’ve gone all the way with it and said Kalisto was 3-foot-11 and weighed 45 pounds, and that his signature move was “curling up in the fetal position.”

Best: Throwing Down In The Gauntlet

The best part of this week’s show in a walk is the half hour devoted to the Tag Team Turmoil match to name new number one contenders to the Raw Tag Team Championship. They telegraphed this about as hard as they could by having Sheamus and Cesaro turn on the Hardys and beat them to death at Payback — and also by having every other team in the division be a complete afterthought — but the success of this was in the execution, not the idea.

I’ll be honest, I had this spoiled for me earlier in the day and was kinda dreading the result. I want Sheamus and Cesaro to be the new Road Warriors and just brutally murk everybody, sure, but a part of my brain still dreaded the idea that one team was gonna destroy the entire division to get a title shot. The good news is that Sheamus and Cesaro are dope — big surprise, there — and not only made winning the gauntlet look like it required great effort, they managed to wrestle a smart gauntlet, and in doing so preserved the dignity of the teams they were beating in a row.

Sheamus and Cesaro were able to win by:

  • understanding Enzo Amore and Big Cass’ major weakness as a tag team, which is how impossible it is for them to win if Enzo never makes the hot tag to Cass. They prevent that tag from happening, isolate Enzo and put him away
  • using that same strategy against Heath Slater and Rhyno by taking out Rhyno before the match, thereby isolating Slater and letting them put him away 2-on-1
  • understanding The Club’s major weakness as a tag team, which is, “The Club is terrible”
  • using Golden Truth’s publicly established desire to “turn back the clock” and prove a point by just kinda rope-a-doping them for a while and using their own enthusiasm against them

Golden Truth even gets another great backstage promo before the match to remind the audience why they’re in the match, what they’re working so hard for and why their placement matters. I even like the idea that Angle may have sympathetically put them in that final spot to try to give them the best chance of winning. I hope these segments aren’t forgotten going forward, and that we’ve been seeing Goldust’s unshakable belief that he can return to glory and be somebody again that he goes nuclear on Truth, and we get classic heel Goldust back for a glorious, final run. Maybe his gear at WrestleMania was foreshadowing?

This was very good, and I like that the heels won the thing by being smart, instead of cheating or taking shortcuts. To the announce team, “being smart” sometimes plays like taking shortcuts. Like how if Roman Reigns attacks Braun Strowman’s injury he’s smart, but if Strowman attacks Reigns’ injury he’s out of line. The announcing was really weird all night, and I wish they’d have stuck with The Bar as smart heels instead of accidentally playing them up as gutsy babyfaces for half of it.

Worst: Speaking Of Announcing

Michael Cole was rough last night. I don’t know if he had too much of Vince in his ear or what, but he seemed even more detached from the product than usual. He was acting like this was the first time he’d seen ANYTHING. We’ve NEVER seen Roman Reigns fight like this! We’ve NEVER seen Braun Strowman so enraged! We’ve NEVER SEEN A FIGHT LIKE THIS! He was Daniel Bryan in the Cruiserweight Classic if Bryan was making wanking gestures behind the camera the whole time instead of legitimately enjoying cool wrestling.

He also tried his best to ruin the final fall of the tag gauntlet by desperately overselling Golden Truth’s efforts, thereby telegraphing the fact that they weren’t gonna win. You know that “ONE TWO HE GOT HIM NO HE DIDN’T” thing, where the announcer is so sure that the match is over it ruins the drama of the moment and spoils that it’s not? It was that, for a broader story. Y’all gotta stop doing that. The announce team’s supposed to lead us through the stories and use unbiased “broadcasting” as a way to emotionally herd us in the right directions. Cole whining and overselling everything’s the reason jerks like me go on the Internet and have justifiable arguments about the heels being right. It’s hard to feel something when an unlikable corporate guy is repeatedly insisting you feel it.

Best: Ro Vs. Strow, Again

So yeah, Braun Strowman shows up in a sling (and his wrestling gear, which I guess is also his street clothes?) and says he’s not fighting Kalisto in a one arm tied behind your back match because, uh, he’s injured, and you aren’t supposed to compete when you’re injured. The referee calls for the bell anyway, so Braun instantly incapacitates Kalisto with one foot. I like that Kalisto won’t stay down and keeps challenging Braun even though the only chance he’s got of winning is accidental bullshit match stipulations — “standing in a dumpster” match, I’m looking in YOUR direction — but it’d work a lot more if the crowd had a reason to cheer for him. It’s one of those stories that works well in a vacuum, but as good as Kalisto is as an in-ring performer most of the time, he isn’t Rey Mysterio, and doesn’t have Mysterio’s supernatural ability to get everyone in an arena behind him.

Roman Reigns shows up, because of course he does, and Kalisto disappears into the good good lucha oblivion so they can brawl. I am SO INTO these two as guys who have already injured each other, but are so mad and indignant and into no-selling it that they keep fighting and hurting themselves more. The image of them at ringside half taped up with their arms in slings hurling chairs at each other or whatever is great. I’d like it even more if they could make it feel more real and visceral and less rehearsed, but it is what it is. And what it is is still pretty great.

See you in a few weeks, Stro. You’re the best.

Best: Wrestle Pals

Last week, Alexa Bliss was shading the entire women’s division and accidentally backed into Nia Jax. To avoid being picked up and thrown at the ground, Bliss started complimenting Jax and telling her she’s great. This week, Jax approaches her backstage and, aside from some natural size-based intimidation, is unusually reserved. “Did you mean it when you said I was great?” I’m not sure why I got so emotionally invested in this, but I love (love love) the idea that Jax is super confident and “not like most girls,” but is still a human being and needs validation. She’s using it as leverage to make sure she gets a shot at Bliss, and Bliss is going to use the situation as leverage to keep Nia AWAY from the title, but her acting still made it seem sincere. I don’t know. I think there are a lot of cool layers to play with here if they want to. Plus, dickhead Bliss forever.

The match we get is Bliss vs. Mickie James, with Nia at ringside for Bliss (because she’s Alexa’s “best friend” until Alexa talks to Kurt Angle and works something out about her getting a title shot) and Mickie countering with Bayley. A huge supplemental Worst to WWE for bringing Bayley to ringside for no reason in England, which causes like 40% of a match not actually involving Bayley to get sing-songy Bayley chants. That “ooh, ah” song is the English non-union equivalent of “hey, we want some Bay, lay.” It’s bad enough when Bayley’s actually wrestling and trying to tell a story and nobody’s paying attention. It’s worse when she’s literally standing still nearby and other people are trying to do things.

The match itself is kinda sloppy and not very engaging, and Bliss wins with a punch (?) after a “slight distraction” from “Belly.” I don’t know. They could’ve at least had the ref get distracted and had Alexa punch her with her exoskeleton claw. After the match, Nia beats up Mickie, because reasons? Again, no idea what most of this was about.

Worst: C’mon, Ref, Do Your Job

The other women’s match of the night is Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox, which Banks wins easily with a Meteora while Fox’s right shoulder is about 14 feet off the ground. The referee is just counting and not even making an attempt to see if she’s actually being pinned.

Continuing That Trend, Here’s A Cruiserweight Something

Jack Gallagher faced TJ “TJ Perkins” P with Neville on commentary. Here’s the entire match:

Cole: Jack Gallagher is DEFINITELY the best English!
Neville: ooooh I warnin’ ye!

Perkins wins with a handful of tights, exposing Gallagher’s entire ass crack, then tries to injure him after the match. Austin Aries runs out to make the save in a Carmella-esque sea of indifferent silence. Neville’s upset about it, and appears to be the only person in the entire arena who is, Jack Gallagher included.

My feelings on the match are best illustrated by this trio of front row millennial fucks who won’t stop dabbing.

Eh: Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins Again

Samoa Joe and Seth Rollins keep having matches, and none of them seem very important. Even the one at Payback was sandwiched between House of Horrors segments to make it as forgettable as possible, and ended with a roll-up. They’re getting into it again on Raw, with Rollins jumping Joe and the two brawling backstage amongst the CLANGY METAL POLES. I’ll never understand how Raw has a traveling crew of technicians and puts together the exact same set every week and always has a batch of loose metal poles leaning against something backstage.

This sets up Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins for Raw, because the only way to continue building a feud between two guys is to have them wrestle over and over with slightly different results each time.

They wrestle, and it’s unremarkable but fine, I guess, and that’s it. Joe slams Rollins into the exposed steel behind a turnbuckle pad, and the ref is like, “hey, don’t do that,” and Joe does it again, so he’s disqualified.

That’s how I’d like to end the recap of this week’s show. With an, “oh.”

Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week

The Real Birdman

“Let us not forget the mind games Bray played with Randy Orton”
No Cole, let’s all forget about that


Miz is a couple of minutes away from putting over the ref


Why is Sasha Banks fighting the Cruiserweight’s secondary championship?


More like Gentleman Jack DABagher
– Dean Ambrose

AJ Dusman

But how did Sheamus and Cesaro earn #1 contendership without pinning the current champs?

Mr. Bliss

Are Gallows and Anderson the Lord Tensai of tag team wrestling? Dropped by WWE, reinvented themselves in Japan, come back to WWE with much fanfare only to have their push immediately halted and eventually wind up trainers in NXT?


“If there’s anyone who can stop Shaemus and Cesaro, it’s Gallows and Anderson.”
Based on what, Corey? I demand you show your work.

Amaterasu’s Son

“If you’re the Hardy Boyz, who do you want to face?”
TNA-Anthem Sports management.

Mark Silletti

blogging while Finn enters like


This episode of Raw has already been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing for Roman Reigns cheers being inserted into the program.

This was an episode of Raw.

Thank you for reading, as always. Be sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show, and click those social share buttons to share the column. It’s appreciated, and desperately needed. Somebody out there wants to read about TJP vs. Jack Gallagher, right? Right?

Join us next week when The Miz challenges Cookie the Clown for the Intercontinental Championship.