Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens had a killer Universal Championship match which featured Rollins diving off a balcony and almost tumbling forehead first into the corner of a production crate. Also on the show, Owens and Chris Jericho hugged and said everyone should blame Roman Reigns, which got a huge pop. And Emmalina is coming! Just kidding.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for November 28, 2016.
Worst/Best: Team Chris And Kevin Are Breaking Up!! (!!)
At some point during its 6,000 year run, The Simpsons started leaning on “Homer and Marge are thinking about getting divorced” too much. Like, every fifth episode would have them seriously thinking about it this time, only to realize at the end of the episode that they’re soulmates or whatever. It never had much consequence — the entire show is about this family, there’s no way they’re gonna shake it up and legitimately separate them like 25 seasons in, unless they’re absolutely bonkers — but they kept doing it and kept doing it as a jaws of life to open some sort of emotional response in the audience.
“Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho don’t want to be friends anymore” is the “Homer and Marge are getting divorced” of Raw right now. Every week they devote something to it, having teased us multiple times, always with the same ending. There are three Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens Universal Championship matches that end exactly the same way. “Will Chris Jericho come down and interfere? Yes, yes he will.” And then you just feed it through and repeat it. Last week Jericho was banned from ringside, snuck in to ringside to affect the outcome of the match anyway, and nothing comes of it. It’s just fine.
This Raw features MULTIPLE segments about how they’re going to break up, only a week after an entire Highlight Reel dedicated to them messing with the audience and hugging about how much they hate Roman Reigns. They’re still doing good work — Jericho’s bit about how it wasn’t him in a Sin Cara mask, it was Sin Cara in a Chris Jericho mask was particularly funny — but how many times can you go to this one well and pull up this one bucket of water?
Roman Reigns interrupts them, and does his usual thing where he smirks in a calm voice and says, “you know what, you’re both boogers,” and the heels have to mug and sell it like he just flipped them for real with brutal wordplay. That sets up Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns, with the stipulation that Roman will get a shot at the Universal Championship at ROADBLOCK END OF THE LINE (™™™) if he wins. That’s like bumper bowling, with creative as the ball and every tired Raw trope as the pins. This covers:
1. Roman Reigns getting non-stop title shots, even though he’s already holding a championship he barely defends and carries around like he hates it
2. Kevin Owens being the least dangerous or effective champion ever, with the announce team constantly being like, “wow, I can’t believe he was able to apply that chinlock without CHRIS JERICHO being out here to HELP HIM! Look at him now, a hip toss! And without the aid of CHRIS JERICHO, Graves!”
3. Champions being somehow unable to win non-title matches
4. Challenger has pinned the champion!
And just to say it, just like the “we’re breaking up” thing has a lot of good work to it, the match itself isn’t bad. It’s Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns, so you know it’ll be (1) competently-to-excitingly wrestled, and (2) too bogged down with cyclical storytelling to really make an impact or matter. Which is a bummer, because Owens and Reigns are like the two best wrestlers on the roster from the respective two most popular WWE fan perspectives.
Roman wins, because John Cena shrunk himself and learned how to pilot Aquaman’s body.
Best: Telling Stories!
I’m very critical of Raw sometimes to the point of dismissing them doing good work as an anomaly, so I want to take a second and observe how much better this episode of Raw was at at least building the stories they want to tell. I don’t like the Jericho/Owens/Reigns story necessarily, but I like that each segment built on the last. The show opens with Jericho and Owens on the same team. Reigns interrupts and gets under Owens’ skin, because super hero types and scrappy never-quitters tend to piss him off, and Owens lashes out at Jericho, because at his core he is a total butthole. In the next segment, Jericho observes the pattern happening every week and chooses to not be a part of it. He leaves, forcing Owens to prove himself. Owens fails to do that, because whether I like it or not, most WWE heels can’t do ANYTHING without a support system. Now Reigns has once again played the game and proven himself — he was Triple H’s first choice in all this “golden boy” shit, after all — and Owens is heading into ROADBLOCK NO MORE ROAD AVAILABLE™ with his championship on the line. Meanwhile, Jericho gets ambushed in the parking lot by Seth Rollins and Pedigreed on top of a parked car, which finally explains Seth’s “what would Ahmed Johnson do?” bracelet.
Jericho was hurt by distancing himself from Owens. Owens was hurt by forcing distance between him and Jericho. They need that friendship. Rollins and Reigns are attacking them from every direction, because they’re old friends turned enemies who have finally found a way to reform a healthier relationship without codependency, and also probably because they’re from the same dog-themed swat team.
And yeah, the championship match will probably still end with Jericho running interference and them revealing that they’re still totally in cahoots, but I can at least see the logical story they’re telling in this one episode.
Speaking of stories that make sense, here’s this week’s installment of a man tope con hilo’ing into a lion’s den.
Braun Strowman gets a squash win over R-Truth, which has become a right of passage for anybody with momentum on Raw. I know they don’t do intergender matches, but for a while there I was sure Nia Jax was going to get to squash Truth. Anyway, Straun Broman murders Truth and tries to choke-murder Goldust until More Guts Than Brains Sami Zayn runs out and jumps on Strowman’s back. He wants revenge for last week’s sneak attack, but Braun is two tanks stacked on top of each other powered by 35 Ferrari engines, so it doesn’t go well. Sami gets the shit beaten out of him again, and Foley once again has to wander out and stop Braun.
That’s followed by a segment that I actually really love, but doesn’t totally work because of the crowd response. Judgy-ass Braun Strowman correspondent Byron Saxton asks Foley about stopping the Strowman/Zayn fight two weeks in a row, and Mick is like, “Sami doesn’t know any better and won’t give up, so I need to stop the match so he doesn’t get himself killed. He can’t win.” Sami is rightfully like WHAT THE FUCK, DUDE, and gets in Foley’s face about taking orders from Stephanie and not sticking up for the passionate, niche, all-or-nothing type of guys he used to represent. Foley does his OFFENDED SCREAMING bit (and his teeth fall out), and we’re left with a great dichotomy; Foley is the aging, brain-damaged former punk who decided to work within the system and accidentally became The Man, and Zayn’s the new punk who can’t seem to get anyone on his side and is losing faith in his idols. Foley doesn’t get why Zayn won’t learn from his mistakes, and Zayn doesn’t get why Foley won’t let him make mistakes for himself.
That would be A+ character work (besides the gentle granpda to INSTANT SCREAMING thing Foley really, really needs to stop doing) if the crowd was into it or was like, listening and forming thoughts about what was being said. Instead they just kinda murmur to themselves, cheer when Zayn says Foley is their hero, then go back to booey murmuring for any story or character development deeper than “I love you” and “I DON’T.” But hey, to the Raw creative team, keep doing stuff like this. You’re never going to condition a crowd to look closer until you give them a difficultly sustained reason to.
Worst: Sorry ‘Bout Your Damn Hometown Luck
WWE is really pushing that “lose in your hometown” gag that used to mostly be reserved for humiliating Jim Ross in Oklahoma. Sasha Banks lost the Women’s Championship in a Hell in a Cell match main event in her hometown, Noam Dar lost in goddamn Scotland and now WWE’s two Charlotte-based wrestlers — Cedric Alexander and, uh, Charlotte — lose in Charlotte. You guys know that’s a super easy way to make fans in a certain city happy about having paid to see your wrestling show, right? Right?
Drew Gulak distracts Alexander, allowing Tony Nese to hit the world’s sloppiest Pumphandle Something for the cheap win. I’m going to keep my hopes high for 205 Live (honest) and presume the presence of Mauro means it happens in the same universe/timeline as the Cruiserweight Classic, and that Raw is some kind of Archie Elseworlds thing for babies.
Best: Awkward Rich Swann Promo Time
The second cruiserweight match of the night pits the one facial expression of Rich Swann against Dar, whose gimmick is that he meant to zip his jacket all the way up before he walked out, but only remembered to do so when he was on the stage. Please vote NOAM DAR IS BAD AT JACKETS as Best Gimmick in this year’s RSPW Awards. Honestly though, is that better or worse than, “likes Oasis?”
This one has Brian Kendrick on commentary and is another in a series of wins for Swann, to set him up as the first title contender on 205. I’m going to hope they give Swann the belt there and do a hard reboot of the division, and I pray to the lord to give me serenity and perspective when they don’t.
Worst: Come On
I’m not trying to be a Social Justice Anything, I just need to point out (again) WWE’s weird inability to have two black people on the roster without teaming them up or feuding them. I think I made that joke about Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander when the cruiserweight division debuted, and they were teaming up a week later. This week we find out that Alicia Fox is suddenly in love with Cedric — her type is “pound for pound the best pure athlete” and/or “guys who love to have fun,” I guess — and that Mark Henry and Titus O’Neil are feuding over Henry getting a role in the WWE Studios film Incarnate. Sure. Titus is like, “but I wanted to be the unnamed thug who gets beaten up by Aaron Eckhardt in one scene of a movie nobody will see!” I guess it’s hard to write a shampoo commercial beef for two bald guys.
Worst: Can’t A Guy Drink A Martini In A Bar Full Of Badly Disguised Indie Wrestlers In Peace?
Sheamus and Cesaro are hanging out at a local pub, gently bickering (as they do) when they’re accosted by a group of … regular people, who are definitely not pro wrestlers. I definitely didn’t see Tessa Blanchard buying a drink. Is this what happened to the Rosebuds when the Exotic Express stopped touring? Anyway, this leads to a bar fight, which finally appears to bond Sheamus and Cesaro.
I would’ve bested this for two reasons:
1. If they’d done this like, immediately after Sheamus and Cesaro lost their Tag Team Championship match. The idea was that they hated each other and didn’t want to team, but they both wanted/needed championship gold and decided to work together to at least follow through with the opportunity they earned wrestling each other nine times in a row. So they wrestle New Day for the belts and don’t win, and … just decide to keep teaming for some reason. Even though they still openly hate each other and can’t stop arguing. It’s never really explained beyond “they’re a team now, because that’s what’s happening,” and something like this on the show after their tag title loss could’ve gone a long way toward explaining it. So it’s a good decision, incredibly poorly done and way too late.
2. If they’d gone full Best of the Best and had Golden Earring’s ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ playing in the background during the fight. Teddy Long would’ve been an amazing James Earl Jones.
Worst, Then Super Best: Rusev Vs. Enzo Amore’s Dick, Round Two
So last week, Enzo Amore got “shower pranked” and locked out of the locker room naked. To deal with this, he nonchalantly wandered the hall. Eventually he ran into Lana, who stood next to him like an awkward child, because Lana portrays “sexual attraction” like a character from a fucking Nicktoon. Enzo is like, “how you doin’,” because he’s hanging D in front of her anyway, and Rusev shows up to shield her eyes and get mad at him. Based on that situation alone, Enzo’s totally in the right to think Rusev’s overreacting, and even mess with him about it if he wants. Even if I like Rusev a lot more, think he’s justified 100% of the time and want to see him literally eat Enzo Amore alive.
This week, despite being beaten within an inch of his life last week, Enzo shows up and is like, “RUSEV, THE BEST DAY OF YOUR WIFE’S LIFE IS WHEN SHE SAW MY DICK, NOW LISTEN TO THIS LIST OF THANKSGIVING FOODS.” It’s terrible. Enzo Amore might be the only person in the world worse at conveying romance or flirtation than Lana, and when he’s riffing on something sexual he can never decide whether he’s a G-rated Road Dogg or the pizza boy in a porno.
Anyway, in what might be the match of the year, Rusev decides to just kick Enzo as hard as possible right in the damn thing.
Move over, DIY vs. Revival!
They should just repeat this every week, with Enzo popping in like the Toasty guy from Mortal Kombat to be like YOUR WIFE SAW ME NAKED ONCE THAT MEANS SHE’S IN LOVE WITH ME, SHE WANTS THE DEEEEE, and Rusev like, spinning and place and whacking him in the cock with a golf club. Like a hypersexual Ernest Miller vs. Jung Dragons.
Worst: The Club Lost Another Tag Title Shot And The New Day Is Still Unbeatable Until They Break Demolition’s Record
Wake me up when September ends.
Best: Paul Heyman
Let’s end the show with a two-punch of positivity.
First, the more I watch this interview with Paul Heyman about the Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg disaster, the more I like it. I like that they aren’t backing away from it, and are at least beginning to explore what happens when a guy who feels like he’s undefeatable is suddenly beaten in an instant. It’s like, the kind of thing that’d cause you to reassess your entire life, even if your life was eating meat hoagies and shooting gophers with machine guns. Brock now has a reason to be a motivated character with depth, because he’s been allowed to seem human and vulnerable for the first time maybe EVER in WWE. This loss feels like a loss, because the embarrassment and shock is something we can marinate on, and they aren’t just breezing past it to move on to the next thing. Heyman really sells it with the emotion in his voice and his eyes, and with that scruff he hasn’t shaved since Survivor Series.
I also really like the kayfabe explanation for why he lost so quickly. Lesnar super underestimated this guy and got blind-sided with a spear, which cracked his ribs. From there he couldn’t recover, because you can’t, and Goldberg just instantly capitalized on it because his entire moveset is ribcage-centric. Plus, we know Lesnar’s torso is his weakness.
Finally, going ahead and announcing Lesnar for the Royal Rumble is great. Everybody predicted he’d show up anyway to try to eliminate Goldberg, so why not just get it out in the open, use it as an advertisement to make people know they can tune in to see a confrontation, and use a ring full of bodies to very clearly exhibit the new, motivated Brock Lesnar? If he shows up as a hybrid of modern Brock and young Brock, it’ll be the best thing ever. Just righteously murder dudes left and right instead of lazily Germaning them because that popped us against Cena and gave him a catchphrase at Mania. Plus, Goldberg and Lesnar both being in the match gives us a reason why they both could enter and not win, which’ll be important to (1) building to the Mania 33 match we know is happening, and (2) give someone else a rub by having them technically get a win in the vicinity of both.
Early prediction: Rollins wins the Rumble, decides to challenge Styles instead of the Universal Champion (presumably Roman) to get away from The Authority, then has to go through Triple H at ROADBLOCK PLEASE TURN YOUR CAR AROUND™ or whatever in February to keep his shot.
Best: Take 3
So early in the show, we start the Raw Women’s Championship match between Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks. We’ve been here twice before, so most of our predictions were, “Sasha wins the title on Raw again, Charlotte wins the title at ROADBLOCK STOP DRIVING THERE IS NO MORE ROAD PAST THIS POINT™, then Sasha gets her rematch on Raw and wins, and Charlotte wins at Royal Rumble.” Then it usually goes into a riff about Charlotte being the 16-time Women’s Champion by like, WrestleMania.
The match gets going and then whoops, suddenly ends in a double count-out. Mick Foley takes a break from writing SAMI ZAYN in a notebook and drawing rainclouds over it to interject, announcing that the match would restart later in the night under NO COUNT-OUT, ANYTHING GOES, FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE rules. So, basically, the Hell in a Cell match we actually kinda wanted.
The thing about Sasha vs. Charlotte matches is that they’re tired as hell on paper, but almost always good-to-great in the ring. These two have a wonderful chemistry, which you haven’t needed me to point out for like two years, and they manage to get something memorable and watchable out of even the most obvious and predictable booking. Like, the finish here is Sasha winning the championship on Raw again, and they probably will do her and Charlotte on pay-per-view. And then if Charlotte wins, Sasha gets a rematch. And if Sasha wins, Charlotte gets a rematch. I don’t know what it does for the prestige of the championship or our patience as viewers who want to see a little variety, but it’s always good.
They really kicked this match’s ass, in case you were wondering. So many memorable moments, from Charlotte’s moonsault off the announce table to the floor — y’all gotta start catching people with more than our outstretched arm — to the probably iconic finish, with Sasha tying Charlotte up in a stair railing and bending her backwards while an amazing guy stands behind her making hilarious O-Face.
There’s a nice moment after the match, too, with Sasha dedicating her victory to Charlotte’s estranged father Ric, and Ric showing up to raise Sasha’s hand in victory. And yeah, it loses a little impact when you think of how many times Ric Flair screwed Sasha over in the past and yeah, it would’ve been funnier to just have Ric turn on her, but in a vacuum, it’s nice. They should’ve had Hector Guerrero cameo as the ghost of Eddie to hug and congratulate her.
And that’s where we are. A great match with a cool, memorable finish, continuing a series of spectacular Raw Women’s Championship matches that may end up being undercut by the 50/50 booking. Somewhere in the back Bayley’s like, “it’s cool, I’ll just wrestle Dana for the next 8 months, do your thing.”
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
This is the first time Ric Flair has stood tall after seeing a Bank Statement.
don’t tug on superman’s cape, don’t piss in the wind, don’t defend the women’s title against Sasha Banks on Monday Night Raw.
The Real Birdman
This show is like the wrestling version of Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I’m really not sure who to root for since they’re all kind of terrible, but I keep watching to see what kind of dumb shit they get into each and every episode
I wish my father loved me half as much as Heyman loves Lesnar.
They should reboot Reigns as a vaguely militaristic/ GI Joe character that blocks the pushes of all your favorites. A Roadblock Roman Reigns of sorts.
If WWE Bingo was a thing the free square in the middle would say “a contender pins the champion in a no title match”.
These bar patrons are so douchey, they could be WWE faces.
This is drinking in Trump’s America
as a new jersey resident, i give my blessing to rusev to continue punting enzo’s yambag until he stops macking on dude’s wife
Somehow I always see Charlotte and Dana Brooke as a gender-swapped Jimmy Pesto Junior and Zeke
Sami Zayn got demoted to Chris Jericho’s driver pretty quick.
That’s it for this week, everybody. Be sure to drop down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show, and click those share buttons to tell your friends about this one wordy guy who knows a lot synonyms for “Enzo Amore’s penis.” Be here this weekend for a pay-per-view, and the weekend after that for another pay-per-view, and … just be here every day, let’s agree to that.