Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: The fallout from Survivor Series happened, which means we all stopped watching the show to play Fallout. Roman Reigns will only get another title shot against Sheamus when the Authority says so, so they went ahead and said it’d happen at TLC. They also give him a title shot this week, because they’re so mean to him! Also on the show, Mark Henry reacted to a dispute about where his co-workers should eat dinner by fantasizing about them and also possibly f*cking a cheeseburger. It was weird.
Please scroll through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for November 30, 2015.
Best: The New Day Do The Fusion Dance, And It’s All Downhill From There
I feel like this is one of those Raws where I need to give you a heads up. If you’re a regular you know I’ve had a renewed enthusiasm for the show as of late — I thought the WWE World Heavyweight Championship tournament was purposeful and fantastic, even if it ended predictably — but this is … the end of that trend. About halfway through I started wondering if Vince McMahon had read Mick Foley’s comments and decided to torpedo the motherf*cker on purpose.
The good news is that we started off strong with Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston doing the Dragon Ball fusion dance to impersonate Sheamus, and Big E lasciviously wiping himself down with a Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel. While I’m thinking about it, we should start calling the Dean Ambrose/Roman Reigns team “Terrible Towel.”
Worst: Like, None Of This Works
The bad news is that the main story of the episode barely makes sense, goes on forever and benefits no one. I’m not even sure I can break it down effectively.
Okay, so, The New Day opens the show with a confetti celebration for Sheamus, who won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship by cashing in the Money in the Bank contract on Roman Reigns at Survivor Series, thereby ending Roman’s reign at 5:15. The problem is that this happened 8 days ago and they’ve already had a Raw and a Smackdown between this and the pay-per-view, so the timing’s all wrong. Plus, you’ve got the New Day out here celebrating Sheamus after walking out on him during a match that same 8 days ago. They try to explain it later on color commentary, but it felt a lot like someone refreshed the Twitter feed a bunch during the intro and went, “sh*t, we forgot something.”
Sheamus shows up looking like a Make-a-Wish kid who got brought in to meet The New Day and hold a WWE Championship belt, and I try to figure out if The New Day are suddenly stooging henchmen for the new cold fish champion, or if the champion is so unimportant that he’s already The New Day’s sidekick. Of course Roman Reigns shows up, instantly knocks Sheamus out and steals the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Nothing makes WWE babyfaces seem more noble in their quest for gold than having them sneak attack the heel, cheapshot them and steal a thing they didn’t earn.
If that wasn’t bad enough, The Authority f*cking finds Roman backstage and MAKES HIM GIVE THEM BACK THE CHAMPIONSHIP BELT, which he TOTALLY DOES. Can you imagine Stone Cold Steve Austin doing this? Vince walks up to him and is like, “hey, give me the keys to that beer truck, I know you have them,” and Austin just kinda makes an aw shucks face and hands them over. F*cking unreal. THAT starts our actual story for the evening, which is Sheamus giving Roman a title shot on Raw with the stipulation that he must win in 5:15 or less. We announced the big stip rematch for TLC last week, so now we’re giving a 5 minute version of it away for free, and no outcome makes these guys look good. If Sheamus wins, he beat his top challenger in under 5 minutes. If Roman wins, the champ can’t last 5 minutes with him. If Sheamus runs out the time, congratulations, he wrestled the first 5 minutes of a match. It’s so lukewarm and in the middle that you can’t get mad OR excited about it. It’s like when movies upload the first 10 minutes for free to get you to watch.
To give the match some gravity, The Authority messes with Roman’s friends and tries to work them out of the matches they want (or have previously earned) at TLC. They’re like, “hey Dean Ambrose, if Roman doesn’t win his match in 5:15, you can’t have your IC title match at TLC.” “Hey Usos, want to be in a tag title match? Roman has to win his match in 5:15.” So the entire show is set up around positioning these already weak-as-f*ck characters into unwinnable situations, right?
The match happens, and how does it end? With Rusev interfering and dragging Roman out of the ring, causing a disqualification with like 40 seconds left. The story is that Rusev and the rest of Sheamus’ new heel posse thought Sheamus was “in trouble” and wanted to help him out … which doesn’t make any sense, because the time was almost up. They could’ve waited literally less than a minute to see what actually happened, and if they wanted to bail Sheamus out and keep the title on him, they could’ve jumped in THEN.
Plus, by causing this neutered disqualification, the Authority’s big plan for the entire night and the entire babyface portion of the announced TLC card is ruined. Roman not winning was the fulcrum for punishing Dean and The Usos, so what now? Everybody gets what they want? Roman didn’t really “win,” he won on a technicality. Ambrose gets his IC title shot, the Usos get their tag title shot. If you are the evil bosses of the show and don’t want these people to succeed, WHY ARE YOU SETTING THEM UP FOR CONSTANT SUCCESS? If you hate The Usos and want to make Roman feel bad, why are you like, “hey Usos, things are gonna be bad unless you topple this really easy to topple obstacle!” By eliminating an actual nailbiting finish in the match, you simultaneously killed the drama of 4 different matches. You took away the moment the match was made for, and the end result is a vague fart sound and everything being the same. So … congrats?
On the plus side, Sheamus forms the “League of Nations” after the match, which is a great idea from WWE 12 we’ve been begging them to do since we played it. I’d have preferred “The Foreigner Horsemen,” but that’s not my job. Hilariously they add Alberto Del Rio to the team, which either means we’re done with MexAmerica — there was no flag on the episode, after all — or MexAmerica is geographically Eurasian. I guess he’s suddenly cool with that time Sheamus stole his car and racistly shat in it. They should add Paige to the team to give her some direction, and they should absolutely bring in Zeb so he and Lana can interact on the reg. Also, add Heath Slater to the team. “AMERICA IS A NATION!”
The payoff to THAT, because there is ALREADY A PAYOFF TO THAT, is an 8-man tag team main event. Terrible Towel and The Usos vs. The League of Nations. BUT WAIT, we can’t let the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, the United States Champion, the King of the Ring and a guy who rode a tank to the ring at WrestleMania look strong against Roman, so we have to add The New Day to the match. That makes it a 7-on-4 handicap match, which immediately makes it “unfair” by decree of the Authority, who are responsible for tying all these threads together and setting both the heels and faces up in a non-stop circle jerk of avoidable situations. This is the match. AND ALSO THIS. AND ALSO THIS. AND ALSO THIS.
Here’s the thing … if the match sucks or doesn’t work to begin with, maybe don’t have it? You don’t have to throw everything you have into every match trying to make it matter, because that robs it of its intended purpose and makes it insincere. The reason we don’t care about these John Cena-style “overcoming the odds” situations is because they dull the colors of pro wrestling and into one pointless question: “Will the odds be overcome?” The only answers are “yes,” and “well they would’ve, but the odds cheated.” That’s it. We can’t create drama because there’s no basically storytelling A to B to C situations to follow, there are rarely consequences, and when there ARE consequences you convolute them and take them back and run them through the wash so many times they don’t (and can’t) matter. When people are forced to retire, they come back. When they’re fired, they stick around until you’re forced to rehire them. When f*cking STING shows up and rids WWE of The Authority, they’re back in a few weeks and everything resets. It doesn’t matter and you’re CHOOSING for it to not matter, because you’re selling Superstars and not wrestling.
I guess the only problem with that is that wrestling is great, and Superstars make a sh*tty show.
Best/Worst: Tyler Breeze Vs. Dolph Ziggler
I just wrote 1400 words about the opening, middle and ending of the episode, so hold on to your butts, here’s the rest of the show.
The opening match is Tyler Breeze vs. Dolph Ziggler, and I’m giving it a slash rating because … well, wait until we get to the Adam Rose part, it’ll make sense. I actually enjoyed the match upon first viewing, but the second watch I have to do to make sure I didn’t hallucinate entire sections of Raw made me like it a lot less. First, it’s Tyler Breeze descending into 50/50 WWE mid-card hell, where you trade wins and losses and it’s fine, but you might as well be wrestling in the dark. Second, Ziggler gets a lot of credit for how great he is at selling, but sometimes he forgets how it’s supposed to work. Dude goes into the corner and sell is shoulder like someone shot him up with rock salt, then spends the rest of the match on offense revolving exclusively around the injured arm. Maybe Ziggler’s actually terrible at selling, but great at temporarily looking hurt.
I did like the finish sequence, though, with Ziggler and Breeze trading non-stop pinfalls and Ziggler just kicking him in the face as hard as possible out of nowhere for the win. I wish either of these guys had a story or a goal. Can we do a championship tournament losers bracket or something?
Worst: 50/50 Booking Means You Can’t Even Have Sex With Your Girlfriend
If you want to experience extreme secondhand embarrassment, watch WWE bring back Lana and try to retcon the Ziggler/Lana/Rusev/Summer love rectangle by saying Lana never went “all the way” with Dolph and Rusev never went “all the way” with Summer amidst “yes you did” chants. The 50/50 booking is so strong that when you break up with your significant other and start f*cking somebody else, you can’t get back with them unless you were secretly true to them, even though you broke up.
How does it make anything worse if Lana f*cked Dolph? I mean, it’s Dolph, but the suggestion for several months was that they were doing it nonstop. You mean to tell me Summer dressed up like Lana and took all of Rusev’s orders platonically? I’m not asking for porno recap histories, but Jesus, these are adults. Mattel’s not going to drop your toy line over premarital sex. The first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones should open with the Lannisters being like, “heh, all those rumors about us weren’t true, and actually Joffrey is still alive, but you like him now.” That’s WWE. The absolute absence of drama, just to be safe.
Worst: LOVE IS THE WORST
Ryback interrupts the promo to announce CIRCLE CIRCLE and DOT DOT, then takes a Cootie Shot at Rusev. It turns out Rusev vs. Ryback was already scheduled for the night, and they just happened to set themselves up for an organic romance intro. I don’t even know.
Ryback is the bear that hates to love, so he shows no sympathy when Rusev gets tossed into the ring steps and they accidentally injure Lana. Lana’s body is made out of papier-mâché at this point. Rusev tends to her instead of finishing the match, which makes him an idiot because he cares about another human being, and is not Killer Croc covered in decorative beanies. Once again the story is “having relationships with people makes you bad,” and maybe THAT’s why they don’t want people thinking Dolph Ziggler had sex with a beautiful woman.
Worst: All The Same Alberto Del Rio Problems
Del Rio wrestles Goldust, and God, I wish I could’ve loved it. Instead, we get the same trio of problems we have every time Del Rio appears:
1. The Tree of Woe double-stomp requires a novella to set up. Not only does Goldust have to run and jump into place, but Del Rio has to hit him with multiple followup moves and position his hands on the ropes to make it work. He then has to climb to the top rope with Goldust just hanging there holding on, waiting for the move to happen. It’s John Laurinaitis about to take a GTS, but every week and for like 90 seconds at a time.
2. The MexAmerica continues to not make much sense, with the blonde guy who just wants everyone to be racist like we used to be is the hero, and the minority preaching acceptance and unity is the heel. Plus, you’ve got Zeb in a motorized scooter with “safe space” on the front “opening” and “closing” MexAmerica’s non-existent borders so many times you can’t even take the “the heels are RIGHT” contrarian angle. It’s just 2-3 different types of racist dudes limply clashing.
3. when is John Cena coming back
Worst: What The F*ck Even Is This Show
I’m starting to long for the days of Mark Henry in heat over a Tex-Mex cheeseburger.
Adam Rose gets a bizarre recap video segment that Michael Cole buries before it even starts. It’s like the Hollywood Minute, only we like to think of it as “The WWE Minute!” And then it’s called “The Rosebush.” What follows is the most confusingly something-phobic minute of comedy they’ve done in a while, with Rose saying Rusev “wears the bra” in his relationship with Lana and possibly canon-outs Dolph Ziggler as bisexual. I’m not sure if they’re dead-set on burying Lana for whatever, but this is so weird. Rusev wears bras! Dolph wants to have sex with Tyler Breeze and Rusev!
Remember when ESPN did that thing about NXT and we all wished the best for Adam Rose?
Worst: Two Women’s Matches With Distraction Finishes Made Mick Foley Reconsider His Position On Raw
As previously mentioned, WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley said that he was considering making this episode of Raw his last as a fan, citing the confusing and frustrating lack of creative freedom and several of the company’s best performers being held down and muted instead of being held up to shine. It seemed noble, but it turns out Mick’s just a SHIMMER fan and lives or dies based on whether or not some specific ladies he likes won.
There were two Divas matches on the show, and they both ended in a distraction.
The first was Sasha Banks vs. Brie Bella, which was the better of the two. That’s not something I’ve ever said about Brie Bella. Sasha’s great, though, and she could have passable chemistry with a hat rack if asked to get a solid 3 minutes out of one. Things go pretty well (besides Brie Bella knowing she’s supposed to slap her leg on a kick, but not understanding the timing) until Team B.A.D. cause a distraction, allowing babyface heel Sasha to out-heel heel babyface Brie and hit her finish.
The second was Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch, which starts with a Rosebush-level bizarre backstage promo in which Becky suggests to Charlotte that they should have a match, and Charlotte’s like, “eeeenghhh yeah I don’t know,” because she’s a horrible friend. Charlotte only agrees if Ric Flair can be at ringside, and it turns out she needed him out there for a premeditated swerve against her only remaining friend for NO REASON following a politely suggested Friendly. Charlotte fakes an injury, Becky wanders over to Ric to figure out what’s going on and Charlotte rolls her up. Paige sits in on commentary for the match, is once again totally right about everything, and tries to lure Becky to the dark side — common sense, a functioning memory and deductive reasoning. Charlotte’s reason for the swerve? “This isn’t NXT!” That’s correct. This isn’t the show where the women who are good at wrestling have good wrestling matches based on consistent, long-standing character development and rivalries, this is the show where you do dumb sh*t and immediately forget it.
Best: A Legitimate Highlight Of The Show Is A Goofy Christmas Segment
So I don’t throw myself off a bridge, let’s take a second to say how happy we are that the Stardust/Titus O’Neil rivalry is continuing, and that it’s suddenly CHRISTMAS-THEMED.
Titus singing “Stardust Got Run Over By A Reindeer” and Stardust admonishing him for knowingly using the wrong lyrics might’ve been my favorite moment on the entire show, and if this ends with Titus like, bringing Stardust out with him to dine with homeless people and showing him the true meaning of Christmas, I might collapse from joy. I want a full-on Grinch moment with Stardust’s heart growing three sizes. I want a backstage segment where Goldust hears a knock on his door, opens it to find nobody, then looks down and finds a little sparkly present.
Worst: Do You Remember ECW
The Dudley Boyz brought in their “family” to help them fight the Wyatts. That means Spike, right? Big Dick is dead, but I know Dances with Dudley is still out there somewhere. Nope, sorry, it’s Tommy Dreamer. In almost 2016. And he’s wearing all the self-tanner in the world to try to pass in front of those HD cameras as a dude in his 30s. It looked like he was wearing blackface. His head looked like the front of Dolph Ziggler’s torso.
This is where it’s gonna sound like I’m a jaded smark or whatever, but it’s just my personal preferences and handicaps. A lot of people stop watching wrestling at some point and start again, so when they start back up they want to see bits and pieces of what they’ve seen before. If you watched in the 90s/early 2000s, stopped in the middle and just jumped back in, you’re probably psyched to see the Dudleys and Dreamer. If you don’t know TNA exists and have never considered going to a local wrestling show, you’re probably pumped when Bubba Ray pops up, or Sting wanders in. If you’ve never taken a break from wrestling — and I haven’t, aside from a two-month period in the early 90s when Hogan showed up in WCW and killed my darlings and I tried to trick myself into thinking I wouldn’t sit there and take it — it’s like seeing anybody else. It’s Tommy Dreamer. I loved that sh*t with him and Raven and Stevie and Beulah, too, but I’ve put 20 years of watching wrestling between it. All 20 of those have had Tommy in it somewhere. It’s like seeing Rhyno. It’s always, “there’s Rhyno,” and never, “wow, Rhyno!”
If you want to know the effectiveness of this, listen to the crowd chant “this is awesome” when Tommy shows up, and watch them sitting on their hands doing nothing during the DQ finish and the post-match beatdown. That’s the situation. It’s about seeing wrestlers, not seeing them do anything. You’ve officially trained your audience to react to Superstars, and not to the stories they tell. Maybe that’s why WWE’s only way of gauging success is, “they get a reaction.”
I don’t want a reaction. I want a feeling, dammit. I can only coast so far on irony and a dorky love of the absurd.
Worst: We Failed To Set Up A Triple Threat Twice, So Now It’s A Triple Threat
Finally, because I wrote this backwards and ended up here, we have the Usos vs. the Lucha Dragons.
Last week, The New Day issued an open challenge. The Lucha Dragons accepted, but then the Usos showed up to accept as well. They suggested it should be a triple threat match, so New Day canceled the challenge and made them look like idiots. This week, the Dragons and Usos are in a match to determine the #1 contender for the tag titles, based on their Hardball-esque ability to show up, I guess. New Day is on commentary, and decide to run in and attack both teams. That means neither team won, which means there’s no #1 contender and the titles will be defended against no one.
Instead of sticking with this and giving the New Day even a week to feel successful and breathe, Stephanie McMahon steps in and is like, “I know that’s how rules work, but whatever, it’s fine, it’s a triple threat.” She gives the Usos the dumb “Roman must win” qualifier, but the core of the announcement is that nothing that happens actually matters because you have these God-mode characters that can change everything on a whim. Remember when Charlotte was trying to end Nikki Bella’s Divas Championship reign before she broke the record, Brie Bella cheated on Nikki’s behalf and Stephanie was like, “sorry, the referee’s decision is final, there’s nothing I can do,” only for Triple H to change and restart a match later in the night? You’re so used to writing and re-writing your own history that you’re doing it in real time. No announcement can matter if you can have Vince ride up in a limo and say, “JUST KIDDING, IT’S THE OPPOSITE.”
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
They really dropped the ball not putting Radioactive Sheamus in an all white suit for his entrance.
The Authority is doing Roman a favor by booking him to wrestle for less than 6 minutes.
I’ve been watching from the start. Has anything happened?
The Real Birdman
I have it on good authority that Dog Ziggler went all the way with that fish though
Uhh Dudley’s you know most of Tommy Dreamers career was built on the idea that he never wins. It’s sort of like calling in the Buffalo Bills to help you win a Super Bowl.
Sammy Davis Jr.
Ric forgetting to hold Charlotte’s hand during their entrance seems like a microcosm of her childhood.
Zeb’s friends on Grindr don’t have hate in their hearts.
Next they’ll announce that The Rock will only be in Furious 8 if Roman wins his match
WWE acting like the product they produce isn’t complete dogsh*t because they have a huge social media presence. They’ve gone full Trump.
“Some say Paige started the League of Nations.”
Thanks, everybody. Sorry.
Click this button to support the column, please and thank you!