Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Paul Heyman challenged Bill Goldberg to come to Raw and accept Brock Lesnar’s challenge to a fight, because they are grown men arguing over who’d win in a video game and that needs to come to blows. Also on the show, Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon announced three (3) Hell in a Cell matches for WWE Lockdown, or whatever.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for October 17, 2016.
Best: Team Chris And Whoever
Up first, let’s talk about the least important character on the show, the WWE Universal Champion.
That’s a joke, but the show’s champion who is not main-eventing the show’s next pay-per-view opens this week’s show as the third wheel in a feud between Seth Rollins and Chris Jericho. The idea here is that Jericho and Owens are growing skeptical and paranoid of each other after two weeks of Owens standing around watching Jericho get Pedigreed, so they’re getting a little ridiculously insistent about their friendship and how great it is, and Rollins can just kinda stand on the outskirts going “HIT HIM, HIT HIM” until they break.
It’s not a bad story. As we’ve mentioned (a lot), Chris Jericho is doing some of if not the best work of his career right now by anchoring a heel tag team, bolstering the Universal Champion, getting over Seth Rollins as a white meat-ass babyface and still being entertaining while being ostensibly heel as hell. Rollins is devolving into that terrible, name-calling babyface WWE loves having as its protagonist — “sparkle crotch,” “tater tot,” “kung pao bitch,” whatever — but he’s getting actual observable reactions from the crowd and they’re chanting his name. He’s diving off the top to the outside, not falling for distraction finishes, etc. Suddenly, Seth Rollins is Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns as the same guy.
Owens is great because Owens is always great, but there isn’t a lot of heat around that championship. He just kinda has it, and nobody’s made a big deal about wanting it outside of some lingering entitlement. Even Roman himself seems to have better things to do.
So, the actual opening angle is that Jericho gets convinced he can beat Rollins on his own, so he orders Owens to stay in the back and let him do it. Owens shows up anyway, grabs the bottom rope to try to help Jericho while he’s got Rollins in the Walls, and gets caught. That turns the tide for Rollins, and he’s able to beat Jericho, largely because Owens wouldn’t just do what the hell he said.
That culminates in a backstage segment where they’re arguing, and Everybody’s Best Friend Slash Evil Boss Stephanie McMahon shows up to berate them back into friendship. She needs them on the same page for her Survivor Series team, because Owens either isn’t going to have the Universal Championship by Survivor Series, or he’s not main-eventing again.
Then, because Stephanie’s motivations are just bonkers, she gets awkwardly high-fivey about Mick Foley pitting Jericho and Owens against one another in next week’s main event.
To recap, Stephanie tells Jericho and Owens they need to be on the same page, then applauds Foley for making that harder. What exactly do you want, Steph?
Middle Of The Show Garbage Lightning Round
The opening of the show was good and the ending to the show was great, but with only a few exceptions, everything in the middle was a pile of stinky laundry garbage. If you watched this and were like, “hey, this was a really great Raw,” I’d like to hear why in our comments section below, assuming your argument isn’t just “I like any wrestling that is happening that I can see,” with a side of vague, “you’re too negative!”
Big E wrestles Sheamus, following up last week’s Cesaro vs. Kofi Kingston match and setting up next week’s inevitable SHEAMUS AND CESARO HAVE PINNED THE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS! Unless we aren’t doing that tag team championship match at Hell in a Cell, and this is seriously going to blow off in match 10 in the Best of 7 series. Honestly, either one could happen.
The match isn’t terrible I guess, but it barely feels like it’s happening, and takes about five minutes to tell the most obvious story possible: last week Sheamus was on Facebook Live instead of paying attention to Cesaro’s match, so this week Cesaro’s on Facebook Live instead of paying attention to Sheamus. Sheamus gets mad, and the distraction causes him to get rolled up and pinned. All of this to get to the non-title match to set up the title match, which has already been announced and set up.
You know, I give WWE a lot of sh*t for not showing their work on angles like this, but I’m not sure they even remember what work they’re supposed to show. Like, there’s a good chance there’s been a meeting where someone stood up and was like, “this is going to be terrible if we do it, so let’s just start SAYING what we want people to think instead of doing stuff to make them think it. Cool? Okay, let’s book this Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial.”
Remember last week when Neville and Sami Zayn were tag team partners, and you thought WWE was finally going to do something with either of them and add another team to Raw’s confusingly sparse tag team division? Well, this week we get the followup, Neville vs. Bo Dallas, and Sami Zayn is off doing his own story. So now Neville’s in a tag team feud with no partner, feuding with a team that breaks up after handily beating him in like two minutes. Yay?
That’s this match. Instead of being an Actually Good Cruiserweight Champion and performing with people who wrestle the style of match he actually likes to wrestle, Neville is a total jobber in a disjointed repackaged Bo Dallas beatdown. And when he loses, which again is almost immediately, he becomes an afterthought for Bo jumping Curtis Axel. Neville just disappears. Who’s up for a BO DALLAS VERSUS CURTIS AXEL FEUD?
Let’s check in on the cruiserweight division, which nobody’s told Neville about yet:
Instead of giving any of the cruiserweights stories or personalities, they’re just kinda standing around shoulder-to-shoulder waiting for TJ Perkins to show up and call them names. The murmury silence when the camera pans over to reveal TJP reaches Carmella Entrance levels of sadness. Brian Kendrick uses the opportunity to reiterate the exact same one point he’s reiterated for four weeks, and they talk about WWE 2K17 having “lives” because this was written by someone who hasn’t played video games in 20 years.
Next week Kendrick is gonna be like, “YOU’RE THE JUMP MAN AND I’M THE DONKEY KONG,” and Vince McMahon is gonna reward himself with a cookie for understanding the youths.
The six-man tag that results isn’t bad, but it highlights three things:
1. The need for the cruiserweights to have a dedicated, one-hour WWE Network show packaged and presented like the Cruiserweight Classic that actually establishes their characters, tells compelling stories about passionate competition and gets them the hell away from the Raw Hour 2.5 Death Slot where anything over 3 minutes means you’re losing 60% of the match to a commercial break.
2. If Kendrick’s going to keep the Captain’s Hook as his finish, he needs to really get his angles right and torque the back. Otherwise, it looks like Rich Swann’s in here tapping out to a headlock. If cruiserweights tap to chinlocks, holy sh*t, don’t let Randy Orton into the division, they’d turn his ass into Ken Shamrock.
3. Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander should be the focus of the cruiserweight division, as they’re the only performers that seem to be connecting and engaging the crowd at all. Imagine if the division was Swann, Cedric, Neville and Kalisto, and that we didn’t jettison half the eligible WWE cruiserweight talent into oblivion so Tony Nese could boringly cartwheel for four minutes a week.
Speaking of the cruiserweight division, let’s check in on Sin Cara, who joined the division last week:
Well hey, it was just Hispanic Heritage Month, maybe the other Hispanic characters are doing well.
Sorry everyone, The Shining Stars have now completely abandoned the “come to Puerto Rico” thing and even the “we have ulterior motives for wanting you to come to Puerto Rico” heel travel agent edge by selling fake Rolexes and just being outright criminals.
They team up with Titus O’Neil to lose a quick match to The Golden Truth and Mark Henry, because Titus O’Neil touched Vince McMahon once and now must suffer through a living nightmare of futile embarrassment until he’s dead or finds something better to do. It could be worse, Titus. You could be Darren Young, and your only Raw appearance in a month could be you standing 30 feet away from everyone in the back of a Goldberg entrance.
Join us next week when the Shining Stars stab John Cena in a night club, or become terrorists or whatever, who knows.
Breh, these are all on the same show.
Bayley faces Dana Brooke, and it’s Chapter 32 in the weird book of Dana Brooke f*cking up finishes. She and Bayley have a match that looks like Bayley pulled someone out of the crowd and tried to improvise pro wrestling with them, and it builds to what manages to be the Stingest finish of the night.
Dana grabs Bayley on the apron and sends her into the ring post. Bayley tires to naturally fall into the ring through the middle and bottom rope, so Dana reaches out and pulls her through the middle and TOP. Once Bayley’s in the ring, Dana’s supposed to (I guess) pin her with her feet on the ropes. But whoops, she pulled her out too far and at the wrong angle, and Dana ends up pinning her clean with NOTHING while kinda kicking her own leg.
Bayley doesn’t even struggle in the pin, causing literally everyone at home to be like, “wait, is she hurt?” It’s one part good selling, one part Dana having the pro wrestling dexterity of f*cking Marmaduke.
There’s a web exclusive of the post-match with Bayley being walked to medical by some referees that goes on for way, way too long, and just begs for Goldberg’s entrance theme to be dubbed in.
Enzo Amore shows up looking like one of the Koopa kids killed Super Mario and tried to wear his skin as a suit, and then Big Cass defeats Karl Anderson in like a minute.
So after separating the Club from AJ Styles, WWE made them comedy nut-joke doctors, gave them Nurse Dana Brooke only to instantly can that, retcon the entire angle to have them admit they weren’t funny, booked them as the “most dominant team” on Raw by having them lose several consecutive matches to New Day and are now having them lose singles matches to undercard quasi-comedy teams in less time than it’d take Candice Michelle to beat Christy Hemme.
Congratulations on the backup idea to “Finn Bálor’s cool friends from Japan” being, “I don’t know, flush them down the toilet?”
The last things I’m going to Lightning Round (which is a verb now, apparently) are these sit-down interviews with Charlotte and Sasha Banks, wherein a cardboard cutout of Lita asks them about the career-ending dangers of competing inside Hell in a Cell and they respond with smiley fellowship about how they’re making history.
That’s it. No hatred, no competition, no feud. Just two women who have been positioned as history-makers not shutting up about how they’re making history. I don’t want to hear them say it, you know? I don’t want to know that they’re actually best friends who are working together to make a statement, I want to watch pro wrestling and get into a story compelling enough and hot enough to evoke some f*cking emotions in me and entertain me and suspend my disbelief enough to be like, “yes, these women should be having a deadly cage match and main-eventing the show.” Sasha’s done that before. Sasha and Bayley should’ve main-evented TakeOver: Brooklyn. The Iron Man match they had WAS the main-event, and paid off years of big matches and stories, and the preexisting relationships of NXT’s two biggest female characters. It was Sasha’s goodbye, even.
Here, nothing is being evoked. Nothing’s even being referenced. It’s just two people WWE decided should main-event because WWE decided they’d make history, and now they’re SMILING about a f*cking CAGE MATCH because it will make history. SHOW YOUR WORK. DON’T JUST TELL US THINGS. JESUS CHRIST. Get angry. Get in each other’s faces. I’m not asking you to be Shawn Michaels and sell the fear of stepping into the cage, but maybe be Shawn Michaels for a f*cking second.
And just to say it, the match will probably be great. Charlotte’s gonna jump off something and Darewolf her ankles, and Sasha already endangers herself like she’s in a Hell in a Cell in every match. So yeah, they’re gonna kill it, but also it’s probably going to be a regular match with a cage around it plus a dangerous high spot, so sell that sh*t with emotions that aren’t happy detached confidence.
So, what else was GOOD about this episode?
Best: Rusev’s Dog Is A Giant Bulgarian Spuds Mackenzie
You know, you’re probably expecting me to Worst this because a WWE crowd is so attached to heel and face expectations that they booed (1) a man loving his family, (2) a sweet old grandma, (3) a family supporting one another, (4) MILITARY SERVICE and (5) AN ADORABLE CHAMPION SHOWDOG, but brother, I love the Family Rusev.
I’ve been hammering that “Rusev, secret babyface” meme for years, but it’s true. The guy loves his wife, he loves his country and he loves his family. He loves dogs. He once represented his girlfriend’s home country and fought so hard for them he got an accomplishment medal from its goddamn President because he loved her so much. He’s a jerk to Americans because honestly, why wouldn’t he be? Y’all sh*t on him every time he tries to be a good dude. I’d hate Americans, too. YOU BOOED A DOG.
Roman Reigns shows up and doesn’t give a sh*t about anything, making fun of Rusev’s dad’s mustache and saying he looks like the dog. This results in Reigns getting the piss beaten out of him, because sometimes the heels actually get comeuppance.
Also, a serious +1 to Rusev’s bizarre heel stereotyping game where he tries to be racist about Samoans and ends up saying they’re sitting around a campfire, dipping turkey legs into mayonnaise. Do Bulgarians and Russians think Samoans are fat cowboys?
Best: The Colorado Suckies
This week, Braun Strowman faces the “Mile High Trio,” better known as El Paso post-hardcore band At The Drive-In. Part of me loves that Braun is still on Raw begging for competition and crushing cans while James Ellsworth is on Smackdown wrestling AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. I don’t think there’s ever been a clearer statement on the creative divide between Raw and Smackdown.
Anyway, Braun hilariously tosses these skinny babies around for a couple of minutes, taking longer to pin them than it took Big Cass to beat Karl Anderson. After the match, he screams about how he’s gonna go backstage and beat up Foley for not giving him better matches, only to be interrupted by SAMI ZAYN, who is like, “I’d rather lose to you on a pay-per-view kickoff than not make the card at all.”
So now we’re set up for the sorta sad scenario of Zayn having to sell his ass off in a loss to Braun Strowman, with the positive aside that Zayn will make him look BRILLIANT and truly sell the character for more competitive matches in the future. You’re doing yeoman’s work, Sam.
Best/Worst: Goldberg’s Entrance
I’m giving it a half-Worst for Michael Cole calling him the “greatest champion in WCW history.” Ric Flair should’ve walked out instead and kicked Cole in the dick for saying that.
I’ll give it a half-Best, though, for Big E’s reaction shot:
Also, I really hope that guy holding up the CESARO SECTION t-shirt in the background while Cesaro sits at a table next to him and points at it isn’t the “Paul London smiling during Vince McMahon’s death march” of 2016.
Best: You’re Last
Let’s take another second to point out how weird it is that people are chanting “holy shit” and “yes” and that WWE’s promoting a dream rematch of a match everyone spent a decade-plus sh*tting on. The WrestleMania XX match between Goldberg and Lesnar was a disaster, and now we’re adding 12 years of age to both guys, factoring in Lesnar’s increasing laziness and asking Goldberg to main-event a pay-per-view when he hasn’t had an actual one-on-one match since that one. Let’s also note WWE’s confusing rewriting of its own history, and what happened to Sting when WWE last decided to pay homage to a WCW thing.
That said, this is a hell of a segment. It’s not the Goldberg we know. He’s half the size and 12 years older, dressed like a member of Big & Rich, cutting a long, mostly-humble promo in Alex Jones’ voice about wanting to be a role model to children and perform live for the first time in front of his wife and kid. It’s probably the best promo he’s ever cut, because it’s the least he’s ever been “Goldberg.”
He accepts the challenge, and I think giving him an out-of-character spin like this where he’s a noble old dad who wants to beat an arrogant jerk’s ass in a fight (and not a wrestling match) could make this good. Play up the spectacle, downplay the weaknesses — Goldberg needed a towel to dry off and calm down in the middle of a promo, for example — and give us a few “moments” to remember instead of the actual content of the match. Like Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon, minus like 20 minutes.
The carrying around children stuff at the very end really made me want Roman Reigns to show up and spear him to launch the greatest unexpected heel turn ever, but I’ll take what I can get. A very good, surprisingly self-aware start to a story and match we have to be very, very careful with.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
With his obsession with assclowns, it only makes sense that Jericho’s favorite Stephen King novel is…IT.
Baron Von Raschke
Welcome to RAW, a place where a 70-year old makes a 30-year old yell at a 46-year old like a 10-year old.
The Rock is at home listening to Seth Rollins saying “Sparkle crotch” over and over and gesturing to the goosebumps on his arm.
Goldberg is doing it all for the kids. Unfortunately, Lesnar doesn’t give a f*ck about his kids.
Aw, Wifeberg is so proud.
Goldberg back on TV for the first time in 12 years; Affliction clothing back on someone’s body for the first time in about 10.
I would love for Jericho to come out with Ralphus right about now.
Mr. Wrestlemania! DoctorCAW
“Mr. Goldberg, the floor is now yours..”
“Alright folks, I’m BACK! It’s been 12 years! And never say never….to blue-chip annuities! I’ve brought a PowerPoint presentation so we can jackhammer these options for each and every one of you!”
Full Nelson Reilly
Oh my God! Luke Gallow’s dad is here to take him to the dentist!
Cruiserweight six-man, awaiting Goldberg, Chris Jericho…how did this can of Surge end up in my hand?
Thanks for reading, everybody. Be sure to click the social buttons to share the column around, and let us know what you thought of the show in the comments below. And make sure you’re up to date on our vintage Best and Worst series, for recaps of shows where sh*t actually happens.