Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Bill Goldberg, hero of the children and anyone who doesn’t remember how much him and Brock Lesnar got booed at WrestleMania XX, returned to WWE to accept Brock’s challenge for a fight at Surivor Series. Also on the show, highlights from Goldberg’s career. If you can remember anything else about that episode, you’re probably lying.
You should probably just be reading the vintage Best and Worst reports, which are starting to get more traffic than modern Raw thanks to a combination of nostalgia, hopefulness and Jim Duggan jokes.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for October 24, 2016.
Best/Worst: Too Much Of The List
Hell in a Cell is this Sunday, so it makes sense to use your final three hours of Raw brand programming to focus on the comedy prop of a heel who isn’t even on the card.
Just to say it again so there isn’t any confusion, I love this version of Chris Jericho, I think The List is hilarious, and I think he’s doing some of the best work of his career. Clearly, it’s connecting with crowds. I guess my problem with it, at least on this episode, revolves around two points:
1. WWE has a way of beating us over the head with anything we like or think is funny — New Day, I’m looking in your direction — so instead of giving Jericho a segment and something funny to do with The List, they have him open the show with a quarter-hour discussion about The List, follow that up with MULTIPLE backstage segments with people arguing about or looking for The List. Then the main event is contingent on what Jericho does REGARDING The List, because if he doesn’t find it and doesn’t participate, he’s suspended. So the opening, middle and ending of the show all revolve around this list. Meanwhile …
2. The Universal Champion is just kinda standing around in the background with his dick in his hand. Imagine how cool it’d be if the Universal Championship was important to these three as THE LIST! Owens doesn’t even get to talk much in the opening, he just has to stand there listening to Seth Rollins pretend to be Zack Morris. Sparklecrotch, you guys!
The opening itself feels like it’s too much and too deep a retread of a thing we’ve been enjoying, so OF COURSE there’s Stephanie backstage demanding Seth Rollins fill her in on the whereabouts of The List, a segment where Stephanie reprimands Jericho about it, a segment where Jericho interrogates the stars of WWE Superstars and a segment revealing that a disinterested Braun Strowman just kinda picked up the list in the locker room and decided to read it in the hallway. That’s the payoff. And then Jericho just wrestles.
Rollins is fighting Owens at Hell in a Cell, Strowman is fighting Zayn, and Jericho is Nick Carraway in a pair of sparkly underwears that make it look like he’s wearing a maxi pad.
I was going to save the main until the end like I normally do, but let’s just get it out of the way. If you want to know how important the match is, watch the WWE Fan Nation video. It skips the entire thing and gets straight to the part where Seth Rollins gets a silver Playstation trophy for winning a triple threat with a double roll-up. Roll-ups are impossible to kick out of, man. Rollins could win a battle royal if he could figure out how to roll up 29 people at once. They’d just roll softly backwards and bounce out over the top rope.
Anyway, Seth Rollins has pinned the Universal Champion! This causes Owens and Jericho to jump him on the floor and toss him into the steps, but that’s not enough to keep him down. Rollins jogs down the ramp and leap-fights into Owens, and they fight back down to the ring. There, Owens does something that might’ve made Owens/Rollins compelling to start with: a powerbomb onto the ring apron, aka the most devastating move in NXT history.
A helpful Michael Cole says this is known to take “weeks” off a superstar’s career. Sami Zayn is in the back somewhere internally tensing up so hard it tears his newsboy cap in half. I guess they made it weeks instead of months to explain why he’s gonna be fine in six days, but to me it’s another in an endless line of WWE not understanding the stakes it created in its own universe, saying what works and what you should think regardless of how it’s actually worked in the observable past, and just rewriting the rules as they go, because fuck it, who could possibly care?
Worst: Seth Rollins
A former Shield member feels entitled, feuds with The Authority, starts calling people corny baby names and can pin not only the champion but another top contender clean at the same time. I want a backstage segment where Rollins approaches Roman Reigns and is like, “hey, sorry, I get it now.”
Worst: Sheamus And Cesaro Have Pinned The Tag Team Champions!
There’s a lot of this this week. Sorry.
Here’s what you need to know: Sheamus and Cesaro hate each other, and each think they deserve a title opportunity. Mick Foley put them in a best-of-seven series, saying the winner would GET an opportunity. The series came down to a match 7 (even though Cesaro had won two straight before the best-of-seven began) and ended in a no contest, because of course it did. Foley decided that both men should get the same opportunity — a shot at the Tag Team Championship — and that if they wanted it, they’d have to team up. So far so good (mostly), right?
So Cesaro and Sheamus have a Tag Team Championship match against New Day at Hell in a Cell. The logical thing if the entire point of the pairing is that they don’t get along is to spend a few weeks showing them not getting along, then use the tag title match as a sort of “make or break” for them. If they don’t get along, they lose this huge opportunity. If they do, maybe they can realize that they aren’t so different after all, power up and become unlikely new tag champs.
Instead of that, we had two (2) weeks of jobber squashes, followed by immediate insertion into a weekly in-ring feud with New Day. They had a couple of singles matches, and now this week they’re having a goddamn tag team match against The New Day, which they win because they are working together. So what’s the payoff at the pay-per-view? As it stands, you’ve only got two options:
1. Re-do this exact same match with Sheamus and Cesaro winning, only now everyone’s seen it once already and it’s got no impact, or
2. Sheamus and Cesaro lose the tag title match, one blames the other, the Raw tag division loses one of its three teams and we’re back to square one
I don’t know how loud I have to scream “stop doing the pay-per-view matches with clean finishes before the pay-per-view” to get someone to hear me.
Best: That Uppercut, Though
Worst: The Women’s Revolution!
In three hours this week, there isn’t a single women’s wrestling match. Dana Brooke and Bayley have an arm wrestling contest that gets “boring” chants, and Sasha Banks and Charlotte have a contract signing where they mostly get yelled at by an old man. Nia Jax and Alicia Fox are probably wrestling each other three times in a row on Superstars.
The arm wrestling contest is brutal. Dana defeats her handily (I am a great writer) using the right arm, because Bayley’s arm is injured. Dana agrees to go with the left, then just attacks Bayley before it’s over because somehow Little Mama Pump is about to lose. The crowd completely and deservedly shits on it, possibly because nobody produced magical pouches of powder and stashed it in their hot pants.
The contract signing feels like two concurrent segments, where either of them would be okay, but jamming them together muddles it up. Charlotte and Sasha Banks are doing their normal, “we are going to make HISTORY, look at us HISTORICALLY MAKING HISTORY” thing, which we’ve seen since … uh, February. Meanwhile, Mick Foley is getting triggered and screaming non-stop threatening YOU’RE ALL DOOMED nonsense at them for DARING to step into the Cell. The women no-sell it.
The most important thing to remember here is that last week, Mick Foley was proud of himself for agreeing to a women’s Hell in a Cell match, and now this week he’s trying to scare them out of it. Sorta like how Stephanie McMahon told Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho to get on the same page, then applauded Foley for making them fight each other. Do different people write different segments? Do they not check to make sure they coordinate before they act them out on live primetime television?
Foley’s passionate bit jumped the shark a long time ago, and it’s especially cornball here. I HAVE NO HIP SOCKET! PEOPLE LOOK AT ME WITH PITY! I FELL OFF THE CAGE AND NOW I’M MISSING BOTH EYES! I TRIED TO GIVE BIRTH AND A SQUID CAME OUT! HELL IN A CELL WILL TAKE WEEKS OFF YOUR CAREER! I wanted one of them to just be like, “Mick, we’re not even going to use the cage, chill out.” And then the other could be like, “Roman Reigns won a Hell in a Cell match last year and he’s completely fine. I’m a wrestler, I’m not Tim White. Remember when Shane McMahon jumped off the roof of it and fell through a table after fighting the Undertaker for half an hour, and was a little bruisy but otherwise totally functional the next night on Raw?” And then the first one is like, “yeah, the Hell in a Cell you wrestled in and the Hell in a Cell we’re wrestling in are totally different. It’s harmless now. We might toss each other into the steps, but that’s only if it gets CRAZY.” And then Stephanie McMahon shows up like, “as the creator of women’s wrestling, I agree.”
Best: His Name Is Enzo Amore, And He Is A Certified G And A Bonafide Stud, And We Can’t Teach That. And That Right There, That Is Big Cass, And He’s Seven Feet Tall, And We Can’t Teach That. Badda-boom, Realest Guys In The Room. HOW’RE WE DOING?
I’ve been down on Enzo and Cass as A Thing recently, but I’d have to be cold-hearted to not love Enzo turning his microphone tattoo hand into an actual microphone and managing to pull off his entire intro promo without sound amplification. That’s dope. Best use of Enzo and Cass since like, Roadblock.
Worst: Poor Karl Anderson, Poor Poor Karl Anderson
My optimism here is quickly booted in the face thanks to another quick, helpless loss for Karl Anderson caused by babyfaces cheating to win, and everyone cheering about it.
It’s totally unfair. Cass starts it, getting on the apron and distracting the referee so he doesn’t see Anderson pinning Enzo with an O’Connor roll. He grabs the top rope twice, so you can see how premeditated it is. Gallows gets on the apron too and all he does is vehemently point at the pinfall, trying to get the referee’s attention and make him do his job. The referee instead decides to run over and hug Gallows, allowing Cass to boot Anderson in the face and give Enzo the cheap win. Because babyfaces. The Club, the team that never ever wins ever, has put the tag team division on NOTICE!
And … man, I don’t know. None of this matters. Just sugar disappearing into black coffee.
Best: This Is A … Heel Promo?
One compliment I want to give this episode is that it remembers what WWE audiences do to most live promos, and chooses to have Rusev and Roman Reigns cut Hell in a Cell promos on tape. If you want a crowd to listen, you have to remove their chance to say “what” as punctuation, which is apparently way more fun than listening.
Also, I just want to kinda vaguely gesture at this promo and say, “see?” Rusev is stepping into Hell in a Cell to defend his wife and family (and beloved championship belt) from Roman Reigns. It’s one of the best babyface promos cut on Raw in months, from the evil foreign heel. I wish Vince would do another one of those State of the Union style promos to open Raw and be like, “the bad guys act like good guys sometimes and the bad guys act like good guys sometimes on purpose, and we’re letting you choose how to react to them, listening to that, and adapting our storytelling in real-time.” I also wish they were DOING that, and that we we didn’t still have our balls snagged on this bullshit worked-shoot Reality Era where we want and expect the conventions of 1980s wrestling but want people to respond to it and understand it like it’s the 90s.
Note: both of those decades happened a minimum of 16 years ago.
Roman’s version of the promo is thankfully very short and constructive, recalling his history in the cell and trying to make “being in the center of the ring as the Cell engulfs you” a scary thing. Because for real, all these matches are happening in the middle of the ring. Fans will be closer to the cell than the wrestlers for most of it. Also, shout-out to that “I’ll see you in Hell” line, which the writers liked so much they used twice on the same episode.
Worst: TItus O’Neil’s Hilarious Delayed Bumping
The Shining Stars/Titus Brand vs. Golden Truth/Mark Henry feud (?) continues this week with a tag team match, ruined when Mark Henry shoves Titus into the ropes, which accidentally knocks Primo off the top. I mean, that’s what’s SUPPOSED to happen. Titus has the performance confidence of a kindergartner in the background of a school play right now, so he can’t even bump into the ropes. He gets shoved, turns to look at the ropes, runs up to them, hops onto the apron independent of the push’s momentum and leans into the ropes.
Watch it, it’s amazing:
I guess it makes sense, Titus never knew what to do with a push.
Best: Sami Vs. Braun
The best part of the show for me — and really the only part I liked a lot, besides Jericho saying Titus’ tie is “dummy brand” and the Shining Stars getting upset at being called Dominicans — is the Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman segment. Braun wants competition from Mick Foley, so Sami has stepped up. The only problem is that Braun doesn’t think Sami’s competition, and tries to ignore him. What’s great about this is that it’s not actually Braun not thinking Sami’s good enough … it’s a direct F-You to Zayn. Braun didn’t think James Ellsworth or Americos or the Mile High Trio were competition either, but he went through the motions and squashed them anyway. He won’t even give Sami Zayn that luxury. Sami has to force it out of him. I like to think this is because Braun wants to get him pissed off and have a REAL challenge.
So Sami jumps Braun to get him angry, then runs around the ring trying to escape him. This puts over Braun’s weird super-speed, and it builds and builds to Sami diving over the ropes and getting caught slash slung into the barricade. Braun then leaves AGAIN, and a partially broken Sami has to Fighting Spirit Up and roll back into the ring to tell him to come back.
I hope these two get something better than the Hell in a Cell kickoff, because if you gave them a little time, put a spotlight on Braun’s strengths and let one of your two Raw performers that’re actually good at selling sell for him and tell a story — it’s just Sami or Bayley, if we’re being honest — you could have something special.
And hey, at least Sami’s doing something. Congratulations on getting bumped off the 3-hour show again, Neville! Enjoy literally nothing!
Best/Worst: Rich Swann Has Pinned The Number One Contender To The Cruiserweight Championship!
Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander are the only Raw Cruiserweights that appear to have any kind of positive momentum going for them, so it makes sense to maybe change gears from this meandering, video game reference-laden exercise in WWE Main Event miniature and put the belt on one of them. Having Swann pin Kendrick isn’t a bad idea, because after Hell in a Cell, whoever’s champion should be dropping the strap to him in a heartbeat. Then maybe we can focus on what makes the cruisers different, highlight the performers that can connect with these Raw crowds and go somewhere good with it. Or, you know, we do TJ Perkins vs. Brian Kendrick at Survivor Series.
The problem is Kendrick losing a match right before his title match at Hell in a Cell, which I guess is being used to cast some kind of doubt on whether or not he’ll win, even though we’ve already seen him lose. They did the same thing with Roman Reigns beating Rusev six days before Clash of Champions. We were like, “so does this mean Rusev’s going to win?” And then he just lost again.
Here’s what we know:
Kendrick losing just before his title match continues his “I AIN’T GOT NOTHING LEFT IN THE TANK, SOMEBODY SAVE ME” thing, which doesn’t appear to be ingratiating him to anyone. It doesn’t lend a lot of credence to your “I have to win or I’ll lose my job” angle when we’ve seen you lose in the Cruiserweight Classic but get a Raw job, become the first Cruiserweight Championship contender, lose that match, become the SECOND Cruiserweight Championship contender and get another pay-per-view title shot despite losing to a non-contender on Raw. You’ve probably got job security now, guy, relax.
This week, Kendrick’s using the angle to try to get Perkins to let him win at Hell in a Cell. He’s got kids! He needs this job! TJP appears to be considering it, because he’s the kind of incompetent goob that’d tape his hands to sit in on commentary.
Just end this at Hell in a Cell and hit reset (video game term) on the Cruiserweight Division. Have Chris Jericho show up and wreck them both, I don’t even care. Give me Rich Swann vs. Dean Malenko at WrestleMania. Give me Cedric and Neville and Jack Gallagher, trade over Tyler Breeze and Kalisto, and bring in Sabre and Ibushi for one-shot deals if you can’t sign them to contracts. Try to make this exciting while it’s still a thing, and stop expecting us to get hype for irish whips and headlock finishes just because the fucking ropes are purple.
Worst: Get To The Evil Emma Part
I hope “Emmalina” is just Emma in a Samurai helmet and body armor doing bad karate in the snow. Bonus points if this leads to Dana “The Cat” Brooke.
Worst: WWE Doesn’t Understand Minnesota, An Act In Two Parts
Curtis Axel shows up in a SKOL AXEL SKOL shirt and cuts the most hot fire babyface promo of his life, namedropping his dad and grandpa and saying he’s going to go back to his roots, Oney Lorcan-style. And his roots RUN DEEP RIGHT HERE IN MINNESOTA. He’s gonna win in his HOME CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS. The crowd is like YEAH, MINNESOTA, YEAH, and they’re even doing the Skol Clap to his running knee. It’s an absolute star-making moment for Axel, who desperately needs a little positive momentum. It’s also an example of WWE finally utilizing wrestler hometowns beyond “we’re in England, HE’S FROM ENGLAND” and CM Punk in Chicago. It’s great. So guess what happens?
Dude loses to Bo Dallas via roll-up like three minutes later.
Is the Bo Dallas winning streak so important that you couldn’t like, let these people go home smiling about SOMETHING? On a show where Seth Rollins gets powerbombed into the apron, Sami Zayn gets treated like he’s less than Johnny Knockout, Mick Foley is berating Sasha Banks for agreeing to compete in a match he booked, the most over babyface on the show is a heel with a comedy prop and the other guy from Minnesota has to leave early because he wanted you to hate him and you didn’t? Come on.
Oh, and speaking of that …
Worst: … ?
Welcome to the bizarre hell where Paul Heyman can’t cut a promo and Brock Lesnar is boring.
The point here’s supposed to be Paul Heyman putting over Brock Lesnar, but the “Goldberg” chants being so deafening that it unnerves them both and they leave. I think that’s supposed to be the point. Heyman keeps begging them to chant “Goldberg.” The only problem is that Goldberg isn’t here, Brock Lesnar is FROM MINNESOTA, and he’s standing there wearing a Minnesota-themed version of his Suplex City shirt. So half the crowd’s meekly chanting Goldberg, but everyone else is chanting SUPLEX CITY. And Heyman’s like, I HATE YOU, and everyone’s like, YAY! So Brock’s music just hits and they leave, and nothing is accomplished. Like, nothing. It’s the first 30 seconds of a promo drawn out for about five minutes, and Brock gets paid a million dollars to stand there looking confused for a third of a quarter-hour and bail.
According to Observer Radio, the segment was such a failure that Vince flipped out about it and pulled the plug in the middle.
“Backstage, Vince blew a gasket, [saying] ‘These goddamn fans!’ And he played Brock’s music, and they just ended it. And Paul and Brock went to the back, and that was the end of the segment. This was not how it was supposed to end, but Vince pulled the plug right in the middle of it.”
Yeah man, it’s the fans’ fault that they cheered the guy from Minnesota in the Minnesota shirt instead of the ex-WCW guy who isn’t on the show and hasn’t wrestled in 12 years. What a bunch of smarks, or marks, or whatever!
This is one of the worst Raws I’ve ever seen from a structural standpoint. It’s like nobody involved paid attention to how wrestling works, cared where they were, wanted to play to their performers strengths or wanted to accomplish anything for Hell in a Cell. To recap, you had Brock Lesnar trying to get booed in Minnesota and just giving up, the Universal Champion getting pinned clean in what was basically a handicap match, the tag champs getting pinned clean by their opponents who aren’t supposed to be getting along, the top cruiserweight challenger getting pinned clean and begging the champion to let him win without trying, the “most dominant team” in your tag team division lose ANOTHER match, you had Titus ruining the finish of a six-man, your arguable top female babyface getting “boring” chants because she’s stuck in an arm wrestling contest with a lady who can’t talk or wrestle, your best babyface promo being cut by a heel in a video, your babyface GM chastising women for bravely participating in a thing he set up and nearly 3 hours of primetime programming devoted to a funny clipboard.
Sometimes I think WWE turned “stupid idiots” into a catchphrase so we wouldn’t be able to find the words to describe them.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
My Sling TV just asked me “Are you still watching?” And I actually replied “God help me, I am.”
I care about this as much as Brock Lesnar does
I think TJP talk could be a great successor to Mauro talk.
“Listen Brian, you may be looking for and tips and tricks on how to beat me, but it’s not going to work. Just backup and return to your home screen.”
TJP has all the acting ability of a cast member on a 90s Nickelodeon teen drama.
The Real Birdman
I’m thinking Zayn accidently got Ellsworth’s storyline & vice versa
So the purple ropes mean that the Cruiserweight Division is a battleground state?
The Golden Truth entrance ….ahhhh god bless the ad break.
N Casio Poe
Braun Strowman: IS THIS YOUR LIST?
Strowman: IT STRUCK MY FOOT
This episode of Raw makes me envy Glenn and Abraham
Later Tonight: Brock Lesnar destroys the kids from ‘Stranger Things’ and F-5’s Chuck E. Cheese. Goldberg sheds a tear.
Thanks for reading, everybody. Sorry. Be back here on Sunday for Hell in a Cell, which, let’s be honest, can’t be any worse than this. Hit those share buttons and spread the column around so I don’t fall into an existential depression.