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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for October 3, 2016.
Best/Worst: Roman Reigns Masters Transmutation
Okay, so the best compliment I can give this week’s show is that they finally seem to have figured out that we don’t need Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley to get full entrances and 15-minute speeches to set up everything. Over the past few weeks, they’ve had Mick and Stephanie doing EVERYTHING. R-Truth could be backstage like, “where’s the bathroom,” and Mick would enter stage-right and cut a passionate promo about how when you’re a REAL MAN your bathroom is ANYWHERE. And then Stephanie McMahon would approach Goldust sitting by himself stage-left to spend 10 minutes telling him he’s not as good as Her Husband, Triple H.
This week, we skip SO MUCH of that and get right to the very easy-to-believe pro wrestling trope of “WRESTLERS HATE EACH OTHER AND WANT TO FIGHT.” We start with Roman Reigns, who tries to put over being the first Samoan to win the United States Champion but gets interrupted by Lana in a Sexy Brad Maddox Halloween costume. They argue about families, and Lana repeatedly tells him to, “go to hell.” YOU GO TO HELL!
You know that thing WWE folks do where there’s, let’s say, a chain match coming up, so someone attacks their rival with a chain to set it up? It’s a real chicken or egg scenario. Did the chain match happen because one of them decided to use a chain, or did the chain attack happen because the participants knew there was a pay-per-view of themed matches coming up and want to get a spot, and know WWE jumps on sh*t like that and always signs it? You could attack someone with a coffee mug and if it was notably specific enough, they’d sign a COFFEE MUG match for the pay-per-view.
Anyway, they do this with words, too. Before Over The Edge, Shane McMahon was like, “you think I’ve gone over the edge? I haven’t even BEGUN to go over the edge! YOU’RE the one who’s gone over the edge!” Hell in a Cell’s coming up, so Lana’s gotta say “hell” a bunch to set up the punchline. When it’s over, Roman’s like, “yeah dawg I WILL go to Hell … IN A CELL!” I wonder what would’ve happen if Lana had been like, “YOU GO TO STAIRS MATCH!”
As you might expect from literally any Roman Reigns V Rusev segment, the brawling was good, and the talking wasn’t. Roman would be a thousand times better if he could seem like he cared about ANYTHING, or bought into the tropes of his own show. His delivery’s not good enough to point out inconsistencies in the storytelling like Kevin Owens might, but he does it anyway, so it comes across less like “I’m cool and smart” and more like, “whatever you just said is meaningless and wrong.” He accidentally kills his own dramatic setups. But yeah, when they get to the punching and kicking each other in the face parts, it’s pretty great.
When Rusev knocked Reigns over the barricade, I was practically screaming at my TV for Rusev to get the hell out of there before he recovered. It’s like watching a horror movie. DON’T STAND AROUND AT RINGSIDE. DON’T WALK UP THE RAMP BACKWARDS, HE’S GONNA GET YOU. And sure enough, Rusev takes too long and Reigns just teleports up to the stage and Superman Punches him to death. It’s like he died and respawned in the entrance.
Now that we’ve seen Reigns master transmutation, I want to see him master the other six of Seven Wonders. He’s got pyrokinesis, because of those sick burns about Rusev not having balls. He’s definitely got divination, because he always ends up in title matches, and concilium, which would explain why even his greatest enemies keep giving him opportunities. He’s got telekinesis because I’ve seen him whiff punches and still knock people down, and he excels at sucking the life out of crowds so that covers Vitalum Vitalis. What’s left, Descensum? What hell would he descend into, Monday Night Raw? Seems legit. ROMAN REIGNS FOR SUPREME CHAMPION.
Note: the Eighth Wonder of witchcraft is Andre the Giant. The ninth is Chynese magic.
Worst: Brian Kendrick Has Pinned The Divas Champion!
It’s definitely a “preaching to the choir” nitpick at this point, but one of the worst things WWE does that we accept as “how it works” is having people defeat a champion to get a shot at that champion. “Brian Kendrick just made TJ Perkins tap out. Pay extra money to see if Brian Kendrick can defeat TJ Perkins at Hell in a Cell!” You’d accomplish the same thing by having Kendrick defeat a fellow top challenger — I don’t know, Cedric Alexander, maybe?
Think about it. The story you need to tell is that Kendrick feels bad about losing a big opportunity at Clash of Champions, so he’s willing to sink even deeper and get more cruel and manipulative in the ring to make up for it. So you put him in there with Cedric (or Lince, or hey does Neville still exist? No?), have him get really brutal with his in-ring traps and submissions, and make us wonder if Perkins has enough intestinal fortitude or strategic planning to survive and counter it. There’s money in WONDERING HOW MATCHES WILL END, so maybe stop trying to get it by showing us all the ways the match could end?
Best: Kendrick, Though
First of all, +1 to Kendrick for those iridescent houndstooth tights. I don’t know what refractor pants and leopard print have to do with him being a cagey vennern pirate or whatever, but they’re dope.
Second of all, Kendrick as the Fit Finlay of the cruiserweight division is pretty great. This is closer to what he was doing in the actual Cruiserweight Classic than we’ve seen on Raw so far, and it was better for it. The highlight is Kendrick sliding Perkins’ hand into the turnbuckle and standing on it:
They should pay Paul London to dress up like a leprechaun and hide under the ring.
I know it seems like another WHAT, DID TJ PERKINS KILL YOUR DOG, HOW COULD YOU JUST NOT LIKE A WRESTLER moment, but Kendrick winning the rubber match at Hell in a Cell would be a great way to honor past incarnations of the cruiserweight/light heavyweight division AND let us transition the belt to an actually fun champion like Gran Metalik with the quickness.
Or, you know, Neville, once he’s healed from falling into a Halloween store and breaking every bone in his body.
Worst: Michael Cole’s Eyeline
Remember that one episode of NXT where Cathy Prime interviewed Austin Aries and WWE was so obsessed with wrestlers not looking into cameras and interviewers not looking at wrestlers that they made Aries look down the entire time, and had Cathy stare off into the distance like a mannequin?
Michael Cole has a sit-down interview with Seth Rollins where they have to sit super close to both be on screen, but that f*cks up the producer’s natural eyeline, so they have Cole talk to a ghost directly to Seth’s right instead of Seth. Look:
Terrible. But hey, I can’t wait to get Seth Rollins’ entrance theme on the new CD, WWF Forced Perspective.
Best: Now Boarding Chase Silver Preferred Members
Up next, the love child of Adam Cole and Adam Page moves to Los Angeles from Idaho because this is where dreams come true and tries to live his dream of beating up Braun Strowman. As you might’ve guessed, it doesn’t go well. I really want the payoff to this to be Byron Saxton stepping up and using the world’s stupidest finisher to fight Strowman.
After the match, Braun says that if Mick Foley doesn’t give him competition next week, it might be Foley’s last week. I like this because (1) it means Braun’s going to get a tougher opponent next week, and (2) it officially canonizes Sin Cara as “not competition.” Maybe next week James Ellworth will return with a third hand and beat his ass.
Worst: The Titus Brand
This week, Titus O’Neil tries to top the blockbuster “Darren Young meets a controlling old man and then they kill each other off-screen” angle by introducing the TITUS BRAND. He says that he’s going to be in movies and brings back “make it a win” as a branded hashtag and then … loses to Sami Zayn. Because the TITUS BRAND is doing something mildly embarrassing because you don’t want to get in trouble, followed by losing.
I’m not even sure what to say about this, other than that it’s nice to see Sami Zayn get a win. Now that Cesaro has an angle and seems to be going somewhere, Sami is the ultimate, “why the hell aren’t you on Smackdown?” guy. I mean, he’s billed at 205, why can’t HE be the face of the Cruiserweight Division?
He could even win the championship and lord it over Kevin Owens because there’s no way Owens is getting down to 205. And then everybody’s like, “why do you care, it’s the Cruiserweight Championship, you’re the Universal Champion,” and Owens can get obsessed with it anyway. Tell me you don’t want to see 204-pound Kevin Owens.
Best/Worst: Sheamus And Cesaro
Speaking of Cesaro, he gets another week of arguing with Sheamus. It’s not the most entertaining thing in the world for me, but I will compliment the angle and the show for being organized. That’s one thing that was really helped by the lack of wishy-washy authority figures micromanaging everything this week: the actual characters involved in the actual stories had time to exist and interact naturally. I think that will help EVERYTHING feel more natural, and that even if I’m not digging the Cesaro/Sheamus story right now, I like where it’ll end up. That first moment when Sheamus does the right thing and actually makes a save for Cesaro is going to be HUGE. Also: get Sheamus a full suit for his entrance ASAP.
Another thing: y’all know I love a good jobber, but seriously, what’s up with all the jobbers lately? It seems like being Local Talent is an easier way to get on the show than being drafted by Raw. Where’s Bo Dallas? Where’s Nia Jax? What happened to Jinder, or Curtis Axel or Sin Cara, or hell, what happened to Big Show? Did we have to make room for Chase Silver, Raul White and Mark Carradine? Here’s a better question: if we’ve got three hours, why does a quarter of the roster still have to sit on the bench every week?
And to expound on that, why are we still repeating the same matches on loop? What did THIS Sheamus/Cesaro jobber tag team squash where they don’t care about each other and still easily win accomplish that last week’s didn’t? That awkward jump off the back spot? You’re doing it with the entire card, every week. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte is great, but how many times have we seen it? We’ve seen it twice on Raw for the Women’s Championship with a title change in the past 2 months. We followed Rusev vs. Reigns and Perkins vs. Kendrick at Clash of Champions with Rusev vs. Reigns on Raw and Perkins vs. Kendrick on Raw. That “Roman descending into a repetitive personal Hell on American Horror Story bit” might honestly be accurate.
Best: Honoring Breast Cancer Survivors, Even If The Charity Itself Isn’t Great
We go through the Susan G. Komen conversation every year, but I’m gonna skip that (and how tired I am of Enzo and Cass) entirely and give this segment a Best for three reasons:
1. it’s never a bad idea to celebrate somebody kicking cancer’s ass
2. Enzo and Cass have custom microphones now that match Enzo’s hand tattoo, and
3. Enzo not knowing how a sheet works and messing up the reveal of the championship belts was adorable
Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought Of This Segment
… yeah that’s probably a good idea.
Worst: Losing A Bunch Of Matches To The New Day Makes You “The Most Dominant Team On Raw”
It’s good to see Golden Truth back on Raw — hey, remember when the tag team division had more than two tag teams? — but man, there’s no current WWE talking point I believe less than, “Gallows and Anderson are dominant.” Didn’t we just watch them spend two months as comedy balls doctors, only for them to get tired of their own gimmick, reboot themselves mid-angle and still lose?
So, after months of Emma being cleared with nothing to do and the past year of watching her reinvent herself, return to prominence as one of the top female workers on NXT and justify Dana Brooke as a valid character and television presence, we’re bringing back Emma as “Emmalina” and giving her what, an Instagram gimmick? Really?
Like, if there was an NXT Instagram lady gimmick where we had to watch her matches in a Perpetua filter, we’d pop for it hard for a few weeks and then get tired of it. What’re they gonna do on the main roster? Don’t we have a women’s main event tonight? Why the hell is the best character the top wrestling promotion in the world operating at its top level can create for a woman, “I’m sexier than you?” Also, how did they come up with something worse than, “you’re Santino’s girlfriend, so you have a PINK cobra?”
Anyway, can’t wait for Paigearino and Summer Rizzle to return and team up with Emmalina.
Worst: SHUT UP, RICH SWANN LOVES FUN
The worst moment of Raw commentary since the brand split happens right at the top of Rich Swann vs. Tony Nese, when Corey Graves tries to give Swann a little depth and Cole McMahonsplains over him.
Cole: Corey, what is Rich Swann all about?
Graves: Rich Swann had a really exceptionally tough life, from his teenage years he lost his parents young, all he ever wanted to do is achieve his dream and become a WWE Superstar and travel the world, he just lives life to the fullest all the time. And he’s a pretty tough cat to mention.
Cole: [corrective tone] AND HE LOVES TO HAVE FUN.
Yeah Michael, losing his parents young made him really love fun. The way Cole says it is like, “no, none of those things are true, he’s a dancing guy which means HE LIKES FUN. FUN, Corey.” It’s either that, or the “and he loves to have fun” was to quiet the enraged 70-year old voice in his ear screaming at him that we’re learning too much about the young black athlete as a human being. “TELL THEM TJ PERKINS WAS HOMELESS AGAIN, DAMMIT!”
Also, 75% chance Neville isn’t on Raw because Vince thinks they changed his name to “Tony Nese.” And an 80% chance on top of that they’ve had the “Tony Nese is too much, shorten it to just NESE” conversation.
Worst: “Triple H’s Worst Decision Was Marrying YOU!”
You knew that sh*t was a lie before it came out of your mouth.
Best: This Month We Honor That Time Mil Mascaras Eliminated Himself From The Royal Rumble.
“Okay, we made videos honoring Eddie Guerrero, Pedro Morales and Mil Mascaras.”
“Cool, that’s all of them. Great job, everybody.”
Best: Chris Jericho, Secret Superface
The Fan Nation video of this segment edits out all the space between lines like a teen on YouTube, but if you watch the actual show, you’ll see the crowd is so ready to cheer Chris Jericho again. He’s out here like, “everyone’s stupid, you’re each individually stupid, I hate you, you’re all awful, go f*ck yourselves,” and then the SECOND he teases going after Owens’ belt, everyone’s like GASSSSP YEAAAHHHHHHH. It’s GREAT. The gift of Jericho turned out to be an actual thing, where he was actually giving us the gift of the best possible Chris Jericho.
Jericho comes up with the great idea to challenge New Day for the Tag Team Championship, and Owens is like, “nah dude, that’s a lot of work,” until he realizes that challenging for THOSE belts will give Jericho a title, and keep Jericho away from HIS. These guys are so far ahead of the curve on Raw right now it’s ridiculous. They’re eventually interrupted by New Day, who feel like the old New Day again for the first time in months. Maybe they just needed someone else worth a sh*t on the microphone to talk to besides sexuality and popularity-obsessed-ass Enzo and Cass?
Jericho puts Kofi on The List for questioning his friendship (spelling it “Kofy”), then puts Big E on it for not inviting him into the Championship Huddle. Xavier Woods laughs at them, but ends up on the list himself, TWICE, once for laughing and once for calling Kevin Owens fat. Even the fat joke works, because it comes back later in the night. Owens says that seven months ago the New Day jumped the shark together — the truth, tbh — and Woods responds by saying Owens can’t jump over anything. Later, when they wrestle, this happens:
There’s almost too much good stuff here to name, like Jericho calling the team “Team Chris and Kevin” and Owens calling them “Team Kevin and Chris.” They’re also great in the backstage confrontation with Ashton Kootchner and “Danny Dumb-face,” which for whatever reason actually had to happen:
Jericho learned that teleportation trick from Roman Reigns, I guess. Also, “ink it in, man.” The best part of THIS is Jericho’s face as he’s leaving. Watch it.
All your corny babyface sins have been forgiven, Cool Dad. Put Jericho in the Hall of Fame the second he retires.
This all comes together and pays off later in the night, when Owens and Jericho finally face New Day for … uh, a shot to face New Day for the Tag Team Championship. At least ALL the themes of the show are staying consistent for once. Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson do their best to promote their Netflix original series intended for I guess all the out-of-touch parents of the people watching Master of None and Luke Cage and sh*t and bury the action. Does Kutcher realize he’s a 38-year old rich guy arguing about how much better HIS friendship is than somebody else’s on live, global television? Shouldn’t his response and/or the response of any rational, non-Jericho and Owens human being be, “why are you so worried about your friendship?”
Anyway, Mildly Cold Seth Rollins shows up to raise some polite hell, causing a distraction to let New Day pick up the win. After the match, he tries to goad Owens back into the ring by Pedigreeing Jericho, who is supposed to be his best friend. Owens only truly loves himself, so he balks. Normally I’d complain a lot about how WWE babyfaces operate, but I can’t for the life of me frown on the reunion of The New Day and their Captain.
So if I had to review this collection of segments as one show-long piece, I’d have to say I loved
Best: Take 2
Finally, we have our first advertised women’s main-event since 2004, Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks for the (Raw) Women’s Championship. It’s prefaced by a SPECTACULAR backstage segment wherein Charlotte does her normal mean girl intimidation of Bayley, Dana Brooke sticks around a little too long to get aggressively handsy and Bayley just F*CKS UP HER CHRISTMAS. It’s SO GOOD. Dana is like “playTYME? is OVER” and pats Bayley on the head, and Bayley’s like, “okay, that’s enough,” and then Dana goes for the collar and Bayley just straight-up chucks her into the equipment. Not only is it a great moment of Bayley standing up for herself that points out the marked difference between Charlotte’s intimidation and Dana’s, it removes Dana from the main and lets Charlotte vs. Sasha happen without all the bullsh*t That’s good for the story AND the show.
The match itself is everything you’d expect from Sasha Banks and Charlotte. You give them a big stage on which to deliver, they’re gonna deliver. They have better chemistry than any two women in the company, and probably any two PEOPLE, male or female, period. It also contains a lot of the same stuff that worries you in any Sasha Banks match, namely how her ambition to create big moments and build upon past big moments by escalating the action and violence gets her way too close to paralysis and death. Every time she dives or flips backwards off something (or gets side-slammed onto the ropes and falls on her head) you’re like, sh*t, Sasha, stop it. But when it works, it works beautifully, and this worked in toto.
Also, Charlotte hit a f*cking Skytwister Press or whatever:
Amazing. And with aim like that, she could’ve been in the Cruiserweight Classic! Moonsaults that grazed outstretched arms for days!
I think this would’ve topped the championship match they had back in July if that match had never existed, which … seems like a weird thing to say. But that one had more emotional gravity and felt more important, possibly because of that whole “Sasha Banks is hurt and has to vacate the title, whoops just kidding we got a second opinion and she’s fine, but we already did the title change, uh, what do we do now” sh*t in-between. Still, you know that when Sasha wears the pink and yellow something big is gonna happen, and it did.
Now let’s try to get through the end of the year without changing her name to “Sashalina.”
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Dana: Ah I immediately regret this!!!
What’s the first worst decision?”
“Drugging and kidnapping you for the purpose of a forced, unlawful marriage.”
“Oh, yeah, good point.”
Am i crazy or does Nese look like an in shape Tommy Dreamer
LIKE A SURGERY PATIENT WHEN THE ANESTHESIOLOGIST GETS THE MIXTURE WRONG, KUTCHER AND MASTERSON ARE DYING ON THE TABLE!!!
Obviously anyone who has a best friend knows the most important part of friendship is proving no one else on earth is friends.
A lot of people reenact Rocky monologues, but only Cass is brave enough to attempt the commercial shoot scene.
Danny Masterson: “THAT’S IT JERICHO, YOU JUST GOT PUT ON MY LIST OF SUPPRESSIVE PERSONS!”
I really wanna see Foley offer Jericho a title shot and have Jericho say “No, I’m not fighting my best friend, some things are more important than titles”….WWE would consider it the biggest heel move of all time
Full Nelson Reilly
Someday maybe a gal will look at me like Sasha looks at Bayley. Instead they look at me like Braun Strowman looks at Local Talent.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, everybody. Be sure to click those share buttons and spread the column around, even if it’s just to show off the shark-jumping GIFs. And hey, be back here this weekend for No Mercy, and hopefully the weekend after that for WCW/nWo Revenge.