Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Clash of (the) Champions, the first Raw-exclusive pay-per-view of the New Era, happened. Roman Reigns became the United States Champion, The New Day retained against all reasonable odds and expectations yet again, and both Charlotte and Kevin Owens retained via bullsh*t. Also on the show, we argued about TJ Perkins in the comment section. That definitely won’t happen again, probably!
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for September 26, 2016. If you didn’t watch, don’t worry, nobody else did either.
Worst: Clash Of The Champions II: Miami Mayhem
This episode of Raw was up against the first Presidential Debate and the Falcons and Saints on Monday Night Football, which means WWE’s two major demographics — “people who want to watch ridiculous characters interrupt each other and scream about nothing” and “people who want to watch other people run into each other head-first” — were occupied. Clash of Champions was the night before and WWE realized nobody would be watching, so they were just like, “do Clash again, shut up, it’s fine.”
That forms the card for … uh, the next two weeks. On this episode, we get Rusev vs. Roman Reigns for the United States Championship and The New Day vs. The Club in match plus one of their best of infinity series. Next week, we get TJ Perkins defending the Cruiserweight Champion against Brian Kendrick — a guy who will have gotten two title shots in the first five WWE cruiserweight matches — and Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks for the Women’s Championship. I’m starting to lose track of whether or not the pay-per-views are meaningless, or if they’re the only thing I should be watching.
Worst: 40 Minutes, Building To Nothing
Rusev vs. Reigns is the opener and nearly covers the first 40 minutes (!) of the show. The payoff is them fighting into the crowd and getting counted out, because the fight is just too intense, possibly triggered by another Lana interference.
The problem is that the ending told that story, but the match didn’t.
If you’re building to a count-out like this (to set up a cage match at Hell in a Cell, I guess), the fight needs to either start out intense and get right to it, or build and build until it bubbles over. This match didn’t do either of those things. It was just a normal Reigns vs. Rusev match, just like the other five we’ve seen this month, with all the chinlocks and Irish whips and taunty transitions. Then, after like 25 minutes, they just fight into the crowd and it’s over. There’s no build. There’s no differing intensities. It’s just the match we’re used to choosing to end.
It’s disappointing, because these two have good chemistry and can be great in the ring … but why do that if this is the ultimate case of nobody watching and nothing mattering? This is just a stepping stone to the next thing, right? It’s telling us what we should think and how we should feel instead of showing us, or making us feel. “The fight was just too intense!” Everything was fine for nearly half an hour, but THEN SUDDENLY.
The post-match is more specious-ass WWE badass babyface storytelling. Rusev attacks Reigns with a chair, hitting him in the front and the back of his body armor, and Reigns sells it. Then, of course, he stops. Maybe he was playing kevlar opossum? Reigns lays out Rusev and has a chance to attack HIM with the chair, but chooses instead to open it, sit in it, and pose with the United States Championship. You think that’s gonna be the end and that Reigns has “made a statement” by clearly winning the fight, but then Reigns just attacks his downed and defeated opponent with the chair anyway.
It’s the epitome of ¯_(ツ)_/¯ and here’s the good news: we’ve got over TWO HOURS left. You could turn away from Raw to watch the debate from beginning to end, feel like the debate dragged on for hours and turn back for like 3 more matches on Raw. They’re gonna have to start putting me into cryo-sleep for these things.
Best/Worst: Best Of 2
From the Best and Worst of Clash of Champions:
The Best of 7 was for a title opportunity, right? But they never specified which title. If the series is a tie, maybe The Authority will tell Cesaro and Sheamus that if they want a title shot, they’ve got to take it together and go after the Tag Team Championship. They’re battle-tested blood brothers or whatever now, right? They can be the new Road Warriors, nuke New Day and be the coolest and best tag team in the world. Sheamus can give Cesaro some personality in the eyes of people who need cartoonish reactions to sh*t to validate “personality,” and Cesaro can legitimize Sheamus’ in-ring work in the eyes of people who presume “indie street cred” equals “workrate” and don’t give guys like Sheamus, Cena or Reigns credit for being great workers.
On Raw, that’s exactly what Mick Foley decides. And I still think this can be great, but the intro to the team has two major issues:
1. The team is built around complaining and “can they co-exist,” instead of relying on the Best of 7 series we all just watched to explain why maybe they understand and respect each other and should work together. We watched Cesaro and Sheamus tear each other apart for like two months trying to get a title opportunity. If WWE understood what literally every fantasy novel or film or TV show ever understands — that battle can harden and bond dudes, even if they were once enemies — we could skip the bullsh*t and get straight to these guys being the new Road Warriors and demolishing The New Day. Instead, because WWE thinks “babyface” means “fussy irrational five-year olds,” Sheamus and Cesaro spend not one, but TWO entire segments loudly arguing at each other:
You know what would’ve been great? If the British Bulldogs just screamed in each other’s faces before every match. Also, if Dynamite Kid wore a tearaway suit to a conversation and Davey Boy Smith wore a hoodie with thumb holes.
2. Instead of seeing these two team up for the first time in their high-stakes match against The New Day and watching them learn that they’ve got to co-exist and trust one another if they want to be champions, we watch them have a pissing contest against two jobbers. Cesaro and Sheamus go up against Steve Cutler and Wesley Willis — neither of those names is accurate, but how great would that have been — and we get to watch them hate-tag for a while before mercy-pinning two guys either of them could’ve defeated alone. So now you’ve done everything you can to make sure we care as little as possible about these guys coming together as a team, instead of trusting the work you’ve already done and the 15 years of combined WWE TV experience to make it work.
It’s gonna be great when they show up in face paint and Doomsday European Uppercut Xavier Woods into dust, but man, you don’t have to go through 24 letters to get from A to B.
Worst: “I Don’t Want To Say I Told You So, But …” – Gedo
The Club lose their 600th straight Tag Team Championship shot after Kofi Kingston connects with Trouble in Paradise to Karl Anderson’s armpit. I’m not sure how many times in a row they can lose before even the announce team accepts that they aren’t a threat. If you want to send them back to Smackdown with their friend and an actual tag team division, that’d be nice. Otherwise, have fun holding Kenny Omega’s trombone at Wrestle Kingdom 11.
The match wasn’t bad, but all I could think is how much better an image Kofi Kingston wearing the crimson mask would’ve been if it’d set up The Club actually defeating them and taking the titles. Big E got Magically Killed and Kofi got his temple exploded on the ring steps, and these super cereal motherf*ckers STILL won.
Worst: Do You Realize Demolition?
Cole: The New Day has held the tag titles almost as long as Demolition!
Graves: I can’t help but think of Demolition when I look at Anderson and Gallows!
Cole: That’s right Graves, but also, Demolition
Graves: Demolition, definitely Michael
Byron: I talked to Demolition earlier today
Graves: no you didn’t f*ck you Saxton
Cole: yeah go f*ck yourself you piece of sh*t
Cole: anyway, smell this candle, what does it remind you of
Worst: The Raw Women’s Division
Raw’s women’s division is only three wrestlers, a valet and an unrelated Nia Jax story, so since Bayley can’t wrestle Sasha Banks or Charlotte tonight, she faces Local Talent “Anna Fields,” aka “Miss Hannah” Hannah Hartkopf. Was really hoping Anna would win so she could afford some gear, and not have to wrestle in whatever she found at Target that afternoon.
If you’re wondering what Sasha and Charlotte are doing, they’re setting up another title match. Sasha says she’s still owed her one-on-one rematch for the (Raw) Women’s Championship, and wants it tonight. So … what was Clash? If Sasha was entitled to a one-on-one title rematch, why’d she have to face Bayley and Dana Brooke in a triple threat to see who’d face Charlotte? Because Dana said they should? How long does that “I’m owed a rematch” thing last? If you lose the title and can earn a bunch of title shots without cashing it in, can you get like, a fourth title shot by reminding people you’re owed one? Does anyone even write these shows, or are they just improv jams full of comedians with bad short-term memories?
Also, can we start a petition to have Sasha just do the facelock and skip the Backstabber part of the Banks Statement until somebody’s willing to actually bump into it, instead of slowly leaning back with zero impact and rolling over? When did everyone stop knowing how to take that? Send Kofi down to the PC for a week.
Worst: Oshton Kootchner Guest Stars On Raw
The payoff for Big Cass randomly including Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson in his list of Best Friends is here: Kutcher and Masterson are guest starring on next week’s Raw, and will confront Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. Really hoping the Universal Champion gets shown up by one of the dudes from Dracula 2000.
Kutcher actually has a long history with WWE. 16 years ago he confused Edge, Christian and Tazz by starring in Dude, Where’s My Car? without actually losing his car, and 6 years ago he “put out a hit” on Zack Ryder to promote Killers. Next week, he hits Chris Jericho with a Go To Sleep and tells him he got Punk’d. I don’t know. Can’t Laura Prepon guest star on Raw instead? She could murder Zack Ryder and bury him in a prison garden.
Best: Mick Foley Has Almost Figured Out What’s Going On
One of my favorite (read: only enjoyable) segments of the night is this one, wherein Mick Foley finally starts putting together that the people who once handcuffed him, beat him in the face with a chair and Pedigreed him onto thumbtacks might not be on-the-level business associates.
Foley confronts Stephanie McMahon about the Clash of Champions main-event and starts laying out all the plot points like he’s Todd figuring out that Bojack Horseman sabotaged his rock opera. Stephanie just UNLOADS on him, hilariously mentioning that she hired him “for his brains” to be a businessman and making him meekly apologize for being a hardcore jellyfish. Mick’s all, “sorry, sorry,” and now he’s surely been thrown off the trail that the evil power couple running the company who once declared themselves the “villains,” appeared at WrestleMania as f*cking Skeletor and Evil-Lyn and directly interfered to make Kevin Owens Universal Champion like 10 feet in front of his face might be pulling the strings.
Give him 10 more episodes of Holy Foley and he’ll figure out that his daughter’s hooking up with the serial killer version of Brock Lesnar Guy.
(+1 if Character Actress Margo Martindale ever hosts Raw.)
Worst: I Really Can’t Move My Body
First of all, Tom Phillips looks like he shaved his head and taught a duck to quietly sit on top of it.
Second of all, good to see TJP selling that video game gimmick by cutting promos like he’s a character in Chaos Wars. This guy won the Cruiserweight Classic, got his dream job, became the first (new) Cruiserweight Champion, won his WWE debut and had an old friend who used to drive him to wrestling practice headbutt him in the face afterward. You’d think he’d be fired up or pissed or something, but he’s on here like, “Wow. It is a dream come true. A dream I have had since 1998. I didn’t think I’d make it here. But here I am! On Monday. Night. Raw.” He’s gonna make Brian Kendrick into a BRIAN SANDWICH.
Kendrick’s story is another (another) example of WWE telling you one thing and doing another. We’re supposed to believe that this guy’s last shot was the Cruiserweight Classic. He did everything he could to win it, but he lost. He got a big emotional farewell. The next thing you know, he’s signed to Raw and wins ONE MATCH that gives him a shot at the Cruiserweight Championship. He loses, is a bad sport about it, and is rewarded with another title shot. How many times can we believe that guy who’s gotten the only two Cruiserweight title shots ever in the first 14 days of the division when he says he’s nervous about getting shots?
Neville is wrestling Jinder Mahal on Superstars, but the Elias Samson version of Neville gets a shot at Perkins on Raw.
The key moment of the match happens at the 0:36 moment of the video, when Tony Nese does a Fosbury Flop over the top rope to the floor and lands on his feet. Watch the crowd. Two (2) people in the entire arena stand up.
I’ll let you figure out why that is. Is it a matter of the wrestlers not connecting with the crowd, or understanding what kind of crowd they’re working in front of? Is it because the rest of the show has been super boring, so nobody’s excited for anything? Is it because of the disconnect between what works in the CWC/NXT and what works in front of Raw crowds? Is it because WWE hasn’t bothered to give any of the Cruiserweights characters so far, with “he’s from a place,” “he looks like this” and “he’s a good wrestler!” being the only hooks? Is it more about how cool wrestling moves are only truly “cool wrestling moves” if they’re performed in a specific context for a specific reason, surrounded by the connective tissue of stage, story and character? Are we ever going to understand that different kinds of wrestling work in different places for different reasons, and stop trying to homogenize everything into one idea of what wrestling’s supposed to be?
Followup question, should Neville buy a trenchcoat and start hanging out in the rafters, because Jesus Christ, dude didn’t spend 4 years becoming the best all-around performer in NXT just to bump for Jinder until it’s time to hit his one move.
Best: They’re Just Havin’ Fun!
The (much) better of the two cruiserweight matches on the show — hooray, we got two! — is the tag pairing Team Chikara Pro Lince Dorado and Drew Gulak against Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann. Yes, it took exactly one (1) week for WWE to take the two black guys they got from the Cruiserweight Classic and make them a tag team. A tag team that LOVES HAVING FUN! We’re like two shows from Michael Cole calling them the “best pure athletes” in WWE. We’re four shows from them breaking up and feuding.
Jokes aside, this happens earlier in the show and features Actual Dynamic Performers, so the crowd’s more into it. Cedric vs. Gulak is probably the best matchup for a Raw crowd, because it’s two dramatically different guys with dramatically different styles that compliment each other. Gulak can ground and pound him until Cedric can find an opening and just flip the sh*t on him.
Keep it quick and colorful until the crowd gets to know some of these people. If you don’t show your work, you’re gonna have people chanting “CM Punk” and “Randy Savage” until mom and dad get pissed and take it away from us.
Best: The Lumbar Check
Time to change the name of that move to the Entire Upper-Body Check.
Best: Best Friends, Better Jerks
I’m not sure what I love more, Chris Jericho saying the Jeri-Tron cost “$6500 six years ago” — maybe the most honest Braggy Dad comment in Raw history — or Kevin Owens turning Seth Rollins’ history of injuring people into a heel promo about karma coming back around and biting him in the ass.
The interesting thing about Rollins’ face turn is that nobody has forgotten that he spent forever being a jerk, which makes sense, because he’s still kind of a jerk and only has a few hours of Observable Face Time under his belt. Dude injured John Cena, he ended Sting’s career and he ruined months of planning by throwing Finn Bálor arm-first into a guard rail. Finn probably did that to himself, but you get what I’m saying. He’s got no leg to stand on (cough) when it comes to getting indignant about being injured, and Owens is exactly the right guy to SAY that, MEAN that, and still have it come across like he’s being an asshole for doing so.
The actual “he’s not even supposed to BE here” stuff with Rollins wasn’t very effective, but there’s finally a good base to work from beyond, “Triple H likes one guy now and doesn’t like the other.”
Worst: Do You Realize You’re GAY
Jericho setting Big Cass up for a gay joke and then getting upset about it is like when Steve Harvey tells a Family Feud contestant to name a part of a man’s body he could stick in a pie, and gets shocked when they say, “his weenie, Steve!”
Best: FRIENDSHIP PREVAILS
The good news I guess is that Enzo and Cass are super easy to beat — it’s much harder to beat Colin Cassady 2-on-1, apparently — so Jericho and Owens get a strong win. I like that Owens just violently powerbombed Enzo instead of bothering to shoot him into the ropes and pop him up. I don’t know if that was a stylistic choice or if Enzo just weighs 80 pounds and Owens was confident about being able to hoist him up, but it worked. The pop-up doesn’t make the powerbomb hurt any more, so it honestly wouldn’t be a bad idea to make Owens’ finisher just a powerbomb, and have the pop-up version be his preferred set-up. It’d save you that awkward moment at the ends of matches where he has to bend the guy over and walk him in a circle to make sure he’s pushing him into the correct set of ropes.
And that’s Raw. The major highlight is, “it’s interesting to see Jericho and Owens wrestling in pants,” if that tells you anything.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night, Because At Least 10 People Were Watching
Lince’s working too hard
Should tag in Gulak-ak-ak-ak-ak-ak
You oughta know by now
Cass: You are a gay.
:crowd cheers wildly:
The WWE everybody!
Jericho better watch out because Kevin Owens just became Bret Hart’s best friend.
The List of Jericho also includes three hour Raws.
“Seth Rollins went to a medical facility here in Cincinnati..”
(Dean Ambrose jumps out from the MRI and attacks him)
“Oh man, I’m sorry. Force of habit.”
*Mick Foley comes out*
“Okay, okay, WWE Universe, I hear you. I hear you. And I’m restarting this contest as a 1 hour Iron Man match and it starts right now! Right here, in the seventh layer of hell!”
Oops Pow Surprise
Well, of course WWE figured out a way to 50/50-book a best-of-seven series.
Sisyphus Night Raw.
How to make Seth Rollins a face forever:
Seth walks down to the ring.
“You know guys I’ve been thinking about my life, and you know I’ve made some mistakes. See when I was coming up there were two guys who stood by me. We went all over the world together destroying the competition and being the best in the world. See I was best when I was with these guys. And that’s why tonight I want to announce that I am reforming … J and J security.”
And the crowd goes wild.
I mean if the McMahons are hiring Mick Foley for his brains, I can only assume they’re pushing Reigns down everyone’s throat for his personality.
That’s it for this week. Join us next week for the vintage Best and Worst of Raw from 1969, where Raw goes up against the moon landing and is just 3 hours of Ernie Ladd and Ivan Koloff playing cards.