Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: “WWE World Heavyweight Champion” Sheamus formed the LEAGUE OF NATIONS, a group that combines the great stories of Alberto Del Rio and start-and-go helplessness of Rusev with the in-ring futility of King Barrett. They’re going to take over WWE, if by “take over” you mean “hold the championships while regularly losing to Roman Reigns and his friends.” Also, Tommy Dreamer returned with a spray-tan that made him look like a joke in Christmas with the Kranks.
Please scroll through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for December 7, 2015.
Best/Worst: The Illusion Of Something Different
There’s a moment during the opening segment where the Wyatt Family show up out of nowhere and confront the League of Nations, and it gets the crowd on their feet. They’re chanting “yes,” and the reason why is simple: They’ve just seen something unexpected, something they couldn’t predict by watching any other Raw, and the possibilities flooding their brain got them excited. What if the Wyatts turned face? What if they recreated the vibe The Shield had, where they’re these weird, counter-culture mercenaries who show up and destroy people based on their code, whether that’s inherently right or wrong? How great would it be if Bray could be unleashed as that “tear the system down from the inside” manic preacher he was during his NXT farewell speech? They’ve run their course as heels and have proven they can’t beat anybody, but what if all that changed? What if we could do a hard reboot in an instant, get everybody behind it immediately with no work, and go somewhere fresh and fun?
That’s when the Dudley Boyz’ music hit, and you realized it was just a tease, and business as usual.
That’s the opening to Raw. They seemingly accidentally dropped in this moment of excitement to set up a match that should be the MOST exciting — a 16-man, 4-team elimination tag team match featuring pretty much everyone on the roster with two working shoulders — and let it all go to waste. The Wyatts are still exactly the same. 4 4-man teams fought in an elimination match weeks after Survivor Series, continuing WWE’s weird running joke of not building up Survivor Series properly only to build the hell out of it when it’s over, and what happened in hour one didn’t matter by hour three.
You’ve read me complaining about this enough, but it sucks, doesn’t it? It’s so disappointing. All you need to get through a wrestling show is hope. WWE are masters at creating and manipulating their own fictional universe, and the fact that they keep setting us up for hopeful situations only to pull back and go the safest possible route is so impossibly confusing. It’s not even bad most of the time, it’s just a damn shame.
Worst: The Reverse Castle Raw
I assume you aren’t worried about spoilers if you’re reading a dense, fussy editorial about Raw. Sunday is TLC, where the main event is WWE World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus vs. challenger and former champion Roman Reigns in a TLC match. Right? So here’s how this week’s show was put together:
– Nearly every notable star on the episode competes in the opening match, which ends with Roman Reigns pinning Sheamus clean.
– After the match, Sheamus says he’s going to teach Roman Reigns a lesson later tonight.
– Sheamus and Roman have a long conversation about what would happen if they fought.
Doesn’t that seem backwards? It’s upside down. You can’t OPEN THE SHOW with the main-event championship challenger pinning your champion clean in the middle of the ring to SET UP a conversation about which one of them would win in a fight. That’s not me being a smark, that’s me having basic human reasoning skills. It’s like I’m watching Memento. Nobody saw this and thought it’d be a bad idea?
It’s not just the main event scene. Nobody thought it would be weird to open the show with Tommy Dreamer pinning a member of the Wyatt Family to set up a match where Tommy Dreamer gets beaten by a member of the Wyatt Family? A lot of a WWE’s response happens when they first see a wrestler, right? Lots of fans aren’t there for the wrestling, they’re there to see the Superstars. If you put Alberto Del Rio and Rusev in the opener and they lose, why are people going to respond to them to same way later? They’ve already seen them. They lost. That was their moment of the show. You’re basically running a 90 minute Raw, then replaying it. It’s the “Patience” episode of Wondershowzen stretched to three hours.
The match itself was fun in its positional strangeness, and seeing a bunch of guys do random moves to each other like they’re competing for the OPEN THE RAW GATE championship was enjoyable, but it was just too much. The opening minutes with four people in the ring at a time and the tag-ins and tag-outs all sorta synchronizing was jarring, and it was hard to tell what was going on. The human fence of additional wrestlers on the apron didn’t help. I’m disappointed that they did team eliminations instead of individual, because if you’re gonna cram everybody on the show into a match, you might as well have it take up most of the show. Rowan getting pinned off a move pretty much anyone would kick out of, followed by the reveal that his entire team was out, was disappointing. Plus, you know, three commercial breaks, including one timed alongside the entrance of the big babyface team at the exact moment you wanted to see a big brawl ensue.
This is such a weird show. It’s a kind of bad that doesn’t even make me angry, it just furrows my everything.
Best: Smackdown Commercials That Are Better Than Smackdown
Here’s a positive: the “Smackdown is moving to Thursday” commercials are wonderful.
The one WWE Fan Nation uploaded is a lot of fun, but the followups are even better. The Wyatt Family having to politely wait for a business meeting was great, as was Roman Reigns being unable to construct a foldable box, giving up and ripping it in half. If you want an allegory for his main event push, there you go. “See all these folded boxes? Just make another one. This is a really great looking box. Oh, we didn’t do it right at first? RIP IT IN HALF. STORM AWAY. WHO NEEDS BOXES ANYWAY.”
I wish they’d let the people who did these handle WWE’s backstage segments. Take an artsy approach, even if it’s only on Smackdown or Main Event or wherever, and do a WWE version of Lucha Underground. You know how on Lucha, the backstage stuff looks like it’s from a great B-movie? Let WWE’s personnel decisions and character interactions happen in this beautifully framed version of The Office. You want to tell stories and make movies, right? You’ve already pulled back the curtain so far it’s off the rod and bunched up on the floor. Have fun and try something different. Try turning up the kayfabe slightly on the already kayfabe-heavy Breaking Ground and let that be your between-match NXT stuff. If it doesn’t work, have you lost anything? You’re the company that expects us to forget stuff that happened a few weeks ago because you edited it out of a video package.
Worst Best: The Most Boring Good Match Of The Year
I’ve been struggling with what to write about Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler, because nothing seems to fit.
They wrestled for 20 minutes, and a 20-minute Kevin Owens/Dolph Ziggler match should be something I’m typing about in excited caps. It just … didn’t hook me. It seemed like it was long for the sake of long. Like they had planned to do two Owens/Ziggler matches before this one, but Owens got sick, so they did all three at once. Ziggler sold the arm the entire match, but it didn’t seem to affect him outside of the selling, and the arm had nothing to do with the finish. It ended with Owens shoving him back into the ropes and pop-uppingly powerbombing him, which could’ve happened at literally any other moment of the match.
Afterwards, Dean Ambrose shows up with popcorn and a soda and throws them in Owens’ face. Owens is clearly a dread-heel and Ambrose is the happy-go-lucky buddy of the default top face. He’s bullying a bully for no reason other than, “I’m wrestling him soon.” It’s not mind games or “making a statement” or anything, he’s just throwing food at him. You’ve got two of the best talkers on the show — two of the best talkers in WWE, two of the best talkers in wrestling period — and you’re building their match with thrown soda.
So much of this episode seemed like it didn’t have to happen, and was the backup skeleton to some much better show that they forgot to write. It’s like WWE season only happens between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, and everything else is an improvisational workshop.
Worst: You Know Who Can Help Neville? TV’s Donny
What, was Chrisley busy?
Miz needs to spend the next month trying to woo Neville with all his connections at the USA Network. Promise him a spot in the backseat in the next Sonic commercial. Bring on the Popeye’s Lady and have her promise him a basket of her New TABASCO Spiced Pepper Barrel Tenders®. Emotionally manipulate him with those sappy ending monologues from Modern Family. Bring back Ariel Winter and put them on a kiss cam.
The worst part of this is that they’ve already gotten to the “Miz is jealous of his protégé’s success” before he even has the protégé. Dude’s jealous that Neville might get a spot on DONNY. These are the priorities we’ve given our wrestlers.
Worst: You Know Who Can Help Neville? TV’s Adam Rose
Speaking of an endless, nightmarish hellscape, here’s the latest edition of “The Rosebush.”
Worst: You Know Who Can Help The Divas? The Miz, Constantly
One of the talking points we’ve been trying to work through over the past few weeks is the alignment issues in the Divas Division. Here’s a quick recap.
Paige, Becky Lynch and Charlotte were put into “Team PCB” by Stephanie McMahon, but the teams didn’t really mean anything or have goals so Paige turned on them. She never actually left them, though, so they believed she was still their friend. She turned on them AGAIN, setting up a promo where she throws shade at Charlotte’s actually-dead younger brother Reid. Charlotte fought for his honor and retained her Divas Championship at Hell in a Cell, but it was revealed that she was in the ropes when she won, which means … something. Becky Lynch challenges her to a friendly, so Charlotte CHEATS TO BEAT HER FOR NO REASON. When Becky’s like, “wtf,” Charlotte tells her that’s how it works, because this “isn’t NXT.” Now we’re on Raw with Charlotte threatening to insult Paige but being sorta indirectly cowardly about it, and Paige showing up as the face to announce that Charlotte is only here because of her dad. All the things that made one a heel and one a face earlier have switched without any reason or impetus, and … what, exactly?
That’s what we’re all trying to figure out. Paige cheats and says mean stuff about dead people. Charlotte cheats, and is getting a free ride because of her dad, a point that she’s always contested but loses credibility on when she’s actively in the ring getting her dad to half-stick up for her in promos. So Paige is right, even though she’s (kayfabe) awful, and Charlotte is wrong and also right but also awful?
You can’t even analyze it anymore. The Miz is the most likable person in the segment, and he JUST got finished hanging out with TV’s Donny. What does that say about the feud? Who are we supposed to cheer for? Who are we supposed to boo? All of them, for every reason? I like Paige and I want to like the Raw version of Charlotte, and I like Becky Lynch even though she’s at best the feud’s third wheel. Ric Flair is Ric Flair. Miz is great at his job, but constantly asked to spin hay into gold. Shouldn’t this be easier?
I’ll be honest, all I wanted from this segment was for Flair to respond to Paige slapping him by dropping to his knees and giving her one of those big, exaggerated, comical uppercut lowblows he used to hand out in WCW.
Best: It’s A Bad Day, Yes It Is
Team B.A.D. gets a win over the Team Bella B-Team with ever-present DAMNED NUMBERS GAME, but the important part is in the post-match. After months of being incredible together on social media, The New Day greeted B.A.D. with their new headband unicorn horns to formally informally form the super team BAD DAY.
For further analysis:
The secret highlight is Tamina just kinda pacing back and forth in the background with her arms in the air. I think that’s the most identifiable Tamina’s ever been. I feel like the Tamina in any group of 5 or more. YEAH YOU ALL HAVE FUN AND BE ALIVE I’M GONNA SMILE AND STAND OVER HERE.
Best: And Here’s Where The Show Peaks
Things to love:
1. Those headbands, because I mean Jesus Christ
2. New Day simultaneously writing themselves out of the League of Nations story and naming Kanye West’s new child “Booty”
3. Kofi Kingston’s random Bill Cosby impression
4. Big E’s shout-speaking, which continues to be my favorite thing in wrestling. “OUT-RAY-GEOUS!!!!!”
5. Xavier Woods announcing that the New Day doesn’t need ladders because they’re “grown men,” then doing a THEATER PRESENTATION OF WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IF THEY TRIED TO RESCUE A KITTEN FROM A TREE WITHOUT A LADDER, which may be the exact opposite of what grown men do.
6. Big E referencing their “smooth bellies,” which has to be a Freight Train shout-out.
Everything. Everything. I’ve been reviewing episodes of Raw from 1996 recently, and while it’s not necessarily the same thing, the difference in entertainment value between the show itself and one of its performers — in this case, The New Day as a whole — reminds me of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin blew up at a time when the rest of the show was Crush vs. Aldo Montoya, and he was such a breath of fresh air that you didn’t mind sitting through the coughing and weezing to get to him. That’s New Day right now. If I wasn’t bound to this show by the great chain of industry, I’d still be wading through it just to brighten my heart with these beautiful motherf*ckers.
Worst: [Challenger] Has Pinned The [Champion]!
The New Day took on the Lucha Dragons with The Usos on commentary — highlight being them calling John Cena “Big Uce,” so now I’m calling him Big Match Uce — and it was all right. The fun was in the shenanigans, like Woods lying on the ground and playing trombone to taunt Sin Cara after a belly-to-belly on the floor. The finish was what you’d expect from your imagination’s most thrown-together Raw.
Woods won’t stop playing trombone in the Usos’ faces, so they snatch it and beat him up. This distracts Kofi, allowing Sin Cara to roll him up for the win. If New Day and Team B.A.D. are in the same squad now, maybe they absorbed some of the Divas division’s distraction rollups. It’s not objectively bad, but it’s par for the course, and another in an endless string of Michael Cole being shocked that someone who isn’t champion just pinned the champion. He always treats it like it’s a shocking turn of events, and not something that happens on Raw nearly every week. I’ll never understand WWE’s obsession with building championship matches by having challengers beat the champion, but at this point it’s like complaining that gas prices are too high. It’s just how it works. It’s the dirt worst, but it’s what they do.
Worst: TFW Your Match Gets A Jobber Entrance
Here’s where I thought I’d blacked out for five minutes and missed part of the show.
We join Jack Swagger and Stardust in progress, and I guess you have to start matches during the commercials now to make room for TV’s Donny. As soon as we’re back, Swagger’s locking in the Patriot Lock and Alberto Del Rio’s interrupting to come to ringside. It feels like we’re stuck in the ‘Time Keeps On Slippin’ episode of Futurama. Bloop, Swagger’s wrestling Stardust. Bloop, Del Rio’s out. Bloop, Del Rio’s attacking everyone with a chair. Bloop, Roman Reigns just won the Royal Rumble again.
That’s what happens, though. Titus O’Neil is on commentary because he’d had another run-in with Stardust earlier in the night, but he’s not really there for a reason. Del Rio interrupts the post-match and attacks Swagger with a chair, but then Titus warns Del Rio about an attack from Stardust. Totally unexplainable, other than Titus wanting to sh*t in Stardust’s cereal. Stardust gets chaired, Swagger and Del Rio have a chair duel and Del Rio accidentally trips over Zeb Colter’s scooter. Swagger and Colter have a face-to-face, and there are seriously five characters out here without a single goddamn modicum of sense.
Best: Slow Scoot-Aways For Emphasis
The best part of the Swagger/Colter confrontation and the followup with Colter and Del Rio backstage is Zeb’s slow scoot-away on his motorized scooter. The crowd laughs at it every time, because it’s ridiculous to see an old man end a conversation by puttering away on the world’s slowest land vehicle. They should have him ride to the ring on a Razr scooter and just indignantly push himself away.
The good news, I guess, is that Del Rio is from Mexico again and has split from Colter, meaning “MexAmerica” is officially dead. The bad news is that the dissolution makes it make even less sense, as now Del Rio is basically a greater heel for separating himself from the old racist guy who made him a heel in the first place. Now the old racist is free to team back up with his former charge — the white guy with blonde hair — to feud with the dastardly Mexican as faces. Also, you know, lovable humanitarian Titus O’Neil is constantly interrupting Stardust’s personal conversations and getting him attacked by a heel who JUST interrupted a match with a chair attack. I have no idea how any of these people work.
But yeah, the scoot away is magnificent. Colter scooty-puffing down the hall while Del throws a chair at him like he can’t possibly catch him and express his anger is MASTERFUL.
Worst: Rusev Vs. Ryback For The Sake Of Setting Up Rusev Vs. Ryback
The highlight of this was Michael Cole thinking a woman kissing her fiancé is creepy, if that tells you anything.
Like I said, it’s like we’re watching the episode in reverse. People are pulling double-duty, and none of it seems purposeful. Ryback accidentally knocks Lana down, but it turns out she was faking, to allow Rusev to briefly attack Ryback from behind? So they could set up an attack on the outside that got both guys counted-out? Great plan, everybody. Now I guess we’re going to have a match between the two, set up by … a match between the two. Is there a living human who watched this and was like, “damn, I wanted to see more?” You’ve seen it. They did it.
I Have An Idea For Braun Strowman
I want one of two things from Strowman.
1. Him actually physically eating people, like Matanza on Lucha Underground.
2. I want his finish to be the only thing he does, and for it to be the deadliest move in wrestling. Basically all it is is him grabbing you under the arm and around the head and holding you up, right? He should be going for that as soon as the bell sounds. Just dash across the ring and grab the person and choke them out. Nobody can get out of it, so just immediately murk anything that moves. It’s not thrilling television or great wrestling, but if your finish is “grabbing someone,” you shouldn’t wrestle an entire match grabbing them in a different way. It’s like Big Show’s knockout punch. Show should just be punching non-stop from bell to bell. Give me hasty, squeeze-f*cking Braun Strowman.
Also, yes, the 50/50 booking has gotten so bad they’re doing both sides of it on the same episode.
Seriously Though, This Was Your Main Event
Tommy Dreamer vs. Braun Strowman. I’d make more jokes about it if our main-event segment wasn’t built around tater tots.
Worst: Toys For Tots
Okay. So, like I mentioned, this show is upside down. They’re selling a TLC match between Roman Reigns and Sheamus by having Reigns pin Sheamus clean to open the show, then beat him up with tables, ladder and chairs to end it. The money in the final segment is that WWE creative came up with a great joke about how an Irish guy’s balls are like potatoes, because he’s Irish, and someone Irish without big balls would only have “tater tots.” I hope you get that, because it’s a complex labyrinth of humor.
If you missed the segment, Recappin’ Roman Reigns entered to catch us up on all the obscure story stuff we might’ve missed, like him overcoming all the odds. He climbs a ladder to cleverly illustrate how he’s been forced to climb a ladder. That brings out Sheamus, who earlier in the night said he wanted to teach Roman a lesson and beat him up for … beating him in the opener? No idea. But here’s a verbatim transcript of their conversation:
Roman: Hey Irishman you’re supposed to have POTATOES, but all you got is tater tots, son! I’m gonna beat you up with TOYS!
Roman: get in the ring, son, you’re like tater tots
Sheamus: no I’m not getting in the ring
Roman: why, is it because tater tots
Roman: tater tots tater tots
Sheamus: I’m going to beat you up!
Roman: all you’re doing is talking, son! You talk like tater tots
Sheamus: not gonna fight you now
Roman: tater tots tater tots in a dish, how many pieces do you wish
Sheamus: okay I will fight you but you have to get rid of that table
Roman: boom, table gone, get in the ring tater son
Roman: come on, what are you, tater tots?
Sheamus: okay I will fight you but you have to get rid of those chairs
Roman: boom, chairs gone, tater tots in the mouth bitch
Roman: I knew you were only tater tots
Sheamus: okay I will fight you but you have to get rid of the ladder
Roman: boom, ladders gone, I’m gonna dip them tater tots in room temperature water and then tot you in the ass
Sheamus: okay you ready to fight
Roman: does a tater tot in the woods
Roman: I said tater tots, ass damn hell
Sheamus: okay here goooooes
AND THEN THEY BEAT EACH OTHER UP WITH TABLES, LADDER AND CHAIRS. Sheamus demands they remove all the weapons from the ring, Roman calls him tater tot 60,000 times, and then they fight OUTSIDE THE RING in all the stuff Roman just removed from it. This is one of those segments that’s so embarrassingly inept and badly put-together that I can’t even rant about it. It’s not even a matter of, “maybe this isn’t for me,” or “we all have subjective taste.” What functional human being could’ve watched this and thought it was great?
Furthermore, I’m trying to figure out why “tater tots” is such an insult. I mean, I get the prejudice, but have you seen a potato? Who would want balls the size of potatoes? If you have potato balls, something’s seriously wrong with you and you need to go to the doctor. A large tater tot is actually much closer to the size of a human testicle. Having tater tots means you’re normal, comparatively. Has Roman Reigns actually seen a pair of balls? Chastising someone for not having potato balls is like saying a boob feels like a bag of sand.
Watch Roman’s face when Sheamus’ music hits, you can tell he knows what’s about to go down but is helpless to stop it. Whoever wrote this and got it on TV should be thrown in a well.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
WWE taking the crock pot approach.Throw everything you have in the pot, apply low heat, and three hours later you have a disappointing meal!
The only way that promo by Roman could be saved is if Redneck comedian Ron White comes out with his son at TLC and costs Reigns the title somehow.
This isn’t the “go home” show for TLC. It’s the “go home, WWE- you’re drunk” show.
Reigns: I thought the Irish had potatoes, but you’re just smuggling tater tots.
Reigns: but I’m not a rapper tho
I know you’d like to thank your segment don’t stank
But lean a little bit closer
See that rosebush really smells like boo-boo-ooo
And so began the Mexamerican Civil War.
Rusev, if you really wanted to hurt Ryback, you’d do that ON THE ANNOUNCE TABLE.
Renee – “As always, nonsense. Utter nonsense. Back to you, Cole.”
wait, theyre called the Usos….i thought they were called “& Company”
I see more of the Popeye’s Lady than I do my own mom.
Thanks, everybody. See you this Sunday for Tables, Ladders, Chairs and Tater Tots, Son.