Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Chris Jericho destroyed a potted plant during a dispute with Dean Ambrose, and the plant got more love and social media response than half the wrestlers on the roster. That continues this week. Also, Shane and Stephanie McMahon are running the show together now, and it barely matters? No sure what they’re going for, or if they even know. Triple H might be dead. This week, they’re pals. H is gonna zombie up and toss that salt and pepper motherf*cker from a Hell in a Cell himself.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for May 9, 2016.
Best: The Gift Of Jericho
If you’re going to start off Raw with a talking segment, why not do one that gets over multiple stories, plays on what happened on last week’s show, sets up future shows and does favors for both established and brand new talent? Crazy, right?
This week, we open with noted PLANT MURDERER Chris Jericho cutting one of the best up-his-own-ass Jericho promos in years. He refers to himself as the “Halley’s Comet” of WWE, saying that talent like his only comes around once every 76 years, and gives the crowd the “gift of Jericho,” aka him standing there with his arms out telling them to “drink it in.” He’s also gloating about how he murdered that plant. The dude not only killed a personified plant pal, he apparently GATHERED THE DIRT AND LEAVES AND BROKEN POT SHARDS and BROUGHT THEM TO THE NEXT TOWN so he could put them on a stool and use them as VISUAL MURDER AIDS. That sh*t’s the objectophilia equivalent of Brock Lesnar breaking a one-legged kid’s one leg and pushing him down a flight of steps.
Jericho’s interrupted by (of all people) Big Cass, who asserts that in the New Era™ people stand and fight. The New Era™ has arrived, and the New Era™ is here to stay. It’s not just about wrongly colored baseball caps anymore! Jericho says he doesn’t care about the New Era™, and Cass says that he should care about the New Era™, because we’re in it, and it is both New and an Era. SOFT.
Jokes about WWE getting over corporate buzzwords aside, god damn did I like this. You’ve got Jericho at his very best, interrupted by a 7-foot tall newbie who’s gonna f*ck around while his partner’s injured and become a main-eventer. The Raw crowd’s reaction to (Enzo and) Cass is like the NXT crowd’s reaction to a great Japanese or all-right TNA wrestler … they love him not only because he’s saying funny sh*t like “if I got the gift of Jericho I’d keep the receipt and take it back to the store,” but because he’s the promise of something new. He’s fresh air. He doesn’t feel like a heavy-handed project, he’s just a cool guy with some talent and a huge upside. It feels like a good bandwagon to be on.
This sets up Jericho vs. Cass in the main event, and while that doesn’t go as planned, this was pretty great.
Best/Worst: It’s The Carbonara!
Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler is one of those things I mostly enjoy — I never get tired of Baron Undertaker roasting these undercard jokers — but it’s also already kinda tired. Corbin vs. Ziggler again, already? I guess they want to do a “rubber match” thing where each guy has a victory, but it felt like their Payback match getting bumped to the opening of the pre-show and ending on a noncommittal rollup from outta nowhere gave the definitive statement on how important we’re supposed to think this is.
That said, I do appreciate what they did with the finish here. At Payback(‘s pre-show), Corbin got overconfident and let down his guard, allowing Ziggler to grab a schoolboy (please remember these phrases are in pro wrestling context only) and steal a win. Here, the same thing happens. Corbin lets his guard down, Ziggler goes for the schoolboy. This time, Corbin’s learned enough to kick out and quickly recover. He ends up backing into the corner, where he can anticipate Ziggler’s offense. All Ziggler does when you’re in the corner is run and jump into you and clap his hands behind your head. Corbin’s looking for that, gets it, and (in the style of his kayfabe headcanon father the Undertaker) hits him with Snake Eyes. Dolph watusis into an End of Days, and that’s that.
I know Dolph Ziggler is only allowed to wrestle one opponent every two months, but let’s unshackle Corbin from him for a while so we don’t have to see him wrestle one match twice a week for six weeks.
More Of This
Man, I don’t know. The more I see these matches, the more they seem like scenes from Cats. Truth’s blonde tips aren’t helping.
Worst, With A Sprinkling Of Bests: Night Of Champions (Losing)
As you might’ve guessed, the worst part of Raw for me is that match where the champion loses a non-title match to either build up their opponent, or, I don’t know, build up an unrelated third party? Quick, guess which match that was! You have three correct answers.
First we’ve got Charlotte losing to Paige. There’s a lot to like here, don’t get me wrong. First of all, Paige is back on WWE TV as a pro wrestler, and not just as a girlfriend who rides in cars and wears hats. Second of all, Paige is winning. That’s a good call. The fact that the lady who Some Say started the Divas Revolution isn’t a key figure in substantiating and popularizing the new women’s division is pretty ridiculous. Get her in there. Third of all, Ric Flair was banned from ringside but decided to show up anyway, so Shane McMahon and a bunch of referees accosted him until he was squatting around and hissing like a trapped raccoon. Example:
Amazing. I know I’ve been a fan of Emotional Creeper Dad Ric Flair for a while now, but I think I might like “Confused Bigfoot” even more.
But yeah, the Flair shenanigans distract Charlotte, allowing Paige to roll her up and win a non-title match. Natalya’s at ringside and didn’t really have anything to do with the finish beyond curbing some cheating and getting yelled at by Ric for a few seconds, but this benefits her, I guess? She’s got a sociological advantage?
Also: Paige and R-Truth have the same hair.
The second match, like the first, has a lot going for it. Sami Zayn has to defeat The Miz if he wants to be in the Intercontinental Championship match at Extreme Rules. That would be great if, you know, The Miz wasn’t the Intercontinental Champion. So Sami has to pin the Intercontinental Champion to get a shot at being one of three guys hoping to pin the Intercontinental Champion. Buh. He does, because there are few things in WWE that make you lose matches quicker than holding the Intercontinental Championship.
Two things I liked, though:
1. Jump to 2:33 in the WWE Fan Nation video. Sami’s punching himself in the leg to get feeling back so he can hit a desperation Helluva Kick and win, but the camera angle makes it look like he’s hulking up via the Power of Masturbation. GET IT, LONELY SKA BOY.
2. The little cuts to the back where Kevin Owens and Cesaro are watching the match. Cesaro’s just constantly adjusting his breakaway cufflinks, mugging to the camera and making adorable happy gestures about his Respected Pal Sami Zayn pulling off an important win. Meanwhile, Owens is angry as f*ck and possibly the only person in WWE history to watch TV sitting down:
That’s a beautiful shot. That says everything you need to know about those guys.
Thirdly we’ve got The New Day losing to the Dudley Boyz, which (1) once again benefits a loosely involved third party somehow, and (2) seems like a Raw result from last October. I did appreciate New Day’s pre-match bit about the Vaudeville Villains — I love any joke that approximates Peggy Hill calling the Propaniacs the “Propane Maniacs” — and I popped huge for D-Von winning with a f*cking lariat. If I could bring over one thing to WWE from puro, it’d be super hard strikes having to win matches when finishers fail. You can emotionally prep to kick out of a suplex or a splash or whatever, but a guy straight-up hitting you as hard as possible in your chest and neck and face is a damn dealbreaker.
That’s where we are, though. Three (3) matches on the same show with the same booking trope. Doing one on every weekly show is overkill. Doing three in three hours (three in like an hour and a half, if we’re being honest) is ridiculous. Doesn’t anybody proofread these shows? You’re running a popular television show, not a wrestling blog.
Also: +1 to New Day for mentioning the Vaudevillains being from an era that wasn’t too kind for “people like us,” and a -1 for backing away from it and not turning the Vaudevillains into the worst people on the roster and/or the new Freebirds.
Worst: Another One
Wanna go for four?
This isn’t a non-title match with a champion losing, but it’s close. Rusev is the number one contender for Kalisto’s United States Championship. He’s vowed to eat Kalisto’s heart, if you missed that. Here he’s got a match against Kalisto’s Goofus tag team partner Sin Cara. It should be Rusev obliterating Sin Cara like Chong Li did to Ray Jackson, right? Rusev should be stomping him to death and wearing Sin Cara’s mask around his leg as a f*ck you.
Instead, surprise surprise, it’s a rollup. I don’t know if Lana missed a cue or the timing was off or what, but as Rusev’s about to win, babyface Kalisto hops up on the apron. The referee runs over to stop him, so Lana makes her way up the steps onto the apron. The ref then for almost no reason runs over and stops Lana from doing something, which allows Kalisto to kick Rusev in the face and cost him the match. So … what are you trying to say here? That Kalisto’s got a big heart because he’s cheating to help his crappy also-ran masked pal win a match? He’s pre-cog?
At some point the non-title losses and distraction rollups mush into one pile of rank-ass clay and I stop being able to tell the difference.
Best: In Da Club
Wanna go for five?
Kidding, but the elimination six-man tag between The Club and The Family has more cheaty rollups. Thank God they weren’t around in 2013 or they’d be Team The Club and Team The Family.
The good news is that I’m still pretty into this beef between Roman Reigns and AJ Styles, and what it’s doing to both characters. For Roman, it’s allowing him to tell a story in the ring instead of outside it, which is what they always should’ve been doing. The guy’s an incredibly underrated wrestler, especially in that WWE style where you’re “making movies” and not necessarily shooting for BattleARTS-style workrate. Those great Shield matches, stories and moments you remember weren’t ever contingent on those “we found a camera lying around backstage” promos they used to cut, and Roman was never asked to stand in the middle of a ring with a microphone and recap a month of bad stories. They were just dope and did dope sh*t. Listen to the crowd reaction for Roman during this. Instead of a uniform layer of boos, they’ve set up an in-ring, easy-to-understand misunderstanding that allows a portion of the audience to understand and actually get behind him. He gets chants! They think it’s awesome! Since WrestleMania they’ve done a fantastic job of repositioning him from Faux Cena to a pissed-off but incredibly entitled guy who is kind of a pud about getting what he wants, but physically and professionally equipped to make it happen. Take who are you and turn it up to 11, right?
As for Styles, this angle is giving him an edge. He was cool when he showed up at the Royal Rumble, but throughout the Chris Jericho feud he was mostly the affable redneck “rookie” in his late 30s who wore his hat backwards. Now he’s getting emotional decision-making moments, establishing new relationships while educating WWE audiences on old ones, and he’s growing. The moment when the match comes down to him and Roman and he just pounces on Roman and punches him for a few minutes is the BEST. Roman gets to his feet and starts fighting back, and Styles is just hyped and urgent and like NOPE and starts rushing him. It’s so good.
I didn’t love the DQ ending, but it’s to be expected. The post-match, though, that was gold. I’ve read a few places online that didn’t like it, but it’s the kind of melodramatic masculine sh*t I want from my top story. Roman and Styles have established themselves as the top guys on their teams, and it once again comes down to just the two of them. They end up having a Mexican standoff with a steel chair and a springboard. SERIOUSLY.
“USE THE CHAIR”
“NO I DON’T NEED THE CHAIR, YOU USE THE CHAIR.”
“NAH YOU NEED IT MORE.”
“all right let me bend over to pick u-”
It’s a springboard into nothing and Styles rolls out of the ring, so it ends up being a PSYCHOLOGICAL SPRINGBOARD. This is so, so much better than another goddamn authority figure story. Give me two guys who are differently good at pro wrestling beefing about respect and family, walking the line between comic book characters and jerks you’d get into sh*t with at a bar. PRO WRESTLING.
LOL Zack Ryder
Like Sami Zayn, Zack Ryder — the illegitimate love child of Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake — can get into the Intercontinental Championship match at Extreme Rules if he wins a match. His opponent is Kevin Owens, so … no, he’s not getting into the match.
Poor Zack Ryder. Injuries floated him to the top so he could get on the WrestleMania card, he got his WrestleMania moment to make a Snickers commercial slightly more enjoyable, and then they fired a bunch of people until he was floating on the bottom again. He gets to be on Raw pretty regularly now, so that’s good, but what happens when all those injured guys come back? If there needs to be a spot for Cena and Orton and Rollins and Bray Wyatt and whoever else, does that still happen?
Oh Hey Primo And Epico Return Next Week
Best: IT IS NO LONGER PLAYTIME
Emma interrupts a Becky Lynch interview to make fun of her for getting thumbed in the eye last week, and tells her she should have “eyes in the back of her head.” That brings in DANA BY GOOD BROOKE, Emma’s best friend slash girlfriend question mark slash muscle slash stupid goon henchman from NXT.
Dana is CRUCIAL to the Evil Emma character working at top speed, and I’m so glad she’s here. I read that she was brought up so she and Emma could fill the roles vacated by Naomi and Tamina during injury, and it makes sense, because they’ve got a three-letter team name: END. Emma ‘n’ Dana. I also would’ve accepted the “Patter-Familias.”
Working theory: Emma and Dana came up to the main roster to get the f*ck away from Asuka. If Asuka ever shows up on Raw, Emma and Dana should immediately go back to NXT.
Best: Full Metal Jacket
This week’s main-event, the followup to the death of a potted plant, is the tearing apart of a Lite Brite jacket. Wrestling is weird.
Dean Ambrose jumps Chris Jericho during his entrance, steals his jacket and is IMMEDIATELY the coolest Final Fantasy character ever. He starts tearing the jacket, so a confused, infuriated Jericho runs down to stop him. He manages to get the half-torn jacket back and tries to flee, but Big Cass cuts him off. Jericho decides it’s a great idea to slap a 7-foot tall guy wearing nothing but underpants and shoes. That gets him tossed back into the ring, beaten up some more, and sees the ultimate, final death of Fake Rock’n Rolla ensemble.
I think the best part is Jericho still trying to wear the jacket after it was destroyed, or maybe that moment when he’s upset on the floor and tries to throw a bunch of production cables into the ring. We’re gonna have a jacket and plants match at Extreme Rules, right?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Tonight: Payback…is a Mitch.
The New Era is all about people vs. inanimate objects:
Jericho vs a potted plant
Dean Ambrose vs a light up jacket
AJ Styles vs Roman Reigns
“I have Arrive!”
-Big Cass, zero wing edition
Finally Dean Ambrose gets revenge on his true nemesis: wires.
I appreciate Aiden English being so pale that he himself is in black & white at all times for the aesthetic
So they are the He-man Roman Haters Club?
Unless they add that final little something to the [Blank] Club’s name, I fear we’ll hear another “Suffering Succotash/Tater Tots”-ish promo from Reigns, along the lines of, “The Club?…What are you guys supposed to be, like a…a club sandwich? Yeah, That’s what you guys are – a big Club sandwich…with bacon and…and turkey, ’cause you’re all turkeys, you…you chickens…”
BLUE MICHINOKU THUNDER DRIVER BOMB
Mr. Royal Rumble, TheCensoredMSol
Me asking a 4-year-old what’s happening on Raw:
“Well, there’s this this this…The Guy…and he’s he’s fighting…The Club…”
“Aw that’s cute, he’s still learning his words.”
Third party: “No, that’s actually exactly what’s happening.”
Theory: WWE wrestlers and the Writing Team have a version of “Name that Tune” called “Get That Storyline Over”.
Cesaro: “I can get this storyline over with a broom.”
Miz: “I can get this storyline over with a ham sandwich.”
Jericho: “I can get this storyline over with a dead potted plant.”
Creative: “Jericho, get that storyline over!”
Thanks, everybody. Join us again next week, when Chris Jericho gets revenge on Dean Ambrose by destroying a personalized wagon.