Previously on 25 years of WWE Raw: Kona Crush took on Doink, Ahmed Johnson feuded with the Nation of Domination, and Braun Strowman flipped both an ambulance and the front-end of a semi truck. Oh, and the Smoking Gunns won the Raw Bowl. I think that covers everything.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw 25 for January 22, 2018.
Worst: What Happens When You Rely On Old Stars, And Then Those Old Stars Get Too Old
Before I get too deep into this, I want to clarify an important point: I like seeing old wrestlers I remember from when I was a kid. I really do. Hell, I just lost my mind at a PCW Ultra event over the weekend because The Great Muta was there, and my myriad of corny mark photos is evidence that I’m not above popping solely for the existence and proximity of a wrestling legend. I also think older stars have an important role to play on current WWE television, and honestly? I wish the Legends were integrated into the show’s plots and stories more often. More organically, I guess. I also like watching Raw, despite how it seems, and all the shit I talk. Of course I do. I wouldn’t help run a wrestling site if I didn’t want to watch wrestling.
That said, Raw 25 exposed a very real problem with WWE going forward. I’ll try to explain. If you’ve already decided to disagree and think all I want to do is complain, that’s fine, but at least hear me out and try to see where I’m coming from.
The Attitude Era was huge for WWE socially and culturally, so despite their current social media presence and quarterly revenue being through the roof — way over the top, you might say — the company has been clinging to that legacy, bringing back guys from the ’90s (or even the ’80s in some instances) every time they need a boost. WrestleMania is a good example of this, as it’s transformed from a “season finale” type of event for the current stars into a very Raw 25-esque celebration of ALL eras of WWE. So instead of, say, an important championship match between CM Punk and John Cena, they bring back a guy like The Rock and do Rock vs. Cena instead. It’s fine for most people, because again, WWE was never socially or culturally “cooler” than it was when guys like Rock, Austin, Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley were huge. For hardcore fans, it’s frustrating, but they’ve got our money no matter what they do, so they play the percentages.
That’s been the State of the Union so to speak for the past 15 years. They’ve managed to create a few new, true stars during that time — John Cena most notably, along with Randy Orton, Batista and eventually Daniel Bryan — but it is what it is. The problem now is that it’s been almost two decades since the end of the Attitude Era, and guys you could bring in in 2005 for a match or a pop are getting old. You can’t bring back Ric Flair and put him in a match, because Ric Flair almost died. You can bring in Austin or Foley, but the most they’re gonna give you is a signature move. The Rock nearly gutted himself trying to main-event WrestleMania. Every time we see the New Age Outlaws, the Million Dollar Man, Ron Simmons or whoever else, they’re just a little bit older. And at some point, the only thing you’re gonna get from these guys is an appearance. A stand-and-wave.
That gives us shows like Raw 25. There aren’t any legends matches or even a “legends battle royal” or whatever, because only a few of the returning guests are still active competitors (X-Pac, MVP) and even fewer are still active and comparable to what they were at their peak (Chris Jericho). If you continue to build the show around these guys and assume the rest of the show can coast on their appearances, you get Raw 25: a fun nostalgia trip of zero consequence that overtly sells out and short-changes the people who are here every week.
The less offensive of the two obvious examples of this was Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. Titus Worldwide. Like, I don’t want to see that match, and you probably don’t either, but the way it happened is so, so lame.
WWE felt like they needed to bring in as many stars of the past as possible to help celebrate the milestone, but very few of those stars of the past can still contribute outside of simply appearing, so you get these “pile of legends” segments where people just fill a room and you’re supposed to look at them like wax figures. That’s how this tag gets set up. Heath Slater and Rhyno are playing the APA in a poker game and Slater’s losing all his money. Million Dollar Man shows up to play, and that’s funny. That’s where it could’ve and should’ve ended. And then it just keeps going until MVP is there, and also Jeff Hardy, and also New Day and Natalya and the Usos to get them on the show. And THEN Titus Worldwide shows up. Dana Brooke accuses Slater of cheating, a match is set up, and the tag teams leave a goddamn pile of people behind them.
When it’s time for the match, the crowd doesn’t give a shit. They go to commercial, and when they come back they just end the match by having the Dudley Boyz show up and beat up Heath Slater. Again, stars from the past (one of whom just retired) who can give you some signature moves. Instead of being bothered that their match was ruined, the current guys are like, “isn’t it cool that the LEGENDS are here? Let’s let them beat us up!” So they sacrifice Slater, and then everyone holds up each other’s hands.
… why? Because you remember the Dudley Boyz, and you don’t care about any of these current guys.
Then you’ve got the main event: a D-Generation X reunion that bleeds into Bálor Club vs. The Revival for the very worst reasons.
It starts with Triple H and Shawn Michaels in the ring. Shawn doesn’t have anything to say, really, so he just does his “confused old man” character (cough) until H takes over. Triple H does his best to convince himself that the fake Raw audience in the Manhattan Center is NXT, praising them for supporting Raw from the beginning and calling them “the spark.” That works better when you haven’t charged people hundreds or thousands of dollars to sit in a secondary, unused Raw arena that’s more or less a glorified Instagram photo op and given them like five live minutes of a three-hour program. They bring out the New Age Outlaws, who bring out X-Pac, who brings out Scott Hall. Pile of legends.
Those guys all do Too Sweet and so does the Bálor Club, so Bálor Club shows up to Too Sweet them. The Revival interrupts (after we’re already in overrun territory), and we get TWO MINUTES AND FIFTEEN SECONDS of a tag team match. The Revival loses easily, and then all the legends take turns hitting their signature moves on them.
Why? Because you remember D-X and the nWo, and you don’t care about the current guys.
The pile of legends segments not involving current stars were equally depressing, because they aren’t doing anything. This one is supposed to be Kurt Angle meeting “bizarre” stars from the past, but really the only bizarre one is the Boogeyman. Other than that it’s just a room with Angle, Jonathan Coachman, Harvey Wippleman, Teddy Long and Brother Love. Just a pile of guys standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a tiny room. I could’ve added “Adam Bomb, Bob Orton, Paul Orndorff, Ernest Miller, Scotty 2 Hotty, Don Kernodle, Tekno Team 2000 and Prince Albert” to that list of people and it wouldn’t have made any difference, or changed the segment at all.
If you like looking at old wrestlers existing and nothing else, it was probably great. I mean, I’m not asking you to bring Coach onto the show and put him in an intense angle with a pay-per-view build, but you could’ve (1) only paid to bring in guys you had a role for on the show, or (2) lumped all these “pile of legends” segments into one, done a big pile of legends tribute, and then run two and a half hours of an actual go-home show for the Royal Rumble.
There’s also the issue of how bizarre some of these talent choices were.
So you want to do a stand-and-wave honoring female WWE legends. You bring in the Bella Twins, Kelly Kelly, Torrie Wilson and Terri Runnels? Maria and Maryse? These are a billion percent the “Divas” (no fault of their own, really, but still) that necessitated the “give Divas a chance” hashtag that created the “Divas revolution” and changed the game in WWE. The Bellas are literally the people AJ Lee was cutting promos on five years ago, trying to affect some kind of change. Lilian Garcia is a female Legend?
The only people on the stage with real or kayfabe reason to be there (not counting the Bellas, who I think we all still consider “active,” whether they are or not) are Trish Stratus, Jacqueline and Michelle McCool. Cool without the Lay is pretty depressing, though. But yeah, no Lita? No Jazz, or Victoria, or Molly Holly? No Beth Phoenix? Not even an Eve Torres? You guys had ALUNDRA BLAYZE doing interviews at the Mae Young Classic, but you don’t honor her as a female WWE legend at Raw 25? I don’t expect you to bring Bull Nakano and Aja Kong out here, but shit, guys.
My only hope is that they kept most of those people off-screen to save some surprises for the women’s Royal Rumble. Fingers crossed. Unless Lilian’s gonna show up and toss Asuka.
We also got a few disappointing bits you know were originally supposed to be better, like Christian interviewing Jason Jordan and Seth Rollins on The Peep Show because Edge couldn’t make it to do The Cutting Edge — or it costs too much to run a Carlito’s Cabana these days — and Mark Henry running into the “grown up” Godfather backstage.
He thinks the lady is a ho, but it’s actually Godfather’s wife! Can’t turn a ho into a housewife. Hoes don’t act right! Seriously though, how much better would this have been if they’d included Ron Simmons, and also maybe D’Lo Brown? Give me a formal Nation of Domination reunion. If you can’t get The Rock to show up in one of his $500 shirts, have him Facetime in. Or have Faarooq walk through the shot holding that framed photo Rocky gave him. You know, actually do something that brings back memories of actual things that happened on Raw instead of just saying “hey, remember us?”
I think we can all agree that the most ” … what?” segment of the night was The Undertaker returning to WWE at the Manhattan Center, walking to the ring in his gothic best with the lights on at full blast, and cutting a promo about his legacy without actually saying, doing, meaning or announcing anything.
The crowd was chanting “holy shit” for The Undertaker simply existing, which is fine, but imagine how cool it would’ve been if you’d done anything whatsoever. He’s just like, “hi, bye.” Did you know the Undertaker has won a lot of matches? Do you realize “rest in peace?” There you go! THE END.
Again, if all you’re into is seeing the wrestlers, this was great. If you liked seeing the wrestlers when you were younger because they did cool shit and had matches you liked, probably not so much.
Best: So Now That You’re 2000 Words In, Did You Like *Anything*
Of course! I honestly really loved the opening segment, because it addressed the problems I had with everything else: it involved wrestling characters you want to see showing up, actually performing in some way, and doing something.
The show opens with Stephanie (boo) and Shane (BOO) McMahon, who have decided to give their dad a plaque commemorating 25 years of Raw. Vince is rightfully like, “a plaque, seriously,” and goes from gently condescending on two rich people organizing a GoFundMe to buy a plaque to full on ultimate Mr. McMahon heel mode, shitting on Brooklyn for being cheapskates and throwing his dirtbag kids under the bus for not working as hard as him. I don’t think we’ve said it enough, but while there have been better promos and obviously better actual wrestlers, nobody’s ever been a better pro wrestling performer than Vince McMahon.
Vince flies too close to the sun talking about how he made Raw a success by himself, which brings out, of course, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin just stares him down until Vince has gone through every excuse in the book, from “I live in a retirement community now” to “beat up my awful son instead.” It’s WONDERFUL. Austin stuns Shane, who deserves it, then stuns Vince anyway, then stuns Shane again. It’s at least character work that leads to pro wrestling-related consequence, directly A-to-B-to-C (instead of A-to-F-to-15 like the poker game into the Dudley Boyz celebration), and I think every Raw should open with everyone deciding to beat up Shane McMahon.
Best: Gene Mean
Mean Gene Okerlund’s cameo wasn’t much, but Mean Gene makes everything better. Even barely-alive Gene is better at this than Charly Caruso. I just wish they’d found another spot on the show for Styles — add him to the Too Sweet party — and combined this interview with the Charlotte Flair/Alexa Bliss bit and given us one last, spirited MEAN, WOO, BY GOD GENE.
Maybe they’re saving that for Nitro 25.
Best: Kiss On My List
Oh, and of course I popped hard for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Chris Jericho showing up backstage in an Alpha Club shirt and playing a song about how Elias just made The List. My only complaint here is that Kevin Owens didn’t run screaming in from off-screen and punch him in the face. Or that Tetsuya Naito didn’t do the same thing. Now I’m disappointed that they did a D-X, nWo and The Club Too Sweet-a-thon and didn’t bring out Kenny Omega for a night so that awkward group of Manhattan Center superfans could’ve felt like they got their money’s worth.
It’s a little disappointing that this is the only thing Jericho had to do on the show, but at least Elias got to redeem himself (briefly) by guitar’ing and trouncing John Cena for interrupting him. Cena did that shit on Christmas, so if I don’t get a pile of legends segment where Elias, Jeff Jarrett, The Roadie, Rockabilly and Honky Tonk Man all smash each other in the head with guitars, I’m happy we got this.
I reserve the right to be slightly less happy when Cena beats him three times in a row as revenge, and then keeps getting revenge for several months. And then we find out that Rock burn was to set up a guitar “duet” at WrestleMania that ends with The Rock also beating him up.
(because you remember the old guys, and don’t care about the new guys, have I said that yet)
Best: By The Way, How Funny Is That Manhattan Center Situation?
Honestly I don’t think anyone should be ripped off to that degree, but it’s pretty hilarious that WWE sold thousand-dollar tickets to their “super fans” and had them sit in a fake Raw so they wouldn’t disrupt Actual Raw with “CM Punk” chants or whatever. Poor Frank, poor Brock Lesnar Guy! It’s like Triple H decided they should sit in the basement guarding the bee.
Worst: LOL What
Speaking of the Manhattan Center, the only televised match they got besides that awful Revival beatdown was [checks notes] Bray Wyatt pinning Matt Hardy clean in like three minutes with Sister Abigail? Okay. I’d make a joke about that being the underwhelming end of their feud if I didn’t know Bray Wyatt beating someone in a match only happens to set him up to lose several times in a row. See also: John Cena. See also: Roman Reigns. See also: Finn Bálor. see also-
Oh, sorry, the Manhattan Center also got The Miz getting beaten up while everyone tells him to suck it.
We also got an 8-woman tag team match that could’ve been fun and would’ve more effectively promoted the women’s Royal Rumble coming up this weekend if it hadn’t been 13 minutes long with two commercial breaks, causing about seven of those 13 minutes to be commercials. They could’ve done, say, Mickie and Trish and Bayley and Asuka against Trish, Michelle McCool, Jacqueline and Kelly Kelly or whoever (since they used them in the promotional graphic), combined the two segments and at least made an attempt to connect the two eras. How the hell do you have Trish Stratus and Mickie James on the same show and not have them interact?
Plus, does Asuka standing tall in an impromptu battle royal after the match telegraph her not winning the Rumble, or super telegraph her not winning the Rumble?
Best: God Bless Michael Mizanin
The best match on the show by a MILE and the best PART of the show was The Miz winning back the Intercontinental Championship from Roman Reigns and becoming an 8-time Intercontinental Champion. It wasn’t the best match they’ve had, but it had a ton of energy, the crowd was into it, and it was prefaced by my personal favorite of the pile of legends scenes: John Laurinaitis, Eric Bischoff, William Regal and Daniel Bryan hanging out on stage together, ending with a Miz/Daniel Bryan face-off. Holy shit, they couldn’t have constructed a more Brandon-friendly scenario.
My only complaint there is that they made it about former Raw General Managers, brought on current Smackdown (and never Raw) General Manager Daniel Bryan so they could do the face-off, and didn’t use that as an excuse to honor former SMACKDOWN GMs and bring out Vickie Guerrero. Adding Vickie to Regal/Bryan/Bischoff/Johnny Ace/Miz is really the only way I can think of to improve it.
Also, thank you for not bringing out Hornswoggle with a laptop.
This match might have happened to clear up Roman Reigns to win the Royal Rumble and get another main-event spot at WrestleMania — sorry, everyone — but at least in the moment, everything was right. Plus, if we get Miz vs. Daniel Bryan for the IC title at WrestleMania, I’ll sit through another failed attempt at making Roman “the guy.”
Finally: AW NUTS WE’RE OUT OF TIME
The final segment of the show, done after we were already in the overrun thanks to everyone beating up The Revival at length, is an intensely rushed-through confrontation between the three men who’ll compete for the Universal Championship at Royal Rumble.
Kurt Angle asks all the stars and legends to surround the ring and form a line down the middle of it to keep Kane and Braun Strowman from punching each other. Brock Lesnar shows up, Heyman cuts a very abridged promo, and then everyone starts punching each other in the face while the stars and legends stand around watching. Lesnar F-5s Kane without a lot of effort, and then Braun puts Lesnar through a table with a powerslam. It was fine, but could’ve been better if we hadn’t started it at like eight-after, and doesn’t do a lot to erase everyone’s prediction of Lesnar retaining by pinning Kane.
Maybe we’ll have more time for this kind of thing at Raw 50.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Segment ends with Lesnar doing twin magic with Brother Love.
Wait. Does that mean I have to suck it?
Baron Von Raschke
To close out the night at Manhattan Center, Jim Cornette and Paul Heyman take the ring with live microphones and a lot of topics for discussion.
This is like the Justice Society meeting the Justice League
JR – “There’s a lot of talent in the ring right now! And Billy Gunn.”
They cut back to the Manhattan Center and it’s just Jay Sherman sitting alone, getting approached by an usher.
Elias is what happens when you give steroids, a guitar, and a don’t give a f*ck attitude to Rafi from the league
Are Nikki and Brie here to introduce the great female Superstars?
From the Desk of Emma Dana Brooke
Find out where MVP gets jumpsuits
Block Natalya’s number
Google rules of 52 card pickup
Google “how to count cards”
Watch Rain Man
The Real Birdman
Charlotte: “Why don’t you ask my dad yourself? … Dad?”
*Cut to Ric throwing his hall of fame ring on the APA’s poker table*
That’s Raw 25. In summary,
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