Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: It was an eventful week as Braun Strowman returned via ambulance, Big Cass finally (finally) turned on Enzo Amore, and Seth Rollins revealed that God doesn’t exist.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 26, 2017.
Best: Great Biels Of Fire
Now that Roman Reigns has retired the Undertaker, he’s stolen two things from him: calling the ring his “yard,” and threatening to send people to Hell. This week’s Raw opens with Roman declaring he’s going to put Braun Strowman into an ambulance and “drive him straight to hell” at Great Balls Of Fire Pay-Per-View Event®, which is … sort of the opposite of what ambulances are supposed to do. “I’m gonna drive you into the desert and drown you!”
The good news here is that Roman’s promo gets interrupted by another backing-up ambulance, as Braun Strowman is looking to turn “beep, beep, beep” into the fucking Jaws cue. Roman investigates and opens up the back door, falling into Strowman’s expertly laid trap of “not doing the same thing he did last week.” Strowman attacks him from behind and tosses him onto the stage and, (after a brief bit of offense from Roman) Strow throws Ro at the side of the vehicle like the world’s wettest Wacky WallWalker.
I know “keeping Roman strong” is the running joke and everything, but WWE cannot afford to put Roman over Strowman at Great Balls Of Fire. It’s such an easy way to put Strowman over, too. Roman doesn’t have to get “pinned,” all he’s gotta do is get physically bested by a guy who should physically best him 100 out of 100 times and get some doors shut behind him. That’s it. Nobody’s going to suddenly stop buying novelty Roman Reigns chest protectors for children because this 7-foot hillbilly Futurama Santa kicked his ass. Pull the trigger. Don’t get scared and separate everybody by class again before SummerSlam like you did at WrestleMania.
Worst: Hollywood Superstar Josh Duhamel
“Hollywood Superstar Josh Duhamel” joins the announce desk for the six-man tag team opener, and he’s what would happen if you cast Art Donovan in Magic Mike. Honestly, is it even fair to call him a “Hollywood Superstar?” Does being the White Army Human in four of five Transformers movies make you a household name? Did I miss Alan Sepinwall’s top 10 best moments from Las Vegas? Calling Josh Duhamel a Hollywood Superstar is like calling Tony Nese a “Raw Superstar.” It’s technically true, but come on.
If you’re wondering why he’s here, he’s making his directorial debut with a film called The Buddy Game, co-starring Sheamus. Here’s the plot description from Deadline:
A group of thirtysomething friends reunite to play the Buddy Game. That is a wild assortment of absurd physical and mental challenges. In the process, they heal old wounds, right past wrongs and figure out the true meaning of friendship — or die trying.
So, Chardee MacDennis? But as a 70-minute movie that hopes we haven’t seen that episode? Starring Sheamus? Cool.
Best/Worst: The Actual Match
This is such a weird Raw for wrestling, because while none of the matches were notably bad, there were only five in three hours. The show starts with this 17-minute six-man tag and ends with a 29-minute gauntlet match, but somewhere in the middle we get a non-starter and two matches that go less than three.
The first match is Elias Samson, Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Finn Bálor and the Hardy Boyz, to continue the Tag Team Champions’ epic losing streak against the Hardys. They just lose and lose and lose. The only reason they won the Tag Team Championship at all was because of a weird technicality. So it’s nearly 20 minutes of perfectly fine wrestling, but another of WWE’s endless illustrations of how being the champion of something makes it impossible for you to win.
Plus, if I’m being totally honest, I wish we’d just gotten 17 minutes of Cesaro vs. Finn Bálor.
Best: Classic Goldust, Finally
After six weeks of backstage promos, we finally get to the Fireworks Factory that is Goldust Classic vs. R-Truth. Except we don’t, really, because Goldust cheap-shots him before the match and beats him up, and the match never happens. It’s one of those bits I would’ve really loved if it’d happened on the show after the heel turn, or in the Extreme Rules Kickoff, or somewhere before now.
On the positive side, Goldust now has a “film operator” with him that gets in people’s way and like, films the match from inside the ring while it’s happening. It’s interesting to see how WWE reinvents “classic” Goldust, because they can keep the movie quotes and the heavy breathing but probably can’t have a cigar-smoking lady commanding a genderless sexual predator. Still, no matter what, we’re back to Goldust (1) in the ring and (2) kicking somebody’s ass, so I’m into it.
Worst: Curt Hawkins. What Does He Know? Does He Know Things? Let’s Find Out
Before his match with Seth Rollins, “Already In The Ring” Curt Hawkins cuts a promo that says (and I’m paraphrasing):
“Who here thinks I’m going to lose to Seth Rollins tonight?” [pause for reaction] “Who here thinks I am going to win this match?” [pause for reaction] Okay, cool, bye.”
Rollins gets a quick squash victory with his finisher, which Cole is still calling The Knee Right To The Face. Can we call it the CrossHit? Once that’s over, Bray Wyatt shows up on the TitanTron and cuts a promo so boring I can’t even find the energy to type in “giphy.com,” move my mouse to the search bar, click again and type “I don’t care.”
Worst: Terrible Balls Of Raw
So here’s what you need to know. Lonzo Ball is a good college basketball player who looks like they tried to make Drake a hidden character in NBA Jam. His dad, LaVar, is on some Duck Dynasty shit where he realized the more stupid things he said in front of a camera, the more America would laugh at and pay attention to him, so now he does it for a living. Because being famous and making money is more important than dignity or being a functional human being.
He’s turned into the NBA’s version of a pro wrestling heel by saying he could beat Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one despite not being good at basketball, trying to catchphrase his sons into billion-dollar endorsement deals despite them having never played a second in the pros, and trying to charge people $500 for history’s ugliest pair of shoes. Basically he’s going to turn his talented-ass kids into famous jokes before they’ve had a chance to actually build something for themselves and excel at what they’re good at.
You also need to know that WWE desperately, desperately wants mainstream coverage, and will get it by any means necessary.
So that gives us this week’s Miz TV, which starts with evidence that The Miz got drunk before this so he wouldn’t have to think about it. He says LaVar “willed his goal into existent” at the NBA Draft, and that his son LaMelo is part of UCLA’s “recluting class.” After that, LaVar and LaMelo show up looking like Cloverfield monsters and run to the ring like The Band Of The Bold.
That’s the worst running I’ve seen on Raw since the Great John Cena Boner Run of 2012. Or any time Cena breaks out the Scott Evil run. Seriously, it looks like LaVar Ball had Get Out surgery and is in the Sunken Place while Eugene pilots his body. Or like, a puppy trying to run on its hind legs.
Once we finally get him into the ring, he and Miz start screaming nonsensical shit at each other until it’s time to introduce Lonzo, who has never had to live a life without his dad and doesn’t know how much less psychotic everything should feel. He seems like a nice kid and gets a pop for being excited to be at the Staples Center as a Laker, and then his French Angel on meth-ass dad takes back over and starts doing shirtless karate:
That brings out Dean Ambrose in a Big Baller Brand t-shirt, because if there’s one thing that can make a celebrity guest appearance built around the world laughing at an embarrassing person’s brilliantly successful life worse, it’s Dean Ambrose. Ambrose sleepwalks through a promo to set up another six-man tag — not involving the Balls or WWE’s LaVar Ball Titus O’Neil at all — and we go to commercial. And that’s the last we see of Los Balls.
That … was a Raw segment. Yes. Yes it was.
I feel so unbelievably bad for The Miz. This guy’s been in a creative doghouse for YEARS, and then suddenly puts it all together again and, for maybe the first time since he got his head cracked at WrestleMania 27, looks, moves, sounds and feels like a top-shelf WWE Superstar again. And he gets into a great, compelling feud with Daniel Bryan, and does some of the most brilliant heel work of his career against John Cena.
Then he ends up on Raw, spends three months in teddy bear feuds with gentle-ass garbage-ass Dean Ambrose, and now he’s showing ass to Raw’s “booked on Monday afternoon” guest stars. I honestly wish Mike Mizanin had a concept of wrestling outside of WWE sometimes and would just do anything else anywhere else. They don’t deserve you, dude.
The upside is that Miz, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel end up getting a victory because Dean Ambrose chose to team up with Heath Slater and Rhyno. Slater and Rhyno traded all their stat points away for a plate of cheese crackers during the Superstar Shake-Up® and currently have zeroes in all attributes. LaVar Ball could’ve run at them like a wacky inflatable tubeman and pinned them.
As terrible as this was, man, we’ll always have LaMelo Ball yelling “beat that n*gga ass” on live television.
Note: this was the series finale of Raw. There are no more episodes.
Best: Enzo Amore
I can’t overstate this enough: this segment was tremendous.
One of the things that’s bugged me about Enzo Amore for a while — main roster Enzo, I guess, due to overexposure — is how unlikable of a character he’s become. He’s the funny, affable parts of NXT Enzo turned up to a billion, made into a cocky shithead who will show up and insult people for no reason because it makes the crowd laugh. He’s a broken record used like a tortilla chip to scoop up little piles of shit every Monday night. Usually those piles are mixed with The Club. Cass went from a funny straight man to a slow-talking sidekick, and the whole thing felt like a school production of a play nobody understood.
By the time Cass got around to actually turning on Enzo, most of us were like, “finally.” We wanted him to boot Enzo to death and put him away for good. And based on everything we’ve seen and heard from Main Roster Enzo so far, he deserved it. Then, something shocking happened: he shed a tear, and everything that made us like him in the first place came flooding back.
The most incredible part of this segment is that it’s maybe the first time in WWE history where a guy got turned on by his best friend and decided to handle it by admitting that maybe he had something to do with it. He knows that Cass is partially right. That feels like the ending of 2001 in terms of WWE babyfaces handling logic with emotional maturity. And it’s coming from ENZO. He doesn’t want the things he’s done and the person he’s become to ruin something he’s worked his entire life for: winning the Tag Team Championship with his brother, his best friend, and the guy he started taking for granted. The crowd chanting “what” throughout this almost ruins it, but man, what a character choice.
And while it’s so obvious a swerve even Sting could’ve seen it coming, Cass appears to accept Enzo’s apology. I think the reason it works is because, like, why wouldn’t he accept the apology? He’s mad about something, handled it badly, and the guy he abused is being the bigger man and saying he was wrong. He’s being a grown-up.
That makes it all the worse when we see Enzo hugging him with tears in his eyes, calling him brother, and posing with him at the top of the ramp. If you want your friendship to last, never stand on the ramp, guys. It’s a danger zone. It’s where Kevin Owens laid out Sami Zayn, where Tommaso Ciampa put out Johnny Gargano, and now it’s where Cass reached the point of no return with Enzo.
Absolutely unbelievable work from both men here, and I love that I actually like Enzo Amore again, and that I can’t wait to see him kick Big Cass’ ass. Even though that’s probably not going to happen, but hey. Maybe he’ll get Big Show’s help again, and Big Show will definitely not turn on him. There’s also the issue of “Cass and Enzo were a great team because Enzo can cut a promo but can’t wrestle and Cass can wrestle but can’t cut a promo,” so we’ll see where it goes.
Worst: Misplaced Titus Brands
The cruiserweight division gets less than three minutes this week, as Neville squashes Lince Dorado, who is still here. Tozawa sits at ringside in a “Titus Worldwide VIP Area” with a hot dog and a box of popcorn, which is pretty funny. He should let TJP sit in it next week and give him pizza bagels and Mountain Dew.
But yeah, no, Tozawa and Neville have a pretty cool tease of a face-off after the match that the crowd is about to get into, which gets interrupted by Titus O’Neil. Like, I don’t know how to say this any clearer, but yeah, a guy who doesn’t speak English very well should have a mouthpiece, but that mouthpiece shouldn’t try to interrupt a segment that’s getting over to try to get it over. Does that make sense? Titus showing up and yelling a bunch of nonsense in the style of the actual guy he’s based on when the crowd watched the actual guy already do it isn’t helping anybody. It’s just making us look at Titus when we should be looking at Tozawa.
Hell, dude can’t even call it “Titus Brand” anymore.
Best: Samoa Joe Bodies Brock Lesnar
“Yep, that’s me. I bet you’re wondering how I got here.”
The Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe feud has been so crazy so far. I don’t think I ever imagined a scenario in which Samoa Joe looked like a legitimate threat to Lesnar. That’s not a burn on Joe, he’s just a tough Regular Guy wrestler and Brock Lesnar is this murderous death machine that’s built like Arnold Schwarzenegger fucked a Predator. Even when Joe won the match at Extreme Rules and got a chance to face Brock, it felt like one of those, “aw, it’s a shame Joe has no chance” stops between Extreme Rules and SummerSlam. And you’re like, “Brock will just face Roman at SummerSlam. Or maybe Braun Strowman. Or maybe John Cena.”
Now, though, Joe is legitimately a threat to Lesnar. He’s not afraid of him, for realsies, and takes the opportunity to beat the piss out of the dude every time he sees him. The first time they squared off, it was a headbutt and a cheap-shot boot to the face. Here, it’s a Coquina Clutch from behind on the stage. Brock can’t get out of it, even when he smashes Joe into and practically through the set. Brock’s face turns into the Universal Championship, and it takes a bunch of extras (and Top Guys) to pull Joe off of him.
Aside from how well they’ve built up Joe as a threat, I like that Paul Heyman still has a believable reason to think Brock’s going to truck him at Great Balls Yadda-Yadda. Every time Joe’s gotten the best of Brock, it’s been a suckerpunch. He headbutted him unexpectedly, kicked him in the face while people were holding Brock back, and now jumped Brock from behind. Can Joe hang in a straight-up, one-on-one fight without the element of surprise? That’s the kind of question that makes me want to watch dudes kill each other in a wrestling match. Well done.
Best: I Hope The Gauntlet Match Ends With Cage Exploding Someone’s Head
First of all, watch Lucha Underground.
Second of all, we’ve got three quick, obvious problems here. The first is that Raw’s holding the “historic first-ever Women’s Gauntlet Match” as a counter to Smackdown’s women’s Money in the Bank ladder matches, despite the fact that they aren’t even close to the same thing. If Smackdown has the first women’s inferno match, you can’t run a 5-on-2 handicap match with women on Raw and be like, “ALSO THE FIRST EVER!” The second is that gauntlet matches have to have a bunch of falls, so some people get shortchanged. Like Emma, for example, who gets beaten with a rushed transitional move because she’s not important. Maybe you should’ve stuck with the Lina, Emma.
The third is that … well, gauntlet matches are dumb. The only way they work is if you book a babyface to beat a bunch of opponents unexpectedly, or book some external shit to happen to explain the match results. WWE doesn’t get that, so they have Nia Jax win four matches in a row to “look dominant,” then have her lose to Sasha Banks.
The rationale is that she still looks good in defeat because she won a bunch, and that’s true, but what does Sasha really gain from coming in last and picking the bones of someone who’s already wrestled four times? It’s kinda bullshit.
That said, the Sasha vs. Nia portion of the match is OUTSTANDING. Definitely the best Sasha Banks has looked since her belt-swap matches with Charlotte Flair last year. I really loved the finish, with Sasha working every variant of the Banks Statement she can think of, including a great one where she’s on Nia’s back and using her legs to chicken-wing Nia’s arms. Plus, a 30-minute women’s match with consequences and a hot, wrestling-based finish sure beats the hell out of the This Is Your Life segments and dogpile brawls they’ve been doing for the past month. The post-match stuff with Sasha running off Alexa didn’t work for me, mostly because it took the shine off the true star of the match — Nia f’n Jax — but it is what it is.
The best news of all is that Great Balls Of Fire Additional Words® has a hell of a card, and might finally be learning from the mistakes of the past four pay-per-views. Roman vs. Strowman in an Ambulance Match could be killer (if we don’t nerf Braun in the process), Joe vs. Lesnar could be special, Sasha vs. Alexa for the Women’s Championship could be good, and watching Bray Wyatt lose to someone after threatening them for a month again will be fun. Neville vs.
Tozawa will be dope if anyone involved lets it be, and we’ll fill out the card with maybe Goldust vs. Truth, maybe Enzo vs. Cass, Finn and the Drifter and hopefully The Bar wrecking the Hardys in an actual tag team match. None of that is bad.
When did Raw become Smackdown and Smackdown become Raw?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
The Real Birdman
“5 Stars” – Kevin Owens
I hope Kurt makes whoever the hell’s last just watch him turn that tumbler with one ball, before giving them their spot.
Tozawa with a bunch of junk food next to him and completely ignoring it like it isn’t even edible reminds me of the time Dean Ambrose offered Balor a doughnut and Finn was like “What the hell is this nonsense?”
Hawkins desperately needs the Singh Bros.
I’d believe this more if Friendship the Magician was there
I hope Cass tells Enzo they can talk in his hotel room later and Rusev is waiting there to truck him
HHH: Miz TV can’t get any worse than this.
Ambrose: Hold my beer.
Film Operator: WORLD STAR! WORLD STAR!!
As a tribute to RAW being in the Lakers’ home arena, Brock wore the gold around his waist and has his faced turn purple.
Josh likes Balor because he’s Fergal-icious
That’s it for this week’s show, but I’m gonna make you watch this one more time:
It’s like watching Fred Sanford trip and stumble down an icy hill.
Leave us a comment to let us know what you thought of the show, and make sure to click the social share buttons to share the column on your Facebook, Twitter, and Big Baller Brand social media pages. Be here next week for the go-home show for Great Balls Of Fire Pay-Per-View Event®, brought to you by nobody being brave enough to stand up to Jerry Lawler’s taste in music.