Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Ronda Rousey broke Stephanie McMahon’s arm again, Kurt Angle shaded TNA on the same episode he brought in Bobby Lashley, and Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens had to fight for a roster spot a week before a Superstar Shake-Up™.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 16, 2018.
Best/Worst: The United States Championship Rope-a-Dope
I don’t want to sound instantly pessimistic about night one of the Superstar Shake-Up™ and there’s plenty of roster moves happening that I liked and even loved, but there’s not a much quicker way to get me to turn on a show than saying “new faces and big surprises” with the first three shake-up segments being:
- the Raw debut of Jinder Mahal as the big power move and him immediately losing
- the beginning of a Jinder Mahal vs. No Way Jose feud based on how one of them “just loves to have fun”
- the Raw debut of the Riott Squad, via fucking up the one good announced match of the night
Not a great start. I know it’ll even out a lot once we’ve gotten through night two of the shake-up, but Raw didn’t just get some of Smackdown’s top stars, it got Smackdown. I’m talking everyone down to the very bottom, from Jinder and the Riotts and Dolph Ziggler all the way down (somehow) to Zack Ryder, Mojo (who single-handedly changed WWE’s promo style and was completely forgotten as a reward) and frickin’ Mike Kanellis. Can you think of anyone on the WWE totem pole lower than Mike Kanellis right now? They could’ve brought over Kayla Braxton and it would’ve been a bigger move.
Anyway, having Jeff Hardy win the United States Championship and become the Ultimate Grand Slam Champion (with the Light Heavyweight Championship and everything) about a month after his most recent arrest was an unexpected call. I’m guessing it’s less about the Slater and Rhyno-esque ineffectiveness of a top Smackdown guy coming to Raw and being instantly recast as a jobber and more about how Smackdown needs a secondary championship and it’s a fun idea to have Jinder show up as champ, lose, and then send that new champ back in the shake-up. That’d probably work better as a random draft choice thing and not a “negotiation” from a GM who gives up one of his champs and just hopes for the best, but we aren’t supposed to think about it like that. Wait, did I type “are” or “aren’t?”
Best: Mickie James’ Sell Of The Eclipse
Hot damn. She made it look a little more like a jumping snapmare than a top rope Stunner, but she also deserves some sort of wrestling Pulitzer Prize for making it look like the most devastating move of all time. She looks like a glitch from a Bethesda game where you shoot a guy in the foot and he goes flying into the sky, convulsing. Mickie made it look like the move hit her like, three times.
Ember’s run on Raw should be really great. She’s great without that finish, but with that finish she’s next-level. Unrelated, shout-out to whoever figured out at the last second that Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss shouldn’t be on commentary at the same time, sitting next to each other.
When Everyone On The Roster ‘Makes An Impact’
To say it in the most diplomatic way possible, this was a “transitional” Raw. Last week’s show was about reacting to WrestleMania and introducing some new faces when the audience is at its most hardcore and diverse, meaning you can bring in international talent or former TNA guys or NXT stars and have people instantly know and like them. It’s a great shortcut. This week’s show is about switching the rosters, so it’s one part Raw After WrestleMania and two parts a go-home filler show where nothing really happens under the guise of lots of stuff happening.
As I mentioned earlier, we finally get our Sasha Banks vs. Bayley one-on-one match after weeks (and weeks, and weeks, and weeks) of build to it, only for it to get interrupted by the debuting Riott Squad as soon as it gets going. The Riotts have been DOA on Smackdown since their arrival thanks to the killer combination of Sarah Logan’s hilarious mic skills and Liv Morgan’s Most Things, but I figure they have two easy ways to (at least attempt to) “fix” them on Raw:
- add what’s left of Absolution to the group and merge them into an actual faction, or
- have Bayley finally go Dark Bayley and team up with them as their impressionable, Sting-like friend
The difficult part of this Raw is in knowing WWE considers this a fresh start for most of the teams or people they switched around, so if we understand that, we have to do our best to “clean slate” it and let them do their thing. If it’s a few weeks from now and these people are exactly the same, we can go back to assuming creative “doesn’t have anything for them” no matter what color t-shirt they wear.
The best example of this from last night’s show is without a doubt Dolph Ziggler’s return to Raw. I was really hoping he was gonna show up and demand a shot at the United States Championship.
But yeah, no, Ziggler shows up doing his Dolph Ziggler thing and Titus Worldwide interrupts to ask him to join them. It’s a pretty logical move from Titus, as Dolph’s a bigger star than anyone in his group, but his star’s fallen enough that yeah, if you asked nicely maybe he’d join your Taguchi USA as your Tanahashi. Dolph reveals that he can’t join the team because he’s already best friends with returning former NXT Champion Drew McIntyre, and they beat the ever-loving dog shit out of the Woldwiders.
While there are a few important questions to be answered — did they give Ziggler a Diesel so he could keep pretending to be Shawn Michaels? — the actual beatdown was exciting, and the combo Claymore/Zig Zag is a hell of a finisher. I don’t know if they’re gonna be a tag team (yes please) or a pair of associated former “chosen one” singles, but it’s something relatively new for both men, and they both really needed it.
Plus, for at least last night, this means all three members of 3MB are on the same show for the first time in years. If they move Heath Slater to Smackdown on Tuesday I am gonna be so mad. NOW IS THE TIME FOR A WWE TRIOS TOURNAMENT, PLEASE AND THANK YOU. Think about how great that’d be. 3MB, The Shield (or Roman and the Usos), Bray Wyatt and the Hardys, Bálor Club, Miz and the Miztourage in a world where this Raw didn’t happen, Titus Worldwide (remember Tozawa exists), Braun and the Bludgies as an unofficially reunited Wyatt Family, New Day, British Strong Style, Lucha House Party, hell, give me a Gable/Benjamin/Jordan team. That’s almost an entire tournament off the top of my head.
Best: Samoa Joe
Or, “Roman Reigns is gonna have to try a lot harder.”
When Roman Reigns started in with another “I’m here and Brock Lesnar isn’t” speech to promote Salman of Saudi Arabia’s WWE Customs Taping, I noted on Twitter that the talking point loses its power when Brock kicks Roman’s ass every time he shows up. Then, because he’s an angel, Samoa Joe shows up to point out that exact thing. Joe as a really confrontational Jiminy Cricket who constantly pops in to remind Roman he’s full of shit is my favorite wrestling character.
Reign’s response to Joe dissecting his bullshit point by point and showing video footage to back it up is to call Joe fat and lazy, which … man, I’d rather be fat and lazy than booed every time there are two or more adults in a room. I know the vibe is that Reigns is going to win the title in Saudi Arabia in front of a crowd that might not boo him for once and then roll through Joe at Backlash, but I really hope Joe wrecks him. Like, more than I’ve hoped for a specific match result in a long time. Reigns finally defeats his white (well, purplish-white) whale only to get choked the hell out by the one other badass Samoan wrestler on the show he can’t stop shit-talking. Joe forever.
My second favorite move in the Superstar Shake-Up™ has to be the homies Tyler Breeze and Fandango (and the Ascension, we find out later) are all moving over to Raw. You’ve got an entire extra hour, no more Fashion Files on Dot Com! The Raw crowd seemed a little milquetoast about them being there, but I hope that quickly changes. Breezango are the greatest, and I’m not just saying that because they’re on Wednesday’s episode of McMahonsplaining.
This week’s actual tag team matches were a little less exciting. Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy easily defeated the Revival (sigh) in about five minutes like we a thousand percent knew they would, and then The Bar ends up in a match with Breezango. Which they lose. And normally I’d be all-in on a Breezango upset, especially on their first night on the show, but The Bar are the team with a guaranteed spot in the championship match in Saudi Arabia. So they’re losing? Are we gonna add all the teams from the “eliminator” back into the match and make it Tag Team Turmoil or something? I guess we need to get at least 50 people on the card for it to work.
Anyway, boo to WWE’s main roster not understanding the Revival, boo to royal family fan fiction confusing the booking, but hell to the yay at Breezango getting a spot and matches on live pro-wres television.
Worst: Oh Lord, It’s Natalya
With a supplementary “Ronda Rousey’s pretty great at this, you guys” Best.
Natalya helped train Ronda Rousey in the ring before WrestleMania, so I guess they’re bringing her over to Raw to give her an association (and almost certainly a feud) with Ronda. It’s a singles match to set up a tag, which sets up a turn, which sets up a singles match. Round and round. We’re used to it.
The downside is that Natalya has consistently been one of the worst characters on WWE television over the past few years, especially when she’s asked to talk, which for some reason is ALWAYS AND CONSTANTLY. The upside is that Rousey’s got a great mean-mug and a sense of urgency that Natalya hasn’t really gotten in a feud in a while, so putting them together might end up being super beneficial for both of them.
Honestly though, I’d rather see a full-on Ronda Rousey vs. Sonya Deville feud. Ronda kinda made her look like a chump here, but in the hierarchy of women’s MMA success, it is kinda like Brock Lesnar vs. Bo Dallas. Still, once Rousey’s completely comfortable in the ring as a regular pro wrestler, throw them in a feud together. Hell, you can even build up to Deville and Mandy Rose (and hopefully the Riott Squad, all in one big group) jumping Ronda after the blowoff match to set up Shayna Baszler’s main roster debut. Put your hair up and OH GOD I’M DEAD.
Also, Baron Corbin Is Here
You can’t have Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode on a show without Baron Corbin!
Best: YES! YES! YES!
The best Superstar Shake-Up™ move happened in a segment reintroducing Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens onto the roster, but is somehow NOT THEM. It’s the announcement that the Smackdown managerial team (in association with a certain goat-faced individual) demanded The Miz return to Smackdown, so Kurt Angle made it happen.
This (and the super funny backstage followup) set up so many wonderful things:
- Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens having spots on Raw thanks to Stephanie McMahon’s hatred of her brother and now Kurt Angle after what happened at WrestleMania
- Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens getting the hell away from Shane McMahon
- SAMI ZAYN IN READING GLASSES, BEING A COMPLETE ADORABLE WEIRDO
- The Miz being forced into a walk of shame back to Smackdown, directly into one of Daniel Bryan’s fists
- The next step in that beautiful Miz/Bryan feud, furthered by an unforgettable Talking Smack segment we didn’t think could ever have resolution
- The announcement that Miz is going to Smackdown but Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas aren’t, causing the Miztourage to spend the rest of the episode figuring out what they should do (which is, spoiler alert, turning on The Miz)
It was utilitarian, full of talented performers doing what they do best, built on an understanding of the character histories and their pre-existing relationships with characters on both shows. I wish this had opened the show, and they’d saved the Jinder stuff for the middle of hour two.
Worst: Renee Young
A question for Renee:
Best: A Very House Show Main Event, Featuring A Very House Show Bobby Roode
The Miz stuff informs and sets up the night’s main event, a 10-man, 20-something-minute “everybody into the pool” match pitting The Miz, Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens (the Alliance To End The Yes Movement) against Finn Bálor, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley and their mystery partner, who turns out to be Bobby Roode. You can’t stop this many Bobbies!
There’s not much to it, really, but it’s a fun way to pass the time, and gives a few of these guys who aren’t gonna be on Raw for the foreseeable future a “goodbye” of sorts. We know The Miz is off to Smackdown, so having him take the pin and look like a fool while the Miztourage ditches him is probably the right call. At least he’s not a champion while he’s doing it. It’s also pretty safe to safe to say that one or more of the people on the face team are heading to Smackdown. Finn makes the most sense, but Braun or Seth (or hell, even Lashley) could jump. Smackdown needs a few new big names, having lost 85% of their roster to the shake-up. Right now the show’s just AJ Styles, Charlotte and the Colons.
And that’s this week’s show. Not as exciting as last week’s, especially since we don’t now what the final new Raw roster’s going to look like, but a perfectly fine way to get through three hours. Let’s hope next week the shows can settle down and focus on building real stories again. Unless we can’t do that until after In Your House: Mo’ Jeddah Blues.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Bobby Lashley’s return is like when I realized that my ten year reunion was coming up, so I got in shape, decided to make great strides in my career, put my life in order, and I showed up at that gymnasium, looking amazing. And I still couldn’t throw a decent clothesline.
Crowd: We want Bobby! We want Bobby!
*Lashley tagged in
Crowd: Thats on us, we didn’t specify. Clap-clap-clapclapclap
my fantasy booking of elias, ember and corbin teaming up as pack of werewolves is slowly coming to fruition
If they restart Talking Smack tomorrow, this will be greatest week in SDL history
I guess it’s cool to see Piper and Bret Hart’s kids teaming together.
Not only should this match be joined in progress, it should be left in progress.
OK, that’s it, I’m inviting Kurt Angle to my fantasy football league
So now he is rewinding things to show us beatings that happened in the past. How Viewtiful of you, Joe.
Ja Gi Kyung-Moon
Roman needs the cage escape option because Wrestlemania showed us that Brock Lesner built up a tolerance to spears with that Goldberg feud.
The Real Birdman
Wyatt/Hardy’s new finisher better be called Twisted Sister or I’m not gonna take it anymore
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NO NO, TAKE IT BACK, TAKE IT BACK! ‘Best of Both Worlds’ is no ‘We’re All Together Now,’ that’s for sure. Anyway, see you next week for The Greatest Raw!