Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Hey we gonna celebrate, yeah yeah yeah, because WrestleMania 34 happened and we’ve got new Raw Women’s, Raw Tag Team, Cruiserweight and Intercontinental Champions. No uh, no new Universal Champion though. Huh.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 9, 2018.
Best: Stephanie McMahon Goes Full Vince
Awesome performance at WrestleMania aside, Ronda Rousey does one priceless thing for WWE: she gives Stephanie McMahon a female foil that’s too big of a star to be pushed around and isn’t afraid to break her arm if she gives her too much shit.
Stephanie’s been one of the best performers on the show for a long time, but outside of a yearly WrestleMania bump she never seemed to get comeuppance. She couldn’t, really. Now she’s forced to open the Raw after WrestleMania in an arm brace and go full Vince McMahon, taking credit for losing to Ronda so well it made her a bigger star and thanking people for appreciating her accolades when they chant “you deserve it” about her broken-ass arm. It’s so good. For her part, Rousey just stands there looking at her like she’s an asshole for a few minutes, hugs her, then goes all-out Terminator on her.
It’s simple, effective, lets us celebrate Rousey’s WrestleMania performance (and Stephanie’s!) without insisting upon it over and over, and in the span of about 24 hours Rowdy Ronda’s a WWE star worthy of all this time and love on WWE TV. I hope Ronda breaks her arm every week, like one Pentagon arm snap for every time Stephanie got over on someone and couldn’t get it back.
Worst: Paige Having To Retire
In much sadder women’s division news, a Sasha Banks vs. Mandy Rose match mostly built around how Bayley’s an idiot again turns into a formal retirement from in-ring competition from Paige. Paige had neck surgery way back in 2016 and made it back to active competition in 2017 only to suffer another bad injury and go back on the shelf. As of January she was still trying to come back, but it looks like that can’t happen now.
25 is way too young to end a career. The silver lining, I guess, is that even at 25 Paige had an almost 13-year career in the business, and will hopefully stick around to continue managing Absolution and doing whatever non-wrestling stuff she can. And hey, as we saw with Daniel Bryan, anything can change. Shout-out to the post-Mania Raw crowd for the “this is your house” chant, and for giving her a good moment to go out on.
Best: All These Debuts!
Raw did a really smart thing last night by keeping the show brisk and full of surprises and debuts. Not only did it make the show seem fresh, it avoided any lulls or longer matches where the post-Mania crowd would get restless and start fucking around. Good times!
The best of the debuts was, of course, Ember Moon. She shows up to team with Nia Jax against Mickie James and Alexa Bliss, who is still on her body shaming shit. Really hope that goes away after tonight, especially with Moon wrecking and pinning her in like two minutes with the Raw debut of the O-Face, but I guess it’s just gonna be a thing. At least she got an “asshole” chant.
You don’t need me to tell you that Ember Moon rules. It’s great to have her on Raw, especially if Asuka decides to stay on Smackdown or gets Superstar Shaken-Up™ and they stay apart for a while. Streak or no streak, that’s still a beef that needs to be settled.
The most objectively important return of the night goes to Donald Trump’s favorite wrestler, Bobby “Bobby Lindsay” Lashley. Since we last saw him in WWE he’s improved tremendously, amassing a legitimately impressive MMA record of 15–2 and winning four TNA/Impact World Heavyweight Championships. He shows up to interrupt Elias during what’s probably the happiest moment of Elias’ entire life, so obviously Lashley is extremely heel to me now.
They do a big delayed vertical suplex spot which would’ve popped the hell out of me as a kid, but as an adult just looks like a minute of Elias desperately doing a one-armed push-up on Lashley’s thigh. Delayed vertical suplexes and deadlift suplexes that don’t start with the guy lying on the floor are in the same genus of moves that fall apart the more you think about them. It’s fine. It looked cool.
Good to see Lashley’s still doing his Mary Katherine Gallagher “sometimes when I get nervous I put my fingers under my arms and then I smell ’em like that” taunt. My only real regret here is that Umaga couldn’t run out during the confrontation and kick his ass.
The most confusing debut was probably the Authors of Pain, who show up to beat up Heath Slater and Rhyno in a segment right after the one where Kurt Angle tells Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens that the Raw tag team division is totally full. That’s not the confusing part, by the way. The confusing part is that they debut with Paul Ellering and then immediately dump him, “closing the chapter” on him (because they’re authors, get it).
Presumably 64-year old Paul Ellering doesn’t want to do a full-time main roster touring schedule, but you’d think they’d have just debuted the Authors without him if they weren’t gonna use him. Maybe it’s to give them some heel heat among people like me, who have a nostalgic connection to Precious Paul? Who knows, maybe Ellering will resurface in NXT and lead the next bad-ass, take-no-prisoners hoss team. Y’know, I hear the War Raiders need somebody to talk for them.
Already being fitted for an underwhelming mid-card tag team before he even got to the back was No Way Jose, debuting in a short squash of John Skylar that mostly made people type “Adam Rose” into Twitter for the first time in years. Jose’s an interesting guy to follow, because there’s an exact 50-50 chance he’ll either instantly fade into embarrassing obscurity or become one of the biggest stars in the company. He’s certainly got everything you need to be a star, so let’s hope his path goes less Vaudevillains and more The Drifter.
I’m also interested to know what future star showed up in disguise as one of his Bourbon Street Rosebuds. Most of them looked like splicers from Bioshock. There’s always a dancing bunny, I guess. I recognized Aaron Solow’s hair, but I’m guessing there’s a Braun Strowman type lurking in there somewhere. Next week I hope he comes to the ring with a guy dressed like a cheeseburger.
Best: Leave The Memories Alone
It sure was tough to see the legendary Nicholas Cone being forced to relinquish the Raw Tag Team Championship due to the scheduling conflict of still being in the fourth grade. The only thing I want for the rest of my life as a wrestling fan is for this segment to be true, and that in 10 years Nicholas returns with wrestling training and teams up with Strowman to win the tag titles again. Nobody would ever be a bigger star. Hell, let Izzy manage him.
Thank you, Nicholas. You retired undefeated with a higher WrestleMania win percentage than the Undertaker, as many WrestleMania matches as Asuka, and more main roster championships than Sami Zayn.
Best: Kurt Angle Calling Tournaments ‘Eliminators’ For Some Reason
With the Raw Tag Team Championship vacant and The Greatest Best-Ever Royal Rumble Of All Time coming up, Kurt Angle needs to hold an “eliminator” to find a number one contender to face The Bar in Saudi Arabia. I love Kurt giving normal wrestling things weirdly-branded new names. It’s very Dario Cueto of him. HERE IS MY INDUSTRY-CHANGING IDEA: A REVOLUTIONARY CONCEPT I CALL A “CUBED FENCE” MATCH! RING THE BELLLL
In good news, The Revival advances to the finals by pinning the Good Brothers. In bad news, The Bar are heels so The Revival are only going to the finals to make the other team look good, and don’t have a snowball’s chance in the fucking desert of moving on.
The team they’ll be facing is the surprisingly adorable duo of Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. I was hoping Bray would show up having been physically transformed into another gimmick by Hardy’s Lake of Reincarnation, but I can’t deny how hilarious it is that a real story on Raw is, “a North Carolina lake drowning exorcised a demon witch from a swampbilly cult leader’s body and now he’s nice to everybody.” The “wonderful” taunt followed by clapping is so much fun, and my new favorite thing to do in real life.
I’m intrigued by babyface Bray Wyatt, because from the tiny glimpses of it we’ve gotten in the past it really feels like a way to freshen up and even “save” the character. His whole deal had absolutely run its course, so you might as well do this soft reboot and let us cheer him for being not Bray Wyatt. Also, honestly, the pan over to Finn and Seth after Matt and Bray have been all weird to Jeff Hardy is one of the legit funniest things they’ve done in a long time.
The backstage interview with Jeff where he confirms the Broken Universe versions of the Hardys are their “alter egos,” I really hope Matt falls into his own lake soon and gives us Big Money Matt on WWE TV.
Oh Right, Also, Jeff Hardy Is Back
He shows up as backup for Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor to set up a six-man against The Miz and the Miztourage. That match main events with about 15 minutes of fun but very house show wrestling with Miz taking the pinfall and the Miztourage getting a finisher parade in the post-match. I’m guessing this happened the way it did to give Miz a few weeks off between Mania and The Bestest Royal Rumble to spend time with his daughter. Still getting used to WWE front-loading the first two hours of Raw and using hour three as a less interesting post-show wrap-up.
Best: Kurt Angle Crosses The Line
You’ve probably already seen this by now, but one of the funniest burns of the year goes to Kurt Angle, who tells Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens his roster’s full, but he hears “that TNA is hiring.” Cold as ice.
What’s also funny is that Kurt knows TNA’s hiring because WWE’s hired away like 3/4 of their roster in the last few years. TNA Hall of Famer Kurt Angle’s running Raw, TNA Hall of Famers Jeff Jarrett and the Dudley Boyz just went into the WWE Hall of Fame this weekend, Rockstar Spud’s running 205 Live, EC3’s the new big star on NXT and even this Raw has big returns from Jeff Hardy, Bobby Lashley and Samoa Joe. The Face of TNA is the WWE Champion. Maybe Sami and Kevin SHOULD go there for a year so WWE desperately wants to hire them again.
But yeah, Kurt puts them in a one-on-one match for a Raw contract, which they admirably battle for. They end up both unable to answer a 10-count and the match is declared a draw, meaning neither man gets a Raw contract and continuing KO and Sami’s endless bad luck with authority figures. I feel like if someone would just try being nice to them they could function on a show without attacking everyone in charge, but I at least appreciate Angle’s acknowledgement that they’ve spent the past half a year being front-office-murdering dickbags.
I also hope Kurt announces next week that he’s reconsidered and signed them both, only for the Superstar Shake-Up™ to immediately send them both to Smackdown.
Best: Samoa Joe Ethers Roman Reigns
Finally we have the undisputed best moment of the night, which is the returning Samoa Joe showing up to a monster pop and absolutely bodying Roman Reigns for losing to Brock Lesnar again and making excuses. It seems like we’re setting up the first title feud for Reigns post-The Best Royal Rumble Anybody’s Ever Had Shut Up — Reigns is facing Lesnar for the title inside a steel cage in a WrestleMania rematch he hasn’t really earned and doesn’t really deserve and didn’t even know about — so I’m hoping it goes one of two ways:
- Brock beats Reigns again, Joe beats Reigns at Backlash and we build up Joe as the guy who finally takes the belt off Brock (instead of John Cena at SummerSlam, which is probably happening), or
- Reigns beats Brock and wins the championship at the big fancy international event and Joe chokes him the hell out at Backlash like a week later
Even if Reigns wins the cage match AND beats Joe, at least Joe’s back in a major role on the show. Which makes sense, because as great of a wrestler as Roman Reigns can be, there’s not a single thing a pro wrestler can do that Samoa Joe doesn’t do better.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Why are you guys blue shelling the guys who are already in 11th and 12th place already?
I don’t know why everyone is so surprised the short Irish fella with a heart of gold likes having rainbows.
That would be neat if Kurt Angle said only one of them could have the job in order to motivate them and then is so impressed he hires both guys after the match, but their “friendship” is still damaged from the thought that they’d cost the other guy a job.
Monroe, Nicholas, Maxel…. RAW is DAYCARE
I blame Trump for reducing the EPA Regulations. Obviously, the Lake of Reincarnation has been polluted down a Pond of Alignment Change.
May we please have a little respect for Roman Reigns
Ellering: You’ll be Tons Of Funk in five months, tops.
IC Champion Pdragon Dark
“woah woah woah, why are they taking OFF their body armor?” – Roman Reigns
The two most accurate chants in the history of wrestling within 48 hours:
1. “You deserve it” after Gargano powerbombed Ciampa on the floor
2. “We are scumbags” from the post-Mania crowd
WHAT IS TNA DOING IN THE RAW ZONE
That’s it for this week’s Raw!
Thanks for reading. Be sure to drop a comment below to let us know what you thought of the show, and who of the big debuts and returns you think will be the biggest deal between now and next year’s WrestleMania. Share the column as well, so we can get one more taste of that sweet, casual WrestleMania traffic.
See you tonight for a (hopefully) eventful Smackdown, and next week for the Superstar Shake-It-Up.