The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 8/28/17: The Fall Of The Roman Empire


Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: It’s probably a bad sign that I couldn’t remember what happened last week and actually had to click back and read the column, huh?

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And now, the Best and Worst of Raw for August 28, 2017.

Let’s Start Off By Discussing This Televised Murder

So! Hahahaha, so.

The thing you’re gonna want to talk about in this week’s episode is, believe it or not, a contract signing between John Cena and Roman Reigns. The idea, I guess, is that they’re the two most polarizing figures in WWE, so Kurt Angle’s putting them in a match at No Mercy. The match will also be polarizing. This segment is polarizing! They’re poles. John Cena’s melting, and Roman Reigns is covered in penguins that don’t know how to talk into a microphone.

There’s going to be some debate on whether this bit went as planned, or whether John Cena jumped on an opportunity to get John Cena all over everything. It’s set up like your normal Versus Cena bit. Cena is all, “WE’RE SO EXCITED HERE TONIGHT,” his opponent tells him he’s not good and likes to bury people, Cena lists accomplishments from his Wikipedia in either a soldier voice or a hip-hop voice depending on the severity of the situation, and then they either brawl, or end up tagging together against someone who interrupted for no reason.

Somewhere in the middle, Roman appears to forget what he’s supposed to say. I say “appears,” because yeah, we know Roman Reigns isn’t great at off-the-cuff promos and can’t improvise to save his handsome prince life, but you never know. WWE Fan Nation edited that part out, so it’s probably legit. Cena starts nuking him using Insider Terms, telling him about “cutting promos.” That quickly devolves into two guys who are supposed to play wrestlers on TV looking suspiciously like two competing peers publicly airing grievances about the jobs they have in real life. Soon Reigns is dropping “bitch” and calling Cena a part-timer, and Cena is ethering him into oblivion with “bootleg John Cena” and the unforgivably savage, “I’m still here because you can’t do your job.”

I think the best way I can “review” this is to say that it was exciting, near-thrilling water cooler conversation television, and that it seems like it was also absolutely terrible for business.

Cena’s given considerably less than a fuck the last couple of weeks, wandering around shooting on everyone like he’s on drugs or did the fusion dance with a copy of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective or something. Dude’s not even keeping up with his haircut. This is the guy who torched The Rock. The Rock. Who thought it’d be a good idea to send him out there in TORCH THE ROCK mode with the Rock’s talented but very much not talented at THIS cousin?

It’s like Eminem getting into a rap battle with Taylor Swift. It’s The Rock versus John Cena if the crowd hated both guys, and the Rock hit his head on a coffee table.

The annoying thing about it is that it relied so heavily on, “wrestling is fake, we’re out here playing wrestlers, wink wink this part is real” stuff. That worked in 1997 because it was shocking and new, but now it kinda reeks of what they do when they’re out of ideas and have to confront how terrible they’ve been lately. See also that great, shooty Triple H vs. CM Punk stuff from … Jesus, six years ago. It’s great for fans like me, I guess, because we revel in the backstage news and how people on the show we like really feel about each other. It’s the wrestling Internet fan culture. But taking a step back and looking at it objectively, is there really good business to be had in 2017 by having two of your top stars argue about how fake the business is?

So that’s where I’m at. I don’t like the Cena Character or the Reigns Character, so I’m down to see them destroy each other personally or professionally whenever they want. At the same time, even if the segment is Hot Fire, the constructive part of my brain is like, “ha, Cena’s right and he’s gonna be gone again in a minute and we’ll be stuck with Roman Reigns.” And then the rest of thinks about it, says, “oh,” and frowns a lot.

Long story short, Reigns better beat Cena’s ass. Otherwise, he’s semi-permanently toast. Anybody else feel like Cena’s about to retire? He’s been out of his gourd the last couple of weeks, and they rushed right into these singles matches with Nakamura and Reigns.

Worst: Immediately Sinking The Hottest Segment On Your Show

The most frustrating thing about watching Raw and Smackdown is watching WWE shoot itself in the foot.

You’ve created two of the most reactive, polarizing characters in wrestling history. John Cena, the king of this, and Roman Reigns, the heir apparent. You’ve got a pay-per-view match between them coming up. Real life animosity seems to bubble into scripted reality, and they’re going for each other’s throats. For better or worse, it’s something that will get people talking. The crowd is into it. We are into it. That’s your money. Make your money. Shit like this gets us excited to see shows like No Mercy.

Then, once all the heavy lifting has been done, WWE is like, “okay, now it’s time to BUILD.” And they have The Club show up for some reason, do a worse job of reading scripted material than Roman, seem like the lamest thing ever and for absolutely zero reasons get in Cena and Roman’s faces. Kurt Angle is suddenly like, “hey, what if we see if John Cena and Roman Reigns CAN CO-EXIST?”

NOBODY WHO WATCHED THAT SEGMENT ASKED FOR THIS. We want to see Roman and Cena throw hands. Left hand entitlement, right hand privilege. We wanna see the ruling class tear each other down. We don’t want to see them sink back into their comfortable roles of Television Super Heroes who don’t think or feel anything. It goes from being a really good reality show to being a really bad wrestling show in seconds. Such a mind-boggling decision. It’s going well. LET IT GO WELL.

And, of course, the Club loses like idiots when Cena and Reigns beat them with stereo finishers, despite not wanting to team up. I think the only thing WWE loves as much as “interruption leading to a match” is “randomly assembled singles stars are better than tag teams.” Total bullshit, and just as boring as the promos were exciting. How often do you see me type that?

Best: That Five Seconds In The Battle Royal Where The Club Was Relevant

Also featuring The Club this week is the show-opening battle royal to find a new number one contender to the Intercontinental Championship. Highlights included:

  • The Club teaming up with Finn Bálor for an elimination, because COME ON, DO THIS ALREADY
  • Goldust Classic, making his second in-ring Raw appearance in 15 shows. You uh, you still gonna reveal your masterpiece at SummerSlam, Goldie?
  • The Miz being such a scumbag that he waits to cheat behind the referees’ backs, even though battle royals are no-DQ and he could just get in the ring and help from the beginning
  • Fired-up Jason Jordan, who we haven’t really seen since he stopped taking hot tags
  • Jeff Hardy winning, which is unexpected

God loves an unexpected battle royal winner. I still think about Darren Young winning that number one contender battle royal last year when they briefly thought about giving him one storyline ever.

Lowlights include Jordan’s entrance theme having rap lyrics all of a sudden, which will totally make that song better, Big Show not bothering to tape up the hand he supposedly broke two weeks ago and rebroke last week, and …

Worst: This Again

Can we not, and say we did? Can Bray Wyatt get traded to Global Force already?

Best: Sheamus And Cesaro Get Through A Burger King Commercial Without Talking About How Much They Want To Have Sex With Burger King

As weird as it is to see former members of the Bruderschaft des Kreuzes doing Burger King commercials, I applaud The Bar for shilling low quality burgers without having to say how much they want to put their dick in one. Tyson Kidd had his chicken fries, Enzo Amore had his box of fried chicken, Noam Dar had his cheesy bites pizza. At this point they could do a commercial where Brock Lesnar’s like, THIS JIMMY JOHN’S SUB FITS RIGHT UP MY ASS and I wouldn’t blink an eye.

Best/Worst: Only So Many Ways To Build To A Tag Team Match

At SummerSlam, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins teamed up to defeat Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Team Championship. They’ll have a rematch at No Mercy, no doubt, so until then, they’re stuck doing variations of the same match.

On Raw, that took the form of the old 50/50 booking standby of guys in tag teams facing each other in singles matches. Seth Rollins took on Cesaro with Ambrose and Sheamus brawling at ringside, so they went straight into Ambrose and Sheamus. Both matches were perfectly fine — I continue to be very happy to mildly like Dean Ambrose again, even if his “cartoons fighting in a dust cloud” clubbering needs to go as soon as possible — but there wasn’t much of a spark. I did appreciate Cesaro getting a singles win, though, and doing so with a transitional strike. More WWE matches should end with secondary moves, so we aren’t conditioned to be bored until the second round of finishers.

It is what it is. The tag rematch should be great. No Mercy’s shaping up to be a WrestleMania card, isn’t it? Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar, John Cena getting all hot and fussy against Roman Reigns, Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss, Sheamus and Cesaro vs. the Fist Pals. Are they canceling Raw next month? Are we doing another Superstar Shake-up™ or something?

Worst: Emma’s New Theme Makes Jason Jordan’s Sound Like Nakamura’s

That theme is so bad you’ve already got CFO$ disavowing it on social media.

I think the only thing worse than Emma’s theme is the hatchet job they continue to do with her career. Jerry Lawler says you’ll “see a mermaid do the splits” before you hear him say Emma started the women’s revolution, and Corey Graves condescendingly jokes about her popping imaginary bubbles. Hey guess what, jerks? I know y’all don’t like Paige or AJ Lee right now, but the combined efforts of AJ offering the idea of an alternative to the pre-Crisis Bella Twins style of doing things and the NXT matches between Paige and bubble-popping Emma are exactly what birthed your talking points. Sorry?

Best: Brock Lesnar Speaks!

It’s my favorite. If you missed it, Brock happily bounces, thinking about hyper-sexual future Jimmy John’s commercials no doubt, until he realizes he can sum up Paul Heyman’s advocative promo with a simple statement. I think Brock gets to the heart of Violent Male Tendencies better than anyone on the roster, and that’s part of what makes him such a once-in-a-lifetime thing. He’s legitimately this giant, horrible movie bully who managed to get through life doing and saying whatever he wanted because he’s Good At Sports.

He’s the nightmare of every high school dork. You spend the entirety of high school convincing yourself that when you get older, you’ll be on top and they’ll be struggling, but guess what? They don’t. Ignorant privileged assholes still rule everything, and your best bet as an adult dork is to turn whatever niche thing you love into a job, make a bunch of money doing it and live on a mental island somewhere.

This could’ve used more I’M GONNA MAKE YOU PISS AND SHIT YERSELF content, though.

Best, But Also Unfortunately Worst: Southpaw On Raw

I’ll be honest, I popped when Jerry Lawler mentioned Southpaw Regional Wrestling on Raw and brought “Impressive” Pelvis Wesley out to show up The Drifter.

Having said that, and fully acknowledging my love of literally everything Southpaw related, this was not the way to integrate it. How are you gonna have a heel insult Memphis, have Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler there, have Lawler get on the microphone to STAND UP FOR MEMPHIS and then sub in Heath Slater in an Elvis costume to dance around and not fight? Also, y’all could’ve at least acknowledged continuity by making his Elvis wig grey, that guy was a star in 1986. Cena debuted in ’99 and he’s starting to look like an old Halloween costume version of himself.

Worst: The Cruiserweight Division Is Officially Dead, Everyone, Sorry

I think I’ve been saying since its inception that WWE should integrate its preexisting sub-205-pound wrestlers into the Cruiserweight Division to make it feel like an actual part of the company, but at no time during that did I say, “have Enzo Amore be horrible for a few minutes and then win with the worst version of Gail Kim’s finisher you’ve ever seen.”

Remember when Noam Dar was going toe-to-toe with Zack Sabre Jr. for 16 minutes in the quarter-finals of your worldwide tournament? Now he’s a pizza-fucker who Facetimes his girlfriend and loses to your worst wrestler in 3. But hey, tune in to 205 Live for that same 6-man tag they do every week, but with a five-minute promo of randomly-shouted phrases before it!

Worst: LOL Sasha Banks

Finally this week — are we on “finally” already? — we have Sasha Banks, a 4-time Raw Women’s Champion who has somehow won four Raw Women’s Championship matches but zero Raw Women’s Championship title defenses — once again losing clean in her first defense of the title. Alexa Bliss just DDTs her and pins her, and Sasha’s immediately an afterthought.

I sat here for most of the morning trying to think up a good explanation for this, and I don’t have one. Bayley was supposed to face Alexa Bliss at SummerSlam and lose, I guess, and then they’d move into Bliss vs. Nia Jax. But Bayley got hurt, and Sasha Banks got subbed in. Instead of observing long-term plans and, you know, having Bliss just beat her there to maintain some kind of title run, WWE had to “surprise us” and have Banks win. Then, two shows later, she loses. To set up the thing we already had set up, now with less momentum.

It’s insane. If I was Sasha Banks, I’d spend all day with the most important people at work I could find and like, power-point them to death with evidence as to why they should never dick me over like this again. Four times she’s won the championship. Four times she’s lost on her first defense. If you’re gonna build her up as some cowardly pretender to the throne, sure, go for it, but if she’s your biggest babyface and the closest thing you’ve got to a crossover star in your women’s division, maybe don’t?

To make matters worse, Bliss wins and is suddenly not even kinda wary of Nia Jax wanting to jump her and take her title. That was the entire reason they’re friends. So is Bliss gonna be the face here, because she’s easily duped? Is Nia the face because she wants to take “opportunities?” I know we like a lot of these performers for the performers, but can we get a few characters to cheer?

I don’t even know. I don’t know. It’s beyond my comprehension. It honest, sincerely feels like none of what we see on Raw matters. The titles just change hands, and it’s fine. Nobody’s gonna care or remember a few weeks from now. Cena and Reigns get heated, then go into a match with The Club that deflates everything they did. And it’s fine, because nobody’s gonna care or remember a few weeks from now. That’s always the answer. “We’re going to forget.” And we are, and we suck, and they’ll just do it again. Because the train’s been on cruise control for years, and we’re circling the globe like the goddamn Snowpiercer until somebody makes their way up the train’s guts and explodes it off the tracks.

That Code Red sure looked great though, didn’t it?

Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week

Harry Longabaugh

And now Sasha will be stuck inside, immobile, with the Memphis blues again.

Cami

I thought Gallows was coming out to hand Roman a jar with his balls.

Amanda Huggenkiss

Kurt Angle looks like Mike Meyers looking at Kanye West

The Real Birdman

Cena can take anything and spin it. I’ve seen the belt

Cena’s moved on from ruthless aggression to passive aggression so casually, I hardly noticed

AJ Dusman

Enzo’s introduction to 205 Live was so purposefully hurtful, it might as well have been called Sexy Star.

Redshirt

Going from Alexa to Enzo has given me a serious case of Give a Shit Whiplash.

One of these days that Sheep BLEERP is going to happen when Bray Wyatt is cooking lunch or on the toilet or something.

Thrillhouse

I’m just waiting for Reigns to cap this off with, “You’re a lousy stinkin’ softball player, John!”

Mr. Bliss

It’s going to be so anticlimactic when Cena and Reigns decide to stop fighting just because their mothers are both named Martha.

That’s it for this week. Whew.

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