Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Did Braun Strowman play a double bass and then beat someone up with it? No? Then who cares.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for February 12, 2018.
Worst: John Cena’s Just Spouting Bullshit
This week’s Raw opens with John Cena explaining how he needs to win the Elimination Chamber match, because if he doesn’t, he believes that for the first time in 15 years, he may not have a Road To WrestleMania™. He hopes to make The Impossible Possible® at Elimination Chamber. Miz interrupts, and a match is made: Miz vs. Cena, with the loser agreeing to enter the Chamber match first. It’s a good stipulation, but the narrative quickly becomes Cena’s WrestleMania “streak” of sorts coming to an end if he doesn’t grab that main event spot.
That would be a really good story if like, facts and history weren’t things. That “first time in 15 years” stuff is bullshit. Back in January of 2016 Cena had to have shoulder surgery, which made him miss the entire build to WrestleMania. Cena ended up appearing on the show to do a run-in and save The Rock from the Wyatt Family, but he wasn’t on the show. If the narrative is supposed to be that Cena wouldn’t have a main event spot because he’s getting older and isn’t sure if he can compete at John Cena Levels still, that’s even more bullshit. Last year he and his girlfriend had a match against a guy he hates and that guy’s wife because they made fun of his reality show. Back at 31 he was in a United States Championship match in the middle of the show, and at 30 he wrestled Bray Wyatt in a match with no championship on the line whatsoever. Y’all just making this up? Are we supposed to forget WRESTLEMANIA now?
Cena keeps trying to figure out ways to play the aging underdog, but it’s not going to work until he stops easily beating 75% of his opponents and they stop bringing him back just to give him a ton of opportunities he doesn’t have to work for. Cena could open Raw with a promo like, “I don’t know if I can compete at WrestleMania this year, since I lost my arm in the war,” and Michael Cole would look at this hypercolor motherfucker standing in a brightly lit ring with two arms and be like, “what a warrior, battling with only ONE ARM, Corey!”
Best: Cena Vs. Miz
Or, more accurately …
Is Anyone Else Starting To Feel Like The Miz Rivalry With John Cena Is Like Frank Grimes’ Rivalry With Homer Simpson
This is always a tough one for me. The Internet Wrestling Reviewer Guy in me is like, “Miz and Cena are basically the current and all-time best wrestlers in the world at ‘WWE Style,’ and could have a good-to-great formula match like this in their sleep. Miz dominates, they kick out of some finishers, Cena overcomes the odds and hits an Attitude Adjustment off the ropes and pins Miz clean. It has been this way, it shall be this way until the end times.” The actual wrestling fan in me, the one that gets hot and fussy about dumb shit 24/7, wants WrestleMania to start with The Miz walking up to Cena and shooting him in the chest with a pistol.
It’s good in the way it’s always pretty good, and inevitable in the way it’s always kinda the same. If Miz ever straight-up beats Cena clean, or even really kicks Cena’s ass something fierce without the dude coming back and shoulderblocking him to death, it’ll feel like when The Wizard Of Oz goes from sepia to color. I dunno.
Cena entering first in the Chamber would’ve added to the story they’re trying to tell from him, but they can just as easily have Undertaker Placebo his way up from the floor and Tombstone him to start something. Give Cena his “Road to WrestleMania.” Cena could also just show up on Raw and ask for a WrestleMania match and be given one, or answer one of those open challenges that’re always happening because he’s a “free agent,” or like, enter the Andre, but I digress. Miz is the Intercontinental Champion and isn’t going to face Brock Lesnar any time this reality, so let’s let the EC be another Mike Mizanin workhorsemanship seminar.
Best: Raw’s Streak Of Very Good Women’s Wrestling Continues
A couple of weeks ago, Asuka and Sasha Banks tore it up in one of the most incidentally dangerous matches we’ve seen on Raw in a while. Asuka and Bayley followed that up last week, and now this week we get the Losers Bracket of Sasha vs. Bayley.
One of the things that makes the Sasha Banks and Bayley matches so good is that even when they’re for nothing, they’ve got a sense of urgency. Sasha’s really great at being her character walking and Bayley’s the perfect physical foil for her — well-meaning but not especially crisp, so she doesn’t get technically out-shined, but also good at physically telling in-ring stories with her body and mannerisms — so you can buy the thin pretense of “grudge match” to see another one. The whole thing about Bayley “proving she can beat Sasha” is pretty ridiculous when Bayley won both of the legendary matches they had in NXT, but different time, different Universe.
One interesting bit is that the finish is the same as the one in Cena/Miz. Cena won with an Attitude Adjustment off the ropes, Bayley won with a Belly-to-Bayley off the ropes. Plus, you know, it’s two closely-matched rivals — one a fan pandering goody two-shoes, the other a Diva with an inflated sense of purpose who’d be the best if they weren’t always up their own ass — with the goody two-shoes always seeming to come out on top. In this comparison, Charlotte is Randy Orton. Becky is … let’s say Sheamus, and Asuka is Brock Lesnar.
Best: Asuka, By The Numbers
Asuka doesn’t actually show up on this episode, but she might still be the best part of it. This clip explaining her undefeated streak in all its mathematical glory is WONDERFUL, and an even more wonderful illustration of how if you pay attention to your history and stop remembering it when you need it and forgetting it when you don’t, you can use it to make your product better. Shit like championships and accolades can MEAN something, and you don’t end up with a Sheamus situation where they’ve done everything a human being can do in the company and still seem like a low level guy to the crowd.
Also, This Match!
You know it’s a watchable Raw full of wrestling matches when the worst thing I can say is that one of the matches was “okay.” That would be Alexa Bliss and Mickie James vs. Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, which happened because Absolution beat up Mickie last week and Bliss came to her aid (because Bliss is emotionally manipulative and needs help retaining her championship at the Elimination Chamber). This week’s match basically happens so Absolution can beat up Mickie again, and Bliss can make the save again. They used a post-match attack to build to a match with the same post-match attack. [shrug]
I think the real danger of the Elimination Chamber is that you have to decide who’s in it and book it pretty far in advance, and then WWE booking school teaches you you have to do little “previews” of the Chamber matches featuring the talent from them in Raw matches. And if you’ve got a month between the Rumble and the Chamber, that means you’ve got a finite amount of match combinations, and you end up seeing the same people fight the same people for the same reasons over and over. Which is … also just how Raw works in general, I guess? Forgot where I was going with this.
Best: A GLOW Girl In The WWE Hall Of Fame
I wrote about it a little over here, but I just wanted to say again how happy I am to see Tina ‘Ivory’ Ferrari going into the Hall of Fame. She was the only woman on my list above Chyna and Molly Holly. Plus, how great it is that a Gorgeous Lady of Wrestling goes into the WWE Hall, WWE acknowledges G.L.O.W. as a thing, and Mountain Fiji gets to be on Raw via old footage?
I’m telling you, WWE Network’s missing out on a landslide of money by not copping the rights to G.L.O.W. and doing a new, Southpaw Regional Wrestling-ass version of it with female WWE Superstars playing absurd characters. Remember when Natalya showed up on Southpaw season 2 as their only Girl Wrestler? There’s your first character.
Worst: Is Kurt Angle Okay?
I felt so bad for him all night. It sounded like someone shot him with a tranquilizer dart before the show started. Dude was out there talking about Jason Jordan like, “all I want is for you to wish him get better wishes upon his return.” Take a knee, Kurt.
Best: Sheamus And Roman Reigns Beat The Hell Out Of Each Other
Hey, it’s like the good old days of Raw in here, with Sheamus and Roman Reigns being the best part of the show because they realized they can hit each other as hard as they want and nobody’ll get mad. As I’ve typed too much, Reigns is always better when his opponent connects and makes him physically work for it. Sheamus is the same way, and takes as hard as he gives. That’s easily the best part of Sheamus. That, and the fact that his body shows Dino Damage by turning into medium-rare chicken.
It was about 15 minutes of wrestling for the sake of wrestling, but I’m down for that. I liked the Brogue Kick/Superman near-miss counter and the spear counter finish a lot — Roman needs to watch it with those helmet-to-helmet spears he’s been doing lately, so it’s good to see him go back to the ribcage — and I liked Sheamus going for a Brogue Kick but there not being enough distance for it, and him having to whip out a bicycle knee instead. I wish WWE stars did stuff like that more often so we could like, have fun analyzing what kind of strikes and holds they could use when, instead of wrestlers just wandering into each other’s moves because they’re supposed to.
Best: The Five-Way, It Is So Fatal
I’d be singing the praises of this main event as “lots of fun” and “energetically chaotic” and “actually trying to get wrestlers over by showing how cool and good they are at wrestling” if the finish wasn’t the finish. The finish — with two guys pinning Bray Wyatt at once, because Bray Wyatt sucks so bad he lost a one fall match to two dudes — is one of those things that causes “controversy,” but really boils down to “the referee should know better than to count that.” Nothing bugs me more than when referees just count absurd pins that are just going to cause controversy and confusion instead of like, observing the basic rules. I’m not mad about people holding the tag rope here, this is “only one person can win the match at a time.” It’s the “Cameron trying to pin someone while they’re on their stomach” of refereeing.
As is, it was still a lot of fun — and energetically chaotic! — and was the best Bray Wyatt’s looked in a long time. I really want to like that guy again, and him looking like a sweatier Junior Gorg from Fraggle Rock isn’t helping things. Part of me really wanted to see Apollo Crews win this, just so they’d be forced to do something with him.
On the bright side, at least next week’s “I’ve decided Finn Bálor has to face Seth Rollins one-on-one to see who goes into the Elimination Chamber” will get us another good-to-great match, and hey, maybe it’ll set up a Bálor Club vs. The Shield six-man for Mania.
Post-Raw update: Kurt Angle announced it would be a seven-man Elimination Chamber instead, but there’s nothing to stop them from just ignoring the secret Facebook video they put out and doing Bálor vs. Rollins next week anyway.
Best-ish: The Revival Wins!
Speaking of Das Wunderclub, the Good Brothers lost to the Revival in a solid tag match that gave Dawson and Wilder a much-needed type of win, which I appreciate. It did not make up for that D-X key party beatdown from Raw 25 a few weeks ago, and it made me a little worried that the other tag teams on the main roster are so used to main roster tag matches that the style the Revival works is never going to take precedent as the preferred model. It’s just gonna make Raw audiences think the match has gone on too long. I super hope I’m wrong on that, but the awkward injury timing of the Rev and that most-of-a-year off got me leaning on the side of pessimism.
Also, shout-out to WWE for having Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson explain that knowing things about WWE makes you a nerd.
BEST: Braun Strummin’
You knew I had a look on my face like a kid running down the steps on Christmas morning when you were watching this, didn’t you?
In case you missed it, holy shit you guys, Braun Strowman sang a song using a double bass as a guitar and then tried to manslaughter Elias with it. Absolutely spectacular. This felt like a thank you present to me personally for sitting through so many late-2017 Raws. Braun Strowman is Hulk Hogan plus Stone Cold Steve Austin plus Big John Studd and if Vince McMahon isn’t masturbating to the idea of this dude 24/7, something’s amiss. Strowman is your guy. HE’S YOUR GUY. YOU KNOW IT ALREADY, DON’T YOU.
The brother beat Elias down with a proportionate guitar. Best wrestler of all time.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
I wish Alexa came back out with a ukulele & they had a duet
So what does Finn do that’s extraordinary? Because Rollins does sling blades too
Kinda love that Ronda Rousey is also gonna upstage the 1st women’s Elimation Chamber as well.
featuring Sir Titus the Gator
Sir Apollo the Athletic
Sir Dana the Dim
(Pans over a picture of Tozawa)
And the aptly named Sir Not Appearing in this Stable
Baron Von Raschke
Whomever called Nia squashing local talent tonight, claim your winnings.
You don’t bring a standard acoustic to a stand-up string bass guitar fight Elias!
Mandy should go kiss Corey just so we can make corny “Raw’s been kissed by a Rose on the Graves” comments.
EARN IT DOWN
…does absolution have a goal? I’d ask if Riott Squad has one but I know they won’t until Absolution does
“Cello darkness my old friend” – Elias right now
That’s it for this week. Thanks as always for reading. If you usually just stick to the Raw columns, make sure you also check out my essay about Starrcade, my much angrier look back at Starrcade 1997, and that you’re subscribed/listening to our weekly wrestling podcast.
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