Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Did Raw even happen last week? All I can remember is Bayley emasculating Matt Hardy with a hot dog.
Hit those share buttons! Spread the word about the column on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you use. Also, be sure to leave us a comment in our comment section below. Raw’s on the road to SummerSlam, so there should be … nothing to talk about? Is that how this works? I’m so lost.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for July 31, 2017.
Best: Understanding The Brock Lesnar Scuttlebutt
After his victory over Daniel Cormier at UFC 214, new Light Heavyweight Champion and Martian Manhunter Jon “Bones” Jones called out former Undisputed UFC Heavyweight and current WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. The rumors of Lesnar ditching pro wrestling again and returning to MMA have been flying, with folks like Jim Ross saying Lesnar’s return is “inevitable.”
With the news being mainstream enough for most wrestling fans to have at least caught wind of it, it’s very smart of WWE to go ahead and set up the possibility of Lesnar’s departure as canon. This week’s Raw opens with Heyman and Lesnar telling Kurt Angle that they don’t appreciate him getting tossed into a fatal four-way, and that if he loses the Universal Championship at SummerSlam, he’s leaving the company.
Whether that happens or not, it allows the “is Brock leaving” conversation to actually and actively involve WWE, rather than presenting them as the also-ran company who could give a guy everything but couldn’t keep him interested. They’re the Taylor Swift of wrestling promotions. Slickly produced, aimed at a mass market, supported by the most talented people in the world and honestly better at what they do than they get credit for, but they’re also not as good as they think they are, and nobody seems to want to stay with them very long. And they’re never gonna be as good as they were in 1989 again.
Wait, We’re Doing This In The Middle Of The Show?
First of all, how is this not your main event? How are you putting Big Cass vs. Big Show with no major angle after it on last when it was a throwaway segment in the middle of last week’s episode, but you’re putting your three biggest singles stars and 3/4 of the SummerSlam main in hour two? I know you’ve given up on hour three, but if you’ve actually given up, can we just end the show after hour 2? Throw up a Raw Talk or whatever to get that last hour of ad revenue and stop pretending you’re still putting on a wrestling show.
Second of all, you’re giving it a clean finish. This match. You guys can’t give The Club vs. The Hardy Boyz a clean finish most weeks, you can’t have Finn Bálor pin Elias Samson without some crazy shit going on because you want to protect him, but you can have Great Balls of Fire standout Samoa Joe just getting his ass kicked and losing three weeks before he’s supposed to challenge for the championship? Not that I don’t appreciate a clean match, God knows I desperately need more of them in my life, but are y’all gonna run some version of this every week until nobody wants to see that SummerSlam match?
Honestly I think I’m just upset that Brock Lesnar was in the building, but the match didn’t end five seconds in with Brock showing up and throwing everybody involved at the ground.
Best: Everybody Makes The SummerSlam Card
Going back through this Raw, it’s honestly not bad for the first couple of hours. The matches weren’t fresh, necessarily, and most of them didn’t have a point beyond “keep whatever’s going going,” but (even when I didn’t like it) they had finishes. The third hour really sunk the ship.
A good example of this is the Hardys vs. The Club, with Hashtag Top Guys on commentary. The Club beat the Hardys a few weeks ago, and since we aren’t actually gonna do anything with The Club, I guess it makes sense to give the Hardys their win back here. After the match, some macho posturing on the stage leads to a brawl between all three teams, and it keeps escalating until Jeff Hardy’s Poetry In Motioning off the stage onto everybody.
Presumably this is setting up another “everybody in the pool” match for SummerSlam, with either a triple threat number one contender match — assuming Sheamus and Cesaro wrestle Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins — or a tag team turmoil thing with everybody. SummerSlam is super into getting everyone employed on the card. You’ve got a 4-person Raw main event, a WWE Championship match that looks like it’s going to involve three people AND a Mr. Money in the Bank looming. Might as well add a tag match with everybody, too. And hey, keep in mind that The Revival have already worked triple threat magic once this year.
Best/Worst: Raw’s Aladdin And Jasmine
“Do you trust me?”
As a few of you have pointed out on Twitter, this story of Dean Ambrose being wary of teaming up with Seth Rollins again after the heartbreaking split of The Shield would be a lot more reasonable and engaging if we hadn’t spent the last three years watching Ambrose be the type of dude who fights with hot dog carts, loses to ghost lanterns, doesn’t know how to unplug a television and when asked to create a gimmick match creates “cage match with a mop inside.”
That said, if you watch WWE like they want you to — with every cycle being a soft reset, and new rules, attitudes, alignments and memory banks seemingly randomly assigned to anyone with speaking roles — it works. Why SHOULD he trust this guy, you know? Even if he’s learned his lesson and is a totally reformed Good Dude, why does Ambrose need that hassle in his life? They’re doing a whole thing where they’re like, forced to keep helping each other out and being bros, but couldn’t Ambrose just as easily go get Apollo Crews or somebody to back him up? Or, I don’t know, the Hardys? They seem into helping. I know Finn’s kind of a weird ballerina serial killer child, but he’s also pretty much Seth Rollins Nano.
Seth Rollins runs into Sheamus and Cesaro backstage, and they make fun of him for doing their angle in reverse. He puffs up his chest and challenges one of them to a match, which Sheamus accepts, and this just happens because that “you don’t make the matches, I DO” thing General Managers do on wrestling shows is bullshit. There are a maximum of three matches made for a three hour period and everyone in the executive committee is counting on having hired the most unstable, violent weirdos and jammed them into a locker room. I think pro wrestling works a little better when you realize it’s basically The Condemned. Why do you think there’s a match called a “battle royale?”
Rollins and Sheamus have an extremely all right match that Rollins wins with a roll-up. That gets him beaten up by (doot doot doot-doot-doot) Sheamus and Cesaro until Ambrose makes the save. It’s important to note that the crowd is chanting “we want Ambrose” here, which is a nice change from the past what, six months of him emptily feuding with The Miz and getting attacked by teddy bears? Ambrose waits too long to make the save, however, and ends up facing the Damned Numbers Game himself.
Later, the guys have a tense conversation about the proper way to grow-in your chest hair.
Two quick notes:
- As a weekly reminder, it’s going to be the greatest moment in years when they’ve spent months getting Ambrose and Rollins to get along again and be brothers, only for Roman Reigns to beat the dog shit out of them, make a bunch of wanking gestures and tell them to get the fuck out of his yard
- I hope next week they do a segment where Roman removes his bulletproof vest and reveals just a thick-ass forest of jet black chest hair
Worst: Bray Wyatt Still Isn’t Saying Anything
(note: I’m so tired of Bray Wyatt that I can’t even hear words when he speaks anymore, I just hear a horrible white noise that makes my vision go darker and darker the longer I look at my television. But still, man, look … Bray Wyatt the performer knows what he’s doing. He’s passable-to-occasionally-very-good in the ring, and he gets this promo time because his voice, presence, tone and everything else is A+. Dude just hasn’t been given anything good to do or meaningful to say in like, three years. Can somebody please put “STOP WASTING BRAY WYATT WITH THIS DUMB SHIT” at the top of the WWE to-do list? Under “make low-level celebrities happy” or whatever.)
What We Did Amongst The Purple Lights This Week
Titus O’Neil is out here worried about Akira Tozawa’s shoulder, but Apollo Crews has been locked inside a parked car with the windows rolled up for like three weeks.
This week’s cruiserweight division thing is a six-man tag, used to continue the “Titus doesn’t want his Japanese son to get hurt” and “Tozawa and Daivari both want to wrestle Neville at SummerSlam but LOL like they’re gonna do heel versus heel in the cruiserweight division” angles. It’s a dead shame that WWE can book a six-man tag featuring Akira Tozawa, Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann and make it boring. Maybe that’s Tony Nese’s fault? If you let Tony Nese sit front row just to watch Okada/Omega live it’d bring it down to three and a quarter stars.
If there’s really going to be another Superstar Shake-Up™ after SummerSlam, I think the best move would be sending the entire cruiserweight division to Smackdown. It’s never made sense that the cruiserweights are on Raw but the cruiserweight show happens at and airs after Smackdown. Plus, it’s not like that version of the writing team could do a worse job.
Worst: While You’re At It, Send Kalisto Back Over Too
As you might’ve read late last week, Elias Samson has gone the way of Big E Langston, Antonio Cesaro and Adrian Neville and lost part of his name, because the crazy 70-year old man in charge of the company can’t remember a name, much less an entire name. He’s now just “Elias.”
While I’m thinking about it, a supplemental Best for Elias’ anti-Pittsburgh song. Nothing makes me happier than a heel hating wherever they are, even if it doesn’t have the honesty of, say, Miz hating Pittsburgh. Real talk though, I want WWE to release an Elias album that’s nothing but diss tracks for various cities. He’d be like the punk rock Sufjan Stevens.
Anyway, Elias’ absent last name has more charisma and screen presence than Kalisto. I don’t know how they did it, but they turned Samuray Del Sol into Bushwhacker Butch in a colorful hat. Which isn’t even fair to say, because people LIKED watching a 50-year old insane man lick people’s hair. Why is Kalisto still on the show with the cruiserweights and not wrestling the cruiserweights? I think this is one of those questions nobody’s interested in reading anymore. It’s the sub-205 version of “when is John Cena turning heel?”
At Least It Isn’t ‘Scooby-Doo Meets Pure Country’
You know, the first Pure Country came out in 1992. I wish they’d made this sequel in the mid-90s, just to see prancing, dick-exhibiting on-the-edge-of-complete-pansexuality 1997 Shawn Michaels in the role.
Also, can somebody put me in charge of a Walker, Texas Ranger reboot that’s just Shawn Michaels superkicking through people’s windshields?
Best: Ponytail Nia Jax
I know she just did it to make fun of Bayley, but I think Nia looks a lot better with the pony. It makes way more sense than wrestling with your hair down, especially since most of the division wears those horse-hair extensions down to their butts. I want a backstage fallout segment where Nia’s like, “actually I got my hair pulled a lot less, we should probably all be doing this.” Let Sonya Deville be a trendsetter. The women can have fashion dolls and still look like pro fighters when it’s time to fight, they don’t have to do it at the same time.
Worst: Stop Me If You’ve Seen This Before
Alongside “why is Kalisto on the show with the cruiserweights but not wrestling the cruiserweights” is, “why does Raw think the women’s division only has four women in it?” Mickie James and Emma and everyone else are stuck on Main Event while the two Horsewomen, Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss just wrestle each other in rotation. It hurts the impact of a match like last night’s Bayley vs. Nia when we’ve seen it a billion times already, with every imaginable finish.
Honestly, everything in hour three felt like a house show, and not in the good way. Bayley won by count-out after Alexa tried to interfere, meaning Bayley doesn’t really gain anything, Nia doesn’t really lose anything, nothing happens to Alexa whatsoever and the best thing I can say about it is, “the hairstyles made sense.”
Worst: Jason Jordan’s Entrance Theme
It sounds like somebody tried to make Kurt Angle’s theme in Mario Paint and failed miserably. If we ever hear that track in that form again, I’ll be shocked. That shit makes the dorky American Alpha Sega Genesis level select music sound like Real American.
Best/Worst: Miz Tries To Have Charisma For Five People
They shouldn’t just put The Miz in the WWE Hall of Fame when he’s done, they should give him a humanitarian medal for all the times he’s been tossed out into one of these terrible segments and asked to do the work of 10 men to get over WWE’s cardboard cutout babyfaces. Seriously, Miz is doing everything he can to get Jason Jordan a reaction, throwing Pittsburgh under the bus like only a true Clevelander can do, shading every part of the angle (that hasn’t actually happened yet), working overtime to get people talking. He even lets dude suplex him into his cronies to get a reaction, and nothing works.
Here’s the thing I don’t think they ever realized about the Rocky Maivia angle, or at least something they rarely admit: they didn’t just understand that Rocky was a dud and change him, they pushed the shit out of him, and only when Rock took it upon himself to give the character some charisma and depth did it catch on. It’s less about “heel” and “face” and more about engaging characters and boring piles of fucking nothing. They played up the Famous Dad angle with Rock, too, having Rocky Johnson show up and fight Maivia’s battles for him. If this leads to Kurt Angle vs. The Miz, which it 1000% should not, we’re gonna do everything wrong with Rocky Maivia to Jason Jordan without giving him the environment to adapt and prosper later. He’s just going to get shit-canned, or sent somewhere, or be Just Another Guy on a show with like 80 wrestlers and 75 Just Another Guys.
Just spend a few weeks letting him suplex dudes. It’ll be fine. Don’t get him out here trying to trade promo barbs with The Miz like he’s an NXT season 1 rookie you’re throwing to the wolves. Protect weaknesses, promote strengths. I shouldn’t have to type this.
Worst: Is Enzo Saying He Has Sex With Bananas Now
You’ve never eaten the brown part of the banana? I think that just makes you a bad boyfriend.
Worst: Big Vs. Big Is Seriously Your Main Event
Remember back in February when Big Show and Braun Strowman had an amazing main event, and then a couple of months later they did it again and tore the roof (and the ring) down? Remember how it made Show look like he still had it, and positioned Strowman as one of the coolest and most dominant new stars on the show?
This was the opposite of that.
Cass has been dominating Show for weeks. His major point is that Enzo was writing checks his ass couldn’t cash and was making Cass do all his fighting for him, and that it was gonna stop. Enzo’s response? Get his ass beat a few times, then get Big Show to do his fighting for him. Cass is about as entertaining on his own as a tumble-dry and his body’s turning a weird shade of burnt sienna, but he’s right. So now Cass gets to dominate Show again, and before he can win the match, Enzo gets in the ring and interferes to cause a DQ. Cass … is the heel, right?
After the match, Show revives long enough to knock out Cass, making sure he doesn’t get any kind of rub from this whatsoever, and walks off with his music playing even though he lost. And anybody paying attention is like, “Enzo is totally turning on Big Show and going back with Big Cass at SummerSlam, right?” Because if that’s not the end of this, what the hell is?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Bada-Boom! Main Eventing Too Soon!
I liked how Braun slipped “I’m not like most guys” into his promo from earlier, keeping hope alive for that hoss power couple with Nia
This is fitting, Pittsburgh is the 205 live of America.
I do want to see Wyatt try the upside down crawl and the Demon Balor just stops and laughs
I am there on Halloween when the bowl says “take one” and you grab 3! I am there!
The Real Birdman
Ambrose worried about getting burned by Seth again and Seth’s out here adding ‘Burn It Down’ to his music & attire
Say what you want about the kid but he throws a mean suplex and can’t talk for shit.
MIZ: I don’t care who your father is! This place will spit you up and chew you out!
*Axel and Bo hang their heads and quietly nod*
Kurt’s conquered a lot in his life, but saying the letters ‘WWE’ still defeats him.
Brock is like a successful panda, he wins shoots and leaves.
That’s it for Raw.
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Join us on Tuesday for Smackdown Live, in which the biggest American star of the last 10 years takes on the biggest Japanese star of the last 10 years for a chance to fight the third best member of 3MB in the main event at SummerSlam.