Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Raw dominated Survivor Series, winning both traditional Survivor Series elimination matches AND the match between the Universal and WWE Champions. I love that Smackdown spent a month being like, “we’re not the B-show anymore!” and then lost everything that mattered.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for November 20, 2017.
Worst: I Don’t Need Your Authority!
Sorry, didn’t mean to ape Scott’s gimmick.
The ending of Survivor Series and post-show bloopers were all about Triple H, so of course the following Monday’s Raw “went old school” with a show-opening Authority promo. Between Stephanie opening the show, the first 10 minutes being dedicated to the glory of Triple H and the interrupting promo parade to set up matches for the night, this week’s opener was pure, distilled Raw. It’s what “four guys get into a fight and Teddy Long makes it a tag team match” is to Smackdown.
I’m not sure if we’re waiting to do the Triple H vs. Kurt Angle feud — Angle’s “hey, don’t mess with me a SECOND TIME” was pretty close to Jerry Lawler’s “hey Punk … I’ll THINK ABOUT IT” on the list of puffed-up chest threats — or if we’re waiting to do Trips vs. Braun, or if Triple H is actually here to do anything beyond inserting himself into the pay-per-view main event at the last second so he could (1) wrestle Shinsuke Nakamura and Bobby Roode and (2) win. Whatever. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly.
Best: Perfectly Fine Wrestling
Aside from the Authority throwback, I thought the first hour and change of Raw hummed along nicely. It ends up falling off a pretty steep and threatening cliff, but 12 minutes of Samoa Joe vs. Finn Bálor, Asuka putting the fear of God into Dana Brooke, The Miz shit-talking The Shield while everyone cheers for him and about 12 more minutes of Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus is a solid hour of WWE TV.
Joe vs. Finn was probably the best match of the night, because obviously, but also because it shows Raw’s continued dedication to making Samoa Joe the most bad-ass character on the roster. I don’t think I say it enough, but how great is it that Samoa Joe is kicking ass every week and collecting a WWE paycheck to be Samoa Joe Classic, instead of painting dicks on his face and attacking people with machetes in the Impact Zone? Prince Devitt got changed up and had his colors dulled and got re-branded to be palatable for children or whatever, but Joe’s just Samoa Fucking Joe, out here beating people’s asses.
It’s interesting to see Finn losing as much as he is, with clean losses to Kane and Joe and a pretty thorough elimination at Survivor Series, but I think he’ll be better for it in the long run. If anyone should be positioned as the fan favorite super hero who actually loses quite a bit, which makes his victories really sing — aka the new Stinger — it should be Finn.
Ambrose vs. Sheamus was also pretty good, even if it’s another typical Raw booking trend. Survivor Series messed everything up tremendously and WWE had to take the Tag Team Championship off Rollins and Ambrose for a few weeks so they could do a Shield six-man AND a tag champs vs. tag champs thing, so they’re going right into the comeuppance rematch build. Dean Ambrose has pinned one-half of the Tag Team Champions, what does this mean heading into Whichever Raw Pay-Per-View Is Next™?
That all noted, I’m happy to see Raw kinda righting the ship and working to get back to where it was before Survivor Series decided to happen. The past month of TV has been an absolutely meaningless cluster of fucks, so if we’ve gotta take the laziest first-draft booking route to get everything back where it’s supposed to be, so be it, as long as the wrestling’s worth watching.
Worst: Dana Brooke’s Job Security
I don’t want to jump to the Mandy Rose stuff too soon, but if I’m Dana Brooke, I’ve gotta be worried that Raw added an attractive blonde body-builder lady to the roster on the same show Asuka’s squashing me. Especially when Dana got a picture-in-picture promo talking about how she was going to win. That feels a hell of a lot like the treatment they give you when you’re heading out the door and they feel like they owe you one last bit of actual TV time. ♪ She’s not my enemy ♪
On the positive side, Asuka squashes are the most fun, especially when she’s holding her opponents by the wrist and condescendingly kicking them in the face. I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse for a wrestler than when Dana knows she’s about to take a bunch of strikes, so she just blatantly puts both of her arms up to half-block and winces a bunch.
Best: Brave Soldier Alicia Fox
Best: Welcome Back, Paige!
I’m so, so happy to see Paige back on WWE TV looking happy and healthy. And more like Bella Thorne than I remember?
Honestly, my first thought for this segment was, “she said she wasn’t alone, OH MAYBE THEY KEPT TEASING PAIGE RUMORS BECAUSE AJ LEE’S COMING BACK TO HELP HER AND oh it’s the girls from that season of Tough Enough she judged this is fine too.” I think my second thought was, “how the hell is Paige gonna return with two NXT cronies and they’re NOT Billie and Peyton??” Thankfully I got talked off that ledge. Paige needs lackies, not characters that are gonna immediately overshadow her.
But yeah, Paige interrupts a fatal four-way to announce that she’s back, and does a light Nexus-style dusting of the Raw women’s division with help from Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Every time I’ve seen Mandy live (or in her few NXT TV appearances) she’s gotten better, and she’s become less “Eva Marie if she was blonde and could wrestle” and more of a Charlotte/Alexa hybrid. Deville’s got a great look and a great gimmick for the division, and how cool is it to have WWE’s first openly lesbian performer on Raw?
Long story short this team is cool as shit, and I really, really hope they don’t call them “PMS” because their names are Paige, Mandy and Sonya. Also, maybe don’t call them a Submission Sorority. But hey, if Paige is gonna return with a muscular blonde and a lady that likes to do armbars, Charlotte and Becky should reform Team PCB with Priscilla Kelly.
Worst: Two Non-Finishes In A Row, Though
I loved Paige’s return and didn’t even mind Kane attacking Braun Strowman to give him a little vulnerability (if Braun’s just gonna be a babyface), but why’d they do these segments back to back? It’s weird that they crammed all the clean finishes into the first half of the show, then put all the screwy finishes in the second. Spacing these out would’ve made both of them a little better, I think.
If you missed it though, yeah, Braun Strowman is sadly still on his Kane feud shit. WWE’s apparently dedicated to making a 50-year old mayoral candidate the most threatening guy on the show, so Kane interrupts what’s supposed to be Strowman vs. Jordan (as punishment for them daring test The Authority in the open) and crushes Braun’s windpipe like so much Rick Steamboat. I really hope next week we get Braun Strowman in speech therapy.
Worst: When Enzo Isn’t On Screen, All The Other Characters Should Be Asking, “Where’s Enzo?”
Eight cruiserweights — nine if you count Enzo, whom the entire match is built around — get about four minutes to perform on Raw. How much can you even do in a match like that, especially when the point is that you’re wasting a bunch of time chasing around a heel manager? Wouldn’t everyone have been better off if we’d skipped the empty “giving thanks” pre-match promo and the awkward babyface cruiser pre-scripted mic time and gotten straight to the action?
One of the worst parts of WWE’s attempt at a cruiserweight division is that they book it like a homogenized, WWE-approved version of WCW’s cruiserweights instead of updating it to AT LEAST this millennium and doing an X-Division. I think that might be the only time I’ll ever say “don’t be like WCW, be like TNA,” but here we are. Enzo is literally the only character on 205 Live now, and you’re a heel or a face depending on whether or not you want to hang out with him. If Gulak wasn’t around as a straight-up woke man, cruiserweight wrestling in WWE would be Enzo screaming into an abyss like he’s in Garden State.
Worst: Broken Social Scene
There’s nothing I can say about this segment that encapsulates it more than Booker T’s call of, “What is Matt Hardy upset about, getting beat?” I love that the response to the call is, “I guess!” Even the people calling Raw don’t know why shit’s happening on Raw. What are WE supposed to think?
(Please come back soon, Jeff.)
Best: Pro Wrestling In 2017
Just wanted to take a moment to point out that this is a commercial in which WWE stars shill New World Order merchandise by Too Sweeting each other, the gesture they used to do in New Japan Pro Wrestling that WWE recently sent a cease and desist to keep anyone in New Japan from doing. So it’s The Club using the Bullet Club to sell nWo merch from WCW on WWE TV. Nigel McGuinness should’ve “hello my baby, hello my darlin’d” across the screen like the WB frog with the Ring of Honor Championship on his shoulder at the end.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Finally this week we have the A-show’s A-story, “Roman Reigns wants a title shot so he gets one on a whim and wins.”
The Shield invade an episode of Miz TV that presumably Miz wanted to dedicate to ragging on Roman Reigns, and that sets up Miz vs. Roman for the Intercontinental Championship in the main event. The Houston crowd chants for Miz, chants “we Bo-lieve” when Bo Dallas is about to get Shield Bombed, and more or less earns my love forever by being the first crowd woke enough, Drew Gulak style, to like Miz more than everyone else.
You know, it is what it is. It’s the kind of thing I’d probably get bothered by out of context, especially with Royal Rumble and WrestleMania season coming up, as it feels like a filtering out of The Miz. Miz has routinely been the best part of every Raw he’s been on, and over the past few weeks he’s done nothing but get his ass kicked, lose matches to Baron Corbin and now lose his IC title via booking shrug.
In context, we know that Miz is leaving to film another The Marine movie and, you know, his wife’s pregnant, so he (and presumably Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, frowny face) are being written off for the time being. That’s fine. Miz should be doing what Miz loves to do, which appears to be making WWE-branded movies and loving his perfect wife.
Roman as Intercontinental Champion could be fun, especially if it allows him to defend a championship semi-weekly, not go straight into another Shield breakup angle, AND stay out of the Universal Championship picture. I don’t know if it’ll keep him out of a WrestleMania match with Brock Lesnar and another aborted coronation as “The Guy,” but it could, and that’s something. If Roman wins the Royal Rumble in a year when Strowman is 1000% the man to win it AND Nakamura’s the favorite because it’d set up him vs. Styles at WrestleMania, man, there’s truly no going back.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Dean: so roman you ready for your match
Seth: Man, you’re gonna kick miz’s ass
Dean: hey isn’t that your singles gear
Roman: *sign’s Dean’s shirt* gotta go kid
*plays roman’s singles theme*
Seth: i don’t think he’s very committed to this whole SHIELD thing
In the interest of continuity, Braun refusing medical assistance tracks. His last ambulance ride was lacking, to say the least
Enzo bout to yell “Hey, Clark, shitter’s full”
A qualified, respected, talented, intelligent leader who granted, did make some mistakes, but was under appreciated was replaced by a brash, blonde loudmouth who is loved because of his mouth and has ridiculous hair
The Real Birdman
Vince: “So they’re magical. They’re intelligent. They’re fierce ladies. And they track down their targets and take them out. We’ll call them The MILF Hunters”
HHH: “God dammit… not again…”
Sliced Bread No.2
Kurt hopes if he books enough matches, they’ll run out of time for the Jason Jordan snuff-fest.
Baron Von Raschke
Matt Hardy: The other most important thing I’ve learned is to trademark your intellectual property before changing companies.
Surrounded by The Shield, Bo heard “We Bo-Lieve” chanted from the crowd, and for a brief, brief moment he was transported back to a much happier time. And then the world went black.
I’m okay with Raw being 3 hours of Triple H slowing walking backwards and Braun slowing walking forward towards him.
That’s it for this week. Think of it as the Raw episode equivalent of a rebuilding year. Lots of fun places to go now, if we wanna go to them. Preferably without The Authority! The Elseworlds stuff is over, guys.
Thanks for reading. Share the column on social if you can, and drop us a comment to let us know what you thought of the show. Join us next week when Paige debuts two new members of her team: Bianca Belair with glow in the dark clothes, and Liv Morgan pretending to be Jim Neidhart’s daughter.
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