Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: I watched Hell in a Cell and my eyes glazed over and I forgot everything that happened. Oh, wait, The Miz prodded The Shield by doing a bunch of Shield stuff to the former dudes in The Shield and somehow has no idea The Shield is gonna reunite and kick his ass.
Note: Be sure you’re listening to our With Spandex podcast McMahonsplaining! Listen to the latest episode, episode 8 with Lucha Underground’s Vinnie Massaro here. Subscribe on iTunes while you’re at it. We’ve got a Real American on episode 9.
One more thing: Hit those share buttons! Spread the word about the column on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you use. Be sure to leave us a comment in our comment section below as well. I know we always ask this, but we appreciate it. Raw is actually kinda good now!
Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for October 9, 2017.
Best: Mizzie Misdemeanor
I don’t know exactly when Raw became the vastly superior WWE weekly show, but since it’s gotta be three hours long, I’m happy it finally did.
This week’s big story is the formal reuniting of The Shield, complete with Bro Fists, swiftly screen-printed backstage t-shirts, and the Cerberus triple powerbomb that Michael Cole tells us roughly 65,000 times is called the “Shield Bomb.” One, we never called it that, and two, is Blank Bomb the best name you could come up with? Didn’t you have like three years?
Anyway, as you know if you’ve been a longtime reader of the columns, the only thing I’ve wanted more than a Nexus reunion angle is a Shield reunion angle, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. For everyone who was like, “even the Shield getting back together wouldn’t get people to cheer Roman Reigns,” show me the boos. Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose are instantly cool and threatening and important again, and in one triple fisting they went from the weird mid-card circle jerk they were in to main-eventing a pay-per-view. The Shield fixes all of their problems. Reigns doesn’t have to talk so much, Ambrose gets his wacky tendencies (Roman) reined in, and Rollins gets some desperately needed context for his sometimes annoying “look at what a HERO/VILLAIN I am!” shtick.
Their first moment of the night is in the total and complete destruction of The Mizzie Awards, which The Miz totally had coming for multiple weeks of beating up Roman and going THE SHIELD DOESN’T EXIST ANYMORE NA NANNA BOO BOO over his corpse. Miz, Axel and The Bar get absolutely wiped up — small supplementary Best for the Indianapolis crowd loving Curtis Axel, like crowds should — and Miz’s egging-on and complaining has created the perfect storm; he gets the pay-per-view main event spot he’s been begging for, but to have it, he’s gotta go up against the toughest three-man team in company history.
A little later, Charles E. Caruso catches up with the Shield, and we get familiar with the new Shield dynamic. It’s a combination of their current babyface personalities, plus a little bit of the classic stuff. I’d prefer them go straight classic and do promos to a randomly abandoned video camera or whatever, but it’s the way it has to be. Seth is still a little annoying and too into it, Ambrose is threateningly focused but still crazy so he says they can beat up four or five or six guys, and Roman, God bless him, perfectly delivers two sentences about what a bad-ass he is and leaves. And the crowd CHEERS IT. BECAUSE, CAPITAL LETTERS, THIS IS THE VERSION OF HIM WE LIKED. WHY DID YOU CHANGE IT. WE COULD’VE BEEN LIKING HIM THIS WHOLE TIME.
Best: A Monster Among Hounds
Over the past year, Roman Reigns’ biggest problem has been Braun Strowman, a gamma-radiated North Carolina Sheep Man in a plunging tank and patchwork cargo pants who will not stop screaming at him and running at him and trying to kill him. He hasn’t really had anyone watching his back to help out, either, because of the “one versus all” thing he was obsessed with. He didn’t even give a shit about his cousins.
Over the past few weeks, Braun Strowman has also made enemies out of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. A couple of weeks ago, Ambrose stepped up to challenge Braun and got brutalized. Rollins tried to step up a week later and ALSO got crunched. He beat both of them up last week, and that plus all the shit with The Bar has shown them that hey, maybe they need backup too.
This week, Braun wins a fun but quick match against Matt Hardy, who is sorta drifting in the wind waiting for his brother’s shoulder to heal. Matt gets a Twist of Fate on him and Braun kicks out at one, and Matt delivers a great, “WHAT ARE YOU?” as he’s getting up. Braun wins, sure, but no Braun win is just Braun “winning,” he has to powerslam you to fuck and then carry you to the back so he can put you in a steam engine or whatever and throw the steam engine into the ocean. Before he can get to the back, though, THEM HOUNDS cut him off.
Braun looks strong single-handedly fighting a legendary trio, but eventually The Damned Numbers Game® returns and he gets put through the announce table with a … [checks notes] “Shield Bomb.” The three dudes who have been getting their asses kicked by Braun the most finally come together and realize that if “beating up The Miz” is number one on their Monday checklist, “giving Braun Strowman what-for” is number two.
Miz’s reaction to this is to quote Ambrose’s boastful promo from earlier, leverage Braun Strowman’s huffy-puffy hatred, and double-talk Kurt Angle into making the six-man tag at TLC 4-on-3. It’s now The Shield vs. The Miz, The Bar AND Braun Strowman at TLC in a tables, ladders and chairs match, which actually puts the result of the match into question. Without Braun in there, you knew for a fact that The Shield was gonna roll. Now, maybe not?
All in all, I thought Raw did a great job of telling this story, continually adding new elements and actually using their copious television time and massive roster to piece together a cohesive narrative to sell a pay-per-view. Hell, I started looking at plane ticket prices for Minnesota myself. Two notes, though:
- We still have a Raw between now and TLC. Do they make the match 4-on-4, and add a new member to The Shield? Better yet, can we bring up the Authors of Pain and have Dean and Seth ride them to the ring like swat caragors? As long as it’s not Jason Jordan in a bullet-proof vest and dog mask, I think I’m okay.
- Braun Strowman jobbing to Brock Lesnar clean was a pretty fucking stupid decision, huh?
Worst: Michael Cole Figures Out The Rules At The Same Time As The Rest Of Us
Thrown from having to say the phrase “Shield Bomb” so many times it made him want to throw up, Michael Cole says that the women’s match to determine who’ll face Asuka at TLC is a fatal five-way, one-fall to a finish. Then Bayley pins Dana Brooke, Jojo says “Dana Brooke has been eliminated,” and then — and only then, despite having an announce table + monitors + script notes + someone in his ear telling him what to say + a working knowledge of WWE Raw storyline and procedure at an intimate level none of the rest of us could ever HOPE to — Cole’s like, “oh, it’s an elimination match, muh bad.” That shouldn’t be happening on a primetime television show y’all are writing in advance.
As for the match, it’s extremely thrown-together, so maybe the plans were for a one-fall match up until the second they walked through the curtain. That seems like an awfully WWE thing to do. Bayley pins poor Dana, Alicia Fox pins Bayley in an attempt to get her first t-shirt in a decade, Sasha taps out Alicia and, of course, Emma rolls up Sasha to win. I think everyone and their mother knew that Emma would reprise her NXT role of, “technically acceptable workhorse who can get a couple of minutes of believable heel heat before Asuka kicks her face to shit.” She did a great job of that at NXT TakeOver: London, so do that match again and you should be fine.
Also, +1 to whenever Booker T sees Alicia Fox do an axe kick, because he’s so confident that it’s the deadliest move in wrestling history. She should start doing flipping leg drops off the top rope and Rock Bottoms just to see what he’d do.
Worst: Biscuit Butt
Is that what Jesse and Festus meant when they said biscuits made them men? What does biscuit butt even mean? No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative!
This week’s contribution to the epic “Alexa Bliss thinks Mickie James is old and that’s literally it” story is Bliss showing a video of Mickie highlights in black and white with the Legend of Korra newsreel guy narrating. It’s like they did all the material they had and realized they had two more Raws to fill, so Alexa says Mickie’s old, Mickie says SAY IT TO MY FACE (again, a la Alex Riley), Alexa gets beaten up for a second and that’s it. It’s not much.
I think the funniest part is that Mickie’s cutting a promo about how when she returned something wasn’t right, while dressed as “Hardcore Country” Mickie James from Total Nonstop Global Action. And shout-out to Alexa Bliss for bringing back the best Mean Girl hairstyle of the early 2000s.
Placeholder Mid-Card Lightning Round
The first hour of Raw features two matches that are practically identical, in that they’re perfectly fine wrestling matches without a lot to them, apparently designed to keep everyone the same amount of “over” and get to TLC without an issue.
Up first is Jason Jordan vs. Karl Anderson, where the most notable thing is that they have Jordan in little biker shorts now instead of his singlet. That means he doesn’t have his “pull down the straps” moment, which was like all he had going for him as far as in-ring charisma goes. Still, he’s good at the actual pro wrestling part of pro wrestling, and it’s not like Los Hermanos Bueno are doing anything, so it is what it is.
If you want to feel weird about everything, watch the backstage fallout of Kurt Angle hugging him a little too much for beating Karl Anderson. Gable > Jordan, then, now, forever.
After that is Elias vs. Apollo Crews, which feels like we’ve seen it a lot more than we have. If Randy Orton is the worst best wrestler ever, Crews might be the best worst wrestler ever. Orton magically connects with the crowd and stays forever popular and beloved despite shitting the bed (and the bag) more regularly than any main event wrestler of the modern era, whereas Apollo Crews RULES in the ring, he has a great look and a great personality and does everything right, and WWE crowds wouldn’t give a shit about him if you crop-dusted them with laxatives.
Elias wins with The Drift Away, and seriously, the fourth time in a year and a half feels like the hundredth.
There’s also a cruiserweight division tag team match, with the PLEASE NOTICE US SENPAI superteam of Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali — seriously two of the best wrestlers on the entire roster — against A Brian Kendrick Among Men and recently heeled-out Jack Gallagher.
They only get about three minutes, which is a shame, until Kendrick pins Ali with Sliced Bread. It feels a little too much like WWE’s standard “there’s a one-on-one cruiserweight match coming up with a story, so put some of the other guys in a tag, it doesn’t matter” booking style, but hey, at least Jack Gallagher wrestling in stuffy street clothes looks cool. And it’s certainly an improvement over looking like a five-year old who found a fake mustache and made some underpants out of the parachute from kindergarten gym class.
What We Did Inside The Secondhand Embarrassment This Week
You know, I sat at my laptop for like 20 minutes browsing through “WWE facepalm” GIFs to find the perfect reaction to Finn Bálor pretending to be afraid of Bray Wyatt with some shit on his face and a sheet on his head cutting a spoopy promo through a Mr. Microphone, but I realized I’d done 19 more minutes of work than whoever came up with this angle. And like, 21 minutes longer than whoever came up with how Sister Abigail’s supposed to look.
Jesus Christ. I thought last week was embarrassing, but last week’s promo was Hard Times compared to this bit. They should just release Wyatt before TLC, possibly into outer space via an air lock, and have Finn and The Club do a run-in on the main event. Send Wyatt to Global so he can bother Eli Drake with his old clothes with hay stuffed in the ass.
If they do this again next week, I’m changing that suggestion to, “release them both to make Wrestle Kingdom interesting, and so Wyatt can go wrestle a fake Doink at some local VFW in the battle of the fake Doinks.”
Best: Sexy Kurt References And Addressing Plot Holes
First of all, points to Enzo Amore for making a “sexy Kurt” reference nobody in the crowd seemed to get. If you haven’t seen Kurt Angle singing Shawn Michaels’ entrance theme with Sherri Martel on backup, go watch it ten times right now.
Second of all, and this seems like damning with faint praise but it isn’t, I appreciate WWE actually writing a segment to explain some of its loosey-goosey plot holes. Previously, Enzo Amore somehow talked Kurt Angle into signing a contract clause that said anyone in the cruiserweight division who touched him would forfeit their shot at the Cruiserweight Championship as long as he was champion. When everyone in the division put their hands on him at once, Enzo upped the stipulation to “anyone who touches me gets fired.” Kurt Angle then announced the newest signee to the Cruiserweight Division, Kalisto, who proceeded to get in the ring and put his hands on Enzo. So Enzo’s question is, why does that earn Kalisto a title shot instead of getting him fired?
Usually they’d just forget it and not even address it — and if you noticed it, you’re a smark who should just shut up and enjoy the show — but Raw is suddenly a watchable, cohesive show, so they take a second to come up with an excuse. According to Kurt, the “fine print” of the clause said that the rule applied to anyone in the division when the ruling was signed. Kalisto was signed to a cruiserweight contract AFTER Kurt helped Enzo, so Kalisto’s exempt. It’s not the best excuse in the world, but it’s an excuse, and sometimes that’s all I need to do the suspension-of-disbelief “wait and see where it goes” thing everyone else seems to do so easily.
Enzo keeps running his mouth and gets in Kurt’s face about making him happy, so Kurt makes a reactionary decision: he cancels the cruiserweight match at TLC, reschedules it for tonight, and puts the entire division around the ring as lumberjacks to prevent Enzo from getting himself disqualified or counted-out. If this, then what. A to B to C. It’s very easy to make this stuff make sense, and it’s so much better when they do.
What follows is a championship match that sets up future rivalries and gives the division an almost Lucha Underground-esque pace by telling the entire Enzo Amore as Cruiserweight Champion story in just a few weeks from beginning to (temporary) end.
Enzo went out of his way to make an enemy out of every single person on the cruiserweight roster, because he thought he was better than them and could outsmart them. Even during this match, he cheapshots Mustafa Ali. As it turns out, Enzo might actually be a competent wrestler if he’d focus and concentrate on wrestling instead of being loud and popular, as he’s able to not only counter Kalisto’s finish but straight-up hit Kalisto with HIS and maybe have the match won. But it comes back around, as lumberjack Ali pulls him out of the ring before the three.
Eventually all of the cruiserweights start throwing hands, culminating in a superplex from the top rope to the outside that is (1) worthy of a Raw main event spot, and (2) so good it gets a crowd of relatively apathetic fans to start chanting HOLY SHIT and THIS IS AWESOME.
After the Ali distraction, Enzo decides to puff up his chest and not only lay out Ali with a clothesline, but crotch Kalisto on the top rope. He’s seriously doing a good job and he doesn’t even know it. That’s pitch-perfect Enzo. He thinks being “the realest guy in the room” is all he can be, especially after years of teaming with Big Cass and being a comedy sidekick, so now that he’s in a real position of leverage and power he can’t stop ruining it for himself.
Kalisto’s able to use his super combo, the Salida del Sol off the top rope, to plant Enzo, put him away and win the Cruiserweight Championship. It’s such a concise, well executed story that despite our early expectations for Enzo and the milquetoast-as-balls reactions to Kalisto from live crowds, it not only works, it works as a Raw main event. Enzo actually managed to elevate the division in like, a month. See how much better a division is when you integrate some folks the audience is already familiar with?
The show goes off the air with an image that pays off the previous weeks of main event cruiserweight segments:
And that’s it. Again, imagine how great Raw could be if you cropped out all the “lightning round” throwaway stuff, got to the Asuka fireworks factory already, lobbed Bray Wyatt into a black hole and ran a two hour show book-ended by a bad-ass Shield reunion plus confrontation with three talented heels AND Braun f-wording Strowman, and a cruiserweight division match with consequence that tied together multiple stories and got everyone over?
Get your shit together, Smackdown. Seriously.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Baron Von Raschke
Neville is gonna be so angry tomorrow.
“Typical. A lumberjack match and I was not invited. Guess i will just need to kick Enzo in the balls for 15 minutes to teach you all a lesson.”
At TLC we meet Finn’s female doppelgänger: Fer-Gal.
Seems that Emma was wishing for that push on a monkey’s paw.
WWE Creative: Sorry, we have nothing in the works for you at this time.
WWE Wrestler: Oh thank God!
5 minutes earlier
“ok so just stand behind this door until I say ‘Right HERE’”
“uh, you sure, seems kinda dumb and extra…”
“no, no I swear its gonna be so cool”
Titus is to banjo playing what rusev is to flag waving.
Still waiting for Harrison Ford to burst in shaking his finger at Jordan and holding a DNA report: “You switched the samples!!!”
Roman- what are these people doing?
Dean- it’s called cheering
Roman-do, do I want this?
The Real Birdman
“You gotta separate them and take them out one at a time!” – CM Punk yelling at his tv
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading! Be sure to drop us a comment to let us know what you thought of the show, and share the column on social media to help us reach as many people as possible.
Join us next week, when …
OH WHO CARES, THEY’RE FISTING EACH OTHER AGAIN, WRESTLING IS THE BEST.