Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: We visited our old Stomping Grounds to watch Lacey Evans and Baron Corbin cosplay the McMahon family, see Ricochet win his first championship on the main roster, and hear like 4,000 Washingtonians have a mild time.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 24, 2019.
Worst: Taking The Long Way Around
One of the weekend’s most surprising news bits was that Vince McMahon had called a meeting to announce that WWE would not longer be splitting up matches with ad breaks, which when read in a vacuum while wearing horse blinders sounds like a long-awaited addressing of a very obvious problem.
Unfortunately, WWE’s idea of how to fix “not going to commercial during matches” wasn’t what you and I might do, like, oh, I don’t know, showing commercials before and after matches instead of 20-minute show-opening promo parades and throwaway backstage segments. No, WWE’s idea to address the problem was to start doing “2-out-of-3 falls matches” so you could have someone get pinned, then stop and “restart” the match with the next fall after you’ve thought about Popeye’s chicken and heard about an all new episode of Suits. It’s semantics. It’s doing the exact same thing, but going out of your way to make it as convoluted and unbelievable as possible.
As an example, this week’s entire episode of Raw.
Instead of griping about this for an entire column, let me break down everything WWE does in this one episode to avoid having commercials “during matches.”
- an 8-man elimination match featuring tag teams where if you’re eliminated, your partner is also eliminated, and after two teams lose the match is paused and then “restarted as a tag team match” after commercial
- a talk show segment is used to set up a match, then we go to commercial and come back to the match, which lasts 14 seconds
- a singles match ends, causing the loser’s tag team partner to challenge the winner, then we go to commercial and come back to a one minute, 45-second followup with the opponent changed
- a singles match ends in one minute, 20 seconds and teases a post-match attack, causing someone to run down to the ring to make the save. We then go to commercial, and come back to a tag team match featuring the same people, Teddy Long style
- the main event ends almost as soon as it starts because people walk down to the ring, and are then told that the match isn’t going to start until they leave. We then go to commercial, and come back with the match “restarted”
It’s almost impressive how much effort they put into doing what Vince said without changing the format of the show. They’re still going to commercial break during almost every match, they’ve just come up with dumb reasons why the live crowd has to sit there watching nothing for four minutes five separate times. It’s like a Rube Goldberg machine that makes shitty excuses. If I wasn’t so excited to see what they do next week when they’ve completely run out of ideas, I’d just say cut the crap and go back to throwing it to commercials for rest holds.
Best: Just Turn Raw Into A 3-Hour 24/7 Division Show
Ignoring the embarrassingly short “match” they followed it up with, R-Truth and Carmella’s appearance on Miz TV was the best segment of the night. It might’ve been the best WWE TV segment this year, from Miz and Truth being the only guys on the roster who remember how to interact with a crowd, to Drake Maverick showing up in a Rambo headband complaining about how his wife won’t sleep with him until he wins back the title. Bonus points for Truth thinking Drake wants to “constipate” his marriage. The whole 24/7 bit works, I think, because it shows us wrestlers having fun. They’re making something out of it, you know? It doesn’t feel as sterile and anti-happiness as the rest of the brand.
Also, +1 to Miz for doing the Gordon Solie “YES, COMMISSIONER” update-in-his-ear bit when he’s clearly just jamming a finger in there and making shit up. That’s a wrestling classic.
The 24/7 jokers show back up later in the night to interrupt a Mojo Rawley vs. Heath Slater match. It’s weird that they took the time to set this match up online and then used it as the background for an unrelated segment (and a little weird that they never actually had the scheduled match after the shenanigans, and everyone agreed to forget about it), but I guess I should compliment them for making the pivot less obvious.
As far as I can tell, Heath Slater is the first person to win the 24/7 Championship with a physical attack, instead of just schoolboying the champ, and I applaud him for that. It’s also a real Monkey Paw situation for me to watch Heath Slater, Cedric Alexander, and EC3 all win legit WWE championships on Raw, only all in the same segment, and with a max title reign of about 28 seconds.
I love (love love) what Truth and Carmella have done so far, but I hope they give a few other characters similarly entertaining runs with the belt. It could make us interested in a LOT of characters, not just those two! Drake losing it at his wedding is a great example, so why not let The Miz win it on next week’s episode and then get pinned by somebody during the MLB Celebrity Softball Game?
Better yet, have Truth swing by the UPROXX offices in Culver City so *I* can win it. I’m a former DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Champion, so I know how these things work. I just have to make sure I stay away from car washes this time.
Worst: A Real Man’s Man
If you watched Stomping Grounds and have ever watched a wrestling show before, you probably knew this was coming. Doesn’t make it any easier. Both the Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin top men’s title feud and the Becky Lynch vs. Lacey Evans top women’s title feud will continue in the form of a mixed tag team match at Extreme Rules, where if the faces win the heels can’t challenge them again, and if the heels win, they win both championships. Are you ready for a world where a terrible waiter nobody likes is your world champion, and the number one woman in the promotion doesn’t know how to get into position for anything?
This is what happens when “two popular wrestlers are dating” becomes public knowledge, and WWE decides to leverage real life romance into glue-gunned-together wrestling stories. It also means their opponents have to ALSO be a couple, so we get weird backstage bits like this one, where Corbin tells Lacey they might be WWE’s new “power couple.”
I’m not sure what I’m most afraid of; Extreme Rules ending with Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans as Raw’s top champions, or them losing, and Rollins and Lynch having a mixed tag team match with the ultimate Most Important Power Couple, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, at SummerSlam.
Or Shane McMahon and Drew McIntyre in a Dolly Parton wig. I don’t know how their creative works anymore.
Worst: Best Pro Wrestling On The Planet
Apparently Nitro from the American Gladiators has joined WWE Creative, because they followed up the Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley arm wrestling classic from earlier this month with a Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley tug of war competition. It’s the exact same segment. Braun’s about to lose, then he’s like, “lol, just kidding,” and wins. So Bobby attacks him. They just changed the props. He touched Braun’s face with a rope! It’s equal to or exceeding Terry Funk tried to smother Ric Flair to death with a plastic bag!
What’s next, Strowman beating Lashley in a game of Atlasphere only to get attacked from behind with a pugil stick?
Worst/Best: What Is Dead May Never Die
This week’s most surprising moment goes to the appearance from WWE Saudi Arabia Superstar The Undertaker, who donged his way into the ring to prevent Shane McMahon from easily winning another match against Roman Reigns.
I’m giving it a half Best because the crowd was super, super into it, and a half Worst because it was a 2-on-1 handicap match (where the announcers announced the special stipulation before the ring announcer was told about it by Shane) that furthered the “Shane McMahon is unstoppable” gimmick and brought in the 54-year old man we should’ve let retire and rest in peace years ago to give the 49-year old sweatbox of a non-wrestler the comeuppance nobody on the current roster is strong enough to do. Not even THE BIG DAWG. Nah, dawg!
So if we’re booking the promotion with comedic nihilism, the SummerSlam card’s shaping up to look like:
- Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
- Shane McMahon choking out The Undertaker with his sad dad legs, possibly in Hell in a Cell again
- Roman Reigns pinning Drew McIntyre to get his heat back for losing to Shane McMahon again at Extreme Rules
- Linda McMahon vs. “Rosie”
- Vince McMahon vs. Superstar Billy Graham, Last Man Standing
- Bobby Lashley vs. Braun Strowman in a push-ups contest
- 60-man Rest of the Roster battle royal on the pre-show where the match is stopped every time someone’s eliminated for an ad break and then restarted
Putting that energy into the world so it doesn’t happen, and or so I have something to copy-paste into the Best and Worst of SummerSlam besides that video of an orangutan pissing in its own mouth.
NO COMMERCIALS WE SWEAR Match One
The way this should work: A match is announced ahead of time and advertised in an effort to get you interested in watching the show. The match gets advertised again at the top of the show in case anyone missed it, and then you do the match. If it’s a long match, maybe you break it up with a commercial break, and let the fans at home know that the cameras are rolling, and if the match ends during the commercial, you’ll show them what happened. Fans will either stay tuned because they want to see the continuation of the match, or want to know what the finish was, and obviously you almost never actually end it during a break. Maybe once a year or something, to keep the illusion up.
The way this has worked on WWE TV: You open the show with someone cutting a promo. They’re interrupted by their opponent for later, and they argue until a match is made, whether it was previously announced or not. If it’s a tag match or some kind of fatal number-way, lots of people interrupt in a row. The match happens, you get a couple of commercial breaks, and you see the important parts.
How It works now that you can’t have wrestling during ad breaks: Kofi Kingston comes to the ring for an interview. Before a single question can be asked — because he just has to be in the ring, that’s the entire point — he’s interrupted by Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. They argue with each other for a while and set up Kofi vs. Sami Zayn, which we’ve already seen a few times lately in various forms.
Just going back as far as last month, we’ve seen:
- May 7 Smackdown – Kofi Kingston defeated Sami Zayn and AJ Styles in a triple threat match by pinning Zayn
- May 21 Smackdown – Kofi Kingston pinned Sami Zayn
- June 4 Smackdown – The New Day defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn when Kingston pinned Zayn
- June 11 Smackdown – The New Day defeated Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn when Kingston pinned Zayn
- June 17 Raw – The New Day wins a 2-out-of-3 falls match against Baron Corbin, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn two falls to zero, featuring Zayn being pinned by Xavier Woods (surprise!) in the opening seconds
- June 18 Smackdown – Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston defeated Baron Corbin and Sami Zayn two falls to zero, featuring Kingston pinning Zayn to win the first fall
- June 24 Raw – Kofi Kingston pinned Sami Zayn
Reminder that it’s the fans who are the problem.
Oh, and then Kofi defeats Kevin Owens in about a minute via count-out. Hope you didn’t think these guys winning a fun tag team match against NOT Kofi Kingston at Stomping Grounds meant they’d get some momentum and start being important characters again! I can’t wait until next week, when the Kingston vs. Samoa Joe feud continues with Kofi Kingston pinning Sami Zayn in 10 straight 40-second matches to win a best 10-out-of-11-falls match, featuring only nine Chrisley Knows Best commercials.
NO COMMERCIALS WE SWEAR Match Two
The other match like this begins with some Very Realistic Dialogue between Natalya, Naomi, Alexa Bliss, and Nikki Cross about how Cross shouldn’t trust Bliss, because she’s bad news. I was kinda hoping Cross would bring up Natalya’s time in the Welcoming Committee and Naomi’s time with Team B.A.D., Team B.A.D. And Blonde, and/or her partnership with Cameron as examples of why people who wrestle in glass houses shouldn’t do schoolboy roll-ups to stones, but whatever.
Bliss wins an extremely short match against Naomi and I guess proves herself philosophically correct (?) by leveraging Nikki Cross to cause a distraction. After the match, Bliss tries to get Cross to attack Naomi, and Cross seems confused. She shoves them both down, and I start wondering when the feral lady from Sanity turned into Lenny from Of Mice And Men. Natalya jogs down to make the save in her casual vinyl and cat ears, and we’ve got a tag team match, player.
Either that or Alexa Bliss is going one on one wit da Undataker, I need to check.
Anyway, Cross and Bliss win again, Cross doesn’t seem to understand how tag team wrestling works, and the announce team tries to put over this narrative that Cross “did all the work” despite Bliss largely dominating both Naomi and Natalya during the match and tagged in Cross for a flurry of offense at the end. I sit here trying to figure out how WWE’s big idea to fixing its creative problems is having everybody lose two matches per show instead of one.
Worst: Gallows And Anderson Refuse To Join Any Club That Would Have Them As Members
Continuing the very creative “interview segment immediately interrupted by what we actually want to talk about” gimmick, AJ Styles drops his interview time to brow-beat Anderson and Gallows for dancing in No Way Jose’s weird backstage off-camera conga line. They say they’re going to take their careers seriously (again), and lose (again), this time to The Viking Raiders.
I don’t dislike what they’re doing with Styles trying to motivate his friends to not be complete jobbers, but man, trying your best and still losing clean to a Raw tag team division team in 3:25 is the “dancing backstage with No Way Jose” of in-ring competition.
They’re such garbage characters at this point that their friend stops his main event match to roll out of the ring, grab a microphone, and tell them that their presence at ringside will ruin it. He tells them he’s not going to get back in the ring and wrestle until they’re gone, and these dudes are so professionally impotent right now that they actually leave and don’t come back, instead of like, standing there with some pride and letting Styles get counted out because he doesn’t realize he can’t control the rules of a wrestling match on the fly. Nobody’s thinking about any of this shit.
Best: AJ Styles Has Pinned The United States Champion!
Okay, that part isn’t a Best, but obviously once the Ricochet vs. AJ Styles match gets “restarted” it’s very good. They’ve got solid chemistry together, and manage to have an entertaining match with a clean finish that doens’t give away everything they’ve got in reserve and saves something for a bigger, more important match down the road. Of course, I said the same thing about the first Styles vs. Nakamura matches and the first Styles vs. Samoa Joe matches, too, so maybe “it was a pretty good match” is the most they’re gonna do.
Still, these guys are great in the ring, and if they’re given a chance to really take their time and play off each others’ strengths, they could create something uniquely special. And it’s good to see Styles back in the ring again. He’s a much better pro wrestler than backstage life coach, after all.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
When Stephanie McMahon said they might introduce two men dating as a storyline, this is not what I expected
Mr. Grift + The Real Birdman
The WWE is a perfect allegory for Modern America — we’ve made some questionable decisions, insist we are as great as we ever were, all while we are slowly being overtaken by our surging Asian counterparts and the rise of new major players with ties to the Middle East. Plus, no one is suffering more than the middle card/class.
Yeah but WWE is run by an out of touch billionaire while America is…
And there’s your next title match: a hot mug of Kofi vs. a fresh cup o’ Joe. Brought to you by Starbucks
Seth: I should probably go out there and help Roman…
Seth: *closes door*
Oops Pow Surprise
I’ve seen more sexual energy in a math test than whatever that Lacey and Baron segment was going for
Baron Corbin has no business telling anybody to make a sandwich when table 3 is STILL waiting for their appetizers.
Okay. I’m tired from driving 12 hours non-stop. So, lets see whose replacing Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans in their feuds.
(gets in car; continues driving)
UNDERTAKER: I need a match against someone who won’t turn purple and almost die within 3 minutes of getting started.
Can we please get another doctor to talk to the locker room about concussions not being a real concern in wrestling?
Big Baby Yeezus
Truth has so many title reigns in so little time, he might actually be Ric Flair’s son
No Firefly Funhouse this week, but at least we got this cool backstage cameo from The Vigilante Sting!
Thanks for reading this week’s Best and Worst of Raw. We appreciate you dealing with us as we work through our Jacob’s Ladder-style relationship with WWE. As always, a social media share does wonders, and a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the COMMERCIAL FREE three-hour program is delightful.
Join us next week for mass hysteria!