Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: The Raw brand followed up Money in the Bank with a great first hour, and then two of the worst hours you’ve ever seen. This week we’re doing the same show, but backwards.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 25, 2018.
Best/Worst: The Episode We Should’ve Done Last Week
This week’s episode of Raw felt difficult to sit through sometimes, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until this morning: This week’s Raw is the episode they should’ve done last week.
The first example is the opening segment, which I’ll try to lay out for you. Last week, Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns sort of passively-aggressively bickered at each other about how Brock Lesnar wasn’t going to be around to defend the Universal Championship at Extreme Rules, then had a tag team match against the Revival, which they won easily. The whole thing felt like it was happening to kill time. Give them an extra week, and you get THIS week’s segment: Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns sort of passively-aggressively bickered at each other about how Brock Lesnar wasn’t going to be around to defend the Universal Championship at Extreme Rules, then had a tag team match against the Revival, which the Revival WINS because (1) they are a real tag team, not a pair of singles stars who don’t even like each other, and (2) the issues between Lashley and Reigns need to supersede their ability to win matches so they can have a reason to fight each other. That’s the whole point.
It’s not a great trope, but it’s the call you make if you want your singles stars having a match on pay-per-view sans Brock Lesnar, and you don’t want one of your three remaining Actual Tag Teams to look like shit. Reigns and Lashley whimper-fighting each other is the point, right? So they don’t need to whimper-fight AND win. If they do, you’re left thinking, “why don’t they just chill the fuck out and be friends?” But if the whimper-fighting is actually of some consequence and affects them negatively in some way, it gives the characters something to actually be mad about beyond some vague “why are we here and the champion’s not” John Cena ennui. Plus, you know, the Revival doesn’t look like shit for the first time since the end of Raw 25.
There are smaller examples throughout the show. As another example, last week’s show featured Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt squashing Heath Slater and Rhyno, and then Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas showing up on the TitanTron dressed like them to make jokes. It was cute, but it didn’t really go anywhere. This week, the teams actually interact, and the “dressing up as your opponent” thing felt like an attempt at low-level “mind games,” and not just dorks being dorks into the abyss.
Again, it’s not a great trope, especially not building to a tag team championship match by having the champs lose singles matches to the challengers. But at this point on the live shows we’re forced to counterbalance “nothing making sense and going anywhere” with “it’s not original, but at least we’re moving forward.” Matt Hardy wrestles Curtis Axel in a singles match, loses to him due to a weird botched superplex spot where Axel does nothing but still counters it, and the B-Team has a “win” over the champs. At the very, very least, it’s attempting to plant a seed of doubt in your brain, and illustrates how on any given night something can go wrong, and even the worst team can pull off a fluke win over the best. It would’ve been a lazy, but understandable first beat in a story last week. This week, it feels like them re-doing last week’s segments. Just like the Revival tag.
The best example (followed by maybe the worst creative decision on this week’s episode) is the rivalry between Bayley and Sasha Banks, which has been going on in one form or another [checks notes] since the dawn of time. At LEAST since before this year’s Royal Rumble. We’ve been predicting “Sasha finally turns on Bayley” or “Bayley finally stops being a stupid baby and stands up for herself” forever, through a Royal Rumble and an Elimination Chamber and an Andre the Giant Battle Royal and last week’s episode where Banks lost a match and took it out on Bayley. Instead of point A to point B to point C, it’s point A to point B to point B to point B to point B to point B to point B to point B to point B to point B to point B to point B to point B to point B.
This is the closest we’ve gotten to “point C,” I think, with Sasha doing the exact same thing as last week — losing a match for her team, this time letting down Ember Moon AND Bayley in a six-woman tag against yonder Riott Squadron — and Bayley just straight-up flipping out on her and kicking her ass. I can’t imagine going back and telling Hulu NXT homer Brandon how much I want Bayley to stop being dippy and throw hands at her friends for being jerks, but here we are. I (and the entire crowd, if you pay attention) want Bayley to stop being this cardboard cutout of an emoji of a human being and start FEELING things again, reacting logically to how people treat her, and be a fully-formed person. So yeah, Sasha can only eliminate her from battle royals and kick her off Chamber pods and shove her on her ass after matches before she gets got. Right?
Worst: Where Have You Gone, Dr. Shelby, Our Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You
woo woo woo
That sets up the “worst creative decision of the episode” I mentioned, which is Kurt Angle:
- weirdly reacting to Bayley and Sasha Banks clearly needing to fight each other and work out their issues by making them tag partners again, with a really odd “this is your LAST CHANCE to be FRIENDS” stipulation that he can’t possibly influence or control
- chastising and punishing Bayley for doing what every wrestler does every fucking week by being ordered into “counseling” by her boss
Braun Strowman literally chases his partner out of the arena and destroys the man’s rental car by flipping it over in the parking lot so he can’t leave, and Angle’s like, “let’s see what implications that has for the title scene here on Raw!” Meanwhile Bayley punches a lady who shoved her on her ass last week and Angle’s like, “you are literally a baby, you need to stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done.” Why? Like, even if Bayley’s a special case and Angle’s worried about her reputation or marketability with children or whatever, wouldn’t he understand that sometimes wrestlers get pissed at each other and punch each other over bullshit? Bayley’s just in charge of her agency in a storyline for the first time since she won the goddamn NXT Women’s Championship.
Speaking of Braun, Angle makes a “mismatched partners” main event as a passive-aggressive response to Express For Men Baron Corbin saying he’s bad at booking tag team wrestling — he is — resulting in two main-event-level beef engagements. He teams up Corbin with Finn Bálor, the wrestling rivalry equivalent of trying to get through a Thanksgiving dinner with your Republican parents without getting into an argument, and Kevin Owens with Strowman.
On last week’s Raw, we got a weird segment where Kevin Owens cut a promo about how he wanted to be Strowman’s friend. It didn’t go well, so Strowman teamed up with Bálor (continuing his love of helping out the very tiny; see also Nicholas and Alexa Bliss) against the heels and lost. This week, they do what they shoud’ve done last week, if they wanted to book a show of tired tropes that move the plot forward: mix up the teams so that Bálor and Corbin come to blows, and Owens can tell his “I want to be your friend, but mostly so you don’t kill me” story with the logical conclusion in the same space. Strowman’s like, “I know you’re full of shit,” chases him out of the arena and flips his car. If you’d just done these two things last week, we could’ve moved to the next part of the story this week, and an entire episode of Raw wouldn’t feel like a tree falling in the woods with no one around to watch it.
Imagine if last week they’d followed up Money in the Bank with an episode featuring:
- Lashley and Reigns losing a match to the Revival, making them realize they want to punch each other at Extreme Rules
- the Tag Team Champions losing a singles match to a jobber to the stars team to further a surprising heel Cinderella story heading into Extreme Rules
- Banks and Bayley finally reaching the point of no return, Bayley flipping out, and an Extreme Rules match being signed between two women who have already gone batshit on each other in the ring a few times
- Bálor getting into a rivalry with Corbin to set up a match for Extreme Rules
- Strowman doing something insane to Owens to pressure them into something even crazier at Exteme Rules
You’d have set up almost your entire next pay-per-view card, given everybody a constructive role on the show whether it’s particularly interesting or not, and we could’ve spent THIS week moving all of those stories forward. Instead, this feels like week 1 in a week 2 costume. Bo Dallas dressed as Bray Wyatt, but creatively. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Worst: Who Is The Bully, Exactly?
One quick final example of Raw just kind of forgetting its own stories is the Raw Women’s Championship scene. Last week we got an exciting segment wherein Ronda Rousey reacted to Alexa Bliss cashing in Money in the Bank on her by beating her to death with a Halliburton briefcase, attacking Kurt Angle, and punching a bunch of referees in the stomach with JUDO POWER. It was great, and Ronda ended up “suspended” for 30 days to write her off the show for a month and let Bliss hang onto the championship before presumably eating armbar at SummerSlam. It was the most positive and constructive part of the show.
This week, we take like five steps backwards by repositioning the angle as Bliss trying to retain the Women’s Championship against Nia Jax. This is where it gets complicated. To keep it as simple as I can in my own brain, Bliss and Jax stopped being friends because Bliss was bullying Jax backstage, calling her fat and worthless and revealing that she’d emotionally abused and manipulated her. That set up Jax beating her for the championship at WrestleMania. You’d think that’d be the end of that story, but Bliss continued emotionally abusing her. Then all of a sudden Jax challenged Ronda Rousey to a championship match at the NBC Upfronts, and we thought it was to set her up as a corporate champion at Stephanie McMahon’s command, hell bent on ending Rousey. We got a couple of followup segments of Jax going FULL BULLY on Ronda, more or less standing in the ring making fun of her for 10 minutes. Then the next week we forgot about it completely, Nia was friendly again and only “accidentally” injuring Ronda’s best friend Natalya in a match. She felt really bad about it for some reason, and was a face again, and we were like, “?”
So Rousey and Jax have a competitive match at Money in the Bank, which ends with Bliss cashing in, defeating Jax, and stealing Rousey’s opportunity and spotlight. Rousey gets mad at Bliss and gets suspended. So what’s the next part of the story? If you’re WWE, it’s — and I’m not exaggerating this at all — Jax showing up to help Natalya cheat to beat Bliss. Jax, the person who injured Natalya and used her as a pawn in a feud with Natalya’s friend, is good friends with Natalya again and helping her bully the bully who accused her of bullying. Does that track at all? Who’s being unkind to who here, really? It seems like everyone in the division is a heel except Ronda, who was so enraged last week that she beat up like six non-wrestlers, tabled the champion, and attacked her boss/tag team partner/Olympics dad with a briefcase. That’s your ONLY FACE.
And that’s not even touching the other problems with the segment, such as “blank has defeated the Raw Women’s Champion!” Really the only thing I liked her is Bliss’ insistence that cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase was “legal,” because yeah, cashing in whenever you want and taking advantage of a situation is legal, but the whole “attacking your opponent with a weapon before you cash it in” part is heel as shit.
Best: A Night Of Jobber Humiliation
The parts of the show that worked the most for me, main event aside, are the jobber squashes sprinkled throughout. The funniest of the two is this one featuring Mojo Rawley refusing a rematch with No Way Jose and spending an entire segment emasculating an NPC in a cheeseburger costume. It doesn’t accomplish much other than setting up Rawley taking a cheap shot on Jose, but man, I could watch Mojo get deeply focused and make a man want to sob on global television for his bad life choices all night.
Also, best-ever use of “beef” in a video title, WWE. +1.
The other positive jobber squash of the night is the Authors of Pain absolutely wrecking “Rich and Rex Gibson,” who look like World Wrestling Council’s best attempt at a Flying Graysons gimmick in 1994. If you put masks on them they’d be the luchadors at your local flea market parking lot show. So you get the return of the Authors, who we’re happy to see are still employed, and the hilarious physical deaths of Local Talent so embarrassing they’ve got Corey Graves suggesting they try out for Peter Pan in the middle of their television debuts. Honestly, jobbers who make your offense look so deadly it should send you to prison are the best thing that ever happens in wrestling.
I’m not really up for a big Authors of Pain vs. Titus Worldwide feud, but hell, at least it’s two functional teams getting into a fight about something other than how quickly they can break up.
Finally we have the best wrestling part of the night, par for the course, with a 30-minute Intercontinental Championship main event between two of the hottest characters on the show, Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler. It actually reminded me a lot of Shawn Michaels and Mankind at In Your House Mind Games, as it’s nearly half an hour of increasingly exciting, awesome pro wrestling that ends in a super predictable disqualification to keep anyone from losing or anything from mattering. It’s one of those really good matches with a really bad ending that’s SO good and happens for SO long that the journey becomes more important than the destination. Yeah, the booking sucks, but man, I want to see it again.
Rollins is a miracle worker right now, and I’m really, really happy that we get to get behind Dolph Ziggler as a performer again. He’s like Bray Wyatt, where you hate almost everything he does, but shit, you know he’s better than this, and most of the frustration is from knowing what a waste of talent it’s been. He’s SO GOOD at this, and he needed something deeper than “saying he’s so good at this over and over before losing” as a character. Pairing him with McIntyre, giving them some championship gravitas and pairing them against two really good in-ring workers like Rollins and Reigns is an A-damn-plus.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
IC Champion PdragolphZiggler
Drew tried to stab Seth with his Claymore, but he blocked it with his S.H.I.E.L.D.
And just like that every heel who’s gotten ejected from ringside and didn’t just come right back out is an idiot I guess
Saying left Twix is the same as right Twix is as ridiculous as saying a coroner is the same as an Undertaker, or a ghost is the same as a spirit, or the Riott Squad is the same as Absolution.
The real trust move will come if the action spins to the outside and Braun comes running and Kevin has to trust that there is somebody right next to him that Braun is gonna truck.
*next week in therapy*
Therapist: So, Bayley, is this obsession with physical affection a substitute for affection you never got as a child. Does this state of “arrested development” you seem to be in seem like a symptom of that? Does making children happy compensate for an unhappy relationship with Sasha?
Bayley: Kurt, what the hell is this?
Baron: What, you said book the best therapist money could buy?
Kurt: I said Fake Therapist!
*Bayley curled up in a ball* : So that’s where it all went wrong, leaving NXT, dating Sasha, the “This is your life” segment.
Therapist: good, let it all out, then we’ll work on your wacky tube man obsession next.
“You heard me. Sell all my Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men stock!”
Therapist: It’s not your fault.
Bayley: [Bayley shrugs] Yeah, I know that.
[Bayley averts his eyes to the floor]
Therapist: Look at me girl.
[Bayley locks eyes with Therapist]
Therapist: It’s not your fault.
Bayley: [Bayley nods] I know.
Therapist: No. It’s not your fault.
Bayley: I know
Therapist: No, no, you don’t. It’s not your fault.
[Therapist moves closer to Bayley]
Bayley: I know.
[Bayley stands up, trying to keep distance]
Therapist: It’s not your fault.
Therapist: It’s not your fault.
[Bayley closes his eyes, she’s fighting for control]
Therapist: It’s not your fault.
Bayley: Don’t [bleep] with me.
[Bayley shoves Therapist back]
Bayley: Don’t [bleep] with me, man, not you!
Therapist: It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.
[Bayley breaks into sobs. They hug]
Dr. Shelby: we’re scheduled for a 4 hour session, Bayley…
Bayley: Women’s Elimination Chamber.
Dr. Shelby: Time’s up! Counseling complete!
“Is this your master plan to impress the WWE brass?”
“Asshole, the brass are the one who told me to come out here dressed like a cheeseburger. The old man’s senile. What do you want from me?
Dave M J
YO SOY BAYLEY-GON DARK Y CERO ABRAZOS!
The C Team (aka The Coolest Team, duh!)
I wanted to see the camera shot of Ember Moon slowly back stepping to the back.
That’s it for this week’s edition, thanks for reading and commenting and sharing the column as always. Join us again next week for the show they should’ve done this week, which hopefully doesn’t involve Braun Strowman trying to kill Kevin Owens with a crane.