Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: We witnessed Hell In A Cell, a bold re-imagining of Hell in the Cell as a bright red milk crate where matches can end in No Contests if the people get hurt enough. [shrug]
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, and that this part is copy and pasted in every week, but we appreciate it every week. This was definitely an episode of Monday Night Raw.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for September 17, 2018.
Worst: We’re Going Going, Back Back, To Saudi, Saudi
If you thought WWE was doing the Evolution pay-per-view as a way to celebrate the contribution of women to their company over the past 30 years, surprise! It’s because they’re doing another six-hour fantasy booked propaganda house show from Saudi Arabia, where not only can the women not appear, the people who booked the show get death threats because a woman or two popped up in a between-match video package. Things are great all over!
Welcome to WWE Crown Jewel, a show headlined by Chase Owens vs. Jimmy Rave. Or Roman Reigns defending the Universal Championship against Nerfed Braun Strowman and USADA Brock Lesnar, one or the other. It also may be a brand of liquor? I made a joke before about how an oligarch luring Vince McMahon into letting him run an e-fed with the world’s biggest wrestling promotion and air a bunch of “we aren’t evil, we swear” videos on the Network was the new business model going forward, but … yeah, it might actually be. Anyway, join us again in February for Jeddah’s third pay-per-view, WWE presents Salman of Saudi Arabia’s Best WrestleMania Ever, headlined by The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan with the corpse of Bruno Sammartino operated by Breezango a la Weekend At Bernie’s as special guest referee.
Worst: Undertaker Promos Are The Browns Games Of Wrestling
Speaking of dead guys being operated by levers and pulleys, The Undertaker made a special appearance to reiterate that no, actually HE will win the match at the Bonzer Royal Rumble in Australia, and Triple H is sadly mistaken. Only he peppers it with “souls” and “hellfire” and long, confused pauses where he tries to remember his lines because he’s a very tired 53-year old giant goth who wasn’t very good at these promos 20 years ago when he had to cut them every week.
People always jump up my ass when I expose my … whatever the opposite of “fandom” is for the Undertaker, so I’ll type this again: The Undertaker isn’t the “greatest wrestler of all time” or whatever they wanna tell you — that honor goes to the Bella Twins, clearly — but he’s important to the existence of the promotion socially, and deserves our affection and respect for being one of those rare veterans who maintained a level of gravitas for pretty much the entirety of their careers. He’s the kind of wrestler you fall in love with as a little kid, because he’s goddamn ridiculous, which then makes you fall in love with watching wrestling, and that stays with you the rest of your life. That’s an important skill, and not a lot of people have it. At the same time, it’s important to note that listening to him cut promos is brutal, and if you remove all the spooky nouns and adjectives he sounds like Grandpa Simpson explaining why he used to wear an onion on his belt.
The big news here is that Kane will be in his corner in Australia, and then probably in an actual tag team match in Saudi Arabia, because SHARIA LAW IS COMING TO KNOX COUNTY. Just kidding, Tennessee voters who only read headlines, he’s there because the guy paying 60 million dollars for the show stopped watching wrestling in 1998.
Worst/Best: Corbin In Dallas, Big Badda Boom
So to recap most of the episode in one go, this week’s A-story (so to speak) is Acting General Manager Constable “Baron” Corbin capitalizing on the fact that Hell in the Cell ended in a massive clusterfuck at the expense of The Shield by booking an entire Raw to be a massive clusterfuck at the expense of The Shield. Throughout the show he (1) books himself in a Universal Championship match against Roman Reigns, basically “cashing in Money in the Bank” without Money in the Bank because the person who runs this show put a mid-card heel in charge for some reason, (2) tries to manipulate Dolph Ziggler, a guy who once “quit the company” because he’d won a secondary championship he didn’t care about, into winning a secondary championship by forfeit, and (3) sells the physical toll taken on the people who competed at Hell in a Cell by putting them all in matches, thereby lessening the impact of literally everything that’s happened over the past day. Things are going great!
The good news is that Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Drew McIntyre, and Dolph Ziggler are all very good right now, so the matches they end up being sorta wedged into are still entertaining. Ambrose vs. McIntyre continues Ambrose’s development into a some-nonsense ass-kicker, and McIntyre’s development into “holy shit, how does a human man like Drew McIntyre exist.” McIntyre wins, because when removed from an NXT show where “being a good wrestler” equates to doing better in wrestling matches, nobody should beat Drew McIntyre in singles matches. In NXT I could buy like, Oney Lorcan pinning him, but on Raw? Get outta here.
Rollins vs. Ziggler was my favorite match of the night, because of course it was. I love how they both wrestled the match “hurt,” which not only caused them to sell more dramatically, but affected their offense and their gameplans for how to win. Rollins wants to get his Falcon Arrow combo, but doesn’t have the strength to pull it off, and probably still has PTSD from McIntyre Claymoring him into Valhalla or whatever at Hell in a Cell. He also sells the lower back on a Curb Stomp, which is just spectacularly accurate. Ziggler’s “showing off” is limited here as well, as he’s forced to focus up, and most of his big offensive flourishes are him yelling AAAAAAH and hurling his body in Seth’s direction. Sequential storytelling is something wrestling in WWE could really be improved by; the idea that the matches that happened in the past, you know, actually happened, and affect and influence the match you’re currently watching. And the match you’re currently watching will affect the next one, which gives you a reason to want to watch every match.
The main event is less effective, because
- it contains 100% more Baron Corbin, and
- it does the same thing Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman at Hell in a Cell did, where they add so much (whoa-oh) smoke and mirrors to cover the booking that they throw everything at the wall, and even though nothing sticks, the wall’s covered in thrown-shit stains
At Hell in a Cell, they tried to cover for the reality — Braun Strowman losing a Money in the Bank cash-in to Roman Reigns, which would make everyone in the world boo — by adding a special guest referee, adding the cage, painting the cage bright red, having four guys battle on TOP of the cage, having two of those four guys fall off the cage through tables, and then having two more dudes do a run-in to mace the special guest referee and destroy the actual wrestlers in the match, causing a no contest. In a no disqualification Hell in a Cell match. On Raw, they spent three hours building up this Shield vs. Baron Corbin narrative, had Corbin book himself into the match via heel promos, had Corbin LOSE the match by disqualification only to restart it as NO disqualification (which we’ve seen him do before, and he does at all the house shows), then had those same four dudes from the previous night run out to do stuff in and around the ring, and also Braun Strowman is there, and also also also also.
The shorter version of the criticism I’m trying to provide here is the same thing Trey Parker says about writing. If your story beats are connected by “and then” instead of “therefore,” your story sucks. And 99 times out of 10, WWE thinks “and then” is enough.
This is all to set up the six-man tag team match at Super Show-Down in Australia, which will probably be used to further the issues heading into Crown Jewel, which will probably be used to further the issues headed into Fake Starrcade, because as I wrote in the Hell in a Cell report, nothing ever ends now. Not even the stuff that’s supposed to happen before you get to the end of the story. There’s literally zero consequence to anything, because we’re encouraged to forget everything, and watch the show off the top of our heads.
The Rest Of The Show ‘Save My Sanity’ Lightning Round
We can’t find time for Finn Bálor, The Revival, Tyler Breeze, or 70% of the Raw roster on the three-hour Raw, but the Authors of Pain — now just known as “AOP,” as they’ve been Kentucky Fried Chickened — get another tag team match against Local Talent. Did Drake Maverick decide to manage AOP so he’d have a disposal system for all the cruiserweights he didn’t want to use on 205 Live?
On the plus side, this week’s Local Talent are ‘Unholy’ Gregory James and current (or former, depending on which side of the company you’re on) NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion Barret Brown. Brown is especially great, and has made a few appearances on WWE TV in NPC roles. He’s a junior heavyweight that straight-up knows how to work, and would be an awesome addition to 205. Oh, and speaking of 205 Live …
… the best part of this week’s entire show might’ve been the official Raw debut of Lio Rush, now tasked with managing Bobby Lashley, the flaming trash barrel that walks like a man. Like a MY man, sorry. I don’t know why WWE’s idea to bring back managers and push cruiserweights is “making cruiserweights into managers,” but Rush is very good at this, and will hopefully become the Abraham Washington in a ripped little PWG standout’s clothing he was born to be.
Here, he has a fun interaction with Elias where Elias keeps calling him an actual child, then insults Kevin Owens until Owens appears a la Beetlejuice and must avoid being murdered by him using PARKOUR. Bobby Lashley should be super thankful the company that created him is now allowing fans to download the DLC “charisma” pack to improve his character. Put them in the tag team division, feud them with Owens and Sami Zayn if you want, and never, ever let Bobby Lashley speak again. Not even when the cameras are off. Teach him ASL.
Bayley defeated Dana Brooke in about two minutes in the most depressing match Raw can have without bringing out The Revival. Dana looked pretty good here, honestly, but her big “leaving Titus Worldwide” singles push still leaves her as enhancement talent, and you don’t see WWE rushing to announce Bayley vs. some Diva from 15 years ago at Evolution, so here we are.
Really my major talking point here is how old I am, and how any time you put a camera on a child now they instantly start doing the Backpack Kid dance, and how that makes me feel more like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino than anything I’ve been alive to witness. They’ve even got Pete Dunne doing it on shows. I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ anymore and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary. It’ll happen to you!
Chad Gable and Viktor had one of those Mike Enos and Chris Jericho Nitro matches where two guys you aren’t expecting to tear it up kinda tear it up, at least on a very small scale, because Chad Gable is great. I wish we weren’t all sitting over here checking our watches and waiting for Bobby Roode to turn on him for no reason. I thought FOR SURE the Konnor shove after the match was going to make Roode think Gable “attacked him” somehow, but the good news is that it’s just to set up the fourth Gable/Roode vs. Ascension match in four weeks.
wait, did I say good
The major development in the women’s division this week is … okay, so Alexa Bliss ends up in a tag team match against Ember Moon and a mystery opponent, and everyone acts like they don’t know who the opponent is despite (1) Bliss only having one major rival besides Ronda Rousey, and (2) Ember Moon having only ever had two-on-two tag matches with one person since getting called up, the person she debuted on Raw as the mystery tag team partner of, who also happens to be the other Alexa Bliss rival.
So it’s Nia Jax, and we’re back to the Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss beef, with the weird added subplot of “nobody in the locker room liking Ember Moon” because she keeps to herself, or something? There’s a strange amount of focus put on the women’s locker room lately, where Renee’s like, “the women in the locker room don’t like Ember Moon,” and “there’s a generation of women who never had The Twins in the locker room!” Can we … can we leave that stuff on the reality shows, and book the wrestlers to do wrestling stuff on the wrestling show? Can you at least create some content that shows people not liking Ember Moon for reasons instead of just telling us, and that having to be the story?
Speaking of telling instead of showing, Ronda Rousey somehow doesn’t know how to do an open challenge until the Bella Twins tell her how, and then the Bella Twins have to run out to save her from her own open challenge. Because the Bella Twins are wrestling legends who are very popular in the locker room, and RONDA ROUSEY needs them to help her out socially and professionally. And to help her win fights. BECAUSE REASONS.
I also think I figured out what bugs me about the Riott Squad: they aren’t characters. They’re an aesthetic. Like, describe Liv Morgan’s character without telling me what she looks like or what she wears. Same with Ruby Riott. What, she likes to riot? Because her name is riot? The only reason we know Sarah Logan’s character is because that one promo she cut was so hilariously bad she’s stuck with “YOU EVER TASTE LIVE GAME” like it’s Kalisto’s “good lucha thing.” She’s still just shorts and some face paint. Liv’s just suspender tights and blonde hair and a blue tongue. Ruby’s just angry faces and tattoos. None of that is their fault, creative just created their characters at the beginning of a game of D&D and then didn’t actually play through the campaign.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
That’s a lot of odds you’re throwing in there…
…it’d be a shame if someone…
Nia’s just out here to get her voice back from Lio Rush
I’m sad that Becky Lynch isn’t in this Mean Girl Click conversation about Ember, just so Alexa can say, “Oh My God Becky, look at her butt, it is so big.”
I hope every RAW Superstar gets their own Cruiser
“YOU SUCK AND I KNOW I CAN KILL YOU”
“sir, I keep telling you, we can’t give you every single Baconator we have”
If Elias wanted real boos he would praise Jerry Jones
Look who dragged the cat in!
Taker “when I face Triple H for the last time….yeah I know fingers crossed…”
Def Chokeslam Poetry sucks
Smackdown hasn’t even aired yet and its better than RAW.
My entire review process.
Thanks for slogging through another episode of Raw with me. Drop a comment down below to let us know why you “actually thought this was really good,” and be sure to share the column to keep us in the business of making wrestling jokes and doing the Backpack Kid every time someone looks at us. [backpacks]
See you tomorrow for Smackdown, which will hopefully not make us feel like this.