Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel christened themselves the “B-Team,” Roman Reigns speared Jinder Mahal through the world’s most believable hallway wall, and Sami Zayn promised to “expose” Bobby Lashley using the worst comedy imaginable.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for May 21, 2018.
Best, With A Little Worst: By The Numbers
This week’s Raw’s entire first hour is dedicated to an artificially elongated version of WWE’s favorite series of tropes, and the laziest way they ever put together an hour of television. That’s not to say it’s bad, because the talent involved makes almost all of it watchable-to-good, but it’s the kind of Raw hour one you could write as a joke having not watched at all.
- GM opens the show talking, babyface interrupts, heel interrupts babyface
- GM puts babyface and heel into match, which starts right now
- that match ends in disqualification when a second heel attacks
- second babyface makes the save, leading to a commercial break
- back from commercial and what’s this, the GM says this is now a tag team match!
Normally this takes about half an hour total, but this week’s stretched out for the entire first hour. I kinda want WWE to book an entire episode of Raw like this. Have the GM open the show, get interrupted, have a heel interrupt that and set up a match. That match ends in DQ because of a heel attack, and a second babyface makes the save. That leads to a tag match, which ends in DQ when a third heel attacks, and a third babyface makes the save, and we keep repeating that until hour three is just a 60-minute torneo cibernetico with like half the roster.
The first part of this, Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens, is pretty good. They get about 13 minutes and do their thing, and I continue to appreciate them letting KO actually compete and get in offense in his losses so he isn’t stuck in that “lose to Goldberg in 15 seconds or beat AJ Styles via Rube Goldberg booking” loop he was in before. Jinder Mahal attacks Roman to cause the disqualification, because Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal is our summer program. Which is like the DC cinematic universe doing a big crossover movie between Steppenwolf and horrible CGI Doomsday. That analogy works better the more you read it.
Things pick up when Seth Rollins makes the save, because Seth is on an almost supernaturally good roll right now and could make Little Kid Nicholas look like Kenny Omega. I mean, maybe not, but if he gets a killer match out of Jinder next week (which is already announced for the card), he’s the best wrestler in the world. Period. AJ Styles couldn’t get anything above two and three-quarter-ish stars out of Jinder.
But yeah, Rollins cranks up the heat and gets the crowd involved, and re-contextualizes Roman Reigns in his best light: tag team wrestler. Roman Reigns might secretly be the best tag team wrestler in the company, and if they just booked him in tags and six-mans and sub-7-minute matches he’d probably be the most universally popular wrestler they have. It’s only when you ask him to go 25-30 minutes, tell a story that requires the crowd to empathize with him and ask him to be believably hurt that things get iffy. It’d be like signing Bryan Danielson and putting him in a bunch of Double Dare challenges instead of letting him wrestle.
Rollins picks up the win with what almost amounts to “rolling” Curb Stomps — he misses the first one, and smartly just readjusts and stomps in a different direction — and hey, for better booking or worse, Raw’s first hour was almost entirely good to very good pro wrestling. That’s positive.
It’s not like they’re going to immediately destroy that with the next segment, right?
Worst: Lashley This Is Your Life
WWE is never worse as a television show than when they decide to do one of these “comedy” segments where people we’ve never seen show up as barely written characters and say or do regressively stupid shit that helps nobody for 20 minutes. You’ve seen them before. This is the latest. The Rock: This Is Your Life got such a good response and such high ratings that WWE decided to keep regurgitating the concept, never really seeming to realize that The Rock and Mick Foley were special talents who could spin shit into gold.
In case you missed it and hate yourself enough to find out what happened anyway, Sami Zayn brings out three random dudes in dresses as Bobby Lashley’s “sisters” and gets them to say that Bobby was a juvenile delinquent or something, and that they hate him. Lashley shows up to no reaction and acts like he’s not bothered until Sami just outright calls him “garbage,” and a battle between Bobby Lashley and three vaguely transphobic NPCs begins. Lashley beats them all up and throws them out of the ring to somehow even less of a reaction than he got for showing up.
It’s pretty great when you can tell which segments Vince McMahon wrote on a Monday afternoon, handed in and said “put this on TV” without anyone doing a second draft. At some point we need to do a Sweet Sixteen tournament with Lashley’s sisters, the Old Day, “Sonny Boy,” Katie Vick, the Planet of the Apes apes, Trump vs. Rosie, Bayley This Is Your Life, Santino (or R-Truth) dressed like Sherlock Holmes, Fake Diesel and Razor Ramon, Vince McMahon feuding with God, Mae Young’s hand baby, Cena pouring barbecue sauce on Michael Cole, the anonymous Raw General Manager, Chris Jericho’s Classic Concentration photoshop gags, Al Snow eating his own dog and maybe Little People’s Court and see which one wins.
I’d say “please never do this again,” but I know that’s like asking the sun not to rise.
The Middle Of The Show
I think the worst part of the Sami segment (besides all of it, and also the fact that Sami had to do it instead of somebody like Baron Corbin) is that it derails the entire episode, and Raw never fully recovers. Which again is a shame, because the first hour of the show, while predictable, was good and extremely watchable.
Almost everything between hour one and the very end of hour three felt flat, as exemplified by Baron Corbin vs. No Way Jose. This was so lifeless they could’ve wrestled in a mausoleum. It’s about four minutes long, but feels like 10. Jose’s act seems like it dies as soon as he stops the conga, and the conga only seems to be over with the handful of dancing fans they cut to while it’s happening. Shout-out to the guy in the Wu-Tang shirt for being real into No Way Jose.
Corbin wins with End of Days, and I’d say that’s the end of the feud if I didn’t think they’re gonna be facing each other again next week.
Speaking of that, goddamn, how many times do we need to see Elias vs. Bobby Roode? This is the fourth one-on-one match they’ve had on Raw in five weeks. Roode’s only had two TV matches that weren’t against Elias since coming over from Raw 2 1/2 pay-per-views ago.
Again, it’s not bad really, it just feels like it’s being wrestled by their shadows, like they’re characters in Braid and reversed time to do it over and over. It still (still) feels like Elias should be getting cheered and Roode should be getting booed, and I don’t know if they’re just waiting for us to figure it out or what. Dolph Ziggler got booked into oblivion wrestling the same dudes on loop for years and is still trying to climb his way out of it. Switch it up, guys. Damn.
The Money in the Bank qualifiers seem to have finally used up all the people who have good matches and are fishing around in the dregs, so here’s Natalya vs. Liv Morgan vs. Sarah Logan vs. Dana Brooke. It’s fine, I guess, but it might’ve had even less life than Corbin vs. Jose based on the crowd having no idea what they’re supposed to think or who they’re supposed to cheer for. Dana Brooke is basically a manager at this point, Morgan and Logan are intensely aimless without Ruby Riott holding them together, and Natalya’s spent so long as a heel she once lost a match as a heel and announced to the crowd that she was turning heel anyway. Her post-match promo where she screams ROWDY RONDA ROUSEYYYY into a microphone hoping to get a pop followed by the world’s most awkward back-up on Charly Caruso didn’t help.
As a positive, I like that Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan were smart enough to not just randomly start fighting each other in the middle of a four-person match because it was “any woman for themselves.” That always bugs me, like when the Hardy Boyz came into the Rumble early and started trying to throw each other out while nobody else was in the ring. Shit, guys, save that for the very end if you have to. Until then, why the hell wouldn’t you help each other out? +1 to the Riotts.
The B-Team vs. Breezango would be the kind of match I’d love if:
- they hadn’t already done the same match with the same finish last week
- it had gone longer than a minute-40
- the post-match celebration hadn’t gone on longer than the match
Unnecessarily obnoxious match celebrations for lame victories can work really well — it’s how Daniel Bryan’s “yes” movement started, after all — but I think it would’ve worked a lot better in a longer and more competitive match, or just against another team. Moreover I think I’m just not sure if I love or hate Curtis Axel celebrating by having sex with the announce table. Probably love?
In a related story, hey, remember the Authors of Pain? No?
The Best Of The Middle
There are two pretty solid matches stuffed into this filleriffic middle. The first is Alexa Bliss vs. Ember Moon, which isn’t especially exciting, but understands its wrestlers and builds a match around their styles and personalities.
Ember Moon is all about direct, face-to-face competition. That’s where she thrives, and is why she’s the only person who probably should’ve ever beaten Asuka. She was so good at that that ASUKA had to cheat and take shortcuts to beat her, more than once. In contrast, Alexa Bliss has almost no offense and wins her matches via distractions, emotional manipulation and mind games. So the match plays out exactly like it should, with Bliss powdering and relying on Mickie James until they get caught, Mickie gets tossed, and Bliss is left by herself, one-on-one. That’s when Ember is able to hit an Eclipse, and pick up her second pinfall win over Bliss.
Am I the only one who thinks they’re booking Alexa Bliss to lose all these matches and look like such a chump because they’re going to have her win the Money in the Bank briefcase? There’s nothing they like to do with Money in the Bank winners more than make them lose a shit-ton before and after Money in the Bank. Also, +1 to her promo about the Romans and Visigoths, because it keeps the Romans looking strong.
Finally we have Chad Gable vs. Dolph Ziggler, which I LOVED while it lasted. Sadly it only lasted about four minutes and is only here to set up a post-match attack, to set up (presumably) a tag match. If this sets up Rebrand McIntyre against Gable and, oh, I don’t know, a returning Jason Jordan, I am SO INTO IT. I’d also accept Kurt Angle as Gable’s partner. Or Charlie Haas.
I think more than anything, this made me want to see a “Brawl For All”-style tournament but for shoot amateur wrestling matches with WWE Superstars. Give me a big tournament with Gable, Benjamin, Angle, Lesnar, Ziggler, Jordan, whoever. Bring back Jack Swagger for it. Give me BOB BACKLUND mat-wrestling somebody for real. Call it “Sprawl For All.”
Best-ish: Stephanie McMahon vs. Stephanie McMahon, The Contract Signing
What do you do when you booked a Raw Women’s Championship match at the NBC Upfronts with no story, featuring someone who’s only had one match ever and two women who can’t talk? You have Stephanie McMahon stand between them, set them both up, deliver all their lines and then have her be the reason they decide to get in each other’s faces. Normally I’d complain about that kind of thing, but I think it was the right call here.
It makes total sense that Stephanie would want to kiss Ronda’s ass to her face while plotting her demise behind her back, and if it turns out Nia only challenged Ronda because she’s secretly in with The Authority and trying to take her out on behalf of Steph, that’s about as good of a top talent vs. authority figure story as you can do right now. Ronda’s whole vibe is the only thing making Stephanie McMahon The Character really “fit” on the show, at least from a logical story perspective. Billion percent chance Stephanie gets involved at Money in the Bank and costs Rousey the match, either setting up a one-on-one thing for SummerSlam or Nia Jax as an evil reigning corporate monster. That’d be so much better than the roving PSA she’s been since winning the title.
Best: Big Boi Verse Lil Boi
Finally we have the night’s main event, which is Modern Day Johnny Appleseed Braun Strowman vs. Finn Bálor. It’s like the Finn vs. Kane match, except the monster is actually still a monster, and they play to each other’s strengths instead of one of them being Kane.
It’s a solid dynamic. Braun is this unstoppable monster freight train you can only stand a chance against if you can avoid his offense, which is why so many of his matches are built around him running at you and you dodging as a transition. Finn is little and quick and is supposed to be a “ring general” type, so he’s able to cut off Braun’s offense in places most people can’t, like countering the round-the-ring choo-choo whatever with a Slingblade. It also creates a lot of fun offensive spots for Finn like the Coup de Grace off the railing to the floor, which is a great way to continue the “he can hit that from almost anywhere” bit they introduced when he was diving through production onto Roman Reigns.
Giving Braun the win here also helps, because honestly, how often should Braun Strowman lose matches? Finn looks like a star for being so much smaller and still competing with him nose-to-nose, as well as for coming up with offense that makes sense and seems like it might actually give him an advantage. As opposed to Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss, where little Bliss is doing chinlocks and clubbing forearms despite being a third of Nia’s size. Finn’s sticking and moving, not in complete control, so it works. Braun even gives Finn the post-match respect rub, which continues to be a nice wrinkle in Braun’s character. It makes him affable without making him a comedy guy.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
I wish Sting was around for MitB & just won the briefcase at the end of the match by being in the rafters and pulling up the chain that its on
To the tune of “I’m just a Bill”
I’m just a Finn.
Yes, I’m only a Finn.
And I’m sitting here with a Monster among Men.
Well, it’s a long, long journey
To the last match of the night.
It’s a long, long wait
While I’m always ready to fight,
But I know I’ll be a Demon someday
At least I hope and pray that’s the future I’m in,
But today I am still just a Finn.
Gee, Finn, you certainly have a lot of patience and courage.
Finn: Well I got this far. When I started, I wasn’t even a Finn, I was just a Fergal. Some folks back home decided they wanted a Prince Devitt, so they called their local MP and he said, “You’re right, there oughta be a Prince Devitt.” Then he sat down and wrote me out and introduced me to Parliament. And I became a Devitt, and then a Finn and I’ll remain a Finn until they decide to make me a Demon.
Looks like Braun used Just for Monsters on his beard
Triple H – Drawn by Rob Liefeld
Bobby Roode – Same character drawn by Grant Morrison
Jose should introduce Baron to his cousin, Rogaine Jose
Bob Roode: “I agree Albany sucks”
There is no bigger heel than an interviewer that asks Natalya to say anything.
Nia: “The truth is, I am going to WIN that wrestling match I’m in against you!”
Ronda: “I’m relieved the truth came out, Nia.”
*Ronda goes home and watches the Sixth Sense
Ronda: “I’m relieved he sees dead people.”
*Ronda eats a bowl of sriracha
Ronda: “I’m relieved that this is spicy.”
One Bàlor Club for everyone forward, three Lashley Sisters back.
“You know what, on second thought, we’re good.” – FOX
In celebration of Albany:
That’s it for this week’s column. Be sure to comment and share as always. Every view we get helps a Bobby Lashley in need.