Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: We experienced a WrestleMania that was Just Too Big For One Night™ featuring a new WWE Champion, The O.C. summoning an army of druids to do their bidding before AJ Styles was murdered by burial, and Edge defeated Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match with a Conchairto on top of a production truck, which made it hurt more.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 6, 2020.
The Most Fear-Inducing 10 Minutes Of Raw You’ve Ever Experienced
Forget anything Bray Wyatt, The Undertaker, or Papa Shango ever did; the most scared I’ve ever been watching Raw is when Big Show randomly turned up with a referee and goaded Drew McIntyre into a bonus WWE Championship match “after WrestleMania.” That shit turned me into young Jenny from Forrest Gump. Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here.
In case you missed it, Raw spent roughly three hours advertising a “shocking” event that took place after Drew McIntyre’s win at WrestleMania. If you’re like me, you thought somebody had attacked Drew backstage, maybe pushed over a truss onto him or something, to set up his first feud as champion. Maybe he walked out into the parking lot and someone hit him with a car, or he was abducted by those luchadores who keep kidnapping cruiserweights.
So at the end of Raw we go to the footage, and Drew McIntyre makes a full entrance, in full gear, “20 minutes after WrestleMania” to do an interview in the ring. This is already such an absurd scenario I can’t even put it into words. Why are they doing an in-ring interview when the show’s off the air? For the ambiance? Who was that big entrance for? Were they taping this for Raw and just forgot to take down all the WrestleMania graphics, and halfway through it were like, “shit,” but sunken cost kept them from starting over? Regardless, Drew starts talking about the match he had with Brock Lesnar less than half an hour ago, and he’s interrupted by ♫ weeeEEEeellllll ♫
I felt like I was watching my life flash before my eyes. They wouldn’t have put this in the main event and referred to it as “shocking” so many times if Show didn’t win, right? And oh no, Big Show has that Netflix sitcom debuting this week, WWE would totally put the title on a guy with a new TV show so he could have it when he goes on talk shows or whatever, wouldn’t they? Even if they’re doing talk shows via webcam right now, Show could still have a big glittery WWE logo on his shoulder. And oh no, WWE would definitely spend forever treating McIntyre’s championship win like a quest to legitimize his entire life’s work only to “shockingly” yank it away from him 30 minutes later. AND OH NO, WRESTLEMANIA IX. OH NO.
But Drew wins. And it’s okay. Breathe, it’s okay.
I hated this in every way a fan can hate a wrestling match, I think, but goddamn, was it effective. I was MORTIFIED. It had 100% of my anxious attention, and got my brain racing thinking about timelines where THE BIG SHOW is WWE Champion in 20 by God 20. It just felt so plausible, and so weirdly arranged. Can you imagine another sports league doing a secret, additional championship match after a 3-hour show dedicated to that championship and then not telling you anything about it for 24 hours? They report “WWE Superstar comments on BUILDING MOMENTUM before Smackdown” or whatever on WWE.com seconds after it happens as BREAKING NEWS, and they’ll call up Sports Illustrated because they’re putting Cousin Luke from the Bushwhackers into the Hall of Fame, but a second, sudden WrestleMania main event isn’t a thing they want to tell people about until late the next day?
Secret, Easter egg main-events are an interesting concept, but I think The Hulkster ruined that for everybody back in ’93. The WrestleMania everyone agrees is the worst ever in a walk probably isn’t the one you want to be teasing and emulating. But it’s all good. No need to turn into a bird and fly away. But don’t scare me like that.
The Raw After WrestleMania, With No Fans
To me, the Raw after WrestleMania with no fans feels even stranger than WrestleMania with no fans. The “Raw after WrestleMania” is the one where smart crowds and/or aggressively self-aggrandizing crowds (depending on your point of view) “go to the polls,” so to speak, and loudly, musically tell WWE what they like and don’t like. It’s the show where Roman Reigns will get booed for eight minutes before he can speak, or the beach balls come out, or Randy Orton and Sheamus get relentlessly heckled for having a boring match. It’s become almost more of an “event” than Mania, so watching it go down in an empty gym was a real phantom limb situation for me.
That said, one thing remained from the Raw after WrestleMania playbook: “call ups.” Or, if you want to pretend like they actually think NXT is a “third brand” now and not just a vanity project masquerading as developmental, a lateral move.
A solid 30 minutes of hour one is dedicated to the arrival of Bianca Belair. At WrestleMania, the Street Profits won a Raw Tag Team Championship match against Angel Garza and Austin Theory but got attacked afterward, so Bianca made the save to even up the odds and beat up Zelina Vega. On Raw, the Street Profits win a Raw Tag Team Championship match against Angel Garza and Austin Theory (by disqualification this time, so it’s DIFFERENT) but get attacked afterward, so Bianca makes the save (slowly this time, with a full entrance, because it’s DIFFERENT) to even up the odds and beat up Zelina Vega. I don’t know why they did Bianca’s main roster debut the same way twice. Also, shout-out to Zelina Vega for being the best manager of all time. She got a team who’d never even had a 2-on-2 tag team match a Tag Team Championship match at Wrestle fucking Mania, and when they lost, she got them a rematch the next night. Lord knows they’ll probably get another shot next week. That’s efficiency.
Anyway, hey dawg, we heard you like Teddy Long tag TEAM match announcements, so we put a Teddy Long tag team match announcement in your Teddy Long tag team match announcement. Bianca making the save crashes Raw to break, and we come back to her vs. Vega one-on-one. Bianca’s been taught to always speak to the hard cam, so we get a funny bit where she’s cutting a promo on Vega to the camera while Vega’s standing behind her. It’s like at WrestleMania when the Profits picked her up and showed her to all four sides of the arena, like you might if any fans were actually in there. The one-on-one between the women ends in a disqualification as well, or some kind of no contest, at least, with the tag teams at ringside getting into a fight. So we crash to break again, and we come back to a six-person tag.
Long story short, Raw replayed a match from WrestleMania with two non-conclusive finishes in a row and had Zelina Vega’s team lose three matches in half an hour. Bianca and the Profits looked good, at least. When quarantine’s over, Austin Theory goes back into cryogenic storage.
The best and most surprising thing about Monday’s Raw for me was the Raw re-debut of Apollo Crews, and the fact that he had a 28 minute, competitive match against Aleister Black. Hell yeah, Apollo Crews. Dude’s been underworked, undervalued, and underappreciated since he debuted without a character or anything to do down in NXT.
I’m interested in how this match would’ve played out in front of a real Raw after WrestleMania crowd. Could they have even done it? I could see that crowd being really into an epic, 30-minute, TakeOver-style match between a wrestler they like (Black) and a wrestler they could (Crews), but I could just as easily see them dumping on it for being too long. Would a shorter, more intense match have played better? Would they have even CONSIDERED giving Crews 30 minutes of Raw to work and show off what he can do if we weren’t under quarantine? Regardless, if Raw’s plan going forward is to fill the three hours with longer, more competitive matches featuring stars who haven’t gotten an opportunity to look like anything but a jobber piece of shit for the past few years, I’m into it. Can we get that Crews, Akira Tozawa, and Ricochet faction going already?
One fun note here: this match was killing me with the micromanaged announce team mandate where they have to say a wrestler’s WWE Superstar’s entire name every time they’re mentioned. That becomes a real chore in long, one-on-one matches. “Aleister Black now working on the leg of Apollo Crews. What does Apollo Crews have to do to get back into this if Apollo Crews wants to win? Those kicks from Aleister Black are part of Aleister Black’s arsenal, and if Aleister Black keeps kicking Apollo Crews’ leg, how will Apollo Crews stay standing?” It felt like a vacation any time they just called them “Black” or “Crews.” There should be an asterisk on that mandate that if the match is longer than three minutes, you’re allowed to use a more conversational tone. Shit sounds like prerecorded commentary from the video games.
The most important roster realignment of the night is probably the return of Nia Jax, who is back from double knee surgery with Paige’s finisher, presumably to keep her from throwing so many leg drops and risking knee damage. Jax’s return victim is Deonna Purrazzo, who is a good worker who got signed at the worst time and is stuck doing non-stop enhancement duties for two rosters in the same building at the same time.
I was hoping Jax would come back with some alterations to her presentation and character — and I thought it was an odd choice to announce her return via graphic (with an old picture) instead of just letting it be a surprise for the viewers — but she’s more or less the same as she was last time we saw her. So [shrug]. Happy to see her healthy again, at least. Returns during quarantine are hard to quantify anyway.
Also On This Episode
Asuka opens the show trying to rehab two straight losses to Alexa Bliss by tapping out Liv Morgan. Liv’s a lot better than she was during their first meeting, which was 50 seconds of televised manslaughter. Or, as Asuka herself noted, “To put it bluntly, [Liv Morgan] was so evolved. I am really surprised about that.”
Seth Rollins had a 270-pound man jump off a comically oversized sign and mash him through a table two days ago, but he’s not even going to CONSIDER selling that during this Denzel Dejournette squash. Not that I want the guy to come out in a body cast or anything, but damn, a little wincing would’ve been nice. Spectacular, violent acts that end up in highlight reels for years should at least have some mild, temporary consequences, you know? The Hardy Boyz used to sell ladder matches like they’d walked down the ramp straight from intensive care.
Brendan Vink continues to capitalize on his proximity to Winter Park and willingness to compete during a pandemic by getting another TV match. This one’s a loss to Humberto Carrillo, who is finally allowed to wrestle someone other than Andrade or Angel Garza for the first time in months. This is the first Raw match he’s had not involving one or both of those guys since December. Vink is still a “from NXT” despite having had two matches on Raw, and only one ever on NXT TV.
Speaking of NXT, Ricochet and Cedric Alexander (who are now a “hot new tag team,” because what else are they gonna do?) get a quick win over Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan that would’ve ripped down there. Ricoced has some good, high speed, tandem cruiserweight offense that would really pop if the main roster put more emphasis on tag team wrestling and put them in competitive matches against established duos that either compliment or constructively contrast with it, so here’s hoping a post-WrestleMania Raw without a lot else to do turns its tag team division turn into something valued and substantial.
No classic matches in full this week, but we get a heavily clipped and video packaged-up version of the Boneyard Match. While it didn’t work for me on the same level the Firefly Fun House Match did, it’s still worth a watch and a read, and easily the best deleted scene from the 1995 movie version of Mortal Kombat WWE’s ever produced.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
this match is too big for just one hour
Saxton: “if Drew can hold on for a few more minutes, the Big Show is due for a face turn!”
John Cena in the void: “What kind of jerk challenges someone to a title match right after they won?”
Zelina: “A family thing? Sounds great. Let me grab my husband”
Montez: “Request for smoke withdrawn”
Asuka: My tongue is green!
Liv: My tongue is blue!
Saxton: my tongue is—
Asuka rips it out of his head and throws it at Liv.
So let’s imagine this is a normal Raw after Mania. Tonight we would see:
-Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins continuing to feud for another three months
-A Bobby Lashley face turn for some reason
-Dijakovic (no first name) debuting with a victory over Lucha House Party
-Viking Raiders cutting a “shoot” promo about how they’re going to be called War Machine whether we like it or not. [Note: still Erik and Ivar]
-Undisputed Era debuting to beat down new champ Drew McIntyre. McIntyre takes out Fish, Strong and O’Reilly fairly easily. Until brand new UE member DAVEY RICHARDS shows up to even the numbers!
-And in the post credits scene, AJ Styles gets dug out of his grave….by SHAWN MICHAELS who then superkicks him back into the hole, buries him once again. “See you next year, kiddo,” says HBK as Raw…rolls…on…
Me: Maybe the Boneyard and Firefly Fun House segments show a new WWE that is willing to take risks and try new things.
*Me tonight at 10:50pm*
Me: I’m an idiot.
Raw ends …and the next thing we see is:
The last time someone spent that much time trapped in a closet and came out with all kinds of aggression towards bald black men, R. Kelly made 33 songs about it.
Rollins risen from the dead after one (kayfabe) night. He really is better than Jesus!
The weekend is officially done, so now I can collapse. Thank you for reading, sharing, leaving comments, participating in our open discussion threads, and everything else. We can’t do this without you, and we mean that.
Be sure you’ve read the Best and Worst of Smackdown, Best and Worst of WrestleMania 36 nights one and two, and the Firefly Fun House analysis special edition. We’ll see you throughout the week with hopefully more unexpected 30 minute matches, Charlotte Flair returning to NXT as Women’s Champion, and whatever they decide to do with a Braun Strowman-led Smackdown.
Onward to Hollywood!