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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for July 29, 2019.
Best: The 24/7 Championship Takes A Pregnant Pause
We open this week’s show with a mixed tag team match called a “mosh pit” because they wanted to do a Drake Maverick crowd surfing spot. That’s not really how mosh pits work, but sure. They could’ve at least given The Headbangers a hot dog and a free t-shirt to stand at ringside for this.
While it’s still less than two minutes long, I’m giving it a Best for two reasons: (1) it’s an actual match for the 24/7 Championship, which needs to happen more often even if it’d make more sense to stand around waiting to grab a schoolboy roll-up than actually compete for it, and (2) Drake Maverick’s dedication to the bit has gotten his wife not only multiple appearances on Raw, but actual in-ring matches. Oh, a third reason: Heath Slater reacting to Truth’s weird pin attempt at 1:30 in the video with a loud, “WHUT thuh HAIL??”
Everyone figuratively piles into the ring after the match and then literally pile up on Truth. I thought for a second they were going to have the entire 24/7 division share a championship like a hive mind, but it turns out Mike Kanellis was on the bottom making the actual pin. That goes exactly where you think it goes: to Maria threatening to “kick him in the vagina” and then humiliating him into lying down for her.
That gives us WWE’s first pregnant champion, and the foreshadowing of a title change where someone stalks her at her OB-GYN appointment and pins her while her feet are up in the stirrups. I hope Drake Maverick is the one to do it, and is then like, “oh my God THAT’S what they look like??” And then he’s all stunned, and R-Truth hits him in the back of the head with a protest sign that says CHAMPIONSHIPS BEGIN AT CONCEPTION and rolls him up.
Best, Mostly: The Gauntlet Community
Rey Mysterio vs. Cesaro was a great reminder that all of these guys are really good at pro wrestling, but especially these guys. Mysterio and Cesaro are such a perfect pairing. Cesaro’s all about feats of strength and being a great base for high flyers. Mysterio’s the greatest high flyer of all time, full stop. Plus, he’s billed at 175 pounds but that’s generous, so Cesaro’s monstrously strong ass can do pretty much whatever they can imagine to him.
I don’t always like the idea of gauntlet matches because they sell out the people who start them, and if they don’t, they kinda sell out the people who come in afterward and have to lose to a tired guy. But they’re one of the things WWE does really well right now, and four (okay, three) watchable-to-great wrestling matches in a row in a gauntlet is an antidote to a lot of the problems Raw’s had lately. Also, HOLY SHIT WE’RE GOING TO COMMERCIALS LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE AGAIN, HALLELUJAH! DEATH TO THE 2-OUT-OF-3 FALLS WORKAROUND!
The only downside to this gauntlet is that Sami Zayn’s in it, so of course he loses his fall in like 15 seconds. I’d really like to sit someone down and ask them if there’s an endgame to this Sami Zayn character beyond making one of the best wrestlers of a generation look like the world’s whiniest loser every week.
Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio was more of the glorious work we’ve come to expect between the two, with Andrade thankfully pulling out a strong victory with his finisher and ripping off Mysterio’s mask afterward for good measure. If I was booking this I would’ve probably had Sami and Cesaro start because of their history and had Cesaro win a hard fought match leading into him losing to Rey, leading into Rey losing to Andrade, but I don’t hate Sami Zayn, so what do I know?
This all culminates in Andrade vs. Ricochet, which absolutely feels like a truncated version of what these two could actually do in the ring together. I’m salivating at the idea of Ricochet and Andrade getting however much time they want to do whatever they want in a Takeover-like scenario, as even the nine-minute end-of-gauntlet version was pretty great.
Again, the only downside here is that in the era of “no automatic rematches” the writing team still only ever wants to do rematches, so instead of having an easy-in they have to write these battle royals or elimination matches or gauntlet matches to set up the obvious. I don’t think we assumed we’d get Andrade or Cesaro vs. AJ Styles for the United States Championship at SummerSlam, especially since The O.C. beating down Ricochet after wrangling the belt from him was a huge plot point.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really complaining about that, especially when it comes with 28 1/2 minutes of great wrestling and 30 seconds of Sami Zayn on Raw. And at least all the extra work they’re doing happens in the ring, so I’d rather take the well-executed obvious over the badly-thought-out alternative.
Speaking Of The Club, And The Obvious
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson win the Raw Tag Team Championship from The Revival by pinning The Usos in a triple threat match, giving us one of WWE’s favorite things: a faction where everyone has a championship. I’d be more upset about The Revival losing the title if I felt like Raw was ever going to do anything with it, or build any kind of workable division around them. Right now it’s just The Revival and The Usos wrestling each other for dumb reasons while everyone else fucks around in the 24/7 division, so we might as well give AJ Styles’ friends something to hold in the background of AJ Styles promos.
I still hope they run The O.C. (don’t call them that) against New Day at SummerSlam and unify the Tag Team Championships, because with the wild card rule — is that still a thing? — and the way these divisions are run, we might as well consolidate down to the four or five actual teams that might want to be in a tag team division and jettison everybody else into NXT (Breezango), non-hardcore Hardcore (Roode, Ryder, Hawkins), or unemployment. It’s not like AEW’s gonna scoop up the Ascension and pay them top dollar to back up the Dark Order or whatever.
Jobbers Of The Week
On the topic of tag teams with nothing to do, The Viking Raiders are still out here squashing Local Competitors. It’s like playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! and restarting the game every time you’ve knocked out the first two boxers in the Minor Circuit. Eventually the Raiders are going to have to at LEAST learn how to block and take on Piston Honda.
In case you’re wondering, “Johnny James” and “Cole Carter” are MACW Mid-American Championship Wrestling’s Jonathan ‘Action Jackson’ Holt (who you might have also seen in EVOLVE) and Carter Matthews, respectively.
Worst: Bait And Bliss
In this week’s open discussion thread preview, I wrote:
Becky Lynch faces Alexa Bliss, or whoever’s going to sub in for her at the last second.
Sure enough, Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss ends after a few minutes with a fake ref stoppage where Bliss is “injured,” Buff Bagwell-style. I question the logic of having someone who has missed so much time to actual injuries, illnesses, and concussions do these fake-out injury spots, unless they’re actually still too injured to be wrestling full matches and you’re covering for them. And if that’s the case, I question the logic of continuing to push a person that regularly injured into high-profile matches when there’s an entire division-plus who could pick up the slack and let them actually recover and get well. I dunno.
Anyway, Bliss vs. Lynch becomes Cross vs. Lynch, and Becky wins easily. After the match, Bliss and Cross try to get their heat back despite essentially just losing a 2-on-1 handicap match plus shenanigans. This turns into a 3-on-1 beatdown featuring Natalya, who is upset at Lynch for barging in on Fit Finlay trying to teach her counters to the Disarmer.
So to lay it all out there, we’ve got:
- a heel who uses all her friends but is always hurt bailing on a match by pretending to be hurt
- a face turned heel via friendship who is either being used or not, we aren’t sure, being used as a sub and losing badly
- a face (?) pay-per-view challenger who keeps calling her opponent weird shit like a “bad lover” and attacks her after a 2-on-1 beatdown from heels
- a face (?) champion who gets mad at her opponents for preparing for matches
Who are we supposed to be cheering for, exactly?
Best: Beast Wars
The best moment of the night goes to Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, who shows up to work (!) to put the fear of God into Seth Rollins. I’m guessing Brock is also on Twitter and is tired of Rollins telling everybody how much money he makes, how he and his girlfriend™ have Astaire and Rogers chemistry, and how much better WWE Stomping Ground is than the G1 Climax or whatever. Anyway, all you really need to know is that a newly face turned Brock saves us from the remainder of a Dolph Ziggler match and F-5s Rollins into everything he can find. Ring posts, steel chairs, opened steel chairs, the floor, and so on.
Rollins gets taken away bleeding from the mouth like Ken Shamrock, reminding us that Vince McMahon loves all that Gory Crap® and will use it to help his ratings. You’d think that’d be it, but nope, Lesnar is sick of arrogant Iowans sauntering onto HIS frozen tundra and punching him in the balls about things.
So while a Samoa Joe and The O.C. beatdown of The Bloodline happens backstage — please note that nobody ran out to help Rollins during this beatdown, because even his friends are kinda tired of him at this point — Lesnar stops Rollins’ ambulance, yanks him out of the back of it, and F-5s him hip-first into the damn gurney. It’s MAGICAL.
I’m telling you, if we could just count on Brock to show up to Raw every week or two and kill dudes like this he’d be the most popular and beloved champion in WWE history. His only fault is that we don’t get to see him enough. Disaffected, aging physical marvel who needs to hurt people for a living so he has enough money to live in relative seclusion with his Playboy cover girl wife and hunt moose and groundhogs with assault rifles is a way better character than, “guy who won’t stop arguing with people on Twitter about the high quality of his low quality TV job.”
Best: Joe Vs. The Volcano
Finally we have the “Samoan Summit,” which is canceled because Samoa Joe decided to beat up every other Samoan guy he could find backstage.
He makes the mistake of challenging Roman Reigns to overcome the odds™ and still come down to the ring and face him, which Roman obviously does. That brings out Drew McIntyre to make it 2-on-1, which brings out Gary “The Goat” Garbutt, aka Cedric Alexander, to even the odds. Gary’s not much help in a 2-on-2 situation (as we saw in the tag team match), so Joe and Drew — tag team name “Joey McIntyre” — team up to put Reigns through a table. That brings out The O.C. (don’t call them that), and that brings out The Usos. Tune in to Survivor Series this weekend to see what happens next!
The climax of the fight is Cedric heading up to the top of one of the LED boards on the set and Sabu’ing himself off onto everybody. Cedric Alexander is great, news at 11.
That’s probably where the show should’ve gone off the air, but thankfully they don’t immediately bury Ced afterward to get the heels their heat back. They try, but The Bloodline steps in and re-evens the odds. I think this went on a minute or two too long, but it was an exciting way to end the show, and I really hope they ignore WWE stipulation matches having to happen in predetermined calendar months and do a big, long, elimination tag team match between these eight next week. If we aren’t doing anything with the tag titles at SummerSlam, run it at SummerSlam.
All in all, I thought this Raw was a drastic improvement over what we’ve been getting lately, at least since the “Lashley and Strowman crash through the stage” Raw from several weeks back. It wasn’t perfect — the still seem to have completely forgotten how to book a women’s division, and have regressed back into 2012-ish Divas at best — but it had a lot of good in-ring stuff, advanced a few stories, had the champion showing up to fuck up a guy’s Christmas, and even remembered to have some fun without going full-tilt old man jokes with it. It’s lowered expectations, maybe, but I could actually watch this show every week.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
I like how 12 dudes come out to help Roman from getting put through a table but nobody helps Seth from getting F5ed to death for a solid 15 minutes.
The Real Birdman
The OC vs The .08
Roman: man, somebody should really go help that guy
You could very easily describe the 24/7 championship match exclusively using the top 200 search terms on PornHub.
Cedric the Sports Entertainer
Brawling all over the arena? Pregnancy angles? Cedric pulling a Sabu? If WWE starts bouncing dividend checks we’ll know the extent of Heyman’s control.
Attacking Nattie for no good reason is great, actually.
“The Push Break Kid” Dolph Ziggler
Sami was eliminated before we could type out our jokes about him being eliminated
Seth talking to The Streets Profits 20 years ago
I was really hoping Nicholas would smash Maria in the back with a steel chair and scream, “I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW PREGNANCY WORKS! GET THESE HANDS!” Maybe they’ll bring in Gene Snitsky to face her next week.
As always, thanks for reading about Raw Is War. If you want to help us out, share the column on Twitter and Facebook (and whatever else) to help promote us, and drop a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the show. Join us on Tuesday night for a hopefully good episode of Smackdown, as we continue watching and wondering, “… did, did Heyman and Bischoff take over yet? Are they not gonna tell us so we have to judge the shows on their own weird inconsistent merits? When’s TakeOver Toronto again?”
See you next week!