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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for July 16, 2018.
Worst: We Seriously Spent Three Hours Setting Up A Number One Contender Match We Already Had On Sunday
At Extreme Rules, the pay-per-view that happened less than 24 hours before this Raw, Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns had a one-on-one match with “number one contender implications.” It ended clean as a sheet, with Lashley pinning Reigns. No questions, no drama, no follow-up necessary. The next night on Raw, the only two good matches on the show, making up about 40 of the roughly 70 minutes of wrestling total on the show, are in service to setting up a number one contender match. That ends up being Boby Lashley and Roman Reigns. Congratulations, you (meaning we) (meaning I) watched three hours of television to get to a thing we saw yesterday.
And yeah, I know they’re just doing it again so they can have it get fouled up in some way and turn the match at SummerSlam into a triple threat, probably to keep Brock Lesnar from having to take a pinfall. Reigns can spear Lashley or vice versa, or both at the same time, I don’t know. But long story short, they used a month of television to set up a match they were gonna do on 3 hours build a week later. That … sucks. I hope you feel that same warm blanket of malaise reading these paragraphs.
Best: At Least The Matches Were Good!
The silver lining here is that the bookend matches in service to the number one contender bullshit were really good, especially the first one. Up first was Finn Bálor vs. Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre, which is not only fresh, but plays on a lot of past relationships. Reigns has been wanting to throw hands with McIntyre thanks to his tangential relationship to Mac and Dolph Ziggler’s feud with Seth Rollins. Finn Bálor has always seemingly had Roman Reigns’ number, and is the only guy on the show who seems to know how to reliably beat him. Drew is tall and Finn is short, so that handles that rivalry. Their bar, not mine.
This got about 17 minutes to open the show, and was rad. All three men got time to shine, the drama built up progressively as the match went on to loop the crowd in, and the winner (Roman, duh) won because of good timing and fortunate circumstance, not because he got his specials and it was time to win the match. True to their character relationships, Bálor has Reigns dead to rights before McIntyre pulls him out of the ring to break up the pin. Even better, Reigns has to capitalize on a Claymore from McIntyre to Bálor, toss McIntyre and hit another spear on Bálor to win. So Roman wins, yeah, but only because Drew McIntyre took out the guy he always has so much trouble beating, and then shit-canned McIntyre instead of dealing with him. I like that he hit that extra move as an exclamation point, because in his head he’s still not sure Finn’s done. Really good stuff.
The main event of Bob vs. Elias vs. Seth Rollins is also pretty good, but happens after 2 1/2 hours of a boring Raw, so the crowd’s not as into it. I’m telling you, dropping the show back to two hours would do wonders for the enthusiasm of the crowd. Not only would you be able to streamline the show a bit, you’d cut an hour off how long somebody has to sit in a public place with their family or whatever and keep shit together. And you’d eliminate that thing we all do where we check the clock and realize that Jesus, there’s an entire hour of Raw left.
Anyway, Lashley wins this one in his normal structurally impressive but heatless way, setting up Lashley vs. Reigns Dos next week. I’m honestly pretty sad they didn’t make this Seth Rollins vs. Elias vs. Drew McIntyre to get the entire Pokémon evolution in a match. If I can offer up one real compliment, they’ve done a lot better job of putting Lashley over as a badass by having him actually kick people’s asses and win matches over the past few weeks. Ditching the vertical suplex as a finish is a Godsend, even if it’s replaced by his spear, which is more of a clothesline to the stomach and makes Roman’s spear look like Goldberg’s. Still better than Edge’s Jumping Hug, though.
Let’s Do Something Better With Paul Heyman, Okay?
Working backwards a little, the two triple threat matches are set up by Kurt Angle in response to a promo parade caused by Paul Heyman agreeing to have Brock Lesnar defend the Universal Championship at SummerSlam. That’s really all Heyman’s here to do: agree to Kurt’s demands, put over Kurt as a great negotiator despite the fact that he can’t say most basic words, and then stand in the background while Bob and whoever else cut promos. I know you can’t have him be all fire and brimstone REIGNING, DEFENDING when Brock’s not around, but there’s gotta be something better to do with the man’s time and talent. Instead of replacing Kurt Angle with Hulk Hogan’s lousy ass or whatever, why not figure out a way for Heyman to be Raw’s GM? Talk about a guy we’d actually listen to, who you can depend on to say words like “WWE” and “Extreme Rules” without calling your pay-per-view “Doublyee Stream Rules.”
Worst: Ronda Rousey’s Hair
Who told her this was a good look? It makes her look like she’s hosting the Today show during that Halloween episode where they all dressed like Peanuts characters. Whatever, her hair could probably judo me to death.
Best Though, Mostly: Ronda Rousey
Suspended Ronda Rousey shows up for the second time in two nights to throw Mickie James at the ground, causing an argument between Raw’s crouching General Manager and its sassy food service Constable. Angle ends up tacking another week onto Rousey’s suspension, which as we’ve seen doesn’t prevent her from appearing at pay-per-views or weekly TV, or getting in the ring, or fighting wrestlers. He also gives her a RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP match against Alexa Bliss at SummerSlam. Keep in mind that Rousey is lifetime 1-0-1 in WWE, if we count that Money in the Bank match as a draw, and that she’s heading into her second singles championship match despite having never actually won a singles match.
On the positive side, it’s Ronda Rousey, man. She makes these stories and moments feel important. When they talk about the “it” factor, she’s got it. She shows up walking through the crowd like a member of the damn Shield and puts the fear of God into these women. Besides, she was a second away from winning the championship when Bliss cashed in anyway. I can buy that as a reason Kurt might want to give his Special Judo Daughter another opportunity.
Worst, With Some Best: Four 2-Minute Matches In A Row
Raw has mostly given up on trying to fill the middle two hours and change with anything important, so let’s knock these out in order.
First we have Mojo Rawley vs. Tyler Breeze, which would’ve been really fun if (1) they’d capitalized on Mojo’s online promos from a while back and turned him into a killer, instead of just keeping him as Mojo Rawley, but “serious,” and (2) Tyler Breeze was still NXT Tyler Breeze and could have competitive singles matches on Raw. Also maybe if they’d gotten more than 2:58. Still, Breeze is great at making his opponent’s offense look great, and that’s what Mojo needs. By far the best of the four for me, even if I could do without Michael Cole’s raised “impressed” voice when he’s been told to put someone over but doesn’t really care.
Up next is Banksy vs. Dana Brooke and Alicia Fox, which ends with WWE’s worst finish, “you’re disqualified because you kicked too much ass.” Darrick Moore is the absolute worst referee for this, and does it all the time. He’s the ref you call when you need basic wrestling attacks to cause a grown man to turn into a frightened turtle from a cartoon.
We might as well talk about this while we’re here.
In a segment that made most of us tilt our heads to the side like confused dogs, Tsundere Sasha Banks reveals that she beats Bayley up all the time but “loves” her, “always has” (a la Braveheart), and doesn’t want anyone else doing it. Some people seemed to read this as Sasha being in love with Bayley, but it’s an abusive relationship at best. Plots like “I can beat you up, but I’ll be damned if someone else does” could work in pro wrestling if their introductions weren’t prefaced with like half a decade of Sasha Banks joining or forming evil groups to beat the shit out of Bayley, eliminating her from everything she can, and turning on her at every opportunity. Also, fucking WHAT?
I’m not sure there’s even enough here to analyze it, but I guess we’re going with “Sasha Banks loves her stupid friend and misses her but also thinks she’s stupid as hell so she can’t stop punching her, and Bayley needs to understand this and do better” as our story. I feel like maybe this should end with Angle getting frustrated and sending them BOTH to Smackdown, where Charlotte Flair can beat them down in the parking lot and remind them they’re supposed to be Horsewomen, not My Little Ponies.
♫ These battle scaaaaars! ♫
Also getting barely two minutes is the first title defense (?) for the new Raw Tag Team Champions, The B-Team. They struggle for a couple of minutes against Raw’s worst active team, The Ascension, but ultimately put it together and hit a Dudley Boyz transitional move for the three. The B-Team are kind of adorable right now, and I hope they keep getting better and better until we’re desperately rooting for them to beat The Revival in 20-minute PPV-opening tags. Or, you know, something more believable than that.
Back on July 2, the Authors of Pain defeated Titus Worldwide in like two minutes. On July 11, the Authors of Pain defeated Titus Worldwide on an episode of Main Event, and now on the July 16 edition of Raw here’s The Authors of Pain defeating Titus Worldwide in like two minutes. Join us again in two weeks for The Authors of Pain defeating Titus Worldwide in two minutes, with “why is Apollo taking all these pinfalls instead of Titus O’Neil” as our only talking point, ever.
The Other Two Actual Matches On The Show
With the long triple threat matches bookending the show, the four two-minute match garbagefest was in itself bookended by the only other two things that felt like wrestling matches: Dolph Ziggler vs. Bobby Roode and Ember Moon vs. Sarah Logan.
Ziggler vs. Roode isn’t bad, really, but I think everyone’s still burned out from seeing it so many times on Smackdown. The bloom is off the rose for Roode, I think, as crowds aren’t really vibing with ‘Glorious’ the way they were because he’s not doing anything. I’m hoping showing up like a bully and getting beaten anyway — with Dolph Ziggler oddly playing a babyface, having to fight from underneath against a fresh man despite having wrestled a 31-minute iron man match the night before — is what finally starts turning him to the dark side. I think I’ve typed “why isn’t Bobby Roode a heel” in these columns more times than I’ve typed “checks notes.” Pull the trigger already, damn.
The women’s match is also pretty good in that same way, as Sarah Logan is light years better as a pro wrestler than she is as a “sports entertainer.” When she’s in the ring, it’s all good. When she’s not, it’s flashing lights and arrows pointing at the opposite of good. I thought it was really funny that they leaned into Logan’s hobby of being a “Viking,” instead of just pointing out that she goes to a lot of Renn Faires.
This is here to give Moon her first loss on Raw, thanks to interference from RS Firing Squad outside interference. It relieves some of the pressure of Moon having a “winning streak,” which is a horrible kind of story for Raw writers to handle, although I’m a little worried she’s going to spend the next four months feuding with the Riott Squad to keep her out of the Raw Women’s Championship picture. I don’t know about you, but I’d be fine with them giving Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax a couple of pay-per-views off and running Ronda Rousey vs. Ember Moon with the quickness.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Zarnold Edward Quigley
Smackdown: tries to give us new and exciting challengers like Nakamura, Rusev, and even Jinder Mahal
Raw: Tries to give us new and exciting challengers like Roman Reigns, Roman Reigns, and even Roman Reigns
in aligning himself with Stephanie McMahon, Baron Corbin turned into the one thing he hated most: an internet smark bitching about angle continuity
Sasha and Bailey don’t want to be friends.
Kurt: “Couples counseling or your fired!”
Ronda violates her suspension, attacks co-workers and referees.
Kurt: “Have another title shot!”
Kurt: “Bayley, Sasha, Ronda, you girls are being too violent for WWE!”
KO’s EKG: beep beep beep beep beep beep beep
Sasha: I love you
Bayley: so what the fuck was with that Lion King/Elimination Chamber shit
Sasha: welp time to hit the old dusty trail
Dolph: describe yourself without using the words “glorious” or “robe”
Bobby: i’ll see myself out
I’ve had little kids tell me jokes who get to the end faster than this Bayley/Sasha storyline.
Sasha: I hate you.
Bayley: I don’t want to be your partner, either.
Sasha: Should we wear matching ring gear?
Bayley: Well, obviously.
“i say the beast has never faced anyone like me” what, like… an mma fighter, or…
The Real Birdman
“If the two of you can’t beat the team of Dana Brooke & Alicia Fox, forget a trade to SDL, you’ll be Knockouts by the end of the week. I’ve got connections”
That’s it for this week’s column. We can’t wait to replace the Raw review with weekly deep dives into Elias’ debut album. Also, good to see Josh Mathews getting work again!
Drop a comment to let us know what you thought of the show, share the column on your social gimmicks, and be here on Tuesday for the show that replaces Bobby Lashley promos with Randy Orton nut-shots.