Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: WWE announced its first all-women’s pay-per-view, Evolution, so Dana Brooke can get into a battle royal or something and get a payday. Also, it is history!
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for July 30, 2018.
“I Don’t Watch The Show, Paul. Why Would I Watch The Show?” — Brock Lesnar
check out the Voice of the Voiceless over here
The first thing we need to talk about this week is whatever the hell they’re doing with Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, who spend an entire 3-hour show sitting on a couch backstage demanding food, insulting his one friend, and refusing to go to the ring to participate in Raw because he hates it, thinks its stupid, thinks everyone who watches it is stupid, and doesn’t understand why anyone would like it. Is … is Brock Lesnar me now?
In all seriousness, there’s something amazingly funny about WWE’s top character being a guy who is too good and famous to be in WWE, so he just rolls his eyes and complains when he has to make his quarterly appearance. Wouldn’t you be (kayfabe) pissed if you were a famous athlete who makes millions of dollars to fight, and this company that can’t provide you any real competition wanted you to fly to Miami on a Monday to stand in an arena and talk for five minutes, and then leave? It’s not like dude had a match scheduled, they flew him out here to chill in a green room, hop in place while his advocate yells some stuff, and bail. At least this time around he was smart enough to bring the latest issue of The Backwoodsman, to keep from being bored. It’s the Brock Lesnar equivalent to Sporcle, where you replace the words with pictures of dead animals.
Like, I want to dislike this, because it’s objectively bad television. But there’s something about Above All This Brock Lesnar, stressed out by the USADA tests he’s gotta do to get back into UFC, calling them “USDA tests” in his head 99% of the time, skulking and complaining his way through a live show for a promotion that would create the dick-sucking equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider and suck his dick into another dimension if he asked. He hates this and all of us so much. Forget “will the crowd cheer or boo Roman Reigns after this,” WWE crowds should be cheering for darkness and silence over Brock Lesnar’s character.
It feels like one final Paul Heyman turn, whether forced or under his own agency, is the logical end point of Brock Lesnar’s WWE story. Heyman brought him in, Heyman turning on him back in the day made him a top guy in the eyes of the fans, Heyman’s the reason Lesnar’s WWE return worked at all, and now Lesnar choosing to break his allegiance with Paul can bring that story full circle. Plus, it’s a good way to explain why Paul Heyman would stick around on WWE TV if Brock peaced out or got fired or whatever.
That sets up the “main event” in the biggest quotation marks ever, which is Heyman being unable to pull Brock away from his frontiersman magazine long enough to appear and save his job. Poor Paul’s forced to figuratively show his entire ass and beg for his job, to the point of getting on his knees and groveling, and that finally serves as enough of a box propped up by a stick with a string tied around it to lure Lesnar to the ring.
Once there, Lesnar F-5s poor, barely functioning Kurt Angle and more or less pie-faces Paul to the ground, and … that’s it. And yeah, they did a segment earlier in the night where Stephanie McMahon ordered Roman Reigns escorted out of the building so he wouldn’t attack Brock, and yeah, they did some stuff with Kevin Owens trying to steal Braun Strowman’s Money in the Bank briefcase to suggest he was distracted, but the (again, kayfabe) fault of this segment rests entirely on the WWE roster. It feels like it benefits everyone on the show to make sure Lesnar stays and defends that championship in some regard, right? So having all the Seth Rollins types and Bobby Lashley types just hang out and do a full Raw while Brock chills on a couch reading Penis Chest Tattoos Monthly or whatever and not even getting involved when they’re always getting involved in everything ever seems like a plot hole. Lashley’s gonna make a point to interrupt Elias, but he’s going to let Brock have an entire episode of nothing? After spending a couple of month talking about how he was going to kick Brock’s ass?
Here’s the good news, though: the segment gets the crowd chanting, “we want Roman.”
It’s such an anomaly that I’ve already seen a lot of people online wondering if the crowd was chanting “we want Strowman,” and a bunch of hilarious conspiracy theories about Strowman sounding like “Roman” and how they should just drift Reigns’ reaction behind Braun’s. I’ve also read some people wondering if WWE sweetened the audio or whatever, and man, it’s not that complicated. Lesnar is being booked as the worst employee and friend who has ever lived, a guy whose pure indifference and condescension should be classified as moves of doom numbers three and four, and Roman hasn’t really done anything since the Greatest Royal Rumble besides have good matches. He’s not even winning that much. Now is the time for everyone to pile on and say, “yes, WWE, Roman Reigns is The Guy. We get it. You’re right. Now please switch the title and let Brock go back to UFC and move the fork on, please and thank you.”
There’s something really comforting about how when the Reigns/Lesnar angle began so many years ago, the crux was, “Brock isn’t here much, I’m here all the time, Brock is my bitch!” And then Reigns lost a bunch of times in a row, and now the story is, “Brock isn’t here much, I’m here all the time, Brock is my bitch!” Kinda feels like what pro wrestling would look like inside The Matrix. Just black cats wandering around everywhere, glitching their asses off.
So here’s the important question for the episode: While Brock is actually in the ring at the end, where is everyone else? Where are all the people who couldn’t wait to interrupt a show-opening promo parade to tell Kurt Angle they deserve a shot at the Universal Championship?
The first ever Universal Champion who scored four touchdowns in a single game for Polk High and can do EXTRA ordinary things is stuck in a 675 minute match against Constable “Baron” Corbin. Strange that they’d open with an 11-hour-plus match, but here we are.
Jokes aside, this was a pretty good 8-10 minute match in the body of a 20+ minute affair, and as much as I like him as a performer — and I do — I don’t really need to see Constable Corbin in his Banana Republic gear wrestling 20-minute matches. At least not on Raw, against a guy we’ve seen him wrestle several times already, as a sort of stop-gap in a feud about how Corbin got his waiter outfit insulted and wanted to passive-aggressively take it out on Finn with children’s playhouses. It’s fine, but it’s way, way too long. And this is coming from the guy whose actual therapeutic idea of a “happy place” in real-life counseling was “the middle 20 minutes of any four pillars All Japan match from the ’90s.” Give me minutes 25-45 in a Flair/Windham broadway, it’s not a problem with my attention span. I’m just not that into Hospi Hero Baron Corbin.
Some positives: Bálor did his damnedest to sell for Corbin, even getting forearmed a bunch in his precious cheekbones after the match. The problem with Finn is rarely with Finn, it seems, and more with WWE’s ongoing inability to understand why they hired him and what he does well in wrestling. You’ve got a high-flying Irish Chris Jericho in your company, y’all, why are you booking him like he’s a lobotomized Billy Kidman?
Here’s where I paste in the standard, “Seth Rollins had the best match on Raw” statement.
Rollins has another match with Drew McIntyre, with Dolph Ziggler (and a hair straightener, apparently) at ringside looking like The Young Adventures of Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine. Ziggler’s had such a Party City Mötley Crüe costume with vinyl booty shorts and fun decals aesthetic for so long that every time he breaks free from it, it feels jarring. Remember that one week when he randomly had brown hair, and looked like Evan Bourne’s weird older brother? That’s the price you pay for having a beautifully chiseled Land of Confusion puppet face.
This avoids a full-on “Best” not for what it is or does, but because it’s a good 10-minute match that ends in a disqualification right before the pinfall in a company that’s been doing that a lot lately. Non-finishes like that work really well to create intrigue and animosity if the story surrounding it is there, but when there isn’t really a story present at all, they don’t. What’s the angle for Rollins vs. Ziggler beyond “one of them has the Intercontinental Championship and the other one wants it?” Not saying you need more than that all the time, really, but you’re going from a main-event Iron Man match at one pay-per-view to a probably show-opening Regular Match for the same prize at the next.
I actually liked the post-match stuff a lot more, with Ziggler trying to be a big shot and getting trounced, only to regroup with Drew McIntyre backstage later (once Drew’s fully recovered) to jump Rollins and beat him down. That’s a good, clear line between “good guy” and “bad guy,” and actively shows that Rollins can beat Ziggler one-on-one, even at a disadvantage. Ziggler’s constant boasting that he’s the best wrestler ever gets a great heel context as well, because he’s clearly full of shit and can’t even be trusted to get dressed by himself these days. If Drew ever gets sick of him and decides to throw him into the sun, he’ll get all the cheers. Good work from everybody here, again, minus the easy DQ.
♫ Roman, Reigns, The Guy With, The Biggest Pecs ♫
Bless Roman Reigns (the character, I feel like I have to keep clarifying) in this episode.
The stuff at the top of the show was a total retread, as mentioned, but I honestly really loved the backstage segment of Reigns getting thrown out. Instead of pretending he’s above everything like he normally does, Roman manages to show a little human emotion beyond “angry” and “WE’RE BROTHERS” to explain to Kurt Angle that he knows what’s up, and he knows the pressures Kurt’s under as a brow-beaten authority figure at the whim of the McMahons, but that he also knows Kurt’s been where he’s been in the past and should know how he feels. It’s a really simple example of using the show and character histories to inform the stories, because Roman reacts like a human being who has actually maybe had life experiences before, and that’s not incredibly common on WWE TV. At least not on Raw. You don’t need to know match dates and venues and who beat who how, you just know these two have been through a lot of bullshit General Manager angles, and should share at least a basic, common understanding.
The punch on Corbin was a little too Action Hero for my regard (and straight up assault anywhere other than pro wrestling), but at least the Wolf of Wal-mart earned it a little with his smug background appearance and self-serving command of Miami’s least believable police officers. We want Roman, ? ? ?-?-?
Check out this crazy week where I like the Roman Reigns stuff and don’t like the Braun Strowman parts. It’s Bizarro Land, Maggle!
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Braun Strowman’s character seems like the type of guy who wouldn’t care that he’s got a Money in the Bank-related stipulation match coming up at the pay-per-view, and would try to attack Brock the second he entered an arena and cash in. Right? And if you absolutely have to do it in the ring during business hours, he’d at least have found out Brock was going to be here a week ago and announced a cash-in ahead of time to get Brock in a scheduled match. Instead, Strowman just hangs out until this match with Jinder Mahal, which ends in about 90 seconds when Kevin Owens shows up and tries to steal the briefcase to keep Braun from cashing in. Braun loses by count-out, but manages to get back the briefcase … and still doesn’t cash it in later when Lesnar shows up. So why did any of this happen, you know? Owens put his life at risk for something Braun wasn’t even gonna do.
The “why wouldn’t he cash in now” question is one of the major reasons your unstoppable 7-foot tall babyface monster doesn’t need a plot device to make winning matches easier.
Finally we have everyone’s favorite, Bobby Lashley, avoiding a “sinister sneak attack” from Elias. WWE’s words, not mine. I’m not sure interrupting somebody’s song, lying to them that you like their music, then singing really badly before getting punched so you stop constitutes a “sneak attack” from the guy punching you. Bobby should’ve stayed in the back on the green room couch, reading the latest issue of Cardboard Boxes Pretending To Be Human Beings magazine.
I can’t believe Lashley’s singing is that much worse than his talking. I don’t think they could write a character less cool than Lashley if they tried. He’s the cringe compilation that walks like a man. At some point they’re gonna reveal that he’s a meek 5-year old who gets the powers of Shazam when he puts his fingers in his armpits and then points to the sides.
I only have one message for Bobby:
Also Happening On This Episode
The best of the rest is the five or so minutes of tag team action we get between The Revival and The Deleters Of Worlds, which I’m considering the best based 100% on The Revival winning. I know a lot of you guys get tired of my “Bray Wyatt loses all the time” meme, but brother, he loses clean here to the tag team finisher of the guys whose number one accomplishment this calendar year was getting completely shitted on at Raw 25.
I love it, though. I want The Revival to win all the time. It’s played as an upset, but it shouldn’t be. Especially not after the match was set-up with a three-way interview/promo/snaps battle where Dawson and Wilder looked like the only team of three-dimensional humans in the ring. Plus, Dash Wilder earns infinity bonus points from me for countering Sister Abigail by just grabbing Wyatt by the hair and pushing him away, instead of lying there comatose while Wyatt poses with and kisses him. TOP FUCKIN’ GUYS. I adore the B-Team, I do, but let’s get the titles on some dudes we can rely on to have great tag team matches on TV, and then have them do that a lot.
Apollo Crews defeated Akam with a roll-up. Because the three Titus Worldwide vs. Authors of Pain matches this month weren’t enough, you’ve gotta do a singles match between one guy from Titus Worldwide and one Author of Pain to set up a fourth Titus Worldwide vs. Authors of Pain match. As if “Titus Worldwide vs. Authors of Pain” needed four-plus matches to show us its one ending.
I do wish Apollo Crews was a thing, though, and not the blurry impression of a character I wouldn’t even count on to make it onto Hulu Raw. WWE doesn’t necessarily need a “short guys who can work” division between the cruiserweights and the heavies, but I wish they’d remember to keep booking the sixth or seventh most important angles on the show instead of just the top two or three on a good night.
Bayley and Sasha Banks (Banksy) get another strong tag team victory over the Riott Squad, to show that they’ve put their problems behind them and are on the same page. This can end one of two ways:
- Bayley and Sasha Banks actually being a really good tag team and winning the women’s Tag Team Championship (or whatever they call it) at Evolution, or
- Sasha Banks turns on Bayley again, trigger YOU AIN’T SHIT Hate Bayley again and setting up the very long, very heated, very good main roster singles match we’ve been practically begging them to do for Evolution
I’m up for either of those, as long as it’s one of those two and not “are they friends or enemies, let’s spend another eight months figuring it out while other people wrestle.”
Finally — unless you seriously want me to write up Mojo Rawley insulting the worst corner of the Raw locker room and getting into a catfight with the human muscle relaxer Bobby Roode — is the return to Raw of Ronda Rousey. She shows up at ringside for her very close, dear, personal friend Natalya’s match against Alicia Fox. Natalya’s such a good friend she comes out to Ronda’s entrance music, even though Ronda’s not wrestling. You’ve gotta believe in yourself more than that, Natalya.
Alicia Fox wins, incredibly, due to interference from Alexa Bliss. That causes Rousey to de-jacket and go into Terminator mode, which is always great. I’m not sure I like anything on WWE TV right now more than Ronda Rousey speed-walking after people, snatching them by the wrist and pulling them into legitimate-ass judo throws. The only problem, I guess, is that you’ve once again built up your babyface as an unstoppable force of nature, meaning your chickensheet heel champion has to come up with some stupid, contrived way to get the advantage. See Alexa Bliss and Mickie James making fun of Nia Jax, Asuka’s ongoing issues with James Ellsworth, and so on. Rousey would just kill Bliss in a fight, so what dumb shit are they gonna do to “make it even?” Just let Rousey murk her, man. 10 seconds. Then build your title challenges around seeing who can last more than 20 seconds with Ronda in the ring, until Shayna Baszler or whoever shows up and gives her a real fight. You’re paying for a Ronda Rousey, that’s what Ronda Rouseys do!
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Paul: “I can’t breathe!”
Brock: “Shuddup, I can’t read, either!”
Say what you will, but Brock is still on my Mount Rushmore of Universal Champions.
IC Champion PdragolphZiggler
Kurt: “Brock is terrible champion! He has no integrity, no intensity, and if his progress in that magazine is any indication…”
Paul Heyman should’ve come out to the sad Peanuts Christmas song.
John Michael Hall
Maybe Sasha and Bayley can start a new clothing line: The Hug-o Boss Collection.
Liv Morgan is like Mandy Rose and Nikki Cross had a baby and that baby is trying so hard to be sexy like her mom but crazy like her other mom and can’t do either, so she drowns her sorrow in Blueberry slush puppies.
The Real Birdman
“The B stands for Dream”
*Velveteen dreams turn to camera*
“The B stands for dream…”
Axel + Bo should always be announced by Caruso. Easy as A-B-C
Ah, the Constable’s Constables.
I half expected them to cut from Brock Lesnar saying “I hate the WWE Universe” to Roman Reigns wearing a “I (Heart) WWE Universe” shirt.
That’s it for this week. As a final note, rest in peace to Nikolai Volkoff, Brian Christopher, Brickhouse Brown, and Tracy Caddell after an absolutely brutal weekend of loss in the world of pro wrestling.
Thanks for reading, as always. Be sure to share the column, drop us a comment, and be back here next week for —
— “not the Universal Champion.”