Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Matt Hardy got sent to the ironic, North Carolina version of Valhalla by Randy Orton. Additionally, Seth Rollins has gone full preacher, and his top subordinate is getting flipped.
One more thing: Hit those share buttons! Spread the word about the column on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you use. Be sure to leave us a comment in our comment section below as well. I know we always ask this, and that this part is copy and pasted in every week, but we appreciate it every week. It’s almost time for a confused old man vs. a teleporting clown in Saudi Arabia!
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for February 24, 2020.
Best: Snakes On Explain
This week’s Raw opens with another promo from Randy Orton, who is still attempting to explain why he did what he did to Edge out of one side of his mouth while insisting we’d never be able to understand out of the other. He weirdly seems like he means it, too, as he gets uncharacteristically “sentimental” about returning to the location of one of his formative experiences as a young wrestler and how it ties into his now 15-year history with Edge. He’s interrupted by Kevin Owens and that pivots the conversation a bit, but I love the fact that as Orton’s getting older he’s losing control of his emotions in an oddly wistful kind of way, in addition to his well-documented (sometimes mind games, sometimes real) Intermittent Explosive Disorder flaring up and causing him to go cuckoo bananas on anything that triggers it. The guy who was once a young pup trying to “kill” legends has become a legend himself, and doesn’t know how to handle it. Should he kill himself? No, he can’t do that. Kill everyone around him? Yeah, maybe so. It’s like Monday Night Raw is the Overlook Hotel and Ruthless Aggression nostalgia is Randy Orton’s alcohol.
The aforementioned pivot Kevin Owens creates is really good as well, as it plays on Orton’s ongoing and relatively public disdain for being born great at a thing he kind of hates (professional wrestling) and how his ego and privilege cause such a negative reaction in people who grew up outside the business, and fell in love with it for what it is. Owens is the ultimate representation of a guy who doesn’t look the part, wasn’t born sounding the part (English is his second language, which is a death sentence for most stars born outside the U.S. who want to make it in WWE), and was repeatedly told he either wasn’t “good enough” or wasn’t the “right fit” for a WWE job. He pushed and scraped and clawed and got here anyway, and proved everybody wrong. Randy Orton got in on a (pardon the pun) Legacy scholarship and just does this because it’s hardwired into his programming and makes him a lot of money. He probably loves some aspect of it, sure, but if his last name wasn’t “Orton” do you think Randy would’ve ever even WATCHED wrestling? It’s the “worker” vs. the fan. “I don’t care if I suck at my job and get treated like garbage every week because I can buy a house” versus “I wrote a letter to myself about how I’d be WWE Champion one day when I was 10 years old.”
To clarify, I know that’s all about perception. Real-life Owens and real-life Orton work the same job and have the same goals, but as fans, we see their personas play out on and off-screen and form these opinions about what they’re “really like” based on what we assume, what they say or do, or what we hear about them. One of the things WWE is extremely great at is eventually understanding those assumptions and feelings and mining them for content. See also Brock Lesnar hates his job and doesn’t want to be here, John Cena loves the WWE Universe and The Rock doesn’t because he “left them” to go make movies, the relationship between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn that existed long before they got to WWE, and so on. When they say “these things write themselves,” they kinda mean it.
Great work from both guys here, to set up … a different thing.
Ref’d In The A
Instead of using [gestures] any of that as the foundation for the story of the main event, we go full Sports-Entertainment with it. The main event features:
- the Seth Rollins Band (who really need an actual name) and the pod of babyfaces who’ve been opposing them every week for a month now get into a team brawl on the outside
- Rollins sneaks around the ring and distracts Owens, allowing Orton to hit his rope-assisted DDT on Owens
- the referee gives them a super fast count, Shane McMahon-style, which even Orton himself seems confused about
- Rollins then hangs around sliding chairs into the ring, trying to prey on Orton’s ongoing mental illness by providing him an opportunity for violence. “LET THE VOICES SPEAK TO YOU, RANDY!”
- Rollins is such a sore winner that his annoying cheer-leading actually distracts Orton from the task, allowing Owens to recover enough to grab one of the chairs and defend himself. Orton bails, because yeah, he would’ve enjoyed smushing another guy’s head, but he can’t like, do it on command
- Owens chases down the referee and tears open the ref’s shirt, revealing a Seth Rollins t-shirt underneath
- Owens powerbombs the “Seth Rollins disciple” through a table while Rollins stands on the stage screaming about how he doesn’t know what the t-shirt is about but DOES know that the referee is “a good human being”
You’ve got to love pro wrestling storytelling and Attitude Era-style t-shirt based allegiances, where the referee had to also be wearing a Seth Rollins t-shirt under his ref shirt so he could secretly feel like he’s on Seth’s team while helping a different guy cheat on Seth’s behalf. You’d think a guy who calls himself the “architect” would know to be like, “wear a plain tee under that referee shirt, if you get caught I don’t want everybody to immediately know who ordered it.” Maybe get him some “burn it down” socks if he needs to wear the colors.
These kinds of finishes aren’t really my bag — growing up watching WCW Monday Nitro gave me dumb finish PTSD, I think — but they did a good job with all the moving parts. Excited to see where this goes, especially if Rollins ends up with his own Dark Order of jobbers, forgotten mid-carders, and backstage personnel that follow him around and treat him like an actual messianic figure. At least keep it going until I have a reason to rewrite the entirety of Jesus Christ Superstar to be about him.
Best: All I’m Asking Is For A Couple Of Good Wrestling Matches On Your Three-Hour Wrestling Show
Speaking of Rollins, an Angelo Dawkins vs. Buddy Murphy match gets an almost immediate Pokémon evolution using the Interference Stone and becomes Seth Rollins vs. Montez Ford. That’s been one of my “dream matches” for a while now, and while their characters are clearly on different tiers in regard to experience and ability right now, it was a great first look at a bout that could headline a pay-per-view somewhere down the road.
I love how these two match up physically. They’re really similar in build and style, which I think works really well when you pair them up. Ford is the lighter and skinnier of the two, and he’s got less experience, so his offense feels raw (no pun intended) and when he jumps, it’s almost like he’s floating. That frog splash is prettier than a sunset. In contrast, Rollins has had years of being a tactical mercenary and then a corporate franchise player and finally both a king and beast slayer to build up his in-ring know-how, strength, and musculature. His moves play like Ford’s, but with more weight and impact to them. Long story short, it feels like watching Seth Rollins wrestle Tyler Black, and I love it.
I hope Rollins liked working with him, and that this is the kind of match that gets Raw fans saying to each other, “you know who I like? Montez Ford. He’s good!”
Worst: “Murphy The Smurf”
The person who writes the “jokes” for the Street Profits needs to get thrown into the Snickers hole so they stop making the world worse.
In addition to Rollins/Ford, we got almost 15 minutes of Humberto Carrillo and Angel Garza going one-on-one early in the first hour. It ruled, like you’d expect, with the only negatives being multiple commercial breaks and Jerry Lawler’s instance that Carrillo is an 8-year old Justin Bieber lookalike. I think at this point Lawler might not be able to see or hear, and just barfs the same dumb lines into the microphone every week. When has Justin Bieber ever looked like a lithe but muscular 6-foot-1 Mexican with floppy hair and Cabbage Patch Kid dimples? 99% chance Jerry Lawler’s picturing Shirley Temple when he says “Justin Bieber,” anyway.
But yeah, surprise! Garza and Carrillo have incredible chemistry together. This match had some real WCW cruiserweight division vibes, too, where the wrestlers do some fairly common lucha libre stuff that feels revolutionary and innovative when you do it in front of 11,000 Winnipeggers. The fact that they’re related feels intuitive, and when the announcers mention that they’ve known each other their entire lives, you can physically see and feel it. Part of me wants them to tag up when Andrade comes back and resumes primary care of Zelina Vega’s professional affections, mostly because Humberto Carrillo ought to be making random ladies kiss him on the cheek, too. Garza comes out on top, but only at the end of a lengthy pinfall exchange that could’ve gone either way. It’s amazing what you can do for your wrestlers when you end a match like they can end at any time off any move, and don’t rely on either a distraction, a disqualification, or a big finisher with theatrics exclusively.
By the way, same, Charly Caruso. Same.
Best: Christianity Vs. Satanism
Ricochet follows up last week’s win over Karl Anderson by defeating Anderson’s partner, Luke Gallows, because that’s how WWE tag teams work. They exist less to be “tag teams” in “tag team wrestling matches,” and more so a guy getting a push can get two wins instead of one without having to do any work. If you’re really good, you get to pin them both at the same time. Fun side note: if you say winning one specific match makes someone the “best tag team in the world,” you can keep saying it over and over despite them losing 95% of their matches.
Anyway, The O.C. is backstage being upset about it and take out their anger on Aleister Black. Don’t know why you’d poke the bear — or in this case, poke The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young — but they do it, and now he’s (1) going into his rematch with Erick Rowan with his health meter in the red and (2) pissed about it.
I thought for sure this was going to be their way to give Rowan a win against Black, help him restore some of that “monster” status, and give Black some vulnerability, but … nope, they just booked last week’s match again, down to the finish, except Black’s half injured this time. It’s not bad, but I wish they hadn’t just done the same match again, and Rowan looks impotent not being able to finish off a guy half his size after a 3-on-1 attack. Plus, I’m also reaching the point of no return on Erick Rowan’s mystery pet. I guess the point is that they’re NEVER going to tell us what it is, and our “darkest imagination” or whatever has to fill in the blanks. Maybe he’s got Yog-Sothoth in there, and it’s gonna marry Aleister Black when it gets out.
The major “Best” here, though, is that Black challenges AJ Styles to a one-on-one match on next week’s show. Montez Ford vs. Seth Rollins this week, and AJ Styles vs. Aleister Black next week? What did I do to deserve this? When did Raw became a reward for sitting through Smackdown? I really want Black and Styles to become eternal rivals. I want promo battles where Black is like, “I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all … I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe … If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other,” and Styles nods and is like, “you ever think about how NASA is lying to us?”
Best, But Not Really Anything: The Women’s Elimination Chamber Contract Signing
This week’s show featured a contract signing for the women’s Elimination Chamber match — always a good idea to announce your match with graphics before it’s officially signed — that has a lot of the same problems I talked about in last week’s column. Elimination Chamber’s only happening because it’s the month where there’s supposed to be an Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, and it’s a number one contender thing involving a bunch of people who did jack-shit to get into title contention despite Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler being the match we’re building to at WrestleMania. Unless like, they had Lynch defeat the most dominant NXT Women’s Champion of all time at the Royal Rumble as a lead-in to Shayna showing up on Raw and literally eating part of the Raw Women’s Champion’s flesh and drinking her blood so we could do Becky Lynch vs. Liv Morgan at WrestleMania. Come on. Asuka’s the only other person in the match who could KIND OF win it, and we just watched Lynch clearly establish dominance over her.
I will say, though, that Asuka dragging everybody in Japanese is funny (despite the “what” chants, which still exist for some reason), and Asuka shoving Natalya to the ground like a chump to confront Shayna Baszler is some top-shelf fantasy booking. I really hope we get Baszler vs. Asuka in a legit one-on-one match soon, and/or that they do something screwy at Elimination Chamber to get them both into the Raw Women’s Championship match at Mania. Maybe Lynch costs Baszler the match, Asuka wins to officially earn the shot, and Baszler gets in due to personal beef and impromptu cannibalism? I don’t hate it.
The Same Brock Lesnar Segment They Always Do
The WWE Champion shows up to earn six figures for hopping up and down in place while Paul Heyman spends a few minutes talking about how dope he is. It’s good work if you can get it. If Brock doesn’t yeet Ricochet all the way the hell out of King Fahd International Stadium, wrestling is fake.
This is followed up by a sit-down interview with Drew McIntyre that I actually kind of hated. I get what they’re going for, but so much of it seems like it’s in the wrong tone, at least from my very specific kind of fan point of view. McIntyre “doesn’t care” who he faces at WrestleMania, which is one of those things that sounds better in WWE’s head than it ever does in practice. Don’t you guys know who he’s facing? Shouldn’t you probably have THAT be who the new beloved babyface wants to fight at WrestleMania, so there’s some actual interpersonal drama to it? ESPECIALLY when it’s Brock Lesnar, a guy whose character is “never comes to work and doesn’t want to be here.” The guy McIntyre passionately eliminated from the Royal Rumble to start this whole main event WrestleMania program in the first place? Even if you don’t want to give up the game or whatever, it feels like a better idea to have the hero focused on dethroning the biggest WWE super villain of the century and end his tyrannical grip on the promotion’s top prize instead of sharing that villain’s nonchalant, “I just want to be the most important guy” attitude.
There were lots of other little things I didn’t like, like McIntyre being sad that he “let Mr. McMahon down” by not actually being the chosen one when that was an extremely heel thing he has no reason to be sincerely upset about a decade later. Or him saying he’s “never won a World Championship.” The NXT Championship not being a World Championship (even though it was defended overseas, which is what’s supposed to make a World Championship really a “World Championship”) is some big disrespect to one of like two championships under your entire promotional umbrella that has prestige, but it also managed to bury the Impact and ICW World Championships.
Two suggestions for WWE: Bring back Broken Dreams, and don’t overthink how easy it is to make the handsome charismatic guy who kicks ass a big star. Not everybody needs meticulous micromanagement, and histories need to be rewritten even less!
Worst: What DOES Bobby Lashley Think About Sonic The Hedgehog?
Now we’ll never know. I haven’t been this bothered by an unanswered question since Kevin Owens got hit with that pie.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Daniel: “I’m so proud of you getting into the hall of fame, babe. Kind of a bummer that the rule is once you’re in the Hall you can never wrestle again.”
Brie: “That’s not true, I’ve seen Shawn and Taker…”
Daniel: “I said YOU CAN NEVER WRESTLE AGAIN.”
Real talk: Beth’s only going to RAW in the hopes of running into Angel Garza.
Please have Kyle O’Reilly run in to give us an RKO/KO/KOR triple threat.
Lana knows that Bobby can talk about Sonic The Hedgehog for hours
KO and Orton about to bond hard over beating their friends to death
Angel Garza just stole my girl through the TV.
Baron Von Raschke
Can we just get Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins as close to the nearest barber shop window as soon as possible?
Huh…. I never thought I would actually enjoy a 20 minute Erick Rowan match. And I was right
“Their little Buddy, Murphy”
God bless K.O for saying the whole name for us
Randy Orton: “And, thanks to the Internet…”
WithSpandex comments section:
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of Raw. It’s almost time for WWE in Saudi Arabia, which is a thing for some reason. Bag of money emoji bag of money emoji bag of money emoji.
Comments, shares, RSPW Awards votes, and any other kind of love you’d like to show is appreciated. Meet you back here next week, when AJ Styles and Aleister Black have a 20-minute match — I’m putting that energy out into the universe — and we can get back to promoting shows that don’t feature the Tuwaiq Mountain Trophy.