Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Roman Reigns announced that he’s been living with leukemia for 11 years, and Dean Ambrose felt so bad about it he beat the crap out of Seth Rollins.
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. We’re on the road to [redacted]!
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for October 29, 2018.
Worst: A Show About Nothing
I opened the Best and Worst of Evolution column with an explanation of how WWE’s spent the past month trying to build three live specials at once, and how hard that must be for them, because most cycles even asking them to build one feels like you’ve asked them to spin hay into gold. Evolution was a bit of a miracle in that way, as it landed between the Bonzer Royal Rumble and In Your House: Badd Blood Money and got the worst build of the three, but turned itself into a can’t-miss show almost solely on the efforts of the performers. The people who cared about this show made it matter, whether it was “supposed to” or not.
Now we’re, uh, on the road to a live special so controversial they’ve already taken a beating in the comedy press, had to replace major stars on the fly, and can’t even say where the pay-per-view is happening on WWE TV anymore. Any mention of the show from even the most popular wrestlers of all time gets booed, so WWE’s stuck heavily promoting an event they’re visibly ashamed of but have convinced themselves to do anyway. So imagine Evolution, except even the people performing on the show don’t care about making it matter, and also a Washington Post journalist got murdered with a bone saw in the Nassau Coliseum right before it happened.
That is a very long way of saying, “nothing happened on this Raw, and it was designed that way.”
Up First, An Example Of How Little Any Of This Matters
The first match of the night is Finn Bálor vs. Bobby Lashley. Last week, Bálor defeated Lashley with a roll-up. This week, Bálor defeats Lashley when Lio Rush gets involved in the match and causes a disqualification. Lashley beats up Bálor after the match. What’s the followup? Baron Corbin rewarding Lashley for eating two straight losses to the same guy 1/3 his size by putting him into the World Cup Tournament at Crown Jewel to prove who is the “best in the world.”
That’s a pretty clear indicator of how important this tournament is, not even taking into consideration that John Cena “qualified” for the tournament and was removed from it by a heel general manager without ever appearing on the show or mentioning it. They did an entire PPV cycle John Cena angle classic without him showing up.
Stepping back from any “smart-alecky” analysis of the show or trying to armchair book it, here’s the simple truth: what happens on Raw has nothing to do with what’s going to happen at the big events. We might as well be watching highlight videos. At least those would be nice looking and make sense.
Also, Everyone Is Weak And Dumb
The actual opening of the show is Baron Corbin with the Universal Championship on his shoulder, simultaneously wishing Roman Reigns well in his real-life battle with leukemia and heeling on him, because apparently everybody got the green light to use a dude’s cancer for heat or sympathy (or both, somehow) in every segment. That’s fine I guess, wrestlers do that sometimes. I do that sometimes. When I write screenplays or stuff for myself it always ends up about me turning my real life problems into fiction, because you can at least control fiction, and it makes it a little less scary.
Anyway, Flesh Beard Brock Lesnar shows up (looking smaller than Corbin at this point, because USADA) with Paul Heyman to get REIGN and DEFEND all over him. Before anything can happen there, Braun Strowman shows up to confront them. To show his strength — despite losing to Lesnar twice now, including once one-on-one at last year’s No Mercy, which I guess we’re supposed to have forgotten — Strowman beats up … Corbin? He powerslams him three times, and is like ROAR YEAH LOOK AT ME, I CAN BEAT UP THIS SHITTY MILQUETOAST WAITER, FEAR ME. Lesnar responds by hitting one (1) F-5 and completely incapacitating Strowman, then walks away smirking.
- the guy in control of the show is stupid and sucks
- the biggest and strongest guy on the show is stupid and can be defeated with one move
- the guy who never competes on the show and doesn’t even talk when he shows up is smarter and stronger than both of them
It’s like watching an entire WrestleMania build in one segment.
You know, I get the Lesnar situation. He’s a big name part-timer, so he’s only going to do what he’s going to do. I even get Baron Corbin, as he went from bad-ass werewolf biker who can beat everyone in 17 seconds to the dopiest schmuck in the world, so he doesn’t need to look cool or tough anymore. But I don’t think I’ll ever understand how Raw transformed the coolest character they’d created in years, a charismatic country monster who loves tiny people and kills his opponents with grappling hooks or by flipping semi-trucks over onto them into this cowardly heel dork who can’t even win a fight. Why does being a heel suddenly make you worse at wrestling? You’d think cheating would give these guys an unfair advantage, but WWE’s created a universe where taking shortcuts costs you 90% of your skill and talent, and also kills off enough of your functioning brain that you keep doing it and never realize what’s happening.
Plus, They Don’t Seem Like They Actually Know Where The Cancer Heat Is Supposed To Go
Picking back up with the “turning reality into fiction to make it easier to deal with” thing, Seth Rollins shows up perfectly fine a week after getting DDT’d onto concrete — at least he took longer to recover than Cena did with the Nexus — to demand Dean Ambrose give him answers for the turn. Ambrose shows up in the crowd, doesn’t say anything, gets yelled at for a minute, then leaves.
Real talk: are they suggesting Ambrose is playing “mind games” with Rollins by beating him up and not explaining it, or do they not actually have a reason for him to turn yet? Or even more believably, do they have a reason, since they spent a month or so establishing the reason, but feel like they need to save it for after Crown Jewel? If the reasons they’ve established already are the reason Ambrose attacked Rollins, shouldn’t Rollins know that? Or at least assume it? I just watched it on TV and I know, this guy lived it. Does what happens on the weekly shows also not matter to the internal monologues of the characters participating in what happens on the weekly shows?
This week’s women’s division content is what a lot of folks thought Evolution was gonna be; an extension of what we see on the weekly shows, stretched out for three hours. Instead, they gave us heated (and most importantly, dramatically different) championship matches, created a vibe of real importance for the Mae Young Classic finals, elevated the NXT Women’s Championship by putting it on a WWE PPV, built a battle royal around a myriad of stories and acknowledged nostalgia without kowtowing to it, and so on. It really was great.
This week we got the same stuff we’re used to seeing on the weekly shows, and the only thing really reminding us that Evolution existed beyond the endless SALUTE, SALUTE! video packages is a 10-woman tag, the upping of a feud nobody asked for, and an awkward backstage conversation between Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch.
Up first was the 10-woman tag. It’s … fine, but it felt more like one of those old “everybody into the pool” Divas matches than anything from Evolution. Remember when they’d just dress up 10 Divas like Mrs. Claus and have them do some wacky spots and hit some signature moves? This was that, minus the cosplay. It felt like it might have just been an excuse to give Sasha and Bayley a match alongside Trish and Lita as a make-good for the pay-per-view. By the way, Lita really needs to stop doing that Poetry in Motion spot if she can’t get any lift off Trish’s back. I don’t know if Lita’s too heavy-footed or Trish doesn’t have enough body mass to support her or something, but she looks like she’s trying to Curb Stomp Trish every time she does it. She manages to step on someone’s back and get less lift than if she’d just ran straight into them.
The second women’s match of the night was Ember Moon vs. Nia Jax, with Jax suddenly being a full-on heel again, apparently. Remember when she turned heel for a week during that Ronda Rousey feud, then forgot about it? I don’t know if she’s bad at expressing any emotion between “good” and “bad” and just has to pick one or what, but if she keeps this up we’re gonna have to get her fitted for a camouflage singlet with some Mario Kart speed boosts on the sides.
The match ends with an appearance from Tamina, because the big statement on our lips following Evolution was, “more Tamina Snuka, please.” Tamina shows up to cause a … general distraction, which Nia takes advantage of to win the match. Tamina then gets into the ring, stares at Jax, and LEAVES. Because the theme of this week’s episode is, “suggest that things might happen, but then nothing happens.” I’m honestly surprised Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman didn’t just stare at each other and then walk away backwards.
Also On This “Episode”
Elias defeats Jinder Mahal, who is still very much Jinder Mahal. Jack Swagger on this season of Lucha Underground looks like Kenny Omega compared to Jinder Mahal. It’s like Jinder watched a thousand NIkolai Volkoff matches and was like, “if I do anything faster of better than Volkoff, I’m doin’ it wrong.”
Elias is already calling people “bitch,” though, so he’s settled nicely into being a WWE babyface.
WWE freshened up the six-week-long Ascension getting pinned by Bobby Roode and Chad Gable angle by taking a week off, then having the Ascension get pinned by Bobby Roode and Chad Gable while the AOP stood on the apron. After the match the AOP beats everyone up, presumably because Drake Maverick still wants to kick Roode’s ass for that shit that went down in Impact Wrestling back in 2015.
Dolph Ziggler hopes to prove he is the best in the world by defeating Apollo Crews, which in WWE terms is sort of like proving you’re the world’s best acrobat by going up an entire flight of stairs without falling down. He’ll continue to prove this by taking on a 49-year old man who is 85% formaldehyde in round one of a tournament for nothing in a five-hour commercial for the very beautiful and progressive nation of Saudi Arabia™.
Dolph, you aren’t the best in the world. You’re not even the best guy in your tag team.
Worst: Freakout At The Old Folks Home
Finally (good lord) we have the Undertaker and Kane sending a message to D-Generation X, which they definitely didn’t also do last Monday and Tuesday, and definitely didn’t do before that or at Super Show-Down. Undertaker breaks out one of his all-time corniest lines here, too: “It will not just be the end of an era. It will be the end of YOUR ERROR.” WWE called them “chilling words.” If bad goth grandpa wordplay chilled you, Roman Reigns calling Sheamus’ balls “tater tots” must’ve put you into deep freeze.
Anyway, Shawn Michaels shows up in his weird sleep mask to superkick the Undertaker, which Undertaker more or less immediately no-sells to “send a message to D-X” again. They also sent another message to us, which was, “don’t waste your Friday morning watching Mohammad bin Salman’s friends clap for 1998’s worst wrestling.”
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
this was boring 6 weeks ago – Raw’s 2018 tagline
“without guys like kurt angle, guys like dolph ziggler wouldnt exist”
DON’T YOU PUT THAT EVIL ON ME, RICKY BOBBY!
The Real Birdman
“We’ve got two words ya!”
“Yeah, we’ll we’ve got three words for you!”
Please please stop
Seth: “Dean what you did to me was unforgivable. But now’s not the time, we need to invade SDL in a week for Team Red!”
Uproxx: “Son of a….”
Taker: “It will not be swift…”
Universe: “No shit.”
Lionel Hutz is preparing his “Neverending Story” defense against WWE’s advertisement of “last time ever.”
Dean should just come out, place a cinderblock in the middle of the ring, then leave
Jinder still clearly feels a 3 Man Band is better than a solo act.
Is Brock going into Crown Jewel with that thing Bane wears so he can juice up 30 seconds before the match starts?
I’m tempted to watch to see how many male wrestlers fake an injury so they don’t have to wrestle at Crown Jewel.
“Ow, my head.”
“Ow, my knee.”
“Ow, my ovaries.”
And that, friends, was an episode of Raw.
Drop a comment below to let us know what you thought of the show — I bet we can’t guess! — and share the column around so we don’t go out of business writing about these three-hour USA Network bumpers. Make sure to join us this Friday for our full coverage of Crown Jewel, which will include nothing, because fuck Crown Jewel.