Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: We royally rumbled, with Raw Superstars Charlotte Flair and Drew McIntyre winning the women’s and men’s Royal Rumbles respectively. Other than that, not much changed. But it’s WrestleMania season! WHO WILL SURVIVE~
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for January 27, 2020.
Best: One Of Those Raws That Starts And Ends Really Well, But Is Awful In The Middle, Because Even When It’s WrestleMania Season And They Start Trying, The Show Is Still Three Hours Long
You know what absolutely rules? Seeing an entire arena of people being all-in on the Drew McIntyre Royal Rumble win and giving it (and him) the right energy heading into WrestleMania season. If you had any doubts about his ability to be one of WWE’s top guys, this should ease those; he can go, he looks like several hundred million dollars, he connects with the crowd, and he can do the nigh-impossible by recapping the weekend’s events (and the matches they’ll lead to) while sounding like a human being. Even Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns can’t really do that reliably. He’s the right guy, at the right time. Maybe a little too far into “the right time,” but I’ll take it.
The opening segment sets up Drew vs. both members of The O.C. in a handicap match, which he easily wins. I don’t know when Drew Mac became Shawn Michaels plus Diesel, but it’s pretty great. He just lines them up, counts down his Claymore Kicks (to the delight of everyone), foots the shit out of them, and then pins them in a pile.
- Vince McMahon really hates tag teams, doesn’t he?
- The O.C. sucks, so this wouldn’t be as concerning for the state of tag team wrestling if their one Saudi Arabia victory hadn’t christened them the, “best tag team in the world.” They’re the best tag team in the world like Shane McMahon is the best wrestler in the world. But it’s still off-putting to hear the announce team by like, “The O.C. is the BEST TAG TEAM IN THE WORLD” when they’re the most and second-most expendable parts of a two-minute long handicap match loss
It gets good again really quickly, though, when Brock Lesnar reveals that he actually stayed in Houston overnight and watched at least the first 10 minutes of Raw so he could jump the guy who eliminated him at Royal Rumble and then challenged him for WrestleMania and get revenge.
Two More Production Notes
Firstly, look how the WrestleMania sign size has been adjusted for inflation over the past 12 years:
Pretty soon that thing’s going to be big and gaudy enough for Bray Wyatt to challenge people to spooky matches inside it. In 2034 they’re going to have to run Raw in open air stadiums so they can use a WrestleMania 50 logo as the roof.
Secondly, I understand replacing Vic Joseph with Tom Phillips. Vic clearly needs some more seasoning before he’s ready to do that job (and not just sound like a Muppet Babies version of Michael Cole all the time), and Tom is both experienced on commentary and the Littlefinger of the WWE announcers. It was probably his spot anyway. That said, the announce team’s not going to actually get any better until you get rid of Jerry Lawler. It’s not about addition, it’s about subtraction. And who the hell was like, “ALSO BYRON SAXTON SHOULD BE THERE?” I think everyone would be happy if you made every show’s announce team a little smaller, and went for quality instead of quantity. You don’t need seven people calling your pay-per-view Kickoff Shows either.
Pretty soon that foreign announce team roll-call is gonna be like, “and our English announce team, Vic Joseph and Jerry Lawler! And Michael Cole and Corey Graves! And Beth Phoenix, and Mauro Ranallo, and Nigel McGuinness, and Aiden English, and Dio Maddin, and Renee Young, and Byron Saxton, and Percy Watson, and Charly Caruso, and David Otunga, and Sam Roberts, and Pat McAfee, and-” Meanwhile Meng Ai’s just off to the side of this 50-person line, playing Supercard on his phone.
Best: “I’m COMIN’!”
[roddy piper leaving alcatraz dot JPG]
Edge was this year’s big surprise return at the Royal Rumble, but let’s not sleep on another surprise entrant from a decade ago, former United States and Tag Team Champion Montel Vontavious Porter. Not sure if MVP’s sticking around like Edge appears to be, but it was nice to see him get a spot in the Rumble and a match with Mysterio on Raw in Houston so his young son could see him wrestle. The kid calls it, “daddy fight.” Adorable. MVP was always underrated and deserves more love than he got. I hope he sticks around, but wish he’d brought back the inflatable tunnel entrance.
By the way, I thought the 619 to the back spot was really cool. Lucha libre and independent wrestling have been doing innovative things with Tiger Feint Kicks for years, so it’s about time Rey Jr. got in on that instead of everyone just having to stumble awkwardly onto the second rope and lean there waiting for the move’s one animation. It made MVP look smart for trying to avoid it, Rey look creative for managing to hit it anyway, and set up the frog splash to the back so it took TWO big shots to a targeted area instead of just one for Rey to win.
Best, Then Worst: Good Things Fall Apart
The entire middle of this week’s episode feels cursed. It’s a combination of bad luck, injuries, disqualification non-finishes, iffy character decisions for terrible real-life reasons, and jobber squashes that maintain the status quo more than develop anyone or go anywhere.
Le’s start with the bad luck and the injuries. Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens get a shot at new Raw Tag Team Champions Seth Rollins and Buddy Murphy, tag team name Buddy Christ, and preface it by smartly pinpointing the location of the AOP and sending their shouty Viking friends to take them out of the equation. That makes it an even 2-on-2 match, for once. But that goes to hell ahead of the commercial break when Samoa Joe dives through the ropes with an elbow suicida, falls straight down for some reason, smashes his face on the ground, and gives himself a concussion. That is not what we meant when we said, “crash to break.”
Some matches are accidentally improved when an injury changes things and they have to call a new match on the fly. That happened during Imperium vs. Undisputed Era at Worlds Collide and magically transformed it into one of the best matches of the year. That was 4-on-4 and heel vs. heel, but suddenly became 4-on-3, with Imperium forced into working the match as babyfaces due to the disadvantage. Here, the entire story setting up the match is that Rollins’ team usually has a 4-on-2 advantage — an advantage that got both Joe and Owens eliminated from the Royal Rumble — so the faces smartened up and ensured things would be 2-on-2. And then due to circumstance, it’s almost immediately 2-on-1. What do you even do?
They did the best they could with what they had to work with, Owens fought valiantly from underneath, and the champions retained. It was a real shame to see Joe go down like that, and pretty weird to see Owens still doing “I hope I can make the tag!” gestures and crawling to his corner while the heels tag out despite him being out there alone. I guess the impression of a hot tag is more important than it actually being able to happen? That’s an interesting discussion. Do the broad strokes of pro wrestling body language, match rhythm, and intent mean more than the actions being performed?
Worst: Back-To-Back Disqualifications For Otherwise Good Matches
Nothing will take the wind out of your sails like investing double-digit minutes into a wrestling match with a championship on the line only for the finish to have nothing to do with the match wrestled and negate most of what you just watched. If a desperation disqualification finish for some cowardly heel (read: most bad guys in WWE except Brock Lesnar) happens once, then sure, all right, maybe they’re going for something. If it happens in back-to-back matches, both of which go almost a full quarter-hour before the disqualification, it starts to feel like they’re scared to book their own characters into consequential situations and are just wasting everybody’s time.
Humberto Carrillo lost a United States Championship match on the Royal Rumble Kickoff show, which [checks notes] earned him a United States Championship match on Raw. I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that Andrade apparently got popped for a wellness policy violation, so he needs a reason to be off TV for the next 30 days. Is THAT how you stay fit on the road? Carrillo has him beaten, but Zelina Vega hops in and causes the DQ. An enraged Carrillo, who up until this point has been a demure and quiet little Cabbage Patch Kid of a man who dresses like the White Power Ranger, flips the hell out and injures Andrade by Hammerlock DDT’ing him on the exposed arena floor. The announce team is like, “WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND,” and most people watching are like, “damn, man, that seems pretty severe. You okay?”
Again, it seems like circumstance dictated how the characters acted and matches went down instead of creative intent. It happens, I guess. You’ve gotta wonder why they’d want to keep the championship on him if he’s getting suspended for drugs, but I guess they’ve got plans for him and it at WrestleMania. Since when have they cared about the United States Championship at WrestleMania, though? Let’s hope Carrillo makes something out of suddenly having an edge to his character, at least. Send up Angel Garza to tag with him and remind him that being beautiful and dramatically showing your thighs to people is way more fun than trying to give someone brain damage for cheating at a wrestling match.
Then you’ve got Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka, which is a much better match with a much longer backstory but also ends in a random-ass disqualification to make sure nobody really “loses.” This one goes 14 minutes, just to build to the same finish they did a month and a half ago. Charlotte has Asuka dead to rights in the Figure-Eight, so Asuka scoots them over into the corner and Kairi Sane drops an elbow on Charlotte while she’s bridging. It’s the same damn sequence, only now it’s to cause a disqualification instead of win a handicap match in desperation. Neither of those things sounds very good, do they?
On a positive note, Charlotte doesn’t actually make a challenge while she’s pointing at the WrestleMania monolith, so there’s still a chance she’s going to skip the Becky Lynch feud retread and challenge NXT Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley instead. Get revenge for November, Queen! Give us the battle of the broad-shouldered blonde bad-asses and leave Becky to get her entire lunch eaten* by Shayna Baszler!
*Does Shayna Baszler like quinoa?
To summarize, good wrestling matches with bad finishes that make the whole thing feel kinda pointless are preferable to bad wrestling matches that do the same thing, but this is the one season per year WWE’s expected to be a little more creative than this. Just don’t do two of them in a row, you know?
Jobbers Of The Week
Taking on Aleister Black (sorry!) this week is Kenneth Johnson, whom you may remember from his round one loss to Akira Tozawa back in the Cruiserweight Classic. Fun fact: “Kenneth Johnson” is also the Reverend Slick’s real name. Here, poor Ken spends about 40 seconds rubbing his own thigh before Al spin-kicks him in the “off” switch.
Johnson was 33 years old.
Pulling even worse (and considerably more humiliating) jobber duty is Branden Vice, aka me when I go on vacation to Miami. “Branden Vice” is actually Brendan Vice, a Funaki (and Jazz and Rodney Mack) student who showed up on Friday night’s Smackdown and Sunday’s Royal Rumble to attend to an injured Jimmy Uso, and help Daniel Bryan to the back when he got stuck selling for two.
On Raw, Vice puts over Erick Rowan, whose jobber squashes are even LESS impactful now that we watched him get punked out in eight seconds by an actual threatening monster, Brock Lesnar. But sure, Erick, show us you can quickly defeat even MORE unqualified wrestlers. That’ll make you look strong! And while you’re at it, shit or get off the pot with that mystery pet.
No Way Jose, who is still a thing for some reason, loses an in-ring 24/7 Championship match to Mojo Rawley in 20 seconds between Mojo putting over NXT main roster call-up Riddick Moss (hahaha) and getting rolled up and pinned by a hamburger. Jose, man … there’s gotta be a better career option for you at this point. They don’t like you. You’re big and you’ve got a great look and can wrestle, but like … did you become a pro wrestler so you could dance to the ring alongside 10 costumed extras and lose in half the time it takes actual jobbers on the show to get squashed? In WWE’s eyes you are currently less important than both Kenneth Johnson and Branden Vice. AND Riddick Moss. RIDDICK MOSS, Jose.
By the way, it’s funny that Mojo Rawley decided he was going to stand and fight as 24/7 Championship instead of running away only to hire a guy to protect him — remember, everybody the crowd doesn’t like has to be a total coward — but it’s even funnier that the guy he hired for protection is half his size and 100% less threatening. Moss as champion with ex-football player Mojo “blocking” him would make more sense. Hi, I just said Riddick Moss should be a main roster WWE Champion. What a world.
Lana should probably qualify for jobber status, too, as she loses clean to Liv Morgan in a little over two minutes. She lasts longer against Liv than The Good Brothers did against Drew McIntyre, though, so hey, small victories. The only thing really worth noting here is that Liv has a new finisher off the ropes that (1) she can only do from one specific spot, under this one in-ring condition, in every match she wrestles, and that (2) is extremely easy to mess up.
Maybe the better idea is to give her a normal Flatliner as her standard finisher, and then let her do set-ups like this when they’re organically set up during matches? It could be like how people who do cutters for finishers come up with creative ways to hit them all the time. Just seems like making someone Rock Bottom you is already kind of a bullshit finisher (R-Truth and Shelton Benjamin, I’m looking in your directions), and removing the wrestler’s ability to ground themselves or jump and actually apply any force or inertia to the move, ESPECIALLY when the performer doing it is still extremely green, seems like a bad time. Anyway, please enjoy this post-match interview where she blinks like 40 times in 20 seconds while trying to remember what a soap opera writer wrote for her to say. Good luck with all of this! See y’all at the next wedding goof!
Best: THERE’S A SNAKE IN MY ABOOT
The highlight of the night in a walk is the main event segment, wherein Edge returns to Monday Night Raw to explain how he managed to return to active competition and enter the Royal Rumble match despite having to retire with career-ending injuries nine years ago, only to be propositioned for a tag team reunion by Randy Orton, and then immediately murdered by him. Like, IMMEDIATELY. Orton “pops the question,” so to speak, and then just RKOs him about it.
It’s the perfect, emotional, WrestleMania-quality followup to last night’s return. During the Rumble, Orton is happy to see Edge again and works together with him, but sees an opportunity to FROM OUTTA NOWHERE him and sorta locks and loads an RKO in his mind. Edge catches him, though, so it doesn’t happen. Orton’s like, “sorry man, I give people unexpected RKOs for a living, I just did that out of habit,” and then Edge is like, “it’s all good, man, I get it,” before just dumping him to the floor. On Raw, Orton shows up like he’s gonna understand and offers to be Edge’s friend. Except even HE can’t buy that shit, and goes straight for the jugular. It’s pitch-perfect Randy Orton characterization. He’s a mentally damaged guy who sometimes tricks himself into thinking he’s the good guy, but has lost the ability to even fake human decency over his bloodlust for Sudden Cutters.
He ends up taking it too far, too, as he often does. He brings a chair into the ring, smashes Edge in the back with it, and then considers Pillmanizing Edge’s neck before opting for the One Man Con-chair-to. He went for poetry over specificity of injury. The slow, methodical, psychotic way he kinda wanders around the ring trying to figure out what to do and seemingly trying to talk himself into and out of doing it was AWESOME. I’m actually mad that the YouTube clip version cuts out all of Orton’s character work and pathos, because he was KILLING IT here. Orton’s the best wrestler in the company at doing the “little things” to tell stories in the ring. If his wrestling was ever as good as his understanding of wrestling, he’d be the best wrestler ever. His borderline “I’m sorry, I love you” attitude and the screams of shock and terror from the crowd really made it pop. Wonderful, wonderful work here. I hope they keep Edge off TV and pretend he’s gonna have to retire again because of this until like, the end of whatever Orton does at one of the pay-per-views between now and Mania. Really milk it. It’s art.
I also hope Christian shows up and kicks both of their asses for saying and agreeing to that “Rated RKO had a special chemistry nobody else has” line.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Not A Crook
OWENS: come on this is clearly pre-taped
ROLLINS: that’s crazy, Akam, tell them who’s going to be on Raw tonight!
ROLLINS: and Rezar, tell them who wrestled earlier
REZAR: MVP and Rey Mysterio
OWENS: see I told you, you filmed this in 2008
VINCE: Who controls the Fiendish clown?
HEYMAN: Who keeps mighty Cesaro down?
ALL: We do, we do
HHH: Who keeps Impact off the maps?
PRICHARD: Who refuses thinking caps?
ALL: We do, we do
SHANE: Who holds back Elias’ electric guitar?
STEPH: Who makes Lacey Evans, a star?
ALL: We do, we do
COLE: Who makes fun of Shorty G’s height?
VINCE: Who rigs every Hall of Fame night?
ALL: We do, we do!
Baron Von Raschke
Seth and AOP are holding Edge hostage in the back and threatening to break his neck unless Christian brings back The Authority.
Of course Edge came back for WrestleMania when there’s a pirate ship in the stadium. He’s the Rated Arrrrrrrrrrr Superstar!
The Real Birdman
He’s giving out claymores?
It’s Liv’s Super Bowl, six days before Super Bowl LIV
*Vince McMahon enters the ring, tears both quads, and explodes into a burst of dust*
WWE Audience: YOU STILL GOT IT!!!
The Voice of Raisin
Last night, I was on the edge of my seat. Would Drew McIntyre, Edge, or Randy Orton win the Royal Rumble? Tonight, Raw opens with a banger between Rey and MVP. But the big question: can Drew Brees stop Peyton in the Super Bowl this weekend? And what will the rollout of Obamacare look like?
Serious Journalist Jeffrey Winerslav
Edge: “Okay guys, what do you have for me for Monday night?”
Writers: “We’d like to get you involved in the Rusev/Lashley story, so tonight you and Lana are going to…”
Beth: “Nope. No no no no nope no nope nope nope”
(Beth grabs Edge by the ear and drags him out of the room)
(Sound of car starting)
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of Raw. From Smackdown until now, thanks for hanging out with us, joking about wrestling, reading our columns, and absorbing the wild, wonderful, and occasionally concerning weekend of shows.
If you can drop a comment below and give us a share on social media before you go, that’d be swell. It helps us out a lot. If you don’t, we can still be friends, and I will … [shifty eyes] not grab you by the face and fall on the ground. See you next week!