Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Brock Lesnar (through Paul Heyman) announced that he’d be entering the Royal Rumble at number one to “conquer” it. Plus, Lana and Lashley actually got married, Big Show returned, and a “Fist Fight” was announced.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for January 13, 2020.
Best: Lord I Never Drew First But I Drew First Blood
Have you ever met someone who is like, “I love WWE, my favorite part is when somebody’s talking, but then somebody interrupts them and they sass each other for a few minutes, and then somebody interrupts THEM, and it sets up a match for later in the night?” Me either, but between Raw and Smackdown, someone in WWE creative likes the idea enough to open roughly 75 of their 104 prime-time weekly shows a year with it. If you took away the ability for someone to walk to the ring and talk for the sole purpose of being interrupted to set up a match for later, WWE’s entire business model would collapse. I still want to know what they had scheduled if these impromptu confrontations didn’t happen in a reliable and timely manner.
On the positive side, this week’s promo parade includes two fun things: AJ Styles trying to get under Randy Orton’s skin because he can do one of Randy Orton’s five moves* better than Orton, and Drew McIntyre continuing his escalating babyface run by kicking ass and asking people to stop talking. Honestly, those two things would get me to cheer anybody.
*RKO, DDT, backbreaker, dropkick, stomps
This all ends up being worth our time and energy thanks to a Drew McIntyre victory, which feels huge. McIntyre’s been what some would call a “jobber to the stars” since getting called up to the main roster; he always gets to crush guys like Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins, but when it’s time to wrestle Roman Reigns, he’s losing. Him getting a victory over Randy Orton and AJ Styles at the same time is a big indicator that we might actually be taking him seriously heading into WrestleMania season, and I hope his forward momentum isn’t just to make the crowd go “awwww” when Brock Lesnar F-5s and eliminates him like a whole clown at Royal Rumble.
In case you missed it, McIntyre won with the tried and true video game triple threat method of waiting for one of your opponents to hit the other with a finisher, then hitting them with YOUR finisher and pinning the first guy. As an added bonus, Orton answers Styles doing the RKO last week by doing the Styles Clash. Why does it look so good?
I want Orton to start doing that late period John Cena thing where he decided to prove to the marks that he was a great worker by throwing in a random move he saw in a PWG hype video in every match. Cena started doing the Code Red and a springboard Stunner and rolling Attitude Adjustments out of nowhere, so I want to see Orton hit Styles with the Storm Breaker. All he’s got to do is modify his old gutwrench neckbreaker!
Best: Sioux Falls City
And now for a unanimous opinion: R-Truth interrupting Brock Lesnar to declare for the Royal Rumble so he could confidently promise to eliminate Paul Heyman, only to find out it’s Brock in the Rumble, not Heyman, and then undeclaring was the best Raw moment of the night. The whole thing is funny, even if you don’t find an odd, anthropological glee in watching Brock Lesnar laugh.
“Brock Lesnar will conquer the WWE Universe at the Royal Rumble. Brock Lesnar will prove that anyone who doubts my spoilers will be proven false, and that 29 other men will understand that my spoilers will tell you the future, and my spoilers shall set you free, because only the TRUTH flows from my mouth, and that TRUTH, will-“ [cue ‘What’s Up’]
“I’m glad you called me out here, Paul.”
Highlights include Truth once again referencing his childhood idol John Cena — I really hope Cena’s “substantial” WrestleMania 36 plan is to do a student vs. mentor mach with Truth — as well as Truth’s signature, “my bad,” when he realizes he’s accidentally put himself in direct opposition to Brock Lesnar. Also great is the kung-fu zoom the camera does when Truth reveals he’s planning to eliminate a non-wrestling manager from the Royal Rumble:
The only missed opportunity in the segment is not having Lesnar pin Truth to become 24/7 Champion. I know Brock Lesnar barely cares about the WWE Championship, much less the Diner Logo Seattle SuperSonics Hardcore Championship, but it’d open up so many story possibilities. Don’t you want to see Truth spend the next three months plotting war strategies and forming allegiances to get it back? Or like, Brock Lesnar standing still while the entire 24/7 division runs at him in a line like they do? It’d be so good.
After seeing this, I would honestly be into an actual Truth vs. Lesnar feud. I think there’s money in giving Truth a serious feud soon, at least for Mania season, that plays on his likability and the unusual connection he has with fans. The guy made “sneak into a hotel in a room service cart to make sure Drake Maverick doesn’t get to have sex with his wife” compelling television. He’s come a long, confusing way since WWE Capitol Punishment.
Worst: Those Middle Of The Show Matches
This week’s biggest development is that Mojo Rawley and Sarah Logan built a catapult and space suits and were able to escape the Jupiter moon prison that is Main Event.
Mojo made a surprise appearance to win the 24/7 Championship after Brock Lesnar took R-Truth to “Sioux Falls City,” but before that he was here to lose an inoffensive, 3-minute match* to Ricochet.
I think Mojo has a big upside as a performer and especially as a character and actor, but dressing him in a body suit that makes him look like a Battle Beast isn’t doing him any favors. I’m sad WWE never capitalized on those homemade promos Mojo did a few years ago against Zack Ryder that got people talking and gave him something to do. I don’t care if it’s just “Gronk’s friend,” it’s a step up from, “nonspecific thing about mirrors.” LA FITNESS AIN’T GONNA GET IT DONE AGAINST ME!
*Did somebody say … Three Minutes?
The most depressing match of the night belongs to Charlotte Flair and Sarah Logan. This only seems to be happening so Charlotte make sure nobody ever thought she was, I don’t know, vulnerable at any point during this mini-feud. She effortlessly destroys Logan in two minutes, makes her tap out by locking in the Figure-Eight with all the urgency of a sloth waking up in the morning, and puts her entrance gear back on just to dump Logan over the top rope and “send a message” re: the women’s Royal Rumble match. Didn’t enjoy any of this. It didn’t make Flair look good, but it made Logan look bad.
The closest thing to a highlight was Sarah Logan trying out, “what if I slide off the stage?” as a ring entrance.
The Viking Raiders issue an open challenge to the Raw tag team division, but since they defeated the division’s two other teams in a triple threat last week (The Street Profits and The O.C.), the only people left to answer are the Singh Brothers. If you’re a fan of 205 Live at all, you know the Singh Brothers only really exist to grind your show to a screeching halt. I’m not sure what’s more disheartening; the fact that the only team left on Raw is the Bollywood Boyz, or The Viking Raiders constantly screaming at their opponents so somebody is making noise during their matches.
I think it’s time to have some serious conversations about consolidating the tag team divisions. At the very least, give me one set of champions who jump between shows. Neither show has invested in building a division of believable challengers, so you max out at three possible tag champs surrounded by folks like the Lucha House Party and Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins, aka the same people you trot out to lose handicap matches. If a tag team loses a match against one guy, they shouldn’t get to be a tag team anymore.
So what does Erick Rowan have in his cage, a bunch of knives?
Best: Becky Lynch Gets Misty-Eyed
There’s not much to the contract signing for the Raw Women’s Championship match at Royal Rumble — they sign the contracts, Asuka spits mist in Becky Lynch’s eyes, and then Lynch cuts a promo about it — but it’s simple and effective. Becky sells the hell out of the mist, and her promo about “walking into the buzz saw” is impassioned and believable, if not a little melodramatic. It’s hard to believably deliver a line like, “When somebody puts their hands on me, they arise a badness, a badness in me!” Still, Lynch continues to be top shelf at making her opponents (Lacey Evans notwithstanding) seem like deadly threats. Compare how she sold the mist to how Charlotte Flair’s sold it. It’s the difference between peril and mild inconvenience.
Also, Kairi Sane sneaking around to poke at Becky with her parasol like she’s the Burgess Meredith version of The Penguin was great.
Best/Worst: The Lana And Lashley Saga Continues
I’ve written this a few times before, but I think Bobby Lashley and Rusev can have very good matches together. They’ve got good chemistry, they’re both hungry to prove themselves as in-ring performers, and WWE doesn’t have enough mid-level muscle-hosses like these. In my opinion, the best “type” of wrestler is the dynamic strong guy who lands somewhere in the lower six-foot range who can hit hard but still move really fast. It’s what made young Scott Steiner such an incredible thing. It’s the Kenta Kobashi mold. Not to say either of these guys is Scotty Steiner or Kobashi, but even being in that ballpark is worth noting.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that anything they’re doing in the ring, good or bad, is being slash going to be overshadowed by Lana and the whole “trash TV” vibe. This week, the match between the two guys the feud’s supposed to be about mainly serves as a backdrop for Liv Morgan showing up and getting a beverage tossed in her face to set up a mixed tag team match for next week. It’s not that the content is especially “bad,” it’s just that the plotting of the angle is very much like the writing on a soap opera. There’s not an end point for this. Lashley vs. Rusev’s supposed to be the end, right? I guess? Except you’re doing that in the background of the latest cat-fight thing you came up with. It’s apparently being written on the fly on Monday afternoons just to keep the story moving. Not moving forward, which would be nice; just moving. They’re always doing something, but not going anywhere. It’s fine, especially if you just want to see weird people doing weird shit and screaming at each other — a building block of WWE, admittedly — but it’s hard to imagine any kind of satisfying payoff.
My favorite part of this were those fans in the front row who held up and rested their full $10 arena beverage and boxes of popcorn on the top of the security barrier while wrestlers were in front of them. That’s what fans in the front row do, right? Hold out their snacks in case the wrestlers need to grab them?
Best, Mostly: Aleister Black Vs. Buddy Murphy III
Aleister Black versus Buddy Murphy was more of the same kick and knee strike action we’ve been enjoying for weeks. The only two issues I have are:
- I don’t think Murphy was supposed to kick out of that first Black Mass. If he was, the referee should’ve just counted the three anyway instead of pretending he kicked out. If you’re a referee, just count the pins like a shoot. Don’t micromanage the wrestlers because you heard what the finish was supposed to be beforehand. Between this and the referee physically manhandling and rearranging the wrestlers at the end of Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio so WWE production could get their shot, there’s a dangerously visible amount of ref power happening right now.
- Buddy Murphy’s getting the Austin Aries, “what if you lost to the same guy three times in a row?” push.
I really think they should’ve had Murphy win at least one of these matches if they’re portraying him as the “ultimate match” for Black, and the guy who has answers and counters for all of Black’s attacks. They even had Black cop to that in a video package before the match. It’s not much of an arch-nemesis if you just kick him into unconsciousness and win every time, is it?
On the plus side, they do something with Murphy’s loss, which I appreciate and will talk about in a second. On the negative side, it’s still a bummer to see Murph take another loss like this, and to have WWE build up the Black Mass as their brain-scrambling death strike only for Murphy to be relatively fine in a post-match interview, and COMPLETELY fine 10 minutes later.
Best, Mostly: No Fists, Just Flips
(h/t to @LoLifeDaniel for that joke)
Finally we have the “Fist Fight” match, which has nothing to do with punching. I’m not sure I saw someone throw a single punch that entire match. Those clubbering forearm-punches to the top of the head and back don’t count. It’s like when Braun Strowman screams GET THESE HANDS and then kicks people.
Here are the rules:
So … a hardcore match with knockouts turn on? Got it. If you’d like the shorter answer, it’s basically a team-based Last Man Standing match where they want to just be able to say the match is over instead of doing a bunch of 10-counts. It’s to the Last Man Standing match what “no wrestling during commercial breaks” was to the 2-out-of-3 falls match.
They actually have something good going on early in the match by having it be nothing but action, and built around Samoa Joe and Kevin Owens jumping off of things onto people. Samoa Joe throws a big Jumping Sit off the stage to put one of the Authors of Pain through a table, and Kevin Owens steals the show (and Natalya’s shine) by doing a full Prince of Persia wall run up the stage into a somersault. Please listen to Goldfinger’s ‘Superman’ while watching the GIF for the full effect:
The bigger story of the match is Buddy Murphy, surprisingly. When Murphy lost the match to Aleister Black, he stayed at ringside and sat with his back to the security barrier so he could sulk about it. He sits there through the entire Erick Rowan jobber squash, and is still present in the main event. So when Seth Rollins gets knocked to the floor in front of him, Rollins begs for help. Murphy, presumably deciding in the heat of the moment that the life of a corporate shill was for him, throws in with the heels and uppercuts Big Show in the balls. Ultimately, the 4-on-1 attack of the baddies, capped off with a Stomp from Rollins, was enough to “knock out” Show. With his tag team partners both also knocked out from the AOP putting them through a table, the referee decided the match was over.
I really, really like Murphy being added to the heel team. I think the dynamic between him and Rollins could be really fantastic, with Rollins getting more and more upset about this cool underling overshadowing him with his cool ersatz Kenny Omega moveset. Plus, how great would it be if we got a dynamic, strike-and-counter-based match between Black and Seth Rollins? That’s the kind of match Seth Rollins needs right now. All that said, the “Fist Fight” was a bad concept with an illogical name, especially for something announced in advance without anybody knowing the rules. It’s like calling a ladder match a “battle royal.” You’re kinda describing what’s happening, but you know it’s not the right words. Especially when Big Show’s finisher is literally a punch. Plus, the referee just arbitrarily deciding when guys who clearly aren’t knocked out have been “knocked out” really takes the thrill out of the finish. Watching the finish, at least.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
This is a million times funnier if you pretend that brock has no idea who truth is
Baron Von Raschke
Lana’s dress looks like it was made out of the stage curtains for a 1970’s game show. Like High Rollers or TattleTales.
Lana taking fashion tips from Married With Children is certainly a choice
The Real Birdman
Give me this sequence at The Rumble
Buddy: “You are Tyler the Black, correct? I just was defeated by your clansmen Aleister the Black.”
Seth: “Umm yeah sure, pal”
Buddy: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I pledge You my foot.”
Buddy Murphy being the physical embodiment of this thread by just sitting off to the side looking despondent while Raw is happening in front of him every week would’ve been great
Big Baby Yeezus
Looks like The Bride forgot that Asuka is the 6th member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad
Rusev should just Liv and let die.
I hope they all abandon doing each other’s finishers and just start throwing Canadian Destroyers and super kicks
“New Week Same Story” — I wasn’t looking at the screen and I thought the Uproxx Comments Section had achieved collective sentience.
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of Raw. I’m trying to be more hopeful and constructive than aimlessly depressed with these columns, so if you like what we’re doing, give us a share on social media and drop down into our comments section to let us know.
Next week on Raw:
- Bobby Lashley and Lana vs. Rusev and Liv Morgan
- Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio in a ladder match for the United States Championship
- Brock Lesnar live, still earning $127,000 to show up for five minutes and not really do anything
- And more. See you then!