Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: We had WWE®’s first-ever™ Fist Fight™ match, Buddy Murphy owes his soul to the company store, and Brock Lesnar took R-Truth to Sioux Falls City.
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.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for January 20, 2020.
Best: The Norwegian Crusade
Raw opens with the “Monday Night Messiah” Seth Rollins introducing his newest disciple, Brutus Beefcake Buddy Murphy, alongside his previous disciples (who will definitely get painted as blonde-haired blue-eyed white guys 1,000 years from now), the AOP. Rollins is so much better and more important to the pro wrestling ecosystem as a self-obsessed dickbag with religious delusions than he ever was as the guy whose character basically amounted to, “Brunette Dolph Ziggler.” He works hard EVERY DAMN NIGHT to have the BEST MATCH ON THE CARD and the PEOPLE IN THE BACK something something. Comically exaggerated sacrilege greater than thinking wrestling’s real and also being too vocally aware that it isn’t.
Anyway, Rollins runs his mouth for a while and gets confronted by Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe, who mourn the passing of The Big Show — rest in peace, big brother, Heaven needed someone to break Hulk Hogan’s neck twice and then fall off an arena roof — but assure the heels that they aren’t done after one unsuccessful “fist fight.” This leads to a big brawl with Joe, Owens, and their Ren Faire pals The Viking Raiders making sure the heels are R-U-N-N-O-F-T. Backstage, Rollins comes up with a bright idea: he and Buddy Murphy will challenge the Raiders for the Raw Tag Team Championship. AOP’s just standing there like, “oh, you’re the tag team in the faction too? Okay, good to know, we’ll just stand back here with our thumbs up our asses.”
The more I think about it, the more I like Rollins taking this spot instead of giving it to the AOP. Of course he’d want to “handle things himself” and take the title opportunity, while promoting the guy who just helped him out over his hired goons. Rollins has always been a victim of Recency Bias, whether he’s changing shirts based on his most recent “slay” or just trying to get The Shield to forgive him for ruining everything.
And it works! Murphy and Rollins — tag team name Buddy Christ — pull off a (relatively) clean win and unseat the Vikings as Raw Tag Team Champions. Now the Viking Raiders are gonna be screaming in the faces of jobbers in otherwise silent arenas with nothing to show for it! From a purely fan perspective, Murphy and Rollins are already a great tag team, and by having them win the tag straps you can easily transition them over to Joe and Owens at, say, Fastlane, and have AOP defeat them shortly thereafter to make sure Samoa Joe vs. Kevin Owens ends up on the WrestleMania card even if the Raw Tag Team Championship doesn’t. Not my preference or anything, just trying to think like WWE for a second.
Best, But Mostly Worst If We’re Being Honest: The Assassination Of Rey Mysterio By The Coward Andrade
In the first match of the night, Andrade and Rey Mysterio attempt to have a United States Championship ladder match structured like they’re both 30 years old and in the primes of their careers. It has a lot of value as a trainwreck gimmick match, especially given away “for free” on television, but man oh man does it get real concerning real fast.
In case you missed it, Mysterio and Andrade went for some truly ambitious, difficult shit and … mostly failed. I say “mostly” because most folks reading will still have enjoyed it, but all the big spots are dangerous and janky as hell. You start to see it right around the time they try to do a sunset flip powerbomb over the top of a ladder onto a ladder bridge. Mysterio completely whiffs the move and barely touches Andrade’s legs on the way down, but Andrade still vaults himself backwards through the air.
The most dangerous and ill-fated move of the match is when they try to do an Ultimate X spot with Mysterio swinging high above the ring, then dropping down into a hurricanrana. The only problem is that Andrade fails to catch him on the way down, Mysterio crashes and burns onto his own head and shoulder, and both guys try to go through the motion of the move to salvage it. Take note of Mysterio popping up into a drunken stumble because he just had a near-death experience:
The finish is more successful, with Andrade hitting a Hammerlock DDT onto another ladder bridge and ultimately (x) winning the match. My favorite part of that GIF is Zelina Vega positioning herself on the standing ladder to be its counterweight, but still almost getting catapulted into the air because she’s literally the size of a child. Watch that background ladder pop up into the air when Andrade hits the DDT. If Andrade had hit that move on Keith Lee instead of Rey Mysterio, Vega would’ve gone flying over the turnbuckle and landed in the second row.
Be careful with our lucha libre legends, please! I know Mysterio at 45 is like most people at 25, but the man’s still 45 years old. Let’s limit the amount of times he falls onto his head from 10 feet up, please and thank you.
After the match, Andrade tries to Hammerlock DDT (an already clearly injured) Mysterio on the floor and gets stopped by the returning Humberto Carrillo, who’d look tough if he wasn’t such a precious little Cabbage Patch Kid. Dude’s dimples are so deep they look like cheek piercings. Who gave you those genetics, Humberto?
Brock Lesnar Sacrifices Ricochet’s Balls To The Aztec Gods
I’m not sure who thought the best followup to last week’s show-stealing Brock Lesnar and R-Truth interaction was a Ricochet promo, but here we are. Ricochet is one of the best in-ring guys in the world, but he still sounds like a stammering 15-year old every time he speaks, and having him do his “NAW DOG we’re gonna fight TONIGHT because SUPER HEROES are REAL” thing to Brock fucking Lesnar is hilarious. Why not have him put on a meat suit and forward roll into a somersault into a grizzly cave?
Brock just kicks him in the balls. I don’t know how that was supposed to make Ricochet look good in any definition of the word, but it certainly made Brock look like he doesn’t and shouldn’t give a shit about any of the goofy jokers on the Raw roster*. Kicks to the dick are legal in the Royal Rumble, you know. No disqualification.
are we going to love it or hate it when John Cena enters the Royal Rumble at number two, ducks a clothesline, and immediately clotheslines Lesnar over the top rope to the floor
— Brandon Stroud (@MrBrandonStroud) January 21, 2020
*The NXT roster is a different story.
I wish NXT had gotten some kind of Royal Rumble advantage for winning the Battle for Brand Supremacy™ at Survivor Series. Or maybe they could’ve won something special for WrestleMania. Or they could’ve won anything, and Survivor Series could’ve justified its continued existence by actually having consequences and influencing something from the other 11 months of the year!
Mostly Best: Kairi Sane Takes One For The Team
While Kairi Sane vs. Becky Lynch on Raw is 100% one of those matches you sit through and wish was happening on an NXT TakeOver somewhere instead, it was still worth watching, and they did some good work. Kairi taking a loss is one of those things that has to happen if her tag team partner’s got a title match coming up at the pay-per-view. I believe we call this the New Day Corollary. Does Kofi have something important to do this weekend? Sorry, Big E! Enjoy your backstage beatdown, and so on!
I couldn’t handle the referee watching Asuka sit on the ring post with her feet in the ring the entire match while pointing at the ground and yelling GET DOWN over and over without actually doing anything. I’m surprised he didn’t follow the recent trend of power hungry referees and knock her to the floor with a running dropkick.
Not a lot else to say here, other than that Becky vs. Asuka at the Rumble’s going to be lit, and that I spent this whole match worrying Charlotte Flair was going to show up and start smacking Kairi Sane in the face again.
Note: Becky better prepare for a Seth Rollins-style “whoops, I guess I have to be a heel now” scenario if she keeps talking shit about KanaChanTV.
Worst: It Will Really Help Rusev’s Character If He Loses Six Or Seven More Times In A Row
The main event (on a show with a United States Championship ladder mach and a Raw Tag Team Championship match with a title change) is Lana and Bobby Lashley in a mixed tag team match against Rusev and Liv Morgan. Rusev takes the loss again, because I’m pretty sure Vince McMahon thinks he’s the heel in this story. The guy got divorced, publicly said that he was happy about it and never wanted to see his ex-wife again, and has since straight-up stalked and/or fought his ex-wife every week since. He snuck into her wedding to fight her new husband, he teamed with her experimental lesbian fling  in matches against her, he’s sending her threatening video messages while he’s on vacation … at some point you’ve gotta start seeing Lashley as the only babyface in all of this. He’s out here putting up with and supporting his insufferable wife despite her 15 minute “you all suck” Baron Corbin promos and Liv Morgan match challenges.
In a related note, does anybody else think it’s weird that they had several weeks of Liv Morgan “makeover” vignettes for her to just dye her hair a slightly different color and stop eating snow cones before she wrestles? Her gear’s the same and she even does the same pose while she’s walking to the ring. What did she “discover about herself?” The fact that she didn’t want to hang out with those two other girls?
Also On This Episode
Aleister Black “continues the momentum” (whatever that means) with a first-strike Critical and win over Local Talent. Here’s the entire match in a GIF:
In case you’re wondering, the folks over at What A Maneuver! identified Black’s opponent as Kansas City independent wrestler ‘The Infinite’ Ryan Gingell. Now that he’s in looping GIF form, he’s truly infinite.
Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton have a pretty good little match that ends as soon as it gets going with a run-in from AJ Styles and The O.C. WWE doesn’t want Styles, Orton, or McIntyre taking any big losses right before the Rumble — McIntyre’s being pushed as a “favorite,” and Orton’s getting the HE’S WON TWICE BEFORE CAN HE DO IT AGAIN blurbs that make the idea of a third Randy Orton Royal Rumble win in the year of Our Lord 2020 seem disturbingly possible — so it goes to a No Contest, the randomly occurring heel team bails, and Orton hits McIntyre with an RKO from “outta nowhere” that he really should’ve seen coming. Who lowers their head, turns away from Randy Orton, and then turns back around while slowly looking up? You might as well springboard off the second rope and dive at him headfirst with your arms to your sides.
Speaking of the Rumble, here’s this year’s “By The Numbers” video package. WWE’s not terribly good at math or being honest about history or numbers, but these are always fun. “Only two other superstars have ever won from the number one spot,” is this clip’s enduring equivalent to, “the World Heavyweight Championship was defended in a triple threat match involving Shawn Michaels and Triple H.” Can we get some Stevie Richards footage in there and just pretend he’s the other one?
Matt Hardy took a disappointingly decisive loss to Erick Rowan this week, because the Hardy Boyz aren’t as important to fan enjoyment and WWE’s bottom line as Erick Rowan having a mysterious pet that keeps biting him in the center of his right hand every week.
WOW! Thanks for all the love & support from around the world.
— Matt Hardy in LIMBO (@MATTHARDYBRAND) January 21, 2020
I was really hoping they were gonna reveal that Rowan has Vanguard-1 in the cage. People keep getting cut because the drone blades are spinning, I don’t know. It’d at least make it funny for Mojo Rawley to have seen it and freaked out, like he’s never seen a remote control plane before. They try to add some progress to the angle this week by having Rowan get pissed and slam the cage against the ring steps a few times, but again, unless you paid Tom Savini more money to create a Lovecraftian monster puppet inside the cage, no payoff’s gonna be good enough. Jerry Lawler thinks there’s a snake in the box, because I guess he think snakes are made out of knives.
Congratulations to Mojo Rawley for being the first kind-of tough person to win the 24/7 Championship. Also for being the first person to try to fight to keep it, instead of sprinting around backstage at work for three straight hours.
Finally, someone remembered the “Monday After The Weekend Update” segment from early December and decided to do another one. This one includes more fake crowd noise and wacky Nickelodeon-quality facial expressions than ever! They’re so bad they actually make Colin Jost and Michael Che sound like comedy Gods. Please fire whoever writes these soon, and throw them into a dungeon if possible!
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Drew has the size, the mic skills and the potential to be a world champ but he’s never getting past the IC title. He’s Scottish Hall.
KO and Joe seem to have quite the Handel on this messiah.
That ladder took so long to finish its fall, I thought it was a Randy Orton promo
The Real Birdman
Vikings losing in January is the true Viking Experience
“The thing about MLK is he sure loved to have fun” – Michael Cole watching at home, probably
Did Rusev get custody of the accent in the divorce?
GO FOR IT ZELINA! MAKE YOURSELF FAMOUS!
I’m ready for some HLA
Bobby Heenan was amazing at coming up with gold on the fly. He could play off of absolutely anybody.
Everything Jerry Lawler says feels like he wrote down three days ago and can’t wait to pepper it in
The only reason to have Brock Lesnar as #1 in the Rumble is to have KEITH LEE as #2 and have him pick Lesnar over his head and Spike Dudley him into the crowd.
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of Raw. This is one of those epiodes that would’ve been really good if (1) it was an hour shorter, so they didn’t have to fill an entire third hour with content, and (2) they didn’t have a pay-per-view on Sunday. Isn’t it weird that the main event of the Royal Rumble go-home show had nothing to do with the Royal Rumble?
Anyway, thanks again for reading. Still trying to be more constructive and positive with these things, so drop down into our comments section below to give us some feedback and let us know what you though of the show. Give us a share on social media if you’d like to help us out, go vote for us for Best Wrestling Media in this year’s RSPW Awards, and make sure you’re here all weekend for our Royal Rumble 2020 coverage. Worlds are gonna collide!