Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Tuesday fell on Christmas eve, which meant I got a week off. All you really need to know is that the AOP beat up Rey Mysterio, tried to put him through the announce table, and got confronted by Samoa Joe, whom they also beat up. One of those things is gonna end worse for them than the other.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for December 30, 2019.
Best: Kevin Joens
We’re going to talk about the wedding eventually, against my better judgment, but first let’s talk about the (honestly) pretty good Raw that preceded it.
The show opens with a promo parade-style introductory recap promo from Kevin Owens, one of the few people on the roster who can deliver this style of promo and not sound like they’re reading directly from a script, but miraculously, it doesn’t set up a tag team main event. Maybe Smackdown filed a trademark for that. Owens notes that every time he calls out Seth Rollins and the AOP he gets his ass kicked, so he calls out Seth Rollins and the AOP, and gets his ass kicked. It’s a nice, “welp, here we go again,” kind of moment. Rollins is supremely unlikable in this role, straight-up comparing himself to Jesus Christ — where have we seen THAT before — and more or less reiterating that it’s people who think too much who caused him to become evil. It’s insufferable, but by design, and 100% preferable to him earnestly trying to be a hero of the people and getting the same responses.
Anyway, the money here is that Owens is bailed out by SMOJOE, who is tired of being a stand-in Dio Maddin and is ready to kick ass again. The world is ready for a WWE babyface Samoa Joe run, and it’s going to be fun to see how long he and Kevin Owens can remain friends before one of them reverts back to their natural state and violently attacks the other.
This is followed up by a pair of great backstage bits involving “the powers that be” at Raw — Triple H? Stephanie? The McMahons? Who’s in charge over there now, is it still Baron Corbin somehow? — bringing in security to keep The Architects of Pain and The Can-Sam Connection away from each other.
- Joe and Owens explaining their new alliance, with Joe breathlessly declaring that Seth Rollins MADE A CHOICE to be so dirt rotten that Owens would find someone to stand beside him, and that Seth Rollins MADE A CHOICE to be hunted and murdered with a machete, or whatever. Owens wishes the security guys a happy new year, in a funny moment. These two are gonna be great together. I just hope somebody in charge of merch realizes they’re lazy as hell with their designs and inadvertently put them in matching t-shirts.
- Seth Rollins continuing his “messiah” beat, “sacrificing himself” by voluntarily leaving the arena without incident per instructions from management, and wearing only one glove. Maybe he doesn’t want to wear gloves but knows he’ll have to scrape his windshield when he gets out to the parking lot. What a weird asshole. I like it. Let’s hope this pro wrestling messiah ends up in better condition than the previous one.
Best: Buddy – Black
No, not that one.
There we go.
So, look. I’ve said this before, but if Raw wants to be 80% failed comedic bullshit to satiate the dying synapses of a 74-year old man, all they have to do to keep me on board critically is to devote one quarter-hour per three-hour episode to a good-ass wrestling match. If I can have one “athletic guys who creatively beat the shit out of each other” division to look forward to and know will be a part of the episode every week, a la the WCW cruiserweights, I’m good. As my buddy Chris MacArthur-Boyd stated so eloquently on Twitter last night, “I think people forget that the golden years of the Smackdown six coexisted with Dawn Marie fucking Torrie Wilson’s dad to death.” Wrestling’s gonna wrestling, I know, but if it could just also wrestle sometimes, that’d be great.
This week we get that in Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy, a rematch from their show-stealing banger at TLC. I’m not sure if the sequel was quite as good as the original, but it was certainly in the ballpark, and I could watch these two face-kick and face-knee the ever-loving shit balls out of each other all day. Highlights include Black reenacting key scenes from the film 300 and a boot to Murphy’s face made brilliant by a great sell and a perfectly timed piece of facial debris.
Plus, as a follow-up to the first match’s awesome finish, we get another hot, creative sequence here. Black sets up for Black Mass, but Murphy counters it with a knee, goes for Murphy’s Law, gets that countered into a victory roll, kicks out of it and comes straight up into the Black Mass. But then Black does the coolest thing he ever does: catch a falling opponent with the top of his foot and lift them back up for a second Black Mass. HE ABSOLVES YOU OF ALL OF YOUR SINS, BUDDY.
It’s not in the GIF, but that second kick looked like it sent Murphy into outer space. I love these two in the ring together, appreciate that they didn’t immediately 50/50 book it (as much as I wanted to see Murphy pick up a big win), and hope they asked around backstage to help fill out the COOL BAD-ASSES DIVISION so Black and Murphy can wrestle like this with dudes who aren’t each other.
Also Pretty Good This Week
New United States Champion Andrade Sin Apellido had a match with a Local Competitor*, decided to take it too far by trying to Hammerlock DDT the poor guy onto the cement a la Humberto Carrillo, and ended up in a match against Ricochet instead.
It’s good, but nowhere near the kind of match you’d expect these two to put together. That’s by design, though. Andrade needs a strong win against a viable opponent on TV to “validate” the championship win for the audience that wasn’t at Madison Square Garden and doesn’t read award-winning entertainment verticals, so goes over Ricochet with a combination of ruthless aggression and basic managerial cheating. If anything, they could use the interference from Zelina Vega to give Ricochet a rematch on a bigger stage, with more time, without having to be a lead-in to a Jerry Springer-ass wrestling wedding. They could even run Ricochet vs. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio at the Royal Rumble and see what kind of ridiculous, convoluted lucha libre magic they could make together. I’m happy with any of this.
*In case you’re wondering, the unnamed “local talent” was Shawn Donavan, a trainer and coach at New Jersey’s Wrestle Pro. Hope he’s feeling okay after being thrown out of the ring and destroying his throat on the bottom rope.
Also pretty good this week is Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya, even if I said “aw God dammit” out-loud when Natalya’s music hit. I’ve still got some love in my heart for their NXT Women’s Championship tournament finals match at NXT TakeOver: Self-Titled back in 2014. Can you believe that happened almost six years ago?
The match is hurt a bit by the trappings around it, though. Charlotte’s pre-match promo could’ve been a drinking game. Drink every time she says “women’s Royal Rumble.” You’ll be on the floor before Natalya shows up. Charlotte’s honestly not a bad talker, I think, she just fills a lot of time restating the same things ad nauseum. It’s kind of Randy Orton-esque, honestly. She can be good when she has to be, just like Randy. She’s also tall and lanky like Randy, and her non-submission finisher is a cutter you don’t see coming. Is … is Charlotte Flair Randy Orton?
The 24/7 division didn’t need to make their appearance here, either. This is the only women’s match on the entire three-hour show, you know? We don’t need Eric Young running around the ring and sliding in to get kicked in the face for no reason to keep people interested. If you guys don’t want to write or think about actual 24/7 matches and segments for Raw, maybe just make it a celebrities and live events title? (Quick note on Eric Young, though … it was pretty funny to see him running around the ring to “chase R-Truth” but being in last place, so Truth practically laps him. And then you can see Young looking back over his shoulder at the guy he’s supposed to be chasing running right behind him, and he just keeps running. Then he slides into the ring for some reason, runs at Charlotte, and gets kicked in the face. Did anybody explain to Eric why he’s running? Did he just see some people running backstage and decide this was a good time to get in his cardio?)
In happier women’s division news, Becky Lynch leveraged her upcoming contract negotiations (okay) to make WWE let her defend her championship (okay?) against Asuka at Royal Rumble. It’s not the most direct way to tell that story, but Lynch is taking it seriously and adding some emotional depth to the situation, which I appreciate. Plus, we end up with Becky Lynch vs. Asuka at the Royal Rumble again. But for real though, Becky Lynch being torn up by her inability to defeat a dominant performer like Asuka would be a way more effective story if Asuka hadn’t spent most of the past year losing to Mandy Rose via Lacey Evans distractions and shit.
Not Especially Good This Week, But Still Wrestling Matches
Erick Rowan squashes returning jobber Kip Stevens. It’s every Erick Rowan squash you’ve ever seen. I don’t know why the guy keeps bringing his pet to work and getting mad when anybody tries to ask him about or look at his pet. I hope it’s just a hamster in there, and that Rowan’s an asshole.
We also get a random scene backstage where Rowan confronts Lana about not being invited to her wedding, which is being held in the middle of the wrestling ring where they work with no guests, surrounded by 6,000 people and broadcast on live cable television. He seems passive-aggressively fine about it, then randomly screams on his way out. Then he hilariously backs out of the frame. It’s not great television.
I wish Lana had been like, “oh, wow, I didn’t know you could roar, want to come to my horrible wrestling wedding?”
I’d be fine never seeing a Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows match again, but the Street Profits are fun, and get something watchable out of them. Kind of. I don’t think it had to be 12 minutes long, as Good Brothers matches always seem to go like five minutes longer than you’d expect, but at least it was an actual wrestling match, and served as another showcase for Montez Ford.
I’m not sure how you get to a triple threat match for the Raw Tag Team Championship next week when you have one of the challengers lose clean to the other challenger on this week’s show — shouldn’t it just be the Viking Raiders defending against the Street Profits? — but all right. Nobody’s thinking about this stuff, it’s fine. There are only three teams in the division anyway. Might as well run them against one another on loop until somebody quits or gets hurt.
Speaking of the Raw tag team division, here’s former Raw Tag Team Champions (lol) Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder losing an embarrassing 2-on-1 handicap match to Drew McIntyre.
Remember when Zack Ryder was wildly popular and included in the same future stars photo shoot as Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, and Kofi Kingston? Oh well, hope the direct deposit hits on Friday so you guys can go to Disney World and buy more action figures.
Randy Orton This Week
This is one of those bits where the “moment” they’ve created is more important than how they got there, because they (somewhat rightfully) assume the moment will be SO GREAT that it’ll wash away any memory or concerns we had of what set it up.
Over the weekend, Randy Orton “got injured” at a WWE Live event. The joke is that he was just pretending to be hurt to lure AJ Styles into a false sense of security, like a poor man’s Mark Henry in the salmon jacket. He shows up on Raw cutting a promo about how he’s injured and might never come back — leave the memories alone — and lets Styles pick on him for a while. But he’s fine, swerve, and hits Styles with an RKO.
So to recap, Orton had a match with AJ Styles that he lost on purpose by feigning a serious injury so he could unexpectedly attack Styles the next night, with no match? Okay, man. Seems like you could’ve just done your move to him during the match and won a match. I don’t know, I’m not a person that sportsly entertains for a living.
New Year’s Smackin’ Eve
In case you missed our post about it, this year’s New Years Eve celebrations will not only include the bizarre happenstance of Steve Harvey presenting a Roman Reigns vs. Dolph Ziggler match — hopefully in the middle of Times Square, with a ring taking up valuable real estate for the one million pushy tourists who traveled to the worst place on earth to celebrate the holiday — but will also feature the Backstreet Boys, Gordon Ramsay, but a trio of WWE legends: Maria Menounos, Rob Gronkowski, and Florida Georgia Line. And the Village People, attempting to set a world record for the, “largest YMCA dance.” Society was a mistake! Let’s go back to being hunter-gatherers.
Note: “Hunter gatherers” is what they should call NXT talent scouts.
Liv Morgan Is Coming Soon
But not how you think!
All right, all right, let’s talk about the wedding. Let me get my affairs in order.
You Decide, I’m Not Having This Fucking Conversation: The Wedding Of Bobby Lashley And Lana
The final 25 minutes of the show (including the overrun, which needs to go back to the pit of Hell from whence it came and die) is dedicated to the Wrestling Wedding of Lana and Bobby Lashley. The conversation about this on social media has already driven me to a place of existential dread and madness, so instead of finishing off 2019 with a lengthy rant about everything I disliked about a segment you “just liked” because “relax, it’s just wrestling,” I’m gonna give it a straight recap. Draw your own conclusions.
We start with Johann Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D Major,’ or, as I like to call it, ‘Graduation (Friends Forever)’ by Vitamin C. Lashley shows up get get married wearing a tuxedo jacket vest with no sleeves or shirt, as you do. There are a bunch of empty chairs set up on the stage for some reason, which you can chalk up to heel delusion or bad art direction. Lots of wrestling weddings have fun idiosyncrasies, such as Kane having his entrance theme played on strings or Teddy Long having Jagged Edge perform, but this one’s just a basic wedding set with an NPC marriage official and a suspiciously gigantic wedding cake in the ring. How many weddings do you know that have the wedding cake right beside the altar while folks are getting married? They should’ve also had some Dean Ambrose-sized Christmas presents in there.
Lana launches into some Baron Corbin style, “you people are pathetic, SHUT UP” style heeling to get a reaction. She reads her own vows, which are about how great she is, and instructs Bobby to read his vows ALSO written by her, which say the exact same things about how great she is. The best part of the whole ordeal is the NPC marriage official, who reads like the old guy who decided to take improv classes and participates in all the shows, despite being 30 years older than everybody else. He hates Lana a lot, which is pretty funny. Also funny is Lana making out with Lashley and getting his makeup on her, so it looks like she’s got a giant skid mark down the middle of her face for the remainder of the segment. WWE.com’s photos of Lana from that moment on are all far away, from the side, or from the back.
Then we begin the “speak now or forever hold your peace” portion of the program. The first interruption is from the world’s most random guy, who claims to be Lana’s first husband. Lana left him for “that son of a bitch” Rusev, and then left Rusev for “this son of a bitch” Bobby Lashley. She’ll leave Lashley, too, the son of a bitch, when she finds a bigger and better son of also a bitch. Lashley slams him. That son of a bitch was played by Create A Pro TV Champion Eric James. He’s kind of a cross between a Domestic Noam Dar, and Enzo if Enzo was handsome and not one of the themed Gremlins from Gremlins 2.
Once that’s over, we get an objection from Bobby’s first wife, played here by recurring jobber and former Velveteen Dream couch maiden Karissa Rivera. I wish they could’ve brought in Lashley’s actual first wife, former WWE Diva Kristal, to play this role. The crowd chants “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry,” because the thing you want in your December 2019 prime-time cable television show’s main event is to be compared to trashy syndicated TV from 28 years ago. Lana attacks the woman and everyone moves on, which I didn’t know you could do with conscientious objectors at weddings.
That sets up the third interruption from, of all people, Liv Morgan. She actually gets less of a response than the first two, despite being a WWE Superstar people are supposed to recognize. She says she can’t sit in the back and say nothing while the person she loves gets married … buts he’s not talking about Bobby, folks, she’s talking about Lana. At this point in the ceremony, Eric Bischoff removes his old man mask and excitedly screams HLA! into the microphone while 3 Minute Warning destroys everyone. Sorry, wrong wedding.
Now that we’ve used gay folks as a sensationalist shock tactic in the year of our Lord 2019, Lana attacks Liv and we continue to move on despite the pile of discarded bodies around ringside. At this point, Rusev pops out of the only breakaway cake sculpture large enough to hide Rusev. For the past several weeks Rusev has insisted that he’s actually happy that Lana’s left him and is marrying somebody else so he can move on with his life and not pay any alimony, but either he was lying, or the thrill of hiding inside a giant cake during a wrestling wedding was too thrilling to pass up.
I like that even Lana and Lashley are too exhausted with this segment to react to Rusev’s surprise.
Vic Joseph has truly morphed into a Micheal Cole Snoke clone on the order of a somehow still alive Emperor McMahon.
Vic Joseph: “where’s Rusev?”
Us: “he’s in the cake.”
VJ: “I’m surprised he’s not out here.”
Us: “still in the cake.”
VJ: “why hasn’t he interrupted?”
Us: “can you, can you not see the man-sized, Rusev-shaped cake?”
VJ: “oh my god he’s in the cake!”
— Gumbuoy (@gumbuoy) December 31, 2019
After Rusev has beaten up Lashley and caked him, Liv Morgan gets back into the ring in her Andre the Giant singlet-style suit jacket and puts Lana’s face in the cake as well. The show goes off the air with Rusev and Morgan triumphant, and Lana screaming with cake on her face. Again. You know you’re a pro wrestler when you’ve had your face pushed into a cake in two consecutive wedding celebrations. After the show went off the air, Lana sat in the cake for a full minute and a half and screamed about it before anyone moved on.
This was how Raw chose to end the final episode of 2019 and of the decade for their 26-year old flagship television show. If you disliked it, I’m sure you can read between the lines and find some reasons to agree with. If you liked it, you’re right, we should all just shut up and like it, because you liked it, and we should stop complaining. It’s just wrestling, wrestling defaults to terrible, and the best parts are the really bad parts that have nothing to do with wrestling.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Somewhere Sonya Deville is kneeing her tv to death
If the Dark Order come out and object next, my night is made.
The Ultimate Worrier
Well we found at least one of Bobby’s sleeves.
Me on December 28, 2009: well, Raw can’t insult me for watching for the ENTIRE decade
Me on December 30, 2019: I am always wrong
Street Profits knock off the OC. Next week, they’ll beat the Revival aka “Dash and Dawson’s Creek.”
If Randy Orton limping along toward the end of the decade isn’t an appropos metaphor for Raw as a whole, I don’t know what is.
AJ’s flowing locks have to be Brandi’s white whale
Rowan bringing some homemade wine as a wedding gift?
My 14 year old walked thru the room during the wedding, looked at me and said “I’m embarrassed were related ” and I dont blame him one bit
Well, it is fitting that Raw ends the year by dropping the ball.
The End. Sad we’re never going to get to watch another Raw, huh guys? That was the series finale. No more Raw ever.
Thank you for making it to the end of the decade — good lord — with the Best and Worst of Raw. I’ve been at this since late 2011 on AOL FanHouse, back before the Sporting News bought it out and thought Jay Mariotti was the only good writer on a staff of 85 people, and it’s still going strong. That’s because of you. I appreciate you and your readership more than I can possibly say.
Make sure to drop down into our comments to let us know what you thought of the wrestling show and the unrelated 30-minute wedding sitcom that randomly aired afterward, and give the column a share on social media to help us end the year and the 2010s strong. Thanks again, and see you next year!