Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Billie Kay smacked Peyton Royce in the face for being part of one of those “disqualified for kicking too much ass” finishes, The Street Profits took on The Viking Raiders in an axe throwing contest with legal ramifications, and Nia Jax ruined a Kairi Sane recorder concert to confirm that she’s just the worst.
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’ve finally started the build for Backlash, featuring The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever™.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for May 25, 2020.
Best/Worst: From A Distance
The good news is that this week’s show actually has something resembling a crowd, as WWE finally realized that if they were going to fill a building with a handful of stars and a shit-load of students and developmental types, they could send out the students and developmental types to cheer while the stars do things. It’s basically what AEW Dynamite’s done since quarantine started, and while the humanly decent thing would be to let everyone just stay home and stop being forced to participate in this essential service by breathing and sweating all over each other, it’s a lot better to hear people react and have some kind of performer-crowd relationship while the wrestling’s happening.
The bad news is that the way they did it might be the most WWE thing of all time. Can you think of a more WWE thing than spending two months performing in front of rows and rows of empty chairs only to take them away when they bring in people? At least toss a couple of unused Money in the Bank floor chairs in there and give them the sit or stand option. They’re out here standing in one spot for three hours, watching Natalya fight Nia Jax from behind some hockey-style plexiglass. Book everyone in a tournament for Wednesday where the winner gets to sit at ringside in the Cole Mine. At least send out The Goon to check somebody into the glass. Masks would probably be a good idea, too, but no promotion seems willing to do that. I think the funniest part is that they point out how the people in the crowd were standing six feet apart to observe proper social distancing, only to have a camera man walking between them to get these intro shots. Does Vince think the cameras are actually as disembodied as they’re presented on TV?
As a side note, as seen in the GIF, this will eventually count as Simone Johnson’s Raw debut. I hope she gets a WrestleMania match next year, and The Rock has to show up and save her from getting beaten down by The Sultan’s daughter.
Best: Apollo Crews Wins The United States Championship
… or …
Worst: Cutting To An Interview In The Middle Of Apollo Crews Winning The United States Championship
Andrade and Apollo Crews are busting their asses with a competitive, show-opening United States Championship match and the tension builds and builds until — uh, we head backstage to listen to Angel Garza explain the birds and the bees to Kayla. What is this, WCW Monday Nitro?
There’s not even a thematic reason why we needed to interrupt the final stretch of a championship match to hear Garza do Swiss Toni bits from 30 years ago and explain how an orgasm is exactly like a distraction roll-up. Shout out to @tokenbg for helping me place that one.
Anyway, Apollo manages to pull out a victory from seemingly nowhere — Andrade worked the leg the entire match, so of course Crews’ final three moves (a gorilla press, a standing moonsault, and a standing shooting star press) require him to use his legs — and become United States Champion, winning his first title in WWE. Bless Crews for being one of the chosen few to really prosper during the pandemic and the bloodletting of the roster. He’s a talented guy who seems like a good dude, and I’m happy for him. Now if he could just explain to Akira Tozawa how to do what he does on Wednesdays on Mondays.
Best: Defeating Kevin Owens Is Just Like Doing It, Kayla, Let Me Explain
Both Garza and Kevin Owens return for a one-on-one match later in the show, which Garza shockingly wins by jumping Owens during the ring entrances and Wing Clipping him. Wing Clippering him? Wing Clapped? It’s “is it Stone Cold Stunning or Stone Cold Stunnering” all over again. I wouldn’t have guessed this finish in a million years, especially not without a truckload of ridiculous and constant mid-match cheating, and I’ve gotta say, I like when Raw surprises me. I’m not sure this will go anywhere deeper than Owens getting his win back in a more important match on the Backlash pre-show, or whatever, but I dig it. I want to see Garza keep winning and Andrade keep losing* until finally Andrade turns to Zelina and is like, “what’s wrong with me, should I be telling Apollo Crews how getting running knees to the chest in the corner is the cowgirl of sports-entertainment?”
*This is a joke, I don’t ever want to see Andrade lose.
Best: Also Counting This As Malcolm Bivens’ Raw Debut
Best: Cross Talk
Another great surprise this week is actual mic time for Nikki Cross, who for the first time in a hot minute — or ever, really, if you think about her time in WWE — gets to deliver a real monologue about who she is, why she’s here, and how she feels about things. I liked her pointing out that Alexa Bliss keeps her focused, and that she helps Bliss be a better friend. I also liked the positioning of Bliss and Cross’ surprisingly valid on-screen friendship being played against The IIconics, who were soulmates for years until one slapped the other in the face last week. The IIconics’ friendship is on the rocks, so they want to lash out and say it’s other friendships that are in trouble, not theirs. And it takes Nikki Cross, a woman who has truly been raised up socially and professionally by friendship, to speak up.
It’s hard to tell from her WWE work or even this segment, but I honestly think Nikki Cross is one of the best talkers in the company. They just aren’t ever going to agree, because of the accent. Personally I think the accent is wonderful, and that the more they let her talk on WWE TV, the more we’re going to see how good she is and love her for it. TNA not signing her during British Boot Camp is still such a trip to me. The entire TNA section of her Wikipedia page is the sentence, “[Nikki] Glencross competed in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling’s British Boot Camp 2, which began airing in October 2014, in which she was unsuccessful.”
Anyway, the attack and belt pose from the IIconics was pretty lame, and I’m not sure that inverted Magic Killer they’ve started doing is going to catch on, but a big thumbs up to the two-team women’s tag division at least letting its two teams talk and do things. I don’t want to see Billie lose and get slapped by Peyton either, but I guess it’s better than them sitting at home for another six months.
Worst: You Could’ve Been A Contender
This week’s most important match is probably the number one contender triple threat for a shot at the Raw Women’s Championship, featuring:
- the NXT Women’s Champion, who is [checks notes] already a champion
- a woman who got her ass kicked by the champion twice just last week
- a woman who just lost two matches in a row to Shayna Baszler in humiliating fashion and threw a temper tantrum about it
Like, how bad to you have to be to NOT be getting a Raw Women’s Championship right now? That title’s being given away instead of lost and sits at the top of a division where the top two performers have better things to do — motherhood and NXT — and everyone else is either losing all the time, getting their ass kicked all the time, or in a tag team. It’s like being a men’s tag team and not getting a title shot. Brother, the top two teams are so bored they’re out here flirting with cops and golfing. Win some matches, damn.
Despite having been set up and announced before the show went on the air, Raw has to use The Kevin Owens Show (now just “The KO Show,” which apparently I didn’t pick up on last week) to do that “table of contents” booking thing they love. If a match happens on WWE TV and it’s not prefaced by a promo parade, did it really happen at all?
I liked the structure of the match, at least. The match makes sense. I don’t normally go for triple threats where someone falls asleep on the floor so a normal one-on-one match can happen in the ring and then they switch, but Natalya and Flair have worked together enough to have a decent chemistry, and it keeps Nia from having to do too much or work beyond her means. Plus, Natalya was only in this to take the pin, which she definitely does. If I’m Shayna Baszler, I’m wondering why I dunked on Nattie two weeks in a row only for her to get a shot at a title shot instead of me. It’s not what you do, man, it’s who you know.
Worst: Charlotte’s Moonsault, Again
Her toes hit the mat before anything else and she lands on her hip, missing Jax completely. These are never good. The twisting press she does to the floor usually looks good, but the moonsaults are almost exclusively cockeyed and bad. Why does she keep doing moonsaults if moonsaults are the one thing she doesn’t do well? Nia’s not a small target, and she’s lying perfectly still. For real, what do you need to start hitting these?
Best: The Eye W.C.
Can we start calling them that?
Early in the night, Seth Rollins cuts a promo on a Rey Mysterio mask a la Latino Heat. I think it’s funny that the mask isn’t even the one Mysterio was wearing when Rollins put his eye out. Rollins just went on Highspots and bought a Rey Mysterio replica mask so he could carry it around and be pissed at it.
Later, Rollins manages the “future” part of his own personal Evolution*, Austin Theory and Buddy Murphy**, to a win over Aleister Black and Humberto Carrillo. Bet you can’t guess which of those two took the pinfall! After the match, the Rollins band feigns like they’re going to put out Carrillo’s eye with the corner of the ring steps, and only don’t because Black’s still lingering around ringside with a chair.
* Nuts to the constant D-X reunions, Triple H’s final in-ring run with the company should be doing the Ric Flair role in a new Evolution
**How long until we just start calling Austin Theory just “Theory?” Would that be the most random one-word noun name since “Test?”
I was going to write a bit about how Humberto should just call the damn police since one of his co-workers is going so far outside of the rules as to try to cause permanent bodily mutilation, but I remembered that (1) there have been multiple kidnappings in the Full Sail parking lot and nobody’s even concerned about it, so why should they care about THIS, and that (2) this is WWE, where a pay-per-view match once happened because one guy tried to embalm the other alive. “Putting out your eye” is honestly pretty low on the list of WWE Universe sins, from “push a guy in a wheelchair off the stage and try to drag him to literal Christian Hell” to “break a one-legged kid’s one leg in front of his mom and then shove him down a flight of stairs.” Invading a funeral in the Blues Brothers car to drag away your opponent’s father’s casket, stealing your opponent’s dog and cooking and feeding it to him, crucifixions, forced weddings, blood sacrifices, hanging by vampire gang … hell, WWE once had an actual law enforcement officer wrestling for them and he spent most of his time handcuffing people to the ring ropes and beating them with a night stick. He also did the funeral thing and the dog thing. WWE’s basically a cruelty competition.
Next week’s show will feature a Rey Mysterio Retirement Ceremony, which will almost certainly involve Rey doing one of those convoluted headscissors he uses to launch people into the middle rope to send Rollins into the steps eyeball-first. Maybe at Backlash they’ll have WWE’s FIRST EVER® “Eye for an Eye” match. Bonus points if Mysterio’s wearing a salmon colored mask for the ceremony.
General Best: MVP, A Character With Actual Thoughts, Goals, And Motivations
Lana, who is almost completely beige all of a sudden, continues to have issues with MVP for luring her husband away from a toxic relationship with promises of professional success. She didn’t (kayfabe) run her delightful-ass husband out of the company just to have somebody swoop in and make her husband start using the Masterlock.
While the segment itself wasn’t especially memorable, I liked MVP’s point of view regarding Drew McIntyre on the VIP Lounge. He wanted to manage Drew ahead of WrestleMania, but Drew turned him down and, after one thing led to another, kicked him in the face. Since then MVP knew that (1) Drew would become champion, and (2) MVP would be personally involved in Drew losing the championship for what he did. That’s cool. Mac boots him in the face again and is DESPERATELY screaming at Lashley to stop being a garbage mid-carder and go full Impact Wrestling with him at the top of the card.
Before we get to the next step in the story, we have to talk about … golf?
Worst: Tiger Wouldn’ts
The “anything you can do we can do better” competition between the Street Profits and the Viking Raiders ends at 2-1 when the Profits reveal they’re better than the Vikings at golf. And mini-golf. It feels like the “standings” in this competition shouldn’t be a big deal considering it was established that the Vikings let the Profits win at basketball and the axe throwing contest ended with Angelo Dawkins revealing he’s actually great at it and was just fucking around, so … man, I don’t know. Remember back in NXT when The Revival and American Alpha revived tag team wrestling in WWE by going to a Dave and Busters and playing Pop-a-Shot for three weeks?
This week’s bit involves them causing Three Stooges-esque mishaps on a real golf course before being demoted to mini-golf. The Profits win, but it’s less important than the final gag: both teams using the final hole of a putt-putt course to store their wallets, their extra red Solo cups, and a full-sized turkey leg. Please enjoy Rick Grimes sharing my disgust at Viking Experience Ivar storing warm meat in the ground (in Florida, in May) with a bunch of grubby golf balls on top of it throughout the day.
MVP confronts the Profits about acting like clowns instead of champions. MVP doing the Lord’s work by confronting WWE’s African-American superstars and convincing them to stop being dorks for a goddamn minute and kick some ass for best gimmick 2020.
That sets up the main event of the Profits vs. MVP and Lashley, which the Profits manage to win by disqualification when Lashley gets into the ring illegally and won’t stop fully nelsoning Montez Ford. This draws out Drew McIntyre and finally, miraculously frees Lashley from his internalized cage (or whatever), and the two have a pull-apart brawl around the ring and against the hockey glass. I wanted to give this part a Best, because I think serious Bobby Lashley can be a lot of fun in the ring and love that McIntyre’s more or less shouting at people he works with until good wresting happens, but the editing on the fight is just the dirt worst.
One perfect shot: WWE RAW (2020) Dir. Kevin Dunn.
Also On This Episode
Ric Flair Skyped in to give his opinion on The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever™, and surprise! He picked Randy Orton, the guy he was in a faction with, over Edge. I’ve got to say, though, watching Ric Flair talk about how Randy Orton and Edge are going to have The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever™ is pretty pretty pretty, pretty sad. It’s like having Bob Dylan call in to explain why ‘Memories’ by Maroon 5 is the greatest song ever recorded.
On the topic of interviews like this and debates on which matches were the best, I want to see a pro wrestling edition of Verzuz with like, Ric Flair and Kenta Kobashi trying to see who’s had the most good matches. Flair drops the I Quit match from Clash Of The Champions IX and Kobashi’s like, “KOBASHI AND KIKUCHI VS. FURNAS AND KROFFAT MAY 25 1992 BITCHESSSSSS.” THIS is how the Cena vs. Rock feud should end. I mostly just want an excuse for John Cena to step up and drop Umaga Royal Rumble 2007 on somebody.
Quick side note: A lot of people seem to think this “GREATEST WRESTLING MATCH EVER” stuff is just a setup for Orton to get heel heat by kicking Edge in the balls or whacking him with a steel chair like 10 seconds into the match and getting disqualified. I like that a lot more than the alternative of “Orton tries to have the actual greatest wrestling match ever for 40 minutes,” but Orton didn’t come up with “greatest wrestling match ever.” Charly Caruso did. So if Orton’s leaning into the swerve, he better be in cahoots with Charly.
Liv Morgan is still developing her character, which is currently, “amnesiac Clarissa Darling.” I have no idea what this is or where it’s going, which I’ll make sure to remind you of every week for several months. Fist-bump to WWE creative for coming up with a character whose gimmick is that she’s not sure what her gimmick’s supposed to be, and nobody’s filling her in. Can’t wait until she completes her makeover into Emmalina.
Rob Gronkowski called R-Truth “R-Lies,” and it might’ve been the best moment of the night.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Heenan: “Rollins is going after Latino wrestlers’ eyes now, so that they’ll never ‘Sí’ again…”
Gorilla: “Oh will you stop!”
I’ve seen Charlotte’s entrance more than my own mother this past month
To counter Mike Tyson and the TNT championship, on Wednesday night Frank Thomas will present the rebranded NugenXT Championship to Adam Cole.
I watched a match on Saturday where a guy sold his left arm and his opponent sold his lower back. As the match went on, the “injury” made them mess up basic moves and submission and they had to change their gameplans. Made the match more fun to watch.
Tonight, none of that happened.
this desperately needs LUMIS staring at the hard cam for 3 hours
Technically, every show between now and the PPV is Mac-Lash.
They mention Ric Flair having some of the greatest wrestling matches in WWE and then proceed to show clips of his NWA and WCW matches.
Dave M J
If Seth’s group doesn’t eventually grow to 12, someone did something wrong.
Good for Apollo getting a title win in front of the hottest RAW crowd in years
That does it for another episode of The Best and Worst of Quarantine Raw. Crowd noise and reactions help. Surprises and character consistency help. We just need to confidently move past the show’s safe format and tell some stories and do some shit that hasn’t been done a million times before. Especially if we can do that without having the tag team division revolve around occupational prop comedy.
Anyway, as always you can help us out tremendously right now by sharing the column on social media, as well as dropping down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show. I will keep trying to watch these and say something constructive about them, and I can’t wait to celebrate the 7 star match between Edge and Randy Orton at Backlash. It will be a shared, communal, possibly spiritual experience full of chinlocks and slow, slow stomping.
See you next week!