Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Becky Lynch won a 20-minute Raw Women’s Championship match against Asuka only for Shayna Baszler to arrive, reveal her latent vampirism, and try to murder her. Plus, Drew McIntyre has no idea how to play basketball.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for February 17, 2020.
(h/t to The Real Birdman for this week’s subtitle)
Best: Matt Hardy Gets Actually Broken
We thought Matt Hardy was gone after last week’s attack and “goodbye” tweet, but he’s back! … In a neck brace, to get absolutely murdered by Randy Orton!
If there’s one thing Randy Orton can do as well as anybody in wrestling, it’s a WrestleMania build. Every show since his post-Royal Rumble attack on Edge has built upon the previous week and moved the story forward. When he considered apologizing (because it’s clear that he considered injuring Edge to be a “mercy kill” on someone he loves, in his own perverse asshole Snake Man kind of way), the crowd dumped on him for a full quarter-hour of boos and he couldn’t do it. Then Matt Hardy showed up, representing Edge in a TLC Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants kind of way and got his head and neck obliterated by chairs. This week they’re supposed to have a no holds barred match and Hardy can’t get medically cleared, so he interrupts Orton’s show-opening promo to reiterate that he WILL NOT DIE~. Orton, being Orton, is like, “well, let’s test that out.”
I’m guessing this was described as “no holds barred” because it involved a psychotic wrestling villain brutally attacking a helpless person in a neck brace? There was even a guy named Randy involved. Independent of the Hardy Boys’ contracts or whether or not they’re staying, this was the kind of write-off that screams see you never whether they’re sticking around or not. Two Conchairtos on the ring steps — Chair-steppo? I don’t know the terminology — with the added bonus of Hardy facing away from the camera, so they can still use the clip to promote Orton and Edge’s feud if Hardy’s over in AEW being the Exalted Deleter of the Dark Order, or whatever.
The crowd didn’t help this much, chanting “one more time” and being bloodthirsty when they’re supposed to be upset, but at least we got some choice shots of sad ladies and children to sell it. Any segment that depresses all children in attendance is a “Best” in my book. I probably wouldn’t be watching wrestling or doing this column today if Jim Cornette hadn’t made my emotional little ass cry cheating the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express out of matches at the Greensboro Coliseum.
By the way, shout-out to the like, hundred Raw Superstars in the back who sat around not doing anything, watching Randy Orton murder one of their respected co-workers. That’s extra funny when you realize the show ends with a bunch of wrestlers showing up to help keep Kevin Owens, WWE’s number one friend betraying character, from getting beaten up. Y’all will go to bat for Kevin Owens so he doesn’t get punched by Buddy Murphy, but you’re gonna sit on your ass while Matt Hardy gets his skull crushed in front of a bunch of crying children?
(That’s the kind of plot hole that happens when you book a show in segments, and don’t consider how those segments will look when they’re all put together.)
Best: Actually Fresh Match-ups
This was a pretty low rent Raw as a whole, but the first hour worked really well for me. I especially liked the pairing of Aleister Black and Erick Rowan in the opening match, because (1) it’s an actually fresh match we’ve never seen before, (2) it puts two characters who mostly win jobber squashes in a match against one another to see who will win, which seems like it should be the entire point of running concurrent jobber-squasher characters, and (3) it creates a unique size differential for Aleister Black that we don’t normally see in his matches. Will his offense be as effective against somebody twice his size? Those are fun questions we should get to ask ourselves during weekly WWE TV, and are infinitely preferable to, “why are they running this same match again?”
I was bummed that they gave Randy Orton’s methodical Hardy hunting an uninterrupted 20 minutes and then went to commercial for like the entire first match, but what are you gonna do? I can’t even run a wrestling blog without having to cover it in ads. Glass houses, or whatever. But I did like how this all played out, with Black getting the win, but Rowan looking tough in defeat by being the first person to ever take a Black Mass and not go down. It would’ve been a little better had Rowan not seemed terrified of getting kicked in the face — he put both of his arms and hands in front of his face on EVERYTHING there at the end — but I wouldn’t want to get kicked in the face by Aleister Black either. I guess my only ACTUAL criticism is that after he won, Black didn’t toss Erick Rowan’s mystery cage into the air and spin kick it into the crowd. They should’ve at least sent out the 10 jobbers Rowan’s killed for trying to look under the burlap come out to celebrate and show everyone the pet.
Best: The Return Of The Vampire
I want to take a moment to talk about an easy thing WWE could do to help their weekly TV be a little more free and creative: stop having gimmick match-themed pay-per-views. Survivor Series is a long-standing tradition, I guess, but you could do away with stuff like Hell in a Cell, Money in the Bank, or, as I want to talk about here, Elimination Chamber. In their place, you could just have them as match types and write actual stories about them to explain their existence, instead of shoehorning all your current plots into them because it’s February, or whatever.
Case in point: Last week, Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch got attacked by Shayna Baszler and bitten in the goddamn neck. She went to the Local Medical Facility and came back enraged, still covered in blood, to declare vengeance. This week, Shayna taunts her from afar, promising to, and I quote, “tear the living shit” out of her. They cut it from the YouTube clip, but here it is if you missed it:
"I'm gonna tear the living shit out of you!" – Shayna Baszler to Becky Lynch
— Aaron Rift of NoDQ.com (@aaronrift) February 18, 2020
So, you’ve got a literal blood feud between the Raw Women’s Champion and the former 2-time, extremely dominant NXT Women’s Champion. You book that match, right? Except you can’t, because it’s February, and you have to have an Elimination Chamber match. And now you have to have men’s AND women’s Elimination Chamber matches, and sometimes Elimination Chamber tag team matches, so everything grinds to a halt. Instead of Shayna Baszler vs. Becky Lynch for WrestleMania with a hot feud, Shayna is suddenly in a match involving Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, who earned spots in the match because dot dot dot question mark. Why not just do the easy thing you already started that everybody wants to see? You’re making this harder than it needs to be.
Women’s Elimination Chamber News
Whoever styled Liv before this interview without combing her hair and putting her in a goth turtleneck that pushes everything up under her chin needs to get sent home. That goes double for whoever wrote the line, “I found a home in my own skin with the power of looking to the future with an open eye.” Did Liv write her promo by googling Incubus lyrics? The Elimination Chamber is like a backlit canopy with holes punched in it!
The good news is that Liv’s two victories over Lana have somehow put her into title contention, along with Sarah Logan, who got the dog shit beaten out of her by Charlotte Flair just last month in her only notable Raw appearance since the last time she was randomly added to a gimmick match because there aren’t enough women in the division. Important note: if it needs to be clarified, this is less a condemnation of the abilities of the performers and more about Raw having no internal logic or consistency.
It’s probably worth noting that while Liv, Sarah, and Natalya are all in the Elimination Chamber match, Kairi Sane isn’t. So it makes perfect sense that this week … [checks notes] Kairi Sane would defeat Natalya. I don’t know, man. Did they announce all the Chamber participants so they could do qualifying matches in reverse? This was fine, in that way where all Natalya matches plateau at “fine.”
Also Charlotte Flair Showed Up To Intro A Video Package In Case We Didn’t Watch NXT TakeOver Portland
Woo? If you want to get Flair booed, having her hit that “I believe nobody helped me so nobody else should ever get help” Baby Boomer talking point is a good start. That and making Bianca Belair react like this to her “genetically superior” insults.
Best: Totally Inconsequential But Fun Matches On This Episode
R-Truth, Mojo Rawley, and Riddick Moss have a triple threat match for the 24/7 Championship that’s fun for the hundred seconds it lasts. At least they had a match for the championship. It never stops being funny to me that 24/7 Championship rules are suspended during matches for the 24/7 Championship. Anyway, R-Truth doing John Cena’s comeback moves was the highlight, possibly of the entire show, and a reminder that it sucks Cena’s coming back to Smackdown instead of Raw and won’t get to interact with him. Book John Cena vs. R-Truth for WrestleMania, you cowards!
Also, this match is a good illustration of why maybe they should just book a real Mojo Rawley vs. R-Truth feud instead of having them put over Riddick Moss so some semi-celebrity can get a pin over a wrestler who doesn’t matter at WrestleMania.
Drew McIntyre continues to be Vince McMahon’s platonic ideal of a babyface and kills MVP in about five seconds less than it took Riddick Moss to pin Mojo Rawley. Drew rules hard, and will continue to do his very best to carry two and a half months of a Brock Lesnar feud without Brock Lesnar.
Bobby Lashley and retroactive NXT Breakout Tournament winner Angel Garza win a tag team match against Humberto Carrillo and Rusev when Garza pins Rusev, because WWE hates Rusev more than anything in the world. It’s a fun tag match that at the very least combines some ongoing stories into a single segment, focuses it on wrestling instead of nonsense, and allows Angel Garza to solicit cheek kisses from random audience ladies before getting hit with dives.
WWE should just turn Rusev heel, send him to Smackdown, and let him start hanging out with Cesaro and Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura and The Revival. They should keep losing all the time and do their own Being The Elite-style YouTube series that’s them sitting in a circle telling sad stories about how they worked their whole lives to be the best in the world only to spend the primes of their lives in a creative gutter.
This could be intercut with footage of Angel Garza happily recreating the intro to Austin Powers.
Can Ricochet defeat Brock Lesnar at Super Showdown? Probably not, considering it took him seven minutes of back and forth, 50/50 action to defeat Karl Anderson on Raw. Remember literally three weeks ago when Drew McIntyre beat Anderson AND Luke Gallows in a handicap match in two? And it only went two because McIntyre was screwing around? Ricochet better take out a life insurance policy that covers accidental death due to German suplexes.
Best/Worst: Sermon On The Mat
The A-story of the episode (I guess) was the continuation of the “Seth Rollins thinks he’s Jesus Christ now and Raw’s babyfaces want to punch him about it” story we’ve been watching for weeks. We’ve also gotten some variation of Rollins and Murphy and AOP versus Kevin Owens and The Viking Raiders and Healthy Additional Babyface for weeks, and while it’s not exactly as soul-crushing as Smackdown’s Roman Reigns and The Usos vs. King Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, and Robert Roode, it’s in the ballpark. You can’t run the same match with slight variations for months and have it keep getting the same response, no matter how good the wrestlers are. That shit’s even boring in the video games when Universe Mode is like, “no, we insist on this one match happening on 50 straight shows.” Jerry Lawler doing the “definition of insanity” explanation two weeks in a row with zero self-awarness tells you everything you need to know.
That said, the content’s still not bad. The wrestlers involved are all doing a good job. Rollins is intensely insufferable in this role, by design, so we’ll cheer whomever shows up to shut him up. It’s good wrestling booking, even if it’s not great television. It’d probably be helped by WWE not having to run a three-hour show with the same 20 characters 52 times a year, but that’s true of a lot of things. In case you missed it, Rollins is now giving “sermons,” because he’s Jesus Christ, and because Vince McMahon has been somehow catering to a largely conservative audience while constantly hating on God and religion for decades now. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled, something something. The babyfaces show up and kick everyone’s asses, and that sets up a six-man tag team match for later tonight on Smackdown.
Raw. Don’t know why I typed “Smackdown” there.
Again, the match they have is good, and again, we’ve seen some version of it seemingly every week for a while now. And as mentioned, Owens gets threatened with a 4-on-1 beatdown after the match only to be saved by his three partners and the Street Profits, which (when Rollins bails on his team) gives him a 6-on-3 advantage. Meanwhile, a borderline comatose Matt Hardy is bleeding from his ears in the waiting area outside of some emergency room because nobody went with him to check him in.
Highlights of the match include Montez Ford’s frog splash, which remains undefeated in its absolute beauty, and the Stunner to Buddy Murphy. There’s still no physical reason for a guy sitting down so your jaw gets jammed into his shoulder to make you do a backflip, but we’re living in a post-The Rock WWE, and he was good enough to rewrite laws of relativity.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
It’s almost comedic to see someone like Charlotte Flair thinking that Rhea Ripley is entitled. Well done writers, you made me chuckle a bit.
Seth: Alright, time for you all to give tithes
AOP: *passes arounds baskets, gives back to Seth*
Seth:…OK, WHO THE HELL PUT A KENNY OMEGA SHIRT IN HERE
Rusev will not be out handsomed by this upstart
Is it possible for NXT to secede from WWE?
The one man con-chair-to would have only gotten a two count last night.
Liv Morgan sounds exactly like Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair would if they were mixed together.
I hope God is real and totally strikes Seth with a bolt of lightning. Not for the sacrilegious aspects of his current gimmick but for being a part of this Raw
If Kairi Sane is trying to get Kenny Omega’s attention….being a tiny Asian woman who dresses like a cowboy is definitely the way to go.
Charlotte’s promo did not pass the Turing Test.
Baron Von Raschke
Mania is on Palm Sunday this year and it’s looking more and more like my prediction of Seth riding a donkey to the ring for his entrance is going to be so right.
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of Raw. Not the worst show they’ve ever done, but they’re still awkwardly jammed up trying to promote Elimination Chamber and Super Showdown at the same time. Seriously, let’s all go watch and read about TakeOver again.
Comments, shares, RSPW Awards votes, and any other kind of love you’d like to show is appreciated. Meet you back here next week, when Seth Rollins and Murphy and the AOP take on The Viking Raiders and the Street Profits with Kevin Owens as special guest referee, probably!