Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: A gauntlet match, a fun show-ending brawl, and the ritualistic destruction of Seth Rollins by Brock Lesnar made Raw worth watching. This week: one of those things!
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. It’s almost time for Bret Hart’s favorite pay-per-view, The SummerSlam.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for August 5, 2019.
This week’s show opens with a 10-bell salute for the victims of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. I’m not sure I have any words to add to the tragedy of what happened, and what seems to happen all the time, as living in our nightmare world of guns and racists and Chans and angry anonymous Twitter accounts has pretty much beaten me into numb submission. One of the reasons I write so much about pro wrestling is the fact that it’s not real, and I can take a step back and come up with dumb rationalizations for how and why everything happened. Real life doesn’t work like that. You try to “fantasy book” real life and you just run into deeper, more complex, more ragged and worn problems than before. We’ve turned “adulting” into a buzzword, but take a second to really grasp how fucking impossible it is to be a conscious, compassionate adult who wants to continue to grow and learn from their mistakes in a world where staying in can get you pushed to the brink of suicidal madness and going out can get you shot to death.
I joke about pro wrestling a lot, and I know sometimes the stuff I type in dense paragraphs here sounds like it’s the most important thing in the world to me. I know we can form grudges over who liked what and what they said about how they liked it. Even that stupid shit has real-life consequences. But I want to say a quick thank you to this weird, confusing, niche sport-that-isn’t-a-sport and TV-show-that-isn’t-a-TV-show for giving me a passionate and occasionally mindless outlet to work out the terror and existential dread of existing in America in 2019.
And I suppose it goes without saying that our thoughts, hearts, and actions are with the victims of these tragedies and their families. I really hope things get better, and that we stop murdering entire groups of people over some stupid shit we made up or had made up for us by rich and influential strangers in our heads at some point in human history.
Best, Then Worst, Then WORST: Fast And Furious Presents Hobbs’ Cousin
So let’s start out Raw proper with the observation that Samoa Joe, at some point, became me. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more seen than watching a chubby guy in a wrestling t-shirt, unflattering jeans, and a baseball cap scream at the Raw announce team for being terrible.
Joe demands an apology for being singled out by WWE’s talking heads as the leading suspect in the Roman Reigns Murder Mystery from Smackdown — currently being blamed on WWE Superstar “Forklift Driver Error” — and promises to shut the show down until he gets it. He specifically wants the apology from Reigns, which feels weird, because all anybody saw Reigns do was say, “it didn’t hit me,” and walk away confused. But I guess you can’t build a feud between Samoa Joe and Michael Cole, as much as we’d all like to see the payoff.
Anyway, Joe “shuts down Raw” before Roman actually gets to the arena, leading to a weird segment wherein Joe sits in the ring screaming COME DOWN TO THE RING, ROMAN, without there being any chance of it happening. The crowd chants, “CM Punk,” because of course they do. We’re gonna be 95 years old one day, wondering why crowds still chant “what” and “CM Punk.”
A production assistant lets Joe know that Roman’s just arriving to the building like two hours into the three hour show at 10 at night, so Joe drops his sit-in and wanders out into the parking lot to confront him. Before anything can happen, a Hummer with WCW written on the side piloted by the Black Scorpion and dragging Stone Cold Steve Austin behind it t-bones Roman’s rental car. Renee’s gentle, “oh!” really makes it.
After the incident, Joe and Triple H “break kayfabe” to help out an injured Roman. Joe looking like an improv comedian who’s afraid to edit a scene as the car’s backing up and driving away is pretty funny, but my favorite part is him trying to break a car door that’s clearly already open and wasn’t impacted by the accident. He’s just like, DON’T WORRY OTHER JOE, I’LL GET YOU OUTTA THERE, HERE COMES THE JAWS OF LIFE and starts Kawada kicking the shit out of a Chevy.
Is there a reasonable outcome for the story at this point besides Samoa Joe being the mastermind behind it all? I know Corey Graves tried to bring up a decent point about Joe being the kind of guy who brings his problem to you and handles it face to face, but that ignores Joe’s history as a clandestine ninja who attacks people backstage and murders them with a machete.
I would also accept, “WWE has conducted a thorough investigation and believe the hit-and-run on Roman Reigns was a result of automobile driver error.”
Worst: Seth Rollins, Brave Idiot
Seth Rollins is The Architect, a brilliant thinker and strategist whose mind powered one of the greatest factions in WWE history before he single-handedly destroyed it and has helped him win Money in the Bank, the Royal Rumble, and 11 championships in WWE.
After being beaten within an inch of his life last week, his plan is to …
… be severely injured and walk to the ring like an old man to confront a 100% healthy Brock Lesnar by himself, brandishing a weapon he can barely lift that will almost certainly be turned against him. AND THE ARCHITECT OF THE YEAR AWARD GOES TO-
Yeah. Not a great plan. The beatdown is spectacularly heatless, too. I don’t want to blame it on Rollins’ ongoing destruction of his character’s good will and likability via social media or anything, so I’ll just assume it’s because Brock Lesnar beatdowns are Thanos-level inevitable and everyone in the crowd assumes nothing’s going to happen to him if it’s not a pay-per-view. He might get punched in the balls, I dunno.
I was really bummed to hear the crowd doing “what” chants for Rollins’ post beatdown promo. I hate when they “what” chant anything, but I like what Rollins was going for on paper. He WALKS FOR MILES INSIDE THIS PIT OF DANGER and WALKS ALONE, and is weighing the reality of getting your body snapped in half by monsters on the regular with the glory of being the top guy in the career you’ve loved your whole life. Without crowd indifference and the iffy call of having Rollins be a “respected locker room leader” or whatever without anyone volunteering to jog out and help him, I think this segment could’ve really popped.
Best: Wrestling In The First Hour!
Hours two and three (especially hour two) really sank the show as a whole, but I think a lot of us had high hopes when they more or less started the show with a match, and followed it up almost immediately with a better one.
Up first we had good friends Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair teaming up to take on Natalya and Trish Stratus in a classic, “one-on-one pay-per-view opponents face off in tag team action” bit. It did a decent job of advancing both plots, even if it structurally falls apart the longer you look at it. For example, Trish Stratus never tags in. That means they flew in Trish Stratus to the show and got her geared up to stand on the apron for seven minutes. There’s also a ton of weird tag match stuff in the episode like when Trish hops off the apron to avoid getting hit and then just stays on the ground like a manager for like an entire minute despite (1) Charlotte not touching her, and (2) Natalya being in position to tag. There’s much worse stuff in the six-man, which we’ll get to in a minute.
The finish is Natalya getting disqualified for castigo excesivo when she refuses to let Lynch out of the Sharpshooter after a rope break. Charlotte has already bailed on the match at this point so she’s not really involved, and Trish isn’t doing anything because she’s only out there to counter Charlotte. It’s fine.
I think this whole thing would be better if Natalya was a more believable challenger, and if she was able to deliver 1-3 lines of believable dialogue without sounding like she ran it through Google translate and back three times. “Becky Lynch, you won’t be able to tap out my arm with your arm bar, Becky Lynch! You can kiss my YOU KNOW WHAT, Eric Bischoff!”
The better of the two hour-one matches in the world’s most unfair competition is Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade, which is the kind of match they play on loop in wrestling Heaven. These two are just the best, and they’re somehow even better against one another. Rey Mysterio’s 44 years old and out here doing full belly-slides under the bottom ropes into sunset flips on the floor to send Andrade slamming into the security railing. It’s remarkable. This isn’t the best match they’ve had, but man, their worst match still belongs in a museum.
The finish to this one sees more teases of Rey losing his mask, which I hope is building to a big mask vs. hair match at some point. Andrade (pronounced “Ahn-der-ah-day” by Michael Cole, unless Renee and Corey say it correctly right before he speaks … between this and “the You-sos,” he’s really driving me crazy lately) tries to remove the mask again, which draws the attention of the referee. Cetmom Zelina Vega interferes, snapping Rey’s neck on the middle rope, which allows Andrade to grab a hammerlock DDT and win.
I don’t know what Rey can do to counter Zelina Vega, since he doesn’t have a Candice LeRae to jump out of the crowd and chase her off, but maybe he’ll bring out WWE’s Littlest Big Man, Dominick, to deliver some ECW-style chokeslams.
Boo, Hiss (But I Understand): RIP IIconics Women’s Tag Team Championship Run, 2019-2019
As a fan, I’m deeply saddened by how their Women’s Tag Team Championship run worked out. Their win more or less pushed Sasha Banks out of the company, and then a Bella Twins return feud got canceled and left them with nothing to do.
They looked like complete losers the entire time despite actually winning the championship fair and square, and we only ever saw them beat jobber teams. And by “only ever saw them,” I don’t mean the Viking Raiders thing where they beat jobbers every week, I mean like, two jobber teams in four months. Smackdown kept announcing and booking Women’s Tag Team Championship shots for teams in the division, but they never seemed to happen, as plans got “rewritten” at the last minute. They lost a bunch of non-title matches, and when they DID defend the championship, they won by intentional count-out. Now we get this Raw where they might actually have to compete for real for once, and they’re eliminated first.
Even the promos they got to cut were bad, because they felt micromanaged and the tone was wrong. The backstage segments where they just got to improvise and be themselves were INCREDIBLE and kept them over with folks like me, but man, was this a missed opportunity to do something special, or what? I’m sorry you got treated like this, IIconics.
Since I wrote three paragraphs about the IIconics, I should probably skip my planned six-to-sixty paragraph rant about what the WWE main roster has done to Asuka. To both of the Kabuki Warriors, really. Asuka was an unstoppable championship Goddess in NXT, but once Charlotte Flair broke her streak at WrestleMania, it was into the bin with her. She’s out here struggling to beat Alexa Bliss in hand-to-hand combat. That’s weird. Kairi Sane was going fist-to-fist with goddamn SHAYNA BASZLER not that long ago, and now she’s jobbing to being shoved off the top rope and phantom punches. Seriously, look how much Bliss missed this by:
On a positive note, Nikki Cross has her first WWE Championship, and that’s great. Also, maybe if WWE finally put those belts on characters they actually use on the weekly shows already, we’ll get to see more of them. No sense in having the title on a great team you never see and never gets TV time.
Now to figure out who they’re supposed to wrestle until Nia Jax and Tamina get back, I guess.
Worst: The World’s Most Believable OB-GYN Office
This isn’t exactly my area of expertise, but does anyone in real life’s OB-GYN have two flat-screen TVs displaying the doctor’s business card side-by-side and a wall made out of purple curtains? It kinda kills your, “the title can change hands anywhere at any time,” vibe when the waiting room at the doctor’s office is clearly a homemade-ass backstage set from After Last Season. You couldn’t find an actual doctor’s office to shoot this in? Could you also not find a room with two believable walls?
24/7 Championship scenes like this are either brilliant or outright terrible, and I think the difference is Drake Maverick and his unwavering commitment to a bit. I do think it’s pretty funny that Truth goes through all this trouble to wear disguises, and then removes them and has a conversation with his opponent before trying to pin them.
Also On This Episode
Drew McIntyre vs. Cedric Alexander with Kurt Angle as the special guest referee with a backstage segment featuring the Street Profits is a lot of work for a match that never actually gets started, and a Bray Wyatt attack on someone he’s never going to wrestle. Why is Finn off hanging out at the MLS All-Star Game instead of appearing on WWE’s flagship show to help promote a major match on the company’s second-biggest pay-per-view of the year?
I don’t have it in my heart to do another “jobbers of the week” bit, as it looks like the Viking Raiders are repeating the Sisyphean task of destroying enhancement talent every week to advance their careers only to have them roll back to the bottom of the hill again. I will say that “Eric, Abraham” and “Jay, Alexander” both sound like names stitched together from whatever list of ideas they used to come up with “Erik, Ivar.”
There’s also this six-man tag team match, which starts as a normal tag but ends right away with AJ Styles interfering. Ricochet makes the save for the faces (because I guess Kofi Kingston’s busy), and we send it to commercial to reset. I was hoping the return of normal commercial breaks during matches would’ve ended this stuff permanently, or at least for a little while, but I should probably stop watching Raw and hoping for things.
I do want to point out another weird thing from tonight’s shows: referees in tag team matches feeling like they have to “miss” seeing tag teams execute double teams and help each other out. In the Women’s Tag Team Championship match the ref stands there with both IIconics in the ring and watches them double-team everybody else in the match for like two straight minutes and does nothing. But at the end, when Nikki Cross has to push Kairi Sane off the top rope to set up Alexa’s comeback, the referee’s randomly distracted by Asuka so he “didn’t see it.” Why couldn’t he see it? It’s a tag team match. Tag team partners help each other. If anything, the only thing he shouldn’t “see” in a tag match are underhanded, mid-match heel tactics that don’t affect the finish.
The same thing happens at the end of the six-man. The referee needs to “miss” seeing AJ Styles — a person who is actively competing in the match, and not out there as a manager or whatever — hit Xavier Woods to set up the Magic Killer finish. To do this, he stands in Luke Gallows face and screams at him to “get down” off the apron. Luke Gallows is IN A TAG TEAM MATCH and the referee needs to be distracted by literally anything, so he stands there shouting about how dude’s following the rules. Who is agenting this shit? Was it the same person both times? Put somebody who understand the general rules of pro wrestling in charge of that so we don’t have the officials who are tasked with maintaining and holding together the believably of a wrestling match look like complete idiots all the time. Blind, sure. That can be frustrating, but in a constructive way. Complete idiots? That breaks it.
Finally, Here’s Bill
WWE from 1997 until now: “WCW sucks!”
Also WWE: ends a show with Goldberg in 2019
I don’t know who watched the Goldberg vs. Undertaker match from Super Showdown with its pre-match concussions, mid-match attempted murders, and post-match collapses and thought, “YEAH, I wanna see THAT guy wrestle again!”
I guess it’s a favor to Goldberg to let him “erase the feeling” of the Undertaker match at hit a couple of lay-up moves on a guy who’ll bump for him like a deranged pinball. Isn’t it depressing how many people you love on the active roster didn’t make the second-biggest pay-per-view card of the year, though, when Shane McMahon, Trish Stratus, and Bill Goldberg did?
At least Goldberg can say he went out on top in two different WCWs.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Hey, Jimmy Uso showed up!
Sadly, this is Vince’s most respectful handling of Race in professional wrestling.
WWE won’t get behind Natalya for the same reason no one else will…
.. the farts.
The Real Birdman
But Canada they coexist??
This is a very fake looking OBGYN. Or maybe this is just what happens when Planned Parenthood gets its budget cut.
Pinned Bálor and Go Away Jose
Geico can run 7 different succesful ad campaigns and remember their own history and acknowledge it and inject it into their new campaigns. WWE can’t even remember that Roman Reigns is friends with Seth and hates Brock Lesnar. What I’m saying is I trust an insurance company to tell better stories than WWE.
Samoa Joe shutting down Raw is the most babyface thing ever.
Single Leg Takedown
Some of the best gynecologists work in the bowels of Pittsburgh arenas.
So pissed there was no Balor appearence on this episode so I could make a “Fergal’s hog” joke.
That’s it for Raw. I’ll leave you with the Harley Race tribute video, which is nice, even though Harley deserved one of those awesome WWE package music videos.
As always, thanks for reading and enjoying whatever you could find to enjoy. Make sure to give us a share on social media to help keep us in business, drop a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the show, and be here all weekend for NXT TakeOver: Toronto and its seven-hour post-show, SummerSlam. See you then!