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.
Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for August 6, 2018.
The Fucking Worst: B-Team, B-Team, No No No
Before we talk about anything this week, we’ve gotta touch on the B-Team’s new entrance theme. I probably would’ve loved it if they’d gone with it originally — it sounds like the Spirit Squad got brought back to sing in front of a computer trying to mimic John Philip Sousa — but to replace my precious butt-rock Battlescars? How dare you. I SAY HOW DARE YOU SIR. I haven’t been this personally betrayed by a fake fighting musical choice since I popped for Adam Rose’s NXT debut and someone at WWE was like, “shit, we can’t have Brandon liking things.”
I’ll give Raw points for running the Raw Tag Team Champions against a team that could clearly beat them at tag team wrestling 100 out of 100 times this close to a pay-per-view and resisting the “blank has pinned the champion!” trope. Instead, because interference to set up a multi-man match is the most powerful trope they have, Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt show up to interfere. I say “show up” to understate the fact that they teleported onto the ring aprons in place of other wrestlers, like that time the Undertaker spirited Seth Rollins away so he could teleport in and beat up Brock Lesnar.
Note: the remaining 2,700 words in this column will be about the B-Team’s entrance theme
Second, Unrelated Note: Watching that Adam Rose video again makes me do two things: miss Devin Taylor, and fantasy book Rose’s return where he activates all the Rosebud sleeper agents and is suddenly in command of a faction that includes Braun Strowman, Alexa Bliss, Kalisto, and Solomon Crowe.
Third, Tangentially-related Note: literally just realized Strowman and Bliss got along so well in the Mixed Match Challenge because they spent several months down in NXT having drug and candy-fueled raves.
Best: Paul Bawls
In contrast, the very best part of Raw was this sit-down interview with Paul Heyman. I can’t even describe it, really. Heyman is somewhere between “about to cry” and “profusely sobbing” the entire time, simultaneously shitting on Renee Young for getting in his personal business and opening up to her about how he thought he and Brock were friends, and how he doesn’t understand the person Brock Lesnar’s become, and how he knows for a fact that Roman Reigns doesn’t have a chance at SummerSlam because Lesnar’s somehow found another level of disconnectedness and cruelty.
What makes it, beyond Heyman being one of the best talkers and actors in the history of pro wrestling, is that he’s showing complete and total personal betrayal, but is still such a good advocate that he’s putting over Lesnar’s shittiness as a positive. It’s fascinating. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I know they want WWE Superstars to be “larger than life” cartoon super heroes or whatever, and when they attempt to humanize them they just make them “tweeners” who are rude and violent to everybody, but man, there’s a real corner of WWE they’re missing out on by not letting these fictional characters have real, human emotions. Human emotions besides anger, jealousy, and determination. Emotions like crippling regret, anxiety, sincere fear, friendly love, sincere affection for something other than the WWE Universe, whatever. They don’t do it enough, and scenes like this one show why they should. Really exceptional work.
p.s. bring back battle scars
Now That We’re Somewhere In The Middle, Let’s Talk About Roman Reigns
I think the first thing I’d change if I got added to the writing team (LOL) is to have some of the main event babyfaces be nice to the dorky, undercard babyfaces they occasionally meet. These are people who are trying to be on their side, trying to help them out, trying to be their friends … WWE sometimes relies too much on the idea that anyone who isn’t top level or popular is too uncool to be anything but opportunistic, so you have Tyler Breeze show up wanting to be Seth Rollins’ tag team partner, and he’s so assumptive and dimwitted about it that Rollins just rolls his eyes. And then Roman shows up and puts the exclamation point on how dorky and worthless Breeze is to them. And, by proxy, how dorky and worthless he’s supposed to be to us.
I get it, I just don’t think you have to go that route. Back in the NWA you’d have guys like Sam Houston hanging out with or helping out top level guys like Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A. If the Four Horsemen were beating up Dusty and Sam Houston ran out to help him, or offered his help in an interview, Dusty would take it, because he’s supposed to be a nice-ish person we cheer for, and not an isolationist, spiteful bad guy. So yeah, Dusty’s not going to team up with Houston in the Crockett Cup or give him world title matches, but he’s not going to say “SAM HOUSTON YOU’RE A DUMB PIECE OF SHIT, YOU AIN’T EVEN A COWBOY” when Sam’s out here trying to help. That’s it. Rollins is about as close as you get to decency in a current WWE babyface, where he’ll affably put up with these guys until someone like Roman saunters in and makes it okay for him to be openly rude.
It’s a total pleasantry nitpick, sure, but acting like that doesn’t make the Shield guys seem cooler. Maybe it does if you’re 14, and I’m just not the demographic. I don’t know. It’s not that I’m some old school NWA purist homer, either. Even Stone Cold Steve Austin eventually figured out that Dude Love was out there to keep him from getting his ass kicked. Even The Rock eventually warmed to Mankind, you know? You can kinda lump together all the people getting cheered and let your lower-level guys get cheered more by being treated like valuable co-workers by the guys at the top.
Here’s how it all breaks down. The show opens with Express For Men Baron Corbin and his confused grandpa arguing with each other in the ring, trying to remember their lines, until A Large Dog shows up. That sets up Reigns vs. Corbin, with Finn Bálor showing up to herd Corbin back into the ring and into a spear. Reigns wins, which makes Corbin mad, which presumably prompts him to call up Stephanie McMahon and punish one of Reigns’ friends.
That sets up Seth Rollins and a partner to be named later against Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. Reigns tries to pull double duty again and be Rollins’ partner, but now suddenly Stephanie has decreed through ye olde constable that if Reigns tags with Rollins, he forfeits his 30th or 31st match against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. That leaves Rollins to fight Ziggler and McIntyre in a handicap match, when he … I don’t know, could’ve gone backstage and found Tyler Breeze and been like, “hey man, sorry for being a dick to you earlier, Roman needs to work on his people skills, you should actually come be my partner so I don’t have to fight by myself.” And then hey, maybe you put Breeze over and let him kick some ass against people who are really good at wrestling, which he almost never gets to do.
Instead you end up with Rollins getting his ass kicked, Reigns not helping out at all because he can’t (and wouldn’t anyway, unless there was something in it for him), your heels don’t really gain anything because they won a 2-on-1 fight, your undercard babyfaces don’t get any rub or development, and the most valuable thing available being a title match against an absentee champion that’s just gonna end with a 7-foot tall country ogre stomping in with his magical briefcase and taking the title away from you. Or, more likely, Kevin Owens. But somebody.
Worst: Destruction Without Value
Speaking of Owens, if he does win the Money in the Bank briefcase from Strowman at SummerSlam and cash-in, it’ll be even less effective than usual for two reasons:
- he’ll have won the briefcase via technicality, instead of, I don’t know, winning the prestigious ladder match for it or actually pinning or submitting the guy who holds it with the briefcase on the line, and
- you’ve spent arguably the last year making Owens look like a complete goober who can’t win anything, not even matches against a visibly unhealthy non-wrestling general manager, without divine luck
I promise I’m not trying to shit all over this, I just feel like the storytelling structure of Raw is so fundamentally and impossibly broken that nobody’s really benefiting from anything, nothing makes sense if you think about it more than twice, the good guys aren’t good about stuff, the bad guys aren’t good enough to be bad, and the people in-between feel more like they’re circling a drain than winning or losing. I’m not even asking for the show to be good, really, or “good to me” I guess, I just want it to resemble a functional show.
Here’s a good example: they do a bit where Kevin Owens brings Jinder Mahal onto the Kevin Owens Show to be passive-aggressive, and Braun Strowman flips over the stage with them on it. That might be cool, but they’ve never had the Kevin Owens Show on a free-floating stage like this before, so it’s only there to get flipped. It only exists to feed the moment. It’s Randy Orton suddenly having a personalized race car so Kofi Kingston can spill paint on it, or D-Generation X suddenly having a tour bus so Stone Cold can destroy it. You’ve got to have shit and have it matter before removing or changing it can matter to anyone.
Also bad: Jinder Mahal matches (all).
Best: I Predict A Riott
How are these timely Kaiser Chiefs references working out for you, good?
To go back to something positive so I don’t drown myself in my own self-destructive fandom, a big highlight of Raw for me was the return of Ruby Riott from injury. The Riott Squad is having a really pretty good tag team match against Banksy when a mysterious, hoodied woman shows up on the ramp to help Liv Morgan. That woman is (gasp) revealed to be the other member of the Riott Squad, because duh, but man does she look great. She looks strong, powerful, healthy. If they can make Ruby a truly important part of the women’s division on Raw and continue developing Morgan and Logan’s personalities — or their looks, I guess, which are basically their personalities, unless “blue tongue” and “some face paint” are deeper than I’m realizing — I could come around on the Squad. I think Absolution not existing anymore helps them a lot.
Also, hey, I really like Bayley and Sasha Banks as an actual, functional tag team. It beats the hell out of them going to therapy for a month and never wrestling. This was my vote for the best match of the episode. Quick, can you guess the worst? I TOTALLY BET YOU CAN.
Worst: The Worst
Titus O’Neil is an incredible human being who adds a lot of value to WWE as an organization, but holy moley would I be okay never seeing him wrestle again. At one point in the match it takes him like 10 seconds to find Rezar’s wrist for an Irish whip. I’ve been openly wondering why Apollo Crews always takes the pins in Titus Worldwide matches instead of Titus when he’s younger and has way more of an upside, and then I’m like, “oh, they probably want Titus in the ring as little as possible.”
Horrible. The poor Authors of Pain need to show up at TakeOver: Brooklyn with an edible arrangement for Paul Ellering and say they’re sorry.
Almost reaching Titus/Rezar levels was Mojo Rawley vs. Bobby Roode, featuring what might be the worst standing switch I’ve ever seen:
They tried to structure the match as this exciting, catch-as-catch-can thing full of reverses and surprises, but Mojo doesn’t totally seem like he knows how to do that and Roode has less heat than the fucking Night King right now, so you get Mojo stomping around in a big semi-circle and Roode just letting go of him because he’s gotta be in place for the next counter. These might be the two guys on Raw I want to like the most, you know? Roode is one of the best heels in the world. Rawley cut some game-changing, self-written promos on social media. So why are we having him cut pre-written promos to set up matches against babyface Bobby Roode?
Like I said, if you like the show like it is, that’s awesome. That’s valid and your prerogative. But it also doesn’t change the fact that it feels like the show’s being booked by soap opera writers who’ve never watched a wrestling show, held exclusively on opposites day.
Also This Segment Happened
Best, Mostly: I Watched Three Hours Of Raw And All I Got Was This Rousey T-Shirt
Finally we have the Raw debut of Ronda Rousey. It main-events the show, which would be awesome if Raw wasn’t locked into these weird overruns they do when they need them or not, and felt like they had to extend a 30-second squash of Alicia Fox into a 15 minute thing full of promos, stalling, heel interference, face interference, the works.
Detached from the Ballyhoo™, you’ve got Ronda Rousey. She rules at this. She’s a star for a reason. She acts like one in the ring. She carries herself like she’s the Baddest Whatever On The Planet. She’s a lot like a younger Brock Lesnar in that way, where when she steps in the ring and touches somebody you’re like OH GOD THEY’RE GONNA DIE. She’s in here yanking poor Alicia Fox around by the arm like she’s a dead NPC in Fallout you picked up so you could walk them over to a cliff and drop them off. Everything she does feels powerful and important, save for that “bend the arm the way arms bend” armbreaker she does. Why can’t she just do a cross arm-breaker? Is she worried she’s going to really hurt somebody?
Still though, Rousey’s money. Fox did an admirable job with what she was given, which was mostly “be a part of a televised death,” and that was good. There’s only so much Alexa Bliss can do when all she’s asked to do for a quarter-hour is repeatedly jump on the apron and then jump down. It wasn’t a main event by any stretch of the imagination, but Rousey’s a main-eventer, so it is what it is. Frankly though, I don’t know if there’s anybody on the main roster who shouldn’t just get completely judo trucked by her in 30 seconds, especially now that Asuka’s been turned into Bayley in a technicolor dreamcoat.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Did Foxxy make that outfit out of Dolph Ziggler’s old tights?
Charles: “But Alexa… I’m not even a real journalism!”
I’m not saying Raw has felt especially long tonight but when it started Braun Strowman was clean shaven and the Sasha-Bayley angle was fresh and intriguing.
Bravo, Mr. Heyman… WWE doesn’t deserve you.
I kind of wish Ryback would show up to give Paul a big hug right now.
I tried to buy a weekly subscription to the Backwoodsman, but like Lesnar, it comes out quarterly.
The Real Birdman
“No I wasn’t scared of being attacked by Brock, Renee. You ever bounce a check made out to New Jack? That’s real fear”
If this doesn’t lead to a webseries about the misadventures of Curtis Axel and Dash Wilder traversing a Florida swamp, then all of this is for nothing
Dolph hears the new B-Team music and runs out instinctually.
IC Champion PdragolphZiggler
In a better timeline: BREEZE IT DOOOOWN
That’s it for Raw. At first I was like
but then I was like
As always, thanks for reading. Drop a comment below, share the column on social media if you’re kind, and be back here next week when I’m definitely not going to be over the loss of Battlescars.