Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: We got so excited for the SuperSlam! Seth Rollins slayed The Beast for a second time, Becky Lynch retained the Raw Women’s Championship in a submission match against Natalya, and Raw’s (?) The Fiend ate Finn Bálor’s lunch.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for August 12, 2019.
Best: Big Boss, Man
Let’s go ahead and kick off the column with this week’s best development: a post-SummerSlam pity party promo from Natalya gets interrupted by Sasha Banks, who returned from her self-imposed post-WrestleMania exile to go full-NXT evil and make an arena full of mostly awkward, mostly straight wrestling fans gasp at a wig reveal.
It’s everything we could’ve wanted it to be. Banks shows up with her burgundy hair and pretends to be Natalya’s very good friend who cares a lot about Jim Neidhart and then smashes her in the face. Sasha then metaphorically sheds her own skin, removing her wig to reveal blue hair. I’m going to choose to believe this is less “going from Raw to Smackdown” and more, “oh no, Ami-chan is evil now!”
Confident, message-sending Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch shows up to make the save once a steel chair is introduced, but gets Bossed around as well. The only way it could’ve been better is if they’d just filmed it, instead of trying to give everyone at home kung-fu motion sickness.
The live crowd version where you can watch the camera men bob up and down is super embarrassing, by the way. Please stop doing this, it’s very weird!
And there we have it: Sasha Banks has returned to Raw with the character she should’ve been playing from the second she got called up, with no more passive-aggressive heeling and/or friendship therapy woes with an increasingly unlikable Bayley, and Becky Lynch has her first real rival since Charlotte Flair decided to leave her alone and Ronda Rousey left to make YouTube poop.
I’m really excited to see where this goes. Evil Sasha is about as good in and out of the ring as it gets in WWE, and if Becky Lynch is ever going to truly be Dusty Rhodes or Stone Cold Steve Austin, she needs a Ric Flair, or a Mr. McMahon.
Best, Mostly: Rollins vs. The Band
The A-story of the episode features new Universal Champion Seth Rollins, fresh off his SummerSlam victory against Brock Lesnar and hopefully ready to leave some of those bad character traits he’d been leaning into a little too hard over the past few months behind him, getting confronted by dickhead soccer mom AJ Styles and his Orange County crushers. After all, nothing says “Summer” and “Seth” quite like The O.C.
How they get there is pretty irrelevant, but we end up with Rollins vs. Styles signed for the main event. You’ve got to love Seth Rollins, architect of The Shield, losing respect for AJ Styles because he started running in a dominant, three-man heel group.
Because modern day Raw is a lot more like WCW Monday Nitro than it’d ever admit, the match they’d spent three hours hyping only lasted a few minutes and then ended in disqualification. Something about that “too sweet” hand really keeps main events from delivering, I guess. Thank goodness the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega got a cease and desist over it before they turned into Suzuki-gun.
Anyway, this is still pretty enjoyable as its in service to the greater goal: associating Rollins with fellow babyface heroes Ricochet (now smart enough to realize he should never wear a shirt) and Braun Strowman. They make the save to keep Rollins from getting beaten down 3-on-1, and we’ve effectively teased both Rollins/Ricochet/Strowman vs. the collective O.C. (don’t call them that) and a future Universal Championship match between Rollins and Strowman. It’s not the wrestling we wanted to see, necessarily, but it got the job done creatively.
Worst: A Terrible First Hour For Mouthy Undercard Heels
There was a lot of good #content on this week’s Raw, but hour one’s message appeared to be, “mouthy heels get fucked.”
In the first and most predictable match, Samoa Joe overhears Sami Zayn talking trash about him to the Street Profits and ends up choking him out in about 45 seconds. Congratulations for Sami for extending his average Raw match time by 50% this week!
Dear Sami Zayn,
After the match, Joe grabs a microphone and makes it clear that he didn’t become a fan favorite just because he didn’t want to see one of his rivals murdered via hit-and-run in real life. He respects the other Samoan Joe now, but he doesn’t respect any of us, the WWE Universe, because [vague gesturing]. You know how it goes.
After that we get the promised Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler match, which starts with the tease of Ziggler “not being medically cleared” only for him to reveal that whoops, he’s fine, and ends with the same “get back in here and humiliate me A SECOND TIME” bit from the Goldberg match at SummerSlam. The difference in Bill Goldberg and The Miz is about two minutes, if you were wondering.
I’m happy to see The Miz get a strong win, since it feels like it’s been forever since that happened, and I willingly accept Dolph Ziggler’s re-imagined role as a Super Jobber. Still, it’s one of three very similar “fan favorite squashes sassy loser villain” in the same hour of programming, with none of them going longer than four minutes. It’s a weird call. You’d think they’d at least space them out a little.
The worst of the three, amazingly, is Ricochet vs. Elias.
None of it worked for me, from Ricochet’s dumb, Alexandra Cabot-style “people interrupt you BECAUSE YOU, SUCK,” to the finish, where Elias’ shoulder is like, Samoa Joe-levels of off the mat. Short, sloppy, and badly put-together. You’d think these two could come up with something watchable — the backdrop they did was nice, at least — but I guess everybody has an off night.
As a side note, can somebody PLEASE convince WWE to get rid of the comedy gun-firing noise at the beginning of Ricochet’s entrance theme? It lasts a little too long and cannibalizes whatever pop his music would get, especially since they don’t even go together. Imagine if Stone Cold Steve Austin’s shattered glass was five full seconds of rockslide sound effects. Between the PING PEWWWW and the bad motocross superhero gear, Ricochet’s descending into, “what if Neville was MIGHTY MOUSE” territory, fast.
Best: Who’s Your Drade
The 2-out-of-3 falls match between Rey Mysterio and Andrade was also curiously short — a 2-out-of-3 falls match barely clearing five minutes? — but I’m giving it a Best for a few reasons:
- It was an actual 2-out-of-3 falls match, and not just an excuse to “not wrestle during commercial breaks”
- It ended in two straight falls, which (commercials era aside) is a pretty rare thing in pro wrestling and reminds me of that great 2-out-of-3 falls match where MVP promised to completely skunk Chris Benoit and THEN DID
- It gives Andrade some much-needed momentum heading into a King of the Ring tournament that he should definitely win, if only to start calling himself “Rey Andrade”
- It appears to be leading to some character growth for Mysterio, per the backstage followup interview
Mysterio is a pretty good actor when he’s not delivering Lucha Underground dialogue. I’m interested to see where this goes — again with the Raw making me interested in where it goes thing — and hope Rey goes home to try to find Dominick but can’t, and then Samoa Joe wanders up to him like, “oh, dude, I killed him and ate his bones like four months ago.”
Best: Drew-Ced Dreams
The hottest match of the night ended up being this almost 9-minute showdown between Drew McIntyre and Cedric Alexander. It shouldn’t be news that these two are great at pro wrestling, but they really put on a competitive bout that made both of them look good. McIntyre gets a strong, violent win without having to resort to a bunch of ancillary Shane McMahon bullshit, and Cedric looks FANTASTIC in defeat, hanging with and even going toe-to-toe with a dude way bigger and way stronger than him. It was like the perfect version of what Ricochet and Elias were going for.
I continue to be pretty baffled about WWE’s “Drew McIntyre could be a main eventer, but we’re gonna go in a different direction for now,” thing, but if it keeps him in the mid-card having awesome, purposeful matches like this, I’m into it. Honestly, if you had him spend the next six months exclusively working fast-paced, intense matches against guys like Ced who can seriously go, you might fuck around and turn Drew into a workhorse hero in the eyes of the fans. I think the only reason he doesn’t get lumped in with the men at work on Raw is because he’s six-foot-four and full of muscles.
And just to say it, bless any match that gives Cedric Alexander’s wrestling ability a spotlight without dressing him up like Dos Caras’ janitor.
Best, Mostly: The Women’s Tag Team Championship Is Actually Being Defended!
To make it clear, I strongly dislike:
- Asuka and Kairi Sane taking losses to anyone, really, given their respective NXT histories and personalities
- retroactive shade on The IIconics, like they’d chosen to be company afterthoughts who never got any love or TV time and somehow didn’t want the Women’s Tag Team Championship to be important (especially after the Sasha and Bayley run was very similar)
But I do like WWE remembering the championship exists, and therefore should probably be defended on actual shows in actual wrestling matches. I guess it took getting Alexa Bliss involved to get them to remember, but whatever works. If you’re gonna pair up Bliss and Cross in an ongoing story anyway, you might as well use them to rehab an entire division. Plus, they wrestled a smart match. Bliss lured Asuka outside of the ring and got her to accidentally kick the ring post, and then she and Cross doubled-up on Sane to put her away. It’s not what I would’ve wanted to see, necessarily, but at least it happened, and didn’t end in 90 seconds with a distraction roll-up or whatever.
Also On This Episode
Stone Cold Steve Austin Skyping into Raw was delightful, but also extremely jarring. The guy who broke into Brian Pillman’s house to try to murder him with his bare hands, once held a gun to Vince McMahon’s head on live television, and single-handedly destroyed the entire WCW and ECW rosters by himself is Skyping into Raw to joshingly banter with Michael Cole about his new USA Network original series. Just saying, it’d be like Stan Hansen returning to New Japan to tell them about a really great editorial he read on McSweeney’s.
“Robert Roode” is a babyface again, apparently, and has grown back his beard instead of rocking the shitty stepdad mustache. Those are two colossal steps backwards, in my opinion. I also don’t know when No Way Jose left Team B.A.D. to join the No Limit Soldiers, but that seems less important.
The Viking Raiders continued their unchecked dominance over nobodies, which is apparently accomplishing something for somebody somewhere.
This week’s “local competitors,” aka the jobbers of the week, are Carter Mason and Sebastian Suave. When he’s not a brand of low quality shampoo, Suave is the founder and CEO of Toronto’s Smash Wrestling promotion. Mason, the “True King of the North” — take that, Sansa — has also competed in Smash. You might’ve seen both of them working security at NXT TakeOver Toronto and getting hossed off the stage by Killian Dain.
And finally, speaking of jobbers, The Revival takes on Lucha House Party in a match so important it randomly gets interrupted by the 24/7 division. They even play R-Truth’s music as he’s running away from everybody, which was an odd choice. Maybe they needed to wake up the crowd?
This is what happens when you’ve systematically embarrassed and destroyed your tag team division. A Revival vs. Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik match should rule, but as it stands it’s the guys who shave each other’s backs and got “Ucey Hot” rubbed on their balls versus the three guys who wouldn’t win 3-on-1 fights against one vanished Lars Sullivan. So send in the clowns, you know?
Afterward, Elias (seen here in a Degree antiperspirant commercial with a grateful referee) attacks Truth backstage and wins the 24/7 Championship. I love what they’ve done with Truth and the title, but they need to start sharing the love with the rest of the roster. He’s not the only guy who can be funny and get pinned in a weird place, you know.
Plus, let’s remember that the 24/7 Championship is supposed to change hands 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and use social media to show us Maria getting pinned at the OB-GYN or Drake Maverick getting pinned on his marital bed instead of pretending all that shit has to happen between 8 and 11 on Monday nights.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Charly: Sasha, you’ve finally returned after months of time away. Is it true that your dissatisfaction with creative has left you… feeling blue?
(Beats Charly to death with a chair)
DOLPH: I cannot medically compete tonight.
DOLPH: But I can do my standup.
The only gold record Elias has held is the 24/7 championship
This would have been one of the best Raws ever if Becky had just joined Sasha in beating up Nattie.
Damn straight William Regal is a Hall of Famer
The Real Birdman
King of The Ring is only acceptable if Wade Barrett comes back to dub the new king from his giant scissor lift and bang his gavel
RIP in peace, sleazy 80s Trans Am driving deadbeat dad Robert Roode.
“Beating up Sami Zayn” has replaced “DDP Yoga” as the preferred method for rehabilitating aging superstars.
Sasha just metaphorically put a giant sticker of the Anvil on a table and put Nattie through it.
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of Raw. Things really do feel like they’re moving forward and getting better, so let’s remain cautiously hopeful for the future. Next suggestion: remember that bad guys are supposed to be tough sometimes, too. And not just Brock Lesnar.
Drop a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the show, and give us a share on social media to help us stay in business. Oh, and make sure you’re here for Smackdown. Buddy Murphy vs. Roman Reigns could be the jam if the old Gods and the new team up to help it go longer than 90 seconds!