Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Dean Ambrose showed up dressed like Bane for some reason, Natalya got put through a table, and Rhyno was retired by a Heath Slater transitional move in about a minute. Nothing made sense and everything hurt.
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And now, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for December 10, 2018.
Best/Worst: Seth Rollins Throws (Lamp) Shade
So hey, this is the closest I’ll ever be to a Crossfit athlete holding the Intercontinental Championship.
Raw opened with Seth Rollins basically reading last week’s Best and Worst of Raw column out-loud to Baron Corbin, highlighting all the obvious problems with the show and even bringing up the fact that fan interest and television ratings are at an all-time low. Rollins points out that this trend seemingly started (cough) when Baron Corbin was put in charge, and they end up John Cena’ing their way into a TLC match for the IC title in the main event.
While it’s kind of fun in a CM Punk screaming at Vince McMahon sort of way to see the show’s best character say what we’re all thinking (and more importantly, give us hope that this means the company also sees and understands these problems), there are still … so, so many problems. Where the hell do I even begin? Let me try to break this down.
1. All they’re doing is lampshade hanging the problem.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of lampshading, here’s a great description from TV Tropes:
Lampshade Hanging (or, more informally, “Lampshading”) is the writers’ trick of dealing with any element of the story that threatens the audience’s Willing Suspension of Disbelief, whether a very implausible plot development, or a particularly blatant use of a trope, by calling attention to it and simply moving on.
The reason for this counter-intuitive strategy is two-fold. First, it assures the audience that the author is aware of the implausible plot development that just happened, and that they aren’t trying to slip something past the audience. Second, it assures the audience that the world of the story is like Real Life: what’s implausible for you or me is just as implausible for these characters, and just as likely to provoke an incredulous response.
The creators are using the tactic of self-deprecatingly pointing out their own flaws themselves, thus depriving critics and opponents of their ammunition. The Turkey City Lexicon refers to this flavor of Lampshade Hanging as a “Signal from Freud”, and reminds the author that if your characters are complaining about how stupid the latest plot development is, maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you something.
2. Lampshading doesn’t actually address the problems, and if you point out all the problems with your show and then don’t fix any of them, you aren’t actually doing anything. For example, Seth Rollins points out how dumb and illogical everything on the show has been. When the segment’s over, we jump right into a 3-on-2 handicap match for the Raw Tag Team Championship, on a show that also features an Alexa Bliss Open Forum segment for the third week in a row, half a dozen Baron Corbin segments, and multiple instances of heels openly cheating via an evil authority figure without any comeuppance or consequence.
3. Vince McMahon and the Creative Team (and whomever else) are basically blaming all their structural and creative problems on one of their characters, instead of themselves. It’s BARON CORBIN’s fault Raw has been so bad lately, not ours! Boo BARON CORBIN, the reason the shows are terrible! You hate him, right? You like us, though, right? We’re just victims of Constable Baron Corbin’s mad reign! By not taking responsibility for what’s going on and turning the show’s real-life issues into fiction, Raw’s writers can pretend like it’s all part of a bigger plan. Which it clearly never, ever is.
4. In kayfabe, none of this makes sense. Rollins saying the show is bad because of Corbin could work if you kept it focused on how much Corbin’s on the show and how he favors his buddies, but tying in the rest of it doesn’t make sense. Rollins brings up the fact that segments revolve around “urination.” Are we supposed to infer that Baron Corbin scripted a bunch of Drake Maverick pissing himself segments, and that’s why it all happened? Rollins brings up the Lucha House Rules sucking and not making sense. Did Baron Corbin come up with that? Why is Corbin helping a trio of babyface luchadors get an advantage over a heel tag team, and why is Renee Young on commentary talking about how much fun it is and how it “advances the sport” if it’s the weird machinations of Baron Corbin?
5. You probably shouldn’t ever be agreeing with the audience about your show sucking. This is more opinion than observable inference, but, like, isn’t there a larger problem if your top star is on a live microphone saying your show is terrible and everyone hates it, and the audience is in the background nodding and agreeing with him? Do you think Game of Thrones would’ve caught on if Ned Stark had looked directly into the camera five episodes in and said, “hey folks, can you believe these incestuous Lannisters? This show is just tits and special effects. Otherwise you’re just watching Hercules. Is The Wire ever coming back for another season?”
Baron Corbin’s interview about how Raw’s doing badly because of the fans was a work I guess, thankfully, but now you’ve clearly established that the fans are right, the way you’ve been putting together the shows is unwatchable, and things need to change. That’s your mission statement now, not a dork on the Internet trying to armchair book. The only way this actually works as a segment, I think, is if WWE’s just punting to get to TLC, and that’s where they have Braun Strowman eat Baron Corbin whole so we can all move the hell on from this nightmare era of bullshit Raws. NXT is good, NXT UK is fine so far, 205 Live’s been good, Smackdown’s been good. It’s not “WWE,” it’s Raw.
Worst: Mind Your Pees And Cues
As mentioned above, Bobby Roode and Chad Gable — now wearing matching bath robes and gear that clearly denote Bobby as the dom in the relationship, because Gable’s just wearing Bobby’s shit — win the Raw Tag Team Championship in a handicap match by pinning not the Tag Team Champions. They pin Drake Maverick. It’d be like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express winning the NWA tag titles by pinning Jim Cornette. It’s like the Lucha House Rules stuff. They didn’t really accomplish anything, and the heels lost a championship they’ve proven they wouldn’t lose 2-on-2 because a heel general manager added their four-foot-tall familiar to the match as a goof.
It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even make jokes about this stuff, I just have to say, “this is what happened.” The faces are tag champs now because they got a surprise roll-up on the guy who pisses his pants. Congratulations?
Eh: Drew McIntyre Avenges His One Loss
Drew McIntyre vs. Dolph Ziggler was fine for what it was, with Drew getting back his win from last week and kicking Ziggler’s sorry ass. Of course Ziggler has to wrestle the same guy two weeks in a row, because his defining characteristic is “wrestling the same guy over and over until he perfects his match performance, by which point we’ve all lost interest and moved on.” I’m sure we’ll get more to this story next week when Dolph Ziggler faces Drew McIntyre, and again two weeks form now when Dolph Ziggler steps into the ring with Drew McIntyre.
On the positive side, yeah, it’s good to see McIntyre wipe the mat with Dolph. It’s interesting that for the first time the announce team goes HARD on the talking point that yes, Drew McIntyre used to wrestle here many years ago but got released and transformed himself into a human monster. Between Best and Worst of Raw Seth Rollins and references to TLC 2009, I’m pretty sure whoever wrote Raw last night just went to this site yesterday and wrote down whatever they saw.
Worst: Ruby Riott Tables The Conversation
WWE is working very, very hard to make us empathize with Natalya, a woman who is so proud to be a Hart that she doesn’t use her last name, which is also not “Hart.” She’s mad that Ruby Riott tarnished the legacy of Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart by breaking a pair of his sunglasses several weeks after he died, which … doesn’t really tarnish anybody’s legacy, but sure, fine.
The segment comes to a head when Ruby reveals that she’s slapped a Jim Neidhart Fathead (which exists, I guess) onto a table. She wants to slam Natalya through a table with a picture of her dad on it so they can be “closer than ever,” which is the 2018 TV-PG version of “Eddie ain’t in Heaven, Eddie’s down there, in HELL.” I’m not sure why WWE still thinks having their female characters cry to sell things builds sympy, but I can’t decide if the problem is WWE thinking women are “too emotional,” or never asking men to cry on a sell because they think it makes them look weak. Which then circles back around on and explains itself. So who knows?
Note: this is EASILY the best women’s segment on this week’s show.
Worst: Another Open Forum
The only thing WWE announced for Raw last week was the third-straight week of “public forums” from Alexa Bliss, who has completed her transition into Impact Wrestling’s Brooke Hogan. What’s odd is that instead of doing a public forum or a “press conference” as mentioned in Bliss’ tweet about it, it’s just a Nia Jax promo while Tamina stands nearby. To set up a Tamina match. So, uh. Hope you enjoy three minutes of Nia Jax’s rehearsed monologue for her high school performance of WWE Raw.
The segment about Jax and Rousey turns into a match between Tamina and Ember Moon. Tamina’s a 10-year veteran with the wrestling ability of a trout and the ring awareness of a second, deader trout, so the match is basically Ember Moon jogging around in circles bumping for herself and trying to hold it together. It’s God-awful, but there’s only so much Ember can do against these folks. Can you trade her to Smackdown for Lana or something? Or have Ember turn on Ronda after the match at TLC so Rousey can wrestle someone who knows how?
Worst: Truly Mixed And Matched
You know, the Mixed Match Challenge is a fun enough idea, but it loses all stakes and consequence when nearly every team has changed since the competition began due to injury or storyline. You can’t get behind any of the teams, because they’re just going to change on a whim. You start with Braun Strowman and Alexa Bliss. Bliss gets hurt, so you end up with Strowman and Ember Moon. But then Strowman gets hurt, so you get Ember Moon and Curt Hawkins. Natalya had Kevin Owens and ended up with Ned Flanders-ass Bobby Roode. Charlotte Flair had the WWE Champion on her team, and ended up with Jeff Hardy. Bayley was teaming with Finn Bálor, but now in the semi-finals of the tournament Finn’s injured and replaced with Apollo Crews. I bet even reading that paragraph got boring about halfway through. Imagine watching an entire season of programming based on it.
Plus, I’m not sure how many times we can see Bayley and Friend vs. Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox in our lifetime, but now we’ve got Crews showing up to throw Sasha Banks at the Singhs so the Bayley/Alicia Fox match can possibly get a pop from someone. WWE’s going to be a much, much better show if they ever realize changes and decisions should matter in these characters’ lives and have consequences, instead of everyone hitting their poses for claps while floating through an empty void.
Lars Sullivan Is Lurking
… on your forum! He’s BigHands42069, and he thinks you’re gay!
Best: Dean Ambrose, Maybe
In one of the more interesting moments of the show, Power Girl Charly Caruso corners Tom Hardy’s Dean Ambrose backstage and makes him sit through a long video package about Roman Reigns. What caught my eye here is that when Ambrose is focused on Rollins, he’s all, “THE ARCHITECT WAS A BULLSHIT NICKNAME THE SHIELD WAS WEAK I’M GOING TO BREAK SETH ROLLINS OVER MY KNEE, RAWR” or whatever, but when someone brings up Roman Reigns, he gets real quiet and sniffly.
I LOVE THIS. I love the undercurrent that Ambrose is only lashing out and scared of diseases and strangers all of a sudden because the one guy he could ever love and trust in the world got leukemia, so now he’s lost faith in everything, and looking to blame someone. But when presented with the reality of the situation and his actions, he doesn’t have an answer. That could be a really great character if it stays consistent, and he doesn’t start robbing banks in Gotham or whatever.
Worst/Best: The Heath Slater Saga
Early in the show, Heath Slater makes his refereeing debut in a match between Elias and Lio Rush. Rush is so child-sized and great at wrestling he belongs on the NXT UK roster. I bet Eddie Dennis would feel REALLY tall next to him.
The idea, we find out, is that Slater’s afraid of losing this demeaning referee gig like Rhyno lost his career last week, so he’s out here doing Baron Corbin’s bidding. He’s got to suck up to Corbin to make sure he stays on his good side, so he doesn’t, say, disqualify Corbin’s friend Bobby Lashley for interfering in the match. He even lets them double-team Elias and hit him with a guitar so Rush can get the pinfall. Renee Young, who believes that three people attacking one is the future of the business, is outraged that three people are teaming up against one.
Later, Heath’s backstage trying to go home because he’s been taught that being on Raw for more than three minutes means you’re finished for the week. Corbin shows up (in one of his 65 backstage segments of the week) and tells Slater he’s not done: he’ll be refereeing Corbin’s TLC match against Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental Championship as the ultimate insurance policy. THERE’S ALWAYS A PLAN B, a famous quote from Baron Corbin.
That sets up the TLC match, which is a lot of fun from a “jumping and falling into and through shit” perspective, but is also a lot like Ember Moon vs. Tamina. Seth Rollins is clearly at least a dozen times better than Baron Corbin, so he’s just lapping him in there, doing everything he can to make this a fun and exciting main event. To his credit, it’s the best match Raw’s put on in a while. To his discredit, it’s still not as good as, say, a commercial for Smackdown.
But hey, it is what it is, and if you like watching people get put through tables, you get a lot of it here. It’s the Best in the Worst/Best, definitely. Heath Slater ends up shoving Rollins off the ladder at one point and begging Corbin to recover and climb up and win, and I appreciate them at least giving Slater a reason for why he’s acting this way, instead of just arbitrarily deciding if he’s good or evil before he walks down the ramp. Rollins recovers, though, superkicks Slater in the face, and Murder Death Kills Corbin to incapacitate him and climb up to win the match.
Rollins is a hero for his efforts. Corbin’s entire “thing” has removed any of my ability to enjoy him as a wrestler, which is sad, because he got pretty good there at the end of his NXT run. I think Slater’s story would mean more if they’d, you know, given him like ONE match to referee like normal before jumping into him being a corporate puppet, but if we’re fast-forwarding to the end of the Corbin story on Sunday, it’s fine. I imagine this is all just a set up for that, right?
And hey, if you need evidence that WWE has completed their transition into WCW, they’re doing a TLC match on Monday to sell a TLC match on Sunday, and there’s a wrestler forced to be a corrupt referee in the mix. And Elias and Bobby Lashley are having a “guitar on a pole” match at the pay-per-view. We’re only about a year away from David Arquette as WWE Champion, and that’s barely a joke.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
TLC: Taking L’s Corbin
The Real Birdman
Heath Slater: “I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen now. This match has gone about 18 minutes longer than anything I’ve ever been in”
“How is taking out Dolph Ziggler making Raw a better place?”
Michael Cole lobbing softballs at the comment section
Now press L1 + R1 to put ladder in corner.
You know, I used to like Corbin’s first theme song better, but the second one grew on me. The problem is it doesn’t fit Corbin anymore. He should walk in to Disco Duck.
Drew McIntyre giving the new step dad speech
Elias: Hey Mickie
Mickie James: What?
Elias: I just wanted one more look at you
Baron Von Raschke
“Morality Doesn’t Pay the Bills” Graves saw the sign on Vince’s desk during the production meeting tonight.
They should cut away to Ruby Riott at Nattie’s house trying to attack Tyson Kidd.
Oh, this definitely isn’t a panic induced ratings grab at all!
That’s it for this week’s Raw. It was an improvement over the last two weeks, because I’m pretty sure they got the guy in charge of tuning Elias’ guitar to write the script.
Thanks for reading. Maybe the show will turn a corner next week, when it can stop being the Baron Corbin Show Starring Baron Corbin? Drop down into our comments section to let us know how likely you think that is (lol), and share the column on social to keep us in business during Raw’s Great Depression. And hey, be here this weekend for TLC! Guitar on a pole match!