Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Bobby Roode and Chad Gable made fun of Drake Maverick for going pee-pee in his big boy pants. Also on the show, Seth Rollins said he didn’t think Dean Ambrose was capable of love while Ambrose’s wife sat in on commentary.
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And now, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for November 26, 2018.
Worst: THE GAUNTLET
Instead of trying to format this Raw report in an interesting way — realizing that the five minutes it would take me to come up with an entertaining way of saying “this was all bullshit” would be four more minutes than creative spent actually writing and booking Raw — I’m just going to tell you what happened, all in a row, and ask you to explain to me how anyone on Earth would think this was a good wrestling show. Raw has been a true burden lately, but every single episode gets at least one person chiming in with, “I dunno, I thought this Raw was pretty good!” If you thought this Raw was “pretty good,” you either have legitimate brain damage or deserve sainthood. Possibly both.
Opening this week’s show is a promo from “General Manager-Elect” Baron Corbin, whose job description changes every week. He was a Constable to the General Manager, then the General Manager got put on a forced vacation and Corbin became the “acting General Manager.” Sometimes the “interim General Manager.” Then Angle came back during his vacation posing as a wrestler, got put into an impromptu match against Drew McIntyre, and got his ankle broken. So now he’s on Injured Reserve Vacation or something, Corbin is the “General Manager-Elect,” and is about to lose that job, too, because he made the most emotionally manipulative heel in the company his second-in-command. His announced reason: he’s busy, and they’re both attractive (?).
Corbin and his new friends Drew McIntyre (who has so little agency with his character he might as well by an inanimate object, like a big sword) and Bobby Lashley (the almighty man who can do ALL mighty things!) make fun of how they injured Braun Strowman on last week’s Raw. Braun Strowman, a man who routinely flips semi-trucks to threaten people, hunts his enemies via an army of sentient garbage trucks and once tried to murder two dudes on Raw with a grappling hook, declares that hitting him once in the arm with some stairs is a bridge too far, and that when he’s back, they’re gonna Get Those Hands. Join us at the Royal Rumble for Corbin, Lashley, and McIntyre vs. Braun Strowman and two 10-year olds he knows.
The leads into the opening match, Elias vs. Lashley. Elias has the match won, but Lio Rush pulls the referee out of the ring before the three count. Quick +1 to Rush for bringing back he Number One Paul Jones “threaten to remove your jacket but only get it off down to the elbows” heel manager mannerism. Corbin “restarts” the match as a no disqualification match, which of course means the entire heel posse can get in the ring and beat Elias down for several minutes with no response from Raw’s other, terrible babyfaces.
I appreciate a group of heels kicking ass on these shows, especially after the past several years of people who decided to cheat during their matches instantly turning into cowardly losers no matter HOW strong they were before holding the butt of some spandex trunks, but this is just … lazy, I guess? It’s a mid-card hoss heel who never developed a third dimension to his character doing extremely passe Evil GM tropes because either he or the writing team or some combination of the two can’t come up with something interesting to watch. So you get a guy who isn’t very good at any description of his job in real life or in kayfabe anchoring these weird nWo/Corporation hybrid beatdowns and match swerves to nearly no reaction beyond a vague, broad, “I wish the thing we were watching was better.”
Just terrible, and as a bonus, it’s not the only time they do it on this episode!
The show’s main event, believe it or not, is Baron Corbin vs. Finn Bálor. You know how it goes. Corbin’s about to lose, so he rolls out of the ring and announces that the match is now a 2-on-1 handicap match, and that his partner is Drew McIntyre. Wash, rinse, repeat of the opening. The heels win, because they have a dastardly 1-man advantage, and Finn gets beaten down with no help or response from WWE’s other, terrible babyfaces.
The opened and closed the show with the same Vince McMahon owner goof from 1998. “The guy in charge is about to lose, so he abuses his power and changes the rules on the fly to help himself.” If you’ve seen Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Dude Love, you’ve seen the one (1) example of this working. BECAUSE IT HADN’T ALREADY BEEN DONE A THOUSAND TIMES. Raw exists in a weird creative void where they’re the only game in town and their only competition is themselves, so they keep dumbing down and simplifying their product over and over and over to sell it to the broadest, least-actually-interested amount of people at once. And when they get a few more people, they dumb it down again to get more. It’s not about “smarks” and “marks” anymore. It’s about WWE becoming a three-pronged corporate mandate where the two flagship brands (Raw and Smackdown) are used like entertainment snow shovels, and the one brand under the corporate umbrella creating an actual, watchable product (NXT) is also kinda sorta murdering the entire ecosystem (the remaining independents) that provides new life and ideas to WWE.
WWE is Jörmungandr, and whoops, it’s eating its own tail. More like an ouro-bore-us, am I right folks
So you know how WWE started and ended Raw with examples of how adding an unfair one or two-man advantage to your side in what’s supposed to be a fair fight is a bad thing? Here’s The Revival vs. Lucha House Party under “lucha house rules” for the second week in a row, where the faces get a 3-on-2 advantage because they made up a rule for their team and everyone has to go along with it. There’s nothing on this episode more infuriating than Renee Young trying to explain that adding a third man to a tag team match to make it a handicap match is innovation.
“I think it’s great, I think that we’re advancing the sport tonight and that’s what we just witnessed.”
The “advancement of the sport” is that one side has an unfair advantage because you like them. Imagine that being “advancement of the sport” in any other sport. Imagine if you turned on the Rams/Lions game on Sunday and the Rams got to have 22 men on the field at all times because the game was being played under “Rams rules.” Who knows, maybe we’re all idiots, and Renee understands wrestling more than the rest of us. The thing that’s been holding wrestling back is that tag team matches were 2-on-2 and trios matches were 3-on-3. Fuck [gestures broadly] all of you.
After that we’ve got AOP vs. Chad Gable and Bobby Roode, which ends when — get this — Drake Maverick steals Bobby Roode’s robe, wears it backstage, stomps it into a toilet and then pisses all over it. Yes, the match immediately after a 3-on-2 handicap match for the “advancement of the sport” ends when the bad man goes tinkle.
You know, I’ve lived through a lot of embarrassing wrestling stuff. I’ve seen my favorite guys from Michinoku Pro get brought in as a racist gang who wants to “choppy choppy your pee-pee” only to have their plan thwarted by John Wayne Bobbitt, I’ve seen Triple H try to “get into Kane’s head” by wearing nothing but a Kane mask into a funeral parlor and climbing into an open casket to fuck a dead cheerleader mannequin until jelly came out of its skull, and I’ve seen a 7-foot tall man sell a monster truck sumo battle by falling off an arena to his death just to make a surprise buggering from a Himalayan ice mummy slightly more surprising. I can’t say that “the top two teams in Raw’s flagship show’s tag team division’s match ended because a man was upset someone was pissing on his personalized bath robe” even scratches the surface of the stupidest shit I’ve seen, but Bob Almighty do I not want to watch it.
In other words, this entire episode is:
Please Continue Watching Mixed Match Challenge®
Serious question: the original team in the Mixed Match Challenge was Braun Strowman and Alexa Bliss. When Bliss got injured, Ember Moon took her spot. Now that Strowman’s injured, too, Curt Hawkins (and/or No Way Jose) are taking his spot. If both members of the original team have been removed from the round robin tournament because of injury, shouldn’t that team just get removed? In theory could a team make it to the finals, both get injured the day before, have two random people with no connection to them replace them, win the match, and get the Mixed Match Challenge prizes? I guess I shouldn’t be asking for fairness and consistency out of the “handicap matches are actually good” people.
Every week it seems like we get one of these two-fers to shill the Mixed Match Challenge, and this week’s are about as bad as humanly possible. Up first is Ember Moon vs. Alicia Fox, which is fine because it’s like 90 seconds long. You think they’re gonna do Curt Hawkins vs. Jinder Mahal to do the “Mixed Match Challenge partners competing in singles matches” gimmick, but NO WAY JOSE of all people conga lines out of complete oblivion to face Mahal. And lose to Mahal. Via five minutes of chinlocks and restholds, because 16-year veteran Jinder Mahal can’t keep shit exciting for even five minutes.
I know you want some positivity out of this column and that it’s not fun to read me complaining about everything at length, but this show has become nominally, abnormally bad. It’s the same stuff over and over with no rhyme or reason, no character consistency, no story structure, no nothing. Example:
New Knockouts General Manager Brooke Hogan decides Bayley and Sasha Banks should have a “public forum” where fans can ask them questions. Okay. The very first question asked by an excited plant is, “if you could change anything about the women’s division, what would it be?” Of course the faces are like, “WE WOULD GET RID OF ALEXA BLISS,” which causes a bunch of random heels (including Dana Brooke, who was a face the night before) to attack them. And that’s the segment.
So to recap, the new heel GM I guess arranges this fake public forum (?) in which her enemies are asked one (1) question about her, answer negatively because they don’t like her, and get attacked. AND THEN THE ATTACK DOESN’T EVEN WORK EVEN THOUGH IT’S LIKE 5-ON-1, because heels are either unstoppable juggernauts of doom or wacky helpless cowards with nothing in-between. Couldn’t you have just like, beaten them up backstage? Bliss becomes the boss of the women’s division like 30 minutes into the episode and before this one episode is over she’s already orchestrated an evil general manager attack. On the people she attacked two weeks ago because she didn’t want them on her Survivor Series team, only to add them to the Survivor Series team anyway on the Survivor Series pre-show. Then they helped her team win, and she beat them up again.
At some point we’re seriously going to find out Shane McMahon’s kids have been running Raw for the past year because they thought it’d be cool to have them write this great show in secret and reveal themselves as the next generation of business savvy McMahons. A 14-year old, 12-year old, and an 8-year old wearing breakaway pants and novelty baseball jerseys, named like members of Mumford and Sons, are the only explanation.
And Now, Somehow, The Worst Promo Of The Year
WWE Fan Nation thankfully guts the hell out of this Nia Jax promo, which might honestly and without hyperbole be the worst promo of the year. You know WWE’s obsession with the idea that “any reaction is a good reaction?” You could hear a pin drop between Nia Jax’s lines. She’d say something smarmy, wait for a reaction, not get one, and then go “mmmhm yeah” to cover the silence. Absolutely brutal. The heat she got for accidentally breaking Becky Lynch’s face is already gone, seemingly, and since she didn’t win a Game Changer Teen Choice Award she thinks she’s Hollywood Hogan.
Nia’s line delivery here makes Natalya sound like Jake the Snake. Nia’s never been good on the mic — she talks through her nose and overacts, so she sounds like a high school student reading a monologue from Our Town every time she speaks. All of her promos should start with, “oh, hello! I didn’t see you there. I was just a-talkin’ about Ronda Rousey. Folks round these parts don’t take kindly to Ronda Rousey, y’see. ‘Tall began, oh let’s see, some odd five months ago!”
Ronda shows up looking like a bruise with pink-eye to confront her, and because Becky Lynch is the only reason any of this had heat and she’s not around, they overbook it. Rousey shows up, Jax stalls because she’s a heel and therefore a total coward, Tamina thinks about attacking, Natalya shows up to even the odds, the Riott Squad jumps Natalya, and Rousey has to make the save for her sad-sack friend instead of participating in her own championship program. All of this was unforgivably bad. Did Raw reboot the New Generation when we weren’t paying attention?
Best: The Only Good Thing On The Show Was Super Predictable
Finally we have Seth Rollins’ “open challenge” for an Intercontinental Championship match answered by Dolph Ziggler, because “open challenge” is a better thing to advertise than “Ziggler vs. Rollins, in a singles match for the seventh time since June!” If you count all the tag matches and handicap matches, they’ve wrestled fifteen times since June. That’s just on TV. If you count live events it’s so, so many more.
I have to give it a Best, though, because it’s far and away the best thing on the show. It’s not great, and probably not even in their top five matches (again, since June), but it’s a functional wrestling match that’s at least got SOMETHING going for it. Plus, they end it with a pinfall off Rollin’s superplex/Falcon arrow combination. If I complained about that move not getting a pin for a year and then failed to praise it when it finally did, what kind of browbeaten blogger would I be? It’s like when Sami Zayn finally got a pin off the Blue Thunder Bomb. It helps us buy those moves as believable nearfalls if we’ve EVER seen them win a match. All you have to do is have matches end off something other than a finisher or a roll-up sometimes and you’ve done a great service to every match you book.
Oh, and before I forget …
Worst: Dean Ambrose Thinks You Stink And Are Stinky!
If you’re wondering what Dean Ambrose is up to, he’s off getting shots from a doctor because his new thing is that he thinks you fans smell bad and have bad breath and you are fat and stinky with bad breath because he’s a heel. I don’t know why Dean Ambrose, a man broken by jealousy and inadequacy and troubled by the illness of his “brother,” needed a THIS LOCAL TOWN SUCKS BECAUSE YOU ALL STINK aspect to his character, but I’m not in charge of a globally traded monopoly.
On Twitter, Lou Hare offered a possible explanation that I like:
“This is way too much to ask from this writing staff, but I’m choosing to believe that Dean’s newfound obsession with cleanliness and disease is a manifestation of his grief over Roman’s illness and fear that he will get sick too.”
If you’re reading this, WWE, and aren’t already explaining Ambrose’s weird character change this way, please steal and use it. It’s such a more compelling and interesting point of view than, “I was a champion before but now I’m not a champion so I’m gonna do wrestling moves to my friends and HATE THESE FANS.” Ambrose thought he had time so he got in line for the new iPhone at the Apple store.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
“An open challenge is a chance for Dolph to do what he does best”
Whoah, spoiler alert on Dolph losing there, Renee
Sasha: “i’d Ship you back to Smackdown!”
Bayley: “I’d ship you back to hell!”
Uproxx Board Posters: “We’re shipping ALL OF THIS!”
Graves: “Alicia Fox has taken out more people than Romaine Lettuce!”
(Mauro angrily throw out 2 hours of work on his brainstorming notes for tomorrow)
One of the questions should come from an obviously planted Kenan Thompson.
I want the next 15 minutes of my life back and I haven’t even spent them yet.
TLC is getting closer you say? So it’s starting to Creep?
For as much as this match is a rerun from June, at least Johnathan Coachman is currently not allowed near a headset.
Update: Dean now has autism.
Baron Von Raschke
Nia: I’m just stalling for time….
VINCE: DAMMIT! She read my note like it was part of the script!!
The most exciting part about this Raw is the GIF we’re going to get of the two dudes rocking out to Rollin’s theme.
There you go. The most exciting part of Raw.
Sorry again that I can’t get more humor or content out of these reports. I’m really trying, but Raw isn’t helping me out very much. You seriously have to have something wrong with your frontal lobe to think these are good shows. Like, if I didn’t have functioning eyes and ears that needed to decode light and sound as information and relay them to my also functioning human brain, I could tell you more about how this was “actually pretty good.”
Regardless, thanks for reading. I’m here as long as you are, damn you. Make sure to drop down into the comments to let us know what you thought of the show (LOL), and share the column on social to keep us in business until the Royal Rumble happens and WWE realizes they’ve got to spend a few months actually putting together new episodes.