Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins had a great match for the Intercontinental Championship, with pre- and post-match segments that tied together a cohesive narrative and got us excited about what was going to happen next. Anyway, here’s this week’s show.
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And now, the Best (?) and Worst of WWE Raw for September 3, 2018.
Worst: Blue Shield
Before we get into this column, I need to just come right out and say that this is one of the worst, most incomprehensible episodes of Raw I’ve seen in a long time. Which is saying something, because I have to (per my job description) watch every minute of every episode ever and think constructively about them, whether they make sense or not. And yes, my reaction to the show could be colored by how I felt about the ALL IN pay-per-view on Saturday and its overflowing love and appreciation of pro wrestling’s past, present, and future; but I think Raw itself felt like a reaction to that show. WWE saying, “you put all of your emotional, creative, and financial eggs into a basket so watch us be billionaires by pissing on all the friends you wish you could’ve booked and making a show even stupid people and babies can’t understand.” True to form, there are plenty of people on social media who’ve told me they liked the show, even loved it, and that I’m just being a curmudgeonly smark, or whatever. So take the following 3,000 words (or whatever) simply as an opinion, as they are always intended, from a guy who woke up at 11:15 PM and realized he’d fever dreamed a Raw so ass-backwards it couldn’t have actually happened.
Up first we have an in-ring promo from the newly “heel” Braun Strowman, reportedly turned heel so he could lose his Money in the Bank cash-in at Hell in a Cell “without it hurting him.” Because instead of, you know, having Braun just look like a smart person who realizes Roman Reigns has a deadly swat team helping him out so he probably needs a couple of dudes to watch his back over the next month and, again, I don’t know, utilizing members of the old faction he was a part of who aren’t doing anything right now and actively hated slash feuded with The Shield to great critical and fan acclaim a few years ago. Braun Strowman, the guy we’ve seen flip a semi-truck and murder a couple of dudes by bringing down a wall of rigging with a grappling hook is now 1/3 of a mid-card heel faction who cuts long promos to start the show and need the evil General Manager character to orchestrate pull-apart brawls so they can run away. Braun Strowman. Is running away from people with the GM’s help.
So! This new team that Michael Cole keeps calling “The Pack” runs away from The Shield, and Corbin has The Shield arrested, because now if you’re a bad guy you can just call the cops on the good guys for fighting people on the show where people fight each other. The group was taken to a “local precinct,” with updates provided via Mike Rome’s Twitter account. Check out that multimedia storytelling! Within an hour they’ve managed to get these three guys processed and fingerprinted. By hour two they’ve already seen a judge and been “formally arraigned” on multiple charges, and by hour three they’ve posted bail and been released. Keep in mind this is all happening at like 10 at night, on a holiday, because if you think about this in any way for even one fraction of one second it crumbles into the dumbest dirt.
By the beginning of hour four, which we should just start calling the “overrun,” The Shield has made it back to the arena, completely unfazed, driving all the way into the arena and backing up into the stage area in a white fan with POLICE written on the side and some lights taped to the top, with a comical Scott Steiner entrance theme siren sound effect playing over the PA system. This happens after a Braun Strowman extended squash victory over Finn Bálor, who I feel I should remind you painted himself like a demon at SummerSlam and won in 90 seconds “because he needed it” to defeat an evil waiter, but has spent the past few weeks paintless and getting his ass kicked.
So we spend the opening of the show establishing that The Shield would’ve kicked The Pack’s asses if Corbin hadn’t orchestrated a weird half-roster coup and sent them to that prison from Idiocracy you can walk in and out of, and spend the entire show building up the drama of them finishing up with our extremely thorough justice system to get back and kick said ass. Then they finally show back up, and the pull-apart brawl crew from earlier runs back out and just starts attacking them openly, because REASONS. Because the entire roster is the nWo. Every character in the company is apparently an opportunistic dick who will team up with their enemies and fight their friends or whatever if the general manager tells them to. See also: those weird Raw and Smackdown “raids” during Survivor Series. Plus, you’ve got things like Kevin Owens suddenly wanting to help Braun Strowman. Why? How?
THAT leads to an extended beatdown of The Shield for some reason, including a bit where Seth Rollins, the most valuable in-ring performer you have right now who has a history of unfortunately timed injuries, getting thrown arm-first through a van window like he’s Bill Goldberg attacking a limo.
Remember what happened when Goldberg’s arm went through a window? He lost most of his strength, and it messed him up for most of the rest of his career. So while you think about that, look at this picture of Seth Rollins lying on the stage with a bloody, cut-up arm as ASCENSION VIKTOR surveys his handy work.
To recap: WWE turned its most popular guy into a crowd-hating, cowardly heel with a posse of mouthy jerks so the divisive champion they love could theoretically get booed slightly less, then had a bad wrestler playing substitute general manager “arrest” them for fighting too much on the fighting show, sent them to jail, had them go into/through/out of the court system in less time than it takes to have one episode of Raw, then had them come back in a pretend police van they somehow have access to as recently arraigned criminals with crazy sound effects just to get their asses handed to them by a bunch of unrelated co-workers en masse, willfully ignorant of how any of those co-workers might feel or act otherwise, considering things you just spent MONTHS BUILDING like, “am I helping the guy who personally terrorized me all summer and made me quit the company last week?”
Would you be surprised if I told you the rest of the show actually made less sense than this?
Worst: The Legendary Bella Twins
It’s time we accept two truths.
1. The Bella Twins haven’t teamed together in three years because they are the reason the women’s division decided they needed a revolution. The hard work of people like Paige, Emma, and the Four Horsewomen gang down in NXT changed the WWE-going public’s perception of what women’s wrestling in the company could and should be. The Bellas were DEEPLY representative of the old guard; the bikini photoshoots and reality shows and 90 second matches ending in roll-ups.
When the landscape started to change, Nikki Bella, to her credit, got a lot better. She still wasn’t Asuka or whatever, but she became a functional part of the division. Brie never did. They spent the past few years “working on their YouTube channel” and becoming … I don’t want to say “cross-over” stars, but they’re popular to non-wrestling fans who watch too much E!, people who value “brands” over anything brands actually do, and/or WWE lifers who are currently trying to convince themselves that WWE has ALWAYS had great women’s wrestling, and didn’t spend the years between Madusa throwing the Women’s Championship in the garbage on Nitro and AJ Lee’s promo about talent not being sexually transmitted exclusively booking the women’s division as a piss-break sideshow. Hailing them as progressive and revolutionary legends who helped usher WWE into a new era of in-ring equality is like saying the Gymini are the reason tag team wrestling suddenly got so good.
2. Brie Bella is probably the worst on-screen performer in the company in all possible definitions, and the fact that she seems like a nice person with a good business mind in real life does not make her good at any of this. Here’s her first attempt at a dive last night:
And here’s her second, where she at least managed to clear the ropes before diving face-first into the floor:
She can’t dive, but is always diving, can’t throw a single believable kick, but is constantly kicking, and can’t convincingly sound like a human being when she speaks into a microphone, but is always talking. And offering championship training advice to former UFC and current WWE Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey.
Between that, Sasha Banks and Bayley and Ember Moon being the least important people in a Dana Brooke angle advancement, and another Evolution match announcement that pays tribute to the era you literally had to evolve from, things are looking bleak. I know you said you wanted Evolution to be WrestleMania for the women, but you should mean that in the good way, not in the “anyone who actually works here can be in the battle royal so we can put famous people from a decade or two ago in the important matches” way.
Let’s Just Go Through The Rest Of The Show, Because Holy Shit
Hey, you know those weeks of build to a Tag Team Championship match between the B-Team and The Revival heading into SummerSlam, which resulted in a pre-show match with a wonky finish and necessitated another several weeks of singles matches and non-title victories to set up another? That’s thrown completely out of the window in a backstage segment with Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre attacking the Revival with WWE’s deadliest weapon — the clangy poles — and taking their spot. And then winning the Tag Team Championship with no build, because last week they got put into a heel faction and would look better wearing title belts.
It’s probably a positive that the B-Team’s title reign is over, and I do like Ziggler and McIntyre as a team, but seriously, who did The Revival piss off? In NXT they were almost as influential to the rebirth of North American tag team wrestling as the Gymini, and now the only time they get a spotlight on TV is if they need to get browbeaten by the more important characters. Or a bunch of old men who can’t stop pointing at their dicks, either or.
Speaking of tag team wrestling, hey, Bobby Roode and Chad Gable are a tag team now! Suggested team name: Basic Gable. They get a strong win over The Ascension, and about halfway through the match my brain goes, “you know they’re only teaming them up so they can immediately have Roode turn on Gable, setting up a pre-show match, and assuming that turning Roode heel will work because people have been begging for it without actually doing any of the work to make us care that he’s turned heel, right?” And then my heart goes, “[Pac-Man dying noise]”
I thought we were gonna have a Best for a minute when an Elias segment suddenly include Alexa Bliss in a Hello Kitty bow doing “O-H I-O” chants, but it quickly turned into a substandard “Miz actually hates his hometown” promo and bled into a Natalya match. A Natalya match she loses via submission to an ALEXA BLISS ARMBAR, because she’s definitely not going to suddenly turn on Ronda Rousey at any point and reveal this has all been a long con.
When it’s over, Ronda Rousey makes the save, then gets beaten up herself, then makes the save for herself, all in the same segment. Because how else are we going to make her seem vulnerable in the rematch against the woman she beat without breaking a sweat at SummerSlam?
Then, if all of this wasn’t enough to frustrate you to the point of dementia, we get a segment about Bobby Lashley passive-aggressively meditating, unable to say anything but “MY MANNN!” like the mailman from the simulation in Rick and Morty, before Kevin Owens — the man who quit last week — shows up and attacks him. The announce team and even WWE’s social media were like, “he’s back???” when he literally missed zero shows. He just … didn’t actually quit, I guess? Cool. Remember when Dolph Ziggler won a championship, quit because he felt like it was beneath him, randomly showed up in a Royal Rumble a few weeks later to compete for a championship, then stuck around and kept competing for secondary championships with nobody mentioning it? Or why his entrance theme still has a weird record scratch at the beginning? Yeah, the time between “look at what we did” and “forget what we did, look at the new thing,” has shrunk to six days.
You know what I’m not looking forward to? Another six weeks of Kevin Owens feuding with a muscular strong guy who throws him around and makes him look like shit every week. And then, I guess, Owens deciding to help that strong guy out by beating up whoever he’s feuding with next. Which also happened on this Raw.
Drake Maverick is now managing and dressing as the Authors of Pain for some reason. So let me get this straight: the Authors of Pain came to Raw with a legendary manager of championship tag teams, told the manager they didn’t need him anymore, spend a few months circling the drain, then decided to right that wrong by making a cruiserweight wrestler who is currently the general manager of a cruiserweight brand their manager, because his job title has “manager” in it? And now suddenly he’s a pretend Paul Ellering, instead of them just going and getting actual Paul Ellering again? And they’re starting over by beating up “local talent” to prove they can beat teams that aren’t local talent? And one of the jobbers is named after Stephen Root’s character from NewsRadio?
Yes, this all checks out.
Finally, we have a segment you probably really liked if you kinda used to watch wrestling, haven’t watched it in a while, and think it’s crazy that they’re still doing this in 2018.
Shawn Michaels (or Skinner, I can’t really tell) shows up to give his opinion on who he thinks will win the Triple H vs. Undertaker match at the Bonzer Royal Rumble: Triple H. His rationale is that Triple H is still basically Triple H with a little grey in his beard, while the Undertaker’s last few matches made him look like a dying old Frasier Crane in a cowboy Halloween costume. Undertaker shows up and gets mad at Michaels for “making it personal,” which I guess he has done by sharing an opinion about what he thinks will happen at a house show. John Cena’s in the back like, “the fuck?”
This leads to a conversation about how Shawn Michaels retired and stayed retired out of respect for The Undertaker’s legacy, and Undertaker saying he just stayed retired out of fear. Which would probably be a really good segment if (1) The Undertaker was wrestling Shawn Michaels at Super Show-Down, or (2) either of these guys were still regularly a part of the show. And hey, next week we have the same segment but with Triple H and Mick Foley. What’s WWE going to do 30 years from now when the only two legends still alive to bring out and maybe draw in the casual fans who don’t actually give much of a shit about your product anymore are the people you’re convincing us aren’t worth our time in their primes?
Anyway, That’s Raw
WE HOPE YOU ENJOYED IT. SORRY. SORRY.
For further analysis, here’s my video review.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Braun: And now, the Shield completely neutralized, I am cashing in my Money in the … DAMMIT!
The Assassination of The Shield by the Cowards the RAW Roster
Roman: Dean…gotta say…loving the new attitude.
Dean: Thanks, big guy! Hey by the way…I think we should maybe make some kind of convoluted entrance to the arena in a vehicle that doesn’t make sense that we would have access to.
Seth: Dean…we talked about this. That’s in the past.
Dean: A LEOPARD CAN’T CHANGE IT’S SPOTS! WILDCARD!!!!
The SHIELD getting arrested, seeing a judge, and posting bail in 2 hours at 8 at night on Labor Day is the least believable thing in wrestling history.
I wanna see Finn tag with Jack Gallagher for one nite. Team name: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Kevin Owens returning from retirement after only a week? He truly has zero respect for The Undertaker.
The Real Birdman
Kevin Owens still quits. He just happened to be in the crowd and couldn’t bare another minute of that
Oh, sure. Blame the guys in riot gear for inciting a riot.
Aging white men engage in a dick measuring contest in Ohio. Also known as the Republican Presidential Primary.
Big Baby Yeezus
“I am a man of honor and integrity” (Somewhere Bret Hart has a heart attack)
That’s it for this week. If you loved the show, that’s awesome. This is just my opinion, and these columns are just always how I feel about the shows, and that show made me feel like a stupid person who’d just had his head run over by a tractor.
Drop down into the comments and let us know what you thought, good or bad, and share the column so maybe more people will go, “yeah, this isn’t good,” and things will change! Yes, that is the funniest joke I typed in this entire column. See you next week in our ongoing abusive relationship with professional wrestling.