Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Constable ‘Baron’ Corbin gave himself a Universal Championship match, Lio Rush brought miniature parkour to Raw, and The Undertaker cut a promo about digging souls and filling holes, or something. I couldn’t track the metaphor.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for September 24, 2018.
Worst: Would You Believe This Match To Hype The Mixed Match Challenge Is Between A Former Universal Champion And A Former WWE Champion?
Up first this week — minus the 20 minutes of arguing that contractually must open every Raw now, which we’ll get to later — is Finn Bálor with Bayley vs. Jinder Mahal with Sunil Singh and Alicia Fox, to hype the Mixed Match Challenge. I think the broader issue I’ve been writing about over the past few weeks and the reason I’m not connecting with many of these shows is because they’re promoting way too much stuff at once. You’ve got builds for WWE Super Show-Down in Australia, WWE Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia, WWE Evolution, and the Mixed Match Challenge all happening on top of each other, with everything kinda feeling the same and none of it feeling particularly important. Maybe that’s just me? It’s probably just me. But when you open the show with a former Universal Champion needing multiple distractions from his babyface second to get a surprise roll-up on Jinder Mahal, that’s … something. It’s Multi-Tasking, The Match.
Fun note: In looking up some facts for this match I realized that Jinder Mahal held the WWE Championship longer than The Miz, Edge, Mankind, Big Show, Daniel Bryan, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. Fun times!
Less Fun Note: A huge supplemental Worst to Renee Young for over-explaining the Alicia Fox “shanti/Ashanti” joke, and to Corey Graves for referring to Ashanti as “The Ja Rule Girl.” If anything, Ja Rule is the Ashanti Guy.
Worst: What Happens When You Ask Brie Bella To Multi-Task
Again, and I can only type this so many times, if WWE needs to have the Bella Twins on television, they need to figure out how to do it without (1) insisting that they’re the “OGs” of women’s wrestling who everyone should look up to and admire, even if they’re popular for a variety of non-wrestling reasons, and (2) letting Brie Bella endanger herself and others by wrestling every show and trying to do Daniel Bryan’s moves without any of Daniel Bryan’s talent, skill, or experience. Because one really uninforms the other. For example, again, here she is trying to do the Yes Kicks, getting distracted by wanting to taunt at the Riott Squad between each kick, and shoot kicking Liv Morgan in the face. Twice.
The match was bad before the injury, and then it turned into a 3-on-2 handicap match on the fly and nobody really knew what to do. Take Brie Bella out of matches and get her off the television. Nikki getting exponentially better than her years ago is the reason she got phased out in the first place, and adding several years of inactivity and a moveset that requires you to be good at wrestling is a constant, obvious recipe for disaster. Let her stand at ringside and yell “c’mon Nikki” again. I don’t like that either, but at least she’s not going to accidentally put anybody’s nose through their brain. Or her own.
Worst: Konnor’s Kure
This is less of a Worst for the match itself, and more of a Worst for the fact that they’ve done four straight weeks of Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. The Ascension, and the two straight tag victories and third-week singles victory for the faces was just to … set up a week-four singles loss for them? And now we’ve gotta do the “Bobby Roode is disappointed in his partner” thing, even though they’re still 3-1? Roode and Gable are gonna end up broken up and feuding without having ever faced a second team.
This is a really great, simple example of why watching WWE TV is so frustrating these days. Whether it’s good or bad or “for” or “anti” its audience is irrelevant; they’re still doing four matches to set up the same match a fifth time, and expecting us to think that’s “storyline progression.” You’re just doing the same thing every week. It’s hard to even complain about, you just have to gesture wildly in its direction.
The Actual Answers To Kevin Hart’s Pop Quiz
1. What is the proper way to enter a WWE ring?
2. Who is the greatest WWE announcer of all time?
3. Who’s the greatest dancer in the WWE?
Best: Somebody Remembered The Revival Is Good At Wrestling
If you were getting worried that this would be another column with nothing but nitpicking and complaining … well, it is, but there’s also some good stuff!
The best surprise of the week is that the Raw Tag Team Championship match between Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre (who really need a team name) and The Revival wasn’t the squash you feared it might be; in fact, somebody in creative seemingly remembered that The Revival is really very good at tag team wrestling, and set them up to succeed by — get this — letting them wrestle a really very good tag team match. WHAT AN INSANE CONCEPT, I WAS THINKING WE SHOULD JUST HAVE THEM BUMBLE AROUND ALL THE TIME.
The “wins and losses don’t matter” talking point is a contentious one, but I think the truth is closer to, “wins and losses don’t matter as long as you’re playing to and exhibiting the strengths and talent of both the winners and losers.” For example, I don’t care if Sheamus beats Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania, but if he beats him in 18 seconds, robs us of a championship match we hypothetically paid thousands of dollars to fly to Florida to see, and makes Bryan look like a total joke, that’s bad. I don’t care if The Revival doesn’t win the Raw Tag Team Championship — I mean, I do, but more broadly I don’t — if they look good losing. That’s what happens here. They lose, which sucks because I’m a huge fan of them and want them to be a tiny little hybrid between the Andersons and the Road Warriors, but they look great, and surprise! The crowd responded. You’ll get those bored crowds who hate the wrestling parts of wrestling sometimes, but more often than not if the match tells a good story and actually works to get the crowd involved, they get involved. It’s why getting the proper reaction is so much more crucial than “getting a reaction.”
I think this run with Drew McIntyre on Raw has been kind of a godsend for everyone that touches it. It indirectly healed Dean Ambrose from his ridiculous persona and gave him some actual character-based stories to work with (again, more on that in a moment), it DIRECTLY refocused Dolph Ziggler and got him away from the record-scratch abyss of the unmotivated undercard, it’s giving almost any show he’s on a “good match” (see Hell in a Cell), and now it’s letting The Revival look like a real team again instead of jobber placeholder heel team #3. Love it.
Let’s please (please please) keep this going with The Revival. They’re both healthy at the same time again, it’s been enough time since Raw 25 that most of us who aren’t Brandon have forgotten them getting their nuts snipped by the Too Sweet Brigade, and Raw could seriously use someone to break up the monotony of its “we’re all chumps here, let’s hope some singles stars decide to team up and control us” tag team division. Unless you want four more weeks of Roode and Gable vs. The Ascension.
Best: Rush, Rush, Hurry Hurry Lover Come To Me
To continue the positivity where its due, Lio Rush is now 2-for-2 in segments designed to make Bobby Lashley look better than he has. Last week the Raw audience was introduced to him and his weird Kerri Strug-sized gymnastics, and this week they combine that with another Bullhorn from Black Dynamite-style promo, a semi-comedy segment where he exhibits that he’s not a complete idiot and won’t waltz into a 2-on-1 attack — Raw needs more of those — and a hometown audience that treats Lashley like he’s something special, instead of as their awkward friend who they kinda like, but would rather not have to hang out with. He’s helping for all the right reasons, as opposed to Drake Maverick, who is literally managing the Authors of Pain for no reason.
I don’t love seeing two characters that should be or at least be approaching Top Heel In The Company status having to continuously stooge for Lashley (Kevin Owens in particular should have better things to do), but at least Lio Rush’s presence makes the segments more fun, and takes the pressure of carrying comedy and action away from Lashley, who is a physical marvel but also a straight-up paper plate of a man.
Worst: Baron Corbin’s Job Is On The Line!!
Serious kayfabe question: why would anyone want to be the Raw general manager, or wrestle on Raw at all? Every time anything happens, Stephanie McMahon shows up and threatens your job. She wants to fire you if you listen to her too much, she wants to fire you if you don’t, she threatens to fire you if you lose Survivor Series matches and then doesn’t, and then threatens you if you lose a Survivor Series match again next year. I know wrestling authority figures usually have some iffy business practices going on, but I think the Trump White House has less of a turnover rate than Stephanie McMahon’s employees.
Just once I want Stephanie to show up in a limo and get out looking all stern, threatening somebody’s job if they don’t book a specific match or something, and just have their response be “oh fuck off.”
Worst: Do The Last Time Ever Match Already, Jeez
The “legendary rivalry” between The Undertaker and Triple H is like the legendary rivalry between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics. Yeah, there’s some rivalry there, but we’d all rather see them play the Warriors or the Lakers. Hurry up and do the “last time ever” match so you can do it again a month later.
Also, Nia Jax Vs. Alicia Fox Happened
Does it seem to anyone else like Renee’s only on commentary now to tell us all the things the women’s division are doing that aren’t wrestling? The character as portrayed on the show, just to be clear. She’s super into everyone getting awards and nominations, thinks the Bella Twins are legends because they’re so busy with their outside projects, and has so much to say about everything they do in their personal lives until wrestling moves happen, and then she just goes, “oh!!” That’s not on Renee really, I just don’t like WWE announce teams having to have a Saxton even when no Saxton is present.
Nia Jax vs. Alicia Fox was short, and still managed to not be very good, so I dunno. There’s a moment at the beginning of that video that really exhibits Jax’s bad timing and lack of instincts, as she grabs Fox to block a move and is supposed to throw her because she’s dominant and strong or whatever, but wants to throw her into a corner neither of them are facing, so she grabs her twice, moves her over, then throws her back in the direction she was already in. Instead of, like, just grabbing her and throwing her. I don’t know if that’s positioning or just WWE insisting you go to those TV-friendly back corners on everything (like how you have to be facing the hard cam for every pinfall attempt whether it makes sense or not), so I guess my bigger problem is, “why don’t I understand TV production, and how can we make wrestling seem like it’s actually happening if we’ve gotta hit specific marks every time.”
Worst: Then, Then, And Then
Best: Doubting Dean
Finally we have the main event, which turns into the weirdest paintball game you’ve ever seen when Baron Corbin decides to team up with the Authors of Pain against The Shield. So many vests. They should do a flak jacket on a pole match next week.
The entire show is built around a very interesting concept: that Dolph Ziggler was on Smackdown when Dean Ambrose was a singles star and saw him be the top guy and win a bunch of championships, and now he’s the only guy in The Shield without one, so he can create some animosity and take The Shield off their game by luring Ambrose to the dark side. I like this because it’s based on some kind of actual internal logic instead of dumb heel pandering, and that they’ve got a point; Seth Rollins is a proven turncoat, no matter how loyal he seems now, and Roman Reigns definitely doesn’t give a shit about either of them if it doesn’t benefit him. See also The Usos, who he’s RELATED to. He doesn’t even care about his ACTUAL family, of course he’s not gonna pretend about his fake paramilitary bros.
The actual match isn’t the best Shield six-man we’ve seen, but it’s a Shield six-man, which we need to see more often. They’re always more fun wrestling as tactical heels, or against really exciting talent on the other side, so putting them against two hosses and Express for Men Baron Corbin was a little underwhelming. But it was still good, and if you mute Corey Graves’ insistence that a story is happening when no story is happening, it’s even better. Although I do appreciate the irony of the Raw announce team giving someone shit for telling someone something instead of showing it. Dean ultimately proves that he’s on the side of the Fist Pals and that a couple of reasonable heel promos can’t make him turn, but we’re left with that ongoing suspicion that this Shield reunion isn’t going to last through WrestleMania, one way or the other.
I still think money’s in realizing Seth’s a traitor, giving Dean a thousand reasons to turn, and then having Roman be the actual reason they break up. That would be a Deadly Game-level of a heel turn, and we’d all love to hate it.
Best: Top 10-ish Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
More importantly, is he called Down Undertaker in Australia?
Me at a Popeye’s drivethru tomorrow: “Yes, could I please have extra FUCKFACE spicy sauce?”
SETH: Dean, Roman, remember we’re in black combat vests. Our opponents are in green. Only hit the green guys.
ROMAN: Got it! Thanks black combat vest guy #1
DEAN: Bro I don’t see colour.
SETH: I know you’re not racist Dean.
DEAN: NO! I actually can’t see colours. I’m colour blind.
SETH: (sighs) Screw it!
Proceeds to chair shot Roman and Dean again.
Baron Von Raschke
Nexus attacks at the top of the hour and spends ten minutes of the over-run wrecking everyone and everything.
Tune in for SmackDown tomorrow when Becky Lynch attacks the young cancer survivor who is presented with a replica of her title…and still gets cheered!
Brie Bella kicked Liv Morgan so hard, Clay Matthews just got a roughing penalty for it.
That kid held the Universal Title longer than Finn Balor.
The Voice of Raisin (because great minds something something)
Let’s start a charity to try and get this poor guy a new gimmick. We can call it Konnor’s Kure.
*Randy Orton runs out, sees the Hyundai*
Oh come on! Not again!
If Evan Bourne ever joined Balor and Bayley, they’d be Air BnB
Natalya and Ruby really need to be a tag team so we can call them Pussy Riott.
That’s it for this week’s column. Not a great show, but at least it made some sense, and there were a couple of good matches to watch. Next week: The Revival vs. Ambrose and Rollins for 30 minutes, maybe? Can we do that? Can I send you money and we do that?
Make sure to drop a comment below to let us know what you thought of the show, good or bad, and share the column if you’re a pal. Join us all October for pay-per-views. Live Network Specials every day, woo!