Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Wouldn’t it be weird if the last normal Raw we ever get was the one where Drew McIntyre used the ring steps to murder Erick Rowan’s pet?
One more thing: Hit those share buttons! Spread the word about the column on Facebook, Twitter and whatever else you use. Be sure to leave us a comment in our comment section below as well. I know we always ask this, and that this part is copy and pasted in every week, but we appreciate it every week. It’s almost time for seven hours of this plus implied fireworks!
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for March 16, 2020.
The Dream Of The Attitude Era Is Alive In Orlando
I’m sure I’m far from the first person to notice it, but the Monday Night Raw ushering us into the Ruthless Infection Era centered around three Attitude Era stars: Edge, The Undertaker, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, in that order. Even the one live match from three-hour episode included Rey Mysterio. I don’t have any biting observations about that or anything, I just think it’s interesting that when WWE is put in literal danger, their first response is to lean on the same people who bailed them out 20 years ago.
Quarantine Raw opens with a promo from Edge, who according to Beth Phoenix had travel issues and had to drive 17 hours to be there live. For no fans, for a bit he could’ve done on Skype, sitting in his office. Under normal circumstances I’d say it was a remarkable and selfless thing to sacrifice that kind of time and emotional currency to cross the country and get to the show on time, but it takes on a different context during a global pandemic, doesn’t it? Kinda feels like WWE should’ve just let him stay at home and done this shit remotely, right? Because health, and personal endangerment? Not that it’s The Last Of Us out there or anything yet, but brother really didn’t need to spend 2/3 of an entire day in a pick-up truck to tell us he hates Randy Orton.
In context, the promo’s really good. Edge points out that Beth’s original health update for him was that he was going to have to retire again, but Orton attacked her before she could get to it, so now the second retirement’s off and Orton’s ass is gonna get got. He then challenges Orton to a Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania, which is going to look like a House of Horrors match happening alone in an empty Performance Center gym.
The Undertaker later shows up topless in high-waisted pants and what looks like a t-shirt beanie, as you do, to sign a contract for Performance CenterMania against AJ Styles. Keep in mind their entire feud so far has been (1) Undertaker beating up the Good Brothers before walking to the ring and pinning Styles off one chokeslam, without removing his hat or jacket, and (2) Undertaker beating up the Good Brothers and giving Styles one additional chokeslam to help someone else pin him. So the logical next step, I guess, is a contract signing made even more awkward by Social Distancing that ends with him easily beating up the Good Brothers for himself for the third time. What, is it gonna be a First Person To Hit A Chokeslam handicap match?
Edge had to work a lot harder to get there and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s segment was tremendously more bizarre — more on that in a sec — but there are few sights we’ve ever seen in WWE as weird as The Undertaker showing up to the WWE Performance Center and teleporting around during contract signings in front of no one.
And then there’s this.
I’m not sure how to explain it other than it feeling like a weird Eric Andre Show bit, or one of those “infomercials” they play on three AM on Adult Swim to freak out stoners. Stone Cold Steve Austin showing up to an empty building to cut a promo about a holiday he made up is weird enough, but the man shows up and does his full ring entrance, complete with going up on the various corners to pose for everybody. Which is currently NOBODY. Edge did his entrance taunt too and it was funny, but I figured that one was just habit or routine. Austin really didn’t have to go up on the ropes and give a bunch of empty chairs a photo op.
But to make it worse, Austin actually asks the crowd of zero to “gimme a hell yeah,” and the camera actually CUTS TO THE EMPTY CHAIRS. It’s all the “WWE is beholden to its one kind of storytelling and complete misunderstanding of what’s essential to their product” stuff from Smackdown times 10. To make things more awkward, Byron Saxton starts joining in and kinda sorta heckling Austin with some giant rating numbers he just happened to bring to commentary? And to make it KING SHIT AWKWARD, a winded Austin who “blew himself up on his entrance” starts doing a Blue Collar Comedy Tour routine about what 3:16 means. If you laughed at Austin’s 3:16 day jokes, you might be a redneck.
After we’ve fully struggled through that as a nation, Austin invites Saxton, aka Tater Salad, to the ring to drink a beer. Saxton falls for it, apparently having never seen a Stone Cold Steve Austin segment before and thinking Austin’s the kind of guy who’d be nice to hecklers, and Austin gits-r-done with a Stone Cold Stunner. He does the same thing to the Street Profits after the show. Assuming Saxton and the Profits got these spots because Ricochet and Cedric Alexander couldn’t make it.
Becky Lynch wanders out to join him for an anti-Saxton beer bash — I believe that’s called a “Vandal tavern” — because she also had to be there live to cut a promo. They pour beer on their faces and beat up Byron and don’t socially distance while Tom Phillips and Jerry Lawler chuckle and chuckle and chuckle about it. You don’t need me to tell you how this entire endeavor has dived head-first into the uncanny valley.
I’m half happy WWE’s still moving forward in some form when nobody else is able, and half upset that they don’t just let these people go home, be safe, and have a few weeks off.
As mentioned, the only match of the night is Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade. Asuka, of all people, sits in on commentary to root for Andrade. It’s strange, but not any stranger than the rest of this. Mysterio wins what I assume is the best practice match you can possibly have during a virus outbreak in an empty building without even the other wrestlers around the ring to cheer you on. Except it’s on live television.
Also On This Episode
Kevin Owens accepts Seth Rollins’ WrestleMania challenge, and does a great job making lemonade out of life’s lemons by saying he’s glad he’ll get to have a Mania match in the same building where he feels like he “earned” his spot in WWE. The difference between those NXT classes, with one batch coming up in FCW and the other coming up through the Performance Center, is really interesting. I don’t know how well “be true to your school” plays as a wrestling angle in 2020, but you could do worse.
If you read all that and wondered how that took three hours, don’t worry, they covered half of it by airing the full 60-minute men’s Royal Rumble match with newly added commercial breaks. What else can you do right now? Smackdown showed the Elimination Chamber and Raw showed the Royal Rumble, so I assume this week’s Smackdown will air the TLC main event and Raw will be about Survivor Series. Let’s just keep going backwards in the timeline until whatever we broke fixes itself.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
*Randy tries to come through the crowd for an RKO out of nowhere, knocks over a chair by accident and freezes embarrasingly as they all start falling like dominoes in a bad movie, clanging loudly in the silence of the empty arena.*
If they had Asuka dub over the Rumble commentary for two hours, RAW would’ve pulled the highest rating since the Attitude Era
Byron is about to meet RKO Outta Nowhere’s cousin, Stunner Coming From a Mile Away.
I really hope creative takes this opportunity to retcon years of horrid storytelling by going full Lego Movie and revealing that this empty arena show is just Nicholas playing with his dad’s wrestling figures alone in the basement.
(Shows crowds filling an arena)
WWE: “Don’t do this at home.”
Big Baby Yeezus
This is the longest Brock Lesnar has ever been on an episode of RAW
Did someone forget to tell Taker they’re not in a hurry tonight?
For the next match Brock Lesnar comes out for commentary and promptly starts screaming in Japanese
Baron Von Raschke
RAW returns from break after Rumble Replay.
Drew McIntyre’s music plays in the performance center
Drew McIntyre walks to the ring.
Drew McIntyre begins a ten-minute recap promo of the 2020 Rumble
That’s gotta be the fastest Taker’s gotten to the ring since he stopped riding a motorcycle.
Just want to take another moment to point out that right now, at the very moment, we are living through Stone Cold Steve Austin showing up to an empty building for WWE to do his chants at nobody, in the hope that a thing we liked from 20 years ago will make us smile while a global outbreak causes the world to fall apart outside. This is the dystopian thing we’re sharing right now. Be safe, please. Maybe this’ll be normal again soon.
That’s it for this week’s attempt at a Best and Worst of Raw. Comments and social media shares are deeply appreciated, and any other kind of love you’d like to show is going to mean more than ever in the current climate. Especially if we don’t have anything to write about for a couple of months. If you’ve got our back, we’ve got yours. Sorry about all of this.