Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Nia Jax injured Kairi Sane, Charlotte Flair defeated Asuka, and the Street Profits and Viking Raiders played a dumb sport badly instead of wrestling each other. [checks notes] Wait, was this a re-run?
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 8, 2020.
Worst: Pardon The (Endless) Interruptions
A plea to WWE’s creative team on every brand: you have got to find another way for characters to naturally interact that isn’t one character interrupting another. “Promos” without interviewers are a curious concept anyway as you’d think there wouldn’t be a line of people waiting to monologue every Monday night, but they’re more curious still when so many of them only exist to set up an interruption. To put it another way, here’s the entire women’s division plot-line from Monday’s Raw, laid out end-to-end:
- Asuka is supposed to wrestle Charlotte Flair, but gets interrupted by Bayley and Sasha Banks
- Bayley and Sasha are interrupted by Charlotte Flair
- Charlotte is interrupted by The IIconics, who announce a Women’s Tag Team Championship match for Backlash
- a match happens and Charlotte’s about to win easily but Asuka tags herself in and steals the pin, proving yet again that two singles stars who hate each other and don’t get along can still flatly defeat your Tag Team Champions and the number one contenders to the Tag Team Championship at the same time, with no prep
- Charlotte sneak attacks Asuka, because Charlotte always wins, even when she loses
- Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair is supposed to happen, but Bayley and Sasha interrupt to sit at commentary
- Bayley and Sasha’s commentary is interrupted by a sneak attack from the IIconics
- Nia Jax interrupts the match
- Charlotte sneak attacks Asuka, because Charlotte always wins
To recap this one episode’s A-story, that’s seven interruptions, the champions losing (or, more accurately, not winning) a non-title match and Charlotte Flair completely dominating across two matches and one-upping Asuka twice with sneak attacks. This doesn’t do anything to promote the Women’s Tag Team Championship match on Sunday because the number one contenders were booked to lose a show-opening match on Raw, and it doesn’t do anything for the Raw Women’s Championship match on Sunday because Charlotte Flair’s the one standing tall, and she’s not even in the damn match. They didn’t even mention her losing the NXT Women’s Championship at In Your House until a backstage interview an hour and 45 minutes into the show, and when they did, she just kinda blew it off.
Having typed out that paragraph, who does this benefit? Not Asuka, who lost one match because she stopped paying attention and got beaten up by her own tag team partner after the other. Not the IIconics, who are “building momentum” for a title match on Sunday by tapping out clean to a team that’s not involved in the title match. Not Bayley and Sasha, who showed up to celebrate their four-day-old tag title reign only to immediately lose their first match as champions. Plus, they got beaten down by the team that lost in the opening match. Nia Jax is a non-factor until the closing moments of the main event, presumably to keep her from wheeling a wood chipper into the building and accidentally throwing her opponent into it. She never even gets into the ring, she just stands in the background while Charlotte celebrates.
So, to answer your question, “Charlotte.” It benefits Charlotte Flair, somehow. Charlotte Flair, who is not on the Backlash card, at the expense of Asuka, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, and Nia Jax, all of whom are. NXT and Smackdown will ALSO be used to glorify Charlotte. I’m not even complaining at this point, it’s just funny. Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, John Cena, and Roman Reigns are watching Raw together somewhere and thinking, “Wow, they’re really cramming her down our throats, aren’t they?”
Best: There Are Some Bests
Really, there are. I’m just losing my patience with “interruption is interrupted by interruption” as a thing happening multiple times on every episode of every WWE show produced. If they didn’t happen so often, they might matter when they did. As it stands, you’re a fool if you walk to the ring by yourself to talk to the camera and don’t expect 1-7 people to butt in.
Asuka vs. Charlotte was good. Really good. Even Charlotte’s moonsault off the security railing almost connected flush, which has kinda started to feel like she’s wearing a blindfold at a bowling alley and trying to roll a strike. They’ve got incredible chemistry with one another, and Charlotte’s the exact right amount of confident and naturally talented to have a legend like Asuka keep her focused and playing the best version of herself. The three-brand-wide Charlotte push is borderline bewildering and I hate getting 99% of the way through a banger 20-minute main event only to Raw all over it, but I guess even that’s designed to make me want to blame Nia. And since WWE’s beaten me into whataboutist insanity, I’m happy they’re doing wrestling between the hacky story stuff instead of running the exact same program but keeping the matches between three minutes and 90 seconds. They did that for YEARS.
Outside of that match, Bayley’s been on a different level of comedic obnoxiousness lately, so hearing her sneer and cackle her way through commentary while sounding EXACTLY like a middle-schooler who’d try to get Stephanie Tanner to be coo and smoke cigarettes is delightful. And you guys know I approve of anything that gets the IIconics on television and doing something. The amount of Billie Kay slander I see on Al Gore’s internet continues to disappoint me.
TL;DR: I really like (most of) these performers and I like watching them work, I just wish they had some better and more uncommon, actually character-based stories and situations to work with. There are more emotions and plots out there than “somebody’s jealous,” and more interesting physicality for pro wrestlers working 52+ shows a year than interruptions, run-ins, disqualifications, and sneak attacks.
Study question: Remember when Bianca Belair debuted on Raw? They sure had some great ideas ready to go for that, huh?
Worst: Dominick Is Definitely The Third Disciple
Speaking of interruptions, Rey Mysterio Facetimes in with a followup to his retirement promo from last week and gets interrupted by Seth Rollins. Why Mysterio needed a followup interview when the only point he made in the first one was, “I don’t know if I’m going to retire and I’ll probably be back soon,” is beyond me. Rollins invites them to Raw again, and Rey promises that he’s not going to wait until the end of the match to do the 619, he’s going to do it as soon as the bell rings. I love that Seth Rollins tried to force Rey’s retirement and tried to straight up murder him on live television by pushing the corner of the ring steps into his brain through his eye socket, and Rey’s heated response is, “I can’t wait until the match officially begins, I’m going to stay within the parameters of the rules and then swing around in the ropes to bop you in the forehead with my shins you son of a bitch.”
Let’s hope Rollins is working from the Hollywood Hogan David Flair playbook and has secretly already welcomed his rival’s son into his wrestling gang, because his current henchmen really could use some work. Remember when Buddy Murphy was supposed to be the perfect antithesis to Aleister Black, and always felt one good series of moves away from defeating him? Now Black’s pinning him easily a couple of minutes into a match off transition moves. Murphy didn’t even need to get with SIGNATURES to lose.
The heels “get their heat back” after the match, but much like the promo interruptions it’d probably be more effective if we hadn’t just watched them get completely crunched. I can’t remember a time when I saw somebody lose a match and attack their opponent afterward to “stand tall” and thought, “wow, maybe THEY really won! I can’t wait to see this settled in a rematch!” Theory and Murphy beat Carrillo and Black last week and beat them up after the match, so this week they lose the same match, and do more or less the same post-match attack. That “wins and losses matter” thing AEW likes to push is more of a catchphrase than anything, but the subtle truth is that they really are the only thing that matter. They construct the sport that provides foundational support to your medium of storytelling. Paying attention to wrestling characters without paying equal attention to wrestling matches (and vice versa) is like painting without paint. You can find some other goop to throw on the canvas and make it LOOK like paint, but wouldn’t it be a hell of a lot nicer to have some fucking paint?
Shout-out to Austin Theory, though. That dude leveraged a global pandemic to elevate his spot in WWE from “NXT special guest jobber” to “high-ranking henchman who has been a part of two heel factions on Raw” in just three months. It’s like if Raul Mendoza got kidnapped by luchadores in the Full Sail parking lot in March and was a two-time Intercontinental Champion by June. Scab, young man, scab.
Worst: Dick Move, Apollo
Last week, new United States Champion Apollo Crews thanked Kevin Owens for his recent assistance against Los Ingobernables de Central Florida by giving him the first shot at the title. That match ended with (SURPRISE) an interruption and turned into a tag team match. Player. So this week, instead of, you know, giving Kevin Owens the match he was promised, Apollo shows up like, “congratulations, Kevin, I got you a spot in a triple threat number one contender match where the other two guys are the tag team we’ve been feuding with. No, I can’t help you, I’m gonna walk straight to the back and stand beside a flat screen television so I can look over my shoulder and watch it. HAVE FUN ON YOUR OWN, BYEEEE.” Dick move, Apollo.
Left out there on his own, Owens gets beaten down 2-on-1 until the heels have a Malfunction At The Junction — some junctions only seem to service constant malfunctions — and start half-assedly fighting each other as well. Dude fights from underneath the ENTIRE MATCH only to finally hit a finisher on one of them, get tossed out of the ring by the other, and lose. Again, I feel like Crews could’ve at least hung out at ringside and provided moral support while the only guy on the roster who gives a shit about him tryies to win a handicap match for an opportunity he was already promised. Babyfaces are crazy, y’all.
Worst: Wrestling Is Also An Olympic Event, You Guys
The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders are feuding over the Raw Tag Team Championship in a series of sporting events that have nothing to do with wrestling or the Raw Tag Team Championship. So far they’ve played basketball, tossed axes, golfed, and bowled. Now they’ve decided to settle things once and for all with an OLYMPIC DECATHLON, not stopping for even a second to think it could end 5-5 and solve nothing. Odd numbers, guys. This is why you don’t see any “best of six series.”
Events include sword fighting, STICK fighting (which is like sword fighting, but instead of losing by dying you just fall into some milk), a wrestling entrance theme dance-off, a turkey leg eating contest, and a pole vault filmed in extreme close-ups. I’d make a joke about how obviously that disguises the fact that nobody in the group can pole vault, but this is the show where getting pushed into the security railing and back requires 11 jump cuts, so maybe the camera men just have bad eyesight.
Win, Lose, Or Drew
Somewhere in the middle of the episode, MVP decides he’s going to interview his own wrestler, Bobby Lashley, on his themed in-universe pro wrestling talk show. With Christian stopping in to do “The Peep Show,” it’s a good week for concepts from 15 years ago. Maybe next week we can have Charlotte Flair confront Asuka on Carlito’s Cabana.
Anyway, the Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Lashley story continues like you’d expect. So far all we’ve really gotten is that MVP has replaced Lana as Lashley’s wife and got him to get serious about his wrestling career by doing a bunch of full nelsons. WWE Champ McIntyre is like, “YEAH, FULL NELSON ME, LET’S DO THE DEAL,” presumably because he wants regular competition that isn’t Brock Lesnar or the Big Show. Lashley won’t stop Masterlocking folks, McIntyre won’t stop kicking MVP in the face for literally any reason that pops into his head, and they’re going to fight about it at Backlashley.
The WWE Championship plot and the Raw Tag Team Championship Jerkoff Competition come together in the main event, when McIntyre understandably thinks the Viking Raiders are cool and enlists them as backup and tag team partners against Lashley and MVP. They have a two-on-two tag team match with the Street Profits watching, which ends in the Vikings … [checks notes again] tapping out and losing. Nothing says “we are the best tag team in the world” like skipping work to bowl and golf and then losing the first match you’ve had in like two months to a singles star and his manager.
The Profits seem to be out there just to hold Lashley’s full nelson in place so it can get broken up by a Claymore. Sorry for everything, tag team division!
The segments here aren’t notably bad in that “Lashley’s sisters” kind of way and McIntyre vs. Lashley at Backlash might rip, but the Raw content’s still pretty uninspired. I’m no expert, but I’d recommend giving your tag teams something more productive to do than play putt-putt and stooge for more important characters, but I guess a history of decisions like that is a lot of why we are where we are. As long as Lana doesn’t drag poor Rusev back into this feud, I think it’ll be all right.
Worst: And Finally, The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever™
When Tom Phillips intros any Edge vs. Randy Orton content on the episode, he refers to it as, “what many are calling the greatest wrestling match ever.” “What many are calling” is some Donald Trump shit. Who is “many?” Do you mean the Raw announce team, the Smackdown announce team, and Charly Caruso? Because you guys are the ones promoting it like this. On an internet with millions of wrestling fans and a true rainbow of diverse, subjective opinions, I can’t imagine one person on the whole damn earth who’d see Randy Orton vs. Edge announced for Backlash and think, “a 45-minute violent brawl at WrestleMania was one thing, but a standard wrestling match between a guy who hasn’t wrestled a one-on-one match in nine years and the slow stomps and even slower chinlocks of Randy Orton? This is going to be the best pure wrestling match in history.” Having Kurt Angle send in this hostage video doesn’t make it any more legitimate.
You’ve got to admire WWE’s dedication to putting over their own bullshit, though. They had Charly say with her whole chest that Edge vs. Randy Orton will be the greatest wrestling match ever, and when everybody snickered about it they were like, “no, it’s the greatest wrestling match ever, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle say so, WHO ARE YOU TO DOUBT THEM? SHUT UP, IS WHAT!” The marketing strategy is asking people to get their hopes up and be wildly optimistic about a match between 40-year olds in the middle of a June WWE pay-per-view in the middle of a global pandemic. I guess the honesty of, “a watchable match, God willing, and Edge doesn’t hurt himself,” doesn’t put butts in seats. Although right now there are no butts, and even if they were, WWE’s not giving them seats.
Edge is a guest on Christian’s Peep Show, as WWE has brought Christian peep shows out of Lynchburg Virginia weekends and into your home. Christian gives Edge the kind of tough love pep talk you can only get from your best friend and pretend brother who used to be in a vampire cult with you and spent the prime of his career smushing your head between two chairs. They’re interrupted by Randy Orton, who appears on the video screen despite a pre-commercial interview where he asks how many guests are on The Peep Show and twice openly implies that he’s going to go out there and physically interrupt them. I guess 15 promo interruptions instead of 14 would’ve been overkill.
As a positive, it’s always good to see Christian. I was always more of a Christian fan than an Edge fan. I just preferred his wrestling and his whole vibe. I’m not confident in Backlash — can you blame me? — but the perverse novelty of “greatest wrestling match ever” promotion at the expense of everything else on the card, which includes WWE and Universal Championship matches and happens two days after a Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles Intercontinental Championship tournament final, makes it worth checking out. They’ve got to have SOMETHING planned to keep pushing the match concept like this, don’t they? Would they just bait-and-switch us with hyperbole because the only booking idea they have right now is, “say it’s better than it is?” Why am I asking questions I already know the answers to?
Anyway, here’s another vote for, “Orton opens the match by smashing Edge in the face with a chair, causing a disqualification in the opening seconds.” There’s no way in God’s green Hell Randy Orton says he’s going to have a great wrestling match, means it, and then goes out and does it.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Charlotte Hornets, in a last-gasp effort to be included when the NBA season resumes, have changed their name to the Charlotte Flairs. They’ve already been given a NBA Finals series against the Lakers.
Christian gently shoving over the chair to convey anger was the most Canadian thing ever
Vince trying decide who will take the title off Asuka:
Here’s your problem…
An open letter to WWE: PUT CHRISTIAN IN THE HALL OF FAME YOU COWARDS
Who knew flipping that tire was going to be the turning point in Lashley’s career?
I feel like the WWE Womens Division is single highhandedly keeping the Orlando leather pants industry alive
I know people have to have monikers and whatnot, but shouldn’t they stop calling Nia Jax an irresistible force seeing as she’s been resisted quite a few times?
WWE programming has more Flair than an employee at Chotchkie’s.
We in the WWF think that you, the audience, are quite frankly tired of having your intelligence insulted — Vince McMahon, 1997
New pitch: instead of “Raw Talk,” do a Raw post-show that’s just the same, entire episode of Raw from the crowd’s perspective. At least put an alternate version with picture-in-picture on the Network. Do I want to see Edge and Randy Orton argue among themselves about who will or won’t have the greatest match ever, or do I want to hear what the IIconics are saying and then go watch Eric Bugenhagen and Shotzi Blackheart dance to Asuka’s music?
That’s what I thought.
Anyway, that does it for another episode of The Best and Worst of Quarantine Raw. Thanks as always for reading and supporting us. You can help us out tremendously right now by sharing the column on social media, as well as dropping down into our comments section to let us know what you thought of the show. Oh, and make sure you’re here this weekend for our Backlash open discussion thread, live results, news, and more. I will keep trying to watch these and say something constructive about them, and I can’t wait to write 4,000 words on why I was wrong to doubt the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever™.
See you this weekend!