Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: The Revival was good again for a week, WWE added Hulk Hogan back into their Then Now Forever opening and then took the video off YouTube because reasons, and a bunch of heels who hate Dean Ambrose tried to convince Dean Ambrose that his real enemies were his friends. Sure!
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for October 1, 2018.
Worst: Using Last Week’s Raw As Evidence, Then Ignoring What Happened On Last Week’s Raw
I’m going to attempt to be a little more positive this week, but I wanted to start out by pointing out how strange the whole “Dean Ambrose still might not love being in The Shield” angle felt to me this week. Last week, I thought they did a pretty good job. They had Dolph Ziggler present a cogent argument; that Dean Ambrose left a pretty prestigious and accomplished singles run on Smackdown to come back to Raw and be the third most important member of The Shield. He was a former champion, and now he’s holding his belt buckle while Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins hold championships. It worked because yeah, it’s a good point, but was also a good heel move because Ambrose has only been back for a few weeks, and his friends holding championships doesn’t mean he can’t. I mean, Raw only has the two singles championships, but they’re doing better than they were under Lesnar, because both of the belts are actually on the show now.
So the big payoff last week was Ambrose realizing heels are gonna heel, and his Fist Pals are his “brothers.” He visibly shows some conflict about making a decision, but he makes it, and that’s the end. This week they have Baron Corbin show up following his main-event loss to try to stoke those fires a little more, and I think that … kind of worked. He vaguely offered Ambrose a chance to challenge one of his friends for their titles or face Braun Strowman one on one, ends up making Ambrose fight Strowman anyway, and gives Dean this little seed of doubt that maybe if he didn’t care so much about his friends, he’d have gotten a title shot. That’s fine, even though like, why couldn’t Dean have just challenged one of his friends to a match and had a normal match for a title? They’re all friends, and they all have the same job. I would hope at least Seth would understand that he was being manipulated by the heels, and that he could just have some good clean competition against someone he loves and respects. Roman would probably be a jerk about it.
But regardless, I liked it. What I didn’t necessarily like is Raw opening with contentious-ass Charly Caruso drilling Dean about whether or not he’s going to turn on The Shield, when last week’s Raw — the very Raw they’re showing clips of — answered that question. It’s not like Raw went off the air with Dean in the middle, and the WWE Universe “needing answers,” like it’s an old Nitro. Dean’s answers are terrible too, because he already answered those questions, and he can only get seven minutes of promo time by going, “is it possible that I’m going to turn, yeah, it is, but am I, no,” over and over. It felt like Charly wanted him to be a heel more than Ziggler.
That sets up Ambrose vs. Strowman, which I felt like has two major problems:
- Braun Strowman is so unbelievably nerfed now that crowds don’t even seem to enjoy seeing him anymore, and he’s stopped being a dynamic in-ring performer in favor of his old heel moveset, which is “walk around slowly doing head vices,” and, “keep running at people so they can dodge.” Crowds are like, “wehhh” to a guy who earlier this year was flipping things and murdering people with grappling hooks.
- The finish has Roman Reigns show up to “make the save” for Ambrose, but instead of it being a save from a heel beatdown or even a heel cheating to take advantage of him, it’s a save from losing a match fairly. Braun didn’t do ANYTHING heelish here; he wasn’t cheating, he wasn’t using outside interference to give him the edge, he was just being Braun Strowman and kicking the guy’s ass in a back-and-forth match.
And more than anything, I think this ALL could’ve worked if they’d had Ambrose react properly. He shouldn’t be saying, “I had him beat!” and doing the scrappy little brother thing, because he didn’t. He wasn’t going to win. What he SHOULD be saying is, “why did you come out to save me when I was losing a match? I don’t need you to coddle me, I win or lose based on my own merit, maybe keep your ass in the back until there’s an unfair advantage that needs evening up or something shitty’s going on.” Reigns didn’t “keep Ambrose from winning,” which is the story they’re going with somehow, he took away his agency. Reigns made it clear that he cared more about Ambrose losing a match by pinfall and embarrassing the team than he did actually watching his brother’s back. THAT is a layered story, and you’re so close to telling it.
I even would’ve been okay with Ambrose’s response being to wander out during the end of Reigns vs. Ziggler and attack Ziggler, to show Reigns what it feels like to have someone not involved in a match show up for bullshit machismo reasons and ruin it. Maybe when Ziggler had Reigns in that chinlock.
That said, the other two Shield singles matches were better, I think. Reigns really got lucky drawing Dolph Ziggler in that lottery instead of Strowman or Drew McIntyre, didn’t he? Reigns and Ziggler is a good combination, because you don’t have to suspend your disbelief and watch Roman no-sell a bunch of offense that should put him away to win the match because yeah, of course he’s winning the match, and also because Ziggler sells his ass off and makes Roman’s offense look better than usual. I still think he needs to drop the Edge-style spear and actually plow through guys, Goldberg style. Running double-leg, guys, not a jumping hug.
Rollins vs. McIntyre was pretty good, too, but the finish brings up a really concerning aspect of this Raw.
Worst: One Of Those Shows Where They Do The Same Finish Over And Over Because Nobody Checked To Make Sure They Weren’t
Rollins loses to McIntyre when Dolph Ziggler runs down to the ring, slides in, distracts Rollins, dodges a The Stomp, and leaves Rollins open for a Claymore. This finish in itself could work — especially since they made a weird declaration of “only non-title matches until Crown Jewel” — but doesn’t, because it’s on a Raw where so, so many other matches end the same way. On this Raw there were eight matches, and five of them involved some form of outside interference related to the finish. Six if you count all the nonsense around the ring for Rousey vs. Riott, and seven of nine if you count the main-event promo. This episode was a real voyager, wasn’t it?
Let’s just list them, so you can see what I’m talking about:
- Seth Rollins vs. Drew McIntyre ended with Ziggler running into the ring, causing a distraction, leading to Rollins losing the match
- Konnor vs. Bobby Roode ended with Viktor attacking Chad Gable at ringside, distracting Roode, leading to him losing the match
- Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens ended with Elias attacking Lio Rush at ringside, distracting Lashley, leading to him losing the match
On top of the blatant ones, you’ve also got Dean Ambrose losing because of Roman Reigns entering the match for no reason and getting him disqualified, the entirety of Rousey vs. Riott being about the Bella Twins and the Riott Squad on the outside, the entirety of Bayley vs. Alicia Fox being about Jinder Mahal and Finn Bálor on the outside. And like I said, even the Shawn Michaels promo features a run-in from three different people. It’s like when they were asked to hand in a script for Raw, a dude just wrote “normal stuff, then people show up” on a cocktail napkin and slid it to Vince. And then Vince was like GOD DAMMIT PAL THIS IS GONNA BE EXCITING, SO MANY TWISTS AND TURNS.
Long story extremely short, I don’t know why over 1,300 episodes into the run of the show a guy on the Internet’s gotta be the one to type, “don’t do the same finish over and over on the same wrestling show.” I know you’ve got three hours to fill, but damn, you can’t give KONNOR VS. BOBBY ROODE a clean finish?
Best: Elias Gets 1998 Heel Heat
Now that I said I was going to try to be positive and spent two pages complaining, let’s talk about something good: Elias dropping a very common “your local sports team sucks” bit into his promo with Kevin Owens and getting magically transported back to the days where fans got really pissed off at wrestlers if they said mean things to them. I feel like somebody’s made a “SuperSonics left Seattle and went to Oklahoma City” joke every single time WWE’s gone to Seattle since 2008, but this one really got to them. It’s Ultimate Vickie Guerrero boos for the remainder of the segment, to the point that Elias and Kevin Owens are literally having to shout their dialogue at each other to get through the promo. It’s magical, and so much fun to watch. Wrestling shows are 100% better when crowds are convinced to care.
The only way this could’ve been better is if Lio Rush had, you know, played to the crowd at all during his retort. He absolutely killed them by plowing through his Bobby Lashley speech independent of how they were reacting. I’m gonna assume that’s not on him, as (1) he’s living in a world of pre-scripted promos where they demand you go out there and read it word for word whether it’s good or not, (2) he’s too young and new to have any clout, so he can’t pull a John Cena and just start improvising to play to the heat, and (3) the end result is gonna be “here’s Bobby Lashley” no matter what he does. But man, for once I wish Cena’s corny ass was out here to scream about how he loves Detlef Schrempf, and how Elias’ segment was “hotter than a venti soy latte with extra foam, bro!”
Anyway, at Smackdown 1000 they need to figure out how to get Elias and Vickie Guerrero in the ring together to sing a duet, just to see what would happen.
Worst: The Raw Tag Team Division Is Back On Its Bullshit
Best: Ruby Riott Kicking The Crap Out Of Ronda Rousey For Five Minutes
I really enjoyed the opening several minutes of this match, which centered around Ruby Riott taking Ronda Rousey to school. I didn’t so much enjoy the realization that Ronda Rousey matches are the new Hulk Hogan match — she starts off strong, then gets beaten up with her opponent’s entire offense before deciding it’s time to win, Hulking Up, and hitting her signature moves in order — but she’s good at this, and Ruby’s great, so it’s a perfectly cromulent affair.
The announce team is still on their “legendary Bella Twins” thing, too, despite Nikki not really doing anything lately and Brie setting everything she’s touched this year on fire. On Twitter I mentioned that calling them “the legendary Bella Twins” is like calling it “the delicious Cici’s Pizza,” but it looks like I’m just gonna have to accept it. Especially since the announced special guest stars so far for Smackdown 1000 are Michelle McCool and Torrie Wilson, and it’s looking more and more like WWE is going to use the past three or so years of actually good women’s wrestlers busting their asses to put over a bunch of performers they had to get rid of to be good in the first place.
On the positive side, I’m so unbelievably ready for Nikki to turn on Ronda at Super Show-Down or whatever, just for Rousey to replace Natalya and the Bellas with the other three Horsewomen and spend the next infinity years breaking Bella bones for sport. Put Shayna Baszler in a handicap match against everyone from the Miss WrestleMania battle royal at WrestleMania 25 and I’m picking Shayna. Throw Kid Rock in the match, too.
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Bayley vs. Alicia Fox was fine. It was fine! That is my entire write-up. HEY FAM MAKE SURE TO LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE.
Best For Most People: The Main Event Promo
Finally we got a surprisingly bald Shawn Michaels cutting a promo about the Last Time Ever match between the Undertaker and Triple H at the Bonzer Royal Rumble. He ends up talking a little trash to Kane about being in the Undertaker’s corner and summons The Devil’s Favorite Libertarian Mayor, who appears to have put Shawn’s remaining hair on his chest before showing up. That sets up The Undertaker showing up, which brings out Triple H for a brawl, and most of your happy nostalgia radars start going WEEE-OOO-WEEE-OOO-WEEE-OOO.
I’m not particularly nostalgic for [gestures broadly] any of these guys, but I’ll definitely say the segment worked, as it at least contextualized the competitors in the match as active and still able to do things, instead of as backstage business guys who are arguing over match predictions. Shawn without hair will take some getting used to, but I remember thinking I’d never get used to seeing The Big Show without hair, so it’ll be fine. I remember being like, “wow, why did they shave Stunning Steve’s hair??” If he’s still got some Shawn Michaels in him, I’m down. Triple H did the smart thing of buzzing that shit down years ago. Undertaker had the right idea with his WrestleMania mohawk, which would’ve done a lot to keep him from looking like dying goth Frasier Crane.
I’m expecting something akin to the Triple H vs. Sting WrestleMania match at Super Show-Down, followed by a tag version of that at Crown Jewel, followed by another Triple H vs. Sting-style thing at Survivor Series. Have the New Age Outlaws and X-Pac run interference only to be stopped by the Corporate Ministry, I’m sure Mideon and the Mean Street Posse would appreciate a paycheck or three.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Republican National Convention is kinda interesting this year
The Real Birdman
12 year old me would have popped… over to Nitro
IC champion Pdragon619
With the more comedic, laid back tone of the MMC, I’d love it if Finn took the whole thing way too seriously and busted out the demon for every single match, all while Bayley watches on in confusion and horror.
Don’t worry Lashley, Cena not coming out to help you is his way of showing true friendship.
Elias: WWE is normally a proud partner of Sonic, but this is one city where we just can’t support that.
Earl Thomas is standing up and applauding for this KO/Elias segment.
[Reigns shoved out onto the ramp by Vince]
“Hey, uh…The Big Dog thinks you should have the Sonics back!”
[even worse boos]
(Looks at Dean’s shirt for a name)
….Ambrose you all right?
A somber Bobby Roode goes to the back opens a door and sees Sami, Nak, Bo, Neville’s ghost and Finn standing by a cake and says “Welp I’m home…now let’s clean this up for Joe”
“I could be the Intercontinental Champion right now.”
-Dolph, every day for the past 7 years
That’s it for this week. October is going to be … something. Make sure you drop us a comment below to let us know what you did or didn’t like about the show — reminder that you never, ever have to agree with me if you don’t agree with me — and share the column if you’re a pal.
And hey, be here this weekend for SUPER SHOW-DOWN! They’re gonna show all the way down!