First of all, happy May 19th!
Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: The Man revealed that she’s going to have a baby — this is the future liberals want — and Seth Rollins tried to blind Rey Mysterio about it. Also, the Street Profits defeated the Viking Raiders in a game of basketball, but only because the Vikings let them? I guess the Vikings have to be good in SOME sport.
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. We’ve finally started the build for Backlash, which will only get positive feedback.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for May 18, 2020.
“I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took a Falcon Arrow in the knee.”
Worst, I Think? Best? I Don’t Even Know My Scale Anymore: Axe Jeeves
We might as well start this week’s column with the thrilling sequel to White Men Can Jump, the axe throwing competition between the Viking Raiders and the Street Profits. They’re really making a meal out of these segments, aren’t they?
Unsurprisingly, Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins have never made a bonfire, dressed up like Nord guards, and thrown cleaving instruments at targets for fun. They experience the full gamut of Ren Faire activities from being called “fam” by Viking Experience Erik and almost being attacked by a group of guys in Viking costumes because you accidentally threw an axe at their beverage barrel, to threatening to fight a horse. The bits end when it’s revealed that the weapon Ford launched into the stratosphere landed in the windshield of a cop car, and the gang only gets out of being thrown in jail for assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon because the Lady Cop thinks Ivar is cute. Not Erik, though. She makes sure to point that out.
These bits are dumb as hell, but I like that it ends with them being friends. The Vikings just want to introduce their LARP group to their cool friends from work. I don’t know why the Raw tag team division has become, as it was phrased to me on Twitter, “a decathlon of Dave and Busters games.” At least the teams doing these Disney Channel originals look like they’re having fun. We should’ve known Vince McMahon would turn Warbeard Hanson into a funny corpulent ladies man who can dunk a basketball within six months of realizing he exists.
I hope the payoff here is that the Viking Raider and the Street Profits competing in a game of I’m Telling! with the Raw Tag Team Championship belts as one of the choices in the Pick-A-Prize Arcade. Send them up the Aggro Crag together, see if Angelo Dawkins can put together the Shrine of the Silver Monkey, let’s just pretend it’s 1992 again and we’re all 10.
P.S. I expect to see Dawkins vs. That Horse at Backlash. Go full Blazing Saddles with it.
Raw’s One Idea This Week
I write a lot about Raw having basic structural issues as a television show, and this week’s show really brought them to the forefront. To put it succinctly, almost every single segment on the show — I’m talking all but a handful of matches in three hours — starts with someone coming to the ring for an interview. Let me break it down:
- Randy Orton is interviewed in the ring, is interrupted by Edge, and a match is signed
- Seth Rollins talks in the ring, is interrupted by Humberto Carrillo, and a match happens
- Charlotte Flair talks in the ring, calls out Ruby Riott, and a match happens
- Kevin Owens talks to Zelina Vega’s group in the ring, Apollo Crews interrupts, and a match happens
- both the Truth vs. Lashley and IIconics vs. Bliss Cross Applesauce matches also start with or involve promos during the entrances
- Drew McIntyre vs. King Corbin is interrupted before it begins by MVP and Lashley, who talk
As far as I can tell, the Shayna Baszler vs. Natalya submission match and the Aleister Black vs. Murphy match (which is technically just a followup to an earlier match, which started with a promo) are all built on the same outline. Someone is talking, but we don’t like that talking, so let’s fight! Except then we immediately talk again, and immediately talk again, and immediately talk again, and immediately talk again, and immediately talk again. Promos to set up matches aren’t bad. Doing basically the same promo to set up basically the same match for three straight hours is.
Worst: Charly Caruso Doubles Down
Do they know something we don’t know? Has this all been a long con? Did Randy Orton have 20 years of underwhelming garbage matches, shit the bed in a WrestleMania main event, and have a teleportation and fridges battle inside the House of Horrors to lower our expectations for when he anchors the greatest wrestling match ever? Is this another Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels Iron Man Match situation where they’re going to say it was the greatest wrestling match ever even if it’s terrible, because they’ve already decided to market it that way? The “D-X turned the tide in the Monday Night Wars by invading Monday Nitro on a tank” gambit? If you tell WWE fans something long enough, they start believing it’s the truth.
If Randy Orton truly ends up having the greatest wrestling match ever at Backlash, it will replace “convincing the world he didn’t exist” as the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled.
Best: Seth Rollins, The Nasally Voice Of The Voiceless
Seth Rollins, protagonist of the Hitman video game series, has put a lot of work into finding depressed people who didn’t leave the ringside area fast enough after having their hearts broken and recruiting them into his Flock. He’s basically Raven in a suit.
Back in January, which seems like 30 years ago, Rollins recruited a forlorn Buddy Murphy to help him win Raw’s First Ever Fight Fight®. Murphy had lost a match to Aleister Black moments earlier, and was so downtrodden about it that he didn’t even leave ringside. He just sat with his back to the security barrier, being sad. Rollins was the first person since Alexa Bliss and Wesley Blake to show Murphy love — he’d spent most of his time on the main roster getting emasculated by Daniel Bryan and getting emasculated by Roman Reigns — so it cultivated loyalty. Cult recruitment 101. So now if, say, Rollins tries to gouge out Rey Mysterio’s eyeball with some steps and one of Rey’s friends tries to step up, Rollins can delegate the jobber removal tasks to his buddy, Murphy.
Rollins is starting to feel kind of terrifying, as he’s taken his derpy Wrestling Christ bit and morphed it into a thing where he might actually be the Anti-Christ, so he’s able to take Carrillo off his game simply by walking toward him and glaring. It’s super effective!
Later in the night, Kevin Owens returns from the WrestleMania injury that might be directly responsible for turning Rollins’ passive-aggressive Christ into an AGGRESSIVE-AGGRESSIVE Christ to “interview” Zelina Vega and Los Ingobernables de Winter Park. I put interview in quotes because it’s just a distraction so Apollo Crews can jump them and gain “revenge.” I put revenge in quotes because Apollo injured his damn self and should be sneak-attacking his own bad luck. Andrade didn’t even get to opportunistically single leg crab him into the hospital or anything.
Here’s where it gets interesting, though.
Austin Theory tries to help Angel Garza and Andrade win by interfering, but there’s a Malfunction At The Junction, and he accidentally causes them to lose. Strike one was losing at WrestleMania, strike two was getting into a Twitter beef with God’s handsomest boy Angel Garza, and strike three was helping facilitate the Apollo Crews push. The gang beats down Theory, boot him out of the group, and leave him — get this — sitting at ringside, being depressed. AND WHOSOEVER SHOULD APPEAR;
While Murphy’s busy pulling double duty against a guy whose difficulty is set to Hall of Fame, Yakuza Jesus Seth Rollins wanders over and recruits depressed white boy Austin Theory to his depressed white boy posse. I’m assuming we’re never going to see the Authors of Pain again, at least not as Rollins cronies, so it’ll be like The Dark Order with a religious lean and a budget. Rollins orders Theory to attack Black, because Murphy’s 1000% not winning that match, and the evildoers hug over their shared love of impactful but ultimately counterproductive disqualifications. It’s time for Austin Theory to become Austin Dogma!
Worst: I’m Tapping Out To This Natalya Angle
Natalya, who is very smart, decides that the best way to recover from last week’s Shayna Baszler browbeating is to challenge her, a woman who has dominated various women’s divisions in WWE for years by violently submitting people, to a submission match. Natalya’s got the Hart Family Sharpshooter™ and no other submission moves, so she should be fine. Except she isn’t, and Baszler chokes her out. Funny how that works.
After the match, Natalya throws her second temper tantrum in two weeks. Farting and being romantically envious of Burger King chicken fries didn’t get her over, so maybe being a poor sport who loses all the time will?
Best: Kairi Sane Recorder Jams
Worst: Nia Jax Is History’s Greatest Monster
Adorable narrator Kairi Sane organizes a balloon party to help celebrate her tag team partner’s various successes as Women’s Champion and attempts to punctuate it with a performance on the recorder, best known to American kids as that weird flute they tried to make you play ‘Sakura Sakura’ and ‘Hot Cross Buns’ on for a couple of weeks in 4th grade. It’s the best use of a terrible musical instrument in WWE since Edge and Christian popularized the kazoo.
Nia Jax interrupts the performance to cut Heel Promo #3, so Asuka kicks her ass. Later, Nia uses a combination of Kairi’s recorder concentration and the Kabuki Warriors not having any peripheral vision to sneak up and interrupt a SECOND performance.. So Asuka has to find her and kick her ass AGAIN. I like that the angle appears to be a challenger going after a champion with too high a level and getting one-shotted over and over, but also Nia Jax interrupted two Kairi Sane recorder jams and should go to prison for it.
Worst Ever: Fine, I’ll Just Stop Writing Forever
In a match and angle that I unironically believe was created, written, and performed simply to make me angry and sad, the IIconics, who just last week returned from oblivion and won a non-title match against the Women’s Tag Team Champions, lose a Women’s Tag Team Championship match because Peyton Royce is kicking too much ass. If WWE’s worst finish wasn’t enough — “you’re doing too well, RING THE BELL!” — it’s followed by Billie Kay slapping Peyton in the face.
This is why we can’t have nice things. Why not break up this team, too? It’s not like the women’s tag division isn’t filled to the breaking point with competitive teams. You’ve got Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, you’ve got the Kabuki Warriors (who are on a divisional hiatus while Asuka is the Raw Women’s Champion), and you’ve got Sasha Banks and Bayley (who are on a divisional hiatus while Bayley is the Smackdown Women’s Champion, and who are also currently in the middle of breaking up), and you’ve got … [checks notes] They broke up the Riott Squad, they broke up Fire and Desire, and now apparently they’re breaking up the IIconics. Who needs tag teams in a tag team division? Having friends is too unrealistic!
Thinking about it constructively, they could do something really interesting here. They could tell the story of what happens when two lifelong friends who have decided to connect their lives personally and professionally realize they’re inadvertently holding each other back with their self-congratulatory bullshit, and are driven apart by the emotional emptiness and cruel reality of the profession they love and have chosen to do for a living. It could build to a bittersweet farewell, where after two or three months of freaking out and lashing out at one another, they share one, last, heartbreaking hug before going their separate ways and teaming with other partners. Maybe do a big tournament with Billie and whomever (Candice LeRae, tag team name KAY LE RAE) against Peyton and whomever (Piper Niven, tag team name PEY THE PIPER) in the finals. Give them a big, “I’m sorry, I love you” moment.
Or next week just have one of them refuse to tag the other and walk out on a match. You know, one or the other.
Best: Liv Morgan, Human Being
This is maybe the first time they’ve ever asked Liv Morgan to look, act, or sound like a believable human being on WWE programming, and it was a great change of pace. This is a really easy character to like; someone who is still at the beginning of their career but trying hard to live up to the high expectations they’ve put on themselves. It’s certainly an improvement from Liv’s vague, “I’m trying to figure out who I am,” amnesia gimmick. Good work here.
My only complaint is that I wish they hadn’t trained people to say “WWE” and the names of WWE championships really slowly like that, because it puts a real sheen of falseness over everything else they say. Have you ever been talking to a friend and pronounced it, “W [long pause] W [long pause] E [long pause] champion?” It’s especially bad in NXT, where anyone who says “NXT” has to say it like they just got shot with a tranquilizer dart.
Worst: Whenever Charlotte Flair’s Not On Screen, All The Other Characters Should Be Asking, “Where’s Charlotte Flair?”
WWE ratings have been going down recently, and the company’s big plan to turn it around appears to be a four-time-a-year crossover with Smackdown that lets Baron Corbin show up on Raw, and Charlotte Flair being on all three brands. I don’t know. It kinda seems like they’re trying to use a bucket to scoop water out of a boat with a big hole in the bottom.
This week’s Charlotte content makes almost as much sense, with her randomly calling out Ruby Riott because Ruby “has something to say to her,” only for Ruby to not say anything to her and lose in about three minutes. Did Charlotte request her own jobber squash in real time? Charlotte Flair vs. Ruby Riott seems like the kind of match you could build on the talent of the performers and run in an important context on pay-per-view, and it seems like even in the middle of a pandemic you could be getting more out of Ruby’s abilities and experience than this.
We’ll have to wait and see what Charlotte Flair does this Wednesday, and whether or not she wins her champion vs. champion match on Friday to set up whatever she’s doing on Monday. At this point Charlotte could randomly wrestle in the middle of AEW Double or Nothing and I wouldn’t be surprised.
Best, Mostly: The Rise Of Bob
Early in the night, MVP reiterates his “you should worry about being champion instead of cuckolding Rusev” stance to Bobby Lashley and motivates him to neck-squeeze the performative bullshit out of Pretty Ricky.
At the end of the night, the Beat Down Clan returns to interrupt the opening moments of the Drew McIntyre vs. King Baron Constable main event with a declaration of championship intent. The dream of TNA Slammiversary 2016 is alive on Monday Night Raw. Even without any real competition for the past 20 years, WWE’s still finding ways to do whatever the other companies were doing five years ago. I look forward to that Tessa Blanchard and Moose confrontation on a 2025 Raw.
Anyway, the Corbin and McIntyre match is honestly pretty good. I know, I wasn’t expecting it either. Corbin’s been truly slumming it over the past several years after realizing he could make more money and have a longer career by just going through the motions at the top of the card and never trying, but deep down inside he’s got a pretty good mind for this. Deep down under all the “any reaction is a good reaction” and “actually it’s the FANS who are wrong” nonsense. Combine that with McIntyre’s ongoing quest to work his ass off against anyone he’s in the ring with whether it’s Seth Rollins or The Big Show or King fucking Corbin, and you’ve got a stew going.
McIntyre wins, of course, setting off a verbal confrontation between him and Lashley. He wants SUPER LASHLEY, the uncaged bad-ass version who uses his TV time to shit-kick people and nelson their heads off instead of macking on co-workers’ wives and telling his sisters he loves them. McIntyre is basically like, “FORGET THE LAST TWO YEARS OF RAW, LET’S FIGHT LIKE WE WANT.” I’m more than ready for Lashley to be the version of himself he was against Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules 2018 and then forgot about for a year and a half. Let’s do it.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
That’s what I love about Ruby. I get older, she stays in the same place on the card. All Riott, all Riott, all Riott.
The Real Birdman
When is the Smash throwing competition?
“The greatest wrestling match in history”
Austin Theory’s trading one Latin diva for another.
Big Baby Yeezus
Look at Joe scolding Natty like a disappointed father. Helping Wendy with the kids has really helped him grow.
Would love for the axe throwing to be incorporated into this Corbin segment right about now.
Orton being the one to try and cut to the point is mind blowing.
Garza is dressed like someone who knows where to get drugs at no matter what city he’s in.
Kairi stopped dressing like a pirate but the IIconics started dressing like pyrite.
“Brand to Brand Invitational”
That does it for another episode of The Best and Worst of Quarantine Raw. Raw is so close to putting something together and being a competent show again, and I think if we actually had fans in the stands and real arenas, it might be doing something substantial.
Anyway, as always 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. I will keep trying to watch these and say something constructive about them, but if I fall into an unwinnable depression because of WWE programming, I’ll at least make some scathing Baron Corbin memes.
See you next week!