Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Whoa, whoa, WrestleMania. The IIconics won the Women’s Tag Team Championship (putting them on both shows), Becky Lynch won the Winner Take All main event (putting her on both shows), and Seth Rollins slayed the Beast (removing a guy who is never on the show from the show).
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And now, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 8, 2019.
Best, Then Worst: Winner Takes Both Bait And Switch
The Raw after WrestleMania opens with The Beast Slayer™ Seth Rollins® being interrupted by the New Day and The Planet Killer™ Kofi Kingston®, who somehow and for some reason end up in their own winner take all main event for both the Universal and WWE Championships.
First of all, this was enjoyable because all the personalities involved are great and deserve a victory lap. Seth Rollins is better at being a modern kind of chaotic babyface than anyone else on the show, Kofi Kingston is a national hero following the past month and a half and WrestleMania, and Big E is in there doing the splits. That’s both scary and scarily impressive. I feel like Big E could transform into a car if he could figure out how to disconnect his pecs. Second of all, hey, a big-time stipulation like this the night after WrestleMania signals change, whether it’s in the direction of combining the championships and having a cross-branded champion, or by setting up a very interference-friendly main event that a debuting heel or faction can interrupt for instant mega-heat.
Here’s where it gets shady.
Seth and Kofi wrestle for a few minutes until they’re interrupted by THE BAR of all people, causing a no contest. I don’t think the negative feedback about this has anything to do with The Bar; at least from me, it comes from the place of expecting something, anything new to happen — title changes, debuts, the Undisputed Era, whatever — and getting WWE’s least-new booking idea ever. Oh, you decided to end the RAW AFTER WRESTLEMANIA by having a huge match with consequence and a great setup end in disqualification and then turn into a tag team match? You’re Teddy Longing the Raw after WrestleMania? For real?
And that’s how the “most exciting and unpredictable” Raw of the year ends. Like every single Smackdown began and ended for like three straight years, and how a portion of about 20 Raws a year still begin. The action is fine but The Bar are meaningless as antagonists, and two of the most beloved characters in the WWE Universe after Sunday night end Raw standing side by side while fans play with beach balls and chant about AEW. Great job, everybody.
When Your ‘Debuts’ Are People Who Were Supposed To Debut Months Ago, But Just Haven’t Done Anything
The most notable of these is Lars Sullivan, the bodybuilding forum-trolling Shrek who was announced as “coming soon” way back in the Fall of 2018 only to be replaced by the announcement of six random NXT stars, and then never came.
Lars interrupts an extremely Raw segment in which Kurt Angle (who said last week that it was the last time he’d ever be on Monday Night Raw) showing up again to be a sore loser and attack Baron Corbin for beating him clean at WrestleMania. Honestly, it’s not like Corbin cheated or anything, he’s just being annoying. That was Kurt Angle’s entire career until like 2003 when he turned into a super-serious wrestler. Long Corbin promo into a babyface who said he was never going to appear again appearing to be a sore loser, leading to the shocking debut of a guy who was supposed to debut six months ago. Raw is like a thorn in your eye.
Anyway, Lars’ debut was fine, if unspectacular. People are gonna point out that he’s not very big, especially on the same show as Braun Strowman, which isn’t going to make him much of a monstrous threat. That worked a lot better in NXT, where almost everyone of note is small. If they lean into the Bruiser Brody thing and have him be a “thinking” monster, that could work, but here he’s just showing up to growl and struggle to hit his finish on 237-pound Kurt Angle. All right.
The other debuting non-debut is Lacey Evans, who shows up as Becky Lynch is leaving the ring to do her normal “catwalk down the ramp, turn around and walk back, and hump the wall on your way out” bit. Only this time she eyes Becky’s two championships and throws a punch, leading to a scrap.
I like Lacey in this role, as you can give Becky Lynch an easy sort of “starter opponent” for a title defense at Backlash (or wherever), which will add a little longevity to her double title reign in a promotion where we’re already scared to death that all our title-winning fan favorites from WrestleMania aren’t going to stay champion through this week. Plus, Jesus, maybe now we’re finally done with the Lacey Evans Doing Nothing joke, which was honestly pretty tired back in February. She throws a good punch.
?: Bull NaMojo
It doesn’t really count as a debut or a return because he’s still just sitting backstage in the Stardust Memorial Pre-Taped Promo Room, but Mojo Rawley has gone from screaming at himself in the mirror to BREAKING the mirror while wearing Luna Vachon spider-veins on his face. I could be into Mojo as a one man Road Warriors, but I should also point out that Mojo is an inch taller, way more muscular, and better at wrestling than the “unstoppable monster” they debuted earlier in the night, so I don’t know what they’re doing with anybody.
Oh God, speaking of repackages and things I can’t understand …
??: Bray Wyatt, Children’s Puppeteer OF DOOM
Hahaha, one 40 second vignette and I think I’m already tired of Bray Wyatt again. Is he working a Sifl and Olly gimmick? Did he replace Rowan and Harper with a stinky vulture puppet in a scarf? For real, how’d he fit that much stink into a cardboard box?
Maybe this’ll be good. It’s too early to tell. But there’s an equal chance that it’s Bray Wyatt with a plague doctor mask and an umbrella, which is probably going to scare people a lot less than they’re expecting, and get more “woop woop” chants than they can fathom.
Either that, or Koko B. Ware forgot a really important box when he moved out 25 years ago.
Best, And Then Oh No: Sami Zayn Is Back
The best of the debuts or returns or whatever from last night in a walk is Sami Zayn, finally back (and looking a little too much like Dean Ambrose) from a 10-month sabbatical due to injury. He shows back up as his perfectly awkward Canadian self and issues a passive open challenge, which because Monday Night Raw instantly gives him an Intercontinental Championship match.
Finn Bálor vs. Sami Zayn is the best match of the night by far, which should be a better compliment than it contextually is. If you consider the main event bait and switch as one match, there were only five matches on a three hour show. Not like we were having an NXT TakeOver over here.
Finn wins, because you don’t want him dropping another championship the night after winning it, and that’s when things get … weird.
Just to say it, this is fantastic heel work. Zayn is clearly speaking from the heart, or at least appearing to (which is way more important than anyone seems to realize), and as a fan I love how he and Kevin Owens apparently got Freaky Friday‘d at some point over the past 10 months. Owens is a happy-go-lucky jokester who loves his friends, and Sami Zayn is cutting long-winded promos about how he hates the audience. I hope the next pay-per-view ends with Zayn turning on Kevin and powerbombing him into the ring apron.
I guess the only issue I have with it is that I’m a little uncomfortable with WWE doing another, “we’re fine, actually it’s you who watches the show wrong” thing. Two weeks after the John Oliver piece about how WWE desperately needs to change the way it operates to keep its wrestlers employed and healthy and alive, you’ve got one of the company’s most socially progressive and active stars talking at length about how people who watch and support WWE don’t actually like it, and are only ever critical, and how that is what makes WWE a toxic environment. It’s fiction, sure, but it’s not a great look. It’s a company that needs to look at itself using one of its fictional voices of actual reason to tell us …
Two additional thoughts:
- I feel good knowing Sami Zayn wasn’t talking about me because I definitely look inward all the time and hate the shit out of myself for all kinds of reasons, and
- I’m going to express concern in here and still probably buy a “SEE YOU IN HELL” shirt because good theatrical performance in the fake fighting thing I love trumps most of my good sense, so where’s the lie
Best: Johnny Cash Enthusiasts Collide
My favorite part of this, of course, is that Elias calls out John Cena for not being a musician because “anyone can rap,” and then he backs it up by being very good at rap*. Elias being an actual excellent musician is one of the best things happening in WWE, because he’s the first guy to ever carry a guitar to the ring and actually understand how it works.
As for the Undertaker showing up, I’m happy for everyone that still likes him. He’s never been and will never be my thing, and he’s just here to set up another Saudi Arabian paycheck, but hey, he looks good again, and I’d rather him go six minutes with Elias than 36 with Triple H.
*when I say “good at rap” here I mean “good at that John Cena style of one-sided, speak-slowly-enough-for-everyone-to-hear-and-understand battle rap
They Weren’t On The Show, So Here’s 8 Minutes Of The Iconic Doing Improvised Character Work With Anyone They Can Find Backstage
Busy doin’ wot mate.
Also On This Episode
Dana Brooke’s Ohio accent will definitely keep her in the title pitcher. So will her hair, which looks like fancy pastries now. Also, shout-out to untethered backstage Renee making the same wide-eyed happy smile about everything that happens, even if it’s bad.
It’s a very Monday Night Raw kind of move to announce someone’s “last match on Raw” for later in the night, and then have that match not happen, isn’t it? Between this and the bait-and-switch main event, I thought I was watching Nitro. Instead of Lashley putting Ambrose through a table, they should’ve ended this with the nWo showing up and stomp him a bunch while people throw trash in the ring.
The Raw Tag Team Championship gets defended in a WrestleMania rematch, which The Revival loses via Divas schoolboy of doom from Curt Hawkins. I feel like I’ve been ragging on the Raw tag team division for months now, but you’ve got to wonder about the brand’s understanding of what people like and what makes pro wrestling good when Ryder and Hawkins are on top pinning teams with roll-ups. Where do they go from here? A feud with The Ascension? Raw’s tag division is the most D.O.A. it’s been since it literally involved a team called “D.O.A.”
In other tag team news, Bobby Roode and his weird son promise that they’re going to stop being losers and get back on track “by any means necessary,” and then immediately lose again. They take a loss to brand non-specific Aleister Black and Ricochet, who must be having professional and creative whiplash after having 20,000 people give them a standing ovation on Friday night, competing in a hot match on WrestleMania on Sunday, and then farting around with Bobby Roode while fans do the wave on Raw. Raw is not interested in Aleister Black and Ricochet, if that tells you anything.
Finally, Alexa Bliss returns to the ring with a win over Bayley in two minutes and fifty seconds, bringing the Raw after a WrestleMania that was main-evented by women’s total women’s wrestling content to two minutes and fifty seconds. Hashtag give Divas a chance?
And that’s it. That’s seriously the entire Raw after WrestleMania. Anybody got any beach balls?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
[incessantly refreshing WWE Shop looking for a Kofi Unified Champion t-shirt]
The Real Birdman
Taker’s entrance is so long he actually missed Mania by a day
Seth: “How about you & me team up right now!”
Kofi: “Nah man, I already have two tag partners. Where are yours?”
Seth: “It’s a long story…”
Kang the Conqueror
So, Becky runs down, puts HER titles on the line as well, and walks out with all four, right?
That replay should really say “earlier this morning”
Of course Lacy Evans would hate a woman who identifies as a Man, after this is over it’s on to Sonya Deville
The Voice of Raisin
Of course the former bartender from New York would run afoul of traditional Southern values.
Vince backstage: “The script said to do a funny dance.” Sami: “my bad”
Just like most brooks, Dana is babbling
Renee: dean! Dean! Listen to me!
Dean (while groggy): I’m fine…
Renee: no, i need to ask you, did you see that weird ass bird thing?
That’s it for Raw. Onward to Smackdown, and we can finally leave the diminishing returns of WWE’s weekend in New York City.
Thanks for reading, as always. Drop a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the show and its stinky boxed bird puppets, and give us a share on social media to help us stay in the business of pointing out how stinky the bird looks. See you on the blue brand, which hopefully involves Shane McMahon bringing up the Undisputed Era and putting them all in sweater vests.