The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 2/11/19: Suspension Of Disbelief


WWE Raw

Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Becky Lynch was suspended by management, putting her WrestleMania main-event in danger. Also, EC3 battled Dean Ambrose, Finn Bálor had a singles match where his opponent suddenly changed, and Bayley had to wrestle by herself because Sasha Banks was injured. Up next, a completely different Raw!

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And now, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for February 11, 2019.

Worst: A Pair Of Suspenders

This is sure a thing.

Let’s try to just break this down based on what happened, and not on our immediate thoughts and feelings as Armchair Booker-ass Internet Types. On last week’s Raw, Becky Lynch punched her boss in the face for telling her she needed to go to the doctor, based on her previous understanding of how evil WWE general manager figures work and assuming it was a set-up for some kind of career-threatening swerve. On Smackdown, she had a similar incident with Triple H where he insulted her for a bit for not doing what he says, then slapped him in the face. Your mileage may vary depending on how able you are to still enjoy WRESTLER VS. BOSS stories after 20 straight years and like a thousand episodes of them.

This week’s show opens with Triple H and Stephanie bringing out Lynch again, despite her not being a rostered member of the show they’re on and how they suspended her. Turns out it’s one of those John Cena suspensions where she doesn’t miss a second of work, though, as apparently she’s seen her own doctor, that doctor conferred with WWE’s doctors, and she’ll be medically cleared for Mania. That kinda sorta seems like how the segment should’ve gone last week, but it’s Wrestling Drama, so whatever. The Authority — because it took the show two months to completely revert back to it was before they asked us to watch it with fresh eyes — says that all they want to seal the deal is a hug and a kiss, baby, in the form of an apology. Lynch, who is either still convinced someone in the Council of McMahons is out to get her, spends three hours trying to decide if she’ll say she’s sorry for punching them over some behind-the-scenes HR shit.

So!

Since a lot of us have sat through many, many, many angles like this, the initial response for us (and me, specifically) was that Becky should just half-assedly apologize like everyone does to their bosses at work and get her WrestleMania paper. That causes a lot of stressful conversations about what Stone Cold Steve Austin would do, and how the attitude of WWE Top Babyfaces® has or hasn’t changed since 1998, and how the situation might be different for women who aren’t belligerent, borderline murderous rednecks.

I thought about that stuff, but I don’t think that’s the major problem. To me, the issue is that the Becky Lynch everyone got on board with managed to be a confident bad-ass and a scrappy underdog at the same time. It wasn’t Austin … it was Austin + Daniel Bryan, making it its own, new thing. They’re still attempting to do this by having Lynch get injured constantly and have her position on the big cards manipulated by the bosses who don’t think she’s “good enough,” but I don’t think they’ve found the right balance. You can’t be an underdog if you’re The Man. It’s antithetical to the entire idea of it. By having Becky remain fecklessly confident despite management coming down on her and having her fight them, you make her look a little more irrational than she needs to as a character; like she’s jumping the gun expecting a bunch of Black Weddings and forced embalmings and Higher Powers or whatever before they actually happen, when the focus could (and probably should) be on the preexisting, main-event quality personal issues with Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair. It really doesn’t need McMahons at all.

Having said that, let’s involve more McMahons.

At the end of the night, The Authority (still not us) confronts Becky in the ring, and she gives them their apology. Surprisingly, it all appears to be on the level; Triple H and Stephanie shake her hand, tell her good luck at WrestleMania, and even tell her there’s no catch when she wonders where the catch is. And that sets up a very confusing ending bit that I’m not sure any of us have the processing power to figure out right now.

Vince McMahon interrupts to announce that the decisions of Triple H and Stephanie don’t actually matter, Becky Lynch is still suspended — now for 60 days, meaning she won’t even compete at WrestleMania, much less be in the main event — declares himself The Man, and subs in Charlotte Flair. I kinda get where the writers (read: Vince by himself) are going, and why they think this will make the story better. It’s not a bad booking decision to get two contracted WWE employees into the first-ever women’s WrestleMania main event, if the big crossover star is thinking about leaving for an expended period of time afterward. The Becky vs. Charlotte feud has been just as important to the success of Becky’s character as the beef with Rousey, maybe even moreso, and it should get the same level of main-event acknowledgment. Plus, Flair is your previously established Biggest Female Star, she’s got a ton of name recognition even to casual fans, and having two hard-working vets in there against Ronda instead of one opens up the match structure a lot and takes some of the pressure off Rousey to pull 50% of the weight in a proposed “greatest WrestleMania main event ever.”

That said, and to quote our own Elle Collins, it only became normalized in the modern era for women to get singles matches at Mania literally last year. And that made it seem like singles matches at Mania were a sign of respect for the women’s division. So giving them the (a) main event but not letting it be a singles match feels like taking a step back right when you’re taking a step forward. By adding Vince and a bunch of conflicting evil general manager types, you’re also homogenizing your first main-event-level women’s story by homogenizing it and making it the same thing (or far too similar to what) we’ve seen Austin do, and Bryan do, and Cena do, and Punk do, and Reigns do. And Seth Rollins, and Bobby Lashley, and on and on. The story’s now way too much about how the McMahons are going to interact with each other going forward, with not enough of a focus put on what made this angle and these characters catch fire in the first place.

They’re going to break it by “making sure” it works, and that’s the most WWE thing I can think of.

For further illustration of this, check out the Dot Com Exclusive clip of what happened after the show went off the air. It’s arguably the biggest female star in the history of modern mainstream sports — unarguably when it comes to combat sports — and your new top star, the two halves of your WrestleMania main event, performing in complete and utter silence. The crowd was quiet all night, for which we can’t really blame them, but it’s so quiet here John Krasinski and Emily Blunt could wander through the ring unnoticed.

We know Lynch isn’t going to stay suspended through WrestleMania, so we’re what, two, three weeks from Ronda Rousey tagging with Becky Lynch against the Riott Squad at Fastlane to see if they can co-exist? Spoiler alert: they can, and then they can’t.

Best, Mostly: Tag Team Matches Of Consequence

The first match of the night is Bayley (in a dope WCW Macho Man “madness” inspired jacket) and her partner Injured Sasha Banks in a triple threat tag team match against the Riott Squad and whatever we’re calling Nia Jax and Tamina. They claim they’re gonna make the Elimination Chamber into a “Samoan Slaughterhouse,” which sounds like more of a place for Samoans to be slaughtered than to do the slaughtering, but +1 to Tamina for getting through a pre-taped promo without her brain falling out of her ear.

Anyway, they’re continuing the story of Bayley having to wrestle these matches by herself, because Sasha Banks is dealing with legitimate injuries but still has to be around to tell the story they need to tell about the Women’s Tag Team Championship. Unless they’re going to randomly split them up again and sacrifice one of the five legitimate teams in the entire division, they at least need Banks acknowledged and in the Chamber match to get them into a WrestleMania program with whoever actually wins. I hope it’s the IIconics, but yeah, it’s gonna be Nia and Tamina. It’s a tough spot they’re in, and the stories they’re telling here are probably as good as they can be with what they’re working with.

To make a quick followup point, I’m glad they gave this a “losing team stars the chamber match” stipulation, because if you’re going to have any match for any reason on your television show, it should be happening for an actual reason. Not every match needs a stipulation, but Jesus, a stip on a match on the go-home show beats the hell out of “they need to win to GAIN MOMENTUM.”

In slightly more cautiously exciting news, THE TOP GUYS ARE TOP GUYS AGAIN. The poor, poor Revival finally have WWE believing rules are important for tag team matches — “they think they’re a real tag team,” says Michael Cole in the most backhanded way imaginable — and are able to unseat Bobby Roode and his son to become Raw Tag Team Champions. It’s one of those modern miracle Revival matches where nobody gives a shit at the beginning, and is chanting, “this is awesome,” by the end. It’s what they did for an NXT tag team division that was nothing but Ascension matches a few years ago, and it’s what they could do for Raw’s equally embarrassing tag division in 2019.

That Said™, I’m still not wholly confident that this is the turning point in the Top Guys’ careers, and that they’ll get a big long awesome tag titles run and stay in WWE. It feels like there’s an equal (or at least roughly equal) possibility that they’ll lose the belts as soon as the Elimination Chamber pre-show to someone like Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder, or just randomly drop them to like, Apollo Crews and somebody a few weeks before Mania to set up a gauntlet match or a battle royal or something they’ll run at 2PM in front of 15% of the crowd. I certainly hope that’s not the case, as I love Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder more than I love most members of my family, but right now measured enthusiasm is what I can muster.

Worst: That Endless Thing In The Middle Of The Show

Break out your commemorative Teddy Long scorecard for this one.

Remember back before the McMahons announced things were gonna be different moving forward, and the entirety of Raw was built around a heatless, momentum-free circle jerk involving Baron Corbin, Bobby Lashley, and Drew McIntyre beating up all of Raw’s babyfaces? We’re back to that. Without even a hint of irony.

Finn Bálor has a match against Drew McIntyre. Despite Drew McIntyre always being put over by the announcers as this big, unstoppable, game-changing assassin, he seems to lose an awful lot. He’s about to lose to Finn here when Bob Lashley interferes. That brings out Kurt Angle to make the save, which brings out Baron Corbin, which brings out Braun Strowman, which brings out the commercial break where the “match is made.” If you’ve watched wrestling twice in the past 12 months you’ve seen this three times.

That match with a false finish sets up two more finishes for the same match.

The first comes when Lashley pinns Bálor, but Bálor has his foot on the rope. The referee calls the match, but restarts it when a second referee jogs down and explains his mistake. You’d think if this could happen it would affect Raw and Smackdown and pay-per-views in a significant way every week, but it’s been that weird selective way since the 1980s, so who even knows. This had already gone on super long by the first pinfall.

With the match restarted, the faces are able to build The All-Important Momentum™ when Bálor pins Lashley. I guess the best compliment I can give here is that Bálor’s top rope foot stomp looks a lot better when he has to jump out a ways instead of going straight up and straight down. Not only does it kill Cole’s annoying HE’S IN THE DROPZONE call, but it justifies the way Finn falls over backwards when he hits it. He has to do it that way to not crush people’s guts for real, so if he has to actually dive outward toward the center of the ring, the stretch and fall make more sense. I hope I’m explaining that right. Basically dude has no reason to be stumbling backwards into the turnbuckle if he’s stomping a guy that’s like a foot and a half away.

Again, this is probably enjoyable WWE programming if you don’t watch every week, and haven’t seen them do this exact thing in this exact way so many times. It’s the difference in hearing a dumb pop song once, and hearing it every hour of every day for a year.

Also On This Episode: Hope You Like The New People, Because They Lost

Dean Ambrose, who showed up to do a weird off-script thing with Seth Rollins at the end of a promo because [shrug], gets his win back against EC3 with a roll-up. I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to figure out why you take a guy from Impact who got over because (1) he could talk, and (2) maintained a huge winning streak and attempt to get him over to a Raw crowd by having him lose and never speak. I’m sure he’ll be fine, but in two weeks he’s already just another guy falling victim to 50/50 booking without a visible end game for either wrestler.

I think the thing that bugged me most is that they didn’t even give the ending time to settle, they just immediately launched into I BET THIS IS AN IMPORTANT LESSON FOR EC3 TO LEARN, HUH, peppered with a bunch of lame followup “where’s EC1 and EC2” jokes from last week. Like, let the action speak for itself sometimes, guys. And maybe don’t shit on kayfabe gimmick explanations you know you can’t provide without context from one of your competitors. If you didn’t want to acknowledge that, you could’ve just called him “Derrick Bateman” again.

Nikki Cross appears to be getting the No Way Jose treatment already, as in about a month and change she’s gone from one of the “six hot new stars coming to WWE” to Alicia Fox’s tag team partner, and basically she’s enhancement talent for the more important enhancement talent. She loses to Ruby Riott here, which I don’t hate, but I know is just to make Ruby look good before she loses badly to Ronda Rousey.

I’d say, “I wish they’d send Nikki to Smackdown,” but what would she do there? Hang out with Sanity in catering? Why’d you call up any of those people at all? Couldn’t you have just gotten Epico and Primo to show up if you need a fourth tag team for a Smackdown match every five months?

Best: Gran Metalik Mic Time

“What about you, you think you can just grow trees out of thin air?”
“No, my friend. I … SEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!”

As far as I can tell, Elias asked Metalik if he thought he could “do better than him,” meaning, “can you sing better than Elias,” and Metalik though the was asking, “do you think you can dance better than Lince Dorado.” So Metalik was like, “no, I sing,” and committed 100% to sounding like the goofiest motherfucker in the world while he did it.

Two notes:

  • Kalisto should have his larynx removed
  • Elias trying to get good promo time out of Lucha House Party is some real trial by fire shit, and he deserves a WWE Championship run simply for being asked to hold a microphone in the direction of these dudes and doing it
  • the best part of the entire segment (and Raw) is Lince sticking his finger in his cat ear like it’s his real ear
WWE Raw

Best: Oh No, Lesnar’s Winning At WrestleMania, Isn’t He

Finally this week we have the aforementioned promo from Seth Rollins, in which he declares in no uncertain terms that he’s going to make a deal with the Christian Satan himself and spend eternity burning in literal Christian Hell to make sure Brock Lesnar doesn’t leave WrestleMania as Universal Champion. He should probably make that deal to have control over WWE’s bottom line and work from there, but sure.

The only downside, really, is that Paul Heyman has had to cut main-event-carrying promos for like two years now without his client actually there, and there’s only so much you can say about Brock Lesnar being at home. Heyman has gotten more mileage out of it than anyone else could’ve — one thing I particularly love is when someone claps back at him, he reacts to it, instead of just joking about it and deflecting it, because the characters caring about what’s going on and what’s about to happen *is the story* — but I think we’ve officially exhausted his supply. Really hoping Rollins takes it at Mania for a variety of reasons, including, “if we’re gonna pay Paul Heyman to be awesome on television, can we give him a real reason to be on television?” Also, you know, so the fucking wrestling show can have championship matches.

Best: Top 10-Plus Comments Of The Week, Because Our Site Didn’t Let You Reply To Comments For The First Hour Or So Of Raw And We’re Sorry

Daniel Valentin

So, Becky could not have apologized and gotten pulled out of tue Mania match, but she did and she STILL got pulled out of the match.

The only winning move is not to play.

“Gentlemen, congratulations on winning the most meaningless title in the entire WWE. How does it feel to have it given to you merely to appease you from leaving the company for AEW and having your moment overshadowed by Becky Lynch giving a promo? Assholes?”

The Real Birdman

NOW THROW THE BELTS IN THE TRASH. DO IT

You would think after that many F5s he’d feel refreshed

Pdragon619

You’re right guys, Becky was so wrong and paranoid to distrust the McMahons pulling some random bullshit.

Jeff Jarrett: Look Bex, you just gotta go out there and tell em you’re sorry…. sorry you didn’t do it earlier!!!

JayBone2

HHH: I thought we had him going to an “XFL Conference” for the next 4 months?

STEPH: WHO SQUEALED AND GOT HIM AND FLAIR INVOLVED?

KEVIN DUNN: (Maniacal Laugh)

AddMayne

Roode & Gable are like Dexter

They lasted longer than what feasibly makes sense, Rose and Dexter both feel like they’re feigning human emotion and this can really only end with someone becoming a lumberjack

Brocky

Dean: I only got one thing to say to you…..

Strike this MOTHERF***ER OUT!!

Seth while sighing: Dean, we’ve been over this, you can’t drop movie quotes out of context, are you even trying anymore?

Dean: no, not really

Baron Von Raschke

“Get out there and apologize…Even if you don’t mean it”. Translate that into Latin and it’s the McMahon Family Motto.

Cami

Why are they making Becky apologize for RAW? She just visiting.


WWE Raw

WE ARE LISTENING TO YOU, STOP LISTENING BACK

That’s it for this week’s … show. There’s some stuff to like!

As always, thanks for reading. Drop us a comment below to let us know what you thought about the show, or to share your general, five-paragraph opinion on why we should or shouldn’t like Becky Lynch. After that, a share on social media would help us a lot. See you this weekend for Elimination Chamber, and then Fastlane, and then St. Valentine’s Day Masscare, and how ever many more shows they’ve managed to cram between the Rumble and WrestleMania!

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