Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Bray Wyatt finally returned to the ring as “The Fiend,” R-Truth snuck up Drake Maverick’s ass to win the 24/7 Championship, and Seth Rollins won an opportunity at Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship at SummerSlam. Which is great, because he’s not going to face him on Raw any time soon.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for July 22, 2019.
Blessid Reunion Of Souls
Raw Reunion’s three hours of #content can be divided neatly into two categories:
- appearances from WWE legends who don’t really do anything, but it’s nice to see them, I guess, and
- babyfaces winning throwaway wrestling matches as quickly as possible, because nobody came to this greatest hits concert to hear the new stuff
Let’s talk about the legends appearances first, because there’s literally nothing to say about them other than, “this person you know made an appearance.” We open the show with the only “active” legend to make an appearance, John Cena, and he’s so wonderfully and forever unchanged that he hasn’t even updated his t-shirt. He’s been wearing that neon booger ensemble for a hot minute now. I guess he took a direct flight to Raw from Hollywood China, did his piece, and bailed, but it was good to see him. Cena’s still got so much to offer as a professional wrestler that it’s almost sickening to think about, considering how he veered off into Hollywood before reaching Hollywood Hogan territory and completely reinventing himself for whatever the next generation ends up being. I’m happy for him, though. I’d rather be on a green screen set having Michael Bay yell at me about which Transformer I’m supposed to be fleeing from than getting punched in the face for a living, too.
Similarly, the Rikishi appearance was nice. He’s one of those legends you don’t see pop up on every single legends show, and don’t @ me but he’s one of the most underrated WWE performers of all time. Brother Mick Foley’d himself out of the Headshrinkers and a handful of terrible gimmicks and added 20 years to his career by putting on sunglasses and jamming his asshole in people’s faces. That’s plying a craft.
This sets up a match between The Revival and The Usos, which brings us to our first example of, “babyfaces winning throwaway wrestling matches as quickly as possible.” The Revival are the Raw Tag Team Champions, so of course they’re only here to lose non-title matches to build to another pay-per-view title match they’ll probably win. It’s such a bizarre circle of logic Vince McMahon (or whomever) revels in where they believe these TV matches don’t count because “nobody will remember them,” and the only thing you’re INTENDED to remember are the branded pay-per-view bouts. WWE has so much TV they have to actively train you to stop watching so much WWE TV. It’s working!
The match is fine, and is one of two passable matches on the entire show. There are only six on the entire three-hour show, with only three of the six going longer than five minutes, and only two of those three having finishes. There are no women’s matches at all, the main event is a 45-second jobber squash so we can hurry up and get to the celebration. This episode was intended for you to remember things you used to like, not find things to like now. Why would you wanna do that?
What To Do When Your Wrestling Legends Stop Being Able To Fall Down Without Hurting Themselves
Rikishi doesn’t end up actually doing anything — neither does D-Von Dudley, who accompanies The Revival to the ring just to kind of stand around hoping we don’t ask where his tag team partner is — which brings up one of the major difficulties of running a nostalgia show like this this far from the last relevant boom period: these guys are getting old, for real, and are well past being able to bump or do anything constructive in a wrestling ring. So you can’t have them wrestle. You can’t have them get beaten up unless you do it off-screen or compensate for their inability to fall down without getting injured. But you still need to fill three hours with them doing something other than talking. What do you do?
The 24/7 Championship stuff was a lot of fun, I thought, but highlights this. Drake Maverick uses a Renee Michelle distraction to pin R-Truth and win the belt. He ends up running into the Boogeyman, who just stands there being Boogeyman, and ends up getting pinned by Pat Patterson, a 78-year old man. Patterson can’t go from a standing position to a lateral press and back without causing serious internal problems for himself, much less “bump” or “wrestle,” but they want him to win the belt, so he just kinda wanders in and puts his foot on Drake. When it’s time for him to lose the title, we join the attack already in progress with Pat just kinda sitting comfortably and complaining about having lost.
As a quick aside, the very best part of the entire show was Jerry Brisco’s, “YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, I WON!” He’s forever like a background character from Andy Griffith. Bless him for still being able to take a knee to the balls and lie down for his title loss, as well. That’s the kind of stamina and internal health you build up running a body shop for 30 years.
Brisco loses to Kelly Kelly, making her the first female 24/7 Champion and confirming that the title can be won by anyone. It also confirms that Carmella is a very good friend for devoting her entire career to helping her friend keep a championship instead of schoolboying him and winning it for herself.
Kelly runs afoul of a group of randomly gathered Divas and ends up losing the title to Candice Michelle. Watching Candice do her signature Go Daddy taunt that the Bella Twins lifted to complete silence doesn’t get any easier on YouTube. Alundra Blayze — Madusa, if you’re cool — shows up and chokes out Candice to also silence, probably because nobody in the live crowd recognized her. That’s not shade on Madusa, she didn’t make it easy to recognize her. I wish she’d pinned Candice by running over everybody in a pink monster truck.
That sets up a comedy bit where Madusa’s about to drop the 24/7 Championship in a garbage can a la the Monday Night Wars when Ted DiBiase shows up and buys the championship from her. DiBiase’s finally starting to look old, which is a total breach of kayfabe as the Million Dollar Man character would’ve definitely had a ton of plastic surgery by now and turned into a Jeff Bezos type. Also, where was the ghost of Jack Tunney to show up and strip him of the championship for buying it instead of winning it? THERE’S PRECEDENT, YOU GUYS.
DiBiase can’t bump or lie down really either, so they have him lose the championship off-screen inside a limo. This is kinda what I’m getting at. I love seeing these guys and the idea of Patterson and the goddamn Million Dollar Man winning championships in the year of our Lord 2019 is pretty great, honestly — especially for something like the 24/7 Championship, which is purely for wacky sports-entertainment — but when they can’t physically do even the basic wrestling parts of wrestling anymore, that’s sad. It’s like when they drive a baseball legend out to the mound in a cart and have to help them up onto the mound. You love seeing them, and you’ll always hold them in your hearts and appreciate them, but at some point you’ve gotta just let them be old folks and not keep saying PLAY BASEBALL IN FRONT OF ME.
You don’t want Mick Foley bumping, either, so his segment was more of the same. He teased showing up to win the 24/7 Championship before Raw, so they have the division run by him, and just have him kinda grab at them and say, “oh, I’ll get you next time!”
He starts up a video about his WWF Championship win from Raw but gets quickly interrupted by an appearance from THE FIEND, and I’ve gotta say, I fucking love Wyatt’s new entrance. Everything in the arena just kind of dying and the lights going out section by section instead of all at once is so effective. Bray attacking Foley with the Mandible Claw works, I think, as it’s the kind of move Wyatt’s new character could get over (especially with his spooky gloves), and lets Foley “bump” without having to hurt himself. It’s the “Big Show knocks out Dusty Rhodes and catches him before he falls” gambit. My only complaint here is that they should’ve done the Killer Kross Lucha Underground “blood on the glove” bit to sell the Claw. It’d be easy to do with all the strobe lights going off, and oh man, imagine the terrified letters you’d get from dipshit Mattel-ass parents the next day!
Random Legends Being Random
The legends who didn’t have to do anything just got shuffled into weird groups backstage, like in this segment where Kaitlyn (who really should’ve at least asked where AJ Lee was) randomly injects herself into a conversation between Dana Brooke and Alicia Fox about hats and adds nothing. Weird aside: Alicia Fox is a “WWE Legend” now, apparently, as she’s not really on the active roster anymore and showed up in the group of legends at the end. Did she just like, loiter her way into a WWE Legends deal? Anyway, Torrie Wilson shows up so Fox starts talking to her, and Kaitlyn and Dana Brooke just straight-up vanish. That brings out Santino Marella, who pokes at them with his snake puppet.
I feel like WWE could take a second to flip through the WWE Encyclopedia and remember past relationships between characters to make these backstage interactions matter more. Alicia Fox and Torrie Wilson might be friends in real life for some reason, but they aren’t on-screen pals. Having Kaitlyn run into, I don’t know, Vickie Guerrero or Dolph Ziggler or Big E might’ve been a thing. Let Torrie Wilson run into Tajiri, you know? If Santino’s showing up, why not get Beth Phoenix involved? They were Glamarella, for God’s sakes, and I know you know where she works.
Instead of any of that, Drew McIntyre just wanders in to say “bah humbug” en route to beating up Cedric Alexander in a non-match. Dude couldn’t have at least run into Jinder Mahal back there somewhere?
In another random group of notables segment, Alicia Fox and Kaitlyn — who were not the people left talking to each other before, but whatever — chat up Jimmy Hart at catering while Mike Kanellis gets pregnancy advice from Eve Torres and Eric Bischoff. Are we supposed to forget that Mike and Maria already have a kid? Why does she need mom advice from Eve? Note: Eve Torres looks amazing, by the way, and I think she’s aging in reverse.
Anyway, Bischoff asks Maria to come to Smackdown, which is weird considering he hasn’t actually started there or become an on-screen character acknowledged as any kind of authority, but whatever, he’s just gonna go on his podcast and yell at us for being blogs whether we say we liked this bit or not. Maria shits on Mike for being impotent (fix it) again, and Ron Simmons wanders in to DAMN him while Torrie Wilson and WWE LEGEND JILLIAN HALL chuckle in the background. What, was WWE Legend Cherry busy? Did WWE Legends Gymini not answer your calls?
The most random group of the night happens during Sami Zayn vs. Rey Mysterio, which is the kind of match I should be on here losing my shit about, but can’t, because WWE has dedicated their year to muting our enthusiasm for everything. Sami tries to bail on the match but is stopped by a group of legends. Now, this could’ve been a famous faction (or at least, you know, a faction), or maybe some of Rey Mysterio’s old friends or rivals. Hell, Lucha House Party could’ve shown up to intimidate Sami back into the ring out of respect for Rey. Instead, we get the all-star squadron of The Hurricane, Rob Van Dam, Kurt Angle, and Sgt. Slaughter.
Not that I have a problem with that specific group of people, but ask yourself: if it’d been the Honky Tonk Man, Bob Holly, Nikolai Volkoff, and Ted DiBiase Jr., would it have changed anything? It’s just random ass wrestlers doing a random ass thing, sometimes in full gear, so you can see them exist. It’s, “do you remember?” and nothing underneath. Yes, I remember them. Now what? Y’all want to do anything fun or cool for all the casuals who tuned in to see these guys to convince them to maybe tune in next week, too? Maybe do something cool with a new guy while the casuals are watching so they think, “hey, maybe I could think the new guy is cool, too?” No? All right, just checking.
The ultimate group of random legends happened at the end of the night, when it was time to “toast to Raw.” The only toast I associate with Raw is the toast I think I smell when the writing gives me a stroke.
Ric Flair shows up being Ric Flair, which is great, and the legends (and Alicia Fox) show up to clap for him. That brings out Hulk Hogan, presumably because Ric Flair was getting over and he needed to put an immediate stop to it. Hogan cuts another one of his, “please don’t yell at me, I’m a nice old man, remember vitamins, remember saying prayers?” promos that we’ll no doubt be hearing quarterly for the rest of our fucking lives. Eventually that summons Stone Cold Steve Austin, who stomps to the ring to drink beers, toast Raw, and go full Grandpa Simpson as the show goes off the air.
Austin reminds us that everyone in the back is family, even though they’ve all been made to stay in the back while the people we know from 20-40 years ago drink beer in the ring in a non-wrestling main event segment, and that everyone watching at home is family, at least the ones who watch WWE TV like they’re told and never complain.
Worst: Don’t Call It That
The Club is now, “THE OC,” and here’s their new entrance video:
The Bullet Club became “The Club” became “The OC,” or, as Styles puts it, “the original, the official, the only club that matters.” I can’t wait until the One Tree Hill faction shows up to battle them for mid-2000s network teen demographic supremacy. The shirts aren’t bad, but the name is definitely in “the club” with The Submission Sorority and The Viking Experience.
Their renaming only seemed to exist so it could set up D-Generation X (minus Billy Gunn) and The Outsiders (… sorry, “The Kliq”) showing up to immediately humiliate them for saying they’re the “original” anything. This is because of an AJ Styles vs. Seth Rollins match — the kind of top-tier showcase match that could really raise some eyebrows of people who tuned in unfamiliar with the current product — that goes about eight minutes and ends in a disqualification. Also, it was set up in a talk show segment. Nothing pays tribute to the factions of the Attitude Era quite like long promos leading to underwhelming disqualifications, right?
I guess we should be happy that The Good Brothers got out of this merely being emasculated on the microphone instead of actually beaten up by a pack of geezers like The Revival was back at Raw 25. It really could’ve put The OC (don’t call it that) on the map if they’d just interrupted the macho posturing and stomped the shit out of these old guys. Triple H is still tough, sure, and X-Pac looks as good as he ever has, but everybody else looks like a stiff kick to the sternum would put them down permanently.
While we’re on the subject, is anybody else getting seriously turned off by where Seth Rollins’ character has gone lately? The combination of his nasally “confident” promos (replacing the well-spoken and reasonable, passionate babyface stuff he was doing before WrestleMania), anti-chemistry with Becky Lynch, and weird Company Man tweets about how WWE’s great and Jon Moxley’s trying to “take food off his table” are really contextualizing him, at least in kayfabe, as a guy you’d kinda sorta like to see get suplexed to death. I’m sure if he just starts having good matches again soon and stops shout-rambling I’ll be into it, but right now I find myself hoping Brock Lesnar wrecks him at SummerSlam and retains. Bonus points if Seth brings D-X and the nWo and we see how many of them can get up after a German suplex without exposed bones.
The Samoa Joe Microcosm
Last night’s Samoa Joe segment was a perfect encapsulation of every Samoa Joe main roster WWE angle.
It starts with Joe cutting a promo about how he hates something completely reasonable, like the Raw Reunion. He’s interrupted by a More Important Character who tells him to shut up. The two have words, and Joe’s natural charisma and evident toughness elevates what could’ve been a boring, by-the-numbers wrestling segment into something heated that catches our interest. A fight breaks out, and they tease a match. Joe doesn’t want to have the match at first, but then agrees. Then the wrestling is great for a few minutes, and he loses, usually clean, usually in a way that feels an awful lot like a deflating balloon in my heart.
That’s every Joe angle, done in a single segment. You never felt like Joe had a chance in hell of winning here, like you might’ve if, say, they’d done the heated microphone confrontation and spent a few weeks building up to a match at SummerSlam. If Roman was a champion, sure, Joe would be toast … do I smell toast? … but without anything on the line you’d be able to convince yourself that maybe, finally, this was the beginning of WWE taking Joe seriously as a Top Guy and not letting him run out the clock on his career as a jobber to the stars. Again, I don’t fault Joe the performer for doing a great job with what he’s given and taking losses, because I know that’s how it works sometimes, it’s just that as a fan of Samoa Joe I desperately want more for him.
Also On This Episode
Hey, The Viking Raiders beat an actual team!
I have to make sure to give a +1 to Raw actually running a tag team that works here against the Raiders for once, as while I love a jobber squash as much (or much more) than the next guy, I know Raw “monsters” can get stuck crushing cans for so long that they stop feeling like part of the company and become sideshow attractions. I don’t like Raw’s tag teams or what they do with any of them, but maybe I would if it felt like Raw remembered it has a functioning tag team division more often.
I do wish that they’d continued the jobber squashes for another week for Raw Reunion, just to have the Raiders destroy like, Barry Hardy and Duane Gill.
Natalya is almost ready for her Turing Test! “Becky Lynch, at [loading] SummerSlam, I will beat the [loading] [loading] BITCH out of you!”
Poor Alexa Bliss. At least The Miz gets to pretend his talk show is an actual segment before a bunch of people interrupt him to set up a match. Alexa Bliss just goes, “buh,” and somebody’s music hits. She should build an electric fence around her little table and chairs setup.
This week’s main event, believe it or not, was Braun Strowman squashing a guy named “Randy Rowe.” “Randy Rowe” sounds enough like “Brandi Rhodes” (and Corey Graves said it wrong enough) that too much of the Internet is convinced its a thinly veiled assault on AEW, which is pretty funny, like they’d do anything more subtle than dressing up a jobber like Little Lord Fauntleroy and calling him “Rhodey Codes.”
If you’re wondering, “Randy” is actually Italian wrestler D3, easily the best wrestler in the world to be named after one of the Mighty Ducks movies. He did a great job of getting weightlessly thrown around while looking like El Hijo del Red Rooster.
Also, wanna hear something deeply disappointing?
They had the legend NICHOLAS backstage at the Raw Reunion and didn’t put him on camera. How do you not give Nicholas a run with the 24/7 Championship? I rank this at #1 on my list of Raw reunion disappointments, right behind Hornswoggle not showing up to win the 24/7 Championship and getting called “Drake Maverick” after Truth pins him.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
The Real Birdman
Austin: “I spent the day…”
Austin: “…before the show…”
Austin: “…with Hulk Hogan”
If Dibiase has R-Truth try to bounce a basketball 10 times in order to win his title back, I’m going to fully mark out
The Voice of Raisin
How great would Raw Reunion have been if the premise was RVD and Matt Riddle had to travel through time collecting wrestling legends in order to pass their WWE history report?
Not A Crook
it’s nice to see all the legends getting to experience what life is like for current talent, being made to feel like goobers standing on a stage for no apparent reason watching one dude cut a meaningless promo
Murking Foley was great, but damn, what would the reaction have been if the lights went out right now, Bray knocked Stone Cold out and we went off the air with the laughter?
Vince: So then you and HBK go out and help Seth.
Triple H: He’s LITERALLY called the King Slayer because we fought at Wrestlemania
Vince:….so then you and HBK go out and help Seth.
Triple H: ::sighs deeply:: I wish I was at a NXT taping.
Who’s ready to be nostalgic about wondering why Kelly Kelly is winning titles?
Big Baby Yeezus
“I want to see Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair”- A Saudi Arabian prince
So this was the plan all along…be so awful that Cena would be seen as a breath of fresh air and be universally loved.
HAVE A NICE BRAY!
That’s it for the Raw Reunion. Join us again in four months when it’s time for the Smackdown Soiree on Fox, featuring legends you haven’t seen more than a couple of times this year!
Thanks for reading. Sorry again about last week’s lateness, that’s what severe illness will do to you. At least I’m back in time to tell you how I feel about Hulk Hogan segments! I never get to do that! As always, drop a comment down below to let us know what you thought of the show — it helps us more than you know, really — and consider giving us a share on social media to keep us in business.
Make sure you’re here next week for Regular Raw, featuring a bunch of people you’d never consider to be “future legends” until we run out of people to bring back, and suddenly they are! Maybe next time we’ll get that Elias and Jillian Hall segment that was missing from the Raw Reunion.