Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Raw: Matt Hardy played an incomplete game of chess with a goldfish possessing the spirit of French military leader Napoléon Bonaparte. In a less believable segment, Kane was put into a pay-per-view main event for 2018.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for December 25, 2017.
Foreword: It’s Christmas
From last week’s Best and Worst of Smackdown Live:
Smackdown Live just had a pay-per-view over the weekend and Christmas is in six days with several weeks remaining to build to the Royal Rumble. That means this week’s Smackdown — and presumably both next week’s Smackdown and next week’s Raw — are going to be house show placeholder shows with some Christmas shit strewn around the arena. I mean, it’s fine. Nobody’s going to be paying attention to these shows right now. Smackdown had a pay-per-view, and even Smackdown’s creative team didn’t watch it.
So just like that show, you’ve got to take this week’s Raw with a grain of salt. Three hours of salt, in a pile. One important thing happens, sure, but that felt like it needed to happen out of necessity more than creative planning. I guess I’m trying to say two things:
- 1. This isn’t going to be a very positive edition of Best and Worst, or the longest one I’ve ever written, because WWE didn’t put a lot of effort into this, so why should I, and
- 2. Nothing about this three-hour live show felt like a good reason to make everyone work on Christmas instead of taping something last week or like, airing a Best Of show. Or that Starrcade you’ve got on tape, or ANYTHING.
Worst: John Cena Is Back, And He’s The Fucking Worst
If you’ve seen Cena’s recent work on Smackdown and anything from his “awkwardly growing out my little boy hair” period, you know that he’s coasting on his worst qualities as a performer and is checked all the way the hell out. He can still have fine-to-good wrestling matches, because he’s John Cena, and he could have a “good John Cena match” in his sleep. In his deep, robotic sleep, between dreams of electric sheep.
So, I wrote this in our five-point preview for the open discussion thread for this Raw, because I thought I was being pessimistically funny:
Who’s ready for John Cena to make a bunch of corny jokes about Elias and then Attitude Adjust him? Merry Christmas!
Heh, uh, well …
One of the worst things WWE does — a phrase I feel like I’ve typed a lot this year, and I’m sorry — is having a big star like John Cena or The Rock show up from more or less out of nowhere with no build or story to interact with a younger, newer star that isn’t huge yet, but is gaining momentum. Instead of using the star to give that up-and-comer a rub, they have the star point out how garbage the newer guy is, make fun of them for a bit, deconstruct everything crowds were enjoying about them and, for lack of less dramatic phrasing, fuck them in the ass. The best example I can think of for The Rock is Rusev. Remember when The Rock had a confrontation with Rusev and made him look like a total joke, but everyone was like, “you don’t get it, this is going to make Rusev A STAR because he’s interacting with a huge star! It doesn’t matter if he looks good or bad!” And then the result wasn’t Rusev becoming a star, it was nobody taking him seriously as a threat for three years until he started slowly getting over again as part of a lower-card heel tag team on Smackdown nobody’s paying much attention to?
The John Cena version of that is everyone ever. Except AJ Styles, I guess?
Elias interrupts Cena. Cena talks over him a bunch, then says he’s “trying to warn” Elias not to say bad things about Chicago, because John Cena knows Chicago, they are his family, and the holidays is special. Oh, you’re an Elias fan, John? Name three of his songs (that aren’t about how he hates whatever city he’s in). He’s not doing anything unforgivable, don’t get me wrong, but his “aw shucks” shit and his constant, seemingly soma’d-out mugging and insistence on working with these characters that would be a hell of a lot better off never running into John Cena The Infuriating WWE Character are maddening.
I think the worst part — and something Cena did that I feel is very wrong — is when the crowd chants “CM PUNK.” Elias pauses, responds with “CM Punk’s not going to interrupt me,” and tries to move on with his promo. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Cena, who exists far outside of “what you’re supposed to do,” gets on the microphone and is like ACTUALLY THE CROWD SHOULD CHEER FOR CM PUNK BECAUSE HE’S FROM HERE AND THEY CAN CHEER WHOEVER THEY WANT. Because what, he wants to be popular in Chicago? 1% more popular? You’d think of all the people who’d kayfabe understand Elias wanting people to shut up about CM Punk, it’d be John Cena. E-li should’ve just smashed him in the face with the guitar for that. Don’t railroad these dudes who have to deal with this shit every week, John.
In other words:
The match is the same “good John Cena match” he’s had for years. If you throw in a guy like Styles, they can elevate it to something spectacular, but there’s a difference between Big Match John and Regular Match John. Regular Match John is going to take a bunch of your offense, creating the illusion that it’s a competitive match, then he’s gonna maybe kick out of your finisher at 2.9 to make you look like you almost won. Then he’s going to Attitudinally Adjust you and win.
The only rub Elias gets is the “hey, this guy can work!” rub he’s been getting since he showed up on Raw, because he’s been busting his ass and his very WWE-friendly style of wrestling works a lot better on the main roster than in NXT, where “workrate” and dramatic sports storytelling is king. There’s nothing he got out of this he couldn’t have gotten out of, say, fifteen minutes in the ring with any other competent WWE Superstar, minus the opening shit-take on his entire concept.
Anyway, join us on Tuesday when Cena returns to Smackdown, is like, “hey I just bought a calendar and it ain’t got Rusev Day on it ANWYHERE,” then pins Rusev and Aiden English at the same time with a double Attitude Adjustment.
How Many Times Are We Going To Do This
On the December 11 edition of Raw, Absolution won a six-woman tag team match against Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie James. On the next week’s show, December 18, Absolution lost a six-woman tag team match against Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie James because they wouldn’t stop kicking Sasha’s ass and the referee threw it out. On this week’s show, Absolution wins a six-woman tag team match against Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie James. Guys, I know Paige is back, but you don’t have to go back to exclusively booking the Divas Revolution as Team Whatever vs. Team Whoever six-person tags.
A supplemental Best, however, to Sonya Deville’s lariat. You know you’re cracking somebody with it when the force of your own blow makes you take a knee.
Worst: What Was So Urgent You Needed To Cut This Promo
Somewhere late in the show, Alexa Bliss interrupts Nia Jax’s attempt to get busy with Enzo Amore under the mistletoe and is like, “no, we have to go now, I have something urgent to talk to you about, it’s about the women’s Royal Rumble match.”
Later, Alexa Bliss shows up by herself to cut a promo about said match, which boils down to, “I am the champion so I will be watching the match.” Asuka shows up to reiterate that nobody is ready for Asuka, and Bliss has to stand there being afraid of her until Asuka kicks her in the head and knocks her out. So … why wasn’t Nia out here with Alexa? Why do a segment about how Alexa needs Nia for something women’s Royal Rumble related, then show us Alexa having nothing really urgent to say or do about the match, and then get beaten up because Nia’s not around? I get that maybe it’s a separate conversation off-screen, but you’ve got THREE HOURS to fill, guys. The last thing we need is time-wasting segments that build to nothing when you’ve used OTHER TV time to set up segments you aren’t gonna reference again or show.
Note: Again, none of this (except Cena, I guess) is horribly bad or necessitating a dense paragraph about why it doesn’t work, but like, WWE is choosing to build their shows with these segments. I really don’t understand why. You don’t need to be doing high art to have your shit happen for basic reasons and sequentially make sense.
Best, I Guess: The Miracle On 34th Street Fight
As for Enzo, he’s on the losing side of this week’s Contractually Obligated Cruiserweight Six-Man Tag billed as a “Miracle on 34th Street Fight.” Usually WWE goes all-out with these things and has fun, but this one’s basically a normal cruiser tag with kendo sticks that look like barber poles. My favorite thing about kendo stick shots these days it that the crowd always, always expects the person to get hit in the face, because that’s 100% the enjoyment of a kendo stick in pro wrestling. But nobody gets hit in the head with anything now, so when the first shot goes to the stomach, you can hear the crowd deflate. The second back shot makes a loud noise and usually evens it out.
This is really only here to give Cedric Alexander another strong win heading into next week’s Cruiserweight Championship match against Enzo, so it accomplished what it set out to do. I hope Ariya Daivari’s entire WWE contract is just “I THE UNDERSIGNED AGREE TO TAKE A LUMBAR CHECK AND A PIN WHENEVER WE NEED SOMEONE TO,” and then a line with his signature under it.
In other cruiserweight action, Hideo Itami defeats Brian Kendrick in a match that’s here to make Chicago wait for a Go To Sleep. I’m surprised Cena didn’t run out with a microphone, point at Itami while making a funny face and say, “HEY CHICAGO, REMEMBER THAT MOVE? CM PUNK DID IT! THIS GUY’S IS WORSE.”
Best, Then Worst: Roman Vs. Joe, And Another Too Much Fighting Disqualification
It’s the worst finish in wrestling. Seriously. A match is going fine, back-and-forth, and then one wrestler does too many attacks in a row and maybe the referee gets pushed, and that’s a disqualification. It’s especially bad in the current WWE product for three big reasons:
- 1. It happens all the time. WWE’s SUPER INTO this finish this year. It’s how the women’s trios match ended just last week, and this week it’s how the Intercontinental Championship match ends. It’s the finish they do when they want to do a match later, and the only idea they have to set it up is “do that match NOW, and have nothing matter so you’ll hope the next one does.”
- 2. There’s never a believable setup to it. A finish like this requires HEAT. It requires someone to be so mad about something or fed-up with a wrestler’s cheating or cowardice or whatever that when they’ve finally got them cornered, they’re going for broke. It needs to be built like the wrestler has lost his or her mind, and forgets to pay attention to the rules. In the current product, it’s never, ever that. It’s a wrestler puts another wrestler in the corner, lazily punches and stomps him a few times, and the referee starts freaking out and cramming himself between them. It’s never something the referee couldn’t just stop. And that leads to reason 3:
- 3. The referee never sells it. Here, Roman gets disqualified for “pushing the referee,” which (a) barely constitutes a push at all, and (b) only happens because the referee is physically between them in a way he wouldn’t be if this wasn’t the finish. It’s not like Roman got super heated and knocked the referee out, he’s just punching and the referee starts trying to lounge in his armpit. It’s horrible. In women’s matches they don’t even have the referee get pushed usually, they just have him stand near them making vague hand gestures until it’s time to throw the match out.
So it never works, it’s always flat, it feels like a bad creative decision instead of an organic match result and they do it all the damn time.
Unsurprisingly, Joe vs. Roman for the Intercontinental Championship was well on its way to being the best match (and by proxy, the best part) of the show. The Coquina Clutch with Joe hooking Roman’s arm with his leg was an INCREDIBLY believable finish, and probably should’ve ended it. Joe needs a win like that. And if it’s Christmas and you wanted to do a title change, why not change this one?
Instead, the great submission sequence and the solid arm work Roman’s doing when Joe dives and smashes him into the railing gets completely forgotten for the “too much fighting” finish. And that leads to something even worse: Roman spending like five minutes beating the shit out of Joe, lifting the steel steps with his bad arm and doing a bunch of Superman punches because he wants “revenge” on Joe for capitalizing on an injury Seth Rollins caused to Dean Ambrose. Like the finish, it’s empty. And we never really get to connect with Roman Reigns, because he’s a magic elixir salesman trying to make us buy empty jars.
Best: Matt Hardy Saves Us From A Bray Wyatt Match
Again though, is “he laughs funny” the only thing Vince McMahon understands about the Broken Hardys? I swear, Jeff’s going to show up as Brother Nero and all he’s gonna do is go HAHAHAH YES HAHAHHAHA YESSSS HAHAH OHHHH OOOOHHH HAHAH whenever Matt needs to breathe.
Give us fun “Woken” Hardy stuff! Please! Everybody is super ready to love this.
Best: Merry Mizmas
While it was no Santa Rusev saying a phooey to your pancake, my favorite part of the non-denominational winter holiday Raw was Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in Santa hats and ugly Christmas sweaters singing Miz-themed parody carols to random people backstage. And handing out copies of the “Miz blockbuster” Santa’s Little Helper to Titus Worldwide.
Note: The actual best part of Raw is that Dana Brooke wears glasses now, but she doesn’t in real life, so she has to lower them to look at anything. Doesn’t she know she can wear those Zooey Deschanel fashion glasses with normal glass lenses that don’t distort your vision, or like, no lenses?
Second note: Christmas Bounty is way better than Santa’s Little Helper in every way. Dear WWE Studios, please hire me to write Christmas Bounty 2.
Because WWE is a social hellscape in which the most punishable acts a man can commit are love, admiration or fellowship, Axel and Dallas get put into a “secret Santa” match and get mauled by Braun Strowman. That’s what they get for … trying to have a nice time and talking to their co-workers?
In Additional Placeholder Jobber News
Kane defeats Heath Slater in Rhyno’s first attempt to “toughen up” Slater, because I guess Rhyno can book matches now. Kane wins easily, and beats them both up. The highlight is Slater mentioning that his kids didn’t have any presents on Christmas morning, which means Kane’s off to a great start in his career in American government.
Also on this week’s episode, the first Universal Champion has turned into a guy who isn’t actually booked on the show and only gets a match because he answers an open challenge from Curt Hawkins. Seriously, how long are we gonna have to watch poor Finn Bálor wrestle geeks and cans? I can’t believe they can’t find something more interesting for this guy to do when the roster’s as thin as it is, you’re facing some major injuries at the top of your card and you’ve got three hours to fill every week.
Jason Jordan And Seth Rollins Have Pinned The Tag Team Champions!
That leaves us with our main event, which is fine, but far from good. The timing in this match is whatever the opposite of what The Revival does. There’s so much miscommunication and awkward transitioning and flat crowd reactions you’d think it was a match between a team with an injured guy and a thrown-together team with a guy nobody likes REPLACING an injured guy. Which, uh, it is.
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan are suddenly a tag team because Dean Ambrose is out from anywhere between a few and nine months. The Bar needs to drop the Tag Team Championship to somebody so Sheamus can go deal with the neck injury he’s been working through for half a year. The problem is that Raw only has two tag teams — The Shield and The Bar — and all the other teams are either dealing with injuries as well (The Hardys), breaking up (Heath Slater and Rhyno), already BROKEN up (Enzo and Cass, and others) or stuck on Main Event (Titus Worldwide, The Revival). So The Bar HAS to lose to this thrown-together team, and that’s your main event.
On the bright side, all signs point to Jordan and Rollins being a transitional team that will hopefully drop the belts to the Revival, and then we can get a magical springtime feud of Raw Tag Team Champions the Top Guys being super serious and old school while Matt and Jeff Hardy play with fireworks and build deep lore about specific boats and lakes.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
If Rollins and Jordan won I hope Jordan comes out in jeans and a tank top next week.
Seamus: Did you get all you wanted for Christmas?
Cesaro: No, still don’t haf my two front teef.
Strowman with your monstrous might,
Won’t you flip my sleigh tonight?
And he stomped out Curt Axel, and Bo Dallas too.
And the monster said, as he walked of sight,
I’M FINISHED NOW!
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!
Baron Von Raschke
If I understand my WWE Booking, Kane faces Miztourage and Braun gets Heath Slater next week.
Alexa: “Nia, I really need to talk to you. Girl, that guy fucks chicken, you can do so much better.”
Bliss with the save! That’s what friends are for. Her and Gulak are doing gods work keeping those two apart.
Once again Bray blows out his lantern only to step out with it lit. The stupidity of that is just such a great metaphor for his career.
Ja Gi Kyung-Moon
I’m looking forward to the special in-character bonus edition of WWE Ride Along in which Curt Hawkins walks around after RAW, putting out an open challenge to anyone who wants to drive to the next show with him.
Renee: Roman, how do you feel about Joe and The Bar taking out your brother, Dean Ambrose?
Roman: *blinks* who
Renee: are you fuc—
That’s it for this week’s show. Thanks for reading, and remember to always:
If you want to show us some love for working on Christmas — and by “us” I mean me specifically, and my Venom symbiote — please share the column on Facebook and Twitter (and whatever else) and drop us a comment in our comments section below.
And join us next week, when I’ll be [checks notes] WORKING ON NEW YEAR’S DAY? SON OF A
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