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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for July 10, 2017.
Best/Worst: How You Booin’
I can’t decide if it’s good or bad, but I don’t believe a word that comes out of Big Cass’ mouth. Part of it feels like he’s still down on NXT, cutting these rehearsed, “fired-up” promos and always nervously looking out of the corner of his eye to make sure Bill DeMott’s not gonna stop him and scream at him or whatever. The other part feels like it actually helps the character development. This is a guy who is seven foot tall, and that’s really all he’s got, but he’s convinced it’s enough. So he destroys the only dude who’s ever had his back, and now he has to sorta fake it ’til he makes it. He’s like, I CAN BEAT BROCK LESNAR! I WILL BE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION! I WILL PROVE ALL MY HATERS WRONG! And you can almost hear him saying, “I hope?” after each sentence. The guy looks like he’s about to burst into tears every time he mentions Enzo, we aren’t exactly talking Rock levels of confidence and cockiness here.
Eventually Big Show interrupts him, and while nobody’s camping out outside the arena to catch Big Show vs. Big Cass (except maybe Vince McMahon, “Big” fetish just BLAZING), it’s the logical progression of the story. Show tried to help out Enzo while Cass was doing his secret manipulation thing, Cass protested too much, and now Show should probably punch him a few times in response.
Bonus points if you can punch him in that 15 second dead air between every word in his promo.
Best: The Drifter, Still, Somehow
This week’s first match continues to confirm that we live in a world where Elias Samson is one of the best parts of Raw. He gets the singles match against Finn Bálor that probably should’ve been on Great Balls of Fire if Curt Hawkins was gonna get a spot, and it’s … really good. Almost exclusively because of Samson. The WWE Fan Nation video cuts out all the work he does, which is a bummer.
Samson decides to target Finn’s left arm, and instead of just doing some wristlocks and headlocks early on and giving up on them to hit signature moves (like everybody else on the show), Samson stays on the arm, all the way until the end. By having an observable gameplan, he actually manages to “tell a story,” which too many wrestlers these days claim to do by simply pretending to fight. The problem is that about 75% of Finn’s offense is feet-based, so he still ends up getting kicked around, dropkicked into the corner and double-stomped in the guts.
Surprisingly great stuff, improved even more by the fact that it’s a straight-forward wrestling angle that built to a singles match with a clean finish and not a lot of bullshit. No post-match guitar attacks or whatever to drag it out. Samson and Finn had beef, they eventually went one-on-one, and the better man won. Pro wrestling!
It really says something for the Broken Universe that not only are people begging for it in WWE (at the expense of the classic Hardy Boyz characters, even), they know the cues. I can’t say that enough. You’ve got an arena of, say, 10,000 people doing the “delete” chants and recognizing the call and response of Jeff Hardy’s Obsolete entrance theme.
If you’ve been to a live event in the past … ever, you know that most people who go to WWE shows can’t even identify unpopular WWE wrestlers, much less TNA wrestlers, much less the popular situational phrases of TNA wrestlers. That shit transcended. These guys wouldn’t recognize a Gran Metalik if it tornillo’d them in the ass, but enough of them know the second sentence in the Broken Hardys secondary entrance theme from an extremely secondary company to make it work.
I don’t know if we’re finally moving in the direction of a Broken Something or what, but I’ve got to give Raw credit for giving me maybe the first match result this year that surprised me. The Club show up to challenge the Hardys and prove that they’re “nerds” or whatever — The Club might as well buy a pair of white noise machines from Brookstone wrapped in tribal raincoats — and 100 out of 100 people would’ve guessed the Hardys would win. If not, the Club would win by some extraneous shit to set up something not related to The Club whatsoever. But nope, The Club wins with the Magic Killer in about four minutes.
What works about this is that (1) The Club DESPERATELY needs to win matches if we’re ever going to take them seriously again, (2) the tag team division needs someone other than the Hardys and Sheamus and Cesaro doing things in it, and (3) the Hardys don’t really lose anything in defeat because they were in a 30-minute iron man match the night before. Also, they’re the goddamn Hardys. They could lose to that Hindi announcer that looks like Nathan Fillion and the Hindi color guy who looks like Eastern Hemisphere Corey Graves and people would still buy their t-shirts.
To make this even better, TOP GUYS show up after the match to wreck the vulnerable Hardys for no reason, because they’re great at pro wrestling, maybe even the best, but are total dickfaces. It’s good to see Dash Wilder doing things again, and it’s even better to see a Shatter Machine. It’s been too long, Revival. Break some legs.
Best: Members Of Harlem Heat!
This isn’t on the show, but there’s a Backstage Fallout video about the Club running into Stevie Ray (!!) of Harlem Heat. They even refer to him as a “member of Harlem Heat,” which if you read the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro column you know is our third most tested reference, behind “Jim Duggan sure does carry a lot of tape in his trunks” and “Alex Wright sure does carry a lot of cock in his trunks.”
So yeah, stuck on Dot Com is the Bullet Club sharing a Too Sweet with the nWo. The only thing that would’ve made it better is if Stevie had been wandering around backstage in a 1990s leather jacket with BOXING written on it. Get this on the show, brother.
In a related story, Booker T is still on color commentary this week, despite David Otunga being back for Great Balls of Fire. I guess “David Otunga is filming a movie” is the “the dog lives on a big farm upstate now and has plenty of room to run around” of WWE.
“I don’t wrestle with my body. I wrestle with my heart.”
Worst: ____ Has Pinned The _____ Champion!
Two instances of that this week. Two. In the same episode. I’d make a bigger deal out of this if the trope didn’t run in packs.
Up first is Bayley pinning Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss, which is absolutely the goddamn opposite of what anybody in the world, Izzy included, wants right now. You’ve got a good story going with Alexa dodging Nia Jax. You can build to that. You also had Sasha Banks and Alexa have a very good match at your pay-per-view with a bad finish so you could build to a rematch. Bayley is cold boogers on a paper plate right now. What are you doing?
The only way this saves itself is if Bayley gets the shot next week and Nia Jax just shoot murders her before the bell sounds, because she’s tired of the shortcuts you get if Triple H liked you a few years ago.
After that, Akira Tozawa pins Cruiserweight Champion Neville, which is par for the course for cruiserweight booking. Someone gets a title shot. Neville cheats them at the pay-per-view. The next night, they either win a tag match against him or, like, politely expect another title match and get it. Then the cycle repeats itself. Tozawa gets very specific deja vu revenge on Neville by rope-kicking him in the balls and puts him away with a senton, which would probably mean more if it had any kind of gravity behind it and didn’t come across 100% like a derpy 50/50 booking decision.
Honestly, I think Michael Cole’s call of “X has pinned the Y champion!” instantly Worsts these things whether they’re good or not. I hear that sentence like dogs hear “get in your crate, we’re going to the vet.”
Best: Alicia Fox Telling Cedric Alexander He’s Got A Booger In His Nose
And then he subtly wipes his nose when he gets back into the ring. That’s the most honest moment they’ve had in the cruiserweight division since the tournament.
Worst: We Need To Get Goldust Away From R-Truth
Now that we’ve had a formal, straight-up one-on-one match between Goldust and R-Truth with Goldust winning clean, we need to get mustard-ass yellow Goldust away from R-Truth. The crowd’s only going to get so into a Truth match because he’s been around forever, but (as a face, at least) he’s never been anything more than an entrance theme. And even that’s more about how fun it is to scream “what’s up” than liking the guy orchestrating it.
So it’s good to see this version of Goldust again and even better to see him winning, but now let’s see him win against someone else in a different situation so he doesn’t feel locked into something the crowd’s not going to react to. Put Goldie in a feud with a younger guy. Truth isn’t going to learn anything from working him, unlike almost everyone else in the company. Give me Goldust/Enzo, or Goldust/Ambrose, or Goldust/Noam Damn Dar, I don’t care, just get him out of the Golden Truth time loop. Groundhog Day, 1993.
Best: Anyone But You, Roman
At the risk of sounding like a Roman Reigns hater (cough) (additional cough), this segment was SUPER HOT FIRE every time Roman wasn’t speaking.
Every dynamic is important. Joe vs. Lesnar is great because they’re not afraid of each other, and are these threateningly masculine fighters who might snap at any second and tear each other apart. Joe is bringing UNREAL intensity, and you can see that the reports of Lesnar enjoying working with Joe are true. Joe vs. Heyman is great because Heyman knows Joe pretty much kicked Brock’s asshole in at Great Balls of Fire and Brock hit a lucky finisher, and also doesn’t want to fuck with Joe anymore and get choked out. Joe vs. Angle has years of unspoken relationship behind it. Angle knows how dangerous he is, more than anybody else. Brock vs. Angle is legendary.
And then there’s Roman, just kinda standing in the background and smirking, being a WWE guy. It is what it is. There’s a moment where the camera has everyone in focus and Roman’s way over on the left of the screen by himself as Joe and Brock get in each other’s faces with Angle between them. That’s Roman. He’s the inevitability everyone has to deal with when they’re done actually living their lives. Death, taxes, Roman Reigns title shots.
Some of what Roman’s saying is good, but his delivery is still corny, and he comes across like a guy who’s never been in a real fight. That’s not to say he hasn’t or isn’t tough, it’s just how the delivery sounds. Joe and Lesnar are these screaming, reddening MMA monsters and Roman’s just this millennial background fuck who thinks he’s above it all. It’s good character development if we’re still actually moving him in the direction of “guy we say you’re supposed to boo,” but it never really feels like that’s happening.
So of course next week is Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe, with the winner facing Brock at SummerSlam. If SummerSlam is built around Roman Reigns winning the Universal Championship AND John Cena winning #17 against Jinder Mahal, the building might actually collapse and swallow us into the cold earth.
Let’s hope Braun Strowman shows up, puts Roman Reigns in a submarine, then flips over that submarine. Braun won his PPV match at Balls and Roman and Joe both lost, so maybe he’ll kill them both and take the title shot. Roman and Joe can have their own thing away from title belts, where Roman shines.
Worst: The Miz And Dean Ambrose Are STILL FEUDING
Early in the night, The Miz decides to give out fake awards to his friends called “Mizzies,” which are somehow even less prestigious than Slammys. He gives awards to Maryse, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel, and keeps talking trash about Dean Ambrose until Ambrose shows up and walks into a 3-on-1 attack. Seth Rollins shows up and runs them away. Pretty sure at some point Dean Ambrose wished on a Djinn to bind his fate to The Miz’s and we’re just sitting through the forever-binding.
There’s actually a really good backstage segment a little later where Ambrose approaches Rollins and is like, “I know you’re trying to improve your image or whatever but I haven’t forgotten that you’re a garbage person and you should go screw.” Rollins is like, “aw jeez man c’mon,” and I practically stand up and cheer for the Dean Ambrose character having guts and making sense for the first time in like a year and a half.
Then, of course, they back out of that before the show’s even over.
Worst: Ending Your Show With The Same Match That Opened The Show Yesterday
Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt have a rematch from Great Balls Of Fire Pay-Per-View® because Wyatt poked Rollins in the eye. So they have the same match, and Wyatt wins after hitting Rollins a couple of times in the eye. Like the previous match it’s not bad, really, it’s just Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins. Imagine Enzo and Cass if Cass was a foot shorter and talked through his nose, and Enzo hit his head on a coffee table and stopped being able to form sentences. That’s Wyatt and Rollins.
After the match, The Miz and his Mired Goons show up to beat up Rollins. Ambrose runs out with a chair to make the save, because that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” adage instantly outweighs the fact that you’re sharing enemies with the guy who hit you with a chair, made you a joke and shut down your infinite pro wrestling wonder train. If they hadn’t done the backstage segment, I’d just chalk it up to that dumb thing WWE does where guys who get cheered are friends no matter how they’re supposed to feel about each other. But they did do it, and the first thing Ambrose said in years with any guts behind it gets wanked into the margins.
Worst: Love, American Style
The show goes off the air with a hint about the Kurt Angle THIS WILL DESTROY me text messages, with a bit about how he doesn’t care if people know, and how he’s going to invite the person on the other end of the phone to Raw next week. Also, he loves them.
That’s Stephanie McMahon, right? She’s been off TV since WrestleMania. Triple H knocked her through a table, so they’ve probably been having (kayfabe) marital problems. Kurt Angle has a previously established love of Stephanie, and wouldn’t it “ruin him” and get him fired if Triple H found out he was sleeping with his wife during a trial separation or whatever? God knows there isn’t a reason to bring over a legendary ex-WWE guy who spent a decade in TNA unless they’re gonna lose to Triple H.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Mike Echo Hotel
The Real Birdman
You know what cured blindness Seth? Jesus.
“We lost three Cathys & Tom #2 trying to interview Strowman after he escaped that ambulance”
“What does it take to keep this man down?”
Honestly, I think they’ve been doing a good job of that for the last three years, Book.
Seth Rollins: threatens to kill Edge
Roman Reigns: tries to kill Braun Strowman
Dean Ambrose, the “lunatic”: plays a shell game with bear costumes
Neville: ARGH! it feels like my balls are on fire!…oh, hey I get it now!
Titus really needs to twist Vince’s arm to get Tozawa another title shot.
ANGLE: 14 years ago we had one hell of a match.
BROCK: I’ll have to take your word on that.
camera and dead panning, “He’s not finished with you.”
If it was up to Vince, he’d probably turn the Sonic Guys against each other.
they should team Cass up with a guy who can talk
That’s it for this week’s show.
Okay, one more.
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