Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: Edge returned from nine years of injury-based retirement only to immediately get injured again. Plus, Drew McIntyre challenged Brock Lesnar for WrestleMania (and got thrown for it), Samoa Joe accidentally injured himself, and Andrade went on a wellness vacation.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for February 3, 2020.
Best/Worst: There’s A Snake In My Booed
Usually it takes Raw 20 minutes of promo time to get to the wrestling. This week, it takes them 15 minutes of promo to get to the promo.
In case you missed it, Randy Orton came to the ring at the start of the show to explain why her mercy-killed Edge with a one-man conchairto on Edge’s second day back on the job after a nine-year retirement. Part of me hoped his entire excuse would be, “I’m Randy Orton, do you guys even watch the show?” We ended up with something similar; namely, a mostly wordless 13-minute promo where Orton keeps trying to start his explanation, keeps getting Vickie Guerrero boos, and eventually gives up. As I see it, you can look at the segment in one of two ways.
1. Randy Orton is masterful at the “little things” in pro wrestling, and can play an arena full of fans like a fiddle by vocally and emotionally engaging them without saying a word. All he has to do is emote, and go through a visible thought process, and eventually everyone in the building assumes they know his thought process and hate him for it. Because he’s Randy Orton, and they watch the show. It’s the Roman Reigns, “this is my yard now,” promo done at a different emotional price-point.
2. Randy Orton didn’t talk or wrestle, he literally just hung out in the ring on live television for a full quarter-hour and left without doing anything.
I think the truth, as it usually does, lies somewhere in the middle. I think 15 full minutes of doing nothing to bait boos is the perfect way to, say, stall for time while your roster’s arriving and trying to prepare for a 3-hour live television show in the middle of a winter storm. At the same time, this kind of segment gets across that while Orton might be chaotic evil — and he certainly is — he didn’t necessarily WANT to murder Edge, but felt compelled to. Possibly by the voices he hears in his head, who talk to him, and understand. They talk to him. THEY TALK TO HIM. They tell him things that he must do, they tell him things he’ll do to you, and for the first time ever, he might feel badly about it.
So, you know, choose your own adventure. It’s great, mostly internalized character work disguised as a total waste of time.
Charlotte Flair Also Does An Interpretation Of This Segment
Last week, Charlotte Flair announced that she was going to take her time choosing an opponent for WrestleMania. This week, after an advertisement reading CHARLOTTE FLAIR MAKES HER DECISION ABOUT WRESTLEMANIA, Charlotte shows up and is like, “I still don’t know who I should face at Mania, because I’ve held both championships and beaten both champions over and over.” That brings out NXT Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley to challenge her, validating those rumors from the Observer. Between her intensity, her haircut, and her contact lenses, Rhea Ripley’s gone from being the female Pete Dunne to being the female Ilja Dragunov.
Charlotte leaves without actually answering Ripley or addressing the challenge, and stops on the stage to turn around and “woo” at her. Ripley stands in the ring holding up the NXT Women’s Championship with one arm, which is the WWE equivalent of, “this mailbox contains outgoing mail.” We find out later in the show that this is a set-up for a segment on Wednesday, which retroactively justifies it. More Raw and Smackdown segments need to be like, “here’s what we might do, tune in on Wednesday so we can do it on the show where they want it to be good.”
Worst: WWE Raw, Ready In 90 Seconds!
Liv And Let Die
Between the opening of the show and the six-man elimination tag team match that starts up near the end of the first hour, there’s about 90 seconds of wrestling on Raw. A minute-25 of that belongs to Lana vs. Liv Morgan, performing the same match they had last week, Booster Seat Flatliner and all.
The rub here is the post-match stuff, which features the return of Ruby Riott after nine months following two shoulder surgeries. Because WWE Superstars lose visuospatial ability and object permanence when they aren’t on the show, Riott now HATES Liv Morgan. I’m guessing the storyline reason is Liv doing those vignettes about “finding her true self” or whatever, which just equated to her being exactly the same but with blonde hair and a regular-colored tongue. Or maybe Ruby is Lana’s new girlfriend? I hope they ask Lashley about him and that he’ll be like, “I don’t get polyamory, really, and it feels bad for me most of the time, but I’m trying to be a good husband and respect her needs!”
In all seriousness, it’s good to finally have Ruby back. She deserves a kind of love and success she hasn’t really been positioned to receive yet in WWE. She looks great, too, even if she had to get outfitted with those My Little Pony hair extensions they give everyone when they sign. I hope she eats Liv and Sarah Logan for breakfast and starts having top level programs where the only weight she’s tasked to carry is her own.
Pray For Mojo
The other few seconds of wrestling in hour one go to Drew McIntyre, who cuts a promo about how he’s going to defeat Mojo Rawley in three seconds, and then defeats Mojo Rawley in three seconds. Riddick Moss out here doing a great job as the “offensive lineman.” Also, WWE’s weird insistence that the 24/7 Championship can’t change hands in a match is so, so weird. Why isn’t Drew McIntyre the 24/7 Champion after defeating the guy whose championship is supposed to be defended 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter what? “We’ve suspended the 24/7 rules for matches involving the 24/7 Champion, and also we hardly ever do 24/7 Championship segments anymore, and also you can pin the 24/7 Champion and he keeps the belt.” Also, nobody ran out and tried to pin Mojo for the championship after he got knocked out?
Like, I didn’t think the jobbers and cuckold championship could be less prestigious, but here we are. Maybe give Drew the three-second emphatic jobber squash against a guy who isn’t holding one of your championship belts? Anyway, I can’t wait for next week when McIntyre wins a three-second handicap match against The Revival, who are dressed as clowns for some reason.
Speaking Of Jobber Squashes
Aleister Black defeats Local Talent in about a minute. For everyone wondering, the jobber is apparently named “Eric Young,” out of Canada. According to Wikipedia, he is a former TNA World Heavyweight Champion and had a three-year run in NXT. Huh! Who knew?
Congratulations to No Way Jose for moving up one spot in this week’s Rankings.
Best: Total Elimination~!
Once the real wrestling matches on the episode get going, they’re a lot of fun. Up first is a six-man elimination tag team match teaming Kevin Owens and The Viking Raiders against the Rollins Band of Buddy Murphy and AOP. The Raiders derp their way out of the match when Ivar pancakes himself into the ringside LED board, hurts his shoulder, and causes the distraction that gets Erik Stomped by Seth. That leaves Owens by himself in a 3-on-1 handicap match, which, if we’re being honest, is the only utilitarian reason to HAVE handicap matches. They’re like the War Games advantage. If you give villains a 3-on-1 advantage, you can have the hero eliminate two of his opponents and look like the world’s toughest man before ultimately losing to the third. Everyone comes out looking better. Classic wrestling 101. This is in direct contrast to what they used to do, like, say, have the hero get DDT’d on the arena floor and still nonchalantly eliminate his opponents to make them look like hapless dorks. Not that I’m still bitter about that, or anything. I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.
I also like that it continued the narrative that Rollins’ faction (which really needs a name) is so effective that they’re not only defeating the fan favorites, they’re taking them out of action completely. Samoa Joe had to leave last week’s match early due to injury, and now Ivar’s getting hauled to the back for similar issues. The heels are just wrestling smarter, and the faces are dropping like flies. The world is ready for a top heel who gets to that position by being the smartest guy in the room. Nothing would make a WWE crowd madder than not being able to stop a smart guy from being smarter than them with punching, you know?
Showdown At The O.K. Raw
I also really like that the events of the tag team match bled into the main event, as well. The conceit is that the winner of a triple threat will go on to WWE Super Showdown in the Progressive Nation Of Saudi Arabia® to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. Every contender has a reason to be there:
During the match, Rollins is leaning on his bros to help him gain an advantage like the one HE gave THEM, but gets hoist by his own pleather petard when Kevin Owens and Road Warrior Erik show up to fight and run them off. Left to his own devices, Rollins is unable to run interference and prevent Ricochet from hitting a 630 on Lashley to win the match. Now we get the fun image of Brock Lesnar vs. The Future Is Now’s Helios in a WWE Championship match featuring German suplexes that’ll recreate zero-gravity flight, and Rollins will be able to cut a really great, “see, you should’ve let ME do it, I’M THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN DO IT” promo about the loss. A Rollins/Drew McIntyre program in late February or March would also be a great way to continue putting over your Next Big Thing against some real characters and competition as he heads into a WrestleMania main event against the Previous Big Thing.
p.s. Brock Lesnar shows up after the match to throw Ricochet, because that’s where he’s a Viking. I think the only place he’s not a Viking is in Minnesota.
Worst: Concussion Dad Returns This Friday
Best: Entertaining Matches That Seem Like They’re Going Somewhere!
Asuka gets a strong win in a competitive match against Natalya en route to challenging Becky Lynch for a Royal Rumble rematch for the Raw Women’s Championship. It’s a good match, and better than Natalya’s usual efforts because I guess Asuka was really kicking her ass there for a second and briefly motivated Nattie to stop wrestling like a lifeless mannequin and start throwing hands. I feel like Natalya would be as good as everyone pretends she is if she could flip that switch more often and wrestle with passion, in addition to technical competence. It’s sorta like how she’d be a good talker if she wasn’t trying to “act” while she did it. There’s a real missing value in just acting, talking, and moving around like a realistic human being. See also the difference between pre and post-Crisis Drew McIntyre. Or Edge when he was in The Brood versus everything after.
The only downside to the match is the finish, which sees Asuka once again have to win a match against Natalya with a distraction, because all WWE heels are hapless cowards who can’t win wrestling matches. The major problem, though, is that Natalya sells the distraction before it actually happens. She looks over at Kairi like, NOW IS THE TIME FOR THE DISTRACTION, then gets in the ring un-distracted only to turn around and be like, HEY YOU AT RINGSIDE, STOP BEING AT RINGSIDE SO MUCH!
Dunno if that’s on Kairi for being woefully out of position, Natalya for adhering too stringently to the script and not letting Kairi work the distraction organically, or some combination of the two.
Regardless, Asuka calls out Becky Lynch for the rematch, and Becky shows up in sunglasses she picked up at Comic-con. Her victory over Asuka at Royal Rumble has given her super powers, so not only is she going to give Asuka the rematch she requested, they’re gonna do it on next week’s Raw. It’s at this point I start wondering what’s wrong and who’s injured or who failed a wellness policy test or whatever, because it seems very unlike WWE that they’d announce a match like that on a whim in the middle of Raw and then quickly be like THIS HAPPENS NEXT WEEK with a graphic. I hate that WWE trained me to think competent storytelling and promotion is just foreshadowing a problem.
Speaking of both “good matches that move stories forward” and “wellness policy violations,” Zelina Vega debuts Angel Garza as her month-long replacement for Andrade in her ongoing battles with Humberto Carrillo and Rey Mysterio. Garza being Carrillo’s cousin adds a lot to that, and as you know if you read the Best and Worst of NXT column, I’m already all the way the hell in on more Angel Garza content. Dude’s got it.
Garza ends up trying to get revenge on Carrillo for going HAM on Andrade last week by Hammerlock DDT’ing him on the exposed concrete floor. That’s just how everyone’s getting their messages across this year. I’m honestly surprised Tom Phillips didn’t throw Raw to commercial by Hammerlock DDT’ing Byron Saxton on the concrete.
As a quick side note, I can’t believe I’m still typing “stop doing WHAT chants, both in general and especially to people with accents,” in the year of our Lord 2020.
Rey Mysterio makes the save, which leads to 13 solid minutes of Mysterio vs. Garza. I just want to say how vindicated I feel that even though WCW died almost two decades ago, there’s a live weekly wrestling show on TNT where Chris Jericho is the World Champion, and Raw features Rey Mysterio battling the family of guys from the Latino World Order.
Shockingly, the match ends when Garza Hammerlock DDTs Rey Mysterio on the floor. Seriously, Sarah Schreiber should’ve caught up with Ruby Riott backstage, asked her why she’d commit such a heinous attack on Liv Morgan, and then Hammerlock DDT her in the hallway. Rey continues to be the center of Raw’s messiest interpersonal drama, Angel Garza makes a hell of a Raw debut as Substitute Andrade, and I’m really hoping this all gets blown off in an Andrade vs. Garza vs. Carrillo vs. Mysterio match for the United States Championship at WrestleMania.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
If I know my wrestling rules, Angel Garza and Zelina Vega just legally adopted Dominic.
Eric Young is the Crash Holly of Ken Andersons.
I think we finally know what’s in Rowan’s cage
The Real Birdman
I like that they gave Humberto an edge just to immediately have him get his ass kicked and need saving
Seth: “I’m your friend, Buddy”
Buddy: “I’m your Buddy, guy”
Seth: “I’m your guy, friend”
As Orton pauses again, the Ghost Tractor slowly backs out.
Orton: Edge is a legend… and I’m the Legend Killer…
Christian: But Randy, you yourself have become that which you hate. YOU are now a legend!
Orton: *RKOs himself*
Jerry Lawler asking “Who’s this?” after the crowd literally chanted for Rhea Ripley and Charlotte ACKNOWLEDGED it is a prime example of why he needs to go away.
The prophecy says that if Angel sleeps with Zelina, he’ll have a moment of pure happiness and lose his soul again. Worth it!
Challenge Tessa Blanchard for the Impact title!
Baron Von Raschke
Aleister and Andrade are furiously texting each other right now.
Cien: Charlotte hasn’t seen Garza, right?
Black: Not sure. Busy watching this match to make sure he keeps his pants on.
Cien: Charlotte’s not answering right now. Go check on her.
Black: Watching. The. Match.
Cien: But, you’ll text me if you see Charlotte.
(We know they’re the same character but you can’t just admit it like that)
As always, thanks for checking out this week’s Best and Worst of Raw. If you liked or laughed at anything, consider giving us a share on social media to help us out. I know I ask for that all the time, but I can’t stress what a nightmare New Media is and how precarious this entire operation feels sometimes.
Also, drop a comment down in our comments section below to let us know what you thought of Raw. WrestleMania’s starting to come together, kind of! Make sure you’re here on Wednesday to find out how Full Sail University treats their returning Queen. See you then!