This week has seen a number of accusations of improper conduct, harassment, sexual predation, sexual assault and various other unpalatable behavior directed at numerous wrestlers, primarily in the “Brit Wes” scene, some of whom I have talked about in this series already, some of whom I will have occasion to talk about in future. Commentary on their in-ring or mike prowess should not be taken as support for them in general. I believe her.
The random number generator has thrown up something much more modern for a change. It’s the 23rd December 2019 and we’re in the Wells Fargo Centre of Des Moines, Iowa, for a Christmas episode of WWE Raw: Night Of Squashes!
Raw is usually live, but given the time of year, and the negativity to the live Christmas shows the previous year, this is taped. Vic Joseph, Jerry “The King” Lawler and Samoa Joe are your commentators, with Joe on the desk as part of his time off from injury/maybe a wellness suspension. We’re on the road to the Royal Rumble, but that’s a good bit away, so tonight is all about Christmas, with the titantron even set to show falling snow, and Christmas trees on the stage. Advertised for tonight: Randy Orton and the Viking Raiders/Experience/War Machine/whatever they’re called on this particular week vs the Bullet Club/The Club/The OC/whatever they’re called on this particular week, while our main event will be a US Title match where Rey Mysterio defends against recently re-heeled Seth Rollins. The graphic advertising these matches has a glaring “Happy Holidays” sign, that kind of ruins the effect.
Kevin Owens is out to start the show and oh do I love hearing that theme music. As a video package showcases, this is Owens’ first appearance in a few weeks after a beatdown from Rollins and the Architect’s cronies the Authors of Pain. Also of note is that Owens’ search for vengeance led him, in a roundabout way, to stun Mojo Rawley in the ring.
Tonight, Owens has a lot to say about a lot of people, but before he can say anything else out comes Mojo. Mr “Don’t get hyped, stay hyped” is one of those weird modern quandaries in the WWE, in that he’s a somewhat talented guy that they never seemed to have anything for, but was been kept around for years. I’ll never forget him confronting a then Russian Rusev at an early NXT show as a flag-waving American patriot, only to get annihilated. Hard to take him seriously after that.
Anyway, he’s a screwy heel around this time, and is annoyed at Kevin Owens for the aforementioned stunning. Owens doesn’t really have much time for Rawley, having numerous bigger problems, and suggests Rawley get to the point ahead of their imminent no-DQ match (first mention of that). Rawley says it will indeed be no-DQ, but Owens won’t be having a merry Christmas afterwards. Owens suggests they just get to it. Really awkward back-and-forth between these two, and Rawley’s lack of presence or ability to deliver is painfully obvious.
Mojo Rawley vs Kevin Owens (No-DQ)
Owens on top from the off, knocking Rawley to the outside and delivering an apron senton. Chucking Rawley into the barricade, then starts throwing loads of chairs into the ring. “We want tables” and a big pop when Owens agrees and brings one out. Before he can set it up Rawley delivers a chair shot to the back, and gets boos by kicking the table out of the ring. Now that’s some cheap heat.
Rawley with a fireman’s carry into a faceplant on the chairs, but only two. Looked cool though, could be a finisher. Rawley setting some chairs up, then more chair shots to a prone Owens. Sets Owens up for a second rope superplex onto the chairs, but Owens battles out, only to get thrown into the chairs anyway, for a near-fall. “This is awesome” chants, and those are rare enough on Raw.
Rawley goes for a corner charge and eats a super-kick. Senton from the top for two. Owens goes for the chair, but decides to give “the Universe their Christmas wish” by grabbing the table instead. Mojo goes for the faceplant thing again, Owens battles out and hits a stunner. While I love KO, and I love stunners, his stunners have never been that good really. The crowd loves them though. Pop-up Powerbomb through the table, and that’ll be the 1, 2, 3 in nearly six a half.
Winner: Kevin Owens and WWE audience’s inexhaustible desire for tables.
Verdict: Fairly short street fight with a few good spots. Both guys looked good, but Rawley will be slipping back down the card now.
Owens back on the mike, saying he’s now in a fighting mood and has plenty of fight left. He calls Rollins and the AOP out, saying that if they plan to beat him down again, they might as well do it in front of a crowd. Says making bad decisions is “a big part of my charm”, and won’t leave until his adversaries come on out. Typical piss-and vinegar promo, and few do them better than Owens, whose anti-McMahon screed last year was WWE’s best promo since “It’s my yard now”.
Rollins and AOP watching backstage in that goofy way where the TV is sideways, and start walking with purpose.
Back from a break, and it’s time to BURN IT DOWN with a heavily booed Rollins. AOP in suits is not the best look for them, they should be more than just toughs, but this is the main roster and that’s all they have for them. Rollins into the ring, saying he’s not there for a fight, trying to talk some sense into Owens, who has more time for the thunderous “Kevin Owens” chants. Rollins offers a hand, Owens thinks about it for a while, and delivers a super-kick. AOP in and a beatdown begins. Samoa Joe unhappy on commentary. Some piped-in sounding jeers as Rollins sets up the Stomp, but Owens briefly fights out, only to get beatdown again. This time Rollins does hit the Stomp, and departs, briefly arguing with a fan ringside who tried to grab his jacket. On the commentary desk, Joe says what we’re seeing is something we should be worried about, and he should know. A bit hard to buy Joe as a powerless commentator right now, because he’s too close to being an active competitor, but I appreciate his passion.
“In jollier news” Joseph hilariously interjects, and we see 24/7 Champ R-Truth looking for some holiday cheer on the streets of New York City. Big pop for this footage when Truth is seen. Introducing himself to a random passer-by as the “48/7 Champion”, Truth asks for directions to the “Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson” Tree”, that he is supposed to be lighting. The pedestrian assumes he means the Rockefeller Centre tree, that’s behind Truth and has been lit for weeks. While Truth wonder why the Rock would send him an invite to light an already lit tree, Akira Tozawa sneaks up from behind with a ref, and with a roll-up gets the pin.
New 24/7 Champion: Akira Tozawa
Truth is aghast at this subterfuge, and gives chase as Tozawa flees. Joseph promises we’ll back to this “wild” adventure later. The 24/7 skits are what they are, good fluff to keep a show going between matches, but they were already hitting their shelf-life at this stage. Back at the Wells Fargo Centre Lashley and Lana make their entrance as we go to break.
Bobby Lashley w/ Lana vs Cedric Alexander
I was starting to forget this storyline actually happened, but we’re a week away from the Lashley/Lana wedding. We get a video package of Lashley’s proposal the previous week “It was exactly like I had you rehearse” says an ecstatic Lana in a brilliant line). The commentary team plug the wedding, which will be “the greatest night ever on Raw” says Lawler, who hopes to officiate. The wedding certainly was…something.
Happy to see Alexander getting this kind of stage, because he was simply awesome on 205 Live, and a big part of why that brand was so good in 2018. Big “Rusev Day” chants from the off, and I remember a Dublin house show where the crowd was crazy into that. Sad how WWE dropped the ball. Anyway Lashley opens up with some power moves before Alexander breaks out the agility, the ranas, and the moonsaults to the outside.
With Lashley getting a bit of a beatdown Lana jumps on the mike to strong boos. She asks Alexander who he thinks is, reminds him that the most important day of her life is next week, and she can’t have Lashley turning up bruised. Plugs next weeks episode of Raw multiple times, to boos. She suggests “a classic Greco-Roman” match, and rambles on a bit for a while, heavy boos and this is X-Pac heat pure and simple.
Back from break and an actual match is in progress again. Great exchange on commentary where Joseph is outraged at the suggestion of a Greco-Roman match, and Joe, deadpan, can’t understand why Alexander isn’t adhering to Greco-Roman rules, commenting “That’s not allowed under Greco-Roman” after a drop-kick. Alexander getting in a fair bit of offence early on, channeling the power of Rusev Day. Lashley takes the advantage with a big smash clothesline that sends Alexander flying.
Corner charges, neckbreaker for two, and into a resthold. Vic asks Lawler what advice he’d give Lashley, to which Lawler responds “I’ve had three weddings and no anniversaries”. Lashley hits Alexander with a vicious STO-type thing, but only two. Big Scoop Slam, Lashley blows kisses to the crowd, and that allows Alexander back into the match with a few drop-kicks. Floors Lashley with a big springboard clothesline, followed by an awesome dive to the outside. “One more time”, and he follows it up with an over-the-top senton, then the Neuriliser Kick, but only two. Great sequence from Alexander, who frankly is much better at this than Lashley.
Lashley powers out, hits a modified Dominator, but then eats a dropkick to the knees when he goes for the Spear. Lashley not down for long, hits a huge standing uranage, then a Spear, and that’ll be all in just over twelve minutes.
Winner: Lashley, and Jerry Lawler’s glee over the wedding that he wouldn’t shut up about.
Verdict: Alexander his typically great self, Lashley rather boring. Could have done with less wedding talk on commentary.
We plug the main event again, and the wedding again, as we go backstage, where Rollins and the AOP get interviewed by Charly Caruso. Rollins says he tried to extend an olive branch to Owens, and suggests she ask him why he keeps trying to pick a fight. I wonder if Owens will turn up again later.
After the break, Akira Tozawa is out of breath running around NYC. R-Truth hunts him down, they bump into a guy ordering street-meat, and both then run off rather than deal with it. OK then.
Zack Ryder w/ Curt Hawkins vs Drew McIntyre
They mention that Ryder and Hawkins have recently done a charity toy drive, and that’s as much notice as WWE have given them recently. McIntyre is hilariously described as “never being in the holiday spirit”, still playing the “Scottish Psychopath” ahead of his awesome Rumble win a month later. And God I love that theme tune.
Ryder gives McIntyre a few shots and a mid-rope drop-kick before the Scot takes over with a huge clothesline. Gigantic belly-to-belly sends Ryder flying. Ryder tries to mount some offence, but it only takes one forearm for McIntyre to get back on top. McIntyre turns a Ryder dropkick attempt into a Powerbomb, nails the Claymore, and that’s the 1, 2, 3 in less than two and a half.
Winner: Drew McIntyre, and Vince McMahon’s never-ending need to punish Zack Ryder for getting over on his own.
In the aftermath McIntyre dumps Hawkins out of the ring and nails Ryder with a Future Shock DDT. Hawkins back in, eats a headbutt and a Claymore. McIntyre grabs a mike, insists that he’s having a lot of fun, and suggests that Ryder/Hawkins would agree that they’re having fun and that Drew is “as wise as you are jacked”. Says that 2020 belongs to Drew McIntyre, which is pretty much does (and COVID. Can’t forget that).
An ad for Smackdown, where King Corbin, the Miz and Daniel Bryan will have a #1 contendership triple threat for the Universal Championship. I’d watch it.
Back in Des Moines, and The Man is here. As an aside, my GF won’t stop calling Becky Lynch “Belchy Glynch” after a social media mistake she saw once. Lynch, on the build to a match with Asuka, is super-over with the crowd. Says she is the face of the company, and the company is trying to protect her, but she doesn’t care: she wants Asuka, and isn’t taking “No” for an answer. Asuka is the only woman to beat The Man fair and square, so what does she say?
Out comes the Empress of Tomorrow, accompanied by her fellow Women’s Tag Champ Kairi Sane. In her crazy broken English, and regular old Japanese, Asuka runs Becky down to “What” chants, and ends with the words “Asuka Two-Belts”. Lynch says she’ll put the Raw Women’s Title on the line if that’s what it takes, and speaks in Japanese herself. That’s the signal for the promo to end as “Celtic Invasion” plays. This was fine.
A promo for Royal Rumble 2020, and we’re back just in time to fade to black…
Aleister Black vs Deonn Rusman
Black looks dumb doing his entrance through a load of Christmas trees. He’s got a rematch with “Body Murphy”, as Vic says it, next week. Rusman is “already in the ring”. Black whips out the strikes and knees, nails the Black Mass, and that’s it in under a minute.
Winner: Aleister Black and the world’s best spinning heel kick.
Buddy Murphy comes out as Black leaves. He has a squash, I mean a match, right now.
Buddy Murphy vs Joeasa
I don’t even know where Joeasa came from, was he just sitting at ringside during the previous match? Anyway, jumping knee, Murphy’s Law’s, and that’s it in less than 30 seconds.
Winner: Buddy Murphy and fans of knee strikes.
Black into the ring for a face-off. He offers a hand, Murphy goes for it then dodges away. Changes his mind, turns to face Black, and eats a Black Mass. Black to lotus position as his music plays. These two had a great match at TLC, so I should give the re-match from the next Raw a look.
Back from break, and another video package recapping the Rollins story of the last few weeks. Raw is three hours long and they need to fill time I suppose. I do enjoy Rollins’ “Monday Night Messiah” gimmick though. Last week he decided to prove his “Leader” cred by beating up Rey Mysterio, and thus tonight’s match.
Mysterio is backstage with Caruso to a mild pop. Says Rollins is one of the best, and he only wants to defend his title against the best. But knows that his match tonight is really vs Seth and the AOP. Says they made a mistake last week, not finishing the job, and they’ll know that when he hits the 619, and well most people don’t sell that very well so we’ll see.
Promo for Wrestlemania in the time when it was still going to be a huge stadium show. Those were the days.
Tony Nese vs Ricochet
No context for this one, but who cares, they’re both great. The canned cheers are getting really obvious now though. Some great flips, rolls and rana to start, which makes it all the more depressing that this rubbish crowd is so dead. Nese takes over with a springboard moonsault for two, then into a leg scissors. Ricochet battles back with a series of forearms and rana, into a ring-assisted enzugiri, but Nese back at him with a sweet upper-cut. Goes for the Running Nese, eats a super-kick. Ricochet hits his Recoil finisher, a ripcord into a one-knee Codebreaker, and that’s it in just over two and a half.
Winner: Ricochet and the people who like super-talented wrestlers dumped with a match this short.
Verdict: Squashvivor Series.
Back on the streets of NYC Tozawa hides in some Christmas trees briefly, before taking off from Truth’s pursuit. Much hilarity ensues on the commentary desk. Anyway, time for Raw’s customary one and only women’s match.
Charlotte Flair vs Chelsea Green
Commentary all over Charlotte’s entrance. After a break we get a brief video package to hype-up her opponent, making a guest appearance from NXT, where she was soon to be given a proper run of it. God knows WWE has something special with its women’s division on the NXT level, so not surprising they want to use some of them here. But, of course, Green gets no reaction when she comes out because main roster crowds are dumb.
Anyway, you just know how this is going to go. Green gets in a bit of offence to start, with drop-kicks and roll-ups, and is made to look strong with a few near-falls. Lawler says “I know Chelsea Green had a bad attitude earlier, backstage I went up to her earlier and said ‘Will you kiss me under the mistletoe?'” Joe cuts him off with some actual commentary. I haven’t mentioned, but I hate Lawler, his skeezy stick is so tiresome and he should not be in the position he is in. Lengthy resthold spot, but Flair eventually battles out and starts hitting the chops. Big boot, Figure-Eight, Green taps in just over four.
Winner: Charlotte Flair and Vince’s disdain for the call-ups recently.
Verdict: Super Squashdown
In NYC a pavement Santa breaks up Tozawa and Truth. He sends Truth off to pick up a present in a nearby sleigh, then nails Tozawa with his sack of toys for the pin.
New 24/7 Champion: Santa
Santa declares he’s off to the North Pole. Tozawa and Truth agree that they need to team-up to take care of Jolly Saint Nick. I can dig this a bit more now.
Video package for Liv Morgan, who says she’s let others lead her around in the past, but it’s up to her to decide who she is, and she’s anything but typical. “To be continued”. Mental how this story ended up.
Randy Orton and the Viking Raiders (Erik and Ivar) vs The OC (A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows)
Randy “likes to expose himself as a ‘prank'” Orton has an injured knee along with a disgraceful backstage attitude. The Raiders get a good reaction, and I wish they had stuck around NXT a bit longer. Last week the OC pinned the champs in a non-title match, who get canned boos on their way out. A video package recaps a Styles/Orton match from last week also, where A.J. messed up that knee on the way to a clean loss and a general chaotic beatdown finale, so at least we have context for this match.
After a break and another Lashley/Lana plug the match begins. Anderson and Ivar to start and the Raw Tag champs on top early, tagging a lot and tossing Anderson and then Gallows around. Some nice spots that show what brought War Machine to the dance, like a Scoop Slam of Anderson onto Gallows. After a few minutes of that the OC take over with Erik as the unlikely face-in-peril.
Some fairly basic beatdown offence from the three OC guys for a while, and this is getting a bit dull very fast. A big spinebuster from Anderson enlivens things briefly, then a fight-back from Erik that floors Anderson and Styles. Hot tag to Orton, who clears house, but gets dumped to the outside when he tries the supported DDT on Gallows. Back from break, and now Mr Big Time is the face-in-peril, getting a very unlikely “Let’s go Randy” chant for his trouble. Orton is never going to stay in that position for too long, and Erik is in hot shortly enough.
Some nice clotheslines and suplexes , before Ivar gets to do the same. Styles gets Ivar thrown at him by Gallows, before Anderson eats a “Viking Experience” (terrible name, for the record), with Gallows waiting just long enough to break it up at two. Things getting a bit frantic now, with Styles handing out Pele Kicks and enzuguri’s to the Raiders. Orton with the blind tag, Styles powers out of an RKO attempt, then a DDT attempt. Gallows gets hit with the RKO OUTTANOWHERE but Orton can’t do the same to Anderson, and Styles nails the Phenomenal Forearm for the 1, 2, 3 in just over 14 minutes.
Winners: The OC, and you’ll only be seeing them together in a limited basis from now to Anderson and Gallows’ release.
Verdict: Meh, all of these guys can do better than this pedestrian tag match.
The OC celebrate while Orton clutches his knee on the outside. Will this lead anywhere? Not really.
Santa is running away from Tozawa and Truth in NYC, and the foot chase becomes a horse carriage chase. The horses are a bit too slow, so Santa abandons them and runs off again.
Somewhere backstage, Erick Rowan is talking to something in a cage, and says he’ll get it fed in a few minutes. It turned out to be an animatronic spider, in one of the strangest stories WWE has done lately.
The Street Profits are backstage, complaining that they have no invitations to Lashley/Lana wedding, or the bachelor party. The Profits debate finding out what’s in Rowan’s cage, before deciding to “hit them with the catchphrase”. The smoke, they want it. Not sure what the point of this was, but the Profits are generally entertaining.
Erick Rowan w/ mysterious cage vs Travis Horn
This is all about commenting on Rowan’s weird cage, though Horn tries to mark himself out by giving his opponent a candy cane before departing the ring. He then suggests giving a few more candy canes to whatever is in the cage, and Rowan doesn’t like that. The beatdown commences. An Iron Claw chokeslam, then another and that’s it in less than two and a half.
Winner: Erick Rowan and Vince’s fleeting interest in giving him a cage as a gimmick.
Santa is still running away in NYC, but too tired to continue collapses and gets pinned by Truth.
New 24/7 Champion: R-Truth
Tozawa confronts Truth, but the ref has had enough of chasing everyone around New York, and is going home. Santa departs promising coal for his opponents. Truth “doesn’t want Michael Cole”. With no ref’s or Santa, Truth suggests he and Tozawa “go find that big apple everyone is always taking about.” A happy ending I suppose?
Rusev vs No Way Jose
Huge response for Rusev as he comes to the ring, who takes the time to admire some posters in the crowd. I’ve already said it, but WWE had magic in a bottle with “Rusev Day”, which could have put Rusev into the main event picture, but conspired to squander it. He’s on the mike to complain about getting screwed over at TLC, but says Lana getting married will be the greatest day of his life. Why? Because the best punishment for “Bob Lashley” is letting him marry Lana. Out comes Jose, and I recently read about his unhappiness at being shackled to this comedy gimmick in NXT that led to him having a non-existent main roster career. I feel for him, because he was decent on the black and gold brand.
This one doesn’t last too long: Jose dances, gives a no-effect chop, eats a Machka Kick, and that’s all in around 40 seconds.
Verdict: Cyber Squashday
In the aftermath of this pointless match, Rusev gives the crowd a “SpinaRusev” and dances out with Jose and his conga line. I guess they were going for a swinging bachelor thing?
Caruso finds Rollins backstage, again. Rollins says he’s going to beat Mysterio, win the US Title, and establish dominance. This was unnecessary. Mysterio is shown off to the ring as well.
Rey Mysterio (c) vs Seth Rollins w/ the Authors of Pain (Akeem and Rezar) (WWE United States Championship)
Mysterio still using that awful “Booyaka” music. Joe has little time for Rollins, calling his actions thus far “thuggery”. First time ever between those two, but not a lot of time left in the show. Rollins on top early with a Slingblade for two, then a Crucifix Pin for two. Rey staggered with a few big rights. They keep mentioning that Kevin Owens has been sent to a hospital, so don’t expect him. Joe on commentary keeps going on about how someone has to do something about Rollins, so you know where this is going.
Rollins dodges a 619 attempt and flings Rey into a ringpost, and then to the outside. After a break and one more wedding plug, Rollins still on top. Huge air on a backbreaker for two. Rey eventually gets something going with a rana sending Seth to the outside, and then a sweet looking “Sunset Flip Wall Bomb” to the outside. Spot of the night for sure. Back inside, hits the West Coast Pop, then a Tornado DDT, but only two. Rollins catches Mysterio in air and nails a Buckle Bomb and then a super-kick, but Rey gets a foot on the rope. Nice rhythm to this now.
Rollins calling for the Stomp, still getting “Burn It Down” chants. Mysterio dodges, and is able to hang Rollins up for the 619. Rey to the top, and gets jumped by the AOP. The ref calls for the bell in just under ten minutes.
Winner (and still WWE US Champion): Rey Mysterio
Verdict: Boo to main event non-finishes.
The beatdown continues to “We want Kevin” chants. Appreciate the ringside fan telling Seth “You should have some self-respect”. The AOP drag Rey to the commentary desk, but while Joseph and Lawler scamper, Joe stands his ground. Rollins tries to defuse things, but Joe has his jacket off. Rollins sicks the AOP on Joe and another beatdown commences. Rollins hits Rey with the Stomp, and the AOP give Joe a double-spinebuster through the commentary table. And that’s the show. Merry Christmas with this bleak ending!
Best Match: Rey/Rollins was heading that way, but with the non-finish I suppose I have to give it to Lashley/Alexander.
Worst Match: Which squash was the most pointless? I guess Rusev/Jose.
Best Wrestler: Kevin Owens opened the show well, in ring and on the mike.
Worst Wrestler: Randy Orton turned up to give his customary RKO and equally customary little else.
Overall Verdict: 11 matches on this show, and seven of them squashes. Who booked this? It was a show where a few storylines got moved along just a bit, but was mostly spent with everyone spinning their wheels ahead of Christmas. If there is a silver lining to COVID in terms of wrestling, at least a good bit of WWE’s bloated roster have been mercifully set free from nights like this. One to be avoided.
Bonus Content: Quick Thoughts on Backlash 2020
Apollo/Andrade: Pretty standard Kick-Off fare. Not sure about the future of any of the five people involved here. Skippable.
Women’s Tag Triple Threat: I’ve seen all six of these do this better, but a perfectly acceptable, fast-paced opener. Alright.
Hardy/Sheamus: It’s been an iffy feud, though I’m not as outraged as others. Still, could use less “Hardy has let everyone down” stuff from Corey Graves. Slightly above-average match, the ending was a surprise. I assume they’ll go again at Extreme Rules. Watchable.
Asuka/Jax: Was going good, but then had a dumb non-finish just to prolong the feud. Avoid.
Strowman/Miz & Morrison: I like all three of these guys, but this felt very transitional, with an obvious result. Can be missed.
McIntyre/Lashley: Decent show from both, an entertaining hoss fight, even with the tried-and-true “distraction/accidentally hitting your partner” finish. Give it a watch.
Street Profits/Viking Raiders: 5 for 5 on the cinematic matches. Some people don’t like this stuff, but wrestling can always use a little levity. Watch it.
Edge/Orton: How to rate this? It was so over-produced – fake cheering was a mistake – but undoubtedly a bit compelling. Of course it was not “the greatest wrestling match ever”, but the final 15 minutes or so were fun, depending on your tolerance for finisher spam. Check it out.
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