Sometimes when I need to be cheered up, I put on the late 1960s Soviet stop motion children’s short Gena the Crocodile. The story goes like this: Gena the Crocodile, who works at the zoo as the crocodile, realizes he is sorely lacking in the friend department. So, he decides to build a special clubhouse for people without friends. The idea catches on with kids and animals around the neighborhood and everyone lends a hand to build the house. In the end, though, no one wants to join the new club, because in the process of building the clubhouse, they’ve all become friends! (They end up giving the house to their friend Cheburashka, kind of like a little mouse bear guy, who was previously living in a phone booth.) The characters are adorable, the music is charming, and it has all the sweetness you want from media for kids. Plus it has a lovely and true message! The bonds formed when working together towards a common goal are truly special, and no one should have to live in a phone booth.
You would be hard-pressed to find something to watch that’s as ideologically opposed to Gena the Crocodile (or any of its sequels) as WWE. While Crocodile Gena and Cheburashka succeed in their task in spite of the meddlings of cruel Shapoklyak, a mischievous old woman who revels in her aloneness, WWE’s heroes are more often than not lone wolves fighting off groups of supportive friends. That’s the opposite of how it should be, WWE!
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So, to honor Cheburashka, Crocodile Gena, and friends everywhere, I decided to focus on friendship. These are my seven favorite friendships as featured on Raw, Smackdown and NXT this week.
1. The Undisputed Era
NXT’s main heel faction, the Undisputed Era, is the platonic ideal of healthy, supportive, villainous friendship in WWE. I’ve waxed poetic plenty about them before, but can you blame me? This week’s episode of NXT was a perfect example of the power their beautiful bond gives them. Kyle O’Reilly even made a special new NXT intro video for them. The thrown together team of Matt Riddle, Velveteen Dream and Tyler Breeze was no match for Adam Cole, Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish, especially not with (best member of Undisputed Era) Kyle O’Reilly cheering on his boys ringside! I bet if one member of the Undisputed Era posts a brother check-in, the other three all follow suit.
2. The New Day
The New Day are pretty much the one exception to WWE’s rule that friendship makes bad people stronger and good people weaker. That’s why the New Day are so good! That’s why Kofi Kingston’s entire arc becoming and staying champion is so good! Dolph Ziggler has nothing on these three great guys, even if he did manage to beat Xavier Woods in a singles match on Tuesday. We need more groups of supportive friends fighting on the side of positivity in WWE!
3. R-Truth and Carmella
Putting Carmella’s uncomfortable tan to one side, the friendship between R-Truth and Carmella is one of the most beautiful things in WWE today. This supportive, fun-loving pair bring out the best in each other to such an incredible extent that it’s hard to remember that Carmella was ever a bad guy! Carmella helps R-Truth stay grounded in reality while Truth helps Carmella remember what’s really important in life: friendship and shenanigans. Sadly, their powerful bond turned out to be R-Truth’s downfall as 24/7 Champion on Tuesday, when Drake Maverick tricked Truth into letting his guard down by wearing a crop top and blonde wig, pinning him and driving away with the title! With Stomping Grounds coming up this weekend, I hope that Truth and Carmella can devise a plan to get it back.
4. Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss
The friendless Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley may have sabotaged Alexa Bliss and her new BFF Nikki Cross’ efforts to capture the Women’s Tag Team Championship on Monday, but the tiny twosome got their revenge the next night, beating Bayley up in a Moment of Bliss segment. They have such great chemistry that I don’t even care that I’ve seen Alexa Bliss play a manipulative bestie multiple times before, or that Nikki Cross’ character suddenly not being crazy anymore makes no sense at all. Nikki Cross’ heartbreak at losing her first title shot on the WWE main roster was powerful, and I kind of want her and Bliss to get another chance? They would be so happy.
5. Shane McMahon, Drew McIntyre, and the Revival (and Elias, who is there in spirit)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have Stockholm Syndrome. I know. I’m aware. Here’s the thing about Stockholm Syndrome though: it’s honestly pretty chill. I loved Shane McMahon’s “VIP Lounge” on Raw this week. I loved the modest luxury buffet laid out with six lobster tails, six steaks, and two bottles of champagne. (It’s Monday night, after all and they’re at work.) Shane McMahon’s overgrown shithead rich kid energy is still spot on, and the addition of the tremendously talented in everything they do Revival to the crew only helps make it more watchable. Where was Elias for this? Didn’t he want surf and turf?
Heath Slater came in and asked for a raise by himself only to be beat up by his former Three Man Band-mate Drew McIntyre and robbed by the Revival. Heath, I hope you read this article! Go back next week and bring some friends! (A union. I mean a union. Please unionize. For real.)
6. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville
The most wholesome friendship between two bad guys this week was Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville eating donuts together backstage at Smackdown Live. (If you haven’t seen their donut review show Damandyz Donuts, I recommend checking it out. I personally love nothing more than watching two beautiful Italian-Americans from New Jersey shouting about donuts in a car.) They’ve been bullying nerd queen loner Ember Moon for reading books and playing Nintendo, so Ember came to throw their donuts on the floor.
While I too would be livid if someone broke my Switch (that’s where Prince Sidon lives!!!), destroying innocent donuts is a bridge too far. Plus, Mandy and Sonya said they just want to help Ember be less of a nerd? So, that’s kind of nice of them? I guess?
7. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens
Heel friendships may not always lead to victory (or even to interesting storylines, booking and character development), but Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn do what they can. My two favorite bearded men from Quebec teamed up on both Raw and Smackdown this week against the New Day and Kofi Kingston with Seth Rollins. I dare you to watch them enter an arena together without texting your best bro a quick “love you dude.” From Sami Zayn’s aggressively obnoxious physicality to Kevin Owens’ ambient fury, there’s just something so delightful about these perfectly grumpy boys. If Sami Zayn has to be a heel, I’m glad he’s doing it with Kevin Owens by his side.