Worst: Natalya’s Ring Gear
What happened to Natalya? She’s had perfectly cromulent ring gear for a decade, and now suddenly she’s wrestling in an NFL cheerleader top and underoos. It’s like Nikki Bella pulled her aside and was like, “Nattie, if you’re ever gonna make it in this business you NEED to invest in a sexy Halloween costume.” Stephanie should’ve wrestled Brie in knee-high socks and a tube top dress that looked like Spongebob.
Worst: finally, a fresh finish
Natalya faces new Divas Champion Paige. Paige has been champion for less than a day. Natalya hasn’t gotten a win on Raw since 1991. QUICK, GUESS THE FINISH.
Yep, straight from the snarkiest comment you could make up for a set of hypothetical match predictions, it’s AJ Lee’s music suddenly playing, Paige being paralyzed by it and Natalya rolling her up for a non-title victory. And, of course, the post-match stuff is built around AJ and Paige having another pay-per-view match while the lady who just PINNED THE DIVAS CHAMPION sprints backstage so nobody notices her existing. WWE builds, everybody. I want someone in NXT to get in good with the GM and only get booked in handicap matches and non-title matches against champions en route to a 174-0 win streak.
Moments like this are especially out of place on good Raws, because even when they feel fresh and new, WWE has to fill three hours and only has so many ideas. If Raw got cut to two hours and Smackdown got that third hour’s bad ideas with an extra day to improve upon them, we’d seriously be living in a golden age of TV wrestling.
Worst: The Illusion Of Choice
There are only two kinds of polls that exist in WWE.
1. The one with one great example and two terrible ones, so you’ll pick the good one.
Example: Who should be the special guest referee in tonight’s main event?
A. a ball of yarn
B. a homeless man we found outside
C. STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
2. The one where all three options are exactly the same, because they already planned out the match but want to trick stupid people into thinking they’ve helped.
Example: Pick the match type for tonight’s main event!
A. SUBMISSION MATCH
B. GIVE-UPS ONLY MATCH
C. TAPOUT MATCH
Second Example: this poll.
Seriously, the finish of Ambrose vs. Rollins was Rollins curbstomping Ambrose through a pile of cinderblocks. No falls happened. So yeah, congratulations on choosing “Falls Count Anywhere,” everybody.
Best/Worst: The Class Ring WWE World Heavyweight Championship Is Official And Not An Improvement
The good news is that we’ve finally got a new, single title belt to represent the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. We managed to live through that weird eight months of title unifications and ladder matches where literally every person’s prediction was “one person gets ONE belt, the other person gets the OTHER belt.” If the titles are unified, they should have one belt. Doy.
The bad news is that WWE’s idea of WWE Championship + World Heavyweight Championship is just “WWE Championship.” It always has been, I guess. They just took The Rock’s terrible Jostens class ring championship for people who are embarrassed to be wrestlers, shrunk the words and edited-in the new logo. Seriously, I didn’t even think the belt had words on it until I saw the replica on Shopzone. I prefer the smaller “World Heavyweight Champion” along the bottom to the gaudy, Cena-eseque CHAMPION on the WWE Championship, but that’s really all I can say for it. It looks like a helmet in a Guillermo Del Toro movie. It looks like it was designed to be held by people who’re embarrassed to hold a wrestling belt. YOU’LL NEVER WIN THE 15 POUNDS OF PENTAGONAL LEATHER, DUSTY RHODES.
Best: A Promo As Good As The Match It’s About
This I can’t praise enough. WWE Fan Nation really should’ve uploaded the entire thing.
Short version: Paul Heyman is better at making John Cena sound cool and important than anyone in wrestling history, including John Cena. Cena stands around in t-shirts and jean shorts and throwable hats and says things like I LOVE THIS BUSINESS and I WORK HARD. He’s a Brawlin’ Buddy. You punch him in the stomach and he says MY TIME IS NOW. He’s an action figure in a Toy Story movie, acting all macho and trying to kill aliens because he doesn’t understand he’s a toy. When Heyman talks about Cena, he gives the man a context the shirts and boasts never could. He HATES Cena, so he’s great at explaining why people who also hate Cena can and should respect him. The “never give up” slogan became a story about how he refused to stay down when Brock Lesnar was giving him the beating of his life. The “I love this business” wank became an image of Cena as a man who has repeatedly proven himself and stood atop the WWE longer than any of the people we consider the greatest ever. Longer than the Rock. Longer than Austin. Heyman doesn’t just say Cena does these things … he follows them up with irrefutable evidence, phrased in a compelling way that lets you understand the importance and gravity of the man without asking you to change your mind about him. It’s brilliant.
And once that’s out of the way, we get to the identifiers that ensure we’ll remember this promo forever. SUPLEX, REPEAT. SUPLEX, REPEAT. SUPLEX, REPEAT. He says it sixteen times, because accuracy is important, and Paul Heyman understands the little things. He knows that Lesnar could say “I beat Cena and Cena sucks,” and that that would be 1% as valuable and effective as saying “I beat Cena and Cena’s the best wrestler ever.” It’s applying “my client conquered The Streak” to situations that are not as historically important as that and making them SEEM so by DOING so.
I write a lot in these columns about how Paul Heyman’s the best talker in WWE (and quite possibly the history of professional wrestling), but agree or disagree, I hope you’re listening. The content this man is giving us is inimitable and timeless, and the kind of thing we’re gonna smile and laugh about when we remember it 30 years down the line. SUPLEX REPEAT is the new FIRE ME I’M ALREADY FIRED. It’s the new WITH A TEAR IN MY EYE. It’s the new THE KENNEDYS WERE BLOOD, THE EARPS WERE BLOOD, THE RHODES ARE BLOOD. It’s a man who understands wrestling more than any of us, taking an opportunity to make a throwaway “nah nah we won” promo last forever.