Best: Bray Wyatt Gets The Win He’s Needed Since February
I don’t think I can give this match enough Bests. While it wasn’t my favorite match on the show (maybe even only my third or fourth favorite, which says a lot for this show), it accomplished the most. We got:
1. The main roster debut of Bray Wyatt’s butcher’s smock. If you aren’t familiar with this look, he adopted it down in NXT when he got his face broken and had to wrestle in a protective mask. Their explanation wasn’t just “Bray Wyatt wears a plastic face mask now,” it was that Bray had looked into the mirror and realized that what he saw looking back at him wasn’t his “true self,” so he needed to show that to people. His true self was a mangled face covered in a mask that dulled his features and a BUTCHER’S SMOCK. Note: still not sure why he’s wearing pants with a drawing of a kneepad on them. Maybe his true self wears Ninja Turtle pajama pants?
2. The fireflies entrance, which keeps getting better and better.
3. Chris Jericho’s new jacket, which blows the old ones out of the water and makes him look like KITT from ‘Knight Rider.’
4. Bray Wyatt doesn’t just win the match, he WINS it. Capital letters. As the boldface says, it’s the victory he’s needed since February. Bray came up feuding with guys like Kane and R-Truth, guys who couldn’t carry him to anything great in-ring. He had a brief thing with Daniel Bryan and an amazing beef with The Shield that convinced a lot of people he could go. As soon as that crucial thing happened, he got stuck in a series of awful matches with John Cena where he might as well have been Heath Slater in Dracula cape. The only match he won ended up being a 3-on-1 handicap cage match he barely f*cking won because of a mysterious devil child. Then he got into a feud with Jericho and things looked like they were going in the right direction, but boop, clean loss to a Codebreaker.
This is what Bray needs. A match built around solid enough in-ring work and UNFORGETTABLE character work. Those are his strengths. He’s okay-to-good in the ring, but becomes special when he becomes Bray, and he can only do that in moments like this. Watch him start screaming about how he can never die and tell me that dude’s not money. None of that gaspy promo stuff that doesn’t make sense, no church singing, just a messed up demon man who hops bodies and WILL KILL YOU DEAD.
5. Harper and Rowan never show up, which honors the match stipulation established by its build and lets Bray (for once) look like a guy who can handle business himself.
Oh, one more Best:
Ronda Rousey in a Bray Wyatt hat. First she rants about the Elite Four, and now this. One day she’s gonna give an interview where she declares Uranus the best sailor senshi and I’m gonna just mail her a ring.
Best: Stephanie McMahon Has Become Vince’s Perfect Heir
I didn’t think I could love Stephanie McMahon and be on her side more, and then she shows up dressed like she’s on a 1992 Joshi comp tape and flashes the Four Horsewoman symbol when she passes Rousey and her crew. Then she wrestles Brie Bella like a TOTAL HOSS, just choking her against the ropes like she’s Andre the Giant. Stephanie McMahon. Holy shit.
The best thing to happen in 2014 is Stephanie McMahon’s brain firing in the right places and awakening her dormant Mr. McMahon genes. Like, she’s always looked like him and had his size, but we thought SHANE was the one who got the charisma and the surprisingly adept wrestling ability. Stephanie was the princess with the annoying voice. She was, at best, Vickie Guerrero. At worst she was Lady Eric Bischoff, and that is A VERY LOW WORST. Then all of a sudden The Authority shows up and Stephanie is a CHARISMA MACHINE, working crowds like Vince in his prime. Now she’s doing that thing where she steps into the ring and everything in the arena starts revolving around her, and you’re like “oh, wow, the people who run the world’s most successful dynastic wrestling promotion DO get what makes wrestling work.” She looks like Vince, she’s got Vince’s surprising size, she can talk like Vince, she can work a crowd like him, she can work a surprisingly awesome match like him. She is now her father’s perfect heir.
Shane should come back and look and move like Mike Adamle and confirm whatever Dorian Gray situation is going on between them.
Worst: Samuel Morse Couldn’t Have Telegraphed A Heel Turn Any More
Ah well, at least it makes sense. Nikki didn’t quit her job and try to blackmail her way back into it, but she’s had to suffer because of Brie’s nonsense. Every time Brie showed up to make the situation about her again, Nikki’d get punished. Even during the contract signing, Nikki’s the one who gets blasted and Pedigreed first. I’d be sick of Brie, too. Just be fired and let me do my own thing, you know? It’s not exactly hell on Earth to be put in a slightly unfair match against Alicia Fox.
It also makes sense from a fantasy booking perspective. I’ve long maintained the theory that John Cena’s the WWE’s Big Bad. He’s the end boss. The guy who pulls all the strings and makes all the decisions. Everything that happens in the company revolves around him, which is why Vince can get all ballsy with people but starts nervously gulping whenever Cena’s around. The Authority made Daniel Bryan’s life hell for a year, but when Cena won the championship they were like “uh, you gotta defend in a FATAL FOURWAY I GUESS.” Not exactly the constant railroading Bryan got. Plus, who transitioned the belt to Bryan so Orton could cash in on him under Triple H’s watch? John Cena, who was leaving to have surgery anyway. It all makes sense. And now that Cena’s girlfriend has thrown in with The Authority, it makes even MORE.
Best: Randy Orton Wrestles A Broomstick
choke each other a little slower, guys
Okay, so I give Roman Reigns a lot of grief. He’s getting that unrealistic WWE top babyface push I hate, he’s the only Shield guy who hasn’t grown up since the split (he’s still using their entrance and music) and his matches are just a bunch of plodding strikes until it’s time to hit his signatures. The worst parts of Sheamus and John Cena in a guy who looks like The Rock. It’s kind of an on-paper nightmare for me, I’m not gonna front. So yeah, he’s not actually a “broomstick,” but go back and watch this match objectively and tell me it is not Randy Orton wrestling a f*cking Brawlin’ Buddy. Orton vs. Reigns could’ve been Orton vs. Mama’s Boy from the pizza rolls contest and been the same thing.
Orton is what keeps this together. He’s boring at times, sure, but he’s making this work. He’s controlling the pace, making sure the crowd’s ready for Roman’s moves, prepping them for his superhero recovery. It’s the best singles match Roman’s ever had, and it’s because of the most secretly competent and awesome guy on the roster. Orton’s been a killer in the ring for a while now, he’s just also very aware that too much of that could get him reactions he doesn’t want, so he moderates it. He’s that admin who bans people and keeps the peace and keeps everything moving forward while you’re all OH OKAY I DIDN’T KNOW DISAGREEING WAS A BANNABLE OFFENSE. He makes the unpopular decisions. He wrestles the unpopular matches guys need to have to look the way they’re supposed to look later.
So much of this was good, too. I hated Roman’s SUPER FINISH where just instantly no-sold a match’s worth of damage, but the Superman Punch into the RKO and the spear into the powerslam were both A+ players. If they’re serious about having Roman be The Guy, he needs to only wrestle the very best people on the roster. Never put him in a match with a Ryback or an R-Truth type until he’s been doing this for YEARS. Do what you did to him with the six-man tags in single file … short, powerful, punctuated matches that make him look like a badass without ten minutes of him pretending to sell shit he’s not gonna sell in minute 11.