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– Programming note: These notes are useless, right? I included one last week about how the NXT and Impact reports were taking a week off because of Yanks Thanks and on Thursday afternoon people were tweeting WHERE’S THE NXT REPORT at me. Unless you are some sort of amazing Buddha wrestling fan that reads up on NXT but skips Raw, you gotta read these things. This is important information.
– Goldust GIF via WrasslorMonkey at Punchsport. Yes, it’s in there.
– You can find out about the movie me and Goldust made here and here. Post-production, baby! Also, follow that wrestling promotion I work for/am increasingly involved in helping run here. Our next show is in Austin on January 5. Book your flights immediately.
Please click through for the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for December 2, 2013.
Worst: All Of Face CM Punk’s Shirts Should Say MAD FOR NO REASON Across The Front In Big Letters
I think on Twitter I asked CM Punk to “stop being such a little butthole,” but I think the problem goes deeper than that. Deeper than a butthole.
CM Punk’s entire character is “guy who indignantly rages against things.” In theory this should be perfect for a WWE main-event babyface, because the heels are doing a bunch of awful shit with nobody to stop them, and he could show up and “stand his ground” or whatever and fight them. A realistic version of Cena’s odds-defying. Heels, assuming we go by the Michael P.S. Hayes/Doctor Doom definition, are guys who are doing evil but think they’re doing good, because their emotions and motivations are warped. They’re either self-centered or callous or cowardly or whatever. Right? On paper that’s how everything should work.
The problem is that in WWE, the heels are far too often totally in the right. Think about what made heel CM Punk so great. When he was in the Straight Edge Society he did some awful things, but his motivations were sound: he was a young guy battling for opportunities repeatedly taken by aging, broken-down guys who were alcoholics or addicted to drugs. He hated Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio and Shawn Michaels … all guys with real, documented drug abuse problems. Guys who made it to the top of the mountain and just sorta pissed it away. Guys who were instantly, naturally given things Punk had to beat people in the face for YEARS to achieve. He was an asshole, but he was RIGHT.
Another example is the “Summer of Punk.” The reason Punk’s worked-shoot worked so well was because he was expressing our perception of the truth. Guys like Triple H, Vince McMahon and John Cena WERE all sorta lording themselves over the WWE’s natural order of operations, controlling things for their own benefit. WWE routinely claimed to listen to the fans without even CONSIDERING listening to the fans. He was being an asshole about it, but he was telling the truth, and we could identify with him.
When he became a good guy, one of his first beefs was with John Laurinaitis. And sure, I’m a Big Johnny fanboy who likes to pretend Laurinaitis didn’t do anything evil because I like him so much, but a lot of the Punk/Johnny narrative was Laurinaitis being a mostly harmless but soulless middle management type, and Punk just getting bent the hell out of shape about it for no reason. The only guy Laurinaitis was really mean to for months was John Morrison, but he got heat because he was exactly the sort of slimy dork you’d work for in real life. Punk, a guy who’d gotten several championships or championship opportunities at this point and had held WWE for ransom by winning their belt and skipping town with it, got in Johnny’s face and called him ugly and uncool over and over for almost no reason, because he was “anti authority.” It didn’t matter if the authority was actually DOING anything to him, he was “anti” it.
The same thing is happening here. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are evil bad guys. They’ve declared themselves as such on national television. While they were actually doing evil things, Punk was busy repeatedly and obsessively hitting his former best friend and manager with a stick, openly ignoring everything going on with Daniel Bryan, Big Show, the WWE roster and so on because he “likes to be in his own little universe.” He gets attacked by the Wyatts, so he ends up teaming with the other guy who got beat up by the Wyatts (Bryan) by proxy. Bryan gets attacked and kidnapped. Punk rolls out of the ring and walks into an ambush from The Shield.
Now, shouldn’t Punk’s beef be with 1) The Shield, for attacking him, especially since he was involved in such a complicated issue with them and Heyman over the past year, and 2) WHOEVER WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR KIDNAPPING HIS NEW FRIEND AFTER HIS MATCH? But no, his issue is with AUTHORITY because he is ANTI IT. He starts running his mouth about Triple H and Stephanie. Hilariously-deadpan Kane comes out and tells him “you should probably stop running your mouth at us, we’re your bosses, handle your own shit.” Punk’s response is just HOW ABOUT WE FIGHT. Because he’s a raging little ball out anti-authority BLAH without anyone reasonable to rage against.
No matter what you think about Punk or what he’s doing, there is no reason why Punk should ignore Triple H and Stephanie destroying the WWE Championship scene, promoting both John Cena and Triple H via unfair impromptu decision-making, outright threatening everyone on the WWE roster multiple times, firing people on a whim, physically assaulting everyone he’s ever known and either worsening or compromising everything he’s ever raged about but then get vocally upset with them in the middle of the wrestling ring to open Raw because some guys tangentially involved with them attacked him with wrestling. It’s stupid. If all WWE babyfaces have to be stupid to be identifiable, the one guy we all generally agree about not being stupid shouldn’t have to be one of them.Subscribe to UPROXX
Best/Worst: Remember When These Guys Were World Heavyweight Championship Contenders
What I liked about this match:
1. It was mildly fun while it lasted, and
2. They were not literally rolling around in garbage this week.
What I didn’t like about the match:
1. It was way too short, especially as the rubber match in a best-of-three series between two talented guys looking to establish a spot for themselves, especially for a shot at a title.
2. Damien Sandow’s ‘You’re Welcome’ is one of the softest, saddest finishers going today. You should not be doing Test’s transitional moves as finishes, especially if you are not the size/do not have the strength of Test.
3. This was not just 5 minutes of people asking Big E Langston questions and letting him improv some stuff
Best: Big E Langston, Skip It Champion
Seriously, the best part of the opening match was Big E Langston on color commentary, getting to be the Big E Langston we know and love from Twitter. If he’s not gonna ever pin people with a five count, at least we can get these little moments with him where he uses the classic 90s toy Skip It as an example of how he and Dolph Ziggler are historically competitive.
If you aren’t familiar with Skip It, here’s the commercial.
Would you say the VERY best thing of all is the counter on that ball?
And oh man, the announce team has never sounded older than when trying to figure out what a Skip It is. They sounded like Bill Cosby talking about Pokémon. SKIP IT?? WHAT’S SKIP IT?? YOU MEAN LIKE HOPSCOTCH? LIKE THAT ANCIENT GAME WE ELDERLY OFT WISTFULLY REMEMBER PLAYING? WHAT’S A SKIP IT, MAGGLE, IS THAT LIKE TWERKING?? MALLY CYRUS SKIP IT! It was terrible. Big E should’ve just said “it’s a toy you put on your ankle and jumped over. Like a hula hoop on your leg. Stop being so f*cking old.”
You know next week one of them is gonna try to work in a Skip-It joke, having not googled “Skip It” in the week between shows despite their job being “sit still, look at a screen and know things.” Langston should drop a Rattle Me Bones reference and blow their minds.
Worst: Three-Armed Randy Orton
Hey look, the same horrible digital artist who gave Shawn Michaels super-long monster legs is back to give Randy Orton three arms, because I guess the fact that Randy Orton is everywhere you go and carries around a belt all the time never gave you an opportunity to go “hey, Randy, stop and look to the left with your fist up” and take a picture.
They should’ve just photoshopped his head onto the Rock’s body. Just straight-up do the WrestleMania poster with a floating Orton head. Don’t even try to match the skin tone. Also, SUPER-LONG MONSTER LEGS.
Worst: The Constant, Limp Way Challengers Are Established
– We’ve talked about it already, but the fact that AJ Lee is the only Diva who gets a reaction beyond “look at the pretty Diva” is because she’s the only one who stumbled into having an actual character and stories. She has a personality, and whether you like her or not, it makes her easier to react to and better for your live-action TV program. It’s the difference in cheering for a celebrity and just yelling shit at a statue.
– WWE’s short attention span has absolutely destroyed the way challengers are built. In the first two matches on the show we set up title matches for TLC … Damien Sandow vs. Big E Langston and Natalya vs. AJ. In both instances we had characters who’ve been built around how easily and horribly they lose getting quick, mostly-meaningless wins that, thanks to the vague WWE logic that wins and losses don’t matter but still TOTALLY DO, propel them into pay-per-view title shots. These people don’t start doing things to earn a title shot until a week or two before their title shot happens and it’s the worst. Why should Big E Langston be afraid of Damien Sandow when he saw his intensely pathetic attempt to cash in Money in the Bank on John Cena and watched him job to a Jeff Jarrett guitar shot in a novelty gimmick match two weeks ago? AJ loses multiple matches to Natalya but still skip away holding the title, because she knows having a belt means you win every title match and lose every non-title. And if you lose the belt? You get instant, immediate, repeated title shots.
Raw is Mad Men if John Cena was Don Draper and every other character was Bob Benson. Just 60 Bob Bensons.
Best: Bad News Barrett
I’m not sure how “Brandon Stroud” became a character on Raw, but I’m giving him a Best.
I don’t watch the JBL & Cole Show — I don’t care if Renee is on it, NXT was supposed to be my time to get Renee on wrestling without all the stuff I hate — so I had no idea Barrett was in the process of being repackaged. I love that the video is “Bad News Barrett Makes His Debut,” and I hope they treat him like Fandango and pretend we’ve never seen him before, even though he looks and sounds the same, is named “Barrett” and has Wade Barrett’s entrance theme.
I also love that they’ve apparently given up on Barrett, and decided the best gimmick for him would be “guy who does the easiest shit to get heat you can think of.” His material was seriously WE’RE IN THIS TOWN (pause for cheers) I HATE THIS TOWN (pause for boos). In his second appearance of the night, because a guy with a hashtagged lectern DEMANDS two appearances, he upgraded to I DISLIKE THINGS YOU ENJOY (food) with a side of I’M NOT FROM HERE. “Thanksgiving is weird! I have my own customs!”
Next week Raw’s in Seattle. If Barrett doesn’t drop a YOUR LOCAL ECONOMY HAS COLLAPSED MUCH LIKE YOUR KINGDOME, I riot.
Best: The Actual Daniel Bryan/Erick Rowan Match
I’ve got some mean stuff to say here in a minute, but I wanted to say how much I liked this match. It was missing some of the stuff it really, really should’ve involved, but Bryan continues to be one of the most spectacularly competent pro wrestlers of the modern era and can tell a believable underdog story despite clearly being Erick Rowan’s superior. Rowan his been kinda terrible for his entire WWE employment, development and main roster and all, but he looked every bit as good as Harper in the ring with Bryan. That’s a big accomplishment for Rowan, and an expectedly great one from Bryan.
I also liked the amount of time it got. It seemed a little long, but it helped the story. If Bryan’s getting thrown around and beaten up and manages to do something smart and win with a roll-up in three or four minutes, it doesn’t really help anybody. It doesn’t make Bryan smart, because he put almost no effort into it. It mostly just makes Rowan look like he can’t handle his shit. This is what I hate in matches like the Divas match, where a brief distraction or one decent move causes a tough-as-nails star to suddenly just helplessly die. In this match, Rowan REALLY gave Bryan an ass-beating. Bryan looked like he managed to survive, so he gets all the plusses of a win against a guy twice his size, but Rowan ALSO gets to look like a strong opponent who can take it to anybody and whomp the mess out of a beloved main-event player.
There is more value to both winning and losing a hard fought match between equals than in dominating a lesser opponent or winning your match by stupid accident. Whoever knows this should be controlling the rest of the show.
At some point during the night I turned my television down do a whisper and explained to Destiny that the commentary team was “probably the worst they’ve ever been.” Her response: “you always say that.”
I guess I do. Last night seemed especially bad, but yeah, just last week JBL was shocked that women knew how to count, so I should probably stop being surprised. Aside from all their horrible Old Manisms about hopscotch and twerking, JBL actively worked to make sure nothing said on the show was positive and everything hurt the product. Even Cole and Lawler, two of the worst ever, seemed bothered by him and tried to just call the matches beneath his ignorant shouting.
All of it was bad. Him doing WAHH WAHH noises over everything for basically no reason. Him responding to Michael Cole’s attempts to get Bray Wyatt over as a scary, intelligent mastermind by saying “THAT’S STUPID” without any real thought or explanation. Him calling William Shakespeare “psychobabble.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN. Why are you doing this? What purpose does it serve? Your job is to say words that make us interested in the program, get the wrestlers over or at LEAST be entertaining. You are doing the opposite of all of those things.
JBL hasn’t always been this bad, but he’s living in this weird uptight old rich white guy bubble where nobody’s shaking him by the shoulders and saying STOP IT, DO BETTER. The people in charge of Raw should shit-can him so hard it destroys the can. There is no one thing more detrimental to the success of Raw than Bradshaw’s uneducated, counterproductive hate-yelling. End this. Or just wrap a blanket around his head for three hours so we can’t see or hear how drunk he is.
Best: Bray Wyatt, Regardless
Bray Wyatt’s promo at the end of the Bryan/Rowan match immediately invalidated JBL’s bury-job for anybody with ears and a brain. In just over two minutes he touched on all the important things we needed to know, and helped excuse some of the stuff we didn’t, like why the Wyatts would abduct a dude, claim to be messing with his soul on Friday and then reveal that they just beat him up and left him in a parking lot as soon as they carried him out, changing him 0%.
– the reiteration that Harper and Rowan only attack on Bray’s command, and serve as sort of his hands and feet in the wrestling ring above simply being his cronies
– the revelation that Bray thought he could abduct Bryan and simply brainwashing, but realized Bryan was already crazy and passionate and beyond control
– the revelation that Bray Wyatt watches Total Divas (which is amazing)
– Bray’s Plan B, which is appealing to Bryan’s problems and inviting him to willingly participate in the Wyatts mission, which is eerily similar … the destruction of an oppressive machine that consistently underestimates them
I am in rapturous love with the idea that Bray Wyatt is secretly the key to the success of WWE’s good guys because he’s the only person in the company crazy enough to not to believe what he sees and hears on TV. If you need a guy to truly bring down the system, Bray’s it.
Okay, allow me to fantasy book for a moment. Right now we’ve got CM Punk vs. The Shield in a 3-on-1 handicap match and Daniel Bryan vs. The Wyatt Family 3-on-1 for TLC, right? There’s no way they’re doing two straight 3-on-1 handicap matches. How great would it be if Punk was getting his ass handed to him by The Shield only to be saved by Bryan AND the Wyatts, because Bryan’s rage-addled brain is ALSO disconnected from the machine and can see that Bray’s right? How great would it be if that accidentally put him in command of these crazy monsters who admire his insanity? The next night Raw starts with everything on fire and The Authority desperately trying to escape the building? And Kane could just stand there and laugh, because he’s Bryan and Wyatt’s man on the inside.
(somebody let me write this show)
(and give me a fire budget)
(and let me set Triple H on fire)
Best: A New Brodus Clay Theory
Last week when Xavier Woods showed up dancing with the Funkadactyls to Brodus Clay’s music and they sorta mentioned Brodus but he never showed up, I jokingly asked, “is Brodus Clay dead? Did he die?”
This week, Brodus returned to Raw wearing an incredible, shiny, white ring jacket with ELONGATED NUERAL SPINES like a dinosaur. That was great, but the most important thing to note is that the jacket also had shoulder wings. Wings on a dinosaur spike jacket? And it’s white?
Theory: Brodus Clay DID die. The reason he was the “only living, breathing … Funkasaurus in captivity” is because the lifespan of the Funkasaurus is short. He is now a DEAD DINOSAUR. He died and went to dinosaur Heaven. He’s upset about it, so he’s haunting Xavier Woods, who somehow got his music and dancing girls in the will.
Best: What The F*ck Is Happening, Am I On Drugs
I’m not sure who thought having El Torito mumble loudly and jam a bunch of WWE merch into his armpits was the best way to move product, but I thank him for it. The image of El Torito with the WWE Championship wrapped around him is one I’ll cherish.
That said, a supplemental Worst goes to whoever told Primo and Epico to “spic it up.” Is the entire Colon family gonna get that speech at some point? They are already Puerto Rican guys portraying Spanish bullfighters carrying around a Mexican little person. They do not need to also sound like Speedy Gonzales characters.
Best: Sin Cara’s Back! Please Ignore The Giant Tattoos And Extra 20 Pounds! LOOK, PRETTY LIGHTS
True story: Despite the fact that Sin Cara was suddenly thick and sporting a gigantic shoulder tattoo I didn’t notice he was Hunico and not the real deal for like two minutes, thanks to some combination of unnecessary mood-lighting and me bracing myself for the onslaught of LOL BOTCH jokes Twitter was rapid-firing.
I’m as disappointed as anybody that Mistico didn’t work out in the WWE, but if we’re Real Talking, here are a few truths:
1. I don’t think Hunico is necessarily better than Mistico, but he’s certainly better at being Sin Cara, and if you want to maintain the character, putting the hood on a guy who does not take a six month vacation when he jams his fingers is a good idea.
2. Sin Cara is a marketable character, and if you can disconnect him from the jokes, he’ll move a lot of merch and get kids and Hispanic audiences interested in your product.
3. Distancing Mistico from Sin Cara increases your chances of people moving on from the Maffew jokes.
4. Hunico continuing to play Sin Cara raises the chance of Camacho getting to be Rey Mysterio.
5. LOL Rey Mysterio
I am looking forward to Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara continuing their Los Matadores vs. 3MB-esque rivalry. I will personally mail WWE $100 American if they write one story for Del Rio that isn’t “hold the armbar on a mid-carder for too long” immediately followed by “lose” with sixty exclamation points.
Best: The Shield Is The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Raw
I’m not sure what WWE’s doing anymore. Out of context they’ve had arguably their best year of in-ring action EVER. Sami Zayn has been killing it week-in and week-out on NXT in the best matches in the history of WWE developmental in a walk. Daniel Bryan has broken through enough that even his shitty storyline matches are crammed with great wrestling. Goldust showed back up and reminded everybody how great a talented veteran can be. A lot of WWE’s young talent is firing on all cylinders, and The Shield has had so many great six-man tags in the last calendar year you couldn’t even fit them all on a 3-disc set.
At the same time, the stuff they’ve done that constitutes what I consider “bad stuff on Raw” has been EXCEPTIONALLY BAD, making it harder and harder to justify sitting through it. If this outstanding Shield vs. Rhodes Boys and Big Show match was the centerpiece of a good wrestling show, can you IMAGINE how acclaimed it would be? They’re creating these incredible “WrestleMania moments” on a weekly basis, but aren’t allowing the in-ring quality to raise the level and standards of its bookends.
Anyway, I don’t want that (or the constant flow of good wrestling matches) to lessen the impact that these trios matches on Raw have. The guys in the Shield have really started to become individuals in these things without compromising what makes The Shield great: their all-for-one, one-for-all teamwork.
Take the finish of the match for example. It isn’t possible without contributions from all three guys, who play their roles perfectly. Roman is the explosive powerhouse, so he uses intelligent video game logic by taking out the biggest guy on the team with a finisher on the outside. That sort of moment will obviously draw the attention of one of Big Show’s partners, and Reigns takes a bullet from Cody in response. Both men stay down. With one move, Reigns has effectively taken out two members of the opposition. Goldust is on the top rope about to take out Rollins, so Ambrose, the crazy, unpredictable guy who can take a ton of damage, throws himself in Goldust’s path without much of a plan. He ends up taking a superplex, but his stoppage allows Rollins — the quickest guy on the team — to position himself to take advantage of that superplex, a move that hurts both the giver and the receiver. With Goldust stunned and both Cody and Show taken out, all Rollins has to do is sneak in a flash pin and boom, The Shield wins.
Whether or not any of that actually matters, the fact that I CAN explain it that way is what makes me love these guys so much, and good wrestling in general. It allows me to put my own pieces together and tell my own stories without having to really make anything up.
ALSO OF NOTE
First Goldust breaks out a Yoshi Tonic, and now he’s doing diving hurricanranas. I am continually impressed by this man, and he might be the first wrestler in history to have ever improved in his mid-40s. Absolutely unbelievable. You are the best, Goldie.
Worst: Competitive Guys With Big Attitudes!
HEY FELLAS HERE’S A STORY NOBODY GIVES A SHIT ABOUT
A few weeks ago, a previously babyface Miz didn’t accept a tag from partner Kofi Kingston, effectively walking out on the match and leaving Kofi to get mauled. This, by everyone’s understanding, made Miz a bad guy. BUT WAIT, somebody remembered that he’d filmed Christmas Bounty, an ABC family original about (as far as I can tell) Dean Ambrose falling in love with Melina while the cast of Dog: The Bounty Hunter stood around and clapped. That meant he had to still be lovable or whatever, so his heel turn was semi-retconned and explained away as Miz and Kofi being “competitive.” They both want main-event spots in the WWE, even though Miz is a former WWE Champion who once headlined WrestleMania with John Cena and The Rock and the most important thing Kofi’s ever done is cosmetically damage Randy Orton’s car. But they’re equals, and rivals!
That continued last night, with Miz and Kofi teaming up to face AXELBACK. They lose, of course, and after the match Miz helps Kofi up … only to slap him in the face. Kofi stares at him all angry, and then Renee Young tries to ask Miz about it during Backstage Fallout she just gets a weird “YEAH THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED I GUESS” redirect. Even Miz has no idea why he’s doing what he’s doing, he’s just doing what they write on the dry erase board.
But that gets explained by Cole as being a BIG ATTITUDE. Miz and Kofi are “competitive guys” with “big attitudes.” If you have any idea what that means, please explain it in a letter and mail it to UPROXX c/o With Leather. I am pretty sure “losing and having a random roulette emotional response” is not an “attitude.”
Worst: Kofi Kingston’s Tights
Danielle Matheson mentioned that it looks like Kofi is “on his period,” and now that’s all I can see.
Worst: MARK HENRY’S TWERKIN! HE’S TWERKIN!
Mark Henry is awesome and one of my favorites. He’s charismatic and good at what he does, and watching him fist-bump kids makes my heart swell. At the same time, “good guy Mark Henry” has always been a really, really bad thing, whether it was proto Kurt Angle Olympian Mark or that unfortunate “Kool Aid Man” Mark who teamed with MVP and lost to everybody for like 40 years.
I’ve enjoyed Mark’s rise to belovedness this time around — I’m counting his swerve on John Cena as part of this, which is still the best moment Raw can possibly have — but I’m worried that his desire to get cheers plus putting him in proximity to Summer Rae will make Vince’s brain go AWOOOOGAH and we’ll get another “FAT BLACK GUY IS SEXUALLY INSATIABLE” run. Sexual Chocolate was not my bag, and neither was Pajamas Viscera. If Mark can just have fun and stay cool that’s great, but let’s ease him away from the dancing characters and point him in the direction of Big E Langston and whoever else lifts and destroys things. THAT’S what Mark Henry does.
Worst: Titus O’Neil’s Digestive System
Speaking of strong black characters put into positions where they can look as stupid as possible, here’s Titus O’Neil not being able to recover from Thanksgiving dinner despite THREE DAYS OF DIGESTION, about to vomit up turkey on everybody because he got spun around in a circle.
There’s a lot to love about this — particularly the Real Americans’ custom track jackets, which unfortunately are not for sale on WWE Shop and probably never will be unless they get “redesigned” to look cooler, which would defeat the point — but yeah, I’m not sad that I missed the 10-minutes or so of Titus barfing on Smackdown and wish they’d just left it over there on the show I don’t watch. Vomit gimmicks are never funny, Droz was somehow a worse Road Warrior than Heidenreich and no WWE-related puking should happen without Vince weirdly offering the person coffee beforehand. He’s gonna HE’S GONNA he’s gonna HE’S GONNA etc.
I agree with whoever it was that said Zeb Colter pantomiming throwing up was the perfect image of this episode.
Worst: All Students Please Proceed Immediately To An Assembly In The Butthead Memorial Auditorium
Do you want to call it the
A. Undisputed WWE Championship
B. Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship, or
C. THE SUPER COOL BAD ASS TITLE FOR RAD DUDEZ
“The Unified Champion” sounds like a Marvel character from the 80s. John Cena should have to fight a big guy with orange skin and no pupils who shoots lasers out of his hands.