– Be sure you’ve read The Best And Worst Of WWE SummerSlam 2014.
– Your shares, likes, comments and other Internet Things are appreciated. Encouraged, even!
– Important Real Life Stuff: If you live in the Chicago area, want to see Meet Me There (the movie I made with Goldust) and want an excuse to bump into Bruce Campbell, the film’s screening at this weekend’s Wizard World Chicago event as part of the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival. I’ll be there, so if you come to this and say hi, we’re friends for life.
If you live in Austin and can’t make it to Chicago, you can come say hi and earn my friendship for a very long time by hitting up the next Inspire Pro Wrestling event on August 31.
Click on through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for August 18, 2014.
Best: Wow, Daniel Bryan’s Suddenly A Foot Taller
I’ll admit it, I fell for it.
Sunday’s SummerSlam event was so legitimately unpredictable that I came into Raw with the feeling that anything could happen. The WWE.com five-point preview was just THIS PERSON HAD A MATCH AT SUMMERSLAM, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THIS PERSON. It was so vague, and SummerSlam was SO full of John Cena getting f*cked up like he was the Dirt Bike Kid that yeah, sure, maybe they’re gonna surprise us. Then the music played for one second too long and my (and I’m assuming your) brain went, “oh, right, it’s gonna be Stephanie.”
The good news is that “it’s gonna be Stephanie” isn’t the death sentence it used to be. Girl comes side-galloping out in a Daniel Bryan parody shirt and incredible mom jeans to remind us that she has power-walked past Vickie Guerrero as the greatest heel of a generation.
Best: Stephanie McMahon Rubbernecking This Horribly-Acted Modelfight
That leads to Nikki Bella explaining why she turned on Her Sister Brie at SummerSlam, which should’ve just been “I don’t like her and she’s gotten me beaten up for a couple of months” but was ten-or-so minutes of Nikki and Steph having an awkward conversation and side-eyeing an empty ramp while Brie slowly got dressed, slowly hit her cue and slowly walked to the ring. Once she’s there, they launch into a chilling, emotionally-driving scene that reminded me of Meryl Streep and Viola Davis in Doubt. You know, if they’d both had lobotomies.
You know how bad this is, I don’t need to tell you. Imagine if Brie Bella was doing her I’ll see you … IN COURT act but to ANOTHER BRIE BELLA. It’s like watching a cat vomit in front of a mirror. I’m giving it a Best, though, because Stephanie is AMAZING in the background. These sisters are slapping and sobbing and tearing their family apart, and this horrible woman in heels and a t-shirt with her pants pulled up to her boobs is gawking in the background all OH SHIT THESE MODELS ARE ABOUT TO FLIP OUT. It’s like she’s in a mall watching teenagers get thrown out. All she needed was a toddler on a leash.
The Bella Twins angle becomes really hilarious and fun if you pretend Stephanie and Daniel Bryan are battling them against each other like Pokémon.
Brie Bella used ACT.
It’s not every effective.
Best: HOSSFEST ’14
Continuing the “torn from Brandon’s brain” vibe of Cena vs. Lesnar, Raw’s opening match was the hossiest collection of hosses that ever hossed, pairing up Mark Henry and The Big Show against The Wyatt Family. They’re still having the Wyatts lose at every opportunity and did the exact same finish as the match they had on Friday’s Smackdown, but it was four spectacularly large, terrifying human beings clubbing each other in the back and kicking each other in the face. Am I supposed to hate that?
Wins and losses and “where is it going” aside, putting guys like Harper and Rowan in the ring with guys like Henry and Show is a great idea. The Wyatts are great characters who’ve lost focus, but they’ve become spectacular workers. Show and Henry are the KINGS of having their underrated in-ring skills buried beneath miles and miles of worthless character bullshit, so you’re basically giving four guys who can go a chance to do so against people who understand where they’re at and want to make something good. It’s sorta the opposite of those heatless midcard feuds guys like Kingston and Ziggler get stuck in … those guys get stuck and go through the motions. Henry and Show are the kings of magically becoming unstuck, shaking off (sh-shaking off) the dead weight of WWE character development to become instantly relevant again. They’re just born and built to be people you’d pay to see wrestle. They’re f*cking giant.
This entire match was great. How often do you see a match where Luke Harper is the smallest guy in it? I think if WWE wants to put on truly memorable, effective shows, they need to embrace every aspect of what makes wrestling great and do them all at once instead of picking and choosing. Raw was a great example of this working. You had a fast-paced, high-action six-man tag. You had a main event with guys going through tables and piles of chairs and cinderblocks. You had dumb melodrama, and you had unrealistic, absurd giants you’d never meet in real life fighting each other. Do it all. All of it’s good. Even the parts I hate. Everybody watching should have something to remember.
Worst: Ric Flair Has Totally Forgotten The Miz
speaking of having something to remember
“Hey Ric, long time no see!”
“hi I’m ric flair tha nay-cha boy woo”
“Yeah man I know, I’m the Miz”
“The Miz. Your former protégé?”
“No, The Miz. I do the figure four now because of you?”
“never heard of it. are you an anime?”
“Am I a what now?”
“your jacket. are you one of the polyphonic spree, fat boy?”
“No, I’m The Miz. You want to escort me to ringside again tonight?”
“can’t you see I’m trying to have a conversation with billy gunn”
Ziggler should’ve held up his phone, hit play on YouTube video of Wade Barrett’s entrance theme and just rolled up Miz while he stared off into the distance.
Best: Seth Rollins Accepts The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
And now, a rare bird: WWE being timely and funny.
I know, I can’t believe it either.
If you missed it, Dean Ambrose interrupts a Seth Rollins promo (thanks, btw) by dumping a bucket of ice water on him. WWE does the Zack Ryder Memorial Pan To The Right to reveal Ambrose, who says “what? It’s for charity” and throws the bucket in his face. It’s wonderful, and it’s legitimately funny. On top of that, it’s WWE taking an aspect of popular web culture and doing it WELL at the height of that thing’s popularity. Have they ever done that before? These are the guys who keep bringing back Jared from Subway and shitcanned Paul Burchill for being a Johnny Depp pirate instead of an “avast ye scalawags” Blackbeard. I’ll pop so hard if Big Show starts playing the Knockout Game.
Supplementary Best: now we have a kayfabe explanation for why these wrestlers are always so wet.
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.