The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 9/1/14: Throwing Up Bella

Heath Slater bunny WWE Raw

Pre-show notes:

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Please click through for the Worst and whatever I’m rationalizing as Best of WWW … E Raw.

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Randy Orton Highlight Reel bored WWE Raw

WWE

Me too, Randy. Me too.

Worst: 17 Minutes For Something Teddy Long Could’ve Set Up In 30 Seconds

Every now and then I’m forced to write a paragraph explaining that while I speak enthusiastically and in declarative sentences, I do not consider myself “right.” I have reasons for the stuff I think and type them out in big paragraphs. If I’m wrong, hey, I’m wrong, but the point of the column is that I’ve got a stupidly thorough reason for everything I think about the pro wrestling show for stupid people and babies and have to share it with you.

That said, if you thought last night’s Raw was creative and entertaining, you need to seek professional medical help. What’s wrong with your brain? Jesus.

The opening segment was supposed to be Randy Orton appearing on Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel. Instead, Jericho’s guests were Orton, Triple H, Seth Rollins and Kane, who apparently weren’t happy with the Highlight Reel situation even though Triple H is the guy who runs the show and assumedly signed off on “Chris Jericho talk show” opening his 3-hour primetime wrestling show. That, of course, brought out His Holiness John Cena. The Authority doesn’t think Cena can beat Lesnar. Cena thinks he can. They signed a rematch. Now Triple H wants to replace him with someone else, because I guess he JUST watched SummerSlam, and Cena’s been hanging out with the Bella Twins so long he’s telling them he’ll see them in court. This is all already HORRIBLY BORING AND TEDIOUS, and we’re like 10 minutes into a 17 minute open.

So Roman Reigns wanders in to very slowly explain HIS point of view. I was blacking out from exhaustion here, but I’m assuming his point was “I am handsome and perfect and automatically win any fight we have because Daniel Bryan’s dead and Cena’s a cardboard cutout doused in horse tranquilizers, so COME AT ME BITCHBRO.” A match is made for later in the night: Seth Rollins, Kane and Randy Orton will team to take on John Cena, Roman Reigns and Chris Jericho. Teddy Long seriously could’ve shown up the second Cena popped in with a problem and made that match. “Hole on a minnet playa” and then 30 seconds of “these guys are one team, these guys are on the other.”

Study questions:

1. What was Raw’s main-event before this impromptu argument happened? Jey Uso vs. Goldust?
2. Why did this take 17 minutes?

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Best: The Miz (Both Of Them)

The Miz was in the best match of the show. The dream of 2010 is alive on Monday Night Raw.

Seriously though, this tag was really enjoyable, and Miz was a big part of that. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s the most neutered and impotent guy on the show, but he’s trying SO HARD to make this Hollywood thing work. There isn’t a person on Raw putting this much effort into their character work, and he hasn’t even done a wonky figure-four or missed somebody on a dive to give us the “Miz can’t work” talking point. He’s been great all around, even if his job description is:

10 get humiliated and lose
20 goto 10

On top of that you had WWE’s worst crowd (Iowa) going APE for Dolph Ziggler, and Ziggler turning it up to eleven (hundred) off the hot tag. Ziggler’s doing the same thing Daniel Bryan did when he started to truly build momentum in early 2013 … he’s taking the small moments he’s afforded on Raw and making them look like the most important thing in the world. When he tags in he doesn’t just do his moves, he HUSTLES. He’s sprinting, leaping, hitting hard, flopping backwards on his head. Everything he can do in the 40 seconds of TV time he’s given. People are noticing it again and getting behind him, and it feels good to root for Ziggler again. Remember when Bryan would be in matches with The Shield and get tagged in and just OBLITERATE them? Same thing. It’s a good look.

Also, WWE did something rare last night: they made their distraction finishes things I’d enjoy. Titus O’Neil lost because Heath Slater was brawling with a giant rabbit (more on that later), and Ziggler lost because Sandow “tagged in” as Miz’s stunt double. He even yelled “action.” It was GREAT, and something so ridiculous that you could buy it distracting a wrestler. If Ziggler’s in the ring and somebody’s music plays, why does he care? People always have music when they showed up. “An uninvolved person showing up” should not boggle your mind so much you lose control of your bodily functions. A stunt double ripping off his clothes to reveal Miz gear and sliding into the ring? A guy in a bunny costume attacking your friend? Those are pretty solid reasons.

Supplementary Best for Crazy Mary Dobson showing up as Miz’s makeup lady. She should’ve slid into the ring and attacked Ziggler with a screwdriver.

Worst: The Problem With ‘Growing Up Bella’

If I’m astrally-projecting myself into the brain of a WWE writer, the point of “Growing Up Bella” is that Nikki’s lying when she says Brie’s always been the “evil” twin. Nikki opportunistically joined up with The Authority and attacked her sister to get on Stephanie’s good side. That earned her things like an undeserved title shot. Now she’s so into it and so obsessed with stepping on Brie’s forehead as she rises to the top that she’s getting crazier and crazier, throwing Brie under the bus for every stupid thing that’s happened in their life. She starts going too far by insulting Brie’s husband and hypothetical children, so Brie stands up to her, exposes her as a spineless liar and kicks her ass.

If I’m a normal person watching Raw, NONE OF THAT is happening.

Nikki is the bad guy because she’s in with the bad guys, but the stuff she’s saying (unnecessary though it may be) DOES make Brie look terrible. If Brie used her, used Twin Magic to hook up with Nikki’s boyfriends and manipulated Nikki into doing all her work for her, yeah, Brie sucks. The problem is that Nikki’s never really outed as lying … Brie’s response is always “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING NIKKI” and making a cryface. “STOP, NIKKI! I LOVE YOU!” Furthermore, in kayfabe Brie HAS always been terrible. They were both conniving, hateful heels for the entirety of their Not Dating The Top Babyfaces career. Remember them berating Divas until they cried? Remember them making fun of Kharma for being fat and getting pregnant? Remember them starf*cking every Raw guest host? They have always, always been portrayed as liars, cheaters and horrible people. Brie gets a cool husband and now she’s a peace-loving princess? Bullshit.

And hell, even if it IS bullshit, Brie giving a counterpoint beyond “NIKKI NO” would go a long way. Or at least have Nikki’s stories seem exaggerated and petty instead of sounding like things a bad sister might actually do. Have her mention that Brie once got bonkers on cocaine and pointed a gun in her face. Have her say Brie strapped on a “big boobs” Halloween costume and gave their blind father a bowl of soup so she could steal her birthright. Something.

Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Think About ‘Growing Up Bella’

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 11.34.22 AM

Twitter

Worst: Pretty Excited About Total Divas Season 3, You Guys

Hey, want to see a huge pile of garbage?

Total Divas Raw

WWE

Notes:

– Why was Layla in this match instead of Natalya? I know that Layla and Summer Rae are friends, but if this was “the cast of Total Divas clashing,” shouldn’t the dopey protagonist of Total Divas be present? Did Natalya get a copy of the script backstage, read “the match ends when everyone runs in and lies down in a pile” and say “NOPE?”

– Eva Marie showed she deserves her high speed and charisma ratings in WWE SuperCard by slowly falling backwards and rolling over to sell a Summer Rae dropkick that missed by about a foot.

– “Hey Rosa, here’s your new ring gear. It’s like pantyhose, but for your entire body.”

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Michael Sam invited to Raw

WWE

Worst: Maybe Chris Jericho Will Make Fun Of His Tie

I wrote about it on With Spandex earlier today, but free agent defensive end Michael Sam (aka the first openly gay player to make an NFL roster) has been invited to Raw and offered an open mic to talk about his life and hint at his future plans. Here is a quick rundown of WWE’s history with gay people:

– a scarf-sniffing guy with makeup all over his face who got “faggot” chants at WrestleMania
– a guy with paint all over his face who terrified straight men by trying to kiss them
– a hair stylist with paint all over his face who loved having assholes in his face
– two straight guys who were gay as a joke and tricked GLAAD into giving them a gravy boat

There are others, but they don’t get much better. Hey Michael Sam, you should probably move on with your life and find a team to help and let Damien Sandow put on a Rams helmet and pretend he’s you for a week. Hopefully without blackface. And while we’re at it, hey WWE, maybe give DARREN YOUNG a microphone at some point? You remember him, don’t you?

Worst: Like Watching 1400 Pounds Of Paint Dry

Kudos to WWE for making a special graphic to make 5th consecutive Big Show and Mark Henry vs. The Wyatt Family match seem special. “Over 1400 pounds!” There was even more during last week’s main event when these four guys AND Bray Wyatt AND John Cena were in the ring, but there wasn’t a graphic.

You guys know me pretty well at this point, right? You know I can get behind all four of these guys and praise them when the match is hot, like the one two weeks ago. Well, one of the two two weeks ago. This was NOT THAT. It was like the rest of this episode of Raw: a tired chore. When Luke Harper’s rushing into the ring to hit Mark Henry with a boot to the face and I’m NOT enjoying it, you know something is deeply, fundamentally wrong.

It’s not nothing. The watered-down fifth version of a good match. They aren’t building on anything or taking the physical story of the wrestling anywhere … I wrote pretty extensively about the Bayley/Sasha Banks feud down in NXT and how each subsequent match references its predecessors, and how that makes what’d normally be “rerun” wrestling seem fresh. It’s the next step in the story of a rivalry, not just WWE’s soap opera writers thinking they have to do something five times before it counts. I know wrestling seems like nothing but a series of dramatic conversations, but Christ, you can hire a writer that understands episodic storytelling AND understands what differentiates pro wrestling from other storytelling mediums. Not everyone who likes wrestling would book it like the imaginary basement-dwelling virgin wrestling fan in Vince McMahon’s brain.

Worst: Even Paul Heyman Doesn’t Have Anything New To Say

Jesus take the wheel.

Best: A CHILD WHO NOW IDOLIZES VLADIMIR PUTIN

Curtis Axel and Jack Swagger colliding in the Battle Of Best And Worst Of Raw Tangent Features was as forgettable as the rest of this hour’s squashes, but the post-match stuff was SPECTACULAR. Instead of simply saying that Jack Swagger disappointed America by losing to Rusev at SummerSlam (or showing a bunch of Getty Images nurses and cops), Bo Dallas brings out actual, physical people who’ve had their lives ruined by Big Hoss’s incompetence.

The first is a man who lost his life savings betting on Swagger to win. It’s one of Seth Rollins’ old tag team partners from his independent days, too, so it’s believable that he’d 1) bet on wrestling, and 2) make horrible life decisions. Sadly it wasn’t Jimmy Jacobs, and Bo didn’t end up hung over the stage by his feet. The second man is an immigrant who failed his citizenship test because Swagger let him down. As funny as THAT is, shouldn’t Zeb and Swagger be happy that he failed? They still hate immigrants and want to close our borders, right? They briefly wanted to deport Santino, didn’t they? Same deal.

The final person (played by pro wrestler “Miss Natural,” which makes me wonder if WWE just straight-up cast this Raw’s NPCs from a Queens Of Wrestling customs promotion) says Swagger was her son’s favorite wrestler, but now idolizes VLADIMIR PUTIN. I didn’t think I could pop this hard in the middle of a terrible Raw, but holy shit, unexpected Putin Heat is the BEST Putin Heat.

Bo Dallas Vladimir Putin

WWE

Serious question, though: If you mention Vladimir Putin and gesture toward the TitanTron, does that photo of Putin appear, or is this something you have to arrange with production? Is there a Putin Button they’re supposed to push when they hear his name? Can we get John Cena or someone to test this out?

Best: Heath Slater Vs. A Bunny Is Legitimately More Engaging Than Anything Else On This Episode

“PETER COTTONTAIL’S BEATING THE HELL OUT OF SLATER!” – the first time Michael Cole’s made me laugh in years

So yeah, it’s another distraction finish in ANOTHER squash match in the middle of one of the most dismal Raws in recent memory, but it’s Heath Slater shoving the Rosebud Bunny on its ass and getting Scut Farcus’d. What am I supposed to do, complain?

The Rosebud Bunny has always been the most important part of the Adam Rose act. At Full Sail he’s complex and has superb body language. On Raw, you’ve got the running joke that it’s Zack Ryder or Justin Gabriel or whoever, and “it might be a guy you know” is at the very least 100 times more interesting than “aging man who is not into this eats a lollipop.” Also, you’ve got the decade-old story of the rabbit feuding with JBL, which is up alongside “Mae Young’s hand-child grew up and still exists” and “Kane only eats spaghetti and meatballs” on the list of amazing WWE in-jokes they actually remember.

Heath Slater helped a tiny bull get one of the best matches of the year in WeeLC. Can we get Slater vs. the Bunny during the Night Of Champions pre-show?

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Triple H and Stephanie McMahon

WWE

Best: Duane And Katarin Are 16 And In Love!

Reminder: the most evil characters on this show are two extremely successful people who love each other.

Worst: Not A Single Goddamn Second Of This Makes Sense

1. Stephanie McMahon brings out Nikki Bella dressed like a baked potato and offers her a shot at the Divas Championship. This is the only thing in the entire segment that works, because Steph’s rewarding heel Nikki for having her back against Brie, and Nikki’s an opportunistic jerk who doesn’t deserve it. So that should make us mad, and does.

2. Enter Brie Bella, who is showing up to do … well, the exact same thing she did last week. She basically just says “HOW COULD YOU NIKKI” a few times and makes this face:

Brie Bella face

WWE

Also, they both keep saying literally as “linnerly” and neither of them knows what it means.

3. Enter AJ LEE. At this point your brain is probably going YEAH AJ, PIPE BOMB THEM, BOMB THEM WITH PIPES. All she needed to do was show up, launch into another one of those “Total Divas ladies are models who don’t like wrestling and have the combined brain power of a wagon” and the crowd would go YEAH SHE’S RIGHT, because yeah, she’s right. The two best (and worst) examples of that are Nikki and Brie Bella, slowly remembering their lines about FORGIVENESS and BETRAYAL and setting up storylines for a reality show that caused the one women’s match on the program to end via PILE OF FUSSY WOMEN. Instead of doing that, she gets in Stephanie’s face about what constitutes a #1 Contender. That brings out Paige, who wanders out because she’s the only lady left on the show.

4. Paige says “I’m the Divas Champion,” then moves into a position behind one of the Bella Twins. For “no reason.”

5. Nikki Bella starts going full Harry and the Hendersons, swatting at her and being all, GO, GET OUT OF HERE, WE DON’T WANT YOU. Nikki wants Brie to quit and never come back because Brie always hogs the spotlight, which I guess is why when Brie quit the first time Nikki kept inviting her to the show, getting her front row tickets and letting her hang out backstage. Brie shoves Nikki into Paige, who has to fall down and act unconscious because a Bella grazed her. Note: she’s too hurt to get up, but not too hurt to visibly reach up and keep the Divas Championship from falling out of the ring, because AJ will need that later.

6. AJ grabs the belt and parades around until Stephanie orders her to give it up. Because Stephanie is Stephanie, and as much as I love her lately, letting her around a group of Divas is a terrible idea. Not only does she tower over them, she cannot exist within proximity of them without pointing out how much stronger and better and more important she is. It goes from “fun heel doing her job well” to “person who frustrates me in a way that makes me disappointed with broader issues,” aka the reason Stephanie was my least favorite wrestling character for a decade.

7. Every single person in the crowd goes fffffffuuuuuuuuuuu end the segmenttttt

Best: This Guy Gets It

watching-nitro

WWE

Let’s all just stay at home and watch Nitro.

Worst: Mark Henry Doesn’t Remember The Particulars Of His Own Hall Of Pain

Rusev squashes Zack Ryder and that’s all well and good, but I’ll care about Men’s Rights before I’ll care about a Zack Ryder match in 2014.

After the match, Mark Henry shows up and threatens to induct Rusev into the Hall of Pain. He says he’s “opening an international wing” especially for Rusev. If I can put my PERSON WHO REMEMBERS THINGS hat on for a second, the Hall of Pain’s already full of international guys. In fact, you can go to WWE.com and take a virtual tour of it and see Sheamus (from Ireland) and Vladimir Kozlov (from RUSSIA) as inductees. KOZLOV. You inducted the ONLY OTHER GUY TO EVER BE EXACTLY LIKE RUSEV, Mark. THE GUY’S NAME WAS “VLADIMIR.” How could you forget that? Pay attention to your own extracurricular endeavors, dude.

Best: KILL EVERYONE, STARDUST

YEAH, DO IT.

The only highlight between Heath Slater getting double-legged by a rabbit and the end of the show is the continued heel turn of the Rhodes Brothers, who are excellent as unhinged maniacs who are also internally just sick to shit of WWE happenstance and politics. Stardust being affable and saying “it’s okay!” a bunch of times before turning into a velociraptor and mauling Jey Uso’s leg with a chair is wonderful, as is Goldust finally just telling people to shut up and get out of his face. I want these guys to stay gold and hurt people forever. That’s probably the final evolution of Dustin Rhodes … make him that country fried brawler who hates everyone they tried and failed to get over periodically for years, only inside the body of Goldust. Stardust can just be Slender Man.

In a perfect world, we use the Rhodeses as an updated Steve Williams and Terry Gordy, where they really don’t care what bullshit story you’re in the middle of, they are here to punch and stomp you to death and win wrestling matches. If we don’t give Cody Rhodes a real, sustainable edge before he turns 30, what’s the damn point?

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