Best: Skipping The Monologue
I turned on the show a minute or two late and saw Randy Orton walking to the ring. I just assumed he was (slowly) walking to the ring to (slowly) start the prerequisite 20-minute scene-setting play that starts with “Last night, at Hell In A Cell…”, turns into a tense staredown™ between Orton and Mark Henry and turns into a Raucous Night Here On Raw with a Teddy Long tag team match or Triple H getting game all over everybody. That’s the horrible thing about being a modern wrestling fan — you’re “being too negative” if you think like that, but Jesus, it happens that way more often than not. Your brain is tuned to negativity, so even though I was pleasantly surprised to see the show starting off with a match (and not only a match, a match between Orton and a guy I really like), that instantaneous happy turned into “oh great, here’s Drew McIntyre to lose in 20 seconds”. They surprised me again, and that became the theme of the show: defying my expectations.
Okay, “boring labor disputes” was also a theme, but work with me here.
Starting the show with a tight, six-minute Drew McIntyre vs. silent Snake-rate Randy Orton is great. McIntyre got to look like he belongs out there for the first time in months and Orton looked like a better wrestler for having beaten him. Sure, there was a “Randy Orton can barely move, the stuffed Jun Kasai doll from DDT could probably pin him right now” vibe hanging over the match and yeah, by not being able to beat a near-cripple Drew Mac looked less effective than a stuffed animal, but the difference in 100% Orton and 0% Orton is a frowny face and nobody’s paying that much attention. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction (toward Dolph Ziggler, away from Chris Masters) for McIntyre, and maybe we’ll get a rematch that brings back the swank RKO counter to the Future Shock DDT.
Best: THAT Is How You Take An RKO
Speaking of RsKO, every wrestler on the roster should watch how Drew McIntyre takes it and makes it look (and sound) like thunder and try to get as close to it as possible. One of the ways you know you’re great at pro wrestling is that you can take something mundane and inherently fake and make it look like murder. Why do you think Bret Hart was always trying to dismantle the ring with his ribcage running chest-first into the top turnbuckle? Why do you think Mr. Perfect jumped straight up and backflipped every time somebody chopped him in the corner or kicked him against the ropes? Selling what’s going on in the ring (in its actual definition, and not just grabbing your hair and making Michelle Tanner face every time you get a two count) makes THEM look better for dishing it out and YOU look better for being able to take it and get up, even if you get up later. This is why El Gigante’s “heyyyy what’s going on NOW??” face every time he got touched never helped anybody.
Worst: I Am Not Cheering For People Who Beat Up Guys Who Are Held Back
On the last page of The Best And Worst of Hell In A Cell, I talked about how lame it was for Triple H, the Coolest and Best and Most Macho person in professional wrestling, to run out in his dress clothes and throw hands at a couple of guys in handcuffs. There was a similar, less hilariously-awful version of this on Raw, when Mark Henry came out to taunt Randy Orton with the World Heavyweight Championship and got jumped (by the face) and Orton only got in his good shots when Henry was being held back by 10 guys. Orton dumped Henry over the security railing (over, not though, because he is not a beast) and we got to hear “Voices” for the third time in ten minutes. That might be its own Worst, actually.
Orton’s never been the most honorable guy, but I’m increasingly tired of the people we cheer being the ones who assault people cheaply and indiscriminately and the bad guys being the ones who are concerned about it. In today’s wrestling world, Macho Man Randy Savage would’ve been the anti-hero for crushing Ricky Steamboat’s throat with a ring bell, and Steamboat would be seen as a “baby” or a “woman” for not coming back hard or fast enough. And we would’ve booed him for having George “The Animal” Steele in his corner. Miss Elizabeth would either be a “bitch” character or constantly pointing at people, I haven’t decided.