Best: Daniel Bryan, As Awesome As His Pay-Per-View Poster Suggests
The least surprising Best of the column goes to Daniel Bryan and CM Punk having a good match together. As a favorites-playing nerd, I’m not happy that My Boy D-Bry Right There keeps losing these title matches and think WWE Champion Daniel Bryan being chased by underdog challenger CM Punk would be a way, way better story than “Punk always wins and a bunch of people including Kane have girl problems”, but I like the matches and am gonna do my best to not complain too much when they happen. By the way, who’s that former World Heavyweight Champion with a hundred YES signs in the audience and making the crowd chant YES along with basically every single strike in the match? The pale, boring “indy” guy whose Ring Of Honor schtick wouldn’t play in front of a larger WWE crowd. Just saying. (Will just keep saying.)
The most surprising Best of the column is the next one:
Best: Kane Is Working His Ass Off
What universe am I living in where Kane is an important cog in making a triple threat match featuring the Best In The World and the Actual Best In The World work?
Kane brought his f**king boots last night, and despite him being my second least favorite wrestler ever I would be a fool to not give him a Best for it. I didn’t think the match was anything special (on the Derrick Bateman Match Rating Scale I’d give it an “eh, it was pretty good”) but Kane made it work, being where he needed to be and doing what he needed to do with enthusiasm and force, even nailing the wacky overacting stuff at the end without dipping too far down into “rolling Paul Bearer into the freezer” territory. He looked energized, and if he wants to keep being this guy I’ll keep an open mind the next time they shoehorn him into a Good Wrestling feud.
Worst: Is Daniel Bryan Floating Around In The Phantom Zone Right Now Or What
Credit to @The_Real_RJ for that. Bryan gets Punk in the Yes Lock and it gets reversed, so he breaks the hold. He goes for it again, Punk reverses and pops him with a GTS. Punk goes for a pin, but before he can, Kane reaches into the ring and pulls Bryan to the outside. Apparently this small gesture caused him to go all The Darkest Hour and turn to ash, because he was nowhere to be found for the last five minutes of the match. Not during the finish, not during the AJ-gets-knocked-off-the-apron
and suffers a miscarriage, not during Punk’s Chris Jericho Memorial Run Around The Ring And Get Everyone To Cheer For Nothing celebration. He was just … gone.
They should keep him off television for the next six months until they return to this arena, then start off the show with the ring crew coming down to set up and finding him passed out on the floor. I mean shit, Kane could’ve at least chokeslammed him on the floor or something. Or punched him. ANYTHING.
Best/Worst: AJ’s Main Event Run Continues, Whether We Like It Or Not
At the risk of restating the same thing in every column, the AJ angle is questionable-at-best, but if she’s truly got (kayfabe) full control over what she’s doing and is purposefully manipulating people to get what she wants — and by all indications, that’s what’s happening — I guess Michael Cole saying cuckoo is worth having a fully developed female character with legitimate main-event screen time on WWE television. If they were doing this with Eve I’d probably hate it, but I like AJ, so I lean toward optimism when she’s getting a shot. Her apron bump was dumb, but knowing she was faking it (and that Punk was totally f**king in on it, regardless of how surprised he acted) made it something. I like her as Chaotic Neutral.
That being said, the most annoying thing about No Way Out was the crazy amount of time-killing filler, even in the major storylines. Who is AJ really with? Obviously the answer is CM Punk, but they didn’t say it in a way that’ll keep me from another month of Kane romance stories, or keep them from dragging on the speculation for another month and (probably) changing their minds. The Vince stuff at the end of the show still didn’t make any sense. For the 15th time it was an episode of Raw, giving me enough to keep me watching and beating me to death and burying me in the desert with the stuff I can’t understand.
Worst: I’m With You On These Squashes, Ryback, But They Can’t Be Identical
The problem with the Raw motif is how little WWE seems to trust its audience to understand. I don’t blame them, I guess, but there’s no reason to do half a dozen Sin Cara/Hunico matches that happen in exactly the same way and end the same. There’s no reason Funkasaurus should’ve had 22 identical squash matches, and there’s no reason why the Ryback versus Mouthy Local Jobbers thing has to happen EXACTLY THE SAME WAY EVERY TIME. I like Ryback. I like the jobbers, and I like them acting dumb. I like the big backdrop and the double muscle buster thing but I liked them more the first time, and the second time and the third time. The lateral press with the jobbers is always the same, the screaming is the same, everything’s f**king identical.
Chant Goldberg all you want, but when Goldberg was running through guys he mixed it up. 30 of his first 100 wins were against Jerry Flynn, sure, but occasionally he’d wrestle a guy like Roadblock or a William Regal type to let us know he could beat ANYBODY in two minutes flat, not just the smallest, least threatening guys they could find. Ryback beating jobbers like this is a great introduction, but unless he’s doing something creative with/to them, using them as an entry point to actual competition or literally ANYTHING with constructive, forward momentum he’s gonna become boring. We get it, you’re mad that your biggest new stars are little independent worker guys, you don’t have to beat us over the head with it.
Maybe they work when Mason Ryan doesn’t because they can do more than one thing?