Best/Worst: Sheamus Vs. Wade Barrett Got Pretty Good For A Minute, But It Was Never As Good As Last Week, And Also DQ Finishes Can Suck It
This is what I was talking about with the crowd heat. The match wasn’t as good as the one last week, which was tighter and snugger and all those words, but two things really hurt it:
1. Sheamus not really being “over” as much as “a guy we clap politely for, because he’s one of the guys we’re supposed to like”. Don’t get me wrong, the guy has been ACES in the ring for a long time and is having arguably the best pro wrestling matches on television in the world right now, but he’s the most Popular By Proxy guy they’ve ever consistently pushed. People like Sheamus, sure, but they don’t CARE about him.
2. Wade Barrett missing three major things:
2a) pro wrestling accomplishments besides an NXT season win and a muted IC title run for like two months last year
2b) decisive wins or losses ever
2c) a point
It seems harsh to say Wade Barrett doesn’t have a point, but from his comeback hype videos we were supposed to accept him as a guy who’d lost touch with his bare-knuckle fighting roots (by having a skybox, wearing a rose in his jacket, doing wrestling moves instead of punching, etc.) and reclaimed them by taking off his shirt and punching dudes as much as possible in the sewers of London. Right? That was the idea, wasn’t it?
Well, Wade’s pretty much exactly the same guy he was when he left, only with 50% less muscle mass and 50% more beard. And HE’S STILL NOT PUNCHING PEOPLE. He’s not even trying to do his dumb elbow to Sheamus, he’s trying to hit him with Wasteland. He should wander out on Raw next week in a Corre shirt and be all, “oh, right, sorry”.
So yeah. This is a match that could be really great with the right build and the right booking (and was already pretty good last week), so instead of running it on loop with screwy finishes, use this as a strong base for Barrett as Sheamus’ next challenger, or at least for something where he gets to punch a lot without anything on his hands.
Worst: Vince Being All Gulpy And Best-Friendy Over John Cena
Here’s the thing I like least about Vince McMahon: When he’s in the ring with CM Punk or backstage with Daniel Bryan, he’s all “lol you don’t look like wrestlers, why do I even employ you, you’re worthless, here, let me growl and hit you with canes”. He’s brash, threatening. “Mr. McMahon”. Then, when John Cena shows up, he is the clammiest, most terrified dude of all time.
That’s the part of the story they’re too afraid to tell, I think. They almost got there during the Summer Of Punk stuff last year, when Punk outed Cena as the Corporate Champion, a WWE dynasty Vince was afraid to anger or lose. Here we are a year later and Vince ends his phone call by looking up nervously, hanging up and greeting John one pissed pair of pants away from total servitude.
It’s like that at the end of the show, too. Vince is clearly just going to make it Cena vs. Punk, because that’s the only thing that would make John happy. Cena himself has to say “no Vince, it’s okay, I don’t have to have the match, let Ryback have it”. Only then can Vince be okay choosing Ryback. It’s weird, and if they were doing it on purpose it’d be pretty great. But Punk’s the bad guy now for the same shit he was a hero for last summer, so whatever.
Worst: Oh My God, Stop Telling Me About Layla’s Mom :(
I’m not giving this a worst because of the content of the ad, I’m giving it a worst because Jesus Christ, I was expecting Angus T. Jones and Alex Riley on a white background saying CANCER’S BAD, IT AFFECTS PEOPLE, not deep, sorrowful tears.
I don’t want to editorialize on this too much, but I think this (followed by the Divas match) was a good example of how WWE could really find deeper value in its performers by allowing them to be real, compelling people. How many of you watched Layla cry about her mom having breast cancer and felt something REAL for her for the first time? Something other than “she’s funny” or “she’s hot”? She was vulnerable and sincere, and if you want to make jokes about it that’s your prerogative, but I’d like to give her a hug and try to help ladies not have breast cancer.
Worst case scenario, it’s a better way to go about fundraising than “John Cena wears a pink hat he’s secretly ashamed of for two months”.
Best: Everything About The Divas Match (Except For The Finish)
I’m starting to get into Kane territory with Eve Torres. Not sure I’m prepared for that to happen yet, but here we go.
One of the most important things I hope you take away from however long you spend reading my goofy wrestling columns is that to be a good wrestling fan, you have to be able to watch the stuff you don’t expect to like, and not be afraid to change your mind. I speak in declarative sentences about wrestlers I like or hate, but the truth is that it changes with time, wrestlers become better or worse, and very few remain “liked” or “hated” in the same way forever.
Kane’s the biggest, most recent example of this. I legitimately hated Kane for like 11 years. He was right behind Rob Van Dam (a guy I used to really like, for the record) on my list of least favorite wrestlers. I occasionally gave him a pass for some of his more ambitious work (like his original, de-masked towel-on-head psycho run before Shane McMahon showed up and neutered it), but I was almost always ready to ignore him and write him off as a terrible, hossy part of the show. Something started to click with him this year, and if I was the wrestling fan a lot of people think I am, I would’ve ignored that and kept wanking dismissively whenever anyone told me he was getting better. But he is, and I can see that, and I need to say it.
As I said, I’m starting to get there with Eve. Her in-ring work is improving quickly now that she’s abandoned the WWE Face Diva moveset of one-footed dropkicks and shitty moonsaults, she’s done a lot of backstage stuff that rises above the crowd, and … I don’t know. She’s almost there. If she freshens up the gear, maybe changes her music (which is still lightyears better than Layla’s I NEED TO FIND A BOY subservience anthem) and keeps having okay-to-good TV matches like this one, I won’t be able to Worst her for much longer.
It’s the truth. The truth changes.
Worst: The Finish
But yeah, full-on barf at the FOOTROPES finish. It’s another in a long, long, long, long line of much-written about referee-centric finish choices, and I don’t understand it. Layla gets her foot on the ropes (awkwardly), Eve pushes it away before the three. The referee pretty clearly sees it, then sees it again on the big gigantic screen in front of him, but does nothing. Layla looks sad on the outside of the ring BECAUSE SHE LET DOWN HER MOTHER WHO DIED FROM BREAST CANCER OH MY GOD but nothing happens.
That’s just it. Nothing happens. FOOTROPES don’t accomplish anything. In the long long ago, they were to give bad guys cheap victories. If Eve had pushed Layla’s foot off the ropes before the three in 1985 it would’ve worked, but when you are literally WRESTLING IN FRONT OF A GIANT SCREEN THAT SHOWS EVERYBODY EVERYTHING, it’s stupid of the referee not to go “oh, shit, sorry, restart the match”. They have that power. We’ve seen them have that power. As is, the finish just makes everyone look like they’re in on some grand, stupid scheme to control wins and losses.
WWE Creative, I’mma let you finish, but “IT HAPPENED BECAUSE WE WROTE IT TO HAPPEN” is the worst excuse of all time. OF ALL TIME.