Best: Old School Raw Should Just Be Regular Raw
This is the first edition of “old school Raw” I’ve gotten to write up since moving the Best and Worst of Raw column over to With Leather. Here’s what I wrote about the concept back at AOL FanHouse back in November of 2010:
I had trouble coming up with “worsts” for this show. Originally the worsts were “John Morrison still exists, R-Truth still exists, Eve looks like she has a mental disease when she knuckles up and blows the roof up.” I haven’t had this much fun watching wrestling in a while, and it wasn’t just the legends. It was a return to when wrestling could be fun, when the graphics were easy to read, you wanted to see what would happen in the matches, and the personalities made you smile. The ghost of Lord Alfred Hayes says “promotional considerations paid for by the following” and I mark out. It’s easy. It’s not just nostalgia, I’m marking out because what you’re doing is good.
1. I sincerely do not miss that late-2010 Raw vibe where John Morrison was translating French into animal fart jokes to get over on Maryse and R-Truth was trying to have a second hit to … get over on Maryse. It was the worst. In fact, the only thing I miss is Maryse.
2. This Old School Raw was … not that Old School Raw.
So when I type “Old School Raw should just be regular Raw,” I don’t want every episode to feature Sgt. Slaughter wandering out and getting punched by whoever, I just like the aesthetic. The ring looks better. The red, white and blue ropes are visually stimulating. The logo is a thousand times better. I prefer the simplicity of the set over the SCREENS A’FLASHIN’ thing they normally do, the old Raw theme is better than TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT BIKE BIKE BIKE BIKE, the graphics (as mentioned) are pleasant and easy to read … I don’t know, it just seems like the right direction to take the show in 2013. It could give the dreaded “PG Era” a specific look instead of just being “whatever we did from 2000-2010 but with Twitter handles.”
I also would not mind if every episode featured somebody punching Sgt. Slaughter.
Best: It’s The Undertaker, You Guys! Or
Worst: Hey Undertaker, The Rock Has Wrestled 2 More Matches Than You This Year
We finally made it to the fireworks factory!
So, the Undertaker
has hath returned. If those pictures of him from the live events are any indication he’s not in fighting shape yet, but that’s okay, because we’ve got a month until WrestleMania and he can just live inside his spiky shell suit for a few weeks. Remember when he did an entire Mania build with his head shaved, so he just wore fright wigs and hoodies all the time? Remember when he was randomly the Phantom of the Opera for a while? He’ll be fine.
I’m a little sad that Punk didn’t draw from his history with the Undertaker as reason for the challenge, instead going for the easiest and laziest possible WWE storyline: doing something because of “you people/each and every one of you,” then having to win a tag or fatal fourway match to substantiate it. Of course, the upside is that we could get a cool, monthlong CM Punk/Undertaker feud that gives Punk something to do besides complain in the direction of more household-friendly stars and lets Taker do something besides “feud with DX” for the first time in FIVE YEARS. Man, even Hornswoggle didn’t hang around those old weirdos that long.
Worst: Big Show Didn’t Have A Punch The Last Time He Wrestled Undertaker
I liked Randy Orton’s motivation for wanting to fight Taker again. He almost pulled it off when he was a plush-bodied rookie, so now that he’s the SNAKE MAN WITH RUTHLESS SNAKEGRESSION he’d have a much better chance. I mean, he’s got a powerslam now! I liked the Sheamus talking point of “welp, I beat everybody, might as well give this dude a shot,” too, although I would’ve preferred a well-placed “OIL FOIT ‘IM.”
The other half of the opening segment was less successful, I think. CM Punk is suddenly straight edge again? That’s cool. I mean, I want him to yell at people for drinking 24/7. The Punk in my head is still that guy yelling WHORES at strippers because he’s a colossal dickbag who thinks “taking off your clothes and dancing in the strip club” is horrible, but “taking off your clothes and pretending to fight in a strip club” is great. But where’d it come from? He hasn’t been nominally straight edge since what, the Jericho feud? That was the worst. I’m worried that they’re bringing it up again now so they can shoehorn in some “Taker you’re an ALCOHOLIC” thing to buffer the feud instead of the embalming and sacrificing on symbols and limo kidnapping we’d prefer.
Show’s was the worst, though. He fought Undertaker at WrestleMania before, in a handicap match with
Lord Tensai in his corner. He lost that, but HO HO HO WAIT A MINUTE, back then he didn’t have his signature finish: THE PUNCH. Yes, WWE fans, Big Show would do better in 2013 than he did in 2003 because NOW HE’S FIGURED OUT THAT HIS HANDS ARE BIG AND CAN BE USED TO PUNCH PEOPLE. Dude was NINE YEARS into his career in 2003 and hadn’t figured out “punch.” Good luck, Show. In 2023 when you discover “kick,” you’re going to be unstoppable.
Best: If You’re Gonna Have Cesaro Lose All The Time, At Least Make Him Look Good
In case you were wondering, no, I didn’t enjoy watching the United States Champion lose to somebody who is not the United States Champion without the goddamn belt changing hands for the 1500th time in the first two months and change of 2013 Raws.
What I did enjoy, at least, is Antonio Cesaro getting to look like a tough, competent wrestler before going down. When he wrestles Randy Orton (as he’s done so many times), Cesaro looks okay, but he also looks like he’s waiting around for Orton to hit his big moves. He’s just finding complex ways to get onto the apron for the rope DDT or jump headlong into an RKO “out of nowhere” that is out of so specifically SOMEWHERE. That wasn’t the case against Ryback, who took as much as he gave, and got the victory at the end of a hot, physical sequence of moves. The European uppercut counter to the Meat Hook was a knockout blow, and when Cesaro set up for the Neutralizer with his El Generico hands waving around everywhere I thought, “wow, are they gonna let Cesaro win?” Of course, they didn’t, and that’s fine if you’re giving Ryback a showcase thing at Mania and relegating the US title to pre-show nothingness (or just regular nothingness). At least the finishing counters were cool. Cesaro’s too good to not land on his feet somewhere more interesting than Jobber To The Stars. You know, eventually.
Hopefully. +1 for his old school Bruno Sammartino gear, at least.
Best: THAT’S WHAT HE DO
Mark Henry is the greatest. He’s so good, Zack Ryder’s music hit and my brain went “oh man, this is gonna be SO GOOD.” Because how does a Mark Henry/Zack Ryder match end, 100 out of 100 times? With Zack trying to perform 1-3 of his 3 moves before getting World’s Strongestly Slammed. Why? Because THAT’S WHAT MARK HENRY DOES.
By the way …
If a wrestler in my company wore these trunks on national television, I would fire him immediately. There’s a difference between playing with action figures on a YouTube show and putting a f**king Barbershop Window T-shirt slogan on your ass on global television. I guess I should be happy that he didn’t get somebody to stitch “HEY BROSKIS, REMEMBER HOW EVE TORRES IS A SKANK” across his asshole. Mark should’ve written “be better at wrestling” on a Post-It and stuck it to Ryder’s butt after he trounced him.