Best: I Don’t Care What Happens On The Rest Of This Raw, Because Holy Shit, Rufus ‘Pancake’ Patterson
I didn’t get to watch Raw live last night. I was at the Austin premiere of Summer League, a film in which I play “Brandon from With Leather” as well as an anthropomorphic duck, and didn’t get home until just before Raw was over. I turned on my television to find a CONTRACT SIGNING TABLE in the ring — just behind “birthday cake” on the list of props that let you know a segment is about to be awful — and Triple H aggressively undressing Paul Heyman. I tried to make a few jokes, but just ended up sounding like Sweet Dee doing stand-up comedy and called it a night. People on Twitter told me the show didn’t have a single Best, and that I’d picked a great week to miss it entirely. I woke up this morning expecting to be all frustrated and morose for three hours.
And then, only a few minutes into the show, the Prime Time Players interrupt John Cena and Titus O’Neil is in an afro wig portraying his own uncle, Rufus ‘Pancake’ Patterson. They call him ‘Pancake’ because HE FLATTENS PEOPLE. ARE YOU KIDDING ME.
WWE has found a glorious niche, and it’s called “allowing the Prime Time Players to be as stupid as possible.” God, I love it. I don’t know what to say about the state of the tag team division, but if Darren Young and Titus O’Neil are going to interrupt top shelf A-show guys with excerpts from an episode of ‘Meet The Browns’ I am ON BOARD. There’s so much to enjoy here. WWE acknowledging and using the awesome “Darren Young should be on the cover of Cocoa Pebbles” joke. The wash rag callback. The “millions of dollars” dance causing Pancakle’s gout to flare up. Darren doing the “you can’t see me” taunt, pantomime-vomiting into his own hand, then throwing it at Cena. Pancake referring to both Titus AND Darren as his nephew, suggesting that the Prime Time Players are suddenly related. It goes on and on, and every second of it is great.
Additionally, it led to this:
Best: That One Boss Fight From Zelda II
I’m such a sucker for proper jobber squashes on Raw. I don’t like it when a guy like Antonio Cesaro or Wade Barrett (secondary champions with an obvious upside) or talented people who should BE stars instead of repeatedly making them (Daniel Bryan, Drew McIntyre) lose to the popular guys in three minutes. It doesn’t make anyone look good. The top guys beat everybody without effort, the middle guys can only win by cheating or taking advantage of a distraction so there’s no advocation of talent as a means to success, and the very low guys can’t beat anybody or move up unless they change themselves. I do, however, LOVE when an obviously super low level guy like Darren Young talks shit to a guy like Cena and they have a match. That’s what Raw should be. It makes Cena look like a killer, like those old matches where Magnum T.A. would stand in place while a jobber ran at him, belly-to-belly them immediately and get the win. It makes Darren look like a chump, but he IS a chump, and he gets to be entertaining as hell AS a chump. It obeys the WWE’s weird class system without making it seem like they’re doing something wrong.
I also loved the baller pose Cena struck when he pinned Darren:
That’s the Cena I want … a guy who isn’t afraid to acknowledge that he’s a deadly match-winning machine. I don’t want the dynasty to keep pretending he’s the Machine Gun Kelly-christened “ultimate underdog.” You are the biggest dog in wrestling history, John. Don’t believe me? Look at the way you jump when you throw shoulderblocks. You have the physiology OF a dog. Be that dog.
And hey, if Cena’s gonna be that dog, my only advice to Darren Young is, “move kitty kitty move kitty kitty.”
Worst: Congratulations On Being In Our First Successful Movie Ever, David Otunga. Now Lose To Ryback In 4 Seconds
Okay okay, I know I just wrote about liking jobber squashes on Raw, but I like squashes that enhance an aspect of the loser I like, not diminish. During the People Power era (aka “the golden era”), Otunga repeatedly proved that while he is basically the asshole of technical wrestling, he is a STELLAR backstage presence, and the kind of guy with the right look and charisma to contribute positively to your show. The idea should be to keep him out of matches, keep him backstage in a prominent role, and keep sending him to daytime talk shows and other places he can be a HANDSOME HARVARD GENTLEMAN MONSTER.
I am over Ryback, so all I could think was “man, I wish this was more like that one cool Sheamus/Otunga match where Otunga actually got to look like a competent wrestler, and not just stooge around waiting for signature moves.” I really don’t like Cole and King complaining about how Otunga was “posing and preening” in the ring, then marking out for Ryback, who is the KING of posing and preening. Seriously, dude doesn’t have a single move where he doesn’t stop, turn, look at the hard camera and yell something, or do a hand gesture, or whatever. He leads his own chants. At least when Otunga poses, he’s allowing us to interpret it ourselves.
Ryback, a guy who has muscles growing out of his muscles like he’s carrying Kuato from Total Recall in his scalenes, is going to have a WrestleMania match against Mark Henry, a guy who is actually stronger than everybody else in the world, and not just a muscular guy the announcers keep insisting is strong. Ryback is great at yelling threats. Mark Henry is DEFINED by his ability to scream random phrases at you and have them mean TERRIFYING THINGS. What’s the best way to get the crowd interested in the match? Here are two great ways:
1. Have them scream threats at each other about how they are tough and mad
2. Have them throw each other around and destroy everything in the building
Neither of those two great ways is “have an ill-defined general manager character awkwardly announce that she’s changing up the booking plans for WrestleMania and putting these two guys in a match for some reason.” I love Vickie, but “making cool announcements” is not her bag. She doesn’t have Vince’s RAY CHAAAARRLLLLL announcement voice where she can go from Mean Character to EVERYBODY GET PUMPED in an instant. Vickie could walk out with a microphone and say “everyone in the building is getting a brand new car” and all anybody’d hear is “I DON’T LIKE THE WRESTLERS YOU CHEER FOR.”