Best: Inverted Superplexes, Basic Match Psychology And 15 Minutes Of Wrestling On Raw
Del Rio/Ziggler is still my favorite pairing of wrestlers on WWE television. I like it even more than Ziggler/Bryan. Daniel Bryan’s offense looks great no matter who he’s wrestling … Del Rio’s moves can get a little iffy if he’s not wrestling a guy who can make it look great. That’s why Del Rio/Ziggler succeeds where something like Del Rio/Orton fails. The WWE Fan Nation video starts with that BRUTAL inverted superplex and continues on through the match, so watch how Ziggler sells a missed Stinger Splash, takes the best looking tilt-a-whril backbreaker in North America since Nitro went off the air and makes Del Rio’s superkick look like it’s being shot from a gun. It’s beautiful. Del Rio looks like the best wrestler in the world all of a sudden, and Ziggler looks like a champ just for hanging in there with it.
On top of that, I love that both guys have entourages with actual characters in them. When Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger walk down to the ring, I know how Ricardo Rodriguez will react to them, and it’s different from now Big E Langston will react. That kind of stuff adds to the vibe, so when the match ends (with Ziggler going to the neckbreaker well one-too-many times and getting caught in the arm breaker in a lovely moment of “wrestlers paying attention to the match they’re wrestling”), the post-match attack seems energetic and important. It’s not dead air masquerading as a told story. It’s alive, and even though it’s the simplest of things — Jack Swagger is beating up everybody with a ladder now, because “ladder match” — it carries enough character complexity under the surface to satiate nerds like me.
Best: Jack Swagger + Ladder = You Dead
Maybe it’s another example of Ziggler’s Constantly Impending Death magic making things look great, but I loved how vicious the Swagger attacks seemed. Big E Langston went into the ring post like Boubacar Copa Barry, and both Ziggler and Del Rio made me feel like I was watching ladders bounce off peoples’ skulls for real in TLC II. It got me excited to see what they could do in a formal ladder match, and “getting me excited for the match you want me to pay for” is an idea that shouldn’t be shocking, but hey, it’s Raw.
That said, a triple threat ladder match seems like the easiest type of match to win. Whenever a guy is spending two minutes setting up a ladder bridge or whatever, just climb up the ladder and grab the belt. Haven’t you ever played a WWE video game? You just have to wait for them to start their animation. Or tie them up in the tree of woe. That usually works.
Worst: Every Face Diva That Isn’t Kaitlyn
Four Worsts here, actually.
1. The Great Khali being brought in to “investigate” the identity of Kaitlyn’s admirer brings the chance of it being Hornswoggle up from 99% to 100. It’s Hornswoggle. Sorry, everybody.
2. The terrible acting of the Funkadactyls (“O … M … G!”) and how quickly they go from “a guy likes you” to “a guy is going to abduct you because you’re stupid and he’s a creep” were both awful, but Natalya has officially entered week 2 as my least favorite person on the show. A guy sends Kaitlyn a specifically-complimentary text and her response is “ew.” Then she gets her boyfriend to “go undercover” against Kaitlyn’s wishes and rat out whoever’s trying to be nice to her. YOU ARE TERRIBLE, NATALYA.
3. Are the Divas throwing shade at golden age Simpsons? Because I swear to God.
4. What exactly were the Bellas celebrating when they emerged from the shadows? The fact that they overheard the Funkadactyls mentioning that they should probably think about their match later tonight? They weren’t exactly locked in a war room. The Bellas could’ve just stood to Naomi’s immediate left and nobody would’ve seen or heard them. Were they celebrating overhearing Natalya’s plan to get Khali to go undercover and find out who the admirer is? Couldn’t they have, I don’t know, seen that broadcast globally on Raw? If the admirer admires Kaitlyn, wouldn’t he watch all of her segments on Raw and know about Khali? If Khali comes back with false info because of a Bellas plan, wouldn’t Kaitlyn know that because the Bellas emerged from the goddamn shadows and high-fived about it after her segment? Wouldn’t she watch her own segments?
Best: Big E Langston Is Not The Admirer
But then again, maybe he is …
Best: More Shield Six-Man Tags On Raw, Please
This is a perfect match for Raw. I loved everything about it. The Shield is great, but I feel like I’ve barely gotten a chance to see them wrestle, especially against opponents who aren’t supposed to be their superior. They can have a great match with Taker and Team Hell No, sure, but they can ALSO have a great match with undercard guys who, like them, have spent way too much time being unappreciated. The Usos are a team like that. They’ve got natural talent, have a unique look (at least in terms of modern WWE tag team wrestler), are an actual tag team and while they’ll never be as cool as their entrance, they’re still pretty cool.
Kofi Kingston should always be a tag team wrestler. That would erase almost every problem I have with him. An 8-minute Kofi match truncated into 120 seconds of fired-up tag offense ends up being pretty good … it takes the weight off his ridiculous set-ups for moves (although the Trouble In Paradise “boom” taunting still never works, and even Ambrose seemed in-character upset at himself for lying around waiting for a Boom Drop for that long), lets him jump around as much as he’d like (which is “a lot”) and lets him either close things out or get pinned in spectacular fashion. I’m not a fan of Dean Ambrose yanking Derrick Bateman’s finish, but he killed Kofi with it, so I’ll give him a pass. Also, he made this face when he pinned Kofi:
Great stuff. Do this more often!