Best: Fandango Wrestles the Perfect Randy Orton Match (And Loses)
Last night’s opening match was my favorite of the show, because it took two characters who are almost always moving in the wrong direction and righted them a little.
Believe it or not, on top of all the dancing and finger pointing, Fandango is a pretty good wrestler. Poor Johnny Curtis hasn’t had a chance to do much since showing up, mostly being relegated to dance contests with The Great Khali or “showcase” matches against a swamp-assin’-it Chris Jericho. The difference between a goofy character in WWE and a goofy character that WORKS is the wrestling … so seeing Fandango getting in legitimate offense, wrestling a smart match and hanging with a top-level WWE Guy is incredibly important. It’s what makes him a Million Dollar Man, and not a Duke The Dumpster. Here, Fandango looked like a star because he figured out the best way to go the distance with Randy Orton: stop him every time he starts trying to chain signature moves together.
And THAT’s what made Randy Orton so good here. Orton’s a perfectly cromulent wrestler, but he only ever seems to care about hitting his signature moves, shoehorning them into places they don’t logically go. When Jerry Lawler is ragging on you for going to the “hanging DDT” well one too many times, you know you have a problem. It’s just corny backbreaker, powerslam, hanging DDT, a bunch of clotheslines, a dropkick to counter somebody jumping and an RKO. Because of that, his matches tend to be extremely formulaic, and because we aren’t one stop on a tour and see almost every WWE match on television, formulaic equals boring. Orton was great here, though, because he was TRYING to shoehorn in his signatures, and Fandango knew that and kept countering. So Orton had to switch it up, hitting the hanging DDT from the corner instead of the middle of the ropes and, most importantly, hitting a straight-up RKO in the middle of the ring instead of flopping around for five minutes and giving Dirty Curty a chance to counter.
On top of that, the crowd was super hot and hadn’t gotten its head entire up its own ass yet. Wrestling is pretty easy when you’ve got talented wrestlers taking a fresh approach to the wrestling they always do, in front of a molten crowd. Orton looked good, Fandango got to look good in defeat, and I got to enjoy 12 minutes of pro graps at the top of my wrestling program. Please and thank you.
Worst: I See What You’re Doing, Summer Rae
My only Worst for this match is how Summer Rae is clearly aware of whether or not the camera is on her. Watch her when the camera jumps out to get her reaction, she’s standing still and waiting to see that little red light in her peripheral vision. So it’s just “wait for it … wait for it … COME ON FANDANGO YEAH DO IT BUDDY” etc.
Always be in character, Summer Rae. Let the camera come to you. If you’re good at your job, you’ll get on screen a bunch. Notice how Rosa Mendes gets one shot per Epico match, but the camera lingers on Paul Heyman for 8 of 9 Curtis Axel minutes.
Best: Welp, At Least We Got Through That Without Any Slut-Shaming Or Maria Faces
In last week’s column I joked about how the impending Dolph Ziggler/AJ Lee breakup was going to be exactly like the one he had with Maria, complete with that wacky face Maria makes to express “sadness” that looks like she just stumbled upon a guy getting head from a furry at the Overlook Hotel. The breakup officially happened on Raw last night, and, sure enough, it was the Dolph/Maria split, almost shot-for-shot.
The good news is twofold:
1. Dolph just broke up with her, and didn’t yell at her about how she’s a whore for having more than one boyfriend ever, which is what 90% of the roster would do
2. AJ is a better actor than Maria
Plus, it led to some fun stuff later in the show.
Best: I Am So F**king Ready For A Mark Henry/The Shield Feud
What do you do once you’ve had Mark Henry lose to John Cena like a chump, but everyone in the crowd seems to like him and want to get behind him? Move on from the Cena match quickly, and put Henry up against a bunch of guys the crowd loves to hate.
As the boldface suggests, I am so unbelievably f**king down with a Mark Henry/The Shield feud. The Shield wants to take Henry down because he’s a “disappointment” — they, like WWE Legends, judge a wrestler’s success or failure based on how often and thoroughly they beat John Cena — and because he’s an “old dog” taking up spots that belong to the young guys. So they jumped Mark and triple powerbombed him (!!), and now he’s got the clearest beef ever. I’d love to see Henry bring a bunch of his old tag team partners out of the mothballs. How awesome would a The Shield vs. Mark Henry/D’Lo Brown/MVP Raw main-event six-man be?