Best: Spoiler Alert, Roman Reigns Is The Best One
First of all, perfect sign choice and timing.
Second of all, three aspects of the ongoing Shield breakup please me.
1. The idea that Dean Ambrose is the one messing everything up, because he’s always been the “leader,” or at least the guy we thought should be speaking for everyone
2. It’s giving the individual Shield guys personalities
3. CM Punk’s the one doing it, because he figured out that it’s easier to break something up if you get inside of it and break it apart from the inside. More on that later.
But yeah, Raw started with 15-ish minutes of CM Punk wrestling Seth Rollins as part of Seth’s PROVE YOU’RE GOOD ENOUGH TO CARRY OUR MAIN-EVENTERS tour, and it was lovely. It had some of the basic problems I see in a lot of Punk matches — his offense looks like garbage because he’s sloppy and doesn’t really put any force behind anything, so it’s up to the guy he’s wrestling to sink or swim selling it … think Samoa Joe without any weight behind it — but it was a good match, and I’m never going to Worst that. It was the third best match on the show, and when I can say that about Punk/Rollins, that’s a pretty good show.
And don’t get me wrong, I still don’t WANT the Shield breaking up, but I’m enjoying how it’s happening. Did you hear those “Ro-man Reigns” chants? It’s so easy to chant. Ambrose has become this straight-up shifty, sketchy creep who talks a big game and loses it when he’s got to back it up by himself, Seth Rollins has turned into this strangely confident guy who can almost take care of business by himself, and Roman’s clearly this Warrior God who just hasn’t yet figured out he can break from the pack and spear things for his individual benefit. If The Shield doesn’t last through WrestleMania (and frankly, this all feels like it’s setting up Ambrose to eliminate Rollins or Reigns in the Rumble and set everything in motion), I hope they’re linked together in some way forever.
I also wish Roman had interrupted Punk’s WHICH ONE A YOUSE IS THE BESS speech by shouldering him to death in the chest and screaming SUMMER OF PUNK PUNK WOULD’VE HATED YOU.
Worst: Randy Orton vs. John Cena In A REGULAR Match!!! (!!)
Half of the roster was off in Toronto sportly-entertaining our Canadian friends, so Raw devoted an entire on-stage promo to Stephanie McMahon announcing the 750,000th Randy Orton vs. John Cena championship match for Royal Rumble and trying desperately to get the stipulation of “no stipulation” over. It was so sad. A TRADITIONAL, ONE-ON-ONE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH. PINFALLS OR SUBMISSIONS ONLY. NOT A CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH FOR PANTYWASTES AND SISSIES. FOR PANTYWASTES AND SISSIES. THE MOST REGULAR MATCH EVER.
I miss that old Rumble tradition of giving guys who don’t deserve title shots title shots because the Rumble match sells the pay-per-view and nobody cares about the non-Rumble parts. Remember when Hardcore Holly got a WWE Championship match? On PAY-PER-VIEW? Remember when Daivari was managing a pre-great Mark Henry to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship? F*cking Umaga got a Last Man Standing match for the WWE Championship on a Rumble card. It was the best. Can’t we let Cena heal up his weird dog body or film 12 Rounds 3: 36 Rounds or whatever and hotshot a Randy Orton/Sin Cara program? Maybe Orton vs. Ezekiel Jackson*?
*Yes, he’s still employed.
Worst: We Have Too Much Time Between TLC And The Royal Rumble, So Here’s Some House Show Stuff, Enjoy
A Raw without Cena, Orton, Big Show and the like was a lot of fun at times, but it also gave us matches like Dolph Ziggler vs. Curtis Axel, which might as well have been two 5-year olds learning how to doggypaddle in the shallow end of the YMCA pool.
The match was fine, but it was the most fine thing ever. Absolutely purposeless. Later in the column when the shit hits the fan I’ll write a lot about what it means to be “buried” or “in the mid-card,” and I think the only objective definition of that is what you’re seeing here. Guys without purpose or direction. That’s the worst. When you’re Zack Ryder or JTG or whatever you can sit your ass at home and play video games and collect a paycheck, and when they remember you’re employed and fire you you can go wrestle wherever with some sparkly WWE-made trunks and charge way too much because people remember you from TV. When you’re a guy like Ziggler, though, this has got to be purgatory. The illusion of purpose. Just arbitrarily winning and losing throwaway matches, doing the same taunts you did three years ago in your t-shirt from April, because they haven’t given a shit about you since then. On Smackdown you’ll probably wrestle this exact same match but lose it, and then on Raw you’ll have a rematch you’ll win, and then on Smackdown you’ll have a rematch you lose. Horror.
THAT is the mid-card. Dolph Ziggler would probably kill a guy to be losing a bunch of championship matches to Randy Orton and getting an hour devoted to him and his angles on every show.
Best: Big E Langston, Our First Good IC Champ In Years
Big E vs. Fandango for the Intercontinental Championship was the opposite of Ziggler vs. Axel. This was GREAT, and if Daniel Bryan hadn’t wandered into a gauntlet match with the Wyatt Family that ended with one of the most legitimately shocking storyline turns of the year I might call it the best match on the show. Hell, I still might.
This is what Big E Langston needs. He’s a guy catching on with the fans, and WWE is smart to not do what they do with everyone ELSE who wins a secondary title (jobbing him out relentlessly to build to PPV title matches). He’s facing credible-looking opponents who are at his level or slightly below, having good-to-great little matches with them and WINNING. That’s what he did here. Fandango looked like a million bucks and gave Langston a fight, but Langston triumphed (clean, without any bullshit) because he’s strong and tough and good at wrestling. This is what I was begging for every time Fandango took a count-out loss on purpose. Let him look like a pro wrestler, win or lose, and we’ll probably want to pay you money to see him wrestle. This is your only job, honestly, and for once, you did it well.
I want more like this!
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