Worst: Kofi Kingston Classic
If you’re new to the Best and Worst of WWE Raw column, you may be familiar with my feelings on Kofi Kingston. Here’s a quick recap: I don’t think he’s a great wrestler, but I don’t have any really strong feelings about him. I give him grief a lot because I used to hate John Morrison, and when Morrison got fired I transferred it into Kofi. Most of it’s jokes. Some of it is him having the least believable offense since Shawn Michaels’ knife-edge chops.
The worst part about Kofi now is that he can’t seem to sustain any momentum, so every time he starts to do something cool or new he just stops, and reverts back to Kofi Kingston Classic. You know, the guy who can’t even get his leg behind his opponent’s when he does the SOS. The guy who takes like, 0.8 Killswitch to set up anything he does. The guy who bounces off the ropes to get a little velocity going, then stops and dances instead of using any of it. The guy who is way too easy to hate, regardless of how easily his athleticism could make him a fantastic wrestler. He’s the IDEA of a good wrestler because he jumps a lot. But he’s so almost there, and has been for what, five years now? Loving Kofi Kingston is like loving the Chicago Cubs. It’s just not happening, guys, I don’t care how much sense it makes in your head.
The Kofi/Swagger match was the same one we’ve seen a billion times, but it led to something pretty great:
Best: Zeb Colter, Rebel Rouser
Two great things, actually. The first was Drew McIntyre returning to Raw IN TRUNKS! All we need to do now is bring back his calligraphy entrance video, melodramatic song and (wishful thinking) ECW general manager Tiffany and we’re back on track. Drew Mac booting Big E in the face like a boss makes me want the McIntyre/Sheamus feud we should’ve been having for the last several years.
The other great thing was Zeb Colter practically willing a hot crowd reaction out of a WWE audience during a 3MB handicap match. He spent the entire time on the microphone running down Big E, and while that should’ve been a horrible thing, it was Dirty Dutch taking modern pro wrestling talkers to school. It’s phenomenal that they turned “racist uncle” into such a dynamic character, but I guess you’ve gotta be what you are cranked up to 11.
Also, a big Charles Foster Kane clap to WWE for giving us an actual Intercontinental Championship feud. The IC title, tag titles and Divas titles all need to become SUPER IMPORTANT in February and March so they can get on the pay-per-view of note in April. Also, all four of them need to go to Big E Langston.
(I’m sorry guys, I naturally type “Big E Langston,” it’s going to take a while for me to transition into the version for babies.)
Worst: Just To Make A Formal Statement On It, The Shortened Names Blow, But Whatever
Yeah, just to type it out-loud, it sucks that WWE turned Big E Langston into “Big E” and Antonio Cesaro into “Cesaro.” It wouldn’t be a big deal if it was a Bill Goldberg/Dave Batista thing where we’re just calling them that and still occasionally acknowledge their full names … they’ve just dropped them completely, because Antonio was too wimpy a name or whatever and you couldn’t have decided that back when you gave it to him in the first place. You should set these guys up for success from the day you sign them, WWE, not saddle them with something you hate and not worry about it again until they’ve worked through your shit and stuck around.
Best: Cesaro Vs. John By God Cena
Remember when Cesaro debuted, and Cena immediately told everybody he had huge nipples? Thank God that didn’t catch on.
WWE is kicking my ass with these TV matches lately, to the point that I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said “this is the best match you’re gonna see on TV all year.” If there’s a TV match better than Cena vs. Cesaro coming up, I can’t wait to see it. This was BOSS AS SHIT, and even the truncated YouTube version communicates that. Every second of it is great. It starts with Cena countering the giant swing with a Rocky-style sit-up and a DDT. That leads to Cena climbing the ropes and Cesaro sending him FLYING to the floor with a European uppercut, which I believe was the moment I went from “wow, this is good” to “I AM GOING TO STOP MULTITASKING AND WATCH THIS TO DEATH.”
THAT leads to the awesome Michael Elgin-borrowed deadlift vertical superplex from the ring apron, which I refuse to let stop impressing me. Cena gets an STF, and most wrestling brains go “oh okay here we go, Cena wins,” but nope, Cesaro gets so close to the ropes that Cena breaks the hold and tries to drag him back to the center of the ring by his leg and his HAND. How often do you see that? It felt like a weird little realistic touch, and amazingly it was there to give Cesaro leverage to counter up into the giant swing. Whoever put this match together knows what they’re doing, and I’m gonna be adult enough to say it was Cena having fun with Cesaro’s ridiculous strength and athleticism … the announcers put way too much effort into talking about how Cena and Cesaro are “cut from the same cloth,” and while they ended up contradicting themselves because they’re horrible at speaking and human thought, they’re right. These are the two most impossibly fit, impossibly strong guys in pro wrestling, period. They can do things human beings shouldn’t be able to do. That doesn’t translate itself into flips or dives or hyper-speed, but they know how to do anything they want to do, and could lift you and throw you into the sun without a damn fraction of effort.
And we haven’t even started talking about the goddamn LARIAT SEQUENCE. Cesaro goes for a Neutralizer, allowing Cena’s Attitude Adjustment From Out Of Nowhere to actually make sense for once, and not just be Cena hopping to his feet and hitting it like a super hero. Cesaro’s finish puts Cena in place to hit his. Perfect chemistry. But NOOOOPE, Cesaro ain’t going out like that, so he flips out of it, lands on his feet — maybe it DOES translate to flipping — and MURDERS Cena with a boot to the face. ANY of this could’ve been the finish.
Then, my favorite moment: Cesaro hits that boot and keeps running, so Cena muscles up and LARIATS him, which is not a Cena thing to do. If John Cena can adapt his style as he ages and borrow Japan’s “old bastard” gimmick, he will be my favorite wrestler in the world. Stop doing the jumping leg drop and the five-knuckle shuffle and just start facewashing and clotheslining dudes because you are a cagey veteran who HATES THEIR YOUTH.
Cena’s roll into the Attitude Adjustment wasn’t totally smooth in execution, but it was smooth in style, and this is so the John Cena that needs to exist on a weekly basis. This guy has always had the capacity to be one of the best wrestlers in the world — not just the most popular or successful, the best at WRESTLING — he is just a victim of his own character, popularity and in-ring sloth. He does what he does because it works. There’s rarely any art to it. But when there IS art to it, who the hell is better at art than Cena? It’s dangerous. When the guy puts in a sincere effort, he is top-effing-shelf.
Best match. Thank you for this.