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Anyway, please click through to enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw Normal School for January 13, 2014.
Worst: Damien Sandow Wrestling John Cena While On A ‘Downward Spiral’ Is Like Telling A Suicidal Man To Cheer Up And Get Over It
First Worst: the guy with the intelligence gimmick does a move called “the Edge-uactor” and calls it “the Royal Arch” instead of anything related to education.
Second Worst: I know that a guy can lose a match (or a series of matches) and come out looking better for it, but Damien Sandow’s Herculean trials of mediocrity aren’t really doing anything for me. His successful and enjoyable tag team breaks up so he can win Money in the Bank, look like a helpless victim for the entirety of his feud with his former partner, cashes in Money in the Bank against a guy who’s arm was literally detached and rotting under the ring and somehow still lost, got a shirt featuring online abbreviations that looks like it’s covered in cum stains, wrestles a series of gimmick matches against the only guy on the show with less momentum (Dolph Ziggler), wrestles a … what was that, a Best of Two against The Great Khali, and now he’s back to being outsmarted and overpowered by John Cena. They’ve turned Sandow from a guy with an entertaining gimmick into a guy with NO gimmick, because there’s nothing WWE likes more than losing streak angles and guys in black t-shirts.
It probably sounds like I’m complaining more than I am, but as a fan of Sandow’s work I’m really frustrated watching him devolve and lose. Some people are just born into these enhancement talent roles where they go out and make the other guy look good and that’s that, but the way WWE’s set up now you can never really tell who’s supposed to be enhancement and who’s supposed to be a thing, so you end up spending a decade wishing they’d JUST GIVE BILL AND RANDY MULKEY A CHANCE TO SHOW YOU HOW GOOD THEY ARE. It’s like WWE took the worst part of the “smart” opinion they hate and applied it to everything.
Best: The Match Was Pretty Good, Though
It was. It wasn’t as good as the announcers were trying to make it seem — they did something similar with their WHAT A MATCHes during Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton — but Cena’s oddly-expanding move repertoire is enjoyable and Sandow can really go when the other guy stops farting around and really lays into him. That’s why I liked the Sandow/Sheamus matches so much. They mostly had the same result (Sandow dying), but they beat the mess out of each other before it was done.
I want Cena to become the “moves” guy just to piss everybody off. Like, pin Sandow on Raw after an Omega Driver. Just Awful Waffle the shit out of him and get all up in the camera like, “BET YOU DIDN’T THINK YA BOY COULD DO THAT” or whatever. John Cena busting out a Canadian Destroyer would Canadian destroy the Internet. All you gotta do is put your dick on the back of a guy’s head and do a front flip. It’s not rocket science.
Best: JOHN CENA’S DAD SENIOR
John Cena’s Dad is in the front row at this show in Rhode Island, for some reason! I hope this doesn’t become important in act 3!
Note: One of my favorite things about Cena’s Dad showing up to Raws (besides the fact that he’s awesome and should be given a live mic whenever possible) is how hard they try not to say his name. He’s never “John Cena Sr.,” he’s Mr. Cena or Cena’s Dad. WWE does not believe its audience can understand two people with the same name. Like they’re gonna say “there’s John Cena’s dad, John Cena Sr.” and some kid watching at home’s gonna assume nothing but time travel paradoxes and have his head explode.
Worst: Foreshadowing Via Boxers
oh God, Hogan’s going to be at WrestleMania, isn’t he
Worst: The Real(ly Easy To Beat) Americans
“Stay down, Jack, you won’t have so far to fall!”
Jack Swagger’s offense in this match: 2 punches. This match was what, 40 seconds long? What does it accomplish, telling us that Big Show is big and strong? That they’re interested in making him look like a threat this month, so he has to beat everybody up easily even though he was dressed like a New Year’s baby two weeks ago? More importantly (most importantly), why is Antonio Cesaro running away and hiding in the crowd when Big Show confronts him? Wasn’t Cesaro giant swinging Brodus Clay not that long ago?
There is nothing more confusing and disappointing than Big Show in the aftermath of a big angle, when he’s built up enough to lose to somebody important, but still too important himself to make anybody look good.
Worst: Okay, Here’s Where You Use Your ‘Be A Star’ Jokes
Big Show has a match against Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. He easily wins a match with Jack Swagger, then tries to attack Swagger’s partner. When that doesn’t work, he decides to goose and knock out their 64-year old manager, a guy who for all intents and purposes is a jerk who deserves comeuppance but hadn’t really done anything bad to Show besides making and showing him a condescending sign. He didn’t just knock him out, either. He held him in place and made him beg for a long time. The begging felt longer than the match.
I know wrestling can be kinda morally iffy and that in fans’ eyes bad guys deserve punching for the bad they’ve done a lot longer than what seems reasonable, but man, if you’re making a person half your size and 25 years older than you beg you to not hurt them for almost a full minute before hurting them, you’re inching into Devil’s Rejects territory and have BECOME the bad guy.
Best: Zeb Colter Is Unconscious (And Having Flashbacks) But Can Still Recognize Renee
Backstage Fallout this week starts with two horrible things:
1. The New Age Outlaws
2. Big Show nonchalantly explaining how he wasn’t sending Brock Lesnar a message, he was just ENTERTAININ’ THE FANS
… but it was all salvaged by the final segment, wherein The Real Americans and Renee Young attempt to revive Zeb Colter from unconsciousness as he has war flashbacks. He doesn’t know how many fingers Swagger’s holding up but he recognizes Renee, because … well, he’s only human, right? I would actually be really into Renee joining The Real Americans, because the 50/50 ratio of Americans to non-Americans in the team has always kept it from going in one direction or the other, and also because I want Renee to have a monogrammed track jacket.
(It can say “Nay Nay.”)
Best: Even Sting Is Shaking His Head At You Right Now, Punk
From last week’s column, in response to the New Age Outlaws being CM Punk’s enforcers against The Shield:
Anyway, I’m not too hung up on the New Age Outlaws helping Piper, but I’m a little bothered by them being announced as CM Punk’s “equalizers” against The Shield. These are guys who are answers #1 and #2 when you ask, “who are Triple H and Shawn Michaels’ friends?” You’d probably say the f*cking Road Dogg before Stephanie McMahon. They are A and B classic butt-lickers, and here they are showing up to help the Voice of the Voiceless, the guy who just a few weeks ago throwing hands at the Authority? The guy who EXISTS to defy authority? Road Dogg was just on a show alongside Josh Mathews where they retcon old WCW clips as “embarrassing” because WWE won and said they have to be. They are THE WORST.
Of course, if this turns out to be a plot point, I’ll forgive it. I’m afraid it’s just an example of WWE going “fans like this guy, fans like these guys, they’re on a team together!” without any considerations made toward characterization or history or story significance. Punk was shaking hands with Rey Mysterio and doing fist-bumpies with John Cena, maybe the big reveal is that Punk’s a colossal f*cking sell-out.
This week, it becomes a plot point. As promised, all is forgiven.
I go back and forth on whether or not CM Punk is a face or a heel, but oh boy, nothing screams “face” louder than putting yourself into a situation that is obviously a trap and cheerily hoping for the best. CM Punk seriously thought, “how should I overcome this 3-on-1 disadvantage against The Shield? Oh, how about teaming up with the BEST FRIENDS OF THE GUY I SAY I HATE ALL THE TIME.” A lot of people are wondering why the Outlaws would team with Punk or help him out just to ditch him, and to that I say fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and evil wrestling dudes have got to do evil for the sake of doing it.
I think this may’ve been the only time I’ve ever yelled F*CKING THANK YOU at my television screen over a heel turn. Maybe I AM the Internet.
Two Worsts, though:
Worst 1: “The Fox”
Michael Cole was working overtime trying to give The Shield nicknames last night. Roman Reigns was “the powerhouse” of the Shield, which is fine because he IS, and because they’ve been saying that for a while. Seth Rollins was “the architect,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense but I’ll let it slide, because “the smart one” never ends well. The one that bugged me, though, was Dean Ambrose. He is THE FOX. Because he’s UNPREDICTABLE, you see, like a FOX. Also because girls like him?
Stop trying to make The Fox happen. Immediately. I want this to be the “Dolph Ziggler with brown hair” of nicknames. We think it happened one week, but we just imagined it.
Worst 2: “You Can’t Wrestle”
The crowd chanted “you can’t wrestle” at Seth Rollins. What are they, new?
Best Ever: #EMMAtaining
If you’re a regular reader of the Best and Worst of NXT (and you should be, because it’s the happiest regular column I’m ever gonna write), you’re aware of my undying love for EMMA. If you know of Emma, you don’t need a paragraph explaining how hard I popped when I saw her in the crowd with a big #EMMATAINING sign, wearing that t-shirt they refuse to sell me.
If you don’t know Emma, here’s everything you need to know: she’s a beautiful Australian lady who is really good at submission-style wrestling but also has less rhythm than anyone ever born, so much so that when she dances (poorly) (extremely poorly) it warms the hearts of those who see it. People try to make fun of her for it all the time but have too much coordination to do it properly. Anyway, there’s this big ritual before each of her matches where she walks through/attacks a wall of bubbles with her dancing arms (seriously) and then tries to “skin the cat” to get into the ring, which used to work less frequently than it does now. She’s so oblivious and vain it borders on stupidity, and she is the greatest.
I am 100% excited for her to show up on Raw, but only if she gets to finish her NXT beef with Paige while she does it. I’m not looking forward to the announcers burying the shit out of her instead of letting us develop a natural love for her ridiculousness, but whatever, Emma rules and I will hashtag anything she asks me to.
Best: AJ Lee vs. Naomi
The actual match was kinda bad for a variety of reasons — the announcers refusing to let the “you’re jealous of ‘Tole’ Divas” talking point go, Cameron’s wrestling not being the bomb.com, Naomi’s lipstick that made her look like she’d been caught frenching Goldust — but the prospect of an AJ Lee vs. Naomi Divas Championship program is exciting.
Firstly, it’s new. Secondly, it’s a change of pace from the “AJ vs. larger, stronger Diva” story they’ve done with Kaitlyn (a few times), Tamina, Natalya and so on. Thirdly, Naomi is ridiculously athletic and deserves a chance to work hard and earn something more meaningful than “dancing girl #2” in her wrestling career. If you want to prove that the women of Total Divas are legit, the best way to do it is to take one of the ones nobody thinks IS and show that they’re something special. The Bellas are a hard sell thanks to their half a dozen years in WWE as starf*cking girlfriends (this is kayfabe, mind you, I’m not calling them out in real life) and people who like wrestling already think Natalya’s good, so this is the story to go for.
Also, gimme some of that NXT season 3 love. Oh, and before I move on, I have one additional complaint: Aksana did not show up and Ryback anybody. How am I supposed to keep my Aksana fires burning if she’s not around?
Worst: Orton Could’ve Opened Fire With A Machine Gun And Killed The Crowd Less
I think Randy Orton’s been great in the ring for most of the last year. I think Kofi was getting better before he jumped jump-first into a best of a billion series against the Miz. I am starting the paragraph this way because holy shit was this 70-minute Kofi/Orton match brutal, and I’m not sure the crowd could’ve been any deader. I haven’t seen a Rhode Island crowd this dead since Great White came through.
For whatever reason, WWE decided that they needed to make Randy Orton (the guy holding both the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships as the undisputed WWE World Heavyweight Champion, less than a month out from beating John Cena in a TLC match) an “underdog” or something and have him lose a non-title match to Kofi Kingston, a guy who lately has not shown the ability to believably beat Mike from The Real World. It was a shock, I guess, but not one that we can count on to last or go anywhere. It was sorta the opposite of how you felt when Shelton Benjamin got a surprise win on Triple H, even though it was fundamentally the same thing. Kofi’s not gonna change next week or build any momentum because he DOESN’T EVER. Orton continues being Orton, win or lose, and is still holding two belts. He still has to face John Cena, a guy who has lost two clean “regular” matches in the last five years. I don’t know.
It wasn’t that the match was bad, it was just ridiculously boring. Orton went into his old “stand near you for several minutes, stomp you once and then go for a slow pinfall” mode, which is terrible. Watch him when Kofi gets knocked to the outside. He follows him out, then does a complete walking lap around him before touching him. What’re you doing, Randy, trying to back out of a driveway? Just stomp him.
(Note: shut up, you don’t care about Great White.)
Worst: Reruns (But It’s Fine, We Can’t Remember Anything)
1. Was Dad Cena sitting beside Gallagher? Followup question, when did Gallagher get fat?
2. Was that one of Orton’s fake on-screen wives screaming about Dad Cena getting attacked? She was the worst. WHEEEEEEE! WHEEEEEE! WHEEEEE! She sounded like a baby pig. It was the second worst scream of the night, right behind Rey Mysterio sounding like E.T. in Alberto Del Rio’s armbar.
Anyway, remember this?
At least that one involved brutal head-kicking. And no Gallagher.
Best: Ryback, Keyboard Warrior
I can’t explain how much I love the reboot of Ryback as a guy who is not a bully or a bully on the Internet, but a bully TO the Internet. A guy who is so bothered by what strangers have typed about him in 140 characters or less that it consumes him, and he spends his days tweeting and deleting whatever he can think of to “work” us. He can’t even wrestle without thinking about the Internet. He’s in there making little “typing” gestures.
I’d go all the way with it. Have him show up at Harry Knowles’ house and push him down a flight of stairs, right into his gigantic pile of free review blu-ray boxed sets. Appear out of nowhere and Meathook guys at SXSW Interactive. Maybe show up at the house of a guy who blogs about wrestling and … I don’t know, sit around and watch GLOW DVDs with him. I’M ON YOUR SIDE, BIG GUY.
The only flaw so far is that Curtis Axel doesn’t have a gimmick to match him. Can we make Axel a really successful Redditor or something and do a new Steen/Generico thing with Rybaxel? Have Axel reveal that he’s actually run a really successful ice fishing blog for the past several years and have Ryback get SUPER MAD AT HIM for critiquing his ice fishing behind his back. Something. Worst case, give Axel a shirt that says INTERNET and one of those beanie caps with the propellor on them.