– We appreciate your comments, likes, shares, tweets and other things. Spreading the good word of the Best and Worst column is very cool of you, and earns you high-fiving privileges in real life should we ever be in the same place at the same time. No, that isn’t weird at all, it is badass.
– If you like the Raw column, be sure you’re up on our NXT, Impact and Total Divas columns as well. You might wanna read about ‘Total Divas’ now, because they’re all gonna be dead in the next episode.
Please click through to enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for August 26, 2013.
Worst: Chekov’s Yescalade
The only sincerely memorable thing Kofi Kingston has done outside of Royal Rumble elimination spots in 7 years of WWE superstardom is vandalize Randy Orton’s car. Even then, it was written in the most lazy way imaginable; Randy Orton was never a “car guy” and never thought about or talked about cars, but suddenly he was getting presented with a customized Randy Orton NASCAR, and he was so, so proud of it. Less than two hours later, a co-worker had jumped around on it and covered it in paint.
Last night was the same deal. Randy Orton hasn’t had a car (or expressed anger at losing the one car he HAD), but here’s Triple H presenting him with a Cadillac Escalade for absolutely no reason. Daniel Bryan walks out, reminds the crowd that he’s got beef with Triple H and Randy Orton, gets all winky-winky nudgey-nudgey about the car’s existence and leaves. Every single living person in the WWE Universe goes, “he’s going to vandalize Randy Orton’s car.” They’re just playing through the Kofi Kingston storyline with a different player. Chances that this will end with Daniel Bryan illogically boom-dropping Randy Orton in Madison Square Garden sitting at 100%.
I know there’s a value to repeating the same storylines over and over and repurposing certain things for bigger stars (like when Kurt Angle got the Patriot’s music … I’m already waiting for somebody to co-opt the DiBiase Posse Party*), but man, you’ve got enough time between Original Incident and Repurposed Incident to improve it, don’t you? Wouldn’t it mean more if Orton drove the car to shows for a while, even for a MONTH, before Bryan messed it up? As it stands, a rich guy’s getting a present from a rich guy, doesn’t have time to get attached to it and then we have to buy that he’s WORLD-ENDINGLY bent out of shape over it. Orton doesn’t give a shit about that car and you know it.
*My suggestion: “Watch-o Camacho Parties.” Everybody sits on bikes!
Best: Triple H Is The Big Bear Of Raw
Because he’s DOIN’ THANGS.
Last week, the impossible happened: I did a 180 on Triple H, the guy who has consistently made my wrestling life miserable with his unique brand of being the coolest/smartest/funniest/toughest guy in the room and pedigreeing Paul London and Brian Kendrick for no f*cking reason. I couldn’t help it. He did the best and most obvious thing in the world — he turned the “Darth Vader shit” we (mostly) all think about him into an on-screen character. You know, an actual one, not one we’re supposed to cheer because he’s so cool at being bad.
This week, Triple H made it two weeks of Brandon Loving Him in a row, starting off the show with some THRILLING condescension en route to making a gauntlet match between Daniel Bryan and all three members of The Shield. This was Bryan’s punishment. As a wrestling fan, I get Daniel Bryan in matches against all three members of the Shield. I know this is gonna sound weird, but can you punish dudes like that more often, Triple H? Be like, “I DON’T LIKE YOU, SO TONIGHT, WE’RE GONNA HAVE A 60-MINUTE IRON MAN MATCH BETWEEN DANIEL BRYAN AND DEAN MALENKO. YES, HE’S COMING OUT OF RETIREMENT. GET IN THERE MALENKO.”
Worst: Daniel Bryan Should Not Be John Cena When John Cena’s Gone
I still have unshakable faith in Daniel Bryan’s ability to tell a story between the ropes, but I would be pretty happy if I didn’t have to hear him get through another “OHHHH GOOD FOR YOU, WELL THESE PEOPLE THINK I’M GREAT” promo. Especially the ones that end in him rehashing Kofi Kingston, or worse, stealing from the John Cena’s Greatest Misses collection. Remember when Cena and Cryme Tyme vandalized JBL’s limo by spray-painting JBL IS POOPY along the side? Remember how you thought it made the fledging “CTC Nation” look like a trio of illiterate jerks? Daniel Bryan’s being sarcastic and spray-painting YES on an Escalade a bunch when he’s got a legitimate, personal gripe with Randy Orton and is strong and confident enough to kick him in the head about it.
Do not pair up two wrestlers from my all-time least favorites list and cast them in the John Laurinaitis role of “assholes who are just trying to do their jobs and must go to extremes because everyone else is aggressive and crazy” against my favorite wrestler playing “guy who is in the right, but won’t stop being a childish, pandering criminal about it.” Don’t do it.
Worst: Every Bad Raw Trope In One Match
The wrestling on this week’s show got better (a lot better, don’t get me wrong), but the first match was emblematic of not only what’s wrong with WWE’s ability to tell a story, it was everything wrong with their stories at once.
Normally you’d have three hours of Raw, and in one match a guy would get distracted by his upcoming opponent and get rolled up by his current one. The next match would feature someone on color commentary, and they’d get involved afterwards. Then later somebody would intentionally take a count-out and lose a match when it doesn’t make sense, and later a bunch of guys would get into a fight and an authority figure would materialize from the ether to make the world’s most obvious decision and make it a tag team match. Champions would lose non-title matches. Near the end of the show, somebody would dress up as their opponent to make them mad, a Diva would have a match where she’s suddenly changed alignment without anyone noticing and Jerry Lawler would make a half-hearted, impossibly half-assed crack about whatever pop culture thing had happened since the last Raw. You’ve read this all before.
In this match, all of that happened.
Cody Rhodes tries to wrestle Fandango with Damien Sandow on color commentary. Before they can do anything, The Miz shows dressed as Fandango, accompanied by the suddenly-babyface-by-proxy-of-losing-her-team-to-bullfighting-legend Rosa Mendes, doin’ a dance and distracting Fandango. Cody takes advantage, rolls Fandango up and pins him. Fandango, a sore loser and enraged by the fact that he’s been in a wrestling ring for almost two minutes, attacks. Cody fights him off, but gets attacked by Sandow. This brings Miz down to the ring, and HOLE ON A MINNENT PLAYA, here’s Teddy “Brad Maddox” Long to make this a TAG TEAM MATCH. It’s so tired and obvious even Maddox is all, “sorry, yeah, we’re doing this again.” So that becomes this:
AND THE DRY ERASE BOARD KEEPS ON A-COMIN’.
As Jerry Lawler mentions that The Miz’s dancing was SOMETHING SOMETHING MILEY CYRUS (ughhh), Fandango decides that he’d rather leave the ring than finish the tag team match he stuck around to compete in for some reason already. The good guys take a 2-on-1 advantage, Miz does his wacky open-armed and aimed-at-the-hard-camera Skull-crushing Finale and cleanly pins Mr. Money in the Bank. Fandango says his catchphrase for no reason.
Meanwhile, in the back, a dejected WWE writer hands over a $20 bill to the man he said couldn’t do everything on the board at once. The only thing they didn’t use was “Kharma – Pregnant? Coming back?” because it’s been a while since they wrote this thing and they don’t remember who that is.
Best: Miz Dances Like A Dude From Parma
I’ve been to clubs in Cleveland, and trust me, unless you’re going to Bounce, every guy in the club is gonna be dancing like this. It’d be endearing if it was coming from anyone other than The Miz, and maybe even him if he hadn’t pulled the “I’m a better ballroom dancer than you, nyerr!” card on Fandango at SummerSlam. The highlight of the entire affair was JBL aptly noting that Miz had gone into Fandango’s bag like a weirdo and stolen his tights.
Actually, the best part was Rosa Mendes confirming that the booty twist against the ropes was her only move, and that her ballroom dancing ability is exactly as good as her 9th-grade Spanish.
Best: AJ Lee Singlehandedly Guts Total Divas, Or
Best: PIPE BOMB
Natalya and Brie Bella had a SummerSlam rematch, and (like the pay-per-view match itself) it was a short, largely-inoffensive and regressively-pointless excuse to put the cast of ‘Total Divas’ on Raw. The Funkadactlys were there to be cheerleaders for Natalya. Eva Marie and Nikki Bella were there to support Brie. They even brought out Jojo to ring announce, and she said everything like she was spelling a word in a spelling bee. Poor Jojo. They can’t jettison her until ‘Total Divas’ runs its course, so they’re like “be a singer! Eh, that’s not great … do ring announcing!” Eventually she’s just gonna be the time keeper because they can’t trust her to get in or out of a ring without collapsing onto her face and dying, because she’s shoot Eugene in AJ Lee’s body.
Anyway, like I said, it was largely inoffensive. The worst part was the finish, where Eva Marie distracted the referee so Nikki Bella could pull Brie out of a Sharpshooter, and Natalya had to stagger around selling “losing control of my finisher” like it was a Stone Cold Stunner until Brie could get into position and face-bust her for the win. Then, in a moment we’d dreamed for but were never brave enough to expect, AJ walked out on the stage.
I am not using “pipe bomb” facetiously. If anything in WWE has constituted a “pipe bomb” since the actual pipe bomb two years ago, it was this. AJ calmly, frankly spit HOT FIRE on ‘Total Divas,’ taking down everyone in or near the ring for being useless, embarrassing women who are only in WWE because they’re failed actresses, sleeping with wrestlers or related to somebody. It was Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Control’ verse in Divas promo form, complete with that accompanying blast radius where everybody has to “respond” for fear of being outed as lazy motherf**kers who’ve sleepwalked into positions of notoriety. If you need proof of AJ’s truth, just listen to every Totally Diva screeching mindlessly in the background, yelling asinine shit like “SAY IT TO MY FACE” as though AJ wasn’t saying it to all of their faces, as though Nikki Bella was some gender-swapped Alex Riley. Just like Kendrick, people like Mick Foley were quick to jump on Twitter and defend the Bellas, in code that more or less means “they’re my friends, shut up.”
The Bellas response itself was a thing of sad beauty, where they cannot distinguish kayfabe from reality, and either of those from the kayfabed reality they created for themselves on E!
If you want to know how true this promo is, watch the responses of everyone in the ring who isn’t Natalya. The Bellas and Eva Marie won’t stop screeching on the outside. Cameron and Naomi won’t stop making yawn gestures and “bye bye” hands and trying to gain some kind of attention. They don’t have any concept of what wrestling is, how it works, or the value of occasionally showing emotions (or showing ass) to get a story or moment over. They don’t know how to create a reality. It’s the Bellas on commentary, upright and walking around. “Look at me!” To her credit, at least Natalya sneered and shook her head quietly because hey, maybe somebody’s gotta have a match with AJ to follow this up and somebody should try to prove her wrong instead of proving her all the way right.
The truth hurts, doesn’t it? You got shook, and you aren’t good enough to shake back. AJ is once again and forever my motherf*cker.
Best/Worst: Curtis Axel Cannot Speak Like A Human (Credit: Dirt Sheets)
Forever NOT my motherf*cker is Curtis Axel, who cannot seem to understand that having Paul Heyman as your manager means Paul Heyman can talk for you, and you don’t have to throat-fart into a microphone every week and ruin our chances of thinking you’re okay. To reiterate, Curtis Axel is literally a square patch of growing grass in the ring, but he’s competent, and compared to his mic skill he’s the f*cking Rainmaker in the ring.
I don’t understand why he can’t convincingly have a conversation with someone with whom he works every week. Do they not talk in real life? Can we start telling Axel the camera’s off and see what happens? Paul Heyman’s there emoting his ass off, selling one of the best ongoing stories in pro wrestling, and Axel’s all, “BUH HUH, DON’T WORRY PAUL, HEH, I MEAN, HEH, I GOTTA MATCH TERNIGHT, HEH, HUH, Y’KNOW” and fuuuuuuuuuu it goes on forever. “This is the moment” was not a fluke. Curtis Axel is deaf or is fatally dyslexic or something he isn’t telling us.
Best/Worst: Everything Was Great About This Except For The Curtis Axel Parts
The Axel/Punk match was fine, but a pretty obvious step down from the work Punk’s been doing lately. The finish came out of nowhere. They were just wrestling, and boop, Punk hits a Go To Sleep and that’s the end. I’m not complaining, but the guy’s the Intercontinental Champion, right? Maybe he could at least get in some believable near-falls before he eats the first finisher Punk stores.
After that, the Raw Active poll declaring Paul Heyman MUST face CM Punk in the ring if Punk wins proves that it isn’t worth the free app it’s projected on, and Axel just attacks Punk anyway and prevents it from happening. What follows is a powerfully limp attempt at a beatdown from Axel, where he has Punk handcuffed and at his mercy, and uses this advantage to hit Punk in the stomach ONCE and getting shit-kicked by a dude with no arms. Lots of funny conversational patter from Axel during this, too. “OM CURSE AXEL, OM INCONENAL CHAMPIN, YOU LEARN YOU LESSON, I DRIVE A DODGE STATUS, SHAA, SHAA”
Ragging on Axel aside, Paul Heyman was BRILLIANT here. The shots with the kendo stick were brutal enough to justify the gimpy shit before it, and his screams of I LOVED YOU were suitably unhinged. Paul’s got this great ability to be one of the best performers and actors on the show and make me see that, but still allow me to lose myself in the character and want to see him get what’s coming to him, even though on the otherside of the fence I love him. Does that make sense? A guy like Daniel Bryan is forever chained to how I feel about him personally, but Heyman can be beloved and detested simultaneously. It’s a rare skill. I have no idea how far he wants to go with the Godfather act or his actual perverse, selfish love for Punk, but I’m excited to see it, and God damn do I applaud him for how well he can do it.
He is good enough to continually interest me in Curtis Axel segments is what I’m saying, and that might be the best compliment I’ve ever given someone.
Worst: So Rob Van Dam Is Friends With Ricardo Rodriguez So They Can Cheat? Or
Worst: Night Of Recently-Pinned Champions
I’m really high on Alberto Del Rio lately, between his great match at SummerSlam against Christian and his angry curse-stomping of Sin Cara’s fragile ass last week, so I might’ve enjoyed this match more than any Van Dam’s had since his return. Their styles work oddly well together, I think, with Van Dam’s “LET ME THROW UP SOME LEGS AND SEE WHAT WORKS, HOW ‘BOUT A BACKFLIP GUYS” thing missing every hole in Del Rio’s “I’m gonna run at you repeatedly and try to break your arms” Lego, and somehow it all still fits together.
That said, I predictably did not care for Ricardo Rodriguez, babyface in an airbrushed t-shirt, standing on the announce table to distract Del Rio and let Van Dam roll him up for a loss. It’s the World Heavyweight Champion losing to set up a title shot at a pay-per-view (that he’ll win), a good guy doing something rotten to give another good guy an unfair win over a bad guy, the ongoing worsification of one of my previous favorite characters (Ricardo) and a rehash of things they’ve already done on the same show. Boo.
Best: One More (More) Match
The opposite of all that Ricardo sadness was Christian’s match against Randy Orton, which really did it for me. Christian is KILLING IT over the last few weeks as that veteran who could conceivably win against the top guys but won’t. He showed his experience by nonchalantly countering several of Orton’s signature moves — avoiding the snap powerslam by simply standing still was choice, as was his “GREAT COUNTER” of “not falling down” when Orton went for an RKO — and forcing Orton to work stuff in more organically. The rope hang DDT looked good for the first time in ages as a counter to a shoulderblock attempt from the apron.
The finish was great, too, with Orton throwing a thumb to the eye like a true bastard (taking out Christian’s ability to focus and counter all his moves, which had been keeping Christian in the match) and hitting an RKO for the win. The WWE Champion won his match, you guys! Why does that feel fresh? And more importantly, how sad is it that it feels fresh? The match told a fun story and kept me with it the entire way through. You can’t ask for anything more than that.
My only complaint is that as dirty as Orton is being, fans are still popping for the RKO. The RKO’s always been more over than Randy, right? People want to see him because they get to see IT. My suggestion would be to give heel Corporate Champion Orton a backup finish, maybe have him pull the Overdrive out of the mothballs or pin dudes with his convoluted backbreaker, just to deprive fans of seeing the move they love.
Worst: Titus O’Neil Singles Matches Are Not The Next Step To Prime Time Players Popularity
On the first Raw after Darren Young came out, the Prime Time Players had an exciting little tag team match where they got to show their personalities, got fired up and won with authority. This week, Raw follows up that breakthrough moment with … uh, a Titus O’Neil singles match, which should never happen.
Titus can be good in tag matches where he stands on the apron for most of it, controls things at a steady pace with his power or takes a bit of a beating. Ask him to anchor any kind of one-on-one action and he’s toast. He’s legitimately terrible, and I hate to see a guy with this much personality and this much sudden momentum get thrown out there and expected to have a match comparable to Young vs. Cesaro. First of all, Titus isn’t Darren Young. Second of all, Jack Swagger is even farther from Antonio Cesaro than O’Neil is from Young. And I think Jack Swagger’s GOOD.
Just put Cesaro in every second or third match that happens on both Raw and Smackdown and we should be fine.
Best: The Origin Of Sister Abigail
“Her touch could save the world. But her kiss burns it to the ground.”
This originally aired on Smackdown, but they replayed it on Raw (in lieu of any actual Wyatt Family appearances, which gets a huge Worst) so I’m including it here. If you haven’t watched it yet, Bray Wyatt explains why he calls his finishing move “Sister Abigail.” It’s one of those promos so good it makes up for however lackluster he’s been in the ring since getting called up. When he stops having to wrestle dudes like Kane and R-Truth all the time you’ll get to see a little more of why I love him so, but the story of Sister Abigail alone should justify another three months of buzzard-following.
Best: Beating Up Josh Mathews Always Gets You A Best
The Ryback bullying angle needs to end with him getting all threatening to Scott Stanford, only for Stanford to pull a thorn out of Ryback’s hand and earn his friendship for life.
Best: Everybody On The Stage
Triple H and his ONE MAN POWER TRIP ordered everyone to stand on the stage and watch Daniel Bryan’s punishment, announcing that anyone who said or did anything to help would be fired on the spot. That led to the second week in a row of everybody standing in Dead Wrestler 10-Bell Salute Position and watching the main-event, and that always creates fun “Where’s Waldo” moments. Ryback wearing sensible jeans! Tensai being dressed like Kaval!
I really loved Renee Young being there with a microphone and trying to get some kind of “scoop” from a wrestler, as though she has not been let in on the whole “if they say something they’ll get fired” thing. Was Renee TRYING to get them fired? Is Renee part of the Corporation? Is that how she got Matt Striker’s job?
Best: Nobody Has Ever Been More Helped By WWE Developmental Than Seth Rollins
Seriously. I might’ve said it before, but one of the things I like about The Shield is how much I hated them in their previous incarnations. A lot of people assume that because I’m a smarky wrestling columnist who loves minor leaguers I automatically love everybody on the independents, and that just isn’t true. I wasn’t a big fan of Jon Moxley on the indies, and didn’t warm up to him in NXT until his issues with William Regal started. I liked Tyler Black in Ring of Honor even less. WWE Developmental slowed him down, taught him to focus on his strengths instead of trying to be Long-haired Austin Aries and made him a much, much better wrestler.
But yeah, you don’t need Brandon Stroud, the guy who won’t stop yammering on about how much he loves Daniel Bryan and The Shield, telling you how good a Daniel Bryan vs. The Shield match was. Watch that clip and check out D-Bry throwing Seth Rollins onto his godf*cking face with one of the best top rope Germans ever and make up your own mind. I encourage you finding this entire match and watching it with the same fervor I’d encourage WWE to make Bryan and Rollins wrestle more often.
Worst: I Am Only Accepting This If We Get Bryan/Ambrose And Bryan/Reigns Soon
Bryan got the win on Rollins in spectacular fashion, but Dean Ambrose immediately jumped him, threw a bunch of punches and got caught in a Yes Lock. I thought they were going to have him tap out quickly to make time for Bryan/Roman Reigns, giving Bryan enough of a breather with a flash win to realistically have enough left in the tank for match three, but nope, Reigns runs in and causes a DQ. Then as soon as Bryan does anything to Reigns, AMBROSE causes a DQ. So technically Bryan won three matches in a row again, but … no, he really didn’t.
The only way I’m not gonna get mad about this and complain for 80 paragraphs is with the knowledge that maybe as the Bryan/Corporation beef continues we’ll get long, cool singles clashes between Bryan and Ambrose, and Bryan and Reigns. I know Bryan and Ambrose can do something great, but I’d be especially excited for Bryan/Reigns, just to see if Reigns has gotten as good as I think he has, or if I’m just wanking over The Shield guys out of habit.
Worst: BIG SHOW WHAT ARE YOU DOING, HELP HIM OUT, YOUR CONTRACT IS IRONCLAD
IRONCLAD MEANS YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, REMEMBER
I expect Miz and Ziggler to be cowards, you know? But GOD, I wanted Big Show to level Orton SO HARD here. Even the crowd was chanting “Big Show.” You don’t have Show cock his fist like that and make a face like that and have him NOT punch guys. Why did Show work so hard to get an ironclad contract that prevented him from ever begin embarrassed again if he wasn’t gonna use it to counter power-hungry buttholes like the ones in his face last night?
And while we’re at it, how does Ted DiBiase part ways with WWE on a Monday and not go out as a noble hero standing up for Daniel Bryan? It would’ve accomplished the same thing (not wrestling anymore) and would’ve made him a folk hero. Stupid Ted DiBiase.
Best: Forget The Catty Promos And Car Goofs, This Is The Most Easy-To-Get-Behind Story You’ve Done In Years
Triple H making sure the coast was clear before proceeding with his punishment steps and nodding his head to make The Shield do the triple powerbomb were fantastic, and I wish they’d skip the “LET ME REITERATE WHY I DONE IT” and “look at the funny thing I did to your car! YOU’RE GAY PROB’LY” stuff in favor of having the common, tiny man who just so happens to be the best wrestler in the world riding a surge of momentum and popularity in the face of a corrupt COO, his spoiled, paper doll champion and their ninja task force security team? These matches are too good to preface them with LOLCARS.
And while I’m thinking about it, I’m gonna pretend that “twinkletoes” joke Daniel Bryan made about Orton was a reference to Toph from Book 2 of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender.’
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Did you like Fandango’s feud with Auto-Pilot Jericho? Well wait until you see his feud with someone doing a bad impression of Auto-Pilot Jericho!
The Incredible Olk
Very convenient that right before Primo and Epico return Rosa Mendes comes out dressed like a red matador cape.
I want to see Curtis Axel attempt a “better than perfect” mid-air gum swat, only to have the gum ricochet back into his hair, and then the rest of Raw is just Paul Heyman trying out different home remedies to remove the gum from Axel’s hair.
Everyone knew that Linda’s senate chances were doomed when the Connecticut state legislature voted down the bill to make all federal and state elections take place on the WWE App
My mom watches wrestling with me, and we just had the following conversation.
Mom: So who’s this guy fighting Punk again?
Me: Curtis Axel. Mr. Perfect’s son.
Mom: …are you sure that Mr. Perfect’s son?
Mom: Are you SURE?
Me: Yes, Mom, I’m sure.
Mom: ….well, maybe he was adopted.
AJ: You’re all interchangeable.
Total Divas: Let’s all react in the exact same way!
Hot damn, it’s the Soggy Bottom Boys!
Lawler and JBL really ought to slut-shame Ricardo for hanging out with another dude right after breaking up with Del Rio, just to be consistent.
Professional Ameteurish Wrestling
I do not like you Rob Van Dam, I do not like you with a tan, I do not like you with a Hispanic man. I do not like you in a marijuana patch, and even less in a championship match.
I keep wishing for them to pan to the superstars on stage, where we see Sandow continually flicking the back of Cody’s ear, and then hiding when Cody turns around.
Thanks, everybody. See you next week.