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Please click through for the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for September 23, 2013.
Best/Worst: This Is The Weirdest Opening (And It Goes Somewhere Great, But Also Terrible?) (What Is Happening)
I tuned into Raw about five minutes late (thanks a lot, “Trevor flies a crop duster into the cargo hold of a giant plane” part of Grand Theft Auto V), and the first thing I see is the guys who saved Daniel Bryan’s ass in last week’s main standing shoulder-to-shoulder like beauty pageant contestants with Triple H sorta reprimanding them but ultimately rewarding them with an 11-on-3 handicap match against his own stooges with NO CATCH. And then Stephanie’s like, “we’ll let the WWE Universe decide who wrestles Randy Orton, please allow me to shout these names over your chants of CM Punk, because we can’t acknowledge him here or our whole story falls the hell apart.”
So I’m giving it a Best because it’s certainly different and interesting (especially with poor Justin Gabriel standing so far to the left I didn’t know he was out there until Triple H said his name). I really enjoyed the crowd’s “award show dead people video package” applause for the faces, where it’s legitimate woos and claps for Rob Van Dam, and then the tiniest, most polite applause for R-Truth. I’m also giving it a Best because it in theory means we never have to hear about THE DAMNED NUMBERS GAME again. The Shield’s “f*ck you say??” faces* were grand.
By the way, Steph, the last time R-Truth had a championship match was at Capitol Punishment. Remember? He lost because a kid threw soda in his eyes. But yeah no it’s cool that you don’t remember that though, this business is just “in your blood” or whatever.
*Thanks to @MatlockJAB for that reference.
Best: Triple H Cannot Say “Frustration”
I UNDERSTAND YOUR FUSTRATION
Do you, H? Do you.
Worst: Kofi Kingston’s M-Dogg 20 Feint
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s that thing he does where he looks like he’s gonna dive to the outside, but instead of actually diving he jumps shoulders-first into the top rope with his arms up and his chin tucked like NOBODY HAS DIVED EVER, bounces off the ropes and lands back in the ring. “M-Dogg 20” Matt Cross has done it in every match he’s ever had. That is not intended to be a smarky name drop, nor is it intended to be a compliment.
The idea I guess is that the guy is supposed to be super fast and unpredictable so he’s just f*cking with you, or that he’s going for an ACTUAL dive but he sees you moving, so he calls an audible in mid-air and saves himself from a crash-and-burn. I think that’s what Kofi’s going for, especially here, as Del Rio hauls ass to the timekeeper’s table to avoid it. Just once I want to see Kofi go for that move and the guy on the outside not budge, so Kofi bounces back to the middle and is all, “oh, shit, wait.” Feints are dumb to me unless they’re organic (see: Sami Zayn’s feint in the NXT match against Cesaro), and they almost never are. They’re just guys doing a thing they always do, and their opponents having NO IDEA they’re gonna do it.
Kofi selling the arm during his “warming up the band” thing was HILARIOUS, though. Dude’s in the corner setting up for Trouble in Paradise so he claps his hands, then grabs his hurt arm. So he claps AGAIN, and AGAIN grabs his arm. He does it like four times, instead of just doing it once to get people booming and standing there. It was like Melody singing “If You’re Happy And You Know It” in the shower in Josie and the Pussycats.
Worst: Kofi Kingston Dot Gif
Best: The Main Event Is Creating Intrigue, At Least
When the match ended with Kofi tapping out to a cross arm-breaker, my imaginary hamster-wheel armchair booking brain goes, “oh, okay, Triple H made it 11-on-3 but he’s gonna set up these situations where Bryan’s partners all get hurt during the show, and then it’ll just be Bryan by himself again against the entire Shield.” That’d make sense, right?
That’s obviously not what happened, but the Best I’m handing out here is that they were doing stuff on Raw that made me THINK about what they’re gonna do, instead of the same bullshit purposeful countouts and non-title losses they always do. That’s good. That’s progress, whether it’s successful or not. The wrestling wasn’t good on the show until the last half hour, but the “what the hell are they doing” narrative kept me involved.
Best: Grumpy Cat Miz, But More Importantly Renee
I loved The Miz this week. I mean, I didn’t believe him when he said he was pissed off — he’s still a person playing a wrestler and not a wrestler, of course — but I dug him as a guy who got super, super humiliated at work and still had to come in the next day. He’s just not himself. He’s sad and embarrassed still, but he knows that nobody’s gonna help him and nobody cares … and he knows that this is his dream job and the thing he wants to do with his life, so he’s gotta “swallow his pride” or whatever and go through the motions. But he’s still a butthole about it, and won’t stop passive-aggressively bringing up how much he hates his bosses. It’s the best. He should just be that guy, because I could identify with that guy. I WAS that guy. That’s every “can I talk to you in my office for a second” thing I lived through waiting tables. YOU’RE BAD AT THIS BRANDON AND NOBODY LIKES IT AND I KNOW YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN IT BUT YOU’RE NOT, SO DEAL WITH IT BECAUSE TONIGHT YOU’RE DOING IT AGAIN.
Additional Bests go to Renee Young and her magical ponytail, as always, because she is just generally a ray of sunshine.
Best: They’re Here (Again, Finally)
Who is Titus O’Neil’s favorite ‘Game Of Thrones’ character? ARYA ARYA ARYA ARYA
My “11-on-3 becoming 1-on-3” scenario seemed like it was correct when the match immediately following Kofi’s arm goofs was two more of Daniel Bryan’s tag team partners getting fed to the Wyatts. The important thing is the Wyatt Family was ACTUALLY ON THIS SHOW, which is good. There are still a lot of questions to be answered — why isn’t Bray Wyatt wrestling more? Why did they celebrate their first successful feud by chilling at home for a month and sending in YouTube skits? Why hasn’t Kane shown up dressed like See No Evil to be their new guy? Why hasn’t the whole Kane thing gotten the attention of Daniel Bryan? I mean, I know they parted ways and he’s involved in some shit but dude, you guys were tag team champs for a YEAR and he just got FOR REAL KIDNAPPED by some Bayou f*cking strangers and you’re gonna fret about Scott Armstrong instead? — but maybe it’ll all work out.
Best: Miz Briefly Addresses History, Gets Verbally Annihilated By The Devil And Then Gets Punched In The Face, Or
Best: A Good Episode of MizTV
MizTV TERRIFIES me. I hate watching it as a fan because it’s terrible, but I hate watching it even MORE because I made “watch wrestling and tell the nice people what you thought about it” my job, and finding out an episode of Raw has a MizTV on it is like going to work at K-Mart and finding out some kid’s vomited throughout housewares. You guys can just shop around it, but my ass has to get in there with the pink sawdust.
The last MizTV I can remember, the one where Daniel Bryan and John Cena immediately told Miz to shut up and then got in an Inoki fight, was good. I also remember enjoying the one where Ryback threw a couch. Other than that, it’s just awful memories of Miz making duckface and calling Rhodes Scholars homos and shilling Ashley Massaro’s Playboy and me screaming at him about his worthlessness while he shilled ‘Total Divas.’
With big ups to my man Jesus Christ, this episode of MizTV was one of the good ones. Miz was still Grumpy Cattin’ it up, deadpanning these incredulous threats Miz Dad-style about how he was gonna get “awesome” revenge on Randy Orton and mentioning a bunch of stuff I’d beg him to if he didn’t, like him and Big Show having the tag titles forever ago and Show’s backstage problems being widely-broadcast parts of the show. Stephanie was ACES here, skipping her “you have truly achieved a lot” stuff she did with Dusty and Daniel Bryan in favor of just calling Miz a piece of shit on loop. She called him out on peaking too early, made him feel like the protagonist of f*cking Ikiru for flying to Indochina to do press junkets and did everything short of bringing out Coral to call him a racist and slap him in the face. It was great.
I liked Show here, too, because he actually showed story progress. He’s been stuck in BE CONFLICTED AND CRY for a month now, so seeing him just instantly get to the punchline, pun intended, was nice. He, like the rest of us, was kinda okay punching Miz in the face, all things considered.
Best: Stephanie’s Hand Notes
Screenshot via John Canton.
(She did it … for The Rock.)
Best: Randy Orton Continues To Be The Coolest And Most Brutal Dude On The Show
One of the odd running themes of these reports recently has been Randy Orton accidentally stumbling into the character he’s been pussyfooting around for a decade and becoming one of the most complex, entertaining and exciting people on the show. He went from a faceless, loosely-snaked-themed also-ran who held 10 Championships nobody gave a rat’s asshole about to being Johnny from The Karate Kid, a good man driven to unspeakable acts of violence and insanity by his heartless superiors.
The major thing is that he’s having GREAT MATCHES almost every week, and while I wouldn’t call last night’s match with Van Dam “great,” it was great in the sense of Brandon laughing and clapping his hands because a guy he hates is getting the DOG SHIT whomped out of him. I know I get a lot of well-deserved grief for being the touchy, whimpery liberal voice of asinine pro wrestling comedy columns, but occasionally I want my wrestling characters to stop acting like Sims and starts BRUTALIZING EACH OTHER. That’s what Orton’s doing. He’s seeking out a bunch of people I don’t like on the show — Miz, Rob Van Dam — and MESSING THEM UP. It’s not just an “oh no King, an RKO, the match was already over” stuff, it’s him methodically throwing Van Dam into ring steps for five minutes, punching a hole in his face, punting him off the top rope and cackling like the goddamn Wicked Witch of the West while he does it.
I know I’m supposed to be rooting for Bryan against Orton, but I really hope the climax of the story is Bryan convincing Orton to switch sides, and Orton doing what he did to Rob Van Dam to Triple H and Stephanie.
Best: Bad Luck Rob Van Dam
Also earning a Best this week is Rob Van Dam, who appealed to both sides of Rob Van Dam fandom. In the show opener, he served as the voice of the rebellious babyfaces, because anything he says or does is gonna make a large portion of the audience go RVD RVD RVD RVD RVD RVD. In his match, he got the Chris Chetti kicked out him so hilariously that when it was done and Raw had gone to commercial, Alberto Del Rio sprung up out of nowhere and BEAT HIM UP SOME MORE. Rob Van Dam’s return run is basically everything Chris Jericho’s tried to be, without the pretentiousness.
Best/Worst: Los Matadores FINALLY Debut Next Week
I will accept the debut of Los Matadores if it is one of two things:
1. A comedy match involving Santino, where he pulls out a bull puppet instead of a snake puppet and pretends like it’s “charging” at them as they dodge it. Note: their finisher HAS to be a bulldog.
2. It’s really just Cody Rhodes and Goldust in masks. The WWE App can find Primo and Epico beaten and tied up and propped up behind a dumpster or something.
Worst: Any Time Stephanie McMahon Or Triple H Talk To Heels They Defeat Their Own Purpose
Triple H and Stephanie have been EXCEPTIONAL in their roles post-SummerSlam, but the most dangerous thing they can do is fall back into that vibe where they feel less like purposeful heels, and more like two people in charge in real life who have built the show around how awesome they think they are. One equals success and a bunch of fun shows. The other one equals every bad thing you’ve read on the Internet ever.
They only seem to do it now when they interact with heels, and it’s the worst. When Triple H gets in Paul Heyman’s face there’s legitimacy to his condescension and power trip, because Heyman spent the last year trying to end his career/life and wrecking his office and REFERENCING HIS CHILDREN IN PASSING which is the worst thing you could ever do to a man. But sometimes he’ll run into an undercard heel (or heels, like 3MB) and just run them through the mud for no reason. It becomes less “I don’t like these people trying to do WHAT THE FANS WANT instead of WHAT I WANT” and becomes more, “everyone, look how much cooler I am than these people who are trying to get over in the same way, but can’t because I control everything they do in real life and in fiction.”
Stephanie had that horrible segment a while back where she interrupted the Divas for no reason, asserted her dominance over the heels, then insulted all the faces on her way out. That continues here with her interaction with AJ, which seems to serve no purpose but to further neuter AJ and make her jealous and helpless, and to make Stephanie look like THE COOLEST AND THE BEST. It’s built around getting Steph a face pop for being “in charge.” She gets all the cool lines about how REAL weddings look or whatever, and then there’s never comeuppance or danger for her because, as I mentioned, she’s in charge on TV and in real life. She’s also NOT INVOLVED IN ANY OF THESE MATCHES, but she’s still gotta be “better” than them. It sucks a lot, and I wish she’d just stick to emasculating good guys and stay the hell away from the people who might wanna try BEING her someday.
Worst: Santino Is Here, Where The F*ck Is Antonio Cesaro
RANDY SAVAGE clap clap clapclapclap
As I’ve expressed in the past, I’m starting to really lose faith in Fandango. Maybe I was wrong this whole time. Maybe Johnny Curtis just doesn’t have the ability to put on what we’d consider a “good match.” Maybe I was fooled by some combination of his bubble, my love of the absurd awfulness of NXT Redemption and a ridiculous gimmick from out of nowhere. He’s a good looking guy who has tons of wrestling ability who got the exact kind of stupid character I go crazy for, and … then that’s it. That’s just it. He’s just going to be this forever. He’s not going to get better, he’s not going to suddenly get good storylines .. he’s a wrestling Dancing With The Stars pro, for God’s sake. Why am I just now realizing this? What have I been doing with my life? WHERE IS MAXINE, WHERE IS BATEMAN, SOMEBODY HELP ME
The match with Santino was fine, but it was Literally Nothing (capital letters), and it just reminded me of that cool little match Santino had with Antonio Cesaro two weeks ago, and THAT made me wonder where in the Swiss hell Antonio Cesaro was. Or Swagger, for that matter. Or Christian. Is he selling that Shield beatdown still? Did he get injured trying to take Astro for a walk? There are so many guys on Raw who can wrestle their ass off and make us CARE about it, and they’re sitting at home (or at a Bulgarian house show, or whatever happened) because that ONE New Jersey crowd went da da da da during Fandango’s music and made him seem like an indispensable part of the show.
Long story short, I need Fandango to do something that is not total horse-shit, stat.
Worst: Michael Cole Does Not Remember WrestleMania
Speaking of the stuff that comes out of a horse’s ass, Michael Cole was tasked to improv a little speech about WWE 2K14’s 30 Years Of WrestleMania mode and failed miserably. All he had to do … all he had to do was name TWO WrestleMania matches. TWO OF THEM. He’s been at like 15 of them, hasn’t he? But nope, he goes “you can relive Hogan and Andre … how about STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN VS. MR. MCMAHON??”
That was last year’s game, dude. Michael Cole thinks Stone Cold Steve Austin wrestled Vince McMahon at WrestleMania. Motherf*cker couldn’t say “Austin vs. The Rock,” or “Flair vs. Savage,” or Jake the Snake vs. George Wells. They put George Wells in the game, right? You hold down L3 and it makes him throw up white stuff. Cole’s second attempt at naming one of the 300+ WrestleMania matches was wrong. THANK GOODNESS HE’S ONLY THE GUY YOU PAY TO TALK ABOUT WRESTLING ON TELEVISION.
Best: CM Punk’s Entire Promo Was Just I AM EXACTLY LIKE THE BLACKHAWKS
If you missed it, CM Punk’s return to Chicago involved him wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, recapping the entire Chicago Blackhawks 2012-13 season and then repeatedly comparing himself to the Chicago Blackhawks. It was passionate and beautifully expressed, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Punk would just rather be at a hockey game. It’s sorta like when I watch a bunch of ‘Attack On Titan’ and then write a Raw report. I’m into the show, sure, but I can’t stop comparing everything to ‘Attack On Titan.’ Earlier in this report I almost compared Randy Orton to Captain Levi. Not being able to separate the thing you currently love from the thing you’re currently doing is probably the truest confirmation of CM Punk’s real-life uncoolness we’ll ever have.
Best: PEOPLE POWER
Of course, Punk promo be damned, because the highlight of the night for me was Paul Heyman scootin’ out in THE JOHN LAURINAITIS PEOPLE POWER SCOOTER, singin’ a song. The People Power plate is missing, but I’d recognize that scooter anywhere. I’m glad somebody salvaged it when it was destroyed by a horrible person.
I also love how much CM Punk has become Sting, and how he can never see Paul Heyman’s super obvious traps. Sting’s the kind of guy who’d put his foot in the f*cking lasso loop on the ground if Lex Luger told him to, and Punk will see Paul Heyman act like his scooter won’t move and think he’s “got him,” even though it’s clear to every man, woman and child in the world that Heyman is fine, faking it and isn’t even pretending to drive the scooter correctly. Plus, somebody probably could’ve given him the heads up that Ryback was standing back there somewhere.
In all seriousness, though, I loved this fight. I believe Punk vs. Axel and Ryback so much more than I believe Punk/Lesnar, because Brock Lesnar is a legitimate freak of deadly nature and Axelback are just a couple of weird wrestling dudes. Punk did his best to separate them and take them out individually, but he dramatically overestimated how much it hurts to get irish whipped into the stage walls from three feet away and paid the price. I wish Ryback had gotten 118-pound Punk up over his head for real and hadn’t done one of those wimpy Mason Ryan “I’m not really strong” military presses onto the table, but the table bump was suitably gnarly, so I’ll take it. I’ll also take Curtis Axel shuffling in between Heyman and Ryback at the end, holding the back of his head all, “DID WE GET’IM?”
Worst: A 10-Diva Tag Where Only Like Three Of Them Get Into The Ring
This was more or less the All-Star Game of things I hate about wrestling matches, featuring
1. a champion losing a non-title match to set up a title match
2. a champion suddenly being critical’d be a challenger’s weak offense in an attempt to convince us that the challenger has a chance (which she doesn’t)
3. multiple-person tag matches on Raw that last about two minutes and only involve 3 or 4 of the competitors getting in and doing anything, which I guess is to disguise the fact that it’s just another goddamn non-title one-on-one match
4. those kinds of matches ending with the entire team posing like they helped. You didn’t even convincingly stand on the apron Cameron, put your f*cking hands down
This is one of those matches you show people when you want to explain how WWE’s women’s division is just a Hawaiian Tropic catalog in 3-D, and I’m sorry for AJ that she can’t conceivably wrestle Kaitlyn at 15 more pay-per-views and pretend everyone else WWE employs to be her peers on Raw don’t exist. They should just send AJ and Kaitlyn back down to NXT to hang out with Sara Del Rey and all the cool girls and wait until everyone else collectively turns 31.
Mickie James isn’t doing anything, is she? AJ should bring in Lita and Mickie James and be all, “okay, here are those ‘actual Divas’ I was talking about, prepare to get awkwardly hurricanrana’d.”