– Comments, shares, likes, and especially Reddit submissions/up votes are appreciated. I will also accept Pinterest shares, if you are reading this and are Destiny.
– GIFS courtesy of Jerusalem at Punchsport Pagoda.
– If you’d like to laugh at something wrestling-related that ISN’T the Best and Worst of Raw report, make sure you check out my thorough gallery of old WCW promo photos. Part 2 is going up tomorrow, so check back for that, as well.
– (tomorrow is my birthday, don’t tell anybody)
(and don’t feel like you’ve got to fill up the comments section with birthday messages, just share these columns and stuff.)
– I am going to be LIVE AND IN THE HOUSE
AND THE ST. LOUIS ANARCHY REP IN THE REY DE VOLADORES TOURNAMENT for National Pro Wrestling Day in Philadelphia on February 2. If you want to hang out and say hi and see some great wrestling, come to this thing.
– Due to time restrictions I’m not going to be able to throw a Jack Swagger Of Mars into this week’s report, but all that means is that you’ll get a double-shot next week. Or I’ll just write all the middle chapters at once and put them in a big finale piece. Whatever you wanna do.
Until then, please click through for the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for January 14, 2013.
Best: Good Guy Alberto Del Rio Might Go The Way Of The Miz, But For Now, I’m Going To Love Him
I think Big Show is the best WWE performer of the last year.
That’s a weird thing to type, but I think I mean it. Other people have had better matches, and better promos, and they’ve moved more merchandise or whatever, but I’m going to rank Show ahead of all of them, because he’s the guy who really seems to get how wrestling is supposed to work. Look at his feud with Cody Rhodes during WrestleMania. He allowed Cody to use actual, factual WWE history to mock and deride him and never felt the need to get the last word. If Cody had used old footage to make the Rock look stupid, Rock would’ve just said YEAH AND YOU’VE GOT A TOUCAN SAM ASSHOLE or whatever and everyone would’ve laughed, and Cody would’ve gotten Rock Bottomed. Show let the tensions build and allowed Cody to be SO UNBELIEVABLY DESERVING OF A PUNCH before punching him at Mania and ending the story.
Of course, that didn’t really end the story because wrestling stories NEVER end, but it worked. When he got into it with John Laurinaitis, he once again allowed himself to look weak and vulnerable, because it made sense. He knew Cody Rhodes was right about what a joke he’d been, and when he was humiliated and fired, he sold his soul to get his job back. That led through the Cena and Sheamus feuds, where Show knew he could be dominant (because he’s a f**king giant) but never forgot that humiliation and sadness were just around the corner, so he was all YEAH I’M GONNA KNOCK YOU OUT and “oh god, don’t let this happen again” simultaneously. How great is that? A complex, layered character who can be understood by the masses as “big guy who is strong and mean but also a coward.”
That’s where we join Show now. He lost the belt in a thrown-together match featuring non-wrestling situations (having a table turned over on him to keep him from getting up), and while a normal person might go “I want a rematch!” and just knock Del Rio out in a one-on-one (because Del Rio is TERRIBLE in the clutch), Show’s brain goes ALERT, ALERT, YOU’RE AN EMBARRASSMENT AGAIN. It’s like having an eating disorder. Even when you overcome it, you’re still gonna occasionally eat a big piece of cake and see the fattest person ever when you look in the mirror. Show goes to Vince in an attempt to right the wrong without the work (because he’s in panic mode), and both Vince and his opponents know the easiest way to take him off his game of being THE BIGGEST HARDEST TO BEAT TOUGHEST PUNCHING PERSON EVER is to childishly embarrass him.
All Ricardo has to do is threaten to throw water on him and Show’s all, “no, no you’d better not” from all the way across the ring. It’s not that he’s scared of Ricardo, he’s just f**king terrified of whatever’s in that bucket, because it means his doubts are validated and his true, glorious run is over for real. Ricardo motions with the bucket and Show FULL-ON FLINCHES. It’s just confetti, because The Harlem Globetrotters and of course it is, but that makes it worse. They didn’t humiliate him, like they might’ve with water … they’re just f**king with him.
So yeah, Big Show is the best character on pro wrestling TV. I hope he gets his win back over Del Rio at Royal Rumble, but I also kinda hope he doesn’t. I also want to see him get back his belt only to lose it to Ziggler on a cash-in. You know, in the same way I want to watch Don Draper cheat on his wife.
Worst: Vince McMahon < Ricardo Rodriguez
ALBERTO DEL RIAAAA!!
I do not believe for one second that the guy who told Carlito to “spic it up” when he talked is excited for a Mexican Heavyweight Champion.
Best: Holy Shit, Wade Barrett Just Pinned Randy Orton Clean
Raise your hand if you saw that finish coming. If your hand is up, you’re a f**king liar.
I guess it says something for Randy Orton’s star power that every clean loss he takes shocks me. This one was clean as a whistle, too … Wade Barrett out-wrestled him, tossed him into the post and hit his terrible Bullhammer elbow to get the pin in the middle of the ring. My only complaint (other than the Bullhammer) is that the announcers didn’t spend 15 minutes replaying it and doing Owen Voices about it, because it deserved it. It also should’ve been for the Intercontinental Championship, because Wade needs his own “I’ve beaten X Y and Z” list for any future CM Punk-stye declarations of greatness.
Also, remember when Wade called the Bullhammer “The Souvenir,” because it leaves you with something to remember him? He should have dumb sentences like that to explain all of his moves. If he’s gonna keep using a signature elbow pad he should change the Bullhammer to the “Dog Boner,” because when he’s ready to f**k you, the red comes out.
Worst: More Jokes About Eve Being A Whore, Or
Best: Eve Slapping Teddy Long In The Face
I didn’t like Eve trying to get out of a match stipulation by seducing Booker T, and I liked his pretend interest in it and laughter even less, but I LOVED Eve’s last interaction with blood rival Teddy being a slap to his stupid face, and I will watch it on loop forever.
That’s the best on-screen WWE slap in years. Not as good as the all-time king (the time Cherry slapped Maryse, and Maryse sold it like she was falling out of an airplane), but it was good.
Best: How Are You Enjoying This Raw, @TrueKofi?
Last week Kofi Kingston got knocked out in hilarious fashion, so this week he gets to sit at home and tweet stuff like “@JohnCena sure is good! #Raw20.” I approve of this career trajectory and hope it continues. By February we can have him standing outside during Great Khali matches, clapping his ass off.
Worst: The Team Hell No/Rhodes Scholars Feud Is Making Me Like Rhodes Scholars More Than Team Hell No
I have no idea why WWE decided to have two Hell No/Rhodes Scholars matches and a backstage confrontation segment to promote the angle, then had the backstage thing last longer than both matches combined. Kane beat Damien Sandow with a chokeslam in about a minute and a half, and Daniel Bryan beat Cody Rhodes with the No Lock in the time it took me to walk to the bathroom and back.
I liked parts of the anger management follow-up (Bryan and Kane deciding to just lie and get it over with, Daniel Bryan’s reason for liking Kane being “he’s very tall”) and was even fine with the parts I didn’t like (Kane going for the “Daniel Bryan wears women’s underwear” joke, and Daniel just selling it with a “what” face instead of “I DON’T DO THAT YOU TAKE IT BACK”), but it didn’t feel like it was accomplishing anything. It wasn’t even accomplishing jokes, really. That didn’t start until Sandow showed up and started ragging on Dr. Shelby for being bad at his job. I love that Sandow always has to correct people and be the smartest dude in the room, and the subtle touches that reveal to the informed viewer that he’s full of shit. The incorrect Latin for his move names, not really knowing what “systematic desensitization” means, being iffy on his knowledge of Pavlovian theory … it all adds to the tapestry. He’s that friend of yours who thinks he knows everything but pronounces “archetype” as “artch-type.”
Between that and last week’s Backstage Fallout segment where they declared themselves best friends, I’m starting to prefer Rhodes and Sandow to my favorite wrestler in the world. That’s not good. Let’s use the last few shows before the Rumble to give these guys a reason to go into the match with gusto, and not just “the rest of the tag division is hurt or sucks.”
Best: Mick Foley, Hall Of Famer
If we assume that Randy Savage and Bruno Sammartino are never getting in, nobody deserves the WWE Hall Of Fame spot like Mick Foley. He’s a great guy, a great wrestler and a solid-to-great Santa, and when The Union inevitably gets inducted, he’ll be the second two-time HOFer. He deserves whatever accolades you want to make up to give him.
Having said that, we were deprived of two really great moments last night:
Worst: The Potential BEST SEGMENT EVER Goes South, Fast
Mick Foley coming to the ring, being interrupted by The Shield and being saved by Randy Orton, Ryback and Sheamus was the worst non-Rock, non-John part of the show, mostly because it wasn’t one of the two following things.
1. A thorough, heartfelt Mick Foley “thank you” speech. I know he has to save most of that for the Hall Of Fame induction ceremony, but I thought we’d get a little bit of Mick being serious before we devolved into an angle. I’m not a big fan of the RIGHT HERE IN wherever Mick who just puts up his thumb and goes through the motions, but basically ANY OTHER MICK on the microphone is the best possible use of your wrestling television time. He didn’t have to punch himself bloody and scream into the mic or anything, but a sincere guy we love saying a little piece about his career and place in history would’ve been welcomed.
2. The beginning of the long-awaited Mick Foley/Dean Ambrose beef.
During last year’s WrestleMania, Foley and Ambrose filmed a thing in a hotel lobby where Ambrose showed up as an FCW nobody to confront him about how his roof-jumping and thumbtack mongering ruined a generation of wrestlers, and caused a lot of unnecessary pain, injury and agony for everyone.
It was GREAT, and the real-life equivalent of one of those promos where the heel makes a hell of a point, and the face just goes OH YEAH, OH YEAH, WELL SHUT UP and everyone sides with him, because he’s the one they already like. There was some talk online of the bit getting “too personal” or whatever, but I figured that was code for “we aren’t bringing Dean Ambrose up yet, so hold on.” Ambrose is here now, and when The Shield boss f**king entrance theme hit with Mick in the ring, I thought we were FINALLY going to get things going, and finally reveal that The Shield’s big injustice beef is based on them watching their friends go down to the bullshit politics and attitudes of wrestling in a post-hardcore era. What better way to illustrate that than to continually put people through tables?
Instead, Ryback, Orton and their racist friend showed up to … I don’t know, I guess make it a preview for the Royal Rumble? It wasn’t either of the things I wanted to see, and if I can go the rest of the year without seeing Ryback make a hero save against The Shield, I’ll be happy.
Best: Kaitlyn And Eve Torres, One More Time
This was the match of the show for me. I love when WWE actually decides to follow their mission statement and tell a story, instead of just saying they do and replacing good wrestling with boring stomping.
I can’t even explain how much I liked this match’s finish. It was the proper end of the story, even if it had gotten stretched out too long and procrasti-rushed because of Eve’s contract. Kaitlyn had what, like 30 title shots in a row? But none of them were really on the level. She worked hard for a year and a half to get on the show and earn a Divas title shot, and when she got her first real go at it, Eve and the Boob Zipper Brigade attacked her backstage and injured her. In subsequent matches, Eve has always taken shortcuts, win or lose … ducking out of the ring, taking count-out losses to keep her belt, the works.
Here, in front of Kaitlyn’s hometown, Eve is finally backed into a corner. She tries to put Kaitlyn away on the level and almost does, but Kaitlyn kicks out … so Eve tries to find a loophole in her stipulation and get KAITLYN counted-out, the logical inversion of her title match eject button. Kaitlyn sees this coming, sneaks around the ring (and Eve’s horrible peripheral vision, I guess) to wait in the corner and plow through her with everything she’s got in one big, final shot:
It works, Eve sells it like death, and Kaitlyn avenges six months of bullshit and a ripped Don’t Mess With Texas shirt to win the strap in front of her friends and family. That’s good stuff. If Eve really has to go, let’s keep Kaitlyn moving forward, and allow the rest of the division to rise up to meet her.
Worst: Eve Pulling A Batista
I mentioned this in the notes of the open discussion thread, but I’m pretty upset at Eve Torres for pulling a Batista: sticking around, sucking, wasting everybody’s time and bogarting a spot on the card they don’t deserve for YEARS, then quitting as soon as they get good. Batista in sunglasses, telling John Cena to shut up because he’s here to make money was THE BEST, and it was over as soon as it started. Eve Torres starts posing over her opponents’ dead bodies after victories, does it twice, makes me love her with my entire heart for doing so and then goes WELP, SORRY, SEE YOU NEVER.
I wish her the best in her future endeavors or whatever, but man. Why couldn’t Aksana be the one who decided she wanted to be an actress?
Best: But No, Kaitlyn
In the current TV wrestling landscape, accepting the product WWE and TNA give us, knowing the way they treat women and portray them to the audience, this is the woman you want representing the Divas division. Pushing aside the fact that I think she’s super hot (because it’s the least important part about this, and anybody can be hot), Kaitlyn is something so desperately needed by little girls watching the show — the actual manifestation of their “smart, sexy and powerful” talking point.
When you listen to her talk, she’s a person. Even when she’s doing “promos” or whatever, she sounds like herself. She’s always been good at that. It’s the reason we liked her on NXT when she couldn’t wrestle. She’s beautiful, but in an unconventional way … she’s physically fit, she wears clothes (the pants and shirt is a big upgrade from her weird gold corset and hot pants thing), she has a haircut that makes her look like she’s wearing a wig on the top of her hair. She’s flawed. At the same time, she’s working hard to improve and getting back on the horse whenever she gets knocked off, and now she’s rewarded for it, even if it’s because Eve’s bailing and she’s the only one who seems committed to sticking around.
Listen to her here. They ask her about Eve, and her response is “I’ve grown into a better person because of what I’ve done with Eve, and I hope she’s happy.” Compare and contrast that to Zack Ryder, who jumped on Twitter to type “Bye Bye Hoeski!” Sheamus or John Cena or The Rock would’ve just called her names or joked about how they’d banged her. One of those responses is from a decent human being who deserves to be cheered. More of her, and real human beings, and less exaggerated jack-off third graders, please.
Best: CM Punk Skunks Brodus Clay
This, if you needed another example, is why CM Punk is better than John Cena.
Compare and contrast the Punk and Cena matches on this show. Last week, Punk said some condescending words about Brodus Clay. This week, Brodus takes offense, and they have a match. Brodus gets in some strong offense and gives Punk a run for his money, but Punk is the goddamn Champion Of The World, overcomes it with some well-timed moves, locks on a size-appropriate finish and takes a quick and decisive yet realistic and even-enough victory.
John Cena has been systematically shitting in Dolph Ziggler’s cereal for what, six months? If it hasn’t been that long, it feels like it. He’s beaten Ziggler in every way imaginable. Ziggler’s only real win of note against Cena was at TLC, in a match that Cena clearly had won until a Diva from a tangentially-related storyline showed up to shove him off a ladder. Since then, John has pretty much made Ziggler look like garbage on every show, pinning him in tag matches or handicap matches or handicap cage matches or gauntlet matches where he has to pin Dolph 10 times before Dolph pins him once or whatever. Cena completely no-sells everything that happens to him and just poses over him forever.
This is why Punk should sit on top of the company, and not Cena. Maybe it’s the writers’ fault and has nothing to do with John himself, but John Cena The Character has become a brutally unbearable caricature of complaints he used to not totally deserve, and Punk’s lording a title reign over mid-carders and making them all seem like importantish cogs in the machine.
Also, there are few things I find more joy in than sad Funkadactyls. You ladies need to throw on some red and white and start dancing for Cesaro.
Best: Vickie Guerrero, Voice Of The Voiceless
I don’t care how much you like Foley and the Rock, or how much you dislike Vickie Guerrero, she had a point here. She’s trying to run a show, and these two guys are just standing outside of her hallway screaming their asses off for no reason. She didn’t put them into a match or anything, she just told them to shut up and stop loitering. They each responded in the most obnoxious way they know how: Foley with a mumbly pop culture reference, and The Rock by going back into his dressing room and spending an hour writing a Weird Al song about how she’s a bitch.
I’m on your side, Vickie.
Worst: Hilarious Recaps In Place Of Steve Austin And Undertaker Or Whoever
Maybe it’s for the best that the 20th anniversary Raw wasn’t full of old wrestlers. They did Raw 1000 a few months ago and blew their legends wad, and there’s only so much enjoyment in watching Rowdy Roddy Piper poke Heath Slater in the eyes at this point.
It IS almost time for WrestleMania, though, so now might’ve been a good time to cart out Taker to make his seasonal “this is the only thing I’m doing this year” staredown challenge, or to let Austin ride out on his beer-hurdling Phillie Phanatic scooter to stunner CM Punk or whatever and make that a thing. I seriously expected at least D-X to show up, because WWE rarely misses an opportunity to make kids point at their dicks “for one night only.”
Best: The Topes Win A Game!
A colossal +1 to whichever WWE Creative type who decided to book a clean Wade Barrett victory over Randy Orton AND a 3MB victory over Sheamus on the same show. Sure, Heath didn’t like, hit the Overdrive on Sheamus and pin him or anything, but the match started with Shameful Thing Lobster Head and ended with Not That. The only real thing is that now 3MB has to eliminate somebody important from the Rumble to substantiate this match, even if they all get dumped immediately after.
I’m also giving a supplementary Best for the recent trend of pro wrestlers pulling a Mecha Shiva. Bobby Roode and Austin Aries pulled it off at TNA Genesis*, and Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre knocked it out on Raw. The first ones to wiggle their arms around like that and make the noise earn my fandom for life. Even you, Austin Aries.
*It was the best pay-per-view they’ve done in a while. TNA Exodus had too many injuries, and there were way fewer slurs and swerves than TNA Leviticus. Can’t wait for Destination Acts.
Worst: Sheamus, Sore Loser
WWE needs to relax with this. If Sheamus loses a 3-on-1 over-the-top-rope challenge, he’s not going to be seen as “weak” by anybody. He’s going to be fine. Kids won’t tear up their terribly drawn Sheamus posters because he got pulled off the apron by two dudes. He does not have to IMMEDIATELY GET HIS HEAT BACK ALWAYS.
Cena does the same thing. If he gets outsmarted or cheated or whatever, not a f**king moment goes by without him either attacking the guy, reassuring us that it’ll never happen again or just popping up like nothing happened to come back and win. This is one of the reasons why these guys are so hard to watch for me. Sheamus isn’t as bad as Cena, but he’s still not gonna just act like a normal human being and say “okay, 3MB f**ked me over right there, but I’ll get them next time.” They could’ve had him single-handedly eliminate all three of them from the Rumble or something. Let the moment settle for a second before showing up to erase it all.
He wasn’t “screwed” or anything, that’s how Rumbles work. If Drew and Jinder are at ringside when he goes over onto the apron, they can legally pull him down. It’s the Hulk Hogan precedent, or the William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry precedent, if you want to go back a little farther. Sheamus continues to be the worst character, and the only thing keeping him from being the worst ever is his inability to play the guitar.
Worst: There Are Few Things I Hate More Than A MizTV Segment, Jesus Christ
I love Ric Flair, but man, I really don’t ever want to see another MizTV. When Piper did Piper’s Pit, you always got the idea that he’d brought his guest on for a reason, be it to answer a question or confront them about something or beat them up. Sometimes it went wrong for him, but he was always the focal point, the guy who moved it forward and made it memorable.
What exactly is Miz trying to accomplish with MizTV? Like, what’s his goal? To just get more TV time? He brought Ric Flair onto his show last night to more or less ask him if he liked Raw. These segments are just placeholders for somebody to interrupt and start something, and it’s always the same. If more effort went into writing the reason FOR the segment, I think the segment that develops FROM it would mean more. Right?
And furthermore, when did Ric Flair stop wooing because he’s a condescending piece of shit consumed by his own made greatness, and start wooing because he’s Curly from the Three Stooges and can’t control his brain? When I see a guy shuffling around going “woo woo woo woo woo” I don’t think of classic Ric Flair, I think of Dr. Zoidberg.
Note: Miz mentioned it in passing, but that Ric Flair playing musical chairs with Stacy Keibler and Tyson Tomko and Tajiri is, shockingly, one of the best things they’ve ever done on Raw.
Worst: Antonio Cesaro Should Be Allowed To Say Whatever He Wants Without Being Attacked, Because He’s Your Superior
I know, I know. I like the heel more, so I’m sympathetic to his point of view. I brought this up on Twitter last night, mentioning how Cesaro said he was going to be the bigger man and walk away before Flair and Miz (the good guys) jumped and assaulted him. Somebody responded with, “yeah, but he interrupted and insulted them.”
It’s an interesting question. Is interruption and insulting an excuse for physical violence? I feel like the heel should probably always throw the first punch, unless it’s some built-up situation where the face has been desperately trying to get his hands on him or whatever. Here, Cesaro was just doing what any athlete facing a challenge (Miz) does — he talks shit about them to get in their head. And like Cesaro said, all Flair and Miz can do at this point is fall back on their catchphrases, because they’re lazy Americans. He spits the truth, and two guys jump him. That also seems important. Miz didn’t just get the better of him, TWO guys jumped the U.S. Champion.
Maybe I’m just old-fashioned. They could’ve, I don’t know, had Cesaro shove Flair or something before the chopping and stuff. I don’t want to see Flair wrestle again and compromise his “last” WWE match, but I really really really want to see Cesaro launch him into the air, then uppercut him as he’s coming down sideways.
Best: Miz And The Figure Four
The important development in this — I hope — is Ric Flair “passing the torch” of the figure four leglock to the Miz. The announcers made a big deal out of it, so I’m hoping it’s important. THESTINGER said something about it last night, and I agree: I would like Miz a hundred times more if he used the figure four.
I don’t know if the “Nature Boy” gimmick would work with a new wrestler, because it would ignore the original intent of the nickname — to represent a blonde-haired (real or not) “natural athlete” and evoke a song you probably remember from Moulin Rouge — and whoever got it would just be doing a Ric Flair impression, but the
TNA genesis of the name remains important. If you can give a guy like Miz the figure four and let him have a classic wrestling submission tent-pole, you’ve improved him tenfold. Give him a robe instead of a t-shirt, plaid suit or weird leather buckle jacket, and you’re close to where you need to be.
Still, if Miz was “given” the figure four by Flair, people are gonna pop for it whenever he uses it.
Worst: Dolph Ziggler’s Catchphrase
Firstly, how DARE you have a wedding montage and not include the three greatest wedding moments in WWE history (in order):
1. Gene Snitsky’s poem
2. Teddy Long having a heart attack
3. Eric Bischoff’s Scooby-Doo reveal during Billy and Chuck’s wedding
Secondly, “Show … OFF!” has to be the very lamest catchphrase they’ve come up with in a long time. Dolph, you need to stop trying to make “fetch” happen.
The only thing I liked about this was Big E Langston’s “jesus, when is this going to be over” expression throughout most of it. AJ turning into Dean Ambrose when Big E brought up her wedding was pretty great, too.