– Comments, shares, likes, and especially Reddit submissions/up votes are appreciated. The Reddit thing is big. They kinda side-eye me if I ever try to submit the column myself, so if you’re a big wig at the Squared Circle cracker factory, help us out and get the column in front of Redditors.
– GIFS courtesy of Jerusalem at Punchsport Pagoda.
– If you haven’t been reading The Best And Worst Of TNA Impact Wrestling … what’s wrong with you? You can check it out every Friday afternoon at With Leather, courtesy of the lovely and talented Wrestling Bro Danielle Matheson. It features 80% more references to Butt Stuff than the Raw column.
Anyway, welcome back. Please click through for the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for January 7, 2013.
Worst: Let’s Recap The Poopies, In Case Brandon Was Lucky Enough To Miss It
Before we pick back up with the column, I feel like I should explain my absence of the last two weeks.
The lack of a column two weeks ago is easy enough to explain — WWE aired a pre-taped, Christmas-themed Raw on Christmas Eve, and because nobody at UPROXX updated on Christmas (choosing to be with our families instead of on the Internet, or whatever) we let that Raw go. The next week’s Raw was also pre-taped, and also fell on a holiday: New Year’s Eve. I stayed home to watch that Raw and everything, but it’s impossible for me to avoid spoilers, so I purposefully skipped the show’s ending.
My intention was to write the column as normal. On New Year’s Day, I got a call from my mother informing me that my 53-year old father had just had his second heart attack. Hopefully you can understand why I wouldn’t want to sit in front of a computer making jokes about Kofi Kingston’s hit detection with my dad on the brink of death 10 states away. The good news is that my dad’s condition was downgraded to “heart trauma” and then a “heart episode,” which means he’ll be fine as long as he stops eating flank steak every day and trying to lose weight by doing non-stop jumping jacks to reach his New Year’s resolution on day one. The silver lining is that I didn’t have to write about John Cena literally dropping stage-poop on his ex-girlfriend.
I guess WWE sent out a memo reading, “his dad’s fine, make sure he sees the poop part,” so last night’s Raw, in the first moments of the first segment on my first show back, they recapped the entirety of the slut-shaming poop drop. At least they left out the photoshop jokes, so … Happy New Year?
Best: Big E Langston’s Hilarious Mic Skills
I think my favorite part of Raw was Big E Langston grabbing the microphone, then being openly surprised about the fact that he was able to speak. OH I GOT THE MIC NOW. YO CENA. It was glorious. It was like they’d pulled somebody out of the crowd to do a wrestler impression and challenge John Cena.
It doesn’t make any sense, though. Dolph Ziggler’s standing there shaking his head “no,” so Langston picks up the mic and accepts the challenge. That cues Ziggler’s music, so Dolph just WALKS TO THE RING AND WRESTLES JOHN ANYWAY. How the hell does THAT work? I get that when Teddy Long waddles out and Holler Hollers at you he’s got some modicum of kayfabe power, so you’ve got to do what he says … but Big E is the third most important person in a three-person stable. If Hulk Hogan refused to fight sting, could Horace just show up and be all IT’S AWNNNNN and start the match? Could the nWo angle have been over in five minutes if Horace had just been really into fantasy booking?
Don’t get me wrong, though, I love it. I hope Big E gets to talk more and stays weird about it. With Titus O’Neil becoming suddenly charismatic, we need another musclebound guy who cuts wrestling promos like he’s ordering at a drive-thru.
Worst: John Cena, Overcomin’ Them Odds
I’m not sure why this match happened. WWE’s favorite story to tell now is “heel is an opportunist, achieves small personal victory, loses match to upcoming opponent, loses another match to upcoming opponent, loses another match to upcoming opponent, loses to opponent at PPV, achieves second opportunistic victory in unrelated situation, becomes champion.” They LOVE it. When Daniel Bryan won the World Heavyweight Championship, 99% of commentary was “Daniel Bryan sure is terrible, I bet he’s going to lose here,” and then he’d pretty much lose, but he’d find a way to keep the belt and everybody acted upset. I don’t know why “you have something you don’t DESERVE” is the big WWE selling point, but I guess it always has been.
I feel like Cena could’ve just wrestle and defeat Dolph repeatedly without having to have the odds stacked against him every week. Before TLC, it wasn’t just “Dolph vs. Cena, who is better,” it was “Dolph vs. Cena but Cena’s leg is hurt and he’s worried about his girlfriend and has too much on his mind.” Cena only lost at TLC because of an extraneous, Cena-related happenstance. Dolph didn’t do shit. Now it’s not “Cena vs. Dolph, so Cena can get his revenge,” it’s Cena vs. Dolph and AJ and Big E Langston, and they’re doing ref bumps that don’t effect the end of the match just to do them and on and on. It’s not even like they’re stacking the odds to give John something to slowly overcome. If he had to beat Langston to get to Dolph or whatever that’d be fine. Basic wrestling storytelling. Instead, he’s just beating them all at once immediately, because RESOLVE. And now he’s moving on to the Royal Rumble, which he probably won’t win because of Dolph + X, followed by four consecutive Raws of him beating up Dolph to get revenge.
Just have normal odds, John, it’s fine.
Best: Everything Else About This Match
The match itself was really, really good. It was one of two pay-per-view quality matches on the show, and even though it’s a variation on the same Cena workrate match we’ve been seeing since last Summer, that’s a welcomed reprieve from Cena tagging in to hit his moves and stand tall. I’m also not going to give a Worst to a Raw that gets the wacky talking over by 8:10 and parlays it into a 15-minute one-on-one match. This is how Raws should start. You know, besides Cena doing the wave.
The crowd made the match even better. They were hot the entire time and reacted big for all the near falls (I’m glad Ziggler started using that jumping DDT as his big falsie instead of the Fame-asser, because seriously, he is never going to win a match with the Fame-asser). My favorite part was Cena losing his shoe and exposing his tiny foot, outing himself officially as a Rob Liefeld character. He’s always screaming, he’s got pouches on his ring gear … all we needed was to see his baby feet for confirmation. WWE should figure out a way to make one of his eyes glow.
Best: Fandango’s Videos Are Regressing
I love that the early Fandango(o) hype videos advertised him as ANGELIC and NOBLE and gave him a bunch of catchphrases (“Mind if I cut in?” and “Watch your step!” among them), but now it’s just him turning around and saying “Fandango” with no additional information. Next week’s promo should just be a big letter F, then a close up of Johnny Curtis going “uhhhhhhhhhhh.”
Actually, next week’s video should end with him turning to the camera and saying, “oh, sorry, I’m not a wrestler. I’m just a dance instructor who bought ad time!”
Best: The Divas Division Is Seriously Just Three People, But It’s Getting Better
I’ve talked a lot about how much Eve Torres has improved, but not enough about Kaitlyn.
Watch this clip from last night. In a very short time, Kaitlyn has gone from one of the worst wrestlers ever to being really pretty good in-ring. Watch how much impact her offense has. When she lifts Eve up for the side slam, she doesn’t just awkwardly fall down like Aksana might, she dives to the side and plants Eve into the mat. Watch that shoulderblock. She’s not just Ghostbuster Dog jumping like Cena and hoping for the best, she’s really throwing her weight into it, and Eve’s able to make it look spectacular because it’s spectacular already. The counter into the reverse DDT is smooth, something Divas rarely are, and she makes it look like she’s actually DOING something when she connects, instead of falling backwards. Reverse DDTs NEVER look like they hurt. So yeah, Kaitlyn is gorgeous, but she’s also kinda kicking ass, and we should pay attention to that.
I didn’t like Eve bailing on the match, mostly because they have somebody bail on a match five times per episode (WWE ’14 should let you take your championship and walk out by hitting triangle, square, circle or X at any time during a match), but at least she looked like she was bailing on a beating, and not just taking a couple of signature moves and calling it quits. She didn’t take the easy way out on the bail, either, she hopped the rails and fled. That made it look more like an act of cowardice, and less like a shitty booking decision.
Good stuff all around. Let’s keep this going, and maybe add, I don’t know, other people to the division so we can let the Divas be a thing.
Best: Wade Barrett Versus Ricky Steamboat Now, Please
As longtime readers of The Best And Worst of Raw know, I love the Nexus and consider myself a bit of a Nexus historian. If Ken Burns ever gets brought in to film a documentary for the NEXUS: WWE’s BEST IDEA DVD, I’ll be its Buck O’Neil. Just wistfully smiling and saying “WRESTLING” with emphasis. Worst case scenario, I’ll be its Doris Kearns Goodwin, telling good-hearted stories about how wrestling always makes me sad.
Anyway, Wade Barrett approaching Santino’s “I like a yous matches against a Machoes Mans a Randys Savashes” shit with Ricky Steamboat made me happier than most, because it reminded me of that time the Nexus jacked him so bad he got shoot body failure. That clip is AWESOME. When those guys get together again, it’s going to be epic. It will also be because I finally got that WWE Creative job, because nobody else gives a f**k.
This is how continuity should work, though. You shouldn’t write it expecting your audience to remember what happened 2 1/2 years ago, but it should be there (and right) for the people who know.
Worst: The Tag Team Division Is Too Good To Do Champion Non-Title Losses And Repeated Championship Shots For The Same Team
I hate to give a Team Hell No/Rhodes Scholars match a Worst — especially seeing as how I bookended it with Bests for a Divas match and a Randy Orton squash — but I didn’t really enjoy it. It was fine, and moments of it were great (like the small package, or Cody sniping the leg to hit the Cross Rhodes), but it seemed … I don’t know, counter-productive? Like more of the same?
Tom Holzerman at The Wrestling Blog has a good piece up about how WWE seemingly forgot the progress they’d made with Daniel Bryan and Kane for the sake of encapsulating the story for casual viewers who’d tuned in for the first time in months to see The Rock, and I can see where he’s coming from. I popped for Dr. Shelby, but I don’t think he’s necessary … the team has sorta moved on to their own thing with The Shield and Rhodes Scholars and don’t need to go back to the skit well in 2013. They can succeed as a team on their own and have stories that reference their past, but don’t dwell on it so much it sacrifices what they’ve become.
I’m also not (ever) a fan of champions losing non-title matches to set up a title match, especially against a team that has gotten multiple title matches. If they’re wrestling the Usos non-title to set up a title challenge, sure, but Rhodes Scholars shouldn’t be stuck in WWE’s “these are the two people in the division, when one of them loses we just make them wrestle again, make up a reason why” schtick. You built a division, guys. It’s good, and it makes sense. Now you have to remember that it exists.
Supplementary Best for this uneasy Worst goes for Sandow and Rhodes proclaiming that they’ll beat Team Hell No because they are BEST FRIENDS in Backstage Fallout, which continues to be the best thing WWE does.
Best: I Will Watch Heath Slater Wrestle Anybody
I think I figured it out: I don’t like any of Heath Slater’s matches, I just love watching him wrestle.
Is that weird? I seriously can’t think of a time when I said, “wow, that was a GREAT Heath Slater match,” but every time he wrestles I’m glued to the television. I like watching him ply his craft. The end results aren’t always great, but he’s great at his job. It’s like a late-era Radiohead album. I think they’re geniuses and love listening to hear what they’re doing, even if the songs are mostly terrible.
Radiohead can turn an award show performance into a complex musical spectacle, and Heath Slater can make Randy Orton’s offense look like it might hurt somebody. Dude should get an award for achievement in the field of Throwing Yourself Over For A Powerslam.
Worst: Randy Orton Should Be Different
This isn’t so much a “Worst” as it is a suggestion. Last night we had two dueling backstage segments wherein a top-shelf WWE babyface ran down 3MB and ended up in a match with them. One was Orton, and one was Sheamus. They were basically the same.
That’s kinda the problem I have with Orton. He’s a character, but he never fully commits to it. When Sheamus sees TREE EMBEE, he’s like “HEY TREE EMBEE OR TREE EMBIEBER AS YA LOIKE TA BE CALLED” … yeah, I can’t do this whole thing in his accent. But he’s like YOU’RE LIKE JUSTIN BIEBER YOUR BAND STINKS YOU SMELL LIKE POOPY I’M BETTER THAN YOU YOU’RE ALL GAY BABIES FACE ME NOW, and that’s that. Sheamus The Character is a dipshit 5-year old and I think we’ve all accepted it.
Orton’s threats should never be like that. They shouldn’t even be the subdued “we’re gonna have a match, TONIGHT” stuff he pulled with them. When 3MB saunters up to Orton and goes WOO 3MB BAYBAYYY, Orton should respond with “I am going to slit your throats, get the f**k away from me” and then just CRAZY VIOLENCE. Like, people should be afraid to approach him backstage. Hornswoggle should run up to him all LOOK AT M’BALLS HEH-HEH and get brained with a tire iron. That’s the Orton I want to write. A guy we love and want to see because ho-ho-hooooly shit you shouldn’t have messed with him.
Worst: The Bullhammer Is Still The Worst
If this match is just a set-up to Wade Barrett defending the Intercontinental Championship against Ricky Steamboat at the Royal Rumble — or even Wade entering the Rumble match and having a showdown with a cat-skinning surprise legend — I’ll be happy to go back and give it a Best. As it stands, it was a minute or so of Santino being Santino, and Wade finishing him off with the worst finish in pro wrestling.
I know nothing makes a WWE-based readership madder quicker than mentioning Japan, but Wade should spend the next six months watching Kazuchika Okada throw the f**king Rainmaker until he learns how to plow through people with a short-arm strike or gives up and starts using the Overdrive.
Best: The Superman Exists, And He’s Swiss
Standard “Antonio Cesaro is WWE TV’s MVP right now and if you aren’t on the bandwagon yet, what’re you, stupid” paragraph here.
That was the best Great Khali match ever, right? I’m not making that up, am I? Khali looked motivated and mobile (probably because his wife and their weird child were clapping at ringside), and Cesaro looked like Legolas taking down a goddamn oliphaunt. Miz whimpering over the match about how he had the “experience” edge on the “rookie” Cesaro was pretty unbearable, but the sight of a clearly superior human being taking apart a much larger foe is the spectacular, worked-storyline shit I expect from a company built on freaks and fake fighting.
Cesaro’s springboard M. Bison European uppercut has got to be the greatest thing going right now. That move is so gorgeous it should be narrated by David Attenborough.
Worst: Nobody Watches Main Event
The only problem I had with the match is that they did the exact same one with the exact same moves and finish on Main Event last week. I get that Raw has a bigger audience and you want to save your big moments for your flagship show, but come on, guys, Main Event isn’t a house show. It’s on national television. People can watch it. You can ape from it for the casual fans, but you shouldn’t pretend like it never happened, especially if you are Michael Cole and Jerry The King Lawler. You guys are paid to watch the f**king wrestling. WATCH IT.
I guess I’m talking to the guy who’d never seen a Big Show superplex collapse the ring on its second go-round and cried out WE’VE NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE the first 15 times Sheamus tried a cloverleaf, but whatever. I feel like “if you missed this on Main Event, get ready to see something spectacular” would work just as well as “WE ARE ALL EXPERIENCING THIS FOR THE FIRST TIME.”
Again, the continuity doesn’t have to be dense, but it shouldn’t loop back and lie about itself as soon as it happens. Even for seemingly-inconsequential building block stuff like this.
Remember that thing I said about Sheamus being a 5-year old? In his match with Jinder Mahal, it set it up so Jinder would touch his butt, then made fun of him for touching butts. This is the crowd that chanted “CM Gay” at a hug, so I guess he was just hitting as many lay-ups as possible.
The match wasn’t bad, but when Sheamus The Speaker starts to replace Sheamus The Wrestler, bad things are bound to happen. This is really a worst case scenario for me. For over a year now I’ve been able to excuse most of his shitting-in-the-Mexican’s-car stuff because his in-ring work is so solid. But if he’s going to have fewer matches that end with him groggy and beaten until he looks like a piece of raw chicken and more where he laughs at you for touching his ass, I don’t know, I might have to officially give up on him.
Jack Swagger Of Mars
The ride back up the descent shaft was a long and cold one for Jack Swagger. For the longest time he sat in silence, staring down at his boots, holding his left arm, trying not to … he wasn’t sure what he wasn’t trying to do. Get kicked off the planet? Get murdered by this alien woman who’d briefly taken him in and shown him the magnificent city in the red planet’s core, only to deride him with her eyes on this elevator’s endless return to the surface?
Jack Swagger wasn’t sure what would happen next. In a soft voice, Kaa’orri spoke first.
“I told you to stay put and not cause any trouble.”
“AHM THORRY,” Swagger responded, lashing out more loudly than he’d intended. More silence. Finally,
“You’re lucky they bought the story about you being a delivery. There are some really screwed up people on Mars. Humans are a commodity here. Most of us have never seen one. There was one who teleported here in the 80s, and Carl Sagan, but …” she began to trail off. “You’re a handsome human. You’re lucky, like I said. If you were ugly, they wouldn’t have believed somebody paid for you.”
“Rully?” Jack asked, a smile creeping across his face.
“Don’t let it go to your head, human,” Kaa’orri responded. “When we get back to the surface, I’m giving you a piece of MarsBread and sending you on your way. If you die in a nest this time, it’s on you.”
“Thath fair.” A thousand images raced through Jack’s head … he wondered what it would be like to fend for himself on the surface, or how he’d find the fuels to repower his ship and continue his voyage around the planet … or hell, how he’d find his way back to the Rhadamanthus at all. But mostly the images were about Kaa’orri, who’d just told him he was handsome. Because seriously.
“I’m thorry I methed up your delivery, Kaa’orri,” Jack whispered.
“Well,” she responded, “it’s what it is. They took the money for the damages out of my credits, which means I’ve only got enough gas to get about halfway home … I’ll have to walk the rest of the way, so thanks for that. If I die in a nest too, I guess there’d be a poetry to it.”
Jack barely understood anything she said, both because of her Martian accent, and because I can’t imagine Jack Swagger being very good at conversation. He nodded, to let her know he was listening, because he was.
“Of course, you’re never allowed in the core again. Per order of the magistrate. But, you know, they don’t really have identification or anything, so I expect any six-six caucasoid who stumbles his way down the shaft will spend his vacation at the door.”
Kaa’orri laughed. It was beautiful to Jack. And she said he was handsome once!
“I gueth I won’t do that again.”
“No, no you won’t.”
Neither said another word until the elevator reached the top of the shaft, and the great gate once again opened up to reveal the endless starfield, and the dusty earth of the lonely planet swirling up to meet it. Kaa’orri reached into her satchel and removed a folded, red leaf. Inside was a small loaf of pink bread.
“This should last you until you get back to your ship … or at least back to where I found you.”
“Good luck on your drive home,” Jack said, sheepishly. “How far away ith it?”
“Really far,” Kaa’orri said with a sigh. “Really, really far.”
“Wull … wull …” Jack was getting an idea, so he grapevined it to keep it from getting away. “MY ship ith probably closer than your home … why don’t we ride your bike back there, and then I’ll use MY bike to get you home.” Jack smiled. It was a pretty good idea.
“You have a bike?” Kaa’orri asked.
“No, even better. I’ve got a THORING EAGLE.”
Kaa’orri didn’t know what a “thoring eagle” was, but he owed her for saving his hide, and she knew the walk with a speeder bike in tow would leave her dead in hours. Reluctantly, she took back the MarsBread and stuffed it into her satchel.
“All right,” she confirmed. “But that’s it. When I get home, we go our separate ways.”
“Fine by me,” Jack affirmed, climbing onto the back of Kaa’orri’s speeder before she was even done packing up.