The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 4/22/13: Delivered To England Via Helicopter

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And now, complete with helicopter entrance, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 22, 2013.

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Worst: Triple H Invented Lying!

I really enjoyed this show, so the less I say about its opening segment — Triple H Catfishing Paul Heyman so he could get a non-wrestler alone in a foreign land and publicly beat him up for the 100th time without having to worry about the guy he’s actually WRESTLING being around and being cheered for it, because he’s super smart and tough — the better. Dude waiting a week to scheme his opponent’s manager and attack him to “send a message” to a guy he pedigreed onto some steel steps and pinned at WrestleMania a few weeks ago. And yes, I’m probably using “Catfish” incorrectly.

Next week’s Raw should have an advertised BROCK LESNAR RESPONDS TO TRIPLE H’S RESPONSE segment where Brock puts Stephanie in the Kimura and everybody acts like he’s this soulless monster. Lesnar and Triple H are the same dude from different timelines. Triple H is from the one where he accidentally read A Catcher In The Rye in high school and decided he was a bad-ass.

Worst: Antonio Cesaro Is Suddenly The Most Embarrassing Guy In Wrestling

Last Fall, Antonio Cesaro was the best thing about Raw. He was winning matches with authority, catching people off springboards with European uppercuts, deadlifting enormous guys and flapjack piledrivering them to death. He had funny backstage segments where he’d harass local yahoos at the arena concession stands and deride them for not being healthy like him. Not that long ago he was giant swinging Miz into the security barrier. This was as good as pro wrestling could be.

Now, for whatever reason, it’s hard to watch him. He spent the last few months illogically losing non-title matches while holding the United States Championship, so often that I shoot forgot that he’d lost the US Title last week on Raw. That’s not a Kofi Kingston joke, I just heard Cesaro’s music and my brain went “welp, time to lose a non-title match to R-Truth.” Now EVERY Cesaro match is a non-title match, and he doesn’t stand a chance.

What happened? As a guy who watches the show I can make up some stuff about how Cesaro was “too good” and got too over and WWE put him on a pathetic losing streak like they do anybody who dares get over on their watch (see also: NXT Daniel Bryan, proud-of-his-trophies Jack Swagger, hell, even Zack Ryder). I don’t really know how backstage politics work. I can read about it on the Internet, but I’m not gonna pretend like I’ve got the answer. What I do have is a very obvious truth: this is a stupid thing to be doing to one of the most legitimately talented people on your show, and if you’re gonna use him to elevate talent or whatever, at least let him look like a good wrestler in the process. Let his talent make theirs look better. It doesn’t help anybody to have him yodel badly, then lose a two minute match to the worst guy on your show.

Best: OH YOU GUYS COULDN’T HAVE DONE THAT AT WRESTLEMANIA I GUESS

From The Best and Worst of WrestleMania 29 live report:

Worst: The Shield Didn’t Come Down In A Helicopter Like I Was Hoping

How great would that have been? Just SIERRA HOTEL INDIA etc. and then a helicopter descends upon the stadium, and then BOOM THE SHIELD ARE REPELLING FROM THE HELICOPTER. I guess you can’t do that in a post-Owen Hart world, especially when one of your repellers is Seth Rollins, a guy who can’t jump from the ring to the floor without trying to decapitate himself. My alternate suggestion was that they climb a rope ladder INTO a helicopter and fly away at the end. Basically I just want somebody in a flying device at my WrestleMania. Santino Marella in a hot air balloon!

And here are these glorious motherf**kers show up to the London Raw in a helicopter. I didn’t think I could love you guys more.

A supplementary best goes to Dean Ambrose for casually mentioning how hard it was for The Shield to get to the arena. I guess the story is that they’re still just NXT guys who don’t get their travel paid outside of central Florida, so they have to get from town to town on their own? If they’ve got to get from like, Pittsburgh to Philadelphia they can just jump in their mobile assault vehicle and cruise down the turnpike, but getting to England? I love the idea that they own the WrestleMania helicopter and it was their only mode of transatlantic travel, so they had to find islands or oil rigs every 700 miles to fuel up. And now they’ve gotta get all the way back!

Maybe that’s why it’s impossible to beat The Shield in a match … they need that sweet, sweet “beating Undertaker” money. Otherwise they’re stuck eating Top Ramen with Corey Graves’ spindly ass outside of Full Sail.

Best: Damien Sandow Invented The Handful Of Tights!

The match wasn’t anything special, but a Damien Sandow win is an automatic Best. I love that he’s had more success recently because he figured out you can hold a guy’s trunks when you roll him up for Super Leverage. How great would it be if Sandow’s gimmick was that he was really tough and book smart, but had just never considered how easy it’d be to cheat at wrestling. Sorta like me when I was a kid. I was reading at a 9th grade level when I was four, but I didn’t know how to tie my shoes.

Next week on Raw he’s gonna accidentally remove a turnbuckle pad, turn to Cody all bug-eyed and be like, “did you know these CAME OFF??”

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Best: Zigglypuff

Brad Maddox trying to finish Vickie’s thoughts and only being able to come up with the last word was funny, but the highlight of the backstage Brickie/Team Rocket segment was AJ Lee finally utilizing the “Zigglypuff” nickname. And so,

Credit for that goes to The Internet, and specifically to that one guy who puts white text on pictures. That guy is hilarious*!

Seriously though, infinite cool points to the first person to turn Koffing into Kofing. “Kofing used JUMP. It’s super effective!”

*If you actually did make this, let me know and I’ll properly credit you. I have gotten it from way too many people.

Best/Worst: Ziggler Vs. Jericho Is Always Better On Paper, Or “Dolph Ziggler Can’t Win A Match, We Promise”

This is not meant to be as insulting as it’ll probably sound, but I think it may be time to accept that Chris Jericho isn’t very good in the ring anymore.

Heel Chris Jericho is my favorite wrestling character ever. Conspiracy Victim Jericho is the only character I can remember enjoying more than Willie Nelson Guitar Playing The Rock, and Best There Is At What I Do Jericho isn’t far behind. I’ve never liked the various incarnations of Face Chris Jericho (the Lionheart, Y2J, Cool Dad), but I always gave him credit for being good in the ring. 2008 Chris Jericho was doing some of the best in-ring stuff of that decade, I think, in both character work and pro graps.

But man, he’s just not doing it for me anymore. Remember his feud with CM Punk? It was bad. I wanted the WrestleMania match to be a show stealer, and while a lot of people overrate that match to a spectacular degree, it wasn’t what it wanted to be. The Fandango match at Mania 29 was pretty grody. None of his high-profile stuff has hit like it should, and there’s no better example of this than his matches with Ziggler during either of his return runs. On paper, it should be great. In reality, it’s just … kinda long. The match ending with one of the most tired tropes in WWE Land (“I have lost total control of the match and all my wrestling ability because a guy I hate’s music is playing!”) probably didn’t help.

I’m not going to fully Worst a 17-minute wrestling match on Raw (because when the rest of your matches are sub-3-minutes, even a BAD 17-minute match is a step in the right direction), but the crowd being dead for everything except Fandango’s music is not a great sign. Especially on a show where Taker, Team Hell No and The Shield proved that if the match is good, self-obsessed wrestling crowds will shut up and enjoy it.

Best: Ryback Joins Team Rocket, I Think

Is it weird that I don’t like Ryback’s shirt, but I kinda want to buy his hat? And hey, I don’t want to make the same “Ryback looks like the Lout Brothers from Ren & Stimpy” joke every week, but Jesus, seriously:

Best: Honestly, Tensai Vs. Cody Rhodes Could Be A Really Good Match

Here’s an awful thing I’m doing: I complained that the Ziggler/Jericho match could’ve been better, and I’m about to heap praise on four minutes of Cody Rhodes and Tensai. I know, I am the worst.

But no, I think these guys work well together. I mean, it’d be a lot better if Tensai wasn’t Also Funkasaurus and wasn’t positioned to get the win in under five minutes, but in my head I’ve got this great Giant Bernard vs. Mustache Cody Rhodes thing playing out and I love it. Tensai is the right combination of quick and strong, and Cody’s quicker, super easy to hate and prone to jumping around more than he should. It’s not there yet, but it’s the genesis of a really good thing. The genesis of the beginning of the start of a really good thing.

I’m sorta bummed at WWE for building Rhodes Scholars and Hoss Funk up for a WrestleMania match, ditching the Mania match, having the match in a throwaway spot on Raw, then feeling it necessary to start over and build them BACK up for a match at Extreme Rules, but … eh, what’re you gonna do.

Best: Maybe You Should’ve Looked At The Charts, Jerk

Things I liked about this:

1. The idea of Daniel Bryan and the Undertaker interacting is infinitely amusing to me, so much so that Bryan just standing around talking about how weird it is to interact with the Undertaker made me happy.

2. Confirmed: Undertaker doesn’t carry a cell phone. It makes it too easy to trace him when he mysteriously kidnaps/carjacks/tries to embalm/black marries people! Also, you can’t carry around a phone if you have lightning powers. That’s just dumb.

3. Bryan’s diagram:

LOVE IT. “ME” with arrows pointing in both directions to cover “SURPRISE” is wonderful, as is “SHIELD PT. 2,” which I’m assuming is Roman Reigns.

Things I did not like about this:

1. Maybe if you’d looked at the charts you wouldn’t have gotten jumped from behind, especially not when you’re in front of a camera, and

2. Maybe if you’d looked at the charts you could’ve had a gameplan other than “get in there and do our moves,” and you might’ve won the match.

Next time, look at the charts.

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Worst: Big E Langston Gets New, Worse Music

Big E Langston finally gets his own non-Dolph Ziggler entrance theme for singles matches on Raw, and … it’s not his NXT theme. 99% of people reading the column don’t care and would’ve accepted a worst for “black guy gets generic rap song,” but the iffy connection between the WWE and NXT Universes is important to me, and I see no reason why this wouldn’t have worked:

At least he got to keep his chalk.

Worst: Zachary Ty Ryder

First of all, congratulations on selling a backdrop like you’re Burt Reynolds in Cosmo.

Second of all, BRO, what’s up with your hair? You look like one of Tim Taylor’s kids. Are you gonna break out the “shaved on the side, pulled back on top” sumo ponytail thing Brad was trying for a while? Actually, no, keep your hair exactly like this. WWE can start selling Dennis Leary wigs. SSSSSIIIIICCCCCKKKK.

Best: Tyler Black Is Wrestling The Undertaker On My Television

I was worried that this wasn’t going to be what it should be, being on a taped, overseas Raw and all, and the backstage sneak attack made me fearful that they were gonna bait and switch us and just have The Shield beat up Taker (or worse, get beaten up BY Taker), but this was so good.

It had everything I wanted from a Raw six-man tag … it was long enough to make it worth everybody’s time (almost 20 minutes!), featured WWE People Of Importance wrestling with/against young stars and treating them as equals without pretending the new guys are shockingly superior, put the spotlight on the basic ideas that make wrestling matches work (crazy stuff like timing and heat, who knew?) and, most of all, had the right team taking the win. It also featured a number of absurd wrestling statements from a few years ago, such as “ROH’s Tyler Black will be on Raw wrestling the Undertaker and HE’LL WIN,” “Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley will be two of the most important people on Raw,” and “I will enjoy matches with Leakee in them.” That last one especially.

My kingdom for a Daniel Bryan/Dean Ambrose beef, though. If we’re really doing a Team Hell No/The Shield tag titles match at Extreme Rules like everyone’s saying, do it right, and do it big. Also, don’t be afraid to introduce Kassius Ohno as the fourth Shield guy and have him knock off Daniel Bryan’s goat beard with a rolling elbow and force him to be a serious wrestling again through unconsciousness.

Best: BELIEVE IN THE SHIELD, or

Worst: The Damned Numbers Game

I love the f**king Shield so much. And not for any shitty wrestling fan reasons, either. I don’t like them because I saw them wrestle on DG USA shows or whatever, I like them because they’re a functional team of wrestlers who win matches by being an actual TEAM, and not just a bunch of Superstars paired together. They work as a unit, they win as a unit, and they don’t need foreign objects and referee bumps to make it happen.

That’s why it bugs me when Cole and Lawler start in with their “you shouldn’t like these guys” complaints. They’re inaccurate. Cole keeps going on and on about “the numbers game” in a THREE ON THREE SANCTIONED TAG MATCH. Lawler starts in about how The Shield attacking Bryan and Kane backstage to force a 3-on-1 handicap match would be “right up the Shield’s alley,” which it would not be, because the Shield won a 3-on-3 match against big WWE Superstars at TLC, won a 3-on-3 match against big WWE Superstars at Elimination Chamber, won a 3-on-3 match against big WWE Superstars at WrestleMania 29 and did the same goddamn thing last night. You can talk shit about how they jump dudes when they DON’T have a match, but when the bell rings, they are on the level. Deal with it.

Worst: And Now, A Special Look At The New Film Dead Men And Women Down

A horror film starring a WWE guy? Who wants to watch that?

Seriously though, if you’re gonna make a movie about Brodus Clay killing people, at least find two black girls to dance behind him and yell things like WOOO YEAH MURDER while he does it.

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Best: BILL REGAL

I read back over the first few pages of the report and thought, “man, I sure am talking a lot about NXT. I’m going to relax on that for the rest of the column,” and then BILL F**KING REGAL walks down the ramp. If you haven’t seen the Regal/Ohno from NXT earlier this month, watch it. Buy Hulu Plus and watch it. It’s like 8 dollars a month, stop being weird. It’s the best show WWE puts on by miles and miles and miles.

Best: So Are We Fandangoing Again? Is That Still Okay?

The match was way too short, but Fandango got to look like a beast, because Regal can do in 2 minutes what Jericho can’t in 15. See how Regal actually looks like he’s getting hurt when he wrestles? Yeah, you’re supposed to do that. Not just whip your head back and hold your arm and eventually pretend nothing happened like basically every other wrestler in North f**king America.

On the plus side, the European crowd is back from their vacation in New Jersey and we only had one week of assy South Carolinians between their shows. I thought Fandango was on life support after last week’s horrible waste of time, but it looks like we’re back to full health. Or, you know, we’re allowed to leave the hospital. The music got a big reaction, the dancing was lively, the humming was loud, and hey, we even got an (I’m assuming) permanent dancing girl in (you guessed it) NXT’s Summer Rae!

If you’re not familiar with Summer, she’s the best parts of Kelly Kelly and Stacy Keibler in one lady. This also explains her wrestling ability. Great spot for her. It’s also really, really funny to me that Fandango’s dancing lady has no allegiances, she just dances when a partner demands it. There is some serious The Red Shoes shit going on with these women.

And, because it must be said, minus infinite cool points to Fandango for his continued aping of Bray Wyatt’s Sister Abigail finish.

Best: Oh Man, How Sad Is this Battle Royal

I love a good battle royal. I love a bad one even more, and this one featured FIVE WOMEN. Five women does not a battle royal make, guys. AJ, Naomi, Aksana, Tamina and Layla, who is so barely British the crowd doesn’t even remember to cheer for her. That’s not a battle royal, that’s an “over the top rope challenge.” It’s especially not a battle royal when you have the announcers explaining how you don’t even have to go over the top rope, you just have to go through them. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN TONIGHT’S MAIN EVENT IS TWO WOMEN STANDING NEAR A RING, WE’RE GONNA CALL IT AN IRONMAN MATCH, FIRST ONE TO REALIZE SHE’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE OUT THERE AND LEAVES LOSES THE MATCH

I always enjoy these things. My only complaint is how “Divas Battle Royal For #1 Contender To The Divas Title” is lazy as hell, especially if you’re gonna let AJ win it, because AJ and Kaitlyn have a lengthy, detailed history together and AJ’s connection to Ziggler and his crew makes for an easy story. AJ’s crazy and opportunistic, and she’s got help. Kaitlyn’s an underdog, and the one lady who could be on her side (Vickie Guerrero) hates her as much as she hates AJ. But she’s strong, and she’ll keep throwing those jumping shoulderblocks at whoever gets in her way, Big E Langston be damned. The last person she’s going to let steal her dreams is the best friend who abandoned her as soon as she got popular.

But no, “she won a battle royal so here you go” is a way better story.

Best: AJ Lee, Because Seriously

AJ was AMAZING in this match. The highlight, of course, was AJ realizing that Tamina Snuka was the toughest and strongest person in the match, assumedly remembering all the unfinished tension they had together last year and thinking Tamina’s probably gay, and she’s cute so she should just go for it en route to being superkicked to death.

This:

That led to her brava performance as a dead body, tricking Layla into trying to drag all 75 pounds of dead weight out of the ring before springing to life and eliminating her. That terrible run as general manager makes us forget how good AJ actually is sometimes, I think, and I’m happy to see her get to do something besides “wrestler’s girlfriend.”

Best: The Team Rocket Specific Backstage Fallout

They really do run this show. At least the backstage addendum parts.

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