The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 4/28/14: I Am Damien Sandow, Master Of Magnet

Pre-show:

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Please click through to enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 28, 2014.

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John Cena cage

Via WWE

Meet Me There?

Worst: John Cena Still Doesn’t Care What Bray Wyatt Does But He Also Cares THE MOST

This is what goes through my mind during John Cena’s Bray Wyatt promos:

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As I wrote about a little during the end of last week’s column, I can’t buy this feud any more because neither WWE Creative nor Cena himself allow the danger or drastic statements of character-ending horror to have consequences.

Cena was forced to confront the darkness in his soul or whatever at WrestleMania, and guess how he fought it back? By easily winning a wrestling match at WrestleMania. Then WHOOPS, the danger continued, and Cena’s STILL got to confront the darkness in his soul even though he already did it! On paper this could be an escalation … Wyatt claimed he’d have to go to greater lengths to drag Cena into his nihilistic abyss. That could work. But what’ve we gotten between WrestleMania and Extreme Rules? An added cage match stipulation, added by Cena, and the exact same attitudes the guys had before the first match. Wyatt laughs and sings and puts sheep masks on people. Cena acts really worried and distraught, then flips his switch and becomes a wacky jokester. Nothing matters. If Cena loses, he continues being Cena. That loss to The Rock at WrestleMania was supposed to change him forever, and the dude barely changed his shirt.

The idea that Wyatt’s message will spread to the world and “escape the cage” unless Cena beats him is a nice attempt at comparative imagery, but haven’t they pushed the “Wyatt doesn’t care about wins and losses” thing pretty hard since his debut? Is he gonna lose a cage match and then be all, “oh man, I’m sorry, I was probably wrong about all those things?” If the point of this feud is to bring out the dark side in US and teach US that everything is meaningless, then mission accomplished.

(Thanks to Justin for that video suggestion.)

Best: Bray Wyatt Leading A Chorus Of Creepy Sheep Children, Or
Worst: A Great Idea In The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time

Bray Wyatt interrupting Cena with a chorus of children singing Bible songs and wearing sheep masks is, on its own, the best Best I can Best. I would be willing to work 8-10 more “bests” into that sentence. It’s the kind of unforgettable, game-changing thing Wyatt should be doing to establishment jerks like Cena on the reg. It’s also what they should’ve done the week before WrestleMania 30, when we weren’t 1000% sure Cena would brush it off with a wanking motion.

That’s the thing. It doesn’t matter now. It’s cool, but it’s all wrong.

Cena acted upset about it when he was in the ring, but he couldn’t even make it to the end of the show without announcing with jokey references to donkeys. You drop a nuke like this on a guy and he can’t even sell his mental anguish for three hours? Cena saying he’s gonna beat up Wyatt would be cool if he hadn’t already done it. Do you see a trend here? They’re just doing the first leg of the feud over again.

On top of all that, there was just something off with the production. At the end, when the kid in the sheep mask sat on Bray’s knee, that should’ve been the BLEARP and jump to commercial. Instead, we hung on Bray for a loooong time, listening to his maniacal laughter sound less and less legit until he was doing a scene from Austin Powers. Then we got MULTIPLE REPLAYS of the entire thing, lengthy singing and laughing included. By the end of the show I was like Cena … I’d been hit by how crazy and cool it was, but a few hours later I was just sick of having to think about it.

Best: The Usos Get A Tag Title Defense They Deserve

This was delightful, though, and exactly what The Usos needed.

IwBQkDiThe Usos have always sorta wrestled like video game characters. They hop in and out, do their moves, hit their spots. When they’re in danger they just look like guys selling WWE movesets by lying down until it’s time to get up. Not to say they’re “bad at selling” or whatever, that’s just what they’re supposed to do. When the New Age Outlaws are beating them up, it feels like they’re going through the motions, waiting to get to the end to do whatever’s been planned as the finish.

Here, they wrestled like a team. Vulnerability is a very underrated aspect of pro wrestling, especially in tag teams. When I was a kid, my life began and ended with Ricky Morton tagging in Robert Gibson. That was IT. Morton would be in there for DAYS it seemed like, getting the ever-loving shit kicked out of him by the Midnight Express. They’d Worldstar him for half an hour, and this battered, bloody dude would come through in the clutch and LEAP or ROLL or WHATEVER and it was on. It felt like I was in there with him, taking the damage, wondering if he was gonna be okay.

Last night’s Usos match felt like that too, with the dive to the outside causing an unexpected ankle injury, and one or both Usos being grounded and on the verge of collapse for most of the match. Rybaxel WHOMPED them, and the severity and timing of the beating was enough to make the thought of a Raw title change sneak into my brain. That’s how you know wrestling’s being done correctly … it makes you forget what you think you know, and exist in what you’re being told.

Also cool: taking advantage of Curtis Axel’s total absence of ring awareness to splash him mid-Perfect Plex.

Best: Rybaxel Speaking German, If You Haven’t Seen It Yet

You’ve probably seen this and shown it to your friends, but in case you haven’t:

So that’s why Axel keeps saying “shaa.”

Worst: SORRY SHEAMUS LOST TWICE THIS YEAR WE’LL MAKE IT BETTER SORRY, SORRY

I’m not even sure what this was. Sheamus, a guy who never loses, lost twice in the same week. Once on Smackdown, once on Raw. He lost cleanly to Bad News Barrett and sorta turned my world upside down. Is Sheamus going to be a dynamic character, now? A guy who can realistically win or lose matches to help build the believability of the universe and not make me make me feel cynical about the disconnect between his incredible in-ring ability and his incredibly bad character?

This week seemed like a make-up week, with Sheamus being jumped from behind to start the match and still managing to win it with one move. I’m not emotionally invested in Titus O’Neil or anything, but I always enjoy Sheamus a little less when he’s so overtly the White John Cena. You see those “wow, he really took it to me” faces Sheamus is trying to make to help put Titus over after the match? Yeah, nope, you beat him with one move. Don’t sweat it.

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Worst: Let’s Get These Two Worsts Out Of The Way

Okay, two quick Worsts about this segment:

1. Dolph Ziggler looks like a total, irredeemable putz for sucking up to Hugh Jackman instead of jumping him on sight. This guy showed up in a Broski headband and shattered your jaw, man, who cares if you love Hollywood action blockbuster explosions? You sound like an idiot and look like a chump. You could be Zack Ryder and this segment would be exactly the same. That’s not the kind of look you want when you’re the “show stealer.” Ryder couldn’t even steal a ticket to the show last night.

2. Hugh Jackman pronounces “Magneto” as “Mag-netto.” I haven’t been that disappointed since I went to visit my friend Mike Fireball, famous for his Super Mario Bros. speed runs, and heard him pronounce Mario “Mare-io.”

Okay, third worst:

3. Damien Sandow come out dressed like Magneto, and did not come out as Javert and sing the entirety of ‘Stars.’

Best: Damien Sandow As Magneto, Though

This was objectively pretty horrible from Ziggler’s smug reaction to a dude parallel to him on the promising future chart to the Magneto costume hoodie from Hot Topic in lieu of actual cosplay, but Damien Sandow was screaming about the POWER OF MAGNETISM and God, I can’t Worst that. This talented, charismatic motherf*cker is stuck in the ring with a celebrity guest and a guy who couldn’t take his job seriously if he was wearing Lance Storm’s skin as a suit doing Jedi mind trick gestures and giving it his all.

This is one of those times when a segment makes you shake your head, but should also make somebody in WWE management say, “Okay, enough with the Sandow shit, let’s let him be important again.”

Best: German Suplex Finishes

Firstly, I don’t care if Paul Heyman yanked his knock-knock joke from a WWE memes page. One of you is putting bold outlined Impact font on a picture of Chris Benoit and the other used to run the Dangerous Alliance. Just to type it out-loud, Paul Heyman is welcome to steal any of my jokes and use them without credit. I made a joke about R-Truth being one of Jack Kirby’s New Gods that people seemed to like, that’s probably relevant for the WWE Universe.

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Secondly, the Dynamite Kid/Tiger Mask mark in me loves a good German suplex finish, especially when it’s executed by this generation’s Karl Gotch. I wish they’d called it a GOTCH STYLE GERMAN SUPLEX. Everything Cesaro does should be referred to as a “Gotch-style” thing, whether Gotch did it or not. A GOTCH STYLE SPRINGBOARD SPINNING EUROPEAN UPPERCUT! A GOTCH STYLE GLITTERY WOMEN’S BLOUSE!

I’m also down for Cesaro adding secondary finishers to his moveset. A German is the perfect choice for when he’s Neutralizing guys like Big E and they can’t remember to hold on to the legs. Can’t remember how to do moves? Here’s the easiest one ever. Stay still and let the putridly strong guy throw you backwards by your waist against your will. AJ Styles should start using a German and stop braining people who never learned how to front bump.

Thirdly, the Heyman/Zeb Colter feud is like the mature version of Torito vs. Hornswoggle. Maybe they should have a TL-Senile match before Over The Limit.

Worst: What Is That, Three Matches In the First 90 Minutes?

The opening match was great, but the second match lasted a minute and the third wasn’t much longer. That’s it for the first half of the show. Pace is an important thing to remember when you’re putting together three hours of wrestling, guys. When you forget your promo times and throw a bunch of 3-minute matches at us in a row, I see you trying to catch up. Make time for your wrestling matches. Let the guest promos and sheep sing-a-longs take the punishment.

Worst: Sometimes You Don’t Need To Show The Work

The Cody Rhodes and Goldust maybe-breakup continued this week, and that’s a good thing. If we aren’t going to keep Goldust on TV forever we should send him off with the one thing he actually wants to do in pro wrestling — help his brother get over before he’s gone.

The only problem I have with it is WWE’s weird idea of pacing. I don’t know who convinced the head writers that you had to repeat step one several weeks in a row to make sure everybody sees it, but you don’t. If Cody is upset about a loss one week and shoves Goldust away, that happened. It’s a thing we can remember and go back to. He doesn’t have to do the exact same thing in his next six matches before another plot point happens.

It’s the same thing they do with pay-per-view matches now. If Jack Swagger and Cesaro are going to wrestle at the big event, they wrestle over and over on Raw and Smackdown. How many times has Alexander Rusev had to squash Xavier Woods to build to a Rusev/Woods match? Why do they think we’ll only be excited to see a match if we’ve already seen it five times?

Don’t be afraid to move your stories forward. You’re a weekly episodic show with a dozen TV hours to play with. Your stories can have ten steps, you know? Not just two. You can also go step one, step two, not “step one, step one, step one, step one, step one, step two.” Tell all ten in order and see how much more exciting that tenth is when you get there.

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