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And now, with 100% fewer helicopter entrances, it’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 29, 2013.
Best: Starting Raw With Something I Don’t Expect
Here’s a quick list of ten things I enjoy in pro wrestling, in no particular order:
1. fresh matches, even if they don’t look great on paper
2. Ricardo Rodriguez
3. people in Zubaz pants
4. comedy involving people getting hit with buckets
5. ridiculously racist characters that are so racist you can’t believe it
6. Big E Langston
7. matches that help build top level feuds or provide stipulations
9. Cactus Jack clotheslines
10. AJ Lee appearing out of nowhere to do something unexpected
This match had ALL TEN OF THOSE THINGS. You wouldn’t think a match between two managers and a guy who should be able to literally murder them by flexing would be a great way to start Raw, but it was, at least for me. The match wasn’t the main-event of Era Of Honor Begins or whatever, but it was fun, and the obviousness of the finish (Big E defeats them easily) made the less-obvious-but-probably-still-really-obvious finish of Ricardo rolling up Zeb for the three a surprise.
The characters were all pitch-perfect here … Ricardo is a KILLER underdog babyface, Zeb Colter is an opportunistic jerk who hates minorities and can’t really fight or wrestle, Big E Langston is crazy powerful but not really motivated to try hard, Del Rio is that WWE Main-Event Good Guy who will interfere at the drop of a hat, Dolph Ziggler’s too busy taunting after his move to pay attention to the thing about to hurt him, Jack Swagger is threatening but largely ineffectual and AJ Lee is spectacular at appearing unexpectedly and altering the course of events. It’s exactly what this kind of match should be. Sorta like TLC II (the one with Rhino, Spike Dudley and Lita run-ins that all made sense and added constructively to the match) on the smallest possible scale.
Best: Ricardo’s Zubaz Pants
If you aren’t familiar with the wonder of Zubaz pants, they were a brand of stretchy weightlifting pants popularized in the 1980s when the Road Warriors discovered their legs were too gigantic to be housed in regular people pants. They are … more or less pajama pants. Regardless, they are right behind “fannypack” on the list of things that you can wear to make you THE MOST WRESTLING, and I popped for them.
Fun aside: I attended my first ever legitimate lucha libre show this weekend (an event you can hear about in detail on The Mandible Claw Podcast) and pro wrestler Jack Jameson was wearing Ricardo’s pants. The only difference is that his were Green Bay Packers themed. Make your comeback, Zubaz!
Best: THE YALAMINADAHHHHHHHH
It is very difficult to boo John Cena when he’s flanked by three Make-A-Wish kids. Yet, as of the time of this article going up, 21 people have given a “thumbs down” to this video. Thanks for at least waiting until you got home to be assholes, I guess!
But no, John Cena The Character gets a lot of (deserved) grief, but John Cena The Guy continues to be pretty amazing. I should not be on the verge of tears when watching a wrestling program (unless Dusty Rhodes is offering somebody A HUG AND A KISS TO SEAL THE DEAL), but this and especially its accompanying “John Cena surprises kids in the hospital” video got me there. I’m happy that these kids got to show up and scream their wrestler names on Raw, and I hope somebody finds a spot for them in the WWE Encyclopedia.
This is probably an awful thing to type, but I feel bad that the kids didn’t seem happier. Is that weird? I know they’ve got horrible stuff happening to them, but this was their dream wish, right? They should be beaming, and instead they’re just kinda standing there waiting for their moms to lead them away. I guess it’s intimidating and shock-inducing for anybody to get cheered at by 15,000 people or whatever and I do not for a second want to seem like I’m being judgmental about a kid with cancer’s on-screen charisma, but I just kinda want to see them smiling and being happy. Maybe they learned the hard way that being around John Cena for more than a minute is a drag.
You know what else would’ve made this segment awesome? SIERRA HOTEL INDIA ECHO LIMA DELTA
Best: What’s Up, 20-Minute Match On Raw?
I saw a lot of negative feedback for this Raw on the Twittah Machine. Stuff like, “is this Raw worse than the one two weeks ago?” I thought this Raw was pretty great, for one very, very important reason: It featured three 15-ish minute wrestling matches. How am I gonna throw shade at a Raw that gave me that, even if I don’t like the results?
“Cody Rhodes vs. Randy Orton” is one of the most stale matches WWE does, because Cody Rhodes CANNOT WIN. If Orton wrestles Wade Barrett (which he does, constantly), there’s an off chance that Barrett might get a storyline win or something and keep it going. If Dolph Ziggler wrestles Kofi Kingston (HA, like they’re ever gonna do THAT again), either guy can win. When Orton steps into the ring with Rhodes, the last three years of character development and growth goes out the window, and Orton just pretends like he’s still got heat and Cody’s still his Legacy crony. Sometimes Cody doesn’t get in any offense and just exists for Orton to do his moves. Sometimes he gets to wrestle, and when Cody Rhodes gets to wrestle, wrestling is good.
Thankfully, last night’s match let Cody look good. I bought the Cross Rhodes counter to the RKO as a finish and everything. “Wow, is Cody Rhodes gonna win?” I said that out-loud. I’m stupid. But you never know, right? They could be going somewhere with Cody, and not just pairing him with the Bella Twins for E!-pleasing comedy matches and romance angles. Like they’d ever do THAT. They’d have another Ziggler/Kingston match before they did THAT.
Worst: Come On, Cody, What Were You Going For
Orton loves his match-ending RKO counter spots, so of course this one had to end with Cody jumping into an RKO or running into one “out of nowhere,” or both. Sometimes the spots are organic — see CM Punk’s diving clothesline into an RKO at WrestleMania — or creative, like the time Orton countered Del Rio’s corner enzuigiri. Sometimes they are … just dudes jumping headfirst into nothingness. Christian loves to do this.
Seriously, look at that picture. What’re you going for, Cody, a Santo headbutt? There’s no way you could’ve brought your leg around to kick him. My only justification for this dive into oblivion is that maybe Cody was GOING for a Disaster Kick, but when he turned to spring off he saw Orton getting up and tried to readjust into something else, which left him prone. One of those times when an announcer making up shit on the fly probably would’ve come in handy.
Best: Black Ref Sticks Up For The Funkadactyls
As previously mentioned, Twin Magic should not work anymore. Two reasons:
1. When the Killer Bees pulled this off in the 80s, they were the good guys. They did it as a psychological trick to give them an advantage. Wrestling masks are totally legal pro graps attire, so even though they weren’t necessarily playing fairly, they were within the legal limits of the match. They also wrestled exclusively in tag matches, which made both guys being in the ring a thing that could happen. If they were singles wrestlers switching out entire bodies to steal pins, they would be not only cheating but committing fraud (when Brie Bella wins for Nikki, does Nikki still get the win bonus? OF COURSE SHE DOES).
2. One of the Bella Twins got big breast implants.
I’ve always thought refs were kinda stupid for not being able to call Twin Magic (the Bellas are not identical and have never been), but two ladies with long hair in identical clothing, sure, whatever. If the f**king Bashams could pull it off, the Bellas should be able to. But wrestling is a taped, televised thing now. They aren’t pulling off Twin Magic to get wins at non-televised house shows. These are reviewable, replayable incidents and I’m glad WWE’s finally cracking down on them. They “banned” them from the #1 Contender Battle Royal last week, and now Black Ref is smart enough and good enough at his job to hear Cameron say “hey, they did Twin Magic” and AT LEAST take a look at them to see if he f**ked up.
Let that be the end of Twin Magic. Just because you are twins doesn’t mean you have to pretend you’re identical. You’re Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, not Michelle Tanner. You aren’t Mecha Shiva. You are allowed to have your own thing. Have those things. Real life Brie and Nikki are way more compelling than TV Brie and Nikki anyway.
Worst: Total Divas, Now Justifying A 2-Minute Raw Match With 15 Episodes About Aksana Trying To Hook Up With Justin Gabriel Or Whatever
Worst: The Good Guys Save The Heels To Run Off The … Other Heels?
I hate to give a Worst to a segment involving The Shield, 3MB and Team Hell No, but here we are.
The Shield decided to do an in-ring promo for whatever reason to explain why they beat up The Undertaker. They should’ve just yelled “PRO WRESTLING” once and bailed, but whatever. They show a Smackdown highlight video (assumedly filmed on their “found” video camera and edited together by Rollins, who is clearly “the nerdy one”) and are interrupted by 3MB, who are (1) hilarious (2) delusional (3) loosely-justified in not wanting to be pushed around by these NEW NXT types.
So The Shield starts to easily beat up 3MB and here comes Team Hell No to … make the save? They run off The Shield, then attack the people they just saved (in the style of John Cena) to “send a message” to The Shield. To the group they just ran off, who had just gotten a message. I don’t know. It just didn’t make a lot of sense to me and seemed like a massive waste of talented wrestlers. The good news is that it set up a great match for LATER, so it’s bad as it could’ve been, even with all the alignment problems. The bad news is that Heath Slater was not involved.
Best: Dolph Ziggler Is Wrestling Kofi Kingston Again And I Feel Fine
Guess what? I liked this. Maybe those three months of Kofi hilariously failing and losing to people eased my hatred enough to accept him for what he is, and I’m better off for it.
There were some problems. Ziggler/Kingston has been done more than any wrestling match in the modern era (I refuse to believe otherwise) and I do not ever, ever need to see it again. They’ve done everything they can do. But they’re comfortable with each other and the crowds never seem to hate it as much as me, so maybe I’m just looking at it wrong. My other problem was that World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler needed not one but TWO people to help him beat a guy who two months ago was losing 15 seconds into his matches, but as I was typing that I remembered Ric Flair hanging onto the NWA title by Horseman-ference, his feet on the ropes and paying off referee Tommy Young for the majority of my childhood. So, again, maybe I’m just mad that the guy I like is losing to the guy I don’t. So I’m wrong, but also right? Wrestling is weird.
I liked a lot of it. Ziggler does two things better than any wrestler in the world right now: the O’Connor Roll and the stupid ass-fulcrum slingshot into the turnbuckles. He KILLS those moves. Kofi is still the King Of Jumping, and if we can buffer his “I JUMPED INTO YOU, YEAHHH” shit with stuff like Big E Langston trying to resuscitate Ziggler via Heimlich Maneuver, I’ll accept it.
Good match, guys. Now never do it again.
(See you next week, when they do it again.)
Worst: Jerry Lawler Goes FULL CREEP
The worst part of the match BY FAR was Jerry “The King” Lawler going off the deep end. Holy SHIT, you guys.
The first instance came when Michael Cole was shilling WWE Magazine’s list of the most ill-fated romances in wrestling history. Lawler mentions that he had one of those (with his ex-wife Stacy, if I’m getting my reference correctly, although f**k it, he could be talking about Su Yung) and that he’d written a song about it. The title: “You Broke My Heart, So I Broke Your Jaw.” YUUUUUUP. Maybe it’s from the woman’s point of view and the joke is that SHE broke HIS jaw, or maybe he is a terrible f**king person. At least he didn’t make any other jokes about abusing women!
Oh wait, he f**king DID.
Near the end of the match, the announcers bring up that thing they always bring up in the middle of their “AJ is a whore” circle-jerk about how Cole is the only person AJ’s ever rejected on WWE TV. Lawler’s comment, and I’m paraphrasing here, was that Michael asked AJ what he could give her to get a kiss, and her response was “chloroform.” So after Lawler makes a joke about punching a lady in the face, he goes straight for the rape goof.
Hey Jerry, the next time you aren’t busy at work or browsing the discount rack at Ross for discounted, off-brand Affliction shirts with “king” references on them, google “what decade is this” and realize that maybe you and your ignorant brand of bar-lowering misogynistic horseshit is not helping. I don’t care if it is wrestling.
Best: Please Let Kaitlyn’s Secret Admirer Be Goldust
You know how I know ‘Total Divas’ won’t enhance my ability to enjoy womens’ wrestling on WWE TV? Because the only two things they know how to do with women are
1. Put them in battles royal
2. Have them bump into each other backstage and call each other names
That’s it. Adding 22 minutes of Natalya justifying her “farting girlfriend” paycheck by saying she’s a role model for little girls isn’t going to help.
Anyway, one of WWE’s worst tropes (the “we ran into each other and YOUR A BITCH~” thing) was elevated to GLORY by the likability of the performers involved and ended up being one of my favorite segments on Raw. It’s impossible for me to see AJ, Dolph and Big E interact without smiling. Dolph complimenting Big E (but not enough to take the shine off of HIS performance) was great, as were the natural chemistry between Kaitlyn and AJ and the continuing callbacks to their years of history together. AJ telling Ziggler to hold her back and the total lack of effort she put into trying to intimidate Kaitlyn were amazing.
That led to the totally-naturally-timed delivery of a MYSTERY LOVE PACKAGE that was CLEARLY from Road Warrior Hawk circa 1983, a new WWE mystery and the best part of all: Natalya being the most worthless woman on WWE television, somehow. Listen to her. She shits on Kaitlyn’s present to try to get herself over, then when Kaitlyn’s like “no, I like it,” she starts talking about how cool it is. She goes from “it’s kinda ugly” to “it’s beautiful” in 24 seconds. YOU ARE BARELY A PERSON, NATALYA. Kaitlyn’s response should’ve been “you don’t like my hat? You’re f**king an Ent and your asshole smells like Hornswoggle’s house. Go f**k yourself.”
I know the logical conclusion is that Cody Rhodes is the admirer, but if the payoff is Goldust showing up and just breathing all over her I will be the happiest boy. Hey, it’s got precedent … Goldust loves muscly blondes and NXT contestants.
Best: Ryback Is Suddenly The Most Reasonable Guy On This Show
Last week’s Best and Worst of Raw column featured a Best entitled, “Ryback Is Totally Correct, For The Record.” If you didn’t read it, it’s about how his complaints are justifiable, and how Mick Foley has no business showing up and making these character demands of Ryback to stick up for John Cena, the worst and most opportunistic person on the show. It’s the issue of someone who we don’t like who is right arguing with someone we like who is wrong.
Suddenly, Ryback is one of the most well-written and logical characters on the show. I don’t know how it happened. The guy was yelling about food a month ago, and now he’s brilliant. He approaches John Cena (approaches, not attacks) in the locker room and inquires about Cena’s foot injury. Cena makes up some goofy thing about how he’s “hurt, not injured” because SYNONYMS and Ryback’s just like, “nope, you’re going to be a liability.” He goes to Brickie and tells them that he isn’t going to be in the match tonight, because Cena’s injured and he doesn’t want to be left alone to get beaten up by The Shield again. Vickie tries to satiate him by putting Team Hell No on his team, but Ryback’s been there and done that, and refuses.
It’s not something the WWE Universe LIKES, because from a distance it looks like Ryback’s being a “coward” and not having faith in Cena or whatever, but he’s totally right. Team Hell No can’t get the job done against The Shield. Cena’s ankle is (and ends up being) a liability. He’d be walking into an unnecessary loss and getting his ass kicked. He’s got a title match coming up. He’s staying out of harms way to be healthy. Cena’s not even taking a day off when he tears a muscle in his foot. One of these people is stupid. The other one is Ryback.
Worst: Can We Get A Salad Place To Deliver A Bag Of Carrots To Jerry Lawler Or What
WWE should consider not having the 70-year old man who recently had a heart attack in their “we’re excited to eat this garbage!” promotional skits. Although hey, a supplementary Best goes to WWE for their accurate depiction of Domino’s Pizza. You order the pizza, it takes forever and they deliver it to the wrong people.
Best: STFU, Zack Ryder
Zack Ryder, a man who is an astronaut suit away from cosplaying Jack Swagger Of Mars, walks out to insult Zeb Colter by showing the finish from Colter’s match earlier in the night. Here are a few things to remember:
1. Zeb Colter has had about as many matches on Raw this year as Zack Ryder
2. Zeb Colter was at WrestleMania, Zack Ryder wasn’t
3. Zeb Colter was participating in a match to decide the stipulations for a World Heavyweight Title match at Extreme Rules, Zack Ryder will not be involved in that
4. Zeb Colter lost his match via flash pin. Ryder is about three minutes away from losing via submission, tapping out after being in the hold for about four seconds.
5. A non-wrestler getting pinned by another non-wrestler is not that big of a deal anyway, it’s not like Cena got pinned by Ricardo
6. Zack Ryder is not Ricardo Rodriguez, and his character is not associated with Rodriguez or Alberto Del Rio in any way
7. Isn’t what Zack Ryder’s doing right now the announce team’s job? Or are they too busy ordering pizzas on the Internet?
8. f**k Zack Ryder
Worst: Sheamus Ruins A Perfectly Good Mark Henry Strength Exhibition By Being An Infantile Prick
I don’t know how to write about this without being all “Brandon” about it, but here goes.
Mark Henry wanted to prove to the audience that he is the strongest man in the world, so he goes to Vickie Guerrero and requests two opponents for a tug of war challenge. She gives him two of the biggest guys on the roster — Brodus Clay and Tensai — and Henry defeats them easily at tug of war, because he is strong.
When that’s over, Sheamus interrupts. He offers himself up as a THIRD opponent for Mark, which Mark turns down, because he’s just beaten two gigantic guys and proven his point. What does Sheamus do to get what he wants? He tells Henry he’s afraid. Henry doesn’t want to be called names, so he accepts. They have another fair tug of war challenge, and while Sheamus does better than either of the other guys, he still gets dominated. Just before he’s about to be pulled over the line for a loss, Sheamus lets go of the rope on purpose, causing Mark to fall down. The crowd laughs. Mark stands up to complain, so Sheamus kicks him in the face and poses over him.
Mark Henry is the bad guy. Sheamus is the good guy. The guy who straight-up interrupts a child’s game to call a guy names, be a sore loser AT the child’s game, set his opponent up for embarrassment and then attack him without provocation. The opponent who was tired after already beating two other guys. I know “Be A Star” is the punchline here, but Jesus.
Best: Antonio Cesaro Loses!
This match was GREAT. I encourage you to find the full-length version, if you can. Antonio Cesaro losing continues to be a bummer, but at least he lost to an important guy (instead of R-Truth, for God’s sake) and got to look like a star doing it. I especially loved the finish, with the armbreaker countered into a schoolboy, right into an armbreaker.
Worst: I’m Having ‘Best In The World’ Flashbacks Because Of These Ole Chants
That said, Ricardo starting the “Olé, Olé, Olé” football chant for Del Rio didn’t work for me. With good ol’ Sami Zayn in developmental it’s just another reminder that El Generico’s NXT appearance was a one-time thing, and that we’re just gonna have to live with it.
After I typed this out as a Worst, I started considering the lineage of the chant in pro wrestling, and it got me thinking. I think the first time it showed up was when Punk was using ‘¡Olé!’ by Bouncing Souls as his entrance theme, which somehow found its way to being associated with Samoa Joe and his outside-the-ring bootscrape in Ring of Honor. Generico got the chants (because “Mexico”) and used the Bouncing Souls song too, and now that he’s done with it, I guess Del Rio’s gonna pick it up. At least all of those people were cool when they were using it. Maybe it’s the chant version of the “Tiger Mask” name. It goes where it goes, and good stuff usually happens. Occasionally you get Tiger Mask IV, but what’re you gonna do.
I am kinda mad at Del Rio for always yanking other peoples’ chants, though. First the “yes” chant, and now this? Come on, ADR, get your own stuff.
Worst: You Should Try Harder When You Get The Chance To Pick A Stipulation
After the Cesaro match, Del Rio announced that his Ricardo-won stipulation for the World Heavyweight Title match at Extreme Rules would be a ladder match. From a wrestling fan point of view, you’re all, WOO, LADDER MATCH. Del Rio and Ziggler take crazy falls all the time, and with a stronger guy like Swagger in the ring with them, they should be able to do something special.
From the point of view of a guy who has to dissect and rationalize this stuff, damn, why would you do that? Ladder matches are supposed to be these brutal career-enders, right? They build Money in the Bank around the idea that wrestlers are putting their lives on the line for a shot at the title. Del Rio gets to pick ANY STIPULATION HE WANTS IN THE WORLD and he picks a LADDER MATCH against TWO MONEY IN THE BANK WINNERS? Why? I can see not wanting to pick a submission match because Dolph’s got the sleeper and Swagger’s got the ankle lock, and you can’t pick Last Man Standing (which Del Rio is great at) because there are three people in the match, but … couldn’t you have taken a little more time and picked something safer? Like a “Zeb Colter and Ziggler’s posse are banned from ringside” thing? Put them in a shark cage and hang them over the ring? Anything?
Worst: Fandango Clearly Won That Dance Competition
I have never believed wrestling was fake until right now.
Watch Natalya try to lead Khali through that dance number. Dogs leading blind people across the street have more grace than that.