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– GIFS courtesy of Jerusalem over at Punchsport Pagoda.
– As previously mentioned, I’m making my first feature length film. It’s called Meet Me There, stars WWE’s Goldust, features a poster designed by the same lady who designed CM Punk’s new shirt and is written by, uh, the guy who writes The Best and Worst of Raw. If you like any of those things, you should consider donating to the cause.
Also, if you are the gent who spoke with me about the movie at WrestleCon, please send me an e-mail.
Please click through to enjoy The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for April 8, 2013.
Worst: The Return Of The Worst Possible WWE Insult
Last year, I missed the entirety of the post-WrestleMania Raw (aka “the only Raw where stuff happens”) because I was on my way back from Miami and stuck in the Dallas airport. This year I made it home somewhere near the beginning of the Intercontinental Championship match, so all I missed was a short Daniel Bryan/Big E Langston match (more on that in a second) and an opening, celebratory John Cena segment that was capped by him saying Mark Henry had the “breath of a thousand asses.”
If you’re a regular watcher of WWE programming, you’re aware that the only thing WWE thinks is more funny than a dude in a Sherlock Holmes hat and pipe looking for “clues” is somebody saying somebody else has bad breath. They LOVE it. It’s the worst insult they can come up with. Triple H will hold you down on a table and slap your chest like a weirdo for saying his wife’s a whore and his children are worthless and stupid, but he’d probably pull out a gun and shoot you if you told him his breath was like something’s asshole. I like to imagine a scenario where I meet Vince McMahon, shake his hand, then just casually ask him if he needs a mint. I can’t figure out whether he’d start screaming and pointing at me, or if he’d just do that big exaggerated gulp.
Worst: Hey, It’s That Awesome Match I Suggested To Build The Tag Title Match From … Uh, The Day Before This
I think every pre-Mania Best and Worst of Raw featured a line about how Daniel Bryan should have a match on Raw with Big E Langston. It’s just one of those things I wanted to see. I like both guys, Langston could benefit from getting to work with somebody who isn’t Bo Dallas, and Daniel Bryan is arguably at his best going up against huge monster guys. See: Mark Henry, Takeshi Morishima, etc. Not only that, but Daniel Bryan’s offense is like 70% hitting you in the chest with something, and Big E Langston is 70% chest.
Here’s a quick list of reasons why this disappointed me:
1. I didn’t get home in time to see it after asking for it for a month.
2. It was only two minutes long.
3. Daniel Bryan lost a two minute version of any match.
4. It was mostly pointless, because the Ziggler Crew tag title shot happened the night before, and (assuming you’ve seen the rest of Raw) they probably aren’t trying to build to a rematch.
I hope this isn’t the last time we see the match, because I still think it can be great. I also hope that one day Michael Cole attempts to explain why The Big Ending hurts Langston’s opponents, when it looks like Langston is hurting his back and arm and the other guy is just kinda dropping five feet onto his hands and knees.
Best: Let’s Go Barrett, Clap Clap ClapClapClap
So, this made my heart flutter a little bit.
The New Jersey crowd starts chanting for Wade Barrett about midway through this match, and that’s when the post-WrestleMania Raw goes from “normal Raw” to “OH MY GOD THIS RAW.” If they called an audible to give Barrett the win in response to the crowd, good for them. If they didn’t, and scheduled Miz to win the IC title to continue his “I’m good at WrestleMania” gag to just turn around and give it back to Barrett — a guy who held the title forever and only ever seemed to lose, but never lose IT — is a little suspect. Either way, Miz got his clock cleaned while an arena of people cheered, and things seem just a little more right.
I really enjoyed this match. I thought it was better than their Mania effort, helped a lot by a crowd actually giving a shit about what was happening instead of trying to find their seats and squeeze past people and battle ushers. Face Miz continues to recover from his abysmal transition into good-guydom and looks like he’s got the figure-four processes on lock, so that’s a positive. And Barrett? Oh man …
Best: Now THAT’s A Motherf**king Bullhammer
Earlier in the match, Barrett mistimes Miz’s backbreaker-to-neckbreaker combo (or loses his balance, or tries to jump, or SOMETHING) and Miz ends up landing on Barrett’s face. It looked painful. I can’t say for sure whether or not the match-ending Dog Boner elbow strike was a receipt for the f**k-up, but suddenly the wimpiest, worst-looking finish in WWE became a STRAIGHT ELBOW TO THE MOUTH WITH AUTHORITY, and thank Christ.
I’m not saying Wade Barrett should go Full Roderick Strong and just start hitting people for real, but if the Bullhammer looked more like that and less like the World’s Worst Rainmaker, I’d be happy. I am also totally okay with him braining Miz on the reg, because Miz is pretty much the king of f**king up and hurting people, so you can sneak in a few shoot elbow KOs before anybody says anything.
Best: Brickie, Forever And Ever
I feel like I say it every week, but I cannot get enough of Brad Maddox on my television. He doesn’t even have to say anything funny. He just makes faces and covers his mouth and moves his eyebrows around and I’m in. I also love how he’s secretly been this totally positive thing for Vickie. She started out giving him a job just to make Paul Heyman mad, but notice how different she is now from before she had Cornbeef around … before, she was always interrupting people and shouting and yelling at the crowd. Now, she just hangs around backstage in her office, deals with problems as they come to her, and never has to really scream at anybody. She can even send Maddox out for interviews with Matt Striker, or to make impromptu matches. It all seems very low stress.
Sheamus and Randy Orton have got to be the worst dudes on this show, too. I don’t know how Brickie deals with them. They lost the match, you know? They didn’t tag in Show, pissed him off, and lost the match. WWE’s recaps say they lost when Show knocked them out, but they didn’t … they lost, and THEN Show knocked them out. Orton and Sheamus shouldn’t get any special privileges. Brickie was right to just make them wrestle each other and get booed out of the building.
Best/Worst: Here’s That WrestleMania Match Again For Free, Everybody
The secret to this Raw is that it was SPECTACULAR because of the crowd response and atmosphere, but actually pretty assy in regard to match quality and storytelling. An early example is Daniel Bryan losing to Big E Langston AFTER the tag titles match at WrestleMania, but just BEFORE Ziggler cashes in and makes Team Rocket’s tag titles quest irrelevant. Another is the handicap match between World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio and the Jack Swagger/Zeb Colter team the night after Swagger LOST his title match, featuring almost no participation from Zeb. It’s like they (1) needed Del Rio to get hurt enough somehow to make Ziggler’s cash-in a reality, and (2) didn’t want to do the exact same match as Sunday, but couldn’t come up with anything better, so they said “Dutch, go stand ON the apron instead of beside it.”
Seriously, what does Zeb do here? He just kinda crouch-stands on the apron looking confused. That’s it. He doesn’t save Swagger when Swagger’s in danger, he doesn’t pull the referee out of the ring, he doesn’t distract anybody to keep Swagger’s tap-out from ending the match, he doesn’t do ANYTHING. He’s just there so the match will be technically different.
The actual match was pretty good, with the best parts of it being rehashed from the Mania match. I did enjoy Swagger falling victim to the Kurt Angle ankle lock counter (“roll forward”) and selling it by stumbling a bit and stopping himself at the ropes instead of doing the Kurt thing where he goes flying and straddles the middle rope with his neck. Realism, sort of!
The biggest complaint about this match is that it was 12 minutes long and nowhere NEAR as great as the 3 minute match that followed it.
BEST: HERE TO SHOW THE WORLD
SO, THIS IS HAPPENING
I’m not sure, but Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler for the World Heavyweight Championship might be the best three minute match I’ve ever seen. It was glorious. It accomplished everything you needed to accomplish. Alberto Del Rio was injured enough to justify a short match, but still valiant enough of a champion to fight through the injury and look tough. Ziggler got in a lot of cheap offense but won the match clean (as clean as a post-match Money in the Bank cash-in can be, at least). Most importantly, Ziggler WON THE MATCH, instantly giving the briefcase back the heat it’s been missing since Cena cashed in his like a dweeb and Ziggler hoarded the other one for a year.
How great was this, though? Del Rio’s corner kick was BOSS. Ziggler countered the cross armbreaker using logic (gasp!) instead of just rolling around into another signature move like WWE guys do. The Zig Zag was beautiful. It all worked, and I will be a happy man if Del Rio and Ziggler can get a formal feud soon, because they work SO well together. Plus, they have adorable crews.
Best: Holy Shit, This Crowd
We’re never going to forget Ziggler’s cash-in, thanks almost exclusively to the New Jersey crowd. They jumped the shark a little later when they did the “We Are Awesome” chant and started chanting for Michael Cole, but they did something very important: they stopped taking their cues, and just cheered for whatever made them happy and shat on whatever didn’t. WWE treated this like a crazy, once-in-a-lifetime happenstance, but you know what? This is what wrestling crowds are supposed to be like. See how great it is when the reactions are fun and organic, and not a bunch of line-reads you taught them before the show? It makes wrestling seem like a cool, fun thing to watch with your friends, and not like the propaganda and t-shirt sales video it usually is.
Best: Dolph Ziggler’s Crew > Your Crew
I love them. Absolutely love them. Kaitlyn had an awful, catty tweet about how AJ “didn’t know whether to laugh or cry” and how she was crazy, but f**k Kaitlyn, because crying and laughing can both be side effects of SHOOT JOY, and AJ had it. So did Big E. These three should be friends forever.
(they should also let Big E use his own entrance theme, because that is kinda weird)
Best: SIERRA HOTEL INDIA OTHER WORDS
Remember that theory that The Shield exists as an extension of my pro wrestling watching anger, and when I get to my breaking point they show up and beat people up on my behalf? Yeah, Undertaker cutting promos is my least favorite thing in the world, especially when they stop being about THE DEPTHS OF HAIL and veer towards issues regarding This Business, so theory validated.
I really, really wanted to see The Shield take Undertaker out (if only for the sight of Tyler Black standing tall over the goddamn Undertaker), but I’m also okay with Team Hell No making the dramatic save, and with Daniel Bryan being an honorary Brother Of Destruction. Because seriously, this picture is amazing:
This will make a hell of an Extreme Rules match. Or a solid WrestleMania match next year, which would give us a year of The Shield steamrolling super teams en route to breaking Undertaker’s streak as a unit. Or, more importantly, riding into the arena on a f**king helicopter. No, I don’t care if Mania is in the Superdome. They can land on the roof and cut holes in the ceiling.
Worst: And The Rest!
the hell is this match
If you’re like me, you saw 3MB going up against the Italian Arthur Rosenberg, the black Stan Stansky and their less-important-than-Rosenberg-and-Stansky friend and thought, “okay, who is debuting to beat them all up?” It’s the show after Mania, major things are happening and six goofy chumps are going at it in the ring. Mason Ryan, maybe? Is Mason Ryan still a thing?
But then it was just … uh, a match. My only working theory is that WWE was worried that the crowd was getting out of hand, knew a Randy Orton/Sheamus match was coming up next and needed something to bore everybody and cool them down. So they thought, “hey, these guys never get a reaction, let’s send them out and make them WRESTLE, HAW HAW.”
Spoiler alert: That did not work.
Best: You Know That Was Totally When Triple H Was Supposed To Give A Post-Match Speech, But He Chickened Out Because Of The Crowd
I was in the SummerSlam crowd that chanted “you tapped out” and “na na na na hey hey hey goodbye” at Triple H. I watched him take a week off to distance himself from that, then show up on Raw to deliver the same “I’m sorry, I love me” act to get the reaction he thought he deserved at SummerSlam. And sure, he probably took the week off for “arm injuries” (read: to get the deadly jizz burns off of his stomach) and there’s no conspiracy to be had, but man, I would’ve loved Triple H standing in the ring trying to wank and dick joke this crowd.
Remember that Survivor Series when CM Punk was getting bigger cheers than DX or the Hardyz, so H took the microphone and was all, “oh hey, Triple H thinks you should cheer for CM PUNK” to bogart the reaction? Yeah, he’s not above it. WWE, please hold all shows in front of crowds like this so Triple H will not appear. Please and thank you.
Worst: What’s My Line
The best part of the show was easily Randy Orton interrupting Sheamus in the ring, forgetting his lines, then pausing, walking up to Sheamus and repeatedly saying “what’s my line” until he came up with something shitty and they jumped to commercial break. When they came back, they had Brickie cut to the chase and be all “oh so you BOTH want a match against Big Show,” because apparently Randy Orton has never taken level one improv anywhere and couldn’t just make up some shit about how he wanted a match, since, you know, he shouldn’t be expected to follow his own stories or pay attention to anything he’s done or said. Big Show knocked you out at WrestleMania and you JUST recorded a thing where you asked Booker T for a match against Show. JUST MAKE SOMETHING UP. “I want a match with Show and I deserve it more than you” is not Oscar Wilde, you Burgertime f**king hot dog.
Best: Orton And Sheamus As Goldberg And Brock Lesnar
The WWE Fan Nation video skips all of that, fills up most of the clip with Brickie and the backstage segments, and jumps right to the end of the match. What it misses is the greatest ever example of a crowd saying “f**k it” to playing along and shitting all over a boring, pandering, unimportant match between guys they hate. FINALLY.
None of this made sense. Orton and Sheamus both wanted a match with Show. Sheamus asked the lady in charge of Raw. Orton asked the guy from Smackdown for whatever reason. In theory, that alone should’ve been an excuse to say “it’s Raw, Sheamus gets the match.” Instead they do a poll, asking the WWE Universe who they think should wrestle Show, and they overwhelmingly pick Orton, because the only people voting on the app are people who’d want to see Randy Orton. So that’s reason to say “Orton gets the match.” Instead of either of those things, they have a flubby mic exchange and end up being put in a match against each other for the … I don’t know, prestige of facing Big Show later? They aren’t having a title match. Why couldn’t they do a triple threat, or take turns?
So the crowd recognized that the match was stupid garbage and treated it appropriately. They chanted “END THIS MATCH,” “RVD,” “JBL” and anything else they could think of to pass the time. Sheamus and Orton just obliviously ignored them, doing their same bullshit match as they were told, not once considering that they should have a little fun and actually play to the crowd they’re paid to play to. They went through the entire 15 minutes of motions en route to the finish the crowd would’ve loved three minutes in. It was a weird “us vs. them” thing, and if WWE learns anything from Monday night, it should be that fans are better when they’re allowed to live and breathe. How much more fun does this show seem than a normal Raw? This is what you want casual fans to tune into … crowds that cannot stop having fun, even when your show sucks. That’s basically Nitro in a nutshell, isn’t it?
Best: Thank You Big Show Clap Clap ClapClapClap
Took you long enough.
Best: Fandango Is The New Daniel Bryan, Or
Worst: F**k You, Cool Dad
A few numbered points, so I can keep them all in order:
1. Okay, so of course Fandango isn’t actually the new Daniel Bryan. Last year, the WrestleMania crowd loved Daniel Bryan and were upset that he lost in 18 seconds, so they continued the YES! YES! YES! chants all night. That carried into the next night’s Raw, and the feeling was so infectious that WWE was forced to at least keep Bryan around and do something with him to sell his merch. This year, the post-Mania crowd started humming Fandango’s music because … well, I’m not 100% sure why, but they gave him a heroes welcome, possibly because Fandango is awesome and you f**kers have finally noticed. If it’s ironic, let it be ironic. I almost bought an Aces & Eights shirt this weekend to wear ironically. Nobody’s doing ironic love in wrestling these days, so hey, it could work.
If it isn’t irony and the people actually came around to Fandango (because they should, because he is great), that’s also good. Sometimes WWE runs with something terrible for a guy and it turns out to be magic. I think Dirty Curty might be exactly the right amount of talented and weird to make Fandango a real thing, and if that bothers you, I’d like to direct you to the fact that the “greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time” is a wrestling Elvis impersonator.
2. Daaa DA! DA da da daaaa dadadaaaaDA!
3. Boy do I hate babyface Chris Jericho. The guy loses a match at Fandango at WrestleMania, and how does he respond? By interrupting a match, beating the guy up, putting him in a submission hold and refusing to release it, then mocking him. And he’s the good guy? Fandango was just trying to dance and beat Kofi Kingston, because he’s got better things to do than loiter around Bobby and Janey’s soccer practice with Cool Dad.
Best: Kofi Kingston’s Streak Of Great Matches Continues
4. Kofi Kingston’s 2013 continues to make me love him. He’s so hilariously worthless right now. The guy only appears when somebody needs to quickly knock him out or get interrupted, and the only time he’s gotten to talk on television was as ersatz Shannon Sharpe on a PPV pre-show. It’s wonderful. I hope he never changes. Be this generation’s Tito Santana for real, Kofi!
Worst: Yep, Couldn’t Find A Spot On WrestleMania For That 2 Minute Match
I enjoyed all two minutes of this, but man, you couldn’t have wedged this in between a Rock hype video and an “I LOVE NEW YORK and also new jersey but not as much” thing to get these eight a WrestleMania payday?
There were a lot of highlights here, even if it went by too quickly. JBL calling Cody Rhodes “Mike Schmidt,” Rhodes Scholars and the Bella Twins doing that ultimate Disaster Kick -> butt sandwich -> Cubito Aequet combo, Brodus executing the worst non-Titus O’Neil pin in Raw history after a suplex and Tensai eating Damien Sandow’s knees on a mistimed splash:
So let’s do this again, but give everybody a little more time. Also, let’s build a time machine and do it on Sunday instead of Puff Daddy.
Worst: A Count-Out? In 3 Minutes? Really?
And so, the main event of the most excited Raw in a year is a limp, 3-minute count-out victory for John Cena, because John Cena ain’t care.
Best: Ryback Figures Out How To Get A Title Shot
The only Best for the main-event (besides Mark Henry’s amazing yelling of TELL ME A JOKE while stomping and piefacing Cena) is the reemergence of Ryback as a dynamic thing to care about. I might be typing that too often. Ryback ALMOST works, but there’s something weirdly false about him, like he’s trying too hard to play a character, or he doesn’t get that wrestling isn’t real, or … something. It’s hard to pinpoint. But he works as a very strong, very angry guy who just shows up and obliterates people, as he did with Cena on Monday, and I hope that continues. I need less of him explaining his motivations in the ring and more of him being an unstoppable juggernaut in Ninja Turtle undies who will KILL AND EAT YOU.
Hopefully this will lead to a Cena/Ryback/Henry thing at Extreme Rules, which should play to everyone’s strengths … Cena always excels in matches where he gets to use weapons, assuming he’s not doing a Passion thing with Randy Orton, Mark Henry isn’t physically 100% and could use a spot where he can pause and not hurt himself but is so awesome he needs to be in the main-event, and Ryback can be strong and crazy and lead his own chants without having to actually work a match. It’s perfect. It also makes me hope Ryback figured out a way to Shellshock Henry and Cena at the same time.
Meanwhile, Dolph Ziggler gets to exist as the World Heavyweight Champion while all the guys who could conceivably crush and end his reign Friday are busy fighting each other. Hooray!