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Hey, don’t cry! Click through to enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for Memorial Day, May 27, 2013.
Best: Who Cares About Anything Else That Happened On This Show, The Wyatt Family Is Coming To Raw (Intact!)
The highlight of the night — and of the year, possibly — was the video package announcing that THE WYATT FAMILY would be coming to Raw. And not only are they coming to Raw, they’re all coming to Raw, gimmicks and names and entrance theme intact. I mean, they didn’t say their names in the video and Bray could show up as third generation star “Blackjack Schyster” out of nowhere (credit Josh Rothman), but for now, everything seems safe. Did I type “safe?” I meant F**KING WONDERFUL.
If you missed it last Friday, I did my first Best and Worst of WWE NXT column for With Leather, so the timing couldn’t be better. If you don’t watch NXT, you’re missing the best wrestling show WWE’s produced in years, at least since that glorious, nebulous WWE ECW period when Christian was the champion and Mark Henry and Sheamus and Goldust and Jack Swagger were all around being awesome. If you don’t know anything about Bray, here’s what you need to know: when Randy Orton punted Husky Harris in the head, it acted as a sort of ersatz Siege Perilous, eliminating Husky’s fat, greasy ass from the timeline and replacing him with BRAY WYATT, a charismatic Bayou cult leader and/or Cape Fear character who is incapable of cutting a bad promo and is quite possibly the best wrestler in the world in terms of wrestling as a character. He IS Bray Wyatt. That makes him special.
The Wyatt Family is Erick Rowan and Luke Harper. Rowan is gigantic and was doing a Scandinavian wanderer thing before Wyatt went “nope” and turned him into a big creepy Bioshock NPC. You may know Harper best as Brodie Lee, former Chikara, Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate notable who once literally kicked off Tim Donst’s face. Literally. He is gigantic and pretty great.
This is their entrance theme. If you have not heard it (other than in the background of the vignette from Raw), listen to it and love it forever. Demand that they keep it in the transition. Also, if you hear it at a live show, hold up your arms and start swaying back and forth. It’s a thing you should do.
I am so excited for this, you guys.
Worst: Three Stages Of Hell Matches Are Better In The Video Games
John Cena made his short-awaited return to Raw to answer Ryback’s challenge, turning the challenge of “ambulance match” into a Three Stages Of Hell match. If you aren’t familiar with that stipulation, it’s a two-out-of-three falls match where the first fall is a gimmick match, the second fall is the easiest to predict fall ever because they aren’t going to NOT do the announced third gimmick match, and the third fall is limp because the crowd has just sat through two gimmick matches between these same wrestlers and you’ve gotta be Steve Austin to keep them interested.
In video games, Three Stages of Hell matches are great. You get to settle scores with a ridiculous series of match stipulations (first fall: iron man match! second fall: last man standing! third fall: jump off a helicopter in Times Square as many times as possible before you get bored and make a guy tap to a chinlock by accident!). The wrestlers can go through it because they’re video game characters and not human beings. The crowd doesn’t get tired of it because the crowd is you, and you can just stop whenever you want. The third fall might not happen, because you don’t have to fulfill advertised promises or whatever.
I wish Ryback had responded with “why are we having two matches before the one I suggested, let’s just do that one,” but I will give a supplementary Best to his obvious, hilariously uninspired “you want a Three Stages of Hell match, good, because I am The Devil” thing.
Worst: Shawn Michaels, Professional Bracelet Collector, Homeless Man, Wet Blanket
Seriously, what is WWE’s obsession with bringing out retired wrestlers to tell active wrestlers what they should or shouldn’t do? It’s so bossy. Mick Foley shows up to tell CM Punk he’s not the REAL Best in the World if he doesn’t beat John Cena in a JOHN CENA MATCH, then shows up half a year later to tell Ryback he doesn’t have any respect, on account of how rude he’s being to John Cena. Shawn Michaels has shown up in every Triple H feud since his retirement to lend a nagging opinion about how Triple H maybe might kinda-sorta lose, and now here he is popping in for absolutely no reason to tell John Cena not to wrestle.
It might be interesting of Shawn showed up and was like “Hey John, I just got a CAT Scan done on my brain and it looks and performs like a turd, like a for-real turd, turns out I’m lucky to be walking upright and speaking, you should probably retire now and go buy a gross of pillows and just rest your head on them until dementia takes you,” but that’s not gonna happen. I would also accept a “psst, Christopher Nowinski was right, let’s talk about this off camera.” But nope, it’s just old people showing up to go EENNNHHH I DON’T KNOW and then Superstars DOIN’ IT ANYWAY because TAKING ADVICE and MAKING GOOD DECISIONS is for PANTY-WASTES and SISSIES.
Worst: Under No Circumstances Will I Accept An AJ/Big E Langston Breakup
The Alberto Del Rio/Big E Langston rematch was fine (if totally unnecessary, and counterproductive to Big E’s rub from winning the first one … I hate you so much, 50/50 booking), but as the Worst clearly states, I will under no circumstances allow for dissension in the Team Rocket ranks. AJ Lee, Big E Langston and Dolph Ziggler must remain best friends/secret lovers for the entirety of their WWE careers, and the dissolution of their friendship would cause me great stress. This match ended with AJ and Big E getting all gruff with each other about match stuffs, and I can only hope that this happened so Dolph can show up next week and be all, “get along, bros.”
Do not break up this team, WWE. I am serious here. I am pointing my finger at my computer screen. Listen to me.
Best: Dean Ambrose Annihilates Kofi Kingston
Dean Ambrose might be the perfect opponent for Kofi Kingston, because he is everything Kofi is not. He’s a team player. Kofi trades in and exchanges tag team partners like they’re nothing. His moves are realistic and efficient. Kofi yammers around the ring like Tatanka and takes way too long to set up every single one of his moves. The headlock driver goes “grab the guy’s head, plant him.” The boom drop goes “position the guy, dance around a little bit, hit the ropes, stop to eliminate any momentum you got from hitting the ropes, dance more, jump straight up and do a leg drop.” Ambrose sees Kofi’s offense and just moves out of the way of it — watch how he simply backs his way out of a Trouble in Paradise at Extreme Rules, or rolls out of the way of the boom drop on Raw. Kofi helpfully walks/jumps into anything you’re doing, because he’s a WWE Superstar! It’s like the Goofus and Gallant of pro wrestling, and I love it.
The finish of this match was so great. Kofi’s jumping around like he does, so Ambrose just kinda goes where there’s something flat and metal and possibly sharp and waits for Kofi to wander over. Kofi does, so Ambrose gives Kofi’s leg a good pull and sends him crashing face-first onto said metal. He gives himself an adorable little pep talk (that was probably my favorite single moment on Raw, period … skip to the 1:29 mark to see what I’m talking about), then simply rolls Kofi into the ring, quickly hits his finish (which, conveniently enough, is another thing that hurts the head and face) and holds the pin for as long as he can because he is radder than hell. I love the entire thing.
Advice for Kofi Kingston:
1. Do not walk into everybody’s moves
2. Sometimes you can throw a clothesline or chop, they are not always helped by jumping
3. Just do a leg drop quickly when you are trying to win a title
Best: Daniel Bryan’s Face
During a backstage segment, the Ghost Of Bret Hart showed up to tell Daniel Bryan he’s one of the best and toughest WWE Superstars he’s ever seen. Daniel Bryan makes this face:
He gets a second Best for “You’re just Kane,” which is sad for Kane but absolutely true.
Best: Let’s Just Swap The NXT And WWE Rosters And Be Done With It
As I’ve mentioned a few times now, The Shield is the best thing to happen to Raw, because when The Shield is on TV, fighting is happening. That’s it. The Shield very rarely does “here are our intentions!” promos, and when they do, they’re minute-long backstage things that wrap up quickly. Otherwise their appearances are of the “have a great match” or “attack somebody, because YOLO” persuasions, and that is exactly what I am looking for in my wrestling program. Wrestlers who wrestle or punch guys instead of modeling t-shirts and riding in cars to organize future match stipulations. Guys who ride in on helicopters and win title belts instead of making fun of peoples’ names and pretending to be snakes. It is easy to understand.
This was maybe the best Team Hello No/Shield-related match yet. Two big reasons:
Best: Tag Team Stories That Are Actual Stories, Or
Best: Daniel Bryan Motivated And Doing Things
You know how WWE excuses the bad wrestling sometimes by saying they “tell stories?” Yeah, usually they don’t. The story is usually “one guy is getting beaten up, then he does his moves, and now he wins.” That’s not “telling stories.” That’s having bad wrestling matches. The way I see it, you can integrate stories into wrestling matches in two very easy ways: having the match tell a story, or having the characters involved in a pre-existing story that is progressed/changed/exacerbated BY the match. The Team Hell No/The Shield tag titles match from Raw had BOTH of those things.
The story of characters was the most important. Daniel Bryan feels like he’s the weak link of the team, even though he’s not, and despite everybody from his tag team partner to Bret Hart telling him he’s not. He tries his hardest during the match and he’s SUPER EFFECTIVE, but he doesn’t know when to pull back, and his overzealousness gets him taken out of the match at a crucial team and leaves Kane to deal with the DAMNED NUMBERS GAME of one against one. The Shield is WE ARE ONE, Nexus style, and wins matches because they do not fall victim to WWE melodrama and personal squabbling and are f**king great.
On top of that, Daniel Bryan is on a GODDAMN ROLL. The performer, I mean. Danielson is KILLING it recently, both figuratively and literally. He’s having great matches, but more importantly he is bringing back some of that good old American Dragon-style ass kicking, hitting The Shield harder than anybody in WWE hits ANYBODY. The clothesline on Seth Rollins last week wasn’t an anomaly … this week he broke out a Dr. Death-looking German suplex and delivered one of the hardest dropkicks we’ve seen in ages. This is the guy I call my favorite wrestler. If Bryan wants to do comedy segments and he still kicks and suplexes people like this, I will be 100% on board. Beats the hell out of his old gig of slumming it with Alex Riley, right?
Worst: Where Can I Vote For The Miz To Be Special Guest Not On The Show
SPEAKING OF SLUMMING IT WITH ALEX RILEY, The Miz got to be a part of one of those hilarious Taboo Tuesday WWE FanActive polls where the C option is the only one you could possibly pick. What do you want Miz to be? A. ring announcer B. commentary C. SPECIAL GUEST REFEREE. And then we’re all WHOA-HO’d when special guest referee gets 85% of the vote. Hey kids, which food would you like to eat most? A. cardboard box B. a length of rope C. CUPCAKE COOKIES
I wish they’d kept The Miz in the ring a little longer just to see how many more “vote on the Internet” gestures he could come up with.
Worst: Everybody Loses
Wade Barrett and Fandango have a match, wherein The Miz has been voted/shoehorned in as special guest referee. Miz obnoxiously interjects in the match, getting in the way of a Wade Barrett signature move he KNOWS is coming to get Barrett to f**k with him. Barrett throws him out of the way and hits his move. So Miz attacks Barrett from behind, hitting him with a move and laying him out. Fandango crawls in and pins the Intercontinental Champion in the champ’s 2000th non-title loss of 2013. He tries to celebrate his victory with Summer Rae, but Miz attacks them BOTH, unprovoked (and despite Fandango technically helping him win a tag match last week). Miz celebrates by duckwalking backwards up the ramp as his music plays.
So, let’s break this down.
Wade Barrett – tries to wrestle his normal wrestling match, gets screwed by the referee, loses another non-title match to a guy he isn’t even feuding with.
Fandango – only gets the pin because the babyface referee won the match for him, gets attacked for no reason after the match, is “pinned” by his own valet.
Miz – jumps TWO heels from behind, one of them unprovoked, after winning an obvious poll
Best: The Wyatt Family + The Shield Winning An Awesome 20 Minute Tag Team Match = Me Ignoring This Happy Birthday Segment
The appearance of The Miz was the beginning of the end for this Raw. Most of what came before him was great — the exceptional tag team match, Dean Ambrose rocking a US title defense, matches at the next pay-per-view getting formal stipulations and a mild decrease in references to A New Way To Watch Television — and what came after him was … uh, The Great Khali singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Natalya. Because he can’t speak. That’s the joke.
It keeps getting worse, too. The next hour involves Hornswoggle, the Bella Twins making Natalya cry because “bitches vs. emotionally fragile women” is WWE’s only Divas story, Chris Jericho cutting a promo about how Paul Heyman is a fatty fat fat and 15 minutes of Randy Orton, but Daniel Bryan and The Shield busted their ass for 15 minutes and the goddamn Wyatt Family approaches, so things will be fine. I will sit through a full hour of Khali singing if it gets me to the Eater Of Worlds.
But hey, seriously, does Natalya know WWE put her in the Oddities? She’s out there with the super tall guy, the super short guy, the super fat dancing dinosaur guy and the guy who downgraded his gimmick from “dick ring.” Does she know where she is?
Worst: One Quick Worst, Though
Poor Jinder Mahal had to wrestle The Great Khali and nobody mentioned the whole “sending Khali’s sister into poverty” thing.
Worst: At Least She Isn’t Farting
The Internet loves when I get preachy about women, right?
Imagine this scenario. Imagine that Randy Orton and Sheamus are wrestling Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow (it’s easy if you try). It’s Randy Orton’s birthday! At the end of the match, Sheamus accidentally Brogue Kicks Orton. Sandow knocks Sheamus off the apron and pins Orton. After the match, Sandow and Rhodes grab microphones, sing a condescending version of ‘Happy Birthday’ to a recovering Orton and make “loser” hand gestures on their foreheads. Orton begins to sob, and Sheamus has to climb back into the ring and comfort him.
Aside from how f**king hilarious this would be, you’d think Orton was the shittiest wrestler ever, right? A guy who can’t handle two guys who are obviously assholes trying to give him grief. He can’t just stand up and kick them in the face, or give them a convoluted DDT, or whatever he does … he’s too overcome by emotion and sad about what happened on his birthday that he just rests there on his knees crying into his hand until they go to commercial. You would be 100% correct.
That’s all I’m saying.
Worst: Why Are You Guys Cheering For Chris Jericho Here, Or
Worst: You Have The Long-term Memory Of A F**king Doorknob
This is the thing I hate most about WWE, if I’m being honest. Not the racism or the homophobia or the slut-shaming or the midget-gawking dick jokes or whatever. The thing I hate most is that WWE has f**king Changnesia, and nobody cares.
When a good guy turns bad or a bad guy turns good, everything they’ve ever done is erased and forgotten. It’s like being baptized, only it can happen constantly. For example, remember when we liked CM Punk? He was the WWE Champion, changing the company for the good. Being the voice of the voiceless. He got falsely accused of “copying” Chris Jericho, a guy we hated, and when Jericho realized everyone knew he was full of shit, he resorted to the most awful, underhanded stuff he could imagine. He accused Punk of being an alcoholic. He brought up Punk’s father issues on TV. Called out Punk’s sister for being a drug addict. He even went so far as to attack Punk with a bottle of liquor and pour it all over him. Twice! All because he wanted to prove that he, and not Punk, was the best wrestler in the world.
Here, the same Chris Jericho is upset that the same CM Punk is calling himself the Best In The World. He wants a match against Punk to prove it, even though he already HAD the match to prove THIS EXACT THING already. He threatens Punk’s manager to make it happen. Meanwhile Punk is at home, taking time off to deal with the personal trauma of coming up short in a marquee match against the greatest WrestleMania opponent possible in a huge main-event at WrestleMania. Only now we like Jericho and don’t like Punk, so the crowd cheers Jericho, even when he’s threatening a non-wrestler who is way smaller than him, gave him a break in the wrestling industry and is clearly a huge coward.
Best/Worst: Sandow Vs. Sheamus
If you missed Smackdown, Sheamus answered Damien Sandow’s Gordian knot challenge. He fails, of course, because Sheamus can’t think more abstractly than “wear red underwear instead of green.” Sandow explains the solution to the Gordian knot, and Sheamus responds by trying to kick him. Sandow escapes, however, seeing it coming a mile away, announcing that Sheamus couldn’t figure out the mental puzzle and resorted to brute force. Sheamus isn’t shamed by this at all, and attacks innocent announce guy Matt Striker, throwing him into Sandow on the outside. He says something stupid and the crowd laughs and claps their hands, because they are seals.
I encourage Damien Sandow to continue exposing Sheamus for being wrestling’s Forrest Gump, a guy who just HAPPENED to be sitting on the turnbuckle when famous celebrity John Cena jumped backwards through a table and ended up an unlikely WWE Champion. A guy who just keeps showing up in the right place at the right time, pooping in stolen cars and trying to attack anybody smarter than him. The only downside is that in feuds like this, the dolt face must prevail, usually every week for an entire quarter, so … yeah, I appreciate the effort.
Worst: Cody Rhodes’ Horrible Body Color
I don’t know if the picture does him justice, but Cody was straight Cheeto orange. It’s sad when you’re in the ring with Randy Orton and YOU’RE the unnaturally orange one. I don’t think that’s happened since Orton was young and full of water and wrestling Hogan. For a second I thought maybe he’d pulled a Michael Nakazawa and loaded up on tanner so he’d be slippery enough to avoid Orton’s obsessive rope-hang DDTs (or make him slide right off and powerslam himself on one of those “powerslams out of nowhere”), but nope, he’s just orange as f**k.
My theory during the match is that Cody had gone on a tropical vacation over the weekend. Either that or his body is started to transition to its natural, golden hue. Somebody get him a body suit covered in tribal.