– ☆☆☆ STARDUST ☆☆☆
– Sharing the column. I will write “thank” on one hand, “you” on the other and hold them up in front of my face.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 16, 2014.
Worst: The Authority Has To Be Working With John Cena, Right?
So here’s where we’re at.
John Cena is the Big Bad. I don’t know if he’ll ever have one of those Bash at the Beach moments where he condescendingly backs up into the corner and leg drops somebody, but he’s the Higher Power, the guy everyone else reports to. The living, breathing Board of Directors in man-form. It’s why Vince McMahon gets gulpy whenever John’s around, and why The Authority could have a year-long feud with the company’s top babyfaces and only really run afoul of John when he feels compelled to Real Talk them about a bad decision. The Authority only feuds with Cena to keep up appearances.
Think about it. It goes way back. Remember when John let CM Punk leave the company with the WWE Championship and still somehow got a title shot against a tired, five-foot guy who’d just finished wrestling a tournament? Remember when he “quietly formed” a massive team of mostly bad guys to defeat the Nexus, aka “the future of WWE?” Remember how the FIRST time Bryan got fired it was immediately after kicking Cena in the head and screaming YOU AREN’T BETTER THAN ME in his face? Remember how ever since then, John’s shown up to chide anybody who treated Bryan badly? Notice how this always ends with John on top, getting what he wants, doing what he wants to do?
There’s a WWE World Heavyweight Championship ladder match at Money in the Bank. Randy Orton got a free invite to participate because he’s the Bad Guy Ace. Spoiler alert: Cena gets a free invite, too. But hey, we’ve got to keep up appearances, so instead of expecting to Cena to win a battle royal we’re gonna give him the easiest kind of win for John Cena — a gimmick match with no chance of him losing cleanly by pinfall or submission, full of props, against Kane, a guy he’s beaten at least 60 times before in PG-ass gimmick matches.
So instead of, I don’t know, putting John in a fight against someone like Roman Reigns, we’re asking him to complete some weird Nickelodeon Guts competition where he has to hoist Kane up on his shoulders and Frankenstein walk up the Aggro Crag. You could’ve put Cena in a “your hat and shirt have to match” match and he would’ve had a harder time qualifying. Cena and The Authority are in on this, dammit, and I’m gonna keep tacking things to the corkboard until it makes sense.
Best: Seth Rollins Vs. Dolph Ziggler, Part Who Cares How Many
Seth Rollins wrestled Dolph Ziggler on Main Event. Seth Rollins wrestled Dolph Ziggler on Smackdown. Seth Rollins wrestled Dolph Ziggler on Raw. Seth Rollins will probably wrestle Dolph Ziggler on the next episode of Saturday Morning Slam, whenever that airs.
For once, I’m okay with it. WWE’s living with this abhorrent sickness where they make two guys with beef wrestle each other on an endless loop until everyone’s tired of seeing it, especially when they work well together, especially when one of them is Dolph Ziggler. When Ziggler first started wrestling Kofi Kingston it was cool, because they were evenly matched and brought out the best in one another. A few years later, they’ve wrestled a thousand times and the idea of Ziggler being within 50 feet of Kingston makes me want to throw myself through a window. Same with Alberto Del Rio. Ziggler/Del Rio was a GREAT matchup when it first happened. Del Rio needs his offense to look strong, and Ziggler psychotically ragdolling made that happen. A year later, Ziggler/Del Rio is a joke where I type THAT’S THE KICK THAT WON DEL RIO THE CHAMPIONSHIP MAGGLE and literally nothing else.
Rollins and Ziggler are the most video game motherf*ckers in the company right now, so seeing them work together is fantastic. It’s as “indie wrestling” as WWE gets. Tons of hair shaking, leg slapping, ridiculous falling, dives, counters into buckle bombs, whatever. It’s refreshing because it looks and feels different from a lot of what we see, even the good stuff. It’s its own kind of good stuff. Rollins is in a transitional period where he’s got to reestablish what he does in the ring and why, so Ziggler eating 100% of a Black Out and ricocheting his head off the canvas like a basketball will do wonders.
Best: JEAN AMBROSE
And here comes GREASER DEAN AMBROSE, straight from his pre-show seminar with Deuce and Domino, to interrupt the match. Tumblr gets overloaded with explosion GIFs with OVARIES written across them and vanishes from the Internet forever.
I’m giving a supplemental Worst to Dean’s new music, but at least it’s better than Seth’s. Why does Roman Reigns get to keep the Shield tune? Is Ambrose not his bro anymore? Are they not Am-bros? Are they AM-ENEMIES?
Best/Worst: Bad News Barrett Escapes Without A Non-Title Loss
1. Triple H needs to know that “bad news” is the end of the statement. It’s not “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for ya!” It’s “[explain what the people are expecting, but] I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news!” “Bad news” has to be at the end. THIS IS A SCIENCE.
2. I really enjoyed the first two-to-threeish matches of the show (aside from a point I’ll be making shortly), even if they all had screwy finishes. Rollins/Ziggler ended with Ambrose running in and causing a DQ. Barrett/Ambrose ended with Seth Rollins returning and ending up in a fight with Ambrose that bled into the crowd and got Deano counted out. Right after this, Sheamus/Bray Wyatt ends with the Wyatt Family pulling Sheamus out and drawing a DQ. Congratulations on not having your Intercontinental Champion take another clean pinfall loss, but do we have to do a bunch of these in a row?
Somebody needs to make one of those YOU HAVE $25 TO BOOK A WRESTLING SHOW graphics, and “distraction roll-up loss,” “sudden disqualification,” “a rematch from another show this week” and “bullshit non-finish” should be $5 choices.
Worst: These Commercial Breaks Are Killing Me
Aside from that, the only thing that hurt the first hour of Raw was the unusual amount of commercial breaks. It was an unusual amount, right? I’m not making that up, am I? It felt like they suddenly remembered they had an app that played matches during commercials and wanted to remind everybody about it, so they put a jarring break in during important parts of everything. What’s next, you guys gonna interrupt a Bray Wyatt promo with what the fans are Touting?
Worst: Roman Reigns Drugs Somebody To Make Them Comedy Vomit And Somehow That Gets Him A Title Shot
Internet scuttlebutt slash news (scuttlenews) is that one of the head writers of Raw was fired over the weekend, and that this episode was written with a heavy influence from Vince McMahon. You know what that means? BODILY FLUIDS AND JOKES ABOUT HOW CERTAIN PEOPLE ARE SUBHUMAN. Enter: Vickie Guerrero, a woman currently caught in a cop show “two weeks from retirement” scenario where she’s trying to bail to get a real job and keeps being pulled back in for one last gag. Uh, literally.
Here’s the recap, if you missed the show: The Authority is having a battle royal with the winner receiving a spot in the Money in the Bank championship ladder match. Three people have been banned from this match — John Cena (because ODDS), Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. Roman hatches some weird, unbelievable plot where he’s gonna intercept Vickie Guerrero on the way back from getting The Authority coffee, get on her good side, remind her that she forgot something elsewhere and DRUG THE COFFEE. He briefly treats her like a human being and reminds her that being a Guerrero means something, but it’s so he can professionally date-rape his bosses, so whatever. The plan works, somehow, and they add in a bit where Vickie sneezes in the coffee and doesn’t care, because THE ENORMOUS LAUGHING FACE OF VINCE MCMAHON SOMEWHERE.
Vickie delivers the coffee and Stephanie drinks it, which causes her to get very sick. The payoff here is that Stephanie’s throwing up in the bathroom, Vickie opens the door to check on her and Steph vomits all over her from offscreen. Just goofy, thrown handfuls of vomit. You know, because when you’re throwing up you just throw the hell up wherever you’d naturally look. As someone who battled an eating disorder for 11 years, yeah, when I was forcing myself to throw up I would turn and hilariously barf on anyone trying to help me.
Now that Vickie’s covered in vomit, Roman steps back in and is all, YO BABY GIRL YOU GON GET FIRED NEXT WEEK ANYWAY, WHY DON’T YOU DO A THING WRESTLING FANS WOULD LIKE AND PUT ME IN A MATCH I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE IN. Miraculously, Vickie agrees. So this was Roman Reigns’ plan: carry around drugs in the hopes that Vickie would be bringing The Authority food or drinks, plant said drugs, wait for them to work, hope Vickie is around to be humiliated AND forced into a situation where she’s gonna be blamed for something so severely that it leads to her firing, then intercept her between said event and the next thing she does to emotionally manipulate her into making match decisions because I guess she can now overrule the COO and principal owner of the company. Great plan, Roman, glad that worked out for you.
Best: Bray Wyatt Explains Himself
A lot of people write about how Bray Wyatt’s character exists outside of wins and losses, and how that justifies his string of humiliating losses to Cena. “Wins and losses don’t matter to Bray,” people write. “Even though the point of that story was Cena having to beat Bray in wrestling matches to keep his message from getting out. And Bray lost a bunch, and now Cena’s leaving him alone and his message is the same and nothing has changed!” Maybe they don’t write all of that.
I was worried that Bray being in the ladder match for the championship didn’t make sense, and I’m still not totally sold on the rationale, but Bray publicly and clearly explaining why he’s participating and trying to win was a storytelling blessing for me. HOORAY FOR NOT HAVING TO COMPLAIN FOR TWO MORE WEEKS! Bray knows that power and influence are the two most important things for those seeking effective leadership, and hey, he’s a cult leader, so winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and having a dramatic increase of visibility and importance (and, by proxy, power and influence) makes perfect sense. It also justifies the Wyatt Family trying to win the tag team titles, and honestly their job as professional wrestlers period.
Sheamus shows up to read a cue card promo written 30 seconds before he was shoved through the curtain and things kinda fall apart from there, but thank you for the exposition.
Worst?: Something About Sheamus/Wyatt Was Off For Me
Sheamus vs. Bray Wyatt should be a thing I love. Well, it should be a thing I love MOST of before the “Brogue Kick out of nowhere” finish. Instead, it was just … is “awkward” the word I’m looking for? It felt off. It felt like one or both of them was having an off night or not taking the match seriously. Sheamus seemed lost, like he remembered A and C but couldn’t for the life of him recall B, and Bray was just oafish and falling around the entire time. Watch him take a neckbreaker by spinning around and hitting face first. Watch him hop out of the corner on one foot and helplessly tumble over.
So yeah, I really didn’t like this, although it’s probably worse in my head than it was in practice. People have off nights, though, so what can you do? Maybe Sheamus and Wyatt have that 2011 Miz/Cena chemistry where they’re both great at what they do but turn into Shemp and a second, more boring Shemp when they tie up.
Even the Usos running up a ladder seemed less cool and impactful than them just jumping over the rope. I don’t know.
Best: Paul And Renee
I ship Paul and Renee, I’m not gonna lie. I also use this as a justification for Renee suddenly being such a butthole on NXT.
Best/Worst: I Liked The Rusev Squash, But Let’s Do Something With These Rusev Squashes
A moment of silence for 3MB.
Okay, so Heath Slater is still here. That’s good, right? Oh no, he’s telling Rusev and Lana that if they like Russia so much they should just go back there. Oh no, the crowd agrees. Oh no. :(
As we work hard to get Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal TNA jobs as TWO BAND MAN, let’s encourage WWE to pull the trigger a little on Rusev and get him out of these pointless, impressing-nobody lowest-possible-level jobber squashes and put him against somebody with a chance to beat him. I thought they were gonna do that with Big E, but E lost just as easily as everyone else and we’re back to the bottom. Didn’t we learn a lesson from Ryback here? That if you just beat up guys anybody could beat up, nobody thinks you’re tough? You beat up those guys at FIRST, or maybe occasionally trounce them in handicap matches or whatever, but at some point you’ve gotta elevate yourself and start beating guys who matter. At least guys who matter a little. If you can’t find a place for him there or find anybody good who can stand to take a loss, maybe you don’t need the character. Or you need to stop half-heartedly protecting everybody on your roster and accidentally preventing anyone from rising to the top of it.
Best: Kevin Hart
It probably has a lot to do with him doing the bare minimum required to be a “guest star” on Raw, but Think Like A Man Also star Kevin Hart was … not bad. All he really did was go “uh” at the Rosebuds and wear a wacky shirt, but we escaped with just a little bit of contextualized dancing and about 40 seconds of “go see my new movie, Think Like A Man As Well, in theaters this Friday.” I can live with that. The guy’s clearly not a wrestling fan (despite the announcers claiming otherwise), but he didn’t waste our time or detract from the show.
It’s not going to get me into theaters to see Think Like A Man Once Again, but it was fine. You know what WOULD’VE made me go see that movie? Kevin Hart giving Adam Rose a clubbing forearm to the back of the neck during any part of this.
Worst: THAT CATTY LITTLE CAT
In case you missed it, Summer Rae thought “catty little twat” was a thing she could call someone on a live wrestling show. Jump to the 1:50 mark.
It lacked the brutal grace of Diss The Diva’s legendary “having a cock in your mouth has nothing to do with wrestling” and “cum-guzzling gutterslut,” but it’s certainly the most graphic insult launched on live WWE TV in a while.
The clip keeps getting aired in different forms. On Smackdown, they muted “twat.” On Raw, they dubbed it over with “cat,” so now Summer’s calling Layla a “catty little cat.” Welcome to my verbal repertoire, most obscure wrestling reference ever!
Best: LeBron James Takes His Talents To Developmental
What will Damien Sandow’s legacy be? My column:
Best: A Battle Royal With An Obvious Winner (And A Lot Of Great Options)
YEAH BATTLE ROYAL.
Longtime readers know I’m a sucker for a good battle royal, mostly because I have to preface every battle royal with a thing about how everybody knows I like battle royals. It’s the “Rob Van Dam hasn’t done anything new since 2001” of positive wrestling writing. Anyway, this was a GREAT one, and one of the major reasons why was the amount of conflicting stories and momentum presented in the class of competitors clearly not winning. Does that make sense?
We all knew Roman was winning. Of course he was. He’s Roman Reigns, and we just got several backstage comedy segments to justify him participating. The cool thing is that Roman didn’t HAVE to win, because the ring was full of guys who hypothetically COULD, if you removed the smarky observation. The ring’s full of guys like Ryback and Big E, and battle royals LOVE a hoss who can muscle people out and has to be ganged up on to be eliminated. There are guys in there like Kofi. Yeah, Kofi’s never won a battle royal in his life, but he’s great at making you get excited for his elimination, and that can take him to the end. New characters like Bo Dallas and Rusev are in there doing great, and with the shaky main-event scene in WWE right now and the setup of the multi-man ladder match there’s no telling who could pop into one of those spots. They very easily could’ve inserted ANY of the people I just listed into the Money in the Bank ladder match. Being in the title match doesn’t mean they have to WIN it. Does anybody really think Bray Wyatt or Cesaro is leaving MITB as WWE Champ?
Even the dark horses were fun. Ziggler had the support of the crowd. Hell, even Curtis Axel had the support of the crowd. WWE’s secretly got the best under and midcard in the history of wrestling, they’ve just beaten us into numbness with half-assed repetition that we never really notice it. These guys could go anywhere and do ANYTHING if WWE ever decided that the unimportant guys should be important, too.
Best: Bo Vs. Bad News Revisited
I love love loved Bo Dallas and Bad News Barrett ending up as reluctant teammates to eliminate Rob Van Dam. If you don’t remember the first time they butted heads, it was back in the 2013 Royal Rumble. WWE hadn’t yet realized that Bo is the most easily hateable person in the world and was booking him as a plucky babyface, so he got to eliminate Wade and feud with him for a few weeks.
Fast forward a year and a half and now they’re PERFECTLY ALIGNED ENEMIES. Seriously, think about it. Wade Barrett loves delivering bad news so much he’s become Bad News Barrett. Bo Dallas is a motivational creep who won’t stop reassuring people and telling them how great they are. They’re MADE for each other. Yin and yang. And they’re eliminating the guy who always has yins and yangs on his gear. This is purposeful symbolism, god dammit, I know it.
Yes, I loved when Bo pulled Barrett up out of the corner and they hugged, and yes, I loved it when BNB Bad Newz’d him to death. You’re the poorest man’s Rock/Austin, guys, enjoy it.
Best: YO That Finish Was Hot
Aside from that, holy CRAP was the crowd down for Roman Reigns vs. Rusev. That’s how you do a finish to a battle royal.
The best part is that they set it up to be a big moment, but didn’t give us too much. We still don’t know who’d win in a one-on-one match between the two, we just know that Roman was able to get the better of him in a quick finishing sprint. That’s cool. It’s also cool that Roman is apparently KING OF THE BATTLE ROYAL. He should never, ever enter a battle royal and not be one of the final four. Keep that characteristic alive. Make him the Undertaker at WrestleMania of Royal Rumbles. I mean, he won the 2014 Royal Rumble, didn’t he? I’m remembering that correctly. If somebody else had won it they’d still be in the company in June, right?
+1 if the Rusev/Reigns grudge carries into any Dean Ambrose/Lana moments.
Worst: John Cena’s ‘Hidden Message’ Is That He Is Bad At Jokes
John Cena’s doing a jokey promo where he’s gonna stick up his middle finger … but he doesn’t! Never give up, John!
Worst: Ersatz Alicia Fox
So, here’s a weird thing.
Over the last few weeks, Alicia Fox has been Paige’s only notable opponent. On last night’s episode Alicia Fox was nowhere to be found, but Cameron was there playing Alicia Fox. Dyed hair, overly heel mannerisms, loud unwarranted shrieking, mental breakdowns, the whole nine. Naomi was her Aksana, which is kinda poetic when you think about it.
Anyway, just like Alicia Fox, Cameron’s act went nowhere and Paige tapped her out to the PTO. I want to give this a Best because 1) Paige continued tapping out competitors in her dominant first title reign and 2) it wasn’t the same match we’ve seen every week for a month, but it kinda WAS, wasn’t it? If you sub in Justin Gabriel for Kofi Kingston in a Kofi/Dolph match and Gabriel’s in there slapping his hands and boom dropping dudes, that’s still a Kofi Kingston match.
Best: If We’re Gonna Break Up Anybody, GURL BYE The Funkadactyls
The good news is that Naomi spent her entire post-match side-eying the shit out of Cameron. If Brodus Clay is gone and Xavier Woods is forgotten, why do the Funkadactyls need to still be a thing? They serve no purpose. Backup dancers dancing in nobody’s background. Naomi’s got an upside and Cameron basically doesn’t, so let Naomi superkick her through the Total Divas window or whatever and give them something constructive to do. Naomi can put the eyepatch back on and be a real opponent for Paige. Cameron can put on a bee costume and help Adam Rose get funk on a roll.
Best: F*CKING STARDUST
Okay. Okay okay okay okay. STARDUST.
I am going to refrain from happily dancing through a sprinkler for a week and a half in response to this, so I’ll try to break it down. The idea behind the Rhodes Brothers tag team story everyone seems to agree on is that Cody was gonna pair Goldust up with a bunch of jerks and watch him lose matches, which would then lead to Cody realizing GOLDUST was the weak link, turning on him and running him out of WWE. Right? And I think maybe that’s still what they’re doing. Cody shows up as Stardust, he and Goldie go on a massive win streak and Cody gets egotistical, assuming that CODY RHODES WITH CONFIDENCE is all anybody ever needs to win. He gets a big head, reveals that he co-opted Goldust’s gimmick to mock him and runs him out of WWE.
That’s not set in stone or anything, but that’s the opinion I’m reading from a lot of people. Here’s what I’m hoping: that Stardust will be such a universally beloved hit on social media that WWE will see money on the table and keep Cody in the gimmick forever. Let Dustin actually pass the torch to him. We never have to do a Rhodes family breakup, and Goldust can be sort of a tag partner summon for future matches where Stardust is outnumbered. Cody breaks out of everybody’s shadow by EMBRACING the shadow and stops being a damn wingman for the first time in his WWE career.
Alternate plan: Dusty Rhodes in Goldust makeup.
Seriously though, Stardust is wonderful times infinity and already has the best entrance music on Raw. I didn’t think they could top Goldust’s music, but STARDUST, you guys. STARDUST. He makes AJ Styles star hands in front of your face!
Worst: Those Guys Chanting LET’S GO AXEL
During last night’s show, SOME loud group of fans were really into Curtis Axel and tried to chant LET’S GO AX-EL in support of him. I’m the guy who made 3MB make surprised faces at two nonconsecutive WWE live events losing my mind for them, so I’m not throwing shade at that. Cheer for the guys you wanna cheer for.
What I’m Worsting it for is what happened when they chanted LET’S GO AXEL. Time #1: During the battle royal. As soon as they start chanting it, Axel gets eliminated. Time #2: During the Gold Star tag team match. As soon as they start chanting it, Stardust hits a Diamond Dust on Axel and pins him. SO MUCH DUST. You’re jinxing him, guys.