– Really? We’re doing this this week?
– I’m supposed to use this section for pre-show notes, but (spoiler alert) The Shield broke up last night and I don’t know how to do this anymore. Next week the column will be replaced by the Best and Worst of Sailor Moon, wherein I watch those sub episodes of Sailor Moon they’re putting on Hulu and tell you what I liked about them. That can never hurt me. THINGS WORK OUT FINE FOR THE SAILOR SENSHI PROBABLY. STOP HURTING ME, POPULAR CULTURE.
– After this I’m gonna go watch Game of Thrones from Sunday. I’m rooting for the Red Viper!
– GIFs via Jerusalem at Punchsport.
– Share the column I guess. :(
Please click through for the oh f*ck it.
Best: Foreshadowing, And Batista Totally Not Getting It
Last night’s Raw was an emotional ordeal. I considered pushing the column back to Wednesday to deal with it (especially after writing up that Best and Worst of Payback report) or just finding a way to wank my way through it without analysis. HERE IS FAN FICTION ABOUT BATISTA BECOMING A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER AT AN INNER-CITY HIGH SCHOOL. It was gonna be great, and then the announce team started making Welcome Back Kotter references and ruined even that.
The end of the night was … something, and really all I’ve been asking for is SOMETHING, so I went back and tried to enjoy the show on an objective level. And I mean yeah, objectively this episode still ate a buffet of dog shit, but some stuff was retroactively great. The big example? The opening segment, wherein Triple H foreshadows the events of the night and tries to get Batista on board with it, winking so hard he almost dislocated his eyeballs, and Dave just absolutely whiffs it.
Knowing how the show ends, go back and watch the opening. Triple H is all HEH, THIS DOESN’T END UNTIL THE SHIELD IS NO MORE. Batista interrupts, wondering why he hasn’t gotten a title shot and why everybody’s dragging ass, and H responds with “we’ve got a plan. A plan is what we’ve got. We are in possession of a plan! A PLAN, DAVE, A PLAN THAT WILL HAPPEN.” And Dave’s like “HEY RANDY I THINK HE’S TALKING TO YOU.” It’s great. Triple H could’ve pulled out his phone and texted SETH ROLLINS IS GONNA TURN AND THE SHIELD IS ‘NO MORE’ IN LIKE THREE HOURS JUST SHUT UP AND HOLD TIGHT and Batista wouldn’t have gotten it. Dude has a flip phone and it takes texts half a day to get to him. He likes his phone and he doesn’t play games on it so he doesn’t see why he’s gotta switch!
But seriously, it’s wonderful. How many Raw segments actually foreshadow an important plot point without being stupid obvious about it? The closest WWE usually gets to foreshadowing is a tag team partner being mad and storming away, then later being like “it’s all right” when we know it isn’t. This is actual literary device used on the wrestling show. That’s big, right?
Best: Big Dave Pageant Wave
Fantastic. “About To Quit” Dave is the best Dave. Have fun promoting your hit movie/teaching those kids to read, Mr. Batista! Don’t let their tough exteriors fool you. Deep down they just want to be loved and accepted like everyone else! Call them smarks, that’ll help!
Best: A Hot Tag Team Match, Or
Worst: A Hot Tag Team Match With That Finish
This is sorta the running theme of today’s report: I found something to enjoy, but the part of it I couldn’t beat me into submission.
The opening tag was a great example of this. You’ve got two guys I love (Cesaro and Bad News Barrett) going up against a guy I think is mostly great in the ring (Sheamus) and Bobby Dammit. Bobby’s the drizzling shits but he’s been working hard lately, so I’m trying to give him a pass. Effort goes a long way in my brain. If you’re a garbage wrestler but you’re trying really hard, I’ll usually try to find a way to like you for it.
The match was good, too. They got the crowd rocking, everything was connecting … and then Cesaro decided to abandon his tag team partner, giving us one of those “intentional loss” moments I hate compounded by one of those “the bad guy gets beaten up by two good guys and we’re cheering it because they DESERVE IT FOR BEING BAD” moments I hate even more. I think I stopped loving those moments when I was like, six. Heels choosing to lose a match because they’re afraid of babyfaces even though they’ve JUST proven that they can hang/defeat those same babyfaces will never make sense, and Sheamus is still a butthole for cheating to win a 2-on-1 match. YOU WEREN’T LEGAL, SHEAMUS, STOP BROGUE KICKING PEOPLE.
That’s mostly me complaining about arbitrary ethics shit, but Cesaro bailing on a match is goofy. Cesaro shouldn’t be bailing on anything. Worst case, he should’ve teased bailing and ran back in to European somebody in the back of their head.
Best: Big Show Dunking For No Reason
Man, WWE went all-in on the Pacers hate, didn’t they? First Damien Sandow comes out in a Lance Stephenson jersey to rag on the team and announce LeBron James as the best basketball player ever, then Bo Dallas shows up to rag on the team and announce LeBron James as the best basketball player ever. It’s like the white board in creative read HOPELESS DOPE SAYS LOCAL TEAM SUCKS and Bo and Sandow just assumed it was for them.
This was one of the segments I didn’t enjoy when it happened (mostly because DAMIEN SAD NOW feels directly antagonistic at this point), but revisited and liked a lot. I mean, come on, Damien Sandow is doing an exhibition of basketball skills in a situation where he can’t even dribble a basketball. How great is that? I love that he “took a shot” but had to airball it super badly to make sure the ball didn’t roll out of the ring and mess up his bit. I kinda wish he’d just started East Bay Funk dunking or whatever and gotten himself over.
Show shows up and beats him up, then dunks for emphasis. Pro wrestling needs more dunking for emphasis. The Backstage Fallout bit about this helped put it into perspective for me, with Show saying, “yeah I had to punch Sandow for being an idiot but he’s funny.” My only real complaint (besides Damien Sandow’s life or whatever) is that JBL started screaming HE’S GONNA BLOW IN HIS EAR MAGGLE the second Show and Sandow started playing, ruining the big joke.
Worst: Daddy Cena Is Done With His Chores And Can Stick Up For His Beautiful Grandson Daniel
The short version: this was the worst WWE segment of the year. I’m not sure they’ll be able to top it.
The longer version, wherein I still save you from 10 indignant paragraphs about misogyny or whatever: Stephanie comes to the ring with a legitimately good and fair plan for Money In The Bank: if Daniel Bryan can compete, he must defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Kane, the guy who put him on the shelf. If he’s unable to compete, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will go to the winner of the Money in the Bank ladder match. This brings out John Cena, Guardian Of The WWE Championship, to thoroughly explain to her what a bitch she’s being and how she just hates Daniel Bryan and is selfish and stupid and had plastic surgery and doesn’t understand how wrestling works.
That’s the segment. I can expound on it if you’d like, but that paragraph alone should tell you what you need to know. If you’re in that “yeah but the people I LIKE should be right” camp, enjoy that camp. If you understand that sometimes bad people do perfectly reasonable shit and sometimes good people act like assholes and that’s life, we’ve got sodas in the fridge.
There is absolutely zero reason for John Cena to be in the ring telling his boss how to do her job. It’s the weird continuation of WWE’s secret story of John Cena being the boss, the only important person, the infallible moral compass who must be bowed to and obeyed no matter what. Remember when Vince McMahon would get all YERRR FARRRRRD in everybody’s face, but the second Cena showed up to berate him he’d get all gulpy and do whatever John wanted? That’s what John’s going for here. Showing up in a situation unrelated to him to stick up for a wrestler who doesn’t need his support because he’s John Cena. He is CONCERNED AMERICAN FATHER. He wants everybody to do the right thing. Because Stephanie giving Bryan a perfectly reasonable set of options despite his wife attacking her and him being injured and unable to compete and that being how the world of wrestling has always worked isn’t “right.” She’s mean about it! That makes her wrong!
Worst: John Cena On The Numerical Concept Of Zero
There’s so much to ramble on about here. I think my least favorite part of the exchange stylistically was Cena giving Stephanie a “performance evaluation” using a scale of 1 to 10, then giving her a zero. YOU MADE THE SCALE, JOHN. ZERO IS NOT ON YOUR SCALE. But he helpfully explains that zero means “you suck.” Shouldn’t 1 mean “you suck,” because that’s the lowest number on your scale? At ANY POINT during this Stephanie should’ve just interrupted him with “who the f*ck do you think you’re talking to? Get your ass to the back.”
Real talk: Stephanie is not “bigger than” the WWE Championship, but she’s in charge of it. She was born to be in charge of it and then put into a position to formally be in charge of it. If she isn’t, her husband is. If they aren’t, her FATHER is. You don’t have an argument, John. You’re trying to have Daniel Bryan’s argument, and even that one ain’t great.
Also real talk: he who lives in breast-implanted houses should not throw stones.
Worst: Oh No, Don’t Put John In A Match With A Guy He Has Easily Beaten Several Dozen Times!
Stephanie’s punishment for John’s insubordination is to put him in a match with Kane, which is more or less paid time off. How many times has Cena beaten Kane in his life? Even “The Demon Kane.” He’s beaten the hardest versions of everybody multiple times. I know I often ask for Cena to come to terms with who he is and accept the reality of his life and situation, but man, how great would it have been if he’d just been like, “Kane? Okay, I’m gonna blitz this old motherf*cker and then dog jump my ass backstage to continue this conversation.”
The worst part is that Kane’s trying to be all monstery right after a John Cena Last Man Standing Match, which is the most insurmountable John Cena on record. Cena briefly experiments with letting Kane beat him up, but by the end he’s chucking the 5,000 pound stairs again and walking away triumphantly with his music playing.
I’m worried that they’ve put Cena in this position as a back-up plan for whatever happens with Bryan. If Bryan is okay to compete, Cena goes into the Money in the Bank ladder match. If Bryan CAN’T compete, Cena goes into a match with Kane. Neither of those things makes me happy.
Worst: The Return Of The Afro Wig
Here’s a quick rundown of everything wrong with wrestling. Sorry, did I type “wrestling?” I meant wrestling.
Sorry, this match.
1. It is the 600th consecutive 3MB vs. Los Matadores match, because I guess neither team exists in WWE Continuity and are only employed to wrestle each other.
2. The return of Hornswoggle’s afro wig, which you may remember from a racist thing at the 2012 Slammy Awards
3. “That is almost a human being you’re talking about.” — JBL, who is not beating around the bush anymore, I guess
4. Hornswoggle moonwalking because he’s got an afro, which makes him black
5. A distraction leading to a roll-up
Here’s what was good about this match:
Best: Dave Batista’s Legacy Is ‘He Couldn’t Say Words’
“BATISTA YOU SAID THE WORDS ‘I QUIT’ OUT THERE AND IT SOUNDED LIKE YOU QUIT, CARE TO COMMENT”
“shcrap shnothinbutcrap, empy promshes, shcrap”
“DO YOU CARE TO SAY ANY ACTUAL WORDS”
Here’s the worst reason for a handicap match I’ve heard in a while: Nikki Bella was expressing mild concern/sadness over her twin sister quitting the previous night and Stephanie McMahon overheard (all offscreen, mind you), so Nikki ended up in a handicap match against Alicia Fox and Aksana. All right.
The good news is that it was the handicap match I’ve been asking for. I hate when a wrestler gets 100 times better when faced with a 2-on-1 advantage. A wrestler being able to dispatch two opponents it makes it hard for me to believe either of those wrestlers can compete 1-on-1. Remember when Cena beat R-Truth and The Miz by himself, and then immediately afterwards we were supposed to wonder if Cena could beat them in a tag team match if his parter was THE F*CKING ROCK? Those are the worst.
Here, Nikki Bella just gets her ass kicked. That’s it. No shenanigans, no big hope spots. She tries to compete against two women, fails, and loses the match. Alicia pins her clean with an axe kick. FOXANA IS ROLLING, FOLKS. After the match, Alicia does that wonderful/dangerous thing where she sideslams people through the ropes to the floor, and we establish that Alicia has post-match freakouts whether she wins or loses. That’s good.
Two quick questions, though:
1. Hey WWE, do you seriously think we should cheer Nikki Bella? Have you watched her on ANY of your programs? She tries hard and she’s a beautiful woman, sure, but her character across the board is a horrible human being who mostly cheats to win and wrestles in a sexy baseball player Halloween costume.
2. How did Alicia Fox spend two weeks dousing herself in soda and then compete on a soda-themed pay-per-view without paying that off?
Whatever: Kofi Kingston Vs. Bo Dallas
The only way I’m into this story right now is if Bray is changing hosts and moving into the body of Bo. Husky Harris shows up next week in his New Nexus shirt to take revenge on Randy Orton and suddenly Bo’s all haggard and into church songs.
Best: Luke Harper Is Talking!
Here’s a well-kept secret: the other guys in the Wyatt Family can talk.
I really enjoyed the idea of the Wyatts being competent characters when Bray is away. I think that helps them a lot. They’re cronies, sure. Total henchmen. But like any good henchmen — see The Venture Bros. or any PS2 Final Fantasy game — they “exist” and have thoughts and motivations and personalities of their own.
Luke Harper’s gonna be a big deal one day. I don’t know how they’re going to get to it because character-wise we’re seeing pretty much all he’s ever shown us, but the man can work, has size and can talk. Plus, independent wrestling street cred. He’s a greatest hits of reasons to push a guy.
Worst: CM Punk Chants
How great would it have been if the crowd’s C-M-PUNK chant had actually produced Punk, and they wasted it on an Adam Rose/Jack Swagger match? Punk just runs out, slides into the ring and eats a Party Foul. Rolls out, is never seen again. Indianapolis is BLAMED FOREVER.
Worst: Did We Seriously Build A Feud To Blow It Off In Two Minutes In The Middle Of Raw, Or
Best: This Is The Best Adam Rose Has Ever Looked
Okay, so, the Worst. Adam Rose’s debut beef has been with Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger, as he is a gluten-free millennial and Zeb wants to deport anyone who was born after 1990 or eats …gluten? Am I understanding this correctly? Anyway, I don’t really expect Rose and Swagger to have a 20 minute barn burner or whatever, but hell, Rose and CAMACHO settled their problems on a “special event” show. Swagger and Rose couldn’t have blown this off in three minutes at Payback Pay-Per-View? Did we build for a month and then blow it off in the middle of the show like it was nothing, or are we in for five more Rose vs. Swagger matches? Ugh, I just answered my own question.
Supplemental Worst While I’m Thinking About It: is anybody else bothered by how they won’t stop calling it Payback Pay-Per-View? Can’t they just call it Payback? We know it’s a pay-per-view. They don’t call WrestleMania “WrestleMania Pay-Per-View.”
Anyway, while the match wasn’t great, I dug the finish a lot:
How much better does that look? The Party Foul just became a thing to look forward to, even if it’s 50% his opponent lifting him like he’s taking a Dudley Dog. It differentiates Rose’s snapmare driver from Dean Ambrose’s headlock driver, and the more they can do to clearly identify these identical moves they’re giving people, the better. Going up like that for the Party Foul also creates a lot of fun counters. Imagine Cesaro launching him into the air and European uppercutting him, or Orton flipping it over into an RKO.