– Make sure you’ve read the Best and Worst of WWE Money in the Bank 2014 before reading this.
– Share the column or I will make a rabbit show up at your house with a cooler full of Twisted Tea. Trust me, it’s not as fun as it sounds.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 30, 2014.
Best: Stephanie McMahon Dancing
Before we start the report, I need to sing the praises of Stephanie McMahon getting turnt up and mom-dancing on Raw. She’s been hitting that sweet spot between “adorable comedy heel” and “the devil herself” all year, but last week’s foray into sassy club dancing made her my official Favorite Thing About Wrestling.
If you missed it last week, Stephanie put Vickie in a 4-on-1 handicap match where the loser would be thrown into a pool full of chocolate — sorry, “crap” — and fired. Vickie managed to throw three of her opponents into the pool, but Steph shanghai’d her from behind and won the match. Steph won, but winning just wasn’t enough, so she had to launch into ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’ and a FULL-ON GODADDY.COM HIP SWIVEL. It was MAGICAL.
Steph has an amazing history of drunk white girl dancing, but she may have hit critical (wonderful) mass last night by lip syncing and interpretively dancing John Cena’s entrance theme.
I honestly don’t know how anybody could be booing her right now. “She’s mean!” Who cares, she is amazing.
Best: Triple H Making Fun Of Cena’s Affected Accent
I was like, “wow, Cena’s laying it on pretty thick tonight,” and H jumps in with CHILL HOMIE. I lost my sugar. How could you boo EITHER of them?
Best: Addressing A Major Plot Hole
I like John Cena 100% more when he’s not being an idiot.
Instead of the “some people LIKE this title win, some people don’t, that’s OKAY we had a ZANY NIGHT” promo most of us were expecting, Cena simply showed up with a belt necklace, addressed how weird it was that The Authority were upset last night and chipper as f*ck less than a day later and pointed out a very important thing that needed to be pointed out. “Why does John Cena being WWE World Heavyweight Champion make The Authority mad?” It shouldn’t. He’s the ideal company man, and aside from those times when he interrupts people to morally judge them he doesn’t really do anything “anti-authority.” It’s why he and Vince are such bros.
The rub is that he’s not their specific, hand-picked guy. That’s perfect. The Authority are the types who have to have everything their way, so even if something unexpected works out for them they’ll get mad that it wasn’t Plans A or B. There are still problems with that, but addressing it and at least giving us a thread of explanation for all the seemingly-random Machiavellian shit going on in Triple H’s head is worth Besting.
Worst: Poor Daniel Bryan
Stephanie doing Yes Fingers and saying “I know you’re all excited about Daniel Bryan being back” while the crowd chants CM PUNK CM PUNK might be sadder than Sunday’s boner joke.
Worst: Uh, Not Addressing A Major Plot Hole
My only problem with the opening segment is Triple H’s big fatal fourway main-event for Battleground. To punish John Cena, he’s putting him in a match with Randy Orton, Kane and Roman Reigns. Roman Reigns. The guy who wasn’t allowed in the Money in the Bank qualifying battle royal two weeks ago because they were trying to keep him out of the title scene. The guy who drugged Triple H’s wife. The reason they fired Vickie Guerrero last week. This isn’t an obscure historical footnote I’m bringing up, this is THE ENTIRE POINT OF EVERYTHING LEADING UP TO THIS WEEK.
It’s also the reason for The Shield breakup in the first place, isn’t it? Rollins had to “evolve” or whatever and get more opportunities for himself. So he turns on The Shield, breaks them up, throws in with The Authority and becomes one of six people in a ladder match for a chance at a CHANCE of a title match while the guy who’s against The Authority has two straight PPV title matches. Even the other guy in The Shield got Rollins’ chance at a chance. I get that they’re trying to put Cena into these harmful positions so Rollins can cash in, but hey, if babyface wins are so upsetting to you, maybe stop setting up the babyfaces to win?Subscribe to UPROXX
Best: Van Dam’s High Flyer Farewell Tour
Per Thursday’s episode of NXT, my “here’s why I hate RVD” talking point is officially dead and I’ve got to give the guy a fair shake. It’s good timing, too, because he’s doing what legends who aren’t really legend legends should be: having matches with all the talented young guys who came up loving him, putting them over and maintaining 100% crowd support despite it because he understands that wrestling is not real and it’s fine. Guys on YouTube are gonna say “I wish he wouldn’t job so much!” and not a single person who likes Van Dam’s gonna like him less on Tuesday.
One thing, though: the announce team needs to make an effort to point out why the people in the ring are doing what they’re doing. I know that’s like asking a blind man to see, but seriously, if Rollins spends the entire match working Van Dam’s leg and then finishes him with a jumping stomp to the head, there’s probably a REASON for it. Here, I’ll do it for you. “Seth Rollins is attacking Van Dam’s legs so he’ll have trouble standing up. If Van Dam can’t get off the mat quickly, Rollins has a better chance of hitting a knockout blow with the Curb Stomp.” Two sentences. It improves the story of the match, justifies things the wrestlers are ALREADY DOING and takes what, 10 seconds away from your “Mountain Dew is great” time?
Best: Dean Ambrose Does That Thing I Said I Hoped He’d Do
The difference between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose on the microphone is the difference between me and Seth Rollins in the ring.
Rollins pins Van Dam and goes into another one of his Linda Belcher promos until he’s interrupted by Dean Ambrose, who read yesterday’s Best and Worst of Money in the Bank column and decided to base the next year of his life on it. An excerpt:
I’m sure we’ll get plenty of [Rollins vs. Ambrose one-on-one], especially if Rollins trying to cash in Money in the Bank repeatedly leads to Ambrose bumrushing him from behind before he can do it. If I was fantasy booking this, Rollins would try and fail so many times because of Ambrose that he’d be the first person to lose their briefcase via expiration.
Last night, Ambrose told Rollins that his briefcase contained TNT, and that every time he tried to cash it in it’d blow up in his face. Love it. I’m so excited that the answer to the “which Shield member will get over and be the breakout star” debate we had for a year and a half ended up being, “all of them, all at once.”
Best: I Am All-In On Face Zeb And Swagger
I didn’t expect this to be exciting or effective, but holy crap was it exciting and effective.
Rusev and Lana show up to explain (for the first time, I believe) that Russia rules and America drools. Out walks the most pro-America guys on the show, Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger, to FINALLY stand up to the only foreign guy on the WWE payroll outwardly insulting the country on a regular basis. One of the weird failings of the Colter character has been that he had a big DEPORT EVERYBODY sign with people like Emma and Adam Rose on it, but was ignoring the EVIL RUSSIANS who are directly and with visual aids explaining how intolerant white Americans (the WWE Universe) were the worst thing going.
They glossed over the reality of Zeb being a terrible, terrible representation of decent American folks with a FREEDOM OF SPEECH~ thing, suggesting that HE can say awful shit about America and be awful to Americans because he IS American. The Dixie Chicks thing. You can say Bush sucks here, but if you say Bush sucks in Europe you are blacklisted forever. It worked though, somehow, and by the time Swagger was doing Ricky Steamboat armdrags to Rusev and sending him packing, EVERYBODY was into it. I never thought I’d hear “let’s go Swagger” chants, but here we are.
I love this, obviously, because I’ve been begging for a Real Americans face turn since Cesaro joined the crew. It’s very easy to turn Zeb from “racist, politically extreme guy we hate” to “racist, politically extreme guy we’re used to and kinda love because he’s so wrong about everything.” You just portray him as your ignorant uncle at a family get-together. Of course he’s a total asshole, but he’ll always be there for you, because deep down he loves you and wants you to be happy. Plus, Jack Swagger gets used for something besides jobbing and hurting people we like!
Best: Lana, Forever
Best: WWE Understanding That Actual 3-Man Teams Should Defeat 3 Guys Teaming
Remember last year when three random main-event types would huddle up and try to beat The Shield in a six-man tag, but almost never could? That’s one of my favorite things about the current WWE ecosystem: the idea that three guys who team together regularly and on purpose would have some kind of edge against three “good” wrestlers who just happen to be teaming.
Back in the day, that used to be known as a “tag team specialist.” You could justify a guy like Bobby Eaton losing a singles match to a guy like Lex Luger because he’s used to being in a tag team and being able to tag out if things got rough. Similarly, a guy like Luger has a better chance of losing to the Midnight Express in a tag team match, whether his partner is an unstoppable super hero like Sting or not. It made everyone look like they were on the same level. Singles guys can lose tags and vice versa without any serious loss to their credibility.
I don’t know if that’s a thing they’re doing on purpose nowadays, but I’m happy it seems to be playing out that way. I’m also happy that Bray Wyatt is the first person to watch Usos tape and realize they kick constantly, so he should watch out for kicks. An Uso missing a superkick looks like a puppy when you pretend to throw a ball but keep it in your hand.
Best: The Bo-ment Of Silence For The Two People Bo Dallas Hates The Most
The Bo Dallas moment of silence worked on two different levels.
One on level, it’s a masterful heel move. It’s not just a moment, it’s sixty moments. Do you know how long sixty seconds of inactivity feels? Imagine how long it feels to a 10,000 people with ADD. You’re just kneeling there doing nothing while people sit in the seats they paid upwards of hundreds of dollars for and just get madder and madder. My big complaint here is that the announce team wouldn’t shut up and let us hear the crowd slowly become enraged.
On another level, it’s such a great f*ck you to the two people Bo Dallas (the character) hates the most: Wade Barrett and Daniel Bryan. Bo eliminated Barrett from the 2013 Royal Rumble onto to be eliminated himself by Barrett, and they had a reprise of that recently in the Money in the Bank ladder match qualifier battle royal. Bo helped Wade eliminate Rob Van Dam and even hugged him, but Wade clotheslined him. Bo would then eventually eliminate Wade. BLOOD RIVALS. As for Bryan, he’s the guy who called Bo Dallas a “boner” on the pay-per-view pre-show and made people chant “boner” at him. Bo gets to give them both a “moment of silence” because of their injuries, but mostly so he can say “look at me, assholes, you’re sitting at home and I am wasting a full minute of Raw TV time doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.”
Worst: Nikki Bella, World’s Worst Wrestler
Similarly to how WWE realized 3-man teams should be able to beat random three-person pairings, they appear to have realized that in non-John Cena situations, people should lose handicap matches. It’s two people versus one person. You aren’t gonna look weak if you lose to two people. Why do people facing insurmountable odds always mount the shit out of the odds?
Nikki Bella got put into another handicap match because she mentioned her sister, and Stephanie follows her around like one of those people who pops up on Twitter, waits for you to be worried or upset about something and goes HERE’S YOU NOT BEING UPSET ABOUT A SOMEWHAT SIMILAR THING SEVERAL YEARS AGO, WHAT ARE YOU, A HYPOCRITE? You know the type. Nikki goes up against both Funkadoodles and … loses almost immediately. So I dig that.
That said, man, Nikki Bella might be the worst performer in the company right now. The Bellas had this big upswing of improvement last year and then just kinda plateaued. It doesn’t help that she’s one of the stars of TWO active television shows and can’t convincingly mean what she says in a sentence. “I. Own-essly? Didn’t think I was doing anything wrong by inviting my twin sister, Brie Bella, to Raw.” Watch her in that World Cup hype video they did. Asking Nikki Bella to emote is like asking Viscera to do a shooting star press.
Yes, I know Viscera is dead. That’s part of it.
Best/Worst: An Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal At Battleground
As you may know, I love battles royal. They’re one of my favorite things about wrestling. I don’t know why. I just like a bunch of wrestlers being in one place at one time, and all of them aggressively trying to lift the other people by hooking the outside leg and shoving them against a turnbuckle.
So I’m not complaining about there being a battle royal at Battleground (BATTLEROYALGROUND) to crown a new Intercontinental Champion. The problem I have is that we just HAD a battle royal to crown a secondary champion. That’s how Sheamus got the United States Championship he might still have. We can’t do a tournament either, though, because we just did THAT, too. That’s how Barrett got the IC strap. Ladder match is out. This kind of situation is where clearly-defined divisions and rankings would come in handy. Don’t you guys have a “Power Poll?”
Anyway, my fantasy booking eye has been pretty good lately, so let me give my ultimate fantasy booking a shot: Barrett isn’t actually hurt. He wants to go after the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and feels like the IC title is holding him back. Cementing his role as a secondary hand. He knew that going into a ladder match for the Money in the Bank briefcase would be too dangerous, so he took a dive the week before and sat it out. Now the IC title is up for grabs in a battle royal, and he’s free of it. Which wrestlers aren’t doing a lot and could be contenders in the battle royal, you might ask?
How about Ryback? He needs to get out of this rut of only wrestling the Rhodes brothers. Same with Curtis Axel. Heath Slater just lost two members of his three man band. Justin Gabriel just had a match with Adrian Neville on NXT, so he’s back and visible. David Otunga hasn’t wrestled in a while, and his last appearance was in the battle royal at WrestleMania. Darren Young hasn’t been seen for ages, but has been doing a lot of interviews and appearances following the Pat Patterson thing.
The payoff for the Battleground battle royal is all of those guys showing up, banding together and reforming the Nexus to collectively win the match. When it’s over, Bad News Barrett rises up from a podium by the stage, awards the Intercontinental Championship to Ryback as a thank you for putting this all together. He then leads an army of new, dynamic-character versions of his old teammates into battle against Cena, that guy who made him look like a total piece of shit four years ago.
Then monkeys fly out of my butt.
Worst: One More Complaint
The Authority strips Daniel Bryan of a championship due to injury and they’re evil, unforgivable people. The Authority strips Barrett of a championship due to injury and nobody cares. Just saying. Rules shouldn’t be obeyed or disobeyed based on popularity.
Worst: You Can’t End A Match During Commercial To Sell The App And Then Show It On TV
To clarify, I actually really loved the Cesaro vs. Kofi match we got. This is coming from a dude that hates Kofi. I think they’re fantastic against one another, because Kofi is admittedly spectacular at jumping and landing, and Cesaro is the best in the world at catching jumping people and doing crazy things to them. It’s a brilliant pairing. Crowds like Kofi enough to believe him and get behind him a little, and crowds are sorta desperate to love Cesaro and increasingly mad that he won’t play ball. It’s similar to the situation Helios was in years ago in Chikara. He was a great natural athlete without a hell of a lot of wrestling ability, so he got stuck doing moonsault armdrags to people who could barely take them and just kinda looking like a helpless gymnast. Every time he worked with Cesaro, though, he looked GREAT, because Cesaro knows how to pace high flyers, bump for them reasonably and spin them around enough to make sure they finish the convoluted bullshit they started. Now Helios is Ricochet and one of the best wrestlers around. It’s not an A-to-B thing there, but working with Cesaro certainly helped, and Kofi could benefit from the same specificity of greatness.
I also really dug the post-commercial break stuff with Cesaro just MURDERING Kofi against anything he could find, including Michael Cole. That was perfect. And hey, now Kofi’s got an explanation for why his pecs are so weird.
What I didn’t like is the finish. Not because it happened during a commercial break, mind you; I think MORE matches should end during commercial. It doesn’t make sense that a fight would wait until you’re done telling the nice people about Popeye’s to end. What I didn’t like is how they initially used it as a selling point for the WWE App — a sort of, “if you don’t have the app, you missed out!” — and then IMMEDIATELY betrayed the exclusivity of that moment and selling point by replaying the finish in its entirety.
What’s the point of that? If you’re gonna replay it, replay it and stop bragging about how it’s “exclusively” on the WWE App. If it’s in a place other than the WWE App, it ain’t exclusive. If you’re going to push that exclusivity, don’t show it. Make me go on the App and find it. Anybody interested in seeing the finish will do that.
Worst: The Twisted Tea Cookout
Welp, there goes any chance of us liking Adam Rose again!
Backstage on the “DX and Candice Michelle get blowjobs” cookout set, Santino is sad and talking to an inanimate, animal-themed shooting sleeve about how nobody came to his 4th of July party. Possibly because it’s Monday, June 30. It’s a party so bad people are getting arrested so they won’t have to attend. In wanders Adam Rose wearing those Willy Wonka googles so you can’t see how dead he is behind the eyes, and INCREDIBLE SADNESS ENSUES.
Jump to the end of the commercial and watch Rose sitting on the table. That dude does NOT want to be there. He should’ve transformed into Leo Kruger in the middle of it and murdered everyone in frame with a machete. Emma dances in half an hour later and finds these huge, cylindrical pieces of a dead hot dog man.
I also would’ve accepted Swagger showing up and breaking bottles of Twisted Tea over their heads until that cooler was empty.
Best: Damien Sandow’s Vince McMahon Impersonation, Or
Worst: Stephanie’s Totally Illogical Reaction To It
Damien Sandow’s punishment for doing a great Vince McMahon impersonation is one chop to the head from The Great Khali (now with Michael Jackson’s haircut) and a pinfall loss. I wish he’d found a way to work “he’s gonna HE’S GONNA he’s gonna HE’S GONNA PUKE” onto Raw.
My major concern is how upset Stephanie got about it. Let’s remember the last two people who impersonated Vince McMahon. She married this one …
… and made out with this one.
Best: Hollywood Mike Mizanin
How to make me like the Miz again in two lines: “Do you have any idea how important I am? I’M THE MARINE, DAMMIT.”
I’m happy to have Miz back. More specifically, I’m happy to have Miz back DOING something. Revisiting the early seasons of NXT has reminded me how good this guy was when he had momentum in a dream in his heart, before he got a concussion and his idol showed up to take a festering dump on his chest. Back in the days before Miz was a lost lower-midcarder who couldn’t do a figure four.
I’m a big fan of “Hollywood” characters anyway. Hulk Hogan coming back from “Hollywood” with his greatest successes being a bunch of awful movies and a TV show about a boat with guns on it was full of top notch delusion and exactly what he needed to reinvent himself in the 90s. The Rock did the same thing. The best-ever incarnation of The Rock is the one who came back from MILD Hollywood success with a Willie Nelson guitar to play condescending songs about your hometown. Miz’s greatest pop culture success was before he was even a wrestler, so now that he’s got direct-to-DVD AND TV movies under his belt, he can be the most egotistical guy in the world. I WAS IN SCOOBY-DOO WRESTLEMANIA MYSTERY, SHOW ME A LITTLE RESPECT.
Best: Chris Jericho’s Back! AND NOW HE’S BEING MURDERED BY HILLBILLIES SOMEBODY HELP
Welcome back, Cool Dad.
This was so well done. They tease you with this limousine all night and make you think Jericho’s returning, but it turns out to be the Miz, calling himself a “cross-branded multimedia superstar.” Miz starts Mizzing it up and you’re like “okay, fine, this is what it is,” and then POOF, COOL DAD’S FIREWORKS go off and it is him. That’s good enough on its own. Then they put these two returning characters who can talk in the ring together, and you’re like, “oh man, is Jericho gonna verbally garrote The Miz? Is 2010 Miz gonna rise from his grave and call out Jericho for that horrible last run?” And then BLEARP, NOPE, HERE IS SOME DEADLY HILLFOLK.
Here’s a trick I’ve learned from writing so many of these columns: if a moment is truly exciting, I’m gonna stop wondering so much about it and let it take me away. I did that with Swagger/Rusev, oddly enough, and then again with Miz/Jericho. Miz and Jericho aren’t guys I’m normally gonna get all bonkers for, but the timing was perfect, the mood was right and there was enough insanity and Wyatt teleportation to not only make me think about it fondly the next day, but still want to see where it goes. WWE angles don’t accomplish that as often as they should.
Jericho vs. the Wyatts could be really, really good. Here’s to hoping Cena photoshopping Bray’s face onto Hattie McDaniel a while back filled WWE’s quota of wanky baby jokes and we can count on good Jericho showing up.
Worst: The Dolph/Summer Rae Thing, But
Best: Where The Dolph/Summer Rae Thing Could Be Going
I think the best part about this episode is how STUFF HAPPENS. That’s really all I want. Even if I don’t like it, I’ll be forgiving if stuff’s actually happening. Raw’s usually such a stagnant collection of non-finishes, nonstop repeats and water-treading 50/50 booking that even a small amount of moving forward and seeming purposeful goes a long way. Here, EVERYTHING was moving forward. It felt like an entirely new creative direction.
Speaking of nonstop repeats, though, Dolph Ziggler won his match when UNACCEPTABLE EX-GIRLFRIEND Summer Rae wandered into the ring in the middle of his match with Fandango and started making out with him. This distracted Fandango, allowing Dolph to sneak attack him and get the win. Distraction finishes are the worst. That said, Summer appeared to have been moved by the muse or whatever and is now into Dolph, meaning we can finally move away from Summer/Layla and get back to what made Dolph great.
If you’ll recall the last time Dolph was relevant, he was accompanied to the ring by Big E and AJ Lee. He’s a superstar, no doubt, but he’s also a guy who works better as the leader of a team. A squad, if you will. A spirited squad. But seriously, when he’s the “cool guy” of a team and the focus of a collective effort, he’s AWESOME. He gets to do stuff and win matches and not have to carry them by himself with big, walky babyface promos and the bland asexuality of a WWE main-eventer. The guy’s all about motion and charisma. If you make him Sheamus he’s gonna sink to the bottom of the f*cking ocean.
Putting him with Summer will give him someone to play off of, and might give Summer a chance to actually work matches instead of being a Catty Little Cat. Pairing the NXT version of Summer with the two years ago version of Dolph is an A+ decision, and I’m excited to see them become WWE’s badass Ken and Barbie.
Worst: I Love You Guys, But Stop Doing This
oh look, a fresh matchup
WWE’s even so tired of watching Rybaxel wrestle the Rhodes brothers that they didn’t put up a clip on WWE Fan Nation. I like all four of these guys (and I’m proud of Curtis Axel for ditching his Fire Pro singlet), but man, enough is enough. How many times can you blow off a rivalry? Stardust is one of the most shockingly compelling things you’ve done with stagnating talent in YEARS. Why are you working so hard to stagnate him?