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– Be sure you’re reading With Leather’s This Week In Horrible-Looking People every Monday. This week we did part 2 of TNA Impact Wrestling, and there is more than one Traci Brooks photo. Go check that out.
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This week’s a special one, so I’ll let you get to it. Please click through to enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 6, 2013.
Worst: We Need To Talk About Paul
Objectively speaking, the opening segment of Raw was concerning, but fine. Stephanie McMahon and her father (sans forced “power walk”) are important WWE types, and their appearance on the show automatically ups the gravity. Stephanie has a legitimate point to make — Triple H was wrestling against doctor’s orders and anything could’ve happened to him, and to her he’s a husband, a father and a kinda-sorta boss. If she loses him, she loses all of those things. “My children not having a father” is more important than wrestling fans getting a Triple H/Curtis Axel match on a throwaway Raw. Vince’s point is also valid — you shouldn’t be booing his daughter because she’s being compassionate, and you should try to be a little more understanding and a little less selfish. Trust me, as a guy who gets called “preachy” because of Internet wrestling columns, I can vouch for the fact that trying to tell wrestling fans to be good people is the HARDEST SHIT EVER.
That said, when they entered minute 10 of “WE love Triple H more than YOU do” and fans BOOING because NO, THEY love Triple H more than THEY do, that initial “Jesus Christ, Stephanie’s on Raw, run” reaction returned. If they’d run any longer, we would’ve gotten Stephanie and Vince yelling “no I think Triple H is great!” over and over. It’s almost what we got anyway. My wrestling fan terror and anger meter started to fill, and when it filled up all the way (almost to the second) I hit my limit break, which is the sweet, sweet sounds of the NATO phonetic alphabet and three indy-as-f**k motherf**kers in flak jackets who will clubber and spear you until you are gone.
Best: Nothing Fixes A Segment Quicker Than SIERRA HOTEL INDIA ECHO LIMA DELTA
The two ways I know I’m truly enjoying a part of Raw are as follows:
1. I have to lean over to somebody in the room and make a “wow, this is really good!” sorta comment, as if I’m trying to pinch myself and awaken from a dream
2. I remain silent, but my arms go straight up into the air
I did the second one when The Shield’s music hit. In my head, Roman Reigns was spearing Stephanie and Vince was getting triple powerbombed, and yeah, that would probably set up a horrible Triple H thing where he piled all three Shields onto each others’ asses like Russian nesting dolls and pedigreed everyone at once, but the McMahon beatdown would’ve been worth it.
A supplemental Worst goes to WWE for immediately going to commercial when business picked up, and another for returning FROM commercial with The Shield standing around waiting for a match like nothing happened instead of playing hacky-sack with Vince McMahon’s skull.
As I mentioned in the five-point preview of last night’s open discussion thread, I’ve been getting a lot of conflicting criticism. Some people get mad at me for being “too negative,” and writing about a show I don’t enjoy. Others, specifically those who have entered the “we’re tired of Brandon Stroud” portion of the reader-writer relationship cycle, believe that I write the same “wanking” paragraph in every column about wrestlers I like. Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt, Fandango, whoever.
The reason I’m bringing this up here is because if you are the type who does not want to read me getting excited about wrestlers, you are gonna HATE this column, because Daniel Bryan may have had the best 3 hours of Raw performance I’ve ever seen. EVER.
It started with the 18-minute Shield trios match, which is starting to become a Raw staple. Bryan stands out here (and in everything he’s done since Extreme Rules) for one reason: energy. When he tags into the ring or whenever he gets on offense in singles matches, he’s doing it with a sense of urgency. When he runs, he looks like he’s RUNNING, not taking joggy steps to hit his marks. When he’s striking, he looks like he’s STRIKING, and not working through the cooperative portion of his moveset. Almost every WWE Superstar, even the ones I love, have settled into this comfortable pace where they’re moving, but they aren’t moving too quickly, because they want to make sure they hit everything, and make sure everyone saw it. Bryan is just trucking around the ring and f**king people up, and it’s the most glorious shit I’ve ever seen. The way he’s performing right now makes people who’ve never considered him great tweet about how awesome he is. THIS is the American Dragon, folks. This is the guy the Internet’s been wanking about (or whatever) since he was Sheamus white wrestling in even whiter tighty-whities in Philadelphia armories. He can go, and he is GOING.
The match was basically an excuse to have Bryan be as great on Raw as he was at the end of last Friday’s Smackdown, and I’m okay with that. I’m starting to believe that he could beat The Shield by himself (in the good way … not in the John Cena way), but he keeps going too hard and running into a mistake. The Shield hasn’t been beaten by pin or submission because they live for mistakes, and can eat you alive. Here, Randy Orton is too busy doing his stupid poses before RsKO and gets shoved into Bryan, causing his team to lose, because Randy Orton f**king sucks. Most people watching think this is the end of Bryan’s awesome Raw, but NOPE.
Best: Daniel Bryan Forces Randy Orton To Act, Or
Best: Two Daniel Bryan Matches In One Night? Yes Please
This is the first of two great backstage segments that really drive home the fact that while we’re cheering Daniel Bryan, he’s still that same egomaniacal rage monster who emotionally abused his girlfriend for several months and wouldn’t stop superfluously celebrating his accomplishments. He’s disturbed … obsessed with the idea that he’s not good enough, believing that only concrete accomplishments like title belts or wins against opponents who’ve beaten him (The Shield, Ryback) can “prove” an unprovable thing nobody cares about or believes. It is mental disease, and he’s got it. He also happens to be the best pro wrestler on the planet and he’s been stuck in a comedy tag team for the last 8 months, so if you’re looking for a reason for him to be clinically insane, there you go.
The money here is that Bryan wants another match Here Tonight, and he’s going to get it. As a wrestling fan, that makes me type exclamation points.
Worst: “I Love You, Paul-Pop”
As that same wrestling fan, this makes me type poopies face. Which is this: =/
Triple H arrives to the arena, possibly summoned by the show-opening ten minutes of people saying TRIPLE H over and over, and finds out that he’s being kept out of a match because his brain don’t work too good. Using that same swiss cheese brain he gets in Vince’s (and Stephanie’s) face, demanding to get what he wants, because DAMN THE MAN, Curtis Axel got a count-out victory over him and THAT WILL NOT STAND. Stephanie repeatedly mentions how Curtis Axel is “beneath” Triple H and “not important,” to the point that Vince has to sorta call an improv audible and work in a “Curtis Axel is actually impressive tho” so Steph doesn’t dig one half of the main event all the way to f**king China. Triple H agrees that Curtis Axel is lame and sux, but he also notes that TRIPLE H IS GREAT AND MUST FIGHT TONIGHT.
At no point does Mark Henry appear and spear someone through the curtain wall, confirming (sadly) that I do not have all-inclusive mental command of television shows.
Best: F**k Yeah, The Usos
Or, “The U-Magas.”
Jimmy and Jey Uso not only got to do their full, way-cooler-than-the-Usos Usos entrance on Raw, but they got to rock FACEPAINT, which has been missing from the WWE landscape for far too long. Jeff Hardy temporarily ruined that for everybody, I think. But yeah, the Usos showed up with their half-faces painted like neon Umaga and straight-up skunked the Prime Time Players, pinning Darren Young after a MASSIVE Superfly Splash. Hopefully this means a few things, including
1. The return of a tag team division with actual teams and structure competition
2. The Usos finally getting a push, and not being relegated to Superstars
3. A Rollins/Reigns vs. The Usos program, which will produce great matches AND have a personal angle automatically attached
4. The Prime Time Players realizing they are jobbers and finding their hilarious wigs again
5. Jey Uso formally claiming the Superfly Splash, so that Tamina may never use it again
All of those things would make me happy. WHEN I SAY PAN, YOU SAY “CAKE PATTERSON.”
Worst: Alberto Del Rio Defeats Big E Langston In Their “Stall Until Ziggler Gets Back” Series Of 5
This is becoming the “end of week 1” Grease 2 of rivalries.
Nope, not going to explain it.
Sigh, all right. When I was a teenager I discovered irony (or whatever) and fell in love with Grease 2, which is about a thousand times worse than Grease and makes a case for being one of the worst movie musicals of all time. My friends and I thought it was hilarious and watched it on loop for about two weeks. For the first few days we laughed and clapped along, quoting all the bullshit lines like “what would they say if they knew it was Michael.” By the end of the two weeks, the joke was that we wouldn’t stop playing it even though it had become agony. But there was a sweet spot, right at the end of week 1, where we kept playing it on loop, but didn’t pay attention to it. We forgot it was on. We didn’t see it or hear it. It just became part of the landscape.
Using this analogy, Emma matches on NXT are the first few days of Grease 2. Ziggler/Kingston (or Team Hell No/Primetime Players) matches are the end of week 2. Alberto Del Rio vs. Big E Langston is the end of week 1 of Grease 2, where it’s just been on so many times I don’t give a shit and it’s part of the background. It’s the VERY end of week 1, too, because I’m starting to consider ejecting the VHS tape and just playing Goldeneye instead*. They’ve done this match five times in a row. Does Alberto Del Rio get shaken up if he wrestles more than one dude per month?
*Yes, I am super old.
Best: Damien Sandow Should Always Do Color
Damien Sandow’s quest to prove how stupid Sheamus is is delightful to me, even if Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler think Sandow “cheating” at his games is more important than the broader point. What Sandow is saying makes total sense: Sheamus shouldn’t be able to get through life by punching everything he sees, and should occasionally be asked to think and react like a normal human being.
Sandow is great on color (Cody’s just playing opossum!), and manages to survive Cole’s weird, nitpicky stuff where he’s obviously trying to be the “smart one.” If Sandow stumbles over anything, Cole jumps on him and calls him stupid. Calls him names. Corrects him. Asks him asinine questions like “what’s up with Team Rhodes Scholars and facial hair” when Sheamus ALSO has facial hair, and when Michael Cole has had some form of facial hair since the mid-90s Cole is like a Sheamus who isn’t strong enough to punch. The “before Charles Atlas” Sheamus. A stupid guy who is terrible at his job who can only look at himself in the mirror if he thinks he’s gotten one over on his superiors. I hate people like that.
Worst: Sheamus, Obviously
I also hate people like Sheamus, but if you’ve read more than one of these columns, you know that already.
Sheamus didn’t pat anybody’s dick with the back of his hand this week, meaning he’s only the SECOND biggest asshole babyface on the show, but he did have an awful, totally unnecessary bullying moment with Sandow after the match with Rhodes. Sandow’s at the announce booth and Sheamus approaches him, sticking out his hand. Sandow has paid attention to wrestling before and knows Sheamus is either going to immediately kick him in the stomach, or do that thing where he shakes hands and makes you think everything is hunky-dory but then HOLDS ON TO THE HANDSHAKE so you KNOW HE’S ACTUALLY NOT FINE and does some kind of wrestling move. He refuses the handshake. So what does Sheamus do? He slaps Sandow in the face. Sheamus goads a guy into a confrontation he’s not trying to have, then physically assaults him. Sheamus is the good guy. Sandow is the bad guy. Because Sheamus is stupid, and Sandow is smart.
This is what we’re working with.
Best: Ryback Pretends He’s Brandon Playing WWE 13
This didn’t happen on Raw, but they played a replay of it, so I’m including it here. The biggest possible Best goes to Ryback for putting Kofi Kingston on the shelf with three powerbombs through three tables, aka “Brandon’s favorite thing to do in wrestling video games.” This version of The Ryback continues to be one of my favorite people in wrestling, and Kofi continues his wonderful 2013 by being injured in a spectacularly entertaining way.
Worst: Vince McMahon Making Jew Jokes
Right now, at this very moment, from now on, Curtis Axel is happy to be out of his match with Triple H. He and Paul Heyman are in Vince McMahon’s curtain office, so Vince changes things up and announces that Axel will instead face John Cena in a no disqualification match. Heyman seems a little put off by the added stipulation, so Vince McMahon says: “Do you want me to say it in Yiddish?” Get it? Because Paul Heyman’s a Jew!
I guess I shouldn’t expect too much from the guy who called John Cena “my nigga” and laughed about how Sabu was the member of the Taliban. Or the company that had Sheamus sit and list off every Jewish joke he could think in a deposition. You can probably do a Raw without Jew jokes, guys.
Best: JBL Calls Natayla “Betty Grable,” Or
Worst: The Great Khali + a heel taking a count-out loss for no reason + The Miz appearing + Wade Barrett’s Dog Boner = Me Not Enjoying Raw
I don’t even know what this segment was. This one or the one after it. My good friend Bill Hanstock described it as a “f**king Rubix cube.” Here’s a quick recap.
Fandango is harboring ill-will toward the Great Khali for that time a few weeks ago when the WWE Universe voted Khali the winner in a dance contest. They have a match, Khali dominates, and Fandango does that boring WWE heel thing where he rolls out of the ring and decides to take a count-out loss instead of trying in the wrestling match. As he’s walking up the ramp, The Miz appears, demanding that Fandango return to the ring before the 10 count. But before THAT can happen, Wade Barrett appears on the ramp behind Miz, takes several moments to adjust the color of his elbow pad, then runs several feet while Miz acts surprised and Dog Boner elbows him in the face. Miz is unconscious and we go to a commercial break. Barrett holds up the IC title for Fandango to see.
When we come back, Fandango, Khali, Natalya and Hornswoggle are all gone. The previous match result is not clarified, even though the 10 count was started and now everybody’s vanished. Miz is apparently totally fine. Wade Barrett tries to win his first ever non-title match as Intercontinental Champion, but suddenly Fandango’s music hits, and Fandango appears TOTALLY FINE, showing no signs of having just been beaten up by a giant to the point of fleeing. Fandango and Summer sorta hug each other on the stage as Wade Barrett leans against the ropes for AT LEAST 20 seconds, just staring at them for no reason. He turns around and Miz … doesn’t surprise him. Barrett just tries to walk over Miz (literally walk over him, I don’t know) and Miz then SUDDENLY (“suddenly”) trips him up, puts him in the figure four and wins the match. Barrett has not had his knees hurt at all and just immediately gives up. Miz’s music plays as everyone stands around staring at each other.
So yay for … somebody, I guess?
Worst: Wade Barrett Is Officially The Worst Wrestler In History
I can’t with this guy anymore. I’ve written the “why is your IC champion the IC champion if you never want him to win matches” paragraph so many times I can’t even think about it and form words. Wade Barrett, you are the worst. You’re the first wrestler I’ve ever wanted to see released for kayfabed reasons. You are the Bill Lumbergh of pro wrestling.
Best: Heyman Points Out How Stupid Contract Signings Are
And he didn’t even point it out in Yiddish! Hurr!
Worst: Uncool Dad
This one started out well enough. Heyman got to reference that they could’ve signed the sheet in the back, and Jericho interrupts Paul’s spiel because he knows exactly what he’s going to say. I don’t like babyface Chris Jericho, especially not the Mickie James-dressing motherf**ker we have here, but at least he was screwing around with a guy who is a proven cheat and liar. Right? Heyman’s making a big deal about the match being in Chicago, which Jericho has OBVIOUSLY thought about, so Jericho strings him along and pretends like he’s scared and wants the match somewhere else. It’s not necessarily GOOD, but it makes sense. It gets the enthusiastic but SUPER READY TO DO WHATEVER YOU TELL US WWE crowd in the palm of his hand, and gets him one of the biggest “mention the city we’re in” pops I’ve heard in a while. And I hate typing the word “pops.”
But then everything gets uncomfortable.
I know you guys like Chris Jericho and don’t want to see when he does something bad, but man, this was wretched. He starts bossing Heyman around like he’s Vince McMahon telling Trish Stratus to bark like a dog. He tells Heyman to stand up and start unbuttoning his clothes. It’s weird. Remember when Triple H and Heyman had a contract signing, and it ended with Triple H holding him down on the table, undressing him and slapping him in the boobs? Yeah. Jericho rolls up the contract, shoves it down the front of Heyman’s pants and pats him in the dick. WWE’s got a weird “sexually harass Paul Heyman” fetish that I absolutely do not understand. I don’t know why the good guys have to be so stupid, or why they have to be so controlling, or why they have to bully people. You’ve heard this from me before. I’m just sad about it and confused. Nobody’s buying Payback because Jericho made Paul Heyman feel sexually threatened.
Worst: That Chicago Crowd Is Gonna Be Pissed When Curtis Axel Shows Up Instead Of CM Punk
That’s what’s going to happen, right? Jericho’s going to be in the ring and the crowd’s gonna chant C-M-PUNK for five minutes, and Paul Heyman’s gonna come out and be all HERE’S MY CLIENT and point to the entranceway and Curt flippin’ Axel’s gonna stroll out. He’s gonna beat Jericho by count-out on pay-per-view in front of another guy’s rabid hometown crowd. Get ready for it. Punk’s not showing up again any time soon.
Best: AJ Lee Watches Raw, Has A Short-Term Memory
The Divas tag team match wasn’t anything special — thanks, Cameron — but I have to give AJ Lee credit. She remembers several weeks ago when the Bella Twins ditched her in a tag team match just like this and pays them back, bailing on them when they need her the most. That’s really all I ask from wrestling continuity, you know? That wrestlers remember stuff that has happened to them in the calendar year, and respond to new situations appropriately. When the match started I thought for sure that WWE had forgotten to erase the dry erase board, and the Bellas were going to ditch AJ again to help build that AJ/Kaitlyn Divas title match that is never f**king happening.
I also want to give AJ a Best for always being in character. A lot of people wrestle and have characters, but very few of them wrestle AS their character. I give Bray Wyatt a lot of praise for being the best at wrestling as a character, but AJ’s got it, too. When she was a good guy, she wrestled in a certain way. Now that she’s a bad guy, her entire in-ring persona has changed. Her body language changed. Watch her interact with the Bellas when she’s on the apron. She laughs when Nikki gets knocked off, and just sorta nonchalantly waves when the Bellas are trying to tag her. When they tag each other, she rolls her eyes. When she’s in the ring with Kaitlyn she tries to remain all “black widow” about it, but gets flustered because she’s so physically outmatched. It’s very good, very basic pro wrestling, and I’m glad somebody at FCW/NXT is teaching these kids how to do it.
Best: Kane And Daniel Bryan Re-enacting Key Scenes From All The Real Girls
This segment. MY HEART.
I loved everything about it. It’s melodramatic as hell and probably wouldn’t pass for a real scene in anything OTHER than wrestling, but a little goat faced guy who is dysmorphic about being the weak link working through his pride and anger with his best friend who happens to be a FIRE RAPIST DEATH MURDERER who is softening in his old age and finally opening up to friendship is AMAZING and touching and everything it should be. This is the most important interaction Team Hell No has had since Dr. Shelby left. This made them feel like real characters again.
And poor Kane! I felt so bad for him, doing his Doug from ‘The State’ I’m Outta Here speech. He looked like he was on the verge of tears. I thought he was going to launch into that speech from All The Real Girls. “Daniel, I’m looking at you right now and I hear you talking and all the words that are coming out of your mouth are like they’re coming out of a stranger. Why don’t you shave your f**king beard and come back, just come on back.”
Best: NEVERMIND THAT SHIT, HERE COMES BRAY WYATT
WYATT FAMILY PROMO VIDEO NUMBER TWO HAS OCCURRED.
People keep asking me what the deal with Bray Wyatt is, and usually all I can say is “why aren’t you watching NXT, it’s the best show WWE has” and “why aren’t you reading The Best and Worst of WWE NXT, where I’ve spent two weeks explaining why you should like Bray Wyatt?” I guarantee you, somebody’s gonna read this paragraph and immediately drop down into the comments to ask What’s The Deal With Bray Wyatt. If you want the most easy-to-understand guide possible, here you go. Reference it as necessary:
1. He is doing an awesome, creepy, legit scary cult leader Cape Fear character
2. He not only plays the character, he wrestles as the character, which makes his matches great
3. His finish involves him knocking you unconscious and dancing with your lifeless body
4. In character he is the best talker in WWE. Yes, better than Punk.
5. He is a fat dude who hustles
6. He has existed for the last year in NXT, where characters like this are nurtured and given fun matches and stories
7. GIANT HILLFOLK IN ANIMAL MASKS
8. why are you not watching NXT, seriously
Best: Daniel Bryan Manages To Steal A Show He’s Already Stolen Once
Remember that match Daniel Bryan had against The Shield in hour one? In hour three he topped it with a match against Ryback that might be my favorite WWE match of the year, pay-per-views included. It might be the best WWE match I’ve seen since LAST year’s Extreme Rules. Which was … uh, also a Daniel Bryan match. Hold on, I’m wanking.
But no, this match was absolutely incredible. It was perfect pro wrestling. The characters have pre-existing stories. Daniel Bryan is obsessed with proving himself as the “strong link” by beating someone he’s never been able to beat. Ryback has been hunting the biggest unbeatable jumping dog in WWE’s yard for months and is obsessed with hurting people, putting out Kofi Kingston for no real reason other than the send a message about his death dealing to John Cena. They bump into each other backstage. Ryback wants to hurt people. Bryan wants to beat a guy nobody thinks he could beat. The match is made.
Daniel Bryan is the best wrestler in the world, but Ryback deserves a TON of credit for this. He wrestled it like a monster, but made sure to sell Bryan’s offense and intensity like a million bucks. He was on the edge of failure multiple times. He was in pain. He was tired. He wasn’t the soulless hoss we’ve seen him be before. He was a great pro wrestler, because he was in there WITH a great pro wrestler. The story carried through the match, and now the pre-existing stuff begins to intersect. Bryan is so focused on greatness that he can’t be stopped, even by a guy who can stop anybody. Ryback is underestimating Bryan, and doesn’t figure out that he should get his shit together and try hard until he’s already gotten his ass kicked. Eventually Ryback realizes that Bryan’s going to pull off the win and says f**k it to the victory in favor of just trying to overtly hurt him. That leads to:
Best: The Best Possible Outcome
How do you end this story? By having Bryan win, but in a way that won’t seem “real” to him. Bryan’s still going to think he hasn’t proven himself, because he didn’t pin Ryback or make him submit. People (in his head) are still gonna think he’s the weak link. Ryback gets to look like a crazy monster who can end careers and put you on the shelf, but he doesn’t get a pinfall over Bryan, because he doesn’t need one. John Cena runs out to stick up for Bryan because Kane is gone, which is the first time I’ve heard a crowd united in support of Cena in a while. You know who did that? The little guy lying in the table debris. Absolutely f**king stunning pro wrestling all around.
I wish the Ryback/Cena standoff had just ended the show, but welp, we’ve got a Curtis Axel to deal with, so let’s go ahead and do that.