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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 9, 2014.
Best: Correct Jerks
One of WWE’s most unique talents is their ability to ease us into “darkest timeline” storytelling by numbing us so severely that worst case scenarios seem like progress.
The opening to last night’s Raw featured my least favorite wrestler of the last 20 years and one of my least favorite general manager characters ever stripping my favorite wrestler ever of the TWO championship titles he won in his career’s defining moment at one of the biggest events in company history. And you know what? I’ve been so numbed by a month and a half of obnoxious complaining, stalling and bad decisions that I’m happy they did it. How awful is that? I am now standing balls-deep in Brandon Stroud’s Worst Case Wrestling Scenario and I’m thanking them for putting me here.
Objectively, The Authority is still right. They said Bryan wouldn’t be able to compete at a championship level, and as soon as he won the championship, he got hurt and couldn’t compete. The story is that they ran The Demon Kane at him until his neck broke, but Jesus, how many times has an evil authority figure thrown a monster at Cena or The Rock or Steve Austin and they’ve come out fine on the other side? The WWE has a longstanding-if-iffily-worded precedent of a champion having to defend his title or being stripped of it, and with Bryan’s surgery not progressing at Cena Speed they didn’t have another option. Brie Bella quit so Bryan wouldn’t have to give up his championship, and then two weeks later he has to give up his championship and she quit for nothing.
Pointing this out makes you a jerk, I guess, and yeah, The Authority are still basically the worst people in the world. But man, they were right all along. Bryan can come back in a few months and we can try it again. A redemption story. Or who knows? Maybe he’ll go the way of Dolph Ziggler and get a big WE CAN’T TRUST YOU, ENJOY THE LOWER MIDCARD stamp on his forehead. At least we’re moving on to something new now. I’m happy that Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus are competing for the oh my God somebody help me I can’t do this anymore
Worst: Correct Reality-Altering Jerks?
1. If Daniel Bryan had such ethical outrage at The Authority that he’d let his wife get fired instead of peacefully handing over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, there’s no way he authorized his doctor to give out his medical progress on television when it would directly lead to The Authority stripping him. WE’VE GOT A HIPAA VIOLATION HERE, FOLKS.
2. If the doctor’s via satellite message is the first anybody’s hearing of Bryan’s progress and he’s just now being officially stripped of the championship, how does The Authority already have the belts? Did all of this happen earlier in the day and they’re just being buttholes by going through the motions against video-taped doctor footage?
Best: Vengeance For Kobald
We won’t forget you, you beautiful little toilet demon you.
Best: The Value Of Having A Billion Mildly-Believable Finishes
The first match of the night was also probably the best: another hard-hitting, exciting HOSS OFF between two guys who hold secondary championships and probably shouldn’t be taking clean pinfall losses.
The reason this match worked so well is because sure, they did a lot of false finishes and those can be exciting, but also because they have enough moves in their arsenal to make a match full of false finishes make sense. That’s a very important thing a lot of wrestlers miss … we’ve seen Sheamus end matches with the White Noise or the cloverleaf before, so when he goes for a win with them there is at least a 1% chance that it’ll be enough. That’s suspension of disbelief at work, but it works. Barrett’s the same way. He’s not exactly KO’ing dudes with the Winds of Change, but he’s got WADE SLAM. If you chain that all together and make sure everything connects strong, you’ve got something. And hell, BNB’s made it so that making his elbow pad change colors means the end of the match is nigh.
I’m all for guys like this throwing hands at each other in the midcard and tearing it up, but in all seriousness I do wish they’d build one solid secondary championship division. Bad News Barrett has a lot of support out of nowhere and they’re STILL feeding him into these Intercontinental Championship non-title losses. It will never make sense to me. “The prop you hold when you win” should not go hand-in-hand with “constantly losing.” That’s not smark science, that is basic human logic.
Worst: And Then THAT’S The Finish They Go With
The other complaint I have for this very, very enjoyable match is that they strung together a bunch of cool falsies and then went straight to the Sheamus match killer: the Brogue Kick set up by his opponent suddenly stammering backwards and being distracted at nothing so Sheamus can run up and do it “from out of nowhere.” It’s THE WORST.
This match is a perfect example. Barrett’s on the attack but he knows it’s time to take the Brogue Kick, so he just wanders back towards the middle of the ring looking at nobody, doing nothing, and kinda paws at the referee. Then it’s like WHOOPS, I ACCIDENTALLY LET THE GUY WHO TAKES ADVANTAGE OF LITERALLY EVERY SCENARIO LIKE THIS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SCENARIO AND KICK ME IN THE FACE. The Brogue Kick is a strike. Strikes are the easiest imaginable thing to have come from “out of nowhere.” You aren’t doing a snake taunt and jumping and cradling a guy’s head and slamming him to the mat, you’re lifting your leg. Why is it always so obvious? It almost exclusively exists to make that final moment of any Sheamus match drag me from “wow, this was great” to “ALBINO JOHN CENA.”
A supplemental Worst for that delayed cover.
Best: Sign Of The Night
Best: Put The Belts On Putin
First things first, +1 to WWE for finally using that shirtless pic of Putin on a horse. Between that and the clip of Obama working out, it’s like the googled “president strong” and wrote the first five results into the show.
Second things first, WWE should send Vladimir Putin the WWE World Heavyweight Championship belts and see if he’ll take a photo with them on. Better yet, appeal to his ego and bring him over to judo a bunch of dudes and substantiate the claim that he created a gold star of Russian badassedness award and thinks Rusev deserves it. Hell, tag Rusev and Putin. How great would that publicity be? You’d be on every 24 hour news channel for 23 hours a day. You would get CNN to recap Zack Ryder matches. Also, maybe prevent actual political problems? All I know is that Putin wouldn’t break his neck five seconds into being champion.
Fantasy booking: At WrestleMania 31, play ‘Cult Of Personality’ out of nowhere and have PUTIN show up instead of Punk. That would probably burn out the brain of every wrestling fan in the world in one great power surge.
Best: This Giant Flag Is Legitimately More Interesting Than Zack Ryder
Third things first? I’ve gotta give Lana a supplemental Worst for using “sissy” and “girly man” in a promo in 2014 without being dressed like Hans or Franz. At least she got booed for it. The WWE App should have a poll: Who do you hate more, foreigners or our gay President?
The match itself was enjoyable, as Rusev has formally moved on from the “beat up black guys” trope and settled comfortably into humiliating my least favorite wrestlers. The transition started with Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston I guess, and now he’s trouncing Mojo Rawley on NXT and beating Zack Ryder before he’s even got a chance to Woo Fist and Broski Boot anything. Good stuff. I am never Worsting a truck-wide guy going BLEAHHHHHHH and superkicking somebody’s head off for aimlessly bouncing off the ropes.
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Think About Rusev
Worst: There Is No Way Cody Rhodes Thought R-Truth Was A Better Partner
The march toward “Cody realizes Goldust was the weak link and turns on him” continues with the sudden option of R-TRUTH, which suggests that Cody Rhodes has never actually watched WWE programming. Does he think we’re still back in the first two seasons of NXT? R-Truth is basically your worst available option. What’s next, teaming him with Zack Ryder, the guy who just lost a match in 40 seconds? Maybe throwing some arm tassels on Justin Roberts?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I feel like the Cody turn might be too obvious. What if Goldust is the one who turns? The guy’s being forced into these doofy losing scenarios by his egocentric, privileged brother every week. He’s gotta get tired of that eventually. Cody just pressing his collar and hanging out in the back and forcing him to set up R-Truth axe kicks or whatever. I’d be furious. Maybe next week Cody’s like, “here’s your tag team partner THE BROOKLYN BRAWLER” and Goldie just mauls him.
Worst: What Is Rybaxel’s Role In This?
This is starting to bug me. Every week, Goldust gets paired up with a new tag team partner and forced to tag against Ryback and Curtis Axel. Are they friends? Are they trying to help him work through the process? These wins they’re racking up don’t seem to mean anything and we haven’t had the “wins means more money” talking point in ages, so what’s up? Is the end of the angle Ryback and Curtis Axel agreeing to be Goldust’s tag team partners so they can do something ELSE?
WWE’s obsession with rivalries meaning “YOU ONLY FIGHT ONE OTHER GUY OVER AND OVER” is so bizarre. Couldn’t you give other teams a victory now and then? I’m sure Drew and Jinder could use a pin on Goldust, especially if you’re doing it to meaninglessly tell a story. Give Los Matadores a win that isn’t 3MB. It’s not like Ryback and Curtis f*cking Axel are the only tag guys who can credibly pin Goldust. You’ve got him losing via Divas roll-up. Put Natalya and Eva Marie over them, who cares.
Worst: Women, Am I Right
In a segment enjoyed by guys who type “barefoot” into YouTube, heel Layla is talking shit about Minnesota so babyface Summer Rae (who is from New York) sneaks up on her, pours milk on her head, physically assaults and turns a table over on her. Because … Layla has a boyfriend she wants, I guess? Layla sits in the floor crying and Summer Rae struts away triumphantly.
I’ve written about it a lot, but the worst part of watching Impact is that everyone on the roster is an awful person. Just these cruel, weird, hateful, angry people who can’t stop screaming and trying to pearl harbor each other with sneak attacks, gang attacks and swerves. The Divas division is kinda like that. Aside from Paige (who is doing the Lord’s work), the “WWE Divas” are just weird, mean people who can’t stop being hateful to one another. That’s not fun. It’s Impact. The person we’re cheering is doing the worst shit, and the only reason we’re given to cheer them is “cheer them.”
If you put these girls in Affliction t-shirts I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Best: 3MB Branches Out
I love the 3MB/The Shield beef.
If you haven’t been following it, 3MB has been involved in a blood feud with a pair of matadors and their living man-bull child, while The Shield has been destroying main-eventers from 15 years ago in high profile matches and being the high point of WWE live shows. This takes up most of their time … but sometimes, only sometimes, their paths cross. It almost always involves 3MB showing up randomly to be like YEAH F*CK THE SHIELD and The Shield instantly answering/brutally beating them. It’s WONDERFUL.
Last night was the best example in a while, with The Shield “breaking up” last week and 3MB deciding now (before either side has appeared or spoken about the situation) was the best time to gloat. YEAH F*CK THE SHIELD and then immediately SIERRA HOTEL INDIA ECHO LIMA DELTA and Heath Slater getting speared on the stage. It’s like the old Zack Ryder/John Cena issue, only instead of “it’s all right man, we’re still friends” it’s “I AM GOING TO RUN INTO YOU SO HARD YOUR RIBS FALL OUT.”
Best: F*CK YEAH THIS VERSION OF THE SHIELD
While we’re putting stars into the word “fuck,” F*CK YEAH THIS VERSION OF THE SHIELD.
My problem with Shield promos has always been that awkward Seth Rollins part in the middle. As we’ve gone over, Dean Ambrose is the money talker of the group. He can talk about anything for as long as he’d like. Roman Reigns is there for SEXY PRINCE PUNCTUATION. He says something about asses and then BELIEVE THAT AND BELIEVE IN THE SHIELD and we’re done. The purpose of Seth was (I guess?) to clarify the situation and speak candidly about whatever’s bothering the team, because you can’t rely on Ambrose or Reigns to do that. They’re gonna go bonkers in one direction or the other. The problem is that Seth always took 600 words to say what he could’ve said in six.
So we’re fixed! Now Dean Ambrose is speaking with CRAZY FACE about how he’s going to literally dismantle Seth Rollins’ existence, basically cutting the most graphic heel promo about violence and revenge we’ve heard in … what, years? To a face response. That’s great. People like the guy so much that he doesn’t have to change a single thing about himself, he just does his crazy mess to the bad guys. Perfect. Roman Reigns is good here too.
Dean: “I’m gonna rip out your tongue and use it like pita bread to scoop out your eyeballs, yeah, and then I’m gonna eat your eyeballs like falafel. I’ll use the blood from your eye sockets like hot sauce, Seth, this is a Mediterranean restaurant OF YOUR LITERAL PHYSICAL DEATH, Seth. I will knock out your teeth and put them in a bowl for people to use as breath mints, and then I will take a gun and shoot you in your dead face because I hate you.”
Roman: “JIM CROCE LYRICS TOO, BITCH, BELIEVE IN THE SHIELD”
Roman could’ve launched into the lyrics to ‘Operator’ and I would’ve been pumping my fist. I loved everything about this.
This week, Damien Sandow dresses up like that naked create-a-wrestler you were trying to make before you realized they put a crotch blur on the crotch and nipples so you can’t properly draw on the dong and weird people out online.
Seriously though, we need to have a talk about Damien Sandow.
Almost every week, Sandow comes out dressed as a thing and people get mad about it. “You’re not using him right!” or “give him a push” or whatever. It’s our mournful cry for another of our species. All past “lol dress up” gimmicks have ended badly. Big Show took years to recover, Charlie Haas wandered into obscurity, and so on. Cosplaying to be the butt of the joke is not a great way to ensure future championships or longevity in the company.
Here’s the thing, though: people are chanting “let’s go Sandow” at him. When have you EVER heard that? And aside from that, the guy’s in a featured spot on television every single week now because SOMEBODY enjoys seeing him work. Seeing him humiliated, whatever. That’s not “being buried.” It’s not thrilling for his integrity or whatever, but that’s not what burying is. Burying is not being used, not being showcased, and being fired. Burying is being humiliated when cameras AREN’T on. They don’t bury people as a joke for 10 minutes of their primetime show. People on the wrestling show fill roles, and the disappointing thing here we should agree on is that Sandow is far too talented to be the joke role. Or he’s so good at the joke role (and he is) that we’re gonna have to reevaluate what brings him to the dance.
To the interpretive dance.
I don’t know. I’m as depressed as you are that Intellectual Savior Damien Sandow didn’t catch on, beat Cena for the championship when he cashed in Money In The Bank and get into a months-long feud with Cody and (by proxy) Goldust. That would’ve been great. He’s one of my favorites. But hey, he’s on TV getting cheered now, and that’s something.
Worst: Bo Dallas Vs. Xavier Woods Isn’t Even A Match I’d Want To Watch On NXT
Isn’t there an Ascension match I can review or something?
I did like two things here: Bo’s face going from determined to GASP I WON? at the three count, and Bo returning to hug Xavier Woods in the corner. Like any WWE gimmick, it’ll only succeed or fail when you put it up against other stuff that works … you can’t repeatedly run your new gimmick against six things nobody cares about and expect them to associate it with anything but the shit they don’t care about. It’s why Bray Wyatt wasn’t taken seriously until he feuded with Daniel Bryan. Nobody cares if you can beat R-Truth and Xavier Woods. Nobody in the world.
Best: Cesaro Lights A Fire Under The Money In The Bank Match
finally, a fresh matchup
I’ll be honest, I left the room for most of this. But yo, that rolling monkey flip attempt into the Swiss Death should’ve been the finish. I don’t know why they use that for a false finish when Cesaro’s gonna win the match anyway. That should be the set-up to the Neutralizer. He hits the European, it’s over, and then he Neutralizes you for the pin. That’s usually how it works on NXT, and how it should work on Raw. There is no way you should be flipping around and doing stuff after he snaps your jaw like that.
I’m starting to feel badly for Rob Van Dam. Aside from that “do something different” talking point I’ve beaten into the ground, wouldn’t it help the guy if he could have some perspective on his gimmick and body and maybe change things up to hide his weaknesses? He’s not a spectacular athlete anymore, you know? He doesn’t get height on things like he used to. Maybe stay grounded a little more, and add some basic pro wrestling between moves so you aren’t always having to stutterstep into wild potato kicks? Throw a hiptoss, Bobby.
Best: Randy Orton Vacation Tweets
He’s happy to let you know that his shoulder is at 100%!
Also, how funny is it that Randy Orton wears more clothes on the beach than he does at work?
Best: Seth Rollins Speaking With A Purpose (Still Isn’t Dean Ambrose, But I’ll Take It)
take it home, seth
Okay, so in all seriousness, this was the best promo of Seth Rollins’ life. As a guy who watches wrestling critically (what we in the business call a “nerd”), I appreciate that he dialed back on a lot of the obnoxious speech tics and mannerisms he had when delivering face Shield promos and how he spoke clearly about how he felt and what he was planning to do. A lot of the material here was great … the statement that Ambrose and Reigns were never his brothers and just business partners is particularly cold, especially after all the triumphant fist posing they’ve been sharing over the last two years.
As a fan, though, a lot of it still doesn’t make sense. He had to “adapt,” because Evolution. Okay. Ambrose and Reigns didn’t want to adapt, or whatever! So he joined a team that he beat several times, because that’s what he needed to do to evolve. Cool. I think something along the lines of “I want a shot at the WWE Championship and I’m not gonna get that pissing off The Authority” could’ve gone a long way … something to really clarify what it means to adapt, beyond “my future,” and if you aren’t gonna address the whole THE SHIELD WORKED FOR TRIPLE H FOR ALMOST THEIR ENTIRE RUN IN WWE SO FAR thing, at least acknowledge that The Shield’s always been jerks and being a jerk isn’t suddenly a character change. A lot of it’s just “we’re good guys now vs. we’re bad guys now,” that thing that makes perfect sense when you’re a kid and a little less when you’re older. So that’s fine.
But yeah, this was good. The bad stuff happened afterward.
Worst: John Cena’s Helpless Pals
Nope nope nope.
WWE is taking the coolest thing they’ve created this decade (and one of the only truly “cool” things they’ve created in FOREVER) and pairing it up with the least cool thing on Planet Earth because Good Guys are pals. Somewhere backstage the Usos are high-fiving because they don’t have to be in John’s party anymore.
I could write 10 paragraphs of rage here, but I’ll put it this way … I knew Cena was the third guy, we all did, and when his horns hit it STILL hit me in the stomach. I was subconsciously denying reality to continue living in my idyllic world of mercenary swat teams in dog masks who triple powerbomb folks and here comes lime green-ass Fruity Pebble John Cena to open-window STF and lightly fireman’s carry slam the world itself. An incredible disappointment, and if I hadn’t already seen Daniel Bryan YESSING with Sign Guy it’d be the most disappointing pairing of the year.
Spoiler alert: they win later, so I guess it makes sense from The Shield’s perspective. Be Booster Gold and Blue Beetle for Superman, who cares?
Worst: Not Foxana Too, You Bastards
Good: Paige winning by submission, cleanly, and continuing her run as the Divas champ who is actually doing wrestling.
Bad: This dropkick.
It didn’t get enough height or momentum and Alicia stepped past it, but decided to sell it anyway. The only kayfabe explanation is that Paige’s kneepad caught Alicia’s hair and dragged her backwards.
Ugly: THEY ARE BREAKING UP FOXANA TOO, ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW
Last week they broke up The Shield and I’ve had a week to deal with it. This week they have Alicia Fox lose and attack Aksana, pouring water on her and beating her down with popcorn (?). After the meltdown Alicia starts hugging and kissing her so MAYBE they aren’t broken up, but Jesus, you can’t take away my Foxana too. Give me this one thing.
Next week, Drew McIntyre calls Jinder Mahal something racist and we never see 3MB again. At Money in the Bank, Cesaro breaks both of his legs!
Best: Kill The Cobra
Adam Rose got cut over the weekend and got stitches, so Santino got shuffled into the Rose/Swagger story to tread a little water. I’m giving the match a Best for one reason: Santino going for the Cobra, and Swagger just punching it the hell out of the way and hitting a powerbomb for the win. You know how long I’ve been waiting for Big Hoss to start Swaggerbombing people again?
I hope Zeb Colter is ignoring the most foreign, most nationalistic guy on the show (Rusev) because eventually Swagger’s gonna turn face as this SUPER AMERICAN to take out Putin’s monster. That’s something I’d like to see. Zeb vs. Lana in a debate about world leaders where they both agree that Obama sucks only to get REAL HEATED when discussing Putin is something I’d like to see more.