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– Personal stuff: Two big things. 1) We just wrapped principal photography on Meet Me There, so make sure you visit the official movie site and like it on Facebook to keep up with news and updates and stuff. It’s gonna be good. 2) I’m going to be at Full Sail for the next NXT tapings on July 11. If you’re in the Orlando area and are gonna be there, be sure to find me and say hi. I’ll also be at Shine 11, so join me in getting a mark photo with Paige AND a mark photo with Paige’s mom.
Please click through to enjoy The Best And Worst Of a pretty depressingly rancid WWE Raw, July 1, 2013.
Worst: I Think I Actually Liked Rob Van Dam The Most Out Of Everyone In This Segment
Here’s a list of everything I liked in the first 15 minutes of Raw:
1. Daniel Bryan has a new shirt, and I have to like those even when they’re ugly.
2. Bryan asking if he could call 1-800-FELLA and make Sheamus Brogue Kick himself in the face, effective ice-burning the “fetch” that is 1-800-FELLA into secondhand embarrassment forever.
Besides that, the opening segment to Raw was BRUTAL for me. In retrospect it was maybe the 20th worst thing about the episode, but there are few moments worse for a wrestling fan than when they see where a segment’s going two minutes in and have to wait 13 more for it to see itself through. Bryan opened the show … that’s fine. Sheamus interrupts him and acts like an asshole, but Bryan gets to verbally shut him down, and for better or worse, they’re referencing actual WWE history. That’s also fine. But then that THIRD Money in the Bank match participant interrupts, and the normal, observant wrestling fan brain goes “shit, they’re all going to interrupt and talk about how they’re gonna win, aren’t they?” That’s two minutes in. Then, 13 minutes of them all interrupting and talking about how they’re gonna win. You’re like the guy from ‘Early Edition,’ and the headline of tomorrow’s paper is SHITTY WRESTLING SHOW.
As I mentioned up there in bold, I think I liked Rob Van Dam the most here, because he was sitting at home NOT wasting the first 20 minutes of Raw. While I’m thinking about it, I should give Bryan another supplemental Best for interrupting Punk and calling him on the “go down the line and talk about how great we all are, then say you’re better than us” gag. More people should do that to Punk. He’s got the talent to rise above boring bullshit Raw speeches, and rarely has the need to do so.
Also, a light supplementary Best for Christian for being all, “welp, dudes are gettin’ RKO’d, I’m outta here” and just bailing.
Worst: The Crowd
I’ll reference them in passing throughout the report, but BIG UPS to Sioux City, Iowa, for being total f**king garbage all night long. From the “What” chants during Mark Henry’s promo to the half-assed attempts to chant “JBL” and be the post-Mania Raw crowd (Raw crowds need to either go all the way with it or cut it the f**k out) to chanting WE THE PEOPLE along with the hateful jingoistic nutbags, Iowa defined what it means to be a terrible Raw crowd. Do not ever go back to Iowa, WWE.
Note: One thing I do like, though, is how you can look at which John Cena shirts kids in the crowd are wearing to see how long it’s been since WWE’s been in their town. Kids were wearing that orange “Never Give Up” one from 2011, so it’s been a WHILE.
Worst: Seriously, Enough With These Conflicting Authority Figure Segments
I’m not going to link to the videos or write another big thing about it, but WWE once again devoted time to three different backstage confrontations between Vickie Guerrero, a woman who is just trying to do her job, and three conflicting authority figures who are trying to undermine each other passive-aggressively, but seem united in their quest to make the woman they hired to do a job feel paranoid and terrible about any attempts to do it. Stephanie even went so far as to pull the “hey Vickie, I get it, we’re both ladies, am I right” card and then IMMEDIATELY turned it back on her for no reason, setting her up for another in an endless string of asinine “performance evaluations.” I’m hoping that’ll be the end of these things.
Best: The Shield Not Losing Matches (On Raw, At Least) Simply Because They’re Holding Belts
The Shield might be the Nexus of All WWE Realities. Not that kind of Nexus.
Think about it. What happens on NXT in the Full Sail NXT continuity doesn’t really “happen” in the WWE Universe. Antonio Cesaro has the United States Championship a week after he’s lost it, and nobody cares. Michael Cole has never heard of the Wyatt Family and nobody knows what they’re capable of, even though they’ve been doing their thing on NXT for over a year. The Shield guys showed up as a new thing, but the announcers knew who they were and referenced NXT by name. “That’s Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns from NXT!” etc.
WWE also does this weird thing where Smackdown happens, but it doesn’t. They admit that it exists, but it’s almost a “test” to see if something’s gonna work on Raw. If a match happens on Raw and has a shitty finish, they’ll do it again on Smackdown and end it clean, but never mention the storyline follow-up on Raw. If a good match happens on Smackdown, they’ll just repeat it spot-for-spot on Raw like it never happened. They might mention that it’s a “rematch,” but it’ll just be the same thing, same finish and all. Cesaro doing the Neutralizer to The Great Khali is a great example of this. They’re all, “this is a rematch!” and in the same breath say “WOW I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYBODY LIFT THE GREAT KHALI LIKE THAT.” They don’t seem to know if they’ve watched it or not. See also last night’s Christian/Usos vs. The Shield six-man tag, which was a rematch from Smackdown with the “corrected” Raw finish of The Shield using THE DAMNED NUMBERS GAME and being unstoppable. Shouldn’t that have happened BEFORE The Usos upsetting them, to build momentum for the challengers in the right direction?
I’m gonna throw this out there: The Shield wear all those clothes to hide the fact that they’re dimensionally-indifferent swamp monsters.
Best: Dean Ambrose’s Reaction After Pinning Christian
Best: Dolph Ziggler, New Master Of Choreographed Group Fights
Here’s something that doesn’t get typed a lot, but is true: Jinder Mahal is secretly a really good pro wrestler. Sure, I would’ve rather seen Ziggler vs. Slater or Ziggler vs. McIntyre, but Jinder knows what he’s doing, even if the crowd is too far up their own ass to pay attention to it.
I loved the post-match stuff, with Ziggler defeating 3MB in a fight by avoiding/parkouring the shit out of them, which was perfect for a guy who is supposed to be showing off. It was a weird, rare moment of WWE physicality thinking outside the box. There were two big Worsts for me, though:
Worst: I Am Seriously Not Okay With Jesse And Meowth Being Segregated From James
1. Ziggler’s hair is getting blonder and blonder each week, and eventually he’s gonna have normal blonde hair instead of that platinum spaghetti shit we’ve come to know and love. This will soon be the haircut equivalent of losing ‘I Am Perfection.’
2. WWE’s still unnecessarily measuring Ziggler’s crowd response by sending him out alone, then having AJ and Big E Langston show up together later. This is unacceptable. They’re a unit, and I do not want them to have that moment when Dolph says “hey AJ, you’re a trashy whore, only now people are gonna CHEER when I say it!” and they break up. Don’t do that. Ever.
Worst: This Kind Of Shit Is Why I Didn’t Lose My Mind Over Bryan’s Win Last Week
Last week, I wrote about how the Daniel Bryan concussion telegraphed his “big win” over Randy Orton on the next show, and how that sorta took the wind out of my (full) sails. A lot of people agreed with me, but some of you called me a pessimistic asshole for not losing myself in it and loving it. You know, because 12 straight years of saying “Daniel Bryan is the best wrestler in the world and here’s why” is negated by one quarter page about how I wish they’d just been able to finish the first version of that match. ATTN Wrestling Fans: it is okay to sometimes not be 100% happy with what your favorite wrestler is doing or saying. It doesn’t make you “wrong” for liking them or less of a fan, or whatever social hang-up is keeping you from having reasonable opinions about things.
Anyway, I was worried that the aborted finish to the first attempt at the Big Orton Win (and wrestling Randy Orton, period) was going to hurt the INSANE in-ring momentum Bryan had built over the last few months. He ended Raw with a clean, submission victory over Orton last week, which positioned him to continue moving forward and ultimately challenge Cena (or, in a perfect world) Mark Henry for the belt at SummerSlam, right? This week, he’s back to having interpersonal issues with Kane, playing a special guest referee in a match designed to get him booed and eating a post-match RKO from Randy Orton and having to lie there on the mat like a stupid f**king idiot while ‘Voices’ plays. And the dirt sheets post WWE NOW CONSIDERING JOHN CENA VS. MARK HENRY VS. RYBACK INSTEAD OF ANYTHING DANIEL BRYAN-RELATED.
I love you, D-Bry, but right now you are pressing your face into the glass ceiling so hard.
Best: The Kane Bleacher Creature Lives In My House Now
Thank you to Destiny for making the fire explosion noise.
And before you ask, I didn’t get the Team Hell No 2-pack because the Daniel Bryan one 1) doesn’t look anything like him and 2) they got the beard all wrong. They just put Sheamus hair on the bottom of his face.
God, I hope series 2 has a Mark Henry.
Best: Fandango’s Back! And He’s Got New Pants!
daaa DA! DA-da-DA — wait, are we not doing that anymore?
Firstly, Fandango’s new pants are wonderful. They’re like a flamboyant cave painting. Secondly, I wanted to give a supplemental, hopefully-not-crass Best to Summer Rae’s cleavage but I didn’t quite know why, and I think I’ve figured it out: because her boobs are real. Raw has conditioned me to either accept copious fake cleavage (Kaitlyn, Nikki Bella) or no cleavage (AJ, Brie Bella), so when a lady with natural boobs shows up my asexual Raw-watching brain sorta flips a switch and reminds me that I sometimes fall off my soapbox and write a paragraph about how boobs are great. There are not enough women in wrestling without implants, and while implants are a fine thing to have and cosmetically pleasing on a case-by-case basis, preferentially I’m on Team Not Having Them. I’m also on Team GTFO Summer Rae And Bring Back Ann Dango, but I’m just saying.
I actually really dug this match while it was happening, because Sheamus is basically great with everybody who isn’t Orton, Cena or Triple H and we haven’t yet gotten enough of Fandango’s weird “try to win the match by avoiding the other dude as much as possible and hoping shit works out” thing. He doesn’t ever really seem like he’s on offense, even when he’s on offense.
Sadly, the ending was more re-run madness.
Worst: I Wanted To Write A Big Thing Complaining About Forced Heel Count-Outs, But Oh Man, It Gets So Much Worse In A Minute
Do we really need to protect Fandango? Does he need to pull the cowardly heel thing once he’s been in a match for this long? What’s the benefit of him walking away and taking a count-out? In kayfabe, shouldn’t he care about the money he’d lose by purposefully bailing? Didn’t he choose pro wrestling as a career? Shouldn’t he have the basic personal confidence to stick it out at LEAST until the Brogue Kick was about to happen? They weren’t even at the end. And furthermore, if Fandango eats a Brogue Kick and gets pinned, are we not gonna buy him as “weird dancing guy who says his name funny?” He’s not steamrolling the Raw roster or anything. You had Cesaro lose for 65 straight weeks and now we’re supposed to buy him as a Foreign Superman again. Just finish your f**king matches sometimes.
Oh, and speaking of “finishing matches.”
Worst: Miz Vs. Ryback, Or
Worst: The Worst Raw Segment Of 2013, And Possibly Ever
I can’t believe they even put this on the Internet.
Okay, to recap: The Miz had a match with Ryback. It goes how you’d expect it to for a few minutes, and then Miz goes on offense and starts working the leg. This is a small victory for me, because not too long ago I was complaining about him doing a bunch of clotheslines and then putting on a leg lock for an instant critical. Good for him! So Ryback ends up in the corner, Miz drapes Ryback’s leg over the ropes, kicks it a few times and then dropkicks it. Ryback immediately starts yelling for the referee to stop the match and … that’s it. Miz stands there looking confused, especially when Ryback walks out of the corner like normal. Chris Jericho wanders into the ring from guest commentary, fresh from having called Ryback “Cryback” for two minutes, then hits him with a Codebreaker for no reason. Jericho and Miz then stand around making “the f**k is up with THIS guy” faces. AND THAT’S THE SEGMENT.
WHAT THE SHIT IS THIS MATCH YOU GUYS
I cannot fathom a single person who’d think this was a good idea. Did Ryback shit in Stephanie McMahon’s purse (right on Triple H’s balls! Hurr!) or something? When Ryback was feuding with Cena and “complaining” too much, he was at least making reasonable points about nobody in WWE having each others’ backs and how all of his title opportunities were either stupid or jacked by outsiders. Here, he’s SCREAMING for the match to be stopped BECAUSE THE MIZ KICKED HIM IN THE LEG. It’s like that time Chavo Guerrero tapped out to Stevie Ray’s handshake BUT FOR REAL.
You could say “oh, hey, maybe he actually got hurt.” But then he’s FINE, and Chris Jericho shows up and attacks him and that’s just it. Was the purpose of this to make everyone watching think Ryback is the biggest wiener idiot in the world? He can’t take a dropkick from THE MIZ? This guy got suplexed through the roof of a f**king ambulance less than a month ago. This guy picked up Mark Henry with his legs, and now he can’t take a kick from a guy who was the offensive weak link in a team with JOHN MORRISON?
Ignoring that completely, doesn’t this make Chris Jericho the biggest asshole ever? He came into the ring to attack an injured man who had just forfeited a match, and he did it FROM BEHIND. A SNEAK ATTACK on an INJURED GUY who had JUST GIVEN UP. Who is supposed to look good at the end of this?
Best: Tell These Folks To Go F**k Themselves With The ‘Whats,’ Mark Henry
The production wizards who add in fake OOOOOHs to Diva match DDTs on Smackdown need to be militarized and organized against “What” chants. When Raw goes up on WWE Fan Nation or on Hulu, every instance of the crowd chanting “What” should be removed with extreme prejudice. If you are saying “What” at a wrestling show, you deserve to be punched in the goddamn mouth. No grey area here. Punched directly in your f**king teeth. Stop it.
Ignoring the What chants, Mark Henry delivered a pretty awesome, purposeful speech about how his entire WWE career has been marred by people treating him like he’s stupid, and how he’s gonna make that irrelevant by kicking the asshole off of John Cena at Money In The Bank. Yes please. Mark continues to be the top-shelf greatest, and that t-shirt is already in the mail. Buying Mark Henry merchandise is, as they say, what I do.
Best: These Champion Retrospective Clip Videos
The only way I got through this Raw was waiting for the next champion video package. A few quick observations:
1. WWE is always going to overstate Booker T’s importance to wrestling history, aren’t they?
2. STING! Put out that Sting DVD immediately, WWE. Put the Sting/Bully Ray match from Whatever That Last TNA Pay-per-view Was on there too and have Jim Ross make a bunch of fart sounds over it, I don’t care.
3. Harley Race is about a hundred-thousand times cooler than anybody on the current WWE roster.
4. This has got to be the easiest thing to parody. Some guy on Reddit’s already elbows deep in a VINCE MCMAHON, DAVID ARQUETTE video, right?
Best: Curtis Axel, Ineffectual Super Prick
The Curtis Axel/CM Punk (suggested team name from the open discussion thread: “Perfectly Straight”) vs. The Prime Time Players was a cromulent little wrestling match and an even better exercise in simple in-ring storytelling, but its biggest victory was in making me laugh out loud at the impossible futility that is Curt Axel. Oh my God. Punk’s reaction when Axel tags in to steal his pinfall is AMAZING. It’s the same face everyone else made watching it, I think. Axel is just so shitty and stupid, and his idea of “personality” is the most awful, forced WWE thing in years. He’s every Natural Born Thriller inhabiting one dude.
I don’t see how this character’s gonna benefit Axel in the long run, but if I can enjoy him ironically (in the same way I enjoy Aces & Eights), that’s something. I wish they’d bring back his backwards baseball cap that was too small and looked like a brimmed beanie, though. That’s the only thing that’d make him lamer than his character and intro drums.
(Don’t be afraid to bring up that whole “New Nexus” thing, though, WWE. It is right there. McGoobersnatch used to be a FOLLOWER of CM Punk. Why can’t Punk trust him?)
Worst: Photoshop Jokes
Congratulations, horrible “whores and fat-shaming” Divas photoshop-on-the-Titantron segment, you’re on the same show as The Miz vs. Ryback so you aren’t the worst thing that happened!
But yeah, good God this Raw’s lows are epic. In case you missed it, Kaitlyn and Alicia Fox had a short (but foxy!) match. AJ and Big E Langston wandered out after it was over and decided the only way to escalate a feud between two former best friends with almost four years of history who’ve been dressing up as each other for the past week is A PHOTOSHOP OF KAITLYN THAT MAKES HER LOOK FAT. Even Kaitlyn was like “seriously? This is stupid.” When Kaitlyn, the woman who voluntarily hangs out with NATALYA thinks something’s irrationally stupid, you know you’ve crossed the line. Photoshop jokes are the asshole of wrestling creativity.
I’ll be honest, part of what made the photoshop reveal so bad is that AJ referenced Kaitlyn’s real life pre-WWE “racy photo-shoots,” and I thought they were gonna break out one of those shots of her in the neon fishnets with star pasties, or even one of her cheesecake faux-lesbian shots and get deep on us. Ah well.
WORST: Hold Up, We Get TWO Non-Consecutive “Muscular Divas Are Fat” Jokes Tonight
Hey, you know what would make the Bella Twins rigidly advertising their E! show while calling everyone else fat whores even better? 33 DIFFERENT CAMERA ANGLES.
What is it with WWE thinking any woman with musculature is fat? Kaitlyn gets a fat joke lobbed at her, and then a few minutes later the Bellas are backstage making fat cracks about Natalya. Is the message supposed to be “ATTN little girls, if you want to be an athlete be sure to never work out or try hard, just get somebody in the front office to masturbate to you and see what happens”? Sara Del Rey’s wearing sweatpants and hanging out in a training facility while “Jo-Jo” and a Diva I am 100% calling “KC” ham it the hell up on Raw.
Congratulations, Total Divas segment, you’re on a show with that Miz/Ryback match AND a TitanTron photoshop joke. You’re only the third worst thing on the show!
Best: Double Dutch Vs. Rhodes Scholars Is A Thing I’m Down For
WWE Fan Nation didn’t upload the Antonio Cesaro vs. Cody Rhodes match, but they have all three “authority figure puts their finger in Vickie Guerrero’s ass” skits in their entirety. COOL THANKS.
Cesaro and Rhodes had a nice little match to help set up that all-heel Smackdown Money In The Bank match, and they should probably find a way to get crowds to cheer Rhodes Scholars and put these guys in a program ASAP. Rhodes and Cesaro are EXACTLY the kind of people who should be wrestling each other and defining what young wrestling fans think of as “good matches.” Also, I sorta selfishly want WWE crowds to start cheering the only two people on Raw who are 1) smart 2) friendly.
Zeb Colter was on his game last night, too, launching into the most wonderfully-edited PG “abortions and minorities” promo before reintroducing Jack Swagger from his latest interplanetary vacation. The crowd tried to ruin it by changing WE THE PEOPLE along with the hateful racists, but whatever, I like the thick middle of WWE’s heel hierarchy so I’ll Best them doing pretty much anything.
BEST: The Wyatt Family Debuts Next Week