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Please click through to enjoy The Bray and Worst of WWE Raw, July 8, 2013.
Best: Daniel Bryan Is Opening And Closing Raw, Which Is Pretty Important
Big ups to the various image macro boards across the Internet who have decided I am a wrestling hipster who hates Daniel Bryan for not being a real-life vegan anymore (or whatever their excuse is), but yeah, I’ve been cautious about his career and forward momentum ever since I sat in Sun Life Stadium and watched my favorite wrestler lose the World Heavyweight Championship in 18 seconds.
So sometimes, yeah, when my favorite wrestler is in the beginning stages of a legitimate push to the top of the company (fingers crossed) and randomly gets hurt during a match, or they have to redo it with a predictable ending that kills all the spontaneous joy a victory without the stoppage and the week drag would’ve caused, or rumors of WWE going with a Cena/Henry/Ryback triple threat instead of a Daniel Bryan match … that traumatizing 18 seconds comes back and kinda kicks me in the ass. I’m sorry if I ever sound pessimistic about him. D-Bry is the best wrestler in the world in a walk, I am always sitting on the edge of my seat wishing the best for him, and did not give a shit about his meat intake for the 8 years or so he was my favorite wrestler and NOT a vegan.
Daniel Bryan (more or less) opened the show with a great back-and-forth match against the very guy that 18 Seconds’d him, beat him right in the middle of the ring with a clean pinfall and got to celebrate in his face. Sheamus even shook his hand after the match, which I think is the first time Sheamus has acted like an adult since 2006. THIS is when I get to mark out like a doofus. So switch your Brandon Opinions from “joyless douchebag” to “wanking mark.”
OH! And the best part:
Best: Mr. Small Package!
Daniel Bryan forever-and-ever gets a Best for any match he wins with a Small Package (or an “inside cradle,” or basically any roll-up a schoolboy wouldn’t use). If you missed his Ring of Honor title run where he was so much better than his peers he could beat them with old-timey wrestling pins and did so because he was such a prick, this is your semi-regular suggestion to check that out immediately.
Also, this was bad ass:
Worst: WWE Has Not Learned Its Lesson About Big Heavy Guys
I have never understood why WWE employs so many fat guys just to turn them into dancing sight gags. They’ve been doing it forever. They have Brodus Clay, they turn him into a dancing dinosaur. They bring back Tensai, push him briefly with his oft-missed MOUNTAIN DEW SPIT HAND and then turn him into a Hip Hop Hippo (twice!). Remember when they brought in The Giant from WCW and within a few years had him dressing up like other characters for laffz and made a movie about how stupid he looks wearing underwear? Remember when they got a nearly 8-foot tall guy and made him dance with a farter and a leprechaun? Remember when they brought in the One Man Gang and turned him into a BLACK GUY?
I guess in a world where your shows aren’t seen one town at a time there isn’t as much money in a “monster” character, but there is a legitimate need, especially in tag team wrestling, for fat guys. What’s keeping WWE from turning Brodus and Tensai into a new Miracle Violence Connection? Just two big guys who are gonna kick the shit out of you. Not slow, plodding guys who bear hug you and brain chop you or whatever, and also not Mike Awesome types who do dives and hurt themselves all the time. Two guys who could beat you up in real life, beating up people like they would in real life. I’d NEVER put my money on Primo and Epico or whoever if Brodus and Tensai were throwing hands for real. Or at least making it LOOK like they were.
But yeah, how sad is it that “treat the fat guys like they’re tough consistently” is such a fantasy booking pipe dream? Mark Henry had to be the cock-voice Kool Aid Man for 14 years before somebody let him be tough. Viscera wrestled in pajamas. Whatever.
Best: Wait A Minute, This Is Actually Pretty Good
Newsflash: The Shield is great at wrestling matches. NEWSFLASH.
This got really good toward the end. I think this the first time Tensai’s gotten to do something besides shoveling motions on Raw in months. Both sides pulled their weight, The Shield worked their “we are entertaining at everything” magic (complete with the Seth Rollins bump on the side of his face) and we got a shockingly believable nearfall off a Baldo Bomb. Lipton Bomb. Whatever they’re calling it now.
The tag team division is the EASIEST THING TO FIX EVER, and the only thing stopping them from doing it is THEM. The Shield are a great tag team (in any combination, in any number), and they aren’t big individual stars so you can build up the idea of teams competing for titles. You know, like they’re supposed to. You’ve got a lot of teams already who can probably go harder than we’ve been allowed to see (Tons of Funk, the Colons, Rhodes goddamn Scholars, Double Dutch, Kofi Kingston and Disposable Partner, the Wyatts now) and could be having matches like this — or better than this — on the regular.
Worst: Jesus Christ, Are We Breaking Up Dolph And AJ Already
I was happy to see Big E Langston, AJ Lee and Dolph Ziggler get to be in the same place at the same time, then immediately unhappy when I realized Dolph was moments away from giving AJ a bad case of Maria Face.
I think we can all agree that that’s the LAST thing AJ should have.
I know WWE’s determined to shove Ziggler into their “this is a good guy” mold (more on that later), and part of that is divorcing himself from all the fun, interesting characters he’s been hanging out with during his heeldom, and, most importantly, becoming asexual. Only heels have relationships. Teen girls can’t dream of you if you’ve got an on-screen girlfriend, right? This is the difference between Matt and Jeff Hardy. John Cena will kiss a girl if he saves her or something, because that’s the RIGHT thing to do, but if she starts trying to see him in her spare time? HO HO HO BACK UP, YOU CRAZY.
Maria Face is coming, and that’s depressing. My only hope is that Big E and AJ stay together, and that maybe another arrogant, ass-wiggling dude steps in to become the new cool heel while Ziggler kisses babies and hugs fat girls.
Best: Visiting The Wyatt Family, In The Good Way And The Jokes Way
This is THE BEST, YOU GUYS. I don’t think the WWE Universe has the capacity for abstract thought enough to handle a character as layered and well-crafted as Bray Wyatt and the Family, but I’m going to enjoy it as long as WWE puts this much effort into it. Man, these videos of a “reporter” (or whatever) driving out into the middle of nowhere to try to get the scoop on the Wyatts were glorious, and I guarantee you motherf**kers like Carlito are sitting at home right now, taking a bite out of an apple and musing, “shit, all they let me do was walk on the beach and spit at a grocer.”
I think my favorite part of the quest, besides the two locals calmly observing a caged chicken, was the random guy in a room chanting OBEY over and over. That is straight-up the guy I’d shoot with a shotgun in Bioshock, because you KNOW he’s gonna sprint after you in a minute. They should’ve thrown all the recently-released NXT guys in the house somewhere as a send-off. How great would it’ve been for Derrick Bateman to show up in a goat mask, rambling SEE YOU NEVER, SEE YOU NEVER, SEE YOU NEVER
And SO MANY JOKES! “Is this Leslie Nielsen?” “Are Stevie Richards and the Blue Meanie wandering around out here somewhere?” And Luke Harper even sets you up for the fun, “wow, no wonder Chikara’s not making any money, look at where they’re running.”
You deserve an award for these things, WWE. Thank you for giving this much of a shit about the Wyatt Family.
Best: Mark Henry Has John Cena’s Number, Or
Worst: John Cena’s Totally Winning, Isn’t He
“I knew who you was before YOU knew who you was.”
Mark Henry was amazing here as always, hitting all the right notes and showing up John Cena for the what, fourth week in a row? Three out of four weeks, at least. But I’m increasingly concerned about WWE’s love of putting Cena against a guy who seems tougher, hungrier and more passionate AND makes a ton of great, logical points … and then loses anyway. Ryback was the best character on the show for a month, smartly reasoning his way out of confrontations with Cena and attacking him when necessary, openly discussing Cena’s flaws and self-indulgence. Then Cena made him look like a wiener and put him through the roof of an ambulance.
I want Mark Henry to destroy Cena and win the WWE Championship so badly I’d trade you five Wyatt Family debuts for it, but this is following the same path. Henry is totally right … he’s hungry and wants the belt. John just makes asinine Snickers jokes. Henry tells Cena he’s got his number. Cena YOU WANT SOME COME GET SOMEs all over the place. Henry f**ks with him, then attacks. Cena can’t handle any of Henry’s attacks. He’s looked shaken, scared and helpless. In the real world, this ends with Henry whomping him and taking the belt. Cena is Anderson Silva, the champion who almost seems tired of being champ, even when he’s yelling about how much he loves being champ. Henry is Weidman, a great wrestler who is not afraid to punch you in the face if you start acting stupid.
In the WWE Universe, Silva just wins anyway. I can’t see Henry winning after this many weeks in a row of John showing ass, but if they want John to look vulnerable EVER (and make Henry look like the baddest motherf**ker walking en route to his Summerslam title match against, again, fingers crossed, Daniel Bryan), here’s where you do it.
Best: Kudos To All This Wrestling On The Wrestling Show
I really can’t complain about all the wrestling in the first hour. Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan with a clean finish, The Shield vs. Ton of Funk with a clean finish, and an extended Chris Jericho/Curtis Axel match that let Axel look better than he has since he was rolling with Tyson Kidd on NXT. This one didn’t have the clean finish I wanted — the spot the WWE Fan Nation video begins with with the Codebreaker counter into a stun gun, into the Perfectplex REALLY should’ve been the finish — but if you’re gonna go with something assy at the end, at least entertain me until we get there.
Worst: And Here Come The Non-Title Match Losses
The assiness I mentioned, as it often does, begins with The Miz.
Miz was on color commentary, and he’s a good enough talker, but he never seems to know WHEN to talk. The match is almost over and they’re going through these big finishing spots, and Miz is still hitting his “this will be a one on one match between me and Curtis Axel” like ANYBODY F**KING CARES. WATCH THE MATCH, MIZANIN.
Anyway, Axel hits the Perfectplex on Jericho and Jericho kicks out, so he starts to get flustered. He finds himself on the outside and Miz just kinda stands up and starts undressing, so Axel’s all HEY YOU, to the point that it almost gets him counted out. Because babyface distraction is SUPER EFFECTIVE, Axel walks right into a one-legged Codebreaker and eats the loss. The announcers play it up like it’s a huge deal, the first loss for Axel under Heyman’s tutelage! But they’re not paying attention to the obvious … Axel’s the IC champion now, so his job is to take pointless non-title losses to build to a title match. The Shield has been doing the same thing. It happens. It’s the worst, and it happens.
Best: I Am So In Love With The Smackdown Money In The Bank Match
Here’s something obvious you may not know about me: I love smarmy mid-card heels. THIS IS ALL OF THEM.
I don’t watch Smackdown, but the Smackdown Money In The Bank match is going to be the greatest thing for me. I wish we’d spent all month having these guys interact. Rhodes Scholars (despite their ongoing tension) having pissing contest arguments with Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro, Wade Barrett showing up randomly to pretend like anybody gives a SHIT about Wade Barrett in 2013 and Fandango appearing out of nowhere and trying to say his name like a Pokémon. LOVE. IT.
If you replaced Barrett with Heath Slater you’d have the Best And Worst Of Raw All-Stars.
Worst: Dolph Ziggler, Babyface
Buzz, your Dolph Ziggler. Woof.
I know I wrote a short defense of my wrestler hipsterdom and am suddenly writing a paragraph about how I don’t like the guy everybody likes, but bear with me. If you’ve read more than one of these columns, you know I am known to give Dolph Ziggler a Best WITH THE QUICKNESS. I think I Bested his headstand for like three months in a row. I don’t want to start throwing shade at Dolph the PERFORMER necessarily, but at WWE’s tendency to make their bad guys cool, likable personalities, and their good guys asinine, third-grade assholes.
In case you missed it, here’s what went down. Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara were having a match. This is good, because Del Rio’s one of maybe eight guys on the roster who knows how to deal with Sin Cara and make him look good. Dolph Ziggler shows up out of nowhere and starts cutting a promo as he walks to the ring. Del Rio gets momentarily distracted, but kicks out of Sin Cara’s roll-up and the match continues. Ziggler starts doing the laziest, least creative parody of Ricardo Rodriguez’s intro EVER (dick jokes, y’all) and just KEEPS GOING despite Del Rio clearly not giving a shit and trying to win his match. Eventually it becomes too much. ADR charges Ziggler on the outside, BEATS HIM UP, and Ziggler gets saved by Sin Cara. Then Ziggler walks away like he’s accomplished something awesome, and not just given Alberto Del Rio a No Contest, or whatever.
To recap, the good guy (the same guy who interrupted the bad guy’s celebration on Smackdown and attacked/injured everybody with weapons) interrupts a scheduled match for no reason, tries to trick the bad guy into losing, fails, and keeps yammering until he gets beaten up. Somebody saves him, and he struts away confidently. The bad guy, whom the good guy has called a “coward” for beating him fairly in a wrestling match during a rematch for a title he lost to the good guy via post-match briefcase contract cash-in because his ankle was basically broken, tries to ignore the good guy and just win his match. He gets fed up and shuts the good guy up, only to lose a 2-on-1 fight.
You can do a second draft of these things.
Worst: Gut Check Contestant Vickie Guerrero
Hey, check it out: three people with only a passing interest in the success of their wrestling company have come to the ring to spend 20 MINUTES arbitrarily judging somebody they barely care about. They argue with each other, make funny jokez and eventually tell the person they aren’t good enough to be on the same show as the ARBITRARY 20 MINUTE PANEL JUDGING SEGMENTS. Oh, and they change how the judging works at the very end, leaving decision-making up to fans on the Internet. If Stephanie McMahon reveals herself as the vice president of a biker gang, I swear to God.
This was exactly as bad as you thought it’d be. Honestly, it seems worse the next day. Watching the show live, I was high from the first hour of wrestling (Daniel Bryan pinning Sheamus with a small package!) and the anticipation of the Wyatt Family in hour 3, so the super, super shitty hour 2 just kinda went by in a blur. If you need a clear example of how excruciating this was, though, WWE Fan Nation turns 20 minute matches into 3 minute clip videos, and the shortest edit they could make of this one is almost eleven minutes long.
Stephanie McMahon has got to be the most unlikable character they’ve ever come up with, and that includes escaped prison inmates, evil clowns, a guy who broke a one-legged guy’s one leg and shoved him down a flight of steps in a wheelchair AND Buff Bagwell. It’s a shame that she gets the Wayne’s World bow from fans by proxy of being around Vince and Triple H, when the legit highlight of her career was her beloved teddy bear being offered as a sacrifice to the Undertaker. I don’t care how many sassy rap songs you have about how awesome you are.
Triple H was Triple H. Too cool for the room, exhausted by having to go through segments he (in theory) green-lit, ready to say LOOK AT HOW GREAT I AM from one side of his mouth and LOOK AT HOW BAD THIS PERSON IS from the other. The man who defined getting cheers because WE TOLD YOU to give him cheers, getting cheered for who he is and nothing he says or does. Any attempt by Triple H to be funny results in a sort-of nuclear winter in my brain, and I was wishing so hard for a Wyatt run-in, or maybe a vintage SIERRA HOTEL INDIA ECHO LIMA DELTA. Anything to stop the agony. Kevin Nash showing up and hitting him with a sledgehammer, even. I AM WISHING FOR KEVIN NASH, THIS IS BAD.
Vince was … well, Vince was pretty good here, actually. He seemed to understand the basic idea of “we hired the heel lady who gets tons of heat to be our show’s GM, so let’s not fire her for being a heel lady who gets tons of heat” the others couldn’t grasp. He thought it was stupid as f**k to leave a person’s job up to a fan popularity vote, consoled Vickie backstage without being too sincere or making out with her (I TOTALLY thought they were gonna make out), chided the crowd for being … well, a WWE crowd, and made a guy I love the new GM.
And speaking of GMs I love, THIS is the guy who signed Brock Lesnar. Recognize.
Vickie was good here, because Vickie is usually good, but man, I am pretty tired of seeing her get humiliated. I hope the Ryback scene a little later can work her back onto the show as a screeching manager, and I hope the next time they try to run her through an impromptu circle-jerk evaluation she drops the “you already lost ONE Guerrero on your watch, don’t lose another” on them for maximum KO.
(Also, supplemental Best for Vickie on a ladder at the top of the show making me yell WHERE THE F**K WAS VICKIEEEE at my television.)
Best: You Know Nothing, GM Jon Snow
I am so f**king down for GM Brad Maddox. We’ve already seen how good he is at performance reviews. Don’t make him read pre-written dialogue by your shitty writers. Let him improv everything he says and be the silly, stupid-funny Beef Mode we all know and love.
My only complaint, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, is that Matt Striker isn’t around to be the new Assistant To The General Manager.
Best: Ryback Is A Decent Person
Vickie Guerrero is wandering around backstage with her box of belongings, which are just animal print pillows and BRICKIE sings. Basically the saddest thing you could imagine Vickie Guerrero carrying. Ryback shows up, calmly takes her box away, places it on the ground, hugs her, tells her everything will be okay. He hands her the box again, and leaves.
I don’t know anymore. For the longest time, even earlier in this column, I’ve done the indignant WHY DO THE HEELS ACT THIS WAY AND THE FACES ACT ANOTHER, but this has to be purposeful. WWE has to be purposefully catering to a crowd that believes intelligence, kindness, friendship, love and respect are all signs of weakness, because what self-centered, media-fed child in 2013 wants to grow up to be a decent person? They want to grow up to be JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE except COOL AND FUNNY and EVERYONE LIKES THEM. They want to be the center of attention, not the kind of guy who’d tell a clearly sorrowful woman that things will get better. Clear lines have been drawn in the Us vs. Them scenario of Wrestling Fans and Decent People Who Happen To Watch Wrestling.
That’s melodramatic, I know, but not a single person should boo Ryback for this segment. I get the 75% of people who think Vickie did a “bad job” because they don’t like her and how popularity is the only thing that matters in wrestling, but if you watched Ryback hug Vickie here and thought a single bad thing about him, go f**k yourself.
Worst: The Bella Twins Are Officially The Worst Part Of Raw
Meanwhile, here are the Bella Twins doing EVERYTHING THEY CAN to keep ANYBODY from enjoying the show.
Without the Bella Twins, Kaitlyn and Layla teamed up to take on AJ Lee and “Chaotic Neutral” Alicia Fox. They had a nice, if not super short little match. I read somebody on Twitter joke that WWE should start having Divas matches on Vine. Alicia and Layla had some nice exchanges to open the match, AJ and Kaitlyn’s beef continued due to AJ’s general cowardice, and the match ended (in a no contest, I guess?) with Kaitlyn getting a running start from the moon and plowing through AJ with a spear on the outside.
WITH the Bella Twins, Kaitlyn is fat, everybody sucks, the Kaitlyn/AJ storyline is a joke and nobody cares. That is literally everything the Bella Twins said on color commentary. They are beautiful women but they do not understand the difference between “being a heel” and “not helping.” If I can’t stomach two-ish minutes of the Bellas talking on Raw, why am I going to tune into 22-ish minutes of them talking on E? If the Divas division is a joke, why do I care enough about Divas to watch the Divas reality show? When Michael Cole is more or less telling you to cool it during a Divas match, you are doing a really, really bad job.
If WWE watched Raw (and I’m not convinced they ever do), their first topic of conversation today should be “never let the Bella Twins near a live microphone again, ever.” Point two should probably be “you can’t blow out an electric lantern,” but I’ll get to that.