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Please click through for the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for October 21, 2013.
Best: Big Showtime At The Apollo
Raw was just Big Show in front of a brick wall for three hours. It cost 80 million dollars.
I’m not sure why the show started like it did, but Big Show was able to use unmatched l33t SCIENCE HACKING to appear on the TitanTron via satellite against Stephanie McMahon and Triple H’s wishes long enough to tell them to (more or less) go screw. I should’ve known that we were in for an amazing episode of Raw when Show was skyping in from the Laugh Factory.
A supplementary Best goes to that backstage follow-up with Shawn Michaels where Stephanie’s freaking out and he’s all, “come on, we used to do shit like that all the time.” It’s a running theme you’ll be tired of by page five, but I’m in love with whoever wrote this episode. Be the guy who writes all of them. Characters remembering what happened longer than three weeks ago, Big Show having basic knowledge of his legal rights, continuity that holds up without having to be dense … yeah, this is good. And we haven’t even GOTTEN to the wrestling yet.
p.s., it’s Vince, Stephanie. That’s how he did it. Always assume Vince, and possibly also Hornswoggle.
Best: Let’s Start With 15 Minutes Of Great Wrestling, Shall We?
Like I said, I want to mountaintop high-five the guy who put this together.
The first match on the show is a 15-minute-ish affair between Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose that picks up the YEAH PRO WRESTLING ending to last week’s episode and keeps it going. The best Daniel Bryan matches are the ones where he’s allowed to have a deep, functional set of moves and can use them constructively without just being DROPKICK DROPKICK DROPKICK DIVE HEADBUTT YES LOCK. Matches that aren’t just him going for those repeated strikes and cheap “yes” chant-a-longs all match. Those matches are pretty good too, don’t get me wrong, but the Daniel Bryan I love is the one who is gonna rip your fingers to hell and then kick your arm to f*ck. The guy who bends you backwards in a Romero Special because he can.
I think when we complain about guys like Cena, this is the kind of match we subconsciously want our “good” wrestlers to be having. I use good here to mean “top,” i.e. the wrestlers WWE considers their main-event guys. When Cena wrestles Ambrose, no matter how well Ambrose does there’s always that feeling Cena’s gonna start dog-jumping into him and Protobombing him and he’s gonna get five-knuckly-shuffled to death. With Bryan as a PPV main-eventer there’s never a serious idea that Ambrose is gonna pin him (fairly, at least) or even get that close to it, but Bryan takes just enough offense to take a beating and look like he had to fight to get the win. It makes Bryan look like a killer who can realistically defeat anybody (without having to go into super-obvious “now’s when I win the match” mode), it makes his opponent look like they belong in the WWE alongside him, and we get a good wrestling match to watch.
Best: Ambrose’s Schoolboy
My favorite moment was at the very end of the match. Ambrose ducks a kick and goes for a schoolboy roll-up, but he doesn’t do it like everyone else. He kinda gets in underneath, loops in the wrong arm and sorta rolls backwards. Not only does it look interesting because it’s not the default animation, it explains why Bryan would be able to get out of a guy’s roll-up so easily AND gets Ambrose into position for a flash Yes Lock without them having to roll around for 10 seconds and readjust. I see what you did there, Dean-o.
Worst: You Still Aren’t Really Saying Anything Worth A Damn, Punk
Punk’s promo this week was more of the same … a lot of empty promises about how he’s gonna literally murder Paul Heyman when he gets his hands on him, even though he’s gotten his hands on him several times already. It was fun and made sense when it started, but now every time Punk starts in with his I AM GOING TO RAISE THE BLACK FLAG AND BEGIN SLITTING THROATS thing, all I can think is, “dude, he hit you with a ladder ONCE after helping you cheat for like a year.”
What’s the payoff here, honestly? Punk’s not going to actually kill Paul Heyman, and in a PG environment he can’t even classically kill him by wrapping a bullrope around his neck and hanging him over the top rope or leaving him a crimson-masked mess. The closest they get to ultraviolence are prop spots (like Ryback going through the roof of an ambulance) or borderline homoerotic stuff like Orton caning a stretched-out Cena or Triple H holding Heyman down on a table and slapping his tits. Punk’s already hit him several times with a cane, handcuffed him, kicked him, whatever. What’s the endgame when you spend six months promising death? A concrete crypt?
Worst: Nobody Knows What “Hips” Are
Santino, The Great Khali and Hornswoggle all show up dressed like Elvis Presley, and the best thing I can say about it is that they weren’t dressed like Sherlock Holmes. My biggest problem with the match is that nobody seemed to know how hips work. Santino starts wobbling his knees during a comeback and Lawler sorta chuckles to himself, talking about the “swiveling of the hips.” After the match, Santino makes Jerry Lawler stand on the announce table because NO Virginia there is no f*cking Santa Claus. Lawler moves his hand around and shakes his leg like he’s trying to get his shoe off without untying it, and JBL and Cole stare up at him with dead eyes like children in movies might stare up at WONDER, chucklin’ their asses off. I don’t know. The whole thing made me want to auto-erotically asphyxiate myself to death on the toilet.
Here’s a quick list of things that would’ve made this bearable:
1. Heath Slater just beating the dogshit out of everyone
2. Great Khali as Elvis wandering past the Divas backstage and Natalya quipping, “I can’t believe I used to go out with you!” Because they never really explained why she traded in the updated Oddities for the Bella Twins, and because Natalya is already basically Ralph Wiggum.
Best: Elvis Cobra
Okay, that was pretty funny.
Best: Randy Orton Continues To Be The Raddest, Or
Best: Dolph Ziggler Getting To Be Dolph Ziggler Again
I’ve been talking up the glory of Unhinged Over-Explainer Randy Orton for a few months now, and sure, some of that is my natural lean towards heels and wrestling hipsterdom keeping me from properly watching the show, but if you need proof that Orton is a beast right now and better than he’s ever been, jump to the 1:00 mark of this video and peep Orton’s T-bone on Ziggler. Holy SHIT was that throw killer. That’s the best suplex I’ve seen on Raw in years, especially if you remove Seth Rollins as the throwee. Orton catches him in the corner, walks him to the middle of the ring, SQUATS him and dumps him on his head with authority. Right now Orton’s as good as anybody on the show, and probably better.
I’m also really happy to see Ziggler getting a fighting chance in these things, because his momentum is so DOA at the moment there’s a fear he might simply exit stage left and vanish forever. Seriously, Big E Langston has more momentum right now than Ziggler and he’s barely been on television. I think Ziggler’s aborted World Heavyweight Championship run really exposed how impossible it’d be for him to get somewhere and maintain it without help, but he’s so good with help that he’s worth maintaining. So maintain him already!
Great stuff. I might’ve enjoyed it more than Bryan and Ambrose, because honestly the match could’ve been five times worse and that suplex would’ve sent me home happy.
Best: Brie Bella’s Facebuster Is The Least Believable Move In Wrestling, But She’s Working Her Ass Off
I see the effort happening in the Brie Bella camp right now and I continue to acknowledge and appreciate it. That said, three things.
One, I’ve always hated facebusters in wrestling. It’s one of the (many, many) reasons I hate X-Pac. The guy’d be in there with Dean Malenko getting stretched out, tiger bombed, gutbusted from the top rope, dropkicked in the face … and then suddenly he’d just touch Malenko’s head with his finger tips, jump, spread his legs and fall on his ass and somehow that would be this big giant critical thing that knocked Malenko out forever. They’re the worst. If you don’t create any kind of severe up and down momentum with the move it’s just a person falling down like they would in a drop toehold and being DEAD. To AJ’s credit she’s really charging into those things headfirst and making a go of it, but it’s nothing a well-placed DDT wouldn’t do a thousand times better.
Two, I get that Brie isn’t getting the crowd reaction she was expecting and wants to FIRE UP THE FANS or whatever, but she has seriously got to cut it out with the constant Matt Hardying around she does after every move. I’m happy you learned how to throw a dropkick, but you don’t need to make finger guns, cover the entire ring in a big circular pass and yell COME ONNNNNNNNN after every one of them. Sometimes she doesn’t even make the guns and just looks like Fiona from Mega Records.
Three, if the Bella Twins are gonna be good guys they have got to cut it the hell out with the “loser” gestures after the match. I understand that it’s their thing, but things change when you change alignments. Coercing the crowd into telling people to suck his dick was John Cena’s thing when he was the Doctor of Thuganomics, but when he started handing out foam-okays to dying children he let it go.
Best: Paul Heyman’s Lava Promo Is The Greatest thing I’ve Ever Heard
They should’ve sent a poet.
Paul Heyman’s hilarious rant about how he was the lava in the center of a dormant volcano and would explode and suffocate the people who live at the bottom and worship CM Punk might seriously have been one of the best promos ever, and it reminded me of how badly we need a guy to forget social media and graces and just say insane shit like that like it’s still 1989. If Curtis Axel was screaming about destroying peoples’ cars with Hate Lava he’d probably be my favorite wrestler.
As it stands though, Heyman’s just better at this than most people. Somehow him being winded after Warrioring it up for a minute and a half made it even better. Renee’s increasingly worried “is he on crack” face was great, as was Axel trying to keep the hamster in his brain running and keep up. Heyman’s totally right at this point, which he shouldn’t be. Punk is off the deep end when it comes to hyperbolic threats, and Heyman will simply order his enormous jobber-eating cabana boy (or whatever) to Ryback him to death. What’s the worst than can happen, he’ll get hit with that stick again? He’s a grown-up, he’ll be fine.
Best: Kofi Kingston In The Role Of His Career
Maybe it was having to watch The Miz wrestle first, or maybe it was the way he so certainly died for real eating Luke Harper’s lariat, but I thought Kofi Kingston was GREAT here. Yes, I typed that. This is the best his unnecessary jumping schtick has been in ages because he’s working against very large, very strong guys who are “simple” enough to do nothing but attack wildly and fast enough to make it (and Kofi’s dodging) look frenzied and good. Kofi looked like he was narrowly escaping death a few different times, so when he finally died — and good God o mighty did he die — it was spectacular.
To answer a few of your questions though, yes, the idea of a permanent Miz/Kofi team does sorta make me want to lie down and sob, but at least I’d only have to see them wrestle half of a match instead of a whole one, so f*ck it, tag them forever.
Best: Bray Wyatt Defeats The What Chants
It’s not the first time he’s done it, but I always love when the crowd starts in with the “what” chants and Bray instantly negates them by changing up his cadence and not providing any large pauses until the crowd loses interest in the counter-productive cue and simply listens. That’s a skill they should teach every motherf*cker at the Performance Center.
And before I move on to the next thing, here’s a small, nit-picky Worst for Cole: he doesn’t know how buzzards work. He thinks that Harper and Rowan are the buzzards, and that they’re “feasting” or whatever when they’re beating people up. Buzzards don’t swarm and kill things, Cole, they show up after the thing is dead and pick the bones. The idea behind “follow the buzzards” is that the Wyatt Family is going to kill a bunch of dudes, so if you want to find them you have to follow the trail of decaying carcasses with scavengers on them. He’s not saying “follow my tag team.”
Best: HE NEEDS FIVE, Or
Worst: why doesn’t he need five
Putting aside how hilarious it is to me that Ryback and Curtis Axel are okay teaming up to beat up swoll, furious Big E Langston but run in fear when Raw’s Skinniest Man shows up with a stick … and putting aside Vickie Guerrero showing up as a temporary Raw General Manager and making a failed singles match into an impromptu tag without so much as a double invisible basketball dribble, step 2 in the Big E Langston face turn is making my heart grow a mouth and sing.
If you followed NXT in the days before I thought to write a column about it, you’ll know that Big E works best when he’s this massive, unstoppable monster who will truck you to shit no matter who you are, get cheered for it and demand a five count instead of a three to show his dominance. That’s what his entrance theme is talking about. I was sad when Big E lost his bodyguarding job to Tamina Snuka because I wanted at least SOME semblance of Team Rocket to stay together forever, but if he’s going to start being CM Punk’s jacked up, surprisingly-hilarious best friend I am so down. Big E’s got wrestling talent, has secretly the best personality in WWE and should be making people chant FIVE, FIVE, FIVE, FIVE by now.
My rationale here is that he turned face on Friday and had his first match to validate it on Monday, so maybe next Monday he’ll tell Renee Young about how he needs five and the crowd will play along as he Big Ends Jinder Mahal or whoever.
Best: The Curtis Axel Art Project, Week 1
From last night’s open discussion thread, which you should regularly be a part of for maximum Raw funs:
ANNOUNCING THE CURTIS AXEL ART PROJECT:If you draw a picture of Curtis Axel doing anything and share it in this thread, I will automatically include it in tomorrow’s report. If you have a child and get your child to draw Curtis Axel and send it to me, I will not only include the picture, I will hug you in real life. Example:
h/t to @Danaconda813.
As promised, here are your collected works.
Oshit Umenyiora (Zak):
A special thank you to everyone who made this inaugural edition of the project a success. For week 2 I’ll give you an entire week to work: make a collage that explains what Curtis Axel means to you. Tweet it to me @MrBrandonStroud before next Tuesday morning and I’ll include it in the report. Happy collaging!
Best: Zeb Colter, Because For Real
The entertainment MVP of Raw was Zeb Colter, not only because HE IS GOING TO USE A BULLWHIP TO ATTACK AND ASSUMEDLY CONTROL A LITTLE PERSON IN A BULL COSTUME SO HE DOESN’T GET HEADBUTTED IN THE ASS AGAIN, but because he brings up a series of good points. Yes, I just typed “Zeb Colter has a series of good points,” because WWE doesn’t know how to do racist characters correctly.
Anyway, the point he was making is that the idea of masked wrestlers with hidden identities and mysterious pasts doesn’t make sense because WWE is a business, and has to write checks to people, not hypothetical characters. You don’t write a check to “the little bull,” you write it to what is assumedly a man on the inside. His “human.” To suggest otherwise is to be whatever asshole made Batman have a “Bat Mastercard” with his logo and the name BATMAN on it in Batman and Robin. Zeb should be able to obtain basic information about his co-workers, and doesn’t really veer into vindictive zealot territory until he demands the unreasonable. “I think you’re not here legally because I’m prejudiced” is bad. “I want to know the name of the guy repeatedly punching me” seems fair, doesn’t it?
While I’m thinking about that “WWE doesn’t know how to do racist characters” point, I think the broader, more important question is “why does WWE make all of their racist characters lovable?” Think about it. Zeb Colter’s hanging out with cool guys, is feuding with an anthropomorphic bull and has not only a signature hand gesture, but an easy to remember and fun-to-sing-along-with catchphrase. Los Matadores are objectively Puerto Rican guys pretending to be Spanish stereotypes, but they’re a lot of un. Remember Akeem the African Dream, the big fat white guy who found out he was from Africa, so he started acting “black?” Somehow that’s not a thing you remember with shame, because it was great. Remember Tatanka? I don’t care if the guy was 1/16th something, he was wearing a headdress like Zack Morris and hopping around the ring making oh-oh-oh-oh-oh Indian noises. The most popular wrestler and movie star in our world right now only started getting popular when he joined the black militant group. The only racist characters they had that’re remembered badly are the ones who couldn’t work (Saba Simba) or were attached to wrestlers we’d already gotten used to (Tito Santana, Ricky Steamboat). Who was the last racist that was portrayed as a sincerely bad dude? Colonel DeBeers?
Best: The Real Americans Are My Jam Right Now
It could be my love of Sami Zayn NXT main-events talking, but the Real Americans are about a foot away from being beloved. Cesaro keeps giantly swinging people and has absorbed every single ounce of that “push CM Punk!” and “push Daniel Bryan!” stuff that went away (mostly) when Punk and Bryan got permanent main-event spots. Swagger is criminally underrated by even THOSE people, and now their manager has a sassy whip. They’ve throw their flags into the ring like javelins. All they need to do is say “we love America” without adding “and hate AH-LEGALS” and they’re golden.
I also really love how nobody cares that Cesaro could giant swing Brodus Clay, because OF COURSE he can. The trick now is to find someone so oblong and awkward that he can’t keep his footing. Remember how Yokozuna was kinda shaped like post-three-course-dinner-gum Violet Beauregarde? We need to find a guy like that again.
Also, in case you haven’t seen it, this is my Halloween costume this year.
Worst: Holy Shit What Is Wrong With R-Truth
Raw is a delicate ecosystem. When the show is boring and the matches aren’t that great, everything moves forward slowly and peacefully. It all evens out. When you start the show with Bryan and Ambrose, the goodness is so strong that it causes the scum to back up like water behind a dam so when strong hands aren’t around to control it everything BURSTS and the badness spills out and suffocates everybody like Paul Heyman Lava. That’s why Bryan/Ambrose was immediately followed by Hornswoggle dressed as Elvis.
The middle-to-end of Raw was almost nothing but good stuff and never really let up, so out of nowhere we suddenly jumped back to R-Truth doing his best Popeye’s Chicken Lady to sell WWE merchandise by just SCREAMING RANDOM FACTS ABOUT IT. He’d just point to something, make a simple observation about it, then keep talking until he noticed something else. DANIEL BRYAN SHIRT SAY RESPECT, THE, BEARD, I RESPECT THE BEARD YES YES YES, OKAY NOW HERE’S CM PUNK SHIRT, CM PUNK SAYS HE’S THE BEST IN THE WORLD THIS SHIRT THE BEST IN THE WORLD, OKAY NOW SHEAMUS, SHEAMUS SHIRT SAY GREAT WHITE THAT’S BECAUSE HE’S GREAT AND WHITE OH COOK LOOK HERE’S A WRESTLING BUDDY HERE’S A ZACK RYDER WIG HERE’S A LAMP WITH RANDY ORTON ON IT THE VIPER STRIKES NOW YOu CAN RKO DARKNESS
I could type like that forever. This week’s biggest Best goes to whoever pumped Joker gas into the room during the pre-show meeting.
Best: Whoever Did These Retrospective Videos, Because I Want To Kiss Them On The Mouth
One of my most pipe-dreamy talking points is that WWE should start embracing its history, even the rewritten versions where William Regal didn’t do anything to help Bryan and WCW were a bunch of clowns who went out of business when DX ran over them in a tank. Last night featured not one but TWO amazing retrospective videos that made wrestlers seem important by portraying them as human beings who have spent their lives doing this (crazy, I know) and actually SHOWING you where they’ve come from, so you have some kind of context for how important their journey has been. The first one featured Daniel Bryan in a group photo with Brian Kendrick and Lance Cade and RUDY BOY GONZALEZ (Bryan’s actual trainer, according to nobody but Rudy Boy Gonzalez) and the second one worked overtime to make John Cena look as DIY as Bryan:
Yeah, it probably didn’t need to be that melodramatic and play like an In Memorium Hall of Fame video package when he’s been out for like two months, but it embraced what’s happened in the past and used it to heighten Cena’s character now instead of being this hidden thing only INTERNET DIRT SHEET NERDS know about. Wrestling history is cool as shit, you guys, you can share it with us. You own almost all of it.
Also, hello TNA Hall of Famer Kurt Angle!
Worst: Michael Cole Does Not Agree With Me
Thank you to JBL for remember some basic facts about the wrestlers he’s supposed to closely watch every week. He refers to Cody as a “kleptomaniac” and Cody responds with “WHAT, WHY WOULD YOU CALL ME THAT, WHAT HAVE I EVER STOLEN?” Instead of going “heh, nothing, where am I” like Lawler might, JBL reminds Cody that he lifted Damien Sandow’s Money in the Bank briefcase back in July. Cody covers with a weak “I don’t know, maybe” response and that’s fine I guess, but it’s Michael Cole who earns Top Worst status for referring to that incident as “ancient history.”
Ancient history. That happened in July of this year. Three months ago. They had a match about it at SummerSlam TWO months ago. Is that why John Cena’s video made it seem like we hadn’t seen him in a decade? Because Michael Cole works on Internet time and thinks something he’s seen twice or hasn’t thought about today is “old?”
Best: Goldust Is A Movie Star
The tag team match between the Usos and The Shield was predictably good, making it what, the fourth or fifth good match on the show? The non-finish was predictable but necessary to get us a triple threat for the tag straps at Hell in a Cell and we got a full Usos entrance, so Bests all around.
The best of these, however, was Goldust on commentary. Two reasons:
1. OOHHHHH SNAPPP, which was the most “Tourette” Goldust has been since he had electricity-enduced Tourette’s.
2. The calm mention that he is a movie star. I know Cole and Lawler think he’s a movie star because he is technically working a perverted Academy Awards statue gimmick from 1995, but we are mere moments away from JBL discussing Lisa Friedrich on Raw. Do it. Do itttt.
Best: The Contract Signing
Best: wait, really?
Firstly, Triple H and Shawn Michaels don’t see eye-to-eye because Shawn is cross-eyed.
Secondly, I must’ve gotten the same Joker gas as the Raw guys because the show ended in a contract signing that was full of character-based storytelling. I had to put that in bold. THAT HAPPENED. Everyone made sense and added to the scene. Daniel Bryan went back to being the Bryan I love, standing behind his wrestling ability and unstoppable destiny instead of sarcasm and catchphrase crutches. Triple H was Final Form Triple H, declaring that Bryan is worthless and could never be a big star like US BACK IN THE GOOD OL’ DAYS, being so over-the-top with it that the guy with the hunting show who spent his career in chaps thinks he’s being unreasonable. Shawn was good too, speaking his mind without seeming like he was irrationally losing his mind over something. Orton was goofy and awkward, as Randy Orton almost always is. Show was the HARD TIMES EVERYMAN. This is all so, so good. Hell, even Bryan’s attack on Orton only happened because he was very clearly about to be surrounded and taken advantage of.
Also, I think I’ve figured out the full Grand Theft Auto V comparison. We’ve joked before about Shawn Michaels being Trevor Phillips and that’s something you can’t unsee, but Triple H is totally Michael … a guy who used to be the Best in the Business or whatever who went into hiding and became this empty, soulless rich guy with narcissistic rage issues who can’t control his family. He balances it well enough until his old friend shows up, wondering who he’s become and getting in his face about it all the time. Most hilariously, I think this makes Randy Orton Franklin, and also may technically make Big Show Chop.
Not like that.
Best: WELL IT’S THE BIG RIG
Big Show this here’s Rubber Duck, and I’m about to put the hammer down!
Theory: Big Show’s new job is being a trucker, which would explain why he can continue to be at whatever city Raw’s in. If that’s the case, that is BRILLIANT. Less brilliant is how much Show and Bryan remind me of BJ and the Bear.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
DID YOU KNOW:
While only 1of 4 Daniel Bryan finishers are caught by WWE live cameras, 3of 4 are caught by the WWE App, or 75% more than Disney, ESPN, or CBS combined?
HHHeisenberg: If that’s true, if you don’t know who I am anymore, then maybe your best course… would be to ref lightly.’
“Daniel, you have no idea what you are getting into.”
“Can you please explain it to me?”
*Raw runs over to 11:57 EST
JBL: “There’s only one other brother tag team, and that’s The Usos”
Lawler: “What about Primetime Players?”
Rest of table: *silence*
Cena was supposed to be gone for 4 months…and kicked out at 2
I think Zeb is the least racist person on commentary right now.
“Hey guys, Real Americans here. Y’know we may be xenophobic, vaguely racist guys. But there’s ONE thing we hate more than foreigners, and that’s breast cancer.
That’s why you should buy our special, pink ‘We the People’ shirts, to help promote Breast Cancer awareness……except if you’re a foreigner. Then I hate your boobs.”
This promo proves that Lil’ Jimmy was just Don West
Tamina Snuka: the most intimidating member Aces &8s has left.
Thanks, everybody. See you next … Sunday? Again? Already?