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Please click through for the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for November 18, 2013. Raw goes country. Look at them boots!
Best: Beef Mode
Last night’s show began with two things: Triple H and Stephanie McMahon returning from vacation to punish a random assortment of authority figures for what happened last week (more on that in a minute), and, subsequently, Brad Maddox being forced into a one-on-one, no disqualification match against Randy Orton.
Brad Maddox has that intangible thing going for him where you either really love him or you really hate him despite him not really doing much of anything. I’m in the “really love” category, obviously, because his weird, awkward charisma translates into the stuff he does in the ring … he’s got a really natural physical presence despite being 3-foot-11 and looks comfortable taking table bumps or throwing DDTs in a way that your Evas Marie might never. I’m sad that H didn’t let him change into his RANDOM WORDS gear, though.
The match was also another example of how good Orton’s been in the ring since the summer. Being good at wrestling doesn’t mean you’re just good at that one kind of epic title match where you do a bunch of moves and kick out of everything … if it did, “Kurt Angle” would be the only definition of a good wrestler. Being truly good at wrestling means you can do well whatever you’re tasked to do, and make any physical interaction entertaining. Orton’s legit-but-brief selling of Maddox’s offense and his “why am I getting my ass kicked by the Muppet Baby version of Jon Snow” death glare were both outstanding, and I think the PG Era of Raw could use more instances of guys getting their faces caved in with microphones. I thought I was watching the beginning of Irreversible for a second.
The Divas musical chairs made me feel like I was watching the rest of Irreversible.
Worst: Triple H And Stephanie Return To Give Those Dastardly Heels The Comeuppance They … Wait, What
First of all, don’t get me wrong … Triple H and Stephanie were suitably hilarious in their roles as Colossal Dickbags Back From A Carnival Cruise, with Stephanie boasting about how well-rested they are and so on. So please don’t read the following and think, “Brandon doesn’t like this because TRIPLE H!!” Because frankly if you still think I form opinions like that, you need to learn how to read.
Anyway, I hated this segment because Triple H. H and Stephanie are the big bads of Raw, right? The final bosses. The ones pulling the strings and making things hard for the people we’re supposed to cheer. One day they’ll get what’s coming to them, and that’s what the entire story is building to because we live in an era where championships don’t mean anything anymore. Right? That’s the entire idea. So why do they keep spending so much time harassing their own allies?
Last night, The Authority returned to the show passive-aggressively angry about what happened last week, so instead of punishing Big Show by putting him in another unfair match or whatever they punish all of their own allies. The people who do their orders already. Maddox and Vickie, the two least physically imposing people on the show, get put into matches (Vickie against AJ, who Stephanie is supposed to hate) and Randy Orton gets threatened with more “you’re a disappointment, son” bullshit en route to being told he’s gonna have to defend his title by himself at Survivor Series. And it’s not even consistent! Kane screwed the pooch last week as hard as anybody, and he doesn’t get punished at all. He just shows up to glare at Maddox once and is then immediately lost in the Authority Figure Shuffle. Why is he like this now? Why did they think the best use of a 7-foot fire monster was to put him in dress clothes and have him be sorta rude?
I don’t know. I just don’t get it. I know that fiction is full of evil bosses being mean to their subordinates, but damn, imagine if you were watching The Wizard Of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West spent so much time shit-kicking her flying monkeys that Dorothy just skipped her ass down the entirety of the yellow brick road without issue? And then when she’s in the Emerald City the Witch just shows up and hits her from behind and steals her shoes, but Dorothy goes home anyway and the Witch spends 30 minutes of epilogue braining monkeys with shoes. That’s Raw.
A secondary Worst goes to Randy Orton for responding to “who do you think you’re talking to” with a description of himself, because when Randy Orton is yelling at people in the ring he thinks he’s talking to himself. I guess it’s hard to differentiate people when you’ve got a bunch of blasphemous, sociopathic voices in your head telling you to dangle folks on the ropes by their ankles.
Best: The Big E Langston Losing Streak Begins!
Congratulations to Big E Langston for winning his first big leagues WWE title, and to Curtis Axel for having good matches on two consecutive Raws. Who knew the trick to making Axel good was to take AWAY Paul Heyman?
I love the reaction Big E is getting from crowds now. That’s sorta how he gets treated down in NXT. The roar of the crowd when the straps came down was glorious, and while yeah, some of that is the 700 years of strap work Jerry Lawler drilled into the Tennessee wrestling community, but at least a small portion is Big E trucking dudes and being a dynamic, fun-to-watch wrestler.
The NXT Championship is the new IC title, frankly. Back in the day if you won the Intercontinental Championship it was an acknowledgment that you were one of the best wrestlers on the show, destined for greatness. Guys like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage and Steve Austin all held the belt before becoming one of the faces of the company. Guys like Ricky Steamboat and Mr. Perfect held the belt as a symbol of their overwhelming talent, and they were world champions somewhere else if they weren’t in the WWF. Nowadays the IC title is what a jobber to the stars holds to justify him repeatedly getting matches against stars … but the NXT strap is starting to develop guys who’ll truly contribute when they get to Raw.
Think about it. Seth Rollins held the NXT Championship and he not only became one-half of the tag champs, he was 1/3 of one of the best first years in WWE history as part of The Shield. Langston held the NXT Championship and now he’s getting huge reactions as the IC Champ, being the Bobby Lashley Bobby Lashley never was. Bo Dallas is the current NXT Champion and he’s giving squirt guns to orphans in Bolivia because he’s a global icon. A Bo-bal icon. Whatever.
All I ask is that we give Langston a few championship squash matches so he can NEED FIVE (f*cking finally) and really make the IC title a thing people care about again.
Worst: Divas Musical Chairs
Okay, this was so bad that WWE Fan Nation didn’t even upload a clip of it. I hope the one above the boldface doesn’t get taken down because the only other one I can find has a super obnoxious girl yammering over it about how you should subscribe to her shitty YouTube channel. If you missed it, the Divas played a consequenceless game of musical chairs because they are toddlers, then almost immediately ruin it with in-fighting because they are stupid toddlers.
Currently, the cast of Total Divas are the “good guys,” and everyone who isn’t on Total Divas is jealous and fat and ugly and therefore “bad guys.” This results in weird situations like Kaitlyn suddenly being a heel and cool teaming with AJ just because they’re both not on a reality show. And for some reason it makes Rosa Mendes look like a caucasian cowboy Barbie. If you don’t watch Total Divas, it’s a show about how every woman in the WWE locker room is mean and selfish and conniving, so OF COURSE this makes them role models. In this segment the Total Divas cast cheats at musical chairs, incites violence, and is then lauded for fighting off their evil attackers. It was the worst. You do not need me to tell you that “1/10th of a game of musical chairs to promote Total Divas” was the worst. Literally the only highlight was Natalya getting eliminated first, because Natalya sucks.
The thing that makes me the maddest is that they shat on the delicate legacy of WWE Musical Chairs games. The first one was a shockingly-great moment of character-based comedy and one of my favorite non-wrestling segments on Raw ever. Dude, I don’t even know.
The second game took place during season 3 of NXT and FEATURED MOST OF THESE LADIES, so you’d think they’d know better. The game itself was bad but at least played to completion without catfighting and was one of the shining moments of condescending CM Punk NXT commentary:
Shame on you, Total Divas, you ruiner.
Best: The Curtis Axel Art Project
Way to make the Curtis Axel segment happen right at the beginning and mess up my formatting, Raw.
Anyway, last week I asked you to draw a “hand turkey” — that thing you did as a kid where you trace your hand on a piece of paper, turn your thumb into a turkey’s head and turn your fingers into feathers — in the style of Curtis Axel. However you chose to do that was up to you. You are brilliant, and here are your entries:
(here’s the bigger version if you can’t read it)
Thanks for your hand turkeys, everybody.
This Week’s Project: Curtis Axel is no longer a Paul Heyman Guy AND he lost the Intercontinental Championship, which means he’s either 1) gonna get fired, 2) is about to go on a huge winning streak for absolutely no reason or 3) is taking time off to star in a WWE Film. We know Axel’s charisma is through the roof, so we’ll assume it’s #3.
Your job for this week is to ILLUSTRATED THE NEW WWE FILM STARRING CURTIS AXEL. How you choose to do this is up to you. It can be a sequel to an existing WWE film, a new project, whatever you can come up with. Any medium. Whip that up and tweet it to me directly with the hashtag #CurtisAxelArtProject and I’ll include it in next week’s report.
Unless he gets fired. Then I have to come up with another mid-carder to glorify through art.
Best: Big Show Vs. Ryback As A Conversation Piece
I’m not in love with somebody kicking out of Ryback’s finisher (in the middle of a Raw, no less), Ryback’s continued descent into whatever duplex doghouse Kassius Ohno lived in before they fired him or the volume with which these guys were calling spots (Ryback could’ve screamed I AM GOING TO SHELL SHOCK YOU NOW, BE SURE TO KICK OUT into the microphone and it would’ve been more subtle), but I really enjoyed the match.
I’m not sure why the announce team is so convinced that a guy my height is a “giant” just because he has muscles, but this is the Ryback that was getting over so monstrously when he first showed up. He got to really take it to Show, knocking him on his ass with clotheslines and getting him up for a Shell Shocked with AUTHORITY and just generally looking like Show’s equal. Even the finish made sense, with Ryback beginning to dominate and Show using his girth and his big critical punch to open up one opportunity, then take it.
If I was a competing wrestling promotion (and I am not), I’d spend every dollar I could find on these mid-to-upper-level guys WWE keeps starting and stopping with and farting all over because the drain is clogged with whatever got stuck in there during Ruthless Aggression. Cena and Orton aren’t going anywhere for a long, long time, and guys like Punk and Bryan, guys who are obviously the very best in the sport at what they do, have to basically keep hammering away until they get lucky and something sticks so hard by accident WWE can’t ignore it. If you stopped giving money to the Mr. Andersons of the world and spent a little too much luring away Ziggler, Ryback, Sandow, even Kofi or Ryder — guys who are clearly a thing people want to cheer, but not really good enough to make their own thing happen — then give them a thing so they don’t have to come up with it by accident, you’ve got a pretty goddamn desirable wrestling company going.
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought Of The Show/Ryback Match
That was more about the post-match stuff, but … uh, whatever. Let’s ask somebody else:
Best: The Cesaro Section
Best: The Miz Becomes The Most Must-See Tag Team Partner In The History Of This Tag Team Match
I’ve read a lot of really negative criticism about this show, mostly because the stuff that was bad was UNBELIEVABLY BAD, but the show’s wrestling was pretty solid. Even short tag matches like this one were purposeful, and featured Kofi countering clotheslines with backflips into DDTs accompanied with bright flashing neon signs reading THIS IS WHAT KOFI KINGSTON SHOULD BE DOING, PROBABLY.
The big moment, of course, was The Miz finally abandoning his horrible “u r gay” babyface run to return to his true passion: mean-spirited situations Alex Riley will one day recall so he can put things he’s seeing into context. I thought Miz had it in him to be a likable everyman, but nope, he’s just New York Mike with his ignorant perspectives and foam title belts. WWE is light on heels who aren’t part of big heel factions, so maybe Miz can rise back up to where he was post-Miz-and-Morrison breakup and become a thing I can write about excitedly again. Christmas Caperz or whatever it’s called notwithstanding.
Worst: AJ Lee vs. Vickie Guerrero
This was such a spectacular waste of time. Vickie’s being punished for last week and gets put into a match against someone half her size she hates, and plays it up like she’s headed into a scaffold match with the f*cking Road Warriors. So she stalls and stalls and stalls until she gets strapped to a stretcher and wheeled to ringside, where she stalls and stalls and stalls until she’s put in ONE SUBMISSION HOLD for like five seconds and taps out. Then she seems totally fine, because she had her arm put into an uncomfortable situation briefly. So she stalls and stalls.
I don’t know what the big deal is. AJ isn’t Randy Orton. She’s not going to DDT you onto the floor. Worst case scenario she’s gonna hit you with a five-pound Shining Wizard and then put you in an abdominal stretch. It’s not so bad. It’s like getting a shot. You were TOTALLY FINE afterward. If Triple H announces that you’re facing Kaitlyn and Kaitlyn gets to use a broadsword, then yeah, start freaking out.
And come to think of it though, shouldn’t Tamina have had more of a role in this? Last year the situations were reversed, with Tamina as Vickie’s bodyguard in an attack on AJ. The announcers saying, “she’s Lady Diesel, she’s just here to do whatever the person paying her says” would’ve been an easy call. Just acknowledge it, I don’t know.
Best, Though: Vickie
As stupid as this was, the players were all great, especially Vickie. Her hilarious overselling of the situation was as good as it could be, with her melodramatic hallway fainting, her happy face popping up when Stephanie mentions taking her straight to the hospital, her forcing Tamina to fan her, and just everything. Vickie’s talents are probably never going to be recognized like they should, but she’s great at her job, as depressing and regressive as her job can sometimes be.
Best: Z-I, Ha ha, Double G
Highlight of the Broadway Brawl: Dolph Ziggler winning the match by picking up a guitar, doing the Jeff Jarrett strut, then kabonging Damien Sandow over the head with it a la Jeff Jarrett.
Actual Highlight of the Broadway Brawl: The announce team sort of lightly mentioning Jeff Jarrett as this happens, then JBL wanting to say SOMEWHERE JEFF JARRETT IS SMILING (or something similar) but stopping at “SOMEWHERE” because “somewhere” is TNA. So it’s just JBL going SOMEWHARE and then trying to think of 10 or fifteen words to put between that and MAGGLE.
Ziggler vs. Sandow was a lot of fun, as you might expect it to be, even if a lot of it played out like a bad Attitude Era match where they just collect a bunch of props, hit each other with them and lie around until it’s time for the next one. But WWE never does anything like that anymore, so Ziggler attacking Sandow with two different sizes of drums is pretty great, and hey, on the plus side nobody got bowling balls bowled into their dicks. My only real complaint is that they set it up with a shoulder-to-shoulder backstage bit with Triple H where he more or less said “LOL, YOU guys” and put them in the stupidest thing he could imagine.
Worst: Don’t Pretend Like You Like Current Country Music, Mexican Michael Cole
The commentary, as it usually is, was crazy bad. During this match’s clip alone you hear Michael Cole raise his voice and get all correcty about JBL saying “Jed Clampett” instead of “Jeb Clampett” even though it is f*cking Jed Clampett. Raw is “Raw Country” so JBL and King try to make a bunch of jokes about Porter Wagoner and Hank Williams or whatever, and Cole’s like, “hemph, why don’t we update these references to THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS??” and starts naming off country bands he’s heard of because they had clips of their videos played on the Raw he’s currently hosting. HOW ABOUT BLAKE SHELTON, KING? Shut the f*ck up, Cole, the only bands you listen to are RBD and Mariachi Los Camperos. Besides, every educated country music fan knows that the art form peaked at ‘Amarillo By Morning,’ and everything after that besides pre-Chris Gaines Garth Brooks and Sara Evans videos is Elseworlds and therefore not canon.
That doesn’t even touch what they did during the Divas musical chairs thing, calling it the “stupidest thing [they’d] ever seen.” I mean, I agree you with you guys, but you aren’t supposed to SAY it. You’re supposed to tell me why this ISN’T the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen so I don’t FEEL like it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen and want to change the channel. Your job is to justify why this is taking up several minutes of a highly-rated cable television sports show. That is basically your only job. That, and making YouTube videos you think are hilarious because you’re f*cking bored and not interested in getting any better.
Speaking of country music, though, the show (and the year’s) biggest Worst goes to Darius “Hootie” Rucker for showing up and reminding me about his frat-ass Nashville version of ‘Wagon Wheel.’ OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW FOR LIFE. GO BACK TO MAKING MUSIC FOR BURGER KING.
Worst: Can I Press X To Skip This Promo Or What
If you’re interested in watching paint dry while John Cena beats it to death with an even MORE injured arm, injured THE MOST, you’ve got a better attention span than me. I know you kinda count on me to make this stuff more interesting, but sorry, spoiler alert, Cena wins, and if he doesn’t, nobody cares. Get Cena into something interesting with anybody interesting and get Del Rio into couples counseling with Ricardo Rodriguez so he can have a character again.
AND SPEAKING OF CHARACTERS.
Best: The Rhinestone Cowboys
3MB continued their regional costume adventures by becoming THE RHINESTONE COWBOYS, confronting musical guests 2004 Chris Jericho and 2013 Chris Jericho backstage in jeans, nudie suit jackets and cowboy hats. Jinder even had a little bowtie. It was the best, and I hope it continues no matter where they go. Get some interns to research local culture. Have them dress up as hipsters when they come through Austin. When they go to Brooklyn, replace Jinder with JTG and still just call him Jinder Mahal, see if anybody notices.
A supplementary Best goes to JBL for explaining that Reba McEntire and Drew McIntyre can still be related despite spelling their last names differently because “Drew was adopted.” That’s such a horrible and hilariously inaccurate thing to say.
Best: Looking On The Bright Side Of Xavier Woods
The Rhinestone Cowboys lost to R-Truth and his new/old tag team partner from TNA, Consequences Creed, now known as Xavier Woods. They were in a team called “Truth and Consequences” over there if you made that joke in your head. Now, as regular readers of the Best and Worst of NXT column might know, I’m not a big Xavier Woods fan. I think his wrestling doesn’t make any sense, his signature moves are all stupid and WWE turns every third black wrestler under contract into a wacky, foolish guy who dances like James Brown.
At first I was like well, shoot, but I’ve since warmed up to Xavier’s debut on Raw. Here’s why:
1. Everybody else seems to like him. I don’t know Woods personally, but I know a lot of people who do, and they went APE when he showed up on TV. Basically everybody posted FINALLY, GREAT DEBUT XAVIER YOU’RE THE BEST tweets, and the sheer volume of support thrown his way made me consider that maybe he’s a guy who deserves a shot at glory, even if I don’t personally like his wrestling. That can’t be bad, right? A good guy getting a shot. That’s what we’re always complaining about.
2. He’s better than R-Truth. If we’re gonna reserve a spot for a wacky dancing black guy whose moves don’t make sense so he can lose to whoever’s getting a push, we might as well use the young, happy-to-be-there one. Truth is 41-years old. Woods is 27. That’s a 14 year age gap. You can almost fit Paige into that age gap. I’ll consider it an upgrade. Another upgrade: James Brown dancing without having to hear a decade-old, wrestling-themed rap song.
3. At least it wasn’t Corey Graves. Here is an unrehearsed look at my thought process during Woods’ debut, and an example of how well my friends know me.
Best/Worst: Baby, You A Song
So Heath Slater CAN play an instrument.
Florida Georgia Line performed ‘Round Here’ — not ‘Cruise,’ gracefully saving us from a possible Nelly remix appearance — and while I’m very much against “the Nashville sound” and wish every f*cking country song was ‘Amos Moses,’ they were good. Say what you will about musical performances on Raw, but at least the country acts can get through a performance without being gassed. Cee Lo would’ve collapsed on stage in his big sparkly cape and taken down Summer Rae with him in some depressing, studio-dependent Cloak and Dagger.
Musical performances will really zap your desire to watch a wrestling show, though. In fact, after watching 2 1/2 hours of Raw Country, the last half hour would have to be, I don’t know, 12 guys I like spending half an hour wrestling their asses off for me to give the show a positive review.
Best: 12 Guys Brandon Likes Spending Half An Hour Wrestling Their Asses Off
This was WONDERFUL. FULL OF WONDER. Daniel Bryan getting a hot tag and destroying Luke Harper (and everyone around him) was one of those moments so good it made me remember to occasionally stop being a catty Internet guy and love my favorites. CM Punk got to look like the actual Best in the World by smartly sitting out the entire match just to bounce in and annihilate people to win the match. The Rhodes Brothers and The Shield don’t need any more compliments when it comes to the stuff they’ve been doing in the ring together. The Wyatt Family has finally started to thrive thanks to a pairing with (surprise surprise) great f*cking pro wrestlers and the Usos, god bless them, will not stop superkicking you and I love it. And they got a shirt!
I am so okay with not having the Survivor Series match I wanted if it means we get a great substitute AND the best possible version of a non-elimination tag for 30 minutes on free TV. If you’re at any other promotion’s show and they start yelling about how THIS IS REAL WRESTLING, tell them to update their talking points.
Best/Worst: The Mystery Man Is Literally A Mystery Man
I’m glad Rey Mysterio’s back and hadn’t even considered him as the mystery partner for the Rhodes Boys and the Usos at Survivor Series, but one thing really bothered me:
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Big E is a microcosm of every Raw lately: Awesome big ending, a heavy dose of some huge boobs, and a meaningless title.
NXT Country features Hootie and the BO-fish
Also, if you run over Big Show when he’s laying on his side, you’ll get a short term speed boost.
Hot damn, it’s the Soggy Bottom Boys!
Sandow wheels grand piano to ring, misunderstands stipulation.
That unplugged electric guitar totally fits with Dolph’s whole aesthetic.
It would be so weird to be a wrestling fan from the 80′s who just woke up from a coma, you guys.
“Wait, wait, wait… So Ric Flair’s son was an awful wrestler, Ted Dibiase’s son didn’t have any personality, Mr. Perfect’s son is so awkward it is almost endearing, and Mike Rotunda– f*cking IRS’s son is one of the most captivating character’s in a decade?
Oh, cool Goldust is still here.”
What I Wanted: Mickie James returning.
What I Got: The opposite of Mickie James returning.
First person to beat Through the Fire and Flames on expert wins.
Sandow picks up the small Violin and begins to play it for both his and Ziggler’s careers.
Thanks, everybody. See you on Sunday for Survivor Series. The Series in which they SURVIVE!