– Be sure you’ve read The Best and Worst of WWE Elimination Chamber 2014 before you read the Raw column.
– Share this column or I will come to your house and stab you in the hands with your keyboard.
– I’m making a few (online) media appearances if you’re interested in that kind of thing. Tonight (Tuesday night) I’m appearing on the Wrestling Mayhem Show starting at 11/10 CT, so head on over there and listen to me talk about Inspire Pro and probably Elimination Chamber. Then on Thursday I’m doing a post NXT Arrival show with Aubrey Sitterson on Straight Shoot because I’m the Internet’s #1 NXT homer. So check those out!
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for February 24, 2014.
Best: A Visit From Your Flamboyant, Senile Grandpa
Hulk Hogan’s return to WWE after a 7-year hiatus in which he was NOWHERE ELSE WE SWEAR has been announced in some form or another for months, so I’ve had time to come to terms with it. If you aren’t familiar with my history with Hogan, there’s a short, diplomatic explanation and a slightly longer, much meaner one.
Short explanation: I grew up in the 80s in southern Virginia and went to shows in northern North Carolina, so I was born and raised in Horsemen country. I wasn’t even really aware of Hogan until he got a cartoon, and even then he was just sort of a cartoonish novelty thing that existed off to the left whenever Magnum T.A. wasn’t driving a table leg shard into Tully Blanchard’s face. The NWA seemed real to me and WWF didn’t, even when I was five, so I never developed a nostalgic soul-bond with Hogan. As I get older I can go back and appreciate what Hogan accomplished and enjoy a lot of his early matches, but he’s not my bag.
Slightly longer explanation: Hogan is a monstrous, orange goblin who has systematically ruined pro wrestling for me in years-long periods multiple times. The first time was in the mid-90s when he left WWF and came to WCW, immediately turning it into the stupidest thing in history and replacing a bunch of wrestlers I liked with his fat, shitty, aging friends. He did it again in the late 2000s with TNA. You guys probably know me as a guy who dismissively wanks at everything TNA tries to do, but I actually really loved them circa 2005-2006. They were putting on killer PPV after killer PPV and stocking up with some of the best and most unique talent in the world … then Hogan showed up, replaced a bunch of those guys with his fat, shitty, aging friends, condescended on them for having a “playpen ring” and doomed TNA to nearly a decade of discarded, sub-WWE garbage and Brooke Hogan romance stories. He is the worst and everything bad we say about Triple H times ten. At least Triple H The Guy seems to love wrestling. Hogan’s just here because his band sucked and his acting career never got cooler than Rocky III.
So yeah, when Hogan was announced, my brain went through all the worst case scenarios. He was gonna show up and wrestle John Cena at Mania. He was gonna show up and WHATCHA GONNA DO BROTHER in Cesaro’s face about calling himself a “Real American” and big boot leg drop him, turning him into Heath Slater in some f*cked up, burnt sienna-assed Flo Rida skit. I was prepared to jump in here and write six paragraphs (or pages) about how I’d bought a Hulk Hogan® brand kitchen knife and was using it to slice open my abdomen and die, but … well, maybe he’s finally old and immobile enough to just show up and say “remember Hulk Hogan” instead of “HULK HOGAN IS THE ONLY PERSON THAT MATTERS, MAKE ME CHAMPION.” Finally. Maybe.
He was just sort of a senile old man in a feather boa and he only stuck around for five minutes, so I’ll allow it. Here’s a transcript of his promo:
“WWE Universe teamed up with WWE Universe to make WWE Network launch WWE’s WWE Network with WWE Universe.”
Add in 65 too-self-aware occurrences of the word “brother” and you’re there. If Hogan’s role at Mania 30 is just to say “hey everybody, I’m Hulk Hogan, brother! Enjoy the matches, brother!” I will politely clap and move on with my life. In the back of my head, though, Hogan’s somehow managing to boot Daniel Bryan in the face and break the Undertaker’s streak. That’s never going away.
Best: And Now, Someone Older And More Immobile Than Hulk Hogan
Here’s a picture of every Batista match in 2014:
It’s just a sad little shaved molerat-headed guy lying on the ground gasping for air while whoever he’s “wrestling” has to stall and wander around to give him time to recover. It’s the only thing sadder than his crowd reactions. Watching Batista wrestle now is like watching your grandmother die in the intensive care unit. Imagine one of The Rock’s WrestleMania main-events against Cena, only on every Raw and everyone hates them.
We keep trying to work a third person into the Batista/Orton WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania, but I think we’re “Daniel Bryan in the Royal Rumble”-ing ourselves. They never, like, announced that it was going to be a triple threat. It’s just Batista vs. Orton. But we’re so desperate for that to not be the case that we’re trying to will Bryan into it, or drag Punk back into wrestling to save it, or try to cram Lesnar in there. Just ANYONE to cheer for. Not a reprise of the Orton/Triple H stomp-a-thon with H replaced by an enormous, dying Chinese baby.
Worst: Batista Goes Full John Cena
Look at him. It looks like his skin could slide off his body at any moment.
Orton’s music interrupted Batista’s match, causing him to lose via roll-up. This works because Batista hasn’t been around for years to get hit by it every week and build up a tolerance. Ol’ Rando runs him down for getting booed all the time, so Batista goes FULL JOHN CENA with this shouty, spittle-covered promo through strugglebreaths about how these people HAVE A RIGHT TO AN OPINION and if they wanna boo him THAT’S THEIR RIGHT~.
The problem is that a lot of people booing Cena are booing him out of habit. They’ve just settled into the “let’s go Cena” or “Cena sucks” camp based on deepness of voice and boo him to hit their cues, very rarely booing him because of one of the many, many things Cena does to deserve it. It’s a social interaction. When Cena’s all “heh some people boo me some people cheer me IT’S HOT IN GREEN BAY TA-NIGHT” he’s wearily acknowledging the opinion-based version of the “what” chant and moving on with his life.
Batista’s boos aren’t Cena boos. Batista’s boos are there because he is super garbage and waltzed into a #28 spot at the Royal Rumble, thumbs-downed any hope that Daniel Bryan had of facing a dude he’s been feuding with since August at the biggest, end-of-the-stories show of the year and can’t seem to muster anything more than a sweaty, labored blink in response. “Deal with it” could work if he was a bad ass, but he’s not asking us to accept that he’s great, he’s asking us to deal with him getting a thing he doesn’t deserve and being terrible at it. You are not allowed to do the Cena promo, Hans Moleman. Go lie down in your pit of danger and leave us alone.
Somebody put me in charge of wrestling between now and April so I can book Batista to take a top rope RKO at Mania and die in the ring, only to regenerate into Mason Ryan.
Best: Wrestlers From This Decade
And suddenly we’re head-dropping dudes like it’s ’94 All Japan.
In the Best and Worst of Elimination Chamber I wrote about how every single Big E (née Langston) match features somebody accidentally bleeding, and I sincerely don’t know how long his career’s gonna be if he can’t go a match without injuring himself and others. Last night’s match was BRUTAL, with Big E adopting Samoa Joe’s ridiculous “run at me so I can STO you out of the corner” spot and nearly decapitating Cesaro and this almost-Ganso-Bomb nonsense:
I’m giving the match a Best because it was 15 minutes of these guys beating the ever-loving crap out of each other, and that’s really all I’m ever asking from a wrestling match. I love a graceful, acrobatic move, but I’m mostly just watching wrestling to see a guy get shoved into the air and uppercutted in the face. This was the intersection of the Cesaro push and the Big E Intercontinental Championship Revival Tour, and bless them for doing it.
(Be careful though, Big E. Jesus.)
Best: Michael Cole Knows A Wrestling Fact, Or
Worst: The Announce Team Has No Idea What Winnie The Pooh Is
At one point during the match, JBL thinks he’s got an hilarious talking point and asks “WHAT’S THE E STAND FOR, HIS NAME’S BIG E WHAT’S THE E?” Instead of chuckling and yelling at JBL like he normally does, Cole simply explains that the E stands for “Ettore,” Big E’s first name, which it does. And my head goes BOOOOSHHH and explodes because Michael Cole is contributing constructively to the wrestling show. BOOOOSHHHHHHH.
Of course, that quickly devolves into a conversation about how “Ettore” sounds like the Winnie the Pooh character “Igor,” which is not that character’s name. Now Big E Langston’s first name is a Winnie the Pooh joke. Welcome to “Emma’s doing the Hokey Pokey” territory, Big E. Eventually every good person from NXT’s gonna get a ridiculous talking point. THAT’S TYLER BREEZE MAGGLE HIS LAST NAME SOUNDS LIKE WIND, YOU THINK HE BREAKS WIND A LOT chuckle chuckle etc.
And while we’re on the topic, if JBL thinks Eeyore’s name is “Igor,” I don’t want to know what he thinks about “Tigger.”
Best: The Cesaro Face Turn Begins
The match ends with Jack Swagger angrily charging into the ring and Patriot Locking Big E when Cesaro had it won, getting his tag team partner disqualified and starting some long-expected dissension amongst the Real Americans. WWE’s on a real tag team breakup kick lately, breaking up the Prime Time Players, constantly teasing us with Dean Ambrose defecting from the Shield, and now this. I’ll be honest, if the team breaks up with Zeb Colter revealing that Cesaro “isn’t even really FROM America” and demanding to see his birth certificate I’m gonna love it.
Best: Interesting Creatures
I’m a huge fan of little moments like this. Instead of Josh standing backstage and asking somebody HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TONIGHT and then staring off blankly into space when they tell him they’re gonna win, we join The Shield in mid-conversation. That catches us up on why Dean Ambrose wasn’t around during the finish of the Elimination Chamber six-man (it’s never explained, but he assures us that he’s tired of repeating himself), continues the Shield interpersonal issues without an overdose of drama and allows Bray Wyatt to do what he does best — show up out of the shadows and unnerve people simply by interacting with them.
He calls Roman Reigns an “interesting creature,” which is an awesome follow-up to that scared face he made when Roman was breaking out of Sister Abigail the night before. We’ve seen Bray on the defensive, but he always finds a way back around to his creepy, confident core.
“I’m outta here!”
Best: John Cena Goes Full John Cena (And Gets Got)
John Cena, being John Cena, stands in the middle of the ring on Raw, declares the WWE Network evidence that the future is now (?) and reiterates that anyone hoping to be a part of said WWE future would have to “go through him.” Bray Wyatt shows up, announces that he and his family are the REAPERS THAT BRING DEATH TO THIS ERA OF LIES and beats John Cena mercilessly until he’s carted off in a stretcher. Does that count as the future going through you, John?
I loved this (and Cena deserves an Academy Award for selling that leg injury, which I think everybody in the world thought was legit), but man, how many chances are we gonna get before Cena gets his Jumbo moment? If you don’t watch Japanese wrestling, Jumbo Tsuruta was (for lack of 10 pages of explanation) the John Cena of Japan for like two decades. Multiple time champion, popular conquering hero, etc. He was on top forEVER, until the late 80s hit and a bunch of talented young guys started rising up. Jumbo thought he was fine, but these kids kept getting better and better. One of them, Mitsuharu Misawa, ended up in a match that he seemingly refused to lose. Jumbo kept beating him and beating him and Misawa kept coming back. There’s an epic moment in that match where Jumbo gets this strained look on his face, and you can see in his eyes that he’s coming face to face with his own mortality … the truth that one day he WON’T be on top. He’ll be gone, and these kids he’s been trouncing on a regular basis will grow to be stronger than he ever was. All in his face. It’s amazing.
That’s what I’m waiting for with Cena. That one guy, that one match where win or lose, Cena sorta realizes that he’s not gonna be the Unstoppable King Of Everything forever, and that his declarations that the “future has to go through him” have come back to bite him in his ass. Usher in a great era of Old Bastard John Cena, throwing lariats and brutalizing the rookies and doing everything he can to hold on to a glory that is rightfully no longer his. I think he could do it, and he could do it well. Maybe Wyatt’s not the one to get that treatment, but SOMEBODY is.
Best: Christian vs. Sheamus
I talked a lot about Japan on the last page and don’t want to alienate anybody, so here’s a paragraph about how I wish Sheamus would rip off Christian’s legs and beat him to death with them.
The running theme of last night’s show was “15 minute intervals of guys trying to seriously hurt each other to get a WrestleMania spot.” I feel like this should be the underlying story of every WWE March. WrestleMania is the biggest show of the year. The “showcase of the immortals,” the thing you’ve been working all year to be a part of. The most money. Hanging out with Kardashians. Whatever. If your job is to hurt people for a living, shouldn’t you be trying to SERIOUSLY hurt them right before this big show? Especially if you’re one of the people like Sheamus and Christian who are just on the outskirts of having a guaranteed Mania match?
Big E and Cesaro almost shoot murdered one another in their match, and the Sheamus and Christian went out for like sixteen minutes and just pounded each other in the neck and face until they were delirious. It was awesome. This was my favorite match on the show because Sheamus and Christian are one and two on my list of under-appreciated in-ring workers on Raw. I hate the term “workers” but shut up. Whether they’re particularly compelling and interesting characters or not, Sheamus and Christian almost exclusively deliver high quality matches and never quite seem to get the glory guys like Daniel Bryan and Cesaro get. Maybe it has something to do with that legitimate independent wrestling pedigree pretentiousness or maybe they just don’t seem incredibly dynamic, I don’t know … but what I do know is that George Jetson’s gangly orange ass showing up on Raw means a good match is about to happen, and I love him for it.
You know a match is good when Sheamus is raw chicken-colored. He can wrestle Orton for 40 minutes and be action-figure-ready at the end, but when he wrestles a guy who can take it and dish it right back out, he finishes all pink with his mouth open and his hair matted down like a dog’s. It’s awesome. The first WWE game that accurately reproduces this phenomenon is my favorite game ever.
Worst: Green Bay
The only downside (to the whole night, with a few exceptions) was the crowd. A preemptive “sorry, I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about the OTHER people from Green Bay” disclaimer for anyone in Green Bay currently reading this.
Y’all sucked. Bottom line. You gave Des Moines a run for their money in the shitty wrestling crowd department. I’ll touch on it again on the next page (and will probably compare it to joshi, because I’m insufferable), but there is no excuse to chant “boring,” “CM Punk” and random wrestling personality names during a physical, nearly 20-minute match between notable stars on the wrestling show you paid to see live. You’re going to ruin that ecosystem we’ve built where “Randy Savage” and “JBL” are chant code for “this is the legitimately crappy stuff.” Even that is tired and pointless. Now you’re doing it during a Raw that dares to give you wrestling matches instead of 40 seconds of Fandango rolling up R-Truth?
Get a grip, Green Bay. You shit the bed last night.
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Think About Christian
Well, one of those guys is right. Please don’t ruin your carrier. :(
Best: Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (No, Seriously)
Firstly, the fact that Kane’s name is now actually “Corporate Kane” because he got a corporate job is hilarious. If I get a job at a call center my name isn’t suddenly “Call Center Brandon.”
Secondly, I understand the rage you might be feeling seeing Daniel Bryan get shoehorned into a match against Triple H at WrestleMania instead of getting a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship he should already be holding, but it’s gonna be all right. Remember, WWE is not real. A wrestler you love winning the WWE title isn’t necessarily like your favorite baseball team winning the World Series. These things are decided by committee, and are often given to characters who “need” the belt for some reason, be it media appearances or necessary storytelling plot points or whatever. Wrestling titles haven’t meant “this is the best guy in the promotion” since the territories went under. Furthermore, a match against a high profile guy like Triple H can probably mean a thousand times more and be a thousand times better of a “WrestleMania moment” than winning a title belt, especially when it’s a story that goes all the way back to last summer and assumedly ends with the most invulnerable wrestling jerk in the world showing ass to the people’s hero. Yes, there’s a chance that it ends with Triple H beating Bryan — a GREAT chance, frankly — but that very-real possibility is part of what makes Bryan/H so important, and a Bryan victory mean so much.
So don’t sweat it. Bryan’s getting the showcase he didn’t get at the last two WrestleManias. WWE’s merchandise commercials are built around him. He’s still getting great matches on every show. If the match ends with Triple H pinning him and making him look like an idiot on the big important show to “set up” some sort of shitty comeuppance on a follow-up pay-per-view nobody watches, THEN get mad. Because God, that’s the rub.
Worst: Michael Cole Is The WWE Universe
“How can you not root for this guy??”
“He IS an A+ player and he should be champion!”
Remember when NXT season 1 started up and Michael Cole wouldn’t stop calling Daniel Bryan a worthless nerd because he didn’t know anything about him, and was tired of other people telling him he was great? Remember last night on Raw when JBL was all “The Authority’s right!” and Cole wouldn’t stop pedantically shout-yelling about how Bryan’s the true uncrowned champion who is beloved and works hard and deserves to win?
Michael Cole is the WWE Universe. Wrestling fans in a nutshell. He talks shit about people he doesn’t know about, then pretends like he’s always loved them when they get popular.
Best: The Crowd Pops When A Woman Does A Cool Wrestling Thing Instead Of Just Standing Around Acting Stupid
Say what you will, but this match is an (unintentional) statement on how to make women’s wrestling work. When Emma makes her contextless entrance doing her dance, the crowd sits on its hands. The announcers are all HEH HEH THE NXT CROWD LOVES TO DO THIS DANCE like that’s gonna make anybody do anything in Green Bay and Emma does her thing to start the match. Everybody sits on their hands. They do some dumb hair-mares and have Summer yell HELP HER SANTINO and everybody sits on their hands.
At the end of the match, Emma locks on the Emma Lock and taps Summer out. The crowd goes YEAHHHH out of nowhere and starts giving Emma a reaction and doing her dance. See how that works? If you have a nice looking woman playing “wrestler’s girlfriend,” have JBL call her ugly five seconds after she appears and have her just walk around in circles acting like an idiot, people aren’t going to care. Have her do something cool in a wrestling ring? INSTANT FANDOM. Why do you think Lita is a Hall of Fame legend? 98% of her matches were garbage, but she did some cool shit and people remember that, and people love cool shit. Let your wrestlers do things a crowd might enjoy instead of the opposite. ROCKET SCIENCE.
Best: This Is How The Elimination Chamber Tag Titles Match Should’ve Gone
Road Dogg makes the Usos look like wieners by telling them to leave the ring for his introductory recitation, so they respond by superkicking him in the face and splashing him to death for a quick, decisive victory. Isn’t that how the title match at Elimination Chamber should’ve gone? The New Age Outlaws get a title shot they don’t deserve because they’re friends with The Authority, end up with the titles, then get BOOM ROASTED by the next real team they face. And if you’re building to a rematch, why do this match here instead of at Mania? Wouldn’t that be a “WrestleMania moment?”
Anyway, the match was short, but earns an eternal Best for featuring someone kicking Road Dogg in the face for talking too much.
Worst: God Damn, Green Bay, Get Your Shit Together
1. The crowd booed the Usos for interrupting Road Dogg’s pre-match recitation even though he was finished before he got interrupted.
2. The crowd chanted “JBL” and the other synonyms for “boring” during a BRAY WYATT VS. ROMAN REIGNS match.
What is wrong with you?
Bray vs. Roman wasn’t the thrill-a-second match the pay-per-view six-man was, but it wasn’t supposed to be … it was two huge future stars colliding and establishing ground rules. Bray is methodical and capable of taking apart even the strongest, most popular guys, which is sort of a test run for his match against Cena (I’m guessing) at Mania. Roman has trouble in singles matches because he’s so used to the team dynamic of The Shield, a squad built around bailing each other out and having the other man’s back, but he’s got a ton of natural ability, so it eventually clicks and works itself out. I don’t want to be that “I appreciate the Muppets on a much deeper level than you” but damn Green Bay, what the f*ck kind of wrestling do you want? You’re booing the long matches, you’re booing the short ones. You’re booing the old stars, you’re booing the new ones. Did you seriously just come to this show to see CM Punk and JBL?
Best: Dean “Too Many Clothes” Ambrose
The Shield dissension continues, not in the feud with the Wyatts, not with Dean Ambrose attacking Bray Wyatt and drawing a disqualification, but in Dean buying way too many clothes and breaking the Shield aesthetic. He’s the PERSONAL SHOPPER of The Shield, King! Maybe that’s what happened to him at Elimination Chamber. Bray punch-walked him backwards into an Express For Men.
Where does this leave The Shield and The Wyatts for WrestleMania? I legitimately don’t know. They wrote in a Cena leg injury, but that wasn’t to write Cena out of the show, it was to give him a dumb body part to tape so he can have an excuse selling for Bray and more odds to “never give up” against. If they’re doing Cena vs. Bray, they can’t do a rematch of the Shield and Wyatts from Elimination Chamber. Do they do Rowan and Harper vs. Ambrose and Rollins? Do they put the Shield and Wyatts in a fourway against the Outlaws and the Usos? Do they add in the Rhodes Brothers and Rybaxel and do some sort of tag gauntlet? A tag battle royal? If Ambrose turns on Rollins during that match, does it mean less because he didn’t turn on Reigns?
More importantly, does Dean Ambrose show up to Mania in a full gimp costume with a fur coat over it and some rain boots?
Best: Brock Lesnar Wants History To Conquer
I think I lose whatever “smark” credit people give me every time I geek out for Brock Lesnar, but that’s a word used by the trogs of wrestling conversation, so here goes.
Brock Lesnar, as he showed by standing in the ring with him once, is everything Batista wants to be. A guy who is larger than life, stronger than shit and seems important even when he’s lost his last few matches. He’s a guy who causes gravity by existing. When Paul Heyman lists off his accolades it doesn’t seem like any of them have been handed to him, and that he actually kinda DOES deserve to be in the Orton vs. Batista match, because f*ck those guys, BRRRROCK LESNAR.
I think if you’re gonna built a feud with the Undertaker on short notice, this is how you do it. Have a guy demand history, then be given the greatest history of all. There is a 0% chance Brock wins the match (if there was a percentage lower than zero, he’d have that instead), but they’re gonna do everything in the world to convince us otherwise, and I think that’s the fun of Taker’s streak. Brock doesn’t lose anything by losing to Taker, and we finally get a payoff to that time Undertaker went to a UFC show and got all in his face. I really hope they figure out a way to get that footage on Raw. Let Dana White ring a bell in New Orleans or something.
Best: Taker Looks More Like Bumi Every Year
Maybe he should be wrestling The Rock.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
“Hello my name is Mark Ambrose, I’m an attorney and I’m here to try and find my brother Dean.”
Space Monkey Mafia
Welp, I guess the pen was mightier than the sword tattoo.
MEAN MARK CAL-LOUS *CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP* MEAN MARK CAL-LOUS *CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP* (Am I a Green Bay citizen now?)
Aaron Paul spends all of next week referring to Sheamus as “Mr. White”.
Heyman: NO ONE HERE WILL ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE TO TAKE ON BROCK LESNAR?
(Lights out, gong, music,crowd goes nuts. Spotlight works its way up aisle, over to the side, to Wade Barret)
Barret: Expecting somebody? I’m afraid I’ve got some BAD NEWS…
Brock N Roll
Chicago, please melt my heart with a “Green Bay sucks!” chant next week.
* you have unlocked Dean Ambrose’s autograph signing outfit*
John Michael Hall
So will it be revealed that Dean Ambrose actually ran into 3MB in the back and was recruited away from the Shield in order to start a new band – – Moxley Crue?
Vince Mcmahon: WWE NETWORK, goddamnit, Hogan, you had one job!
Hulk Hogan: I don’t job to anyone, brother – HH.
Batista’s back is the color of tarnished pennies
Thanks for reading, everybody. See you next week. Get your CM PUNK chants ready, because oh God.