– Don’t be an Al-Bore-to Del Rio. Be A SHARE-TISTA!
– As always, your love and comments are appreciated. If you’re searching the pre-show notes for an explanation on why this is up on Wednesday afternoon instead of Tuesday morning, look for it on the next page. Actually, look for it on page 6 and work your way backwards.
– Go read about that movie I made with the gold guy in pink gloves from this show, now featured at FilmDrunk. Our world premiere has been announced for April 4, 2014, in New Orleans. You know, where other important things relevant to your interests are happening.
Click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for February 3, 2014.
Worst: I Know You Wanted This Column Written On Time, BUT I’M AFRAID I HAVE SOME BAD NEWS
So, here’s a quick recap of my last two days.
I flew from sunny Austin to surprisingly sunny Pennsylvania on Friday to be at National Pro Wrestling Day, an incredibly little get-together of friends and masked types that involved a time-traveling DeLorean, the rebirth of CHIKARA and at least one instance of me eating a gigantic vegan cinnamon bun at a wrestling show. It was killer. Everything was going surprisingly well until Monday, when I woke up to a bunch of snow and the announcement that my flight home had been canceled. Long story short, I walked through my front door at around 1 on Tuesday, nearly 22 hours later than expected. So that … that sorta crushes your morale and ruins your ability to expeditiously write the wrestling jokes.
That was followed by me trying to watch the show on Hulu, which left out a lot of it and began with a CLEARLY not-rehearsed Xavier Woods introduction. Second long story short, I apologize if this week’s column runs or reads a little shorter than usual, or if its funniness is replaced by pictures of me with my head on a desk. I will return to my normal spouty outrage next Tuesday.
Actual Worst: Jerry Lawler
I also would’ve accepted:
Bad News Barrett: “YOU SPENT THE ENTIRE SUPER BOWL EATING JUNK FOOD AND GIVING YOURSELF HEART DISEASE, HAW HAW HAW”
Lawler: “Hey Bad News Barrett! …. I’ll think about it!”
Is Jerry Lawler, the guy we watched literally die of heart failure on Raw, sticking up for the crowd’s right to remain immobile and kill themselves with food? Shouldn’t this guy be advocating jumping jacks and vitamin water by now? I know pro wrestling sorta caters to the Sonic and Popeye’s crowd, but damn, maybe have Barrett rag on Broncos fans or people who have tricked themselves into loving watching commercials or something.
Anyway, “hopefully you won’t be here next week” is an opinion, Jere-Bear, not “news.” The only way that’s news is in the WWE App definition, where “Smackdown airs tonight” is considered “breaking news.”
Worst: Mom And Dad Join Facebook
One of the reasons I liked Daniel Bryan joining the Wyatt Family only to immediately turn on them and pay off an angle people expected to run for months was because I’m so used to how they usually tell stories. Take, for example, the Authority’s opinion of Randy Orton. How long have they been telling this exact same story without changing or evolving it? The Authority wants Randy Orton to be the face of the WWE. They tell him he has to do it on his own. He does it, but with help from the Authority. Then they immediately start telling him they don’t believe in him and he has to do it on his own. So he gets put in a bad situation and either wins or wins with help from the Authority … and they IMMEDIATELY START TELLING HIM THEY DON’T BELIEVE IN HIM AND HE HAS TO DO IT ON HIS OWN.
Here they are in f*cking February doing another top-of-the-stage argument about how Orton needs too much help (help they repeatedly give him whether he asks for it or not, but only after promising him they won’t) and must do some ridiculous task they’ll eventually help him with to prove that he’s the fake champion they put in place falsely. WHAT IS GOING ON. If the idea is that they’re all heels in on it together and they’re just trying to put on airs that they aren’t, fine, we’ve done that. We’ve told that story. We get it. If the idea is that Orton needs this constant, stupid motivation to remain the “face of the WWE,” why are we still doing it? Either The Authority legitimately doesn’t think he’s worth all this effort and stops doing it, or they get behind somebody else. As it stands, it’s just line-walking where they want to be super villains, but they also want to be the popular hand in charge of the flagship show. I don’t get it.
It’s not even a matter of me liking it or disliking it, even, I just have no f*cking clue what the purpose of all of this is. And Triple H leading YES chants, facetious or not, have rendered YES chants uncool. Even the crowd didn’t seem to want to do them afterwards. Thanks a lot, Dad, you embarrassed me in front of my friends.
Best: Dean Ambrose, The Shitty Friend Who You Like But Wish Would Stop Sleeping On Your Couch
First of all, the back of Rey Mysterio’s head looks like a testicle in a jock strap.
Second of all, the opening six-man tag between The Shield and Big E Langston/Kofi Kingston/Rey Mysterioston was enjoyable, mostly because of how much effort they’re putting into making Roman Reigns look like Kratos. Dude just gets into the ring and screams and jumps around and murders you, and you can make him bleed but he barely cares because SUPERMAN PUNCHES.
Third of all, Dean Ambrose tagging himself in and taking the pin on Big E Langston (and thereby taking away some of Roman’s Handsome Prince glory) was GREAT. Classic and effective. I continue to love how the Shield reacts to situations like real people, where they can get mad at one another to the point of throwing blows, but understand that they are nigh-unstoppable as a unit and do their jobs well enough that they should probably shut up and team together like normal. They’ve been “about to break up” for how long now? It still feels like it’s coming soon, but stalling the breakup adds more and more color to these guys’ singles characters, and gives us more time to soak in these six-man tags that we’ll desperately miss when they’re gone.
(More on the Shield being Raw’s only regular dudes a little later on.)
(seriously though, Mysterio’s head looks like one of Bill Eadie’s ass cheeks)
Best: The Dream Of WWEECW Is Alive On Raw
The next match was Jack Swagger vs. Christian, who is currently week 2 of his 8 week cycle of coming back from injury, putting on a few enjoyable matches, making us think they’re gonna do something with him and then getting hurt again. The upside to that is that one of his enjoyable matches was this one against Jack Swagger, which made me think about their respective runs on the WWE version of ECW, aka my favorite thing in the world that most of you hate. That show was THE BEST. It was Full Sail NXT before Full Sail NXT was a thing. Hot vampire ladies, Mark Henry going from zero to hero, goofy rookies who eventually become legendary, all of it. If it hadn’t been called “ECW” we’d all be in agreement.
Anyway, Swagger and Christian was fun, and ended with Christian getting a surprise win off a sunset flip and being excited about it, mostly because he didn’t have to spend the next 8-to-14 minutes trying to set up a Killswitch. That allows Christian to get a little momentum heading into Elimination Chamber and furthers the issues of the Real Americans, specifically how obviously superior Antonio Cesaro is to Swagger in the eyes of JACK SWAGGER OF MARS enthusiast Zeb Colter.
Speaking of …
Best/Worst: I’m So Sorry, Antonio Cesaro
Was this facial expression a work or a shoot?? My two sentence column:
Worst: Did They Seriously Just Have A Regular Tag Match Inside A Steel Cage
For the second week in a row I’m put into the uncomfortable position of Worsting the Rhodes Brothers for something, because yes, they seriously just did have a regular, tags-necessary tag match inside a steel cage. I’d be more upset about it if I hadn’t lived through a wrestling promotion doing a blindfold match and an arm-wrestling match inside of steel cages before, but yeah, it became really obvious that the cage was only there for the spot at the end, and that none of the four gave much of a shit about preparing beyond that. At least Goldust got his gloves back!
I keep wanting to point out the deadness of the crowd, but I don’t know how much of that was based on the in-ring stuff and how much of it was wanting to see CM Punk and knowing they weren’t gonna. It all just seemed deader than usual, with the YES chants seemingly done out of obligation to the bit (similar to the WOO WOO WOO chants on the Broski Boot … nobody gives a shit about the Broski Boot, they’re just supposed to do that right there) and random “C-M-PUNK” chants starting up out of the blue. Eventually WWE’s gonna paint themselves into too deep a “WE’RE MAKING THE AUDIENCE UNHAPPY ON PURPOSE” corner and people are gonna flip.
But yeah, while we wonder where CM Punk is, here’s 20 minutes of the New Age Outlaws throwing jabs. ENJOY.
Best: Cody’s Dumb Jump Has Turned Him Into Jeff Hardy (Yes, This Is A Best)
I guess I’m gonna blame jetlag (and carlag, and waiting-forever-in-an-airport-Salad-Works-lag) for not liking any of this, not even Cody’s moonsault off the cage, which was KurtAnglian in his superfluousness. He was clearly in control of the match, then suddenly noticed that he was a cage and thought it’d be a good idea to backflip off of it onto one dude. The move itself was nice, but it only clipped Road Dogg in the shoulder, so it kinda looked like he was jumping and falling into nothing. Like I said, like Kurt Angle.
The good part of this is that it aided the story, with Billy Gunn being able to CRITICAL~ Cody with a Fame-asser and win the match, assumedly because Cody had nearly killed himself flopping from 15-feet up. If we’re still moving toward a Cody vs. Goldust match at WrestleMania — and for all intents and purposes, we should be — I love it. Now they each have legitimate, modern problems with one another. Goldust accidentally eliminated Cody from the Royal Rumble. Cody’s recklessness cost them the tag team titles. Those issues can bleed into recent past issues (Cody eliminating Goldust from Rumbles, Goldust fighting for Cody’s job for him and losing, whatever) until we’re all the way back in DAD PAID MORE ATTENTION TO YOU territory and shit gets real. Then we get the match we have to have at some point on the grandest stage, when it makes more sense than it ever will.
Worst: The Miz, SHOOTIN’~!
Was the Miz walking out during Titus O’Neil’s match with Zack Ryder to say he was unhappy being left off the show a work or a shoot?? A GIF on a page of ads that explains my point of view:
But no, I actually really love The Miz joining the Daniel Bryan/CM Punk/Dolph Gizzler “I’m being held down IN REAL LIFE, THIS ISN’T PART OF THE SHOW” train because LOOOOOOOOL, of course he is. Here’s the thing, Miz … those guys have talent. Like, unusual amounts of talent. Daniel Bryan is the best pro wrestler in the world and has been hearing “you’re not gonna make it because you’re too small and pale and boring” his entire life. CM Punk was regularly the best part of the show FOREVER before he ever had a chance to break through and get the same spoils as guys like John Cena and Randy Orton. Dolph Ziggler has a great connection with the audience (when he isn’t cutting babyface promos, at least) and bumps harder and more thoroughly than anybody in wrestling. Miz, you are a former reality TV star and game show contestant who had about three good months before you got concussed and had the worst WrestleMania main-event ever, then another good two months before The Rock showed up and emasculated you. Now you are quite possibly the most difficult pro wrestler to enjoy and support because we can only base what we think of you on what we see on television, and very, very little of that shows an upside. You plateaued with an Ozymandias meets Nas pre-entrance video. I don’t know how to explain this to you. If Punk says he’s better than Ryder and Titus, he’s right. When you say it?
I’ve gotta say, I was happy when I thought we’d moved beyond that Vince Russo era of “the rest of the show is fake BUT THIS IS REAL” stuff, and the PG Era’s only going to make it seem phonier.
Best: Heel Titus O’Neil, Unbelievably
Miz’s argument might’ve held weight if Modern, Awful Zack Ryder had been wrestling NXT rookie Titus O’Neil, but Titus has made a lot of strides towards becoming a legitimately enjoyable pro wrestler. I don’t think the Prime Time Players needed to break up, and in a world of Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar and Alexander Rusev or whoever we don’t need another guy like this, but if heel Titus is gonna make a go at it, he’s off to a good start. His Backstage Fallout episode where they try to “ask him a few questions” about turning on Darren Young and his response is “you watched the show, right? Rewind it” was perfect. Him gingerly setting Ryder on the top rope, pausing, then shoving his ass to the floor was also great. I can get behind this, even if Several Years Ago Me is raging on the inside.
I think my ultimate fantasy booking is Titus O’Neil becoming the best and most popular guy in WWE, Ethan Carter III becoming the best and most popular guy on Impact, then the companies coming together in an Invasion-style angle where their top guys square off and we finish f*cking NXT Redemption.
Worst: “Just Because It Works In NXT Doesn’t Mean It’ll Work On Raw” Is The New “Just Because It Works On The Independents Doesn’t Mean It’ll Work On Raw”
10 years or so ago when I got really into independent wrestling and tried to argue that guys like CM Punk and Bryan Danielson were the future of wrestling (I wasn’t the only person saying it, don’t get me wrong, but I was saying it), the talking point was “they’re too small. They don’t know how to work in front of big crowds. What they do works because it’s just 50 people in an armory. They don’t know how to connect to larger audiences. They’re too small. They’re too pale. They don’t know how to do (one aspect of pro wrestling).” Eventually those guys, uh, worked hard to perfect their craft and became huge, international millionaire stars. The gist from mainstream wrestling fans at the time was, “I like things the way they are and have an understanding of them, and I’d prefer they not change.”
Now, as independent wrestling continues to fracture and stretch to the extreme niche interpretations of what makes wrestling good, NXT sorta stands as the “independent wrestling” of 10 years ago. A static, passionate thing produced for a couple of hundred people in the same building every month, featuring a bunch of guys who’ll make it, a bunch who already have, and a bunch who won’t. It acts as the step below WWE television, where guys sorta have to bust their ass and do their jobs to get a WWE TV gig proper. As people get called up from the Full Sail version of developmental with these confusing, often-complex but overwhelmingly simple gimmicks you’ve heard nerds rave about for months, the new talking point is, “just because it worked in front of a tiny audience in Florida doesn’t mean it’ll work on Raw.”
To an extent, that’s true. Raw viewers want instant gratification. They don’t want to take the time to get to know anybody or watch them grow. At the same time, if you show up ready to go and instantly gratify, they think you’re being “shoved down their throats.” They think you need to take your time and grow. It’s a horrible Catch-22 that contributes to WWE’s belief that wrestling fans shouldn’t be catered to because they’re never happy, no matter what you do, and you might as well make money off the casual jerks who at least seem to really enjoy you for a minute. They’re totally right.
At the same time, just like 10 years ago, there’s truth to the argument. What we rarely understand, however, is why. 10 years ago you couldn’t have plucked Daniel Bryan out of Ring of Honor, put him in a WWE Championship match and expected anybody to care. He wasn’t ready, even though he was one of the best wrestlers in the world. WWE is not “wrestling,” it’s WWE. Independent wrestling is not “wrestling,” it’s independent wrestling. These things all have markers and divisions. It’s ALL wrestling, and you have to be primed and ready and work within the confines of your job’s interpretation of wrestling. It’s why Kofi Kingston can’t go to NXT and just do his Raw shit. It doesn’t work. Similarly, you can’t pluck someone like Emma out of NXT and just pop her onto Raw doing what she does and expect it to fly.
On Raw, Santino pulled her out of the audience for a dance contest against Summer Rae. He called her “Summer Day,” which was pretty funny, but no, dance contests are the worsts. They’re popularity contests already, and now you’re asking a WWE crowd to, without context or warning, accept Emma’s shitty dancing as a thing to cheer for simply because they know they don’t like Summer and Fandango. You aren’t really teaching them anything, entertaining them or explaining who Emma is or why she dances like that … you’re just saying “cheer this, because it’s not the thing you boo.” That’s lazy. It’s not going to work, and it’s not doing Emma any favors.
Imagine it in a purely WWE context. Instead of plucking Daniel Bryan out of ROH and expecting him to be over in WWE, imagine you take YES chanting, goat-shirt-wearing, bearded Daniel Bryan out of oblivion, without any of the stuff that actually built him into this character and endeared a wide audience to his WWE character, and placed him in a WrestleMania main-event. The crowd wouldn’t MOVE. They wouldn’t do anything but mildly clap and boo. Getting a wrestler over is a process, it’s not coming up with a good idea and expecting people to get it. Bryan gets these reactions because he’s earned them, and, most importantly, he’s been allowed to (or forced to, however you wanna look at it) earn them. We know and understand Bryan. NXT loves Emma because of the same reason. They know and understand her. They know why she dances and what she’s gonna do and how she’s gonna react to situations. She’s great at wrestling, pretty, endearing and goofy as shit. On Raw, she’s only goofy as shit, and without all that other stuff we are never, ever going to care.
I know I’m supposed to be writing an abridged version of this column, but Jesus Christ, WWE, don’t make me dislike a second of Emma. Don’t bring up Paige as a “jealous bitch” who wishes she was blonde and on a reality show. Don’t bring up Bayley as Lady Eugene. Don’t bring up Sasha Banks as Allegiance-Hopping Black Diva #4. Be proud of the work you’ve done to create what could be a GENERATION of great women’s wrestling, and don’t be afraid to understand what you’ve done in put in the work again.
Best: Steel-Toed Boots With Extra Lifts
Sheamus vs. Curtis Axel happened. The highlight was the Backstage Fallout about it, where Sheamus breaks out SHEAMUS FACE (aka The New Poopies) and Ryback makes me laugh right the hell out loud by saying Sheamus only knocked out Axel with a Brogue Kick because he wears steel-toed boots with “extra lifts.” I love you, Big Guy. You should be this on television (with a hint of your “I HATE YOU, INTERNET” for good measure) and not whatever else you’re doing.
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Think About Sheamus Defeating Curtis Axel
Best: The Shield
I don’t know why WWE Fan Nation left them out, but the best parts of the show were the post-match Tron promos from the Wyatt Family and The Shield.
In the first one, The Wyatts interrupt The Shield’s victory celebration with your standard mindf*ck Bray Wyatt promo, with the added bonus of hearing both Luke Harper and Erick Rowan talk. The gist is that Wyatt has observed the Shield and understands them, and he knows how to both deconstruct and destroy them. Love it. In the second one, The Shield responds in MAGNIFICENT FASHION by telling Bray they don’t live in his world of “lamb masks and haunted rocking chairs” and are going to swat team him to f*ck at Elimination Chamber.
I love this so much. It’s a shame that the feud will (assumedly) only extend through Elimination Chamber. I didn’t know I needed a team of mercenaries battling a cult of pagan hillbillies in some sort of The Raid-style Elimination Chamber scenario, but HOLY SHIT DO I EVER. I want Wyatt to bring a hundred cult followers with him to the Superdome only for The Shield to tear through the roof in a helicopter and fight them all. Tell me that wouldn’t be the best WrestleMania in f*cking history.
Worst: Dolph Ziggler, Now Statistically Worse Than Xavier Woods
The Wyatt Family’s opponents were Raw’s three dancing black guys: R-Truth, Xavier Woods and Dolph Ziggler.
I liked watching Ziggler bounce around and give it his all (complete with his “reeeeAAAAHHH!” before every move, which should become the new “SHAA!”), but was also kinda depressed watching him get dispatched so easily. I don’t like worked-shoot shit ever, but Ziggler’s promos on Smackdown got me interested in him as a character again, and I don’t think there’s a guy on the show I WANT to like more and currently don’t. You are SO GOOD at getting beaten to death, Dolph, I hope the next time your train comes in you won’t give interviews and your brain’ll hold up.
WORST: This Is Total Bullshit And I’m Done With WWE Forever
Don’t believe it. Not buying it. I’M GOING TO MY ROOM.
Best: Eat An Aksa-knee, Naomi
During the match, Aksana follows Naomi into the corner and gets caught in Naomi’s horrible top-of-the-head stinkface. Moments later, Naomi goes for a sunset flip and Naomi GIVES HER A RECEIPT by dropping a knee on her eyeball. I’m not an advocate of these performers getting hurt for real in any scenario, but I’d be okay with karma repaying Naomi with serious injury every time she tried to rub her asshole on somebody’s hair.
Best: A Hat Wearing A Hat
It’s a hat! And it’s wearing a hat!
Big, happy, supplementary Best to AJ Lee for mentioning how sure, she’d give a title shot to Aksana, but she’d rather give a title shot to the two blondes who were out here dancing around earlier, because they’re better than everybody. This is the kind of fan service I can get behind … the kind that validates us for paying attention and noticing things that aren’t shouted at us via t-shirt. Emma vs. AJ and Summer vs. AJ are things we need to see before the Icing By Claire’s title goes to somebody on the non-wrestling TV show.
Worst: FANCY T-SHIRT BATTLE
On one side: Jack Twist, ready to continue walking for miles inside his pit of whatever.
On the other: Alberto Del Rio in Batista cosplay.
Who will survive?
Honestly I think Batista’s point of view here was good, because his return SHOULD have nothing to do with Del Rio, and Del Rio’s obsession with him should make ADR the heel. The cheap shot, too. The problem is twofold:
1. Everything Batista’s done up until now has been the opposite of his “hey man, I don’t have a problem with you” talking point, because they’ve been having Twitter beef for a month, Batista powerbombed him on Raw and eliminated him from the Royal Rumble before winning to a chorus of boos. Del Rio’s kinda the default face here because Batista represents the “part timer showing up to get a paycheck at the expense of the regular guys” thing that has pushed Daniel Bryan around and made CM Punk leave the company. Only thing is that ADR’s being the clear heel about it, so we can’t (and don’t) like anybody.
2. I refuse to believe Alberto Del Rio would wear jeans and a t-shirt. This is clearly Elseworlds.
Best: Daniel Bryan Wins (Nothing)!
Randy Orton (the heel) is being forced to individually wrestle all five of his opponents as we build to Elimination Chamber. First on that list is Daniel Bryan, who — as Daniel Bryan does — had an amazing match that validated basically anything else on the show in terms of “should someone who missed this try to seek it out and watch.” I’m not gonna tell you to watch for the bad dance contest, Emma or not, but I’ll tell you to find this and watch it in total.
It’s so good. Orton can be good-to-great without Bryan in the ring, but Bryan brings out the best in him. His moves become more impactful, a lot of his convoluted stuff gets worked in more naturally (hanging DDT aside) (they should really put that out to pasture) and his big stuff like the exploder suplex and the powerslam become REALLY BIG when he hits them hard near the end. Bryan sells the hell out of the shoulder, too, and little (but major) stuff like staying down on the missile dropkick because he just landed on it help create a world where this fight actually exists. We’re allowed to accept that pain creates consequence, and become interested in how the guy we like will fight through it. That’s so much better than a Hogan or Cena thing where the “fighting through it” is just ignoring it.
Great stuff. I’m not sure it’s the best match they’ve had together, but it’s the best thing I could ask for in terms of Raw main-events.
Worst: Delayed Fire
I am … not sure how happy I am with Bryan getting shuffled into the “feud with Kane, then with Triple H” thing Punk was supposed to be in, but if it leads to Bryan making Triple H tap to a YES Lock at WrestleMania, I’m all for it. Especially if THAT leads to a Kane and Triple H post-match beatdown and a CM Punk return in the style of the Ultimate Warrior.
Or hell, Warrior himself running down in the style of the Ultimate Warrior. (Maybe not that.)
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
I bet Cameron was psyched to get one over on her idol Alicia Fox
Batista-Del Rio feud is going to culminate in an Axe Body Spray on a pole match where the winner gets a thousand dollar gift certificate to Affliction.
Professional Ameteurish Wrestling
Can we turn Batista into Mexico’s greatest import?
Listen, I think we all knew there was a high probability that Emma wouldn’t translate to the WWE Universe at large and work the way she does at NXT. NXT is Voltaire’s Panglossian ideal (“all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”), but the general WWE Universe is the realistic conclusion Candide reaches that we basically have to work as best as we can with the awful shit we’re dealt.
“Investigate Zack Ryder. Zack Ryder is an inside jobber perpetrated by the WWE Authority.” -The Miz
That was like watching a Nikki and Paolo episode of lost.
Batista is an anagram for Baa Tits
Renee Young: So, Christian…Friday night on Smackdown, you qualified for the Elimination Chamber match. How does it feel to have One More Match (TM)?
Renee Young: Christian?
Christian: …CLAP…CLAP…CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP–
Renee Young: Back to you, guys…
Christian has the body of an Alcoholic Mechanic in a Lifetime Movie
When Cesaro swings Christian in the chamber, he’s going to finish just holding feet.
Thanks, everybody. See you on time next week. (I hope.)