– Be sure you’re also reading our WrestleMania-related lists! So far we’ve done an official, scientific ranking of all 29 existing WrestleMania main events and listed the 29 worst celebrities in Mania history. Tomorrow we’re ranking The Streak, so be here for that.
– Sharing this column prevents me and Joe Manganiello ganging up on you and throwing you out of With Leather.
– I’m still under the weather, so preemptive apologies for any parts of the column that are out of whack.
Please click through to enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for March 24, 2014.
Worst: Everybody Argues And Then Dave Batista Splits His Pants
Last night’s show opened with Stephanie McMahon announcing that Daniel Bryan wouldn’t be in the building tonight and reiterating a few of the more … subtle points from last week’s Heinous Assault. Randy Orton interrupts her to agree with her and kiss her ass a little before trying to wedge Triple H out of the oncoming WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania. That brings out Mumbles The Beige Bear to mumbleshout into a broken microphone with his broken voice, some shots are fired, and …
I don’t know. What’s the point of this? What was done here that wasn’t done a billion times better a little later in the show when Triple H had a sit-down interview with Michael Cole? I’ve loved Stephanie as a performer as much as anyone as of late, but a Raw opening featuring three characters the crowd doesn’t like taking 15 minutes to say they don’t like each other isn’t exactly compelling television. It was well done, aside from Batista, but this is one of those things a two hour show might’ve nixed or consolidated and been better for it.
That said, it was pretty awesome when Big Dave acted like a bad-ass and split his pants.
Recommendations for avoiding this in the future include “wear adult clothes sizes” and “don’t have a body that makes you look like a Manglor.”
Best: Forget That HERE IS AN AWESOME MATCH
Nothing makes me happier than when Raw switches up its formula and surprises us by not only delivering a great wrestling match, but a kind of great wrestling match we aren’t tired of seeing. Raw’s big on giving us something good and just beating it the hell into the ground, so sometimes just a fresh go at the Creative Dry Erase Board can do wonders.
The first match on last night’s show was a fatal fourway between Sheamus, Christian, Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio for a shot at Big E’s Intercontinental Championship. It was SO GOOD, YOU GUYS. What it lacked in pace and storytelling it made up for in motherf*ckers throwing bombs at each other, and all you have to do is listen to the crowd response (to EVERYTHING) in the WWE Fan Nation video. Want to see how good Sheamus is in a match where he doesn’t just Fella Up and Brogue Kick somebody for the win? You’ve got it here. Want a reminder of how good Alberto Del Rio is when he isn’t stuck in the same story rut he’s been stuck in since his debut? Got it. Wish you could go back to a time when “he looks like Bart Simpson” wasn’t the only identifier for Christian and he could win matches because he’s good at wrestling? Done. REMEMBER WHEN YOU LIKED DOLPH ZIGGLER? Oh man, you’ve got it here.
Everybody looked great, and there are so many moments to point out. I think my favorite is Del Rio’s kick to the back of Christian’s head after Christian powerbombs Ziggler. It looked like he scalped him. Big E even sold it on the outside. The finishing sequence was great, too, although Sheamus really needs to realize he’s not the right kind of strong to do the Bob Backlund armbar reversal. Every time he’s ever done it it’s looked like garbage. Thankfully Dolph was there to neuter it before it got embarrassing.
Great, great stuff. Don’t be afraid to let your wrestling be EXCITING, guys. Remember exciting? You can still do that. The Shield aren’t the only guys on your roster who can do it.
Best: The Reality Era Begins With A Cartoon Dog’s Guest Appearance
Is it weird that I have a picture with both of these costumes, but neither of these guys?
Worst: Poor, Poor, Poor, Poor Damien Sandow. Poor Damien Sandow.
How hot is it inside Scooby-Doo? If the match had gone more than a minute would Scooby’s human have died of heatstroke or something? Cole and JBL barely even have time to run Damien Sandow down and put over Scooby-Doo WrestleMania Mystery before Sin Cara wins with the Sinton Bomb (or whatever it’s called). That’s it?
Ah well, at least I got to check “see Scooby-Doo in Sin Cara’s mood lighting” off my bucket list. I really do hope it was Camacho in the dog suit. I want Hunico and Camacho to be best friends who are also MASTERS OF DISGUISE forever.
Worst: Another Minute-Long Match
The opening match of the show was so good. What happened? Did the guy in charge of making the show entertaining decide he could only focus on three matches and put Divas creative in charge of the rest? Perro Cara squashes Damien Sandow in 60 seconds and the next match is Los Matadores using the worst Raw trope of all — “I’ve been distracted by something outside the match and THIS ROLL-UP HAS CRITICAL’D ME” — to pin Rybaxel in not much longer than that. It’s such a waste of time to even pretend you’re gonna have a match.
The weird/awful part is that they announce Rybaxel as the team GETTING A TITLE SHOT AGAINST THE USOS AT WRESTLEMANIA, then immediately have them lose via meaningless roll-up to a team that’ll only be at Mania if the stars of Occulus need a midget to emasculate. Why even do that? Why go through the motions? If The Shield’s gonna show up and wreck Rybaxel for what happened on Smackdown, why not have them do it immediately? Does Rybaxel losing to Los Matadores “send them a message” or something? Does Los Matadores gain ANYTHING from pinning the #1 Contenders, or will this be forgotten like every other “whoops I got rolled up because of YOU” story? It’s such a dry circle-jerk.
Furthermore, how terrible is the announced Usos vs. RYBAXEL tag titles match? I can’t imagine it’ll go on like that without the Real Americans and whoever else being added in, but man, Goldust and Cody Rhodes spend a year having great tag matches against everybody in the company and they’re battle royalin’ it up while CURTIS AXEL and the goddamn RYBACK get a showcase title shot? Doesn’t seem right.
Best: Face Shield Tho
Compliments to the chef for how The Shield is acting right now.
Usually when a wrestler or team changes allegiances they completely change who they are … The Miz goes from “slow, condescending talking” to “childish jokester” in a heartbeat. Mark Henry goes from bloodthirsty puppet master to dressing up like Santa. The Shield, though, has managed to avoid that completely and maintained every single thing we like about them without compromise for a broader appeal.
The scene where they go backstage and ask Triple H where they stand is a perfect example. In a normal WWE world, The Shield turns face, goes backstage and is all WE DON’T TAKE ORDERS FROM YOOOU ANYMORE!! In this world, the oddly pitch-perfect one, they are just like “uhhhh, so what’s up” and Triple H is all, “it’s cool, guys, that shit’s between y’all.” THANK YOU. Furthermore, all you have to do to switch from Heel Shield (Heeled) to Face Shield (helmet?) is readjust their targets. They’ve always been about justice, right? Just make their “justice” justifiable. Have them jump guys who’ve wronged them, like Ryback, instead of arbitrarily taking out Cena or whoever.
In the ring, all you have to do is let Dean be Dean, let Roman be Roman and open up Seth’s offense a little more to spotlight his agility. It’s the easiest thing in the world, right? Why am I so shocked that they’ve done the easiest thing in the world?
Best: Triple H Is Better Than He’s Ever Been
“I know, why don’t you guys send me a TWEET and express your displeasure!”
The dangerous thing about Triple H is that he’s absolutely right. It’s been the thing pushing me over to the dark side over this entire buildup. What he’s saying about the audience (and the wrestlers) being soft, complainy jerks is CORRECT. Hell, I should know, I’m one of the guys he’s talking about. What can I do when something bad happens on wrestling? I don’t have any power. I don’t have the gutsy fire in my belly to rise to the top of the WWE as creative or a writer or whatever and change things, because of excuses and expectations. Guys like CM Punk are IN positions of power to effect change and they use it for themselves, for their own glory, then whine and bail when something doesn’t come to them perfectly. Taking the easiest way out. Getting glorified for it because that’s how the rest of us live and hope and dream. We want IT, but we don’t want to WORK for it. It’s the truth.
The best thing that happened this week is Daniel Bryan taking a week off, and Triple H being left to talk to himself. Why? Because it let us focus deeply on Triple H and remember that while yes, what he’s saying is correct, he’s being a total piece of shit about it. The point should be that a control freak who rose to a position where he could write his own history and legacy is worried about a man writing his own with lightning. The point should be that the man who says what’s right and wrong doesn’t DESERVE that power, and that those of us who DO work hard and DO battle through adversity and DO stand on our own two feet can rise up and knock that man out.
Triple H is doing some of the best mic work of his career right now, and the Siege Perilous of the story is whether or not he allows his self-righteousness and internal vulnerability to cost him in the end. If we can bring the story back around to actually address these points and say them out-loud so they’re an accepted as intended parts of the story to validate Bryan’s run beyond “we want the guy we like to win most,” that’s gonna be something special.
Best: Solid Gold Dancers
Summer Rae vs. Goldust is a feud I could get into.
I agree with Bill Hanstock that the match should’ve been Goldust calmly walking to the ring, drawing a revolver, shooting Fandango dead in the ring and then calmly leaving. I don’t like that Cody is winning squash matches against Fandango instead of moving forward with his career like he ABSOLUTELY SHOULD BE DOING RIGHT NOW, I don’t like that the Rhodes Brothers are closer to “Santino and Emma” than “The Shield” right now and I don’t like that we did ANOTHER distraction finish, but whatever. I’m not gonna Worst Summer Rae saying “are you mocking me” and Goldust yelling YES I AMMMMM in her face.
If you liked Goldust dancing, please considering going to see his horror movie about not dancing.
Worst: A Brief Reiteration About The CM Punk Chants
It’s been a while since I formally discussed CM Punk, so I wanted to take a moment to do that here.
When it happened, I took a pretty hardline “it’s a work” stance, so I’m gonna stand by that until the end of the post-Mania episode of Raw. I thought Punk was going to show up in Chicago, but maybe that was too obvious, so I sorta informally consider that New Orleans Raw the point of no (logical) return. If I hang onto it beyond that, I run the risk of being the “move the goalposts” guy who justifies Punk showing up in 2016 as it all being “part of the scam.” That’d be dumb.
Anyway, I don’t think they’d be repeatedly directly and indirectly referencing Punk as much as they have been (or refusing to “future endeavor” him from his contract) unless it was building to something, so here we are. If Punk shows up to help Bryan at Mania, that’ll be awesome. If he shows up the next night on Raw to keep The Authority from retconning Bryan’s big Mania moments, that’s also awesome. If Punk shows up as soulless corporate champion Phil Brooks and GTS’s the belt away from Bryan within 24 hours? BEST THING EVER.
You’ve gotta let everybody give up hope before you let them find the light, right? Worst case scenario, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw 4/7/14 begins with “sorry everybody, I was wrong about the shoots and the works.”
Best/Worst: Miz Gets Flo Rida’d
Yes, if The Miz had gotten beaten up by Scooby-Doo this would’ve been a Best.
I love Arnold. I’m not a monster. Him putting over Hogan’s “pumped-up piceps” and just generally saying anything makes me nostalgic and happy. How I imagine Hogan makes a lot of you feel. The difference between Hogan and Arnold is that after he made The Running Man and Kindergarten Cop, Arnold didn’t show up with all his friends in Die Hard and ruin it for me.
So yeah, Hogan, Schwarzenegger and Also Celebrity Chuck Mangione do a little three-way putter-overy that Feels So Good before they’re interrupted by The Miz, who takes offense at Hulk Hogan’s novelty suggestion that these randomly occurring guests should be included in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Miz does the “woe is me” routine that works a hell of a lot better if you’re Dolph Ziggler, mentioning how people are “still talking” about how he defeated John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 27. He’s right. I mean, just this month I put up a feature and named it the worst WrestleMania main event ever.
What Miz doesn’t remember to mention is that a celebrity guest actor is the reason he won that match, and he pays for it by having 2-3 celebrity guest actors beat him up and toss him out of the ring. If this’d happened to anybody but Miz I’d probably be up in arms and typing furiously about it, but F the Miz, especially if it involves dramatic Arnold Schwarzenegger backhands.
(Note: Can we actually get Chuck Mangione on Raw?)
Best: Razor “Scott Hall” Ramon Gets Into The Hall Of Fame
Firstly, LOL at “before Stone Cold Steve Austin, before D-X, before The Rock…” What, you mean 1995? Those things all happened at the same time. You aren’t taking a trip back through the ages. That’d be like inducting Big E into the Hall of Fame and being all, “before The Wyatt Family, before Emma, before Xavier Woods, there was Big E.”
Secondly, I like Razor Ramon getting into the Hall of Fame to continue Diamond Dallas Page’s Buck O’Neil run as the guy who works hard to save all these peoples’ lives and get them eternal recognition, but never gets the glory himself. I saw a lot of people on social media get upset that they’re inducting “Razor Ramon” specifically instead of Scott Hall, but it makes a lot of sense to me. For one, inducting the character is a good way to honor the man without spotlighting what a horrible time that man had for the last decade and a half. For another, it makes it a little cleaner and easier when they induct Hogan, Nash and Hall as the nWo whenever they’re in a year low on guys. Certainly better than “FLAIR, THEN FLAIR AGAIN.” Even Hogan gets inducted as both “Hollywood Hulk Hogan” and “Regular Hulk Hogan.”
Thirdly, they should let Scott Hall induct Razor Ramon. Fourthly, make him do that horrible accent the entire time. FIFTHLY, X-PAC IN A SUIT.
Best: Luke Harper Kicks John Cena’s Ass
I’ve been wanting a long, competitive John Cena vs. Luke Harper match since this Wyatts/Cena beef started, and I wasn’t disappointed. I can’t remember many matches where a guy just TRUCKED Cena like Harper did … everything Cena tried, Harper had a counter for. When he locked on the STF, Harper just put his hand up and clawed him in the eyes. When he went for the Five Knuckle Shuffle, Harper reached up and poked him. It was great and sustained all the way though, to the point that Cena had to change up his offense to gain an advantage. The Surprise Cenacanrana came through in a pinch, but so did Cena’s GRUFF VETERAN LARIAT, which is one of the best things that ever happens on Raw.
It’s not a thing that matters to or sticks with everybody, but I’ve always found a great value in a “hard fought” match. If Cena takes 30 seconds of offense and then rolls you up for a pin (the Erick Rowan match), it’s pointless. If you beat the dog mess out of each other for ten minutes, sometimes it doesn’t even MATTER what the finish is. I didn’t honestly expect an ending beyond “Attitude Adjustment, pin,” but watching Harper repeatedly poke my expectations in the eyes was fantastic. I think the best singles “worker” (as much as I hate that term) on Raw this year has been Cena. Cena/Harper and Cena/Cesaro are both killer, and examples of Cena helping elevate guys simply by portraying them as his equal.
Best: But Yeah, The Finish Too
If I was a kid, this would’ve scarred me. As an adult, I’m kinda with the Brooklyn branch of Full Sail University in saying this is awesome. How do you hurt something that can’t feel? Especially when you don’t know if Bray’s talking about himself or you. That’s incredible. Bray HAS to come out of this WrestleMania match looking better than he did going into it, WWE, however you’re planning to accomplish that. Just make sure it happens. It’s the difference in you having a New Undertaker and a New Kane. One’s gonna make you a ton of money over the next decade. The other one’s gonna be the big scary guy you feed to whoever’s supposed to be the new big scary guy.
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What they Think About Cena/Harper
Worst: oh for the love of
“You and I have history together! I got you fired from Raw, you stole my boyfriend, but you know what I am willing to forget all of that, because the one thing that I do want to tell you is that you are a real BITCH!”
Great writing, Tommy Wiseau.
Best: Shield Vs. RealAms
This was a damn masterpiece of a tag match. Everything about it worked. You’re taking two groups with incredible forward momentum — The Shield and Cesaro, who I’m counting as a group — and running them into each other headfirst. On top of that, you’re giving them a prime time slot, giving them plenty of time to work and letting them more or less do whatever the hell they want.
So what you get is creative offense (Swagger’s flapjack into the ankle lock was magic), Cesaro taking bumps into the crowd, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose being able to fire up a crowd by just excitedly doing what they would’ve done methodically as heels and everything just being fun and wonderful. Keeping The Shield together was the best idea WWE’s had this year, and I hope they’re maintaining it, because it’s got so much room to grow.
On top of that, how awesome it is to see The Shield getting huge face heat for putting jerks through tables with the triple powerbomb? I love that they’ve basically just discovered that they can SERIOUSLY back up whatever they boast, so they might as well be beloved while they do it. Besides, how can you not love these guys? One of them won’t stop jumping over the ropes at people. Another one stuck his head in a rhino’s vagina before he wrestled and won’t stop wrestling like a mad man logically should, and the third has a GUN ARM THAT SUPERMANS.
Just to formally say it again, thank you, WWE, for taking what I love about the Shield and making it okay for everyone to love.
Best: ‘Sup Noelle Foley
I see you in that crowd. I want to say nice things about you, but the lady behind Seth is ruining it for everybody.
Best/Worst: If You’re The Kind Of Person Who Likes Undertaker Coffin Gags, You’ll Love This
Sadly, I’m not that guy.
In my brain, Lesnar should’ve been the first guy to ruin Undertaker’s dumb mindgames trap. When the druids rolled out the big coffin, Lesnar should’ve pounced on them, destroyed them, tipped the coffin over. Set it on fire or something. Go digging around under the ring, drag Taker out by his horrible New York Slice mohawk and pummel him in those dumb blue lights. That’s what I wanted. Lesnar’s already fought the Undertaker plenty of times. Hell, he beat him in a HELL IN A CELL match. HANDILY. Why is he afraid of coffin gags?
Furthermore, I don’t think the Undertaker tried hard enough. Why not kill the founder of Jimmy John’s and deliver HIM in the coffin? That’d be a lot scarier to Brock than Uncle Grampa sitting up unexpectedly.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Wait … Scott Hall, Jake Roberts and the Ultimate Warrior in the same place? Is this a Hall of Fame induction or an intervention?
POINT AT WRESTLEMANIA SIGN
It’s believable that Brock actually thinks magic is real.
Batista is so winded he sounds like a Speak & Spell.
His Mic is gassed
They really should have had Sin Cara wrestle Christian in this lighting and have Scooby be freaked out by the appearance of just a walking, wrestling pair of legs.
“Stansky & Rosenberg send their regards.”
It’s all fun and games until we have to watch HHH wrestle.
ATTN: BARCLAY’S CENTER
IF YOU ARE MISSING A BROWN LEATHER HANDBAG, WE HAVE FOUND YOUR HANDBAG
Hogan isn’t medically cleared to do an Atomic Leg Drop because when it comes crashing down, it hurts inside.
Thanks, everybody. See you next week for DA GO-HOMES.