– 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, listed the 29 worst celebrities in Mania history and ranked The Streak. Tomorrow we’re looking at the best WrestleMania one-match wonders.
– Share this column or people won’t order WrestleMania! I think that’s how it works:
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– If you’re interested in my WrestleMania week/weekend schedule, these are the definites: I’m getting into New Orleans on Wednesday night to hit up the Wonder Years show. Thursday I will probably hit Axxess (Roman Reigns! Paige! Cesaro!) and Friday is a New Orleans Zephyrs game and OH YEAH the world premiere of Meet Me There, which you become my friend for life by attending. Also you’ll run into a bunch of people named “Rhodes.” Saturday’s up in the air unless I can get some cheap-ass GA to SHIMMER, and then Sunday is Mania. Monday is “drive home so you don’t miss the one good Raw of the year.”
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for March 31, 2014.
Worst: Betting Odds For The Undertaker Set At 1:1
I want to let myself go and believe that Brock Lesnar could take out the Undertaker and end The Streak at WrestleMania, but … yeah, no. What have they given us so far? A month of The Undertaker playing “mind games” and dominating Brock at every turn, scaring him to death, stabbing him in the hand with an ink pen and chokeslamming him through a table. What has Brock gotten in return? One F-5. Brock Lesnar hits his finishing move on Undertaker ONCE and the announcers are all, I THINK HE’S GONNA DO IT MAGGLE THIS SUNDY THE STREAK COMES TO AN END.
Really guys? I understand that it’s your job to say why the guy who obviously doesn’t have a chance has a chance. Without that, you’ve got no drama. The problem is that you’ve got to earn that drama, and you can’t just say WELL HE PUNCHED HIM ONCE THAT MEANS SUREFIRE DEATH INCARNATE FOR THE GUY WHO STARTED WRESTLING AT WRESTLEMANIAS IN 1991 AND HAS NEVER LOST. Brock has looked like a supreme goober since the second that pen went into his hand. Are we supposed to believe the Undertaker is thinking, “oh no, I planned for everything EXCEPT HIS FINISHER, what am I gonna do now?”
The sad thing is that this is par for the course for WrestleMania builds. Mania’s the one time of year when people are buying your show based on it being WrestleMania, and are interested in “the matches,” not in what’s gonna happen or how you built to it. You just announce “The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar” and that’s enough for people. The casual fans who were gonna be interested are still interested and aren’t wasting their time watching Raw. The people watching Raw are obviously gonna order WrestleMania. So why not just tread the shit out of some water?
That all said, it’d be pretty amazing if Brock just trampled Taker, kimura’d him in five minutes, broke The Streak like it was nothing and then unceremoniously retired again. The fallout would be tremendous.
Worst: Battle Royal Builds
I’m gonna be making this same point for the entire column, aren’t I? Two things hurt a go-home WrestleMania show most:
1. The fact that WWE doesn’t want anybody doing anything and getting injured, so guys who need to look strong going into Mania get easy wins against people who don’t, and everybody else stands around and talks.
2. As mentioned in the opening, casual fans tuning in for Mania aren’t wasting their time with Raw and regulars are gonna order and watch Mania no matter what. Because of this, WWE’s short attention span theater gets turned up to FULL BLAST and almost nothing means something or matters.
They’ve got an Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal coming up, so they need to arbitrarily pick a few people they see as “favorites” heading into it. The Big Show is an obvious one (more on that later), and Alberto Del Rio “won the largest Royal Rumble in history” so he’s another. Big E has the Intercontinental Championship and is a young star of color so he’s THE LEAST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE WORLD.
That gives us matches like this one, where Del Rio just kinda takes Big E’s most basic offense and wins without a lot of effort. It goes against everything they’ve been building in regards to Big E and his title, but with Christian being instantaneously erased from history and whiffing his C-show title match there’s really nothing left for Big E to do. So E becomes the thickest Kofi Kingston ever, makes a guy fans are never gonna think looks good look good, and … nothing matters.
I’m gonna be really happy when we’re done with WrestleMania. I can’t take many more of these nihilistic GET TO THE FIREWORKS FACTORY Raws.
Best: Alberto Del Rio’s Music!
Welcome back, old friend. Can we drag Ricardo out from behind the Spanish announce table? Preferably without the Mexi-bucket?
Worst: Feuding Over Stuff We Filmed Like A Year Ago
WWE needs to pick a timestream for Total Divas to occur in and stick with it. I feel like Raw happens in Green Anchor and half the Divas division accidentally wandered into Red Waterfall. Remember when Natalya and Tyson Kidd got married, but she was still The Great Khali’s girlfriend and then suddenly the Raw announce team’s acting like she’s on her honeymoon? Remember last night on Raw when Summer Rae and Natalya were suddenly feuding over a slap because it “happened” on Sunday, even though they filmed the show forever ago and the slap was featured in all the Total Divas season 2 highlight videos? Yeah, we’re watching women’s wrestling through a big magnifying glass.
The match itself was also surprisingly garbage. Summer won with a wimpy kick to the head from the apron? When did Summer Rae set her strikes to critical? I know both of these women can work. I’ve seen Summer Rae blossom into a compelling butthole on NXT, and we’ve had almost a decade of people justifying Natalya as great and just “misused” on Raw. So why is it that every time Natalya gets a chance to shine ON Raw she totally screws it up? Is it a stage fright thing? Can she just not go in front of that many people? If Natalya went to TNA would she suddenly be the best women’s wrestler in the world?
Worst: Natalya Driver ’14
I’m giving it its own Worst, because WOOF.
NATALYA DRIVER DAAAAANGEROUUUSSSSSSSSS!
Worst: You Can Stop Licking Your Hand Now
When did Summer Rae start working a Brittany Murphy in 8 Mile gimmick?
Best: The Stephanie McMahon Diss Track
Glorious. Absolutely freaking glorious.
My month of suddenly loving Triple H continues. How could you not love him after watching that video package? It’s such a magnificent encapsulation of everything we’ve ever hated about the guy … his wife is narrating this self-serving video about how he’s easily, unstoppably crushed every popular wrestler ever for his own gain, specifically because you liked those people, and how he’s gonna do the same to Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania.
It’s the perfect mixture of truth and fiction. In truth, he HAS beaten all these guys. In fiction, most of them have beaten him, too, and he certainly didn’t do it fairly and easily. No “pretenders to his throne” stuff. The suggestion that Chris Jericho and Mick Foley aren’t legit WWE legends is hilarious, and we got to see so many faces we don’t see on a regular basis. Kurt Angle! Kurt Angle doing cool things, identified by name! SCOTTY STEINER lumped in with the “Hall of Famers.” WILLOW. THE WILLOW MADE TRIPLE H’S VIDEO PACKAGE. It would’ve been the greatest thing in the world if they’d come back from the video package and Stephanie was suddenly a plastic skeleton.
But yeah, THIS is why I’ve loved The Authority so much lately. They’ve hit that perfect sweet spot of being absolutely reprehensible heels, but being just justifiable and correct enough to give themselves validity as a threat. It’s just fantastic work from everyone involved, including whichever production guy put together that package. The only way it would’ve been better is if they’d set it to Placebo.
Worst: Def Comedy Jam’s Dave Batista
“Black people powerbomb like THIS!” *does powerbomb*
“White people though, white people powerbomb like THIS!” *does powerbomb, awkwardly rolls backwards like a baby learning how to walk*
Best: Jack Swagger
It’s all about Cesaro, I know, but Swagger continues to be the most underrated guy on the show. Also, is he Digivolving into Brock Lesnar? Whatever, him catching a flying Matador in an ankle lock out of a crossbody is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while, and if they keep him and Cesaro together as these big monstrous strong types who are PRO WRESTLING KILLERS that can put you in whatever move they want whenever they want, I’ll love them dearly for as long as possible.
Worst: Twin Magic
Of course, Los Matadores win the match via TWIN MAGIC, aka “cheating horribly.” The one who got caught in the Patriot Lock rolls outside and is replaced by a fresh man, causing Swagger to get rolled up and pinned. The announce team just kinda chuckles about it, which has always been a pet peeve of mine … Gorilla Monsoon would GIVE ME A BREAK guys to death over cheating, but when Hogan would pull the same thing (often with Jesse The Body astutely pointing it out), Gorilla’d pull some “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” shit to justify it. Lawler doesn’t even go that far. He just chuckles until they change the question. HEH HEH GOTTA PAY ATTENTION.
Cesaro should remedy this at WrestleMania by giant swinging both Matadores at the same time. Possibly while they’re holding El Torito. That entire match was put together so Cesaro could swing twins and launch a bull midget into the stratosphere, wasn’t it?
Best: Los Matadores’ Music
It still sounds like the level music from a Streets Of Rage game.
Worst: Is The Rhodes Brothers Vs. Fandango The Worst Feud Of All Time?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see the Rhodes Boys win another match, but how many times do we have to watch these guys clumsily beat Fandango? The Rhodes Brothers are GREAT, and it’s currently pro wrestling’s biggest travesty that these guys who anchored the Authority storyline at its worst and helped revitalize the tag team division are stuck slumming it as guys #14 and 15 in a 30 man battle royal instead of participating in some notable, important tag titles match. Granted, the tag titles match at Mania is a pre-show schmozz with four teams in it, but yo, couldn’t Rybaxel’s pointless asses get shuffled into the Andre the Giant Memorial instead of your ace workhorse team?
On top of that, why are you dragging the Rhodes Brothers along the bottom of the damn pool in these throwaway matches with Fandango every week? Fandango has lost pretty much every ounce of worth and coolness he had circa this time last year and barely seems like he knows how to take a step without dancing the Sin Cara. He’s teaming with Damien Sandow, who has the momentum of a f*cking gravestone. I know you have to fill three hours of wrestling, but why not allow the dynamic, easily-loved characters like Goldust and Cody to at least have mini-stories going into the battle royal? Give the fans something to be interested in and cheer about beyond “we are currently seeing wrestlers.” It doesn’t have to be big. Maybe a thing about how they’re both kinda shifty-eyed because they’ve thrown one another out of Royal Rumbles, so they don’t have a ton of confidence going into the Mania match? I don’t know, have Goldust run into Piper backstage? SOMETHING.
Worst: Truth Is A Young, Tough Superstar
Jump to the 1:00 mark. JBL refers to the 42-year old R-Truth as a “tough, young superstar.” Let me put this into perspective for you: Truth is 16 years older than Bray Wyatt. R-Truth is a teenage human being with a driver’s license older than Bray Wyatt. JBL works with both of these people and is paid to know and talk about wrestling for a living.
Best: A Wolf In Sheep’s Jorts
The money of this segment comes at the end, when a mysterious third Wyatt Family member emerges from the shadows and confuses everyone into paralyzed silence until the lights come on and BAH BANNA BAAAAAAA IT’S JYEERRRRRRRN CENA! Cena whips off his lamb mask and starts trying to Attitude Adjust everyone in sight, causing the Wyatts to flee.
This was great, and the kind of thing Cena probably should’ve been doing for the last … uh, decade. Instead of standing in the middle of the ring in a shirt that might as well be a flashing arrow singing some song about how he’s KINDA LOVED and KINDA HATED and THAT’S ALL RIGHT, Cena simply seemed for once to understand his opponent and respond to them appropriately. The Wyatt Family is all about their image. Daniel Bryan proved that if you make the Wyatts think they’re winning they lose focus, and you can sorta sneak in and beat them up. Cena simply came at them from a different angle, scrambled their sensors and got the “win.” That’s how you do it.
The best part for me was the follow-up interview with Renee Young, where Cena says he’s gonna give Bray change. He’ll have to change the way he walks, because he’s gonna stuff his foot up his ass. You know, that’s really all I’ve ever wanted from Cena … for him to stop the wishy-washy “everybody’s correct” nonsense and start being JOHN CENA. He’s an infinity-time champion who barely feels pain, isn’t afraid of anyone and has overcome every imaginable odd. Why is he still showing ass to people in promos? He’s just going to no-sell everything and pin them, or make them submit to a move where he’s simply holding the sides of your head. That is MASSIVE POWER. All I want is Cena to respond to a challenge with EAT A DICK, WHOEVER, I’M JOHN CENA, YOU CAN’T HURT ME WITH ANYTHING AND I’M GOING TO RIP YOU IN HALF WITH MY BARE HANDS. Because he can do that. Because he’s JERN. He’s earned it. JERNED IT.
Fantasy booking: Bray gets what he wants at WrestleMania by luring out some dark side of Cena, losing the match to an STF with barbed wire or whatever while his entire body’s covered in blood. Cena stands up, looks at his hands and makes us think he’s gonna get emotional about it, but just smiles and is like YEAH I AM THE BEST WRESTLER EVER.
Worst: 14 Divas In The Ring In A Single-Fall Match Sounds Like A Great Idea, Everybody
So that’s how we’re doing the Aloisia Memorial Divas Battle Royal at WrestleMania … as a single-fall match for the Divas Championship with all 14 women in the ring at the same time. Is the idea to take as much focus off of Eva Marie as possible? Are they gonna give her a shower cap and tell her to lie down under the ring until the match is over? Shouldn’t we have done it like that horrible Cruiserweight Open at WrestleMania XX, with everyone surrounding the ring and people running it one at a time to take quick pinfalls until it’s over? Or maybe just do AJ vs. Naomi and tell Rosa Mendes or whoever to go screw when they come looking for a WrestleMania payday?
Worst: This Entire Thing Seems Unfair
AJ Lee is still the heel, right? Why is she facing 13 people who want to kick her ass in a match set up by a heel general manager? On top of that, why is she being forced to compete in a lumberjack match where everyone wants to beat her up, but won’t touch her opponent? Doesn’t this entire thing seem super unfair?
How great and weirdly concerning would it be if Punk’s been kept off TV all this time just to return at WrestleMania, and his role is to run in during the Divas match and start KENTA Rushing and Go To Sleeping a bunch of Divas? Like, imagine if Punk’s music hits and the crowd goes wild, and the next thing you see his him roundhouse kicking Layla in the face? Wouldn’t that be HORRIBLE and amazing? Bring back Punk as a staunch supporter of women’s rights who expresses his beliefs by doing wrestling moves to women. Misandry, the wrestler! SPRINGBOARD CLOTHESLINE TURNS EVA MARIE INSIDE OUT.
Worst: LOL Cameron
Naomi wins the match, so Cameron gets in the ring and starts posing on the ropes. GURL BYE.
Worst: Jerry Lawler’s Weirdly Uncomfortable Intro To The WWE App Vote
Here’s video, if you missed it:
The book says, “We might be through with the WWE App, but the WWE App ain’t through with us.”
Best/Worst: The Crowd Likes The Shield More Than Any Individual Shield Guy
Roman Reigns got 80% of the fan vote, but the crowd was dead during his match. They started getting excited when Ambrose and Rollins showed up. What does this mean, exactly? To me, it means a couple of things:
1. That Roman Reigns isn’t quite ready for a big epic singles run, nor should he be, because he’s only been on TV for like a year.
2. No matter how much people like individual members of The Shield, it’s The Shield people like.
Assuming these two things, can we say that not breaking up The Shield is one of the best decisions WWE’s made in a long time? If you keep them together, you get a fun team dynamic that WWE doesn’t have enough of, and you can easily turn the entire squad face by simply having them focus on extracting justice (or whatever) from bad guys instead of good guys. This is what they’ve been doing, and it works. On top of that, you keep the team together and allow these characters and performers to gestate in a comfortable environment for as long as they need, protecting them and letting them work with/gain experience against the best wrestlers in your company. Why are these guys so much better than they were two years ago? Because they’ve spent the last year wrestling Goldust, Daniel Bryan, The Usos, Sheamus, Cena and pretty much everyone else worth a damn in the ring on the show. How much better will they get if you keep them safe and moving forward constructively for another year? For another TWO years?
Roman is great, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes there’s a real value in being excited to see someone at the end of a tag or trios match instead of having to be with them from the beginning through the end.
Worst: Why Was Piper Even There
On the 29th anniversary (or “30th anniversary” if we’re going by WWE math) of the WrestleMania 1 main-event, Rowdy Roddy Piper hosts an installment of Piper’s Pit that is 100% an excuse to do the “everybody fights” ending to a battle royal build. Piper basically just keeps getting interrupted and yelling LET ME TALK while more and more guys come out, and eventually people start entering to theme music (?) and an impromptu battle royal goes down.
Of course, Big Show is the only person of note here, because Show’s the only person I can see reasonably winning the first Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. He’s a giant. A giant’s gotta win the giant battle royal the first time out, right? Especially if he was Andre’s kayfabe son for however long that was. ESPECIALLY if he’s nearing the end of his career and isn’t going to be at many more WrestleManias. What’re you gonna do, give it to Rey Mysterio? To dick Rey Mysterio who befriends the Big Show to keep from being beaten up and then 619s him in the stomach? Why, so you can call him BIGGEST LITTLE MAN some more? Who else could even win this, Sheamus? Del Rio? They aren’t getting the LOOK HOW GOOD HE IS AT BATTLE ROYALS push.
Just a big ol’ waste of time. The highlight was Heath Slater’s reprise of the greatest Big Show KO ever, and JBL’s deadpan “run, Heath, run.”
Best/Worst: The Actual Main Event
The Orton vs. Batista main event on Raw was … surprisingly kinda good while it lasted. “No disqualification” has become a weird code for wrestlers who can’t work compelling matches within the rules anymore, so whenever Batista or Triple H or the Undertaker wrestle it suddenly has to be NO DQ so they can wander around on the outside forever and break shit to be exciting. It works, though, and I am not gonna poo-poo Dave Batista getting hit in the back with a chair.
Triple H and Stephanie were on color commentary and Daniel Bryan showed up from out of nowhere to start a fight, and that — wait, that ENDED the match? Wasn’t it a no disqualification match? Shouldn’t the Orton/Batista match still be going independent of the fights happening around it? Did they fight into some sort of dark match we missed because of Chrisley Knows Best? Did Chrisley know the rest of the match would suck?
Best: The Daniel Bryan Beats Triple H To Death Parts
I don’t think I’ve seen Triple H bump this hard or thoroughly for someone since he was slopping around in a hog pen. H gives Bryan EVERYTHING here, flailing backwards over the ring steps, climbing over the timekeeper’s wall and just generally Dolph Zigglering Bryan’s entire offensive output. It was GRAND. I think all I needed was a break from Bryan, because the repetitiveness of the YES chant was boring it too deeply in my brain and making it into too much of a meaningless cue … having him disappear for a show and a half only to show up with nothing but HANDS AND FEET OF DEATH was a welcomed change, and I’m now in a comfortable spot where I can appreciate Triple H’s beautiful, beautiful work and still want Bryan to knee him in the face and pin him in 18 seconds.
Of course, the law of reverse momentum says that Bryan getting the better of H here means he’s losing at WrestleMania. But that couldn’t happen, could it? I honestly think the best storytelling opportunity for Mania is to have Bryan lose to Hunter, still find his way into the main event via some sort of loophole (Triple H cheating, for example) and then going over three-of-four Evolution guys at once en route to his title win and Big WrestleMania Moment. Right? If we’re gonna go for full satisfaction, we need full, illustrated satisfaction.
And then Corporate Punk can show up and ruin everything.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
When you have cable, you settle into a mindless corporate job.
When you have a corporate job, you begin to fantasize about having limitless power.
When you fantasize about limitless power, you call on 2 subordinates to beat each other with chairs while you watch joyfully.
And while you watch joyfully, you let a little goat man sneak up and beat the hell out of you.
Don’t let a goat man beat the hell out of you…
Get the WWE Network.
Stephanie is fighting every instinct in her body, her very genes themselves, to not just start screaming “WHAT A MANEUVER!”
Iron Mike Sharpie
This is one animal I wish the Cophenhagen zoo would actually euthanize.
Mistico sends his regards!
There aren’t enough coconuts in the world for this segment.
Just call Roman Reigns Ronald Reagan and the other two Michael and Dukakis.
Ewe can’t see me.
Sheep #1: Did you take out Lil Jimmy?
Sheep #2: No. I kill the bus driver.
Sheep #1 Bus driver?…
I ripped off my Stackdown Cena’s legs and yet he still kicked out at two and won the match.
TRIPLE THREAT IS AN ANAGRAM OF TRIPLE H TREAT
Thanks, everybody. See you at WRESTLING-STYLE MANIA!