The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 3/3/14: #hijackBestandWorst

Pre-show notes:

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– If you missed it last week, I wrote up NXT arRIVAL, which is my wrestling happy place. I’m also going back and reviewing every episode of NXT season 1, which is not.

Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for March 3, 2014.

Worst: #hijackRaw

The first thing you need to know about me is that I love pro wrestling. I love it as a thing more than I love any individual wrestler, promotion, moment or memory.

A lot of modern fandom for thing is based around who you like and why … you aren’t a Doctor Who fan, you’re a ‘Whovian,’ and on top of that it’s segmented. You’re a fan of the Tenth Doctor. You probably have a fun name for yourself and people like you. It’s less about watching and enjoying the show and about how good of a FAN you can be, and how much better of a fan you can be than the other fans, and how people who like the Eleventh Doctor are stupid and aren’t doing it right.

I run into that a lot writing this column. People show up who are Rock Fans, or CM Punk fans, and they like, support and enjoy every single thing that person does, whether it’s good or bad having no relevance to the conversation, and they’re so mad and don’t understand why you’re being so stupid and thinking too much and over-analyzing. You’re on a high horse with your PC White Knights and you’re caping up to something something and on and on. They’re in a “fandom.” Because of this, they assume that I’m in a fandom as well. I hear a lot of things like, “if Daniel Bryan did the same thing you’d think it was great,” or, “why are you still watching? All you do is bitch and complain! Do you even LIKE wrestling?”

The answer is that yes, I do like wrestling. I like it more than anything. The hook of a “Best and Worst” column is that there are Bests and Worsts. I like some stuff and I don’t like stuff, and then I write a couple of paragraphs to explain it. I rarely like or dislike something arbitrarily, and when I do, I freely admit to it. I am not the Wrestling Master or the Opinion Police and everything you’re reading here is a desperate expression of my powerful, never-ending love for the stupidest, most regressive thing in the world. If Daniel Bryan does something shitty and I think it’s such, I mention it. Remember when he started getting all sarcastic about everything? I went from “you think Daniel Bryan is infallible and make excuses for him” to “all you do is complain!” in a heartbeat. Sometimes people aren’t reading a wrestling column to find out what a random, unimportant dude thinks about the wrestling. Sometimes they’re scanning it to see if its compatible with their fandom. If it is, they pass it by. If it isn’t, they violently bump up against it to “change” it without any real will or effort, just a vague I’M TIRED OF THE WAY YOU THINK.

The second thing you need to know about me is that I use a lot of hyperbole. I use hyperbole in every thing I have ever said or done. Get it? I call things the “best match of the year” or “my favorite thing in wrestling” because in that moment, that’s how it feels. It’s fury. Bubbling, molten blood firing through my body and making my brain fire off in these weird, emotional directions.

Knowing that, my favorite thing about wrestling — sorry — is the feeling I get from a live crowd. To be more specific, I love that moment when a crowd full of weird, obsessive guys like me gets so locked into and lost in a live wrestling show that we stop being “guys on the internet” or “smart marks” or any other stupid, condescending term to describe some off-brand sect of fandom and become emotion. That’s what happens. We stop being individual people and start being a big, circular mass of emotional response.

Two examples: At Chikara’s King of Trios 2012, the trios tournament was built around two teams … the Spectral Envoy, a team of Chikara stalwarts, and Team ROH, a squad of arrogant “invading foreigners.” The Young Bucks and Mike Bennett. The easiest people in the world to boo. By the end of the third night of the best wrestling weekend I’ve ever had, the tourney came down to those two teams. We’d already been broken to the point of tears a couple of times already, so when our UL-TRA MAN-TIS chant got turned into a “dueling” chant by one lone Ring Of Honor fan (chanting “R-O-H!”) the response was quick, decisive, and organic: we chanted UL-TRA MAN-TIS over it. It was a dueling chant for Ultramantis Black and Ultramantis Black. It just happened. It was a building full of Chikara fans united in support of a wrestling story, happening in front of us in the ring.

The other example is from an ACW show in Austin last Spring. Kyle Hawk, a guy who’d been a regular but hadn’t really had the opportunity to break through, had a killer match with Davey Vega. On top of that, Hawk announced that this was going to be his last match for a while because he was leaving to fight for us in Afghanistan. He talked about his new wife and their children, and how he had a son who loved wrestling … and if the worst was to happen and he never came back, and if the BEST was to happen and that kid would grow up to be a wrestler, he asked us to give that boy the same love we’ve given him. A guy facing an uncertain future speaking all the way from the bottom of his heart. We clapped and we cried, and as he was leaving someone started singing the Star-Spangled Banner. It sounds like a cheesy moment from a shitty movie, right? But he kept singing, and someone else joined in, and soon we were all standing there with our hands over our hearts, singing the national anthem at the top of our lungs with tears in our eyes. When it was done, the place exploded with cheers. It just happened. The crowd had turned into a weird, stinking mass of love.

If you’ve gotten this far, here’s the part where I tell you how much I hated #hijackRaw.

I was part of the crowd that YES chanted Daniel Bryan, watched him lose in 18 seconds and YESSED all the way through Randy Orton vs. Kane. That bled into the next night, which created a “movement” that eventually became a corporately-owned marketing strategy. Regardless, it just happened. We loved the guy, and we wanted to show him how much. I wasn’t a part of the Money in the Bank crowd that transformed CM Punk from a popular mid-carder into a folk hero, but it was the same idea. Their hometown guy was coming home with furious indignation, ready to take the WWE title from the walking, talking Dynasty and do whatever the hell he wanted with it. They lost their minds all night long and helped fully form one of the most unforgettable moments in WWE history. It just happened.

See what all these moments have in common?

#hijackRaw didn’t just happen. It wasn’t a Chicago crowd coming together to organically share their frustrations with Punk’s situation and what’s been happening in the WWE main-event scene … it was a guy with a Twitter account who got 10,000 followers, then got as many of them as he could to print out a sheet explaining “how” to cheer. It says to chant “this is awesome” for the Shield vs. the Wyatts, to chant “yes yes yes” for Daniel Bryan and to turn your back on The Authority. It says to chant CM PUNK over everything, but to give The Undertaker the respect he deserved. A step-by-step, numbered guide on how you should feel, what you should do and what you want to change.

It’s a purposeful corruption of the thing I love most about wrestling. It’s saying that THIS IS THE WAY YOU CHEER CORRECTLY, and frankly it didn’t even make a hell of a lot of sense. You’re going to a wrestling show featuring 10 guys you’re excited to see and want to cheer for, but the absence of one disqualifies that to the point that you want to organize a grassroots campaign to “take over” the show? As far as I can tell, you only dislike three people, and they happen to be the show’s bad guys. The show’s bad guys who are the evil bosses who run the show in a way fans don’t want to see. What are you hijacking? You’re saying to boo the heels and cheer the faces. Oh, except for one or two matches, because we hate those.

As Aaron Diaz described it, it’s “crystalized petulance.” Outrage over something they aren’t even sure exists. Outrage that comes with an easily co-opted hashtag and instruction sheets. Do I seriously need to point out how phony and soulless that is? It’s not an organic movement, it’s a crowd saying “look at us, this is what WE did.” The worst part is that that kind of attitude can excuse any positive thing on the show … I had lengthy discussions with heaps of polite strangers on Twitter who, an hour into the show, bragged about how WWE had booked a show to keep them from hijacking it. These are the same people who got routinely worked and redirected by wrestlers all night. People who chanted BORING and THIS IS AWFUL chants during Sheamus/Christian, a good f*cking wrestling match, and then counted along with the Sheamus chest forearms and the pinfalls. BUT! That was added in in post! BUT! What do you mean there isn’t “post” on a live show? That audio was probably piped in over the speakers at the arena! We HEARD it! Guess what, guys? There have been good hours of Raw before. Especially on shows in major cities a month before WrestleMania. You know what your hijack movement did? It made Paul Heyman mention CM Punk in a promo at the top of the show. That’s it. And guess what else? He was probably going to do that anyway, because they’re in Chicago.

By addressing Hijack Raw and pointing it out, WWE was able to take it from the group of sad guys attempting to perform it and made it their own. They stole your movement TO YOUR FACE. Why wouldn’t they? You paid $60 bucks or whatever to show up and boo the heels as a statement. As a POLITICAL STATEMENT AGAINST WRESTLING YOU BOOED THE HEELS. You ruined a couple of mid-card matches, and Punk’s still not here. Feeling good about yourself yet?

I like CM Punk a lot. I want him on the shows, but you have to think about it.

In real life, assuming it is not a work, your favorite wrestler and hometown guy quit the company. He wasn’t fired. He “didn’t like what they were doing with him” or “didn’t like the stories they wrote for him” and got miserable and quit. Remember back when Punk was a Ziggler-esque under-card guy who once lost the World Heavyweight Championship because he got beaten up backstage by Legacy? That guy was dropping pipe bombs about how guys like HIM needed to be in the spots occupied by guys like Cena, and how WWE needed to start focusing on wrestling instead of all this ridiculous sports entertainment. He deserved to be champion, and on all the videos and souvenir cups and on the covers of the video games. Fast forward a few years. What happened? CM Punk became John Cena. WWE started focusing on signing and spotlighting guys like Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Antonio Cesaro, Sami Zayn. Daniel Bryan is the most popular guy on the show. CM Punk was WWE Champion — WWE Champion, the real one — for over 400 days straight. He recently stopped dating a WWE Hall of Famer so he could date the Divas Champion. He’s been on the cover of the video game and has been in every video and souvenir cup for years. But hey, he’s not happy that he’s supposed to be wrestling in one of the WrestleMania XXX main-events instead of one of the other ones so he quits?

In real life, assuming again that it’s not a work, that guy quitting is not WWE’s fault. They want him on the shows. He’s one of their most popular characters. They just launched a Network and have a Wrestling Mania coming up, they could use him. They have done EVERYTHING for Punk. They made it Punk’s show. The guy’s wrestling Brock Lesnar and victoriously caning his blood rival on top of a Hell in a Cell. POOR BABY. CM Punk is aware that Raw was in Chicago. He knows how much you want him on the show. In real life, this guy CHOSE not to be there for you. He chose to sit at home instead of “going out there and entertaining each and every one of you,” or whatever Cena would say.

In kayfabe, he’s a character who took his ball and went home. They’ve been gentle with his reasons for vanishing. They haven’t really said anything about it other than Heyman pointing the finger at “each and every one of you,” but he’s an unreliable narrator. Regardless, he’s not there, and as convinced as I’ve been since day one that Punk’s hiatus is part of the story, him not showing up in Chicago was an eyebrow-raiser. He’s CHOOSING not to do this.

The Fandom will come up with a bunch of reasons they’ve almost entirely made up about why Punk isn’t here, and why it’s still cool for him not to be. He’s tired. He got burned out. He’s injured and they just aren’t telling you. If that is the case, and Punk’s just a good dude taking a break, why are you hijacking the show to chant his name and demand his presence? Either he’s a piece of shit who doesn’t care about you, or he’s a guy dealing with some stuff who’ll be back when he’s ready. From either direction, what f*cking reason do you have to chant CM PUNK during an Usos match?

You only have one reason. It’s, “look at me, look at what I’m doing.”

We’re all going to feel up-our-own-ass entitled from time to time, whether it’s demanding a guy who wasn’t announced for the Royal Rumble get inserted into it anyway and win or demanding the appearance of a guy who left the company for reasons you totally understand by chanting his name at the expense of others who ARE there and hurting themselves for your enjoyment. Again, I’m not telling you how to cheer for wrestling. If you’re there at all and making noise, you’re doing it right.

That said, let me tell you how you get WWE to notice you: dead silence. “Noise” and “reactions” at wrestling shows are seen as positives, whether they are in your brain when you’re delivering them or not. Do you think Stephanie McMahon went backstage last night shaking her head in disgust, wondering what she did wrong, because people chanted CM PUNK over her dialogue? Or do you think she went, “wow, I’m getting Vickie heat out there now!” Triple H has probably been smiling his ass off since last night. You are doing what they want you to do, and you’ve either gotta be fine with that (because you should be, because “being worked” is the entire point) or change your perspective. You’ve got to consider WHY you’re doing something, HOW you should be doing it and what it all actually means.

When you think about things, it’s easy to love them. If you’re in love with the process of pro wrestling, last night was a miracle. A giant “greater than” symbol on the side of the establishment. All #hijackRaw accomplished was making Raw stressful for people who didn’t deserve it.

If you skimmed to the bottom, here’s a summarization in boldface: Congratulations on being worse than Green Bay, Chicago.

Worst: Damn, Mark Henry, Maybe You Should Challenge 3MB More Often Instead Of Trying To Throw Hands With Brock Lesnar

It’s a pretty sad day when you hear Mark Henry’s music hit and don’t get excited, because you know he’s just the world’s biggest, strongest chunk of dog food. Raw loves to hit the RAW REWIND button, and man, I feel like I’ve seen Lesnar destroy Henry a thousand times already. Did you know he can F5 Henry? Did you know he can do it on the FLOOR? Did you know he could do it THROUGH A TABLE?

Next week I want Henry to interrupt Lesnar and get F5’d from the top of a ladder. I don’t care how they get up there, I want it to happen. And while we’re on the subject of Lesnar:

1. He’s still an amazing talker because I buy him as a legit sociopathic bully, and
2. The entire Undertaker feud should be built around Taker showing up, downing an entire Quizno’s sub in one gulp and then yelling BIIIIITCH while grabbing his nuts.

Best: The Transitional Tag Champs Actually Transition

I see you, Giant Head of Colt Cabana. You don’t belong here!

I’ve been WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH-ing the New Age Outlaws since they won the tag team championships from the Rhodes Brothers and did not immediately lose them, but I’m glad to see that finally happen. The Outlaws decided to actually act like heels for the first time since their return, refusing to do their catchphrases for the Hijack Raw crowd (which I appreciated), and it cost them. The Usos kinda trounced them, as they’ve been doing, and are now an ACTUAL TAG TEAM with the tag titles. How cool is that? Tandem offense! Matching gear!

I assume the only way the tag titles will get defended at Mania is in a four-or-more team schmozz (probably on the pre-show), but I hope the Usos retain, and that the post the post Mania tag scene gets a little more dedicated focus, with or without the Ascension thrown in. Create three or four additional tag teams who only exist as tag teams and have no possible reason to break up, then use them in matches and stories. Hunico and Camacho can be one of the teams, I don’t care.

Best: Shield/Wyatts II

If you’ve read the Best and Worst of Elimination Chamber 2014 you’ll recall how thoroughly the first Shield vs. Wyatt Family trios match set my world on fire, and if you’ve read the Best and Worst of NXT Our Rival you’ll know what a sucker I am for matches that remember and play off the participants’ previous encounters. Shield/Wyatts II wasn’t as good of a match as the first one, but it was the necessary next step in the stories of everyone involved.

The quick story is that The Wyatt Family is legit. Based on what’s happened in the ring, The Wyatts > The Shield. This is going to help Bray going into his (we’re assuming) match at WrestleMania XXX against John Cena, a guy who has proven he can beat all three members of The Shield at the same time by himself. The more complex story is that the “dissension” in The Shield is so much more complex than we’d thought.

I’m not afraid to say I was legitimately shocked when Seth Rollins refused Dean Ambrose’s tag. It’s been Reigns-Ambrose, Reigns-Ambrose, Reigns-Ambrose so long that I didn’t stop to consider that maybe Rollins was the one who was gonna get sick of it and bail, ESPECIALLY since he’s been such a massive babyface performer in these matches. He’s the “glue,” the guy who pieces together Ambrose’s crazy with Reign’s handsome, arrogant prince and planchas everybody until people can hit their marks. He’s what makes the team work. And now he’s PISSED, with good reason, that his partners won’t get their shit together and play ball.

If I’ve learned anything from this Shield story, it’s that Rollins abandoning a tag attempt isn’t the end of the story. They aren’t broken up yet. Not only was Rollins justified (HOUND of justified, even), his actions directly caused Reigns and Ambrose to realize they were outnumbered and fight together as a team. They even hung in there 2-on-3 in an insane little brawl for a while until things stopped going their way … if Rollins had stepped back in at any point and starting helping, if he’d jumped over the ropes and saved the day, they might’ve won. But they didn’t, and now there’s a hard lesson to be learned.

Or not, you know? If you’re gonna break up the Shield and feud them against each other in that triple threat match everybody keeps suggesting, you finally have three distinct, reasonable, powerful characters. Reigns, the future star with tons of momentum and a chip on his shoulder. Ambrose, the crazy one racked with self-doubt who has managed to remain the most independently successful member. And now Rollins, a good guy who likes his friends but has been pushed too far.

I believe in you guys.

Worst: Finally, Stephanie McMahon Gets To Watch WrestleMania I

She’s excited to show her kids the time Big John Studd wrestled her friend, The Big Show.

But seriously, Stephanie McMahon didn’t have the ability to watch WrestleMania I before now? I’m pretty sure she’s had access to the full WWE tape library since birth. I mean, hell, if I’ve got a copy of WrestleMania I, WWE’s probably got a copy lying around.

Best/Worst: Big E Langston, Prop Champion

I’m giving the first of two 20-second Real Americans-related affairs a Best because of Cesaro, a guy who is so great and increasingly over right now he can absolutely command a live audience, even if they’re just playing along to get to the giant swing. The weirdest thing about NXT existing is how brightly it shines a spotlight on Raw being a dumbed down version of wrestling for stupid people and babies. On NXT, Cesaro does a hundred amazing moves and puts on 20-minute emotional classics. On Raw, he does the giant swing and boom, he’s out, that’s it. It’s all people care about. On NXT, Emma is a complex character who puts on some of the best women’s matches WWE’s seen in years. On Raw, she’s a dumb-dancin’ GF. I know wrestling’s a three-ring circus with a little something for everyone, but shit, why do people prefer the Raw versions?

I’m giving it a Worst because it was a garbage match that lasted about 40 seconds before Jack Swagger interfered, pushing the impending breakup of the Real Americans because God forbid we have any popular, functioning tag teams and relegating Big E to prop status. He’s just there. Big E could’ve been Zack Ryder and these matches would’ve been exactly the same. This week the poor guy’s as pointless as his championship.

Best: Awkward Hugs

Between this and Sami Zayn, Cesaro’s week has been an emotional roller coaster of hugs.

Worst: Let’s Stand Shoulder-To-Shoulder And Watch This Exclusive Clip From Need For Speed, In Theaters Whenever

I know Aaron Paul looks like the kind of guy you’d wanna starf*ck, Bella Twins, but trust me, it ends with you choking on your own vomit.

Worst: Drax The Destroyer Thinks You’re Reading Too Many Comic Books

Supplemental Worst: Let’s ask the WWE Universe what they think about this Batista promo!

Batista put a deck of cards in your hands DEAL WITH IT.

Worst: A Good Match Vs. The Crowd

I said enough about it on that endless first page, but this match is the best example of the pointless, bipolar Chicago crowd. When the clips starts. they’re happily chanting along with Sheamus. That’s not piped-in audio, you can see the people in the front rows yelling and waving their hands along with the forearms. When that’s done, Sheamus hits a knee and goes for a cover. The crowd chants along with the pinfall. Not THIRTY SECONDS LATER the crowd starts up with a huge “THIS IS AWFUL” chant. Which cues are you trying to hit, WWE’s or the ones from your worksheet?

Two concerning things besides that:

1. The delightful Alice Radley mentioned it directly in the podcast we recorded immediately after Raw and we sorta make fun of it all the time, but Christian’s body color is just off the charts concerning. He looks like a Simpsons character. He’s yellow, his hair is the same color as his body as to create that Bart Simpson head-into-hair situation and his half-beard makes him look like he’s got a Homer Simpson 5-o’clock shadow. Take some vitamins or something, man, seriously.

2. Is Christian ever gonna win a match? I feel like he hasn’t won since he started getting a push for the Elimination Chamber. He was the only guy to lose to Orton, and now he’s losing to Sheamus EVERY TIME. I’m enjoying the work and we got the cool followup where Christian jacks him backstage and injures him, but if this is building up to a WrestleMania match just for Sheamus to win, what’s the point?

Worst: Com-om-omedy!

Remember when I was complaining about people preferring the GIANT SWINGS ONLY Raw version of Cesaro to the living, dynamic NXT one? Well, if you enjoyed this version of Santino and Emma vs. Fandango and Summer Rae, I urge you to go back to October 2, 2013, and watch the far-superior NXT version. It’s longer, funnier, the jokes are based on the characters and how wrestling works AND it’s performed in front of an audience that loves and wants to receive it.


Firstly, whatever noble thing the Chicago crowd was trying to accomplish was immediately disqualified with the “we want puppies” chant. I’m sure you do, you sentient farts.

Secondly, I’m just waiting for the day when Chaotic Neutral Alicia Fox and Eye-poppin’ Aksana decide enough’s enough and truck these shouty girls. I want that more than anything in the world right now. For Nikki Bella to yell COME ONNNNN and Brie to yell COME ON NIKKIIIIIIII and Nikki to yell I’M COMING ONNNNNNNN and then BOOM, Alicia Fox just punches her in the f*cking stomach and Aksana drops a knee on your mouth. Foxsana needs to take matters into their own hands and dominate the Divas division, especially if AJ has wandered off into the ether with CM Punk.

Thirdly, just throw the Burning Hammer, Nikki. It’s what the worst of us are expecting.

Worst: Look Everyone, It’s The Stars Of Sirens!

James Roday and Dulé Hill should be in a blood feud with these guys if they aren’t already.

Best: The Authority

I didn’t like two tiny things about this segment: Bryan making “the Yes Movement” synonymous with “Hijack Raw” (because good lord) and the “put on her skirt” comment to Triple H, which is less about sexism or whatever and more about him being one of those neener-neener babyfaces I hate.

Everything else? Loved it. This segment was an A+ player, from Triple H and Stephanie steamrolling through the heat to get their shit in to Bryan finally showing some aggression in his voice and standing up for himself, but my favorite part was The Authority being totally right. Heels work best when they tell uncomfortable or inconvenient truths. When I was a kid I didn’t hate Rick Rude because he was lying about being a stud, I hated him because he was intimidating as f*ck and this seeping, masculine beefcake piece of shit I could never be. He could just be like HEY STRANGER LADY, COME UP HERE AND MAKE OUT WITH ME BECAUSE I AM AWESOME and she WOULD, and it was the WORST because he could DO THAT.

Bryan was trying to convince the Authority that he’d done something amazing by creating this groundswell of support, and Stephanie brought up the fact that hey, everything ABOUT you is from us. You have this job because of WWE, which is run by the McMahons. WWE’s the reason everybody’s here. They hire the people that put the lights up, they make sure the ring gets set up, they make a bunch of merch so guys like Bryan can sell them to people like the fussy Chicagoans YESsing along with him. Of course, that’s not infallible and doesn’t destroy Bryan’s character … he’s succeeded within this corrupt-as-f*ck system based on pure talent alone and has defied the expectations of every single person in charge, and THAT’s why people love him … but Stephanie’s POV is legit from where she’s standing, and that’s what makes the narrative compelling. Both sides should always have a point. And then Triple H comes on to say WESTLEMANIA in a baby voice and call Bryan a little fella and THAT’S when you have your clear signal for who you should cheer and who you should hate.

See that? That’s pro wrestling working. That’s me wanting this guy to kick the other guy’s ass because he DESERVES it, adapted for a social media world where everything’s sorta-fake and sorta-real and it’s almost impossible to really thrown in on heel vs. face without feeling like a moron. They took a hostile crowd, bent it to fit their stories, got an insane reaction for doing it and now they’re gonna go to WrestleMania and make a ton of money. Chicago’s gonna ball up their instructional guides on how to cheer for cool dudez and throw them in the garbage.

I want this Authority every week. No crowd pandering, no “remember how much you loved me when me and my cross-eyed buddy wore camo and pointed at our dicks,” just abhorrent people with a good point to make and a date with the destiny of getting one’s f*cking head kicked in.

Best: Yeah Bitch, Bumping!

I really shouldn’t give a Best to a 3-minute Alberto Del Rio loss via guest host that is probably the latest in a string of introduced and aborted Dolph Ziggler pushes, but here we are. Aaron Paul (Sturtevant, stop using your first and middle name as a stage name EVERYBODY EVER) seems like a cool guy who’s done a lot of Breaking Bad episodes that make me feel things and at least one great Corn Pops commercial, so I’m Besting him being around. He seemed really interested in and enthusiastic about the wrestling, too, even if his commentary was mostly going AAHHH.

A supplemental Worst goes to the babyface needing a guest host actor to distract the heel and help him win, but Breaking Bad was all about the babyfaces being horrible monsters, wasn’t it? I just wish Aaron Paul had used the ricin on JBL.

Best: Paul Bearer Gets Inducted Into The WWE Hall Of Fame

I don’t need to tell you this, but it’s worth reiterating: Paul Bearer was amazing at his job and was a bulletproof performer and improvisational comedian. The guy could just roll with anything, respond to anything and be Paul Bearer through ANYTHING. He’s one of those guys who should’ve gone into the Hall of Fame the second he stopped being a regular, and I guess the only reason he wasn’t is because we expected him to stick around for a long time and be awesome forever. The loss of Paul Bearer has never really made sense to me, because the guy is gone, but he’s still here, you know? Paul Bearer never leaves. That guy is synonymous with enjoying wrestling, and this is coming from a guy who didn’t start liking the Undertaker until he became a biker.

That said, the words “Paul Bearer” are in that weird category of nouns and phrases nobody in WWE can say, alongside “veteran” and “WWE.” It’s never “Paul Bearer.” They never enunciate. It’s always PAWBEAR. PAWBEAR is one of the most unique managers of all time! The late, great PAW BEAR! If you listen for Paw Bear, you’ll never hear anything else.

Congratulations to Pawbear on his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Accepting the induction on his behalf with be Maw Bear and Baby Bear.

Best: Alexander Rusev’s Little Podium

1. Lana can get it, 80s boxing movie villain style.

2. Alexander Rusev is gonna debut one of these days, even though he debuted two months ago, but at least now he’s got a little walk-up podium he can stand on to look SEVEN feet tall instead of six! Next week I want him to reveal that it’s motorized and can lift him up in front of the TitanTron. Then, I want him and Bad News Barrett to start feuding over podium operation until they’re basically fighting inside of mechs on Raw.

3. мълчание!

Best: John Cena Controls A Hijacked Crowd, Or
Worst: The Crowd Won’t Shut Up During Bray Wyatt’s Promo

The Best here goes to Big John, who once again reiterates that any hopeful WWE Superstar must first gain expressed, written approval from one JOHN CENA before dreaming dreams, all while controlling the crowd with a wave of his hand. I give him grief for his “some a y’all like me, some a y’all don’t” speeches, but they really work to acknowledge the audible beef in crowds like this and contain it. Before his part of the speech is over he’s gotten the crowd to start chanting YES at what he says, because he’s telling them what they want to hear … and most importantly, he’s making it sound like it’s coming from HIM. It’s the worst sometimes, but it’s also highly effective, and for better or worse Cena is probably better at this than anybody in the world.

The Worst goes to the crowd for not shutting the hell up and listening to Bray Wyatt’s promo, providing a weird laugh track to it that took me out of the moment. Weren’t you guys chanting THIS IS AWESOME at this guy earlier? WHAT DO YOU EVEN ENJOY. IS IT CM PUNK? Oh man, I can’t do this for three hours much longer. I start off with these well-thought-out statements on the meaning of wrestling and by the end I’m like I’LL PUNCH YOU IN YOUR F*CKIN FACE IF YOU DON’T STOP YAMMERING DURING THIS, I WILL HIT YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH YOUR OWN INOPERABLE PIZZA.

Anyway, the Best Best Of The Bests (besides the first Best of the Best, starring James Earl Jones and Eric Roberts) (and DAE HAN) is Bray Wyatt picking up on some of the stuff I wrote about last week, with John being forced to realize his own mortality and sorta see himself as the champion race horse who just can’t seem to get it done the way he used to anymore. Of course, this will probably end with that champion race horse ignoring a broken leg to lift a jockey onto its back and Attitude Adjust him through the race track, but it’s a nice sentiment from Bray, and certainly a story I’d like to see a (vulnerable) Cena in.

Best: At Least It Was Better Than Their Last Match On Raw

If you’re still worried about where the Bryan and Batista stories are going heading into Mania, compare and contrast last night’s match with their first encounter on Raw, four years ago during NXT season 1.

It’s very similar in a lot of ways — Batista scrambling due to Bryan’s early flurries of offense, for example — but look for all the ways it isn’t. Listen to how Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler treat Bryan in comparison to how they treat him now. Notice how when this match is over Bryan goes back to oblivion and Batista goes on to a title match at the upcoming pay-per-view. Notice how Batista can run and move around like a human being without collapsing and having to gasp for breath for 10 minutes.

The old guard is changing, but without competition, only time can make it so. Bryan has achieved a greater character growth than almost anyone I’ve ever seen in pro wrestling from one Raw match to another, and Batista is clearly a celebrity guest here for a paycheck. A guy who hasn’t done cardio since he left. Bryan’s ending the show going up against the boss of the company, the entire Authority, his old tag team partner and BOTH MEN in the WrestleMania XXX WWE Championship match. Four years ago, he was a week away from chugging a soda and losing to Michael Tarver on a show nobody watched. A week after that, he’d be eliminated. A few weeks later he’d be fired.

Long story short, let’s try hijacking a show that isn’t secretly doing what we want it to do already.

Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week

Crow of the Walrus

Walk out
Lift up
Pin him
Stand up
Gassed out
Gassed out

Big Baby Yeezus

Batista is like a bad iPhone battery in that by the time he gets to the ring, the “20% left” warning already popped up


It isn’t “Hi, Jack,” John.

Fancy Catsup

Cena sells a knee injury in exactly the same fashion as he walked when was trying to hide the AJ boner.


Cesaro could still swing Swagger. He ain’t heavy, he’s his brother.

Adam Henry

Not even Dolph Ziggler can sell Need for Speed.


Kane (thinking): Daniel is right. I have been treating him like crap recently. I’m going to go down to the right and help out my old frie…(suicide dived by Daniel Bryan)


You didn’t build those roads! Someone else did!


Damnit Bryan just insult his kids already


This match with Christian and Sheamus is like watching the main ingredients of a sweet potato casserole with marshmallow fight against each other.

Thanks, everybody. See you next week, when nothing gets hijacked. Uh, I hope.