– “Real life stuff” repost from the Raw report:
If you’re interested in seeing the best pro-wrestling card in Texas all spring (and possibly all year), Inspire Pro Wrestling’s ‘In Their Blood 2’ happens in Austin on May 31. It’s the same day as the Elimination Chamber, sure, but we didn’t schedule ours on a whim Monday afternoon. Also, Ricochet and Joey Ryan and Candice LeRae and a ton of other awesome people are gonna be there, so if you stay at home watching a show that will be on demand the second it ends, you’re gonna have a bad time.
If you’re interested in seeing Meet Me There on a big screen before our DVD/VOD release, your last chance is June 7 in New York City at the Anthology Film Archives. If this is your first time hearing about it, it’s a horror movie I made with Goldust and a bunch of awesome independent wrestlers, so in addition to being this emotional, tense thing about the horrors of sexual dysfunction, it’s also a “Where’s Waldo” for people who recognize Blue Pants or Evan Gelistico. Go see it! I’ll probably be there!
– Shares, likes, comments and other social-media things are appreciated.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Payback 2015.
Worst: The Worst Part Of Your Local Wrestling Show
If you’re a regular at basically any independent wrestling show, you’ve seen this. Guys try to be funny by dressing up like Hulk Hogan, hulking up and doing the big boot. Sometimes another guy will dress up like Macho Man and yell, “ooh yeah.” It’s the first idea a person who likes wrestling gets when they’re asked to be funny. I don’t know why. People remember Hulk Hogan and he always did the same stuff, so you can be a guy they remember and you can do the stuff. It’s so low-rent that Mark and Roger could live there without complaining.
WWE’s obsessed with the joke, too. Remember when Big Show did it? Remember when Charlie Haas did it? Remember when Curly from The Three Stooges did it? No, really. It’s the laziest possible wrestling joke. It’s the “workin’ hard or HARDLY WORKIN’ ” of wrestling.
This entire thing’s a f*cking tire fire. You can say it’s not for my demographic or whatever, but what demographic is it for? It’s not for little kids. Little kids don’t care who Hulk Hogan and the Macho Man are. It’s not for anybody who likes Damien Sandow and wishes him well, because he’s sleepwalking through a terrible impersonation and getting squashed by a jobber team. It’s not for anybody who likes Curtis Axel or thought “Axelmania” was funny, because WWE can’t understand a joke they made and turned a funny bit about Axel thinking he has fan momentum into Axel thinking he is Actually Hulk Hogan. It’s not for people who want a good wrestling match, because woof. It’s just a waste of time, and a waste of everyone involved. Audience included.
Best: Boots 2 Asses
Remember when Dolph Ziggler was the Hero of WWE and single-handedly ousted The Authority from power? Well, here he is, six months later, rubbing his butt cheek in a dude’s face for revenge goofs before losing. HE’S HERE TO SHOW THE WORLD, HE’S HERE TO SHOW THE WORLD.
Anyway, there’s still something about Ziggler and Sheamus that doesn’t connect for me, but I liked the real-life circumstances of the finish. Nothing of note happens outside the Hilarious Ass-Wiping, which Sheamus sells by trying to vomit, because having a hip touch your orbit is like swallowing diarrhea. Every time Naomi does the Rear View, her opponent should vomit. There’s some leg work, which Dolph sells by running as fast and jumping as high as he can. The finish, though! That was a thing of beauty.
Ziggler’s trying to fight back, so he throws a big headbutt that knocks Sheamus back, then hits a superkick. Unfortunately for Ziggler he forgot to reinforce his skull with eyeliner — I assume this is what eyeliner is for — and gets split open. Ziggler gets a long 2-count, but he’s super f*cked up from the headbutt and just kinda staggers onto his knees. Sheamus sees blood in the figurative water, hits a Brogue Kick and puts him away. There’s no way this was the original finish. The referee immediately goes for the rubber gloves and Sheamus is basically no-selling the previous minute to set up and put Ziggler away. Still though, there’s something real about it. Ziggler tried a move and it backfired on him. That happens sometimes. You go for a thing that makes sense and sh*t happens, and you’re just doomed. Sheamus was in control before the superkick, so him recovering quicker than Ziggler and basically Old Yeller‘ing him works. I dunno, I dug it. It beats the hell out of watching them do a bunch of Irish whips and awkwardly set up a White Noise.
No more ass-based feuds now, OK? At least for a little while?
Best: Babyface Cesaro, And Basically Everything Else That’s Happening
I’m happy to live in a world where Cesaro hot tags are a thing. I’m glad WWE’s finally wisened up to the reality that we LIKE Cesaro and WANT to cheer for him, and that he makes a connection with audiences even if it’s not the ideal If Ya Suh-Mell La La La La La Laow one you want. We aren’t gonna pop for his catchphrases and bounce up and down in our chairs waiting for him to zing some jerk with hilarious one-liners, but we SUPER MIGHT want to watch him run at a guy and European uppercut him so hard they both fall into the turnbuckles. You can make money having a guy hold another guy by the ankles and spin him around, so you should probably do that.
For me, this match was the highlight of the show. We have to accept the reality that salvaging a tag-team division in WWE is impossible thanks to some combination of apathy and Attention Deficit Disorder, but if we can position the wrestlers who need this spotlight into this spotlight and pair them with coordinating peoples who can compliment their strengths and help cover up their weaknesses, we’re onto something. It doesn’t have to be on a mass scale. It doesn’t have to be grand societal change. It can just be welding Tyson Kidd’s personality to Cesaro’s battleship, and putting some corny stuff around Kofi Kingston to put him in a better context.
The first two falls end as they should, with combo finishers. I’m glad they had Xavier Woods wanting to sub himself in due to the “Freebird Rule,” and while I didn’t love the DOA Natalya interference bit, that’s the kind of thing you have to at least throw out there and acknowledge. The fact that it played into the finish was great, too, with Woods Freedbird Ruling whether the ref liked it. I’ve read a lot of people complaining about how the finish is an “all black people look-alike” thing, and while yeah, the announce team kinda read it that way, I thought Woods hid his hair and face well enough to justify it as a flash mistake. The ref wasn’t like, looking Woods in the eye and calling him Kofi Kingston. He’s not Michael Cole. He was on the other side of a small package.
Best: The Best Response To ‘This Is Awesome’ Chants
My favorite thing (and probably my favorite thing on the entire show) was Woods on the outside responding to ‘This Is Awesome’ chants. “WE KNOW! WE ARE WELL AWARE.”
You know what’s great? That feeling when a wrestler you’ve never liked is suddenly the thing you look forward to the most.
Best: We’re Too Big!
Later in the show, Byron Saxton finds The New Day backstage celebrating their win and drinking milk out of champagne glasses because holy sh*t The New Day is great. Byron apparently has the internet and they don’t, so he tells them that in two weeks they’ll be defending the tag titles in the first tag-team Elimination Chamber match.
Woods: “What the HELL?”
Kofi: “That is not fair, that is not fair! What, all three of us have to squeeze inside one pod?”
Big E: “We’re too big!”
I want to put The New Day in a pile and hug the pile.
Best/Worst: Now Let’s Never Speak Of This Again
Sometimes a match can be good, but dead on arrival.
That’s how I feel about Bray Wyatt vs. Ryback. The feud has been abysmal, with Wyatt just talking and gasping and talking and gasping and Ryback sometimes showing up. Lots of looking off-screen to the right and whisper-talking about what things mean. They played a FULL MUSIC VIDEO before the match, as though Wyatt/Ryback was Austin/Rock at WrestleMania 17. WWE’s production team could add music to me taking a dump in the morning and make it look like art, but still, a music video? For this?
And yeah, the truth is that the match isn’t bad. When I was watching it, it felt like the worst thing in the world, but thinking about it later (and sitting through the real-life nightmare of Rusev/Cena immediately after it) put it into perspective. It’s a good story. Wyatt realizes Ryback’s super strong, so he tries to take out his core. He does that fat man senton off the apron and breaks one of Ryback’s ribs, which basically ruins Ryback’s entire moveset. He can’t get him up clean for a Shell Shocked, he can’t capitalize on a top-rope splash, nothing. He’s got the power of FOOD REQUESTS or whatever, though, so Wyatt’s gotta be smart and follow up. He does that by shoving Ryback ribs-first into an exposed turnbuckle, which stuns him long enough to let Wyatt snap off a Sister Abigail and win. It’s easy-to-follow physical psychology — cause and effect. WWE matches miss that a lot, like when Ziggler’s jumping 10 feet into the air on a DDT when his leg’s supposed to be hurt. It’s a good match. Unfortunately, good matches aren’t always exciting.
If Ryback’s legitimately injured again, I want at least 10 Backstage Fallout videos of him angrily flipping through The Secret.
Worst: 30 Minutes Of Cute Garbage
So, this thing.
1. Remember when Rusev defeated Cena on a weird technicality at Fast Lane and everybody got indignant about how gracious Cena was for putting him over? Yeah, Cena followed that by beating him clean at WrestleMania, defeating him in a Russia-specific gimmick match at Extreme Rules and making him speak in f*cking tongues at Payback. For all intents and purposes, this should be the end of the Rusev character. That sounds melodramatic, but back in the day you’d bring in a guy like Kamala and feed him to Hulk Hogan or whoever, and when that was over you’d send Kamala somewhere else. It doesn’t mean Kamala’s bad or doesn’t have an upside, it’s just that he exists as a purposeful cartoon character in the interest of putting over an actually important character. It’s like Mer-Man from He-Man. He’s awesome and he’s got a funny voice and he looks cool and what, he can command giant space seahorses? You want to see him all the time, right? Well, they drew him into the show so He-Man could show up and beat his ass.
2. WWE found a way to make ‘I Quit’ matches worse than Last Man Standing matches. This thing was 30 minutes long, which works out to 10 minutes of fighting and 20 minutes of the referee asking DO YOU GIVE UP? Seriously, the point is that you beat up your opponent really badly or do something really nasty to them, or maybe you put them in a submission and keep it on a long time. THEN the referee pops in with a microphone, and the guy growls or screams or says yes or no and that’s it. Here, Rusev would hit a f*cking hip-toss and Cena would have to have a full conversation with the referee. It was INSANE. It was the slowest, most boring, most unnecessary thing I’ve seen in ages, and the dialogue yanked the impact from anything actually happening.
3. It was a Greatest Hits Of John Cena Hardcore Matches. The STF with the dismantled top rope? From his 2007 Royal Rumble match with Umaga. The bit with the heel discovering he could attack Cena with pyro? Straight out of the Bragging Rights Iron Man Match with Randy Orton.
4. The heel/face dynamic is still screwed for me, too. Cena’s threatening to put Rusev through the Bell Keeper’s wall. Rusev refuses to give up, so Cena does it. Isn’t that a really f*cking heel thing to do? Wouldn’t the valiant thing be to just keep attacking Rusev until he was down, put him through the wall and hope that’s enough? Why are shouted threats from Daddy a thing I should be cheering for? What about when Cena dumps Rusev onto the pyro and explodes him like they’re on Wrestling Society X? Rusev dramatically crawls around, gasping for air, trying to fight back as a seemingly-unharmed Cena attacks him with a guard rail. I get that everything’s fair and Cena would be dumb for not using everything at his disposal, but man, why is so much of this match a stern-faced Cena beating the sh*t out of a guy who’s supposed to be his scary opponent? Rusev’s on his knees with his arms out and his mouth open like he’s on the cover of Platoon and Cena’s doing awkward typing jokes on a laptop.
Worst: The Finish, Which Makes Less Sense Every Time You Think About It
First of all, when the ref rang the bell and Rusev decided to cut a promo and said the words “I quit,” he should’ve lost. It’s an I Quit Match. The first person to say the words “I quit” loses. If there’s a weird precedent to this, I want to be in an I Quit match and start by yelling REF I GIVE UP I QUIT I QUIT I QUIT THE MATCH and then going on Twitter and arguing technicalities. That sounds really fun.
There’s such an issue made about having to say the words “I” and “quit.” Rusev puts Cena in the Accolade and makes him pass out, but it *doesn’t count* because he didn’t say “I quit.” The match continues, Cena puts Rusev in the STF. Lana gets in the ring and says “he quits,” and the referee and everybody’s like OH SURE THAT’S TOTALLY FINE, RING THE BELL. It’s madness. If Rusev was yelling “I quit” over and over in Bulgarian, guess what? He didn’t say the words “I” and “quit.” If you’re gonna be that much of a hard-ass about technicalities, they have to be consistent. Hell, at least let them be consistent in the same match. Remember when Jeff Jarrett wrestled Chyna in a “Good Housekeeping Match?” The stipulation was that you could legally use any weapon you’d find in your home. Jeff Jarrett hits Chyna with 6h4 Intercontinental Championship and it doesn’t count, because it’s not a household item. Chyna hits Jarrett with a guitar and it counts and she wins. Why wouldn’t the Intercontinental Champion have the Intercontinental Championship in his house?
It’s just so f*cking weird to me that they can’t pull the trigger on this in either direction. They can’t have Rusev look strong and win, because of John Cena. They can’t have Cena just straight-up power up and pin him clean outside WrestleMania, because they want to “protect” Rusev. So they keep doing these dumb technicality finishes that don’t help anybody, and they tread the same stale water they’ve been sinking in since they fell off the boat in 2007. Rusev looks like a baby because he lost three times in a row and Cena made him cry. Cena looks like a jerk for being so weirdly jingoistic and violent — remember when he kept attacking an unconscious Rusev until Lana agreed to a match? Lana looks like something between an idiot and a bad girlfriend for being into a crowd of people she said she hated for a year and repeatedly screwing Rusev over.
In other words,
♫ do doodoo doooooo ♫
Worst: Also, This Match Happened!
Naomi has pinned the Divas Champion!
(I wanted the entire writeup of the match to be that, but seriously, Naomi beat the Dominant Divas Champion with that move anybody who wrestles Ric Flair uses to keep Flair from jumping off the top rope. You know, the running “put my hand on your balls and make you say NO NO before I throw you down on your side and make you scream out AH SH*T AH GAHD.” That one. Naomi won with THAT.)
(I am officially not interested in Naomi until they figure out how to make her boots leave light trails when she kicks.)
Worst: I’m Paying $9.99 To Watch Raw
WWE already destroyed the mystique of pay-per-view when they built their own network and decided every PPV set should be the Raw set with the colors changed, but now it’s getting worse. They’re announcing network-exclusive shows sometimes only a day or two before, springing entire formal “pay-per-views” on us like Elimination Chamber out of the blue and, combined with the NXT live specials, doing four big shows in four weeks. Combine that with three-plus hours of Raw and two hours of Additional Raw (called “Smackdown”) and you’re basically doing like 10 hours of Raw a week. That’s a MESS. You can’t reliably do THREE hours of Raw that anybody who isn’t 5 or stupid can watch without being bothered and you’re going for TEN?
King Barrett wrestles Neville in a match that is happening For No Reason, ostensibly to set up a story for the Intercontinental Championship Elimination Chamber match. You’re using a spot on an actual pay-per-view to sell like one-third of a match on a different, impromptu one. And you’re doing it by having a meandering match that ends with a purposeful count-out, which is one of the very worst of all Raw tropes. The only way it could have been worse is if he’d gotten counted out, the ref had restarted the match, he had called Neville a b*tch, gotten rolled up off a distraction and pinned in a birthday cake on a table at a contract signing.
Best: I Want To Believe
And then, the main. Oh mercy, the main.
Late in the match, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns find themselves surrounding a downed Randy Orton. When he fights back, they instinctively join forces for a Shield beatdown and put him through the announce table with a triple powerbomb. For one glorious minute, the world was right again.
Of course, it wasn’t to be. Michael Cole ruined the drama of whether it could be a real thing by yelling “THE SHIELD REUNITING ONE TIME ONLY,” which was so bad Lawler tried to cover it with a “how do you know it’s one time only?” Still though, if we’re never getting that Shield reunion I fantasy book in every single pay-per-view predictions post, they gave me a minute, and for that I’m thankful. The fist-bump tease made my heart grow three sizes and then broke it in half, but hey, at least my broken heart is big.
I hope they revisit this around SummerSlam, when Brock Lesnar returns and wants his belt back. But I’m the guy who wants The Shield to reunite, feud with a reunited Wyatt Family and then realize they’ll have to work together with the Wyatts to stop the reunited Nexus, so maybe don’t listen to me.
Worst: MORE KANE PLEASE
The match itself was good, except for one thing: Kane.
I don’t know who saw a match with all three Shield guys in it and thought the story should be “what will Kane do to save his middle-management position,” but here we are. Every time the wrestlers are able to create drama, Kane shows up and inserts himself. It’s the story they’re telling so I’m not saying they did it wrong, I just hated it. I don’t want to know Kane’s story. I don’t need to know how he feels about his role in a vague heel faction that runs a wrestling show but hates all the wrestlers. I don’t need to see him bailing Seth Rollins out at every turn … I want to see Rollins bail out Rollins at every turn. I want the heat to go to HIM, because he’s a f*cking heat magnet and young and great at wrestling, and not a remnant of a Chef Boyardee commercial from 15 years ago. I want WWE’s present, and I want to formally and finally step out of the past. Kane should’ve vanished into thin air like Mitch Connor when Triple H and Undertaker Ended An Era.
I can’t wait to see what The Authority has in store for themselves (?) at Elimination Chamber.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Sierra Hotel India Echo Lima Delta Oscar Romeo Whiskey Echo Romeo India Oscar Tango.
That was the Pedigree that they named the dog food after.
If Brock came out and made them both submit at the same time with a double Kimura lock, I would mail my credit card straight to the WWE network with a note that says, “just keep it.”
*Bellas do twin magic* Ref: “I aint falling for that.”
*Awesome Kong pins Brie* “Ring the bell.”
Give me the mic, ref. I’m ready.
Rusev didn’t win because he was literally too good at beating Cena
Nobody puts Lana in the corner!
Byron Saxton is a real life Tom DuBois from the Boondocks.
John Michael Hall
I’d like to take a moment to congratulate the fifth grader who won the “Design Ryback’s Singlet” contest his or her school held.
In the future:
David Otugna: “Your honor, I cite in the case of Goldberg v. Sid Vicious of Halloween Havoc 1999, which set the precedent that during an I Quit match, if one participant in an “I Quit” match loses consciousness, the match can end.
Judge: “This precedent is nullified by the Vince Russo clause, instantly nullifying all decisions made under the authority of Vince Russo.”
Otugna: “Your honor, I will also cite Hart v. Austin of 1997, where under certified authority, one individual losing consciousness is grounds for a match ending.”
Judge: “The case you cite is a submission match, while, having identical rules, is not applicable.”
Otunga: “So Cena wins lol?”
Judge: “Cena wins lol!”
Thanks, everybody. See you tonight, for the three pay-per-views happening between this afternoon and Tuesday morning.