– The open discussion thread was awfully light this week. Turns out you can’t put on a bad show every week for a year, advertise Todd Chrisley and NeNe Leakes as special guests and keep everyone interested. Come back, CM Punk, I need 2,000 extra comments!
– I’ll be in the building for Hell in a Cell, so if you’re going to that, let me know. We can briefly be Best Friends In Real Life.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated. It’s important that you support the column now, when the show is kinda in a hole and the guy writing a column about it needs to keep his job.
Please click through and enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for October 13, 2014.
A Nitpicky Worst: Dean Ambrose Wearing A Dean Ambrose T-Shirt
Figured I’d start off this week’s report with a thing to make you go, “why don’t you just have fun.”
I don’t like Dean Ambrose wearing a WWE licensed “Dean Ambrose: Unstable” t-shirt. It’s too by-the-book and corporate for a guy who doesn’t want to be John Cena and do the same little dance every week. I get that everybody does it. I get that Steve Austin is WWE’s go-to example of corporate rebellion and had a new shirt every month, too, but guys like Austin had this undercurrent of wanting to be “WWE Superstars.” The entire crux of Austin/McMahon is that Vince wanted to fire him, but couldn’t, because Austin was a cash cow. Ambrose just seems like a random asshole who found his way into a job where he can beat people up for a living thanks to some lucrative mercenary work and sticks around because he can run hot dog carts into people here and not go to jail.
The hoodie was fine, because it seemed like a personal insignia or whatever. The t-shirt advertising him as “unstable” seems like a little much. One of the things I loved so much about The Shield is that they HAD official merchandise, but they didn’t wear it. That’s for YOU to wear, not them. They wear tactical gear and hoodies and DOG MASKS. I want that Ambrose to continue. The greasy tanktop and jeans. I don’t want him selling me things like some sort of John-style Cena.
That concludes my total nitpick, and I apologize.
A Less Nitpicky Worst: Singles Guys Teaming Up To Handily Beat Your Top 2 Tag Teams
Not to spoil it for you, but this is one of those Raws where all the champions lose matches to “build” to loosely-associated matches someplace else. The United States Champion loses via count-out, the Intercontinental Champion gets pinned clean, and the tag team champions get put into a weird authority figure “punishment” match alongside their most notable, regular opponents so BOTH teams can lose to popular singles wrestlers forced to team against their will.
Both of those things are tried-and-true WWE themes at this point. Who the hell would want to be Intercontinental Champion? All you do is lose matches. Carrying it around depletes half your HP. As for the RANDOM SINGLE GUYS thing, I don’t even know. I’ve always felt like a tag team specialist has an excuse for losing singles matches — he’s not used to it, and relies on a partner as part of his day-to-day job strategy — and that the inverse should also be true. If a top singles guy ends up in a tag, the official, experienced tag team (assuming they’re at the top of that division and seen as the “best” of that division) could lose, but shouldn’t. By suggesting that there’s no skill in being a top-level tag team and that anyone “good at WWE” can team up and instantly get it, you’re not only devaluing the people losing to the singles jerks, you’re devaluing EVERY TAG TEAM EVER.
It’s a little iffy when it’s John Cena because he can beat anybody anywhere with little effort, but still. If Goldust and Stardust are the top team and The Usos are #2, maybe put the #3 and 4 teams in against Cena and Ambrose to prove whatever point about “getting along” you’re going for? At the very least, consider not having Ambrose and Cena beat the champs clean as a f*cking whistle with simultaneous finishing moves in the first match of the show to set up some different, more important match later involving the same dudes.
Best: That Said
The final couple of minutes of this were fun, and the Dean Ambrose Crazy Flying Elbow Drop Into A Pile Of People is one of the best moves in wrestling. I want to see awkward, dog-body John Cena go for broke during one of these novelty jumps and hit a phoenix plancha.
Worst Worst: HOTLANTA
WE’RE IN HOTLANNA, MAGGLE! HOTLANNA GEORGIA.
I don’t know if Vince McMahon heard about “Hotlanta” as a nickname for Atlanta this afternoon or what, but the first 20 minutes of the show were almost nothing but the announce team saying HOTLANTA and staring at the camera for validation. Do people even CALL it “Hotlanta?” Is it like calling Orange County “The O.C.?” The worst was when Big Show called it “Hot Atlanta” in a total Peggy Hill “Propane Maniacs” moment.
The least they could’ve done is make a “hot Lana” joke when Rusev showed up.
Best: Dolph Ziggler Wrestling Like A Wrestler
I didn’t love the first chunk of the “now THIS is happening” Dolph Ziggler/Randy Orton match when I watched it live, but the more I think about it, the more I liked it. It’s probably Ziggler’s best match in YEARS, because it’s Dolph Ziggler actually having a wrestling match.
Normally, what we love about Ziggler isn’t what we love about, say, Daniel Bryan. There’s excitement in what Ziggler does, but not a lot of substance. He’s 100% style. The way he bumps is crazy. The way he gets excited on offense and speeds around the ring is exciting. The problem is that it rarely MEANS anything, and he’s just doing it because he has to make an impression on us SOMEHOW, and if he doesn’t run real fast and fall on his head he’ll be Kofi.
Randy Orton’s got a great way of taking guys who lean too hard on substanceless excitement and beating “good wrestling” into them. I know it sounds like I’m saying wrestlers shouldn’t be exciting when they wrestle, but that’s not what I mean. Orton is one of the best at telling a story in the ring, and that’s what WWE wants from the guys it trusts. He tells a BORING story most of the time, but it’s always a story you can follow, and one of the reasons we pop so hard for his RKO counters is because outside of the “jumping headfirst into nothing” they sometimes go with, he’s great at working them in exactly where they need to go. The big finishing note of his musical piece. You build and build and anticipate and anticipate and then BOOM, from “outta nowhere,” the thing that always comes outta somewhere. This wasn’t a WrestleMania masterpiece, but it’s the kind of match they could build from and MAKE flip people out at Mania.
I liked the match, but I liked Ziggler in this spot more. The next step should be giving him some character beyond “I am the show off” and a hair taunt, and something to build up the match beyond “Randy Orton said we’re supposed to wrestle now.”
Best: An Alley-Oop By God RKO
The best Randy Orton is the one who creatively RKOs people and immediately starts gloating about how cool it was.
Worst: Nobody Cares About Your #Brand
You know what’s at the bottom of Forbes’ list? Every other pay-per-view.
Worst: So What Happened To The AJ Vs. Paige Story?
The second match on the show is Paige and Alicia Fox against AJ Lee and the Diva she “hates the least,” Layla El. A few notes:
– At the risk of you calling me a hypocrite for finding women attractive but also thinking they are people, Layla looked pretty g.d. amazing.
– Two supplemental Bests for Layla: one for actually watching the show and knowing a partnership with AJ was going to end badly for her, and another for absolutely EATING IT on the post-match attack. Layla went into the barricade harder than The Miz has hit ANYTHING since “his head” and “WrestleMania 27.”
– What the hell happened to the AJ vs. Paige story? It was never that complex — Paige was in on AJ’s act and tried to “out crazy” her, but realized she was in over her head and stuck in a will-they-or-won’t-they friendship and sorta romance and nobody knew which end was up — but now it’s just “everybody’s crazy.” Paige is crazy, AJ’s crazy, Alicia Fox used to be crazy but isn’t putting effort into it anymore, Paige’s tag team partners are either out of their minds (Emma) or a victim of insanity (Layla). Everybody’s the face and everybody’s the heel. There’s no motivations, and unless you watch the entrances you don’t know who the champion is. It’s just WOMEN BE CRAZY in capital letters, held over the ring for about 90 seconds while bad-ish wrestling occurs.
It’s sad, too, because Paige and AJ are both talented performers (in slightly different ways) and could get something good out of this without going too far. Or hell, they could get something good out of it by going way TOO far, which would at least be notable. This is just filler.
Worst, Surprisingly: Seth Rollins
There was a LOT of wrestling on this show. I want to make sure I praise that and affably nudge it in the ribs so it’ll continue. The problem is that most of it was flat, and not particularly engaging. Even the Orton/Ziggler match, aside from the finish, wasn’t anything I’d shake somebody over and yell YOU’VE GOTTA SEE THIS. It’s hard to explain the emotion of liking something happening, but not really liking it.
Seth Rollins vs. Jack Swagger was one of those matches. It was long and had some good stuff in it, but it was mostly Swagger standing around going, “wait, what.” It’s got a hot-esque finish, but even that’s invalidated by the post-match. Swagger spends the entire match working on Seth’s leg and ankle. There are moments when (gasp) Seth sells on offense, and it helps build a sincere, sustainable drama. Swagger looks like he might have a chance of winning. They do the finish, Seth wins with a fluke roll-up to make Swagger look good, then his leg is TOTALLY FINE. Zero damage. When the pin happens, Seth’s totally healed and ready for the next match. If that’s not enough to negate all the hard work, Orton shows up and RKOs Swagger to make him look like a goober.
Orton/Ziggler had a post-match thing with Rollins showing up to Curb Stomp Ziggler for no reason so I get what they’re doing, but the big difference is that Orton beat Ziggler with authority. Ziggler was out, and Rollins showed up to add a dickhead exclamation point. With Swagger, he almost had the match won and is forced to just kinda stand there like an idiot waiting for Orton to slide in behind him and hit him with an instakill finish. I don’t know, I don’t dig it. It seemed like a lot of work for something that could’ve been 80 seconds long and accomplished the same levels of both injury and goober.
Sell when the match is over, guys. I just watched Byron Saxton sell a Ted DiBiase cobra clutch slam for the entirety of an obstacle course on NXT 4. I know they teach you how to do it.
Best: Rusev Vs. Show, Which I Guess We’re Doing Here
So, this was unexpectedly boss. Maybe I should’ve expected it.
We go straight to the one-on-one Big Show vs. Rusev showdown here, and I wish it’d been on pay-per-view. Not because I’m some sort of business expert or wrestling build purist, but because it had an annoying commercial break in the middle that ruined the vibe and I’m not opening the WWE App unless PREDICTABLE MATCH STIPS are at stake.
Anyway, these guys kinda-sorta beat the shit out of it, and I loved it. Rusev’s got a legitimately better dropkick than most guys on the roster, and if he wasn’t a Bob Hoskins-looking Bulgarian guy he’d probably be World Champ already. Show is still good when he’s motivated, and when his match instructions aren’t “go out there and stall, then cry.” People should leave Big Show matches CHANGED. The guy’s seven feet tall and 500 pounds. In a world of Great Khalis that’s kinda lost its impact, but shit, Show could kill a normal person by breathing on them too hard. Regularish-sized gents like Rusev should be hobbling away, win or lose.
Speaking of winning and losing …
Worst: Sore Losers
Rusev gets the better of Show, superkicks him in the sternum and locks him in The Accolade. No cheating, no bullshit, just a Sorta Russian throwing barefoot kicks and dismantling a giant. So he’s got it locked in and in wanders Mark Henry. Mark wants Show to power out FOR AMERICA, but when it looks like that isn’t going to happen, Henry just blatantly interferes and draws a DQ. So, you know, Show loses anyway, but by losing via DQ I guess he’s not a national disappointment?
When that’s over, Show and Henry — the babyfaces — corner Rusev outside the ring. They attack him 2-on-1, and after a valiant moment of trying to fend off two 400+ pound guys at once, Rusev gets KO’d. Somehow this is a cause for celebration, and makes Show and Henry “brothers.” I don’t know, to me it made them kinda look like “assholes.”
Worst: I Waited All Week For A Todd Chrisley Raw Appearance And All I Got Was A Pantomimed Blowjob
Note: I love a good “Todd Chrisley is obviously super gay” joke as much as the next guy, but damn, dude, can you express that in a classier way than phantom blowjobs 10 feet behind his kids? The same goes for the guy with the big CHRISLEY COME OUT NOW sign in rainbow colors. Thank God the cops from that one Twix commercial never tried to guest star on Raw.
Best: Sheamus Figuring Out How Damien Mizdow Works, Then Being Fooled By Him Anyway
Sheamus vs. The Miz was the most Raw match of the night. You know what I’m talking about.
The highpoint for me was Sheamus dragging Miz toward the corner by his face, noticing that Damien Sandow was pantomiming it on the outside, then walking back and forth to test the limits of Sandow’s commitment. Little things like this are enough to keep Sandow’s act fresh, when he’s not really doing anything new. I also liked Sandow pulling off an accidental Twin Magic by being inept, and The Miz using some basic intelligence to escape Sheamus and get back into the ring to beat the count and win the match. Dumb Sheamus could’ve rolled in and rolled back out to break the count and barely leave his feet.
Worst: NeNe Leakes
Real Housewives Of Some Place (and Glee) star NeNe Leakes gets advertised as a “clothing designer” and given her own, personalized locker room and she comes out wearing a BAGGY, LONG-SLEEVED WHITE T-SHIRT AND BLACK TIGHTS. Did she design that? Did she need a dedicated space to put that look together?
She gets a brief GURL BYE confrontation with Cameron and ends up managing (read: “standing near”) the face Diva team in one of those “everybody’s out here and three of us wrestle” Divas tags. I spent the entire time wishing Sue Sylvester would show up managing the heels. That’d be worth it just to have Becky call Eva Marie an idiot on Raw. How are these Glee jokes working out for you? Good?
Melissa Benoist should host next week and make everybody uncomfortable trying to pronounce her name.
Worst: So Wait, Is That The Blowoff To The Bella Twins Feud?
The finish of the match is Nikki Bella pulling Brie’s hair for like five minutes without anybody calling it, going for her rack finish and having it countered into (eventually) a facebuster for the loss. Brie pins Nikki, and the announcers play up how Brie’s “finally” overcome all the adversity Nikki’s sent her way and triumphed over whatever. Brie, NeNe and The Others stand in the middle of the ring and do a big group “yes” chant, which thankfully the production team sees coming and quickly cuts away from. Thank you for that, for the record.
But yeah, is that it? Why are we blowing everything off tonight? They announce Cena vs. Ambrose as the main event, when that’s the ONE announced match for Hell in a Cell. They do Big Show vs. Rusev, and now Brie’s pinning Nikki and celebrating. Is that it? Are all the stories done? Are we done with Raw?
Best: Give The Soska Sisters Their Bray Wyatt Movie Already
We got another extended Bray Wyatt video package this week, and a few things are obvious:
1. Sister Abigail is showing up
2. The Ascension are showing up as Wyatt Family cronies
3. The Ascension could be babies, because the pregnant lady in the videos has got to pay off somewhere, and Bull Dempsey was once a wrestling baby so there’s a “grown men in NXT can also be babies” precedent
4. Harper, Rowan and Wyatt are going to suddenly find themselves in charge of one or more children and enter into a Three Men And A Baby scenario
No matter what happens, the Soska Sisters (the amazing ladies who directed See No Evil 2) are telling anyone who’ll listen that they want to make a Bray Wyatt movie, so whatever WWE’s doing right now needs to build to that. I want a super gory, hard-R movie where the killer beheads promiscuous teens with discus lariats. Let me have this.
Best: The Face That Runs The Place
I’ll say it again: John Cena is the Big Bad.
It’s the only way to make his story make sense. The Authority’s always mad and upset about him, but they’ve never explained why. He won at Money in the Bank and they were SO UPSET, even though he’s John Cena and ALWAYS wins and has been the face of their company for over a decade. He sorta shows up and toes the company line and gets preachy, but never gets too mad. He never steps out of line, and if he does, he does it with a bunch of sanctimonious threats and “jacks” that let you know he’s playing pretend. Look at how Vince McMahon reacts to him. That’s the big tell. From his racially concerning attempts at friendship to his big, gulpy reactions whenever Cena wants something, Vince has always been weirdly subservient to Cena. Now he “runs the place.” It’d make sense, right? Where do all the title shots go? Who keeps getting CDs and movies and game covers and t-shirt after t-shirt? Who latches themselves on to every fresh, popular act that gets big before it has a chance to blossom? THIS FACE.
When Cena finally goes dark and reveals that he’s kept WWE in a state of boring, bullshit nonsense for 10 years to maintain his comfortable spot, beat all the legends and get the most title reigns ever, there will be dancing in the streets. This is the long con, folks.
Best/Worst: This Didn’t Make Even The Slightest Bit Of Sense, But The Ending Was Great
But yeah, assuming that’s all in my head, none of this makes sense. We’re having a “something on a pole” match in 2014, giving away Ambrose vs. Cena when everyone assumed they’d do it at Hell in a Cell and make them wrestle twice. We’ve got Cena and Ambrose having a weak hardcore match while even the usually-daft announce team yells WHY AREN’T THEY TRYING TO GO FOR THE CONTRACT? The Authority shows up and just kinda stands there instead of pulling down the contact themselves, or taking it and giving it to their choice … and furthermore, why is The Authority doing this at all? Why aren’t they protecting Rollins, and why is he okay with facing one or both of these guys? Why do they keep giving the faces opportunities to defeat them? Is this all a show? I mean, yeah, it’s a show, but is it a “show?”
The upside here is that basically anything with Ambrose right now is fun, and the ending with him letting Cena be heroic against The Authority so he can calmly climb the ropes, taunt a little and pull down the clipboard was great. Cena’s clapping read less as “well done” and more as “good job momentarily foiling JOHN CENA,” but what can you do?
And hey, good news: now we get John Cena vs. Randy Orton at Hell in a Cell!
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
“Miley had Billy Ray for a daddy. You had Cowboy Bob Orton. Now get out there and don’t embarrass the family!”
The Wyatt’s are pretty good cinematographers…for a group of hillbillies.
The Wyatt baby is Hornswoggle isn’t it?
That’s why he’s been doing all those gator rolls.
Randy Orton shits in your bag while your not looking. Dean Ambrose shits in your bag while maintaining full eye contact.
A two-on-one beatdown of an outmanned opponent is the perfect tribute to Columbus.
I thought it was pronounced LE-A-KAY
Nene’s new single ‘my single is dropping’ is dropping.
When Mike and Maryse have the maritals, I imagine Mizdow sits outside their door, wildly gyrating on the ground.
Cena is handed a Mad Libs outline by creative before each promo:
This match is about ____. (noun)
____ (wrestler’s name) has heart.
But tonight, I teach them what ____, _____,____, (adjectives) is all about.
The match is _____. (time)
You can’t see _____. (noun)
I’m going to kick your ____. (noun)
Between Orton and Rollins you have a fully dressed man.
Thanks, everybody. See you next week.