– This episode of Raw happened live in Liverpool, England, which means it happened a few hours later on tape in the United States. Also, half the roster is missing because they double-booked it with a house show. I apologize for any obvious exhausted pessimism you might encounter in the column, as taking away “it’s live, so stuff might happen” is the one pure thing keeping us watching Raw.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for November 10, 2014.
Worst: John Cena Is Bad At Event Planning
This week’s episode starts with ol’ Mustard and Ketchup coming to the ring and announcing that his Survivor Series team now has three members: himself, Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger. Besides “LOL Jack Swagger, really?” I have two problems.
1. So hey John, you want to take back all that stuff you said about Vickie Guerrero? Because you’re dick-riding her with your Survivor Series team. Who’s the fourth member of Team Cena, Kaitlyn?
2. The story for the last few Raws has been The Authority headhunting every person who says they want to be on Cena’s team. Cena knows this and has addressed it. Dolph Ziggler shakes his hand and gets put into a string of punishment matches. Zack Ryder tweets about being on his team and gets hurt. So what does Cena do? Starts off Raw standing in the middle of the ring, announcing that Jack Swagger’s joined his team. Then he brings Ryback to the team and tries to enlist him in front of The Authority.
Dear John Cena: if they’re beating up everyone you say is on your team, stop telling them who is on your team. Stop having in-ring confrontations where you beg people to join. Stop having backstage pow-wows where your friends all line up shoulder-to-shoulder and congratulate each other on a face well babied. Keep that shit a secret until Survivor Series. Then you not only get a team, you get a team that hasn’t been shitkicked for the last month.
Vince McMahon brought you the Head Of Meng On A Silver Platter, dude. Stop trying to accidentally drop it.
Worst: Micromanaging The Ryback
If I can do a grand jeté out of kayfabe for a second, Ryback’s booking drives me insane.
You debut him as The Ryback. He kills everybody and does a fun-to-do taunt, and everybody gets onboard. You then push him into the main-event scene before he’s ready, and it starts to falter. Then he turns bad, gets fed to John Cena and mires in your undercard as the nobodiest of the nobodies. He gets hurt and disappears. You bring him back as THE RYBACK, the guy who kills everybody and does a fun-to-do taunt, and everybody’s instantly back onboard. So what do you do? You put him in a Raw main-event against John goddamn Cena like three weeks after he returns. You have him turn heel and instantly establish him as the third or fourth most important guy on a Survivor Series team. It falters, and then at the END OF THE VERY SAME EPISODE you have him ignore everything and become the guy who kills everybody and does a fun-to-do taunt.
It doesn’t make any sense. At the end of the day, ignoring all the artsy daydreaming jerks like me do in wrestling columns like this, your job as a wrestling character is to make the fans go YAY or BOO as loud as they can. You stumble into a thing like Ryback and you’ve proven that in one form it works, and in another it doesn’t. You are lucky that wrestling fans have a short attention span and forgive easily and stumble back into it, and you IMMEDIATELY try to make it work the wrong way. You aren’t even spacing it out and waiting for it to fail. You’re just saying FACE, HEEL, TWEENER, GO and shoving him down the ramp. Guess what? The WWE crowd just watched him betray their favorites before bailing them out. Why would ANYBODY cheer for him, on either side?
It’s all so unnecessarily micromanaged. Do what works, dummies.
Best: Seth Rollins Selling The Ankle On The Curb Stomp
Pre-taped Raws are hard to enjoy. I don’t know why. Even if you avoid spoilers, everything feels like it happened a long time ago, and isn’t “must see.” I’d rather watch a bad live match than an all-right taped one. When a show’s taped, you get the same experience watching the finishes on WWE’s YouTube channel in about a tenth of the time.
That said, Rollins vs. Swagger was probably my favorite match of the show, mostly for Seth hitting a Curb Stomp for the finish and remembering that he Stomps Curbs with the same ankle Big Hoss has been working. That’s awesome. That’s a guy who knows how to wrestle beyond what Bill Demott told him to do in a bouncy house ring at the Performance Center. “Understanding how this is all supposed to work” is an underrated trait for pro wrestlers to have.
My only complaint is that Jack Swagger is the king of the guys who carry match results on their faces. He didn’t walk to the ring like a guy who was facing Mr. Money in the Bank to built to a big elimination tag match. He walked up like a guy who knew he was about to get stuffed into a hypothetical crate and mailed back to Hypothetical OVW. He should’ve worn an iron-on shirt with NOT MAKING IT TO SURVIVOR SERIES across the front.
Best: Dean Ambrose Is Winning The Promo War
“Dean Ambrose’s dad is in prison” is probably the lamest WWE plot point involving cool people since Chris Jericho and CM Punk tried to re-do the Ring of Honor angle with Raven and ended up with “you were seen leaving a bar, which means YOU’RE AN ALCOHOLIC.” Who cares if Dean Ambrose’s dad’s in prison and writes him letters? Most of us have deadbeat dads. Plus, yo, Dean Ambrose is a greasy-haired ex-swat who spent most of the last month pushing around hot dog carts and stabbing mannequins in the face with screwdrivers. Were we supposed to assume his dad was Danny Tanner?
So far, Ambrose is destroying Wyatt in the promo battles, and that kinda makes me sad. I want Wyatt to come back strong, but he’s very obviously plateaued. I don’t know if it’s his fault or Creative’s, but “you’re like ME” and “you should follow me instead of doing your own thing” are all Wyatt’s got. Gone are the days of his awesome NXT street preaching about bringing down the system. Now he’s just a real gaspy guy in Cape Fear cosplay who thinks “your dad doesn’t love you, and I’m a spooky ghost” is a knockout blow. Ambrose wasn’t scared of ANDRE THE GIANT’s ghost, man, why’s he gonna be afraid of Husky’s?
Worst: ECW Is So Old Now
That thing on Joey Styles’ head makes me want to scream CATFIIIIGHT!
Real talk, though. Paul Heyman’s post-ECW work should have overshadowed ECW by now. His pre-ECW work was better, too. When are we gonna grow up and stop fondly remembering the time Balls Mahoney got 10 years of work by calling himself “balls” and letting people hit him with a trash can?
Best: England Loves The Person From England!
First things first, Paige should get this kind of reaction everywhere.
Second things first, was this the blowoff to Paige vs. Alicia Fox? Are they still feuding? I honestly can’t even remember. I know Nikki Bella’s been slid into the Divas Championship challenger slot this month and that leaves everyone else floating in the breeze, so there’s a 100% chance Paige is the new William Regal. “You’re from England, right? We’re in England. Have a match here. Maybe you’ll get them to stop chanting ‘JBL’ every five minutes.” (I am super okay with Paige being the new William Regal.)
Third things first, JBL. I’m not even sure he knows he’s watching a wrestling show sometimes. “Paige went through NXT, right?” Yep! Hey, remember when you were the General Manager of NXT and stripped Paige of the NXT Women’s Championship because of her Raw obligations? Remember how “Paige was on NXT and is now on Raw” was the entire point of that, and in theory the one thing you should remember about it? Remember how you made an NXT Women’s Championship title tournament (maggle) because PAIGE WAS ON NXT AND THEN STOPPED?
Anyway, congratulations to the “non-tan Diva” for her big victory.
Best*: Rusev vs. Sheamus
*The limitation of the Best and Worst of Raw format (besides everybody in the world co-opting it so they can write THE SUGAR, SPICE AND EVERYTHING NICE OF RAW for their assy content farm) is that “best” and “worst” are sometimes more declarative than they need be. Sometimes a “best” isn’t great and a “worst” isn’t that bad.
When I type “Best” here, it’s relative. It’s a best because it involves two talented wrestlers and some associated people I enjoy (Lana, Mercury, Noble). I’m happy there’s some good wrestling on the wrestling show. Honestly, though? This was kind of a mess. It was nowhere NEAR as good as the Network-exclusive match they had at the end of Raw last week, the crowd was barely interested in it and neither man looked like they knew what they were doing. It was just guys wandering around and doing stuff, with no real story to tell. “It’s a rematch!” “The Authority is helping Rusev because they want him on their team, even though he can beat Sheamus clean and rarely ever cheats.” Like the Ryback turn, it was just 10 minutes of wheel-spinning.
The crowd was AWFUL. Pretty sure they chanted “you f*cked up” at Sheamus for not being able to hold on to a submission. When Raw goes out of the country, the problem of wrestling fans showing up to see wrestlers and not wrestling is magnified. England Raws should just be John Cena walking out, waving, getting booed and leaving. Then Dean Ambrose walks in, yells at the air, gets cheered and leaves. It should be a long-distance meet-and-greet for 10,000 people.
Worst: The Worst Kind Of Stephanie
I’ve praised Stephanie McMahon a lot in 2014, as I think she’s done the best work of her career and been one of the most enjoyable characters on the show. You can’t be afraid to point out when your favorites do something bad, though, and the backstage stuff with Stephanie and Lana reminded me that as good as she is, Steph can also be a huge detriment.
She’s a strong, powerful female character. That’s great. The problem is that she (I guess) believes she’s the only strong, powerful female character that can exist. If any woman on the show builds up some kind of power or credibility, Stephanie swoops in to dramatically announce that NO, I AM THE STRONG AND POWERFUL ONE. It’s not just for women she’s feuding against or will get some kind of payoff out of … it’s anyone. Remember last year when Kaitlyn and AJ were feuding, and the segment turned into a totally-unrelated-to-the-situation Stephanie putting herself over AJ, Kaitlyn and the ENTIRE Divas division for no reason?
Here, she asks Lana and Rusev if they’re joining Team Authority. At no point does Lana make it sound like she’s not going to join, she’s just considering it, handling her business and running shit by Putin. Stephanie gets all threatening with her and Lana cowers. Steph helps Rusev win a match he didn’t have to win, gets threatening with Lana again even after she’s agreed to join the team, mocks her for being Russian and puts herself over PUTIN. Over VLADIMIR PUTIN. Stephanie McMahon cannot let the PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA get a rub. What’s the point of that? To say that Stephanie’s strong and powerful? We know that. We’ve KNOWN that. Someone with “McMahon” at the end of their name does not need more.
It’s ultimately pretty pointless, but it made me mad. And now Rusev’s teaming up with Mark Henry? I hope Rusev turns on the Authority at Survivor Series, superkicks everybody, taps out Seth Rollins to The Accolade and power walks to the back while Lana holds up middle fingers and yells PUTIN FOR LIFE, MOTHERF*CKERS.
Worst: Damien Mizdow Jumps The Shark, And It’s Totally Not His Fault
“This act is funny. Know what’d be great? If we put HORNSWOGGLE in it, too! Who cares if it ignores and negates the premise of a stunt double. Michael Cole yelling ‘It’s MINI-MIZ, King! MINI-MIZ!’ will be worth it. F*ck everything. Burn it down.”
Best: The King Of Queens
John Cena and Dolph Ziggler are having a morose conversation about Survivor Series in front of television cameras, so Triple H pops in like he’s the Toasty guy from Mortal Kombat and sings ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ to emasculate them. This is the difference between Triple H and Stephanie in this episode; Stephanie is establishing that she’s stronger, better and more important than the heels, while Triple H acts like a dork and tries to get you on the side of the faces.
Also, he’s singing Queen. Dude should’ve made ‘I Want To Break Free’ the official theme song of Hell in a Cell.
Worst: You Should’ve Made Her Wrestle As A Butler
Because Brie Bella is Nikki Bella’s assistant, she’s made to dress like a butler when they’re in England. Again, not how assistants work. Brie gets a match with AJ Lee and Nikki more or less orders her to hurt AJ so she can win at Survivor Series. She doesn’t, and loses the match. Does that qualify as Brie not obeying Nikki’s orders? Does that justify a firing? Can’t Nikki just order her to like, jump off a building? Furthermore, WHY THE HELL DID YOU MAKE HER DRESS UP LIKE A BUTLER FOR A MINUTE IF YOU WEREN’T GONNA MAKE HER WRESTLE AS ONE? “Brie Butler” is a thing I can get behind.
Here is my official match rating: ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Worst: Are We Still Convincing Ourselves That These ‘A New Day’ Vignettes Are Building To Something And NOT Just Vince McMahon’s Idea Of How Black Guys Should Act?
I sure hope so.
If the payoff for this is Xavier Woods passionately berating WWE for only letting black people be dancers, criminals or preachers and pulling a sort-of reverse Funkasaurus on everyone, I’ll be the happiest guy in the world. I don’t like Woods or Kofi, but if WWE’s putting sincere effort into making people side-eye this until the reveal that it deserves to be side-eyed, it’ll be the best thing they ever do. The vignettes are so awkward and obviously NOT what anybody wants that they have to be a ruse. Right? Like, what’s the other options? WWE having four R-Truths instead of one? Who wants that? Who wants the one we’ve already got? That guy’s IMAGINARY FRIEND bailed on him.
I hate that WWE’s got me rooting for Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston here. It’s like Bull Dempsey and Mojo Rawley, but for racism.
Best: Nikki Storm Forever
See the lady on the left in the cavewoman getup? That’s SHIMMER’s Nikki Storm, and spoiler alert, she’s better than almost everyone you’ve seen on this episode. You may remember her from British Boot Camp 2, when TNA passed on her for not jamming hot pants taint up her ass or painting herself blaze orange before she wrestles. There’s a lot of regional talent in the Rosebuds in this episode, so let’s just assume Adam Rose accidentally ended up at the Boot Camp tapings and went, “hey losers, don’t be a lemon, let’s go to Party City!”
Worst (?): Erick Rowan, Incompetent Stalker
Speaking of Rowan, he shows up alongside the Rosebuds, looks around, says “she’s not here” and leaves through the crowd. The announce team’s all, “WHO’S not here? GO ASK HIM!!” I guess they weren’t paying attention last week when he got all Ethics In Journalism with Renee Young.
So … this is what we’re doing? An Erick Rowan/Renee Young stalker angle? Really? Really? How did Bray Wyatt “heal” him exactly, by making him watch a bunch of old episodes of Aftermath?
Best: The Possibility Of Adam Rose Doing Something Besides Oh Oh Oh OH
The good news is that Adam Rose is actually doing something. Maybe we’ll get Leo Kruger in one form or another after all. And man, I haven’t seen a rabbit take a beating like that since The Rules Of The Game.
Barely Anything: Dolph Ziggler vs. Mark Henry
I don’t even know what to write about this. It’s barely even a match. I had to go back and reread match results to even remember what happened.
Ziggler gets put into a match with Mark Henry. The line between “opportunity” and “punishment” is almost invisible now. If you wrestle someone and you want to, it’s an opportunity. If you wrestle someone and you don’t, it’s punishment. Brie Bella wrestling AJ Lee is “punishment.” They aren’t even trying to stack the odds anymore. They’ll put you in a handicap match, I guess, but now the only mean thing they can do is schedule you to do your job when you don’t morally agree with it. I guess you showed up to work in your wrestling gear and signature t-shirt to hang around backstage? Wait, isn’t “not being on the show” ALSO punishment? What part of this do you want to be doing?
As for the actual match, Mark’s just there. His motivation’s gone. Henry vs. Ziggler could be great, but here it’s just Ziggler bumping his ass off for a man who isn’t even moving. He goes for his big jumping DDT and Henry just squats there. Dolph ends up going over him all dangerously and trying to turn it into a sunset flip in the ropes. Eventually Henry hits him in the back with a chair, and Big Show, protector of the scrappy little fan favorite, has to make the save. Show announces he’s joining Team Cena, and Jesus, this entire match is filled with people who turn heel and face on a dime. The ending should be Henry, Rusev, Kane and Randy Orton suddenly being on Team Cena and Show, Ziggler and Alicia Fox representing Team Authority. F*ck it.
Worst: Ryback Has Been Standing In One Place And Barely Moving His Arms For Like Two Hours
“Hey man, you finished doing bicep curls with no weights?”
“Almost. Give me 80 more minutes.”
Best, IDGAF: Grumpy Cat Is Hosting Raw Next Week
Requirement for the Grumpy Cat Raw: She interacts with Tyson Kidd at least once, and Tyson is the NICEST PERSON IN THE WORLD to her because they understand each other. Bonus points if Tyson includes Grumpy Cat on his kickpads going forward. Double bonus points if he ditches Natalya to hang out with a famous Internet cat.
Secondary requirement for the Grumpy Cat Raw: They find Teddy Hart by himself in the parking lot, softly sobbing.
Worst: Cena Wrestles Like He’s Afraid To Fall Down
The Ryback vs. Cena main-event is fine, but marred by Cena very clearly not wanting to hurt himself before his TV and movie obligations are over. Or, you know, “Survivor Series.” Watch him in this match. It’s not a condemnation of EVERY Cena match, but he spends his time with Ryback falling down as gently as possible, sometimes putting down his hands to break his fall. He counters the Shell Shocked by just kinda being moved to the side and suddenly being out of it. You know how you can hear Cena calling his spots in every match? I kept listening for, “BE CAREFUL, JUDD APATOW NEEDS THESE SHOULDERS.”
Best/Worst: A Month-Long Angle Crammed Into One Night
And that’s really the story of Raw. It’s all very safe and pre-taped, but doing a month’s worth of storyline progression in a single night.
Ryback is barely back from oblivion and he’s turning on Cena to join The Authority, having backstage confrontations or issues with everyone on the team, being put into a main-event against John Cena (before a reason for the match to happen was ever announced or clarified), losing by DQ thanks to Authority interference, still helping them beat up Cena but then turning on them too? And meanwhile you’ve got Cena explaining away Zack Ryder’s injury, enlisting the help of Jack Swagger only to lose him in the first match of the show, having Big Show join up on the fly due to Mark Henry beating up someone he barely cares about, and Sheamus joining up because Rusev was getting help Rusev didn’t even ASK for. Rusev’s on Team Authority, but Stephanie hates Russia and Putin so maybe there’s a problem? This is all for ONE STORY, guys, and it happens in three hours of a show where half the roster’s gone and nobody wants to get hurt.
This probably could’ve been a decent month of WWE programming. Introduce some character motivations, give guys like Sheamus and Show a refocusing, tease a Rusev face turn because he’s a do-gooding patriot who just happens to be from somewhere besides America, play with Ryback’s strengths while nudging people in the ribs about how he’s just spent a year being a bad guy … work Orton into it, too. Everybody knows Orton’s getting involved. Is Reigns coming back to be the fifth guy, or is it Orton? Where will Ryback land, and why?
Or hey, do it in 20 backstage conversations and some “England” shit on the stage. Either/or.
Best: Dolph Ziggler Is A Dead Bird
My favorite part of the show was probably the very end, when CRAZY EYEBALL MAN is revealed to be Luke Harper. Harper has changed clothes (gasp) and presents Dolph Ziggler to The Authority like a dog who spent an afternoon in the yard and thinks you’d like a dead bird. Either that or Ziggler enters rooms now by leaping into a nearby couch and bumping to the floor. Either explanation is fine.
I thought it’d be a while before Luke Harper usurped Bray Wyatt as the “good one” in the Wyatt Family, but if Harper becomes a main-event workhorse who wills Cena to tie up his worker boots by sheer will of hossiness alone, he’s gonna become one of the biggest stars in the company. He’s like a Cesaro you can look at and say, “he’s tough and crazy.” Not to say Cesaro’s not legit on first sight, but he’s a muscular, hairless bald man. You aren’t going to run into him in an alley and run for your life. Harper looks like he could gut you and hang you upside down from a tree.
So what’s the lineup now? Cena, Sheamus, Ziggler, Show and X against Rollins, Kane, Rusev, Henry and Harper? We assume X is Ryback, but it ends up being Orton, right? That’s pretty great. I would pay FREE for that.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Jamaal Charles in Charge
What’s even the point of +1’ing any comments if the top 10 are just going to be announced three hours prior to the B+W being posted tomorrow?
Redshirt the Disgruntled Bengals Fan
Thanks to John Cena, I don’t even need the spoilers to know what will happen on tonight’s show.
I wish Batista was here so the Liverpool crowd could drown out his theme song with “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
We are the nation….of affirmation!
Lana trolling the UK? File that one under “Putin on the Brits!”
“That’s payback for ending my career you son of a bitch!”
“The bunny has become my nemesis. If only at any point in my life I had some hunting experience.” – Adam Rose
Cena’s shirt is actually black, he’s just no selling light absorption.
“Ryback, if you join Team Authority, we’ll let you take the South Yorkshire show off. That’s right… you can Skip Sheffield.”
“Right after this, you can watch ECW exposed on the WWE Network. And if you’re in the UK you can use your imagination”
Thanks, everybody. See you next week. On tape.