– Some jerk on Twitter who missed the tens of thousands of words about wrestling I write on this blog every week said “all I ever do” is shill my outside projects, so here’s me doing that. If you want to know about the wrestling promotion I ring announce for and kinda-sorta help run, visit Inspire Pro Wrestling. I also made a horror movie that’s being released in stores in a couple of months, so read about that here. Now, 5,000 words about the wrestling show you watched. Thanks for putting up with me.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for November 17, 2014.
Worst: A 20-Minute Conversation About Nothing
On paper, this week’s Raw opening works fine. Raw ended with Ryback turning on Team Authority and declaring himself Chaotic Neutral, so assuming Smackdown doesn’t matter and nobody employed by WWE talks to each other on their days off, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon would want answers. They’d say “hey Big Guy, where do you stand?” He’d say, “I stand ALONE!” Cheers might be had? I don’t know, but then Triple H would go “aw hamburgers” and put the faces in punishment matches against the heels because a guy in the middle caused problems. In and out in about five minutes, with appropriate replays.
In reality, it took them 20 minutes. It took almost an entire episode of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ to say “you on our team?” “nope, I’m on my own team” “okay here’s punishment.” I’ve got a theory that WWE spends the first quarter hour of Raw forcing you to check your phone, so you’ll notice WWE Social Media. It’d explain why they’re always going to commercial as soon as something you might enjoy happens.
Best: Two Highlights:
1. Remembering things!
Stephanie uses year-old footage (from Superstars, apparently) of John Cena childishly mocking Ryback to help convince him that Team Cena’s a bum deal. It’s a great idea because The Authority’s in charge of the tape library, and there’s probably footage of Cena doing Ace Venture impressions and making fart sounds in the face of everyone on the roster. It’s also a rare example of WWE remembering and utilizing its history to make things make sense, and serves as the latest example of both (1a) Ryback’s return being steeped in reason, and (1b) The Authority representing the intelligent viewer.
It’s so weird that WWE turned “paying attention” into a heel trait, but they already did it to “being in love” and “having friends,” so whatever.
2. The customized Big Guy weight-lifting belt.
This segment could’ve been twice as long and three times as boring and it wouldn’t have kept me from praising Ryback’s customized Hollywood Hogan-style weight lifting belt. I love that Ryback collects gaudy accessories and either pastes a big “R” on them or airbrushes them within an inch of their life. After the “THAN NOW 4 LIFE” singlet I would preferred a spelling error (“BAG GUY”), but I’ll take it.
Worst: A Commercial Break 40 Seconds Into A Title Match Built Around The Idea Of A Man Being Beaten At Any Second
General complaints about showcasing 20-minute conversations in their entirety but going to commercial break during matches aside, last night’s opening match featured two particularly offensive commercial moments. The first: they went to commercial, came back for the start of the match, then went to commercial again after the first nearfall.
The second? It defeated the purpose of the match. If you missed it, Dolph Ziggler gets put into a match with Luke Harper, and The Authority makes it an Intercontinental Championship defense at the last second. Ziggler seems fine with it, so Noble, Mercury, Harper and Seth Rollins all attack him before the bell. He’s injured, but he’s COURAGEOUS, so he pulls himself up and demands the referee start the match. It’s pretty great, honestly, and the match is on. The entire point of the match is that the champion has been put into an unfair situation and attacked, so he’s extremely vulnerable and could be beaten at any second. You go to commercial during THAT? Of all the things you can cut away from — lingering conversations, Grumpy Cat interactions, the Divas, a midcard tag match that’s going 12 minutes, and on and on — you take a break half a minute into the one thing that BY YOUR DESIGN lives or dies in the heat of the moment.
Best: Intercontinental Champion Luke Harper
The good news is that “Luke Harper, Intercontinental Champion” is now a thing. You’ve got a dependable hoss in charge of your secondary title who can work, fly, get violent AND play a character. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect wrestler than that. Seeing him wrestle folks like Ziggler, Sheamus or even Cesaro with something on the line bigger than Sheep Lore will be fantastic.
Worst: The Less Said About The Buttf*cking Rabbit, The Better
So, uh, Adam Rose needs help to escape Tyson Kidd’s Hart Family Sharpshooter™, but The Bunny is busy meddling with Natalya. Rose loses and once again tries to take out his frustrations, but this time The Bunny is ready … with, uh, anal?
I don’t know how else to describe him. The Bunny like, buttf*cks him to assert his dominance. I’m not sure why they’re going in this direction, unless they’re still planning to reveal The Bunny as Darren Young and want to make him feel bad about his personal life in advance. We’re left with a guy whose character is ostensibly “drug dealer with a tour bus” being sexually assaulted by his own pet furry. Remember when Adam Rose first debuted on NXT, and he had that awesome song? And we’d never seen a guy with a PARTY as his valet, and we were so excited?
The only way I’ll forgive this is if they reveal that Adam Rose found the bunny on the north face of Mt. Everest.
Best: The Miz Being Sweet To Grumpy Cat, IDGAF
My favorite moment of the entire show was Miz heeling it up in the face of Grumpy Cat, doing a dumb comedy bit with a stuffed animal, leaving in a huff and then returning to break character and kiss her on the head. I’m a sucker for Wrestling Friendship, so much so that a guy legitimately marking out for a popular internet cat and wanting to give it kisses makes me happy. The Miz is me right there. I’m gonna go into the situation trying to be a detached, too-cool-for-this Internet Guy, but then nope, I’m marking out. If Marnie the Dog showed up at my place of work I’d abandon all hope of being a functional human being and just cuddle its face and make baby noises.
Worst: Booing A House Cat
Look, I don’t want a meme hosting Raw either, but y’all are some cold-hearted motherf*ckers to boo a cat.
A cat isn’t Jeremy Piven. A cat isn’t the cast of Hot Tub Time Machine. It’s not there to take up your time. It’s a cat. If the Star Wars Kid or Tay Zonday or whoever show up to Raw treating it like a Web Redemption, sure, boo your heart about. Hoist the black flag and start slitting throats. But yo, you get three hours of this bad show. Two minutes of a cute cat being cute while people act stupid around it isn’t the worst you’re gonna see.
Besides, it could always be worse.
ugh, where’d i put my prilosec otc
Worst: Tyson Kidd Didn’t Get An On-Screen Segment With Grumpy Cat
That was the one thing that made sense in a “Grumpy Cat in WWE” scenario and they didn’t do it. That’s a huge disappointment. Fact. Grumpy Cat should spend a couple of weeks being lightly drugged backstage at Full Sail so guys like Kidd and Enzo Amore can interact with her. Fact. Yes, I just requested a developmental run for a cat. She’s already got more screen presence than Bull Dempsey.
Best: This Feud Should End With Dean Ambrose Beating Bray Wyatt To Death With A VCR
The most frustrating thing about Raw for me as a fan continues to be how little I’m enjoying Bray Wyatt. I don’t know if he’s doing it on purpose to keep us from rallying behind him and making him a cult favorite (like what happened in NXT, where “being great at what you do” trumps most storylines or alignments), but he’s so damn gaspy and boring now. He does the hard inhale after every third word — sometimes sooner — and has officially gone from “cryptic” to “wasting our time.” I hate that BRAY WYATT has usurped the Usos as the guy on the show not cool enough for his ring entrance.
At the same time, I like how Ambrose is handling the situation. He was briefly shook by Bray using a hologram ghost lantern (because it was a goddamn hologram ghost lantern), but reacts to most Wyatt soliloquies by stomping over to wherever he is and punching him in the face. Him using the “magic” of video recording to cut a TitanTron promo was great, and I like that he’s able to intelligently dissect Wyatt’s mind games without resorting to cheap “this is all FAKE” reasoning. Of course Wyatt’s magic is mind games. That’s the point. He’s not actually a teleporter, he’s a crazy cult leader who knows how to f*ck with peoples’ brains. Ambrose doesn’t have a working brain, so he’s able to A Beautiful Mind that shit and see around it.
This should absolutely end in blood, and then them being the best of friends.
Best: The Second Half Of Ryback Vs. Cesaro
I didn’t like the first half of this. It actually reminded me a little of Goldberg vs. Lord Steven Regal, where Regal was supposed to put over this unstoppable strong guy and was just like, “nope, gonna pull his arms and European uppercut him to death until he stands up for himself.” I appreciate a hard-fart victory most of the time, but Ryback has only ever gained any real momentum or fan following working squashes. If you’re building him up from total irrelevance to main-event status in a four-week cycle, wouldn’t it be better if he fought guys he could truck?
Of course, Cesaro is Cesaro and Ryback’s always been a little underrated in longer matches, so this found its place and got better. Ryback “surviving” a guy who is suspiciously his superior in every way and only winning with a well-timed counter was unexpected but welcomed, as Cesaro seems to be easing back into “looking great in defeat” after a dalliance in “having Jack-o-Lanterns smashed on my head.” While it isn’t the match decision I would’ve made, I can’t really hate on Toni and The Big Guy throwing hands at each other for ten minutes. Especially not on a show that has already involved the ghost of Larry the Cable Guy and interspecies doggystyle.
Best: Lana’s Topless Photo
I’m actually shocked it took them this long to properly utilize Shirtless Vladimir Putin On A Horse, one of the greatest and most utilitarian photographs of the 21st century. It was such an obvious joke to make, but sometimes you’ve got to be obvious. In my headcanon, Lana had someone put a giant picture of Putin’s moobs on the TitanTron in an effort to convince Stephanie McMahon she was wrong for shit-talking him, because look at him, look at how magnificent he is. How majestic.
I don’t even know what to make of what followed. It was a roller coaster of emotions. Heath Slater interrupts with a USA theme all of sudden, cuts a promo about how he loves America and has COUNTRY BOY BLOOD (!!) and quotes Apollo Creed to challenge Rusev for a match. He also calls him a “son of a bitch,” and the soapboxy pussy vegan part of my brain that writes dense paragraphs you skip goes “hey wait a minute,” but before I can form a divisive, ragey opinion Uncle Heath’s already down and submitting to The Accolade. I think Putin on a Horse was onscreen longer than Slater.
A bunch of people who thought this was funny are going to type “Lana topless photo” into Google tonight and be pleasantly surprised, so we’ll call it a Best.
Worst: Babyfaces Bein’ Dumb As Dirt
I don’t get guys like Sheamus and Big Show. That’s not a news flash or anything, I’m just saying. I don’t know how their fictional brains work, and why they do the things they do.
Stephanie wants Big Show to abandon Team Cena, which should be easy because Show’s the least reliable, least steadily one-side-or-the-other guy in the company. He’s the enormous white Alicia Fox of the Superstars division. She brings up his WCW debut and how he was billed as the son of Andre The Giant, pointing out that he’s spent his entire life in other peoples’ shadows. Sadly she doesn’t go into the hows or whys of that debut, because oh man, there is nothing I want more in this f*cking earth than Stephanie McMahon devoting 10 minutes of Raw to Dungeon Of Doom discussion. “I know the Master found you and brought you to WCW to hunt the rare white bengal tiger, Show!”
Sorry. So yeah, Stephanie tries to manipulate him off the team and Show turns her down. That brings out Sheamus, who Cs his way into an A to B conversation and is shocked when Steph attempts to punish him. She puts them in a match against one another, claiming the winner will get a title opportunity. I guess the idea is that she knows they’re both bull-headed and competitive, so if they think a win will get them a title shot, they’ll get ruthless and start hurting each other. She’s totally right, too, as they’re throwing big haymakers to the ribs and dropping each other on their heads a few minutes in.
This is where I don’t get the thought process. Looking at it from a purely kayfabe point of view, Show had to know his refusal to leave Team Cena would lead to a manipulative punishment. Sheamus knew when he interrupted that he’d get the same. So they’re both acutely aware that they’re being jerked around, right? Stephanie puts them in a match against one another, which history shows has a 100% chance of ending in a schmozz. She says it’s for a title opportunity, but The Authority JUST spent MONTHS establishing Lesnar as the chosen, Cena-nerfing champion and sending him away to boarding school, or wherever. Seth Rollins is the backup plan, once again chosen by The Authority in case Lesnar fails. So this entire heel hierarchy of title control is in place and spoken about openly, but you’re gonna FIGHT YOUR TEAMMATE AS HARD AS YOU CAN six days before the winner-take-all Survivor Series match because you might get a title shot? Are you EXPECTING to lose the match? Because if Steph gets ousted from power, when are you expecting to get that title shot? And if you fight her and lose, why would a manipulative liar follow through with her promises?
Show and Sheamus should’ve just amateur wrestled in the middle of the ring for fun until everybody ran in. Use your brains, guys. There are ways to be babyface noble that don’t make you look like an idiot. Ziggler’s doing a hell of a job of it at the beginning and end of this very episode.
Not gonna lie, AJ Brie is gonna make me catch feelings. Even Actual AJ points out how much better she looks in her gear.
If the rumors are finally true and AJ’s on her way out after Survivor Series, she should bequeath the character to Brie. Make it a total Fake Diesel and Fake Razor Ramon situation. If Brie Bella’s gonna steal a bunch of shit from a wrestler that’s never coming back, I’d rather her do it to AJ than her husband.
Worst: Nikki Bella Is Incepting Herself
Good to know the faces aren’t the only stupid characters on the show.
Nikki Bella is feuding with AJ, and has Brie still locked into that “be my assistant for 30 days” thing from Hell in a Cell. Apparently the duties of an assistant include “cosplaying and losing matches to your boss,” so Nikki makes Brie dress up like AJ and wrestle her in an “exhibition match.” Actual AJ shows up on color commentary, aka DISTRACTION JUNCTION. Yo dawg I heard you liked AJ Lee, so I put AJ Lee on commentary for your AJ Lee match so you can AJ Lee while you AJ Lee.
Here’s the weird logic gap: AJ distracts Nikki, and Brie rolls her up for the win. Shouldn’t Brie be fired now? Wasn’t that part of the stipulation? If Brie didn’t follow Nikki’s orders she’d lose her job? Isn’t she in GROSS violation of that here? If she isn’t, why’d she put up with everything else? Dressing like a butler, getting smoothies poured on her head, all of it.
A supplemental Best, though, for AJ doing God’s work and just beating up both Bellas after the match. She should win an Assistant Match at Survivor Series and make Nikki dress like Kaitlyn for a month.
Best: Preach E Langston
You know, every week now I write a thing about how the New Day vignettes are either an embarrassing example of how Vince McMahon thinks black people act or red herring for a militant “don’t reduce minorities to dancing jokes” faction. At this point, I don’t really care. All I want from this, good or bad, is for Big E to be important and popular.
The man deserves it. Xavier Woods does a bad James Brown impression and Kofi Kingston’s only marketable skill is jumping, but E is KILLING this. If he showed up as an aggressive southern preacher every week I’d buy every t-shirt he made. I’d let him autograph my Bible. WWE signed Bu Ku Dao to a developmental deal, didn’t they? Give him a collections box and do an inverse of the Reverend D-Von/Deacon Batista thing. Regular altar boy, muscular monster preacher.
Worst: Ryback’s Pads
Look at those things. He might as well have a mattress strapped to each arm. Is he wrestling in swimmies? It looks like he just finished fisting Ahmed Johnson.
Best: Damien Mizdow Deprivation
The final match of the show was an eight-man tag pairing up the four teams involved in the Survivor Series Fatal 4 Way for the tag team championships. Lord, that’s a lot of information. The match is pretty by-the-numbers, but I like what it accomplished: the concept of making a crowd BEG for Damien Sandow, but refusing to let them have him.
Sandow did his Stunt Double thing on the apron the entire match. He’s awesome, and the crowd chants “WE WANT MIZDOW” clap clap clapclapclap. When Goldust can tag him in, he doesn’t. The crowd boos. Miz avoids tagging him until the match is almost over, and when he does, the crowd erupts. Miz then immediately tags himself back in, and the reaction is sucked away. It’s beautiful, in a way, that for all their faults and wacky gaps in reason and logic, WWE’s still so great at simultaneously f*cking with 10,000 individual sets of emotions. Make them work for it if they want to see him again.
Frankly it’s kind of a miracle that anybody wants to see Mizdow after last week’s Hornswoggle tragedy, but I guess it’s a testament to how good Damien Sandow’s been at his job for the last few months. Hold a plush cat in the background of a celebrity pet segment, have the arena chanting your name. There’s art in that.
Best/Worst: Badda Boom, Realest Guy In The Room
The heel breaks his expected rhythm to speak honestly about how much WWE means to him. He acknowledges that the crowd loves WWE, but that they can’t possibly know it and love it like the men and women who keep it running every day. They bleed, sweat and cry to keep professional wrestling relevant on a worldwide level. They are aware of patterns. They’re aware of trends. They know Vince McMahon was seen as the most evil man alive when he ran WWE, but became a beloved, goofy old codger. All they want is to become that codger. To be beloved for the ruthless work they do.
The face isn’t taking any of this seriously. He comes out by himself, but is confident and knows wrestling’s fake, so he’ll be fine. He has easy-to-repeat insults for all his opponents. You’re a sellout! You look like Drew Carey! You’re Sexual Chocolate, remember? He derides a man like Ryback for not joining his team and helping out, but won’t run out to help anyone himself, despite being the “Cena” in “Team Cena.” He is a complacent, dominant alpha male who does nothing to earn the respect of his peers, yet is still supported by them.
One side’s rational, but cold. The other side’s loud and wild, but loved. It’s left brain vs. right brain, I guess.
Worst: Team Cena, Or
Best: This Is Setting Up The Greatest Swerve Of All Time
So, Cena’s final team consists of:
– John Cena
– a man who once knocked John Cena out to help an authority figure
– a man who once attacked John Cena as part of a bad guy gang nobody expected to attack en masse
– a man who once stole John Cena’s girlfriend and had her shove him off a ladder
– a man who once tried to abduct John Cena and make him part of an evil cult
This is either an incredible exercise in trust, or a preview of the best ending in WWE PPV history. Seriously, how great would it be if the Survivor Series elimination match was Triple H, Rollins, Henry, Rusev, Harper, Rowan, Cesaro, Ziggler, Show and Ryback all swerving Cena and beating the dog shit out of him for 20 minutes? Wouldn’t that be the most glorious thing you’d ever seen?
Now imagine that Cena gets a spectacular NEW team of people who have ACTUALLY had problems with The Authority to back him up. Daniel Bryan returning from injury. Roman Reigns returning from injury. Randy Orton returning from the nutso snake farm. CM Punk returning from sabbatical. (Ambrose pulling double-duty if that’s too much of an impossibility.) Pretty sure pro wrestling would peak, and we’d have to spend the rest of our lives doing the Best and Worst of Chrisley Knows Best, because f*ck it, wrestling’s done. It’s not getting better than that.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
“I had a cat named Gizmo, he died, he died.” -Natalya
uh, Triple H, your best friends were the inmates running that asylum at WCW…
Harper is a team player.
Rusev’s not a player, he just CRUSH a lot.
Redshirt the Disgruntled Bengals Fan
“Congratulations on winning the Intercontinental Championship. But if you think this will lead to further wins and help your career, then I’m afraid I got some BAD NEWS…”
That cat is a way better actor than Brie Bella.
Erick Rowan should change his name to Lenny Jannetty.
The only way this match could be improved upon, is if Stephanie broke a pool cue in half..tossed it between the two of them, and told them to make it fast.
This show reminds Summer Rae of Layla because they both star a Catty Little *CA*t.
Cena to Triple H: Nice odds you’ve got there. Be a shame if someone were to overcome them.
Kofi needs to take over Team Cena. “I’m the Captain now.”
Thanks, everybody. See you this Sunday on TEAM STROUD for Survivor Series.