– Be sure you’ve read The Best and Worst of WWE Survivor Series 2014 before continuing.
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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for November 24, 2014. Git r dun.
Best: Daniel Bryan’s Back! And His Arms Work!
Worst: … And He’s Having A Sarcastic 30-Minute Conversation
The Authority had been talking for a while and not really saying anything, so I got up off the couch and walked across my living room to plug in my phone. When Daniel Bryan’s music hit, I did one of those half turns at the hip back toward the television and said, “yeah?” with a big smile on my face.
I shouldn’t have to type this disclaimer as much as I do, but Daniel Bryan is my favorite wrestler. The stuff he does in the ring connects me to that happy, childish spot in my brain where I stop worrying about everything and love what I’m watching. Wrestlers can do that from time to time — Ziggler’s performance at Survivor Series shut me down completely, for example — but Bryan can do it with regularity. The buildup and fallout to his matches might be WORRY DISSECT WONDER WORRY NITPICK, but the content is always yeah Bryan, kick his ass! In layman’s terms, he’s such a good worker he turns me from a guy you’d hate on the Internet into a guy you’d hate to sit next to at a live show.
The major problem I’m having is that without his in-ring stuff, it’s just worry dissect worry worry nitpick all the time. So the heart part of my brain is saying “YEAH DRAGON KICK THEIR ASSES,” but the actual brain part is saying “oh honey, no.”
Raw started with 30 minutes of one-sided conversations. That’s never good. I’ve seen a lot of people jump to its defense because it’s Bryan and they’re happy to see him, and because a lot happened at Survivor Series and needed to be addressed, but no. Let me put it to you this way: Raw’s opening segment was nine minutes longer than an episode of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.’ If an episode of that show can introduce you to a world full of characters, establish their relationships and motivations, introduce a problem, have the characters solve that problem, produce a satisfying resolution and fill in the gaps with jokes, Raw does not need half an hour to say “Sting showed up last night, The Authority’s fired and Daniel Bryan’s punishing the heels.”
If Raw’s going to be a 3-hour show, it should be a 3-hour show. It shouldn’t be a 1-hour show made to last 3 hours. It takes 1/8 of your day to watch a full episode of Raw.
Worst: What’s Wrong With Mark Henry? Is He Dying?
The first match is Ryback vs. Mark Henry, which Henry loses almost immediately to the Meathook clothesline, aka Ryback’s “I’m not strong enough to confidently pick you up right now” secondary finish. This comes less than 24 hours after Henry’s contribution to Survivor Series was “run at Big Show and get punched once.”
Is he all right? Does he have to have torso surgery or something and doesn’t want to tell anyone? Why’s he suddenly the jobber on the wrong end of a Baron Corbin count-a-long?
Worst: Mr. McMahon Doesn’t Make Any Sense
As Triple H and Stephanie are leaving the building, they’re confronted by Mr. McMahon. He dresses them down for “disappointing” him, and says he’s ashamed he has to spend Thanksgiving with them. Keep in mind that The Authority was handling things fine until Mr. McMahon showed up out of the blue and put them into a no-win situation against the most impossible to beat person int the company. Mr. McMahon’s the one who put everything on the line, and Mr. McMahon’s the one who made it a cake walk for Cena. Mr. McMahon’s the one who made the dumb sub-stipulation that if The Authority lost their power, PRO WRESTLING EMPLOYEE WHO THINKS HE KNOWS BETTER THAN ALL IMAGINABLE AUTHORITY FIGURES JOHN CENA would be the only one who could reinstate it. They lost the match because the one popular guy in wrestling history who said he’d never step foot in a WWE ring showed up and stare-attacked them at the last second. Shouldn’t your response be, “well, shit, I guess nobody could’ve won that match?”
What does Vince get out of this? If The Authority won, what, he’d be okay eating green beans near them? Why put the people you want to succeed into impossible, embarrassing situations, then mock and punish them for not succeeding? Does Mr. McMahon run his family like the first four seasons of NXT?
At some point I’m going to stop trying to make sense of the character motivations on Raw and just type “this is a show for stupid people and babies” for seven pages.
Best: Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper, While It Lasted
Dean Ambrose challenging Luke Harper for the Intercontinental Championship is one of those things I’d book in the video game, but never expect to see in real life. It’s also something I want to see a lot of, which is why I (and I assume everyone watching) was so bummed at the finish.
If you missed it, Harper pushed Ambrose into the referee, and instead of doing what 100.1% of referees would do and bumping, the ref calls for a DQ. That’s the lamest finish they’ve come up with in a while. They found a way to do the “TAG MATCH IS BREAKING DOWN AND THE REF’S THROWN IT OUT” thing in a singles match. This makes “guy won’t stop hitting his opponent when the ref says to” look like Austin and Michaels trading finishers at Mania 14. Also, check out Luke Harper having the Intercontinental Championship for a week and already being unable to win matches.
To sound a little more positive, I just really want to see these guys go at it more. Every time the IC belt changes hands I get this wild hair that they’ll refocus the division around these great, fun wrestling matches and not use it as an action figure accessory. Walking to the ring with the Intercontinental Championship’s like walking to the ring holding half a broken table. It’s yours because it came with you.
Worst: THE COMFY CHAIR
Bray Wyatt seriously just incapacitated Dean Ambrose by covering him in Office Max chairs. The Lunatic Fringe, defeated by Herman Miller. “NO, THEY’RE TOO ERGONOMIC! THEY’RE SUPPORTING MY LUMBAR, SOMEBODY HELP”
In a related note, I seem to be secretly calling all the shots in WWE these days, so let me try one for TLC: the Ambrose/Wyatt match should end when a singing demon child shows up to distract Ambrose. Ambrose shrugs, kicks him in the stomach and hits him with Dirty Deeds.
Worst: At Least The Meme Cat Didn’t Dress Up Like Rey Mysterio
“If you watched this, thought it was funny and jumped on the Internet to tell people to ‘relax’ because it’s ‘just wrestling,’ you might be a redneck.” – Jeff Foxworthy
WWE can’t get Rey Mysterio on their show, so they’ve put an obese, 51-year old country country comedian on stage in his mask. Close enough. At least Larry can wrestle without wearing a shirt.
So yeah, Larry The Cable Guy co-stars with Santino in Jingle All The Way 2: Reloaded. His guest appearance on Raw confirmed that he watched wrestling at some point in his life, but hasn’t for a very, very long time. He calls it “rasslin” (as you’d expect) and name-drops King Kong Bundy, Jerry Lawler and Uncle Elmer. Imagine if Grumpy Cat had shown up with Aubrey Plaza voiceovers and she’d been all, “hey Miz, leave MEOW-lone or I’m gonna beat you up like ERNIE LADD!”
The entire night of Larry is people running into him and saying “hey Larry, don’t you [JOKE SETUP].” They could’ve written knock knock jokes on literal softballs and lobbed them at him all night and it wouldn’t have been as bad. They didn’t even have Bill Engvall pointing out people’s signs. What a missed opportunity.
I can’t wait until Lex Luger shows up and bodyslams Gabriel Iglesias.
Best: Damien Mizdow’s Replica Tag Titles
From the Best and Worst of Survivor Series:
Miz is shocked, and poses on the turnbuckle with both tag belts. You’d think Mizdow would get one to complete the look, but nope, Miz is such a butthole he hogs them both. Now poor Mizdow’s gonna have to carry around two replica tag belts. If there’s a better reason to break up a tag team than, “I won the tag belts and my partner won’t let me hold one,” I can’t find one.
And then they actually did it! Fantastic.
Best: How Weird Is It That Damien Sandow’s The Closet Thing We’ve Got To A People’s Champion Right Now?
For the past few weeks, the joke’s been that people cheer for Mizdow and want him in the ring, but nobody’ll tag him in. If Miz DOES tag him in, it’s in a multi-team match and someone blind tags in before he can do anything. At Survivor Series he had that great moment where he blind-tagged HIMSELF in and won the tag team championships without really doing anything.
On Raw, they escalated. Miz was “knocked out,” and Mizdow was forced to wrestle alone. Instead of being a helpless chump, he excelled. The announce team talked up how well he was doing, and pointed out how he legitimately does the Miz’s moves better than Miz. He’s got a great figure four. This time it’s Miz’s chance to tag himself in and steal a victory, and for once WWE has clearly, effectively established a narrative: Mizdow’s not only the more popular of the two, he’s the better wrestler.
It honestly feels a lot like an NXT story, where a thought is introduced and stuff happens to build on it. Raw stories are usually “introduce a thought, continue reintroducing that same thought for months until everybody hates it.” They keep adding to Mizdow’s act to keep it from getting stale, and if they keep it up they’re really going to have something special. If anybody in WWE deserves success for the time and work they’ve put into being a thing, it’s Damien Sandow. He toiled in developmental for years, got a bunch of bad gimmicks, got buried when he got a GOOD one that worked, dragged ass through the mud and came out clean on the other side. The people love him and want to see him win. He’s the closest thing we’ve got to a Daniel Bryan, and that’s a magical sort of weird.
Best: Miz’s Makeup Lady Is Moving Down In The World
Daniel Bryan wasn’t involved at all in the Survivor Series build or match. When he was yessing in The Authority’s faces, I wanted H to get on the microphone and say “f*ck you, we beat you, you’re not even a wrestler anymore. Dolph Ziggler and Sting beat us. Are you Dolph Ziggler? Are you Sting? You proved us right when you won the championship and immediately couldn’t handle it and got hurt. Go f*ck yourself. TRIPLE H OUTIE.”
Okay, maybe he wouldn’t say Triple H outie. Or maybe all he’d say is Triple H outie.
Anyway, Kane is made to be a concession stand worker, because LOLZ, and also because Daniel Bryan knows a thing or two about being buried and punished via concessions:
If you’re wondering where you’ve seen Kane’s boss before, that’s Crazy Mary Dobson. She’s an independent wrestler who was a Rosebud at Survivor Series, and most notable portrayed Miz’s makeup artist back in September. I don’t know if they’ll ever formally sign her, but she’s got a bright career as WWE’s leading character actor. It’s either her or Ricky Starks.
Worst: Get On Your Knees And Bark Like A Russian Dog
As I (and more notably Jim Ross) have pointed out, Rusev’s a babyface. There’s no reason to boo him. He’s a patriotic guy who immigrated from Bulgaria to Russia to live with his girlfriend and became so beloved that he was declared a “hero of the federation” by the Russian president. He rarely cheats to win matches, and he wins them all. He’s a hoss that can throw superkicks, stands up for what he believes in, isn’t a coward and has never lost by pinfall or submission. The only thing that makes him heel is Lana, which is valid, but seriously, if your girl looked like Lana you’d go along with anything she said.
Rusev didn’t join Team Authority because he’s an evil heel. He was asked and then kinda forced to by Stephanie McMahon, who bullied Lana into doing what she wanted. He was a team player, assessing Team Cena’s strongest asset — Ziggler — and trying to neutralize it. He was only eliminated when he went for a huge splash through the announce table, missed, and ate it face-first. Even then, he almost crawled back in and beat the ten count.
For some reason, Daniel Bryan thinks this deserves a more severe punishment than Seth Rollins or Kane, people who have been systematically been working inside The Authority and ruining babyfaces’ lives for months. He doesn’t just say “you’re in a tag match with undesirable partners” or “you have to stand here and take money when people buy popcorn,” he says Rusev can choose between defending his US title in a battle royal against EVERYONE IN THE COMPANY or saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States. How f*cked is that?
Bryan then brings out Sgt. Slaughter, a man who once turned his back on America to side with Saddam Hussein, to spit in their faces and call them names while they do it. Lana tries to go through with it, but Sarge prods and berates her until Rusev’s had enough. Rusev confronts Sarge VERBALLY. He never raises a fist or attacks him in any way. He just yells at him for being a nationalistic asshole to his girlfriend. America’s response to that? Send out Jack Swagger to try to hurt him.
The patriotic guy who was manipulated by The Authority but wants to stand up for his girlfriend and not do a creepy membership oath to a nation he doesn’t live in is the heel. The people screaming in their faces, trying to demean them for kicks and sneak attacking them are the babyfaces. Why? Because the flags are switched.
Lana’s right. America’s not fair.
Worst: Who Likes Jokes About Nuts And Wieners?
Getting back to Kane, his time spent as “Concessions Kane” was 100% dedicated to dick and fart jokes. Larry the Cable Guy and Santino show up and squirt mustard on each other. Ryback shows up to rub it in, gets a hot dog thrown in his face, beats Kane up and holds a bag of peanuts in front of the camera so he can say “YOU FORGOT YOUR NUTS.”
This is a show for stupid people and babies.
Worst: This Fandango Stuff Didn’t Work At Survivor Series, So Let’s Do The Exact Same Thing On Raw
In case you missed the Survivor Series kickoff show, Fandango is now a Flamenco dancer with an entrance theme nobody can sing along to, effectively nerfing the one thing Johnny Curtis has done in four years of WWE employment that worked. His new dance partner is Rosa Mendes. The only dance she knows is “rub your thighs and look like you’re taking a shit.”
Fandango and Justin Gabriel do the same match they did on the kickoff show. Same camera cues and everything. It didn’t work then, and it worked even less here. “Robert Rodriguez presents Fandango with an edge” isn’t a terrible idea, but relying on Rosa’s awkward rumba for heat is dead on arrival.
Related question, how do we care about Justin Gabriel again? Is that possible? Does he have a wife he can passive-aggressively hate?
Best: “It’s YOUR Fault I Punched Guys On My Own Team!”
I’ve gone back and forth on liking this segment, which is appropriate because “Big Show.”
Show’s one of the best emotional actors on the show. He always has been, which is why they’ve gone to that well so many times. Dude’s cried about everything and turned on everything else, leaving him this big, weepy mess that’s jumped the fence so many times he’s become the fence. His rationale is the only thing that makes his Survivor Series turn make sense: he’s a coward with good intentions who thought his team was gonna lose, so he sold out to save himself. They ended up winning, and now he’s f*cked.
That’s GREAT. Him asking the crowd he’s been an alignment flip-flopper in front of for decades to forgive him for this “one mistake” is spectacularly delusional, which is my favorite kind of heel. It also makes him actually HEEL, you know? It’s not a guy doing something funny when he’s a bad guy and making us like him, or giving some great performance so we agree to play along … it’s a character doing something frustrating and disappointing, and reaching the breaking point of our ability to Can’t Even. Why would we ever cheer this guy again? F*ck The Big Show.
Best: Bray Wyatt After All
Erick Rowan of all people shows up, says he doesn’t like bullies and gets into it with Show. Show calls him “upside-down Sheamus.”
Here’s what we’ve learned: Bray Wyatt is a good teacher.
When he took Luke Harper and Erick Rowan in, they were nothing. Now look at them. Luke Harper is a “team player” who won the Intercontinental Championship. Erick Rowan helped unseat The Authority, and is establishing himself as a simple but nice guy who knows the difference between right and wrong. Bray actually DID fix them, at least as much as a person can.
Worst: Sexually Transmitted Talent
You’d think I’d be on the “rah rah AJ Lee” train here, but I’m not. She loses to the Bellas (who are now united and evil, because I am right about everything) and cuts a promo about how talent isn’t “sexually transmitted.” It’s a fun ice burn on their relationships I guess, but I’m Worsting it for two reasons:
1. It’s oddly timed, because the focus is clearly on distancing the Bellas from their significant others. The Cena/Nikki relationship never gets mentioned on WWE TV for obvious reasons, and now that Brie’s apparently heel again, neither will Brie/Bryan. I mean hell, Daniel Bryan is on this episode and there’s no mention of their marriage. Last week she was popping a squat and YES chanting.
2. People who work in glass rings shouldn’t throw stones. I’m not casting aspersions on people for dating/marrying/sleeping with whomever they want, but AJ’s probably the last person who should be shading the Bellas for hooking up with wrestlers, kayfabe or not. In real life, she’s married to CM Punk. The only heat she gets now is people chanting her husband’s name. Before that, she was dating Jay Lethal while he trained her. In kayfabe, she defined the “sleep with wrestlers to get a push” trope. She ended up the goddamn Raw general manager when Vince McMahon INTERRUPTED HER WEDDING TO A WRESTLER.
Even the “Bellas can’t work” thing is outdated, because they’ve been just as good in the ring as AJ in 2014. Kayfabe, she lost to both of them in a row in what, a combined two minutes? Just saying.
Worst: A HARE-y Situation!!!!11
Larry The Cable Guy and Santino sit in on the “interspecies tag team match” pitting Adam Rose and the species “rabbit” against Tyson Kidd and the species “wife.” This is exactly as good as it sounds.
Watching old episodes of WCW Monday Nitro has reminded me how fast stories used to get introduced, play out and end. Sometimes it’d all happen within a week of programming. You’d get the gist, be as entertained as you’re gonna be and move on. I just want to point out that Adam Rose has been feuding with a guy in a bunny costume for a MONTH now. In that month, this is how much the story has developed: “Adam Rose is sometimes upset at what The Bunny does.” That’s it. A MONTH.
To paraphrase a wise man, get her done.
Worst: The Mexicools Debut Next Week
This week’s A New Day promo video features Big E shining Xavier Woods’ shoes. I just wanted to type that to make sure I wasn’t a hallucinating racist.
Best: Jamie Noble Main-Eventing Raw In 2014
Uh, moving on, the main event of the show was a handicap match for John Cena, which (as we know) is the easiest match for John Cena to win. At least Daniel Bryan watches the shows and knows how to punish Cena’s enemies appropriately. Also, Dolph Ziggler is there, but who cares, he’s not important. He’s not Denzel, but he’s Denzel’s friend!
Seth Rollins’ tag team partners are determined by one of those obvious WWE App votes where they give you multiple choice, but only one is valid, negating the entire fun and purpose of free will. The good news is that Seth ends up teaming with Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble, who are good at their jobs and bumping their assess off for WWE’s top good guys in the main event of Raw in 2014. One of them transitioned the Ring of Honor World Championship to American Dragon Bryan Danielson and the other’s responsible for The Shield. I could not possibly like these men more.
Worst: Teleporting Lecterns
Hey, remember Survivor Series? Remember when STING showed up? Remember the opening to tonight’s show when we played a Sting video? I bet you wish Sting would show up on Raw, huh? Well here’s a special surprise guest … THE ANONYMOUS RAW GENERAL MANAGER.
When the doodle-DOO! noise happened out of nowhere, I lost my shit. I’m not gonna lie. I am occasionally ironic as f*ck (see also: my love for Aces & Eights), and one of the worst angles ever returning out of the blue for absolutely no reason at the end of Raw popped me. God, this is so unbelievably stupid. Cena’s in charge, right? He got to pick a new authority figure, and he put Daniel Bryan in charge for the night. That means Cena’s still in charge, doesn’t it? He ousted the evil authority figures, and in LESS THAN A DAY you’ve got a f*cking teleporting podium showing up from the Phantom Zone and declaring that this TWO HOURS FIFTY-ISH MINUTES OF FREEDOM is over. Ignoring completely that they outed the Anonymous Raw General Manager as Hornswoggle. So is Cena NOT able to pick the new GM? Is evil happening for the sake of evil? Does WWE think “anonymous” means “substitute?” WHO IS DOING ANY OF THIS AND WHY ARE ANY OF THEM DOING IT
None of it makes sense, and then they end the night with doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO doodle-DOO
That noises isn’t Michael Cole getting an e-mail. It’s my brain malfunctioning. HEY LOOK, GRANDMA’S BACK AND SHE’S AN ANGEL. SHE’S TELLING ME TO WALK INTO THE LIGHT. DOODLE DOO DOODLE DOO DOODLE DOO DOODLE DOO
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
My secret hope is that tonight’s Raw starts with John Cena waking to the ring with a 200-page printout of a TEW2013 FAQ, grabbing a mic, and asking if anyone in the crowd knows how the hell to use this thing.
Stephanie: “Class dismissed, I love you all”.
*Flips switch on the Titantron*
If he’s in charge of food and beverages he should be Candy Kane, Daniel.
10pm, Luke Harper wins by forfeit when Ambrose fails to show up for the IC title match.
Meanwhile, at the airport, a confused Dean Ambrose emerges from the trunk of a limo, looks around, and says, “The hell?”
If Luke Harper’s entrance video is eyes then Triple H’s video should be just noses.
This recent push to the moon for Ziggler must mean he’s started dating the 3rd sister, Cooper Bella
Ambrose is proving that he isn’t a scrub, hence his inclusion in TLC.
My Lord, I should have know Sting returned that the Shockmaster would be next.
AJ Lee. The hardest working pregnant retired wrestler in the WWE.
If there’s one silver lining to The Shield breaking up, it’s that we won’t have to watch A New Day get beaten up by a bunch of guys in swat gear.
Thanks, everybody. See you next week.