– Important Update Of An Update: The RSPW Awards are going on right now, and With Spandex is up for Best Wrestling Media. If you haven’t already voted for us, I’ll make you a deal: if you head over and vote for us and maybe toss a “best promotion” vote to Inspire Pro Wrestling as a favor to me, I’ll follow you on whatever social media thing you want. I might even send you candy. INTERNET AWARDS ARE IMPORTANT, HELP ME OUT.
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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for January 19, 2015.
Best/Worst: Still Trying To Figure Out How We Went From Brock Lesnar Calling Out Seth Rollins For A Fight To The Authority Putting John Cena In Another Handicap Match For Another Chance To Win His Friends’ Jobs Back
I get last night’s opening segment. On paper, it’s entertaining and makes sense. Brock Lesnar got Curb Stomped by Seth Rollins on last week’s probably-should’ve-been-the-go-home-show, so you send him out all fired up and full of piss and mayonnaise and have him say “baby” a bunch. Brock Lesnar saying “baby” too much is TERRIFYING. This guy’s face is so malformed and his skin’s so discolored his eyebrows can’t grow in correctly and every item of clothing he owns has a sandwich shop logo on it. THAT guy is calling you “baby,” like he’s a 70s beach bum. If Brock Lesnar starts calling people “daddy” I might crap my pants.
So yeah, Brock’s out here and he wants a FIGHT, BABY. That brings out Triple H, who understandably wants to diffuse the situation but is also kind of a total dickhead, so he points out that Lesnar suplexed Rollins first and deserved it. Lesnar’s anxious to break a third Triple H arm and they almost come to blows, so Stephanie and the rest of the Boss Posse wander out to ease tensions. Nobody hates eased tensions and large groups of people more than JOHN CENA, so that brings HIM out, and the entire segment’s dusted with a giant, passive-aggressive video of Seth Rollins. It all makes sense. The motivations are there, it’s a good way to tie together the guys in the triple threat match at the Royal Rumble and keeps everything moving forward.
Unfortunately, WWE and I have drastically different definitions for “moving forward.”
Somehow Brock Lesnar being saucy and being ready to snap on some infants turns into Another Goddamn Chance For John Cena To Overcome Odds. I don’t even know how it happened. They just change the subject when Cena shows up. Instead of this grotesque, gamma-radiated farmboy threatening peoples’ lives, Triple H is pointlessly giving his dread rival ANOTHER shot at undoing his evil boss decisions and putting it up to a vote on the WWE App. Putting Cena into handicap matches and expecting him to be overcome by odds is stupid, but thinking the children and troglodytes still rocking the WWE App aren’t going to vote the Beloved Hero into a shot to win back the jobs of the other heroes is a special kind of stupid. You won, dude. Well, you lost, but then they reversed everything on a whim and you won, AND you dangled it in Cena’s face afterwards. Why is “here’s a shot to undo all of my plans at once” a weekly occurrence? In theory shouldn’t Cena have to scratch and claw to get these opportunities? Why’s he being handed a blue shell every time he enters the race? Wouldn’t “if you want your friends’ jobs back you have to lose at the Royal Rumble” go a lot farther? These aren’t complex decisions.
Not only that, but it takes almost half an hour. Half an hour to say “Cena’s in a handicap match” and “the people in the title match are anxious about it.” At ANY point it would’ve been improved by Lesnar mindlessly pouncing somebody like a warg and breaking their arm. Imagine Triple H in the middle of this condescending speech about how to download the WWE App and then boom, Jamie Noble’s in critical condition.
Before I forget, though, a supplemental Best goes to Stephanie McMahon no-selling John Cena’s “ash-holes” mic drop and doing the “person on a TV show dramatically quits but the elevator door won’t close fast enough and they have to stand there in front of everybody” bit. You’re the best, Steph.
Best: Daniel Bryan Clap Clap ClapClapClap
I’m gonna try not to write the “I’m so happy Daniel Bryan’s back” paragraph every time he wrestles this year, but I am so happy Daniel Bryan’s back. He doesn’t seem to have changed up his style much either, which simultaneously makes me happy because I love his matches and frightened because I don’t want to see him fall wrong or get hit in the arm and have his body fall apart like the Black Knight’s. The flying headbutt should be gone forever. In fact, let’s say going forward the only wrestler allowed to do a flying headbutt is Bull Dempsey, because we don’t care about his health or safety.
I also like Bryan’s Shawn Michaels hair, because it clearly identifies him as post-injury Bryan. WWE characters slightly evolving over time is important to keeping them fresh in our brains, and if Bryan’s gonna keep the John Lennon Bed-In look you might as well make it functional.
Worst: Can We Let Him, Like, Tap Out David Otunga Or Something Before Launching Right Back Into The Authority Story
What I don’t like, somewhat obviously, is Bryan being tossed right back into the “Authority hates him and he never wins” thing. Can we just be done with that? From either point of view, that story’s over. Bryan defeated Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista on the same night to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. He won. At the same time, Bryan proved he was a “B+ player” not ready for the main event by getting irreparably like a month into his title reign and having to give it up. He missed half of 2014 with a career-threatening injury. The Authority won. Either way, YOU ALL WON, DO SOMETHING ELSE.
But here we are feeding Bryan to Bray Wyatt, a guy who has found a way to get even less crowd response than Husky Harris, via outside interference from Corporate Kane. If you’ve cared about ANYTHING Kane’s done in the last year besides wearing red ties because “fire,” you’re lying. Would it kill you to give Bryan a few showcase matches to remind the crowd why they love him and give him a few strong wins before tossing him into the swirling pit of bad Raw booking? Does every person we like on the show HAVE to be fighting an endless battle against authority? Can’t Cena be doing that somewhere and free everybody else up to have fun matches we like watching? You’ve got three hours, right? Every minute doesn’t have to be exactly the same.
Worst: Hope You Enjoyed The Match, Because It’s The Only One In The First 85 Minutes Of Raw
I’d make a joke about WWE putting up a poll asking people if they’d rather see wrestling matches or Popeye’s commercials, but I’m afraid of how it’d turn out.
Worst: One Of These People Is Dressed Like An Adult
John Cena’s shirt looks like a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not illustration for the legendary 37-year old man who dresses like an 8-year old. We are balls deep in an era of graphic design where people think tracing a wrestler and changing the colors is “art,” so here’s a John Cena shirt that looks like a f*cking coloring book and will sell a billion units.
Speaking of a billion units, Renee looks really great.
Worst: Raw Reunion
I’m sad that we live in a world where not wanting to see a row of 50-year olds tell people to suck their dicks makes you a bad wrestling fan. In my day a bunch of dick-sucking old men was a Lemon Party, and that wasn’t a thing you wanted to be a part of.
Anyway, five months ago we had Hulk Hogan’s Birthday Celebration and brought together Hogan, Ric Flair and the nWo. Last night we had “Raw Reunion,” which brought together Hogan, Ric Flair and the nWo. I can’t wait for the next Old School Raw, where we bring together Hogan, Ric Flair and the nWo.
WWE owns basically the entirety of U.S. pro wrestling history and cherry picks the same 10 “legends” every time they do an event like this. Are you guys really excited to see Hogan? The guy’s been around for a year. He’s shilled buildings, breast cancer awareness, Christmas, everything. Are you excited to see Flair? He’s Ric Flair and all, but he was around for the Evolution story, most of Charlotte’s big NXT matches, video game shillage, whatever. Kevin Nash? Really? Are we cheering the New Age Outlaws again, despite them being part of The Authority and evil heels less than a year ago?
Outside of this specific Raw Reunion, are we really still excited to see Sgt. Slaughter and Roddy Piper? They’re cool and all, but they’re on the show more than most of the roster. I’ve seen Dusty Rhodes on Raw more than Justin Gabriel. Not to say I prefer Justin Gabriel to the American Dream, but it’s hard to get nostalgic for these people when they’re always around. It becomes less “remember your old favorites” and more “these are the good people, sorry about the last 15 years, we don’t know how to fix it.”
Oh well, at least the legends just palled around backstage and didn’t circle NXT talent and beat them up while everybody cheered. That would’ve been horrible.
Worst: The Talk The Talk Challenge
The first challenge on this week’s episode of NXT season 4 is the “Talk The Talk Challenge,” where rookie Byron Saxton asks the WWE Pros who they think will win the Royal Rumble. Shawn Michaels says Bray Wyatt, which is a bad answer because the live audience here in Dallas boos him and they’ll be deciding who earns immunity. Hulk Hogan plays it smart and says Daniel Bryan, which gets a nice response. Ric Flair says Dean Ambrose and tries to get himself over with a Fargo Strut, but the announce team buries him for being “weird” and a “nerd.” Dolph Ziggler says Saxton will win the Rumble and I don’t know, I stopped paying attention like 40 minutes into this.
Trying to create drama around whether or not someone will be able to pick up Big Show when he’s been regularly picked up since his first damn match and was last seen in a battle royal getting bodyslammed over the ropes by Cesaro is pretty pointless. If Show’s offense wasn’t 70% “leaning against the ropes with my arms over them ready to fall backwards” I’d give him a shot to win. When he showed up here I was just disappointed we didn’t go full WCW nostalgia and have him bring out the Dungeon of Doom to beat up the Legends Panel. HBK wouldn’t have known what was happening, but Hogan and Flair would’ve bricked.
Seriously, imagine you’re watching Raw and suddenly you hear the MASTER’S LAUGH, and Big Show wanders out in a caveman singlet with Hugh Morrus and The Zodiac and The Taskmaster. Meng’s still active, use him. Byron Saxton getting stabbed in the throat with a golden spike is basically all I want to see on a wrestling show. And because you’re expecting one of my ever-present Yeti jokes here, wrap the Great Khali in toilet paper and tell him American people think buttsex is funny.
The Big Show portion for the program was worth it for Ric Flair, who can make any random attack a slapstick masterpiece:
Best: Roman Reigns Looked Strong (No, Really)
After weeks of saying “STOP GIVING ROMAN A MICROPHONE AND JUST HAVE HIM DO TOUGH GUY SHIT,” WWE stops giving Roman a microphone and has him do tough guy shit. Show’s picking on the Legends and threatening them with violence (which, to be fair, they instigated), so Roman waltzes down from the concession stand where I assume he’s been running the NXT obstacle course and punches Show until he leaves. See how much more effective this is? Roman still looks like a guy who will stand up for popular people and throw hands at giants, but is never asked to spend 10 minutes reading fairy tales and give us endless ammunition to hate him. It’s hard to hate a guy when he shows good energy and kicks ass for a few minutes. Do more of this.
Worst: The Resistible Force Meets The Moveable Object
Our second match of the night starts right around the hour-25 mark, and before anything happens we go to commercial. I’d like to think this was because the Raw team went OH CRUD WHO’S SUPPOSED TO WIN THIS and needed the longest time they’ve ever spent — roughly three minutes — booking the match.
It featured the two most unsuccessful wrestlers you can name: Dean Ambrose, a man routinely beaten by smoky lanterns and candy canes and rescue vehicles, against Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett. While holding the IC belt Barrett loses plus-all-of-it to all attributes. It’s like Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI but in the opposite direction. PLACE YOUR BETS!
Barrett loses, of course, because “the Intercontinental Champion in a non-title match” is slightly below “local talent” on the list of people allowed to win. The saddest thing about the wrestling on this show is that it was honestly pretty good when it happened, it was just rare and smothered in bad decisions. Wyatt/Bryan was great without the dumb finish, Barrett and Ambrose could probably have a 20-minute PPV barnburner if they hadn’t spent the last year being less effective than J&J Security and everyone slumming it in the second-half speed round of 2-Minute Things could’ve done more if asked. They just aren’t supposed to, because that’s not what Raw is.
Worst: Martin Luther King Jr. Had A Dream About Cesaro Not Having ‘It,’ Or
Best: The Rosa Buds
Speaking of the speed round, The New Day and The Swinging Cats tore it up on Main Event this week and had the kind of match that played to everyone’s strengths and made every wrestler involved look like a star. Their reward is redoing it on Raw in 1/3 the time with no context and about half the effort. You should really watch Main Event. It feels like a jobber show, but it’s the Raw undercard guys having actual wrestling matches, and that’s something.
Like most of these “whoops we forgot to do wrestling matches” matches, it’s good for what it is but hastily put together and woefully short. I’m obviously a homer for Cesaro and Tyson Kidd, but I’m starting to come around on The New Day, too. All they have to do is have good matches and I’ll forgive them for basically everything. A lot people have pointed out that Xavier Woods’ weird pre-game speech included a bit about how they have to smile or the “rage will come out,” so maybe we’re finally getting to that heel turn Fireworks Factory everybody predicted when they debuted?
1. The only thing sadder than them doing the “somebody say NEW, DAY” to begrudging audience participation is them dancing with the Rosebuds when they won. Even Adam Rose’s entourage doesn’t want Adam Rose and his friends to win matches. You’d think split-roasting the bunny would’ve been enough. Rose should go full Caesar’s Legion on them and punish them as an example. Like, you walk into Full Sail and the first thing you see is a crucified guy in a hamburger costume.
2. It was pointed out to me that Big E’s entrance attire “looks like he accidentally locked himself out while retrieving his morning paper,” and now that’s all I can see. It’s amazing he can stay so positive!
Worst: “Why Don’t People Want To Pay To See Our New Stars?” – WWE In Real Life
Instead of the 80 paragraphs of cursing I’d planned for this, I’ll just point out how weird it is that the New World Order — the team that notably bailed on the WWF, almost put them out of business and were built around the destruction of tradition — is being played up as a bunch of WWE Legends who deserve your respect. I can understand WWE assuming we’ve forgotten the APA hated the nWo and feuded with them for months or that the New Age Outlaws were bad guys less than a year ago, but man, a company obsessed with pointing out why WCW failed probably shouldn’t be putting a bunch of old guys over their fresher, younger talent.
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought About This Segment
If you loved wrestling 15 years ago but hate it now, you’re living in a golden age.
Worst: Looks Like Raw’s Got A New Theme Song
Best: Nikki Bella Tho
I was so distracted by Nikki Bella’s dress I thought I was failing a training scenario in The Matrix.
Worst: The Total Divas Effect
I’ve been trying to figure out how ‘Total Divas’ works in the grand scheme of WWE TV, and I think it could be really beneficial. Divas don’t get a lot of time on Raw or Smackdown for character development, so giving them a loosely-related hour on an entertainment news channel to get over slightly more complex concepts than “I’m good” and “I’m bad” is key. It can flesh them out and make them real people instead of interchangeable rollup mannequins.
The problem is that the concept doesn’t garner a lot of respect and doesn’t carry very high expectations, so they skip most of the character development for “Rosa Mendes has a butt” and “Nikki Bella has boobs,” which we’ve already figured out. Even some of the bigger character arcs are covered on the actual wrestling: Natalya being in a loveless marriage, Paige being cooler than everybody else, Eva Marie being bad at everything. That leads to these Total Divas matches on Raw where they feel like they’ve gotta recap and reestablish everything, but we’re already two steps ahead. And then the show changes stories and the cycle repeats. “Did you know Brie and Nikki don’t always get along?” YES I DID KNOW THAT.
Imagine if Total Divas actually worked as a supplementary character building show and gave us something deeper than, “I’m happy,” “I’m sad” or “I’m jealous.” Imagine if the show rewarded you for watching and gave you enough material to justify and enjoy a Cameron match. NXT does that. Why do you think we still care about Emma or Bray Wyatt or The Ascension or any of the call-ups who’ve been circle-jerked beyond recognition since their arrival? Because NXT presented this alternate world where those people have worth, and that’s a hell of a lot better than nothing.
Worst: Troofus And Gallant
R-Truth warns Rusev that America is COMING FOR HIM in the Royal Rumble, as if
1. Truth isn’t about five seconds away from losing horribly, and
2. America isn’t CONSTANTLY up Rusev’s ass about America
It’s the worst-ever version of Konnan’s “Mexico’s coming for you” speech to Chavo Guerrero on Lucha Underground, and I’m kinda sad that we still haven’t found a better American hero than R-Truth.
Seriously, think about the people who’ve stood up for America so far. You’ve got Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter, characters who’d previously only loved our country because they’re xenophobic racists. You’ve got Big Show, Ryback and Mark Henry; characters defined by their lack of self confidence and wild alignment changes. You’ve got The Rock, who really only showed up because “Russia” opened up a bunch of rhyming insults he’d been hoping to use, and you’ve got goofy jobbers like Heath Slater and R-Truth who have only ever been interesting when they’re scumbags.
Not looking good, America.
Worst: Building To A Pay-Per-View Match By Having The Champions Cleanly Beat Their Challengers A Week (And An Entire Month’s Worth Of Shows) Before
In case you haven’t seen The Usos beat The Miz and Mizdow during their other 45 matches this month, here’s The Usos beating The Miz and Mizdow. Clean. Without a lot of effort. They’ve already won the “mind games” war (apparently) and have regularly won the physical war with title belts and wrestling matches, so … why are they wrestling at the Royal Rumble again? What have Miz and Mizdow done during these losses to earn that spot? Why are we still tethered to the idea that “feuds” are just two wrestlers or teams being paired against each other and made to wrestle exclusively until the roles change? If Miz and Mizdow lose at the Rumble, do they keep wrestling for the tag titles on every Raw and Smackdown until Fast Lane?
It’s frustrating that this isn’t the first time I’ve written this paragraph. It’s not the first time I’ve written this paragraph this week. The Usos are serviceable, The Miz is doing his best work in years and Mizdow’s a thing people legitimately seem to enjoy. Why not do something of note with ANY of them in ANY direction?
Christ, how many other fandoms are built around fans desperately begging shows to stop treading water and actually do things? Is it just WWE and Mad Men?
Best: John Cena’s Odds-Overcoming Handicap Match-Winning For Jobs Bullshit Is Literally The Least Important Thing Going On Right Now
If you are six or stupid you will care about John Cena overcoming the odds to win back the jobs of the fired wrestlers who shouldn’t have been fired because they won at Survivor Series but were because John reversed the decision to help a guy he hates avoid Maybe Injury, but in case you aren’t, let’s spend several minutes happily clapping our hands and making girlish noises about Raw’s ending.
After three hours of nudging us in the ribs and going “this is f*cking chore, am I right,” Raw ended with like two minutes of fist pumping and giant-throwing. Out of nowhere, an image of The Stinger pops up on the TitanTron. Seth Rollins is shocked and Cole’s all IT’S STING, IT’S STING, and JBL makes me like him for the first time in forever by pointing out it’s NOT Sting, it’s a PICTURE of him. Seth Rollins is shocked by VIDEO TAPE, KING! But then Actual Sting (“shoot Sting”) wanders out dressed to join the Black Parade and SCARILY POINTS AT FOLKS, and that’s enough to drain 100% of their hit points and give Cena the win.
You’d think the Raw debut of Sting would be enough even if it’s just a re-do of the re-do of Survivor Series, but Triple H’s STING GET OUT HERE yelling is interrupted by BROCK LESNAR. The words “interrupted by Brock Lesnar” are the fastest way to my heart, I think. Brock says nuts to alignments and plot points and just starts manhandling the biggest guys he can find, F-5’ing Kane and Big Show like they were Los Matadores. The show goes off the air with Brock Lesnar standing over enormous dead bodies and STING BEING AROUND, and good lord why couldn’t we have done that in minutes one and two of the open and skipped the wacky baby insults and phone polls?
Now I REALLY wish the Dungeon of Doom had been here.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
The Wee Turtles
Man, the only way that could’ve been more awkward for Seth is if his briefcase started vibrating in front of Brock.
How come K Kwick did not help out the Road Dogg?
“Oh, wow, it really could’ve gotten worse.” – Emma, Paige, Adam Rose, Bo Dallas
Wow, they even chipped in for the NWO super slowmo entrance.
Wait, they didn’t?
“When I say M-L, you say K”
When I say NEW, you say DAY”
[WWE pipes in more booing over the stereo]
Five bucks if Roman Reigns goes to Ric Flair’s funeral and shouts “hubbada, hubbada, that’s all folks…”
Hulk: “Hey, Giant. I didn’t know you were on the Legends Panel!”
Big Show: “No, I’m still an active wrestler.”
Hulk: “No, shit! Really?!”
This segment is going to fall apart when the Repo Man shows up and Flair runs away in terror.
It is a travesty that Shawn Michaels dresses like that and doesn’t own or operate an air boat business.
Shit just got Teal
Thanks, everybody. See you this weekend for the Royalest of Rumbles.