– If you’re a fan of the column and are planning to be at Full Sail this Friday for the NXT tapings, I’ll be there too. I’m the easiest person in the world to recognize. Make sure you say hi and engage in a little real-world high-five action.
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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for December 8, 2014.
Best: Seth Green Is Teeny And Actually A Pretty Good Host
Since September, Raw has guest starred a tabloid talk show host from 20 years ago, a pair of drunk 60-year olds, a house cat from a popular meme and a shirtless, obese comedian in a Rey Mysterio mask. They could’ve announced the coolest person in the world guest starring on Raw and I would’ve recoiled. They could’ve announced the Slammys were being hosted by Shaft and I still would’ve thrown up my hands and left the room.
That said, Seth Green was probably the best and least intrusive guest star they’ve had this year. He just showed up, seemed humble, seemed like he liked wrestling, mentioned ‘Battlestar Galactica’ on commentary and that was that. No punching Cody Rhodes in the face this time out. He read his lines from behind a tiny lectern and took a bunch of mark photos. He’s the size of one of Miz’s legs. It was … kinda precious.
Well done, Kenny Fisher.
Worst: Welcome Back To Nowheresville, Dolph
I’m not sure when WWE forgot how to make money.
Seth Rollins has been one of the hottest acts in the company. He can get a good match out of almost anyone, caused one of 2014’s only moments of consequence when he turned on and broke up The Shield and has been The Authority’s chosen one/golden boy (chosen boy?) for most of the year. He’s got the Money in the Bank briefcase and, in theory, is a future WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Dolph Ziggler finally rode one of his groundswells of fan support to an important position: being the Sole Survivor in a Survivor Series match that decided the fate of the company. He eliminated three people and was bailed out by the goddamn Stinger. This is all extremely important. Why a few weeks later are the captain of Team Authority and the hero of WWE curtain-jerking Raw in a match that lasts a few minutes and ends with interference? Why’s the big hero losing because Joey Mercury shoved him in the ass, then disappearing and forgetting it happened when it’s time to give out an award?
This is one of the most frustrating parts of being a WWE fan. You aren’t asking for yearlong stories with intricate backstories that take decades to understand and follow, you just want them to make a few guys seem important and put them against each other in important situations. That’s it. They almost do it, too, but they’re obsessed with the reality that they can skip the hard work and jump to the end by simply SAYING it’s important. It doesn’t matter if they’ve earned it or shown their work. Nobody’s going to care. Nobody’s paying that much attention. If you are, you’re thinking too much or you’re a hater, or you’re “always complaining.” It’s seen as a bad thing if you actually follow the product. You have to rinse and repeat with the new pay-per-view cycle and take everything they say at face value. This is why they’ve cultivated an audience that never gets respect, because hell, it doesn’t respect itself.
That’s a dramatic point to make for a show opener we’ll all forget by Tuesday afternoon, but it’s the truth. You made these guys important. Keep them important. We can’t flip over to Nitro anymore. We haven’t been able to for over a decade.
Worst: Nobody Is Here To Accept Their Slammy
Note: that’s not his Slammy.
One of the weirdest things about this year’s Slammy Awards is that they were a celebration of people who aren’t on the show. The Rock won two Slammys. He doesn’t work here. Sting won a Slammy. He’s not there and doesn’t really work there. Extreme Moment of the Year went to Chris Jericho. He’s not there to accept it and doesn’t really work there, but he’ll be around next week! Brock Lesnar won a Slammy (and is WWE World Heavyweight Champion) but can’t show up to get it. Daniel Bryan won two (on the pre-show) and has been injured for the last 8 months. The Superstar of the Year hasn’t been around for two months due to injury. Raw Guest Star of the Year obviously isn’t there. The Ultimate Warrior is dead. It felt like we were watching a 3-hour ‘In Memoriam’ reel.
Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble making Seth Green clap for Rollins was pretty funny, though.
Worst: And The Slammy Award For Deadest In The Water Goes To …
Listen to the crowd boo The New Day and tell me again about how much fun they’re having.
Match two was Kofi Kingston empowered and delighted by the color blue vs. Stardust, who is objectively great at everything but might as well be working a potted plant gimmick. Seriously, imagine it. Imagine Goldust coming to the ring with a potted plant. Maybe he could draw a face on a paper plate and glue it to the side. He could tag it in and throw it at his opponent. JBL could yell dumb shit for babies like HE SOILED HIMSELF MAGGLE~! The plant would be more over than Stardust right now, wouldn’t it?
Anyway, Kofi wins the match by jumping and landing on Stardust, which is probably the lamest way to lose to Kofi Kingston. All the guy has going for him is how well he jumps. If you’re wrestling Kofi, here’s your homework: (1) if you hear him dramatically clapping in the corner, get ready to duck, and (2) watch out for jumping. But hey, the good news is that we’re doing it again on the TLC kickoff, and it’ll be exactly as prestigious and wrought with forward momentum as Fandango vs. Justin Gabriel.
Best: BIG JOHNNY Y’ALL
Unsurprisingly, my favorite part of the show was the now sorta-regular surprise guest appearance from the Former Executive Vice President Of Talent Relations And Former Permanent General Manager Of Both Raw And Smackdown, “Mr. Excitement” John Laurinaitis. LOOK AT THAT YELLOW BOW-TIE. Pouring one out for David Otunga, I assume.
A quick word on The Ultimate Warrior: this isn’t getting any easier.
As I’ve written before, I wasn’t a big fan of Warrior. I never liked his wrestling and he seemed like kind of a bad dude in real life, but I saw his influence and the happiness he caused in the lives of people I love. He was a broken man redeemed in pair of glorious moments: a Hall of Fame speech where he thanked the people who made him Warrior, and a Raw farewell where he thanked the people who made him a legend. The story still seems like fiction. He was there for years, lurking in lecture halls and wrestling conventions and The Internet. He was one thing. Then, as if decided by magic, he was beautiful again. And then he was just gone. Vanished. A candle blowing out. Now he’s a speech that makes you feel weird on the inside in one way or another, played behind video packages and WWE Network commercials.
I’m glad he got the Slammy. I wanted Batista to show up so I could see what he’d wear, but I’m glad we got one last chance to say “hey Warrior, that was pretty cool.”
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought About Warrior Winning A Slammy
That’s where you’re wrong, Scorpion. Hell is real. The Bible just didn’t know what a YouTube comments section was.
Best: OH SHIT IT’S CHARLOTTE
If you don’t follow the weekly Best and Worst of NXT column and don’t recognize or know her, Charlotte is WWE developmental’s women’s champion. That doesn’t sound like much, but NXT’s women’s division is this wonderful, hopeful little niche product of a niche product that presupposes women are people and respected athletes. Charlotte started off as Ric Flair’s awkward gymnast daughter, but quickly (quickly) evolved into, more or less, a six-foot Nature Boy with boobs. She can work, she’s smart, she’s statuesque and carries enough gravitas as a Second Generation Flair to excuse the first two attempts.
Unlike a lot of NXT Divas, Charlotte can thrive on Raw. She’s made for it. Look at her in the ring. She FITS. Paige and Emma falter because they’ve got accents and work a style their competition doesn’t. Bayley has a twee, precious gimmick that will get gutted on the main show. Sasha banks will get fitted into the first available Dancing Girl spot. But Charlotte? She’s that missing link between worker and Diva, a person so absolutely made for WWE success and able to justify it in every direction. The best part is that she just started, and she keeps getting better.
Worst: What Are You Doing What What What Are You Doing
Of course, her first appearance on Raw is her losing to Natalya in three minutes.
Allow me to echo the thoughts of every other free-thinking wrestling fan on the planet: the f*ck are you doing? Aside from archaic ideas about paying dues and Kevin Dunn growing a neckbeard on his entire body, what possible reason do you have to debut NXT’s dominant women’s champion and the daughter of one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots on your flagship show three days before her big match at your important Network live special and have her lose clean to a lady most of your audience sees as a shit-upon joke?
That’s not Natalya’s fault. She and Charlotte did the best they could in the time they were given (under a blanket of terrible commentary) and earlier this year had the best Divas match of the year in a walk. I’m just saying, what part of this makes a person who’s never seen Charlotte want to tune in to NXT and see her fight? Is there a caps lock large enough for me to express my confusion and furious anger at WWE’s OBSESSION with champions losing non-title matches? What’s wrong with you? What’s the f*cking point of your brain? No wrestling fan has ever, ever said, “they lost! Can’t wait to see them lose again!” The loss is the thing.
The good news is that I watch NXT, so I know she’s good and why her title defense matters. The bad news is that a lot of WWE’s audience doesn’t. Now it’s a week of “she still looked good in defeat” Internet justifications, as though Natalya needed that rub to stand on the apron during a 12-Diva Christmas panties tag.
Worst: Michael Cole Calling Charlotte ‘Summer Rae’
“Tune in this Thursday to watch one of Fandango’s three girlfriends I can remember defend the NXT Divas Title against Alicia Fox!”
Best: Tyson Kidd’s Cat Hood
Tyson Kidd loves cats so much right now he’s turning INTO one.
That Raw Fallout video is great, too, if only to hear him namedrop “my uncle Bret Hart” and then completely throw him under the bus. The downside to putting cool NXT guys on Raw is that I remember how much I love NXT, and how little I want to sit through three hours of circle-jerk runoff.
Worst: Hi, I’m Santino, Here Are The Awkward Sex Jokes Larry The Cable Guy Taught Me
“I was backstage watching Luke Harper take a shower! I don’t want to have sex with him! I’m not gay. But I saw his penis. I PREFER to watch the Divas take a shower. I want to have sex with them with my not gay penis. I want to touch penises with the Divas! Let’s put 20 seconds on the clock and see how many Slammys we can award in this week’s Breakdown.”
Best: Dean Ambrose And The SPOOKY AMBULANCE OF REVENGE
Bray Wyatt promos are depressing. He’s the only guy on the roster who gets blown up slowly walking to the ring. That doesn’t matter, though, because he’s quickly interrupted by DEAN BY GOD AMBROSE, returning from a severely crushed trachea in THREE DAYS thanks to a GHOST AMBULANCE FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE.
I have no idea how or why this worked, but I loved it. I imagine Ambrose breaking out of the hospital on Monday afternoon because doctors don’t understand his magical healing abilities — I mean, he had his skull crushed through cinderblocks and only took a few weeks off, Roman Reigns farted wrong and missed two months. So he breaks out and hijacks an ambulance (because he’s a Grand Theft Auto character) and is all, “I should drive this into the arena … but how can I make it spooky?” This is the guy who stole a hot dog cart from Coney Island and made sure to wear gun holsters to hold the ketchup and mustard. He’s a mad genius.
So he steals the ambulance, tosses a flood light in the back, fills it up with WWE and upcoming match-specific plunder and swings by Party City to pick up a fog machine. Maybe he called one of the Rosebuds and had them buy one during their costume fitting. Regardless, he’s riding in the back of an ambulance full of smoke and weapons for God knows how long and uses his production connections to cut the lights at the right moment just to make a big entrance. Like, it’s not even a surprise entrance. He enters, hangs out by the ramp and unloads the ambulance for like a minute before he storms the ring.
What is going on? Why are you doing this? How are you even able to TALK? Dean Ambrose: Machiavellian Theater Kid is probably my favorite gimmick.
Best: AJ Going For That Namedrop Sympathy (And Me Totally Falling For It)
1. AJ says she’s “changed the definition of Diva.” Keep in mind that tonight’s Divas matches were a two-minute squash and Natalya pinning developmental’s champion clean, and that two of the four Diva of the Year nominees were Bella Twins. Pretty sure a toy deal with Mattel changed the definition of Diva. AJ claiming that is kinda like Punk saying he’s the Voice of the Voiceless. It’s a nice sentiment, but ultimately you’re finding the fanciest and most self-congratulatory way to say “I won a lot.”
2. AJ totally works me back over to her side by namedropping a bunch of NXT talent (Bayley! SASHA!) and saying she hopes they’re up here soon accepting the award instead of her. Because she’s quitting after the next pay-per-view and has been pregnant for the last 12 months. Something like that. I heard “Sasha” on Raw and my brain released a bunch of endorphins and I forgot where I was.
Worst: We’re Doing Harper Vs. Rowan Now, And This Is What You Came Up With?
I’m sorry if this week’s column is too heavy on the THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD DO BUSINESS stuff. I know my job is supposed to be “wrestling fan who likes the wrestling shows,” and I shouldn’t worry about when stuff is “given to me” or whether it’s on free TV or what. I’ve just been watching this for a while, and my favorite matches and stories are generally the ones I can associate with a time, feeling or experience. “Moments” are important, but the it’s the stuff happening around the moments that give them worth.
So, when did the Wyatt Family members start hating each other? When Erick Rowan randomly joined the good guys because his old tag team partner was one of the bad guys? Are they seriously beefing over an intentional Battlebowling? Why’d they even break up? Wyatt mentioned something about letting them go and how dangerous they were gonna be, but they’re the exact same dudes without the teleportation powers. Harper just holds a cursed belt that causes him to lose all his matches and Rowan made his kayfabe wikipedia page public. And yo, if they’re former tag team partners who came to blows over the fate of the company and split up, why are they fighting in this throwaway match with a DQ finish in the middle of the deadest part of a 3-hour show? Can’t we at least lie and say “these wrestlers are important and larger than life?” Can we say “I bet you’d like to see this, huh?” before we just do it and immediately forget it?
I think that’s what’s making me feel the worst. They’re FORCING me to forget this stuff. They’re Eternal Sunshining my wrestling memory through apathy and repetition. Pretty soon I’ll forget who Luke Harper is and just clap my hands because look, Eyeball Man! He’s weird!
Worst: Jimmy Uso Is Basically The Worst Dude
“I got an opportunity in Hollywood!”
“IT’S BAD AND YOU’RE BEING TRICKED”
“I talked to the agent and he’s legit.”
“MY UPCOMING MATCH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR LIFE, LOOK AT THIS SLAMMY I WON.”
“Yeah well I’m gonna go check it out, it could be good for me.”
“YOU’RE REALLY GOING”
“FINE I WILL GO WITH YOU. I WILL STAND BESIDE YOU AT ALL TIMES, MAKE AWKWARD EYES AND CONVERSATION AT ANYONE WHO TALKS TO YOU AND PHYSICALLY INSERT MYSELF BETWEEN YOU AND OTHER PEOPLE. THIS IS WHAT A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP IS. THIS IS WHAT A GUY WHO IS NOT CRIPPLED BY BAD SELF-ESTEEM AND WRESTLING IN A T-SHIRT BECAUSE HE FEELS BAD ABOUT HIMSELF DOES.”
[wink wink wink]
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN SO, WHO ARE YOU SLEEPING WITH”
Best: Tully Blanchard’s Daughter And Ric Flair’s Daughter On The Same Show
That curious Rosebud between Adam Rose and The Bunny is Tessa Blanchard. If you don’t know her, she’s a third-generation wrestler, granddaughter of wrestler and promoter Joe Blanchard (the man who trained Dusty Rhodes), daughter of Four Horseman Tully Blanchard and stepdaughter of NWA Legend Magnum T.A. If you can find a better wrestling pedigree than that, I’d like to see it.
The fun thing is that she’s appearing on Raw the same night as Charlotte, meaning two Horseman daughters made it onto the show. I want Tessa to become Charlotte’s sycophantic scumbag friend who thinks she’s just as good and classy but isn’t. I want it so much. I also want Arn Anderson to have a pretty 20-something daughter, and for her to wear satin jackets. I also kinda want her to be balding.
If Ronda Rousey ever does show up in WWE, you’ve got two of your Four Horsewomen ready to go.
Best: Damien Mizdow’s Best Match Ever
Look at this:
You’d think Damien Mizdow’s gag would’ve gotten old by now, but it keeps getting better. Every time it’s in danger of going south — Hornswoggle, I’m looking in YOUR direction — he pulls it back and has a match like this where he absolutely kills it. The suplex handstand on the outside was great, as was him physically getting in the ring and setting up to be suplexed by an invisible man. Him taking ridiculous bumps to the floor when Miz gets knocked down or tossed is my favorite thing. At some point Miz should develop a legitimate gripe with him … the purpose of a stunt double should be to get in and TAKE some of this, right? Not just mimic it? A Hollywood stunt man doesn’t stand behind the camera and throw himself through an invisible window, he steps in and goes through the real one so the famous guy doesn’t have to. Also, aren’t you guys tag team partners? Mizdow should probably refrain from selling the Shell Shocked when his goal should be getting the hell in there and breaking up the pin.
Just trying to think of it from the Miz’s point of view. I think the best course of action is still a double turn, with Mizdow “becoming” Miz and Shoot Miz having to learn a bunch of new moves Mizdow doesn’t know and can’t anticipate. No matter what, that moment when Miz expects Mizdow to mimic him and Mizdow doesn’t because pride is going to be the greatest.
Best/Worst: Both Ricky Steamboat And John Laurinaitis Look Younger And Healthier Than Rob Van Dam
Damn, Rob, what’s wrong? Weren’t you wrestling not too long ago? It looks like somebody put their dad’s suit on a wet seal.
Worst: The Problem With WWE Babyfaces In A Nutshell
Team Authority vs. Team Cena at Survivor Series wins Match Of The Year, because WWE opened up voting to fans with phones and short attention spans, and that’s the one they remember. The Slammy should’ve gone to “the final 10 minutes of Team Authority vs. Team Cena” (or you know, the actual winner, The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber), but whatever, it’s an awards show for pro wrestling, I shouldn’t expect taste or objectivity.
Anyway, Dolph Ziggler accepts the award because Triple H and Stephanie aren’t there, Rollins has already won 30 Slammys and John Cena doesn’t give a shit about Team Cena. He gives an almost humble speech that turns into fan pandering, and it makes me realize the thing I hate most about WWE babyfaces.
Ziggler thanks the fans, and says that without them he wouldn’t be anywhere. That’s good. That’s what everybody says because they want to keep fans. He then says that, “Peoples’ jobs were on the line. All I cared about was entertaining you, the fans.” That’s not good. That’s the worst. Peoples’ jobs were on the line. Shouldn’t you be caring about peoples’ jobs being on the line? Isn’t that the drama of the match? When it was 3-to-1 against Ziggler, did Michael Cole yell HE’S AT A DISADVANTAGE, KING, I DON’T KNOW IF HE’LL STILL BE ABLE TO ENTERTAIN THESE FANS? “I did this to entertain the fans” is such kayfabe destroying horseshit anyway. You don’t win matches by being the most entertaining. That’s an excuse for people who don’t win matches to feel better about themselves. You don’t win championships or save companies by making a kid clap their hands. “Being entertaining” or “stealing the show” negates the entire suspension of disbelief necessary to disconnect and enjoy a wrestling show. Don’t remind me that you’re a performer. Don’t remind me that none of this is real and you’re just trying to be entertaining. I do not give a flying pile of shits if your character wants to have a good match. Shouldn’t your character want to have an easy match where they win and don’t have to kill themselves and almost lose a bunch?
Save that stuff for the behind the scenes interviews, guys. When you accept the award, say “peoples’ jobs were on the line, so I tried really hard to win because I care about what’s happening to me and others.”
Best: NXT Summer Rae Showed Up!
Great match, Charlotte!
Seriously though, Summer Rae lost a quick match to AJ, but it was GOOD Summer Rae. She seemed competent and appeared to be playing a character with thoughts and motivations, not just “dancing.” Her entire Raw character is “I have danced, am dancing or am about to dance.” She’s been separated from Weird Ass Fandango long enough that she can start being cool NXT Summer Rae: the kingshit, chickenshit Mean Girl who can’t win matches by herself but is ambitious enough to corrupt and manipulate and make it happen anyway.
Maybe AJ’s dream of Changing The Definition will come true, and by this time next year we’ll have a Total Divas division of non-wrestling reality show personalities and a women’s division, where people are challenged to try a little harder, even if they’ve only got two minutes.
Worst: WWE Is Trying Really Hard To Make The Regulars Hate Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns being Superstar of the Year is so absurd I can’t even dissect it. It’d be like Major League Baseball giving the MVP to Jason Kipnis because I like him the most. That said, my major problem with Roman is how transparent WWE’s love of him is, and how false all these accomplishments are starting to seem. The Authority tried to keep him out of the title scene, then put him in title matches anyway. He is a Pretty Popular Wrestler who had a great Royal Rumble showing and won a match at WrestleMania, but what else did he do, honestly?
Look at everyone else. Brock won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and did two impossible things: trounced John Cena clean and pinned the Undertaker at WrestleMania. If we’re going by kayfabe accomplishments and not how often a guy on the Internet thinks wrestlers should be around, you can’t beat that. Daniel Bryan’s been out all year, but he won two matches at WrestleMania 30, defeated Triple H and won the championship. John Cena won the championship and is John Cena, omnipresent winner. Randy Orton was the MVP of the show all year AND held the WWE WHC, but wasn’t nominated. Dean Ambrose has legitimately accomplished as much as Reigns and is actually an active, promising part of the shows. It’s just hard to find a real reason for Roman to win besides “we decided it,” and that’s hard to accept. You have to at least create the illusion of choice.
Also, he has REALLY got to drop “believe that” as a catchphrase. It doesn’t work without “believe in The Shield” after it, and it super doesn’t work when you can’t decide how to say it. Sometimes he’ll say it all calm and serious. Sometimes he’ll jazz it up like he did with Renee. Buh-leeeeeeee DAT!!! Last night he emphasized BELIEVE all gruff, paused, then said “that.” He sounds like The Usual Suspects in the police lineup. Hand ME the keys, you f*cking cocksucker!
Nothing: John Cena Vs. Big Show, Again
There is no way you thought this was interesting. JBL called it a “WrestleMania quality match” because hey, it WAS a WrestleMania match. A decade ago. At teh beginning of the show. They’ve had hundreds of the exact same WrestleMania quality matches since, and you can only watch Jake The Snake wrestle George Wells so many times before you’re sick of seeing a dude foam on himself.
Are We Seriously Still Building To Survivor Series?
Last week’s show ended with everybody fighting everybody and Team Cena triumphing. This week’s show ends with everybody fighting everybody and Team Authority triumphing. There is no Team Authority vs. Team Cena match happening at TLC, and nobody’s jobs are on the line. I don’t know why we keep building to last month’s pay-per-view. Did somebody switch out the scripts? Was last month a build to TLC? Can we even tell the difference?
I feel like I’ve been overwhelmingly negative this week, but I’ve got to say one more thing about How Business Should Be Done: you can’t do the Nitro ending every week. The trick to making it exciting is to do it when we aren’t expecting it. You can’t do it on the go-home to Survivor Series, it’s predictable. It’s even worse on the go-home for the Royal Rumble. You aren’t creating the illusion of “things getting out of hand” if you’re doing the same thing at the same time every week, and everybody’s taking turns. Unless next week’s special guest host is Bruce Lee and you’re booking a circle of ninjas, people don’t fight like that.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
The only thing that might interest me about this show would be to find out that Miz-face girl from a few years ago is showing up with her own stunt double.
Here’s hoping Lesnar wins Superstar of The Year and pulls a Marlon Brando and have Paul Heyman speak on his behalf about the mistreatment of Cesaro.
They told Roman he was getting a brass ring ON HIS WEDDING DAY.
It’s probably a lot easier to grab that brass ring when Vince lets you step on his back to reach it.
“One Brass Reigns to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them” – VKM.
“Best Actor of the Year: The Rock for acting like he cared about the WWE!”
If you give your Seth Green enough Rare Candy it evolves into Sheamus.
I really want Rusev to win a category, come out and pick up Seth Rollins.
“This puny American trophy is doughy and wriggling like your failing economy.”
Sammy Davis Jr.
Drink every time an announcer says “fun”
Wait, shouldn’t Ultimate Warrior win for Surprise Departure of the Year?
Thanks, everybody. See you this Sunday (wait, really?) for TLC. S. Jr.