– I’m officially on the Road To WrestleMania this year, so if you’re gonna be around and want to say hi, let’s do it. I’ll be at the live NXT show and a bunch of Axxess and WrestleCon-related nonsense, so find me. If you’re in or around Texas, come say hi to me at the next Inspire Pro Wrestling event on March 22. It’s perfect if you’re in town for SXSW, and you might get to see me get beaten up by a member of Suzukigun. Uh, hopefully not.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for March 16, 2015.
Worst: Where’s The Drama In Any Of This If Everybody’s Fine?
This is the easiest-to-book feud ever.
Okay, so Seth Rollins Curb Stomped Randy Orton out of the Authority. Orton returned at Fast Lane and started throwing unlimited specials to send Rollins fleeing into the parking lot. At that point he realized he was never going to be able to get his revenge without The Authority descending upon him en masse, so he pretended to make nice and “create separation” until he could get Rollins alone. That happened at the end of last week’s episode, which culminated in a somber, 10-minute Orton-on-Rollins beatdown.
Without going too far into fantasy booking territory and working solely on what we’re being given, this is easy to book, right? Orton wants a match with Rollins at WrestleMania. Rollins got his ass whomped on Raw so he’s embarrassed but indignant, so he agrees to face Orton there on one condition: Orton faces him here, tonight, on his terms. Those terms, per the entire rest of the feud, are a 5-on-1 thing where The Authority teams up and garrotes you. A tunnel vision, driven-by-rage Orton agrees and ends up taking the beatdown of his life as a “sacrifice” of sorts to earn what he wants most on the company’s biggest stage. The playing field is officially evened, and at WrestleMania they go one-on-one, possibly to the death, to find out who is the better man. To find out who deserves to be the Ace Of The Authority, whether they want the position anymore or not.
Instead, the playing field is already even, because everyone’s totally fine. Orton has a history of mental illness and took a Curb Stomp onto stairs that put him out for four months, but he’s 100% fine here and shows no signs of wear or tear. Rollins got beaten within an inch of his life last Monday, but appears to be 100% fine in the opening segment. I know wrestling’s not real and don’t expect these guys to carry wound-specific body damage for a month, but what’s the deal? Where are the consequences? If Orton can take the most brutal punishment Rollins can dish out and remain unchanged, and if Rollins can take the most brutal punishment Orton can dish out and remain unchanged, what exactly are we supposed to be looking forward to at WrestleMania? A chance for Orton to get additional revenge he’s already technically gotten? It’s so weird. Rollins is doing great heel work but he’s being undercut by the fact that there’s no memorable comeuppance to receive. He’s gotten thrashed by everybody he’s ever fought, so where’s the dollar value in buying a show to see it happen again? When every third or fourth Raw ends with him crawling around on the ground like a f*cking lemur because Ambrose or Reigns or Bryan or Orton or Cena beat his ass, what’s special about another one? Why is WrestleMania being booked like an okay episode of free TV?
You don’t have to teach these guys anatomy and put them in fright makeup. A little goes a long way. If Rollins is limping around like a post-ladder match Hardy Boy and Orton’s staggering around paranoid because he’s worried about his already-damaged brain, those are stories. Those are physical stories that allow context to exist and let pro wrestlers tell the pro wrestling stories they’re paid to tell. You don’t want wrestling for the sake of wrestling? You want to tell stories? Stop treating your wrestlers like action figures.
Worst: Does The Announce Team Even Know Matches Are Happening
We learned two things from this match:
1. Michael Cole doesn’t know what time WrestleMania starts, and
2. Women hate each other because that’s just how women are
Number one involved a lot of pre-match screaming, the kind that makes you mute your television and is unnecessary when you’ve got a microphone and the person you’re talking to is sitting so close to you your shoulders touch. I’m not surprised Cole forgot WrestleMania’s start-time, though. Who cares about this year’s WrestleMania? Especially when you’re balls-deep in the collected works of Tolkien.
Number two is the kind of thing you’d think I’d be mad about for SOCIAL JUSTICE reasons, but you’d be wrong. I’m mad that it instantly negates anything happening in the ring. The Bellas vs. Paige and AJ Lee story isn’t high art — or even the 1998 Ally Sheedy classic High Art — but they’re trying. The story as I understand it is that of two conflicting ideologies: Paige and AJ think of WWE as “sports,” and the Bellas think of WWE as “entertainment.” Paige and AJ want to “give Divas a chance,” i.e. let female wrestlers wrestle important matches and be treated like a valuable part of the show. The Bellas want to look good and be as famous as possible. It’s a surprisingly astute way to approach women’s wrestling through confrontation in 2015, but nope, WOMEN BE TRIPPIN MAGGLE.
I can’t (and don’t) expect the people in charge of the Divas division to give a shit about the Divas, I just wish they’d pause to acknowledge the bare minimum and say, “here’s this, at least.”
Best: LOL Cool J
Deepest, bluest, WrestleMania’s like a shark fin!
I want to know what living human being was on the fence about watching WrestleMania 31 and saw this and was like, “wow, the guy from ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ who did the rap parts in ‘The Accidental Racist’ thinks the show will be spectacular, I should probably check it out.” “Remember ‘Doin’ It?’ Oh man, I need to take this guy’s advice, he represents Queens.”
Worst: This May Have Officially Ground Me Down
The most disappointing thing about WrestleMania 31 for me so far is that many of the interesting feuds WWE created over the past few months — Goldust vs. Stardust, The Miz vs. Damien Mizdow — won’t get WrestleMania matches. They’re getting shuffled into these PILE OF PEOPLE affairs like the Intercontinental Championship ladder match or the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal to get everybody on the show … so because R-Truth and Jack Swagger need WrestleMania payouts, the things we’d actually be compelled to watch and care about are parts 17 and 18 in a 20-part match.
Watching them continue to build the feuds on Raw is a reminder of that. Last night The Miz told Damien Mizdow that if he doesn’t help him win the battle royal at Mania, he’s fired. The announce team confused me to the point I didn’t know if he meant the battle royal or this specific match with Ryback, but I guess it doesn’t matter. They tease Mizdow punching Miz in the face only to have Miz shut him down, which seems like a dealbreaker. He wants to punch you, Miz. You really think this is gonna work out well for you? I am 1000% sure you could waltz into Full Sail and say “Hey A-Ry, want to be my trusted crony again?” and Riley would throw himself over the announce table to help.
Anyway, so much of the show’s just making me tired now. That’s not fair to you as somebody who clicks through to read jokes, but it’s the truth. I have to multitask with like five devices in my lap to get through Miz/Ryback. And I like both of them. Miz is doing some of the best work of his career. Ryback would be the best wrestler in the world if he was any good at wrestling. It’s like watching slides of somebody’s vacation.
Best: Brock Lesnar Interviews Are The F*cking Best
The polar opposite of everything else on the show is Brock Lesnar cutting in-studio promos about how he’s going to “f*ck up Roman Reigns.” Brock Lesnar pre-taped studio promos are Christmas morning for me. Whether he’s threatening to make piss run down somebody’s leg or bragging about how he suplexed John Cena’s ass out of the main event, Real Talk Brock Lesnar is the best and most legitimate wrestling character ever. He’s terrifying. He never sounds like he’s been given a stupid thing to read. He sounds like a barely literate mid-westerner given the body and power of The Hulk through a mystical corn-feeding accident that can only express how he feels through apathy and blood-threats. He’s the GREATEST.
The single most compelling moment in WWE history would be Brock Lesnar trashing Roman Reigns and beating him easily at WrestleMania. It would flip EVERYTHING on EVERYBODY. Not a single person in the world expects it without a bunch of Money in the Bank hope-booking around it. Imagine the response on Monday morning. Imagine the response for the REST OF THE YEAR.
(now imagine Bryan vs. Lesnar career vs. career for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 32)
Best: HYELLO COMRADE
And now, the only two things on the show as good as that Lesnar interview.
1. This guy Rusev found. I don’t know what accent this guy was going for, but I was laughing my ass off the entire time. The way the announcers responded to it made it seem like a work, but … I don’t think it was? Like, if you think about it, why would it need to be a work? Would Rusev not know any Russian people? Would the guy in this role even have to speak with a Russian accent? Couldn’t he have an American guy reading pre-written statements about how America’s garbage? It’s probably not that hard to find one, especially when you include “you get to be on TV and shit-talk John Cena.”
My Spider-Sense is tingling, man. There’s gotta be something to this. Is the big reveal of Rusev that he’s never even been to Russia? I mean, he’s Bulgarian. He’s got a Bulgaria tattoo. His girlfriend/manager speaks in a funny accent and seems to like Russia a lot, but she’s extremely easy to debunk. They live and work here. How great would it be if it turned out Rusev was just a huge poser, and was adopting a weird 1980s Cold War pro-Russia stance because U.S. immigration is assholes to Bulgaria or something and he wants to move in with his foxy Floridian manager? What if she’s going along with it to not break his cover? What if they’ve never met Vladimir Putin and he has no idea who they are? What if that gold star medal’s just a Christmas tree topper on a lanyard?
WHAT IF JOHN CENA BROUGHT OUT PUTIN AT WRESTLEMANIA AND DOES THE MARSHALL MCLUHAN SCENE FROM ANNIE HALL WITH THEM.
Anyway, if Lana rides into WrestleMania on a motorcycle in a red, white and blue bikini with the American flag raised over her head and declares herself CJ Perry, I’m in. Maybe reveal that she’s Zeb Colter’s niece and this has been a long con because Americans really do just hate the shit out of Bulgarians.
Best: Fact Claps
2. Clap, clap, clapclapclapclap FACT. Holy CRAP. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd coming up with a condescending parody clap to trash talk The New Day is straight out of my dream journal. The entire thing had me sounding like one of those hysterical laughing baby YouTube videos.
Of course, the actual framing of the picture-in-picture still isn’t much. Cesaro and Kidd are onto something, but their opponents are such a pile of nothing it’s hard to get excited about. WWE’s tossed two jobber teams (The New Day and Los Matadores) into a WrestleMania title feud to meet diversity quotas, and so far their only characters or motivations are “we’re here” and “we’re gonna try punching the guys we’re wrestling.” El Torito’s headscissoring Cesaro out of the ring and there’s just nothing to it. One of the Usos tried to leap the top rope and accidentally got trapped underground, so they might not even be involved anymore. The team that got us into this mess in the first place is gonna bail and leave us with a Spanish occupational joke and the poor guys who’ll get replaced by Angelo Dawkins and Uhaa Nation if they stop smiling and clapping.
The Fact Clap is good enough to sit through any of this, though. Put Cesaro and Kidd in the ring against Cameron and Eva Marie in sassy St. Patrick’s Day outfits, who cares, just let them clap about it.
Worst: Matches Without Starts Or Finishes
There was an entire stretch of Raw where matches didn’t start or finish, they just sorta occurred, and nothing mattered. This stretch was 2013-2015.
I’m kidding, but you know it’s bad when these motherf*ckers make me Worst a battle royal. Big Show fights Erick Rowan and Kane orchestrates an Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal practice scrimmage, and neither one is an official match. Show just wrecks Rowan and elbows him off the second rope, so the match stops. No pinfall, no KO finish, nothing. It just stops, because I guess “Big Show beats up Erick Rowan again” was the point? Kane sets up this battle royal as a power play of some kind and gets overshadowed by Mark Henry, who we all just remembered is supposed to be part of The Authority. Henry tosses out some guys and does a fun hope spot with Curtis Axel, but it’s not a match. It’s not for anything. You can’t like, enter last in a battle royal and have it matter, and if you do an official, sanctioned battle royal two weeks before you do it on WrestleMania with all the same guys you’re insane. So they just do it and don’t have it count, and dot dot dot question mark question mark question mark.
It’s so weird that the build to WrestleMania is just, “EVERYBODY IS EVERYTHING, WHO KNOWS?” Battle royal guys could become IC title match guys could become tag title match guys and nobody would notice. If you woke up tomorrow and Wikipedia said Kofi Kingston was in the ladder match, Stardust was in the battle royal and Kane was going for the tag titles, would any of that surprise you?
Best/Worst: Heyman Should’ve Just Superman Punched Him And Taken Back The Microphone
You know, if WWE’s serious about pushing Roman Reigns, they should give him lighter and lighter contacts every week. Those things make his face look like a fish tank right now. Make them whiter until he’s got possessed Undertaker eyes. Dye his hair blonde. F*ck it. Keep going until he’s an actual ghost.
Making fun of Roman Reigns is a bit of a pastime here (and by “here” I mean “on the Internet”), but his promo wasn’t bad. It wasn’t HEYMAN, mind you, and WWE Fan Nation is dumb for gutting 8 minutes of Paul E. brilliance for 2 of Roman pausing until he remembers his lines, but no, it was fine. One thing that’s hurting him, I think, is how little confidence they have in his promos despite constantly making him do it. They keep changing his nicknames and t-shirts and catchphrases hoping something will stick, and it’s doing him a disservice. He can’t get comfortable with anything and make it his own because he’s always trying new stuff. He’s been THE POWERHOUSE and THE JUGGERNAUT and THE BIG DOG and THE EPITOME OF POWER, and he’s BELIEVED THAT and been ALL VARSE ONE and now he WILL and he CAN. At least when The Rock had 60 catchphrases it was because he was supposed to be a narcissistic weirdo.
Worst: Going To Commercial Twice During The Only Thing Resembling Pro Wrestling On This Show
The main-event of a show with only four actual matches in three hours is a long six-man tag pitting the babyface side of the Intercontinental Championship ladder match against the heel side. It’s more or less a fantasy camp of guys who should be doing something more important than this: Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, Stardust and Bad News Barrett. If you asked me to name the six guys I’d put at the top of the company if I was put in charge, it’d be them.
The match has its moments, but we aren’t allowed to get emotionally invested in it thanks to two (count em, two) commercial breaks. Please buy Popeye’s brand chicken and then please buy Popeye’s brand chicken again. Why are we still doing this? One commercial break is bad enough, but two? Two is just unreasonable, especially when two hours of your three hour show is hype videos and replays. Are you that desperate to disassociate “wrestling” from your product? Are you still pretending people are using the WWE App? I don’t think I’ve opened that thing since the last DO YOU WANT A STREET FIGHT, NO HOLDS BARRED OR ANYTHING GOES MATCH poll.
On top of that, a 20-minute six-man tag with six of the best guys you have is built around the belt-stealing gag nobody still cares about and an Intercontinental Champion that can’t win a match. Bad News Barrett is the champion heading into WrestleMania and he’s teaming with a Wyatt Family goon and a guy who couldn’t beat his own tag team partner at Fastlane, but Barrett takes the pin. Because MORE TYPED PUNCTUATION.
Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler squaring off in the middle of the ring during the build to WrestleMania with a big YOU’RE A TURD sign between them that WWE created and encouraged as a response to one of their most popular wrestlers is all you need to know. I hope the IC title ladder match is a blistering classic that reinvigorates the division and ushers in a new era of passion and respect for WWE’s most treasured secondary championship, but I also want Alexandra Daddario to sleep with me, and one of those things is gonna happen before the other.
Best: Time Is A Flat Squared Circle
A Bray Wyatt promo is the last thing you need when you’re 2:45 into Raw and trying to stay awake, but this one at least created a fun fan theory.
What if the ashes of Bray Wyatt’s rocking chair have always been in the Undertaker’s urn? What if the sacrificed little girls and hooded cult and Bayou brainwashing cabin and Sister Abigail are all connected, and Wyatt and Taker are bound by this Lovecraftian understanding of time and space? What if they’re just acting and reenacting the same stories in a grand circle, and the demon that possesses the Undertaker IS Wyatt? Wouldn’t that be awesome? What if the story ends up being Bray Wyatt going 21-1 at WrestleMania, with the “1” being John Cena last year and the entire thing going in reverse? Does that make Erick Rowan Kane? Is that why they’re both “Big Red?”
Wait, is Katie Vick Sister Abigail?
Nope, sorry, forget I said anything.
Worst: Yeah These Guys Are Exactly The Same
Next Monday I’m spending three hours watching Marci X twice. I assume it’ll be the same experience.
Worst: Seth Rollins, Architect Of Terrible Plans
For a master manipulator, Seth Rollins is pretty dumb. Randy Orton took a few steps backwards to execute his master plan of getting The Authority out of the way so he could take out Rollins one-on-one, but at least it worked. Here, Rollins is orchestrating this 3-hour plan where he does a bunch of skits about Authority members turning on him, abandoning him or quitting outright, under the assumption that Orton would be watching (on the app?) and be lured into a false sense of security.
That’s an okay plan if you’re gonna spring it on him suddenly in a match and beat him down, but what does Rollins do? Before he even gets in the ring he announces that WHOOPS, IT’S ALL BEEN A RUSE, and The Authority slowly follows him to the ring. Orton has assumed all along that this would be 5-on-1, mind you, so Rollins spent THREE HOURS of impromptu sketch writing on live TV to make Orton think “oh, well that’s disappointing but I should’ve expected it” for five seconds.
The funniest part is that it gives him no tactical advantage. They don’t just get in the ring and beat him up, they stand around it in a circle and stare at him, making sure he’s ready with a chair. If there’s backup, they hang out long enough for it to arrive. Some of this is just me nitpicking the dramatic pacing, admittedly, but dude, the master plan could’ve been “I brought a baton to the ring and am gonna hit you in the legs a bunch so I win at WrestleMania” and it would’ve involved 30 bucks and 5 seconds of thought. I bet “I thought Jamie Noble quit but he didn’t” really broke him.
Best: Sting Shows Off His Two Greatest Talents
The show ends with Sting teleporting into the ring to save Randy Orton, because Sting can do two things better than anyone in the history of wrestling:
1. Execute cool as hell, out-of-nowhere faction attacks
2. Be a terrible judge of character
To address the first point, a baseball playing drum major ceiling mime doesn’t sound very cool on paper, but trust me, it is. Now he’s got teleportation powers so it makes it even cooler. Although I have to admit, every time the lights go out and crows start cawing, I wonder how much better it’d be if Owen Hart hadn’t died and Sting could drop down from the rafters like he’s supposed to. Then I start brainstorming alternate Sting entrances, and get sad when I realize they’re never gonna walk him out on a giant, motorized scorpion. It could be like Katy Perry’s Superbowl lionzord!
To address the second point, Sting is STUPID. Not the wrestler or the gimmick or whatever, but one of Sting’s defining characteristics is that he befriends the worst people on the world and assumes they won’t turn on him, even though they always, always do. Here he’s stepping in to help out RANDY ORTON, the king of the violent mood swing, in a fight against the evil authority figures who helped him be WWE World Heavyweight Champion through cheating and reversed decisions for most of 2013. He’s like, “sure, I’ll help out this insane snake man who handcuffs ladies to the ropes and sexually assaults them, and sometimes pulls innocent people out of the crowd and kicks them in the head for fun. THIS guy seems like a good friend. The guy who routinely attacks his own friends as a show of dominance. OOWWW IT’S SHOWTIME!”
Part of me wishes Orton would’ve just blasted Sting with a chair then and fought The Authority alone.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
I’d mark harder for this if Sting beat people up with a surfboard.
If this gimmick fails they’ll just repackage Bray as an MRA. He already has the fedora and the neckbeard.
The man behind the push for Roman Reigns must be John Cena, because they’re not selling me on him.
Smooth Jimmy Apollo
Tonight’s promos got you down? Better Call Paul.
The Real Birdman
Noble won the lottery, he dont need your money Seth
Hmmm. I don’t agree with his America killing policy, but I do approve of his Cena killing policy! *votes for Rusev*
I think Cena just discovered a loophole Brandenburg v. Ohio (395 U.S. 444, 1969), the decision that affirmed speech is not punishable under the law unless it is likely to incite “imminent lawless action”. When Cena threatened to beat up Rusev if he said anything bad about America, it instantly meant that Rusev’s speech would incite “imminent lawless action”; namely and to wit, assault… by John Cena… on Rusev.
Sammy Davis Jr.
Nikki has a bigger move set than Roman Reigns. FACT.
“I’m gonna end the future of the WWE.”
Why bother Randy, Vince is doing the job just fine.
See you next week for the final Raw before WrestleMania! Somehow!