– As I mentioned last week, I should be in the Bay Area for WrestleMania this year, so if you’re gonna be around and want to say hi, let’s do it. 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.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for March 2, 2015.
Worst: How To Neuter A Superstar
In case you’ve already forgotten it — and I wouldn’t blame you if you had — WWE Fast Lane opened with a six-man tag between Survivor Series Forever Rivals Team Cena and Team Authority. Big Show knocked out Dolph Ziggler and Ziggler got chokeslammed by Kane, and the post-match was a 5-on-3-ish attack from the heels. That brought out the returning RANDY ORTON, capital letters, to throw RKOs in every direction and even the sides. Seth Rollins had ousted Orton from the Authority by Curb Stomping him on the Unforgiving Steel Steps, so Orton was out for blood. Rollins was about to get got when Big Show pulled him to safety, and Rollins ran screaming into the parking lot.
The next night on Raw should’ve been Orton catching Rollins alone and beating him to death, right? Or there should’ve been a next-moment setup where Orton and Rollins are put in a match and Rollins has to continue fleeing for his life for a month. If you did neither of those things, your #1 priority should’ve been maintaining Orton’s heat as a Justice-Dealing Babyface Out For Revenge.
Instead, Orton rejoined the Authority, defeating the purpose of the entire story. He rejoined with the idea that he’d manipulate the team until he could get Rollins where he wanted him and strike, only we’d already moved way past that. Dude appeared at Fast Lane and tried to attack him. That gave away Orton’s “plan” as it were, and these past few weeks of The Authority going hey now, get along haven’t helped. They haven’t done ANYTHING. My best guess is that they were scared of Lesnar no-showing WrestleMania and needed Orton and Rollins involved in the backup plan, so they had them tread water and re-do a bunch of steps that’d already been taken just in case. My second best guess is they’re terrible at writing and have no idea what people think is exciting.
Orton insulting The Authority and saying he’s going to kick their asses and then being all, “hey guys, just kidding, it’s cool” doesn’t work when he’s already attacked them. The drama’s already gone. The crowd pops for his insults because they like hearing wrestlers say snarky shit and they chant “RKO” because they want to see an RKO, but the how and why of all of it is unimportant. They could have Orton come in cold with no backstory and call Erick Rowan a sheep-f*cker to set up a WrestleMania match. The crowd would laugh and chant RKO.
Worst: This Announce Tizzle Is A Pile Of Shizzle
Daniel Bryan wrestles Bad News Barrett in the opening match. It’s a match with four years of history. Bad News Barrett is the Intercontinental Champion, by default the most important singles champion to regularly appear on the show, and Daniel Bryan is vaguely the most popular guy on the show. You wouldn’t be able to tell ANY of this by listening to commentary. You wouldn’t be able to tell there’s a match going on.
WWE Fan Nation does its best to edit it out, but the Raw team shit the bed so egregiously during the first two matches I thought they were gonna get shepherded away and replaced by cymbals-playing monkey toys. R-Truth is there and they’re all saucy at the appearance of a black guy, so they won’t stop saying “shizzle.” WWE’s elderly white people love “shizzle.” Shizzle is the FUNNIEST. They do their best to talk about anything besides wrestling and get into a long argument about the relevancy of Dikembe Mutombo. That sounds like a Dave Barry joke, doesn’t it? Like I’m just ending the sentence with something stupid to be funny. But nope, Bryan and Barrett are desperately trying to get some mediocre wrestling over while these jackasses yell “NO NO NO” at each other.
Just terrible. Barrett loses another non-title match with no fanfare whatsoever, and the announcers put over some ladder math where “whoever is in possession of the belt” will hang it above the ring. Why do any of these people want to be Intercontinental Champion? I would legit rather somebody run up to me right now and punch me in the balls than have WWE say “we’re going to make you IC champ and put you on TV every week.” I wish that was snark. This is the world we’re living in.
Best: Bad News Barrett’s Torso, Jesus Christ
If we’re looking for a Best in this mess, Wade Barrett is looking AMAZING. Look at this dude’s torso:
I’m with you, lady.
Now if he only still had the gimmick and catchphrase that had connected him to crowds for the first time in five years!
Worst: The IC Title Picture Is The 2010-2014 Push Graveyard
Match #2 (and the last match for like an hour) is Stardust vs. Dean Ambrose in a contest of which can’t-miss guy missed the hardest. Remember when Cody Rhodes was a hero fighting against The Authority? Remember when Dean Ambrose was the coolest wrestler and crowds went apeshit for everything he did? Remember when Daniel Bryan main-evented WrestleMania last year and won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship? Remember when Dolph Ziggler was WWE’s greatest hero and saved the company back in November? Remember when Bad News Barrett was a thing you looked forward to? Hey remember The Wyatt Family?
I still think the actual IC title ladder match will be a lot of fun, but damn if it isn’t an abandoned wrestlers graveyard. If we get to Levi’s Stadium and Koko B. Ware’s in the match somewhere I won’t be surprised. I don’t think there’s even been a more obvious collection of the world’s greatest pro wrestlers shuffled into a little pile, Zip-loc’d and thrown in the freezer.
Here’s what I’m talking about: if I told you Dean Ambrose pinned Stardust, then told you I was lying and that Stardust had pinned Ambrose, would anything change? Would even 0.0001% of this change?
“He was 8.” Ugly crying.
I’m happy Connor Michalek’s being honored by WWE, because for a company that’s constantly at war with its own fanbase, The Crusher represented what was best and most pure about pro wrestling. He wasn’t worried about pushes and wasn’t forced to piece everything together and try to make sense of it. He just loved it. He loved the people. His favorite was the goat-faced guy in the therapy tag team. He wanted AJ Lee to stop her craziness. He loved pro wrestling in a way that’s only possible in childhood. Learning what wrestling is and how it works and what it does to people is an inevitability of a life in the fandom, like finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. Connor will always live before the inevitability. He got WrestleMania 30. He sat in the front row and chanted with his favorite wrestler in that wrestler’s greatest moment, with nothing but confetti to divide them.
I’ll never stop crying about this. It’s a good and a bad cry all at once. When he hooks Triple H’s leg, I’m done. I’ll cry about it here, I’ll cry about it during the Hall of Fame, and if they ever build a physical Hall of Fame I’ll cry again when I get to his part.
He was 8.
Best: Paul Heyman Is Building And Selling A WrestleMania Main Event By Himself
Brock Lesnar hasn’t wrestled since January, and won’t wrestle again until WrestleMania. His job (on a good night) is to stand still with a belt on his shoulder. Roman Reigns is wrestling all the damn time, but it barely matters. He’s a supporting character thrust into a leading role he’s not prepared for, and his contributions to the feud are funny “confused/concerned” faces and delicately-worded video packages. “Did you know he’s related to wrestlers you like?” Yes, yes I did. “Did you know he believes in OPINIONS?” what is that even supposed to mean
Meanwhile, Paul Heyman’s in a lab with a pen and a pad trying to get this damn label off. He’s the only thing making it work. He’s the selling point. He’s in charge of saying why Brock Lesnar is the greatest wrestler of all time. He sent the Rock off to Hollywood. He won the UFC Heavyweight Championship and might spend the summer unifying it with the WWE title. He conquered the Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania. He obliterated John Cena at SummerSlam.
At the same time, he’s in charge of saying why Roman Reigns is great in a way Roman can’t. He can point out that Roman has an incredible wrestling pedigree and has spent his whole life fighting opponents twice his size in bars and on street corners because his parents were crazy islanders who ate raw fish on TV. He can get a little racist with it because he’s also in charge of the alignment: he has to be exciting and compelling enough to make you listen up and notice the offensive bullshit so you might decide to boo one guy and cheer the other. He’s in charge of EVERYTHING.
I can’t think of a better person to do it. I want to go back to 1992 WCW and point to Paul Heyman as the guy thinking outside of the box and changing the game. I want to go back to 1995 and point to Heyman as the guy revolutionizing the business by embracing how putrid and awful it is. I want to revisit him in the early 2000s as a color commentator who improved upon the King so much it scared WWE to death and sent them back to the well for another decade, and I want to point at him now and say “that’s the best manager in the history of wrestling, and a person who can talk and talk and talk until a foregone conclusion seems like it isn’t.” Paul Heyman could stand in a rainstorm and sell me on being dry.
Worst: Survivor Series 2014 Is Going To Be *Passes Out* *Infinite Car Horn*
If a Erick Rowan’s entrance starts in a forest and there are 10,000 people around to hear it, does it make a sound?
I appreciate WWE trying to recognize its own tropes and address them — everybody expecting Orton to turn, the way video packages portray Roman Reigns, Big Show and Kane’s endless bickering, etc. — but there’s no conclusion. Big Show accidentally knocks out Kane and they lose the match, so they start to fight. Stephanie McMahon shows up to yell at them and throw them out of the building for being stupid.
Now, the point of them getting thrown out was to free up Randy Orton to do his thing at the end of the show, but looking at the situation as its own thing, it’s just pointing out how stupid WWE is. Stephanie’s like “we always do this, you guys used to be cool and tough but now you’re big crybaby idiots, I’m ashamed of you and don’t want to see either of you.” That’s us, man. We’re forced to watch a show that does the same bits over and over. The wrestlers largely used to be cool and tough in some regard — Kane as a Big Red Monster who could rip off cage doors and set people on fire, Big Show as a guy who could break Hulk Hogan’s neck and throw Steve Austin through cage walls — and now they just stand around in the ring complaining about how they feel and how they aren’t getting what they want. We’re ashamed to still be watching Kane and Big Show wrestling in 2015 and wish we could never see them again.
The worst part is that if this is a “reset” where they realize they’ve been goobers and decide to get tough again, we’ve seen that, too. From both of them. They’ve been focused and forgotten so many times that’s part of their trope. They’re situationally important. If they don’t have a story happening where they can suddenly haunt and permanently injure the World Heavyweight Champion, they can’t win handicap matches when they’re dudes two and three in a 3-on-1.
Worst: Raise Your Hand If You Came Up With The ‘Wizdow’ Joke
There’s a 90% chance the original version of this contained blackface.
Worst: Wait A Second, Are These Those Boys?
In case you missed it, our gallery of awkward wrestling fans dancing to Wiz Khalifa says more about the performance than anything I can say here.
My first concern is that no matter how good they are, musical performances don’t belong on wrestling shows. They only belong if the act is standing to the side of the stage playing a live version of somebody’s entrance theme. Even then it’s rarely as cool as it seems on paper. Remember when KISS played on Nitro, and they pretended like it was such a big deal they gave them a wrestler? I was going to joke about WWE making a Wiz Khalifa wrestler rise up from an in-stage coffin like I hadn’t just posted video of Wizdow.
Man, if you want to see a bad decision in action, watch Sandow run out at the end of the performance to no reaction, then try to take his dreadlocks hat off like that’s what’s keeping people from recognizing him and cheering. Spoiler alert: WWE fans don’t give a shit about Sandow wearing funny costumes, they started liking him because the Miz/Mizdow dynamic was weird and fun.
My second concern is whether or not these them boys.
My third concern is that I kept hoping Sheamus would run out with a lead pipe and attack Wiz Khalifa. That’s my default for celebrity guests. They should only appear on the show if they can contribute and move the stories forward in some way. Jon Stewart did it. The f*cking Muppets did it. If they can’t (or don’t), Sheamus should run in and hit them in the back with a pipe.
Worst: Maybe AJ Should’ve Stayed Gone
I’ve written about this a lot as it’s hard to thoroughly explain, but it’s important to remain a little objective in your fandom, and not like somebody so much you pretend they’re infallible.
For example: AJ Lee. She’s been a site and column favorite since they began. When she was in developmental as one of the Chickbusters, we hoped she’d get brought up. She was fun and different and cool, and a kind of real wrestling nerd you don’t often enough find in the Divas Division. She felt like one of “us.” A prettier, more athletic one of us, but one of us nonetheless. She felt like she was there because she gave a shit, and wanted to wrestle. We followed her on her way up, watched her become the most dynamic character on the show, watched them homogenize her and spit her back out into the endless cycle of barely-organized and even more barely performed Divas matches. Still, though, she gives a shit.
Update: AJ does not give a shit right now.
I haven’t seen someone sleepwalk through a match like this in years. She was like the Undertaker at WrestleMania 30 without the Brock Lesnar suplexes prefacing it. She couldn’t seem to do her moves, hit the ropes with a velocity that would make Kelly Kelly throw shade and just kinda mindlessly skipped in the interim. Poor Summer Rae’s out there flanked by the two worst wrestlers in WWE history but trying, dammit, yelling at a dead audience and throwing herself into bad AJ headscissors. If Roman Reigns had wrestled a match like this we’d crucify him. If Daniel Bryan wrestled a match like this he’d be on the next House of Hardcore show before he finished his shower.
Maybe she should try MMA.
Worst: Exposed – Sting’s Greatest Secrets
So, uh, was Sting not available to record this? Did we get Colossus to record it in the shadows?
What’s sad is that it’s actually a really cool video. It ignores the entirety of actual WCW history but they’re doing that anyway, so whatever, the nWo won and destroyed the company and Sting was a loyal ceiling mime and vanished for 14 years with not so much as an impact zone to call home. Sting’s back to avenge Triple H single-handedly winning the Monday Night Wars by driving a jeep into an arena parking lot and yelling at 30 people who weren’t inside for some reason about how WCW sucks. It was really the nail in the coffin.
The worst part was when Triple H stomped when he punched. It was all part of the scam!
Worst: Is This Really The Best We Can Give Our Suddenly Popular-ish Undercard Guys
From last night’s open discussion thread, which you should be frequenting:
Curtis Axel takes on Rusev in the perfect match to continue Axel’s rise to absurd, unlikely fame. I hope they at least let him be competitive and have fun with it and don’t do the “derp, you’re Heath Slater, you lost in 20 seconds” thing.
Quick, guess what happened
I mean, I get it. It’s Curtis Axel. He’s nobody. He was kinda over last week doing a throwaway Hulk Hogan gag in front of an anti-Cena crowd. It’s not the second coming of Stone Cold Steve Austin. At the same time, though, why is WWE so quick to negate everything these guys are doing to make a connection? Fandango blows but gets some media attention for his entrance theme, so they beat it to death and take it away from him. Bad News Barrett gets a catchphrase everybody loves to say, so they take it away before people like him. Curtis Axel finally gets his head above water for two seconds and the job is to call him a “goof” and have him lose as quickly as possible.
There’s a lot to it. You don’t want people liking the heels too much or they won’t be heels, yadda yadda. But Jesus, really? At this point when your crowds are sitting on their hands for all your big stars, everything feels maddeningly stale and you can only make news by wheeling out guys who retired 10 years ago, don’t you want EVERYBODY catching on with SOMETHING? These connections are fragile baby birds. You have to nurture them, not rip down the nest and hurl it off your balcony expecting them to fly.
Best: That Rusev Promo Though
I swear, I could listen to Rusev talk all day. Lana behind him all concerned about the ramifications while he’s like I WILL PULL OUT YOUR STINKING AMERICAN HEART AND SQUEEZE IT LIKE YOUR PATHETIC HAWAIIAN PUNCH MASCOT PUNCHY SQUEEZES FRESH HAWAIIAN PUNCH UNTIL THE BLOOD IS ALL OVER YOU AND THEN I WILL HIT YOU WITH A HAMMER IN YOUR CHEST UNTIL YOU LOOK LIKE OLD FLAG.
That said, hold on to your butts.
Worst: John Cena, Massive Hypocrite
I could write 1,000 words about this. I probably already have. If you click back three weeks ago there’s probably a dense, 9-paragraph rant about this segment because Raw’s turned me into the kid from The Shining.
So yeah, remember when John Cena had the power to bring back The Authority but doesn’t want to, so Seth Rollins came up with a plan to hold Edge for ransom and Curb Stomp him into the Money in the Bank briefcase unless Cena did what he wanted? Remember how Cena thought Rollins was a coward for threatening somebody’s life and livelihood to get what he wanted?
Rusev has the power to give John Cena a match at WrestleMania but doesn’t want to, so John Cena comes up with a plan to hold him for ransom and repeatedly choke him into unconsciousness until his manager gives him what he wants. The qualifier for the attack is hilarious: Cena says he’ll jump Rusev and hurt him if he says anything bad about America, which is ALL RUSEV EVER DOES. That’s like saying you’re gonna attack Zack Ryder if he says woo woo woo. “Kofi Kingston, I swear to God if you jump or clap during this match I will end you.”
The worst part is that John succeeds. He gets what he wants through bullying. He chokes Rusev out in like a minute, and when that doesn’t work, he revives him and chokes him again. Serious brain damage threat happening here. Lana can’t just get in the ring and beat up John Cena, so she has to give into his demands or see someone she cares about die. Cena was just going to choke him until he died, dude. There wasn’t another ending to that. Then Cena goes on WWE Network and says he didn’t get the match because he’s entitled and cruel, he got it because Rusev hates America and it just happened to work out that way.
Look at that title. “John Cena gets what he wants.” This is the meanest, most vindictive, heartless motherf*cker in wrestling. Recognize it.
Best/Worst: Bray Wyatt And The Value Of Getting Excited Over The Dumbest Stuff
You know, I shouldn’t be getting excited for a “jar” suddenly smoking and lightning striking a teleporting rocking chair and another damn “message via TitanTron graphic” response with an audio clip attached. This should be the worst thing in the world. Undertaker proved last year that his magic doesn’t last forever, and Bray Wyatt’s been nothing but sharp inhales and stupid ghost props since 2013. They just combined the Hell in a Cell finish with the Sting vs. Triple H confrontation.
Still, though, I can’t dislike this. It’s so dumb it’s wonderful. The Undertaker seriously answers a man’s challenge by making a Johnny Cash fan graphic, bringing a dead rocking chair back to life and then KILLING THE ROCKING CHAIR WITH LIGHTNING FIRE. That is the feud. A man f*cks with Undertaker iconography until Undertaker’s ghost f*cks with his. Next week Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are showing up with blood dripping out of their eyes and only Bray will be able to see it.
It’s still gotta end in a match, though, and what do you do there? You either feed an up-and-coming guy to yet another old veteran and get nothing of worth from it besides some pretty WrestleMania photos, or you have Taker eat another loss, which nobody wants to see. So is that it? Burning zombie rocking chairs to build to Bray getting Attitudinally Adjusted through another prop box? One in the shape of a coffin, I guess? Are we okay with that?
Worst: You Can Leave Some People Off The WrestleMania Card, It’s Fine
Meanwhile, on the REST OF THE SHOW~
WrestleMania happens in like 20 days. WWE does this frantic thing where they get guilty and decide to put every person they employ on the WrestleMania card, even if they’ve spent the previous 345-ish days treating them like garbage. For example, The New Day. The New Day has been NOTHING since they were created. Dead on arrival. Nobody likes their chant, nobody likes their clap, nobody likes their matches. They’re a problematic conversation piece. But it’s 20 days until WrestleMania, so they’re cutting a picture-in-picture promo about how they want to win the tag titles, and then boom, three minutes later they’re getting an upset win over the tag champions. Now they’re in play for WrestleMania, because why the hell not.
Los Matadores are doing the same thing. When was the last time LOS MATADORES did anything? Wee-LC? But it’s 20 days until WrestleMania and they don’t want to just do Cesaro and Kidd vs. The Usos again, so now there’s suddenly a pair of multicultural jobber teams thrown in. The worst part is that The New Day OR Los Matadores could win this, because The Usos and K-Swiss have the combined momentum of a f*cking statue. A statue of a fat dude walking backwards.
The strangest thing is that they’ve put all the mid-carders of worth into the Intercontinental Championship ladder match and all the guys in tag teams into this, so who the hell’s supposed to be in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal? If they keep adding multi-dude schmozz matches it’s just gonna be Titus O’Neil and Byron Saxton trying to throw each other over the top rope for 8 minutes.
Worst: PG ECW
I’m skipping a huge chunk of this show because it’s all one thrown-together segment. ECW used to do this thing where they’d book the matches to bleed into one another, so someone involved in the first match as a manager or stablemate or whatever would get attacked by their opponent, and then THAT match would happen, and somebody’d end up interfering to lead into match 3.
Raw played with that in the most obvious way ever last night, starting with The New Day vs. K-Swiss. That became Natalya vs. Naomi, and that became The Usos vs. Los Matadores. Instead of it seeming organic or natural, they had people making full entrances before the other people left with only half of the matchup getting introduced by Lilian, so it felt like a pile of laundry. A pile of blaze orange laundry.
The best part is that WWE is terrified to give their matches finishes, so they all involved some kind of distraction. Tyson Kidd was distracted by Natalya for some reason and got beaten, Natalya was preoccupied with Tyson on the outside and got assed to the face by Naomi, and then El Torito distracted The Usos. If like 30% of Raw matches didn’t end via distraction rollup this might be a fun way to build a multiple-team feud, but as it stands, it just feels like a bad chunk of Raw.
A supplemental Worst goes to the Usos, who really need to stop diving to the outside. They get closer to jumping face-first into the rope every week. Invest in some moon shoes or do a bunch of blurpees or something, guys, I’m worried about you.
Worst: PG Middle Fingers
And then, the finish nobody saw coming.
The FRESH MATCHUP of The Authority 2-on-1 against Roman Reigns turns into Randy Orton refusing to tag Seth Rollins, allowing Reigns to hit the spear on Rollins and win. Orton gives him a double middle-finger salute which WWE films from the wrists down, because little kids can watch their hero choke a man until he gets what he wants, but can’t see somebody’s finger up without the other fingers.
Worst: No Idea
That leads to one of the most incessant beatdowns I’ve ever seen, and a day later I still don’t know what I was supposed to feel. Orton’s … sort of the babyface? Rollins is clearly a jerk who needs to get beaten up, but he’s ALWAYS getting beaten up. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns have both done this to him before. The announcers are using Owen Voices to sell the devastation of some chairshots to the back and punches that make you walk through the crowd, and after like 10 solid minutes of methodical punching we get an RKO onto the announce table. I say “onto” and not “through” because an RKO lands you parallel to the table top and the whole thing just falls down flat.
I’m nitpicking my own description of how the night ended because that’s more interesting than how the night ended. Randy Orton beat down Seth Rollins, which should’ve happened the night after Fast Lane. It almost happened on Fast Lane. Orton has now fulfilled his diabolical plan of beating up Seth Rollins without The Authority interfering, which is not super hard but took him weeks.
Are we LESS excited for WrestleMania now? Did that just happen?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Seth: Very funny, Randy! You big joker!
Sting: I’m kind of sure he means it, right Lex?
Randy Orton vs the announce table is the most evenly booked feud in WWE history.
New WWE merch idea: a series of Michael Cole audiobooks in which he recites classic works of literature but routinely interrupts the reading to poorly and unnecessarily explain the subtext.
Can’t wait for the first installment, “Moby Dick, Which You Might Remember Is The Name Of The White Whale That Tried To End Captain Ahab’s Career”.
“You wear pants in EVERY MATCH! DID YOU THINK I WAS GOING TO LET THAT SLIDE?!”
Hickory Dickory Reigns
This is why they couldn’t do Sting vs Taker at Mania. It would just be one Titantron talking to another Titantron via Text Message.
Bray Wyatt. The 22, in 22 and 1.
[Captain America watches that last segment between Cena and Rusev]
Steve Rogers: “From now on, call me Nomad.”
Whenever someone walks by my door while the Bellas are speaking I’m pretty sure they think I’m watching porn :
Mr. Royal Rumble, TheCensoredMSol
Jesus, that was real. Paul was about 2 seconds away from firing Sabu again.
I’ll freak out if R-Truth sneaks up behind Lesnar and just grabs the title off his shoulder.