– This was pre-taped and I’m sorry.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 13, 2015.
Worst: WWE, The Land Of Zero Consequences
Remember two weeks ago when Brock Lesnar went on a rampage and assaulted the announce team? Lesnar, the most overpowered character in WWE history, gave an F-5 to Michael Cole, the least athletic person on the planet, and seemingly exploded him into dust. All that was left of Cole was his shoe.
Two weeks later, Cole’s totally fine. I mean, I guess I’m not asking for him to spend the next six months in a body cast or whatever, but should he be back to normal and unphased already? It’s not like Florida Georgia Line shoved him down once, this is Brock Lesnar. And it’s not like Cole is John Cena and has those weird Daredevil blind guy meditation healing powers where he can get stabbed in the guts by a ninja and be doing backflips within the quarter-hour. I just feel like I’m athletically comparable to Cole, and if Lesnar brushed shoulders with me as we passed each other on the street I’d be hurdled into orbit and all my bones would fall out.
Does WWE shy away from characters being weary and hurt because they don’t want violence to look like it has consequences? Is it the “John Cena leaves the window open on the STF because if little kids are going to mimic him he doesn’t want them choking each other out” thing on a broader scale? It’s a fighting league built around the idea that punching and kicking people in the face as hard as possible doesn’t leave cosmetic damage, is it policy that everyone has to reboot and instantly be 100% again when they’re done?
Best/Worst: Any Time John Cena Is Around Wade Barrett
1. John Cena and Wade Barrett have great chemistry. They work together well, their matches are usually really good and they just kinda physically coordinate. Barrett’s straight-forward, no-frills style compensates for a lot of Cena’s physical awkwardness, and Cena’s star power helps Barrett look a little less like he looks when he’s wrestling R-Truth.
2. John Cena vs. Wade Barrett is always a terrible idea.
I know those things don’t seem like they go together, but they do. For anyone who remembers it, Cena/Barrett sorta lives with the ghost of the worst John Cena moment ever, aka him no-selling a DDT on concrete and beating the two best guys in the Nexus by himself.
The underlying reality of Cena’s United States Championship open challenge is that he’s not actually losing to any of these guys, so when you combine it with Cena’s never-ending quest to make sure The Nexus guys look like garbage forever, you get a really good wrestling match that is pretty much impossible for me to enjoy on the level. The audience feels the same way. You can hear them. They love Barrett and hope he wins, but none of them actually think he will. The sound they make whenever Cena gets him up in an AA isn’t “oh no, I hope he doesn’t win,” it’s “here’s the part where he wins.” It’s an inevitability. “John Cena” is such a hard character to cram into these midcard stories because we’ve spent the better part of 15 years watching him no-sell his failures and beat everyone in the world, sometimes 7 at a time.
Before you get worried that I’m going too far with it, it’s not a “burial” or any of the things you’d derisively type “IWC” in response to. Barrett looked great, which is something I don’t think I’ve been able to say since the Intercontinental title tournament. I’d rather him lose in a solid back-and-forth match to his career’s Beelzebub than spend another month being the most important member of the Keystone Cops.
Best: CHAIN GANG REPRESENT
After the match, Lana shows up with a slightly-worse-than-normal accent and distracts Cena, allowing Rusev to Pearl Harbor him with a RUSSIAN CHAIN. She then announces that at Extreme Rules, it will be a RUSSIAN CHAIN MATCH. Just once I want someone to attack their opponent with a ladder and then be like, “AT EXTREME RULES, IT’LL BE A TABLES MATCH!”
WWE.com describes the chain match as follows:
“Adding insult to injury, Lana then revealed that she had successfully negotiated the new terms of the previously announced match, which will see Rusev and Cena tethered at the wrist by a length of heavy-duty chain. Living up to Extreme Rules’ reputation, both Superstars will be allowed to use the chain at their discretion, whether using it as a whip or to add weight to a punch, as Rusev demonstrated on Raw.”
Translation: “Cena will be allowed to use the chain during the STF to win the match.”
Worst: Bray Wyatt Is Still Talking About Nothing
“And what will you do when that one thing that you love so much, that one thing that you cannot live without with-“
I’m so mad at myself for not being able to like Bray Wyatt anymore. It’s frustrating. It’s extra frustrating because for the past three months he’s done nothing but these whispery, gaspy darkroom promos, and they’re all identical. It’s like he’s trying to find the Cosmic Key. I see Wyatt’s face and hear his voice now and my brain shuts off. Some wrestlers have forward momentum. Some have stalled. Bray Wyatt is moonwalking off a cliff.
So, who’s he losing to next? Triple H? Orton? That kinda looked like a wacky snake man on his shirt. Maybe Sting? Can we get Bray Wyatt doing this exact promo every week until August? CAN WE PLEASE?
Best: Heel Naomi
One of the unexpected highlights of last night’s show was Naomi, who brought together all of the stupid, dangling Divas story plot points and turned heel in a way that was not only entertaining, but totally reasonable.
The best thing WWE can ever do is take a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make sense, pull the strings and say, “ha HA! THIS is what we planned to do all along! We’re good at our jobs! Trust us sometimes!” The confusing thing that’d been going on is that Naomi had been pinning the Divas Champion in non-title matches — the normal way to get a Divas title shot — and then the heel Divas went to Kane and were like, “we should have a #1 contender battle royal” and GOT IT, because that’s the OTHER way to get a shot. The stories conflicted and WWE doesn’t put a lot of effort into the women sometimes so my first reaction was, “welp, this is a mess.”
The #1 contender battle royal happens and it comes down to Paige and Naomi, and Paige takes it. In response, Naomi jumps her and beats the ever-loving shit out of her, repeatedly tosses her in the barricade and leaves her lying. In a backstage interview (thankfully included in the WWE Fan Nation clip), Naomi explains that this is a bunch of bullshit, and that having a #1 contender battle royal when she’d clearly established herself as a legit #1 contender was stupid and pointless. She even touches on some of the deeper story points I’d mentioned, like how she and AJ were in the same season of NXT and AJ’s revered as some kind of legend, but she’s just a nice lady who has to stand in the background. It almost ventures into “it’s all about ME” jealous Diva territory, but pulls back into enough logic and reason that I can’t help but love it. I’m totally behind heel Naomi, and I hope she gets a real finish soon and doesn’t have to top off her newly-found cool heel charisma with a bad headscissors or a jumping asshole to the face.
Worst: The Bellas On Commentary
If I ever give out lifetime achievement awards for Bests and Worsts, the first one’s going to Nikki and Brie Bella on color commentary. Give them all the credit in the world for being pro wrestlers and working hard on their craft to become something more than they were, but holy shit, there is nothing worse than the Bellas on color. They’ve never figured out what they’re supposed to do.
Watch the match clip and you’ll hear what I’m talking about. Nikki’s only talking point is “I’ve beaten these wrestlers.” When Cole’s like, “and they’ve beaten you, too,” she responds with “and I’ve beaten them.” And it’s in that “Californians” Bella Twins voice that pronounces “feeling” as “filling,” so “beaten” sounds like “beadin’.” I’VE BEADEN HER. I’VE BEADEN HER IN A MATCH. I’VE BEADEN HER TOO. I’VE BEADEN BOTH OF THEM. Brutal.
Best?: Big Show Is Mean To Somebody With A Car
Nothing triggers Big Show like the presence of an automobile. Maybe it’s because he once fell off a roof and died after a monster truck sumo battle. Maybe it’s because he watched his dad’s casket get dragged away by the Blues Brothers car. Maybe it’s because of that time Alberto Del Rio ran over his leg. Remember when he turned over a jeep to scare Akebono? Remember when he flipped a car to scare Torrie Wilson? Big Show doesn’t handle cars well.
So yeah, swat team Jeff Spicoli shows up and does his usual thing about Believing That and Punching People In Da Mouf and gets into a TitanTron discussion with Show. That leads to the second worst insult in WWE* (“you don’t have balls”) and a brawl on the stage, culminating in Show giving Reigns that knee-to-the-face-against-a-crate WWE 13 backstage finisher against the side of the British Car Stage Prop, then chokeslamming him on the roof of it. I’m giving it a Best because it makes Show look like a competent fighter and a bit of a threat instead of the pile of impotent, dick-shaped nonsense he normally is. You’d think he’d have chokeslammed Roman OFF the car instead of onto it because it’s kinda small and there were two big dudes on the roof, but I’m okay with it. If I’m fantasy booking it he chokeslams Roman off the side, then gets in the car like the tall man in the little car from The Simpsons and runs his ass over. Then he just drives off the side of the stage.
And then maybe Roman gets up like it’s nothing and punches the car in the mouth? I don’t always know what they’re going for.
*The worst is “you have bad breath.”
Best: Fandango, I Guess
The only things that’ve ever been over about Fandango are his OG entrance theme and the accompanying finger dance, and their 15 minutes of fame. For whatever reason WWE decided to take that away from him and make him a swarthy Spanish dancer, which was so DOA that it was accompanied to ringside by Chainz and 8-Ball.
If you didn’t watch Raw, Fandango wrestled history’s most meaningless match against Stardust and pulled the Son Of Havoc face turn at the end, declaring that Rosa Mendes had been holding him back and that he’d be returning to what brought him to the dance, i.e. ChaChaLaLa. He’s doing the Fandango hands now, too, which seems like a dumb thing but is actually a crucial visual cue to let WWE crowds know they’re supposed to do it too. That’s how Yes got over. You’ve gotta have a gesture or some kind of physical emphasis to make your hook dig in deep sometimes. It’s the pantomime version of wrestlers wearing their shirt to the ring. It’s a seal of approval. It says, “this is me, and if you want to be with me let’s all do this thing.” It’s why most of us can’t stop doing Finn Bálor hands during his entrance.
Best: Whoever Heard Of A Puerto Rican Bullfighter Anyway
Best: I’ll Wait
Sometimes you’ve got to let those hard to reach chips go.
I don’t like it when top level guys throw each other under the bus by exposing unnecessary “real life” facts about the performers (like John Cena saying Alberto Del Rio doesn’t own all the cars he drives into arenas and just rents them), but sometimes it’s time to tell it like it is and throw Los Matadores in the trash can. If you aren’t going anywhere with something, you might as well burn it to the ground.
I’m not sure what part of this I liked most. Titus not bothering to properly wear his fake Los Matadores mask? It taking them several seconds to recognize that a rainbow-colored teddy bear with antennas wasn’t El Torito? The real talk about Primo and Epico throwing their heritage under the bus to Razor Ramon it and be cultural stereotypes for a culture that isn’t even theirs? Eh, it’s probably Darren Young saying rainbow’s his favorite color, and that face he makes when Titus is waiting to hear about Puerto Rican bullfighters.
As an NXT Redemption fanboy I want to like these guys a lot. It’d be a lot easier if they’d establish the whereabouts of Pancake Patterson.
(He flattens fools.)
Worst: Of Course Randy Orton Can Beat Cesaro Twice In A Row And Also Tyson Kidd For Some Reason
The major story of the episode is that Seth Rollins and Randy Orton have a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Extreme Rules, so there has to be an extreme rule. Instead of using the power of the Authority to let Rollins pick a stip and Orton have to deal with it, we go through that same merry-go-round of heels dangling shit in front of babyfaces to give them constant, dangerous opportunities that help them destroy the heels and say if Rollins and Orton win tonight’s matches, they get to influence the title match. It’s weird. Just be evil and put the faces in situations that undermine them. Don’t keep secretly empowering them because you have an inferiority complex and/or you’re too lazy to think of better resolutions for stories.
Anyway, Orton faces Cesaro and Tyson Kidd causes an early distraction, giving Randy the win. Because that one Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Dude Love match from 20 years ago was great, an authority figure shows up and restarts the match with MORE ODDS. Randy now has to beat Cesaro AND Tyson Kidd to earn the right to pick a stipulation. He does, of course, because nobody has an easier time defeating the WWE Tag Team Champions than one popular singles wrestler. It should never happen, but it always does. If this booking team ran the NWA in the 80s, the Road Warriors would’ve been losing handicap matches to Tommy Rich.
So Orton wins, and that’s just … it. Kane gives up, I guess, and instead of showing up and being all “now you have to beat Cesaro and Tyson Kidd AND NATALYA,” he’s just like “welp, that one thing I tried didn’t work, sorry Seth.”
Best: Kane Is Almost Interesting!
I didn’t say interesting. I said almost.
Rollins’ match is against Kane, and is built around Rollins telling Kane to lie down for him and Kane trying to maintain a little dignity. Again, you could just give Rollins the ability to make the stipulation without any of this. Put him in a match with Jamie Noble the precious obedient toadie. But yeah, we’re here with Kane getting more and more frustrated and wanting to take a stand for himself, and Rollins being scumbag Seth Rollins enough to push him over the edge.
It’s all story and not a match, but it’s at least something. It’s not just Kane existing and being a guy who takes boring, obvious pinfalls in matches. Raw would instantly be a better show if someone sat down with a notepad and said, “everybody on the show needs to have thoughts, a purpose and a role. What’s yours?” And then if you didn’t have those things you had someone creative give you them, or you got the f*ck off the show. Even if the stuff they gave you wasn’t great it’d be stuff. We can talk about stuff. We can fantasy book stuff and wonder where stuff’s going. We can’t have fun or enjoy or wonder about nothing.
Worst: The Lightning Round
And here’s where the show’s laziness reaches critical mass.
– Dean Ambrose defeated Adam Rose with Dirty Deeds, and the best part of the match is trying to figure out which one of them as more forward momentum. That’s hyperbolic, I know, but isn’t it sad that it’s almost true? Isn’t it sad that Dean Ambrose is as important to the show as the failed NXT guy in Beetlejuice pants whose only marketable skill is getting local indie guys and ladies to wear off-season Halloween costumes and stand in a pile?
– I don’t know what order these are in. Ryback wrestles Luke Harper and Harper gets disqualified, so Ambrose wanders out and the Before and After sides of the same picture brawl. Ryback wanders to the back to see if there’s a chapter in The Secret about why this keeps happening to him, and why his job is to grease up his feet and try to stand up on a sliding board.
– Damien Mizdow pins the Miz with a rollup in like a minute and a half. It’s abysmal. They’ve turned Sandow into a total babyface and removed practically ever part of his act that people liked, because that act relied on the great heel work done by Miz, and now either of them has a fulcrum. They’re just free-floating characters. Sandow’s even doing that obnoxious thing dorks write where uncool characters kiss the “bitchy” lady against her will and the kiss is so good it makes her want to be his girlfriend. I need my wrestling angles to seem less like the creepy stuff at the end of Revenge Of The Nerds if possible.
Best: Also, This Tag Team Match I Forgot About Until Just Now
Kalisto’s great. Kalisto’s good enough for me to withstand the bad, 2-minute Raw version of an NXT live special. Man, I can’t wait until that random 2016 Raw where Sami Zayn wrestles Neville and it ends with a distraction rollup 40 seconds in.
Best: Ziggler Vs. Neville
Speaking of the Raw version of a great NXT match, Dolph Ziggler vs. Adrian Neville is a thing I want to see in Full Sail University. The Raw version is still pretty great just because it exists, and is decorated with these little moments that let you know the potential for greatness is there, even if we aren’t getting to see it. I mean, we shouldn’t see it, I guess. Neville’s still new and Ziggler’s an established star. In a year or two this could (and should) be a WrestleMania-quality thing.
I’m disappointed that the Fan Nation video has about a minute of the match and the entirety of the post-match attack with Sheamus, but I love how Neville sells the Brogue Kick. Ziggler would sell it by flipping and landing on his neck and rolling over like he was dead. Neville takes a more realistic approach, which is taking it on the entirety of the face and just doing a half turn and whipping himself into the ground. It’s like getting hit in the face with a baseball. You aren’t gonna flip, you’re gonna snap and fall. It’s a thing of subtle beauty.
Pretty sure we’re all on the same page of wanting to see this again. I’d be really into Sheamus vs. Neville, too, if we could get through this early stage of Neville having to prove himself and ostensibly being NXT Season 1 Daniel Bryan. They’re doing well by him, but if they let him break loose a little and tear it up with Sheamus for 15 minutes before dying I wouldn’t complain. I’d be too busy happily clapping and hopping up and down like a BoohBah.
Worst: EXTREME DECISION
1. Extreme Decision is my favorite Steven Seagal movie.
2. I was really hoping Orton would kick the foot part of Seth’s recliner and somehow shoot him into the air like a cartoon for an RKO.
3. WWE Superstars being allowed to pick the stipulations for their matches is the most disappointing thing in the world. They never think about it or pick something creative. Seth Rollins, master manipulator and architect or whatever, says the RKO is banned, and if Orton uses it he’ll be disqualified and lose the match. Orton says the match will be in a steel cage. Which is no DQ. Which means he should be able to hit the RKO as many times as he wants. Furthermore, you can pick ANY STIPULATION, guys. Anything. If you can ban a specific move, you could say “Orton has to let me Curb Stomp him 10 times before the match starts.” You could make it “Orton has to wrestle with his hands tied behind his back.” His hands and his feet. Handcuff his feet. RANDY ORTON HAS TO WRESTLE THE MATCH HANDCUFFED TO THE ROPE WITH BOTH HANDS AND IT’S KNOCKOUTS ONLY. You could pick “I’m allowed to bring a gun to the ring and shoot Randy Orton in the heart.” You could make it a snakepit match and Orton has to start from the bottom of a pile of cobras. HAUNTED HOUSE DEATH MATCH. Any of this shit. Just not the world’s most basic stipulations that contradict one another.
You had all night to think of something. What are you doing?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
The Real Birdman
Seth: “Match is no longer for the title” [Raises double middle fingers; camera pans to just see the bottom of his hands]
(see, like that.)
My interpretation of Neville selling a DDT:
HHH: “Vince just wrote, ‘dark Naomi’.”
Stephanie: “You think he meant turn her heel?”
:HHH looks up:
HHH: “That’s what we’re going with.
:Cut to Vince in the locker room, using shoe polish to give himself blackface:
Vince: “Heh, this is gonna get over HUGE!”
Uh oh, Naomi is seeing through the wrestling Matrix.
So Harper is Ambrose’s looper, right?
Sliced Bread No.2
Dean is fighting Luke over the last pack of clean Hanes wife beaters
The Real Birdman
Nice try WWE, but do you really expect me to believe Kane will lose a match? You can only suspend my belief so much
Tyson had “DON’T DIVE AT ORTON” written on his wrist tape but the first word got smudged :
Jim Ross: A two foot high chokeslam! They inconvenienced him! As God as my witness, he been broken very slightly!
Roman’s promos would be even more awkward if he said them during the Attitude Era, because then he would cock this here fist and shove it right up your ass.
Thanks, everybody. See you next week.