– This clip is probably better than most episodes of Raw.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated. I’ve written about LOTS of luchas!
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 20, 2015.
Worst: PLEASE ALLOW ME TO EXPLAIN CAGE MATCHES
Raw opened with Randy Orton standing in a steel cage, and reminded me of two major problems:
1. There is no threat to cage matches in the PG Era. I’ve written about it a lot, but they’re just regular matches surrounded by a thing. You can’t believably rake the guy’s face across the wire because you aren’t allowed to bleed, and all the physical danger of being enclosed inside a giant weapon is replaced by the same visual as being tossed into a turnbuckle. Wrestling inside a Bed Bath & Beyond would be more dangerous, because there’s shit everywhere and if you got Irish whipped you could trip over it and hurt yourself.
Even the cage itself looks like a toy now. They make the top of the cage the safest place in the world with all the bars and platforms and places to hold onto and stand. Sorta like how they put the obvious handholds in the walls of the Hell in a Cell. FROM THE DARK, TWISTED IMAGINATIONS OF THE MAD GENIUSES AT PLAYMATES!
And of course you’ve got Orton, a guy who’d take 8 minutes to word “I need to go to the bathroom” in the most complexly expository way imaginable, trying to quickly and clearly communicate “cage matches are dangerous” to a crowd of people ready for a wrestling show to start. That’s one thing I’ll never get about these long-ass Raw openings … you pump up the crowd with music and fireworks and then you’re immediately like, “watch this person stand still and speak in a monotone voice for 20 minutes.”
2. Last week’s Raw ended with this anticlimactic segment where Orton and Rollins picked stipulations for their Extreme Rules match, so last week’s column ended with this:
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?
What’s funny is that I missed a huge point: Randy Orton is the dumbest person in the world for picking a cage match, and announcing that the cage was there to keep The Authority from interfering and saving him. Guess what? The Authority controls the show, including the cage. They made a point to have Seth Rollins end Raw by ordering people to lower the cage to protect him from Kane. They SHOWED THIS TO US. So what’s keeping Rollins from raising the cage to let J&J Security or Big Show or whoever get in and help him? What, are we supposed to believe The Authority pinkie-promised Orton they’d honor his stipulation?
So now we’ve got a huge logic loophole on both sides: Orton is barred from using the RKO or he’ll be disqualified in a no-disqualification match, and Rollins is trapped inside a steel cage he can control to prevent the people who control everything from interfering. I’m serious, Orton should’ve picked “I get to bring a hammer to the ring and hit you with it” and Rollins should’ve picked “if your last name begins with ‘O’ you lose.”
Best: This Fight Scene From Looper
To build to Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper at Extreme Rules, WWE’s booked Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper a bunch of times in a row so Michael Cole can call it “quite the rivalry.” It’s not special now, and when they have the match at Extreme Rules we’ll have to forget the previous month — or in Dean’s case, the previous year — to enjoy it.
That said, these guys are obviously GREAT at this, so letting them have some time to just f*ck around and tear it up is a great idea. This is the Dean Ambrose offense I want. For a while now he’s been selling for entire matches and lying around making funny faces until it’s time to hit somebody with one of those inflatable bonuses from Supermarket Sweep or whatever, and then he takes a finish and loses. Here, he’s the Ambrose we loved in The Shield: an unhinged, insane asshole who won’t stop running at you with his arms flailing. He’s a high-speed Lisa and Bart Simpson. His entire hook should be that he’s able to intimidate even guys like Luke Harper because he won’t stop charging in all crazy. They were doing that for a while with him and Rollins, weren’t they? Haha hey remember when Ambrose said he’d never let Rollins cash in and then totally forgot about it?
But yeah, this was a lot of fun. I wish they hadn’t had the referee say “welp” and give up halfway through it, but if you’re saving stuff for the pay-per-view, that’s at least something to look forward to. Now that Rollins is established as champion and Reigns is kinda puttering back into the midcard, maybe Dean can finally rebuild his momentum and sidle into a main-event scene before the year’s over. It’d be nice to see them utilizing one of their most dynamic and organically popular performers instead of deep-frying him and leaving him under a heat lamp for another year.
Worst: Michael Cole
“HARPER! Sent into those LED boards … by HARPER! And now it’s HARPER with the upper hand! Don’t do that, HARPER, don’t think about that!”
When did they replace Cole with a Starting Lineup Talking Baseball machine?
Best: SUDDEN TITUS
Every Raw should feature Titus O’Neil leaping out of the shadows and yelling ARRA ARRA ARRA in peoples’ ears to scare them. It’s like in WCW when Ernest Miller would wander around backstage and find himself in a karate fight with the Jung Dragons. And speaking of … well, both of those situations, I’m ALL IN on a Titus/Jamie Noble feud. Him saying, “let me go ahead and get out of here before I have to beat yo little ass” made me laugh out loud.
A supplemental Best goes to Alex Riley for getting back on Raw and playing that production guy.
Best: The New Evil Day
1. It’s good to see Sin Cara realizing that this is probably his last chance to make it and he should probably stop half-assing it and mailing in those Lucha Lucha fist-pumps. For once he actually looked like Kalisto’s tag team partner, and not like a lethargic hobo somebody fitted for a sparkly cape.
2. Xavier Woods cackling like he’s Hornswoggle while holding Sin Cara’s foot was probably the best moment of the entire show, and yes, I’m typing that Xavier Woods was my favorite part of Raw. I don’t know how long that’s going to last. Maybe I should see my doctor.
But yeah, I’m loving The New Day as guys who aren’t necessarily “heels,” but weary babyfaces who are just sick of everything and slowly discovering that shortcuts can make things easier. Woods isn’t holding Sin Cara’s foot because he’s a jerk, he’s holding it because he realized three people was one more person than two and they could have an advantage. He’s laughing because he can’t believe this is working. They’re like a group of socially-downtrodden Bo Dallases.
Make sure you watch their Backstage Fallout video too where they’re huge dicks to Renee. I feel like one tiny character tweak or decent program could make everyone go “whoa, Big E’s one of the best talkers on the show.” Just embrace his natural weirdness and crank it up to 11.
It’s so weird that you can put Triple H in front of a Raw audience and he’s the most boring, self-serving guy in the world, and then you can put him in Full Sail doing almost exactly the same act and have him seem like a God. It’s the difference between giving and taking away, I suppose.
Happy to see Tough Enough back, though. WWE needs the bad game show version of NXT to exist somewhere, and for the point of at least one aspect of developmental to be “this person won a reality show and now you’ll never see them again.” If Silent Rage does a run-in during the season finale, I swear.
Best: Kane Spits Hot Fire
Okay, new talking point I want you to parrot everywhere you can: the time for wrestlers being normal people and cutting monotonous, calm promos is over. We need more giant guys screaming. That’s what wrestling needs. You know how Sheamus never sounds like he means anything, like he’s constantly reading from a bad script? Never again. Give me Big E getting so into shouting that he forgets what he’s supposed to say, and Kane letting loose for the first time in years and spittling about how Seth Rollins is a lazy f*ck who for want of a nail could’ve been El Torito. The Reality Era is bullshit. I want to tune in and see guys I couldn’t imagine meeting in real life losing their f*cking minds.
Additional talking point: Wouldn’t Corporate El Torito be the best thing ever? We need an Elseworlds WWE show or some kind of What If special on WWE Network where they fill an arena with extras and act out fantasy scenarios like this to see how they’d look. Imagine El Torito in a suit walking out with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on his shoulder and it being bigger than his entire body, and then Dean Ambrose charging out wrapped in barbed wire to attack him. Tell me that wouldn’t be the greatest f*cking wrestling show in history.
Anyway, this version of Kane forever, please. I’M YOUR BOSS! I CHOKESLAMMED MY BROTHER ONTO THE FLAMING BONES OF OUR DEAD PARENTS, WHAT DO YOU THINK I’M GONNA DO IF YOU DON’T FILL OUT THESE EXPENSE FORMS
Best: Naomi, Or
Worst: Understand What Give Divas A Chance Is Supposed To Mean
First of all, Naomi continues to be great. They’re turning her into the same entitled “bitch” character they always create, but there’s still enough reason in there to make it work. Her not wanting to sit around and be polite and wait her turn is a good character motivation, because it’s so damn real. I wish they’d address the fact that it’s only happening now because the one they thought was important quit the company. And the fact that they have to write Paige off TV with kayfabe injuries because they can’t maintain more than two Divas stories at a time.
The rest of this was … not great.
What’s sad is that the match wasn’t bad. It was actually pretty good. The problem is that you can’t just throw women in the ring, let them wrestle for whoever long, then pat yourself on the back for giving Divas a chance. That’s not what this is about. “Let them wrestle” is the Give Divas A Chance For Dummies. You want them to wrestle, but more importantly you want them to be a part of wrestling. You want them to have characters, have stories that make sense, have understandable and consistent motivations and create/act out/finish their arcs. The problem with Divas is that they don’t exist as wrestlers, they’re constantly shifting placeholders. It’s why AJ’s retirement doesn’t matter or change anything but the faces and the colors of the costumes. You just put another one in her place.
Consider the Bella Twins. They were heels for years, then split when Nikki got jealous and felt that Brie was jeopardizing her career. That led to a feud and that story everyone including the Bellas forgot where Brie had to be her servant for a month. That story ended with them being TOTALLY FINE and HEEL SISTERS again, and now that AJ and Paige are gone and the next most important Diva is heel, the Bellas are the faces? Brie’s straight up wrestling as a face here, “Brie Mode” and all, and just … nothing matters. Naomi has a good point and should be the face, but she just isn’t. Nikki should be the heel and maybe still is (?), but she’s popular so she just isn’t? I have no idea.
Having characters wrestle for a few minutes instead of losing to distraction rollups in 90 seconds is a good step, but it’s not the only step to take. Those few minutes of wrestling won’t matter without consequence.
Best: Phantom Menace Heat
Oh man, sometimes (all the time) I wish these Full Sail NXT alumni could be doing what they’re trying to do on Raw in front of an audience that gives a damn and wants them to succeed. For example, Bo Dallas shows up to insult Roman Reigns, quotes Yoda and says that Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is the greatest Star Wars movie ever made.
Imagine if Roman had been in the ring at NXT to talk about the Big Show, and Bo interrupted him and did the exact same thing. It’d be a Hammerstein Ballroom riot. Bo’s carcass would’ve been carried out over everyone’s head like Jesus, or at least like Spider-man in Spider-man 2.
Also, I love that Roman Reigns went from winning the Royal Rumble and main-eventing WrestleMania against Brock Lesnar to failing to get heat on Bo Dallas in like four weeks.
Best: RKO Party
So, the running gag of the show is that Randy Orton can’t do an RKO at Extreme Rules, so he’s going to wander around backstage RKO’ing people until the end of the show, when he’ll RKO Rollins. That includes him jumping The New Day and RKO’ing them for no reason, RKO’ing The Miz mid-catchphrase and this moment, which was written and produced for the screen by my heart.
Heath Slater is backstage at catering eating a bad salad and bragging to Erick Rowan about how he’s going to accept John Cena’s open challenge for the United States Championship. I guess catering has a table specifically for gingers? Anyway, Rowan is sitting backstage in sleeveless speedsuit and a plastic sheep mask but is apparently too good to engage in a little small talk with the One Man Band, so he bails. Slater gets upset, then turns around and gets RKO’d through a table. He even does a big GASP before taking it, suggesting that Orton flew into the room sideways in RKO position like he was shot out of a cannon.
To celebrate, Orton eats DEAD BODY TORTILLA CHIPS. The only thing that would’ve made it better is if he’d scooped up a bunch of lettuce in his hand and bitten into it like an apple. Formal request for more Heath Slater on this show, please and thank you.
Worst: BA BADDA BAAAAA
You know what I missed? John Cena vs. Kane matches. You know what else I missed? Those Cena matches where he gets beaten up for 7 of 7 1/2 minutes and just mindlessly counters something with an AA to win. Maybe next week he can defend his United States Championship in a handicap match against three members of The Authority!
By request, here’s Danielle Matheson on the Battle For The Brand, which is an actual thing we’re doing on wrestling shows in 2015:
Worst: I Ain’t Sayin’ She’s a Gold Digger, But…Wait, What?
Summer Rae’s current direction confuses the heck out of me. First, we get her mad that the Miz is promoting The Marine 4, which is totally fair. She may not have a huge role, but previously Divas have been relegated to the covers of Maxim, not moves where they get to run around in the woods and shoot machine guns. That’s a thing that should be celebrated more, and would certainly bolster the idea that Divas are being given a chance, right?
But alas, no. Damien Sandow interrupted the segment where all of this could have been put over, to show his newfound confidence by yelling at the Miz and then kissing Summer Rae out of nowhere. Not a thing she invited, mind you, but hey, what’s cooler than cool? Ice cold sexual assault, apparently.
This was cool enough to have Summer Rae join up with Sandow as his arm candy, taking the focus away from her and putting it on a guy who’s not even in the movie. That makes sense, right? In the film she (spoiler alert or whatever I guess) she gets to have a cool ass knife fight. On TV she gets to wear crop tops and short shorts and get moved to the background of a feud that makes sense in every way except what they’re doing.
On this episode of Raw, Summer Rae is ringside as The Miz takes on Mizdow for use of the Miz name, which is exactly how trademark disputes should be handled in real life. The idea that only one of them can use the name is already preposterous, especially when Mizdow can make a good claim for parody use as an affirmative defense against any infringement claims. Summer Rae eventually turns on Sandow, giving Miz the opportunity to win, and solidly establishes the character trait of caring deeply about intellectual property rights. Hey, it’s better than “has long hair,” right?
The problem (okay, one of many) is that throughout this ordeal, Summer Rae has been referred to as a ‘gold digger.’ You know, the person in an Actual Movie who is on TV every week and goes on tour internationally. She’s looking to level up by…associating herself with the better-liked but still off-brand version of the more famous guy who gets on TMZ and has already starred in multiple films? Turning on the Miz gives us JBL’s strangled cries of I TOLD YOU SO, I TOLD YOU SHE WAS A GOLD DIGGER, confirming that..what? She’s backing up her co-star? She’s supporting the technically superior version who has an in-canon wife everyone on the commentary team has worked with at one time or another? The traditional definition of gold digger is a woman who latches on to a man for his money and personal advancement in life, not someone shifting laterally between a mid-card knockoff and a guy in the exact same film as her.
To be fair, JBL later goes on to insist that Dolph Ziggler is a high flyer, so words might not mean what I think they do anymore. That, or everything about this is weird and wrong and WWE might not actually know what they’re doing with any of this. The Marine 4, available on Blu-Ray and DVD today!
Worst: Did We Run Out Of Hair Dye?
This is the least important nitpick ever, but did WWE forget to pay hair and makeup this week? Sheamus’ roots are showing on his mohawk, and if you watch Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler they both have shadowy black hair with blonde tips. If they want to all have brown hair they can, but Sheamus kinda lives or dies by the “white skin, red hair” act, and Ziggler loses 100% of his power when he goes brown. Remember that week he showed up with a haircut and looked like Evan Bourne’s older brother?
Best: Woo Woo Woo, I’m Helpless
I’m mad that I can’t get more into what Sheamus is saying because of how he says it, but he’s got a good point. WWE’s too saturated with “regular people,” and his plan to show up dressed like an Immortals character and shame all the squares into hiding is pretty great. It’s especially fun when it’s Zack Ryder, who should be trying to convince people he was “held back” by doing hacky chain wrestling and head-drop suplexes in six months ago’s Evolve main-events. He should be the Open The Freedom Gate Champion or something, not slumming it until society invents another form of social media he can be good at.
I kinda dug Ziggler’s interference here because it made perfect Babyface Sense. His friend’s in a match with Sheamus, and Sheamus is very clearly not interested in competing or winning, he just wants to hurt him and make a point. The ref won’t call Castigo Excesivo, so Ziggler runs out and puts Sheamus in his place. He attacks him head-on and doesn’t worm around trying to help Ryder win. It’s just a guy who’s had enough taking a stand against a bully. This feud is built around rimjobs and two guys who can work yelling about how they’re going to shit in each others’ mouths, so it’s nice to see them act like regular, not-instructed-by-a-senile-old-man pro wrestlers.
Also, again, LOL Zack Ryder. The hoesker has become the hoeski.
Best: John Cena’s Stupid Face
I don’t know which part of the backstage attack on Cena I liked more, his ridiculous facial expressions while he’s trying to sell “pain” or the Wookie noises Rusev was making. Cena needs to show up at Extreme Rules in a protective mask. Maybe draped in a flag. Make him the Phantom of the Paradise, but for AMERICA.
There’s a weird level of anarchy at wrestling shows I wish more people would observe and play with. Like, this is the only place in the world where guys can wander around in monogrammed underpants and try to kill each other with chains and it be totally fine. Back in the day they at least had some outrage and some vague, old “front office” types around to deal out massive punishments and stuff if rules were broken this severely. It was the illusion that they were handling the problems “in house” and keep them away from the law. Like, if the Horsemen attack Dusty Rhodes in a parking lot and break his hand, Dusty doesn’t WANT the cops involved … he wants to settle it like a man or whatever. That stuff acknowledges that wrestling’s supposed to involve real people in the real world without making it less exaggerated and ridiculous.
If WWE’s created this world where anything goes and you can run over each other with cars and blow each other up with bombs or whatever, THAT should be the next era. Just this awful, post-apocalyptic Mad Max world where the strongest can gather the most resources and survive.
Either that, or a GM character starts responding to this shit like a real person and writes people off the show by sending them to jail.
Best: COMEDY BIG GUY
In case you missed it, Ryback wrestled (“wrestled”) Adam Rose, beat him easily and then made a Twinkie Wiener Sandwich out of some aggressive Rosebuds. It was a hot dog and a banana, but close enough. He then cracks a child’s joke book-quality joke about what the banana said to the hot dog: “nothing, cause their asses just got shell shocked!” I also would’ve accepted, “I didn’t know you were circumcised.”
Ryback is now required to have a dumb joke prepared after every match he wins. This is not up for debate. The Big Guy’s evolution from “man who is always hungry” to “man who is attacking people dressed like food” was under our noses this whole time. How’d we miss it? Next week I hope he Shell Shocks the french fries and the hamburger and makes a joke about how he’s winning and “lovin’ it.”
Best: Disingenuous Seth Rollins
A lot of the main-event story stuff on this show was iffy — wait until you get to NOT THE CURB STOMP — but man, Rollins is amazing right now. Renee goes on Twitter, finds somebody talking shit about Kane and runs off to tattle, which causes Kane to storm into The Authority’s decorative curtain-and-posters closet looking for answers. Seth: “HEY HEY HEY HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THAT, THAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE A PRIVATE CONVER-SATION!”
The best part is the apology that follows it, because it’s disingenuous as f*ck but really well-delivered. Like, I bought it. I wanted to believe it. I want to believe that Rollins is just this confused, insecure guy in over his head who thinks he has to be and act a certain way to be a WWE Superstar. He’s just trying to impress his bosses by being like the entitled jerks that’ve come before him. So yeah, he’s sorry. He means it. AND THEN HE DEDICATES HIS MATCH TO KANE, wins it and buries Kane during the celebration, and you’re like “ughhhh what a priiiiick.”
Also, as always, Jamie Noble.
Worst: The Consolation DDT
What the f*ck was that.
If you didn’t catch last night’s main-event, Seth Rollins has replaced the Curb Stomp with what Wikipedia calls a “modified single-underhook DDT.” Basically it’s a normal DDT, except his kicks his leg out and lands on his stomach instead of his back. It’s so lame Jesus couldn’t cure it. Spider-man either.
You know a move’s a bad decision when even Dolph Ziggler can’t make it look good. Also, how funny is that story that they’re banning the Cub Stomp due to head injuries? What, a foot pressing down on the back of your head is too far, but landing with your entire body weight on the head in the exact same bump isn’t? They could call it the Curb Splash and it’d be the same thing. The Curb Arm. The Curb Armpit.
Just wretched. I know WWE probably googled “curb stomp” and went “oh my God what,” but just change the name, guys. Don’t scoop out your champion’s insides because he used a move with a bad name for years without you noticing. Call it the Blackout again. Nobody’s going to associate it with Tyler Black, he’s the f*cking WWE Champion. Call it the ROLLINS STOMP. Call it MAGICAL FAIRY HAPPY TIME, who gives a shit.
Best: Seth Rollins Deserves A Nobel Prize In The Field Of Taking RKOs
this just in, the RKO has been banned because it looked like it hurt
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
I’d be OK with this RAW being mostly backstage segments of Orton pursuing Rollins at walking speed, It Follows style.
A Russian Chain match has four smaller chain matches inside.
Kevin Nash Booked This
“Being a WWE Superstar is better than any dream you can ever have. As long as you’re over six foot five and white.”
Bo should have weakly thumbsed up that Bolieve
This feud should just last all year. AT SUMMERSLAM IT’S SHEAMUS VERSUS DOLPH ZIGGLER IN A SMOOCH THE GOOCH MATCH! WHO WILL WIN IN A TABLES, LADDERS AND SCROTUMS MATCH?!
Sammy Davis Jr.
Hulk Hogan Rock N’ Wrestling on 4/20? I think they’re finally figuring out this whole Network thing.
Cena: “I’ve been wondering where that chain went for 10 years”
Pretty cool of WWE to get Summer Rae to be Maryse’s stunt double.
“Kane, you’re the bigger man…”
“Now, I DID see THAT tweet.”
Why is the WWE champion in the main event?
Thanks, everybody. See you this weekend for EXTREME DECISIONS.
(I think that’s what it’s called.)