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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 21, 2014.
Worst: Sad Daniel Bryan
Early in the day on Monday, news broke that Bryan Danielson’s father had unexpectedly passed away. Bryan learned about it when he got back from his honeymoon (oof) and insisted that he still perform on the show.
I guess sometimes when you’re faced with a tragedy like that you’ve gotta do something to get your mind off of it, and work is something. I respect the guy’s decision and hope he’s doing all right, but man, watching him try to perform on Raw with that look on his face was heartbreaking. In the last calendar year this guy married a model and won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship by winning two matches at WrestleMania, but he lost his dad and his dog. I can’t imagine what a year like that must feel like.
Condolences, thoughts and prayers for the real person who’s going through it. His fictional version, on the other hand …
Best: Daniel Bryan Gets Absolutely Effing Destroyed
Raw’s opening last night was one of the best we’ve seen in ages, mostly because it skipped the sassy talking in favor of a guy in a demon costume showing up from oblivion to piledrive a guy three times and flip him off a gurney while an angry Connecticut mom screamed at him. I’ve always been a fan of way, way over-the-top Kane — particularly that first post-unmasking period where he wore a towel on his head, before Shane McMahon showed up and ruined it — and I’m happy to have him back. I was worried that Bryan was going to get stuck in a go-nowhere feud against an old, unmotivated guy, but we’re getting the exact opposite. Kane and Bryan have a deep history with one another, and now it involves “that time you piledrove me thrice.”
My only complaint with the attack is that it seemed to go in reverse. Would a tombstone piledriver on a table hurt more than one on the steps, or one on the floor? Sure, Kane didn’t flip up the mats to EXPOSE THE CONCRETE or whatever, but we’re supposed to buy the padding as “the floor,” aren’t we? Even if we aren’t, THE STEPS, man. Those 5,000 pound solid adamantium steps! At least THOSE should hurt more than a thin plank of collapsable wood.
Anyway, the good news is that Bryan can take now until Extreme Rules off to deal with personal stuff he should seriously take time off to deal with. An attack like this deserves at least half a month of selling … Bryan should show up to Extreme Rules in dress clothes with a neck brace and swing a baseball bat at Kane like he’s Ric Flair trying to end Bob Orton and Dirty Dick Slater.
Best: Stephanie McMahon’s Vince Moment
Another highlight was Stephanie calling Kane a BASTARD! It was her perfect “Mr. McMahon” moment. Stephanie always kinda had Vince’s look, but now she’s got his stage presence, timing and delivery. That’s not something you can learn.
And seriously, the McMahons are the only people who use “bastard” like that. To them, bastard is the worst thing you can be. Has anybody ever sincerely called you a bastard? “Motherf*cker” or “shithead” or “piece of shit” or “asshole” maybe, but bastard? Really? Are you Jon Snow?
Best: BAHBAHBAHBAHBAHBAHBAHBAH BAOOOOOMMMM
This week, Bad News Barrett:
1. Continued to have that magnificent Mad Max cape with shoulder studs and HANDLES that allow him to throw it off at the BAOOMM
2. Got pyro to accompany his cape throwing
3. Maintained his post-WrestleMania “smark” crowd reaction for the second week in a row
4. Beat one of the most unbeatable guys on the roster, cleanly, with a well-placed Dog Boner
Did they pull this episode of Raw directly from my brain? The Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender tournament second round matchup between Wade Barrett and Ghost Cena was OUTSTANDING, and I have nothing but happy praise and hand-clapping for it. I am deeply in love with the Intercontinental Championship division as a group of huge, violent guys who cannot stop brutally destroying one another. Cesaro, Mark Henry, Big E, Sheamus, Barrett … these are guys who are actively and regularly defying the old adage that smaller guys are the “good wrestlers” and big muscly Vince McMahon types can’t work. Right now, save for Daniel Bryan, all of Raw’s best wrestlers are big guys. Even The Shield is bigger than your average person. Sure, a 5-foot-8 wrestler might be better than everyone else and sure, you’ve still got a Great Khali around as the “TALL AND THAT’S IT” exception, but basically we’re living in Vince’s hypothetical golden age of performers and it rules.
I didn’t think Wade Barrett would ever recover from the colossal dick-over they gave him during … well, his entire main roster WWE career. Remember The Corre? Remember when he was “the grandson of a barber” or whatever and got part of his beard shaved off? Remember when he was Intercontinental Champion and lost every match he had for a year? Now suddenly he’s the new hotness; a guy with size who can go, kill on the microphone and look like he’s having fun with it. His enthusiasm is infectious.
If they book this beautiful little tournament and have Bad News Barrett win to be the belt-holding jobber to the stars again I swear to God.
Best: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Think About Bad News Barrett
This is SO FUNNY to me.
Best/Worst: El Torito Vs. Hornswoggle, The Beef Continues
I had to divide this in half, because … well, let me explain.
I’m giving it a Best because I love it. I love El Torito. I don’t care if he’s telling Renee Young that he’s “horny,” I don’t care if he’s interrupting the Hall of Fame to chase people around and horn Jerry Lawler in the balls. It’s Mascarita Dorada dressed like a bull, accompanied by a pair of twin Matadors. I’m also an unabashed 3MB fan, and the world’s giving them enough Worsts already, I don’t need to pile on.
I think the beef between Torito and Hornswoggle is hilarious. They’re natural rivals. Torito’s this highly-skilled luchador who may or may not be human, and Hornswoggle is a mythological creature who got the ability to talk from SANTA CLAUS, but he’s also SON OF FINLAY and kind of a bruiser. He lives under the ring with all the kendo sticks and fire extinguishers. Oddly enough, Swoggle’s been around long enough and earned enough achievements to kinda be the Hulk Hogan of little people wrestlers. He’s protecting his spot. His yard.
At the same time, this is absolutely not the kind of thing JBL, Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole should be allowed to talk over. Holy shit. From JBL constantly trying to get his “PETA’s GONNA BE MAD” joke over to Lawler trying to shoehorn in every midget joke he remembers Henny Youngman making back at the turn of the 18th century, a match that does not need added-on spectacle to get the crowd involved is suddenly the world’s worst @midnight feed. THIS IS A FIVE MAN TAG MAGGLE, TWO POINT FIVE AGAINST TWO POINT FIVE. THEY AREN’T PEOPLE. THEY ARE HALF MEN. IMPS, IF YOU WILL, MAGGLE. EL TORITO SHOULD BE MY CUP BEARER. PETA’S GONNA BE MAD THAT I GOT A HUMAN MISTAKE BEARIN’ MY CUP, MAGGLE, HE’S BEARIN IT
Let’s be frank. It’s midget wrestling. We get the joke. We should probably feel bad for getting the joke, but we get it. It can be awesome. You screaming LOOK AT THE FREAKS while it happens is not make it better.
Worst: Yo Ref, You Wanna Call A DQ Here Or What
El Torito keeps kicking and headbutting poor Drew McIntyre in the nuts and the ref won’t call it. If you add “nutshot” to your moveset, does that make it legal? After the second one Drew should’ve just shoved Torito down and kneed him in the dick until the announcers started using Owen Voices again.
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought About This Match
The last one was actually funny, so let’s try again:
Ack, sorry. One more try.
Nope, never doing this again.
Best: Is Triple H The Batman Now?
Maybe you should try swallowing some of that water you’re always carrying to the ring, H. God, I wish John Laurinaitis had shown up and been all, “LOL you sound weird.”
Worst: Take It Home, Seth
I love everyone in The Shield. If you’ve ever read a Best and Worst of WWE Raw report before, you know that. The last year and a half of reports have been 5 pages of me paragraphically fellating The Shield and like 2 pages of pussy vegan outrage. Man, that sentence got sexual.
The only problem I’ve ever had with these guys is that Dean Ambrose should be their mouthpiece, and they shouldn’t always be given equal thirds of mic time. When they first showed up and would do those “we found a camera!” things backstage, Dean would talk for 20 seconds and it’d be great, then Seth would take over and start nasally yelling and ruin it. Roman would say something dumb and punctuate it with an awkward BELIEVE IN SOMETHING, ALSO, BELIEVE IN THE SHIELD. I always thought it’d be better to let Dean talk for 59 seconds, then have Roman duckface and tell us what to believe in to close it out.
Last night’s in-ring promo was the best-ever example of that theory needing to be implemented. The Shield interrupted Evolution and sent them backpedaling up the stage, so Dean gets on the stick and starts in with his crazy man threatening. It was great. The crowd doesn’t quite have a grasp on his cadence yet and appears to be cheering him speaking rather than anything he actually says, but it’s fine. When Roman got on the mic, he delivered a succinct statement about how they were gonna kick Evolution’s ass. That worked too. But in the middle was poor Seth Rollins, using up about 20 seconds of good material and then stalling for five minutes.
Don’t get me wrong, Rollins is LIGHT YEARS better on the microphone than he used to be. Even since the Found Footage days. But no, dude’s promo was super unnecessary. He kept saying the same thing with slightly different phrasing, pausing for effect at moments that didn’t call for it and more or less sounding like the opposite of a scary mercenary. I can’t even type it facetiously in capital letters. Seth is great at a lot of things. A LOT of things. Lengthy middle-of-the-ring declarations of purpose are not one of them. Dean for 59 seconds, Roman for 1. Then lots of Seth jumping and flying and being cool.
Best: Congrats On Your New Role In Evolution, Fandango
Dude’s just hanging out onstage dancing in place while he’s supposed to be threatening. I would’ve loved it so hard if Roman Reigns had taken a step forward and Triple H’d had yelled STAY BACK OR I’LL GET FANDANGO TO KICK YOUR ASS.
Worst: Legends House
If you missed the first episode of ‘Legends House,’ here’s what you need to know:
– They met their neighbors and had a nice time
– Pat Patterson tried to make cabbage but it took too long
– Roddy Piper went for a walk
That has got to be the most boring show in human history. ‘Legends House’ makes ‘Total Divas’ look like ‘Attack On Titan.’
Best: Rybaxel On Commentary All Day Every Day
Raise your hand if Rybaxel is suddenly your favorite tag team.
One of the great surprises from last night’s Raw was the fully-formed nature of Ryback and Curtis Axel, two guys who have finally figured out who and what they’re supposed to be. They sat in on color commentary for the Usos vs. Rhodes Brothers match and OH MAN did they steal the show. Ryback told stories about how his dad was a bartender and used to serve drinks to Curtis Axel’s dad and Scott Hall, namedropping the AWA and … how do I put this, exactly? Being human. Ryback was a human being. That is so weird and refreshing, and I want more of it. I want to hear Ryback tell endearing and sorta-braggy road stories while his McGillibuddy scoffs and chuckles in the background more than I want to watch a wrestling show. That’s real talk.
Listen and fall in love with The Big Guy:
Best: Are We Finally Doing The Cody/Goldust Thing?
Aside from Ryback being BIG ARMS, BIG CHARMS, I liked two things about this match:
1. The Usos continuing to evolve into the WWE’s version of the Young Bucks, a tag team of talented young brothers who cannot stop superkicking you. The finish was straight out of the PWG midcard, with Cody just grabbing and swinging legs and sticking his head out until everybody in the ring had been kicked.
2. The latest tease of a Rhodes Brothers breakup. Cody lost the match and I guess blamed Goldust? Maybe he was just mad that he lost to a transitional move. Regardless, Cody stormed to the back with Goldust giving chase and even got a Backstage Fallout segment about how unhappy he was.
It’s not WrestleMania, but is there a chance we can start hoping for a Cody vs. Goldust feud again? Give Goldie a proper sendoff so he can go be an NXT trainer, put Cody over him to give his as much rub as you can and let him settle back into something that allows him to be the focus, and not the less interesting younger brother. It’s so weird that The Shield came up and got a main event push, the Wyatts came up and got a main event push, Cesaro and Big E and a bunch of NXT guys have shown up and gotten important spots on the card and Cody freaking Rhodes is in the same spot he was five years ago. Ridiculous.
Worst: THARS A SNAKE IN MAH BOOT
I know I probably sound like a hypocrite for praising El Torito vs. Hornswoggle and throwing shade at Emma having a pink lady snake arm, so I’ll try to explain. By the way, this is my job. This is what I do for a living. Explaining why I enjoyed a leprechaun fighting a bull but didn’t enjoy a guy with a snake arm’s girlfriend having a girl snake arm.
A lot of it is managing expectations. Knowing when something COULD be better, and wishing it was so. With a lot of these NXT guys and ladies I’ve spent a long time with them, years watching them develop, try out new things and grow. “Grow up,” as it were. I’ve compared it to having kids you love and watching them get older and go off to college. Eventually they have to be the person THEY are, not the person you knew or thought or wanted them to be. They’ve got to appeal to the entire world now, not just you. So if I spend time getting my heart attached to Emma as an awkward girl with meanness in her heart and a talent for baller submission wrestling, I (as a loving … I don’t want to say parent, but parent) want her “big break” to center around the things I’ve loved about her. It’s not, though. Her big break, the thing that will get her over with the crowd and endear her to millions and millions of new people is being Girl Santino, with his moveset and all. It makes me furious. It works, and people love it, but it makes me want to sit in a recliner drinking beer and watching football all day with a scowl on my face. I didn’t know she was enrolling in clown college.
I also get to be hilariously upset that Emma’s snake is a “girl snake.” It’s a Ms. Male Character. They took Santino’s snake, made it pink (because girls) and gave it eyelashes and big pouty red lips (because girls). Couldn’t Emma just have her own green snake? JOIN ME IN BEING OUTRAGED BY THIS, INTERNET. ALERT JEZEBEL AT ONCE.
(In all seriousness, I get it. You make a girl snake, girls at wrestling shows are gonna want to buy it. Perpetuating gender roles and all that. Now instead of one revenue stream of snake puppets, you have two. You added one to the line. Next year we’ll have Missile Attack Snake Puppet and one that glows in the dark. Emma will be fine and popular and I will sit over here with my back turned to the Internet like a REAL FAN~ and wait for Paige to show up in a Santino match, slap the turd out of her mouth and make her wrestle for real.)
Best: Davis Shoemaker
“I thought the shit with the cabbages was gonna make me hang myself” — Brendan Shroud, WithLeather.com
Best: Cesaro’s Entrance Theme
They gave him tornado sirens. Magic. They should have him start walking down to the ring with a tiger for no reason.
Worst: Cesaro Can Lift Big Show, But He Can’t Carry Rob Van Dam
Van Dam is the Girl Snake of wrestlers. He’s got a role on the show, but it’s not one I enjoy. People like to see him because they remember how good he USED to be, and that colors how good they think he is now. Because I am wearing the sunglasses from They Live, I see a very slow, very tired old man standing still and occasionally sitting until it’s time for his opponent to lie down and take his 5 moves from 20 years ago. And just to clarify, when I say “old,” I mean old on his insides. Goldust is 2 years older than Van Dam and you don’t see him elephant walking his way through matches.
The worst part is the announcers still trying to put over how fast Van Dam is. Turn your pet turtle on its back, then stand 10 feet away from it and yell LOOK AT THE CAT-LIKE AGILITY over and over, see if it makes your experience better.
Best: TIGER DRIVER ’91 ON RAW, or
Worst: Way To Almost Kill Yourself, Rob
Watch Van Dam’s weight shift at the exact moment it isn’t supposed to. Remember when Big E took a Neutralizer by letting go of Cesaro’s legs and eating the entire thing with his neck? Y’all need to be careful, this guy could throw you into the sun if he wanted to. Van Dam should spend six months at the Performance Center bumping for Mojo Rawley asshole attacks until he knows how to do basic wrestling shit without hurting himself and others.
Worst: Rob Van Dam Beat Cesaro
I wanted a Cesaro/Bad News Barrett finals so bad, you guys. :(
Best: This Almost Assures Us A BNB Victory, Though
BAH BAH BAH BAH BAH BAH BAH BAH BAAAOOOOOOMMMMMMM
Wait, isn’t Wade Barrett as Intercontinental Champion the worst thing that could happen to him? Isn’t that how we got into this mess in the first place?
Worst: That Backstage Interview
“The Rob Van Dam I know wouldn’t take a tainted victory like that. You guys should have a rematch!”
“Here’s some advice … don’t trust your wallet or your future to THIS guy!”
“you mean the guy who made you a huge star”
“yeah you mean the guy who put a spotlight on you so you could get signed by WWE and become a popular millionaire”
“yeah you mean the guy who came up with all the stuff you do that got yourself over”
“so well that you haven’t had to alter, add, or change anything since you last worked with him in 2001”
” …. yes?”
“do you have any additional thoughts or should we all go read Jay and Silent Bob comics”
*does the thumb point*
“nobody’s doing that with you.”
Best: Paige Getting Actual Offense!
God bless her, Paige got to do actual wrestling moves and look like a competent competitor for the first time since showing up to Raw. Unfortunately the match was against Aksana, a Diva I love and support for the worst possible reasons (Porno sax! Wolverine font! OLD GLORY KNEEDROP TO THE EYEBALL! etc.). Aksana is not exactly a ring general, and I kinda wish they’d given her the “beat up page for a few minutes and take the Scorpion Crosslock for a Critical” thing they did last week and let Alicia Fox work the longer, more dynamic match.
The announce team was doing the El Torito/Hornswoggle thing again here, but for women. Paige won the Divas Championship in her first match on Raw with one move. She beat Alicia Fox, a former champion, last week on Raw with a crazy submission. They openly acknowledge her history as a dominant champion in NXT, mentioning that JBL is that show’s general manager in the middle of JBL pretending he doesn’t know who anybody is. Still, the entire match is just HOW DOES PAIGE POSSIBLY THINKS HE’S GONNA BE ANY GOOD, IT’S SO WEIRD, SHE SHOULD PROBABLY JUST GIVE UP NOW.
I know that’s them trying to build sympathy for her, but damn, can we get one Josh Mathews type on this squad to just frankly say, “Paige is great a wrestling and nobody’s been able to hang with her yet. She’s gonna stretch Aksana here in a second. Watch NXT, it’s a good show” JBL can respond with EMMA CAME FROM NXT TOO AND SHE’S GOT A BIRDO ARM, WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THAT or whatever, but at least have one dude trying to put her over directly without making her do the legwork alone.
Best: LANA! CRUSH IT!
Is her dress getting smaller? In a few weeks she’s gonna be butt naked with a 6-month old’s jumper on her foot like a sock.
Also, how awesome is it that she’s doing a full fashion show entrance now? She’s supposed to walk from backstage to the top of the ramp and start her speech, but now she’s just straight-up sashaying around, giving us all the angles. Pretty sure Lana reads this column and was like, “oh, dude likes to screencap me? Time to knock him on his ass.”
Best: That Bored-Ass Accolade
I’m a big fan of Rusev’s thing where he looks super bored to be camel clutching a guy to death. I assume the handicap match at Extreme Rules is an excuse for him to Accolade two guys at once, and I’ll allow it.
A supplemental Best goes to Lana for having to step over a rolling Sin Cara in those heels. Jump to 2:35 and watch her. THAT’s your super athlete.
Worst: I Might Be Done With This Feud
Where does this go?
That’s a serious question. I’m not asking for fantasy booking. I sincerely don’t know where this story could go. The only possible outline is “Bray Wyatt poses a challenge to John Cena, John Cena triumphs.” If you’re five and a big John Cena fan and all you care about is watching the guy you like win, this is probably awesome. Bray’s scary and his singing his great, and him cradling Cena’s head is a great image. The problem is that Cena’s already proven that Bray can’t get to him (at the big show, when it mattered), and Bray’s threats of escalating the violence and getting “extreme” have just been being CHALLENGED to a cage match — not even suggesting it himself — and more of these 3-on-1 tags with DQ finishes.
How is that enjoyable to anyone? At the risk of sounding like I “complain online,” Cena’s not vulnerable. The results would’ve been the same if he’d gone 1-on-1, 1-on-2 or 1-on-3. Cena’s chances of winning don’t go down. In fact, he probably had a better chance of losing 1-on-1 than he did 1-on-3. 1-on-1 I can say “maybe he’ll get distracted and Luke Harper will get a cheap win.” A John Cena handicap match only ends with John triumphing over the odds, or the odds giving up without explanation.
Bray’s promos and songs are good, but they’re just filler. I got my hopes up for something interesting to happen at WrestleMania … not a “heel turn,” not even really an disruption of the status quo, just something INTERESTING that would maybe give John a little vulnerability so I could identify with him and wonder about his match result. Instead, we got a clean victory and an immediate 180 from “scared” to “doing sassy photoshops.” This week John’s acting scared again, like it even matters.
I’ve asked for it a lot, but the Cena character development I want is him finally, definitively coming to terms with what he is. An unstoppable, invulnerable juggernaut. Respond to an app poll like this with “who cares? I’m going to destroy all three of them.” Be the Superman character. Superman’s not gonna make gulpy faces if Blue Beetle challenges him to a fight. He’s not gonna start gulping if Beetle gets Booster Gold and Guy Gardner to help him, either.
Just give me something beyond the dry erase board. “John faces odds, DQ finish, threats” isn’t doing it for me anymore.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer
If Brie Bella gets kidnapped, it would be fitting if the next segment would be Daniel Bryan asking a b-list celebrity for an autograph.
Michael cole yelling “WHITE NOISE” is the height of irony.
One of the most controversial app votes in history!
Did Hitler do anything wrong? Vote now!
Yes Bray I do feel it. In fact I feel it coming. In the air tonight. Oh Lord.
Paul Heyman used CONTINUITY!
It has no effect…
The subtext to this storyline is that Heyman and Cesaro clearly finished eating the chocolate Andre.
“HOWD IT GET BURNED? HOWD IT GEBURNED HOWDIDGEBURNED?”- Dean Ambrose
John Cena interviews are the ending to every Full House episode.
Ryback: “‘WE SAY RYBACK! YOU SAY AXEL! RYBACK!”
Ryback: “errr, they say Axel.”
Son of Mecha Mummy
Harvey Fierstein is right, there’s always an option 3.
Thanks for reading, everybody.
Bonus: That Episode Of Straight Shoot I Was Just On
If you missed it and want another 90 minutes about Raw (featuring things I did and did not mention in this column), check that out: