– Make sure you’ve read the Best and Worst of Extreme Rules so you’ll get all the jokes about butts.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated. Don’t make me start doing Best and Worst of Raw Active Polls.
And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 20, 2015.
Best: You Kept The Gate So Good
I love that Seth Rollins has become one of the most compelling characters on the show by just being a teen from My Super Sweet Sixteen who’s constantly at her birthday party. He manages to be a great character by actually being a character, and not just filling the vaguely-defined character roles left for him by other people.
Kane spells it out for us. Seth Rollins is an entitled brat. He thinks of himself as an “architect,” but what the f*ck is that, anyway? He was lucky enough to be the third guy on a team with the craziest guy in the world and an invulnerable handsome idiot prince, and he threw them under the bus at the last (and best) possible second to get a comfy ass-kissing role on the squad that runs the show. He’s the kid who hung out with the burnouts until the popular kids noticed him and told them to sit at his table. He doesn’t give a shit about those burnouts, he just wants to look cool at lunch.
Calling his version of the RKO the “SKO” and nasally laughing about how he replaced “Randy” with “Seth” (with no attention paid to the K or the O) is AMAZING. Him once again thanking Kane but also having to run him down was pitch-perfect, as were his non-threatening “you kept the gate so good” comments. I don’t want to have to listen to him talk for 20 minutes or convey information, but I’m absolutely a fan of him being the “millennial” Vince McMahon had so much disdain for in that podcast.
A supplemental Worst goes to any and all Raw situations involving fans voting in polls.
Best: King Of The Ring Is Back! In Pog Form
The other day I was wondering why certain WWE things seem important, and others never will. Like, we legitimately care about WrestleMania and the Royal Rumble, and to a lesser degree SummerSlam. SummerSlam is Second WrestleMania, like a sort of mid-season finale. If WWE aired on AMC we’d get April to August and then take off until January. Uh, January two years from now.
Anyway, I think a lot of that stuff seems important because it’s been a constant. Most of us have had WrestleMania for our entire lives. We’ve had the Royal Rumble and SummerSlam and Survivor Series for most of it, too. They’re like The Simpsons … even if they’ve been bad more than they’ve been good, we still want them around. They’re a comfort. They help us mark the passing of time. Who marks the passing of time with Payback? Who sits around with their friends from college going, “oh man, remember that time we ordered Night Of Champions?”
That’s why I like the King of the Ring. It’s just a tournament with a bad payoff — somebody having to wear a crown and pretend to be a king for a year, or whatever — but it feels like a thing that should happen in our WWE calendar year. Even when it isn’t happening, we keep it in our brains and wonder when it’s coming back. I’m glad they’re doing it, even if the first round is just hastily thrown-together Raw matches and the finals are a glorified version of Main Event.
In case you missed it at Extreme Rules, Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus had a rimjob match that settled nothing and has led to another cycle of conversation about what they will or won’t do to the other’s asshole. I guess the first go-round gave Vince all the belly laughs and furious masturbations he needs from a feud, so the time between Extreme Rules and Payback will be spent going, “hey, remember when we did the thing with butts?”
Dolph Ziggler has a first-round King of the Ring match with Bad News Barrett, who loses 100% of his matches not involving third-party distractions. Lucky for him, Sheamus is here with some still photos of his sexual assault and nobody from the WWE front office saying, “YOU HAVE TO HONOR THIS MATCH STIPULATION, WE AREN’T JUST GONNA FORGET ABOUT IT AND LET YOU OFF THE HOOK.” Ziggler gets distracted because being a babyface means you have the intelligence and wherewithal of a squirrel, and Barrett wins.
Really excited for more time spent with these Dude Butts.
Worst: … So Are We Not Having Wrestling Matches In This Tournament Or What
The best part of Extreme Rules was the tag team championship match, and Tyson Kidd vs. Big E is one of those singles matches that feels fresh and relevant and could be really good if given a spotlight and a few minutes to work.
What we got was the start of a good match, and then WWE’s equivalent of Jack Donaghy walking in and yelling SHUT IT DOWN. Big E hits a clothesline like 90 seconds in and covers, and Xavier Woods reaches in and touches Kidd’s foot, rendering him unable to move any other part of his body. That’s … it. That’s the end of the match. It ends on a clothesline, and the suggestion that Xavier Woods is now the master of cheating and also possibly tactile paralysis?
I don’t know. I wanted this to be something and it was SUPER nothing. Don’t be nothing, New Day, that’s what I hated about you before!
Best: The Wyatt Boys
At Extreme Rules, Bo Dallas showed up for no reason to say nothing and got beaten up by Ryback. On Raw, they did the version they should’ve done at Extreme Rules: Bo and Ryback get into the same confrontation, Ryback wins with the same authority, and it ends with Bray Wyatt materializing out of nowhere and Sister Abigailing him. That makes Bo useful as a tool to get from point A to point B, gives us the same “he exists” reminder for The Ryback and drags Bray out of his smokey promo room to actually DO SOMETHING in the ring.
And like, I’m not over the moon for a bunch of Ryback vs. Bray Wyatt matches — aside from all the “Skip Sheffield vs. Husky Harris” game show NXT dream match jokes I can make — but these guys are #1 and 2 on the list of WWE Superstars who need to shit or get off the pot. If Ryback’s going to be a star (an actual star, and not a wrestler from Ren & Stimpy who makes the crowd chant a thing), he needs a workable program that gives him a point. Wyatt needs a Scrooge McDuck money bin of Febreeze to refresh his character, and working with a guy who 1) needs something interesting to do, and 2) is actually on the show every week could be it. I just want to see him doing and saying things I don’t expect. I don’t want to see him crab walk or hear about fear anymore. Evolve up to the butcher smock and weird mask and start being a creepy Bayou preacher again, not a winded stoner who just stumbled out of a Margaritaville.
Best: Heath Slater Wants To Take A Vantage
I’m a fan of anything Heath Slater does on television, so having him repeatedly try to answer John Cena’s open challenge for a United States Championship match and get trumped by an Actually Important Wrestler is the new hotness. Last week he was eating plain salad (score) and got RKO’d through a table by Randy Orton. This week he makes it out onto the stage, but gets beaten up by Rusev. Next week I want him to get to the ring steps only to have Dean Ambrose explode out from under them and send him flying into the crowd like a cartoon ejector seat.
Worst: Cena Vs. Rusev Is Getting The Return Of The King Ending
Here’s what the pessimists among us expected from the John Cena vs. Rusev beef:
1. Rusev winning an unimportant match, Cena getting his heat back when it actually mattered (at WrestleMania) and just beating him on loop forever after. Best case scenario, Rusev gets another win back a few months down the road when nobody buys it and everybody’s stopped caring. (This is known as “keeping your spot.”)
2. Lots of melodramatic USA vs. Russia stuff that starts off nostalgic and charming, but eventually gets tiresome and makes you realize they aren’t doing it ironically.
3. Lots of “Lana is a whore” jokes, because John Cena The Character is petulant and 5-years old.
We’re pretty deep in that territory, so I’m going to be wise enough to say “John Cena’s not for me” and back away with my palms up. Here’s to hoping Rusev isn’t having tea parties with Santino or whoever by the fall, and that he’s not too expensive when it comes to WrestleCon next year.
Best: Truth Vs. Stardust, Surprisingly
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy R-Truth and Stardust’s King of the Ring first-rounder, but it surprised me. They looked like they knew they didn’t have a lot of time and that nobody would care, so they put together some fun counter stuff and knocked it out. They trade moves with a sense of urgency until the finish, which is Truth countering a Disaster Kick springboard with the What’s Up, or the Lil’ Jimmy, or the “Lie Detector” as Cole calls it even though that’s supposed to be a spinning forearm.
It felt a lot like a video game match set to “quick,” but it worked. They actually wrestled a little, and one guy beat the other clean without totally skunking him. I’ll take it.
A supplemental Worst to the announce team for existing, and for doing everything they could to not talk about this match. When the announce team is talking amongst themselves about bullshit, the ref should throw up the X and both wrestlers should stand still and stare at them until they’re done.
Worst: Brie Bella Cannot Convincingly Say That Bryan Danielson Loves Wrestling
Why can’t the Bella Twins say things like human beings? I’ll never understand it.
Brie Bella’s job here (even though she’s supposed to be a heel) is to updated us on the status of beloved babyface hero Daniel Bryan. You’d think she’d be able to say “my husband isn’t doing well but he loves wrestling more than anything, so he’s working hard and he’ll be back, I believe in him,” without sounding like a f*cking android. But here she is taking weird pauses and grinning ear-to-ear while delivering bad news and … man, I don’t even know. It’d be a thousand times easier to enjoy and support the Bella Twins if they didn’t act and sound like artificially-aged Honey Boo-Boos.
Worst: And Now The Divas Part
First of all, should Naomi be allowed to kick people with her light-up moon shoes? Those things have got to be foreign objects. Chris Jericho can’t show up in his light bulb jacket and just whip people with it the entire match.
Naomi wrestles Brie Bella, and it suffers the same problems as the Extreme Rules match against Nikki. Nobody has a clear motivation. Nobody’s the face, and nobody’s heel enough to stand out as “the heel.” Brie’s cheating to win matches for her mean sister, but she’s also married to a popular guy and giving us health updates. Naomi is suddenly sassy and arrogant, but she’s got a good point about being passed over and forgotten. So everybody’s good and bad at the same time, and there’s no hook and nothing to cheer for. So they just wrestle in a hole, and when it’s done, none of it mattered. And Naomi’s shoes light up.
I’ve written a lot lately about how giving Divas dedicated creative with actual characters and stories about things other than boys and jealousy is how you “give Divas a chance,” but I guess the plan is to just have them wrestle for the sake of wrestling in silence until WWE can justify shuffling them back into bikini contests.
Worst: PLEASE ENJOY THIS RIVETING TELEVISION SOMEBODY WROTE
I’m just going to recap this as it happened.
Fandango broke up with Rosa Mendes because she was holding him back, and (I guess) favoring Spanish dancing instead of letting him mindlessly Fandango for the rest of his life. Because Fandango’s girlfriends have a history of not being able to let go and spending the months after a breakup terrorizing him, she’s thrown in with his blood rival Adam Rose. It’s a battle of the worst characters on the show, birthed from the mind of an insane man who still thinks grown men acting slightly effeminate is HILARIOUS and relevant in 2015.
Rosa Mendes decides to get the jump on Fandango by dressing up as a Rosebud. She reveals her plan by waiting until he’s standing near her, showing him that it’s her and not a Rosebud and then dancing away. Instead of, you know, using the disguise for any reason disguises are normally used for. This still manages to distract him, and Adam Rose is able to hit the Party Foul and win the match. Not that we haven’t already done multiple distraction finishes on this show. After the match, Rosa straddles Rose in the middle of the ring and makes out with him. Fandango looks distressed. Everyone else in the world looks distressed, too, but for different reasons.
At some point you’ve got to look at your wrestling show and say, “Jesus Christ, what the f*ck am I doing?” and seek help.
Best/Worst: Arse-stractions Number 2
Sheamus wrestles Dean Ambrose, and it feels good. It feels like the kind of match we should be having on Raw. They’ve wrestle before, but they don’t wrestle every goddamn week, and they mesh well. Ambrose has a different kind of physical charisma than most people, and it compensates for Sheamus basically being an enormous piece of Wonder Bread.
The problem is, you guessed it, a stupid finish. They fight to the outside and things get fun, and Sheamus hits Ambrose with a Brogue Kick. That brings out Dolph Ziggler, who sprints into Sheamus and causes a DQ. That not only means Dean Ambrose has lost, it means that the first round of the King of the Ring tournament had TWO screwy finishes based around the same “you didn’t kiss my ass like you were supposed to” argument, and that round two will have EVEN MORE. They are SO INTO this asshole-kissing party that they’re ruining an entire f*cking tournament to get it over. They should just turn King of the Ring into a Kiss Me Arse tournament, where everyone eliminated has to kiss the person who beat them’s ass, and then the winner gets swerved and must kiss ALL the asses. Let’s just turn Raw into the gay half of Fleshbot. Watching Rosa Mendes kiss a dude’s kinda soured me on women anyway.
Worst: Damien Sandow Is A Huge Piece Of Garbage
Hey, remember when we liked Damien Sandow?
Sandow and Miz had one of the hottest character pairings and programs heading into 2015. They could’ve went ANYWHERE with it. What they chose was breaking them up without a blowoff but keeping them together, then ACTUALLY blowing it off in the middle of a pre-show battle royal that neither of them won. Instead of that breaking them apart, Sandow kept dressing and acting like Miz for some reason, and they had to have a match for the “rights to the Miz brand” featuring previously-uninvolved Summer Rae leaving Miz, turning on Mizdow and … I don’t know. They basically harpooned their own story in the heart and dragged its bloody, floating carcass back to shore.
This is Sandow’s reemergence as his own man, and (spoiler alert) he’s a total a-hole. His stunt double act is now mean-spirited, and instead of being funny he’s doing that thing shitty siblings do where they imitate you in a condescending voice until you yell for your mom. That’s it. I complain a lot about grown men acting like 5-year olds to make crowds of stupid people and babies cheer and clap, but he is straight-up building his character around an annoying thing kids do. What’s his finisher, the Hurts Donut? Does he consider “stop hitting yourself” a ground-and-pound offense?
Curtis Axel shows up to be stupid and Sandow childishly mocks him to his face, then beats him up. If you need confirmation that I’m not just being irrational and Sandow’s a piece of shit now, watch him mock Renee Young. This is the worst possible place they could’ve gone with Sandow’s character, and I am so mad at them for it. I want this character to die in a damn fire and he’s only been in front of me for like five minutes.
Best: Neville Vs. Harper Forever
I’m willing to forgive most of a bad show if they give me a match I can get excited about, and Neville vs. Luke Harper was that match. It’s always a good sign when you watch two guys work and your eyes bug out and your brain goes YES, MORE PLEASE.
I’m not counting my chickens, but I feel really positive about what they’ve done with Neville so far. The “Mighty Mouse” rumors have only really materialized in him wearing a cape. They’ve put him in matches with guys who can work and handle him and know how to base and sell for a tiny high-flyer (especially Barrett and Harper) and they’ve done a WONDERFUL job of establishing and protecting his finish. 10 years from now there should only be like, 4 guys who’ve ever kicked out of a Red Arrow on WWE TV. NXT’s giving us a fresh start on a lot of guys you can actually build a company around, let’s make sure their shit stays true and important.
I’m all for Neville winning this tournament and being the new Intercontinental Champion, or whatever they’re doing. I just hope Harper’s his first defense, and they spend 20 minutes burning down the house at Payback. And, uh, it doesn’t end with Erick Rowan showing up and distracting everybody with his butt.
Worst: The Man That Gravity Did What Now
I’m not outraged by a guy accidentally saying something terrible when he clearly didn’t mean to, but can I just pretend I am anyway and demand his firing? Can I also demand JBL’s firing for setting him up, and Michael Cole’s for providing the Mountain Dew that made them all shitty in the brain?
Worst: Tonight’s Nitro Main Event
Surprise! At Payback, Seth Rollins will defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton and Roman Reigns in a triple threat match A poll said so!
I considered scanning a blank sheet of notebook paper and posting it here as my comments on the main event. WWE has started reaching this enlightened level of boring sometimes where wrestling happens and I can’t even see it. Matches so middle-of-the-road you forget wrestling’s happening at all. It’s like snow blindness. Rollins and Kane vs. Orton and Reigns starts and I blink my eyes, and suddenly I’m trapped on a mountainside somewhere starving to death. I don’t know what’s going on.
I’m starting to regress in my fandom. I’m going to have to do that thing I did in the 90s with WCW where I watch the show for Blitzkrieg and Dean Malenko, and forget that Roddy Piper vs. Hulk Hogan is happening at the end. It’s about the journey, not the destination, right? So f*ck the f*cking destination.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
“Hi, I’m Luke Harper, WWE Superstar.
In my line of work, there’s a lot of travelling from place to place, so I need a vehicle that I can trust to get me from point A to point B. The new Nissan Midcard is just the car for the job. It has plenty of storage space for my actual wrestling wrestling gear I never get to use, and comfortable padded seats to relieve the pain of all those unappreciated bumps I take. You really can’t do better than the Nissan Midcard.
The Nissan Midcard – For the man who needs to go everywhere, but never gets anywhere.”
Don’t worry John, what the cops are doing in Baltimore is embarrassing your country.
The King of All Cosmos! Na! nanananana! Stardust gonna roll you up.
I get the feeling that soon we’ll see Sandow’s impression of Guy Who Works PWG Shows
I thought Luke Harper was already the Yellow King
The Real Birdman
Sympathy for Daniel Bryan necessitates a Bellas face-turn? These health updates get worse and worse.
A third straight match with Rusev should be called a “Fans Quit” match.
“FEED ME MORE”
~The Great Seal of The City of Green Bay
Spitty, taking two this week:
[Earlier in the night]
Billy Gunn: “You know I won King of the Ring once”
Cesaro: “Did you?”
Cesaro: “Hmmmmmmm……. Hey, Truth, you want to take my place in the tournament? I’m not really keen on it anymore.”
Thanks, everybody. See you next week.