– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated. I had some fairly major health problems this week (which you’ll read about in a moment), so if you were waiting for a good week to share the column, try this one.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for April 6, 2015.
Best: Seth Rollins As The Worst Person In The Entire World
Seth Rollins’ greatest attribute isn’t his in-ring ability, his 12 years of experience or his crazy Crossfitter body. It’s his voice. It’s that f*cking voice.
That’s all I could pay attention to during last night’s opening promo. I wonder why I’ve been typing “take it home, Seth” since 2013, but it’s that voice. He’s the weasel character in a bandit mask in an 80s cartoon. He’s the guy who’d sell out his friends and say, “I thought we were over this” when you remind him about it. He’s the guy who runs down his friends to their faces even though they’re the only people keeping him successful. He’s taking the cowardly WWE heel archetype and eaten it, so now it leaves in his neck somewhere and controls him from the inside out.
It’s rare that WWE manages to perfectly time the apex of someone’s talent with professional success, but I think they’ve done it here. Rollins is next-level good in basically every aspect of pro wrestling, and even if he wasn’t he’d make 10,000 people want to smack him in the mouth the second he started talking. That’s a blessing.
Worst: Randy Orton Vs. Kane Matches With Crappy Finishes Are Not A Way To Maintain Momentum
I’m not sure there’s a way to make Kane vs. anybody a cool, fresh, marketable thing anymore.
Remember when Daniel Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and they feuded him with Kane, and instead of playing on their tag team history and the fact that they graduated from goddamn anger management therapy together they built it around Kane being a scary Halloween monster who wanted to hurt Daniel’s wife? That’s the mission statement of Kane. He’s a character who has been repurposed on the fly so many times you can’t buy him as anything. If he put the mask back on and started acting like a demon again, you’d just think it was a stop-gap between these giant piles of weirdly widows-peaked mediocrity.
So opening the show with Kane vs. Randy Orton is bad enough. Opening it with Kane vs. Randy Orton with the prerequisite that Randy’s moving on to a #1 contender match later on in the show, so there’s SUPER no point to this? The Authority has the worst evil plans ever, don’t they? They’re putting three top babyfaces into a #1 contenders match against their opportunistic golden boy heel, and they think making them wrestle twice in a night with none of the buffer matches having consequences or stipulations is somehow putting the boots to them. Couldn’t they, I don’t know, NOT give these guys a title shot? Couldn’t they announce Big Show vs. Kane vs. Jamie Noble for the damn #1 contender spot? Have we gotten so bad with our evil authority figures that we can’t even pretend they’re doing things that benefit themselves before pulling it back and giving the good guys opportunities? Jesus Christ. How many championship match opportunities has Roman Reigns sauntered into now without doing anything? If Seth Rollins wanted to “sell out” he should’ve just stayed face and let the Authority put him in endless title matches with frowns on their faces.
What’s even worse is that Kane vs. Randy Orton can’t get a finish. It’s just Kane attacking him with a chair a few minutes in and drawing a DQ. You couldn’t put your 12-time World Champion and #1 contender over your biggest, most washed-up jobber to the stars clean. What’s the deal?
Best: Brad Maddox!
If you blinked you might’ve missed it, but former General Manager and With Spandex favorite Brad Maddox showed up at the beginning of a random backstage segment to compliment Kane and get shooed out of the office. I’m not sure why he’s there or why he’d be in with The Authority again, but who cares? It’s Beef Mode. I want that guy on TV whether it makes sense or not. You could tell him to paint his face like a butterfly and manage The Ascension and I’d be in these columns singing his praises. I hope that
1. there is a reason for this, and
2. it continues. No matter what.
Best: Neville’s Entrance
Here’s a funny story about how you shouldn’t have surgery and then go to Raw.
As some of you know if you follow me on social media (and you should, I’m great) I had an appendectomy this weekend. I’m fine but the whole thing went really badly, so I’m just kinda sitting around my house with a gross stomach and some missing guts. Anyway, because I am super smart, I decided to go to Raw like two days after surgery. I’m John Cena!
When I got to my seats, I realized I was on the floor in the very back row on the stage side, meaning there was me, a security rail and then a bunch of machines that shot off fireworks. That is not a great position to be in if your guts are missing and any slight movement causes you pain, right? But I had a plan. I watch this show every week and know where all the pyro cues are, so I’d just take 10 steps away, put my fingers in my ears and calmly prepare for stuff to go off. This worked well for the opening of the show, for Ryback, etc. I thought I was good to go.
So then Seth Rollins is waiting for his opponent, and Neville’s graphic of earth with his comet or spaceship or whatever zooming down to it, and it never crossed my mind that the landing would be accompanied by SUDDEN PYRO. I just stood there like an idiot watching it, going, “oh, wait, is this Adrian Ne-AAAAHHHHHHH” I almost crapped my pants. How great of a story would that have been on Twitter? PRETENTIOUS BLOGGER SHITS PANTS AT RAW. The worst part is that I still don’t totally know how my abdomen works right now so there’s a chance if I’d shit my pants I would’ve just shit out my insides, and I would’ve been left there in the back of Raw in a pile of skin and bones with half a length of intestines in my shorts, agonizingly clapping and trying to chant “N-X-T.”
What’s funny is that now that I type it, it seems like exactly the way I should have to spend Raw.
Best: The Perfect Kind Of Match For Guys At This Level
The good news is that I didn’t crap intestines, and I got to see Seth Rollins wrestle Strikethrough Adrian Neville on Raw.
It was the perfect kind of match when you consider Neville is the new kid on the block and Rollins is the newly-crowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion. In our heads they’re already equals, but in the minds of basically every other human that watches Raw, Neville’s great showing and loss via J&J Security is enough to legitimize him. If there weren’t a bunch of kids watching going “wow, Neville’s really good, he almost beat the champion” I’ll eat my hat. And badly digest it?
The match started to lose the crowd somewhere in the middle, and we got a couple of rubes chanting “boring.” I wonder if the heat went a little long, or if Rollins cut him off a little too much. Regardless, these guys are great at what they do and this was a legitimately fresh matchup, and right now that’s the thing I want most from Raw. It was especially great following Randy Orton vs. Kane, which is the opposite of both of those things to the max.
Neville has the brightest future right now, and I’m going to pretend you all got to watch the match without commentary, too.
Best: Defendin’ John Cena
John Cena as a fighting United States Champion is a strange bird. On one hand, he’s been out here two weeks in a row having Hard Fart matches against talented but extremely-underutilized mid-carders (Dean Ambrose, Stardust). He’s adding prestige to the championship but defending it and actually winning matches, setting up the championship as an actual accomplishment and something somebody’d want to have. If he keeps this up, he could actually accomplish that thing we’ve been begging for for years where a champion wins a belt, gives a shit about it and defends it a bunch to make it worthwhile. On the other hand, it’s John Cena. There’s usually no drama in a Cena match, and now that he’s wrestling Stardust there is EXTRA no drama. The match is good and creates the ILLUSION of drama, but there is legit never a second where you say, “Stardust might win this.” Cena can beat any number of combined people at any time and no-sell 100% of the damage. And I’ve gotta believe Dean Ambrose is gonna pin him?
I think the first hand is more important than the second, though, so I’m giving this a Best. Imagine how important it’ll feel if Cena continues wrestling guys like this every week and one of them actually DOES beat him? You can’t do it on a pay-per-view, you have to do it on Raw. If you’ve had him run through the roster and win 11 straight 15-minute Raw matches, that takes a toll, right? Like the Austin Aries story when he was Ring of Honor Champion. At 100% he’d be able to defend the belt and beat anybody, but if he’s three months into a title reign and has been obsessively proving himself the entire time, something’s gotta give, right? Imagine if he manages to beat Rusev clean at Payback or whatever, and then two weeks later on Raw runs into, say, Big E and just tanks it. That’d be a compelling-ass story, and it’d elevate somebody without necessarily making Cena look like he’s less than them. It’s just the circumstance of being a fighting champion, and doing as well as he did means more than wearing it as an ornament and never defending it but keeping it for a year.
Supplemental Best for Stardust’s entrance, which has totally turned into a five-year old at Halloween. What’s he doing, crotch chops? Why’s he dressed like Mr. Sinister? WHAT’S GOING ON?
Worst: They’re Doing The Only Two Divas Championship Challenger Stories They Have Concurrently And They’re Canceling Each Other Out
I haven’t watched this episode with commentary yet, but I’m guessing the announce team was all, “NAOMI JUST PINNED THE DIVAS CHAMPION! THAT’LL NO DOUBT PUT HER IN CONTENTION FOR A SHOT AT THE DIVAS CHAMPIONSHIP.” That’s one of two title contendership stories they have. “Challenger pins the Divas Champion a bunch to get a title shot.” The other is a #1 contender battle royal.
The problem is that they’re doing both of them at once. Naomi rises from AJ Lee’s ashes to become Paige’s frenemy and pins Primo Bella. She’s been doing that a lot lately because this is her month to get a Divas title shot. Meanwhile, the heel Divas are going to Kane backstage and sucking up to him to get a #1 contender battle royal, which they totally deserve because of the hard work of waring sexy costumes and hanging out backstage. So now Naomi’s doing one boring Divas story and getting rear-ended by the other.
Of course, maybe that’s the point. Maybe Naomi will take offense to the battle royal and face the winner of it in an actual #1 contenders match, and we’ll allow the women to exist in a world of reason and possibility instead of using “Give Divas A Chance” as a catch-all term to describe “anything happening with the Divas.”
Best: Ironic New Day
Sometimes all you have to do to solve a problem is address it.
The New Day sucks. They do. They suck so badly their signature clap has created a call-and-response dedicated to live crowds letting them know how little this works. Imagine if the Road Dogg was all IT’S ME IT’S ME IT’S THE and crowds spelled out B-O-DOUBLE-O. They shouldn’t suck, but Xavier Woods is the worst one and WWE decided to make all three of them Xavier Woods.
Now they’re addressing how much the booing hurts, and how they’re just these sad, unappreciated dudes who have to go through the motions of WWE employment and sit in airports being harassed by people who want their autographs but tell them they suck, and it’s real. It’s exaggerated as hell, but it’s a real sentiment. It’s the first real sentiment the three of them have gotten to share since Woods first slid out in front of a gospel choir and scared us to death with those tone-deaf vignettes. Guys who smile and clap and say they’re positive? I don’t buy it. Guys who smile and clap and say they’re positive because shit sucks for a black man in WWE and they desperately want to keep their jobs, but it’s getting harder and harder to justify? I am so into that.
Ironic New Day. Let’s do it.
Worst: That Section Of Raw Where Stuff Stops Mattering And We’re Just Killing Time
You don’t care about either of these matches, do you?
They have the same problems as the Randy Orton vs. Kane opener without the benefit of actually opening Raw and being exciting by proxy. They happen in the bowels of the show, where matches just kinda take place to fill time and the results not only don’t matter, they’re rarely there. You’ve established Ryback vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton as the main-event of the show, so these “punishment” matches feel less like punishment for the wrestlers and more like punishment for us. “You don’t like our show the way it is? Here, have an extra hour of it!”
Think about it. After this week, these matches will never be watched again. Nobody’s going to say, “hey, you know what was great? Roman Reigns vs. Big Show from 4/6. It was probably match of the night behind Ryback/Luke Harper.” They’re going to live on in 3-minute versions on the website, and they’ll only get views when somebody involved dies or retires or gets fired and a blogger needs a screencap.
Worst: Hooray, More Bray Wyatt Promos
Did you know that Bray Wyatt is the new face of fear and that fear is something you should be afraid of and also CHANGE, and that you’re all a bunch of liars? If you didn’t, you have missed every single Bray Wyatt promo between the end of 2013 and now.
What is the point of this? Bray’s built a reputation as a guy who isn’t actually saying anything, and he can’t even bring validity to his insanity because he loses whenever it actually matters. Imagine if Dino Bravo was a scientologist. That’s the situation we’re facing. Imagine if Dino f*cking Bravo yelled for five minutes every week in his thick Canadian accent about how the R6 implant was calculated to kill anyone who attempts to solve it, and then Jim Duggan bodyslams him and pins him. Who’d give a f*ck about Dino Bravo’s thoughts on the R6 implant?
Just stop breathing in sharply after every word and get involved in some stories that aren’t you rambling about change, Bray, Jesus.
Best/Worst: Sheamus Vs. Mark Henry Is A Lot Better With The Alignments Reversed
Man, I wanted to love this.
Here’s the thing: this is one of my favorite possible matches when the alignments are changed. When Sheamus is a babyface he’s blander than a Subway sub with extra bread, but he works hard in the ring. He fights hard. His offense is fired-up and strong and he busts his ass until he’s beaten the hell up and looks like a pack of raw chicken. When Mark Henry is heel, he’s the BEST Mark Henry. Colossal. Impossibly strong. Unstoppable. Furious. Those two characters meeting is amazing, and their match in these roles at SummerSlam 2011 is one of my personal favorite matches of the past five years. I love how they coordinate. They’re polar opposites and are drawn together so tightly it almost breaks them both.
When the alignments are changed, we (or I, I guess) lose what makes the characters work. When he’s a heel, Sheamus starts becoming a coward. He brags about how big and strong he is, but spends most of his matches taking cheap shots and complaining to the referee. He turns into a big version of the Miz. When Mark Henry is face, he’s helpless. He’s a big, ineffective sack of crap. He stops being a dominant force and starts being the guy who tips over and falls into the ring like Paul Blart if you knee him as he’s coming through the ropes. His matches never last more than three minutes.
One version of this is great. One version of it isn’t. I don’t get how WWE has and has seen the alternative and says, “no, this is fine.”
Best: Little Kids, Even If They Have No Idea What They’re Saying
I liked two things about this match:
1. That moment when Kofi Kingston cheats for The New Day and Xavier Woods kinda looks at him and goes, “heeeeeey … wait a minute! This could WORK!” I like the idea that The New Day aren’t heels who are stomaching some bad face gimmick, they’re bad faces who just haven’t considered that maybe they should stop being do-gooding putzes and cheat.
2. Little kids in the arena love the Lucha Dragons. I mean, they love doing what the Lucha Dragons DO, I don’t know how much they like the actual guys. I was walking around after this match and multiple little kids were doing the arm thrusts and going OO-CHA OO-CHA OO-CHA. It’s adorable. They don’t know that it’s “lucha” and the spazzy gesture and the noise is more over than the wrestlers, but I don’t know how WWE works, so I guess that’s fine? At least they’re reacting to something. No little kids were wandering around yelling MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Or “millions of dogs” or whatever.
Kalisto should cover his gear in dollar signs. Sin Cara should cover his gear in week-old pieces of toast.
Worst: Building To Miz Vs. Mizdow By Having Them Wrestle All Month
If you want a lesson in how to kill a hot feud, take a look at The Miz and Damien Mizdow. They build up this great thing just in time for WrestleMania where Miz is increasingly hostile and jealous of his stunt double, so instead of heating it up and heating it up and blowing it off at the biggest show of the year, they had Mizdow become his assistant and blew it off in a pre-show battle royal. Now they’re building to a singles feud, which would make sense except for the fact that Mizdow is STILL MIZ’S STUNT DOUBLE, and is still dressing as him and doing all his moves. The big reveal is that Mizdow’s just riding Miz’s coattails, and there’s nothing in the tank beyond this.
Now they’re building to Extreme Rules, I guess, by wrestling each other a bunch before Extreme Rules. Miz basically wins the blowoff here by pinning Mizdow in a one-on-one match, but he held the tights so I guess that’s ground for the feud to continue. Why would it? What do either of these guys have to gain at this point? Miz isn’t able to control Sandow and has basically lost his gimmick to him. Mizdow is popular when he shows up, and as the matches happen the crowd gets less and less interested. Why? Because he’s The Miz. There’s not a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just more tunnel.
So here we are, in the middle of a weeks-long thing where they’ll cause more disqualifications and count-outs and cheap losses, and the payoff will be the same, only neither of them will have heat. Why are we doing this?
Best: Miz’s Dick-Pat Rollup Of Doom
It’s like Sandow’s mushroom tip is his reset button.
Worst: Randy Orton Gets A Shot At The Authority Thanks To Authority Interference
To end a night of stuff that probably just doesn’t make sense, The Authority set up a #1 contender triple threat between three guys they don’t want contending for the championship, then interfere to help the guy they want to win least win. WWE.
That’s really it. I don’t know what else to say. What’s the benefit of interfering in a match like this besides reminding the audience that you’re the bad guy team that always interferes? The matches have been set up, everybody’s gone through the motion of the “first round” matches and now they’re beating the crap out of each other trying to get a shot at the championship. In theory, you’ll be able to manipulate that shot or change it on a whim or do whatever you want. Why should you also get a gang together and go down to the ring and try to beat everybody up 10 minutes in? It’s no disqualification because it’s a triple threat and one fall to a finish. Was the original plan to beat up Randy and drag Ryback onto him because he’d be the easiest one to beat? Is there any thought put into this whatsoever?
You don’t HAVE to interfere in every match. That’s the absurdity of WCW. You think you have to put everything into every match, when the truth is that not putting everything into every match will make it important when you DO. This is just watching guys kick themselves in the dick. I don’t get it.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Rusev : “Go Russia”
Cena : “Go America”
Ralph Wiggum : “Go Banana”
Orton and Kane are the Yin and Yang of pants.
Kane’s kinda like my kid brother. Exciting and fun when he first showed up 15 years ago. Now I’m just sick of him ruining shit and I want him to go away.
Neville just blew his chance… all he had to do was say “Ruthless Aggression” before hitting him. He coulda been the next guy
I was a rook once too, only moving vertically and horizontally and never diagonally or in an L shape.
The honest to god Incredible Hulk could become manifest and head down to the ring and absolutely no one would believe that he could win this match.
Roman: “Wait until you see what I do next”
Renee: “Is it… is it a superman punch or a spear?”
N Casio Poe
The Authority is The Million Dollar Corporation that should be the Billion Dollar Corporation
JBL: Stardust looks like something that Morgoth spat out during the Second Age of Man!
We need big show and Kane to go on vacation
Thanks, everybody. See you next week, when I have the gout.