– If the column is all over the place this week, I apologize. I just got back from the Northeast, where I caught Saturday’s New Japan/Ring of Honor show and Sunday’s two Beyond Wrestling shows. I have seen so many kickouts and slapped thighs and I really need to lie down for a few days.
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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for May 19, 2014. No, Kane wasn’t even on it, and that makes me so mad.
1. WWE has got to stop pushing ‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’ so hard. I mean, I understand it. If you want the WWE Universe to do something, you have to do it on repeat until every functional brain farts out and accepts it as an inevitability. See also: people happily screaming WHAT’S UPPP back to R-Truth even though zero people in the world care about R-Truth.
But man, I’m so tired of that song you’d think Foster The People recorded it. The only way this gets the proper payoff is if they reveal that Bray Wyatt’s actually just a feral Raffi. They kinda look alike. Dress alike, too.
Also, both use the Bananaphone.
(Note: Between this, Rosa Mendes looking like Lamb Chop and all the “Sharon, Lois and Magnus’s friend Bram” jokes on Impact, we’re living in a Golden Age of bad Brandon references to children’s entertainers of the 1980s.)
2. This was the best Bray promo in a long time. The crowd was doing their best to hang on to “what” chants even when Bray was steamrolling them, but the actual content of the speech — from Bray’s problems with teachers to his latent inferiority complex (common in cult leaders) and statements like “I will be the last man standing, or I promise no one will ever stand again” — was amazing. Also amazing: the “night sky” crowd visual, with cell phones becoming stars and the Wyatts just kinda existing in a small circle of light in the center. +1 for that visual.
Now that that’s been said, let’s get to the complaining.
Worst: Outsmarting Someone vs. Sneak Attacking Them
Bray Wyatt has an arena full of people singing along with him, even when he stops. John Cena uses a musical distraction to ambush Bray, hitting him with a cheapshot Attitude Adjustment and fleeing when Bray’s friends figure out what’s going on. He then basically insults the crowd to their faces and ruins Wolf Of Wall Street in a promo, because I guess he just saw it? The crowd boos him and chants “John Cena sucks” to the tune of his entrance theme. Bray Wyatt is the bad guy. John Cena is the hero.
I can appreciate a wrestler being morally and ethically ambiguous, but I feel like the announce team needs to figure out what they consider fair or unfair and stick with it. This has always bugged me about WWF announcers, even the good ones. Aside from Jesse Ventura (and Bobby Heenan, because he was supposed to be an opportunistic liar), their announcers have always condemned actions from bad guys and celebrated the SAME actions from fan favorites. It’s never made any sense, and has always made the promotion feel like a popularity contest. I guess wrestling’s always a popularity contest because it’s not a real sport, but stay with me here.
Bad guys “deserve it.” There’s this huge, undefined system of morality where if you do something bad once (just once) and you aren’t beloved for it by a majority of the crowd, you deserve comeuppance. If you get that comeuppance and don’t do anything else bad, you still deserve comeuppance. FOREVER. But if the crowd starts cheering you, the system shifts. Then, you’re a lovable rascal with ruthless aggression who’ll do anything it takes to be the best, or whatever. Eddie Guerrero can cheat to win matches. Hulk Hogan can beat up managers and force himself on women. Cena can sneak attack people. It’s totally fine, because we like you. Lie, cheat, be cruel, be hurtful, be dangerous … just don’t be unpopular. Or, you know, unpopular to us.
The problem with Cena is never going away. He’s King Popular, and therefore he can kinda do whatever he wants. If he does something reprehensible, he’s “outsmarting” someone, or being ruthlessly aggressive, or whatever. He’s SO popular, in fact, that criticizing him (or Rock, or Punk, or anyone on his level) has become impossible. He does a bad promo, you’re a hater. He has a bad match, it wasn’t his fault … he’s had great matches before! He wins, he’s supposed to, he’s the champ and the best guy on the show. He loses, he’s selflessly putting someone over. Criticism makes you one of “those” people. Throwing in and accepting it makes you easy to get along with.
WWE (and the Internet, and the world in general) has cultivated this Nexus Or Against Us mentality where a consensus opinion too far in either direction makes you an irrational extremist, and the people soaring to fame or success on either end of that spectrum exist to be justified by the regular folks in the middle. “John Cena’s actually really great!” is Enid Coleslaw’s pineapple. It’s gone from bad to good and back around to bad again. This huge circle of apathy, contrarianism, justification and the status quo.
Man, I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore. I just want John Cena to stop Attitude Adjusting Bray Wyatt. I don’t want either of them to be the last man standing. I want them to both lie down and be quietly stretchered away so we can focus on a story that DOESN’T make me want to break Raffi’s guitar over his head.
Best: Save Me From This, Paul Heyman
I look forward to Heyman working “my client Brock Lesnar conquered the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania” into whatever he’s doing more than anything else on Raw. More promos about the queen finally dying, please.
Best?: Sheamus vs. Cesaro
Did this not totally work for anybody else?
I love these guys in the ring. They’re the two guys who need to be wrestling MOST. One guy can deliver believable, brute hoss damage better than anyone in wrestling, and the other is only truly motivated when he’s TAKING believable damage. It’s perfect!
A few things aren’t perfect, though. The big one is “non-title losses for secondary champions.” You’ve probably read a John Cena Did Something-style 10-paragraph dry heave from me about that before. WWE loves putting belts on guys to validate them and make them seem important, then running them into a string of unceremonious non-title losses, either to boost somebody else or build to a title defense. It’s fine when you’re building to a title defense, I guess, except for the whole WE HAVE ALREADY SEEN THIS SEVERAL TIMES NOW WITH PINFALL VICTORIES AND ARE KINDA TIRED OF IT. When Cesaro pinned Sheamus I was all, “cool!” and then five minutes later turned to a friend and asked, “wait, isn’t Sheamus the US Champ now?” And I’m the dude who micromanages every Raw ever.
The in-ring stuff didn’t totally gel, either. Maybe I’m just in a bad mood, or maybe I’m too tired from a weekend of travel and wrestling to properly digest Raw. I want these guys beating the shit out of each other, not Sheamus running a Sheamus vs. Christian match with Cesaro. Cesaro should be BLISTERING him, not getting a cheap win via jacket throw.
But yeah, if they run Sheamus vs. Cesaro at Payback and give them 20 minutes to maul one another in pursuit of the US belt I will happily forget the build. Isn’t it sad that our best case scenario is “the match will be good enough for us to forget the month that led up to it?”
Worst: I’m Not Going To Write Dedicated Analyses Of Beat The Clock Matches Anymore
Beat The Clock is one of my very least favorite things WWE does. I can’t stand it. There should be a drama to it … guys should be wrestling quickly, trying to get fast wins, throwing bombs. It should be about intensity and hunger. Desperation. Instead, we get a normal Raw match with a clock in the corner, a follow-up that beats it 100% of the time and then either an extension of that, or someone not making it. The final Beat The Clock match is the only one that ever matters, and they’ll still do like, five of them in a row.
So here’s what I thought of the Beat The Clock matches, as verbosely as I can muster.
Big E vs. Ryback: Rybaxel remains kinda wonderful, but Big E has the forward momentum of a moonwalk. That makes him the perfect guy to win the opening Beat The Clock challenge match, because there’s no way in Hell they’re giving him another shot right now. If I’m Big E, I’m going into panic mode right now and squeezing Zack Ryder like a dish towel for ideas to make me popular to WWE fans despite never succeeding or being on television. Dude’s already on his way back to NXT, he’s lucky nobody’s stuffed him into an OVW crate full of dead cheerleaders.
Rob Van Dam vs. Alberto Del Rio: Calling this hot garbage would be an insult to whatever you use to heat up garbage.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Mark Henry: I felt like I wanted to like this one, mostly because we haven’t gotten enough non-“being emasculated by the more relevant strong guy” Mark Henry segments. Ziggler seemed like he wanted to win but was in there against an opponent who (in theory) is difficult to beat quickly. Is that the key to making Beat The Clock matches work? Just doing two of them? Having one guy set the time, and another guy either beating that time or failing to? That seems like simple drama that could be effective, and would save us those four minute throwaway wastes of time.
So, the reason I wanted to skip the Beat The Clock matches is mostly so I could get to its WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL PAYOFF.
Best: I’M BRITISH SUCK MY DIIIIIICK
Rob Van Dam’s eye still looks like a vagina because they tape four Raws at once, right? Tape four in a set and then air them over a month. Starting next week his eye’s totally fine. That’s how it works, isn’t it?
Anyway, Van Dam won the Beat The Clock challenge (because that Barrett/Van Dam match to end the Intercontinental Championship contenders tournament was a real barn burner) and just wandered out onto the stage for no reason to celebrate. I don’t think it was his fault, they just played his music. He stands in the center of the ramp with his back to the entrance and starts posing, which is universal code for SOMEONE ASSASSINATE ME. And then BAHBAHBAHBAHBAHBAHBAHBAH BAAAAOOOOOOOOM, Dog Boner to the back of the head.
I’m happy that Bad News Barrett loves where he’s from and doesn’t try to turn on the crowd to get heat. It’s fun when wrestlers do that sometimes, but I’m so desperate for WWE to use its global reach and massive roster to actually allow towns and countries to be proud of their wrestlers. When they go to West Virginia, Heath Slater should be king, stuff like that. Barrett’s pitch-perfect Bad News promo about how the British control time itself was lovely, and made even better by Rob Van Dam’s unconscious body. Also, The British Bulldog’s music!
The only way this could’ve been better is if Barrett had shoved Van Dam off the stage with his foot.
Best: The Union Jacks Are Back!
Remember the last time Raw was in England and 3MB suddenly became THE UNION JACKS, a trio of fun-loving British types who wanna have a good time and enjoy dry comedy? They’re back, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m sad the idea of 3MB changing clothes/gimmicks to try to get face heat wherever they go despite being hapless jerks who never win got abandoned.
Best: NO RUSEV THEY’RE JACKS. JACKS.
Two disappointing things here, though:
1. The Raw announce team would not stop making the easiest possible British music jokes, so they hit the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Monkees. They ran out of bands they knew before the 20 second Heath Slater match was over. I wanted JBL to drop a Blur reference so hard. HEATH SLATER OUGHTA BE WEARIN’ BLUE JEANS, KING, I DON’T THINK HE’S WALKING OUT OF THIS! MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH IS THE BEST BLUR ALBUM MAGGLE, WE LISTEN TO MORE THAN JUST THE RADIO SINGLES ON MONDAY NIGHTS!
2. Rusev did not Accolade all three of them at the same time.
Best: An Extremely Easy Joke About The Special Olympics
I guarantee you that kid on the right is the best worker in this photo.
Best/Worst: Summer Rae Is Back, And She’s Angrily Kissing!
Sorry for not reviewing everything in order this week. In my brain, Raw is just that red Stage TARDIS and Jinder Mahal in Union Jack pants.
So Summer Rae is finally back from filming The Marine 4: Red, White & Blonde and is ready to do things on our wrestling show again. That’s good! Summer is my jam, and Paige needs more people who can wrestle without the assistance of a fainting couch. Eva Marie, I’m looking in your direction.
The bad news is that Summer’s not back to be Summer, she’s back to be Fandango’s ex-girlfriend. That wouldn’t be so bad if the announcers just treated it like a social fact and weren’t simultaneously running down certain people for not being able to stay in relationships and chastising others for kissing and saying they love each other. The shorter version is that Summer should’ve stomped to the ring, KO’d Fandango with a big f*cken forearm and THEN catfought with Layla. Or, I don’t know, guillotine choked her.
Worst: The Funkadoodles Are Now R-Truth’s Cheerleaders
It worked so well for Eve Torres!
Fantasy booking idea: Next week Xavier Woods shows up all furious about R-Truth stealing his Funkadactyls.
Best: Stephanie McMahon Is Better At This Than You
Stephanie is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I don’t know when the McMahon gene finally kicked in and she became the right kind of television presence, but I applaud her for it. WWE Fan Nation managed to include basically her entire promo, because she delivered it in THREE MINUTES. Got in there, delivered the necessary information, set up next week’s angle and played with the crowd’s responses.
And like a lot of the early 2014 Authority storylines, she’s totally in the right. Daniel Bryan’s injured and out indefinitely. It SUCKS that he has to forfeit the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but it’s what he should do. We can’t make an exception for Bryan and let him stay champion for two months in the hospital because we like him and really wanted him to be champion. Shit happens. If you aren’t gonna hold the tag champs or the secondary champs accountable for anything, at least maintain the integrity and prestige behind your one important title.
If Bryan shows up next week all NO! NO! NO! and refuses to hand it over, what kind of POS does that make him? Stephanie’s clearly disingenuous about how happy she is that Bryan’s hurt and on the shelf, but what can you do? If he whimpers and fights her, he gets a huge pop, but he loses anybody who truly respects him as champion. He can come back and right the wrong at SummerSlam or whatever when he’s well, and they can try again. It’s the same thing that happened with Punk … when you write anti-authority characters, they have to be ostensibly “right.” Austin was in the right because McMahon was trying to change who he was as a person, so he fought back. He probably didn’t need to hold a gun to his head or what have you, but the basic story was that he got there by being tough, and was being forced out by people who weren’t. Punk got everything he ever wanted and couldn’t be happy. Bryan got everything he ever wanted and then a month of bad luck hit. You can recover from that. Do what’s right, heal up, then come back and kick ass.
Worst: What The Hell Was THAT?
Paige vs. Alicia Fox started off well. Paige got a good reaction because she’s from NOR-WITCH England and Alicia’s on a big upswing of in-ring ability. I like both of them a lot.
Then, the finish came. Alicia hit a tilt-a-whirl slam and held onto it, lifting Paige up for a side slam and kinda depositing her on the second turnbuckle. Paige rolls off and sells the move. Alicia wanders around for a minute, drags her to the center of the ring by the hair and CLEANLY PINS HER. From NOTHING. WHAT?
Seriously, what the shit is that finish? That was “Triple H pedigrees Booker and takes 40 minutes to crawl over and pin him” levels of delayed bad. Did Paige break her neck or something rolling off the second turnbuckle? Did Alicia just forget the finish and meander around until the referee told her to quickly follow up? Whatever happened, it felt like we were robbed the last five minutes + finish of a solid Divas match, something we need as much of as possible.
Best: Kid Chameleon Alicia Fox, Though
I don’t know why wearing Jerry Lawler’s crown made her walk the rail like Jeff Hardy and pour a soda all over herself, but here we are. Alicia Fox: Hat Collector is an interesting gimmick, and I hope next week they find an excuse for Michael Cole to wear his old wrestling headgear just so she can steal it. Who else in WWE wears a hat she can steal? Can she steal Batista’s newsboy? Will it give her the power of apathy?
Worst: Jack Swagger Did Not Attack Each And Every Single Rosebud
That’s what I wanted. Rose to be all DYON’T BE A LEMONNNN and Swagger to shove him out of the ring and start Swaggerbombing that whitewashed hamburger. Vader Bomb the bunny. Just leave the Rosebuds in a pile, and force Adam Rose to revert back to his South African murderous hunter persona.
I liked this enough, but why is Adam Rose English? More importantly, why isn’t the supposedly smark England crowd not shitting all over a South African dude being all PIP PIP CHEERIO? Also, is it just me, or was there something off about that bunny suit? Did they leave it in Orlando and have to pick up a facsimile in London?
Supplemental Best: “You head-onistic … people!”
Second supplemental Best: ‘sup, GLOW girl Captain America lady? Call me.
Best: This Ruled
That’s the secret thing about Batista: he’s a really good pro wrestler. He is. It’s just that when he debuted and got popular he was an immobile block of steroids, and when he came back he was an old man. The opportunities he’s been given have always outweighed his worth or his in-ring abilities, but at heart he gets a lot of what makes wrestling work, and that’s not always something you can teach.
And, of course, Seth Rollins is magic.
The best part of the match for me was when Batista catches Rollins off the ropes, and Seth not only sells it with a backflip, he sells it with a DEAD backflip. He doesn’t backflip, land, then sell … he sells from the moment of impact, goes limp, and lets momentum carry him backwards like a rag doll. It was like he got wasted in Grand Theft Auto. Magnificent.
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought Of Seth Rollins vs. Batista
Best: The End Of John Cena(‘s Match)
This wasn’t as good as Rollins vs. Batista, but I love me some Luke Harper, so watching him do ranas and dives like he’s a man half his size is really wonderful. Especially since he’s a hillbilly. Is there a reason why a cultist hillbilly wrestles like a New Japan junior? I’m not complaining, but WWE should totally buy out Chikara and give everyone redneck gimmicks.
The best part was the ending, mostly centered around how cool it is when Bray Wyatt catches people running with Sister Abigail. It’s SO MUCH BETTER. The move itself isn’t much … you’re just holding a guy and spinning as you fall down, and the guy’s forehead kinda hits your bicep and that’s it. When you catch them running, it creates the illusion that you’re harshly halting momentum and just SNAPPING the guy into the mat. Way more believable this way, especially when you do it to guys like the Usos who can really get over for it.
There is a 0% chance that Bray wins the Last Man Standing match in any kind of lastingly important way at Payback, so I’ll stop asking for it and just enjoy Cena getting thrown face-first into the stage. Also, having his shoes thrown into the crowd.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Breaking Hurd, on the German announce team:
DAS IST TWERKING HERR MAGGLE!
Just signed into WWE network. Why isn’t “Dean Ambrose Calls the Classics” a show yet?
Stephanie’s music should just be Cult of Personality.
Big Baby Yeezus
“I’m afraid I’ve got some Vlad news”- Lana
Heath: Guys, I’ve been watching Raw lately..I think we’re good.
Drew: Yeah, I think we should be fine.
Heath: Yeah, Jinder..maybe bail, just to be sure.
“I just wanted to destroy something beautiful.” – Triple H
“Sir, can I help you?” “Can’t Big E just stand here and watch this match on the flatscreen TV?” “Yes, sir…but this is a Best Buy, can you please put some pants on?”
Official Length of Match per Randal Keith Orton, Special Guest Timekeeper per instructions from Paul Michael “Hunter Hearst Helmsley” Levesque, Chief Operating Officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.: 0 gigaannum, 0 eons, 0 galactic years, 0 eras, 0 epochs, 0 megaannums, 0 millenniums, 0 centuries, 0 jubilees, 0 scores, 0 decades, 0 lustrums, 0 years, 0 months, 0 fortnights, 0 weeks, 0 days, 0 hours, 13 minutes, 47 seconds, 14 shakes, 1 jiffy and 2 Planck time units.
I HEAR VOICES IN MY MIND, THEY COUNT TO ME, THEY KEEP THE TIME, THEY CLOCK FOR ME
Thanks everybody, see you next week.
Wait, let’s ask the WWE Universe about that Seth Rollins match again …