The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 5/26/14: In This Episode, Zack Ryder Loves America

Pre-show notes:

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Click on through to enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for May 26, 2014.

Worst: I Do Not Understand Almost Any Aspect Of This Shield/Evolution Story

Here’s what I get: the first Evolution vs. The Shield match was killer, so a rematch with elimination rules and an added stipulation should be even better. A 6-man tag feud like this is the best possible use of 2014 Batista, because he gets to take a knee on the apron for most of it and pop in to do those weird spears where he comes across the body instead of hitting people with the correct shoulder. The Shield getting marquee matches against three legit WWE Important People Of Note is great for their continued development as the future’s top 3 guys. Top 3 or 4.

Here’s what I don’t get: the rest of it.

Firstly, the assault and firing of Brad Maddox makes absolutely no sense to me. The guy got thrust into a position of power by Vince McMahon on a whim a long time ago, and since then he’s done everything he could to be the most inoffensive crony imaginable. Dude does literally whatever they say. Last week we get a stipulation that only sanctioned WWE officials or whatever could be at ringside, so Triple H put himself and Randy Orton into ring announcer and time keeper positions to be a loophole-riding jerk. Classic heel stuff. The Shield eventually just ignored the stipulation, came to the ring anyway and started throwing down. Somehow this is Brad Maddox’s fault. They tried to do a “they FORCED me!” explanation, but it doesn’t make sense … this isn’t the first time somebody’s outright ignored a DO THIS OR ELSE stipulation, especially one as shifty and phony as Triple H’s last week, so why aren’t THE SHIELD the ones being punished? If the story is that H wants to punish them but isn’t tough enough to or whatever, it’s not being stated clearly enough.

Secondly, The Authority really needs to establish who they are and how much power they have. In the early days of Triple H as COO, they went back and forth on whether or not he had supreme power; Vince could occasionally overrule him as CEO, sometimes Triple H could overrule Vince, sometimes the mysterious Board Of Directors would step in and overrule them both, sometimes the Board Of Directors didn’t exist or could be ignored. Now both Stephanie and Triple H are in these weird stories where they hate their opponents and want them scattered or fired, but keep coming up with dumb stipulations in wrestling matches to try to justify it. Stephanie wants Bryan to give up the WWE World Heavyweight Championship or she’s gonna fire his wife. Triple H wants The Shield to break up, so he has to coerce them into signing an elimination match contract. Why? Why any of this? If you hate them and you are the Supreme Boss, why not stop shitting around the bush and just fire them? It’s not an Austin/McMahon situation where Vince would be outright firing his cash cow and the face of the company. You aren’t firing Cena. There’s no backbone to the logic, and without a backbone, the drama is just a fat, squishy pile.

Thirdly, really? If The Shield loses an elimination tag they have to break up? How does that work? Can they not eat together at catering anymore? If they pass each other in the hallway can they not make eye contact? Are you seriously allowed to dictate FRIENDSHIPS? The Shield isn’t even really a tag team. It’s not like you’re breaking up the Usos. These are three independently-acting individuals on a mercenary squad who end up in a lot of six-man tags because there are three of them. If you don’t want them teaming up in six-man tags, aren’t you the COO of the company that keeps signing them to compete in six-man tags? Just stop doing that. THIS IS SO EASY IF ANY OF YOU WOULD JUST THINK FOR FIVE SECONDS.

Best: Does This Mean We Get Brad Maddox On NXT Again?

Anyway, I hope Brad Maddox being suddenly remembered and written out of the program allows him to find his way back to NXT. Maybe he can get his color commentary job back, and Alex Riley can be confined to pre- and post-show panels I don’t watch. Or, you know, maybe we can get Beef Mode back as a pro wrestler.

Whatever happens, do not let this be Brad’s “stuffed into a crate and shipped back to OVW” moment. I don’t want Brad Maddox in TNA. We already have a Rockstar Spud. He’s Brad’s non-union British equivalent.

Best: Bad News Barrett Mixes Up His RVD And His DDP

Okay, I have to be honest. This was probably the best Rob Van Dam match since his return, and was probably better than anything that happened during his PREVIOUS return. It may be his best WWE match since WWECW was a thing. This sounds like a huge compliment, but please remember how little I think of Rob Van Dam and adjust your hype accordingly. The money is that Van Dam didn’t screw anything up. He had that horrid, horrid Beat The Clock match last week, so a compare/contrast to that plus the presence of Cesaro more or less guaranteed improvement. I will not ever get tired of Cesaro boss-hossing people up when he shouldn’t be able to and hurling them at the ground.

The highlight for me was Bad News Barrett on commentary, of course, and his use of the phrase “it’s me, it’s me, it’s B-N-B.” Motivational speaker Diamond Dallas Page is one of those characters I wish had gotten more play in WWE, especially since he grew up (in his fifties) to become a yoga magnate. Imagine how great it’d be if he’d been around for the last 10 years and was suddenly in this career renaissance because he’s top-shit at Downward Facing Dog.

Note to self: create a yoga gimmick, make their finish a bulldog called “Downward Facing Dog.”

Worst: Sheamus, A Person I Can Never Identify With

Cool Pearl Harbor job on a guy who just wrestled for 10 minutes, babyface Sheamus. WWE loves their “something bad happens to me, now I get to do bad stuff back and it’s fine” morality. Give me one guy on the main roster who seems like a decent human being even when faced with adversity. Or just bring up Sami Zayn, one or the other.

Worst: Distraction Endings Are The Hallmark Of The Phoned-In Raw

The worst part of the match (and the worst part of MANY matches, including a few more on this episode) is the “whoops, I’ve been distracted by something happening outside of the ring and now I’m rolled up and dead” gimmick. Nothing screams WE WROTE THIS RAW TWO HOURS AGO, ENJOY quite like a string of distraction finishes. They did three of them in a row last night. Rob Van Dam lost to Cesaro because of a Bad News Barrett distraction, Summer Rae lost to Eva Marie because of a Fandango distraction and then Drew McIntyre lost to El Torito due to a distraction from Los Matadores.

There are other ways to progress a feud. I have never wanted to buy a pay-per-view event based on how much a guy I like or dislike is losing. The important part of a story is the wins. I know wrestling’s not real and wins and losses don’t really matter, but to fans, there is no drama in “these two guys who’ve lost a lot are gonna fight.” We want to see WINNERS. It’s why we complain about pushes and match results. If the characters aren’t winning, they don’t seem “good” or important. If Van Dam loses 5 out of 6 times because of distractions and only wins because of his OPPONENTS being distracted, how are we supposed to take him seriously in an Intercontinental Championship match? By remembering 15 years ago when he was in stories that DIDN’T do this on loop?

Worst: Eva Marie Vs. Summer Rae Was Not As Hilariously Horrible As I Wanted It To Be

The Summer Rae distraction was particularly egregious. She’s in the ring and Fandango’s music hits. He dances out onto the stage with Layla, does his entrance and starts making out with her. Summer Rae stands in the ring staring at them for what seems like minutes, making madder and madder faces until Eva Marie can hulk up and hit the instant critical Divas Roll-Up for three.

My problem is this: why is Summer Rae so impossibly distracted by a thing SHE WAS DOING for like a year? Is she not used to hearing Fandango’s music? She seemed shocked and saddened to see him dancing with Layla. Hasn’t she been dealing with this for a while now? Didn’t she specifically come to the ring and beat them up about it? Why does every character on Raw default back to day one emotional response when something happens? Can’t these people react based on their past experiences and grow?

My other problem is that I got an Eva Marie match on Raw and it wasn’t the comedy shitstain I wanted it to be. I’ve come to terms with Eva and kinda look forward to her performances, and all she really did was some bad-looking stomps and some kiss-blowing. Where are my hilarious apron bumps? Where are my dosey doe Christmas Divas spots? I don’t want to live in a world where Eva Marie is passable.

Worst: Oh Drew McIntyre, You Poor Thing


I love El Torito as much as anybody, but imagine a scenario where any other little person worker besides Mascarita Dorada in a bull costume pinning Drew McIntyre. 6-foot-6 former Intercontinental Champion “The Chosen One” Drew McIntyre. That’s maddening, right? It’s the same thing they did with Hornswoggle and Chavo Guerrero. I think we can be enlightened enough to appreciate how good these guys are (all of them) at executing the dumbest imaginable pro wrestling orders while objectively noticing that this is a big ol’ pile of dog shit.

The first thing you hear when the video starts is JBL yammering about twerking, which he still does not understand after making his 1,000th reference to it. A minute or so later JBL is comparing A LIVING, GROWN UP HUMAN BEING to a “wrestling buddy” because he’s a midget, and Michael Cole is yelling HE’S GONNA CRUSH THE POOR LITTLE THING. The fun of Torito is that he’s a little person who is also a bull, right? A suspension of disbelief thing where you accept that he’s both because that’s the most fun. It is way, way less fun to openly chuckle about how little people are just inanimate, helpless toys. F*ck you guys for making this impossible for me to love.

Best/Worst: El Torito’s Tail

The Best is for the absurd violence of the moment … Hornswoggle and 3MB trap El Torito and RIP HIS TAIL FROM HIS BODY. That is HARDCORE. Imagine watching Santino wrestle Fandango, and Fandango suddenly blocks the Cobra, severs Santino’s arm at the shoulder and rips it off. Now imagine that he starts BEATING SANTINO WITH HIS OWN ARM. That’s what happened to El Torito. And then he runs away holding his butt.

That should, by itself, be enough to sell me on another Hornswoggle/El Torito match, luchas de apuestas or not. That’s the kind of plot turn that demands BLOOD, right?

… aaaand then we come back to commercial to find Los Matadores healing El Torito by jamming an icepack up his ass. Because we can’t have nice things. I would flip a table if I could unglue my forehead from it.

Worst: Bray Wyatt Is Still Singing That Same Song

Anybody still into this? Anybody in the entire world?

I can’t even make JOKES about how phoned-in this is. It’s one of those Raw moments where nothing makes sense and they make up history as they go. JBL gets beaten up and is fine a few segments later. Jerry Lawler gets brought into the ring and they act like he’s gonna get crucified, even though JBL just got beaten up and is basically fine. This brings out John Cena, because I guess John Cena and Jerry Lawler are BEST FRIENDS because Lawler was mildly complimentary of him, something every Raw announcer is contractually obligated to be. Cena can’t make the save, so the Usos run out and make the save for HIM. Everybody stands tall, and on Smackdown Bray Wyatt will sing, and Cena will be alternately frightened and fearless.

It’s so frustrating that I am not physically able to care about this. I want these moments to mean something. I want to approach these Raw columns with enthusiasm so I can share my love of pro wrestling with you. I don’t want to be the guy in the room pointing out all the times Jerry Lawler did or said something bad about John Cena, or all the times Stephanie McMahon’s already had “no” chanted in her face, or how little sense it makes for people to be distracted by their own old music. I don’t want to do this. I desperately need Payback to be over, and for new things to happen. I feel like I’m reviewing the same March Raw in some f*cked-up Groundhog Day situation, and the only way to escape it is to write the perfect paragraph about Cena’s workrate.


Worst: Payback

“Bray Wyatt, justice may be blind, but for you, payback will be a bitch!” — John Cena, a man with a line of children’s jorts available at Kmart

That “payback is a bitch” line is the only reason they named a pay-per-view “Payback,” right? They should set up all their pay-per-views like that. JOIN US THIS SUNDAY FOR WWE AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON, LIVE ON PAY-PER-VIEW.

Worst: WOO-S-A!

“Hey, we need somebody back here to job to Rusev. It’s Memorial Day, right? Anybody here love America? What about you, Dolph?”
“Nah man I hate America.”

And then we got MADE IN THE USA Zack Ryder. What, you couldn’t find some USA-print trunks for him?

Best: They Are All-In On That Putin Gag

I love that the picture of Putin remains the same, but the background keeps changing. I want them to start framing Putin with Photo Booth filters. Like, suddenly Putin is on the moon. He’s in front of the Eiffel Tower! HE HATES YOUR FREEDOMS, FOLKS.

The match with Ryder was what you’d expect. I wish they’d actually put him in a match like the one he had with Dolph Ziggler on NXT, because that made him look a thousand times more impressive than these squashes against guys *I* could squash. He lost the Dolph match, but he looked like a billion dollars, and Dolph got to actually go for once. It made both of them look better. I’m telling you, monsters and tough guys alike look better going toe-to-toe with the best wrestlers in the company for 15 minutes and barely losing than they do easily dispatching the worst wrestlers in the world in 40 second increments.

Best: Big E Has Never Waved A Flag Before

Dude was waving that thing like it was on fire. I expected him to javelin it up the ramp and impale Rusev.


First things first, that RKO counter to the Disaster Kick was SICK. The RKO (or the Diamond Cutter for that matter) has always, always worked better as a move that truly comes “from outta nowhere.” If he leapfrogs you or counters a chokeslam and suddenly you’re RKO’d, that’s magic. When he does his fist dance on the mat and stalks around and just jumps and lands? Not so much. The move itself isn’t impressive. He’s holding your head, and there’s really no reason for you to go all flat like that and land face-first. If he pops up and snaps it down and you aren’t expecting it, it’s easier to buy as a real, physical attack. Like he caught you in the middle of trying to do something and jacked your momentum. That’s a KO.

It probably helped that they filmed it from that angle. The way it was shot, it looked like Cody was straight-up going for the Disaster Kick and had it countered. Usually they have guys jump from the left side of the ring perpendicular to the POV of the hard cam, meaning you get Cody springboarding headfirst into nothing, or Christian coming off the ropes with absolutely no plan besides being RKO’d. It’s like when Alberto Del Rio jumps off the top rope doing NOTHING and gets countered. That’s horrible. An actual counter to an actual move in progress is exciting, and (correct me if I’m wrong) the entire point of a counter.

Best/Worst: So If Daniel Bryan’s Out, Can The Rhodes Brothers Get Another Story?

I wasn’t thrilled with the Rhodes Brothers being jobber pawns in Evolution’s “message sending” — especially when they’re struggling to move forward with their own breakup story — but it reminded me that the Rhodes Boys were once an important cog in the Authority vs. Us program, and could easily be again. People want to cheer for these guys. They’re great in the ring and they’ve got big personalities. Why aren’t they side-by-side with Daniel Bryan? Even Cena gets an Usos accompaniment. They still hate The Authority, right?

Let’s let them do that. If they’re ever going to break up and feud, at least let it happen while they’re trying to accomplish something important. A breakup when they’re on the cusp of taking The Authority down a peg is so much more meaningful than “I hate you because we keep losing to Rybaxel.”

Worst: The Raw Disconnect

If you ever wanted confirmation that nobody cares about Smackdown, observe ANY time something notable happens. Debuts, turns, whatever. They always redo it on Raw, shot-for-shot. That’s what happened here, with Bo Dallas “debuting” against Sin Cara just like he did on Smackdown, compete with “Bo Dallas debuts tonight” graphics. Does Smackdown seriously not count? Is it not supposed to be on television? Is it your House Show show? If you were just like “Bo Dallas debuted on Smackdown and it was can’t-miss, if you want to see important WWE stuff you should probably watch Smackdown” wouldn’t that make jerks like me, I don’t know, want to watch Smackdown? Why bother clearing a two-hour block of my Friday night if I’m gonna get the highlights re-performed on Monday?

The other disconnect is the one between NXT and Raw. We write a lot about the NXT women’s division being great in one place and a snake-armed joke in the other, but it’s also really simple, easily-avoidable stuff like this match. When the WWE Fan Nation video starts, Michael Cole mentions JBL being familiar with the NXT talent and asks him what we should expect from Bo. JBL goes into this thing about how Bo’s gonna make us “believe,” saying the crowd mocks what they don’t understand. It’s “Bo Time.”

Keep in mind that two weeks ago JBL laughed in Bo Dallas’ face when confronted with the idea of Bo having fans, chastised him for being a phony and put him into a Win Or Leave Town match against the strongest and hardest-to-beat NXT guy he could find. Why does JBL think Bo’s a joke in one place and a superhero worth praising in the other? I don’t think we’re asking for an intense web of continuity for a character to remember what he did on television two freaking weeks ago.

Best: Bo’s Victory Lap

If you find yourself wanting to shit on this, remember that facetious celebrations of things that don’t deserve it is exactly what got Daniel Bryan over with the WWE Universe.

Worst: And Speaking Of Daniel Bryan

I’ll try to keep this short.

Daniel Bryan is my favorite pro wrestler. You guys know this. I write about it all the time. The stuff he’s gone through since 2010 leading up to two victories over three Evolution members to win two championship belts in the main-event of the 30th WrestleMania is the stuff wrestling dreams are made of. That can never be taken away from him.

Saying that, it’s asinine of him to keep a stranglehold on the WWE World Heavyweight Championship if he’s undergone neck surgery and will be out for a while. Bottom line. Nobody is bigger than the business, and he shouldn’t get to keep the company’s top championship if he can’t compete. It’s the brutal truth. If this is all part of a worked story and Bryan’s not as hurt as they’re pretending, that’s cool, but if he isn’t? Being popular doesn’t give you rights over other wrestlers. Me liking you doesn’t mean you get to defy 50 years of history and precedent. If you can’t perform, you can’t perform. It sucks horribly from a storytelling standpoint to call an audible and start over, but you broke your f*cking neck, dude. What are we supposed to do?

From a character standpoint, everyone’s being stupid. The simple fact is that the championships belong to WWE, not to Bryan or “these people.” If he can’t compete, Stephanie should be able to strip him of the championship without question. JBL just did it to Paige on NXT, but she understood, because she’s not a shouty rebel rouser who got Sign Guy to hang out in the ring and do his taunt. Bryan refusing it should be a breach of contract or outright insubordination, and a fireable offense. Again, this isn’t the face of your company, no matter how much you like him. You aren’t firing Austin. You aren’t firing Cena. If Bryan got fired the WWE would move on, just like it has without Punk.

Stephanie’s being super, super stupid for making some weird ultimatum where Bryan has to surrender the belts or his wife will be fired. What kind of Total Divas drama is that? Is Brie an object? Why does her job hinge on what her husband does? She was in WWE before he was. She’s had successes. She exists independently. If Stephanie can fire people arbitrarily like that, why not just fire Brie AND Bryan because you don’t like them? What’s the hook keeping her from doing that? I get that heels like to be mad with power and manipulate people and dangle shit in front of them to make them dance, but none of this makes sense. If you want your title belts back, take them. There are no checks and balances to fear. If you hate these people, get rid of them. If you can’t, write some kind of story or make a few clear points about why you can’t, or why you won’t.

I hate this. I want Bryan to give up the belts and go away, and come back a few months from now healthy and unable to mention how married he is or to whom he is married. Maybe he can start singing about how he’s got the whole world in his hands.

Best: The Alicia Fox Lengthy Insanity Tour Continues

Alicia Fox’s match with Emma wasn’t much. They wrestled a bit, Alicia missed a kick in the corner and Emma used GUESS WHICH MOVE to get the surprise win. Alicia’s post-match celebration is what earned her a Best, though, and not just for the “putting on funny hats and pouring soda” on myself reasons … Alicia is brutal, man. Brutal in the good way. Her kick to Emma’s face and the face-first swing into the guard rail were massive, and then she incapacitates Emma after the match by picking her up for a side slam and just tossing her through the ropes to the floor. That is amazingly dangerous and funny as hell.

Predictably, I was a huge fan of Alicia stealing the ring bell and just ringing it repeatedly in the announce team’s face. That should happen more often. That should be everybody’s contribution to color commentary. Errant bell-ringing and maybe an air horn. Just air horn over JBL calling El Torito a stuffed animal. Her Backstage Fallout interview is fun too, particularly her Byron Saxton impression and the reveal that Tom Phillips is probably her boyfriend.

Worst: Two Problems, Though

1. Instead of simply allowing Alicia to be ridiculous and insane, they’re doing the “don’t call me crazy!” act again. You may remember that from the past two years of AJ Lee. It’s not a good look and doesn’t set up a lot of compassionate stories, especially when AJ is (assumedly) coming back one day.

2. If Alicia can slap guys in the face, shove them off railings and give them wedgies, the payoff to this is Mark the Timekeeper standing up and decking her with a forearm, right?

Worst: “You Actually KNOW His Moves?!” – JBL


Worst: So, Uh, What’s Going On With Damien Sandow, Guys

Damien Sandow showed up as Davey Crockett in one of those comedic situations where WWE thinks the crowd’s gonna go crazy for it, but they don’t. Not a lot of crossover on the WWE FANS and HISTORY BUFFS venn diagram. The announce team was ready with all these random Davey Crockett facts too, because they thought it was hilarious, and because they were alive when Davey Crockett was around.

Anyway, Damien Sandow. I don’t even know. At some point you have to throw up your hands and walk away from the wrestling show. I’m surprised they didn’t bring out a bear and let Sandow get the three.

Note: That joke almost works.

Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought Of Damien Sandow As Davey Crockett

And that’s depressing.

Worst: Again With This Match

I’m sorry. I know you can’t have a lot of fun reading about Raw when it’s just me complaining. Most of the time I try to find a particular moment or aspect to dwell on if I don’t have anything to say, but I had a room full of people over watching Raw last night, and we spent the entire match loudly discussing how many times we’ve seen Sheamus wrestle Alberto Del Rio and how identical they are. They are the exact same match. This match could’ve happened three years ago and been copy-pasted.

I like them both as in-ring performers, too, it’s just that Del Rio has this curse of never, ever being allowed a fresh match, and it catches up to me sometimes. If Del Rio wrestled Heath Slater or something I’d probably lose my mind. Put him in the ring with Sandow, or with Goldust or something. Put him in the ring against Adam Rose, I don’t care. Just keep him away from Mysterio, Sin Car, Kofi Kingston, Sheamus and John Cena. It’s endless and it drives me mad. I cannot objectively review the same thing over and over again.

This is one of the major reasons I have so much fun writing up NXT … the nature of it as a developmental territory keeps it from being a constant retread. On Raw, the top guys are the top guys until something changes, and they aren’t interested in switching anything out, trying anything new or going in any different directions. It makes me sick to my stomach sometimes because I love this roster, and legitimately believe that the most talented wrestlers in the world are here. The production is great. The visibility is unmatched. They’ve got 50 years of history. Genre defining moments. A crew of the most talented and creative people in the wrestling world. Paul Heyman is there. Dusty Rhodes. Ricky Steamboat. Everyone from Triple H down to Norman Smiley. It should be IMPOSSIBLE for these half-assed, thrown-together-to-kill-time Sorta Raws to exist. They should be impossibilities.

Instead? They’re the norm. It’s the very worst thing about being a wrestling fan, because when WWE tries, they are the best. How do we make them try when SportsCenter and Access Hollywood aren’t watching?


Like I said before, if Sheamus vs. Cesaro at Payback is as good as it should be, I’ll start clapping my hands and forgive all of this.

Best: The Ominous Illuminati Contract

I wrote about this at the top of the show so I won’t retread it here, but if you missed the fine print on the Payback contract, it read:

“World Wrestling Entertainment is a creative genius. The whole creation of the universe was fashioned by his ever-toiling hands. All living mortals should praise his name and image.”

Join us next week when The Shield re-signs that same piece of paper.

Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night


“Alright Dave this is real simple all we have to do is put on the shirts and go out there”
“sigh dave whatever”


This is all leading to Zeb Coulter telling Adam Rose that he’s going to throw a lemon party, isn’t it?

Harry Longabaugh

Next week, someone gives Alicia a Snickers bar and she turns back into AJ Lee.


Steph: “Your wife put her hands on me…”

Daniel: “…go on.”

Jim Bradfield

On this Memorial day, we here at WWE would like to honor the men and women who have lost their lives in defense of our freedom. And now: a Marine deserter.


“I’ll allow it.” – all the WWE good guys, backstage.


JBL wakes up…”Wow is that what a running lariat feels like? Geez I’m sorry guys I had no idea!”


“he just can’t compete for you. So ultimately he’ll make the right choice. Then again, we’re willing to overlook this whole situation if you get your mom and dad buy into WWE stock. What’s it going to be, WWE Universe?”

–Triple H–


Steph: “Teach him a lesson, Kane.”

Kane: “The real problem of government is that it has ceased to be responsive to the needs and desires of the electorate and, instead, is in the hands of lobbyists and moneyed interests.”


Interesting that HHH is in Evolution, considering he was created when God broke off a piece of HBK’s rib.

Thanks, everybody. See you on Sunday for WrestleMania 30, Part 3.