– Hey, remember that time I wrote a movie and Goldust starred in it? That’s a thing you can buy today. If you do, you’ll be my favorite.
– Share the column! Your shares, likes and other Internet Things are appreciated.
And now, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for June 22, 2015.
Best: All It Takes To Settle A Serious Lawsuit Is A Noogie
Despite it featuring a Paul Heyman promo and THE BEAST CON CARNE standing there and looking out into space with gentle menace, the opening to Raw didn’t really accomplish much. They had to address the fact that Lesnar put the Fear Of God into the announce team the last time he was here and resolve that so we could buy Cole happily yelling “SUPLEX CITY,” so they did that. Lesnar noogies Cole, and if I was the kind of guy who’d give a “worst” to Brock Lesnar big-brother-emasculating Michael Cole, what kind of person would I be?
Worst: Suplex City
I have two problems, and they tie into the end of the show so I’ll go ahead and rope that in here.
1. They’ve already beaten “suplex city” into the ground. It was a funny thing Lesnar said off the top of his head because he’s a wrestling testicle, and probably should’ve stayed as a thing Heyman namedropped in promos afterward. Having a t-shirt is fine, but there’s no reason it should be multiple shirts, a promo punchline, a chant, a talking point for the announcers and a thing for them to yell so they don’t have to say “German suplex.” At the end, Cole’s basically like, “SUPLEX CITY! Lesnar now with ANOTHER SUPLEX CITY! Seth Rollins is in SUPLEX CITY! AGAIN with the SUPLEX CITY!” I already kinda don’t ever want to hear it again. Brock Lesnar’s hateful yellings should not become the Minions of WWE.
2. Is having Lesnar get browbeaten by Joey Mercury, Corporate Kane and Rollins the right call?
I go back and forth on it in my head. On the one hand, it helps the suggestion that Rollins could or would ever have a chance against Brock, If you’re running Brock vs. Rollins at Battleground and don’t intend to have Brock wreck him like he wrecked Cena at SummerSlam, creating that reasonable doubt can come in handy. On the other hand, Brock Lesnar isn’t every other babyface. He can’t — and I’d say shouldn’t — take the same beatdown Ambrose or Cena would take to build sympathy. Why the f*ck does Brock Lesnar need sympathy? He’s a happening. He beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania, Suplex Citied Cena into the mid-card and only lost the Championship via opportunistic technicality. When I play it out in my mind, the only way Mercury, Kane and Seth Rollins should be getting up on Lesnar is if they have machine guns. Or like, Hulkbuster armor.
I don’t want to see Brock be weak. I don’t want to sympathize with him. I want him to be the wrestler who doesn’t play along with the give-and-take of wishy-washy-ass 50/50 booking. I don’t want to expect the outcome of a Brock Lesnar match based on the rhythm of what’s happened on the weekly shows. I want Big Fights, you know? Let everybody else overcome the odds.
That third German suplex sell from Rollins was a thing of beauty, by the way.
Worst: Oh No Not Jamie Noble, Anybody But Jamie Noble
As you may have heard, Brock tossed Jamie Noble (boy) into the security barrier during the show-ending melee and whoops, broke three of Noble’s ribs. Keep in mind that Noble’s active in-ring career ended on Raw back in 2009 — kayfabe and for real — because of a bad fall on the outside.
Noble’s been one of my favorite parts of the show for a while now, so here’s hoping he sticks around and stays on TV as a character whether or not he’s being thrown to his death by giant sloppy angry guys.
Worst: Please Mark ‘Distraction Finish’ On Your Bingo Card
Anyway, back to the beginning of the show.
The first match is Dean Ambrose vs. Kane. Seth Rollins shows up, causing Ambrose to totally forget he’s in the middle of a wrestling match and about an inch-and-a-half from a 7-foot middle-management Fire Monster. Ambrose survives, dodges Kane’s attacks and takes out Rollins, but Rollins hops right back up and distracts him a second time. This allows Kane to hit the world’s saddest chokeslam off the ropes and get the win. Ambrose lost to Kane via distraction on a show where Dolph Ziggler and Wade Barrett got a straight-up pinfall victories, so my “which one of these dorks has the least momentum” rankings are all out of whack. They should have a triple threat at Battleground where the winner has the last six months of their Wikipedia page deleted.
I kinda wish I’d saved the Lesnar stuff for later, because so much of this week’s episode is “stuff happened and then we quietly moved on.”
Best: John Cena’s Face During The Money In The Bank Recap Stills
Look at his mouth. When did Jocelyn Wildenstein wrestle Kevin Owens?
Best: Darren Young Making An Impact With The Gut Check! Or
Best: The New Day Standing Around Eating Food, Getting Pissed About Wrestling
The hell is Big E eating? Broccoli? I can’t quite make it out, but I love (love love) that he shares it with Kofi, because to The New Day even food operates under the Freebird Rule.
The Prime Time Players are pretty great right now, but The Ascension are basically a pair of 12-year old housecats in a PetSmart. The Players win easily, and I spend the entire match expecting Konnor and Viktor to lie down in the ring like the guy in the ‘Just’ video and stay there for the remainder of the show.
Worst: Matches Where The Match Has Nothing To Do With The Finish, Part 1
A little later in the show we revisit the New Day/PTP beef in the middle of a dreadful streak of matches where the match endings have absolutely the f*ck nothing to do with what came before them. Neville wrestles Kofi Kingston and it goes pretty well. The New Day are at ringside being hilarious — a formal, supplemental Best to Xavier Woods for stealing a cameraman’s camera and shooting pictures of Kofi winning to show him how it’s done — and they start getting in the way. The Prime Time Players run out to even the odds, but the referee throws them out. New Day gloats and get thrown out themselves, and we’ve built this big heel/justice/heel/justice circle to get the crowd hot. The next step should be for Neville and Kofi to tear it up for a few minutes to capitalize on that heat, right?
Nope! Instead of doing ANYTHING AT ALL, Neville just kicks Kofi in the head and hits the Red Arrow to win the match. They build up all this cool stuff on the outside and then just kinda fart it away. If you aren’t gonna do anything with it, why do it? If Neville is going to win clean in a way that has nothing to do with Kofi getting his comeuppance for being a part of this obnoxious crew, why not do the match straight? Why color half the page, you know?
We Internet Wrestling Types can come across sounding like entitled know-it-alls sometimes (and we totally are), but without hyperbole it honestly feels like WWE’s forgotten how pro wrestling works. They’re doing all this work and cultivating all this talent and setup, but they have no idea how to finish. Shit just happens and we move on. Too few stories, characters and motivations go from point A to point B to point C. They go from point A to point B to point A to point B to just outside of point B back to point B back to point A and then maybe, if we’re lucky, vault over point C and land on D. A-B-C, guys.
Worst: Matches Where The Match Has Nothing To Do With The Finish, Part 2
Another example is Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns. They wrestle for a long time, go through a commercial break and everything, and what’s the finish? Roman pinning Sheamus to look strong? Sheamus pinning Roman in some opportunistic, cheap way to show that Mr. Monies in the Bank are jerks? Something screwy to give Roman a reason to want to fight Sheamus again or vice versa?
Nope. They wrestle forever and then Bray Wyatts shows up on the TitanTron having a tea party. Roman Reigns gets worried that Bray has I guessed kidnapped his daughter and transported her to Indianapolis — something you think he or his family or loved ones would’ve seen or noticed before the middle of Raw on Monday night — so he bails on the match. As he’s jogging to be the back, the camera pans out to reveal that Bray’s tea-partying with nobody. Sheamus just kinda hangs out at ringside and we go to commercial, and the match doesn’t end. It’s so not important for the match to end that we just follow Roman backstage to watch him figure out SPOOKY TEA-PARTIES.
Remember when Vince was on the Stone Cold podcast and said that WWE was in the business of telling stories, and didn’t just do wrestling for the sake of wrestling? Roman and Sheamus could’ve stood in the ring checking their phones for 15 minutes and literally nothing about this would’ve changed.
If you’re wondering what happened with the spooky kidnapping tea party, Roman rushed backstage and finally found Bray’s promo room, which looks like this:
Sorry, wrong picture. It looked like this:
Now the only acceptable payoff for the past year of WWE booking is a Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins Championship match at WrestleMania where Rollins gets on the mic and says he’ll face “anyone but you,” and Roman suddenly turns around all brainwashed and spears Dean Ambrose.
Worst: “Why Are We Supposed To Care About This And Who Are We Supposed To Like” In Capital Letters
Let’s break the past month or so of the Divas Division.
– Three weeks ago the Bella Twins cheated to beat Paige using “Twin Magic.” If you aren’t familiar with that (somehow), the Bellas physically switch places before the finish and nobody can tell the difference between them, still, despite one being orange and having big boobs and like twice the musculature of the other.
– Two weeks ago, Paige cut a promo where she ran down the Bellas for cheating to win matches, saying that they’ve manipulated their way to the top and cheated to keep their positions there for years. This is backed up by the super cheating we’d seen the week before. The Bellas’ response is that Paige is just jealous and insecure. Nikki wrestles Summer Rae, a heel, and wins clean. The crowd cheers her.
– At Money in the Bank, Nikki defends the Divas Championship against Paige. The Bellas go for Twin Magic again but Paige resists it, pins the fake Nikki and wins the match. Fake Nikki reveals that she’s not Nikki, she’s Brie, so instead of calling the match or standing by his decision the ref’s like, “okay, the match keeps going, f*ck it, whatever.” Nikki capitalizes on the distraction and wins via cheating, lying, manipulation AND a distraction.
– One week ago Paige tried to organize the Divas Division and get them to take a stand against the Bellas. Their response? “We actually hate YOU, Paige!” The Bellas show up, make fun of Paige and cause the rest of the Divas to walk out on her. Paige walks away all sad, and the Bellas sit down to admire their work.
– This week, the Bellas team up to face two heels, Naomi and Tamina. They’re suddenly managed by Alicia Fox, alignment-hopper and initial chastiser of Paige’s unionization efforts. The Bellas win thanks to heel (?) miscommunication between their opponents and win the match. The crowd cheers.
So … what’s the story, exactly? The closest thing I can get to a reasonable story is that the Bellas have manipulated not only WWE and the crowds into accepting them as “the best Divas,” but they’ve spent time manipulating/converting every Diva in the division. Paige is the only one they haven’t, and there’s a weird Invasion of the Body Snatchers thing happening where she’s the only one who can see the truth, so she’s “just jealous and insecure and crazy.” Is it a statement on hivemind? Are the Bellas actively assimilating the remaining Divas? Is this going to end with Paige up against every person she tried to convert as they wear TEAM BELLA t-shirts?
If so, is there a way we can clear that up a little and let WWE audiences know which one of these people they’re supposed to cheer? Because WWE crowds do what you tell them, and if they hear “Paige is just jealous” over and over and watch Nikki wreck people to cheers, that’s what the story’s gonna be.
Followup question: did Tamina just trip over the referee, because Jesus Christ, Tamina.
Best: Zack Ryder’s Gear
I really like it. It’s a mash-up of all his old gear styles and kinda makes him look like a roll of Life Savers. This concludes my contractually-obligated One Nice Thing To Say About Zack Ryder for 2015.
LOL Though: Some Hail King Barrett
This is such a tough spot. I want King Barrett to start winning matches and looking like a competent wrestler again, because deep down I like Wade Barrett a lot and think he has a lot to offer. I’m a Nexus homer, I almost bought a Corre shirt despite it making the team look like a box of Hostess cakes and I was as all-in on the Bad News catchphrase as anyone. He SHOULD get these matches where he trucks Zack Ryder and builds some momentum and starts participating in matches and situations that not only make him look good, but matter.
At the same time, he’s been so embarrassing for so long now that him beating Zack Ryder plays less like “King Barrett’s back on track” and more like “hahaha Zack Ryder’s so bad he can’t beat the worst guy in the company.” It doesn’t help that an insane man holding a plunger is cutting picture-in-picture promos about being the “one true king” as he walks to the ring.
Best: John Cena, Renaissance Man
Cena cuts a lot of promos about how honest and forthright he is, and how the shirts he wears and the stuff he says aren’t gimmicks, they’re him. They’re his life. They define him. The problem’s always been that it still felt phony, because Cena is clearly this smart, athletic, world-traveled guy out here on Raw pretending to be an irrational, entitled, sometimes-homophobic toddler who gets pissed and stomps his feet if he doesn’t get his way. It’s why we always talk about how we love John Cena The Man — the one who grants Make-A-Wish wishes and lives for the wrestling business — but hate John Cena The Character. It’s impossible to like John Cena The Character sometimes. He’s such an infuriating conversation. He’s like being stuck at a family picnic and listening to your shitty uncle talk about how much he loves Guy Fieri’s restaurant FOR A DECADE.
That’s what I loved about this promo exchange. Owens got to be smarmy and condescending and drop the “cheer the valiant hero John Cena and boo the evil foreigner” gag, and instead of Cena just vaguely calling him a She-Coward, Cena’s like “MOTHERF*CKER HOW YOU GONNA SPEAK FRENCH TO ME, I KNOW SOME FRENCH TOO, ALSO HERE’S MANDARIN. I CAN PLAY THE PIANO, GRAB A YOUNG BUCK IN EACH FIST AND GO F*CK YOURSELF.”
That’s the John I’ve always wanted. The John who says “I’m John Cena, you idiot” and means it. Nothing phony, no platitudes, just “I have been here so much longer than you and I’ve never not been on top so there’s a 99% chance I’ll kill you, and if I don’t, there’s a 100% chance I’ll kill you three times in a row in response.”
Worst: Pretty Sure The IC Title Was Better Off Back When R-Truth Was Sneaking Away With It Like A Looney Tunes Character
To put it another way,
Worst: When Did Raw Get So Kissy?
I addressed the show-ending Brock Lesnar stuff at the top of the column, so I guess I’m stuck ending things with the main event: Dolph Ziggler vs. Adam Rose. No, really.
So yeah, WWE followed up that incredible ESPN NXT special about how Adam Rose is a wonderful, caring family man, WWE paired him up with Rosa Mendes and made them French each other all the time. WWE had another good act with the real-life couple of Rusev and Lana, so they decided they should break up, Rusev should become a creeper and Lana should have elementary school-style romance with Dolph Ziggler during his “I’m a 14-year old who just discovered The Runaways” phase.
So! This week’s show’s final match is Ziggler vs. Rose, and begins with Rose explaining that Dolph and Lana aren’t in love. It is in fact Adam Rose and Rosa who are in love, and only two people can be in love at a time! They show this through some Resident Evil-quality dialogue and way, way too much tongue-kissing. The match happens (that’s the least important part), and when it’s over, Ziggler shows that nope, it’s actually HE who is in love. He and Lana do some stage kissing because they have the sexual chemistry of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, and Ziggler shows that he’s “freeing” her or whatever by changing her hairstyle. PAY ATTENTION, GIRLS, IF YOU END A RELATIONSHIP YOU SHOULD JUMP RIGHT INTO A NEW ONE WITH SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO CHANGE YOU.
Rusev is watching backstage and throws a fit, but he’s found and helped up by Summer Rae, fresh from her “I’m The Miz’s girlfriend because we were in a movie together, now I’m Damien Sandow’s girlfriend because he forced himself on me, haha jk I’m actually still with the Miz and it was all a trick because I’m a bitch, whoops I’ve vanished” story. It doesn’t make sense, but WWE needs to pair off the women with the guys to have stories so here we are.
Remember when Rusev was beating people up and Dolph Ziggler was the hero of WWE? Now they’re Weird Boyfriends. That’s so much better, probably!
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
“Brock also has to apologize to the WWE Universe for making them sit through an hour of solo Byron Saxton commentary.”
Dad just walked in, “What is it casual Monday? Why are neither of them wearing wrestling gear?”
The Ascension wins this year’s “Most Ironic Tag Team Name” Slammy
WHO WAS CHAIR
I hope they got the same actress to play Roman’s daughter that they got to play Randy Orton’s wife.
Bray Wyatt has gone full Helga Pataki.
Zach Ryder vs. King Barrett! The movable object vs. the stoppable force!
Hickory Dickory Reigns
King Barrett has gained EXP.
King Barrett is now LVL 2!
Mr. Royal Rumble, TheCensoredMSol
You remember the kid you would play with freeze tag with, and anytime you tagged them, they’d come up with some BS excuse veiled as a rule, like “No, BOTH of my feet have to be on the ground,” or “Nooo, this is the safety castle!” or “Nuhh uhhh, if I say my birthday backwards I’m unfrozen!” And then if you tried the same thing, he’d call you an stupid face and say you were a cheater and that he didn’t want to play with you anymore?
That’s John Cena.
Thanks, everybody. See you next week, unless you get the new Batman game. In that case, see you in August.