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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for July 28, 2014.
Best: A John Cena We Can Like
The build to Battleground, Battleground itself and the post-Battleground BATTLEGROUND AS BALLS Raw made me wary of last night’s show. John Cena was opening the night with his belt necklace, pretending to be scared of a guy he’s handily beaten already and using Owen Voice to tell the crowd how worried he is about taking a beating. John Cena, the guy who hasn’t taken a convincing, non-8-on-1 beating in the last decade. John Cena, the guy who got hung up on a ringpost and beaten in the chest with a stick for half an hour only to totally no-sell it and ANGRY FACE his opponent to death. Vince McMahon could strut out with an elephant rifle and shoot John Cena in the face and I wouldn’t believe the guy was in pain.
Then, as it usually happens, Paul Heyman showed up and the segment got better.
One of the reasons it’s so hard to like John Cena is because he seems so phony. He’s a 37-year old man still acting like a fired-up teenager. He talks about how people are arrogant while he wears two championship belts around his neck and a shirt, a hat and a dozen wristbands with JOHN CENA on them. His jokes are written by a committee of child-considering panderers. He photoshops your head onto a hippo and laughs. He says you’re gay and puts your face on the Wendy’s logo. He’s the idea of what’s “funny” to one old man and the countless younger men who have to do exactly what the old one says.
The reality, though, is that John Cena is the guy we should all love and respect most. He’s THE WRESTLING BUSINESS in capital letters. People say they love it, but Cena’s given his life for it. When he says this is his “friggin life,” he’s not saying it’s the thing he cares most about, he’s saying it is his actual, physical life. He wakes up as WWE’s John Cena and goes to bed the same way. He comes back from injury via mutant power and indomitable will because the company might not be as successful without him. He barely has a social or family life. He’s green-ass shirt, green-ass wristbands, Makin’-A-Wish John Cena 24/7, 365. When he talks about passion, he MEANS it. He expresses it in a corporately acceptable way and starts randomly cursing because he doesn’t know how to express the furious power of love he’s spewing when he tells you he loves wrestling. He is a machine that makes wrestling love.
If we saw “reality” John Cena more often than we do, he’d be the best. Even reality show John Cena is a false image of the man. The Cena we saw for a moment last night felt REAL, and he was shockingly correct for pointing out that “soulless sellout manipulative walrus” Paul Heyman shares his same passions. It’s the truth. Heyman was the avatar for wrestling passion for YEARS, and his amazing heel work as a sniveling manager makes a lot of people forget it. When Cena’s “real talking” in a way that doesn’t involve the word “jack” he can touch a deeper, truer spot than most, because he understands it and absolutely MUST say what he means. When he throws “jack” at you? Not so much.
Give me this Cena. The real man. The guy who will stand up to your insults by doing his best to disprove you, whether his body can physically do it or not. If you say he doesn’t care, he shows you that he cares. If you say he can’t wrestle, by God he’s gonna chain wrestle you and take you down with the slowest, heaviest-looking hurricanrana EVER, but GOD DAMMIT HE’S DOING IT.
Best: Cesaro Is Better Than Everybody Else By A Mile
I thought Cesaro/Cena was incredible. I guess my first natural response is to be unhappy that Cesaro lost, but that’s how we’re supposed to feel, isn’t it? We want our favorites to win, and the guys we like less to lose.
Looking at it objectively, though, this is the kind of match that Cesaro needs, and is the kind of match that justifies his role in the company. Cesaro being a workhorse who never had a bad match is why people started cheering for him so vehemently around WrestleMania. When they paired him up with Heyman and then took a step back, he avoided that. He wrestled short, forgettable matches. He didn’t use the giant swing. He seemed like Dolph Ziggler … a phenomenally talented performer stuck in holding while the Important Wrestlers figured shit out.
Over the last week or two, the Cesaro of old has risen back up and reclaimed his spot. That makes me happy. That guy’s just so far beyond his contemporaries in his ability to not only put together and anchor a match, but be relied on to do exactly what he needs to do. Gonna flip him over onto his feet out of an Attitude Adjustment? He’s gonna stick it. Need him to catch John Cena in the air and spin him around? He can do that. Pro wrestling seems so easy for him, and that makes him a joy to watch.
And hey, sure, he lost, but he got the CM Punk “I’m too important to lose like a regular guy” Attitude Adjustment off the second ropes. That’s basically John Cena telling you he loves you and wants the best for you. Great stuff.
Best: Midcard Feuds With Motivations
I’m gonna get real complimentary of this show, so watch out.
Randy Orton and Roman Reigns are gonna have a match at SummerSlam. They haven’t announced it yet, but if you watch the show, that’s where it’s going. Now, normally they’d have Orton and Reigns wrestle each other a few times and then be like HERE’S A PAY-PER-VIEW MATCH, and the only character motivations you’d get are “cheer this guy” and “boo the other one.” It’s not even heel vs. face anymore. Look at Stephanie vs. Brie. It’s just two awful people with awful, unclear motivations and WWE’s telling you to cheer one and boo the other.
Here, Triple H gives some much-needed exposition by clearly, definitively stating that Randy Orton cannot and will not get another title match until he eliminates Roman Reigns. It’s essentially a babyface motivation, but filtered through a guy with a diseased mind. Orton’s obsession with being teacher’s pet and the “face” of a company John Cena’s always clearly been the face of is compelling, especially when it’s reinterpreted in a meaningful midcard feud. It’s not just “I want to win because Triple H” anymore like it was during the Bryan beef. Now it’s “my career is going nowhere unless I obliterate this guy.’ That leads to (get this) Orton obliterating that guy.
Exposition sucks when it’s characters standing in a crime scene on a cop show explaining their jobs to one another, but man, wrestling needs it. Otherwise you’re stuck with jerks like me making up a bunch of stuff to justify the hows and whys of things happening.
Best: Maintaining Character Motivations And Quirks
Similarly, I dug AJ Lee being bothered and driven to punching faces by the word “crazy.” If you missed the segment, Paige is trying to explain to everyone that she and AJ are still best friends (even though she spend last week headbutting her and throwing her over announce tables). She very openly and condescendingly uses the word “crazy” in passing and starts apologizing, knowing it’s the A #1 way to make AJ feel like garbage.
I don’t even like AJ’s Trigger Warning, but I like that they’ve managed to effectively turn her face without sacrificing the things that make her her. Far too often a wrestler will develop an identifiable personality quirk, get us used to it and then completely drop it when they switch allegiances.
Best: An Acknowledgment Of Character Histories, Or
Worst: Histories With The Phrase ‘Trash Bag Ho’ In Them
Similarly, here’s Cool Dad.
Triple H and Stephanie are trying to explain/spin Stephanie’s arrest for assaulting Brie Bella and sadly are not just reading that page of complaining I wrote. Before they can get it all out, Chris Jericho interrupts them. Now, I had two instant reactions to this:
1. That’s so awesome that they remembered how Chris Jericho is Stephanie’s blood rival, and how he should totally want to show up out of the blue and make fun of her for going to jail!
2. Oh God he’s gonna call her a trash bag ho
Both of those reactions were valid. It WAS great that they brought back a decade-old relationship between two longterm characters and kept it true to form. And he DID try to call her a trash bag ho, which … was also true to form. He got interrupted before he could get it all out (because TV-PG or whatever), but that’s what he does. It’s never sat well with me and is one of the reasons I turned os hard on babyface Chris Jericho back in the day. That and the time he brought out the Planet of the Apes to call her names for ten minutes and hit her in the face with a pie.
I’m giving the segment more of a Best than a Worst because even acknowledgment of history I don’t like counts as a positive acknowledgment of history, and because Seth Rollins bashed him in the back of the head with a briefcase.
Best: This Upswing Of Dolph Ziggler Momentum
Before WrestleMania, you could count on two things in WWE: great matches from Daniel Bryan, and great matches from The Shield. Guys like Dolph Ziggler and Cesaro were good in the ring, sure, but they weren’t the Big Marketable Wonders that Bryan and The Shield were, so they got stuck getting rolled up and pinned by Fandango and Kofi Kingston. Then a funny thing happened … The Shield broke up and we lost Daniel Bryan to injury.
Now we’re in recovery mode. The funny thing about THAT is that it’s helping Cesaro and Ziggler. Now that the goose that laid a year and a half’s-worth of golden eggs has been beaten to death with a folding chair it’s up to these guys to satiate the bloodthirsty workrate marks (like myself) with watchable matches. Otherwise it’s just … well, it’s the last month of Raw. Luke Harper can only pull so many miracles out of the Usos in a row, you know?
It’s good to see Ziggler winning matches again. He’s felt “important” again for the first time in a long time recently, and WWE should seriously try to keep that going. Momentum’s such a hard thing for current Superstars to do on a show where creative has to repeat the same thing five times before moving on, especially for a guy who’s already lost his momentum in grand fashion before. If we can keep Ziggler winning fun, fresh matches like last night’s six-man and maybe also keep him away from Jack Swagger’s feet, we’ll be onto something.
Best: Multiple Things Are Happening At Once For Once!
Speaking of freshness and momentum and funny things, is anybody else digging WWE’s new dedication to multitasking? Normally there’d be one Divas story, one tag team story, one John Cena story, etc. Now we’ve got The Shield guys running around getting into concurrent blood feuds with people, the Divas division has at least two stories going on at a time (neither one involving reality television, either!) and we’ve got factions starting to bubble up again.
Xavier Woods and Black WWE are standing at ringside while Ziggler teams with the Usos against Miz and Rybaxel. Miz is wearing sunglasses DURING matches now. The Usos are trying to hang onto their tag titles and Rybaxel’s finally broken away from their endless string of Rhodes Brothers matches. Ziggler’s gaining momentum. All of these things are happening at once, all loosely related to one-another, yet no single storyline overpowers the others. It’s letting characters exist in a universe they’ve created and brag about constantly. I could not love that more. Everybody should have an awareness of everybody else. That’s how life and sports work.
Best: R-Truth Ending Bo’s Streak
Leave the memories alone.
As a fan, f*ck this forever. Bo Dallas should not be losing to R-Truth. A newborn calf should be able to beat R-Truth in a wrestling match. Bo Dallas is precious cargo and you shouldn’t have been playing up his undefeated streak if you wanted to blow it off in like 40 seconds in the middle of a Raw against your worst nobody.
Stepping back from it for a second, this is for the best. Winning streak angles are uniformly pointless and terrible. Losing streak angles too, for the record. There’s no “good” way to end a winning streak. No matter how you do it, people are gonna be mad. See also: Goldberg. See also: The Undertaker at WrestleMania. “Monsters” get created with winning streak angles, and those are almost always just to give a guy who doesn’t need a rub a new obstacle to overcome. Vladimir Kozlov beats everybody for months, Triple H beats Kozlov, then Kozlov is a forgotten joke. Rusev’s doing it right now. What’s a good ending for Rusev? He either loses to Ultimate American John Cena in a match that pleases nobody but people who already love John Cena and don’t need the reassurance, or he wins and we feel bad because he’s not realistic and has been “pushed down our throats.” It’s almost always better to have someone lose a match here or there early on before we have to take them too seriously.
On top of that, Bo’s range is his money maker. The best part of Bo on NXT was the complexity of his emotions … he wouldn’t just be happy or sad, he’d be happy to HIDE sadness. He’d pretend to smile when he was afraid of you, but if you pushed him too far his instincts would kick in and he’d turn into a badass who had no REASON to be afraid. That’s sorta what we’re seeing here. He’s a goofy motherf*cker who doesn’t take this seriously, so he loses to the WORST POSSIBLE GUY, snaps, shows how serious and vicious he can be when pushed to the edge … then goes right back into being Bo. It’s a layer. It’s character development. It’s the kind of thing guys like Fandango and Adam Rose have never been afforded, and a sign that WWE loves Bo and knows he’s doing a good job.
So yeah. A huge Best for one of my favorite wrestlers losing to the worst guy on the show.
Best: A Flag Match Is The Only Way To End This Goofy Thing
First things first, I think Russia’s got the United States beat in the “pretty girls” department. Have you SEEN the lady you’re yelling at, Zeb?
Aside from that, I’m happy that the Rusev vs. Swagger 1980s Cold War tribute feud is continuing post-CURRENT-EVENTSGATE. At the very least the story needs to end in a flag match, assumedly with Rusev winning, threatening to desecrate Old Glory and being stopped by the next Super American Type. I guess that’s Cena, which is scary, but I don’t want Rusev to lose and take the Muhammad Hassan Train out of WWE forever. If TNA goes under, maybe we can finally get the USA Guy on Raw?
Worst: An Astronaut AFTER The Jack Swagger Segment?
You’re dead to me, WWE.
Best: Roman Reigns Gets Taken Down A Peg
Don’t get me wrong, I still like Roman Reigns. He’s still a Handsome Prince and good at what he does, but he’s been a little too bulletproof since The Shield broke up. Rollins has been pinballed around and gotten Trunk Attacked. Dean Ambrose is a crazy nut who loses matches because he can’t stop throwing chairs into the ring. Meanwhile, Roman Reigns has the Shield music, the Shield entrance and the Shield gear. He’s getting WWE Championship matches. He’s making duckface backstage with Cena and Sheamus. He’s ending almost every Raw standing tall, even if he’s been taken out in that SAME SEGMENT. Kane or whoever will show up and chokeslam him, and before the little copyright graphic can show up in the bottom lefthand corner of the screen, here’s Roman running back in and spearing Kane. It’s almost too much.
I get that they want to make him a huge deal in the absence of Bryan and position him to help carry the company or whatever, but constant invulnerability isn’t the way to do that. That makes a Cena, and while that might make you money, it’ll also put you in the same problematic creative spot you’re in now. So yeah, seeing Orton just jump Reigns from behind during his entrance and beat the dog mess out of him for five minutes was DELIGHTFUL. The second RKO to make sure the table broke was great, and I am so totally and absolutely down for a focused, hyper-violent Randy Orton who does not take kindly to people sabotaging his already throughly-sabotaged career. He’s getting too old for that shit.
There’s got to be a sweet spot between constantly winning to earn cheers and constantly losing to earn groundswell fan support.
Worst: THEY MOLESTED THE BULL, MAGGLE!
From last week’s column:
As we’ve discussed … way, way too many times before, WWE’s very worst character is its vindictive babyface. If somebody does something bad to you, you’re entitled to revenge. When you get that, you’ve “won” or whatever. In WWE if somebody does something bad to you, you’re entitled to an INFINITY of revenge. Fandango was a jerk for dumping Summer Rae for Layla and playing them against one another so he could hook up with them simultaneously. They turned on him, and now they continue turning on him by helping every single one of his opponents get a cheap win over him. He hasn’t done anything bad to them in like a month, and here they are as PEOPLE IN THE MORAL RIGHT f*cking up his career until the end of time.
Why write something new? This week their boyfriend is an anthropomorphic bull-mini and JBL won’t stop screaming at the top of his lungs about molestation. The more copy-pasted in, the better.
Best/Worst: The Cosmic Key Better Be Renee Young In Goldust Makeup
Like I’ve said for the last several weeks, these little backstage bits are enjoyable, but these are the f*cking Rhodeses. Get them out of Adam Rose Twisted Tea Land and let them throw hands with somebody. I guess Dustin’s not going to be at the August 4 Raw in Austin, either, so get excited for next week’s Best and Worst of Raw column with the entire middle of this page copy and pasted over.
Worst: Alicia Fox Teams Up With Her Sassy 7-Year Old Daughter
I’m sorry. I’ve tried, but I can’t take Cameron seriously as a wrestler. I take Eva Marie more seriously than Cameron. At least Eva Marie is visibly trying to overcome her total lack of agility and timing. At least Eva Marie’s got gear. Cameron is actively ruining a series of high profile Raw and pay-per-view matches while dressed like a lingerie store schoolgirl. Seriously, when the match was starting and Alicia had her arm around Cameron it looked like she was taking a badly-raised 7-year old Trick Or Treating.
Best: THE NAOMI CLUTCH
Now that’s what I’m talking about.
This is what I want from Naomi. I want her to use her NXT season 3 WHY AIN’T WE RASSLIN I WONNA RASSLE attitude and put it to work by brutally choking out this constant stream of low-level opponents she keeps getting fed and expected to carry. Naomi has always been too good to get stuck cheerleading a fat dinosaur man or being best friends with Melina Vs. Alicia Fox. She should snap necks and cave in ribcages until WWE puts her into permanent contention with the Paiges and AJs of the world. Having a submission hold is the first step, right? Aksana never put anybody away with the Red Ink.
Best: Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins, Despite …
Worst: Chris Jericho’s Offense, And
Worst: The Patented Raw Non-Finish
Jericho vs. Rollins was another great match on an overall great Raw, and I just want to get that out of the way and thank the people who put the episode together. These shows have been rough lately, and this felt like a step forward for the first time in a while.
Of course, there were a couple of problems. The biggest one is the non-finish, which is becoming way too common for me to handle. So many Wyatt feud-building matches get started and go great and then BLEARP, the Wyatt Family just interferes and nothing happens. The match either gets thrown out or the referee just disappears and nobody addresses it. It’s lazy, and it’s indicative of WWE’s opinion that post-match stuff is more important than match stuff. Whether you like it or not, wrestling matches are the point. They don’t have to be the kind of wrestling matches I like, but there’s no point in going through the motions of a wrestling match only to completely discard it and do something else. It doesn’t help anybody and not only makes the high quality wrestling feel worthless, it makes these shows feel skippable. If nothing’s gonna happen, why not ignore the show and watch the pay-per-view? This is why most people don’t go to house shows.
The other problem is Jericho’s offense. Has it always looked that bad? He’s just going YEAHHH~! and shoving people. Gently shoving them. The guy climbs to the top rope and jumps off with a Khali brain chop with his body going in the wrong direction. I like you, Jericho, but would it kill you to lay in one of those clotheslines? You’re supposed to be Cool Dad, not Sad Dad.
Worst: I’ll See You In Damn Hell Boobs Court, You Bastard Bitch!
CUSS CUSS CUSS. I’M BRIE BELLA. I’M AN ADULT. I SAY CUSSES. SEE YOU IN COURT, SHIT BALLS!
But Honestly, Best: Stephanie McMahon’s Literal Face Turn
1. This still doesn’t make any sense. Brie Bella is blackmailing Stephanie into a match at SummerSlam using an iffy assault and battery charge to get her job back. The job that she quit. “She quit because Stephanie was using HER as blackmail against Daniel Bryan,” you might say. Well damn, why does Brie Bella WANT that job back? What happens after SummerSlam? Does Brie honestly think that a couple of missile dropkicks from the middle rope is gonna make Stephanie NOT hate her and NOT constantly punish the Bellas? If she had blackmail in her pocket, shouldn’t it be one of those “you can’t be in charge anymore” situations? Stephanie saying she’s gonna be nice to Nikki Bella and pinkie swears it isn’t exactly ironclad. Not even Big Show ironclad.
2. Brie Bella is still impossible to like. I end up siding with Stephanie because one of the people in the ring is a great performer and one isn’t. I think the crowd did that, too. When Stephanie slapped Brie in the face and turned the “bitch” line back on her, the crowd erupted. Stephanie did Yes Chants that were supposed to be super heelish but ended up being LEGIT YES CHANTS. Why? Because Brie Bella is bad at her job. Also, she needs to stop emphasizing the last word of ever sentence. Sorry, the last word of every SENTENCE?
3. “I’LL SEE YOU IN COURT!” Stephanie should’ve just seen her in court. WWE beat the government. WWE has gotten murderers off the hook with well-timed kayfabe explanations. They’re a massive corporation with top shelf lawyers. Plus, Stephanie is famous. What’s the worst that’s gonna happen? WWE has to give Brie Bella some money? Vince is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a day, pretty sure he’d throw 20 grand at Brie Bella and make her show up. Or, you know, erase her. Explode her in a limo or whatever.
4. This is on live TV in front of 15,000 people. Couldn’t Steph just bring the cops back out and arrest Brie for blackmail?
5. I am emotionally invested in seeing Stephanie McMahon Ryback the shit out of Brie Bella at SummerSlam.
Best: Jamie Noble Chants To End The Show
Where were you guys when Jamie Noble was WRESTLING?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
“I can’t wrestle”
Neither can she, Steph.
“How about if I give you a raise…cist angle featuring Xavier Woods?”
Is the Cosmic key just the key to get out of that room?
It seems unlikely, but I somehow hope at Summerslam, Cena defeats Brock Lesnar by dropping Randy Orton onto Kane.
Can you hear me Major Sandow?
Can you hear me Major Sandow?
Can you here, i am laying in the canvas
Far below a push
My whole career is blue
and there’s nothing i can do.
Sandow is appropriately dressed, given that this match is just here to fill space on RAW.
Open the push doors, WWE.
I’m sorry Damien. I cannot do that.
Lana should brag about buying her salsa in New York City.
“My client RRRRRRRRR-TRRRRRRRRRRRUTHHHHHHHH……” – Xavier Woods
Ryback is Roman Reigns’ Ghost of Christmas Future.
Thanks, everybody. Give the column a share, and I’ll see you next week.