– Important GIF via WrasslorMonkey at Punchsport.
– Share the column if you can. Let’s make the first Best and Worst of Raw at With Spandex a MAJOR CULTURAL EVENT. Or at least as popular as the other ones.
– If you’re in Austin on July 27, Inspire Pro Wrestling (the company I work for and help run) is happening. Here’s the flier if you wanna check it out and spread it around. Lots of cool stuff happening, and also me standing around in a suit. It’s everything you ever wanted, I’m assuming.
– If you live in the Houston or Chicago area, MEET ME THERE is playing near you next month. We’re screening at the Beta Theater in Houston on August 1 and 2, then hopping up to Chicago to screen at WIZARD WORLD CHICAGO. I will also be there. SO WILL BATISTA.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for July 7, 2014.
Worst: Kane As A Threat Again Ever
Kane is the least scary person in the world.
His mask doesn’t fit and they’ve clearly established that it’s fake hair. He is a guy who has spent most of his WWE career saying “suck it” into voice boxes, having jokes made about his burnt wiener, getting upset while more important wrestlers f*ck effigies of his dead teen girlfriend and being in a gayish therapy tag team with a guy whose gimmick was “he looks like a goat.” His character is a guy who lived in his dad’s basement and watched wrestling shows. I’m not making that up. If he’s wrestled 10,000 matches, 9,000 and change of them have been losing to John Cena in impotent PG gimmick matches, and his last championship efforts involved him 1) losing via forklift and fire extinguishers and 2) holding a ladder steady for the more important wrestlers. They’ve started calling him “The Demon” Kane and he’s already doing sassy backstage punchline segments.
What I’m getting at is that I’m done buying Kane as a threat. Hell, he just storyline broke the WWE World Heavyweight Champion’s neck and what’d it get him? A loss, and the champ showing up a few weeks later to kinda nonchalantly mention that he’s taking time off and get into a series of human resources arguments.
Best: A Wild Finlay Appears!
The most adorable part of the opening segment was the appearance of the road agents: Fit Finlay, Joey Mercury, Dean Malenko, Bo’s Dad and JAMIE NOBLE BOY. The weirdest part of that most adorable part is how they were all wearing matching outfits. Was there a wedding going on backstage?
Finlay gets a little handsy with Roman and gets speared. It’s one of those moments thrown in for jerks like me who recognize the road agents, but it’s also a really dangerous impetus for my hacky fantasy booking. Do you know how badly I wanted Dean Malenko to slide into the ring, Tiger Bomb Roman Reigns and lock him in the Texas Cloverleaf? Not to mention how badly I wanted Finlay to counter by trapping Roman in the ring apron and beating him to death with Hornswoggle. And Roman should’ve speared Noble instead of Finlay. And Nidia should’ve been there.
Best: Hooray For Fun Tag Matches!
WWE crowds are pretty trigger happy with the “THIS IS AWESOME” chant, but the opening tag was good. It’s what these guys do best. The Usos excel at finding palatable transitions between big moments, and the Wyatts excel at WRECKING DUDES. I could watch Luke Harper bounce people with powerbombs all day.
My only complaints are that it’s another one of those THESE GUYS ONLY FIGHT THESE OTHER SPECIFIC GUYS matches, and that the champions lost another non-title match. If you lose all these non-title matches you probably shouldn’t be the champion, should you? I’ll post the video a little later when I talk about what a goober referee Rudy Charles is, but one of the Backstage Fallout clips is the Usos hoping WWE will review the tape and give them a rematch. The champions are desperately hoping for a rematch against the team that just beat them. Guh, why?
Best: How To Tell The Usos Apart
I used to be the guy who could tell the Bella Twins apart pre-deep orange skin dye and boob job, so I’m gonna give you the Pro Tip on telling the Usos apart: Jey Uso has paint on the left side of his face. Jimmy’s paint is on the right. It’s always the same.
(But hey, if this is a problem for you guys, maybe make an effort to look different? You don’t do the Twin Magic gag, one of you can wear the pink and lime green.)
Worst: Check Out All This Sympathy We’re Developing For Nikki Bella
Nikki Bella continues to be the worst. Her entire feud with The Authority is based on her not being able to shut up about her sister. Brie curses out and slaps Nikki’s boss in the face, so Nikki’s like “no Brie it’s totally fine, I’m gonna bring you to shows still and talk to people about how great you are while Stephanie stands 10 feet to my left.” She keeps getting put into handicap matches and losing miserably.
This week is the worst, because The Authority has ordered a match where both Divas have to have one arm tied behind their back and Nikki sees absolutely no problem with this whatsoever. HEY REF, TIE MY ARM BEHIND MY BACK FIRST, I’M SURE THIS ISN’T A TRAP.
The result is even worse. If you get into a fight with one arm tied behind your back, the rub is that you’re gonna get shit-kicked, right? Nikki just gets mildly beaten up like she might if Alicia DID have one arm, and she gets some energy drinks poured on her. As Alicia’s leaving, Nikki’s getting up with her brow furrowed. That is the payoff. A FURROWED BROW.
Best: John Cena Does Not Give A F*ck About His Girlfriend
That match should’ve ended with Alicia Fox in an arm-tie assisted STF. I’m not trying to advocate violence against women or whatever, but the absurdity of Cena rushing to the ring and putting Alicia through a table with an Attitude Adjustment and just posing his ass off on the turnbuckles would be worth the arguments.
Best: Orton Vs. Ambrose
I talked about this extensively on my Straight Shoot appearance last night, but I’ll try to get through it here without writing eighty paragraphs. Ambrose vs. Orton was one of those expertly wrestled matches between two guys who are fantastic at pacing and great at character work, but it wasn’t terribly exciting. I hope that makes sense. It’s one of those things I can enjoy and can objectively see the worth in, but it didn’t make me pump my fist and get lost in the emotion of the performance or whatever.
That’s an important distinction to make, I think; that wrestling matches can be good in different ways and accomplish different emotional tones, but maintain the same relative worth. It’s the three-ring circus mentality, where there’s different stuff for different types of fans to enjoy, but all the parts contribute to the constructive whole. Some people like the clowns, some people like the elephants, some people like the acrobats, but they all paid to see the same circus. It draws in a larger crowd than a niche product like ROH, which is just the trapeze artists doing the same cool trapeze routine nonstop for three hours a day twelve years in a row.
I liked that Dean has maintained his craziness, and that it both benefits and costs him. Live by the jeans, die by the jeans. His unconventional offense is exciting to watch but fails to hit those expected rhythms of a main-event WWE performer, and that takes some getting used to. It helps him in matches, because shit, if I don’t know what he’s gonna do next, the guys he works with probably wouldn’t either. But then he’ll go outside randomly and start throwing chairs into the ring instead of staying on Orton, and that gives Orton time to recover. He’s got a bonkers physical presence that sends him up to the top rope without a lot to do … so when they botch a spot and Orton forgets to turn around and throw a dropkick (or Ambrose goes up to fast, however you wanna look at it) it’s still passable because he’s a CRAZY NUT and WHAT IS HE DOING GOING UP TOP ANYWAY, THIS IS WEIRD.
I think the very best part of Raw was Orton doing his homework, waiting for Ambrose to go for his rebound lariat out of the ropes and RKO’ing him for the win. There is nothing I pop for harder than wrestlers doing their homework.
Best: Darryl Chants For Lana
Do that chant, but with Putin. Hell, let’s create a series of Putin-related wrestling chants. YOU’RE GONNA GET YOUR PUTIN HEAD KICKED IN clap clap clapclap clap clap clapclap clapclap
I am deeply disappointed that Lana didn’t get more time to talk about Canada. She was just like “Canada, VLADIMIR PUTIN!” and gestured at the big picture of Putin. I want a full-on deconstruction of international politics from my “Russian lady who hates America visits Canada” experience.
Best: Rusev Continues To Move Forward
My biggest wish for Rusev is for his push to continue moving forward. Guys get stuck in a Rybackian rut where they debut as a monster, continually prove how much of a monster they are by defeating the exact same guys in the exact same ways for months, don’t get over, then get punished/abandoned/released for not being more over. It’s this self-defeating idea that you have to protect these guys and never let them be challenged. The truth is that the challenges are what MAKE these guys, and you have to be brave enough to let them accept those challenges and win.
Rusev moving up to Big E from folks like Xavier Woods was a good first step, and now that he’s beaten Big E, a guy like Rob Van Dam is perfect. Van Dam’s got enough credibility to be a believable title contender, but he’s older and slowed down enough that Rusev beating him handily doesn’t seem like he’s being “buried” or whatever. Van Dam’s worth isn’t in wins and losses and future plans, it’s in him showing up being Rob Van Dam and wrestling fans seeing him be it.
Worst: The Stalest Bread
finally, a fresh matchup
finally, a fresh finish
Best: The Fonz Of The WWE
Like always, the Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler match was full of great little moments of wrestling, but was completely meaningless because they’ve done it literally sixty billion times (literally), it never goes anywhere and almost always involves the most tired, screwy finish WWE Creative can remember off the top of their head.
The highlight for me was during Fandango’s color commentary, when he says that he’s the “Fonz” of the WWE. JBL and Cole kinda chuckle and call him on his dated reference (not a dated reference: twerking), and Lawler responds with, “talkin’ bout that ol’ HAPPY DAYS SHOW?” Is Jerry Lawler seriously pretending like he doesn’t know who The Fonz is?
That’d explain why he’d think THIS is cool:
Worst: Hilarious Backstage Teen Melodrama
Backstage, Layla finds Fandango and asks him if everything’s cool. He says “yeah” more or less in his Val-Venisian sort of way and hugs her, but UH OH, he’s also making SECRET GOOGLY EYES at Summer Rae, who is standing 10 feet to their left. There is no safer place to be in WWE than 10 feet to the left of the people you’re mad at. It’s like perfect natural camouflage. Remember when Zack Ryder managed to wheel a wheelchair and a bouquet of flowers up to an ambulance kidnapping without anybody noticing?
Again, Layla is the face here, right? She’s in a relationship with a guy who says he loves her, but he’s a horndog who only cares about himself and wants to hook up with his ex. The ex that continually sneak attacks her and calls her fat. But no, you’re probably right, Layla is probably the heel because she’s in love.
Best: Bret Hart Took The Sports Boost Plasmid Before This Promo
Old Man Hart was FIRED UP last night, man.
I’m always afraid of Bret getting a microphone. He wasn’t great on the mic in his prime, but now that he’s gotten older and had some problems with his brain he’s kind of a confused grandpa, and that makes me sad. I’ve always said that if you want Bret at your shows, awesome. Bret’s great. He’s a legend. But let him be Stu Hart. Let him sit in the front row and wave when the camera’s on him.
That said, he did a great job here. He was there, you know? Being in Montreal probably helped a lot, but seeing the Hitman responding and reacting like a regular person again made me feel good. I do think it’s funny that Lawler prefaced it with “the last time we were here my medial problems ruined a great night for Bret Hart and Pat Patterson,” and then they bring out Bret and do absolutely nothing for Patterson.
Worst: The Ref Didn’t Ring The Bell When Sandow Put The Sharpshooter On Sheamus
Damien Sandow dressed as Bret Hart was fine. “Damien ‘The Hitman’ Sandhart” is the laziest parody name ever. You know that Scooby-Doo WrestleMania movie? There’s a Flintstones one coming out soon and John Cena’s Flintstones name is “John Cenastone.” Damien Sandhart is the John Cenastone of real wrestling.
I miss when Sheamus vs. Sandow felt like a real match. Before, it was a smart guy trying to focus his edge against this huge, blustery brawler. Now, it’s the same match Sheamus would have against Jinder Mahal. A heel of absolutely no merit gets in a little offense, does something silly, Sheamus gets up and Brogue Kicks them. The end.
The funnier thing would’ve been to have Sandow show up as Vince McMahon again and have Bret spit in his face.
Worst: Last Week’s Exciting Stuff Is Now This Week’s Treading Water
Last week, The Miz returned with a “Hollywood” gimmick, signaling a return to greatness (or at least competency) and leaving that horrible “Ric Flair’s protege who can’t do a figure four” run behind forever. Chris Jericho returned looking fresh and dynamic, and jumped right into a feud with the Wyatt Family. The Wyatts got to pick a fight with somebody other than John Cena. AJ Lee returned! It was a great night for surprises.
This week, The Miz is still the Hollywood guy, but he’s still a jobber who only exists so we can point out how bad he is. Jericho’s still in stage one of the Wyatts feud even though we’re three (or more) shows into it. “I’m gonna do SOMETHING!” they shout at each other. Jericho wrestles The Miz, which hasn’t been worth a damn since 2011. Meanwhile, over in the women’s match, AJ is one half of a tag team that wins, but isn’t the point of the match.
The sad thing is that Battleground’s still a while away, and this is all we’re getting.
Worst: Rudy Charles Has No Idea How Wrestling Works
Rudy Charles Boner #1: He loses track of who the legal man is in the Usos/Wyatt Family match. His explanation: “Wrestling matches are crazy!”
Rudy Charles Boner #2: During the PayJay vs. Funkadoodles match, Cameron walks to the middle of the ropes and tags into the match. Rudy Charles is all I’LL ALLOW IT. Michael Cole immediately jumps up his ass for not knowing how tags work, and sure, not holding the tag rope is one of those things only people like me seems to care about, but dude, at least make sure she’s in the corner. She should’ve just walked into the middle of the ring, slapped Naomi on the shoulder and said I’M WRESTLING NOW.
While we’re talking about it, how sad is it that Cameron’s been an active WWE wrestler and onscreen character for this long on TWO SHOWS and this is realistically the first time “what are the rules for tags” has ever come up. Alicia Fox vs. Melina was a singles match, y’all.
Be better at your job, Referee Mike Quackenbush.
Best: Very Canadian
It’s not often than one can take the microphone and improve upon what Paul Heyman is saying, but when Cesaro decided to take over and heel all over the Montreal crowd…oh, my heart.
See, it’s not that I identify with bashing the Québécois. It’s just that picking on them in that way was so…so Canadian. You know how wrestlers will show up in a local sports team’s jersey even though you know very well where their sports affiliations lie, or mention how great it is to be right here in [insert name of city]. It’s the cheap pop you know is just a hackneyed ploy to get you to cheer, but sometimes you still cheer because hey, that famous person is mentioning something that’s relevant to ME. I’m sure they were told they know how to rock in Shelbyville, but they’re right! Nobody rocks like [city I’M from]! Sometimes, for Canadians, that’s kinda just us all of the time. Oh man, that show was filmed in Vancouver? Someone on the Oscars thanked [Canada/Canadian person]? That movie filmed in Toronto but actually said they were in Toronto and not Chicago/New York? It sounds hyperbolic, but getting excited for Canadian mentions is a lesser-known yet entirely intrinsic part of our national identity.
Condescending to the Montreal crowd is one thing, but picking on the “inferior” nature of Québécois French compared to Metropolitan (European) French was brilliant. Someone like, say, The Miz or Randy Orton or whomever isn’t going to come out and start insulting the existence of canadianismes de bon aloi, but Cesaro will. He’s smart, he’s mean, and he’s so very European. Sure, you could insult the Habs or poutine or any general eye-roll worthy French-Canadian stereotype, but by deriding Québécois French he cut to the very heart of what would make a crowd the most defensive. The colloquialisms, the morphology,the quirky idioms; things that separate their own language from the rest of the world and help make them who they are. He even pronounced Québécois without a hard K sound (Kwuh-bécois, ughh), which makes me SO MAD but also makes me think someone mistook a Pronunciation Manual video for fact. For most of Raw’s audience, the insult isn’t a big thing, but guys, that promo was a heat-seeking missile. That is the talent to know your audience, and get under their skin in a way that calling them fat or lazy or ugly or any generic heel insult never, ever will.
Cesaro is our superior.
Supplemental Best: Kofi Kingston didn’t wear the tights that make him look like he got his period
Those things are the worst.
Best: The Guy Yelling In The Background At :46
“GO BACK TO HELL YOU EVIL MOTHERF*CKERRRRR”
It’s even better if you pretend Torito’s saying it.
Best: Just All Of This
Bo vs. El Torito was everything I wanted it to be. Bo managed to be so condescending that even his FINISH was an insult. That Bo-dog off the second rope instead of the top was masterful. I think my favorite Bo Dallas moment in history now is him climbing back into the ring, noticing one of the El Matadores standing at ringside and deciding to hop down and just shove the shit out of him into the steps. I LOST it.
Worst: The Nothing Matters Match
You know that paragraph about how all of last week’s exciting stuff got rehashed into this week’s predictable stuff? Remember last week’s show, where Seth Rollins was about to cash in on Cena and was interrupted by Dean Ambrose? Remember how Roman Reigns got involved at the very end? Yeah.
I’m gonna start bringing a book to these Raw main events. Can we just do Battleground this weekend and let the writers skip the cycle? Ambrose preventing Rollins from cashing in is a great, great idea, but it’s one of those things you need to do with space in-between. It can’t be “here’s what we do every week,” it has to be Rollins naturally discovering these awesome opportunities to become champion and getting f*cked out of it. After Elimination Chambers and ladder matches and stuff. Not “John Cena took a finisher and things are going my way in this match.” Let the drama fester, guys.
Best: Roman Face
Roman going through the weird babyface motions and looking at Cena like an asshole the entire time was pretty great. Cena is awfully dumb if he thinks he can trust a guy who was 1/3 of that Authority-led swat team that beat him up for a year and a half and is now in direct competition with him for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
JBL: “You can’t coach strength!”
Somewhere in the WWE Performance Center, WWE’s Strength Coach sheds a single tear.
John Michael Hall
“A pack of menthols.” “Honey I need more than that.” And she peels her skin off. Hey, stupid, how about a brand name? You ever think that might be what the clerk lady was looking for?
“Let’s talk like adults”
“HEY JACK I’VE BEEN WORKING ON SOME NEW PHOTOSHOPS”
Brad Barnes from MVP Baseball 2005
Raw really has turned into Nitro, Finlay took a spear at 8 p.m.
If Randy Orton and Kane form a tag team, their finisher should be Orton pooping into a bag and Kane lighting it on fire.
I don’t know where Zeb gets off calling out immigrants. He’s Dutch after all.
The tag team of Ambrose and Fandango would be: Jeans Jeans the Dancing Machines
What is it with rappers never knowing how belts are supposed to work?
Joe Bucks Disgust
Why is Fandango talking like Shy Ronnie?
They should turn this into a trios team by bringing Jeff Hardy back as Angel Dust.
Thanks, everybody. See you next week with a report about this exact same Raw!