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– h/t to commenter Murray Grande for this week’s column subtitle.
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And now, here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for Aug. 17, 2015.
OH GOD, WHAT ARE WE DOING
OH GOD, WHERE AM I GOING
Best/Worst: Kevin Owens And Cesaro Standing On The Apron While Orton And Sheamus Wrestle Is WWE’s Ultimate Cuckold
Two things before we start:
1. Besides Rusev vs. Mark Henry, every single match on Raw is a variation of a match we’ll see at SummerSlam. Here’s the breakdown: Kevin Owens is facing Cesaro at SummerSlam and Randy Orton’s facing Sheamus (…again), so they do Kevin Owens and Sheamus vs. Cesaro and Randy Orton. SummerSlam has that three-team, nine-Diva “revolution” match, which breaks down into Sasha Banks vs. Nikki Bella and Becky Lynch vs. Tamina. Ryback beats The Miz, because Miz (and Big Show) are challenging for the Intercontinental Championship on Sunday. All the tag teams in the Tag Team Championship have an eight-man tag. Roman Reigns fights Luke Harper because they’re halves of a tag match at SummerSlam. It’s not even using wrestling to promote an upcoming show, it’s using wrestling to promote the same wrestling. The frustrating part is that Night Of Champions will be booked based on the fallout from SummerSlam, which means it’ll be variations of the same matches, built on Raw with variations of variations of the same matches. Like, honestly, how many times do I have to watch The Miz lose to Ryback before I’m hyped for Miz vs. Ryback?
2. The show opens with Triple H and Stephanie hyping the SummerSlam song while Demi Lovato’s ‘Cool For The Summer’ plays in the background. It’s one of two official themes for SummerSlam. It’s also a bicuriousity club anthem that does not necessarily vibe with a pro-wrestling rematch between an undead cowboy wizard and his herculean farmboy rival. Triple H yelling about the Wyatt Family with “take me down into your paradise” blaring in the background is pretty funny, though. ROMAN REIGNS AND DEAN AMBROSE WILL TEAM UP, AND ALSO I THINK I WANNA GO DOWN ON MY FRIEND ♫
Anyway, as mentioned, the opening match is Kevin Owens and Cesaro hanging out while Randy Orton and Sheamus continue their endless blood feud. It’s not a terrible match, I guess, and bonus points for the opening promo only going 10 minutes instead of 30, but it’s kind of a mess. At this point, Randy Orton and Sheamus could be doing Savage/Steamboat and most of us would ignore them. That combo’s so tired Freddy Krueger shows up in the middle of their matches and tries to trap Sheamus in a roach motel. Combine that with two of the iffiest smark stories in WWE — “is Cesaro actually getting a push this time, or are we fooling ourselves?” and “has Kevin Owens been turned into an expendable fat joke already or are we being too pessimistic” — and you’ve got more of a boring conversation than a wrestling match.
It’s not a new thought, but I think everyone would be better off without WWE’s obsessive need to put guys who are feuding into an endless string of matches against each other. If Orton only fought Sheamus in big matches, they’d seem important. If Owens didn’t have to constantly face John Cena and Randy Orton, he’d have a better win/loss record. The times we’ve been allowed to fall in love with Cesaro as a WWE character are when he’s had long stints at the bottom, built some momentum and shined against top-level opponents. If he’s just a guy at the top who never really wins or does anything, what is he? Dolph Ziggler?
The finish is Orton RKOing Sheamus and pinning him again, because Money in the Bank is the corniest Get Out Of Jail Free card ever.
Positive Stuff So You Don’t Think I’m Joyless: Every time Cesaro does that M. Bison springboard spinning European uppercut, an angel gets its wings. Also, Sheamus has a Roman Reigns-like willingness to block strikes with his face to make them look good, and I continue to appreciate that.
Best: Undertaker Promos Are Best Pre-Taped And Kept Under 90 Seconds
This is how you do The Undertaker. You pipe in some Gregorian chants, set him up in Kelly Clarkson’s room from the ‘Heartbeat Song’ video and have him say some threateningly goth sh*t for like a minute and a half. Boom, out the door. You don’t tell a 50-year old man to dress up like a character from The Dark Tower, hold a live mic and spend 10-12 minutes rambling about his motivations in the style of Lurch.
Real quick, though … at the end of the promo, Taker says that at SummerSlam, Brock will “never rest in peace.” I get what he means, but since he normally says people he’s going to beat with “rest in peace,” does that mean Brock’s winning? This is a total “let’s get ready to suck it, if you’re not down with that, we’ve got two words for you: suck it” situation, isn’t it? Everyone, joyously suck our dicks! If you don’t want to do that, here’s further instructions: Suck our dicks against your will. You’re not just gonna die, Brock, you’re gonna die and be unsatisfied.
Best: Roman Reigns vs. Luke Harper, Or
Worst: Take It Home, Dean
I’m waiting for that moment where we all collectively forgive Roman Reigns for getting an absurd WrestleMania push he wasn’t ready for and being a defensive, entitled weirdo about it, because he’s been doing some great work since Mania. As I mentioned, he reminds me a lot of babyface Sheamus. He’s a guy willing to put his body on the line and just get shoot-kicked in the face to make a move look great. Unlike babyface Sheamus, he’s even (mostly) stayed away from the embarrassing promos and catchphrase line-reads that made him a punchline for six months.
In contrast, Dean Ambrose is the drizzling sh*ts right now. He’s oddly insufferable on commentary, which has never seemed like a thing you’d say about him, and about halfway through the match I was hoping Bray Wyatt would calmly walk up to him and shatter his headset, Animal House-style. Dean is either telegraphing the hell out of a heel turn, or going too far trying to build believable “brother” sympathy for a Roman turn. Either way, you kinda wish he’d just shut up and let the story unfold.
Reigns vs. Harper is very good, bordering on great, and really only hurt by the fact that we’ve seen it so many times before. I feel like Harper either beats Ambrose or loses to Reigns every time he wrestles. Bray doesn’t say or do anything for once, which is refreshing, and I hope it’s because he’s already in control of Ambrose and this is Sixth Sense material for the big reveal. Ambrose as a cultist hillbilly would be kinda dumb, but if they play it off like he’s this lonely, homeless drifter who sleeps in peoples’ trunks and doesn’t know how to operate plugged-in televisions and just needs someone to love and believe in him, I’m into it. Have Roman be all, “hey man, I thought we were brothers,” and Ambrose respond with, “YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW I TAKE MY COFFEE.”
Best: Becky Lynch Gets Something Passable Out Of Tamina
God bless Becky Lynch for treating Tamina like a “powerhouse” and wrestling the match like it’s Big Show vs. Rey Mysterio despite them being basically the same size, and Tamina having the skill level of a turnip.
A supplemental Worst goes out to Michael Cole for calling Becky Lynch “Nikki,” and saying she’s the “youngest female wrestler in the history of Japan,” which makes me want to show Cole so many YouTube videos.
Worst: Hater Ass Lana, Yet Again
Last week, Rusev wrestled Mark Henry. Lana sits in on commentary to talk about how Rusev and Summer Rae are obsessed with making her life miserable, despite the fact that she’s the one out here on commentary for their match. She gets physically involved, pulling Summer off the ring apron. Summer ends up rolling her into the ring in front of Rusev and camel clutches her. Again, keep in mind that this is a retaliation for an attack that Lana started.
This week, Rusev wrestles Mark Henry. Uh, again. Lana sits in on commentary to talk about how Rusev and Summer Rae have made her life miserable, despite the fact that she’s the one out here on commentary for their match. It’s even worse this week, because Rusev wins with The Accolade and he and Summer try to leave. Lana gets in the ring and goads them back, then attacks Summer. She challenges Rusev to get into the ring, too, and it’s all an excuse for a returning Dolph Ziggler to run to the ring and save her. Now, excusing Ziggler’s character and motivations for a minute, Lana’s the worst person in the world, right? She keeps obsessively f*cking with Rusev and his new girlfriend, physically attacks them and now sets up an emotionally manipulative situation where her new boyfriend has to rush back from surgery or whatever and sprint from the back to the ring to save her from an abusive confrontation she initiated. It’s insanity. I love to justify heels in these columns and make them seem noble as a kind of running gag, but y’all are all with me, right? Lana’s the worst. The dirt worst.
In the following picture, Rusev isn’t using Hot Summer as a human shield. He’s trying to keep her from collapsing in fear at Ziggler’s tan. (See, that part’s the gag.)
Worse Than Lana: Dolph Ziggler’s Spray Tan
SPEAKING OF GAG, dude didn’t think to take off his jean-jacket vest before spraying himself down. His back is pale and dry, but his chest is soaking wet and BLAZE ORANGE. Also, his hair’s gone from looking like uncooked spaghetti to looking like cooked spaghetti. Whole wheat pasta? What, did Dolph attend a “How To Make Yourself Look Worse” seminar during his time off?
Double turn at SummerSlam. Do it. Have Dolph Ziggler show up all cocky like, “my hot girlfriend told me about this great place called Russia. We had brunch with this dude Putin, and he says he’s gonna give me a gold star for being so dope.”
Worst: The Intercontinental Championship Still Exists
Nothing to get you excited for The Miz challenging for the Intercontinental Championship like The Miz losing easily to the Intercontinental Champion, right?
Thanks to Ryback’s injury and all the rescheduling of matches, it feels like this Miz/Ryback/Big Show beef has been going on all year. You’d think they would’ve just dropped it and moved on with their lives, but nope, I guess whatever they’re trying to accomplish by running these guys into each other is important enough to preserve, and (God willing) we’re finally gonna have it out at SummerSlam. My thoughts on this feud are a deep, long sigh. I don’t even know what to say anymore. These guys are doing stuff. Ryback still can’t suplex a guy without them desperately posting and trying not to fall out of it. Big Show’s on TV too much. Miz is a great character with no direction besides, “wear funny clothes.” It’s a staph infection. This angle is a staph infection and it’s making the show’s legs look gross.
Best: John Cena Takes Seth Rollins To The Promo Woodshed
Seth Rollins took about 14 minutes to say 4 minutes of quality material, but it was there: John Cena is WWE’s Big Bad, a selfish force of nature that maintains the status quo and essentially holds wrestling fans hostage by numbing them into acceptance, and giving them just enough bread and water so they’ll say, “Thank you, John Cena” instead of revolting. That’s the last decade of WWE TV, with the bread and water of those awesome United States Championship matches where he makes a guy look great for 20 minutes but, you know, still wins. It’s a trick. It’s a ruse. Cena’s a disease, and WWE’s going to die from it unless somebody’s brave and fortunate enough to be a vaccine. WHOOPS, THE WWE UNIVERSE DOESN’T BELIEVE IN VACCINES, BA BADDA BAAAAA
Seriously though, it’s an interesting point. I’ve taken it a lot of times myself. Unfortunately for Rollins, however, Cena is only a week away from “the biggest match of his life™,” and that more often than not brings out the most dangerous version of John: the one who knows he’s the Big Bad and knows he’s the disease, but honestly and truthfully believes that his tyrant’s rule is what’s best for business. Sassy, forwardly-threatening John is almost impossible to stand up to in a promo battle, because the reality of WWE is that he runs the place, and what he says goes. End of story. He can shut down The Rock, he can send CM Punk up the river and he can basically bend Seth Rollins over his knee and spank him on live television. It’s bad ass if you ignore the fact that it’s also killing us.
That’s why the If Cena Wins We Complain Online shirts exist. All Cena’s got to do is wink and be aware that a real world exists outside the Matrix of WWE, and he gains immeasurable power. He’s not part of the system, he is the system. He knows Alberto Del Rio doesn’t actually own those cars. He can face Bray Wyatt or Rusev or Kevin Owens and give them a moment of glory when nobody’s watching, then brutally and repeatedly reassert his dominance over them. He has to give them something before tearing them back down. When CM Punk left WWE with the Championship and made national headlines, the end of the story was John Cena as Champion. When Daniel Bryan rose to glory and shocked the world at WrestleMania 30, the end of the story was John Cena as Champion. Seth Rollins cashed in Money in the Bank in the main event of WrestleMania, feuded with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show and broke John Cena’s nose on national television, but the end of the story is John Cena as Champion. If not at SummerSlam, soon. John knows it, which is why he can show up like this sometimes and say, “hey kid, you’re supposed to be good or whatever, but f*ck you, I’m John Cena.” And mean it.
All melodramatic preaching aside, this is the John I’ve always wanted. He’s my favorite. He’s the guy who realizes he exists and accepts it. What I need in response to that is for a true rival to develop … not his lazy Yang Randy Orton, not the beloved newcomers who get broken or fizzle out, not a flavor of the month. Not a bigger star with something better to do. I need a true, powerful “next step” in the evolution of wrestling. I need a Hulk Hogan in 1983, or a Steve Austin in 1996. I need that guy to say, “no, John, f*ck YOU,” and mean it back. That’s gonna be exciting.
Here’s the plan for SummerSlam: Cena defeats Seth Rollins to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Sheamus cashes in Money in the Bank, Cena trounces him, too. We start off the Raw after SummerSlam with Cena holding all the top prizes with no reasonable challengers or outs, and we tell our stories from there. Just start over and default everybody on the roster to zero. Treat his ass like King Joffrey and spend the next year building up all your contenders to the throne. Why not?
Best: El Torito Vs. Xavier Woods
SummerSlam has 10 matches on it already so the Tag Team Championship match will probably get bumped to the Kickoff, but man, I want El Torito vs. Xavier Woods one-on-one. Give it like, 12 minutes.
They’re the best part of the 8-man tag, with Woods quoting Jem and the Holograms at ringside (“IT’S SHOWTIME, SYNERGY!”) and Torito beating him up. They got more heat for their little interaction than a lot of stuff on the show, and it’d be something fun and interesting. You’d want to tune in to see it, I mean. If they advertise Adam Rose vs. R-Truth, you know exactly what you’re getting. With the tag match, even if they put it together well, you know what you’re getting. Woods vs. Torito, though? That could go anywhere. Frankly, I want them to pull a Lucha Underground and let Torito compete as a regular roster guy. He’s the Sunny to Los Matadores’ Bodydonnas. He’s so far beyond them in talent and charisma there’s no reason to keep them together. I mean, it’s never made sense. He’s a bull and they’re bullfighters. Why are they friends? Why would he even follow them around?
Shoutout to Kalisto for trying the West Coast Pop. If he starts being able to swing through his opponent’s legs and catch them in a pin like pre-Crisis Rey Mysterio, he’ll be my favorite wrestler.
Best/Worst: The Divas Revolution Vs. Minnesota After 2 1/2 Hours of WWE And No Brock Lesnar
The NXT Women’s Champion faces the Divas Champion in what is ostensibly Raw’s main event. It should be a big deal, but it isn’t. The crowd chants “we want Lesnar” and “JBL,” because they’ve sat through almost three hours of Raw in Minnesota and countless “Brock Lesnar will be here, we swear” graphics with no Brock Lesnar.
I’m still trying to figure out if any of this means anything. I’ve written for weeks about how the Divas Revolution is just a repackaged version of what they were already doing, with the presentation switched. Before, it was characters and stories being pushed and floundering because they’d only have like 40 seconds in the ring to wrestle. Now, it’s just longer, competently wrestled matches without any characters or stories. The only character development any of these women have gotten since the Divas Revolution started is, “I’m on THIS team, you’re on THAT one.” That’s it. At SummerSlam, they’re all wrestling, but for what? Anything? If Becky, the least proven (in WWE) member of her team, cleanly defeats Team B.A.D.’s “enforcer” with a submission, does anything happen? Does B.A.D. get mad at Tamina? Is Becky better off now than she was before the match started? How many times does Nikki Bella get to wrestle and lose matches without losing the Divas Championship? Does anybody care about it, or are we just Netflix and Chilling until AJ’s record is broken?
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse over here, but without anything for us to latch onto or care about besides the broad idea of “letting women wrestle,” crowd politeness is eventually gonna dissipate and we’re gonna be right back where we started. Sasha Banks beat Nikki Bella on Raw in the main event and I can’t get excited about it. Something’s broken, and I don’t think it’s my fault.
Also of note: Pay attention to how sluggish and unmotivated Nikki Bella was this entire match. She was wrestling like Brie. Why? Because she was going to lose. That’s how you can tell if Nikki’s winning or not. If she’s all happy and motivated, she’s going over. If she wrestles like a bag of garbage and looks like she’s about to fall asleep, she’s not. Look at this:
She’s the most transparent wrestler ever. She’s like Kane’s pyro on the ring posts in human form.
Best: THE COSMIC KING
And now, the best part of the entire show.
First of all, King Barrett has a throne in Stardust’s promo room and spends the entire time rapping his fingers against his crown, making him more like a Batman ’66 villain than ever, and I love it. Then, Stardust uses TELEKINETIC POWERS to summon a new set of shoulderpads for Barrett, crowning him THE COSMIC KING. Now all he needs is a yellow sash and a giant cylinder going through his head and the look is complete.
I love this so much. The only way I love it more is if Barrett enters to this at SummerSlam:
Worst/Best: The Undertaker Is A Supernatural Jerk
I go back and forth on a lot of stuff on this episode, and I’m sorry for that. Some of the complaints I get from readers is that I’ll “Best” something and spend several sentences explaining why the bigger picture sucks, or I’ll “Worst” something and ramble on about a thing I liked. Expect more of that here, because I’m not even a real journalism.
It’s great that the Undertaker’s finally getting some heel heat for being a beaten old jerk who’s held a grudge for a year and a half and won’t stop sneak-attacking this guy and kicking him in the dick. That’s all that’s happening. Taker’s teleporting into the ring, kicking Lesnar in the dick at the first sign of trouble and doing a bunch of Specials. It’s so cheap, and he usually gets cheered because he’s The Goddamn Undertaker. At the same time, I kinda get it … Taker is on his last legs and will do anything to defeat the guy who tarnished his legacy and more or less ended his career, so it’s not about being fancy and playing mind games, it’s about ruining his opportunities and constant dick-kicks.
Maybe it’s just a good scouting report. He kicked him in the balls at Battleground and Brock just collapsed and clutched his crotch like Hans Moleman. Maybe that’s Brock’s big weakness. If you want to beat him, you just boot him in the junk and go to town. Maybe that’s what happened with Alistair Overeem. One of those knee strikes caught him in the balls.
It’s interesting how much work WWE put into making sure we’ve got reasonable doubt for all their big matches. John Cena put “15X” on his shirt design months ago because he never thought he’d get another shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but now he has, so maybe “15X” is bad timing from merch (or a red herring) and not a pre-emptive spoiler. Brock Lesnar’s been built up as the most unstoppable thing in WWE history and he beat the Undertaker at WrestleMania, so you assume Taker gets his revenge at SummerSlam, but it’s been ALL Taker so far, so will he? That’s how the Mania feud worked, too. This is just a stepping stone before whatever gets Undertaker back to WrestleMania, right? Does that even matter anymore?
For better or worse, we’ve got a lot to talk about. ONWARD TO SUMMERFEST!
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Use hastag #hashtag to promote hashtagging!
Sammy Davis Jr.
“Just put my head on the Hulk Hogan statue.” – SR
I’d much rather the return of Dog Ziggler.
The Real Birdman
I hope R-Truth shows up and call Coach “Saxton” so we can come full circle
The Longest Tard
Dean: “Hi, I’m Dean Cain – Televisions number one star from 1989 – 1990”
Big Show: “Wow, spanning two decades.”
Orange is the new Jack
Undertaker wants Vengeance, Cena wants Payback..I feel like this Sunday Summerslam will be Judgement Day!
Good thing HHH was put over so strongly, you always want to make your opponent look str…wait, what?
Mr. Royal Rumble, TheCensoredMSol
Brock Lesnar: Ok, Taker. I’m just gonna start walking forward like this (*makes suplex motion*), and if you get German’d, it’s your own fault.
Undertaker: Yeah, well I’m just start walking like this (*starts kicking*), and if you get kicked in the junk, it’s your own fault!
Bull Dempsey: Ok, pie…