– I was in a car for almost 44 hours this weekend, so I’m watching this episode on Tuesday morning as opposed to live on Monday night. Usually the only difference is that my reports are more optimistic, because I did not have to sit through three hours of Raw in realtime.
– Your shares, likes, comments and other Internet Things are appreciated.
– A huge thank-you to everyone who came out to see Meet Me There at Bruce Campbell’s Film Festival during Wizard World Chicago this weekend. I got to meet several very cool people who read and comment on my stuff, and whoops, now we’re friends for life. I’ll keep you guys up-to-date on further screenings (including a huge batch of them in October) in the even that you care about me outside of these wrestling jokes.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for August 25, 2014.
Unintentional Best: Hulk Hogan Is So Full Of Shit
Before we begin, I need to sorta put this Raw into context. It was bad. See you next week, everybody!
Seriously though, the non-wrestling stuff on Raw was better than the matches, and the non-wrestling stuff was only good in how hilariously not good it was. Like, I might forget a random good Usos tag after a few months, but I’m going to remember the Bella Twins segment for the rest of my life. That’s the situation we’re in. Understanding that, Raw had a few moments of blistering unintentional comedy, the first being Hulk Hogan assertively explaining to Shawn Michaels that when it’s time to retire, you’ll know it’s time.
Yes, Hulk Hogan said this to Shawn Michaels. The guy who is at least 15 years past his expiration date and can’t stop telling everyone who’ll listen that he wants “one more match” despite having a decade of One More Matches and nostalgia runs is telling the guy who went out on top fighting the Undertaker at WrestleMania that wrestlers “know” when they should retire. Shawn Michaels, the guy who retired prematurely and came back arguably better than ever, only to retire again at the peak of his artistic successes so he could go to church and hunt stuff for fun. That guy, telling that guy. While RIC FLAIR sits just off-screen, still probably angling for one more match of his own, and still too drunk to remember the Miz.
You’re the worst, Hogan. Bonus points lost for nobody bringing up that Shawn Michaels thinks John Cena doesn’t have a chance because he’s Triple H’s best friend, a point that was super, super important during the whole “Daniel Bryan doesn’t deserve to be champion” stuff.
Worst: Let Me Tell You Something, Old Jacks
The point of the Hall of Fame panel was to have John Cena interrupt them, say he’s going to Overcome The Odds and Beat Brock Lesnar’s Ass at Night Of Champions, then leave. At this point they SHUT DOWN THE HALL OF FAME PANEL, because I guess Cena wrapped it up for them and they had nothing else to say.
What was the point of that, though, honestly? Couldn’t they have done that in the pre-show or something? It’s not especially rare to see Michaels, Hogan or Flair these days, even in the same ring. Remember Hogan’s birthday party? Maybe if Cena had shown up all calm and then went into a furious rage and Attitude Adjusted all of them through the table, then we got a HOT ANGLE. Instead, it’s just legendary guys with nothing to do, reading Alex Riley’s script until Cena shows up to cut the two-minute version of his most generic 8-minute promo. Okay.
This has to be a build to Cena getting crushed again, and Cena having to realize his own mortality. It’s so by-the-numbers. They get literally nothing out of Cena overcoming the odds and being champion again immediately, right?
Best: A Boring Match With A Good Point
Like most of the matches on the show (read: all of them), Rusev vs. Jack Swagger was boring. Unlike most of the other matches, though, Swagger and Rusev had a point: Rusev is the baby version of Brock Lesnar, a guy who doesn’t even have to pin you, he can just beat you to death to win the match; and Jack Swagger as a passionate babyface with more guts than brains. Neither of those really came across with any heat because, like I said, super boring, but it’s there if you look for it.
Remember when Rusev beat Swagger by count-out, and the announce team forgot and said Swagger tapped out to the Accolade? This almost felt like a do-over of that. Swagger’s ribs are injured and he won’t give up, screaming WE THE PEOPLE in Rusev’s face while he gets his innards crushed. Rusev just stomps and stomps and stomps him until the referee stops the match. In 1979, this would’ve been MONEY. In 2014, people care less about nobility and passion and country and more about hitting their cues, so an arena full of Americans who should’ve been screaming and booing were checking their phones and waiting for the part when they could say “we the people.”
Not to entirely blame it on the audience, though. We’ve seen Rusev vs. Swagger too many times in a row, so really whatever they do’s gonna feel like chapter 12 of a 30-chapter book. But yeah, it’s there if you want it.
Best: Bo Dallas Will Not Shut Up About How Sad Of An American He Is
I know they’ve got to stop doing Swagger vs. Rusev at some point and have to transition Swagger into other, non-flag-based avenues, but man, the Swagger/Dallas beef HAS to end with one of them going Full Soviet. You’ve got two options:
1. Swagger realizes that he IS a disappointment to his nation, banishes himself from the country he loves so dearly and starts wrestling in a black singlet with a hammer and sickle on the stomach. Starts hitting people with a chain. Maybe wrestles a bear? I don’t know, but the more I type the more I want this to happen.
2. Bo Dallas dressing like Red Star from G.I. Joe, talking about how he’s a “Bo-shevik.”
I’m very happy that they’ve suddenly remembered Cesaro exists and should be good at wrestling. He had that great groundswell of support heading into WrestleMania, won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, got a cool nickname based around his way-too-over signature move, threw in with Paul Heyman and started wearing a tight white jacket that made him look like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story whenever he walked. Then Brock Lesnar showed up and WWE mixed up their “Cesaro” and “Kofi Kingston” files. Cesaro started losing to everyone (including Kofi Kingston, which further supports my theory), and his explanations for why he was suddenly horrible and not doing any of the cool stuff he’d started doing was, “it’s fine, shut up about it.”
Cesaro’s at least started beating the lower-tier guys again recently, and got a strong victory over Rob Van Dam last night. That’s good. He’s beaten Rob Van Dam like eight times this week, but that’s how they do things now. He even got to continue his cool belt-tossing antics from Main Event by scooping up the United States Championship, looking at it for a few seconds and throwing it in Sheamus’s face like an asshole. This is the Cesaro we want … a guy who can dismantle you in the ring so tremendously that it ruins his ability to be a decent human being.
We’ve still never gotten the truly great Sheamus vs. Cesaro pay-per-view match, either, so that’d be exciting. If you’re gonna have a United States Championship, you might as well give it to a notably pro- or anti-American guy. Rusev probably should’ve been U.S. Champion three months ago.
Natalya got a couple of wins over the Divas Champion last week when AJ Lee interrupted their matches. She got a distraction rollup on Raw, and caught Paige with a Sharpshooter after she was led up the ramp by AJ and almost counted out. So on Raw this week she gets another match. Paige doesn’t get distracted by anybody, so she handily beats Natalya cleanly with her finish in the middle of the ring.
Instead of that being that, Natalya waits for the POST-MATCH distraction, stalks Paige from behind and hits her when she turns around. The announce team doesn’t seem to think this is heelish at all, going “SHADES OF HER DADDY” and then instantly forgetting it when Natalya leaves the ring. Why did this happen? Did Natalya save face or something? Get her heat back? She could only win by cheating, and now she’s doing sneak attacks because she’s mad about losing fairly. She’s the worst person out of the three, right?
Best: We’re In A Frienelationship!
I know this is gonna sound like I’m typing with my penis, but I hope the payoff to the Paige/AJ story is that they ARE both being sincere, and that they DO both love each other. I want them to just be in a monogamous homosexual relationship where they’re both super crazy and can’t stop dropping Divas on their heads. It’s really the only unconventional way to end the story. Also in this fan fiction, Eva Marie is a total homophobe and commands an army of women so unathletic they can’t walk in a straight line without blowing out a knee.
Regardless, I think it’s very telling that the WWE Universe can watch two beautiful women hug and kiss and the only thing they can think to say is “CM Punk.”
Best: The Eulogy For Dean Ambrose
If I’d been watching this live I would’ve typed “take it home, seth” at least twice, but I sorta loved the Dean Ambrose eulogy. There are few things that get legitimate heel heat from me like Seth Rollins reminding me how he destroyed The Shield. I want to see him punched in the face for it, and I’m the guy who homers for the heels and thinks people like Damien Sandow have great points.
I was also a big fan of Roman Reigns here. Sure, he got his Unstoppable WWE Babyface moment a little later, but him standing up for Dean Ambrose and/or the idea of The Shield — because he’s the one who still apes their entrance theme and wrestling gear — made me smile. The way the fight was staged made a lot of sense, too. Kane tried to stop him as soon as he was over the barricade and had a little success, but Roman was able to reverse him and send him into the steps. That bought him enough time to go after Rollins. It wasn’t a “cowardly heel” thing either … Rollins tried to fight him off as he entered the ring, but Roman tossed him into a bunch of stuff and stunned him enough to set up for a spear. THAT gave Kane enough time to recover, and he selected “flee” and dragged Rollins to safety by the ankle.
There’s a huge difference between that, and a guy just popping up from a beating and doing whatever he wants to however many people he wants.
Worst: Seth’s Fake Laugh
“Ha! Ha ha! Ha ha HA! HA ha!”
The only thing that made me want to punch him more than sad Shield memories is his Scott Evil laugh.
Best: Evil Dusts
Goldust and Stardust turning heel on the Usos doesn’t make a ton of sense, especially after that month-or-whatever of talk about cosmic keys, but I’m Besting it anyway because the Rhodes Brothers are DOING SOMETHING and showing an edge. It’s been a long time since they felt like actual threats to anything, and frankly if you aren’t ever going to play them against the Authority again, the creepy painted science-fiction guys should probably be heels.
Plus, the Usos need someone besides the Wyatt Family to wrestle. We’ve established that they’re never going to have personalities and never get over for anything other than jumping and kicking and screaming, so giving them adversaries that are weird and good at anchoring/delivering solid wrestling matches isn’t a terrible idea. So far the matches between the teams haven’t been spectacular, but they haven’t had any reason to be. Hell, I just want the Rhodeses to win the tag team championships and turn them gold. If we can get a new WWE Championship, we can ditch the Spartan pennies.
Best: This No Give Up Bullshit
I watched this entire video with a smile on my face. Ear to ear.
These pre-taped Lesnar promos are exceptional, and wrestling needs more of them. We got convinced at some point that everything should happen live, with the guy standing in the middle of a ring having to address four sides at once and roll with whatever happens. There’s a great talent to that, but unless you’ve got something that needs to pop a crowd and get them INSTANTLY involved in what’s happening, what’s the point? Take your time. Get it right. If you’re gonna write it, write it with intent. Give us soundbites to remember in a controlled environment. Otherwise you’re just pandering to a bunch of people who don’t even really know what’s going on, they’re just playing along with whatever they’ve seen on TV and can remember. You’re an episodic TV show. The stuff that happens in the ring is your live stuff. Up the production value of everything else and try a little harder. It pays off when you do.
Also, if this isn’t the beginning of some kind of “end” for John Cena, whether it’s a character adjustment or simply a compelling storyline about him NOT getting everything he wants for once, it’s never going to happen. If a legitimate fighter who is giant and supernaturally strong beats the Undertaker at WrestleMania, squashes John Cena at SummerSlam to become champion and has the greatest talker in the history of wrestling filling in the blanks can’t stop the “overcome the odds” guy, what’s the point of having odds at all? This is the end. The Big Bad. The boss at the end of the game. You’ve built this character so impossibly in 2014 that a cheesy rematch loss at Night Of Goddamn Champions of all shows is going to be the worst moment and biggest missed opportunity you’ve had at LEAST this decade. What’s the point of anything you’re doing if you don’t roll with the one believable thing you’ve built?
The unstoppable Lesnar story has to end at WrestleMania. That’s the world you’ve created. If Cena beats him there, fine, whatever. It’s not the call I’d make, but it’s the place where a thing like that has to happen. If it’s Bryan or Reigns or the f*cking Rock, who cares? It’s WrestleMania. That’s where the immovable object gets moved by the irresistible force. Know when to play your cards. I am okay with eight more months of Lesnar saying “piss” and “bullshit” in promos.
Best: Heath Slater Doing Titus O’Neil’s Dog Barks
The Los Matadores vs. Slater Gator match was honestly pretty crummy, but there were two highlights:
1. El Torito selling moves as they happen to Los Matadores, because he’s better than both of them combined, and
2. Heath Slater doing various dog barks in support of Titus O’Neil.
A supplementary Best for at least Heath Slater remembering his blood feud with Los Matadores. If Hornswoggle’s gonna dress up like a sassy cow and pal around with them, at least the One Man Rock Band’s keeping that darkness in his heart forever.
Unintentional Best #2: A Womb With A View
“If that’s what you full I’m sorry.” – Brie Bella
I LOVED THIS, YOU GUYS. The Bella Twins might be the worst actors in WWE history, and you’ve got them here saying the most extreme “I hate my sister” content you can write, doing this big sweeping gestures and trying (and failing) to cry on cue. Jerry Lawler is for some reason mediating a reconciliation between two models who can’t say “hello” convincingly, much less “I wish you’d died in the womb.”
– BRIE BELLA’S CRY FACE. I don’t know what she’s even TRYING to do. Nikki keeps rambling on and on with these vaguely horrible things like “MY SISTER STOLE ALL MY BOYFRIENDS IN HIGH SCHOOL” and “BRIE EATS GRANOLA AND I THINK GRANOLA SUCKS,” and every time she pauses, as if “What” chanting, Brie says something like NO YOU’RE LYING or STOP IT. She’s a de-handed Luke Skywalker, hanging off an equipment extension in Cloud City, finding out about his dad.
– All that “dead in the womb” talk is amazing. I love that Nikki Bella would get so dark with it, especially since the Bellas have effectively been a single person since they debuted in WWE. They’re “The Bella Twins.” They have the same music, the same taunts, the same colors. They share a joint Twitter account. Their existence was based around them being so identical they could change places and cheat to win wrestling matches. Now suddenly Brie’s been an angel for 30 years and Nikki’s been The Little Match Stick Girl.
– Nikki yelling STAY OUT OF IT OLD MAN at Lawler got a face pop from the audience and me. When he got sad-faced and walked toward the ropes I was hoping he’d turn back and say, “Hey Nikki … I’ll THINK ABOUT IT.”
– The fight was great, too. Nikki was full Boss Heel here, throwing Brie around by the hair, punching her in the side of the head and bashing her with the microphone. I’m telling you, this was a great, great segment totally ruined by WWE’s faith in their top superstars’ girlfriends, and if you’d cast two women with even a basic understanding of stage fighting and public speaking you’d have gotten a melodramatic masterpiece. Instead, you’ve got Nikki saying “in the WOMB” like Brie says “I’ll see you in COURT” and it’s funny and memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Next week, Brie should be backstage at catering somberly eating Veganic Sprouted Brown Rice Crisps only for Nikki to burst in, attack her with a stool and tell her she wishes she’d eaten her in the womb.
Best: The Backstage Fallout Is Even Funnier
Jump to the 0:55 mark. Eden’s back there all BRIE, BRIE, CAN YOU TELL US WHAT HAPPENED and her response is, and I quote:
“Ehh, ehh, eeeeeEEE.”
Best: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought About The Bella Twins Confrontation
Worst: More Babyface Sneak Attacks
I love Bo, but the issue with Jack Swagger has abandoned pretty much everything I like about him. Now he’s just winning matches or showing up and saying “I don’t like this person, something something BO-LIEVE,” which is the antithesis of the Bo character’s dorky creativity. Bo is wonderfully funny and his catchphrase is one of the most utilitarian WWE has, but if you’re just gonna have him say JACK SWAGGER IS DISAPPOINTING, SUCK IT, there’s nothing to it.
On top of that, you’ve got Bo running down Swagger again and Swagger showing up to (you guessed it) attack him from behind. Why didn’t Swagger attack him when Bo showed up at the top of the ramp? Why didn’t he attack him when he showed up backstage? Why’d he wait until he had his back turned and was talking to somebody else? Maybe Jack Swagger IS a huge disappointment. Don’t be Natalya, Jack.
Best: The Miz’s Stunt Double
The Miz is another example of a great gimmick they’ve found with absolutely no intention of playing with. He’s trying SO HARD, you guys, and it feels like nobody’s watching. He’s got a movie trailer opening to his TitanTron video. He’s wearing a Snuggie and sunglasses. He’s doing things like putting his “stunt double” into a match he doesn’t want to wrestle. It’s fantastic, and the only payoff ever seems to be “The Miz sucks.” At what point is effort and excellence in a role rewarded?
On that note, I guess it’s perfect that Damien Sandow is Miz’s stunt double. Remember when Damien Sandow won the Money in the Bank briefcase and was challenging John Cena for the championship? Remember when Miz was WWE Champion and main-eventing WrestleMania? Remember when Sandow and The Miz were in tag teams with athletic handsome guys who were great at backflipping but couldn’t break through and get anywhere? Has Sandow always been Miz’s stunt double?
Worst: The Actual Match
If Dolph Ziggler wrestles more than three minutes do they have to pay him extra?
Worst: This Week In ‘Roman Reigns Can’t Lose’
Here’s how important the handicap match was: it’s over 15 seconds into the WWE Fan Nation video.
Last week’s Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose match was heated and had a memorable finish, with Ambrose getting curbstomped through a stack of cinderblocks. Before that’s even been a thing long enough to substantiate a memory, Roman Reigns is here to be all SETH ROLLINS TRIED TO CURBSTOMP ME THROUGH CINDERBLOCKS BUT I STOPPED HIM AND ALSO TRIED TO HURT HIM WITH THE CINDERBLOCKS AND KANE WAS THERE AND I SUPERMAN PUNCHED HIM, BELIEVE THAAAAAT~!
It’s fine that Roman’s as tough as he is — Roman IS tough, after all — but it’s already getting tiring to see him always come out on top of a situation. It’s part of what makes Cena so unbearable; if you eliminate the chance of vulnerability, you can never organically believe that the guy’s in trouble, and any moments of vulnerability AFTER that seem like WWE-made decisions. If Cena loses to Brock like he did at SummerSlam, we aren’t saying “wow, Brock kicked Cena’s ass,” we’re wondering why Cena chose to do that and what it means for upcoming matches. Seeing wrestling finishes as decisions instead of happenings never leaves you feeling happy.
Besides, if you have Rollins eliminate Ambrose and instantly start getting his ass kicked by somebody else, the idea of Ambrose coming back unexpectedly and kicking Rollins’ ass loses its power. The answer becomes, “if Ambrose wants Rollins to get his ass kicked, he should stop trying so hard and ask his tougher, cooler, better friend to do it.”
Worst: Hey, Remember Me?
The John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt situation is starting to feel like Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes. If you’ll remember, Orton used to beat up Cody all the time. He started a faction called “Legacy” that was supposed to be a glorification of third-generation stars, but ended with Orton beating them all up. After the faction ended, Cody went off on his own and would stop back by every two or three months for a decisive loss to Orton. It got ridiculous.
Bray Wyatt got put into a WrestleMania program with Cena that was supposed to be a one-month thing that made Wyatt into a name. Instead, Cena just easily beat him, easily beat him in a Last Man Standing match and easily beat him 3-on-1 in a cage match that he technically “lost” because a MYSTERIOUS SINGING CHILD appeared from out of nowhere and distracted John long enough for Bray to capitalize. So Bray moves on to a feud with Chris Jericho that goes sorta well and leads to him winning a match cleanly at SummerSlam, so what’s his next stop? Losing another match to John Cena. Wait, sorry, losing TWO MATCHES IN ONE NIGHT to John Cena. Well done, everybody.
If Bray goes into Survivor Series with something cool, there is an 80% chance that he’ll lose another match to Cena between Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble. Because Cody Rhodes will forever be Randy Orton’s Young Boy, and Cody was Bray’s Pro on NXT, so you learn what you learn.
Worst: Were You Aware That JOHN CENA
The problem with Hulk Hogan types losing matches is that they’ve got enough pull or whatever to become EVEN STRONGER. If Hogan doesn’t have the WWF Championship and doesn’t main-event WrestleMania once, a Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna title match ends with Hogan showing up and beating Yokozuna in seconds. If Cena loses clean to Daniel Bryan, he comes back crazy fast and wins the World Heavyweight Championship from Alberto Del Rio like he was squashing Heath Slater on Raw. If Cena loses to Brock Lesnar, his next Raw appearance is him winning two matches and ending the show by hitting three dudes with his finishing move. Stomp stomp stomp, pose pose pose. “Those who second guessed John Cena may have to think again!” We don’t even let him stew in it for a MINUTE. He’s just instantly SO MUCH BETTER THAN EVERYONE AND ANYONE WHO THOUGHT HE WASN’T IS STUPID, PLEASE LOOK AT JOHN CENA EVERYONE.
It’s just creatively frustrating. One guy makes it, so everyone else becomes supplementary. Cena doesn’t need three weeks of being unstoppable to “prove” that he can beat Brock Lesnar. He’s got his entire career. He’s got a victory over Lesnar. He’s known as the guy who overcomes all the odds and wins at all the pay-per-views … it’s why him LOSING was such a game-changing shocker. Why we got optimistic about shit. It was an impossibility, and then it happened. Now they have to go “sorry it happened, we’ll clean that up” and scurry back to business as usual.
If that’s not the payoff, I will happily, happily apologize for being such a pessimist. But that IS the payoff, and if Cena DOES lose at Night Of Champions, it’ll be “because” something. Interference, the ref not counting his visual pin, something. And Jesus take the wheel for whoever has to face him on Raw the next night.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
I missed six episodes of the Simpsons for that.
“You either fold, or you get better.”
Welcome to the Fold Era.
The WWE is like a monkey’s paw. Every time they do an interesting change it has unforseen and terrifying consequences.
RAW has been pretty lackluster. At least next week we’ll be able to relive switching over to Nitro
“Stay out of it old man!”
”I’m not old! I’m …blurgh” heart attack, dies
“”Congratulations Damien Sandow you’re our new Intercontinental Champion!” is what I’d be saying to you if you weren’t an inch too short. NEXT.”
Two weeks ago, Roman and Dean went to see a hypnotist show at the Magic Castle. “Roman, when I snap my fingers you will forget the existence of your friend Dean until you hear the magic phrase ‘I built the Shield.’”
Ambrose crawls out of the podium, dazed and confused about how he ended up on the floor.
Big Baby Yeezus
“As per his will, Dean Ambrose has bequeathed his titty mastering to me”- Seth Rollins
This Hall of Fame Panel can also serve as a demonstration of how to conceal one’s male pattern baldness.
Thanks, everybody. Share the column, and I’ll see you next week. If not … enjoy Bleacher Report Guy’s Hits And Misses Of WCW Monday Nitro.