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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for August 4, 2014.
Best: Inspire Pro Shirt Sighting
First things first, I wanted to give the biggest possible, officially-sanctioned Best to my buddy @skapocalypse for getting an Inspire Pro Wrestling t-shirt onto Raw. If you always skip the pre-show notes and skim through my aimless shillings, Inspire Pro is a company I ring announce for and help creatively run in Austin, TX. It’s more or less like seeing my child pop up on national television.
Here’s a better look at the shirt, conveniently located on a website that can take your money.
Worst: This Guy
What, did Roman Reigns just say “bitch?”
Worst: $9.99, The Catchphrase
Okay, so, the opening to Raw. Triple H and The Authority make two crucial mistakes:
1. Putting Kane into another “uh oh, you gotta wrestle KANE” gimmick match to punish a babyface they hate, even though Kane’s lost like 98% of his matches since putting the mask back on and has a -20 to all available skills in gimmick matches. He’s Kane in a normal match, but add some kendo sticks and a table? He’s Santino wearing an upside-down Kane mask.
2. Turning “$9.99” into a catchphrase.
That one takes a little explaining. See, the people who signed up for the WWE Network when it first showed up are nearing the end of their six-month commitment, and WWE — a company with absolutely no faith in its fans whatsoever — is terrified that everyone’s gonna drop it. Instead of, you know, putting on a consistently good product and justifying asking someone to pay them monthly for it, WWE maintains their “only good between January and April” mission statement, mails it in for eight months and then begs you until you give them money to shut up.
Last night featured the most desperate 3-hour infoshill you’ve ever seen, with nearly every character on the show working in a “WWE NETWORK IS A GREAT VALUE AT ONLY $9.99 PER MONTH” aside whether it was warranted or not. Triple H said it so many times the crowd started chanting it along with him. I get it … wrestling fans are sheep, and if you turn anything into a crowd participation sing-along they’ll be on the Internet memeing it in no time. It creates awareness of the value or whatever.
The problem is that you’re giving the Network’s low price point heat. I signed up for WWE Network on day one and think it’s the greatest thing in the world, and you’ve got me mad about how it’s ten dollars a month. When you inevitably hike the price up to $12.99 or $19.99 — still both great values for the amount of content you get — it’s gonna create heel heat. You’re basically telling me as a fan that by paying for the Network, I’m singing along with all the wrestlers I’m supposed to hate. What the f*ck?
Worst: Laser Tag Roman Reigns Gets His First Unrealistic, Unbelievable WWE Babyface Win
Anyway, the opening match is a Last Man Standing Match between Roman Reigns and one of those Imps you find outside of Baron that have 6 HP. It’s not very good. The idea of it isn’t bad, but in practice it’s just two guys open-hand uppercutting each other for 15 minutes. Kane attacks Roman with a kendo stick by hitting him in the padded, protected parts of his gear and Roman sells it like he’s been hit by a car. Guys lie around on the ground until it’s time to get up and do the next round of uppercuts. Roman gets put through a table but gets up at 9, if you count leaning against the middle and bottom ropes in a half-squat as “up.” The referee picks and chooses when to make 10 counts because guys aren’t getting up fast enough. Even the announce team starts going COUNT HIM, HE’S DOWN, COME ON. Then, finally, Roman hits one finisher and Kane is downed forever.
Last Man Standing matches are a solid idea, but they’re almost always WWE’s worst match. In a TV-PG era you can’t really do anything to believably keep a wrestler down for a count of 10, so you have to duct-tape their feet together or wander over to the stage to slam them into a breakaway prop. You have to do something dumb that undercuts the entire idea of unsanctioned violence, and you’d almost always just be better off having guys hit wrestling moves and get pins.
Good for Roman, though. He’s officially moved up from “hardworking mid-carder in exciting matches” to “popular top-tier worker who gets his shit in,” and that’s the best place you can be. Daniel Bryan never really made it there. Poor Dean Ambrose is still somewhere trying to have good matches. Roman’s just furrowing his brow and howling until it’s time to do his Superman Punch, and everyone everywhere loves it. Nature of the beast, or whatever.
Best: Kane’s Garbage Is Going Somewhere, At Least
The best news here is that WWE is choosing to acknowledge how horrible an “enforcer” Kane’s been and is choosing to do something with it. Corporate Kane > The Demon Kane anyway. They might not be doing any of the fun fantasy booking things we’d want them to — pairing him back up with Taker for one last retro, old school run or having him go to rehab therapy and reconnect with injured-ass Daniel Bryan — but literally anything is better than his scrotal mask and newborn puppy threat-level.
Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Think About Kane
Okay, that’s pretty good.
Best: This Goddamn Cena/Lesnar Hype Video Forever
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Brock Lesnar is the f*cking greatest.
In six minutes, WWE managed to stay true to both the Cena and Lesnar characters, skip half an hour of talky in-ring bullshit and get down to what really sells Cena vs. Lesnar; history, gravity, and the promise that just like at Extreme Rules 2012, things might get out of hand. That’s all we need. We need Cena doing his “I love this business and Brock’s a part timer and did I mention I love this business” followed by Brock saying he’s going to rip his arms off and shit in the holes. The end. People with a misdirected sense of loyalty to a business that hates them can throw in with Cena, and people who want to see a colossal, gamma-radiated farm boy eat someone alive can throw in with Lesnar.
This is why I ignore the people who go for the “Brock sounds stupid when he talks” jokes. He doesn’t. He sounds like a crazy psycho monster who’d try to hurt you in real life. He sounds like he’s telling the truth when he says nothing can stop him and he’s only interested in fighting when he wants to fight. It IS the truth. He doesn’t have a melodic catchphrase for you to recite … he just says “I’m going to cripple you and you’re gonna throw up all over yourself and shit the ring.” I could not possibly love Brock Lesnar more.
Also, how hilarious is it that Cena’s talking point is I’M ALWAYS ON THE SHOW AND DON’T BAIL FOR NON-WRESTLING PRIORITIES when he’s missing this episode to shoot a movie?
Best: At Least Mark Henry Is Back!
The good news is that Mark Henry’s back, and that we get another 2-5 months of him before something happens and he disappears again. Let’s hope no large, strong guys get pushed for a while so Mark be more than dog food.
The bad news is that Damien Sandow showed up in a homemade Oklahoma Sooners uniform, caused a bunch of incorrect college football references and got World’s Strongestly Slammed in about thirty seconds. I guess that push is coming later rather than sooner, am I right folks
Worst: Adam Rose Drinks Too Much Twisted Tea, Ends Up Finding A Fictional Mirror And Buries Oculus
Adam Rose continues his unprecedented streak of indescribable backstage garbage by running into the mirror from the film Oculus. I didn’t think they could miss an opportunity greater than Heath Slater vs. Flo Rida II, but here we are. You have Adam Rose, a character who spend several years as a crazy South African bounty hunter, announcing that he’s gonna look into a mirror that shows you your true, evil self. HOW THE SHIT DO YOU NOT HAVE LEO KRUGER IN THE MIRROR, GUYS. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE.
Seriously, watch the above video. Now, watch this one. Tell me which one would’ve worked better:
Also, how do you have the Oculus mirror hanging around backstage and only do a gag with it once? You could go anywhere with it. Have Sin Cara look into it and see the old Sin Cara. Have Kofi Kingston look into it and seen a white guy holding several world titles.
Best: Next Week, Brock Lesnar Shows Up And Murders Brother Bruti
Next week, Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan returns to the Silverdome to celebrate his 88th birthday, possibly reunite the New World Order and sew the seeds for whatever next thing can make Hulk Hogan the center of attention.
I reserve the right to whole-heartedly praise the birthday celebration if it ends with Brock Lesnar standing on a pile of Hulk Hogan, Brutus Beefcake, The Nasty Boys, blood, urine and vomit.
Worst: What’s Worse, Going To Commercial During A Beat The Clock Challenge Or Doing An Entire Match During A Commercial Break?
Not only did they go to commercial during a match that lived or died based on a timer running in the corner, they crammed an entire Rusev/Sin Cara match into a commercial break. I could’ve watched it exclusively on the WWE app. Alternately, I could’ve watched a wrestling match on the wrestling show and watched Adam Rose look at pre-taped shit in a mirror on the app. EITHER WAY I GUESS.
Worst: Beat The Clock Challenges
Here’s the problem with a Beat The Clock match: the first one only really exists to set the time. The only tangible drama in a Beat The Clock series is that moment when time’s about to run out, a sense of urgency kicks in and wrestlers have to pull out a win in the final seconds. That’s it.
The first match in the night’s Beat The Clock challenge was Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio. It’s a two-person challenge, as Seth Rollins is wrestling later in the night. There is a zero percent chance that Ambrose is gonna lose this. Every person in the arena knows Ambrose has to win, or else the Rollins match later in the night will be pointless and they never would’ve announced a stipulation. Then you have him go 16 F*CKING MINUTES against Alberto Del Rio, a wrestler crowds associate with boredom. What do you have left? An arena full of people who don’t care about anything happening between minutes 1-15, because the finish is 1) inevitable 2) all that matters. You’re stalling on step one.
I get that the idea is that you want Rollins to look like he’s got no chance of losing so that when he does it’s exciting and a big deal, but they had Rollins lose later with like 10 minutes left on the clock. What’s the point of that? Imagine if Ambrose had won in, say, seven minutes, and Rollins had been forced into a sense of urgency on TOP of Ambrose’s distractions, and that led to him slipping up and getting pinned in the final seconds. Then you’d have drama on top of drama, and you wouldn’t have to beg a crowd to believe Alberto Del Rio has a chance of doing anything resembling notable for an entire f*cking quarter hour.
Best: Arm-Work Actually Meaning Something
All that said, there was some good stuff in here. It meant nothing, but it was good. Normally what happens is wrestlers filling the first third of a match with limb work, locking in wristlocks and attacking the knee or whatever, and then everybody forgets it and they do signature moves.
Here, the story is that Del Rio’s working Dean’s always-injured arm to both take away the Dirty Deeds and set up the cross-armbreaker. As I said, normally that’d end with them doing some signature spots and then Ambrose winning with his finisher. Maybe he’d grimace and touch his shoulder afterwards because “selling.” Instead, because sometimes wrestling is cool and makes sense, the finish is Ambrose unexpectedly hitting his finish with the OTHER arm — something he has never, ever done — to get a flash pin on an overconfident Del Rio. The arm work MATTERED. It affected Ambrose’s performance and he had to change things up to overcome it. Beautifully done.
Best: Zeb Colter Will Defend Getty Images With His Dying Breath
Speaking of that forgotten Rusev/Sin Cara match, we come back to commercial break in time for some POST-MATCH SHENANIGANS, remember that wrestling doesn’t matter to the one domestic company that successfully promotes wrestling and we’re always just rushing to get to the post-match. Unless we’re doing a Beat The Clock challenge, the match built around rushing. I don’t know.
SPEAKING OF RUSHING, The Ravishing Rushing Lana runs down the United States by saying Barack Obama likes dogs (?), and that brings out Zeb Colter and his mute Biff Tannen clone for another USA vs. Russia showdown. Zeb uses the TitanTron to show Lana a few of the people they’re fighting for, and f*ck me, it’s the cheapest, most available collection of stock photos you’ve ever seen. It was super embarrassing, unless the hook is that Zeb’s good buddies with a lot of low-level models. Couldn’t they have sent out a memo that said “HEY, WE NEED PHOTOS OF REGULAR PEOPLE FOR THIS RAW SEGMENT, SEND US SOME PICTURES FROM YOUR COUSIN’S FACEBOOK IF YOU WANT TO GET THEM ON RAW?”
I’ll be honest, though, I’ll pop pretty hard if Swagger’s about to lose the flag match at SummerSlam and gets bailed out by an old couple at a laptop and a multicultural group of co-workers.
Worst: Cesaro Loses In 2 Minutes Because We Need Time To Show A 6-Minute Video Package In Full Twice
This is when Raw starts to get CRAZY SAD. The matches have been underwhelming, Zeb Colter’s big pro-American speech is him flaunting a Shutterstock account and now Cesaro vs. Dolph Ziggler ends in two minutes with Cesaro dorkily jobbing clean. To put it into perspective, The Miz is a champion and competing in a match at SummerSlam while the best active wrestler in the company and arguably the world is taking a dive in a non-match you could’ve stuck on the app to help set it up.
Here’s a better idea of how to put this week’s Raw together: Have Ambrose/Del Rio go 7 minutes instead of 15. Skip the Zeb/Rusev shit entirely if you aren’t going to dedicate a full segment to it, then allot those extra 8+ minutes to having two of the best workers you employ wrestling in an entertaining fashion on the show with no other good wrestling happening to make the otherwise Mizzed-on Intercontinental Championship look cool and important.
I’m worried that this is one of those weeks where I’m gonna get “it doesn’t seem like you LIKE WRESTLING” feedback. I do like wrestling. I really do. I love it. WWE’s version of wrestling and everything. I just also have eyeballs and a functioning short-term memory, so when they creatively f*ck themselves in the ass I notice and see it and have to write three paragraphs about it.
I seriously cannot believe that Goldust and Stardust are back in the ring without any payoff to that MONTH of “cosmic key” story and they’re wrestling Rybaxel. The Dusts vs. Rybaxel is officially the new Kofi vs. Dolph. I can’t handle this. I can’t. I can’t even make permanent marker on dry erase board jokes anymore. You’ve taken four guys that I love and absolutely beaten them to death with apathy. It’s f*cking insulting and a waste of everybody’s time. If you can’t multitask well enough to handle a show full of wrestlers and their motivations and their stories, fire all but 10 of them and run the same five pay-per-view matches every month. It isn’t a great leap from what you’re doing right now.
Worst: The Only Finish Any Wyatt Family Match Has
… and then a Wyatt Family match ends with a teleport-in and a disqualification loss. EVERYBODY BETRAY ME.
Best: At Least Bray’s Jabbing People In The Throat With That Mandible Claw Hand He Has
Okay, I need to find something good to say about this show before I hump a red dress and blow my brains out.
The Jericho/Luke Harper match ended in a BLEARP~, sure, but on the bright side, Bray Wyatt finally used that Mandible Claw leather contraption he’s worn on his hand for ages to Samoan Spike a dude. That’s AWESOME. Part of Wyatt’s character should be an aping of all of wrestling’s most mysterious moves … Asiatic spikes, nerve holds, poison mist, whatever. Anything that would make a child go OH NO WHAT’D HE DO I DON’T UNDERSTAND.
Bray’s offense to date has mostly revolved around overused WWE stalwarts (REVERSE STO IN THE HOUSE) and using his mild fatness to bowl people over. He’s a demon inhabiting an army tank with a Ferrari engine, you see, so while he’s big he’s also sudden, so he can run at you and it’s scary. If he adopted sort of an Ox Baker vibe where people thought he was a legit killer, and WWE would write off certain part-time characters with injuries like a CRUSHED WINDPIPE due to Wyatt’s UNEXPLAINABLE THUMBNESS, that’d be amazing. It could help Wyatt build back some of the mystique he lost in the Cena feud, and give him more to do than gasping his way through nonsense promos that are delivered brilliantly and accomplish nothing.
Worst: WWE’s Best Feud Informally Ended By Its Worst
1. Fandango beat Chris Jericho at WrestleMania. Here he is losing his 3rd-to-5th consecutive match against Diego, one-half of a regionally non-specific matador-themed tag team with a bull midget familiar.
2. Fandango’s dance partner is Hornswoggle dressed as Fandango, because last night’s episode was written by a f*cking Snorlax.
3. Layla and Summer Rae are dressed as cowgirls, which does not totally go with the bullfighting guy aesthetic, but whatever. They’re still babyfaces, and still causing non-stop heel distraction losses to a guy who was mean to them months ago and hasn’t done anything but try to wrestle wrestling matches since. Fandango loses here when two women and two little people conspire against him. I’m not the guy who’d normally say this, but this story needs to end with Fandango losing it and brutally beating the shit out of all four of them.
4. The bull is horny because he has horns, so he humps the women.
5. WWE’s worst feud (Layla and Summer vs. Fandango) has now accidentally ruined its best … Hornswoggle vs. El Torito. That was WWE’s purest blood feud, and we’ve completely forgotten it because they’re also two of WWE’s only punchlines. Now instead of being rivals, they’re friends in Vince McMahon’s great collection of oddities: non-whites, women and the handicapped.
Best: Bo Dallas Ends The Streak
Is every match a rematch in a constant string of rematches? Am I having a nervous breakdown?
The positive here is that Bo Dallas has finally gotten a win against R-Truth, and shown that his mean streak can manifest itself in a victory as well as in a loss. That seems important. If he was a guy who lost it when he got pinned, that’d be two-dimensional. Here, Bo’s showing us that it’s not wins and losses that trigger him, necessarily, it’s embarrassment. He wins and tries to do his victory lap, but Truth interrupts him and tries to attack him on the outside. That causes Bo’s rage to flare up, and instead of simply pushing Truth into the steps and fleeing, Bo Bo-dogs him to death on the floor. That leads to an intense staredown, followed by the slow return of Bo’s stupid, stupid face.
I hope we can keep Bo moving forward, and never let him fall into the Adam Rose “I LIKE TO PARTY AND LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE EVER” trap. The Bushwhackers liked pumping their arms up and down, but they also liked licking heads, you know?
Best: YOU’RE EITHER AUTHORITUS OR YOU’RE AGAINST US
I got into the Worsts of this earlier during Ambrose/Del Rio and yeah, it’s a hacky distraction finish dragged out for several minutes at the end of a night of nothing but the hackiest shit in WWE’s arsenal BUT WHO CARES, HEATH BY GOD SLATER JUST MAIN-EVENTED RAW AND PINNED SETH ROLLINS AND I AM TYPING IN ALL CAPS
Ambrose was AMAZING at ringside here. If you’re gonna do a distraction finish, at least provide a DISTRACTION. Normally a guy would just go HEY LOOK AT ME, HEY, HEY and that’d cause a loss. Here, Ambrose is working overtime, causing a string of distractions involving torn up contracts, vandalized briefcases, soda, popcorn, fan interaction, the works. Rollins doesn’t come out start a fight with Ambrose (which would technically give him a DQ win and beat Ambrose’s time) because he’s scared of him. That’s good storytelling. Also good storytelling: the placement of this match, which helps explain why someone ELSE didn’t show up and bail out Seth. Kane had just taken off his mask and vanished into the darkness or whatever and Triple H and Stephanie were moments away from their press conference, which (spoiler alert) involved a bunch of prop planning.
ALSO HEATH SLATER WON
Best: Ricky Starks’ Food-Related WWE Career Continues
And who was that guy who got his soda stolen you’re probably not wondering? It was RICKY STARKS, independent wrestling standout, Inspire Pro Wrestling star (cough) and guy who once got put through a catering table by The Ryback. I guess every Raw appearance he gets will revolve around food. And I’ll be honest, now I’m retroactively sad that Ryback didn’t f*ck with him during the Dust Brothers tag and jam that bag of popcorn in his ear.
There is a 100% chance that Ricky will be on WWE TV in the future, so remember how weird and ED his early appearances were.
Best: The Possibility That Kharma Will Return, Bring Closure To The WWE Angle That Needs It The Most And Prove The Bella Twins Have Been The Heels In This All Along
At this point, my Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella angle analysis comes down to be loving Stephanie and feeling that she’s totally justified and correct in everything she’s saying and doing, and thinking the Bella Twins are hot garbage. Brie memorizing the world’s worst Hard Times speech and namedropping the Rhodes Family between gay prison sex jokes should kinda speak for the awfulness of itself. She still can’t say a sentence into a microphone like a human being. Watching Stephanie lead her through the bit was like watching a mom holding a toddler’s hand and walking them across the street.
So, in the interest of not harping on that any more than I need to, I will openly wish that Brie Bella’s “karma comes back around” threat to Stephanie is AWESOME FORESHADOWING for the return of Kharma.
If you don’t remember Kharma, she’s the Amazing/Awesome Kong, a great female wrestler who had an INCREDIBLE Royal Rumble appearance where she skunked Dolph Ziggler and a devastatingly truncated run that ended with her getting pregnant, losing the baby and either being granted her release or fired for lying about it, depending on the story. Whatever happened it was tragic and unfortunate. Anyway, her last appearance was the announcement of her pregnancy, which featured the Bella Twins viciously mocking her for being fat, ugly and unloved. BECAUSE THEY ARE THE WORST.
“I really hope that in one year when I come back … you two will still be here. Cause now I’ve got a new dream.”
It’s been more than a year, but THEY’RE STILL HERE. COME BACK AND LIVE YOUR DREAM.
Best: BIG BOSS STEPHANIE
Stephanie ends the show by pedigreeing both Bella Twins. Stephanie McMahon is my favorite wrestler.
A supplemental Best to Brie Bella for lightly struggling and being unable to slightly move her body and escape an office chair. Stephanie should make the SummerSlam match a hardcore match and beat her ass in an Office Max.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Brie, the people.
Dean puts popcorn, soda, and a hat into the briefcase, closes it, knocks on it three times, and opens it to reveal A HEATH SLATER VICTORY OH MY GOD BEST MAGIC TRICK EVER
“Until actual humor can be found, please enjoy this substitute.” ~MST3K, from the episode “Future War”.
Smooth Jimmy Apollo
(Backstage, Cesaro knocks on a door)
Cesaro: “Excuse me, is this the room for formerly dominant asskickers now relegated to mid show jobs?”
Sandow: “No, sorry this is the room for Triple H projects that didn’t pan out.”
Sin Cara: “You can have Drew McIntyre’s seat.”
(Cesaro knocks on another door)
Cesaro: ‘Excuse me, is this the room for formerly dominant…. oh.”
Kane: “Pack of Marlboro Light 100s?”
Clerk: “I’m gonna need more than 3.00.”
*Kane takes off his mask*
Narrator: “What can smoking cost you? Your livelihood.”
Turns out the Cosmic Key just opened up a wormhole to June.
Rusev is hitting Swagger with a literal foreign object.
Christmas Ape ☆
That’s the line JBL won my drinking game with!
HHH inserts a heel ref, Roman knocks out Kane with a Superman punch, ref counts:
I hate being in the Nine Ninety Nine percent.
Sorry, everybody. See you next week.