The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 9/14/15: The Secret’s Out

Previously on the Best and Worst of Raw: A tromboner’s friend ate a kazoo, a tiny bull was beaten up by his guardians and a teleporting mime with Bioshock Infinite crow powers stole the champion’s personalized bronze statue to destroy it in a garbage truck. Rusev had a cool Bulgarian flag warmup jacket, a giant sheep man was angry about … something, and Kevin Owens ate an apple on television.

This week: most of that doesn’t matter. The apple is probably still important. Please enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for September 14, 2015.

Best: Triple H’s Evolution Into Vince McMahon Is Complete

1. As a reminder, Stephanie McMahon dancing is automatically the best part of any wrestling show that includes it. The second she starts soccer mom dancing, the sky opens up and the sun shines through. I don’t totally know why it makes me so happy, but it’s just so damn perfect. Remember her interpretive hip-hop dancing to John Cena’s entrance theme? Remember her dancing on Cena’s grave? Remember her as a condescending Rose Bud, Go Daddy dancing to Steam during the Vickie Guerrero sendoff or headbanging to Seth Rollins’ entrance theme?

Awkward dancing Stephanie is my Patronus.

2. You can be mad at Triple H for high-fiving and old man dancing with Big E after being the guy who decided he couldn’t be “the man,” but you can’t be mad at him for physically transforming into Vince McMahon during it. Look up basically any footage of Vince dancing (especially around people of color) and boom, that’s it. He went for it, though, and to his credit, Motörhead doesn’t make a lot of songs you can dance like that to.

Best: Xavier Woods Just Pink-Panther’d A Man

I should just start a recurring “here’s what The New Day did this week that made me lose my mind and call it the best thing ever.” First (well, not first, but first recently), they do parody song performances that call other tag teams “booty.” Then, Xavier Woods reveals he can play trombone, and plays it before, during and after matches. Dude played TAPS during a pinfall. THEN, The New Day runs into Edge & Christian, and Big E not only steals their kazoo, but tries to eat it. Also, Woods plays the Final Fantasy victory fanfare on the trombone. Now, Big E is doing cartoonish sneaky steps while Woods plays the Pink Panther theme. This happened DURING A MATCH, YOU GUYS. That even skips over the myriad of other things that’d make you (me) tweet in all caps, like Woods yelling “WHAT HAPPENED TO DARREN, OH NO!”

This week’s show is an Orson Welles. It peaked too early. They start with the announcement that Sting’s having his first-ever Raw match, Triple H and Stephanie dance like Sesame Street characters with The New Day and then we have a super fun Tag Team Championship match with consequence! Not only does the winner get to be the tag champs, they move on to Night Of Champions to face The Dudley Boyz. That’s how you build a division, kids.

I idealize and romanticize a lot of stuff, but honestly? This is what I want WWE to be. I want fresh, motivated, diverse talent having great matches that mean something on the company’s biggest stages, and I want those somethings to tie-into (or at least relate to, and remain relevant in the face of) company history. They do it really well sometimes, which is why I get so fussy when they can, but don’t.

Seriously Though, Triple H And Stephanie Should Pick An Alignment And Stick With It

We already write about this too much, so I’ll keep it quick. If Triple H and Stephanie McMahon want to be evil, puppetmaster bosses, they should do that. If they want to be their real selves — people who clearly care a lot about pro wrestling, have a deep investment in ensuring its future and want praise for their efforts — they should be that. If they try to do them both at once, they’re smashing Reality and Fantasy into each other like a kid with no creative grace playing with action figures, and nothing gets done. You can’t say you love Triple H and Stephanie, because like 50% of WWE storylines rely on them being bad. You can’t love the bad guys, because that makes you a smark, and you aren’t “being a good fan” or whatever. It kills the drama in both directions, and you’re left viewing them as non-actors making personal decisions to have their cake and eat it too instead of wrestling characters making wrestling decisions on a wrestling show.

Just wanted to type that. Again.

Best: Sasha Banks Vs. Paige, While It Lasted

Sasha Banks is in such a strange spot right now. Let me try to figure this out.

Usually what happens when we fall in love with a performer (Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Damien Sandow and on and on), WWE puts them on TV just enough to draw our attention, then snatches them away. It took Bryan years of losing to practically everybody (and going o-fer on his season of NXT) before he got to be something. Even when he won the United States Championship, he was feuding with folks like Alex Riley. At the peak of his popularity he was losing in sub-20 seconds at WrestleMania and getting stuck in a comedy tag team. Cesaro became a Paul Heyman Guy and instantly became the most expendable person on the roster, despite being a tall, handsome, Infinite Strength Malenko everyone loves. He’s starting to get some of his mojo back, but he’s still taking a lot of losses. Damien Sandow went from cult hero to complete afterthought in like 3 weeks. Hell, look at what they did with Lana.

With Sasha, it’s different. The WWE Universe is extremely aware of her and infatuated. Some of it’s love from her work on NXT, some of it’s bandwagon buzz, some of it’s “here’s a new girl who is dope in the ring and crossfaces people.” She’s great at being her character walking, and she’s singularly Sasha Banks. There’s no mistaking her. She has the “it factor” you hear about on WWE reality shows. We (specifically meaning what people who don’t put enough thought into it might call “smarks on the Internet”) want her to be the focus of everything. We want her to be Divas Champion and usher in a golden age of joshi brilliance, or whatever. When this happens, WWE goes into Sandow mode and milks it as long as they can without actually giving us anything, and by making that performer seem weak. We have to “get behind them” as underdogs even if they’re CESARO and shouldn’t be underdogging under any circumstances. Sasha’s not doing that. She’s not having the more important matches in the Divas Revolution, but she’s winning a lot. She tapped out Paige on Raw, and even when she’s losing she’s not taking all the pins or looking like an idiot. During the Beat the Clock challenge she got pulled out of the ring by her friends, but that’s honestly the weakest she’s looked.

The match with Paige on Raw was getting good, but ended way, way too quickly. It was another direct, emphatic victory for Banks, complete with her submission finish and a post-match beatdown. They seem to be positioning Sasha as the leader of B.A.D., unless that’s all in my head, and it’s a good decision. I like Naomi as much as the next guy, but Naomi and especially Tamina are not Sasha Banks. Sasha Banks is Ric F*cking Flair. Naomi can be Tully. Tamina can be … I don’t know, Mongo? Paul Roma?

So yeah, just to clarify, I’m happy to see Sasha winning, I’m just not used to WWE throwing a bunch of wins at somebody who ostensibly isn’t even in a defined feud. She’s just wrestling matches and winning. Maybe that’s the hook? I don’t know, it just feels uneasy to not have the same complaints as always.

Best, I Guess: John Cena Vs. Sheamus

Maybe I burned myself out with that Network bit last week, but I can’t feel anything about John Cena vs. Sheamus. It’s like a kid with creative grace playing with action figures. “I’m gonna make Cena do Sheamus’ move to Sheamus! Now Cena wins!” Note: in this scenario, they’ve lost the Money in the Bank accessory that came with the figure so they just aren’t using it.

It was good. It was everything they’ve ever done. Totally fine. Nothing that’s going to make me type exclamation points positively or negatively. Sometimes that’s the worst, isn’t it? If you go to a show live, the worst thing it can be is “fine.” If it’s great, you go home and tell everyone how great it was, and how excited you are for the next one, and how they should go with you. If it’s bad, you go home with a bunch of passionate stories about how terrible it was and why.

John Cena and Sheamus is a 40-degree day. Ain’t nobody got nothing to say about a 40-degree day. Fifty. Bring a smile to your face. Sixty, sh*t, the WWE Universe is damn near barbecuing on that motherf*cker. Go down to 20, fans get their bitch on. Get their blood complaining. But forty? Nobody give a f*ck about 40. Nobody remember 40, and WWE Creative is giving me way too many 40-degree days! What the f*ck?

Best: Not Reading Cue Cards

The Wyatt Family and The Shield-ish got in each others’ faces again on Miz TV, and Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns revealed that they’ve found a partner for Night of Champions. It should be Damien Sandow in a Seth Rollins wig, but I digress. The thing I wanted to point out is how unnecessarily scripted everything on WWE TV has felt lately, and how much better it is when you just let your talented, likable performers have a little breathing room.

For example, think of every Roman Reigns promo you’ve ever heard. Now, watch this:

That’s so much better, right? These actually seem like people you’d want to talk about and hear talk, and not interchangeable dildos jammed into bad comic books, right? Hell, they got me hyped for SAVIO VEGA showing up at Night Of Champions. That’s not something I ever thought I’d feel. Note: they should actually get Savio Vega AND the Great Khali to show up at NOC, have the Wyatts beat them both up, then reveal their actual partner.

Worst, But An Ironic Best: Kevin Owens Shoots On The Secret

We’ve seen wrestlers feud over everything from accidental miscarriages to racist shampoo commercials and everything in-between, but now we’ve got dudes on Raw for-real feuding over there differing ideologies about self-help books.

A while back, Ryback cut an unintentionally funny promo about how he was motivated to DEMAND MORE FOOD (so to speak) by a book called The Secret. Here, because he is a huge dick, Kevin Owens is wandering out to interrupt a promo with a copy of the book so he can say it SUCKS. It DOESN’T help people. It HURTS them. Oh, it’s on.

What makes it ironically fascinating is the fact that Ryback’s currently stuck in this weird funk where he’s totally forgotten how to sound like a human being when he talks, so he says things like HE IS THE MAN. THE MAN KNOWN AS THE ARCHITECT, WHO ALWAYS KEEPS HIMSELF OUT OFS HARM WAY. It’s like three dogs in a trenchcoat are pretending to be a man. Meanwhile, you’ve got downtrodden-ass Kevin Owens having to verbally spar with this guy and make it a functional wrestling segment. Look at his face. He spends half the promo internally screaming, trying to figure out how he got here and whether or not his family will hate him if he just says f*ck it and quits. It’s wonderful, and also kind of a train wreck. Also, it’s two grown combat sport athletes being catty to each other about a decade-old grocery store impulse buy book about Positive Mental Attitude.

Worst: Rusev Vs. Cesaro

So, I get to start bragging about how I’m totally right, right?

You know that “the heel is justified and the face is actually a horrible person” thing I do? Well, sometimes it’s not a thing, it’s the damn truth. Here, Dolph Ziggler is showing up in the middle of a Rusev vs. Cesaro match to give Rusev’s girlfriend an apology gift in front of her boyfriend, to apologize for … having an affair with her and/or being sexually harassed by her a couple of weeks ago on Raw? Is Dolph mad at Rusev for hooking up with Summer Rae? Is this one of those situations where Dolph was trying to hook up with two girls at once, and got mad when one of them decided to get into something serious with someone else? Is Rusev the only decent person in the feud? Is it bad to say the obsessive, violent, anti-American guy who orders his women to be subservient is the MORAL HIGH-GROUND?

The worst part is that Cesaro vs. Rusev could and should always be great, but it was compromised so we could have Chapter 35 in an ongoing, bullsh*t relationship rectangle built on stonewashed catfights and distraction rollups.

New plan, WWE: if an 8-year old boy shows up and says he’s got a great idea for an angle, tell him to spend MONTHS of TV time on it somewhere else.

Worst: Another Thing For Us To Get Upset About

In case you missed it, here’s what happened: Nikki Bella has tied the record for longest-reigning Divas Champion, and if she can defeat Charlotte on Raw, she’ll get to be the champ on Tuesday and break the record. A lot of people think Nikki holding the title forever is a John Cena machination, or a way to spite CM Punk and AJ Lee — Lee held the title for 295 days, the record Nikki’s breaking — but I think it’s a lot simpler than that. How long’s the Divas Revolution been going on? A couple of months? Nikki’s held that title for 300 days. That’s a statement on WWE previously not giving a horse’s sh*t about women’s wrestling, and just putting the belt on somebody and not doing anything. Remember, Maryse held the belt for over 200 days and was the record AJ broke. Maryse. What, was The Miz pulling the strings backstage to make sure she was champ forever to spite Cherry?

The reality of the situation is that WWE’s caught between “having an awkward mixture of NXT-style and WWE Divas-style wrestlers” and “convincing us that everyone’s great and women’s empowerment is the mission statement.” They want the glory of a bunch of Ronda Rousey’s without doing the work, or, at best, coasting off the work they themselves did in NXT. The problem is that context, character and story are all huge parts of why it works so well on NXT. It’s not just “let the women have good matches.” You need more than “doing wrestling moves well for more than a few minutes” to have a good wrestling match. At least, a good wrestling match that will matter to people, or that anyone will remember.

The story here is that “good wrestler” Charlotte is trying to take the Divas Championship from “model who can’t wrestle” Nikki Bella before she breaks “good wrestler” AJ Lee’s record. This is important to people who have chosen sides. If you’re an entitled, uptight, longtime wrestling fan jerk like me, you’re supposed to buy into the idea that it’s not good vs. evil, it’s “right” vs. “wrong.” It’s progress vs. regression. There’s a lot to substantiate that — longtime NXT fans WANT these women they’ve grown attached to and seen come up and excel and blossom into spectacular performers succeed on a show classically known for treating women’s wrestling like a pissbreak sideshow, and the Bellas are doing a lot of annoying wrestling things to hurt their own efforts and make the entire operation seem less important — but it’s a chaotic cloud around a much simpler point.

We want the women’s stuff on wrestling shows to be the same kind of good as the good men’s stuff on the same wrestling show. The end.

It’s not about equality or empowerment or whatever, because that’s a hard f*cking battle to win. That’s a battle against the world. What we want, at least from my point of view (and what I hope “we” as a collective would want) is to expect the good performers who happen to be women to do good work, and be surrounded by the things men doing good work get surrounded by: quality creative, quality promotion and nobody waltzing in to undermine it at every turn. It shouldn’t be hard, because you’re doing it in developmental. You created a new context, used it to build a new type of thinking, and monetized the new thinking. Business, in 2015. It’s not “oh, maybe, oh let’s try this, oh that didn’t work once, we give up, oh, they’re complaining, let’s do this, oh nobody’s happy.” That’s the kind of f*cked up train of thought you get when you know your ass has taken too many shortcuts, and you didn’t fight all the battles you’ve gotta fight and learn all the sh*t you’ve gotta learn to get to the reward.

The match itself wasn’t bad, but the ending was a pile. It was a Dusty finish. The Bella Twins went for Twin Magic again, a spot they’ve beaten into the ground so thoroughly and for so long that SUBVERSIONS of the spot are tired, and lost the match. Charlotte pinned Brie. She thought she was the new Divas Champion, but Stephanie McMahon showed up and declared it a DQ. This is all to set up a match at Night of Champions, but … isn’t the Bellatron and the “Bellabration” and AJ Lee’s record the hook you’ve been giving us for weeks? Isn’t that what fans are up in arms over? Shouldn’t THIS be the moment you built to? Why is it Night of Champions? Because “all titles must be defended?” YOU MADE THAT UP.

So now the major drama of Nikki Bella losing the Divas Championship is gone. Now you’re left with no story besides this one shifty DQ finish everybody’s seen half a dozen times before, and a babyface challenger who is great, but has no identity on the Raw roster beyond her last name. A last name you don’t even use. So … that’s it? Is that the revolution?

Worst: And This Isn’t Even A Wrestling Match

Neville vs. Stardust — that’s what the WWE Fan Nation video advertises — isn’t even a match. They do some entrances, and then they just stop the match. It doesn’t happen. Nothing really major happens to stop it, either, they’re just starting to do wrestling stuff and then, pppffffftttt. The Ascension drags Stardust away and music plays, and we go to commercial. Hope nobody wanted to be entertained by a thing happening 150 minutes deep in a 3-hour wrestling show!

Worst: The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro For 9/14/15

Sting is competing against Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions in six days. Sting has never wrestled on Raw, so there’s a reason you’d definitely want to tune in to Night of Champions to watch. Since we’re so close to the show, WWE decides to end the go-home Raw with two Sting matches, including one where he DEFEATS SETH ROLLINS CLEAN, BY SUBMISSION, WITH HIS SIGNATURE MOVE. I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but do you even know what your job is?

It’s like, holy sh*t, I don’t even know what to tell you. I guess I don’t understand why WWE uses Raw and Smackdown as throwaway time-killers to build to pay-per-view events, often gives away the only reasons you’d want to make special time to WATCH pay-per-views, and then uses pay-per-views to sell Raw. I just completely whiff it. True knowledge is knowing that you know nothing at all. There’s a binder somewhere at WWE Headquarters that outlines their company goals and explains this in such beautiful, logical detail that a publicly-traded company loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world and successful enough to make its owner a billionaire can spend almost a dozen TV hours a week (and more, if you count their own personal network) making this little sense. Working there must be like becoming President. You become President, they tell you the truth about aliens and the JFK assassination. You get a VP job at WWE, they tell you why they run the same match five times in a row with five consecutive disappointing conclusions to sell a sixth match. They tell you why they let Michael Cole call Raw when he doesn’t know what a Scorpion Deathlock is. STINGER, SCORPION, STING …!

On the plus side, the called The Big Show “The Giant” all night. I kept hoping Kevin Sullivan would show up, and maybe Hulk Hogan would run out dressed in black and gently press chairs to their heads.

Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night


Xavier Woods is the best Jimmy Hart.


We come back from Raw…Triple H, drenched in blood, is slowly patrolling inside the ring, occasionally landing a blow from a sledgehammer onto each individual fallen member of The New Day

Art Salmons

“We found a third. Some guy called Mr. America. No idea where he came from…. just kept repeating how definitely not racist he is.”


Hogan has reappeared! He got his dad to kiss his mom at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance!

Harry Longabaugh

Right before the match, Nikki gets hit by a car in the parking lot. We get a look at the driver: KAITLYN. “I did it for the Chickbusters.”


Did Alexa Bliss sneeze on Charlotte’s face? Why is she so sparkly?

Stalemate Associate

Is Nikki playing the heel tonight, or did Big Show not see his shadow?


“Dolph Ziggler is just a terrible person.” JBL is somehow the voice of reason again tonight.

The Real Birdman

1-1! Things are looking up for Sting!


“Wait, we have to power to restart matches? Sorry Charlotte.” -Steph

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