– Be sure you’ve read The Best And Worst Of WWE Night OF Champions 2014.
– A big, special thank you to everyone who reads the column and said hi to me at Chikara’s King Of Trios tournament over the weekend. Those weekends are like Christmas to me, and having people say “hey, that thing you do is a thing I like” makes it worth doing. Let’s be friends.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for September 22, 2014.
Best: Mayhem Saves A John Cena Segment
Last night’s Raw opened with Dean Ambrose, who continues to be an hilarious exercise in watching a WWE crowd try to understand and react to someone who isn’t speaking in the sing-songy cadence they expect. He was quickly interrupted by SING-SONG SUPER NO VACANCY John Cena, who is two parts “DEAN DEAN DEAN we are ROCKIN tonight here in NASHVILLE” and two parts “I’M GONNA GET SETH ROLLINS INTO AN ELIMINATION CHAMBER WHERE EACH TUBE IS FILLED WITH A PORTION OF HIS ASS.” Dean doesn’t react positively to John interrupting him, but he also doesn’t immediately jump him and beat him to death with a chair, so I don’t know how to feel.
The good news is that The Authority interrupts them to do the “here are tonight’s matches” bit, and the trope gets subverted ever-so-slightly by Cena and Ambrose saying SURE, FINE in the middle and just running at them with punches. Why don’t more people do this? Better still is the ongoing idea that Dean Ambrose hates Seth Rollins so much he can’t go through the motions of a wrestling show and has to sprint at him violently 24/7. Triple H should build Rollins a Cole Mine.
Best: All These Stolen Cars
Earlier this year, WWE used the Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella story to set the precedent that if a WWE Superstar commits a crime against a civilian they can be sent to jail. Keep that in mind while watching Seth Rollins jog into the parking lot, shove down a stranger and steal his car to escape a beatdown from Cena and Ambrose. That guy should show up on Raw next week and demand a match against Stephanie McMahon at Hell In A Cell.
Remember when Cena chased Orton out of the building and ORTON stole a car to escape? I wonder how much money The Authority has set aside for grand theft auto bail.
Worst: These Desperate ‘Subscribe To WWE Network’ Videos
Needs more WWE logos.
This is more of a ‘Best and Worst of Trying To Write The Best And Worst Of Raw Column’ problem, but WWE Fan Nation’s started tacking on clips of Miz or Dolph Ziggler telling you to subscribe to the YouTube channel and buy WWE Network. As if we needed more shilling for the Network. We’re close to WWE just being Ray William Johnson in a pair of trunks, providing 30 seconds of jump cut edits and three minutes of begging.
Worst: This Is Exactly Why Nobody Cares About Your Pay-per-views
I’m not complaining about The Miz losing the Intercontinental Championship so quickly. I’m fine with that. He wasn’t going to do anything with it anyway. What I’m concerned about is WWE’s continuing trend of redoing their pay-per-view matches before pay-per-views as “previews” and again the night after as “rematches.” They’ve purposely created an environment where only one thing can happen at a time, and even that one thing doesn’t matter.
Miz and Ziggler have wrestled for a month straight. They wrestled at Night Of Champions. They wrestled the night after Night Of Champions. See also: Mark Henry and Rusev. They built the feud with physical confrontations between them, paid off many of the important action beats during those “previews,” had a boring match at Night Of Champions and had a “rematch” on Raw. Pay-per-views are using the Raw set and Raws are being used to “correct” a PPV decision or repurpose it as a thing everybody can see for free. Are you trying to sell a Network, or one specific episode of Raw from your imagination?
Best: Sandow, Though
I don’t care. I’m going to keep Besting him. He’s on the outside mimicking Miz’s submission holds to nothing and doing them better. This feud needs to end with Sandow turning on Miz and becoming him, because he’s better at it than Miz has ever been.
Worst: Again, This Is Why Nobody Cares
Jack Swagger vs. Bo Dallas. Again. Bo doesn’t have anything new and Swagger’s practically sleepwalking through the match. They’ve ended the feud a few times already, but neither guy has a new thing to do, so they just keep wrestling each other. Even the announce team has no idea what to say. JBL’s talking about Russia and says “WWE Network subscription rates went through the roof last night after Rusev beat Swagger.” It’s September 22. Does Diet Mountain Dew kill your sperm count AND your short term memory?
Worst: This Would’ve Been Really Good On NXT
I’m gonna step back from the snark for a second. If you want more jokes, keep scrolling, I should be comparing R-Truth to tertiary DuckTales characters again soon.
At some point, even I’m tired of reading me say the same things over and over. Raw being so repetitive this summer has drained me, and if I didn’t have an obligation as the “Best and Worst of Raw guy” and a wrestling site on UPROXX to manage, I’d have taken a break. I know this has caused a lot of negativity in my writing. I also know that positivity is everybody’s new “hook.” If you aren’t positive about the show, you’re just being an IWC smark. Being positive is how you get views, because “everybody’s so negative.” Positive is what gets WWE to scroll your tweet on Raw or shill your Buzzfeed listicle on NXT.
Here’s the thing: positivity is a gimmick. It’s fandom. It’s saying “I like this” and liking it without consequence. It’s cool if you can do that, but I’ve never been able to. I love pro wrestling. I’ve given a chunk of my life to it. I’ll complain about it sometimes, but it’s allowing me to live a dream I always had but could never articulate. I get to say “hey strangers, look at wrestling and let me tell you why I love it.” That’s so f*cking cool.
At the same time, I’d be “working” you if I tried to pull a bunch of positive stuff out of my ass. I can’t bullshit some reason why a thing’s good to balance out the column and appeal to the broadest reader base. If my brain sucks, my fingers have to type “Raw sucks” and five paragraphs of explanation. I hope that when you read me you know that the NEGATIVE is also not pulled out of my ass, and that yeah, sometimes I jokingly exacerbate a point to frustrate people or make them laugh, but it always comes from a place of honesty. Wrestling doesn’t need positive writing or negative writing, it needs honest writing. People saying or writing what they really feel deep down in their insides, independent of how it’ll hurt or improve their chances to get (or keep) a job somewhere. If you’re a wrestling writer and you’re already doing that, keep doing it.
I also hope you know that the thing pushing me forward is the hope that wrestling can be GREAT, which it almost always is. One Sheamus vs. Cesaro match from Night Of Champions justifies three months of terrible television for me. It’s my heart. It’s my arm. Living without wrestling would be like living without one of my arms.
I’m tired of seeing developmental be so f*cking rad and the main stage be so pedestrian and repetitive. I hate typing “this was garbage” for a Divas match like this, and having to explain why the face/heel alignments don’t make sense. To most people, “we cheer for this one” means face, “we boo this one” means heel. It doesn’t matter if Natalya’s character is a garbage person. It doesn’t matter if Summer and Layla were babyfaces a few weeks ago. It doesn’t matter that matches on pro wrestling’s most-watched, flagship representation puts on 2-minute throwaway matches to pad a reality show. It’s business and how things are and it’s “just wrestling.” It’s always just wrestling.
Every year or so I have to make an “I’m gonna try to be more positive” announcement, because I don’t want you to ever think “Brandon Stroud” and associate it with “hates wrestling.” So here it is again: I’m going to try to be more positive and look for the best in things, even if the positivity and the things are identical 8 weeks in a row. This match would’ve been really great if it’d been on NXT.
Best: R-Truth looks and acts like one of the Beagle Boys.
He wasn’t on the show, I’m just saying.
Best: Dean Ambrose Don’t Get Irate, He STAYS Irate
Dean Ambrose wrestles Kane because AUTHORITY, and it’s what you’d expect. Kane’s slowed down a lot, and should probably consider formally easing into a NPC bodyguard role. He’d be pretty sweet as a new Gorilla Monsoon. Just a big, violent monster who becomes an affable old ambassador. Because seriously, The Authority could be sending Bo Dallas out to wrestle these matches and it’d be more threatening.
The best part of the match is what happens AFTER it. Predictably, Rollins runs in to attack Ambrose get the match thrown out. Michael Cole calls this “cowardly” which I guess it is, even though Ambrose has been doing nothing but sneak-attacking Rollins for months. Cowardly’s probably not the right word. “Exacerbating,” maybe? He’s exacerbating things by poking Ambrose with a stick and inviting more attacks?
Anyway, Ambrose uses the commercial break to run around backstage and find Rollins again, which is almost an epiphany. Why do wrestlers with beef always sit and seethe in the ring because they want revenge, then wait a week to get it? Aren’t you guys co-workers? You work in the same common area, of course you’re gonna see each other. I think a good babyface would want to wait and do things fairly, but “good babyface” is not really Deano’s thing. So he finds him and starts punching him without prejudice until a bunch of Authority goons show up and toss him into a locked and guarded room. The true magic of this moment won’t be revealed until later, and I’m not going to spoil it here. Trust me, though. Magic.
Speaking Of Repetitive: This Match Again
Congratulations, Rhodes Brothers, you’re the Tag Team Champions. Enjoy losing every match you have until the next title defense.
Worst: MORE Florida Georgia Line! MORE! MORE!
1. Shoutout to Texas wrestling fan @33jhenry for getting a tweet on Raw. I will try to get a tweet of yours on the 10/5 Inspire Pro show in Austin, which will be super hard because we don’t have a video screen. But whatever, I’ll write it on a long sheet of old computer paper and run across the bottom of the ring.
2. The Authority should’ve waved out Florida Georgia Line to stop Dean Ambrose’s attack.
Worst: Mark Henry’s Acting Is Better Than This Match
First things first, I don’t know what got into the crowd last night. They were chanting “what” at everything like it was 2002.
Second things first, as the boldface says, I think Mark Henry’s a better actor than a wrestler right now. Babyface Mark Henry’s never been great, but he’s attempting to get over these complex emotions like honest patriotism, personal shame and withering self-worth in a match against a guy who’s greatest character development to date has been “I got a medal.” Seriously, listen to Mark’s pre-match promo and look at his face. He’s telling the crowd that he deserves to be treated like a hated nobody because he let them down. The crowd’s chanting “what” because they aren’t listening. Mark’s destroyed on the inside AND the outside. He’s too good at this, and maybe too good for this.
Third things first, this match was a lot like the one at Night Of Champions, only slower. Henry’s story was compelling, but I think it went over a lot of peoples’ heads. That’s not to say fans can’t pick up on “this guy’s hurt and wants to DO IT FOR AMERICA,” but a realistic sell of a crushed body and soul isn’t what they’re used to. Their interpretation of “adversity” is Cena holding his shoulder and furrowing his brow. Mark’s f*cking DYING in the ring. It’s on another level, and sadly that didn’t totally work. There isn’t much sadder in wrestling than a great idea that misses the mark for no reason.
The good news is that Rusev’s now free to feud with … well, who likes America? Jack Swagger?
Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought About Mark Henry vs. Rusev
Best: BUNNYMANIA MAGGLE
Speaking of men kicking animals, here’s Adam Rose and The Bunny vs. Slater Gator. This counts as Sami Zayn on Raw, right?
Maybe it’s a weekend of Chikara talking, but this was one of my favorite parts of the show. Oh who am I kidding, Heath Slater could be asked to sell for an ACTUAL bunny and I’d call it the best part of the show. Just hold a bunny and roll around like he’s in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Everyone else in this was good, too. Titus continues to be a beast and just hurl people around. Heath Slater is better than at least three of the “NXT Five” (I’ll let you figure out which three) and Adam Rose … has a new jacket? I don’t know, I’m happy he’s doing something slightly different.
But yeah, less show opening speeches that fill out a card you should’ve had filled out before 8PM on Monday, more bunnies creaming people with spinkicks.
Worst: BRIE BRYAN
Brie Bella says that Nikki is blaming everyone else for her shortcomings. Nikki responds by saying that Brie’s doing what she always does: making it about her. She wants the exclusive rights to the music/name/gimmick she built to permanently distance it from Brie. Brie says Nikki is the one making everything bad, because she keeps “calling her out here” to insult her over and over and over, and she’s sick of it. Reminder: at Night Of Champions, Brie found a backstage interviewer so she could call her sister a bitch on pay-per-view. Nikki’s telling the truth and Brie’s the evil one.
I liked that the Bellas are finally approaching a regular speaking voice. Brie still said “short COMINGS” like a narration robot, but once they settled in they sounded all right. They’re getting there. “Getting there” shouldn’t be a thing two people on Raw with almost a decade of experience should have as a positive qualifier, but here we are.
Two things I didn’t like:
– The Bellas arguing while facing the hard cam and standing shoulder to shoulder, walking toward it when it was their turn to speak. It was like watching kids recite their lines in a school play.
– The promise of “Brie Bryan.” The only way I’ll accept Brie Bryan is if I can call her “Brie Bryan Blair.”
Best: Paige’s Outfit
damn girl what’s up
Best: “THE Brian Kendrick” Nikki Bella
Once again, Nikki Bella gets through a match not only looking like she deserves to be there, but like a hoss who kinda kicks ass. This started on Sunday in the middle of the pay-per-view and I hope it lasts. Her armbar is one of the most believable moves in wrestling right now because it looks great, and also because there’s a Bella Twin applying it and my brain goes OH GOD SHE’S GONNA ACCIDENTALLY BREAK THEIR ARM FOR REAL, SHE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT SHE’S DOING. When it looked like she was dislocating Paige’s on Sunday I almost lost it. That’s good wrestling.
This might sound like a demotion or an insult, but it isn’t: WWE should send Nikki Bella to NXT for a few months. Let her do like, three sets of TV tapings. Put her in the ring with SDR’s kids and a bunch of people trying their hardest and see what you can get from her. It’d help her continue to hone her in-ring stuff and do wonders for her personality. Let her follow Enzo or Tyler Breeze around backstage and learn how to talk. Bring her back up in like, January and have her blow everybody away at Mania.
Worst: John Cena’s Outfit
Red hat and bands, black shirts, green shoes, blue CafePress meme shirt. Holy shit. This is the closest John’s ever come to actually looking like a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Dude looks like he got dressed by the guy who touches things and turns them into Skittles.
Worst: Would A Snorlax GIF Be Overkill
Confession: I actually forgot what the main event was until I went back and browsed through the videos.
It’s a shame, isn’t it? John Cena vs. Randy Orton should be the Super Bowl of modern WWE. It’s the #1 guy vs. the #2 guy. They’ve got over a decade of history together. They are masters of WWE timing, crowd control and style. And yet, when John Cena wrestles Randy Orton it’s so boring you forget wrestling’s happening at all. It’s like watching a game of Supercard without tapping to make it go by faster.
Best: SOLID DEAN
One of the best things about Dean Ambrose right now is that his scenarios are always incredibly obvious, but he makes them exciting anyway. At Night Of Champions you knew he was going to show up and fight Rollins in Roman Reigns’ place, but when he did it it was GREAT. On Raw, Jerry Lawler winks and nudges and says LOOK AT THAT SLIGHTLY TALLER THAN USUAL STACK OF CINDERBLOCKS WITH A BOX OVER THEM, THAT’S DEFINITELY CINDERBLOCKS, YOU’D HAVE TO BE SILLY TO THINK IT WAS ANYTHING ELSE. Still, when MASTER OF HIDING Dean Ambrose showed up inside the box, it was wonderful.
The best part is how little sense the entire scenario makes. Dean Ambrose is locked backstage in a room guarded by half a dozen security guards. Somehow he ends up in a box at the timekeeper’s table. To accomplish this, Dean had to find out about The Authority’s plans to injure Cena with cinderblocks, locate them backstage, remove them from the box without anyone noticing, replace the bricks with HIMSELF and somehow get carried from wherever they were backstage to ringside without anyone finding out. All from within a locked room. In like an hour and a half. THEN he had to wait patiently for an entire John Cena vs. Randy Orton match, hope Orton won/The Authority interfered and that they beat up the guy he’s assumedly planning to help enough to drag him over to the bricks and try to use them. Then he had to hope the element of surprise would be enough for him to win a 3-on-2 fight, remembering that the guy he’s fighting alongside JUST WRESTLED AND GOT BEATEN INTO HELPLESSNESS BY THREE DUDES. AND IT WORKED.
Dean Ambrose is a master of BLACK NINJA MAGIC, everyone. Did he get those powers when he changed shirts?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Next shirt: Cena’s cartoon face from the last shirt without the hand over it.
While you’re watching this, just remember, the future started tonight.
Cole: AJ gets “a W”.
JBL: Looks like there’s a new “Paige” in this feud.
King: I want to f*ck Nikki.
Daniel Bryan’s new cattle mutilation is shame jerking it to Nikki.
The Bunny is wrestling and I don’t carrot all.
Stephanie: “Have we ever thrown somebody out that didn’t come back?”
It’s Goldust, Stardust, and UpperCutYouIntoDust.
Cesaro hits Sheamus like he heard him say something bad about Sara Del Ray and Sheamus hits Cesaro like he said something nice about a Mexican.
half of the people using the #GetBetterReigns hashtag are actually referring to his in ring work, not his health
Backstage after the show, Orton bores the rest of the Authority by painstakingly explaining how, under the Copenhagen model of quantum mechanics, Dean was both dead and alive at the same time until Kane lifted the box.
Thanks everybody. See you next week.