– If you missed this week’s episode, you can watch the 90-minute Hulu version here. Warning: they edited out everything you wanted to see, probably.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated.
– Hey, if you’re in Austin this weekend, be sure to come to Inspire Pro Wrestling’s co-branded show with freakin’ Chikara Pro on Sunday 10/5. It’s the biggest show we’ve ever done, and the Texas debut for a lot of really great wrestlers. One of them has a baseball face!
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for September 29, 2014.
Best: Stephanie McMahon Eats Chicago’s Lunch
Before CM Punk left, Chicago was a great WWE town.
I’m not sure if you know this, but CM Punk’s from Chicago. It was #7 on the 10 Things You Might Not Know About CM Punk. Whenever WWE’d come to Chicago, Punk would get a hero’s welcome. They gave him one of the all-time great WWE crowd reactions at Money in the Bank 2011 and were given one of the greatest WWE Championship matches ever. A little over a year and a half later, Punk decided he didn’t want to do it anymore and went home to get married and watch hockey games and play Words With Friends or whatever.
Ignoring what you think about Punk’s decision to quit for a moment — if I’ve read The Internet correctly it’s either “f*ck that bum forever” or “he’s a precious fresh happy angel STOP TALKING BAD ABOUT HIM” — the absence of Him left a hole in WWE Chicago. Every time they roll back into town it’s a chance for Punk to return from his exodus in dorky semi-celebrity and/or a chance for Chicago to “make their voices heard,” because they’ve yet to figure out that WWE wants Punk there and he’s the one that bailed. Back in March, Chicago’s least-effective WWE fans organized a #HijackRaw movement and handed out smarky worksheets so people’d know when to boo, when to cheer, and when to chant “CM Punk.” Spoiler alert: it was ALWAYS.
So now WWE’s first goal at any Chicago event is to nerf the crowd with an immediate “CM Punk’s not here and you’re all idiots” declaration. The March show had Paul Heyman walk out to ‘Cult of Personality’ and tell Chicago they’re to blame. At Payback in June, Heyman announced that Punk wasn’t there because he was at a different arena watching the Blackhawks. Last night, Stephanie McMahon immediately addressed and shut down the Punk chants by reminding Chicago that they love cheering for disappointments, failures and quitters because GAME RECOGNIZE GAME. Chicago’s vibe went from “CM PUNK! CM PUNK! CM PUNK!” to a muted, grumbly “weeeehhhhhhhh” in like 20 seconds. That’s how you do it.
The rest of the night they just kinda sat around aimlessly until they could say “what,” or until AJ Lee showed up they remembered CM Punk was a thing. And yes, I’m mostly just giving Chicago shit because they’re #2 behind Iowa on the list of people who get mad about their crowd representation on Raw and type hateful comments to wrestling bloggers.
Best: All You Have To Do Is Acknowledge The Story
My favorite part of the opening segment (besides The Authority doing You Can’t See Me hands in Seth Rollins’ face when he escaped a John Cena attack) was Seth Rollins calmly addressing the hows and whys of his attempted Money in the Bank briefcase cash-in. This is all I’ve ever wanted from a wrestling story. I complain a lot about stuff not making sense or going anywhere, but if you have the characters come out and say “this is what happened, and this is why,” I’m set.
Seth explains that nobody in The Authority told him to Curb Stomp and cash in on Lesnar. He was doing it on his own, because he’s trying to make opportunities. Paul should know this, because he and Seth have a long history together. Also, hey, nobody wants John Cena to be champ again. Seth insincerely apologizes and says it won’t happen again, so Heyman gets a little threatening and tells him it’d better not. Boom, we’re out. See how simple that is?
You’ve addressed all the elephants in the room. You’ve established Seth Rollins’ motivations, explained that it was his call and not The Authority’s, addressed everyone’s shared hatred of John Cena and written yourself out of the “Heyman should feel betrayed by The Authority since Lesnar/Cena only happened to help them out” corner. You nod to Paul Heyman’s long-ago history of hiring The Shield to do his mercenary work without viewers needing a WWE Encyclopedia in their laps and everybody moves forward. All in about two minutes! I think the reason I get so mad at WWE NOT doing this all the time is because it’s so easy to do. I get that wrestling will have inconsistencies and is full of liars and is ostensibly entertainment for babies, I just want it to have the same storytelling integrity as an episode of ‘Handy Manny.’ Why’s Manny going to buy nails? Because he has to repair a cabinet. CAUSE AND EFFECT, EVERYBODY.
Best: Good Intercontinental Championship Matches
This was HOT, BROTHER.
The Intercontinental Championship has been defended four times in the last two weeks, and if they’re interested in (1) making it relevant again or (2) making it the new version of the old WCW TV title, I’m down for either. It’s like they finally remembered that midcard championships are the ones that can be hotly contended for, without all the gravity and company-beneficial decision making of a WWE Championship change. If you have Rollins or Reigns or Cena beat Brock, that “means things” for WWE. If you have a bunch of talented wrestlers busting their ass trying to be the current IC champ? That can just be exciting. I normally wouldn’t suggest hotshotting it around every week, but it’s spent the last decade being a decorative prop. Might as well do SOMETHING with it to make it feel valuable.
This was a lot of fun from beginning to end. They got creative with their triple threat spots, too, which made me happy. Most of them involved catapults (the least physically-possible wrestling move this side of an Irish whip), but I’ll allow it. WWE’s got the most talented roster of pro wrestlers EVER right now, and I feel like if they pooled them all in a room and said “hey, what do YOU want to do,” they’d be creating art. You know a guy with the physical capabilities of Dolph Ziggler wants to be doing something cooler than the same Fame-asser falsie four times a week. You know a guy like Cesaro’s gonna say WHY DON’T I PICK UP THE 500 POUND GUY AND BODYSLAM HIM OVER THE TOP ROPE and not “Rusev’s music plays and Jack Swagger gets distracted and rolled up.” Get something creative and unprecedented out of these people, WWE. Don’t wait until they’re jaded, 43-year old road agents.
Worst: Ziggler’s Figure-Four Is Worse Than The Miz’s
Look at this thing:
Instead of, you know, doing a figure-four leglock, Ziggler simply touches Miz’s feet together and puts his leg through Miz’s five-hole. If you were making a chain out of construction paper, you’d be doing Dolph Ziggler’s figure-four.
Also, hey, look familiar?
I LEARNED IT BY WATCHING YOU.
Best: Jamie Noble Requesting Sledgehammers
1. Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble are OUTSTANDING as The Stooges 2K14. I love that Noble isn’t “super serious former wrestler James Gibson” either, he’s still ignorant cornpone WWE Jamie Noble. If they reintroduce Nidia as his frumpy wife I will lose it. I want a show on WWE Network that’s just Noble and Mercury as hard-nosed cops, battling personal demons and busting up Rosebuds.
2. Noble asking Triple H for sledgehammers to help find and take down Dean Ambrose was so good it made me mad. Why hasn’t anybody else asked him that? We know he stashes sledgehammers under the ring, between the ring steps, under contract signing tables … although I’m also really into the idea that those are HIS sledgehammers, and he’d get personally offended if you asked to borrow one. Like a kid with a one-player video game who keeps playing when you tell him it’s your turn. H getting instantly condescending and defensive about it confirms this theory.
3. Why’d they put Prince Zuko on the Hell in a Cell poster?
Best: Tyson Kidd Gives Us An NXT Thing To Look At While Total Divas Matches Are Happening
The less said about the actual Layla/Rosa Mendes match, the better. As a reminder, Rosa Mendes has almost a decade of experience. The Usos and AJ Lee made their pro debuts a year after Rosa. She’d been wrestling for four years when Roman Reigns had his first match.
The highlight of the match was Tyson Kidd, who is suddenly so good that him just standing around in headphones is enough of a diversion to make a segment better. Not MUCH better, mind you, but a little better. Raw still has no idea what to do with him. Natalya’s mad at him because he’s on his phone and not super-into this Rosa Mendes match he has nothing to do with, and when it’s over she angrily unplugs his phone and storms away with it. JBL sees a guy on a phone and says “WHAT’S HE DOING, PLAYING PAC-MAN???” because JBL’s either a Scott Pilgrim-style conversationalist or an old f*cking ancient man who doesn’t know what a smartphone is. He brings up VIDEAGAMES, Hank Hill style, later in the match.
I’d like to think Tyson Kidd was watching last week’s episode of NXT and trying to forget he was this close to Rosa Mendes.
Best: You Can’t Spray That On Television
“Hey Seth, how are you gonna get your Money in the Bank briefcase back?”
“I don’t know!”
If John Cena had thrown out t-shirts to the crowd, insulted cruiserweights and booby-trapped the Money in the Bank briefcase with a dye pack I’d probably be calling it the worst thing in the world. I’m not gonna pretend otherwise. But that’s the magic of having a dynamic performer we aren’t all tired of, kids: they can elevate the asinine pro wrestling shit they’re doing and make it the best.
I am legitimately compelled whenever Dean Ambrose is on screen now, because he’s so different from everybody else. He doesn’t walk like a WWE Superstar. He doesn’t speak in the WWE Superstar cadence. His answers aren’t always the ones you’d expect. He cuts promos about sewing his “eyeballs” shut. THAT’S NOT HOW EYEBALLS WORK, DEAN. The guy wanders through the background of other peoples’ promos, hangs out at the concession stand for the first half of the show (confirming what The Shield was doing during Raws before their ring entrance) and seems honestly surprised when a trap HE SET UP works. He can teleport into boxes of cinderblocks and excuse it by saying the locker room he was trapped in had two doors. He’s a thing, and I can’t stop looking at it.
Also, now we have two possible explanations for why Roman Reigns is always so wet:
1. He doesn’t know how to properly drink a souvenir soda
2. He keeps getting tricked into saying “water.”
Best: Mark Henry, Sore Loser
Bo Dallas beats Mark Henry clean, because in 2014, losing to Rusev makes you instantly helpless against other opponents and a disappointment to AMERICA. After the match, Mark hunts Bo down backstage and brutally attacks him, basically tries to murder him with a production cart and sarcastically screams catchphrases in his face. It’s the kind of thing I’d normally get CRAZY UPSET about, but not tonight, because this makes perfect sense.
Mark Henry’s always been a more effective heel. The story of his WWE career has more or less been these stints of goofy fan-pandering in USA singlets that go nowhere, and eventually frustrate him to the point that he snaps, turns on everybody and becomes a monster heel. That’s when he wins matches and championships. It happened in the Nation of Domination, it happened on the WWE version of ECW, it happened in his wonderful salmon blazer against John Cena and it’s happening again here. He’s a wrestler with a big, easily-broken heart. When he feels let down by himself or others, he doesn’t have a support system to deal with it, so he lashes out. Because he’s the World’s Strongest Man, that lashing out gets crazy violent. It calms down after a few months when he realizes he’s good at wrestling and everything’s fine, and he says “hey, sorry, I actually like you guys. Here, let me kill this OTHER heel.”
I also appreciate the announce team pointing out that Mark acted irrationally and went too far, which is what they should do every time a babyface does a bunch of heel shit and gets cheered for it. These old men are our chorus, you know? They’re supposed to say “this is BAD” when a good man goes rogue, so you don’t just keep cheering for them out of habit.
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought About Mark Henry vs. Bo Dallas
Wow, Bo Dallas is really different on the internet.
Worst: YA YA YA YA YA YA YA YA UH UH UH UH UH UH UH UH UH UH BA BA BA BA BA BA BA BA BA
– Brie Bella’s entrance theme is the worst thing in the world. Worse than world hunger. I tried to type it up here. BUH BUH BUH BUH BUH BUH BUH BUH WA WA WA WA WA WA WA WA WA~. I hope Nikki defeats her for the rights to the Bella name, and Brie’s last name becomes “Mode.”
– NIKKI (call caps) continues to be great. This was her best promo yet, right? She’s starting to sound more natural on the microphone, which along with her BIG TIME HOSS LARIATS will cement her as the best Diva on the show sooner rather than later. Her sudden flood of competency is kicking my ass. I also liked how she once again logically pointed out that Brie is the cause of her problems. Brie quit for essentially no reason and got Nikki stuck in handicap matches for a month, and instead of denying any of it or disproving Nikki’s logic, Brie just makes weird faces and nods. YEAH IT DID WORK OUT FOR ME. Brie is the evil twin.
– They emphasized Daniel Bryan and had Brie formally bring back the Yes Chants so they’re current and relative to someone on the active WWE roster before that Giants/Pirates game, didn’t they?
– Cameron and Eva Marie are officially the worst tag team ever. They make Foxsana look like the Jumping Bomb Angels. The Bella Twins were the f*cking Crush Gals compared to Cameron and Eva Marie.
Best: The Slater Gator Gator
You know what I really liked about last night’s Raw? How dumb it all felt. That sounds like an insult, but it isn’t. I need wrestling to be fun and kinda dumb. It’s why I praise Chikara Pro so much and make jokes about Ring Of Honor. One’s super serious wrestling where nobody has fun and it’s just intense finisher kickouts for half an hour. The other has ice cream cone men speaking Spanish and fighting a team of ants who are also wrestling terminology jokes. It’s not to come right out and say that one’s better than the other, but one fits my personality a little better, so I have more fun watching it.
Raw’s been SERIOUS BUSINESS for a while, to the point that the comedy segments could have a flashing COMEDY SEGMENT sign over them and a bunch of blinking arrows. It’s all felt forced and coughed-up. Like a pill you swallowed that still feels lodged in your throat. Last night everything felt fun. Even the serious stuff. Ambrose is booby-trapping briefcases to slime Seth Rollins. Damien Sandow’s doing his stunt double gag in two segments. Tyson Kidd’s wearing headphones because he doesn’t want to pay attention to the match in front of him, the Stooges are wandering around backstage and running into Khali, Summer Rae and Layla are taking victory selfies, etc. Heath Slater’s now not only wrestling a bunny, he’s brought Hornswoggle back as an alligator mascot and having him do “gator rolls” to El Torito. You’ve got a bull, a stuffed gator and a full-sized man in a rabbit costume. The gaggle of Rosebud partiers and the IDENTICAL TWIN MATADOR TEAM are among the least weird things happening in the match. That’s saying something.
I like that. It can’t be like that all the time, but it’s refreshing to just say “hey, let’s have fun with how stupid this all is.” You know you’re doing it right when Hornswoggle shows up and I DON’T immediately get mad and defensive.
Best: I Didn’t Think This Could Get Any Weirder And Then BOOM, Jesse Jackson
“I gave the eulogy at Jackie Robinson’s funeral, but the true highlight of my life has been watching a gator-commanding redneck and his black friend get their comeuppance from a giant rabbit. KEEP HOPE ALIVE!”
Worst: You’d Think I’d Worst This For The ‘Seth Rollins Has A Vibrator’ Joke, But It’s Actually About The Idea Of Carrying Around Your Possessions In A Money In The Bank Briefcase At All
I had two problems with the “Seth Rollins carries around a vibrator” joke:
1. He didn’t hold the briefcase up like that and yell IT’S DILDOS. I LIKE TO PLEASURE MYSELF WITH DILDOS, OKAY?? IF YOU WANT ME TO HAVE A REGULAR SEX LIFE, DON’T KEEP ME ON THE ROAD 300 DAYS A YEAR and then storm off.
2. Why is the guy with the Money in the Bank briefcase using it to cart around his personal belongings anyway? I get that you’ve got to carry it around everywhere and might want to consolidate, but isn’t the idea of the briefcase that you can cash it in at a moment’s notice, and have to physically hand it to a referee and say I’M GIVING THIS UP NOW? Why are you doing that if it’s got all your shit in it? Is that dramatic pause between the end of an attack and their music hitting just a Money in the Bank winner hastily pulling underpants and toothbrushes and bottles of fish oil supplements out of it and leaving them in a little pile by the curtain?
Best: Rusev With The Best Promo Ever, Or
Worst: Big Show Suddenly Loves America Again So He Has To Act Like A Total Asshole
Sadly WWE Fan Nation cut out most of it, but you get a taste of it with “BIG SHOW, I WILL BREAK EVERY BONE IN YOUR BODY.” Dude threatens to rip out Big Show’s guts and kick him in the groin. It was AMAZING. It made me do a spit-take while I was watching. One of those sad little spit-takes where you kinda choke on what you’re drinking and it dribbles out of your mouth. It’s Big Show’s turn to be a disappointment to America so I was expecting him to do a bunch of IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM junk, but I absolutely did not expect Rusev to break out the English for I hit your dick with my foot, I swear it.
A supplemental Worst goes to Big Show for thinking The Dude is The Big Lebowski. The Big Lebowski was Jeffrey Lebowski. The guy knocking down White Russians was just The Dude, man. Or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.
Show ripping down the big Russian flag was a good visual, and I hope the payoff is Rusev choking him to death with it. How funny is it that WWE’s doing a story where the moral is “if you fail us once you’re a disappointment to America” and it’s super accurate to modern culture? They should get the Dixie Chicks to host Raw.
Worst: Alicia Fox’s Scissor Kick
See? That’s what I get for saying so many nice things about Raw. A distraction finish leading to a non-title loss for a champion, to further a now 3-person angle about how Women Be Crazy. The only highlight Alicia Fox going under the ring to grab two cans of soda, and Jojo Bravo messaging me to ask if Fox had constructed a rudimentary telephone and was trying to test it out.
Anyway, the worst part of the match for me (and the worst part of any Alicia Fox match) is how a scissor kick to the small of the back knocks people out. It’s like dropping an elbow on somebody’s leg and pinning them. I know they don’t want any severe blows to the head, but jeez, at least teach her how to hit people in the shoulders. She’s got the worst depth perception in the company.
Best: Damien Sandow, Again
Sheamus and Damien Sandow matches are always pretty good, but to type a paragraph I’ve typed every week for the last month, Damien Sandow is on some next level crony shit right now.
I almost hate to keep tossing praise at him, but he deserves it. Everything he does right now is magical. Him trying to do all of Miz’s moves was great, as was him powdering to cower beside Miz at color commentary and start mimicking taunts. Miz is defending Sandow on the microphone, and Sandow’s behind Miz pantomiming a defense of Sandow. It’s like staring into wonderful midcard infinity.
Here’s my only problem, which is … uh, another paragraph I’ve typed a lot.
Worst: Sheamus Is Still A Horrible Person
You know earlier when I justified Mark Henry’s heelish tactics, and said nice things about the announce team for playing it like a heel act? Yeah, Sheamus is the opposite of that. He’s wrestling Damien Sandow, and the worst thing Miz has done all match is yell at him from a table. Sandow falls to the outside, so Miz gets up and goes over to check on him. He’s not helping him cheat or recover faster or anything, he’s just like “hey man, are you dead?” Sheamus shows up and Miz holds his hands up and backs away. Then, with Miz’s BACK TURNED, Sheamus picks Sandow up and throws him into Miz. How low is that?
The bigger issue is that Sheamus was just HEEL AS MESS right here, and the announcers react to it with George Clooney jokes and a commercial for Smackdown. “Sheamus takes out the stunt double! Heh heh!” He also attacked a third party with their back turned, but that’s okay because we cheer Sheamus and boo the other guy. C’mon, y’all JUST did this right.
Best: Remember When The Wyatt Family Was Scary?
Is this the Wyatt Family’s gritty reboot? Are we gonna have them stop singing gospel songs for a pop and winning matches via mysterious child? Is this Bray Wyatt’s New Nightmare?
(I’m happy Erick Rowan showed up at the end of the video, by the way. They were focusing on Bray and Luke Harper and I thought maybe they’d One More Day’d him out of existence.)
Worst: Hulk Hogan Can No Longer Be Trusted To Say 10 Coherent Words In A Row
YOU KNOW SOMETHIN’ HULKAMANIACS. BREAST CANCER, JACK. AND YOU KNOW SOMETHING BROTHER, SUSAN G. KOMEN FOUNDATION, WE CAN WATCH THESE SUPERSTARS, WE CAN WATCH THESE DIVAS ON WWE UNIVERSE, BUT FOR ALL OF THIS CURRENT MONTH WE’RE IN OF OCTOBER, RIGHT HERE IN SILVERDOME, BROTHERS AND JACKS WILL BE WEARING PINK, TO HONOR BREAST CANCER. PLEASE EXTEND A LAUREL AND HEARTY WELCOME TO OUR BREAST CANSURVIVORS JACK.
WHATCHA GONNA DO WHEN BREAST CANCER RUNS WILD ON YOU?? FIGHT BREAST CANCER, I HOPE, BROTHERS. GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK. WWE UNIVERSE ONLY 9.99.
Best: Dean Ambrose, Confrontational Wanderer
I’m really loving the John Cena/Dean Ambrose relationship, because it reads exactly like I’d imagine every John Cena/Regular Person interaction might. Cena shows up in his licensed clothes and his new, licensed, not-pink-at-all breast cancer awareness t-shirt to tell future ESPN analyst Renee Young about his officially licensed feelings, and Ambrose just wanders by in a hoodie all “oh, sorry, didn’t realize you were being awful over here.” Cena closes his eyes and breathes deeply because he’s got to DEAL with this, and tells Ambrose that TONIGHT Seth Rollins’ ASS has written an ASS CHECK it can’t cash, because it’s an out of state ASS KICKIN’ BANK, and Ambrose just goes “…right.” He doesn’t oversell it, because he knows this is just how Cena is and how he talks. He’s just like, “welp, yeah, that’s the most John Cena thing you could’ve said, guess I should’ve expected it.”
It’s sorta like the Cena/CM Punk interaction, without a knowing, Jim Halpert smirk and wink at the camera every five seconds.
Worst: Can We Get A GM To Up The Penalties For Run-In Disqualifications?
The main event is Raw’s 1000th main event to end with someone running in at the last minute and causing a disqualification. That’s disappointing in the way it always is.
The match was going pretty well, too, with John Cena playing the world’s most jacked, insincere Ricky Morton and allowing Dean Ambrose to be the guy who gets the hot tag and cleans house. It works on a lot of levels. Ambrose is basically wrestling like Daniel Bryan right now (with the big strikes, quick pace and dives to the outside), so utilizing him in the way that made Bryan a cult hero in Shield tags is a smart idea. Cena isn’t going to get a lot of love from the Chicago crowd — he describes Chicago as “his kind of town” in the pre-match interview despite Chicago being right behind Miami on the list of places that hate John Cena the most — so having him getting beaten up the entire time to build to Ambrose’s offense was the right call. Plus, it keeps Cena off the apron, where he is THE WORST.
I wish it hadn’t ended with a run-in, but I guess that’s the point.
Best: Heels Succeeding When Babyfaces Are Too Dumb To Work Together
The post-match stuff made me happy, too, because Cena and Ambrose are so into beating up this one guy they start fighting EACH OTHER. It’s a classic “stupid babyface” move. You both want to beat him up. Beat him up together! You don’t get bonus points for being the only one that punched him. But yeah, Ambrose tosses Cena and gets eaten alive by The Authority, eating a Curb Stomp on the Money in the Bank briefcase for his hubris. Cena picks the exact second Ambrose has been defeated to slide back into the ring and try his luck, but he suffers the same fate. The crowd chants “THANK YOU ROLLINS,” because Chicago is John Cena’s Kind Of Town.
It wasn’t a perfect Raw, but it was damned entertaining, so I’ll give it the coveted “more like this, please” finish. More like this, please.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
I just want Seth to find the briefcase unprotected w/no sign of danger only to open it and have Dean pop out.
I’m just glad that shirt doesn’t say “Keep Calm and Don’t Get Cancer”.
“Seth, you should know though, I gave Orton for 10 minutes and you are NOT going to like what he left in there.”
Rollins: “you think this is funny? Look at me! I’m Seth Rollins! I DRIVE A DODGE STRATUS!”
Of course Dean “Titty Master” Ambrose would booby trap the briefcase.
Brie’s entrance music is the official theme song of cancer
Given Eva Marie’s hair and the projection of Cameron’s career, their tag team should be called Ariel and Flounder.
John Cena and Dean Ambrose’s team name: Your Sister’s High School Boyfriends
I’ve said it before, but Jort Cena respects Jean Ambrose because he thinks they are cut from the same cloth.
Next up, Cena and Dark Cena vs. Viper Cena and Corporate Cena
Thanks, everybody. Share the column and I’ll see you next week.