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– Important GIF by WrasslorMonkey at Punchsport Pagoda.
– Don’t forget to watch the Meet Me There teaser trailer. It’s a thing I did and am proud of. I’ll try not to spam you about it. We’re organizing our first announceable screening for April right now, and if you know anything about my schedule in April (and more importantly, Dustin’s schedule) you might be able to figure it out.
Anyway, please click through to enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw Normal School for January 20, 2014. TH’YANIMAL BATISTAR!!!
Worst: A Worked-Shoot Promo About Investors And Buyrates
The opening of last night’s Raw was simple … put Triple H in the ring, have Randy Orton interrupt him, have Ric Flair somehow get involved and then bring back the returning Batista for an Evolution “reunion.” Then you can have Batista threaten Orton and tell him he’s coming after the WWE World Heavyweight Championship or whatever and have HHH show ass, maybe have Dave and Flair do a little strut-posing and you’re back where you need to go. You’ve acknowledged the one thing people sort-of universally want without letting it cramp your pre-WWE Network water-treading.
Instead, last night’s Flairless opening featured Triple H and Orton spending like TEN MINUTES discussing stock holders and investors and pay-per-view buy-rates and the value of Orton as the face of the company as the WAY OVER THE TOP~ WWE Network launches and holy shit it felt like it was 45 minutes long. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, really … Orton was his normal over-explainy self and H didn’t “bury” anything but my interest in what they were saying, but man. Just a brutal way to start the show, especially after last week’s senses-shattering cage match.
Raise your hand if you give a shit about how and when WWE makes money. Cool. Now look at your hand. Is it raised? If so, are you a WWE stock holder or an employee of the company? If you answered “no,” move that hand behind you, jam it up your ass and wiggle your fingers around until you find something more interesting to care about.
Best: Finally, The Rock HAS COME BACK To Monday Night Raw!
(credit to Andrew for getting to that joke before me)
Batista made his UNCONTROLLABLE and ANIMALISTIC return to Raw to SHOOT MACHINE GUNS and, uh, pose on the ropes for five minutes before bluntly interrupting Orton and H’s industry discussion with some broad statements. And that was it! But hey, he was dressed like a weird Persian tennis instructor, so that was something.
I enjoy modern Batista’s aesthetic, because it’s a combination of everything he’s done before. He’s got the attitude of good guy Batista but the wardrobe (and spotlight) of last run heel Batista, so hey, if he’s gonna kiss babies and hug fat girls he might as well do it in a skintight pink polo shirt with the collar popped. A good pair of Stunner Shades will excuse a bunch of bad clotheslines any day of the week.
Best: Let’s Let The Shield Be Friends And Have Six-Man Tags Forever
The only problem I have with the Shield continuing to exist instead of breaking up and becoming individual characters is that I’ve run out of things to say about them. Last night they put their breakup story on hold to have a good six-man tag against Cody Rhodes, Goldust and Big E Langston, and while the match itself wasn’t one of their best — thanks largely to that commercial interruption right in the goddamn middle of it — the finishing sprint WAS, and I wish I could watch them do it forever*.
*not fan-fic, please keep reading
The highlight for me was Big E Langston vs. Roman Reigns, which is a thing I need to see in a big leagues WWE ring immediately. If they gave Rollins the pin here (which was refreshing, I gotta say), maybe run Rollins into Big E in a great Intercontinental title defense en route to a Langston/Reigns thing at Mania, or at least Elimination Chamber. The NXT guys who’ve been brought up are contributing to the shows already, but wait until WWE starts programming them against one another. That’s when it’s really going down. Imagine Langston/Reigns as a younger, faster Mark Henry vs. Sheamus. That’s bad-ass, right?
A supplemental Worst goes to WWE for putting Goldust on the Royal Rumble pre-show and making him face guys from 15 years ago who AREN’T still better than everybody.
Best: SUPERMAN DAT HO
Best: Bryan Vs. Wyatt At Royal Rumble
Firstly, listen to the WWE announcers talk about Batista’s “thunderous ovation,” then listen to how the crowd reacts to Daniel Bryan. Bring in all the old guys and movie stars you want, guys, but there’s never as much urgency and sincerity in an ovation than in the one for the guy they love right now. Punk in Chicago, Daniel Bryan everywhere else.
Secondly, Bryan’s recovering from a concussion, so this was the first time in a while that Raw didn’t feature one of those wonderful dropkicks he does where he puts his foot through a guy’s face, runs back across the ring, runs back all REAAAAAHHHHHH and does it again. Those dropkicks are my favorite things in the world right now. But yeah, rest your brain, Daniel, Jesus. The last thing I want is for you to get Dolph Ziggler’d.
Thirdly, Bray Wyatt is great at talking, especially when cloaked in shadow. Although I still want to have Raw interrupted by the Wyatt BLEARP thing only for Bray Wyatt to show up on the tron, announce “we’re not here yet,” exit stage left and let Raw go on according to plan. Extra points if he says “we’re not here, leave a message” and Daniel Bryan starts yelling things at the video screen.
Fourthly, the one-on-one Bray Wyatt/Daniel Bryan match at Royal Rumble, assuming Bryan’s brain is indeed 100% and not in danger of Zigglerian collapse, is exactly what Bray Wyatt needs. Right now you can kinda convince contrarian wrestling fans that Bray’s good on the microphone, but they’ll still say he’s things like “the drizzling shits” in the ring. It’s not true, really, but his run on Raw hasn’t given us much of an indicator that he can actually wrestle. Having a showcase match with the best wrestler in the company is really his make-or-break moment … if he doesn’t look like a good wrestler here, chances are he’s never going to look like a “good wrestler” to the WWE Universe, and that’s a problem for a guy we’re supposed to take seriously. I think he can pull it off, and if not, I’m still a fan of those fat-body torso crossbodies.
Worst: 15 Whole Seconds Of Xavier Woods vs. Fandango
The hell was THAT match?
If you missed it — and chances are you might’ve — Fandango took on Xavier Woods and beat him clean in … what was that, 40 seconds? Was it even that long? I’ve seen matches building to Divas title shots that lasted longer than that.
Fandango looked great, though, I guess. His falcon arrow was gorgeous (nobody kicks out of the falcon arrow!) and the Alabama Jam is the greatest of all top rope finishes, even if the camera missed most of it. I was so shocked when he hit it. Going for a finish 15 seconds into a match is a sure fire way to have it reversed, unless everything Fire Pro Wrestling taught me is a lie.
Worst: Spoiler Alert, The Black Wrestlers Did Not Fare Well On MLK Day
So Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States (or “Lee Jackson King Day” as we called it growing up in Virginia, because we were all super racist), and WWE commemorated it with a nice video tribute and a bunch of quotes. They also commemorated it by making every black guy on the roster look like an idiot, although that might’ve just been what they do every Monday and not specific to MLK Day.
Xavier Woods lost his match in under a minute. R-Truth was on commentary in a brown suit and all I can remember him saying is “jiminy cricket.” Kofi Kingston got to main-event after his win over Randy Orton last week, but it was just a time killer before John Cena showed up and did the important stuff. So I guess he lost by disqualification and was okay with it? Ron Simmons should’ve shown up and said “damn” over sit-in footage.
And frankly, I’m surprised WWE honors Martin Luther King Jr. at all. Shouldn’t they be calling him a whiner and a coward for coming out here and TALKING about his problems instead of getting violent?
<3 <3 <3
Worst: How The Announcers Are Going To Sell Emma
Emma is lovely and wonderful and very good at wrestling, but one of the things I’ve always worried about is how her character would translate to Raw, and (more importantly) how quickly the announcers would ruin it and drag her down.
You see, Emma was originally an arrogant heel. She was just so charming and such a natural f*ck-up that it got her over as a beloved babyface, and now she’s still kind of a jerk and a weirdo but we love her. Her dance is bad, yes, but we know that and celebrate it. It’s part of who she is. It’s also very fun to do. She gets into dance-offs or whatever and we give her the win because she’s Emma, and nobody’s better at dancing than Emma. She told us so!
Well, uh, it took the Raw announce team and their infinite old age exactly one week to ruin the vibe.
Emma shows up in the crowd again and she’s doing her dance, so Lawler immediately asks if she’s doing THE HOKEY POKEY. How f*cking old do you have to be to name-check the f*cking Hokey Pokey? JBL joins in and they start singing the song, and OH BOY, now Emma’s “Sin Cara has a comic book in Mexico” talking point is that her dance looks like the Hokey Pokey. YOU PUT YOUR RIGHT HAND IN, MAGGLE, WE PUT OUR RIGHT HANDS IN ON MONDAY NIGHTS!
It would be easier to move forward and enjoy things from a modern perspective if we didn’t have to filter it through the eyes and ears of hateful old grandpas.
Worst: I Do Not Enjoy The Person You Are, CM Punk
There is no feud I like or believe less than CM Punk’s beef with “authority.”
Not “The Authority,” that’s fine. I’m talking about general authority, the idea that he’s too cool and above it all to handle himself like an adult or a person with basic deductive reasoning skills or perspective at his job. I wrote about this a lot when he was getting in John Laurinaitis’s face all the time, and I still think it stands true … you can rage against and “get payback” on guys who are mistreating you, but if you act like a petulant child about it, you lose my support.
WWE babyfaces of the last 10 years are notorious for being irrational, hyper-violent crybabies who can’t let anything go and lash out if they don’t get their way, then continue lashing out after they’ve GOTTEN their way because the WWE Universe needs to live vicariously through them, and those guys are raging against NOTHING. Just thrashing about into some vague abyss of disappointment and failure, never appreciating anything they’ve done or have. Austin/McMahon was a very clearcut “blue collar employee vs. white collar boss” scenario and made sense. Punk is incredibly popular and has gotten everything he’s ever wanted by doing what WWE characters are supposed to hate most — complaining about it — so his authority stories are always “guy who isn’t happy with anything vs. everything that makes him think about it.”
Kane is a giant monster who has given up the game for a soulless authority job. He chokeslammed Punk on Smackdown, so sure, Punk has the right to get him back for it. I don’t expect Punk to just say “let bygones be bygones,” it’s pro wrestling. They can throw hands. The problem I have is in how this happens. Kane gets admonished by his bosses — the same people who Punk’s supposed to be so violently against, who paired him up with the New Age Outlaws last week and got him beaten up — and is forced to apologize for it. Kane does this, somewhat sincerely, and Punk condescendingly makes him do it again. Kane means what he says … he doesn’t agree with it, but he understands that he made a mistake and has to do what’s (pardon the phrase) best for business. Look at those deep breaths he takes. Those are acceptance breaths. Anybody who’s ever had to swallow their pride at work has taken them. Punk, a man who has never swallowed his pride, just punches him in the face with a microphone. What’s next, calling him an ugly dork?
It’s weird that I love heel CM Punk and hate face CM Punk for being the same character. Some wrestlers just need to stay the hell out of the gray area.
Worst: I Am Not Writing About A Billy Gunn Singles Match In 2014
From the video description:
To their credit, that was pretty choatic!
Best: Leave The Mae-mories Alone
So, the Mae Young tribute video is an emotional roller coaster.
It starts with Stephanie McMahon talking about breaking down gender barriers, which, as our own Danielle Matheson put it, makes my skin crawl. Then we get a vaguely-wistful song set to a bunch of clips of Mae doing demeaning shit during the Attitude Era, but it’s kinda detached from the horribleness so it’s a little more enjoyable. Mae throwing a spear is pretty funny.
Then it goes into Mae’s Hall of Fame speech where she talks about how she wants to be here when she’s 100, and you kinda go “oh, oh man.” That gets followed by pictures of her with various wrestling types like Vince and Stephanie and The Rock and Moolah, and you’re hit with the gravity of this woman’s death, and the enormity of the crater she’ll leave behind in peoples’ hearts. It’s easily the most thought-provoking video they’ve made since the Eddie Guerrero ‘Hurt’ tribute.
I don’t want to trivialize it at all, but it reminded me of ‘Gethsemane’ in the movie version of Jesus Christ Superstar. If you’ve seen it (if you haven’t, it’s here) it’s Ted Neely singing an overly-dramatic song about being crucified in that weird combo hair metal/funk thing Jesus Christ Superstar tries to pull off, and you’re just kinda watching going “lol, why are you singing like that, Jesus?” And then they jump to this harsh montage of paintings of Jesus being crucified, and you’re sorta brought back into the reality that this was a guy trying to change the world for the better who got f*cking murdered for it, and no amount of wacky 70s rock can take away from the severity of that.
And to clarify, I’m not comparing Mae Young to Jesus (or even the 70s musical Jesus), I just think the video packages are similar. No amount of Mae Young dressed as Pamela Anderson can dull her legacy, and the world’s a little different without her, whether she was trying to accomplish anything or not.
Best: Finally, A Fresh Match-up
You know what I’d love to see NEXT week? Alberto Del Rio vs. Sin Cara. Maybe put it between a Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz match and Los Matadores vs. 3MB.
In all seriousness, this was a pretty great match. Mysterio persevered with a severely injured arm (and leg, because WWE masked wrestlers can’t go five minutes without losing a limb) and Del Rio just stomped him to death, weathering Mysterio’s finish and taking advantage of him when he lost focus and couldn’t figure out what to do next. If Raw didn’t have five Mysterio/Del Rio matches per episode I’d have more nice things to say about it, but yeah, it was good stuff. Del Rio might be boring, but he’s also one of the only wrestlers who seems like he’s always thinking constructively and trying to win a wrestling match. He’s better at BEING a wrestler than most people, whether you like his wrestling or not.
Best: It Took A Four-Year Hiatus, But Batista Finally Learned How To Powerbomb Somebody Without Looking Like An Idiot
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the work of Deacon Dave Batista, his finish is the BATISTA BOMB~, a sit-out powerbomb. It’s actually more of a lay-out powerbomb, though, because Batista can’t really bend in the middle, so when he sits down his upper body goes backwards and he has to roll away awkwardly and laterally press a guy for the three instead of just sitting there and holding it. It’s one of his defining characteristics, but last night he POWERBOMBED A GUY WITHOUT SITTING DOWN and everything changed.
1. Somebody finally said “hey, you look like an action figure when you try to sit down, maybe stop exposing what an immobile gun rack of muscles you are and just powerbomb dudes like normal.” Or maybe he watched tape at some point during those four years away, who knows?
2. He’s still gonna sit-out on it, but he couldn’t do it in those pants. Everybody’s talkin’ bout his tight pants. He’s got his tight pants. He’s got his tight pants on.
Worst: I’M PAUL HEYMAN! I DON’T LIKE SPAM!
This week’s Big Show/Brock Lesnar confrontation was depressing for two big reasons, the first being WWE’s memory problem and their tendency to have Big Show “come down” from a push by pretending to be a monster but getting mauled by guys anyway. They always do it. He’ll get built up as this serious title contender, ready to KO anybody and take his career seriously and be the champion, but he loses, the crowd goes apathetic and he gets shoehorned into these things with guys like Mark Henry or Lesnar where you know the only reason they’re feuding is a good visual. I guess that’s fine, but I hate when the visuals are reruns, and we’re presented with WHAT IF BIG SHOW IS TOO BIG FOR BROCK LENAR TO TAKE DOWN??? when they spent a good six months having Brock F5 him at every pay-per-view.
The second reason (thankfully cut from the WWE Fan Nation video) is Big Show’s “impression” of Paul Heyman. I’m not sure Big Show’s ever heard Heyman speak, because he portrayed him as one of the female characters from Monty Python.
Best: Chaotic Neutral Bad News Barrett
I don’t know why they’re playing him like this, but Wade Barrett as a guy who simply exists to share bad news with people whether they’re good guys or bad guys is one of my favorite things about WWE right now. He’s so wonderfully chaotic neutral. Why did he show up at AJ’s celebration party (on the app!) to tell her nobody was showing up to her celebration party? Did he research and plan this in advance? Or is he some sort of dark spirit that simply arrives when emotions become tumultuous? Is that why his lectern has shape-shifting powers? IS WADE BARRETT JUST THE DEVIL YOU GUYS?
Furthermore, why did he bring his gavel if he didn’t have anything to bang it on? His evil declaration machine should’ve powered up and burst up through the floor.
Worst: Josh Mathews, Dickhead Investigative Reporter
On the opposite end of that coolness spectrum is the opportunistic vulture that is Josh Mathews. AJ Lee finds out nobody’s at her party because she’s detested and loathed — something she already knew but I guess was repressing — and Josh is suddenly there to basically ask YOU’RE A BITCH, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
What the hell, Josh? She’s holding a cake and looks like she’s about to have a nervous breakdown. Figure it out. And besides, her turnout ended up being pretty good. Tamina was there, Bad News Barrett was there, Josh was clearly waiting just around the corner. Ron Simmons was probably there somewhere. I’ve had worse parties than that.
Worst: Finally, A Fresh Way To Build A Divas Title Contender
Naomi is getting a Divas Championship match, I guess, so last week they had Naomi lose a tag team match and attack AJ afterwards. You know, like a babyface is supposed to. This week, the only logical solution is to do the EXACT SAME MATCH, only this time, AJ is too arrogant and gets caught in an inside cradle for the surprise three. You may remember this as the exact same thing that happened last month when they needed Natalya to challenge for the Divas Championship.
So we got a Punk/Kane confrontation, Cena and Orton “making things personal,” Orton vs. Kofi, Del Rio vs. Mysterio, the Funkadactyls vs. AJ and Tamina and an Emma guest appearance in the crowd. The Usos are about to fight the Wyatts again. Did Batista accidentally return at last week’s Raw?
Best: Your (Actual) Main-Event, Or
Worst: The Wyatts For The Last Month
First of all, BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR BRAIN, BRYAN.
Second of all, the actual Usos vs. Wyatts tag match was enjoyable, but damn, when was the last time the Wyatts won a match on Raw? For the last month they’ve either had Bryan beating them, Bryan beating them in gauntlet matches, Bryan joining them and STILL causing them to lose, or had Bryan attacking them outright and ALSO causing them to lose. The Usos should have like, five title shots by now. I’m all for baiting the crowd reactions and keeping people hot for Bryan, especially after he spent like, six months losing himself, but come on. Harper and Rowan can only get rolled up by Rikishi’s Dancin’ Sons so many times before they stop seeming like a threat.
What’s the biggest middle finger we can fantasy book here? Maybe have Daniel Bryan get #2 in the Rumble and he and Punk can do the Shawn Michaels/Davey Boy thing where they stay in forever and eliminate everybody, but then entrants 28, 29 and 30 are the Wyatt Family. Bray ends up winning when Rowan and Harper sacrifice themselves for him to eliminate Bryan, and then instead of going for a title shot (which I guess is meaningless to Bray) he challenges the Undertaker and we get that Taker vs. Bayou Cult Leader in New Orleans match at Mania. That works, right? And then Punk can make Grumpy Cat faces at Bryan and they can be Sarcastic Susans at each other and also somewhat more importantly give us a modern day Steamboat/Savage to enjoy.
Secondary fantasy booking: Bryan kicks Wyatt so hard in the head that the spirit of Bray leaves him, and Husky Harris suddenly wakes up all, “wow, the last thing I remember is being kicked by Randy Orton … HOW FARES THE NEW NEXUS?” And then the Bray Wyatt spirit can inhabit and possess somebody else. I’m thinking Zack Ryder.
Worst: John Cena And The 40-Second Work Day
1. Did John Cena run here from Rhode Island?
2. Why is the hypothetical parking lot so far away from the building?
3. Why is everybody cool with Cena arriving 3 hours late to work?
4. How important is Kofi Kingston to this video?
5. Does anybody care about the “most anticipated rematch in some time?”
6. Did Orton actually steal a car?
7. Was Undertaker driving the car?
8. If Orton DID steal a car, how hilarious is it that he assumedly stole the car of a guy who left Raw early because he didn’t want to watch a Randy Orton/Kofi Kingston match and the inevitable John Cena run-in?
9. What is Cena celebrating? The fact that he ruined the end of Raw? Why does the Authority keep giving Randy Orton shit for being the face of the WWE but lets Cena get all the title shots and rematches he wants and lets him ruin Raw however he pleases?
10. HOW FARES THE NEW NEXUS?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
BY GAWD, IT’S PITBULL!
King Jaffe Joffer
Don’t let them make fun of you, Randy. My mom used to pick me up after my wrestling matches too.
So you’re just gonna carjack that car, jack?!
“Remember last week when the crowd was silent for the Orton/Kofi match and then exploded with excitement to the extent that we’ll make video packages out of it for years to come when Daniel Bryan was in the ring?”
“Good. Let’s do that again for the main event of this week’s Raw!”
“Okay, great! I’ll tell Bryan!”
If WWE creative got a shirt like Brock Lesnar it would be
Batista looks like he shops for clothes at one of GTA’s in game stores.
Billy Gunn and Dolph Ziggler have to face each other in a Looper match
Billy Gunn is dangerously close to Randy The Ram territory right now..although the main difference is that there is no way I ever want Billy Gunn to serve me deli meats.
This is a really great episode of Triple H, Triple H’s proteges, Triple H’s stable, Triple H’s retired buddies, and Triple H’s wife.
Stephanie: Kane, you can’t touch WWE superstars. Unless you have a certain… Pedigree. I guess what I’m saying is HHH can still do whatever he wants because he’s awesome and great.
*off camera*: And tell him that I can wear jean jackets still.
Stephanie: …And he can still wear jean jackets.
Kane: Seriously with this right now?
Thanks everybody. See you this weekend for the Rumble, and for the various truckstops and piss breaks on the Road to WrestleMania.