– Be sure you’ve read the Best and Worst of WWE TLC 2013 before reading.
– It’s Christmas. Share this week’s column as a special gift to me.
– GIFs via WrasslorMonkey at Punchsport Pagoda.
– You can find out about the movie me and Goldust made here and here. Post-production, baby! Also, follow that wrestling promotion I work for/am increasingly involved in helping run here. Our next show is in Austin on January 5. Chris Hero and Takaaki Watanabe are gonna be there. So should you!
Please click through to enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for December 16, 2013.
Best: Randy Orton, Championship Over-explainer, Or
Worst: John Cena Announces The John Cena Litmus Test
Writing fake Randy Orton vs. John Cena promos is the most fun thing in the world. For Christmas, I’m just writing this for seven pages:
Randy: MY NAME IS RANDY ORTON AND I AM THE WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION AND I AM STANDING RIGHT HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS RING, USING MY LEGS TO SUPPORT MY BODY WEIGHT AND LIFT THE HUMAN BODY INTO A STANDING POSITION, AND THE FACT THAT I AM PERSONALLY HOLDING BOTH THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP BELT AND WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BELTS TOGETHER ON MY LEFT SHOULDERS SIGNIFIES THAT I, RANDY ORTON, NOT YOU, NOT RANDY ORTONS, AM THE CHAMPION. FURTHERMORE-
John: lol fuk u
Randy: WHAT DID YOU SAY, SOMEBODY TURN OFF HIS MICROPHONE, THAT HAND-SIZED CYLINDRICAL DEVICE HE’S HOLDING THAT AMPLIFIES HIS VOICE, CUT POWER TO IT SO THAT IT MAY NOT AMPLIFY HIS VOICE FURTHER
John: u ain’t even champion jack i do it for these people. oh you boo me well some people like me some people hate me i get it that’s cool i want to entertain each n ever1 of u the fans
Randy: LET ME EXPLAIN TO YOU HOW CONVERSATION WORKS
Just seven full pages of that. Maybe get the people who make the JBL & Cole Show to stop jacking off on printed out dirt sheet reports and uploading them to RedTube to produce it. Maybe live musical style. Anyway, Randy Orton started off the show doing my favorite thing — unnecessarily explaining everything he’s doing or thinking en route to making absolutely no point whatsoever — and John Cena countered by doing my LEAST favorite: dismissing everything with a wank and announcing that Randy Orton is not a true champion until he does what JOHN CENA thinks he should do.
That’s been the undercurrent of WWE for years now. There’s a fake hierarchy installed to run the show, full of boards of directors and chief operating officers and executive vice presidents of talent relations, but nothing gets decided or confirmed as history until John Cena decides it. He announces matches on the fly, he gets to make Vince McMahon make gulpy faces and random legends will show up to say that whatever you’re doing is FALSE unless it has checked off all possible John Cena-related scenarios. Remember when CM Punk was the WWE Champion and he wasn’t “really” champion until he beat John Cena, then he BEAT John Cena and Mick Foley showed up to declare he hadn’t “proven” that he was the Best in the World until he’d stepped into Hell in a Cell with John Cena? Orton won 11 championships and Cena said he was an underachiever. Orton wins a TLC match totally on his own, beating John Cena and unifying the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships, and now the 12-time champion with BOTH BELTS isn’t gonna cement his legacy until he wrestles who Cena wants him to wrestle. Guys Cena just arbitrarily decided deserved title shots last week.
Cena’s the Wizard of Oz and Triple H is just the big head in the smoke, isn’t he?
Best: Cody And Goldust Tagged And It Was Only The Third Best Match On The Show
Last night’s Raw gets better and better the more I think about it. Let me put it to you this way: The Shield, the guys who have routinely destroyed quarter-hours of Raw with unstoppable trios excellence, had the fourth best match on the show. Goldust, a guy who has been bulletproof since returning, didn’t make it higher than third best. How is that even possible?
Don’t underestimate the in-ring quality WWE’s given us this year. If you’re still using the “WWE isn’t REAL wrestling, this LOCAL THING WE’RE DOING IS REAL WRESTLING,” you need to put down the reefer, stop watching ECW tapes and start paying attention. The entertainment around the matches is as sketchy and insulting as ever, but there is a powerful roster of both the best current in-ring talent in the world (Bryan, The Shield, Punk, Cesaro, Zayn and so on) and the best in-ring Attitude Era legends (Goldust, Rey Mysterio, William Regal, occasionally Chris Jericho and so on) killing it every single f*cking week. This is some of the best wrestling ever, and if it wasn’t written by a bunch of yokel 5-year olds it’d be a cultural phenomenon. Be as okay as you can with the good stuff we’re getting, and raise hell when the bad stuff starts pretending it’s the reason people are watching.
Worst: THEY’RE SELFIES MAGGLE, MALLY CYRUS TAKES SELFIES WHEN SHE’S TWERKIN!
speaking of the bad stuff
speaking of yokel 5-year olds
Forget everything I said about the wrestling being good. Here are two 50-year old men and a 70-year old taking selfies during the wrestling match and chuckling amongst themselves because the word “selfie” wasn’t around in 1965. And I don’t want to make the obvious joke, but if you think WWE got a Snapchat for any reason other than to make it easier and less legally-confrontational for Lawler to send out dickpics you’re lying to yourself.
Worst: Your Weekly Reminder That Challengers Winning Non-Title Matches Is Not The Only Story In Wrestling
The downside of the good wrestling is that the Wrestling Show doesn’t always know how to handle or present it. On paper, Cody Rhodes and Goldust against The Big Show and Rey Mysterio is a pretty good match. Show and Mysterio are guys made for the tag division right now because they’re slowing down and need a place to be exciting and positive for the show other than “in the main event instead of Daniel Bryan and getting booed for it.” Cody and Dustin are the best tag team in the world right now. Sorry New Japan, you put your tag straps on DH Smith and Lance Rock.
Sadly the other things on paper are “throw singles wrestlers together as a tag team when we don’t have anything better for them to do,” “have them be immediately as good as any preexisting tag teams who in theory should be better at this because it’s all they do,” and “non-title loss for champions.” Those things are all terrible.
Okay, maybe not ALL terrible. Teaming up singles stars who need something to do is a GREAT idea, assuming you’re doing so with a purpose or a story beyond “we are singles wrestlers you know.” WWE rarely has a reason for anybody to tag and immediately breaks up anything that works, so here we are. Tag wrestling is an art, and I miss the days when a tag team specialist had a marked advantage in a tag match because they were respected and booked with reason. And hey, I don’t think I’ve typed anything in my career as the Wrestling Jokes Guy more than “stop it with the f*cking non-title losses for champions.”
Anyway, let’s give Rey and Show a story if we want them competing for the tag belts. Let’s respect the talents of the Rhodes brothers, play up their deep connection to one another and maybe give Mysterio a finish better than “the lightest fully grown adult male on the roster fell on you.”
Best: Bad News Barrett Shoots On The Lottery
And he’s got a GAVEL now. I can’t with this.
If next week’s show doesn’t have Bad News Barrett going I HAVE BAD NEWS FOR YOU KIDDIES, SANTA CLAUS ISN’T EVEN REAL only to get beaten up by Santa, everything I’ve ever known about wrestling is a lie. I think the only way to go with Bad News Barrett is to have him come out on Raw a few months from now all, I HAVE SOME BAD NEWS FOR YOU, I JUST FOUND OUT I HAVE CANCER and become a huge babyface. Or, you know, wrestling judge. Either one.
Worst: Nobody Has A Direction And Everything’s 50/50
The crowd’s chanting “Let’s Go Ziggler,” but where’s he supposed to go?
Mid and lower-card guys in WWE get into these circular ruts where they wrestle the same people over and over, trade victories back and forth and never go anywhere or do anything with them. 50/50 booking where you give a guy a win for every loss is one of the many incessant, weird ways WWE appears to be “protecting” their talent without doing anything. Roll-up finishers are another, and stipulation matches are another. You almost never see a heel just win a straight-up match anymore, they always have to be gimmick matches. When was the last time a heel beat John Cena in a match that required him to actually be pinned?
By being afraid to tell stories and force your characters to live with consequences you end up with this wishy-washy back-and-forth and stories like “Dolph Ziggler isn’t confident in himself!” being told over footage of Ziggler shaking his butt and being overconfident. Without consequence it’s hard for your acting to match the story and no matter how hard you’re working it’s gonna seem fake. And “seeming fake” is probably the last thing a wrestling show should be doing.
Best: THIS MATCH
THIS is how you do it.
The Real Americans are talented guys who deserve the best. Mark Henry is one of the coolest and most visually/physically impressive people on your show and Big E Langston is intense and catching fire. So what do you do? A roll-up finish? Somebody getting distracted by somebody and everything being half-assed? Nope, you put on a really f*cking good tag team match that ends with Big E getting a big, decisive, clean win. By having the match be long and good you’ve made the Real Americans look like Big E and Henry’s equals no matter WHAT the result, so you can have an actual result and not worry about us thinking the losers “suck.” Thinking that they “can’t win.” Of course they can win. They almost won here, and two of the strongest people we’ve ever seen in wrestling EVER had to bust their ass for ten minutes to win. This wasn’t easy. But it COUNTED.
Also, if I can put aside the wrestling analysis for a second, I just really enjoyed watching these four guys hoss the shit out of each other. The best part is that it got out of the core group of “good workers” who’re always putting on good Raw matches. Aside from Cesaro, not a lot of people (especially on the goddamn Internet) think of Henry, Big E and Jack Swagger as these amazingly talented ring technicians, but they’re aces at what they do, especially Swagger, who has gone from overrated to underrated and over-pushed to under-pushed so many times it’s hard to remember that he’s outstanding.
I hype NXT a lot, but I’m equally as proud of what the Full Sail NXT guys do when they bring what they’ve learned to Raw. Guys like The Shield and Langston and Bray Wyatt can just insert themselves into the day-to-day operations of Raw without a lot of effort, because they’ve learned to be entertaining in the ring and compelling as characters outside of it. The future of WWE is eventually gonna break through. We aren’t gonna have to walk into WrestleMania on Attitude Era crutches anymore.
Best: Frankly, A Kid Looking For Santa Claus Backstage At A WWE Event Deserves What’s Coming To Them
Damien Sandow’s supposed to be a “bad Santa” for telling this random little girl that she’s a wretch who doesn’t deserve presents, but seriously, why is she sitting on Santa’s lap backstage at a WWE show? Couldn’t they have set this up in a mall somewhere? Where are this kid’s parents? WHY IS DAMIEN SANDOW DRESSED AS SANTA CLAUS AND ASKING KIDS WHAT THEY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS AT ALL.
I’m going to be live Tuesday night at Raw in Austin for the Mark Henry vs. Damien Sandow “Battle for Christmas,” so I’ll try to keep you informed on whether or not we’ll be celebrating. If Sandow wants real heat, he should ditch the “KIDS DON’T DESERVE PRESENTS” in favor of the much more frightening “PEOPLE WHO SAY HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU ARE BEING NICE, THEY AREN’T TRYING TO SLAUGHTER JESUS IN FRONT OF YOU. JUST SMILE AND SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS BACK TO THEM, THEY WILL PROBABLY BE HAPPY. YOU’RE WELCOME.”
Worst: Uh, Not This Match
This match occurred. Hey, at least Ryback got to hit his finish and pin somebody. Score one for the McGillibuddies! (It wasn’t great.)
Best: LOL F*ck You Tensai We Gots Ta Dance
There were two high points, though.
1. It looks after having turned heel four times in the last two weeks, Brodus Clay is finally, definitely a heel. Although I guess there’s still a chance they’ll just bring out the entire gang again next week and be all, “they decided to give him another chance. It’s the holidays, King! OH NO A SPLASH FROM BRODUS CLAY HOW COULD HE.”
2. Poor Tensai got squashed, so Xavier Woods and R-Truth got in the ring to appropriate the Funkadactyls and dance with them. ON TENSAI’S DEAD BODY. Dude’s just lying on the ground with his ribcage crushed and all Xavier Woods can do is Cabbage Patch. You are also bad friends.
I’d love it if they used that as a story point to keep Brodus and Tensai together, though. Like, next week Tensai comes out with Brodus and explain that yeah, Brodus was a dick to him, but after he watched his so-called friends do the Roger Rabbit on his corpse he realized that maybe Brodus was right, and that being a dancing jackoff is not conducive to tag team success. Then Woods can come out with pair of yellow sunglasses and be all THE 1990S, GET IT and Tensai can punch him in the face.
Call them “Tons Of F*ck.”
Best: This Was Good, But We’re Probably Spoiled
This is how good Raw was … my biggest complaint is that the match I expected to be good wasn’t the best match I’ve ever seen.
I’ve been spoiled by how good The Shield’s been this year, so when they have a match that isn’t quite as exciting or quite as crisp and maybe just a little boring at times it feels like something’s wrong. It was good, sure, but everybody was moving a little slowly and took a little too much time to set stuff up and … man, I don’t feel right nitpicking it. I know my job is to nitpick stuff, but I’ve entered into this dangerous territory with Shield matches where a match without an exceptional spark is somehow a letdown. That’s all on me.
Maybe that’s the best argument for breaking up The Shield. We got a solid year-plus of great-to-really-great matches with Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose as a unit. Not one of those runs where you think they’re gonna eventually be good and things get messed up as soon as they are. They were great from day one, had that impossibly-good TLC match with Ryback and carried it all the way through. Even their 3-on-1 thing with Punk at TLC was great to me and I usually hate handicap matches. Maybe it’s time to separate them after all, so maybe two of them can contribute to the tag division so makeshift teams don’t have to rise up as challengers, or maybe Ambrose can defend the United States Championship every now and then, or Roman Reigns can put on some 1992 Steiner Brothers trunks and start spearing the WWE Elite.
In three months when they’re broken up and the best match on the show is Zack Ryder beating somebody with a slow-ass roll-up I reserve the right to take this all back and say I never said it.
Best: See You Never, Nikki Bella’s Face
No, seriously, look at her face.
It’s like watching somebody stomp a cardboard box. Jesus, Tamina. It’s interesting to watch how Nikki reacts to it, too, because she hasn’t really tried to “wrestle” necessarily until recently, so her chances of getting booted in the face by somebody bigger and stronger than her FOR REAL have been very low. It’s like watching somebody get punched in the face for real for the first time. You don’t get emotional about it and collapse in tears, you just sit there forever with your hand over your mouth making stink-eyes and trying to figure out whether or not your jaw’s gonna fall off and your teeth are gonna fall out when you move your hand.
(And if we’re keeping it in kayfabe, I was really happy to see her get kicked in the face. Maybe now she’s stop yelling all the time. When she was all COME ON LITTLE GIRLLLLL and COME ON LOCAL AUDIENCEEEE all I could think of was “I wish Tamina would get in here and Chono her.” And then poof, Chono’d.)
(Yes, I feel really badly about it.)
Best: Maybe The Best Match On Raw This Year
I’ll be happy when December turns to January and I can reset all my hyperbole. While it might not be the best match of the year on Raw, it was certainly one of the best one-on-one matches, and … damn, I can’t even do it. I can’t be objective. This ruled SO HARD, and was one of those matches WWE shouldn’t have been stupid about and just uploaded to WWE Fan Nation in full.
There’s so much to love here just in the short clip they uploaded. Orton picking up Bryan from underneath and scooting him over toward the ropes to break the Yes Lock. Bryan’s whip into the barricade and running dropkick, which is one of my favorite things that exists in wrestling right now. Bryan’s kip-up after the missile dropkick and how the fans react. That’s all from the last two minutes. If you missed this, go back and find it somewhere and watch it.
Worst: That Low Blow
That’s a “Worst” from a fan perspective, not from an objective one. I wanted the match to keep going for as long as they could go, but I understand why the low blow happened, and as a fan it absolutely makes me see Orton as a scumbag who deserves to get his head kicked in. That conflicts a little with my tendency to watch the show and pay attention and that whole thing of Orton “not living up to his potential” despite beating Cena for both championships in a TLC match last night and having good-to-great matches against everybody (other than Big Show, I guess) since the summer, but whatever. Situationally it makes sense and Bryan’s been screwed out of the title what, four times now? I’m starting to lose count.
But seriously, look at this thing. Look at how all three men sell it. It’s a thing of beauty.
My only other complaint is that Bryan wrestled the match and got the crowd reaction, but the announcers spent most of the time talking about how gracious it was of Cena to give him a shot, and then when Bryan got lowblowed Cena jogged out like a concerned dad to stick up for him. Dude’s a wrestler, John, I know he’s shorter than you and all, but he’s fine. You don’t have to coddle him. He tried that shit with Punk a while back, remember? Punk beats him and steals his belt and Cena’s all HE’S A REVOLUTIONARY YOU SHOULD RESPECT HIM. It’s okay to have your own opinions, friend!
That’s not a major complaint, though, I guess. An incredibly great match and the biggest possible Best to everyone involved.
Best: This Week’s Best And Worst Is Only Three Pages Long Because The Show Was Just A Bunch Of Good Wrestling Matches
And that’s it. This is the kind of Raw I want in my life. Three 10+ minute matches and a main-event that went almost half an hour. There was a sprinkling of dumb stuff but they mostly kept it in the ring, and I didn’t have to write obnoxious asides about parody songs or photoshop jokes or people playing with stuffed animals and eating Subway sandwiches. Wrestling makes me happy, and when wrestling’s happening I can’t help but happen with it.
Now let’s look at some photoshop jokes!
Best: Curtis Axel Art Project
Last week I asked you to improve upon Curtis Axel’s debut t-shirt by creating your own Axel merchandise. These were your ideas:
Best: Happy Holidays From Your Friends At With Leather
Next Tuesday is Christmas Eve, which means there is a 100% chance I will be enjoying real life instead of the Internet. That said, there are few things in the world that make me feel more valid for having my stupid opinions more than a bunch of random people I’ve never met on the Internet, so from the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you all for letting me do this another year, and for (mostly) being cool people. That guy who calls everybody “faggy” in the open threads can probably not have a Merry Christmas.
But yeah, thank you. The Raw report will return in two weeks, and if that makes you feel inconvenienced, maybe check out the rest of the site and all the writing/shilling of videos we do. Maybe read up on NXT so I can not shock you when a guy named “Tyler Breeze” debuts on Raw with a male model gimmick and I can’t stop blathering on about how great he is.
Merry Holidays, everybody.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Cena is really a perfect example of how America sees itself as a country, isn’t it? Ultimately unbeatable, and running around ‘righting the wrongs’ in its ‘universe’ when no one asked for it, and only the wrongs they have an investment in.
Oh yeah. Also: Jorts.
Randy pre-promo: (snorts line) AHHHHHH IM GONNA LIVE FOREVER!
I think Paranoid over talker Randy might be the first wrestling character to become self aware. “I won this huge thing and no one seems to care! I’ve beaten Bryan but he gets to keep fighting me just because he’s popular! Cena won’t go away! IS THIS EVEN A REAL COMPETITION?!” And then HHH points at him and does the Bodysnatcher’s scream.
Bad Santa Damien Sandow isn’t cancelling Christmas because he’s mean. He’s cancelling it because he knows Jesus was born in late March.
Good Santa just made Megyn Kelly’s head explode.
Big E Santa only needs 5 days of Christmas.
Daughtry : Music :: Jeff Dunham : Comedy :: The Miz : Wrestling
“Looks like OLD MAN WINTER is awake after all! That’s right, snow in our area this week. More to come at the top of the hour. And now, let’s send it over to Sal for Sports!”
-Local News Barrett
Amazingly, the US title is actually only the 4th largest American-flag-themed belt buckle in the arena tonight.
*knocking on door*
Punk: “Who’s there?”
Shield: “Hired Goons.”
Punk: “Hired Goons?”