– Be sure you’re also reading our WrestleMania-related lists on Mondays! So far we’ve done an official, scientific ranking of all 29 existing WrestleMania main events and listed the 29 worst celebrities in Mania history. If you’ve got any requests for lists over the next few weeks, let me know.
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Please click through to enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for March 17, 2014.
Best: Triple H Is Kinda My Jam Right Now
It’s official: some magical combination of CM Punk fans and The Authority being the best characters on the show during the build to WrestleMania 30 has turned me into a wrestling nihilist.
The quickest and easiest answer is that Triple H and Stephanie have been awesome since the Royal Rumble. They are gutless, horrible super villains who justify their own existence by having a valid yet corrupted point. Earlier it was Stephanie McMahon explaining how everything that happens on WWE television is a result of the efforts of the McMahon family … Daniel Bryan can say he “owns the ring” or whatever, but the McMahons get the building, set up the ring, bring in people to make an internationally-broadcast 4-hour HD wrestling program look effortless and manufacture, sell, and get the money from the Daniel Bryan shirts people buy to support him. They create the possibility of him being popular. The truth, of course, is that they’re undermining Bryan’s abilities in an attempt to manipulate him, and even though what they’re saying is technically true, it’s Bryan’s intangible ability to connect with the crowd and bust his ass in the ring that makes him a people’s hero. But she’s technically correct.
On last night’s episode, Triple H had his moment. He tries to keep Batista and Randy Orton under control heading into their WrestleMania main event because he’s got a long history with both of them, but he’s finally so damn sick of hearing them gripe like mentally-malformed goobers that he brutally — and accurately — dresses them down on the microphone. Batista is a Hollywood movie star coming back trying to tell a guy who actively runs a billion-dollar, publicly-traded wrestling promotion how to do his job. Randy Orton is a guy with all the gifts in the world, but he’s so jacked in the head that he can’t win a match without Triple H holding his hand. Bryan and the people who chant for him are annoying. The truth, of course, is that Triple H is a control freak dickbag who got abandoned by his friends 20 years ago and feels like he’s the only dude who can be relied on to accomplish anything, and the “anything” he wants to accomplish is the continued, regularly-rewritten glory of Triple H. But he’s technically right.
That’s what I’m loving so much. He’s evil and worming his way into a WWE Championship match in the main event of WrestleMania 30, but he’s doing it by getting frustrated and re-justifying fact after fact to get himself there. Triple H is the only person who really matters to Triple H, and he’ll kill himself if it means taking everybody else down with him.
On the flip side, you’ve got the WWE Universe. They want CM Punk. They chant for him, but he’s a guy who legit does not give a dog’s shit about them, so he’s not around. They justify THAT because he “needs rest” or whatever and write online about how great and happy he looks on Talking Dead because our society’s about deifying celebrities and not necessarily about admiring what celebrities do. On the other side you’ve got Daniel Bryan … the best wrestler in the world who has been through hell and made lemonade out of pissed-on lemons for two years, but his “fan movement” has become an appropriated mission statement from management. A grass roots campaign of demands and WWE-branded t-shirts, using WWE marketed taunts. It’s great if you can disconnect, but if you can’t, it feels like you’re cheering for a product. You’re saying PEPSI SUCKS, COKE RULES. It’s homogenized.
So in real life you’ve got my favorite wrestler against my historically least favorite. The guy who exemplifies everything good about wrestling against the guy who represents true, existing pro wrestling selfishness and misuse of power. On the show, though, you’ve got a dynamic, compelling, three-dimensional super villain doing some of the best work of his life against a sarcastic, complainy guy who ends up getting his ass kicked all the time and has his fan movement anchored by Sign Guy.
In real life, I’m excited for WrestleMania and hope Bryan taps out Triple H and takes the strap. When I’m watching the show, I want H to pedigree his wormy little ass and burn everything to the ground.
Best: Unnecessary Brutalization Of Batista
A way easier point to explain is how much I like seeing Batista beaten up for no reason.
Batista sucks, I like watching people beat him up for no reason and I laughed hard when he got RKO’d and his extra medium t-shirt rode up over his belly. I also really enjoyed Orton’s “hah, boom” smirk and pose afterwards. “Opportunistic slimeball” has always been a great strength of Orton’s, and I’m mad that he forgets about it most times in favor of “slow moving stomper” or “popular snake man.”
Best/Worst: The Live Bad News Barrett Experience
I had a chance to be at this episode of Raw live, and I can say without question that my favorite moment was Bad News Barrett’s music starting up unexpectedly and glancing over at the stage with stars in my eyes like a kid looking through his window for Santa on Christmas night. I saw the BNB character back in December when he was in Austin ringing a bell for his own personal charity, but he was just behind the lectern then and didn’t have a mobilized assault vehicle with scissor-lifting action and computer graphics. As a square, I also appreciated his DON’T GET DRUNK ON THE DRUNK HOLIDAY, YOU DRUNKS talking point.
I’m also giving it a Worst, though, for the live experience. We had an hilariously aggressive guy sitting behind us with his family, so when we stood up to cheer for Barrett, his wife kinda paws at our backs and tells us to sit down because they have kids, and the kids can’t see. Not that, you know, arenas aren’t set up to allow everyone to see if they wanna see by ALSO standing up, but her kids were disinterested and kinda melting into her lap so I guess it was crucial for them to at every moment see the mean man on the cyborg pillar. My initial reaction was, “uh, I’m sorry?” and the aggressive guy starts in with SIT THE FUG DOWN YOU FUGGIN FUGS I’LL FUG YOU UP
It sounded like “fug.” Anyway, hopefully those kids paid attention to the lesson about not getting drunk, and the supplemental one about not spazzing out at people at wrestling shows.
Best: Titus O’Neil, Full-Blooded Irishman, And The Brow-beating Of Hornswoggle
Titus vs. Sheamus wasn’t a great match necessarily, but it earns a Best for two reasons:
1. The pre-match Titus promo where he asserts that he is at least 50% more Irish than Sheamus, and
2. Titus bringing Hornswoggle into the ring and just slapping the shit out of him repeatedly
That’s how everyone should treat Hornswoggle. Is he suddenly at ringside giving dollar store toys and candy to children? Drag him in the ring and start smacking him. Do that until he never tries to give out wacky St. Patrick’s Day headbands again. Do they only keep him around for the holiday? Are they gonna get to the middle of March next year and be like “oh no we fired that leprechaun we employed HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY TELL PEOPLE WE WANT THEM TO HAVE A HAPPY SAINT PADDY’S DAY” because “graphic saying Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Raw” wouldn’t be direct enough? Can’t they throw some shamrocks on El Torito’s horns and call it a day?
Best: Christian Is Right About Everything
A two-time World Heavyweight Champion DOES deserve respect, JBL DOES look like David Spade in a fat suit and Sheamus SHOULD have been disqualified for throwing Hornswoggle into Titus. He also desperately tried to get himself over as a resilient overachiever instead of a “skinny ugly guy,” something the announcers should’ve been doing since his comeback. I’m going to get hyperbolic about other stuff, but Christian’s commentary (that I missed in the live audience) was the best Best of the show, and something I wish we could hear more often.
New plan: Fire the Raw announce team, replace them with Scott Stanford and Christian. Repurpose Cole as a holiday-specific little person, hike JBL up Mount Vesuvius and leave him and maybe take Jerry Lawler out shopping for real people clothes en route to a repackaging as “old man who never talks about Raw.”
Best: There Is Still Nothing Better In Wrestling Than The ‘Cesaro Obliterates You’ Finish
Watching this live, I saw Cesaro sorta shuffling on the outside and starting yelling HE’S GONNA CATCH HIM, HE’S GONNA CATCH HIM … little did I know that Cesaro was gonna f*cking DRAGON PUNCH him on the way over, and ooooh my God there is nothing I love more than the end of an emphatic Cesaro victory.
I’ve written about it a lot (especially in the NXT column), but he’s better than anybody in the world at deciding he’s gonna win a wrestling match and then WINNING it. He gives out a great vibe when his body and brain go NOPE and he murders you if you get anywhere near him. European uppercut out of nowhere, neck crack, Neutralizer, YA BURNT. I’m glad the Real Americans seem to be on the same page again, and if this leads to what I’m assuming it leads to — The Usos defending the tag titles at WrestleMania against the New Age Outlaws, the Rhodes Brothers and the Real Americans — I will be a happy boy.
I also hope that match ends with Cesaro’s “WrestleMania moment” of pulling the ring up off the ground and hurling it into the stands.
Best: Bray Wyatt Vs. The Same Goddamn John Cena Promo
WWE Fan Nation dropped the ball this week but not uploading the two great instances of Bray Wyatt’s oncoming storm on John Cena: the Eminem hype video, and the amazing bit where Bray wears Cena’s gear, assures him that he could be just like him if he wanted to. It was LOVELY. Maybe Cena didn’t like the bit about how he can go home to his plastic wife and live in a castle?
This is another example of the heels making total sense and the faces being irrational phonies. Bray’s been dropping knowledge on Cena, calling him an aging race horse, telling him to look at Hulk Hogan as an example of his depressing future. What’s Cena’s response been? Saying he’s not scared, changing his mind and saying he’s scared but clearly not believing it, and that same promo he always does where he acknowledges that some people in the crowd love him and some people don’t. Hey John, if we’re truly an old married couple could you stop airing out our dirty laundry every time you speak? WE GET THAT YOU GET A MIXED REACTION YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SAY IT 100% OF THE TIME. YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE ASSASSINATED BY CULTIST HILLBILLIES, THE MALE/FEMALE RATIO OF YOUR LIVE RESPONSE IS NOT CRUCIAL INFORMATION RIGHT NOW.
I’ll be honest with you, though, I almost went to the merch stand and bought the Cena shirt when Bray showed up in it.
Worst: Arnold Schwarzenegger Doing YES Hands Is Creepier Than Bray Wyatt
STOP DOING THAT.
Best, But Technically Somewhere In The Middle: Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton
I’m giving this a Best probably out of habit, but I absolutely wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t as good as the countless other great Bryan/Orton matches we’ve seen (on Raw and elsewhere) and maybe I had to suffer through an action-light commercial break or something but it got kinda plodding and boring. I’m not sold on WWE’s idea that “hardcore” and “no DQ” equates to “pick one weapon and keep doing it.” Sometimes it’s a chair, sometimes it’s the ring steps. Here it was the kendo stick. I mean, if you like watching a guy hit another guy with a kendo stick this was Hogan/Andre.
But yeah, I don’t know. It ended with Batista’s sub-Edge Running Hug on Orton and Bryan getting a win he didn’t earn, and I want to go back and try to figure out how many times Bryan was actually screwed out of victories as it compares to the times when guys like Cena or Big Show or Batista showed up for the assist. It’s gotta be comparable.
Anyway, Bryan’s got the best fire-ups in the world and Orton’s heel game is ridiculous, but I kinda just want to refresh my browser and start over. Is there a way I can clear my Batista cache?
Worst: Let’s Ask The WWE Universe What They Thought Of This Match
Worst: Mr. T’s Hall Of Fame Induction If Anybody Other Than Roddy Piper Inducts Him
His Hall of Fame hype video should’ve just been this:
Quick editorial note: If you’re one of those ladies that loves Dean Ambrose and you don’t worship Piper, you’re doing it wrong.
Worst: Let’s Not Kill Goldust, Okay
I’ve been watching and re-watching that hurricanrana out of the corner, and two things stand out:
1. Goldust either doesn’t get his right leg up high enough or it clips Fandango’s left arm, but he ends up in a sort of half-hurricanrana, and
2. Fandango doesn’t seem to be supporting Dustin’s weight at ALL but still goes through the motion of the move, effectively powerbombing the guy and kinda flipping over him
It was rough. What started out as a fun thing with Goldust dancing and Summer Rae getting damsel’d into Cody’s arms got kinda scary, with Goldie bleeding from somewhere in his head, unable to properly get up for a suplex and looking like he wants Fandango’s head on a spike. He seems to be okay now, but man, let’s be careful when we’ve got WWE legends on our shoulders, okay? Especially ones I need to be able to breathe and walk at a movie premiere in a few weeks.
Best: Believe In The (Babyface) Shield
Well this was certainly unexpected.
After months and months of trying to hype myself up for an inevitably-depressing Shield breakup, The Shield is not only staying together, they’re GOOD GUYS now. When did THAT happen? Sure, the pessimist in me thinks this is just a red herring for the eventual SURVIVOR SERIES DEADLY GAME-style turn from one of them, but if we get another six months to a year of great Shield matches I am SO IN. It’s like they’re staring over. They could run them against heel trios now and redo the entire thing. Seth as the fired-up daredevil getting the crowd hyped, Dean Ambrose being an insane joker on the side of good and Roman Reigns continuing to be protected as they groom him into the next big thing? Yes, yes and yes.
There was actually a lot of non-Shield-related things wrong with this segment, if you think about it. Why is Lawler suddenly responsible for the Yes Movement? Why is Kane being so protracted about the entire affair when the Authority clearly doesn’t want the Yes Movement happening? Couldn’t he just go to Triple H beforehand and be all, “yeah I’m gonna open-hand uppercut Lawler in the throat for filling the ring with 60 neckbeards?” Wouldn’t The Authority be fine with that? Also is there a SINGLE THING that Daniel Bryan can do by himself?
Anyway, good guy Shield makes me happy and I’m gonna try not to turn on them the second they start saying they aren’t the Hounds of Justice, EVERYONE IN THIS ARENA HERE TO NIGHT IS THE REAL HOUND OF JUSTICE or whatever.
Best: Glittery Funk Pirate Naomi
Aksana says you’re welcome.
Naomi made her triumphant return to Raw to save Cameron from those awkward single-Funkadactyl ring entrances outfitted with a GLITTERY PIRATE EYEPATCH, an accessory that instantly gave her about 70% more personality. I dig it. Cameron can have GURL BYE shirts all she wants, I’m throwing in with the Funkadactyl that looks like Captain Harlock.
Let’s keep this on her even when she doesn’t need it, and then maybe give her a condom eyepatch at an Old School Raw to justify me calling her “Naomi ‘Left Eye’ Lopez” for the rest of her life.
Worst: Picking That Champion Loses Constantly Story Where We Left Off
The match between the Funkadactyls and AJ and Tamina was all right, but two things bothered me:
1. How obvious it was that we were just picking back up where we left off with the “Naomi challenges for the Divas title” story Aksana audibled with an Old Glory to the eyeball. AJ’s only real plot is “loses non-title matches to Divas title challenger repeatedly until a pay-per-view title match,” so if we’re gonna finally transition the strap to somebody else, at least it’s Cap’n Naomi. I just wish they had something better for everyone involved, and that none of it involved Tamina.
2. The Bella Twins should seriously never be allowed to do color commentary again. I thought them being “beloved faces” or whatever would help, but nope, they’re still ignoring the match to talk about Twitter followers, their TV show appearances outside of this boring wrestling shit and some “sexy” stuff about tattoos. I guess it’s better than Brie leaning over JBL and yelling BRIE MODEEEEEEEE into Cole’s microphone.
Worst: The Only Thing Bad About A Battle Royal Is A Battle Royal Build
Firstly, remember when Sandow got to talk and have a personality? That was awesome.
Secondly, writing this report is really spotlighting how much the second half of this show burned me out. There was a lot of exciting stuff at the beginning, and then it was just tiresome. It goes without saying, but a move back to the two-hour Raw format would be a godsend. With the pre and post-shows they’ve bumped this weekly exercise in filler placement to FOUR HOURS, and man, if I wanted to watch four hours of wrestling I’d watch Smackdown.
Thirdly, I am a battle royal mark and the Andre the Giant Memorial at Mania is one of the most exciting things in the world. At the same time, I really dislike how WWE builds to battles royal and makes it obvious which two or three (or one) guy is gonna win it. They just “rumble” it. Have everybody of note involved in the match get into a battle royal-like brawl at an earlier date. WHAT A WILD COINCIDENCE THAT EVERYONE’S FIGHTING NOW! Also what a wild coincidence that 7 of these guys got their entrances during the commercial break and had to stand in the ring through three videos before we went back on the air and WELL IT’S THE BIG SHOWWWW.
Best: Kofi Eating The Sister Abigail
Best: To Reiterate, Triple H Is My Jam
Triple H continued his epic night of work by having a “face-to-face confrontation” with Daniel Bryan. I can’t begin to explain how masterful H was here, giving Bryan a reasonable, heavy-on-perspective speech about the weight of everything he’s done to Bryan and why he chose to do it. He spoke (seemingly candidly) about how hard it is to run a business like this and keep everyone happy, and made me clap will full, engaged sincerity when he complimented Bryan for still being here standing strong after the eight months of agony he put him through. He offered a handshake, Bryan refused, and H understood. This by itself would’ve been an amazing character turn, and would’ve allowed us to go into Mania with a layered, interesting contest between two guys with different points of view.
But NUTS TO THAT because Stephanie sent RENT-A-COPS after Bryan to arrest him, leading to him getting handcuffed and assaulted by a bunch of local wrestlers I recognized (what up, Donny Brookes?). Triple H stormed back into the ring and made the cops flee, dropping a line that sounded like a Cena-to-Alberto-style thing about how they aren’t really cops, but was actually EXPOSITION because the next 15 or so minutes was him beating Bryan to death. It was WONDERFUL. The act of the truest, cruelest heel … to not only use your power to control and abuse an enemy, but to drag him along and dangle some weird, extraneous carrot in front of his face to make him think you’re about to do him right. The Lannisters send their regards.
The only real hangup I had was one you probably expected me to address, which was:
When Triple H was holding Bryan so Stephanie could take a few cheap swings at him, he kept yelling YOU HIT LIKE A GIRL, YOU HIT LIKE A GIRL.
First of all, she is a girl, and she’s beating the shit out of you. Second of all, I wouldn’t have thought a lot of it because Bryan IS getting mauled and needs to say SOMETHING mean to them, but combining with that earlier segment where H says he needs to do things “like a man” and Stephanie gets bent out of shape about it makes it seem purposeful. Is Stephanie bothered by the fact that she’s not a guy? It just seems weird.
But yeah, no, I kinda want Triple H to handcuff Bryan again at Mania, mouth “yes yes yes” to the crowd while he holds him in position for the pedigree for a solid minute and then pedigree him onto the panel for Talking Dead. Because wrestling nihilist.
WWE, you book shows like a girl.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Allen Pryor Brand
Naomi really should chamge her name to Slick Ricki.
I would die of happiness if Justin Roberts handed Triple H his tie.
Man Of 1004 Holds
If he goes into the WM main event, I hope the open their wallets and let him come out to The Final Countdown.
They should play the sad Incredible Hulk music whenever Batista walks away with his backpack
Jim Bradfield (tie)
If Christian’s going to feud with Sheamus, they should change his name to Protestant.
Golden Girls Gone Wild
If only corporate Kane were a CFO he’d know how to work the numbers game
Chant for him all you want crowd, you’ll never be heard over that shirt
Randy Orton kidnaps Brie before the wedding, resulting in no Bella to ring.
The Wyatt Family motto: “Death Bofore Taxes”