Extra Mustard's Monday Night Raw Recap: This Feels Like Dragon Ball Z
I Feel Like I’m Watching Dragon Ball Z
Like a lot of nascent wrestling fans, I grew up watching a lot of anime. Not that cool, forward-thinking hipster stuff either: we’re talking weekday afternoon Toonami; Gundam, Sailor Moon, and especially Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball Z is inarguably the most internationally-famous anime of all time, and it’s also terrible, because the show was concurrently based on a manga that was easily outpaced in terms of production time. However, the television wasn’t allowed to lap the source material in terms of storytelling, so that meant that Dragon Ball Z was stuffed with the sort of filler that only 9-year-olds can tolerate. I spent months, literal months, watching Goku battle Frieza. It was a fight that took four hours over the course of DOZENS of episodes, some of which are just still shots of a dude flinching while he charges up a Spirit Bomb.
That’s kinda how the WWE feels right now.
Our first match of the night is Stardust, Goldust and some other unrelated guy against the Usos and some other unrelated guy. The unrelated guys are feuding, and in 2014 “feuding” means getting stuck against each other in a tag match.
Of course it was good. It was good the last eight times we’ve seen this match over the last two months. Good doesn’t mean anything anymore. I wouldn’t buy a ticket to see Shawn Michaels and Undertaker wrestle the same match eight times in a row. This business is founded on the principle that anything can happen, so they wheel out The Rock to make a cordial visit before boxing him up again and keep the rest of the status quo going strong. The entire WWE is charging up their Spirit Bomb right now, because the champ is a part-timer and they’re not going to pull the trigger on anything else in the meantime. Generally, I don’t subscribe to the cynical, depressingly corporate lack of empathy that some people believe is imbued in the WWE, but well, tonight was one of those nights.
Was cool to see Mizdow get a roll-up though. If nothing else, a Miz/Mizdow beef could be fun.
I, For One, Am Excited To Get To Know Paige Better
The big news coming out of the weekend was the announcement that next season of Total Divas will feature Paige and Alicia Fox. If you’re not sure what Total Divas is, it’s a “reality show” that features a long list of girls in the women’s division. The idea of a reality show designed to show the backstage life and drama of an already fake sport under the guise of unscripted truth-telling is enough to make your head hurt, but whatever, it’s actually kind of a fun show. You get to see John Cena as the horrendously OCD basket-case that we all knew he was. Seriously, the dude lives in an entirely white house and hangs pictures of Winston Churchill instead of his family.
I’m getting off track.
This announcement made some people mad because we all love Paige and would hate to have her relegated to Rosa Mendes status. Alicia Fox is a great wrestler who could probably use the press, but not Paige! Not our NXT darling!
I’m going the other way, though. I think heel Paige will be great on reality TV, and it stands as a bold vote of confidence in a performer who turned 22 a scant three months ago. Not all diversified bonds are evil, guys.
Anyways, there was a match here, a quick, sparky little romp between Fox and A.J. The gimmick here is Alicia is Paige’s new best friend, and there’s a fun finish where they feign a falling out to distract A.J. and score a quick roll-up. This will be the fourth PPV in a row where Paige and A.J. are in a match together, which certainly isn’t doing the plot any favors, but hey -- they’re far from the most egregious example.
The Definition of Insanity
Do you know how uninterested we are in this upcoming John Cena/Randy Orton match? A match that we’ve seen hundreds of times, including one at the Royal Rumble this year, one on Raw a couple weeks ago, and the dozens that have occurred at house shows across the galaxy for eons? We’re so uninterested that Randy Orton, a 12-time world champion and one of the geniuses of WWE style, has to resort to “the Royals aren’t gonna win the World Series” heat.
Granted it was funny, and John Cena pretending he was a Royals fan was hilarious, but I don’t think there’s a better summation for the state of the company. This is JOHN CENA. RANDY ORTON. Two of the ALL-TIMERS in their PRIMES, building a match out of Damien Sandow tactics. I don’t know how you fix that.
It was great, and semi-unexpected to see Paul Heyman. He spat some fire, but frankly he didn’t have much to work with. Whoever wins at Hell in a Cell will get a shot at Lesnar for the title, and the idea of an Orton/Lesnar clash has me pretty excited. The return of almost-heel Cena was intriguing, but y’know, whatever.
I think we’re ready to see a return to good-guy Randy Orton. That would’ve sounded crazy a few months ago, but I’m feeling like rooting for him again. Even if his babyface veneer is “angry guy who RKOs everyone,” we’re ready.
Rusev Continues To Jump The Shark
Rusev freaks out when his Russian flag was replaced with an American flag. Rusev frantically tries to pull American flag down. Army serviceman comes out. Army serviceman gets superkicked in the face. There are like 10 somber moments of Army serviceman getting put on a stretcher and I almost fall out of my chair.
It’s good to see Big E on TV again, at least.
Sometimes The Magic Works, Sometimes It Doesn’t
I was surprised at the amount of hate I saw this segment get. Basically Dean Ambrose comes out to the ring with a dummy version of Seth Rollins, and starts attacking it with a bunch of tools. He pulls off its arm, takes a screwdriver to its nose, clamps its crotch with a pair of tongs… you know, good clean fun. It didn’t work necessarily, but it made enough sense with Dean’s character that I forgive it. He still played it off with that casual insanity that’s made him so addicting, so what’s the big deal? Sometimes wrestling gimmicks fail for absolutely no reason at all. We all popped for the slime spewing out of Rollins’ briefcase a couple weeks ago, we enjoyed the hot dog gag, and this isn’t all that different! No big deal, better luck next time.
The Mick Foley interruption surprised us all, (even his daughter!) which was cool, and also around the same grade of desperation that brought The Rock out to the show in Brooklyn. The only difference is that Foley is definitely never wrestling again, and his appearance was more than a total tangent. It’s Hell in a Cell, when you think Hell in a Cell you think of Mankind’s body limply cascading through the top of cage, bouncing hard on the mat, a bloody smile showing broken teeth. If you need a veteran to put over the format, you’re looking for Foley. “I LOOK AT MY LIFE AS PRE-CELL, AND POST-CELL.” That’s legitimate! And exciting! It was the only bit of the PPV hype that resonated with me, regardless of whether Dean's and Seth’s match on Sunday involves thumbtacks.
They Still Think We’re Children, Deep Down
You want proof that the WWE thinks its audience is still a bunch of clueless marks? We’ve got a match between Cesaro and Dolph Ziggler. It’s a non-title bout, and Cesaro wins with an uppercut. Afterwards he gives Ziggler the Neutralizer, as if to say, “I’M GONNA WIN THAT BELT OF YOURS AT THE PAY-PER-VIEW.”
This is supposed to be a build. But if anyone watching Dolph Ziggler losing a non-title match on the go-home show before Hell in a Cell thought Oh man, how is Ziggler gonna beat that guy? they are either 5-years old or have been watching wrestling for approximately 15 minutes.
That Ambiguous Feeling Of “Yes I Guess This Is Fun”
Our main event put (WAIT FOR IT) John Cena and Dean Ambrose against (WAIT FOR IT!!!) Kane, Randy Orton and Seth Rollins. This was a street fight that was good, and occasionally great. There were kendo sticks, chairs and tables. It got the only “THIS IS AWESOME” chant of the night from a sleepwalking Kansas City crowd. And, of course, Dean Ambrose was pinned clean six days before he’s headlining the big show for the month. Again, no big deal, good wrestling is good wrestling, but you can’t help but sigh.
Keep charging up that Spirit Bomb, WWE. One day it’s going to consume you.