Extra Mustard's Monday Night Raw recap: Wait, this is real wrestling
You Think You Know Me
One of the most annoying things about WWE is when it treats people we seem to see every other show as special appearances. Hulk Hogan has been so ubiquitous he might as well be on the main roster, but JBL never fails to do his whole “Look at that! It’s the Hulkster Maggle! Hulkamania is running wild on Raw tonight!” like it actually means something.
Occasionally though, trotting out the old guy we used to love actually merits the red carpet pomp. Case in point: retired superstar/regrettable bad-boy crush Edge, also known as one of my very favorite wrestlers ever, returning to host Raw Monday night. Okay, Christian was there too, but Christian is always sorta standing next to Edge, right?
Anyways, great to see the dude again, even if hosting Raw basically means showing up for approximately two segments. I also like that he didn’t do what Jericho did and make himself completely unlikable over the course of the show to justify being on the receiving end of Brock Lesnar mean-mugs and F-5s. Actually, Edge’s goofy skater-dad persona makes a lot more sense for him now that he’s out of the game and embracing his inherent, lovable corniness.
I just really miss Edge, okay? I sorta wish he took his shirt off. Actually no, he was wearing a Sami Zayn shirt. Seriously, how can you not like this guy?
An Honest Question
Last night Rusev wrestled Dolph Ziggler. It was fine. It probably went on a little bit too long, and it ended with a DQ finish.
My question is simple: Is Rusev capable of having a great match? They keep Ziggler around mainly so he can carry big guys into some memorable spots, (though that status has changed lately), but it’s still the same safe, sidewalk slams and hip tosses. Ziggler sells well because that’s what he does, but at this point the only Rusev moment I know I’ll remember is his inevitable WrestleMania first-pinfall-loss. It’s not saying much about a character if the only show you can squeeze out of a guy is the whole never-been-pinned thing. Ask Goldberg.
It’s a shame, really, because Rusev might be the most athletic big man in the company. I just don’t really remember his matches. Maybe all his slugfests with the kneeless likes of Mark Henry and Big Show are souring my perspectives, but I’m not totally sure.
Also Ryback showed up at the end, and that was boring until what happened next.
Let The People Talk!
If there was one reassuring trend on Monday night’s Raw, it was the promo time given to people who never ever get the chance to talk.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the discretion. An eight-minute Ryback promo could go south very quickly. But all the noise Vince McMahon made about brass rings and such can only be substantiated if the underachievers are allowed to build some rapport with the audiences they’re supposed to be entertaining. Ryback has been a big, anonymous monster for years, but a few minutes with a microphone lays a very basic foundation for why we ought to care.
If this seems basic, that’s because it is. But it’s also something WWE constantly forgets. I totally applaud Ryback for going out on a limb and speaking like a human. Was it funny that he brought up The Secret? Yes. But that’s still cool! It’s something I didn’t know before! You could even sense it in the audience, as the “WHAT!?!” chants slowly morphed into a “wait, this is actually pretty real” quiet.
So bravo, WWE. Thanks for finally offering a chance for your dudes to get over.
Nikki and Tyson Kidd are Running an Affair Angle
That’s all. I realized I hadn’t written about this yet, so, there you go. Contractual duty fulfilled. Moving on.
That Glorious Post-Commercial Break “Oh This is a Real Match” Moment
Miz/Mizdow vs. The Usos was boring for about 15 minutes. Raw has a bad habit of letting tried-and-true “wrestling for the sake of wrestling” filler carry on way too long in a loose, callous build to some far-off PPV. It pains me to say it, but usually the actual wrestling on Raw is the worst part of the show. Pay-per-views are generally a blast, but the middling, stakes-less minutia of your average Raw mid-card is seriously my least favorite thing.
But then, occasionally, the WWE let’s you know that you’re watching an actual match on free TV.
Last night, that happened when Mizdow was thrust in the ring to eat a superkick, followed by Miz countering a splash to put Jimmy Uso in the Skull-Crushing Finale. He hits it, and Jimmy kicks out at two.
When you have a wrestler kick out of a finisher that almost always wins matches, then you know you’re watching a real match. The “THIS IS AWESOME” chant that followed was unsurprising, because stuff like that makes everyone’s head perk up.
So yeah, Miz and Mizdow dropped the belts on free TV. It was unexpected! I popped! Is this really Monday Night Raw I’m watching?
Cesaro Also Getting Mic Time is Great
Basically what I said earlier, except with Cesaro. I love Cesaro, he might be the best pure wrestler in the company. I love that he grabs the mic for the first time in ages and talks about how 2014 should have been his year. He yells that ‘he doesn’t care about connecting with the fans, all he cares about is wrestling, and it is AWESOME. Confident, true and the exact sort of spear through backstage politics that always makes the product interesting.
Then he botches and talks about “getting in those four ropes” when he should’ve said “walls” or “turnbuckles” or something. And you remember, Oh yeah, that’s why WWE doesn’t totally trust this guy.
Whatever, it was still really good and I hope we see more of it going forward.
But, that barely matters! Because in stomps the returning Bad News Barrett, who has some BAD NEWS and it involves Cesaro’s cranium and the Bull Hammer.
I don’t even care that this was basically a squash to put over the guy returning from injury. In one night we got Edge, Bad News Barrett, Daniel Bryan, and the Roman Reigns afterglow hasn’t faded quite yet. It is so good to be in Road to Wrestlemania season, y’all.
Literally Nobody is Interested in This Match
Luke Harper vs. Jack Swagger. Truly a clash for the ages.
Halfway through this match, I started playing Desert Golf, which is a phone game where you’re golfing in a monochromatic, endless desert. It’s the most nihilistic game ever, and still somehow more interesting than Jack Swagger.
Seriously, why is he still employed? I don’t get it. The WWE could easily have a Luke Harper/Tyler Breeze match right now. Like, that’s insanely doable.
Roman Still Can’t Really Wrestle But Big Show is Bringing It
I love Roman Reigns. He is still the guy who’s at his best when he only gets tagged in for finishers. But I love him. This match against Seth Rollins is not great. It’s basically Rollins doing things to fill space around both of Reigns’ wrestling moves, and that’s pretty troubling if this dude is gonna be the next Cena or whatever.
What I did love was Big Show on commentary, who relentlessly put over Rollins in the most educated heel way possible. He was putting together these kayfabe explanations for the dude’s transitional submission holds. It was awesome. I hope Show makes his way to commentary when his career is over, which should be about six months from now.
YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES
There’s nothing to say. I thought he might be done. We had heard so much conflicting information over the last few months. He’ll be ready for the Rumble! He needs Tommy John surgery and will be out for at least another year! His retirement is inevitable!
But when you heard the commentary tease a Daniel Bryan announcement with some faux uncertainty, you knew the swerve was coming. Out comes our hero, playing possum, letting us know that not only is his career not over, but also he’ll be ready and fighting at the Royal Rumble! Which is in like three weeks!
Daniel Bryan’s injury at the cusp of his championship run was one of the saddest things in sports last year. But on 2015’s doorstep, we’re finally putting that era in the rearview mirror.
The Ascension Are Goofy and You Should Love Them
If you’re not familiar with The Ascension from their NXT days, they’re two dudes with dumb haircuts and Illuminati gear who get everyone to yell “YAK” whenever they throw a chop. It’s pretty awesome. Whether it will translate to the main roster remains to be seen, but I’m all for them coming out of nowhere to murder unsuspecting lamers. Miz’s face when he realized he was staring down two dudes in viking-metal pauldrons was pretty great. I just hope the 1988-ness doesn’t turn off middle America.
John Cena Gives Up
The storyline here is that Seth Rollins comes out and calls out John Cena. He wants Cena to reinstate the Authority, because he’s the only guy with that power. So he puts Edge in position for a Curb Stomp. If you don’t know, Edge had to retire because of neck injuries, so Rollins is basically saying, “I’m going to paralyze this dad if you don’t do what I ask.”
John Cena runs out, stares for way too long, and just kinda says, “Yeah, okay, fine.”
What bugged me about this, other than the five minutes of Seth Rollins going “COME ON JOHN, DO IT JOHN. COME ON. DO WHAT I ASK JOHN. I’LL KILL THIS MAN JOHN. COME ON JOHN,” was the completely unrealistic idea that Cena didn’t have a backup plan. I mean, it’s John Cena. Wrestling Superman. He couldn’t think of a way to stop a plan that was thrown together in five minutes? Why does John Cena care that much about Edge anyway? Why doesn’t Edge roll out and run away?
If you set up this guy, John Cena, to be an infallible wrestling genius, it’d be cool if he actually did some maneuvering before completely acquiescing to the bad guy. This is exactly the kind of angle that needed some more teasing over the last few weeks, instead of the sudden, “Hey remember the Authority? I want them back now, thanks.” It was vague enough that after the fifth time Seth Rollin said “GIVE ME WHAT I WANT JOHN, YOU KNOW WHAT I WANT,” that Michael Cole had to step in with a, “He wants the Authority back in power” save.
Okay, it was a decent segment because it ended with Steph and Triple H toasting champagne. But the moral remains the same: never get bailed out by Michael Cole.