This Show is Much Better When I Know What You’re Talking About
I liked this Raw. It wasn’t transcendent, but it put things in place and moved forward in a concrete, unambiguous direction. Our WWE product has been such a hairy tangle of vague storylines and rematches that anything presented with assured confidence is a step in the right direction. Triple H comes out, says he’s going to make sure the members of Team Cena have a rough night, and the booking does exactly that. It’s an arc! A beginning, middle, and end! Not obscure proclamations of justice! There’s even a moment where Stephanie plays a video package for Ryback, showing all the times John Cena was a total jerk to him, which is legit continuity on a show that often throws its self-awareness out the window.
But Wait, There’s This One Thing
I dug the whole “let’s remind Ryback why John Cena is a bully thing,” and it plays into the whole world’s snarkier tendencies (even if it just culminated in Cena saying “HEY MAN THAT’S IN THE PAST, I NEED YOU NOW” and Ryback anti-climatically signing up with the good guys). But here’s the thing -- hasn’t Cena bullied basically everyone on his team? I’m pretty sure you could run a video package of John Cena, renowned babyface, making fun of Dolph Ziggler and Big Show. Same with the guy in the sheep mask he was bullying just a couple months earlier (we’ll get to him later.) My point is, don’t selectively ask us to remember stuff, because it’ll only prompt us to remember other stuff, and then everything comes crashing down. Or maybe just not have John Cena be a total jerk!
Dolph Ziggler Flopping Around the Mat with Purpose
As I said at the top, the topicality of this particular Raw was very specific. The Authority wants to crush John Cena’s team, so Ziggler immediately finds himself in a title match with the just-returned Luke Harper so he can sell superkicks like a wrestling champion should. Before the bell rings, Noble, Mercury, and Seth Rollins storm the ring to soften him up, which opens the door for that wavering fighter’s spirit thing that Dolph always does so well. He screams “RING THE BELL,” and stoutly kicks out of a few punishing Harper signature moves before finally getting put away with a giant clothesline. It’s good! Harper gets the belt which opens up another one vs. one match down the line (maybe at TLC; it’d be awesome to watch these guys work with some toys,) and it builds some actual sympathy without it being like, Kane, or someone as equally tired.
That Bunny Has it Coming
First off, Bunny, what are you doing?! Adam Rose has been a jerk to you like four times in a row now, why are you still coming out to the ring with him? You know how this ends! Is it a stockholm syndrome thing? Do we need to call the hotline for The Bunny? Maybe.
Also this the exact same singles match we saw last week between Rose and Tyson Kidd, but instead of ending with Rose beating up The Bunny, we get a weird moment where The Bunny, um, humps Adam Rose and then hops away.
Like it wasn’t a mistake, it’s clearly a storyline peg. So look forward to that! Or don’t! I’d like to pretend I’m the esteemed wrestling fan who would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS laugh at The Bunny humping a dumb wrestler, but you know, I guess I’m a man of simple pleasures.
I Love it When Bray is Going Point A to Point B
This whole Raw felt very streamlined, even down to the minor feuds that haven’t gotten as much attention lately. I’ve heard some grumblings about Bray Wyatt’s promo work these last few weeks, but I think he’s doing a great job. Before he was espousing this far-off mysticism for guys like Cena and Jericho that worked simply because it sounded cool enough, but with Ambrose, he’s hitting the nails right on the head. Dean Ambrose comes from a broken home. Bray Wyatt thinks Dean Ambrose is running from those demons. Bray Wyatt claims to offer salvation by recruiting him as a follower. It makes sense! We’re not talking about “legacies,” we’re talking about real human interaction.
Ambrose, for his salt, basically just says “whatever man” and storms the ring, and I find that slightly disappointing. It was good, and it keeps Ambrose cool, but Wyatt is at his best when he’s able to tempt with his prosthelytizing; it’s why the first act of his feud with Cena was so good. It’d be cool if we had some moments where Dean begins to identify with the darkness, and maybe that’s still in the cards.
Cesaro, The Gentleman’s Jobber
Cesaro has lost like fifteen matches in a row. He’s currently storyline-less, after a brief, mostly entertaining feud with Dolph Ziggler, and now he’s left to drift the lonely seas of WWE vapor.
But it’s actually not all bad! Cesaro still gets on TV every week, because he’s still one of the three best wrestlers in the company. You’re always going to need a mid-level, unoccupied heel to have long, competitive matches with people on go-home shows to make the faces look heroic. That’s where Cesaro is right now - cashing checks, wrestling the sort of WWE matches that get a commercial break in between, and happily treading water. He’s the Gentleman’s Jobber, a cut above Heath Slater but a cut below Randy Orton. He’ll get his time. Worrying about wins and losses when your favorite guy is still getting lengthy TV spots is silly. Just be patient y’all.
A Sentence or Two About Grumpy Cat
Grumpy Cat was on this episode of Raw. It is a cat, he sits on a pillow while Miz pitches him movie ideas because apparently Miz either believes cats can talk, or has the legit ability to communicate with animals. Seriously I want to know if that’s canon or not. At one point Damien Mizdow pulls out a “stunt-double cat” of Grumpy Cat, in case you weren’t already aware that Mizdow has jumped the shark.
I’m just really sad that Grumpy Cat didn’t take any bumps, okay? I feel like he’d make a great heel, I dunno.
Back to the Doldrums
There’s nothing to say about Sheamus and Big Show. I liked the swerve of the Evil People Who Run The Booking putting the two babyfaces in a match against each other, and trying to blackmail Big Show with the promise of Hall of Fame induction was pretty good. It ended in DQ because of course, and it also perhaps injury-angled Sheamus out of the main event at Survivor Series? That’s pretty interesting. It progressed the storyline, which is nice, but this is a prime example of wrestling happening and immediately floating off into the ether.
This was pretty funny! Nikki has a big title match against A.J. at Survivor Series, and Brie is still her “personal assistant.” This has lead to a bunch of do-nothing angles, but last night had Nikki putting Brie in A.J.’s trademark daisy-duke/skeleton-shirt combo, and wrestling her as an “exhibition match.” I love it because it barely makes any sense. It’s not like Brie has picked up A.J.’s moveset, it’s like when Phil Jackson had Tyronn Lue dress up as Allen Iverson ahead of the ‘01 Finals.
It’s a distraction finish, where Nikki starts barking at (the real) A.J. at ringside, and, you guessed it, gets rolled up by her sister. But then A.J. just kinda slides in and destroys Nikki, which causes Brie to start doing the “Yes Chant, and A.J. is just like NAH GIRL and blows her up too. It’s awesome. It might’ve been my favorite moment of the last couple of Raws. It’s always my favorite thing when someone realizes they’re in the ring with two equally contemptible people, and decides to kill both of them regardless of face/heel divisions. This was A.J.’s version of when Stone Cold stunned Lesnar and Goldberg at WrestleMania XX. Five stars.
Honestly Did Not See That Coming
No, CM Punk didn’t come back. Neither did Kurt Angle or Sting. The Authority are in the ring reveling in their very, very temporary belief that they put John Cena’s team out of commission. Cena comes out, cuts a C+ promo about how he’ll never sell out and Never Give Up, and he’ll fight The Authority with Each and Every Member of the WWE Universe on His Side - and like, literally as he’s saying this, he’s promoting that the WWE Network is free. That’s him not selling out. These anti-establishment angles in TV wrestling always get so weird so fast. Like when Stone Cold was raging against Vince McMahon but still had a new t-shirt every week.
Anyways, Team Cena isn’t injured. Ziggler comes out. Big Show comes out. Eventually Ryback comes out and joins up with the faces. But in between that we got the COMPLETELY out of nowhere moment where Erick Freaking Rowan, the dude with the crazy sheep mask, has joined Team Cena. It was incredible. I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not, but it certainly made me pop.
John Cena has to tag in the dude with the jumpsuit and sheep mask. That rules.