After the recap of last weeks Raw, we open up with the introduction of Team Hell No, making their way to the ring. To wit, that’s 2 weeks in a row now that Raw has opened directly with wrestling, and this is something I will never get tired of, or think is stupid.Team Hell No come out and spot The Shield standing in the rafters of the audience. They challenge them to come down and start a fight, and we get to our first match.
I used to think they had more wrestling on the WWF(E) 12 years ago, but after recently re-watching a couple of those old Raw’s, I realized Raw has always had about 20 minutes of BS in the beginning. If anything, I’d say there is more wrestling now, what with the 3 hour running time, but just so. Anyhow, the actual match was more or less what you’d expect from Hell No and The Primetime Players. Titus O’ Neill isn’t anything that spectacular, nor is Darren Young, but their characters are entertaining as hell and I wish they’d get more airtime just so I can hear them on commentary or during skits. Watching Daniel Bryan try to pretend like either of them are hurting him, or out wrestling him in any way is really stretching my sense of disbelief. The Shield overseeing the match was pretty awesome though, and their slooooww walk down the steps, and gradual separation, was a great way to build tension throughout the match, and you really got the feeling that The Shield were a real threat. Them interrupting the match was expected, and I’m interested in seeing the storyline explanation for why they attacked Kane and Daniel Bryan.
In true WWE Heel form, I’m sure it’ll make perfect sense and be entirely in line with their characters and their motivation, and everyone will hate them because they’re supposed to, rather than listen to what they’re saying or what they mean, no matter how reasonable or logical it is. It’s not like their reasons for hurting somebody is “because they deserved it”, or they were “having a little fun”, because that’s what WWE Faces do. When you’re a face in WWE, you can violently attack whoever you want as long as you say they either of those two things.
If there’s one thing I’m glad the whole AJ romance storyline has provided, it’s that we’re gonna get back to seeing her wrestle again. There was a moment earlier this year where she had a match with Layla, that was actually really damn good, and every time I see AJ wrestling again I get the hopes that we’ll get to see a Diva’s match of actual quality. Unfortunately they’re nerfing here character right now, and she spends the majority of this match getting her butt kicked, until she does a simple roll up pin to win. I suppose it was to get Tamina Snuka over, in a similar fashion to how they tried to get Tensai and Funkasaurus over. After losing Kharma and Beth Phoenix, my guess is they’re trying to get another Diva to be the big unstoppable one, but it doesn’t quite work for me. If they wanted Tamina to be impressive or considered imposing, they ought to have her and AJ wrestle each other well, but I guess that’s not allowed in the WWE. Regardless, AJ was in her wrestling gear on my tv again, and that always makes me happy.
This is a classic case of why CM Punk and Paul Heyman are two of the most valuable assets the WWE has. Paul Heyman plays the slimy, corporate business man perfectly, and Punk is Punk, and anytime he has the microphone in his hand is generally pretty great. He’s always been amazing as a heel, and is leagues above and beyond his work as a face. I particularly enjoy how much he continually calls all of the fans jerks, and overall draws a lot of heat to himself, despite never saying anything that is illogical, unreasonable, or inherently false. Which is why it was intriguing to me when The Miz showed up to challenge CM Punk to a lie detector test. One of the best motivations a wrestler can have is their belief in themselves, and as long as they aren’t being an annoying good guy boaster the way John Cena can be, but instead shows weakness and reservation, it can be an excellent storytelling tool.
Case in point: The Big Show, who is still wary that he can’t actually beat Sheamus again, but has to try to believe he can. In CM Punk’s case, it’s the worry that he can’t beat The Ryback on his own, but he’ll be damned if he’ll admit it out loud to anybody. Much in the same way that John Cena has said, he has to believe in himself every night, in order to go out there and wrestle against each opponent he faces. The dichotomy for Punk is that he truly does believe he’s the best in the world, but won’t directly admit to himself that he couldn’t beat The Ryback. Him coming out to say he’s the best gets derision for the audience, who see him as your typical cowardly heel, and on face value they’re right. That is the first layer of the card he was/is playing, but the deeper part is a man who has back himself into a corner, burned all the bridges he has except Heyman’s, and is too proud to admit his wrongs and finds his only vindication is keeping the WWE Title. Unlike any other wrestlers motivation for being the champion, (Because I want it!), Punk’s is based around the necessity to keep his worldview consistent, to prove to himself every choice he’s made is the correct one, and to hold onto that notion of pride he’s so keen on keeping. He’s doing it in the most jerk face way possible sure, but that’s what gives his character some relatability. Who of you hasn’t made the wrong decision, been too proud to admit it could be wrong, and then denied it and held onto one concrete thing to convince yourself it was true?
It’s essentially setting up Punk as a tragic figure, and if he was to ever go face again, they’d be very dumb to miss out on the opportunity to seize it. In my mind CM Punk has one more promo in him that will singlehandedly change the landscape of the WWE, and that’s the “I was wrong, but so were you” promo. I have dreams he’ll make that promo, and if that day ever comes you can bet I’ll be linking back to this specific article and pointing out just how right I was to every single wrestling fan I know. All 5. (Not many people I know like wrestling).
Tag Team matches like this are the worst. They’re straight out of the school of Teddy Long match making, and the worst thing about them is how insanely predictable they are. I’m pretty sick of seeing singles competitors being slapped together into teams, solely because they both have feuds going on. So Ziggler and Cena are feuding, and so are Big Sow and Sheamus, let’s have them in a tag team match! It’s such insanely lazy booking it makes me think somebody behind the scenes just runs the WWE Universe Mode on WWE ’13, and writes down the matches the computer sets up. You know, that was intended as a joke, but if it was really true, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. The only other explanation is that the computer in that game is PERFECT at replicating WWE style booking, but, Occam’s Razor says otherwise.
Going back to why it has no suspense, #1 it’s a mid card match with John Cena in it, and #2 it’s all one obvious build up to the hot tag from Cena. The guy is poison for making matches like this suspenseful, and no amount of top rope leg drops is gonna convince me he’s trying to learn any new moves, or is trying different things. At least Sheamus is a good wrestler when he’s not talking or saying anything.
It what was probably the most frustrating segment of the night, we have to endure Santino Marella interrupting the gloriously amazing Damien Sandow, to remind us all how funny his green sock puppet is. A great bit like Sandow picking some schmo from the crowd, (an obvious plant) and asking him a series of questions in order to have him become his “apprentice”, should never be interrupted. At the very least, not goddamned interrupted by idiotic, terrible wrestlers with dumb gimmicks like Santino. We get it, your whole thing is you’re a “wacky foreigner”, but that schtick has been played since Andy Kaufman killed it dead forever by playing Latka in Taxi. On top of that, trying to come out and cheap shot Damien Sandow after stumbling over a stupid tongue twister question, and getting cheered for it is a picture perfect example of why WWE faces are the worst.
What possible, logical reason does Santino have for trying to cheap shot Sandow? Name one? Is it “because Sandow deserved it?”, or he was “having a little fun?”, because if it is, you’re a bad wrestling fan with bad opinions. Watching Sandow destroy Santino was more than welcome, and continues to make me wonder why people could ever boo him.
I’m glad they’ve taken my one point of advice for ADR, and that’s having him wrestle with purpose in each match. From the moment the bell rings, his whole game plan is to soften up his opponents arms, then put them in the cross arm breaker to get them to tap out. It’s submission wrestling 101, and something I’m glad to see happening. The better part is that lately everybody has been immediately tapping out to the cross-armbreaker, which is exactly what should happen each time. As I’ve said before, if you’re at all familiar with real submission holds, or *GASP* watch MMA at all, you’d know that an arm bar is the quickest way to snap someones arm in half, short of a kimura lock. Whenever anybody tries to get to the ropes when they were in the cross-armbreaker, it rang as false to me, and reminded me what I was watching wasn’t real. When ADR puts someone in the cross-armbreaker, that should be the end of the match, period.
If you don’t want him to do that, then just have more wrestlers counter it. Build it up to be a feared finisher, or have him go through a gimmick phase where he starts breaking a series of wrestlers arms. DO something with it, or get rid of it. For now they’re coasting with it, and it’s tolerable, but it could backslide any week. Let’s see Del Rio break a bunch of arms. Give us a legitimate reason to think he’s a bad guy, other than “Mexican”.
I have a hard time recalling what this segment was all about, because despite Vince McMahon ostensibly now being a good guy, and despite his “rare” appearances,he constantly shows up to do stupid, terrible things. Tonight he more or less forced Vickie into making one of the worst possible stipulations to a match that could have been made.
For those who don’t remember, Dolph Ziggler has been doing what a lot of Money In The Bank wrestlers do, which is bide his time and wait for the right moment to cash it in. It’s a little frustrating because you want to see him become the champion, and it really seems like right now the only reason he hasn’t isn’t for any storyline reason, but because of backstage politics. In the meantime, Dolph’s MITB contract is something he’s legitimately earned, and even defended in the past.
It’s a bit infuriating then, to see Vince McMahon force Vickie to make the match between Dolph and Cena, a Money In The Bank match. When a guy has earned, defended, and patiently waited to use his given reward for winning a match, and then has it put at risk, AGAIN it’s pretty unfair. It’s even more unfair because John Cena won his own MITB contract, and LOST. I can’t think of any reason why he deserves the chance to get another, other than Vince McMahon f***ing loves John Cena and will do anything he asks of him. It’s so insanely dumb a choice and stipulation, the only upside to Cena winning would be him wasting a second MITB contract. But that wouldn’t be fair to Dolph, but hey he’s a bad guy right, so who cares about what’s morally acceptable, JOHN CENA GETS ANOTHER CHANCE AT A TITLE SHOT!
This is why John Cena is the worst good guy character ever. He’s only morally righteous when it suits him to be, but is still lauded as the top face, and even compared to Superman in that regard. Which is insulting, because Superman would never be as devious, stupid, racist, sexist, or unfair as John Cena’s character is. Superman is a good person. John Cena’s character, is not.
I kept waiting for this match to be interrupted by The Shield, but it never happened. Oh sure they beat up Orton after the match ended, but they didn’t help Maddox win. It’s a shame because I really like Brad Maddox’s character, and his entire smarmy, I’m-Gonna-Butter-Up-Vickie segment earlier in the show was entertaining as hell. On top of that, his music-less entrance was hilarious contrasted with his giant onscreen titan-tron video, which says in giant letters: THE BRAD MADDOX EXPERIENCE, which is possibly the best titan-tron video I’ve seen in a long time.
I keep imagining he had to choose between music or a titan-tron name card, and settled on the fact that people had to know he was AN EXPERIENCE. Of course though, the second his opponent was revealed to be Randy Orton, the match was a bit of a foregone conclusion. Perhaps this is part of a build up though, and we’ll get to see Brad Maddox try to get chances at a WWE contract each week, and he’ll continually fail each week in newer, more spectacular ways than the last. Presumably at some point The Shield will intervene and help him secure his contract, because if there ever was an injustice, it’s not letting a guy like Brad Maddox have a contract when Santino does.
In what was possibly the most infuriating and maddening thing in a show full of infuriating, maddening things, this Tag Team match between Kofi Kingston & R-Truth and Antonio Cesaro & Wade Barret, was turned into a Fatal 4-Way match between all of them, by Teddy Long. Yes, you read that correctly, Teddy Long.
The guy who has no general management powers, or matchmaking ability, once AGAIN came out to make a match. I’m guessing since it was already a tag team match, he didn’t know what to do, and all the little green rabbits that control his higher brain functioning went scrambling for options, and one picked a Fatal 4-Way match in a random spasm as they all died from shock. Parallel Universe Teddy Longs aside, it got even worse when it was decided to be made a title match, and the title put up was left to a vote by the audience.
This is where my doubt towards the RawActive polls come into play again, because they definitely proved that last week it was fixed, but this week I definitely do think that the WWE Universe at large is retarded enough to put up Antonio Cesaro’s belt over Kofi Kingston’s. Why anybody would like Kofi Kingston over Antonio Cesaro is legitimately baffling to me, because one is definitively, objectively an amazing wrestler, and the other can jump high. Kinda. Seeing Antonio Cesaro win the match and retain his championship, restore some small amount of faith that the WWE kinda sorta knows what they’re doing. Sometimes.
Now my earlier diatribe about CM Punk is taken to the test in this segment, and the findings from it, (what little were gleaned anyway), support my theory. When The Miz stops yukking it up and making your mom jokes, Punk did finally inadvertently admit weakness, by revealing he doesn’t think he can beat The Ryback on his own via the lie detector test. I’ll ignore the fact that polygraph tests have been scientifically proven to be inaccurate and unreliable, and are no real indicator of truth or lies at all, because in kayfabe terms, this IS a lie detector, and it does work. Punk does a great job of saving face by rightfully pointing out that his belief that he can beat The Ryback is an opinion, and therefore can’t be a lie, and therefore contributes to his character being too proud to admit weakness.
The one thing about this segment I have to take umbrage to, is The Miz being face. Currently I’m on the fence, because if this is what we’re gonna get from face Miz, I’m not sure if I like it. On one hand, if literally anybody else was making the same lame jokes and whatnot, I’d hate them forever into oblivion. However, since The Miz is unique in that he’s stuck as a face who admits he was a lying, cheating, backstabbing scumbag, he’s in this weird grey area of being a paradoxically “honest liar”. It’s a fine line to ride, between annoying douchebag bad guy, and annoying douchebag good guy, the difference is how likable you are. While I find The Miz likable, I have to still reconcile that with the objective fact that on its own, what he’s doing here is played, stupid, and annoying. Right now it doesn’t quite work for me, and I’d prefer him to either stop being this weird hybrid of old d-bag Miz and new humble-Miz, or go back to being a heel again. Why not change his character completely?
The show came to a head when The Miz asked Punk if he had hired or worked in collusion with Brad Maddox at Hell In A Cell to beat The Ryback, and The Shield interrupted by tearing apart the lie detector setup, and power bombing The Miz. It was a nice follow through to see Kane and Daniel Bryan come out to attack the shield, and of course this means that The Ryback shows up shortly after them. Together they all separate and chase The Shield across the arena. It wasn’t surprising when The Ryback came back out to do his finishing move on Punk, and naturally he got a table, ladder and chair out, and smashed Punk through a table. You know, to remind us of the nature of their future match. The Ryback standing there with a chair in hand, leading his own chants, seems to be what they want us all to think the ending of TLC will be, but in all likelihood we know it’s going to end with The Shield showing up, and saving Punk. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I really would like to see Punk beat The Ryback on his own, if only to continue the arc of his character believing in himself, but barely.
I’m guessing TLC is going to be interesting, but mostly in a negative way. Unfortunately, it looks like the way things are going, it’s going to be a frustrating few weeks ahead for me, or fans like me. The rest of you are free to enjoy your racist, illogical, sexist and unfair faces though! Go ahead! I’ll just sit here and remind myself when faces were actually good people.