Raw Christmas is WWE's annual throwaway show, where kayfabe is routinely thrown out in favor of fun and merriment. The first few weeks of the Royal Rumble build are always directionless, and the Christmas episode is always the apex. WWE's writers just sorta shrug and let their kids fingerpaint over the previous week's script, which means we are treated to good guys running over Santa Claus or dumping feces on some guy and his girlfriend. It's always weird and it's always completely skipable. With that said, it also always has the potential to be fun and poke fun at wrestling, which is ridiculous even at its most serious.
If you didn't notice, our regular RIB writer, Kendra Bunyon, has bequeathed the blog to me for the remainder of 2013 while she nurses an injury. Be sure to check out last week's blog if you haven't already, and stay tuned for next week's blog, when I will give diaper Big Show rave reviews.
A Very RAW Is Blogged Christmas
Opening Authority Promo
- Kandy Kane - Can you believe commentary never called him that, as he was literally passing out candy canes? Anyways, Kane walks down the ramp and comes across some goof wearing a Daniel Bryan shirt. Kane briefly loses it and shoves the candy into his chest twice. While I'm 2000% sure that the fan was a plant, judging from how stiff Kane was, it was a nice continuity nod, as well as pretty much being the only thing Kane has done since becoming Korporate Kane.
- Hug Heat - A tender moment between despicable people is such a welcome departure from "YOU PEOPLE IN [town] ARE STUPID AND [local sports team] IS BAD," and the hug between Orton, HHH, and Stephanie proved to be just as effective in garnering heat from the crowd. In the weeks and months following Orton and HHH's heel turns, they would still get pops during their entrances, and Orton would still get a fair amount of high-pitched screams from his adoring ladyfans. But now, they're both getting pure heat, and all they really had to do was hug. Maybe Kane has been helping them on the Hugging It Out front.
- Piped In Cheers - This was a running theme throughout the show, as is the case with every taped show. Sometimes I don't understand what the big deal about live shows is, but every time Raw is taped, I remember. It just seems so much more fake. While I can't stand smarky chants most of the time, at least they provide a real, visceral reaction to what's happening in the ring as opposed to obvious canned cheering. The only good thing about piped in cheers is that they're a terrific indicator of who they're trying to push. When you hear Triple H say "John Cena" (WOOOOOOO), "CM Punk" (WOOOOOOOO), and "Big E Langston" (WOOOOOOO)., you know that this is the show where they're going to make Langston appear to be on Cena and Punk's level.
- Orton Lite - I can't believe I'm complaining about having less Orton on the show, but here I am. He's finally found his character's groove, and while his promos still sometimes sound like a high school acting student forgetting half of his lines and making up for it by yelling, he's putting effort into it and the crowd is responding. He's been silently killing it in the ring in 2013, too. The Bryans and Shields and Cesaros have been getting a lot of credit for making 2013 a great in-ring year, but Orton's in ring work shouldn't be slept on. I'd much rather have a 10 minute Orton match than a 10-minute Authority promo, but maybe it's a good thing that the heels aren't doing what I want them to do.
Jingle Belles 12-Diva Tag Match
- AJ's Commentary - AJ has clearly been studying at the CM Punk school of commentary (among other things), because she was far and away the most entertaining part of this match. AJ is the sole floatie on the arm of the barely-staying-above-water toddler that is the Divas division. She's enough to make the division adequate, but somebody else has to get on her level to make it worthwhile.
- Crack The Whip - The Total Divas locking arms and very slowly bumping the other Divas was cool in the sense that it was probably the coolest thing Eva Marie will ever be able to do in the ring. Her entrance video will probably just be a clip of that move spliced with YouTube videos of half-anesthetized cats that just got back from the vet, trying desperately to use their legs without falling over and breaking their neck.
- The Face/Heel Dynamic Of The Divas Division - Remember that 3 week period after AJ's pipebomb where it seemed like WWE was foregoing the traditional face/heel dynamic and letting the crowd decide to cheer for who they wanted? And then when they realized that would be giving the fans too much credit so they abruptly made all the Total Divas faces (which retcons the entire reality show) and all the regular Divas became heels? The crowd is never going to cheer Eva Marie and boo Kaitlyn. It's just not going to happen, and it's a testament to just how little WWE cares - and expects the fans to care - about the Divas division.
Hey, Batista's Coming Back
Kudos to WWE for acknowledging that small sect of fans that has Internet access and changing their Batista plans accordingly. They could've just shrugged off the leak and had him return at the Royal Rumble anyways, but they made the right decision, and they'll get a little boost in the Raw ratings for it. As for Batista himself, I'm having a hard time seeing where he'll fit into the current WWE landscape, which is worrying. I have a feeling that wherever he ends up, it'll feel forced. If he works as a main event face, it's one less WrestleMania spot for the Cenas, Punks, and Bryans that have been working for it all year. If he works as a main event heel, he'll either be in the shadow of The Authority or (more likely) become a part of The Authority. In that case, it would just be shoehorning him into an angle that already has a final boss. Either Orton holding the title until WrestleMania or Triple H stepping into the ring at WrestleMania are the only logical big-match conclusions to the Authority angle. To shove Batista into the angle with some flimsy Evolution justification would be saying, "Let's throw out the plans that we've been building toward for an entire year because we finally signed a person that some people kinda liked 5 years ago" (because that is exactly what is happening).
Sin Cara vs. Curtis Axel
- Bilingual Sin Cara - Hunicara is already worlds better than Misticara because of his ability to fluently speak both Spanish and English. This isn't a xenophobic "I shouldn't have to press 1 for English!" thing, but communication is important for in-ring work, as well as endearing yourself to the WWE Universe. And while Hunicara's promo sounded like a person speaking with a really tight mask over their mouth, it's a huge improvement over just pointing at stuff.
- Curtis Axel - He was fine in his role here, but remember when he was Intercontinental Champion? The title has close to no prestige, and even then, IC Champ Curtis Axel seems like a distant fever dream. He was getting technicality wins over Triple H and fighting CM Punk on pay-per-view a few months ago, and now he's the launching pad for the low-card Rey Mysterio. What a hilarious time for Axel to get merchandise. He's a perfectly capable worker, but with him being mindbogglingly boring, having him as an enhancement talent is probably the best place for him for the foreseeable future.
Bad News Barrett
Bad News Barrett was bell-ringing for the holidays this week, which I found especially cruel. Why would you leave Barrett out in the cold? He already doesn't have any heat! I'll be here all week.
Cody Rhodes, Goldust & Daniel Bryan vs. The Wyatt Family
- The Wyatt Hierarchy - It's so neat that we have two dominant three-man heel stables in WWE right now, and it doesn't feel overdone. I think a lot of it has to do with how different The Wyatts and The Shield feel. The Shield's strength comes from the team's equal standing and reliance on the strengths of the others, while the Wyatt Family has a clear hierarchy: Bray Wyatt leading, with Rowan and Harper as his minions. Minions doesn't do them justice, as they're much more than, say, Curtis Axel was for Paul Heyman. They're impressive and imposing on their own, so getting past them to get to Bray feels like an actual accomplishment, not just a formality. I'm glued to the screen when Bray actually gets into the ring because it feels like a big deal. I'm a big fan of gimmicks being woven into in-ring work, and The Wyatts are doing a great job of portraying characters that are both logical and certifiably insane.
- Bray Wyatt - Everyone already knows it, but this dude can sell a character. This match was meaningless, but Bray was screaming from the apron like his career was on the line. That level of passion is rare in WWE (the only other person I can think of that has recently matched it is Heyman). He's making himself into a star without having to do a single move.
- It Wasn't Outstanding - The past 6 months or so has been huge for the in-ring careers of Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes, and Goldust (as well as The Wyatt Family, to a lesser extent). They have had so many brilliant tag team matches this year that they all blend together. I'm confident that I could shuffle through to any random Raw from the past year with these guys in action and it would be match of the night. So when they have a match that is just good, it seems flat in comparison. This match followed the standard tag team formula, where you see a face in peril and just start the countdown until the hot tag. It works, but it's been done to death. This match was given a little too much time, which is a ridiculous thing for me to say, but it just didn't have the hype to stay interesting for as long as it was.
- Time For Bryan To Move On - I've made my peace with Bryan being taken out of the main event, despite being the most over man on the roster. For Bryan to get the title early would be a disservice (he should win it at WrestleMania), and for The Authority to continually screw him out of the title would get exhausting, and he would lose some of his heat as a result. Keeping Bryan on the cusp of the main event keeps the fans in "We Want Bryan" mode, and should lead to a legendary payoff in a few months (as long as he doesn't get muscled out of his spot by part-timers). That being said, there's nothing left in this Wyatts vs. Bryan feud. Bryan isn't joining them (and he shouldn't), and the story is only going to get more stale from here. Hopefully Bryan gets his revenge before the Royal Rumble or during it and both sides can move on to better things.
Christmas Carol Singing Contest
The highlight of this week's Xavier Woods segment was the same as last week's: he clearly doesn't want to be doing what he's doing. Watch the unbridled enthusiasm of 2MB (#WheresHeath), and then watch Woods sing with all the enthusiasm as me later tonight when my extended family comes over and asks me how college is 500 times. From what little I saw of him in NXT, he's a pretty goofy character, so these kinds of things should be his strong suit, but I guess being paired with R-Truth is enough to drain even the most excited Superstar. Also, I'm glad to see The Great Khali continuing to thrive in his niche of not doing anything but singing. It's far and away the most entertaining Khali ever has been or ever will be (which isn't saying much, but still), but please watch Smackdown in 2007 if you think this Khali is especially bad.
Fandango vs. Dolph Ziggler: Christmas Present On A Pole Match
- WWE Clearly Doesn't Care About Fandango Or Ziggler - So why should the fans? Heatless, directionless feuds like this do nothing but solidify these guys as boring in the eyes of the fans. I understand that WWE likes its cooldown segments, but it shouldn't happen after a singing contest.
- Telegraphed Results - Well, Big E Langston is a face, and Fandango is a heel, so there's your finish. No need to watch the match. The pole match is one of the worst gimmick matches already, since it's a 5-minute quick time event where nothing happens but "I'm gonna grab the thing" and "nope." An interesting matchup or stipulation could have saved this segment, but the matchup was boring and the stipulation was cliched the first time it ever happened. A guy as over as Big E Langston shouldn't be saddled with another month of battling a small, unimposing heel who loses most of his matches, but here we go.
The Prime Time Players vs. The Usos
- THIS IS AUSTIN - Darren Young addressing Houston instead of Austin was great, but I can't shake the idea that this was a weird, overcomplicated way of getting a better response for The Usos, while getting some buzz in the process. Why else would WWE decide to have two face teams face each other, and just happen to have PTP cut a promo before the match? It very well could have been a genuine error, but I think we may have a conspiracy on our hands.
- JBL - It's a Christmas-themed Raw, the fans are all wearing Santa hats, and one of the Usos decides to put on a red nose before hitting his finisher. JBL thinks he randomly decided to be "Bozo The Clown" because there aren't any red-nosed staples of Christmas. I don't know why they've given JBL this new dementia gimmick, but with all this buildup, I'm excited to see the payoff.
The Battle For Christmas
- The Build - This match got more build than any match Sandow has ever been in. With the multiple vignettes and tale of the tape, it got about as much build as the WWE/WHC Unification match at TLC. In all likelihood, this will end up being the biggest match of Sandow's career, so let's enjoy it while we can.
- A Big Blurred Middle Finger To Megyn Kelly - For once, WWE addressed a hot topic in America without beating it to death or hearing about it 6 months late. For readers outside of the US, a talk show host on Fox News recently asserted that Santa Claus can only be white, because reasons, so this was WWE's response. Aside from the social commentary, is there really anybody in WWE better suited to play Santa than Mark Henry? Mick Foley can't work a match, Big Show in kayfabe is too poor to make/buy presents, we still have a few months before WWE inevitably gets bored of Bray Wyatt and makes him a comedy character. Until we get Kharma Claus next year, Henry's the best choice.
- The Fall Of Sandow - Comedy absolutely has a place in wrestling. It just worries me that Sandow is getting a swirlie in the ring a month after sharing the ring with both Dolph Ziggler and a drum set. You can't push everybody all the time, and Sandow is clearly on the backburner for now, but he's too good at his character to be stuck in comedy roles forever.
The Real Americans vs. Los Matadores
- Whoa, Los Matadores - I completely forgot they existed before this week. They work in the role they've been given - ridiculous gimmick played straight - and shows like Raw Christmas are perfect places to showcase them. Diego and Fernando are already more relevant than Primo and Epico ever were. Speaking of, whatever happened to Primo and Epico in kayfabe? It's going to be a lonely Christmas at the Colon house. Just a nog-drunk Carlito telling nobody in particular about how he was totally ready to be WWE Champion.
- Michael Cole - Shouldn't a foreign war correspondent have a basic understanding of how foreign languages work? The Classics minor in me cringes every time he mispronounces Latin words, but it's a dead language, so it's understandable. However, referring to Diego/Fernando as "that Los Matadores" is unforgivable. I thought Lawler's absence would assure that no one would refer to the team as "The Los Matadores," but alas.
Ryback vs. Kofi Kingston
- Happy Holidays 🙂 - Ryback spends a lot of time being The Worst, but that just makes the spurts of not being The Worst that much better. Remember when Heyman kissed him on the cheek and he just lit up with a huge doofus smile? We got another taste of likable Ryback this week. He clotheslined Kofi, then turned to the camera and said "happy holidays!" like he hadn't just committed felony murder in front of 10,000 kids. Happy-go-lucky murderer Ryback would be infinitely better than "time to raise my arms a bunch" Ryback or "I HATE BOWLIES" Ryback.
- Kofi's Tights - For those that missed it, Kofi Kingston left his regular tights at home, so he wore A Tribe Called Quest album covers on his legs instead. I'm not a fan, unless he's planning on changing the name of "Trouble In Paradise" to "Can I Kick It?"
John Cena, CM Punk & Big E Langston vs. The Shield
- Big Time Big E - After a year of trying his best to speak a string of English words into a microphone without letting any of his natural charisma shine through, Big E is suddenly a top-tier talent. What's weirder is that he already feels like he fits. It didn't seem like John Cena, CM Punk, and some scrub. They even let the show go off the air with his music, as opposed to Cena's or Punk's. Big E has tons of talent, the right people backing him, and the support of the crowd. While he's not the guy I expected to be the fresh main event face at this point, it's still fresh. Now let him need 5 already.
- Protecting Roman Reigns - From the face-off with John Cena to having him be the lone member of The Shield on his feet at the end of the show, they're making sure Roman Reigns is kept strong. They could've just had Big E give him the Big Ending along with the AA and GTS, but they made the conscious decision to continue subtly solidifying Reigns as a future star. All the guys in The Shield will probably go on to do great things, but Reigns is getting the jet pack strapped to his back at the end of this angle, and he deserves it. His spear already gets a huge reaction, and it'll only get bigger when he's spearing Ambrose to oblivion.
- The Match Itself - Again, this 6-man tag match wasn't bad. It was just the same thing we've seen 100 times before (and 1 time before on this same episode). Couple this with the weird immediate DQ call that ended the match and you've got a pointless main event. But if you're going to have a pointless main event, it might as well be the main event of Raw Christmas. This is where it stops being forgivable to have so many of the same matches on the same show. The Road To WrestleMania is rapidly approaching, and the time for autopilot is over.
Honestly, it wasn't a bad show, especially by holiday episode standards. It was definitely a step down from last week, but any holiday show that doesn't drag is an accomplishment. The Royal Rumble sells itself, so WWE can keep coasting through January if they want to. They just shouldn't if they want to build organic intrigue in the product. Batista coming back is not The Rock coming back, so this WrestleMania season should celebrate the guys that have been killing it in the ring all year. Part-timers are the attraction, but 2013's workhorses should be the stars of the show.
I'll be back writing next week's RIB, and then I'll be fading back into the shadows of WNW while Kendra takes back her rightful place at the helm. Thanks for reading, and happy holidays.