Hello friends, Brooks here, fresh out of finals week and ready to churn out another 4,000 words! Our own Kendra Bunyon is out of action for the next 3 weeks, so you'll be putting up with me for the remainder of 2013. I've done this a few times before, so check those out if you're interested in seeing how unfunny my blogs used to be/continue to be. I'll be hanging out in the comments section, so feel free to let me know what you thought about the blog or Raw in general. Without further ado:
RAW Is Blogged: Selfies & Vipers & Goats (Oh My!)
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Coronation Ceremony
- Heel Randy Orton - Why did we ever want this guy to turn face? Orton still isn't dropping any pipebombs or doing anything particularly memorable on the mic, but his character is so much better than it was a few months ago. Arrogant but insecure Orton is nothing groundbreaking, but it's a heel character that works, and it's something that Orton is clearly more comfortable portraying than brooding, directionless face. Maybe it's actually good that Orton isn't as entertaining as some other heels on the mic. We have so many pitiable cool heels that a guy like Orton is welcome.
- The Crowd - I don't know if I'll ever get tired of Daniel Bryan's unceasing overness. In a WWE Universe where everything "interactive" seems rigged, the crowd's support actually seems to be making a tangible difference. If Bryan's support had tapered off in recent weeks, tonight would have been a much more straightforward Orton vs. Cena build. But thanks to Viewers Like You, it looks like either Bryan could either be involved in a Triple Threat for the title or be a favorite to win the Royal Rumble. It's a rare post-Ryder example of WWE listening to the crowds (or maybe more accurately, not being able to ignore it anymore), and it's wonderful.
- "WWE World Heavyweight Championship" - That's 15 syllables. No one thing should take 15 syllables to say. Especially when 90% of people in the company insist on pronouncing the old belt the "dubya dubyee title."
- That John Cena Sure Is A Swell Guy For Standing Up For That Nerd Daniel Bryan, Part 30 - Before I explain this, two things. John Cena is miles ahead of Daniel Bryan on the mic, and this is me nitpicking what is otherwise a wonderful thing. Forgive me for sounding "I liked Daniel Bryan before he was cool," but like many of you, I spent most of my pre-2013 WWE live events being one of the only guys supporting that bland, short guy from NXT getting beaten by Alberto Del Rio in two minutes. It's been a really fun ride seeing Bryan rise through the ranks in WWE, but I've become really sensitive to what I perceive as people leeching off of his popularity. I was mad when Sheamus co-opted the Yes chants, and I was mad when Alberto Del Rio and Big Show did it. Likewise, it bothers me when John Cena is positioned in such a way where he gets cheered for standing up for Bryan. Let Bryan talk! He's supposedly a main eventer too! Overall, Cena has done an admirable job putting Bryan over, but Bryan would look a lot more legitimate if he didn't need Cena to consistently speak for him. Being John Cena's Friend can only take you so far.
Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. Rey Mysterio & The Big Show
- A Fun Match! - These guys put on the kind of match you want to open Raw. It was fun, well-worked, and the face vs. face dynamic made it feel fresh, despite being a glorified pay-per-view rematch. There's something to the post-match friendliness, too. Someone is eventually going to be NOT SO FRIENDLY and turn on their partner. Friendliness doesn't last in WWE. It looks like all of those hashtags are going to pay off for Goldust, because the Rhodes Brothers WrestleMania match is looking likelier than ever.
- "We Want Goldust!" - Goldust's renaissance in 2013 has been incredible. A few months ago, I didn't think we'd ever see Goldust again beyond those weird backstage segments with Hacksaw Jim Duggan we get once or twice a year, but it turns out he can still go, and he's on the best run of his career. The crowds love him, too. It's a little worrying that Goldust is clearly more over than Cody, but Goldust is, and has always been, so dedicated to putting Cody over that I'm confident he'll find a way to parlay his overness onto Cody before he rides off into the sunset.
- Fire The Entire Announce Team (Out Of A Cannon) (Into The Sun) - I can't stand when crowds turn on decent matches and start chanting "Randy Savage" or some other dismissive chant. It's disrespectful and should only happen during exceptionally boring or insulting stuff. It's infinity times worse when the people paid to make a show interesting decide to drop trou and crap all over a good match. Why would you ever, ever cut away from a match multiple times to watch 3 old dudes struggle to work a cell phone camera? I don't care how hip WWE tries to make their commentary team sound. They are everyone's grandparents on Facebook, and there is nothing they can do about it. JBL's commentary has devolved into a roulette wheel of about 10 phrases that he just spouts off at random, and for whatever reason, someone put "selfie" between "MAGGUL" and "FLYIN' GOAT" this week. Remove these old men from the booth, especially if you want to appear hip. Nobody who spent a few minutes being legally dead after suffering a heart attack should be expected to have their finger on the pulse of pop culture. Have Yoshi Tatsu learn the word "twerk" and shout it when a move makes contact. Have Natalya fart into the mic for 3 hours. I don't care, anything but the current announce team. They are garbage trash and a complete detriment to the show.
Bad News Barrett
Well, this continued to be a thing. Wade Barrett has plenty of potential, and his recent angles have tapped into precisely none of it. Bad News Barrett is a step up from not doing anything, but it's still a bad step. It's like taking your first step on your own power after a horrible accident and stepping right into dog poop. I'm no Barrett mark (he's decidedly "meh" to me), but his lack of heat is a result of injuries and bad booking, not Barrett himself. He gets a promising angle, it gets unceremoniously canned as soon as it starts to pick up, and then he elbows Kofi Kingston in the face for a few months and the cycle repeats. They need to pick a direction with Barrett and stick with it. I just hope they don't stick with this one. It feels like they're just trying to make a meme, and WWE's attempts at inorganically producing memes are invariably terrible. Their warehouses full of unsold Fandangoing fingers should tell them that.
Fandango vs. Dolph Ziggler
- At Least Dolph Ziggler Was On Raw This Week - And he won with a smooth-looking roll-up. A guy that held the second biggest title in the company 8 months ago shouldn't have to beat Fandango with a roll-up, but it looked cool. So there was that. And his win sort of made up for his loss at the TLC pre-show. So that was nice.
- R.I.P. Dolph Ziggler's Chances Of A Real World Title Run - The new WWE World Heavyweight NWA WCW Undisputed Unified Championship definitely makes title wins more prestigious, no doubt. But a world title of lesser importance like the World Heavyweight Championship allowed guys like Ziggler to be realistic world title contenders. I've been ready for Ziggler to have a world title run for months now, but since WWE unified the titles and Ziggler reverted to his 2011-era "lose all the time to midcarders" self, it's just not going to happen. The main event scene is anything but crowded in WWE, but as long as John Cena, Randy Orton and CM Punk exist, guys like Ziggler won't sniff that championship. Maybe the silver lining to this is that the midcard titles will gain prestige, but WWE has a terrible track record when it comes to adding prestige to titles, so I'm not holding my breath.
Big E Langston & Mark Henry vs. The Real Americans
- BEST FRIENDS - Ever since Team Hell No & Team Rhodes Scholars, I've been a big fan of tag teams who seem to also be best friends. I get that vibe from Swagger and Cesaro, and to a lesser (but growing) extent, Langston and Henry. Not only does it translate into better in-ring work (Swagger and Cesaro's double team moves, for example), but it adds a bit of realism to the mix. Guys who choose to travel, hang out, and compete together should have some amount of chemistry. Swagger and Cesaro have a lot more chemistry than that one time Swagger and Drew McIntyre randomly decided to team up for a while (Remember that?).
- Cesaro Teasing A Giant Mark Henry Swing - This was WWE winking at us and saying, "We know you like this dude and we promise that he's going to swing a huge person at WrestleMania, or at least eliminate a bunch of people in the Royal Rumble by swinging Santino into everyone." It's gonna be awesome.
- Big E Langston Is Over - Here I was thinking Big E was struggling to get over as a face, but the crowd exploded when Langston trucked Cesaro and won the match. He got main event level pops for both the initial truck and the 3 count. Langston is another guy with tons of untapped potential and charisma, and it's great to see the crowd take to him.
- It's Almost Time To Set Cesaro Free - This is only a bad thing because it's a little sad. The tag division is deeper than it's been in a while, and just about everyone in it is a good performer. You just can't discuss tag team wrestling without discussing the inevitable breakups, and Cesaro is starting to become a cult favorite. WWE knows it too. The Real Americans haven't really done anything important since WrestleMania, and they're too talented to toil around the lower card with Los Matadores forever. Cesaro is a breakout star waiting to happen, and it's going to happen. Sometimes I like to fantasy book really complex characters so much that I forget how fun it is to just watch really strong dudes murder people by swinging them around a bunch. The Cesaro Section is only going to grow from here, and even though it's at the expense of the tag division, it'll probably be for the best.
- It Is Almost 2014 And Big E STILL Doesn't Actually Need 5 - I don't know what the hold-up is. It's literally the first thing in his theme song. It's his "Woo woo woo, you know it," but it has never been addressed on WWE TV. Foam hands with all 5 fingers out would sell way better than those ill-fated Fandangoing fingers. Here's to hoping WWE remembers how much the crowd loves chanting things and decides to make Big E perma-over with 5-counts.
Tons of Funk vs. Rybaxel
- Heel Brodus - I've been waiting for this ever since that glorious promo he cut on NXT. If you would've told me that the Funkasaurus gimmick would last nearly two years, I wouldn't have believed you. I would have bet anything he would've snapped within the first 6 months. It's been a long time coming, but I'm so glad it finally happened. Brodus is a natural, old-school heel who has a legitimately scary presence. And while I usually don't like the smarky previous-gimmick chants (cool it on the Sexual Chocolate chants already), I could easily see Funk-a-saur-us chants enraging Brodus. It's a way to engage the crowd, acknowledge history, and get heat on Brodus. The future's bright for Brodus, especially now that most of WWE's giants are currently jolly.
- Was Brodus Clay Going For A Banzai Drop? - Before Xavier and R-Truth got involved, Brodus was dragging Tensai to the corner a la Yokozuna. I hope that he's going to use that as a finisher going forward. You grew up wrong if you didn't grow up wondering how Yoko didn't make every Banzai Dropee's heart and lungs explode out of their face.
- I Thought I Was Done Ripping On Commentary For The Week But - JBL does his awful "What's up?" thing to Xavier Woods & R-Truth. They respond with "What's up?" and JBL says "We like Paul Wall and Mystikal!" because WWE commentators think all non-white people are the same. Watching the enthusiasm immediately drain from Xavier Wood's face was one of the most amazing moments of the show. Between the social media ineptitude and iffy racial remarks, all we need is unsolicited political rants and it would be Thanksgiving Dinner With JBL.
CM Punk & Shawn Michaels Promo/CM Punk & The Usos vs. The Shield
- CM Punk Escapes The Bubble - CM Punk has had the unique privilege of being virtually the only guy in the company completely removed from the Authority storyline. In recent weeks, he's been slowly inserting himself into the storyline, and that adds to the show. Raw has had an interconnected feeling in recent months, with the Authority as the overarching story. This always came to an abrupt stop during the weekly Punk/Heyman segment, which existed in its own little bubble. Anti-Authority CM Punk is decidedly hit-miss (Sometimes we get "YOU WILL APOLOGIZE" and sometimes we get "clownshoes"), but in any case, the notoriously anti-authority guy addressing the Authority makes sense in kayfabe and helps the cohesiveness of the show.
- Increasing HBK Appearances - With all these Shawn Michaels appearances, it's getting me thinking that there will be a payoff. Bryan already kinda got his revenge on him, and he's still around, meaning there's still plans for him. I know "Will HBK wrestle one more match?" is only one rung below "Is Cena turning heel?" on the stupidity ladder, but it's really getting me thinking. From a story perspective, it would be best for Michaels to honor his retirement. However, WWE is a business. There is money to be made. It's the same reason why WWE is going to have Cena bypass Ric Flair's world title records. Sure, it would be nice to honor history, but not at the expense of WWE's bottom line. HBK has been adamant about never wrestling again, but "never" is meaningless in the world of WWE. It could happen. HBK can only be blindsided by a finisher so many times before fans stop caring and want a full match (which they already do). In any case, HBK is an asset to have around, but he's even more of an asset if he's considering bringing the chaps out of retirement.
- The Usos' Eventual Title Win - It's going to be meaningful when The Usos finally win their first tag titles. The crowd has been ready loving them for months now, to the point where I have to remind myself that they've still never won a title. They've really hit their stride as a team, and any match between them and The Shield is gold. Once The Rhodeses drop the belt to Los Rudos Matadores or whoever, The Usos' win will be so sweet.
- Anyone Remember What The Promo Was About? - I didn't. I had to rewatch it. I just remembered the "You sold out" and "One more match" chants. An in-ring confrontation between HBK and Punk should be fire, but the segment got derailed and never really went anywhere. It just had Punk forgiving HBK and threatening him, followed by HBK introducing Punk's opponents that had already been announced. It was a strange use of HBK, and Punk no-selling his own anger didn't help.
- Autopilot CM Punk - There are two CM Punks. There is pissed-off, determined-to-prove-himself CM Punk, and there is complacent autopilot CM Punk. This week's CM Punk was the latter. Autopilot CM Punk is fine, he's not lazy or anything. He just doesn't seem to really care. It's the difference between the fire in Punk's eyes during the pipebomb and the constant Jim Halpert faces he made during the feud with John Laurinaitis. The determined Punk seems to show up when he's legit angry, whether it's about his position on the card, in the company, or whatever else. Now, CM Punk is consistently around the top of my Fave Five, so I don't want him to constantly be legit angry. High blood pressure is a killer, and I want Punk to have fun. It's just that legit angry CM Punk produces better television, while complacent CM Punk produces joking around during a match he should care about in kayfabe.
AJ Lee, Tamina & Alicia Fox vs. Natalya & The Bella Twins
- Tamina Removes Nikki Bella's Nose From Her Face - When Nikki Bella isn't busy being the worst non-redhead character on Total Divas, she's apparently doing a bit of training, as she's become decidedly passable in the ring. That didn't stop her from getting an impromptu nose job, courtesy of Tamina's superkick, however. This is even more significant because Tamina usually misses all of her moves by 300 feet, so with her luck and broken nose, I guess we should call her #BadNewsBella.
- Alicia Fox Transcends Alignment - Can someone make a compilation of the number of times Alicia Fox has turned heel and face? I'd be willing to bet that she has Kane and Big Show beat.
- AJ Not Moving On - I guess there's really no one else for AJ to feud with unless she feels like calling up Rosa Mendes and seeing what she's up to, but it still feels like it's time for AJ to move beyond the Total Divas. While I'm pleasantly surprised that her reign has survived Kaitlyn, The Bellas, and Natalya, something is needed to give the division a new direction, as impossible as that seems. Admittedly, my only suggestion is "Bring back Kharma."
Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan
- Bryan's Selling - For a guy that prides himself on not being injury-prone, Bryan has a knack for making me believe he's hurt. I just got my WrestleMania tickets, so I am especially afraid of Bryan getting injured between now and then, so maybe that has something to do with it, but Bryan's screams when Orton attacked his arm were just brutal. I especially appreciated the selling because it didn't directly affect the finish of the match. If John Cena sells an arm injury during a match, there's going to be a spot at the end where he can't lock in the STF. So as soon as Bryan started selling his arm, I thought "Great, Bryan's gonna put in the Yes Lock, Orton will fight out, RKO."
- Orton's Superplex - The superplex should honestly be a potential match-ender, if we have finishers that are just drops or suplexes from lower heights. For whatever reason (probably overuse), the superplex is a glorified transitional move, and I've never really been wowed by a regular superplex until tonight. It looked gorgeous, and at the same time I wanted to do a Hunger Games and send both of them an IcyHot patch for their backs mid-match.
- Chemistry - WWE is going to continue to push this Orton/Cena thing, but as they have continually shown, they don't have that great of chemistry in the ring. Cena and Orton can't put on a match like Cena and Punk can. That's not a knock on Orton, it just takes two to make a truly great match. Likewise, Cena and Orton can't put on a match like Orton and Bryan can. Sometimes styles just click, and for whatever reason, Bryan and Orton work. Remember that match that was Bryan's first big legitimizing moment of the year when he made Orton tap in the main event of Raw? Bryan was clearly an underdog there, but he didn't feel like an underdog this week. He felt like a main eventer, and the guy that Bryan fans have wanted to see in the main event for years: a crafty but exciting dude who will kick heads in. Bryan was brilliant in this match, but Orton deserves plenty of credit too. I have already seen people calling it a late match of the year candidate, and while I wouldn't quite put it past Cena/Punk or a couple of others, it's definitely up there.
- The Finish - Only putting it here because for a moment, that low blow put me in 100% mark mode. It was such a despicable move. The main event was entertaining, but the bad guy ended up cutting the fun short. That's been missing lately. That stretch of 7 straight episodes where Bryan got wrecked by the Authority never had any legitimate hope spots, so it wasn't engaging. This match was engaging, and I felt robbed when Orton took the easy way out. Orton's finally getting heat befitting his position, and it's the best he's been in years. And of course, Cena came out because that's the angle they're going with, but Orton even got the upper hand on Cena. It was a frustrating ending for the right reasons. Raw had an unsatisfying ending, but most of the WWE Universe still gave the episode a "thumbs up" on Facebook, which is telling. It's possible to put on a show with a dominant heel and still leave the fans entertained.
- Bryan's Post-Match Selling - This may be more applicable to the male readers, but remember in middle school when your friend would get grazed somewhere in the thigh region and sell his "low blow" like death for like 15 minutes? Tyler was lying. Or at the very least, exaggerating. I know low blows are certified finishers in wrestling. All I'm saying is, selling a low blow like you got hit by a car is a decidedly middle school mindset. You can work through the pain when your adrenaline is going, and you're certainly not in so much pain that you sell like you just took a Super RKO. It's nitpicking, but it's also 6 a.m. and there weren't any real low points in the main event.
Strong episode of Raw from my standpoint. Strong wrestling can make up for any number of horrible commentary or meh promos, and this episode was filled with fun wrestling. Usually the early Rumble build is directionless, but it seems like they're starting the build early, which is always good. I fully expect the quality of shows to improve as we get on the road to WrestleMania, barring next week's Christmas episode. Speaking of that, I'll be blogging for that episode and the one after that, so I'll try to keep the cynicism to a minimum and enjoy the magic of Christmas.
Please forgive any glaring errors in this blog, because 6 a.m., and if you see any glaring errors in my idiot logic, let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading, friends.