March 13, 2014 by Joey Keogh
Raw returns to the deep south this week, taking up residence in a sold-out arena in Memphis, Tennessee, home of the King (as in, Hall Of Famer Jerry Lawler – what other King is there?) which can only mean one thing – no Zeb Coulter racism tonight. Boo! This crowd are also less likely to fully support the great Daniel Bryan in his seemingly unstoppable quest for world domination, but considering this is a very Bryan-centric Raw, they probably don’t really have a choice. First up, though, is someone they can get behind, Hulk Hogan. Given that he cannot wrestle anymore, Hogan has been relegated to half-assed shilling, tonight during a segment that seriously overstays its welcome.
As the camera pans over the clearly ecstatic crowd, a sign becomes visible which reads “Hulkamania” in the classic Hot Wheels font – not exactly in good taste, considering Hogan’s son’s hit and run debacle. Anyway, tonight he’s selling the Network to us, but it’s kind of impossible to focus on what he’s saying because his too-perfect wig is so incredibly distracting. And speaking of distracting, King has outdone himself tonight, proudly sporting a not-convincing-in-the-slightest impression of a beige suit and cravat, which has been screened onto a white T-shirt, creating an one-piece outfit that he could clearly wear to the Prom down the street and get away with it.
He’ll say many, many things tonight, but only the shirt will be memorable (along with a childish spat with JBL, but more on that later). Hogan has much more to say before anything else happens, though, and he’s mainly concerned with revealing that there will be a massive 30-man Tag Team Battle Royale at Wrestlemania, which is being pitched as an even that is in memoriam of Andre The Giant. There’s even a trophy for the winner, featuring a bust of Andre, and its theme music (because of course it has a track, along with the titular cell from Hell In A Cell, and several other inanimate objects) makes me feel as though I’m back wandering around Islands Of Adventure again, trying not to vomit on the nearest child’s head.
It’s a lovely memory, so thank you, writers of this trophy’s theme music. For a moment there, I forgot all about Andre and Raw and Hogan, but when I eventually drift back to reality again, he’s still bloody talking. Thankfully, he’s no longer alone in the ring, as none other than John Cena appears, emerging to mostly cheers (which later turn to boos as his music cuts out), as Cole informs us that tonight he’s up against The Wyatt Family’s Erick Rowan. Cena can handle any animosity, no matter how fierce, and he knows how to charm a crowd like this (basically by remarking that they’re “very enthusiastic” and that Memphis is awesome, the usual bullshit that works a treat on anyone who’s paid money to watch grown men roll around with each other while covered in oil).
He also knows how to charm Hogan, by telling him he grew up pretending to be him by trying to rip his shirt off (something all past their prime wrestlers want to hear), though it’s unclear whether Hogan’s eyes are smiling along with his Botoxed face because they are, as usual, hidden behind truly hideous, yellow-rimmed sunglasses. Anyway, Cena wants to be the first to throw his ball-cap into the ring for the 30-man Tag Team Battle Royale, which doesn’t seem to bother Hogan because, well, he’s not in charge of anything but selling the match so what does he care. Before they can celebrate this non-event, the giant head of Bray Wyatt shows up to over-pronounce easy words and talk a lot while managing to say absolutely nothing. Luckily, his comrade is in a match with Cena now, so we don’t have to listen to him for too long.
Erick Rowan -v- John Cena
It’s odd to see Cena in the first match of the night, instead of being sold to us during literally every break in the intervening moments until he finally emerges to scattered boos – the times, they certainly are a-changin’ as they no doubt say in Memphis, because it’s the south and clearly they are all caricatures, not actual human beings (Cena is sort of doing his country accent again, so I imagine they are). As the two men size each other up, Cole reminds us that the Wyatts fucked up Cena’s leg the other week, and it therefore makes perfect sense that Rowan has chosen to focus on it, in an effort to do even more damage. Hogan watches from the sidelines, though it’s unclear what, if anything, he can see through those shades, and at certain moments he half-assedly tries to get the crowd going but they only really wake up when Cena is being beaten. At one point, the camera unfortunately zooms in as Cena is calling shit, before hastily zooming back out again to reveal a plethora of pro-Hogan signs. Good save! The magic is ruined for me, now! A Bear Hug is utilised before Cena pulls the Schoolboy pin on Rowan and emerges victorious. Woo-hoo.
Winner: John Cena (rap album available now, for just $9.99!)
Following the conclusion of the match, the Wyatts scuttle off back to their barn while Cena and Hogan milk their time in the ring to the point of nausea, taking turns doing the classic Hogan poses as the crowd sort of lap it up, excluding one, very loud, woman who seems to have been brought to orgasm at this very sight (hopefully the camera zooms in on her later so we can see if the poses really are that effective). Finally, after what feels like years, they are moved along and Cole gets back to the business of selling us the App, which tonight can be used to vote on a stipulation for Christian’s upcoming match against our national treasure Sheamus. Three, clearly distinct options are given, only one of which has “Memphis” in the title, and we, the WWE Universe (not planet, not state, not galaxy, but UNIVERSE) get to choose which one we want, which is very exciting altogether.
Now, I wonder which, of these possible three options, the crowd from Memphis, Tennessee, and viewers at home who are watching the action unfold in Memphis, Tennessee, are going to choose for the match stipulation. The tension is palpable, I hope they don’t drag this out too long because, seriously I can’t take it! Elsewhere tonight, we’ll be seeing a tag team match with Bryan and Big Show (er, okay) against Batista and Randy Orton. Also, The Undertaker is here, too! But, before we can have too much fun with this new information, The Authority turn up to demand a public apology from Bryan, whose job they have saved in spite of the fact that his brand isn’t worth nearly as much as Boo-tista or Orton. Well, I suppose he is a great deal shorter and smilier and beardier than those two – perhaps they should just send him to live under the ring and emerge only when someone makes a reference to trolls, from now on?
Tag Team Match: Rybaxel (Ryback & Curtis Axel – ho ho ho) -v- The Usos (current tag team champs)
It’s obvious from the get-go that this isn’t going to be a lengthy match, because the curiously-named Rybaxel get a jobber entrance. Seems like a waste to have the hilarious New Age Outlaws on commentary, but at least we can focus on them instead of what’s happening in the ring (i.e. nothing). In fairness to the two beefy, brutish, brutey brutes, they do their job well tonight – they show that The Usos are deserving tag team champions, and that’s all that’s really expected of a team made up of a dude whose hunger is never sated and another who is a bit like Jack Swagger but not as over the top in his delivery.
Winners: The Usos (the new face paint worked a treat, then)
Backstage, Kane is conferring with The Shield, as he reckons he needs to light a fire under them, which makes sense, because he can make fire with his hands, as Bryan rightly pointed out what seems like ages ago (RIP Team Hell No! Never forget!), because otherwise they’re going to break up and that’d be terrible. If they’re all allowed to shine on their own, it means useless idiots like The Miz will get less airtime. What a terrible prospect! The cracks in The Shield are showing, and at first I was totally opposed to breaking this fantastic little unit up, but now I can see the benefits in letting each, equally talented, man shine on his own. It could, and hopefully will be, amazing. So hopefully Kane’s fire burns them enough that they’ll finally give in and go their separate ways, though I’m sure that’s not his intention.
Jack Swagger -v- Big E Langston
This match feels as though it’s happened about fifty times by now, but last week’s twist on the brewing rivalry between teammates Cesaro and Swagger, which saw each interfering in the other’s match, was kind of genius. No such luck this week, as Cesaro refuses to interfere and laughs his ass off as, after being distracted by pleading with him to break it up, Swagger ends up pinned by an opportunistic Big E after about five seconds of fighting.
Winner: Big E Langston (his star is rising, he doesn’t even need to unleash the moobs anymore)
Once he’s done making fun of how useless Swagger is, Cesaro squares up to his comrade, daring him to take the first shot. Zeb Coulter scolds the two of them, getting annoyed to the point that he removes his jacket and throws it on the floor in frustration. The crowd are absolutely loving the obvious tension between this group, even though we won’t get any bullshit chatter out of them tonight, purely because of where we are, which is a shame because Zeb can brighten up even the dullest matches with his wonderful oratory skills. Anyway, “his nerves” can’t take all this fighting, and he demands the two bickering, sort-of brothers shake hands and move on, which allows Cesaro the opportunity to squeeze Swagger’s hand way too hard so he can sell, even more so, that these two are ready to tear each other apart.
We are then treated to an Undertaker promo, scored by someone who sounds a lot like very late era, on-his-deathbed Johnny Cash, which doesn’t entirely fit his brand as the big, scary Deadman. Cole still wants us to choose the stipulation for the match with Christian and Sheamo, because it won’t just be the one with Memphis in the title, okay? Anything can win, you guys. Just believe in it, for a moment. Anyway, Taker is here now! The commentators chatter mindlessly as he makes his slow, purposeful descent to the ring. But before he can get to telling us all about how dead and scary he is, Paul Heyman turns up to interrupt yet again, reminding us of his name and then explaining all about how Cena only has four wins at WM, Stone Cold has the same, and it is just Taker’s streak (a still incredible 21 consecutive victories) that is left to beat.
He believes his client, Brock Lesnar, can do it but he can’t come out to say that himself because he’s busy sticking to his regimen of eat, sleep, tweet, delete. No, sorry, that’s Ryback. Lesnar must be doing his hair or something. Taker reckons the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all, which causes orgasm lady from before to cry out in ecstasy yet again (maybe she just has a thing for ageing wrestlers?). She must be nearly dead with desire when he uses the old R.I.P. line, but Heyman barely reacts because, well, he’s not fighting him so whatever. Before we can get to the next match, though, there’s a promo for Main Event, the show which is broadcast exclusively on the Network. It’s going to be really good and will totally affect storylines, everyone. Just remember that. You’re missing out.
Tag Team Match: The Rhodes Brothers -v- Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins (of The Shield)
Damn, there are lots of tag team matches tonight – not that I’m complaining because more men in the ring means more carnage, and by carnage I mean sexy sexiness. Or at the very least more sweat, which can also be sexy. Speaking of which, The Shield are still being groped by opportunistic perverts as they enter the arena, but kudos must be given to the idiot who blocks most of their entrance with his ridiculously massive sign. Seriously, well done, buddy (what does it even read? We’ll never know!) Rollins and Ambrose gracefully enter, while Reigns adopts a curmudgeonly expression and ambles over the barricade like a fed up child, who is pretending to be as tough as his buddies by climbing over a gnarly old wall, while secretly all he wants to do is go home and practice crochet. The match begins with Rollins against Cody Rhodes, before Goldust tags in, then Reigns, who falls victim to a Spinebuster. Reigns them aims for his opponent, thereby launching himself out of the ring, to be quickly followed by Rollins, and then Cody. Ambrose attempts to intervene but is shot down by the ref and, in his annoyance, he throws his precious belt on the ground like a chick on My Super Sweet 16 who didn’t get the car in the right colour that she’d asked for all along, god damn it Dad you ruin everything! Following the commercial break, everyone is back in the ring, and Reigns drags a lifeless Goldust to the corner to unleash his fury on him, before tagging in Rollins to take over and dispense some justice (that’s what the shield dispense, right? Not hair-care tips as I’d always assumed due to their luscious locks?) Reigns is tagged in again, as Goldust struggles to tag Cody, finally making it just in time before he might’ve lost it for them. Cody immediately rounds on Rollins, as the camera pans back to reveal a deadly serious “BATISTA” sign which seems oddly menacing in its simplicity, before a kick to the back of the head for Cody wins it for Rollins.
Winners: Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins (my notes literally read “the sexy ones” so I hope I mean these two)
Divas Tag Team Match: The Bella Twins -v- AJ Lee & Tamina Snuka
For some reason, Natalya is doing commentary on this match, while rocking a “Girlfriend” era Avril Lavigne look that does nothing for her 31 years. We get a great shot of AJ’s butt before things kick off, which means someone had the camera in the right place for once (if only it could stay focused on it forever). The commentary is so lazy, it literally comprises of such gems as “Tag made to Brie” and Natalya contributes, well, nothing. Tamina, who is a damn good wrestler when she’s given a chance to shine, knocks Brie out of the ring at one point, which is very exciting, by Diva standards. She then throws her back in. Shocking! Total Divas season two is due to start soon, which is also very exciting because it features Summer Rae, who isn’t featured tonight because there is no justice in the world. Nikki’s tits do not move, regardless of how fast she does, which makes them kind of hypnotic. She’s given more to do tonight, though, in spite of the fact that Brie is clearly the better fighter. AJ, on the other hand, is criminally underused. Why do Divas only have one move? The flying kick thing? I realise I sound like Cole, and I could look up what it’s called, but the match will be over by the time I’ve done so. Oh look, it is.
Winners: The Bellas (hopefully one day Nikki will jump up and down and we’ll see if those things really are as hard as a rocks)
Renee is with none other than the STARS of NCIS: LOS ANGELES! Wow! What a coup! How did they even get these guys on!? It must’ve cost, like, a bajillion dollars because they are SUCH huge stars! Fuck Aaron Paul, nobody even cares about that stupid meth show, the real stars are here and they are from NCIS: Los Angeles! In case it is of any interest to you, the so-called stars are Chris O’Donnell (ageing very badly) and LL Cool J (hasn’t aged at all). When asked which Superstars they’d like to see as guest stars on the show, Chris O’Donnell very animatedly opts for Cena, throwing in a “You can’t see me, baby!” for good measure before his colleague completely outdoes him by asking for Taker, Bryan or The Bellas – am I right, yo!? Cos they are SUPER fine! I could think of a mission for those two, if you know what I’m sayin’!
Seriously, it’s amazing, he totally loses it and goes off on a tangent. It then slowly dawns on him what he’s done and he shuts up as Renee looks uncomfortably towards the camera, begging for them to switch to something, anything else. The worldwide news media is now covering the release of the Network, mainly utilising old photos of Hogan ripping his shirt off, which means we really are all doomed. But then, finally, what feels like years after the show has begun, we get a little bit of Bryan as he emerges to sort-of ecstatic cheers, but not really enough, to tell us all about the Yes Movement. Basically, he wants to “occupy Raw” tonight, which results in a load of fans, all wearing the same Yes T-shirt, crowding around, and inside, the ring. It’s a bizarre mix of young and old, with one woman curiously choosing to wear a jacket over her shirt, and another taking her handbag with her (women, right?).
The Authority immediately appear, and they are SO MAD that they don’t even get entrance music this time around. A “No” chant greets them. Trips threatens to arrest everyone, to which Bryan replies that everyone in the arena will just leave and then there will be no Raw at all! Eventually, security – which comprises of just two men, wearing slightly different ties to distinguish themselves from each other – is called to the scene but they give up because there are too many people there. It begins to drag on a little bit as both sides claim ownership of the ring, going back and forth and retreading the same old ground. Trips eventually tells whoever is in charge to get on with the show, and poor old Damien Sandow, who I have missed these past few weeks, emerges for his match, only to find he cannot enter the ring and has to leave again.
Of course he isn’t going to get in the ring with all those plebs, what did Trips expect!? Steph loses her shit and starts screaming like a harpy at Bryan to get out, and that she owns him, which is very well played on her part. Apparently, all we, the WWE Universe, want is to see Bryan -v- Trips at WM. Let the record show that nobody wants that, probably not even Bryan, in spite of how well he’s selling the idea. Trips was supposedly trying to protect Bryan all along, but is now going to give in to him in order to advance the story, but when he screams “Get out of my ring” it sounds a bit wrong (for those of us from Dublin, anyway, where the word “ring” is slang for something a bit rude).
As it turns out, Bryan actually wants more than this stupid match – he wants a chance to fight for the World Heavyweight Championship against Boo-tista and Snoreton. Perhaps because he’s about as annoyed with this lengthy endeavour as we are, Trips gives in to this demand also, albeit as he’s being physically held back by security after removing his jacket (first Zeb, now Triple H, what does removing one’s jacket actually mean in the wrestling world!? There must be some serious gravitas to doing so) and almost speaking the dreaded “a” word (hint: it’s related to what “ring” is slang for). This basically means that, if Bryan succeeds against Trips at WM, he’ll get a chance to fight for the World Heavyweight Championship. If he loses, which is sadly far more likely, we’re all going to go home and cry into our giant bowls of John Cena-branded cereal. King is then in the ring, wearing his fabulously gaudy T-shirt, because he wants to announce which stipulation won out for the Christian/Sheamo match. Oh my, which will it be? I can’t take the tension! Memphis Street Fight! Yeeeeeeeeeeah did not see that one coming! This is a shocking development, ya’ll! Shocking!
Memphis Street Fight: Christian -v- Sheamus
It is impossible to write about Raw without getting Christian’s stupid emo theme tune stuck in my head! God damn it, Christian! Why don’t you come out to a Flatliners song, huh? Traitor! Incidentally, if The Flatliners are reading this, please get in touch because I have an idea on which song he could use. Seeing as this is a Street Fight, prop instruments are dotted around the ring to add some sort of gimmick to what is otherwise a regular, no-rules match (not anything goes! No rules!) King says they’re “taking it to the streets” but not literally because that would cost way too much in insurance. Sheamo has already broken a guitar before the match has even got going and he looks ludicrously thrilled to be doing so. Watch out Christian, he’s Irish! Christian tries to run away like a total pussy, because that’s what he’s doing now that he’s heel, preferring to sneak up on Sheamo when he’s trying to give a post-match interview to Renee. Sheamo catches up and tackles him from behind and, when we return from commercials (watch it all on the App!) Sheamo is speared on a turnbuckle, while Christian busies himself taking out a Kendo stick from under the ring. He beats the shit out of Sheamo while the commentators bicker mindlessly, as JBL tells Cole “I’m a commentator just like you, ya moron” He sure is, Cole. He sure is. After a while, the camera zooms in on Sheamo’s destroyed, bloodied back but JBL is more interested in pinning the earlier events surrounding the Yes Movement on Memphis native King, because he is apparently “in cahoots” with Bryan! Back in the ring, Sheamo is trying to grab the stick (oo-er), and the two jostle over it for a bit, before he finally triumphs and turns it on his opponent. He administers the White Noise, and for a moment it looks like he has him, but Christian isn’t giving in that easily (unless he can run away, of course). Sheamo gathers chairs from under the ring, and finally a bass drum, which he looks far too happy to be using. Of course, it’s obvious what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome when Sheamo delivers the Brogue Kick through the bass drum, knocking Christian out and solidifying his victory.
Winner: Sheamus (and his bass drum, which I imagine he has called Mc Snare after his uncle of the same name, who I believe resides in lovely Glasnevin, Dublin 11)
Network plug! Woo-hoo! And then my man Brad Maddox, who always looks tiny compared to the men surrounding him, appears with Boo-tista and Snoreton (those are really starting to sound like Pokemon names – their attacks could be boring people to death with their ineptitude and utter disregard for the honour of being Pokemon). “We need you to settle your differences” Maddox tells them, which is stupid, because it would utterly eliminate what little heat exists for their match-up at WM.
Alexander Rusev and his shitty, two quid, podium appear to speak Bulgarian and put everyone to sleep. That’s right; he’s still not wrestling, just talking. The giant heads of the Wyatts appear next, and for once Luke Harper gets to talk a little bit! Good for him! Of course, he’s soon interrupted by Bray, who is hanging upside down like a fat bat. He’s saying pseudo-philosophical things, as per usual, and it’s unclear whether he’s accepted Cena’s invitiation to a match at WM. Let’s say he has, and get on with it, because this is starting to grate a little bit.
Tag Team Match: Big Show & Daniel Bryan -v- Batista & Randy Orton
Yet another tag team bout, this time involving the bizarre match-up of Bryan and Big Show, who has lost some weight in his time out of the ring. Bryan descends to rapturous cheers, probably brought on by that overlong segment earlier (which the crowd seemed to eat up), while JBL is still going on at King for being in cahoots with him. Boo-tista emerges to boos, save for the one, orgasm lady who seems to be truly ecstatic to see him – he does hit his cue for the first time in about a hundred years though, so maybe that’s why? It could be his long-suffering mother, for all we know (though I sincerely hope not). The match begins with Snoreton against Bryan, who at one point launches himself out of the ring to tackle him, before jumping back in and breathlessly starting a raucous “Yes” chant without even missing a beat. Boo-tista, on the other hand, can’t even sell that he’s waiting for a tag, as he chooses to look utterly bored as he drapes his hand over the ropes. When he does eventually get involved, he spends far too long stalking his opponent around the ring, so much so that it makes Snoreton look dynamic and totally awake in comparison. Poor Show is almost utterly forgotten, until he finally gets tagged in and delivers a little bit of pain before allowing Bryan to take over again. Bryan ascends to the top rope, booting Boo-tista out of the ring as he does so, to pause for a moment as he is juxtaposed against the WM sign in the background – it’s unclear whether this shot was a happy accident, but it’s wonderful nonetheless. An S-Lock on Snoreton is interrupted by Boo-tista, then Snoreton administers the RKO on Show, as King rather amazingly refers to Batista as “Boo-tista” because clearly he’s an avid fan of these recaps and the constant references to his shitty commentary and ridiculous choice of attire. Snoreton points at the WM sign as he delivers the DDT, before attempting the RKO, which Bryan flips around on him, before pinning him and winning.
Winners: Big Show & Daniel Bryan (poor Big Show barely got a look in, but they can’t give us the fatal three-way yet, or we wouldn’t pay for WM!)
Thus, Raw ends, yet again, with a triumphant Bryan (clearly the man is easily pleased) leading the Yes chant from the ring. As the camera pans over the crowd and the commentators say their goodbyes, a sign which reads “Hi Mom I’m white trash” is revealed which makes slightly more sense than most of this episode. It was a mixed bag tonight, stuffed full of tag team matches and a lengthy segment, midway through, which did nothing to create heat for the much-maligned Trips v Bryan match at WM.
Surely there’s a method to all of this madness, and it is going to become clear over time. Otherwise, we may all just be setting ourselves up to watch Bryan lose again, and I’m not sure we could take that (and by we, I mean me). Here’s hoping Mick Foley is right to be excited for WM yet again, and that Raw will reveal its cards over the intervening weeks, slowly but surely. If not that, then bring back comic relief like Fandango and give us a few laughs along the way to soften the blow.