So, I’m in a bit of a foul mood leading into this week’s review of Monday Night Raw. I know you’re dying to hear all the details on this so I promise not to disappoint any more than usual.

For those of you who do not know me I’m not like the traditional image/stereotype/comedic portrayal of an adult pro wrestling fan. I live many miles away from the cold damp basement at my mother’s house. I have a nice little condo I share with my wife who indulges the fact that sometimes I have to spend a weekend watching women wrestle in Berwyn, IL and I steal the TV on Monday nights. I care more about Michelin stars than Meltzer stars. But there is one thing I have in common with many of my grappling-obsessed brethren. My shirts have more than one X on the size label. I’m a large fellow who eats too much and works out too little.

That’s why a few months ago when I signed up signing up for the Hot Chocolate 5k run that it would be the sort of things to brush the cobwebs from my gym membership and my running shoes. I would do the C25K program, get myself at least a little prepared for the run, and maybe even set a PR in the 5k. Then life got in the way and yesterday morning I shambled down to Grant Park with 25,000 other people up too early on a Sunday morning having done absolutely zero prep for the run. And now I hurt. My legs are telling my heart to beat profanities at me in morse code. -.– — ..- / ..-. ..- -.-. -.- .. -. –. / — — .-. — – keeps ringing in my ears. I hurt, I’m tired, I’m staring at a birthday that moves me definitively into my late 30’s and I’m pretty sure my time was bested by a gun running on his hands the entire way. Getting old blows.

Then I’m missing the final table broadcast of the World Series of Poker because I get to watch the Return of the Cena. The plotlines are better in the WSOP and they don’t have the luxury of using unemployed soap opera writers overseen by a megalomaniacal geriatric with a wicked case of ADD to craft their stories. And of course the one tweet I’ve seen about the taped show I’ll be talking around soon enough was that “the crowd hated it. Boring chants repeatedly.” I’m enthused now.

The last thing that is grinding my gears is a bit less immediate and I’ll be totally honest, my annoyance is from a place of pure self-indulgent whinging (the more mild Australian form of whining). For 20 years now I’ve had one pre-eminent musical obsession. Just like my fellow large bearded man Mick Foley I absolutely love Tori Amos. I’ve waited 8 hours in the middle of the night in late November in Chicago to meet her. I’ve traveled from state to state to see her. Back before the internet was really a thing I scoured grimy used CD shops that were overcharging like crazy for live bootlegs and compilations. And in my Twitter feed I’m now seeing all these photos showing her prepping for orchestra shows followed by an all-request show in Sydney. I’m so green with envy my driver’s license should say I’m the Incredible Hulk.

But from this, there springs an idea on how to contextualize the quality of segments in tonight’s show.. One that might very possibly only entertain me (and Mick Foley if he reads this. Thumbs up!) but I don’t give a damn. Also, it will lead to me at some point later in this review telling you about the worst Xmas gift I ever received, how it proves my father was an asshole, and how it almost caused me to walk out on a Tori Amos concert earlier this year. For now let’s just say don’t hang on. Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.

Does it feel like I’m putting off getting on with the show? I guess I am.

Monday Night Raw
November 10, 2014
Liverpool, Merseyside, England

Watching the “Last Week on Raw” segment and pleasantly surprised that they are not going to black and white or only showing long shots of a bloodied Randy Orton.

John Cena vs. My Attention Span: And the Era of Good Feelings comes to a mighty crashing halt quickly as the living embodiment of a corporate mission statement comes to the ring. Remember last week when Cena wasn’t on the show and it was a pretty solid episode? Forget about that.

Oooh, Cena is doing that thing where he tells the crowd how much he loves that they are booing him. You know, the thing he does about once every third week?

For as much crap as we give Randy Orton for overexplaining things Cena sure does like to tell the crowd every single plot point that has happened in the story so far. I bet Cena is the guy in a movie theater who sits behind you telling his girlfriend what exactly is going on at every point in the film.

So far this crowd is hot for people who aren’t John Cena. But because Cena can’t help Cena’ing all over the company he finds a way to leech off the heat of Ziggler, Ryback, and even the late Daniel Bryan with the B+ player reference. Jack Swagger has no heat to leech. Jack Swagger had to be shocked to find out he was being put in this angle. 75% chance that he gets laid out so someone who matters can end up in the match.

Stephanie going for the cheap “ha ha not American” people heat. I would be more upset but the “God Save the Queen” line actually drew an honest laugh out of me. HHH is even more shouty than usual tonight.

It’s the great battle of leeching heat and burying guys. The immovable object at the top of the card vs. the irresistible force of snarkily slipping the knife in right between the ribs of anyone who doesn’t have the clout to fight back.

Apparently calling Kane by his name is the worst insult anyone can think of for him.

It’s hard not to be entertained my Stephanie’s glee at the end of this segment. She is every entitled child of the boss who gets to tell average workers what to do because of winning the genetic lottery. She has a sadistic streak that revels in being able to make people do what she wants not because of any inherent talent or power she has, but because of the people her name holds in thrall to the family. She loves being able to hurt people simply because the opportunity is there, and even when her motives may be able to be explained away as self-preservation or cold logical decision making she injects so much venom and rage into her following actions that it becomes monstrous. She doesn’t hurt because she’s a big dumb jock who only knows how to hurt. She doesn’t hurt because she’s afraid of being hurt herself if she doesn’t strike first. She hurts because it’s fun and because she can.

Stephanie McMahon reminds me of a movie antagonist from one of my favorite films. If anyone can guess it right in the comments I will seriously send you a $20 bill. Because anyone who can follow my line of thought is someone I need to befriend ASAP.

How to put this segment into a context or a rating though? Let’s take a second and ponder what happened. It was noisy, harsh, and had no compunction about taking shots at people. Sounds to me like “Professional Widow” from Boys for Pele by Tori Amos.

Jack Swagger vs. Seth Rollins: Dirty Dutch lives! I’ve seen all I need to see from this match! Let’s move along to the next segment!

Apparently I have to watch ALL of this show. So be it.

A crowd of Brits is chanting “We the People”. Sarah Palin is so confused right now.

After all these years why does Jack Swagger still look like he has to think before every move he makes in the ring. I feel like I can see the smoke from the gears turning in his head as he says “Swagger bomb now? Swagger bomb now.”

John Cena is reading poetry to us all again! What should John Cena read this week? This week let’s all imagine John reading “Primitive” by Sharon Olds. I think it would be fun to hear him saying “I have pleased you greatly last night.”

I want to like Swagger. He has the kind of background and look that should be something we could all get behind. But he is just missing something. Maybe it’s the 7 second delay between his mind and his body. Maybe it’s the lisp. Maybe it’s the way he looks like he might be more ape than man. But I just cannot buy Swagger in this main event angle. He and/or Zeb is going to have to give the promo of a lifetime to make him seem like he can fit in with such a trying-to-be-epic storyline.

Or he can just get curb stomped into oblivion. RIP Jack Swagger. We’ll always remember when Stroud sent you to Mars. (I hate when I type out something and it gets invalidated 30 seconds later.)

That segment was the sort of thing where there’s nothing wrong with it, I’ve heard or seen it so many times it has lost some of its impact over the years but it really seems to be an old standby. “Cornflake Girl” from Under the Pink it is then!

That is the best shirt Lawler has worn in his 600 years on Raw.

I feel like the Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt feud is what would have happened if they threw Papa Shango into the TARDIS and had him run a program with Steve Austin circa 1997.

Dean Ambrose talking about how he goes down is the promo that launched a thousand fanfics.

The pacing of this show is so much slower than last week. It’s like the second the writers get the Cena crutch back they fall into booking a Sportz Entertainmentz show as opposed to the professional wrestling show we got last week.

How can this Kane be the same Kane who was part of the Anger Management segments? He’s so unconvincing that I wouldn’t believe him if he was telling me he loved Atlas Shrugged and hated Obamacare.

Interesting note. Local spot advertising Roman Reigns for Chicago on Dec. 26. Prepare for his Rumble win now my friends.

Alicia Fox vs. Paige: Hey, two women both being portrayed as crazy and announcers who alternate between “Bitches be crazy” and lascivious drooling. Alicia Fox throws a sweet Northern Lights suplex. Wow. Lawler just threw the entire division under the bus at one time. Well done you miserable pedophile. Jesus Christ on a cracker that fisherman’s DDT was wicked looking.

Short match but enjoyable with a couple of really well-executed moves. Paige got to enjoy the home crowd support and they didn’t try to cool the crowd down by having her come to the ring waving an American flag or calling Liverpool a terrible town living in the past or any of the usual cheap heat moves. Made a fairly insignificant match that much more entertaining. Only thing missing was letting Saraya Knight come in and crotch kick Fox a couple dozen times. This whole segment was a bit better than average for me (save of course for Lawler trying to get me to swear off wrestling by being so mind-blowingly terrible) and something I’ll remember tomorrow. On a great album it would be a deep cut, but on a less top-to-bottom perfect record this is a second or third single. Like “Ribbons Undone” from The Beekeeper.

Segment with Steph, Lana and Rusev. Watching Steph’s veneer of amiability cracking as someone is refusing to give her what she wants right the hell now is a thing of beauty. You know the rage is coming, but she pulls it in quickly, she knows that she can’t overplay her hand. But already you know the plans are being formed for how Rusev and Lana will be punished one day when they no longer serve her exact purposes. They will pay for their insubordination and their daring to withhold things from the Princess. She will stand over their broken bodies and remind them that Putin may be their leader but she owns their lives. I’m ready for the Rusev face turn that I don’t want in the slightest. I am so confused by my own opinions I fear Stephanie is somehow projecting through the tv and into my mind. Breaking my opinions into dust just because they’re there for her to destroy. She is the devil. She is the menace that waits on the dark road at night. She leaves you shattered, held together only by the pieces she leaves intact for another day’s torment. I hear the song “Spark” off of From the Choirgirl Hotel in my head as I type this. - WWE Raw November 10Watching the Xavier Woods/Kofi Kingston promo it becomes clear that all of Vince’s knowledge of black people comes from James Brown in The Blues Brothers.

And I do believe we just saw the seeds of Stephanie preparing to get HHH to volunteer himself to go charging off to his own funeral.

Ooooooh, Lana going right to the “you would be speaking German” bomb. I assume they had to ask William Regal what sort of insult would make sense in England. Speaking of which Regal better show up at some point or I very gingerly riot until the pain in my hamstrings forces me back into my chair.

It’s really not fair of WWE to make me miss the WSOP AND to have me thinking about Rounders as this dude does his best Teddy KGB. Next week I’m just going to go play poker for three hours and post my hand history as the raw review.

Sheamus vs. Rusev: This match should be good. I hope it’s good. Sheamus is so pale it is slightly disturbing. The fight to get the Beats of the Bodhran through Rusev stopping Sheamus midway through into the dueling head butts was a fine piece of business. The mat work could be good if there was any sense it led anywhere. But Sheamus didn’t have the urgency to escape that you would expect from a guillotine choke with body scissors, and the rest of the side headlock work doesn’t really impact Sheamus in any way that impacts him.

I know there’s a storyline reason for it but having Noble and Mercury at ringside just killed the flow of the match. They lost the crowd, and now it’s just a wait until the shenanigans. Even though I had complaints I was enjoying the match. The second they appeared I quit caring. The story they’re trying to tell is almost certain to end in Deus Ex Stoogia.

AER LINGUS! Sheamus is really selling the desperation to win and reclaim his pride…until he gets a case of the stupids and goes chasing those pesky kids.

That match told a story, though the story it was telling flipped a couple of times and took some interesting twists and turns. Kind of like “Jackie’s Strength” off of Gold Dust.

Rusev is part of Team Authority. And even in getting what she wants Steph has to kick Lana and Rusev when she’s got them down. She is possibly the worst person in the whole damn world. She turns Putin face she’s so awful.

Ryback will not stand for being called Big Man. “Big Guy” or nothing for him. It’s good to see a man willing to stand on principle in this world where everything is relative. The Big Guy is a beacon of hope in a cowardly world.

I’m not going to say that Seth Rollins is smarmy but there are PUA seminar leaders who think a little more sincerity out of him wouldn’t be a bad thing. Of all the roles he has played in his career douchebag who hides behind mom, dad, and big brother is the one he seems most natural in. Not that he’s actually natural. But it’s as close as he gets.

Los Matadores vs. Miz/Mizdow: We’ve got two midgets, two Puerto Ricans pretending to be Mexican, a guy with the most hideous case of Stockholm Syndrome this side of Patty Hearst. And Miz. Miz is heeling it up something fierce tonight. Playing with the crowd who wants Mizdow so bad they can taste it. That was just wonderful to watch. The entire match just never giving the crowd the moment they want, yet still making it so Mizdow is responsible for the win. And Miz will come to find it out soon enough and it will make him even angrier. He’s two weeks from calling Marc Mero to find out if the burlap sack he made Sable wear is still somewhere in a storage locker filled with Badd Blasters.

A fun trifle of a match. Hilariously entertaining and disposable. Kind of like “Toodles Mr. Jim” off of the Caught a Lite Sneeze EP.

John Cena keeps losing friends. This tells me the WWE roster is smarter than they are often portrayed. In a truly just and right world Cena’s team would be Cena, Eugene, Evad Sullivan, Rick Steiner before he met Woman, and George Steele. Of course Cena would still win since those kind of odds are just made for being overcome. But at least we’d see Eugene again. That’s got to be worth something.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Mark Henry: Henry seemed legit frustrated when he shoved Ziggler away after the rollup way too close to the ropes. Can’t blame him as that looked really awkward and like someone could have easily gotten hurt.

I’m okay with Ziggler not only staying on Cena’s team but not being afraid to take on Henry. Ziggler is an egomaniac. He’s a mix of Crash Holly and Mr. Perfect. Thinks he’s so good he can beat anyone and might not realize he’s not a giant.

Oh God Big Show is on Team Cena. It is amazing how much work WWE is doing to lessen my excitement about Survivor Series. Hell, I already miss Jack Swagger. At least he was something different. But the eventual Team Cena of Cena, Ziggler, Show, Sheamus and Orton is just so…so…WWE. It’s the sort of thing where you can see how the match is going to go before it even happens.

This segment was just not working for me. The pieces could have fit together to make something awesome in theory, but in practice not so much. Kind of like Tori’s version of “Raining Blood” from Strange Little Girls.

Hey look, it’s Sheamus. They sure didn’t stretch that out very long. I assume they’ll keep the Orton thing for Survivor Series. Or bring back Reigns. I don’t know. Whatever happens the important thing is John Cena is the best John Cena there’s ever been in the history of John Cena.

AJ Lee vs. Brie Bella: It’s good to see the diversity in characters WWE allows for their women. This match we get a crazy woman vs. a crazy woman who is in servitude to a bitch. Brie Bella is not exactly who I would think of as my enforcer to soften someone up. Nikki might have been better served to make Brie go to Florida with a crate full of chewing gum and Golden Girls dvds and tell her she can’t come back unless she brings Sara Del Rey back with her to murder AJ Lee. This wasn’t really a match. I know a bell rang at the beginning and it rang at the end, but this was an ending in search of a story. If this was 2003 it would have taken place in a kiddie pool full of chocolate or gravy. The two women in there were trying to work a match, and Brie at least threw a nice top rope dropkick, but it was pointless. This match was able to tap into my inner rage. Much like the song “Sugar” off of the Hey Jupiter EP.

Hey Vince. You hear the reaction to Dan Rose? Notice that he’s a sincere good guy? Maybe you should try one of those as a face in your company.

Every week Raw should be hosted by an internet meme. I want the host the following week to be the Ermahgerd girl, and the week after that it can be Old Economy Steve.

Adam Rose vs. Tyson Kidd: JBL says Twerking. Just shut up forever. Talking is not something you should ever do again. Erick Rowan in his sheep mask wanders out and acts weird. I’m not entirely sure that he didn’t just get lost backstage while looking for the lady who makes his coveralls. Since there are no large things to enjoy, I’ll find a small thing. I liked Kidd pushing down on Rose’s face when trying to apply the Sharpshooter. Those small touches that make it look like people are fighting keep me interested in the match.

Hold on a second, I need to go check me the internet on something. The woman with Adam Rose wearing the cavegirl outfit…

NIKKI STORM! If you’ve never seen NIkki Storm work you are missing out on someone with massive potential. Off the charts energy, hilarious promos, solid ringwork, and so invested in her character it blows my mind when I see her not being NIKKI STORM.

I promised a story much earlier in this report. Let’s move back in time. My father had a habit of buying people gifts that were things only he wanted. He would play dumb and wait for you to just give up the gift so he could enjoy it. He did this more times than we could count, and it became a sort of sad joke to see who would get the crappy pseudo gift under the tree.

I was 12 years old when I drew the short straw. I had just gotten my first CD player a couple of months ago and was excited for Christmas to expand my collection. At the time I was into the popular metal of the time and the hard guitar rock of the 60’s and 70’s. Opened up Aerosmith, Guns n’ Roses, Hendrix, Sabbath, Zeppelin. A quality haul so far. I was ready to go up to my bedroom and rock out while playing TurboGrafx. Then I opened up my father’s lone gift. The Best of Kansas. Kansas. The awful 70’s band. I sat there dumbfounded. I opened it hoping somehow it was a joke, No jokes except the one on me where I end up hearing “I thought you loved Kansas” come out of his mouth. Those were the words he said. The words he meant were “I really don’t give a crap what you like or don’t like. It’s all about me.”

As the years went by this gift became a recurring joke in my family, staying around many years longer than either the cd or the man who bought it. I grew to loathe Kansas, and most of all I grew to hate “Dust in the Wind”. You know the song, that glurgy dirge about the inevitability of death and awesome 70’s white guy fros. The song came to be a four minute meditation on the failings of fatherhood. I know it was just a simple CD, but it was the moment that I realized that I was pretty much fatherless even though he was in the same room. We were in two different worlds and neither of us much cared to build the spacecraft needed to traverse the distance. I guess it kind of fits that “Dust in the Wind”, an awful treacly song about how all things fail in the end, is for me the distillation of that understanding. But still, I hate that song.

Fast forward many years later, close to the present day. Anyone who has been to a Tori Amos concert knows that one of the treats is the part of the show where she covers various songs. Hearing her twist on these well-known works is exciting and often makes me reconsider a song I’ve heard many times before. “Time After Time”, “Silver Springs”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, even modern hits like “Say Something” and “We Found Love” had come already on this tour. A couple nights later she would do a mashup of “Free Falling” and “Building a Mystery” that nearly brought me to tears because of the memories I have associated with those songs.

But I was in Chicago, sitting in a balcony box at the Auditorium Theatre on August 5, 2014. The show up until then had been good, even if the setlist wasn’t quite what I would have drawn up. The lights went down and from the heavens came the sign “Lizard Lounge” signifying that it was time for the covers part of the show. The single spotlight shines down on Tori as everyone moves to the edge of their seat wondering what she is going to drag out of the makeup bag of tricks tfonight. Her hands moving across the keys as she begins to do some vocal riffing, the song not yet familiar to my ears. At last a melody starts to emerge, and deep in my brain the spark of recognition begins to flicker but not catch yet. Then her mouth opens again. Words fill the auditorium. And at last hideous cognizance grips my mind and I almost involuntarily get up from my chair. Still ringing in the ears of the few thousand people sitting in the dark are the words…

Don’t hang on. Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.

After months of waiting, speculating on what might be heard. After years, decades almost of following her, buying essentially every song released, seeing her live 20 or more times, being made fun of and called “dick sucking faggot” for wearing my Dew Drop Inn shirt from the 1996 tour, for the first time ever I felt she had betrayed me. And I walked out into the lobby. I couldn’t listen to it. My head spun and nothing made any sense in my world. The one person who had never failed me in 20 years had suddenly found herself in league with the demons of my past to spread a pall over the present. I walked around in small circles, waiting for it to end so I could see if I had the heart to go back in. There was nothing redeeming in this performance. It was torture, it was hell, it was the smell of cigarettes and coffee and disinterest in the morning.

But then something happened that pulled the slightest of smiles from what I assumed would be the scowl I wore for the rest of my days. She moved from that song into “Africa”. By Toto. She went from Kansas to Toto. I was not happy, but it was a momentary ray of light in a dark place I had gone to.

This match was a dark place. It had no redeeming qualities from the wrestling to the announcing to the post-match. It was “Dust in the Wind”. But then I saw NIKKI STORM as one of the Rosebuds. She was the brief ray of light. She was “Africa”. She was Toto.

I don’t know much, but I’m pretty sure that’s the most words anyone will have to say about that last match.

Stephanie enjoys yelling at the large men under her control. And don’t be fooled. It’s her control. HHH is along for the ride and tries to sound important. But there is no doubt who has the control in that group. - WWE Raw November 10Is it possible to be bored with someone and enjoy them at the same time? Because that’s how I am with Bray Wyatt right now. I love him being Bray Wyatt and doing Bray Wyatt things. It’s all pointless and one day Kevin Sullivan is going to hack into the WWE Network and just show hours of him being Bray Wyatt in Florida back before Bray was a glint in Captain Mike’s eye. I feel like every promo there’s at least one turn of phrase that makes my ears perk up and have to admire the work that’s being done. Sadly it’s work done in a vacuum. He can be the character, but he can’t steer the character somewhere interesting without cooperation from the company. But I still enjoy what he’s saying, even if I don’t understand it. Much like I love “Caught a Lite Sneeze” from Boys for Pele despite not really having a clue what she’s talking about.

Imagine for just a moment if they replaced the three lumps of crap at the announce table with Styles and Heyman. Has the kind of math been perfected yet that would be needed to express how large the improvement would be?

John Cena vs. Ryback: Cena’s out here with 7 people who don’t like him in the ring or at ringside. Odds on Cena losing are 30/1. Maybe another dozen or so people would make it even odds. Ryback’s offense in this match is a nice consistent moveset. Lots of quick power moves, not a lot of wasted motion. Taking advantage of when Cena is on the ground. The Thesz Press into the head bouncing off the mat was a great combo. This match is really working to rebuild Ryback after all the time off and the time slumming with Curtis Axel. He is getting presented as a true physical threat to Cena and that’s not the norm. People can beat Cena sometimes, but outside of Lesnar there hasn’t really been anyone who seems like they could hurt Cena. The kind of offense he has gotten in this match has made him look very credible.

I did not see that ending coming. I assumed some sort of tension with Ryback, but didn’t expect them to go straight to having him destroy the entire team. And the Luke Harper thing could open up all sorts of angle possibilities. Even though they’re not disciples anymore there’s still obviously some connection between Harper/Rowan and Wyatt. Ever since he entered the company there’s been a question of what might happen if the destroyer of the machine decided to turn his focus on destroying the corporate machine. I doubt that’s what happens, but I’m more interested in Survivor Series than I was at the beginning of the show, and way more so than I was about an hour into the show.

And with that we’ve come to the end of the show. And since that means I get to go to bed finally I think that deserves my favorite Tori Amos song. Enjoy “Pretty Good Year” from Under the Pink.

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