So yeah…last week. It was a thing. And not a thing I intend to repeat. That kind of anger gives me GERD. It makes me have to take extra sleeping pills. I regret none of it, and I stand by everything I said, but we can’t have that each week. That’s the road to ruin.

Last week I was in a foul mood. So this week, still full of turkey and good feelings I am going to try something different this week. For every match or major promo segment I will find something to be genuinely thankful for. Not just “thankful that’s over!” or anything of the sort. But real genuine positive feelings. I figure if I say enough happy things, I might even like the show by the end.

Monday Night Raw
December 1, 2014
Tulsa, Oklahoma 

Just because no one knows who he is doesn’t mean John Cena can’t find a way to go over him. John Cena neither knows nor cares the names of those he crushes under his gym shoes. I have no good answer for why anyone would work hard for John Cena in the storyline universe of WWE. Nothing good ever comes of being John Cena’s friend. Ever. I notice Cena never gave an answer either. Even he can’t come up with a good reason.

Hey, here’s a thought: instead of everyone else talking about Dolph Ziggler maybe let him talk about himself. This weekend I saw Davey Richards with a live mic. That puts Seth Rollins into a generous perspective. I would be overjoyed to see Eric Bischoff as the GM. One of the best on-screen villains of the last two decades. The dude who made WCW into a juggernaut. Everyone be sure to tweet #BringBackBisch NOW!

Guy who gets everything he wants and is dressed in all primary colors is telling someone to earn everything he wants and mocks his fashion sense. That’s like having a hobo criticize your luggage. At NXT do they teach classes in how to be a face who emasculates the heels? Does Cena tape some lectures?

Kane and his nicely pressed slacks don’t seem to have much of a purpose these days does he? Luke Harper has a Luke Harper jacket. Are we assuming he was wandering through Michael’s looking for just the right fabric to make his self-homage? Having Ziggler getting squashed in that segment seemed like it kind of undoes all the talking about him earlier. Don’t tell me, show me.

Thankful: It is nice that they are mixing in some newer names with the old guard of Cena, Kane, Show. Ryback is still newer as is Ziggler. And Harper, Rowan, and Rollins are all in the solo main event mix for the first time.

Tag Team Turmoil (Match 1) Dust Bros. vs. Kofi/Big E: I think the Stardust theme might be my favorite original music WWE has put together in years. Holy mother of god this is terrible. And I like everyone involved, even Kofi but this gimmick is just so hitting the wrong note right now. Racial tensions are running high, people are engaging in very pointed critiques and sometimes full on slander of other races. The events in Ferguson are still reverberating throughout the nation. And Vince unleashes this on the world. Three guys playing a terribly stereotyped shucking and jiving gimmick without the slightest sense of irony or even self-awareness. I can only assume someone showed Vince the Blues Brothers for the first and Jesus Tap Dancing Christ he saw the light.

(Match 2) New Day vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro: Cesaro once went to Denny’s with CM Punk. Expect him to be buried forever. I guess it makes sense to have New Day feud with the Dust Bros. That way WWE can say it’s not about white vs. black but gold vs. black. Sadly I doubt it turns into a L. Frank Baum style allegory about the way capitalism and the pursuit of gold has systematically oppressed black people for centuries. If it does, I hope Dusty Rhodes appears wearing silver slippers.

(Match 3) Tyson Kidd/Cesaro vs. Usos: I find myself annoyed when Kidd pulls the “hide behind the wife” move. Not because it isn’t good heel work, it is. But the way that other wrestlers act horrified that they might collide with Nattie is ridiculous. This worked when it was Savage hiding behind Elizabeth. She was a pageant queen — a China Doll that could walk and theoretically talk — all porcelain and hairspray and fragility. The one person who always seemed to need protecting from the violence and hatred constantly swirling around her. When Savage would pull Elizabeth into harms way he was a terrible monster of a man. This powerful wrecking machine of a man forcing the gentlest creature any of us had ever seen into the line of fire. He deserved hanging or tarring and feathering at the least. Possibly to be drawn and quartered.

Tyson Kidd is not much bigger than Nattie, has not been wrestling nearly as long as her, and might not even be the stronger of the two. Tyson Kidd hiding behind her is essentially the same as hiding behind a tag team partner. When an Uso halts a dive so he doesn’t land on Nattie I don’t feel like he’s being a noble gentleman. I feel like he’s being an idiot so bound up in playing his traditional gender role that he’s failing to note that Kidd is hiding behind a trained pro wrestler with over a decade of international experience. You Say U, I so So Stupid.

While this was happening Kidd and Cesaro lost to the Usos. Bully on them for winning and still maintaining a archaic sense of masculine dignity in the process.

(Match 4) Usos vs. Adam Rose and Bunny: So we went through all this for a punchline? This feels like the company is deliberately making a point that we are fools for getting at all involved in any of this, since at any moment a guy in a bunny suit could become the #1 contender. More tension in the endless Rose/Bunny breakup. Unless this ends with the Bunny sodomizing Rose in the middle of the ring and somehow causing a new mutant bunny/human hybrid race to appear and begin a 10,000 year long reign of terror then the angle has gone on TOO DAMN LONG!

Somewhere in all this they showed Naomi watching the match and acknowledged not just Total Divas but the fact that the show reveals her marriage to Jimmy Uso. Trying to determine what is and is not canon from Total Divas is like trying to work out time travel stories or Samoan family trees (shoutout to Netcop!)

Oh, and we end up with Usos vs. Mizdow. Again. Truly a long and winding road to the fireworks factory.

Thankful: There are multiple things to be thankful for in this match. But the one that really sticks out to me is the sheer manic energy that Cody Rhodes is bringing to his performance every time out. I would watch 20 minutes of Cody prancing and dancing and making faces every single week. The only thing that could improve it would be if Cody and Dustin started reviewing movies.

Speaking of people truly digging into their character Mizdow is here and giving out a pretend business card to Naomi. He might be the greatest living thespian. It’s like watching a young DeNiro or Nicholson. Perhaps even a young Frank Stallone.

I was getting ready to make a joke about Rowan and his Rubik’s Cube when suddenly the best 10 seconds ever happened. Erick Rowan is a genius. And a classical guitarist. And a goddamned vintner! The possibilities here are endless. They could have Esteban as a guest host and he and Rowan could do some awesome duet work. Rowan could get into a feud over the qualities of biodynamic wine, or whether or not screw tops are actually better for wine than corks. They damn well better expand on this. If they forget that Rowan is some sort of Renaissance man and don’t give me the opportunity to see him becoming civilized by Damien Sandow after he turns on Miz I am going to find Vince McMahon and use Rowan’s Rubik’s Cube to beat him to death.

Erick Rowan def. Big Show: It’s the time of the night when I remind you that this is the worst announce team possible outside of perhaps the ghost of Art Donovan and Bruno Sammartino. I would rather listen to a 9-year-old explaining why One Direction is the best group since the Beatles than hear any more from these dipshits. I do like the idea of giving Rowan a nickname to help humanize him. “Big Red” is the sort of thing that fans can chant along with and make him more of an eccentric genius than sheep-screwing psychobilly lunatic.

Big Show has become petulant. I find that appropriate. He made a choice in the hopes of being loved. In the moment at Survivor Series he became scared for his future and made what he thought was a wise choice. And it seemed to be. After all, removing John Cena from Team Cena is the sort of thing that should have guaranteed victory at that point. But things happened and it didn’t work out the way he figured it would.

So he came out and asked forgiveness. He did it in a manner that seemed insincere, but Big Show has been doing this for 20 years now. He knows that love and hate are transient, and that everyone does time on each side of the fence. He can’t bring himself to express deep remorse simply for looking out for his own wellbeing. And all’s well that ends well right? The good guys won, he covered his ass, the Authority is gone, so why not let bygones be bygones?

But the fans can’t do that for him. To be a wrestling fan is to be a goldfish, always surprised by the little plastic castle. At Survivor Series he was the bad guy thus he must be the bad guy the next day. All of the times the crowd cheered for him in the months before have passed as grains through an amnesiac’s hourglass. He is evil now. Acting in his own self-interest has branded him with the scarlet S for sellout. So now Show is in a snit. I understand. Sometimes when the wife and I get into a spat I feel my teenage pouting self coming to the surface. I act petulant and cruel because in that moment I feel compelled to be angry. The anger passes, the memory of the 1,000 good moments flood back and subsume the single bad one. One day Show will form his giant hand into a fist and let it crash against the chin of someone the crowd reviles. He will again be loved as though he was without sin in the Garden. And the cycle will repeat itself. Show knows this. He will not become paralyzed with sadness or mad with anger. He will be petulant, ask the crowd if they’re happy about this and inform them it is on their head. And then he will go home. Still the same Big Show he was last week, and the week before, and so many weeks before that.

Also, the stairs tumbling into Rowan’s head looked like it would hurt like a son of a bitch.

Thankful: Erick Rowan is a winemaking guitar playing MENSA candidate. If I’d known this last Thursday I would have had something to really mean when I said it over turkey instead of the usual “health, and family and blahblah” stuff. This is the sort of thing that gets me up in the morning.

Fandango def. Jack Swagger: As much as I usually love post-Mania Raw crowds, I’m annoyed that their picking up the Fandango theme has extended his career by almost two years now. Did you remember Chris Jericho losing to Fandango at Wrestlemania? If we all decide not to ever mention it again perhaps we can wish it out of existence.

I think we can assume that Rosa Mendes was behind Dutch getting attacked. She’s still pissed about them defending the border. And here comes the most honorable face in the company. Rusev is here. The guy gets punished for not wanting to be a turncoat to his home nation. And wins. But hey, he’s Russian and says some mean things. Totally the worst guy in the company.

I’ve given up hope of Kurt Angle ever appearing to deal with this. I’m going to put all my eggs in the Ranger Ross basket now. Didn’t we see Swagger lose like 40 times to Rusev already? I’m not going to complain too much about them hossing it up but it really feels played out. More frightening is the idea that this is a way for them to kill time until the inevitable Cena vs. Rusev Mania match.

Thankful: Rusev is awesome. I love watching him and his Floridian Natasha. He is the badass Roman Reigns keeps hoping he’ll grow up to be.

Hmmm…quite the tease there with the WWE2K15 dream matchup. I have to assume Taker hasn’t made a decision about working ‘Mania this year, hence keeping their options open with HHH vs. Sting as an option.

Mizdow def. Fernando: I’m not sure what to do with Mizdow in a singles match. For someone who is supposed to be a tv guy and someone who is a media presence for the company Miz is sure pretty awful at improvising along with the announcers. The announcers must get a bonus every week if they can work “twerking” into their commentary.

It’s jarring to see the lurch from real intensity to goofy comedy. Jimmy Uso coming out and slapping the taste out of Miz’s mouth was cool. The sort of thing that makes sense and gives Jimmy an edge and a character beyond saying “ooo” and doing a plancha. But then 30 seconds later Mizdow is doing his mirror gag with Miz and how do I take any of it seriously? Who do I root for when they feud? The guy defending his wife’s honor or the incredibly funny guy with the asshole partner? I feel like the whiteboard in the writer’s room is haunted by Vince Russo. Maybe Kevin Marshall can confirm if they’ve ever tried having an exorcism to cleanse the place of evil spirits.

Thankful: Mizdow is awesome. He seems a bit out of place in a single’s match, but he’s still awesome. The guy is just having a ball with the character. The smile he could barely contain after the match when sitting with Miz was beautiful. Also the idea that Usos might start to be more than the happy dancing Samoan dudes can only help them.

Bray Wyatt def. R-Truth: Bray’s entrance is the best in the company, and it isn’t even close. How did no one offer R-Truth a spot in the New Day? He dances, he is not white. Seems like he has all the qualifications needed to be part of the group.

One of the things Wyatt does well is making his moves just a little different than most guys. The way he tumbled down because he whipped Truth so hard into the corner was an example of that kind of tiny nuance.

They’re pushing the idea that Bray is acting even crazier than usual as a way of sending a message to Ambrose. It gives a reason for some of the overacting that Bray falls into from time to time. Instead of just being Lithgowian in his character now it can be a conscious decision to present an even more unhinged version of himself to the world, and specifically to Dean Ambrose.

This is useful when listening to the Jacob’s Ladder promo. It seems self-aware in a way that some of his other promo work has not been. He’s pushing the turbo button on his crazy in the hopes of finding a way into Dean’s mind.

However, Dean Ambrose is too damn genre-savvy. He knows you reach a point of supersaturated crazy and once there you can’t get even more crazy. Bray may be a backwoods cultist, but Dean has a condiment belt. They’ve already gone crazy in each other’s arms. Dean even broke Bray’s rocking chair. He’ll have to stop at a Cracker Barrel to get a replacement. I’m sure Dean will get him one, their love for each other is deep. They’re like finding that other kid at school who is obsessed with Lord of the Rings. Sure, you may get into arguments over whether Balrogs have wings and storm out of the basement on each other, but you would never want to be gone from each other for too long.

Thankful: Bray Wyatt still entertains me more doing nothing than most of the roster doing their damndest. Sure I’ve seen it before and it really never leads anywhere. But damn it I love the crazy bastard.

AJ Lee and Naomi def. The Bellas: Wow. Poor Nattie. She can’t even win a fan vote against Naomi and Alicia Fox. I’m surprised that so far AJ hasn’t been forced into every terrible situation imaginable. How is she not in a gravy bowl match or something? Is Vince getting soft in his old age? Or does he still have a little love for Punk just because no one else is willing to stand up for himself the way Punk did?

By the way, CM Punk is obviously right about everything. Also, I’m from Chicago. These two things might be related.

AJ showed some energy in that match. I’m going to stop predicting her exit. That should guarantee she’s gone by Christmas.

Thankful: Glad to see AJ is still being treated well. I worry for what might befall her at some point, but today at least she seems to be doing okay.

Speaking of Christmas here comes St. Mick! I love Mick so I’m glad to see him enjoying himself. Also Noelle Foley already has more charisma than most of the divas.

Paul Heyman is just better than everyone else. In the span of a couple minutes he situated Lesnar in his own special space, justified Lesnar’s absence, and established Lesnar as essentially being beyond heel and face roles. Lesnar hates Cena. Lesnar hates Rollins. Lesnar hates everyone except himself, Sable, Heyman, and possibly Brock Lesnar Guy. I’m thankful that Paul Heyman keeps getting dragged back into being on camera. He’s the only guy who makes a lick of sense on the show most of the time.

Cena/Ryback/Ziggler def. Rollins/Kane/Harper: I don’t like these matches, they’re the ultimate time filler. They’re like Nitro main events with the nWo running rampant. The only thing to pay attention to the next 20 minutes is how Harper fares. There’s really not much to say about this match. Things are happening and guys are tagging in and out. Wrestling happens.

Ziggler is playing face in peril. I know he’s good at it but this is not the way to build momentum for him after Survivor Series. This is an eight minute match stretched out over 25 minutes. This isn’t long to tell the story it needs to tell. It’s long because that’s the time it was assigned.

If it seems like I’m not saying much about this match, that’s only because there’s nothing much to say about this match. Even that post-match segment was slow. There was no energy in any of it.

The announcers are all-in on this “Big Red Rowan” thing. They are walking a very thin line here. If played perfectly Rowan becomes a relatable yet frightening monster full of eccentricity and carefully blended wines. If they’re not subtle and nuanced with this he becomes Festus. Harper has the easier job of the two former Wyatt Family members. He just has to keep acting crazy and scary and being the same dude he was only following a different leader now. Rowan has the challenge of a lifetime with this character.

I’m honestly not 100% sure it is even possible to make it work in the long run. How do you give someone humanity yet ask them to remain somehow different than human at the same time? If’ he’s just a pale tall guy with a beard you might as well team him with Sheamus as the Fighting Gingers. Bring back Christy Hemme to be their manager Miss Firecrotch. As examples go the closest one that comes to mind at the moment is Undertaker but he has the advantage of being supernaturally gifted with lightning and fire and the Deluminator he got from Ron Weasley. Rowan doesn’t have that. He has a giant beard and a bad fashion consultant. If you’re going to make him a genius and man of many talents let him take an online fashion course. I want him dressed like a Sonoma Valley winemaker during festival season. Linen shirts and a nice hat damn it!

Seriously though, this is officially the new object of my interest. How they continue to evolve the Erick Rowan character will either be groundbreaking or a disappointment of Gobbledygookerian proportions. I expect the latter, but I shall hope for the former.

This felt like watching an old school card on the Network. 1987 at Maple Leaf Gardens with Dino Bravo and Hercules Hernandez going 20 minutes for reasons that can only involve madness or sadism. This was a match in search of a time slot and by god it found it. At least Nitro had the decency to do their schmozz finish five minutes into the match. I’m not terribly upset that they ended on the predictable approach I just wish they had been more sprightly about it.

Thankful: The possibility of Erick Rowan branded wines, hopefully with moonshine mixed in. I would buy a case of Sheep Mask white whiskey wine.