I promise I got all my ranting, or at least most of it, off my chest last week. This week will have a much shorter intro, some more fun inside the report, and won’t take nearly as long to read. You have my word.
The big news on the net today was Rikishi is the next inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame. This led to the usual wailing and rending of garments about how the WWE HOF is a sham. And it pretty much is if you’re looking to it be a true and unbiased guardian of all wrestling history. It is a concept in the service of many masters. And one of the most demanding of these is the nostalgia for the two biggest eras in wrestling history. This is why everyone who became famous in the 80’s is either in or eventually will be in unless they’re on horrible terms with WWE. And it’s why, as I said on Twitter (@spiffie6123), eventually everyone from the Attitude Era who was over will be in. Rikishi was a beloved figure in the upper mid-card in the most popular time in company history. Given what the WWE HOF is, his induction makes perfect sense. And it doesn’t give me the level of annoyance so many others seem to feel.
The WWE HOF is a creature of its time. Starting as just an internal way to toss a few accolades to good company men, everything shifted when WWE found itself as the unofficial custodians of wrestling history. Along with owning nearly all the footage, they became the last extant link to the past, and at that point the WWE HOF had to become a different thing. Still Vince’s playtoy, still a carny trick to get people to pay money to see old wrestlers cry, but something that had to at least nod towards the larger history of wrestling. WWWF/WWF/WWE would always be primary in this history, and the bar for someone to get in through their work with Vincent K. McMahon would always be much lower than for those who dared make their name elsewhere, but there would at least be some attention given to the greater story of the industry. So yeah, Koko B. Ware is in. Rikishi is going in. And no, these guys would never make the WON HOF. But these are apples being compared to footballs. This isn’t about trying to objectively measure the best. The WON is there to breakdown the exact house show attendance during Sting’s first NWA title reign and find him lacking of qualifications for entry. And I’m glad it’s there. The WWE HOF is not there for this sort of analysis. It’s a chance to bring out the people fans will be excited to see, a chance for Vince to celebrate his two greatest triumphs (The Hogan & Attitude era), a chance for a legend or two to get an ovation even if it is posthumous, and to celebrate people who had fame. Rikishi was a midcarder with a fat ass, two scrawny white guys as backup dancers, and a pair of sunglasses. And he was a constant presence fondly remembered by those who were part of the largest weekly audiences in American pro wrestling history. Enjoy your night Rikishi. Tell us how you’ll Make a Difference. And with that in mind, sprinkled throughout the Radical Raw Report (R-3!!!!) will be some people who ought to be inducted. Not obvious names like Undertaker or Sting. We know they’l get in. Time to find some people who might not jump to the front of your mind.
So with that delectable teaser ready to tickle your senses let’s GO!
Opening interview where everyone will eventually appear: Not the warmest of welcomes for Elmer J. Reigns. Dude looks like a prick when he’s not having tea time with his daughter. Might as well embrace that. Kind of sarcastic jerk Daniel Bryan is really not a good thing.
This angle seems to be making everyone less over. Reigns is a lukewarm heel, Bryan is less over than he was before the Rumble…sorry hold that thought. Need to pause for the really important people to enter the scene.
Wow. Sting is sure over. Not sure what surprises me more: the people who said no one would know who Sting was turned out wrong, or the fact that HHH latched on to him like the heat remora that he is.
If you ever wondered about realism in wrestling, just know that two guys each nearly seven feet tall and over 300 pounds are going to wrestle two guys who are smaller (and much smaller) and no one watching thinks the big guys have a chance in hell of winning.
Winner: HHH. He really always wins.
WWE HOF Suggestion: The Steiner Brothers – At some point this has to happen, right? One of the best American tag teams of the modern era, staples of NWA/WCW for over a decade, a shoo-in for induction. The one reason I can think why they might not get in is one of the reasons I am so hopeful they get the call. Someone will give Scott Steiner, in a room full of all the people he has had issues with over the year, a live microphone and an invitation to talk. This will either be a triumph in gibberish or the start of the first ever WWE Hall of Fame riot.
Roman Reigns/Daniel Bryan vs. Big Show/Kane: Booker T is beginning to show us Chekhov’s Spinaroonie. The line of thought that WWE is going to push going into Mania about how brave Reigns is for putting his spot on the line and being willing to fight to keep a spot he never had to give up. Of course JBL is undermining it by talking about how stupid Reigns is. How that works with the way JBL approves of everything the Authority does has yet to be explained.
It’s a shame that they can’t figure out how to make that part of the story work, because JBL and Booker showed glimpses of being able to talk about the Fast Lane match as though it was a real thing. Then JBL went back to goat jokes and we were all sad again.
The crowd is not terribly unhappy at Reigns getting kicked by Bryan
I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll probably say it until the sun becomes a burnt out husk. This sort of situation is where the fact that the matches mean nothing becomes problematic. The traditional wacky handicap match with all the evil henchmen against the mismatched face team is made, and everyone just goes along with it. Why? Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns are going out to be sneak attacked and beaten up for no reason. Even assuming that they have to show up to the ring because they were assigned a match, there is no reason for them to fight. Take a countout loss. Grab a chair and start swinging it. Submit to the ring ropes. Whatever works. There is no incentive for them to go out and fight in this match.
WWE HOF Suggestion: Sid – Another epic HOF speech just waiting to happen. Sid, for all of his faults and his love of softball and strange choices in melee weapons was a guy who could instantly jump into the main event in either promotion for over a decade. Also, he looked like a pro wrestler. If someone in Hollywood was going to cast a monster heel for a pro wrestling movie, they wouldn’t have gone wrong just cloning Sid. The clone would be expected to be more capable of line reading. When he recently appeared on Raw it seemed like a lot of folks remembered how fun (and funbad) Sid could be.
Seth Rollins vs. Ryback: JBL again having to carry the load in acting as though this company is up on current events.
This match was actually moving along at a decent clip. The key to Ryback matches is making him work at a brisk pace, even if that means the match doesn’t go too long. When he’s moving about the ring with some speed and moving from move to move with intensity his matches become very watchable. If it slows down into a hoss fight with someone like Kane or Show the match becomes brutally slow.
The DQ finish was of course obvious. WWE is like some sort of weird Absurdist nightmare. After each match the announcers should be seen wearing berets, smoking cigarettes and saying “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” Then once back from commercial everything is just as it always was and is and will be and was and is and will be and will be and will and will and will. Winner: Ryback
Those Flintstones don’t sound a damn thing like the Flintstones. And yes, that IS my biggest complaint about that movie.
The Sheamus promo video is a hopeful sign for his return. Bring him back as the guy who just wants to fight people and get punchy and Irish and not the snarky dude who steals cars.
Paige vs. Brie Bella: Props for both the RIP Drew McDonald on Paige’s arms and the notice by JBL.
Brie was looking like a bitchy version of Bayley at points.
I would love to see Nikki and Paige go for it at Fast Lane and try to prove they can put on a match as good as I expect the four way at NXT: Rival will be. Instead 6 minutes and Brienterference will be our lot. Winner: Paige
WWE HOF Suggestion: Hugh Jackman – Possibly the most enthused guest host in Raw history. Throws a solid punch too. It was kind of amazing to see an honest-to-God A-list celebrity not just on the show, but throwing himself into it with gusto. If the acting/dancing/singing/Wolverining thing doesn’t work out for Hugh, he could have himself a little bit of a future in this business.
Rusev Tribute to Cena: Oh well this is not going to end well at all.
The look of self-satisfied joy Lana gets every time she mocks America is hilarious.
You know, there would be worse ways to fill 5 minutes of Raw every week than with a video of John Cena getting beaten up.
Rusev is wonderful. “You don’t what me! I’m a hero!”
Not sure the crowd likes anyone in this segment except for Lana. And I’m not sure they’re loving her for her mind.
Does John Cena refer to “all of these people” when he’s not in an arena? At the DMV he asks why he has to wait in line behind “all of these people”?
Grumpy old man Cena, kept out of the main event scene and not tearing his opponents down in every promo, could actually be a decent character.
Whew, I thought we might get through a Cena segment without him saying something sexist. Not sure I could have handled that kind of shock this late in the evening. Must suck to be beaten up by a guy with no balls, huh John? Winner: Rusev just for being Rusev
WWE HOF Suggestion: Val Venis – The living, breathing, humping, thrusting embodiment of all of the best and worst parts of the Attitude Era. I still remember hearing talk about Sean Morley and his work in Mexico and how he could be a real prospect. Then he became a wrestling porn star. Sure it makes no damn sense why he would choose to spend time not getting it on with other porn stars and instead get his ass kicked by big sweaty dudes, but the 90’s were a different time. Also partially responsible for the single best line of the era, “I choppy your pee pee!” And John Wayne Bobbitt appeared and everyone had a good time laughing about penis removal. Truly heady days in the 90’s The wrestling porn star, a decent wrestler in a gimmick so over the top it is undefeated against Sylvester Stallone at armwrestling, the post-coital glow of the Attitude Era and its love of utterly bonkers gimmicks.
Bray Wyatt vs. Dolph Ziggler: Pretty damn big dueling chant here at the beginning. Always odd to me how they’re willing to acknowledge Wyatt being cheered for by the fans when they don’t often do that for any other heel.
WWE has a very large roster. WWE has a heel that they would like to make strong as possible leading into Mania. WWE has a face who really shouldn’t be getting beaten week after week right now. If you’re WWE what is your plan for this week? Having that face losing to that heel? If that’s your answer well then let me just say welcome to the report Mr. McMahon. Quite an honor to have you onboard.
Another problem with this match happening is that when guys get into the WWE Groundhog Day loop where they fight each other week after week it they get less motivated by the week. Last week’s match was quite good. This week’s match is good. Next week (and I’m sure they’ll go again next week. That will probably lead to them having a match at Fast Lane.) will be okay.
On the other hand, Ziggler taking death bumps from Wyatt clotheslines is hard to get too tired of.
The story keeps being that Ziggler keeps it close but then gets hit with that one big move. I don’t know if that’s good storytelling or an inability to do something different.
At least for once I can’t complain about Cena not coming out to help his friend since he’s still dealing with the beating he took from the guy with no balls. Winner: Bray Wyatt
RIP Junkyard Dog. http://www.antigravitymagazine.com/2012/07/junkyard-dog/
Brock Lesnar Is Here: I think this crowd is afraid to cheer too loudly for Daniel Bryan for fear Brock will murder every single person in the arena. I don’t blame them for a second.
A month of promos with Paul Heyman tearing down Daniel Bryan would have people so rabid for him to beat Lesnar at Mania you would see people ready to rush the ring if he loses. They would be that pumped up, people would seriously get in Lesnar’s face. I want this. I need this.
Winner: Brock Lesnar. He’s Brock Lesnar. I’m not saying he loses.
WWE HOF Suggestion: Eric Bischoff – If you’re going to spend eternity rehashing the Monday Night Wars, you really should give honors to the guy who made them happen. Without Bischoff there is no wrestling boom, no Stone Cold, no Rock, no nWo. Creating Nitro, taking the fight to McMahon, and pulling the trigger on the Hogan heel turn. You could easily make a case that Bischoff is one of the 5 most important people of the modern era of wrestling. If you really want to make things fun let Paul Heyman induct him.
Dust Bros. vs. New Day: Cody Rhodes is the smartest man in the world. He saw the match that was about to happen and just walked away.
Every time the New Day appears during Black History month it’s as if a day get taken from the month. And its already the shortest month of the year.
Dusty Rhodes gets mentioned! We’re one step closer to Big Dust making an appearance to help settle this family strife. Winners: No one. No one wins with this match. New Day pins Goldust. They do not win.
HHH Talks. Yay: What’s with the joined in progress stuff tonight? Even HHH gets no entrance. That has to mean something. Timing of the show weird or what?
He says he never left as though anyone wanted him. There’s a reason that back in the Monday Night Wars you never heard anything about HHH jumping to WCW, and it isn’t because he was just that much of a company man. Rather a group that gave Master P’s bodyguard a quarter million a year never really tried hard to sign him.
Oh god please let him have the vulture again!
Damn. No vulture. Just some quality video editors. Between this and the tribute to Cena there has been some excellent packages created by these wrestlers. I assume they create all these in their rooms instead of going out partying.
(Editor’s Note: All this talk about Bischoff, Sting and birds requires this video to be posted)
Seriously though, Sting’s music at that time was awesome. Winner: Clash of Champions 35
WWE HOF Suggestion: Fabulous Freebirds – I’m not any more excited about pumping up Dok Hendrix’s ego any more than you are. But this is like Black Sabbath not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of the last heels who could actually get crowds violent enough to try to kill them for what they did to JYD or Kerry Von Erich. Add in the solo careers of Roberts and especially Gordy, the role in helping modernize the presentation of wrestlers, and this has to happen at some point. Yes, being able to rib Hayes about not being in the Hall makes for a good running joke on WWE Roundtable, but even that is not quite worth not recognizing the greatness of the Birds.
Usos vs. Swing Cats: Cesaro is a very classy gentleman. I bet he totally knows only to use a mother of pearl spoon when eating caviar.
Booker and JBL are making some sense here. The ladies really don’t seem to help much for either of their teams.
Holy crap that was a beautiful move by Kidd. Turning the Uso Crazy into a bodyscissor throw over the top rope all in one motion.
Tyson, you have to be more creative with the heat getting bit than just hitting the side headlock. There is potential for this feud to get some heat, but the matches have to keep the crowd’s attention constantly because they are inclined to drift away during tag matches like this.
Kidd and Cesaro are a really fun tag team to watch. They use tag team tactics. And they work their asses off. Why not let the tag division be the workhorse division? Let the matches be 10-15 minute sprints every week that can get the crowd worked up and give the show a jolt here in the third hour when everyone, including your intrepid reviewer, is starting to drag? Guess that runs the risk of getting people over. Can’t have that.
Hey, Rikishi is getting into the WWE Hall of Fame! I wish I had something to say about that.
Winners: Swing Cats
Mizdow vs. Sin Cara: If a guy is mimicking the guy who Sin Cara fought last week can I just consider WWE as redoing the match from last week?
Sorry, got distracted with the Seth Rollins hack story.
Miz is just doing work as a heel. Saying the Figure Four is the move he made famous is the kind of delusional heel thinking that I can’t get enough of. Mocking Columbus, OH is the kind of rational thinking that I can’t get enough of.
This new phase of the Mizdow saga is a welcome change. I can’t wait for Mizdow to finally fight back and I will mark out like a 7 year old Cena fan. Winner: Sin Cara
I know the match will be terrible. I know it will be a giant muck. But I’m hoping to at least get a good month of crazy supernatural promos that involve lots of people disappearing and cryptic verbiage and possibly lightning bolts. Give me Wyatt vs. Undertaker and just get as crazy as shit.
WWE HOF Suggestion: Mike Rotunda – It is easy to forget just how damn long Captain Mike was an upper card player in the industry. Never the kind of guy that would have the NWA or WWF world title put on him. But a guy who could be a good whitemeat babyface in his younger days until turning into a super dick antagonist. Made a terrible career choice by leaving WWF just after Wrestlemania, missing the boat on the huge boom. Had he and Windham stayed in the company during the mid-80’s he likely would already be in the Hall. But he left, gave us the amazing angle with Rick Steiner over the TV Title, came back and turned Vince’s petty joke against the government into an indelible heel character. Especially good as years went on at being the thorn in the side of larger faces while not losing all credibility. This is not an easy balance to strike. But he pulled it off for a long time.
Curtis Axel vs. Dean Ambrose: #AxelMania Tweet it proud. I know they’re just killing time for Dean but it is sort of depressing seeing him working with a guy ½ step away from TNA.
There was a grain of an interesting idea in the commentary. Curtis Axel has not lived up to his proud lineage. Why not explore that? Why not let us get to know Axel? Give us something to care about with him? Maybe they might accidentally get someone over? Maybe they would give us a reason to cheer or boo someone beyond just telling us to do so.
I guess the US title doesn’t get a spot on the wall in Stamford. Winner: Dean Ambrose
WWE HOF Suggestion: Bob Barker – The best guest host ever. Possibly the best person ever to appear on Raw. Contender for best person to ever walk this planet. I had forgotten how perfect his appearance was until I read Chris Jericho’s most recent book and he talked about the night he was part of the Price is Raw. That made me go rewatch everything Barker did that night. I just stopped laughing a few minutes ago. I looked it up back in November. Having Bob Barker appear has never once failed to make a situation better. Induct this man while there’s still time!
Roman Reigns/Daniel Bryan vs. Everyone in the World: I love how every episode of Nitro ended in an nWo beatdown and WWE mocking that in every look back. And then every show’s final segment is an authority beatdown of some sort. Maybe if it Tito Santana instead of George Santayana someone there would heed that stuff about remembering the past.
Jamie Noble is still the second best worker in this match. Can they just give him and Bryan 25 minutes on Main Event as a way of saying “sorry there’s so much Kane in our main event right now”?
At least they’re not even trying to make the crowd cheer for Reigns going into Fast Lane. Even though I can’t really blame him for spearing Bryan, the crowd was never going to see it his way. Best to just run with it and hope somehow you can get it out of everyone’s system going into Mania. Winner: Jamie Noble. Jung Dragons Forever!
It isn’t that the story of Reigns and Bryan isn’t compelling in and of itself. But the way the calendar works between Rumble and Mania leaves a lot of time to just keep hoping to get to the fireworks factory. I am less believing than some about the idea that WWE is unsure about where they’re going. They may have changed some of the details due to Bryan still being so over, but the end result still seems certain to be Reigns pinning Lesnar at Mania. So it is hard for me to get too caught up in the journey they’re trying to take me on. If I truly thought any of the three guys involved right now could win at Mania this would have me waiting for next week with something close to anticipation. But a coronation that takes a step out of line to pat a small bearded child on the head is still a coronation.
And that does it for this week. Please follow me on Twitter @spiffie6123, comment on this post or on the VOW Forums, and Share The Link! Make everyone you know read it. Post it in comments of stories about Kanye West and Beck. Eyeballs eyeballs eyeballs people! And for those who are reading this far, Happy Valentine’s Day on Saturday, because I <3 you for reading.