WWE Monday Night Raw
USA Network
April 13, 2015
Somewhere Over The Rainbow

After spending 16 hours having my mind blown to smithereens by SHIMMER Volumes 72-75, this is going to be a comedown of epic proportions. If I quit midway through remember our good times together.

My thoughts on what I saw over the weekend don’t quite merit their own column, but since I have this column I can drop whatever the hell I want to in it. As always when I go off on a long tangent, I’ll give you an out if you don’t want to read about the best promotion in America. The SHIMMER thoughts are at the end of the article, after the Raw Review. You’d be a fool not to read it, but I can’t make you do good things for yourself.

Before that, like Bob Seger told us, we’ve got tonight. And, as always, there are questions. Questions that need answering. (author’s note: I swear I write this part before ever seeing a second of the show.)

  1. Will England be Bizarro World? We know how the announcers get a laugh out of acting like fans are mentally deficient when they refuse to go along with the script. I assume this will be the case tonight.
  2. Will there be a traditional British telephone box on the stage? There has to be. I swear I will just spend three hours live recapping Newhart episodes if there’s no telephone box on stage.
  3. Who will John Cena beat this week? Being in Britain I can only assume that he will have to beat Bad News Barrett in order to remind everyone that John Cena and John Cena’s America are the best and no one can beat them.

Monday Night Raw 4-13-15

You all are lucky. I had the entire second half of season six all ready to go. You were about to go to Newhart 201 – Advanced Newhart Studies if that telephone box wasn’t there.

My joy at the proper set dressing is quickly dashed upon the rocks of John Cena appearing.

There is something admirable about the way that Cena is able to just keep patronizing hostile crowds and making them cheer for things even though they boo him.

Wow, all three questions were answered in the opening 5 minutes of the show. Also the one guy yelling for Cena is a trooper. You have to admire his endurance.

Nice to see Barrett getting to revel in the hometown pop without having to crap all over England just to try and get some boos.

Wade Barrett vs. John Cena

How funny would it be if they had Barrett unify the IC and US belts and proceed to just lose a million non-title matches in a row? I would laugh my ass off.

Barrett with the Mick Foley homage. Dude has tons of charisma and has been pretty much misused since the moment he lost at Summerslam 2010.

While JBL’s barrage of British references is mildly entertaining, it didn’t take me long to remember how much I utterly loathe this announce team. How much would they have to raise the price of the Network to have Brock Lesnar come out and dump the announce table on thee three idiots every single week? Pretty sure I’d pay for it.

That combo of the kick to the face into the Wasteland by Barrett was absolutely beautiful.

The last few minutes of that match felt very much like something out of an indies match. The pacing and the sort of strikes would not have been out of place in a fieldhouse or VFW. And I mean that as a good thing.

Please know this isn’t a comparison of quality, for even though I watch Raw every week I am not completely insane. But I am enjoying Cena doing the early 80’s Ric Flair thing. Every week he faces a big name, gets them to the point where the crowd thinks this is the night for the change, and then escapes by the skin of his teeth.

You’ll never hear me complain about Rusev hitting people with chains and then screaming in Rusgarian.

Winner: John Cena

Divas Battle Royal

That match was a fucking shitshow.

The hometown crowd reaction to Paige winning was awesome, but has the effect of momentarily making this match not seem like a rank steaming shitshow.

And then somehow they had a post-match segment as good as that match was terrible. Sadly her mom is still in the states from working SHIMMER this weekend. I have no doubt she was watching. Paige got to show some character and emotion for the first time in forever, and Naomi’s attack made sense. She believed she had a title match already waiting, it was stolen from her, and then when she lost the battle royal she snapped. I do love when things make sense. Also I do love that Naomi’s attack had some fire to it.

Winner: Paige

Lucha Dragons vs. Ascension

This show is moving at a quick pace. This match was a 2 minute special, just to let the Lucha Dragons show off their skills. It worked. Kalisto is, as the kids might say, smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy.

Also, the announcers are back to laughing at the Ascension. I seriously have no idea if anyone knows what happens from week to week.

Winners: Lucha Dragons

Don’t Let Roman Talk!

Booker T (and his Nurse approved hair bun) are in the ring to interview Roman Reigns. I’m not sure what sort of evil genius decided to let Booker interview Reigns live in the ring in London, but this ought to be hilarious.

That wasn’t a bad promo on Roman’s part, but it just wasn’t going to get over here. Big Show on the other hand might as well have come out and shit in the Queen’s crown.

The crowd is now fully schizoid. In the span of 90 seconds they went from chanting at Paul Wight to retire, to doing chants that fit right into the storyline, to cheering him chokeslamming Reigns on top of a car, to giving him the you sold chant again. Bloody English.

Winner: The British Psychiatric Association

Randy Orton vs. Cesaro

The authority is absolutely terrible at rigging situations for their chosen champion. If somehow it ends up that Kane is actually sabotaging Rollins because Seth was a meanie to him then I’ll paint myself blue and call myself smurfy while apologizing. Otherwise why the hell isn’t Orton facing 12 guys and Rollins facing Hornswoggle?

Oh goody, combining all the worst tropes at once! On the fly evil stipulations that make more sense done from the start? Check. Evil authority figure putting hero in handicap match that heroes never lose? Check. Killing the tag champs for no damn good reason? CHECK BY GOD CHECK! If something was on a pole in this match I could just give up everything and live on the beach in Belize charging people $1 for me to quit sitting near them.

All night the crowd has been contrarian. But Randy Orton…that’s the face the crowd gets behind. I don’t know anything.

Orton always has impeccable timing with his wacky RKOs Outta Nowhere. The question now is why didn’t Kane make this a 2 out of three falls match? Is there some hidden bylaw that evil Directors of Operations can only do one evil thing per hour?

Winner: Randy Orton

Seth Rollins is truly an epic scuzball. That said, if there’s any thought of another Kane turn someone needs to be punched in the eye until that idea leaks out their nose never to return.

Let’s remember the Warrior for the things he gave the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGeIWEBDeuE

Dean Ambrose vs. Adam Rose

Adam Rose is still a thing? The only positive is I’m pretty sure we got another Nikki Storm appearance on Raw as a Rosebud.

Other than for the three count the crowd was not at all interested in this. Congrats WWE! You’ve cooled Ambrose off enough that he can’t get heat in front of one of the hottest Raw crowds they’ll have all year.

Winner: Dean Ambrose

Big Show is, as usual, the voice of reason. He should become the anti Sean O’Haire. Show can walk around the locker room and backstage, doling out good advice to people and helping them become better people. That would be a gimmick I would love.

Fandango vs. Stardust

Do you remember when Fandango beat Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania? I do. Bet Jericho wishes he didn’t.

And as soon as I say this the match ends. This show has somehow mixed being busy with insta-matches.

And that my friends was the last fandango. Let it rest in peace.

Winner: Stardust

The ghost of Kane’s past has arrived! Through all these years, there’s still a spark there. Deep inside their hearts Team Hell No knows that they were meant for each other. It won’t be tonight. It won’t be tomorrow. But one day, when they’re both alone in the world and need someone to turn to, someone to save them from the world’s rage and disdain, they will look to each other and they will hug it out once more. DB&K forever.

Seth Rollins vs. Kane

Kane, being a man who understands the value of being well dressed, takes the time to fully untie his tie before removing it. Keeps it from getting wrinkled and dimpled. People could learn something from his sense of style.

People need to have more understanding for Kane’s situation. Jobs are hard to come by, and being a staunch Libertarian Kane certainly can’t find himself on government assistance. Plus as a staunch laissez faire capitalist he loves when workers are humiliated by management as it proves the system is working properly. Of course he was going to lay down in the end. It would have been hypocrisy of the worst kind had he not.

Winner: Seth Rollins

Miz vs. Mizdow

Everything about this feud has failed to make sense since the feud ended up being shunted to a spot in the dark match battle royal. I can only imagine how terrible WWE Choose Your Own Adventure books would be. Eventually you’d get to choose whether to go into the cave or not, and the first choice would lead to you eating a ham sandwich and the second choice would just be a blank page with a chocolate smudge on it.

For a guy who wanted his freedom Mizdow sure seems desperate to retain every vestige of his time with Miz. The Stockholm Syndrome is strong in this one.

Well Mizdow won. He got his revenge on Miz. Is this feud over now? If not, why not? And do they turn Summer Rae next week or wait until Extreme Rules?

Winner: Mizdow

Luke Harper vs. Ryback

Confession: I was still finishing complaining about the Mizdow feud when this match started. And when this match finished.  But it was a total disappointment.

The wrestling tonight, outside of the Cena/Barrett match, has been almost uniformly awful. The show is busy enough that it’s not quite as noticeable, but really I would have loved one more really fun match. Why not just let Cesaro and Orton go 15, let Orton win, and you have the exact same endpoint as you did with the overbooked mess. Only you would also have given the fans a really good match to enjoy in between moving the story along.

Winner: Ryback

“Do wins and losses mean anything around here?” No they don’t Naomi. You should know this by now. By the by there’s not a damn thing wrong with what Naomi said in that interview. It was actually shockingly logical.

Oh. Good. God. That Prime Time Players promo. Darren Young dropping a reference to rainbow being his favorite color. Los Matadores called out for being Puerto Rican. A GIANT RAINBOW TEDDY BEAR! This is completely unsustainable, but I’m hoping for a few more weeks of PTP deconstructionist promos.

Neville vs. Dolph Ziggler

Still really wish they would have let him have a full name. But I guess if the decision is between an extra name and a legit push, he can stay mononymous.

One of the things that is giving me some real hope for Neville is how positive the announcers are, especially Cole and JBL. Someone must be really laying into them hard to keep them on task and promoting Neville.

450 on the floor. That’s one way to get yourself over with the crowds.

I don’t understand this company. They normally can’t figure out how to tell the most basic of stories, yet with Neville they have been showing weekly development of his character in the ring. The guy with all the talent in the world but still learning how to adjust his skillset to working in WWE. If they can somehow make this thread stay intact for a couple of months Neville will be ready for a big push in the upper card, one where the fans will have reason to care about him for more than just being flippy. He is going to need promo time though in order to get this across.

Ziggler looks really unnaturally orange when next to Sheamus.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler

Extremely Intense Negotiations

The main event is not even a contract signing, its a negotiation regarding subsections of a contract.

Does anyone actually but a Randy Orton shirt? Who are these people? I want to know yet I never want to meet them.

This is definitely in the top five promos delivered from a recliner.

Randy Orton, overexplainer is really making himself known in this segment.

Has a cage ever kept anyone out? Ever? Orton may as well have made his stipulation “Asking nicely for everyone to stay out of his match.” And Rollins is just banning the RKO. Why not the punt kick, or the draping DDT too? Hell, make the stip if Orton touches you he’s DQ’d. You could have a committee of Pinky (sans Brain), Baldrick, the Kimber Bombs, and Jen Barber work together on a great idea and it would still be ten times better than what these drooling idiots are doing with absolute power.

So that’s our show. I don’t know if it was good, but at least it galloped along for the most part. I take what I can get from this show, so we’ll be happy with that.

Rather than recapping the main questions of the night, let’s just say that WWE is not exactly unpredictable.

Awards time!

Ugh: Miz and Mizdow. Not really because of them, but because of what the story became. Unless this is all their idea. Then boo them, boo those men. Someone is responsible for making a colossal mess of this whole angle, and that person should be sent to live with Robert Durst. Supplemental Ugh to the prospect of not only another Kane turn, but a Kane/Rollins program as a Thing That Could Happen.

Honorable Mentions: Paige for being so heartfelt in her chance to talk to the crowd. And for selling a quality beating from Naomi. Speaking of Naomi, one for her for having a perfectly logical explanation for her actions that she was able to articulate clearly. Neville and whomever is handling his week to week match layout and feeding the three idiots what to say about him. Seth Rollins for having a damn recliner. Wade Barrett and John Cena for the match of the night.

MVP: William Hurt was nominated for an Oscar despite being on screen for only eight minutes in “A History of Violence” a few years back. Much like Mr. Hurt, though they appeared only briefly, I have to give it to the Prime Time Players for just going bonkers in their promo. That was the sort postmodern artistry that MFA theses will be written about many years from now.

If you want the journey to end here, click Back on your browser now. If you want to join me in Berwyn, and hear tales of a beautiful weekend of SHIMMER, please come along with me and read on…

 

’So I’m sitting in the Eagles Club in Berwyn, just minding my own, and suddenly, “Hey it’s Aja F’n Kong strolling in like the bossest of bosses that ever bossed.” And she brought Dynamite Kansai with her for kicks too.”

SHIMMER tapings follow a very similar schedule to baseball season, and it makes sense. As Bart Giamatti said, “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again…and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.” Here in Chicago, where April means we might finally be done with winter after 5 horrid months and now we can begin to lament our terrible baseball teams, spring is a life raft for a man adrift, a spring in the desert for the weary. And as if by magic, as the earth appears again from under the snow drifts, the doors to the Eagles Club are pulled open (usually no more than 45 minutes after the time listed on the ticket).

And suddenly you’ve entered wrestling heaven. The length of the tapings goes a long way towards that feeling, because with 16 hours over two days your sense of place becomes adjusted. This is where you are, this is where you belong. It’s not perfect. There are drunken louts and more people who have “Creepy” in their nickname than can possibly be healthy. But for 2 days your mind can stay immersed in wrestling if you so choose. Not just wrestling, but these specific people, this specific promotion, these stories being told. From the time I wake up on Saturday morning until I go to sleep on Sunday night, my world is shrunken and manageable. All that matters is who won, who lost, and who made us love them.

The backbone of the weekend was the story of Tomoka Nakagawa. She had previously announced her impending retirement before last October’s tapings, with a retirement show in Japan set for November. So everyone at the tapings was shocked when Nakagawa and partner Kellie Skater (Team 3G) retained their tag titles at the end of the weekend. The matter was cleared up when it was announced that despite having already retired, Nakagawa was going to return for one final set of tapings, so she could say her last farewell in SHIMMER. This led to the roster being very Joshi-centric, with seven announced for the tapings. Along with Nakagawa there would be AKINO, Yumi Ohka, Mayumi Ozaki, Misaki Ohata, Hiroyo Matsumato, and a debuting Kyoko Kimura. There are worse things that can happen as a fan than having a roster this loaded with talent.

It seemed shocking yet not surprising when 3G lost their titles to the Kimber Bombs on the Volume 72. As much as I love a tournament it was the right choice. A deserving team picked up the belts, and 3G were free to go on to some pressing business in their final matches. 3G went off into singles matches on Volume 73, with Nakagawa defeating AKINO.

At the end of Volume 73 what you saw above happened, and set up the sort of event you dream of happening when you go to a performance. It’s like going to see some movie at 1PM on a Saturday, and when you get there they announce that they’re going to have a sneak peek screening of the most awaited film of the year three months before it comes out. Or going to the YMCA for your weekly pickup basketball game and suddenly Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen walk in and start picking teams. This was a honest to goodness legend showing up unannounced and saying she’s ready to throw down. The guy in front of me went full bro-hug with me he was so excited. I was not unlike that man.

Volume 74’s main event was set. Aja Kong, Dynamite Kansai, Mayumi Ozaki and Kyoko Kimura vs. Misata Ohaki, Hiroyo Matusmoto, gaijin wunderkind Kellie Skater, and Tomoka Nakagawa. It was beautiful. Every kickout was cheered, no matter who had just escaped being pinned, because it meant this once-in-a-lifetime moment would exist a little longer. Aja scored the pin with the most hellacious backfist in the world. I’ll point out that Godzilla hasn’t menaced Japan that much since Aja Kong came to prominence. This is not a coincidence.

Before getting to the end of the story, which is best held off until the end, I should mention there were 40 or so matches not involving Tomoka Nakagawa that took place during Volumes 72-75. Some thoughts on who and what was worth remembering:

Best matches of the weekend:

  • Athena vs. Mia Yim (⅔ falls) – A very well-paced match for being a three fall affair. There have been a few rivalries in SHIMMER that have been classics. Cheerleader Melissa vs. Mercedes Martinez. Sara del Rey vs. Serena Deeb. Portia Perez vs. Allison Danger. Nicole Matthews vs. Madison Eagles. This is the next great one. I would not be opposed to seeing a 30-45 minute ironman match between these two.
  • Madison Eagles vs. Yumi Ohka – All the head kicks! Bombs were thrown without remorse or fear of the future.
  • Evie vs. Kellie Skater vs. Allysin Kay vs. Nicole Savoy – On a weekend that spent a great deal of time looking back and giving praise to legends, this was a chance to see the future. The future looks bright for the company. There are at least two people here who could be the next SHIMMER champ without batting an eye.
  • Kong/Kanzai/Ozaki/Kimura vs Skater/Matsumoto/Ohata/Nakagawa – I think I’ve made my opinion clear on this match.
  • Kimber Lee/Cherry Bomb vs. Evie/Heidi Lovelace – The first really engaging defense for the new tag champs. The fact that Evie is involved in two of the best matches of the weekend should not be surprising in the least.

Who Had Big Weekends:
Kimber Bombs – Becoming tag champs on Volume 72 and retaining through the weekend is a good sign for their longevity. They weren’t there just to be the team that took the belts off 3G. The only problem they’re going to face going forward is that their combination of humor and talent is beginning to get them a decent sized group of fans who support them in their matches. I understand the desire to do so, but right now SHIMMER needs some rock-solid heels. The Bombs have potential to be that. They may need to tone down some of the comedy for a while, sad as that would make me.
Nicole Savoy – This weekend was truly her coming out party. She had shown flashes in October, and her match against Evie at Volume 71 was the 2nd best of the night. But this weekend she was rock solid. Capping the weekend off with a huge upset over Mia Yim, she seems primed to get the rocket strapped to her back in October. Her heel instincts are sharp in a way that usually takes years to hone, yet in her 4-way match with Kay, Skater, and Evie she was able to slip neatly into the face role when taking on Kay. Given her look, her age, and her skills, I wonder how long it will be before she gets some phone calls with Tampa or Stamford area codes on the caller ID.
Kellie Skater – Sure she was already one of the main stars of the company, with 3G main eventing nearly every other volume during their reign. But to be put into the main event of Volume 75, a young pale Aussie who was barely able to walk when Aja Kong first killed a shark with a spinning backfist, and hold her own among the legends was a huge badge of honor for her. Now that her beloved partner has returned home to Asahikawa to enjoy retirement, Skater finds herself on her own for the first time in a couple of years. She came close once to winning the SHIMMER title against Saraya Knight. Her time could very well be upon her for claiming that belt.
Random Thoughts:
– There are some real tough guys on Twitter. Some of them should probably try picking on men their own size.
– Madison Eagles is truly off the charts good. Recently the VoW Twitter account asked people who their five best wrestlers right now are. I put Eagles at #4. After watching her this weekend I’m thinking that number may be too low.
– Nicole Savoy’s ridiculously high arc german suplex throw might be my favorite move in wrestling at the moment.
– I’m on board with Courtney Rush turning heel. As a face she had been kind stalled out in terms of momentum, and this gives her more to play off of than smiling happy Courtney.
– I know that for obvious reasons she’ll be there for the 10th Anniversary tapings in October, but I’m not sure what’s left for Cheerleader Melissa after that. The Havok series of matches was underwhelming, the most heat she drew was against freaking Thunderkitty, and it really doesn’t appear that there’s a goal for her. I think it might be time for her to take a taping or two off, and let absence work on our hearts.
– Every time LuFisto gets in the ring it is something to be savored. With the health troubles and career stops and starts she’s had no one would think less of her if she called it a day. But she’s still in there going 100MPH every single match. She’s a damn hero, and I’m always thankful to see her work.
– Tessa Blanchard is still very much a work in progress in the ring. But as a heel mouthpiece she’s pretty damn good. Putting her in the spot of small annoying nuisance who hides behind giant Vanessa Kraven is Wrestling 101, but it still works like a charm.
– No one puts more energy into their character than Athena. Not just in terms of costume design and props, but in every movement. Also she has some of the best facial expressions and body language in the promotion. She is definitely someone who I could see on WWE’s radar.
– I still love Evie. She’s awesome and should be on all wrestling shows. That’s all. Okay, I’ll also add that her tag team with Heidi Lovelace makes a ton of sense, and if they stay together they will definitely be players in the tag division.

The most poignant moment in SHIMMER history, and I doubt many who were there would disagree, was Allison Danger announcing her health problems that were causing her to retire from in-ring competition (fun fact: in the video you can see my head drop with disappointment when Cheerleader Melissa is announced as part of her retirement match). I cried that day. But the end of Volume 75 was the most celebratory and the happiest moment I’ve seen. All the poetic justice was served as 3G beat their long-time rivals the Canadian Ninjas, with Nakagawa turning their cheating back on themselves for the win. And then Aja Kong appeared with champagne. More champagne appeared and trays of glasses materialized seemingly out of thin air. The ring filled with streamers as the locker room emptied. Toasts were made, people cheered, and there was a sense of true respect and affection in the room. Whether they had already left or were swept up in the moment no one yelled anything stupid from the time that Nakagawa’s farewell match began. One last thank you from Nakagawa to the crowd, a final victory lap on the shoulders of her fellow Joshi, a bow, and then she was gone.

Jack McCallum in his book “Dream Team” about the 1992 US Men’s Olympic Basketball team, remarked on what it was like after the US had won the gold and received their medals. “The lights dimmed, workers picked up trash, and it was like the day after your birthday, when the world seemed a little less bright, the fine edges of joy scrubbed flat. No more Never Never Land.” After Nakagawa went through the curtain the house lights came on, the pile of streamers were now just trash to be gathered up and thrown away. The door to this magic place closed behind us, not to open again until the chill winds returned. And there was sadness, but there was always hope. For wrestling fans know very well the story never ends. Nothing ever stops. Someone is always ready to tell the next part of the tale. Here in Chicago we will enjoy our summer with the desperation borne of the long winter before it. I will revel in the warm breezes and clear blue skies. But I will be waiting, a small piece of my heart waiting like a traitor for the days to grow shorter and the nights to grow cold. That is when the door will open again. I’ll be there waiting.