For the first time since I was in high school, I was able to catch WWE RAW as it stopped in Dallas. Today, I had several different thoughts about the show and the WWE in general, leading me to dust this little personal corner of the internet off to put them down.
After all, I don’t think this would fit on Her Loyal Sons at all.
Now, this isn’t going to be a best/worst as Brandon Stroud does that already and does it far better than I could ever do. These are simply the major takeaways that I went home with last night.
So without further ado, here are the 12 things that I learned last night.
1. The PG Era Is Here to Stay
If you are one of those fans that yearn for the WWE to return to the edgier Attitude Era, I suggest you file that dream away indefinitely. While the WWE might sprinkle in a bit of the “good ‘ol days” here and there, the product has changed forever and the WWE would be stupid to kill the current path that it’s on.
The reason for this is simple: money. They are making a killing by being a more family-friendly product.
The last time I attended RAW, the crowd was mostly adults with teenagers sprinkled in. This time around, the kids were everywhere, decked head-to-toe in some cases with WWE merchandise.
As I was standing in line to purchase a single Daniel Bryan t-shirt, families were dropping hundreds of dollars at a time getting things for their kids. One family in front of me got each kid two different things and ran up a total of damn near $300. Another smaller family dropped over $100. Someone with only one kid had a similar $100 total as well.
Now, this may have been thrown off because it could have been Christmas come early for some kids, but I doubt it. Fans like me might grab just one piece, but kids want the fake belts, the fake Daniel Bryan beards, wristbands, replica Santino cobra (yes, that’s a thing), or a Cena foam hand along with the shirts.
It was incredible to watch. I always figured the WWE was making serious cash, but seeing the money fly like crazy last night was beyond what I thought.
As long as that gravy train continues, the PG era will remain.
2. Speaking of Shirts, Buy Them Online
I (wrongly) figured that the shirts would be $25 dollars at the show — basically, with the shipping cost removed. They were $30. I ended up saving only $1.98 by buying my shirt at the show instead of the WWE’s online shop.
The wait, and vastly limited selection, was not worth the meager savings at all. In fact, if I had bought multiple shirts, I would have likely saved money by ordering online.
So if you are going to a show, do yourself a favor and just order shirts well in advance and head straight to the beer line.
3. The Beer Vendor Was a Real Man of Genius
Not allowed to walk up and down the stands to hawk beer? No problem. Just plant yourself in front of the men’s room and watch the money roll in.
Timing bathroom breaks isn’t too hard during the show, especially if you are familiar with how an episode of RAW plays out, but you do pretty much have to go in and out to make it back in time and not miss anything. Having a beer vendor immediately outside to make my life even easier was just awesome.
I salute you, sir.
4. RAW Is Infinitely More Enjoyable Without These Idiots
Here’s the thing about a wrestling announce team: they have one job and that’s to help promote the talent in the ring and progress their stories. The team of Michael Cole, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and JBL haven’t done this in months.
Week to week they spend more time yukking it up or yelling at each other about things that have zero to do with what is going on in the ring or even the show as a whole. It completely takes away from the product at hand and can ruin otherwise incredible matches.
And that’s doubly so if the Divas are in the ring. They’ll make a series of stupid, sexist jokes or completely dismiss what’s going on in the ring altogether.
The end result is that you get three bumbling idiots that have the exact opposite effect on the product than what they are hired to do.
While I was watching the show live, I could actually focus on the story the talent was telling in the ring. I didn’t have some stupid joke distract me from what was going on in front of me.
It was great. It was fantastic. And if the WWE ever offers me a way to watch RAW without the announcers, I would do it in a heartbeat.
5. The Wrestlers Have More Fun When the Cameras Are Off
The best moment on RAW last night wasn’t televised.
During the Real Americans v Big E/Henry, the Texas crowd let Jack Swagger, OU alumnus, hear an awesome “OU SUCKS!” chant multiple times throughout the match. Henry responded with a “Hook ‘em” signal during the match, but Swagger didn’t react at all.
Finally, during the commercial break in the middle of the match. Swagger responded to the chant by signaling O-U with his arms and then throwing down a “saw ‘em off” sign.
It was quality heel work. The crowd got pissed and it was beautiful, but no one on TV saw it, sadly.
Likewise, during the Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton main event, Orton did some quality heel work as well. After Bryan took his header out of the ring triggering the commercial break, the referee called for medical attention to Orton who had a small cut over his eye — remember, PG era means limiting blood.
Chants of “Randy’s Fragile” started and then Orton requested water which got the crowd further on his case. As Bryan continued to sell being dead on the outside Randy rolled in the ring and started taking the cockiest water break of all time, posing and taunting the crowd. The crowd stopped the mocking and just booed the living hell out of him.
Again, glorious work, but I’m sad it wasn’t on TV. I know the WWE App now supposedly shows these things, but I can’t help but wonder if they have a bit more freedom to improv when the red light isn’t on.
6. Commercial Breaks in the Middle of Intros Are Super Awkward
C.M. Punk and HBK are having a war of words in the ring and the crowd is getting hot. HBK introduces Punk’s opponent and Sierra, Hotel, India, Echo, Lima, Delta and the crowd just loses their damn minds. The Shield makes their way through the crowd and the ref is having to restrain Punk because he is so pissed and TO HELL WITH IT I’M GOING TO FIGHT ALL THREE AGAIN BY MYSELF.
And then the lights are cut, the music stops, we are in commercial break and the crowd just dies.
If commercial breaks during matches brought me the greatest joy, the commercial breaks during intros were the the balancing act to suck the life out of me. I compare it to being at a ND game, ND getting a huge turnover and then OH HEY NBC TV TIMEOUT.
It sucks and those breaks felt like the longest ever.
However, there is supplemental hilarity of everyone picking right back up where they left off as soon as the lights come back up. It’s like someone flipped a switch in their brains that activates some kind of “activate kayfabe NOW” reaction.
Seeing that all live though is just incredibly awkward. The best wrestling matches in my opinion are accompanied by hot crowds just ready to burst. I’m not sure why the WWE thinks this makes for good TV and I would be happy to see this practice stop forever.
7. C.M. Punk Holds the Crowd in the Palm of His Hand
C.M. Punk may not be dropping the same pipebombs that he did during the Summer of Punk, but he can still definitely claim “Best in the World” especially when it comes to working a crowd. His best work last night was when he didn’t have a mic in his hand.
Punk spent very little time in the ring during his tag match, but while on the apron the guy was doing so many wonderful little things that just made the match awesome. Whether it was acknowledging chants, leading cheers/clapping, or taunting the Shield he was glorious.
Punk wouldn’t allow the crowd to stay completely silent in the match. If he felt the crowd was dead, he’d find a way to get people back into it. From a fan perspective, it made the match far more enjoyable to watch since we were heavily involved the whole time.
I’m sure the majority of this was completely off camera, which is a shame. Much like I would prefer to have a way to watch RAW without the trio of idiots, I want a full ring camera angle that I can watch full-time to enjoy the little things like this.
8. C.M. Punk’s Top Rope Elbow Is Hot Garbage
I’m not sure when this now signature move started sucking, but it looked simply awful live last night. It basically looked like Punk fell down elbow first instead of jumping and really killed some of the buzz I had during the match.
(Bitching about announce team aside: During the TLC PPV on Sunday, after a Punk elbow and two-count, Cole asked “HOW MANY PEOPLE HAS PUNK PUT AWAY WITH THAT ELBOW?” Answer: none. Stop sucking at your job, Cole.)
Perhaps after he botched the ‘Mania elbow he’s a little concerned with going all out with it. That’s fine, retire the move. He does too many other things well than to make a mess out of this over and over again.
9. Sometimes Wrestling Fans Are the Worst
Want to know what’s fun? Explaining to your wonderful non-wrestling fan fiancee what the “we want puppies” chant means during the Divas match. They do this because they never grew up from the Attitude Era that featured King screaming this euphemism for boobies every time a woman came on screen.
Thankfully, the “puppies” chant was isolated to two idiots; however, this kind of goes back to point #4. If the announcing team actually gives a rat’s ass about the Divas while they’re in the ring, perhaps fans get the message that the Divas aren’t there purely for fans to get a potential peep-show.
A fan will realistically get, at best, one shot a year to make their voices heard at an event. So of course, they will do what has been deemed funny/appropriate by not just the talent, but the announcers who are continuously giving feedback to what the wrestlers do and, in reality, are the fans’ best connection to what’s happening.
This isn’t to say a wrestling fan can’t find the Divas sexy (because they most definitely are), but they aren’t out there to strip, they are there to wrestle. If it isn’t your cup of tea, cool, go take a bathroom break. Don’t open your mouth like an idiot and give wrestling fandom a bad name.
10. Runner Up for Worst Fans: “Smarks”
I say “smarks” in quotations because these fans aren’t really a smart mark, but someone that thinks being an aping smartass makes them one. A group of these wannabe-smarks tried to start a “JBL” chant during the Punk/Usos v Shield match. They did this because they watched the post-Wrestlemania RAW crowd do this and it was absolutely hilarious so because LOGIC they did this last night.
The post-Mania crowd is full of legit smarks and what they did worked because they were witnessing a God-awful Orton/Shamus match. The match sucked, neither wrestler looked like they cared, and the crowd noticed they weren’t even paying attention to them so they shat all over the match in very appropriate fashion.
Hilariously enough, that same crowd tried to do something similar to John Cena, a favorite target of any smark (myself included), but Cena played to the chants and got them to laugh. For the rest of the match, they stayed engaged in what was going on in front of them.
Last night, the Punk/Usos v Shield match was quality. I can understand that it might have gone too long for some folks as the pace was a bit slower than other matches (my fiancee in particular got bored a bit), but all the wrestlers were actively playing to the crowd and putting on something that was solid.
Doing smartass chants during legitimately good matches just makes you look stupid. Stop. Save it for something that is truly awful and worthy of your disdain.
Dallas got treated to one of the best RAWs I’ve seen in a while. Outside of Tensai getting smashed in a minute and the Divas match being meh RAW-filler (save for Tamina re-arranging Nikki Bella’s face), we got some simply amazing matches. There was really no place for those stupid chants.
11. Best Wrestling Fans: Kids
Sitting directly behind me was a group of three kids and there were several more around my section. I was slightly worried that they would just be “OMG CENA” all night long, but no, these kids were there to watch the show and enjoy every moment of it.
One of the other highlights of my night was listening to these kids completely lose their minds during the Bryan/Orton main event. When Bryan made a charge back into the match and got a series of near falls, these kids just flipped out on every two count.
It was glorious and another reason why the PG era isn’t going anywhere. Fans like me that have grown up and seen nearly every possible swerve and far too many wrestling matches, knew that there was no way in hell Bryan was winning that match. Sure I got excited into hoping I was wrong, but the reality was always in the back of my mind. The kids though eat every moment up and anything is possible because they haven’t been poisoned by years of crappy story lines and Dusty finishes.
Added bonus, the kids got into arguments on who started “Daniel Bryan” and “YES!” chants first. Spoiler: none of them started any chant.
12. Daniel Bryan Is Stupidly Over Right Now
I WELCOME MY NEW BEARDED OVERLORD!
Here’s the thing, Bryan has always been held in high regard by the smark crowd. He has even turned the corner on winning crowds over regularly as of late. After going to this live show though, he has captured the final demographic that matters the most.
As I waited in line to get into the show, I saw a kid, head-to-toe in Cena gear. I’m talking hat, shirt, wristbands, and he wore cargo shorts because CENA. He had a sign: “YES! YES! YES! THE REAL FACE OF WWE DANIEL BRYAN!”
As much as I’ve hated the new WWE shirt designs for Bryan which proudly display a goat, originally used as a Bryan insult, I realized why the WWE did that as soon as I got to the merch booth. The sizes were Adult: Medium and Large and Kids: Medium, Large, and XL — the same sizes as all Cena shirts. The “Respect the Beard” shirt that I got had no kids sizes and also included XL & XXL. The goat bit allows Bryan to be marketed to kids and they are eating it up, along with the fake beards, YES! rally towels, and YES! wristbands.
They were all selling quite well while I was at the booth too. The kids aren’t just chanting “YES!” because it’s fun, but they are actively cheering him on and buying his merchandise.
In short: Bryan is reaching Cena levels, except he’s got the smark like me behind him too.
I am just hoping beyond all hope that this somehow ends in Bryan getting a title shot at Wrestlemania and winning. The guy deserves it and there is no better time than now to pull that trigger.