Friday, June 18, 2021

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Raw Redux (December 30th, 2013): Ringing in the New Year with Dancing, Tension and… Aksana?!

What’s up everybody? Remember when I joined you guys a few days ago to recap Tribute to the Troops and said I wasn’t sure how long it’d be before I make my redux return again? Well it turns out my hibernation dungeon has suffered immense damage at the hands of the big bad Tamina Snuka. She huffed… she puffed… and she threw vests at it until it came crashing all the way down, so I’m here with you tonight until I can find a place to stay. Oh wait, I should have probably introduced myself first because if you didn’t read the Tribute to the Troops recap you’re likely lost and confused right now. Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s me, Bobby, at your service!

Now, we’ve got a big Raw in store for you. Why you ask? Because not only did something pretty much unheard of go down in the land of the Divas division (which we’ll get to later), but because it fell on my lottery ticket filled birthday. So while I may not have gotten to watch the show live, I checked back in after it ended and celebrated the big day with both a 5 on 5 Divas tag match AND Fandango getting a title shot (which I’m also allowed to mention since a certain stunning partner accompanied him).

When it comes to the 5 on 5 match, we got to see another variation of the Total Divas against the Non-Total Divas, which I guess has become the new clarification of faces and heels. Kaitlyn still finds herself among the likes of Aksana, Alicia Fox, Summer Rae and Rosa Mendes for some reason, but we’re going to roll with it because it is a holiday after all and we should be cheery. The five of them teamed up to take on Naomi, Cameron, Eva Marie, Brie and Nikki Bella, as both Natalya and AJ Lee were off in Toronto performing at a house show. No word on what happened to JoJo or Tamina, but after the countless theories I came up with to explain situations quite similar on Tribute to the Troops involving Miss Snuka, I think we can all infer what’s going down between them. (Hint: I’m going to guess for this one, Tamina has trapped JoJo in a storage room and is forcing her to watch ASPCA “In the Arms of an Angel” commercials as punishment for that pinfall victory in the Survivor Series rematch last month that Tamina has still not forgotten about).

Now with all of that being said, we can get underway with the action!

Boooooooo. Nothing against the Bella Twins theme song, but you can’t give me two uses of worldwide hit “On Top of the World” for Team Total Divas entrances and then backtrack this late in the game…. unacceptable. Nevertheless, out walks five of our Total Divas in Brie, Nikki, Eva, Naomi and Cameron as their opponents of Rosa, Alicia, Aksana, Summer Rae and Kaitlyn stand in the ring already. A “Brie Mode” sign is shown almost instantly, but all I can ever think of when I hear that phrase is drunk Brie running across a couch and drunk Nikki taking a spinning tumble off said sofa as her drink flies around and an unaware Brie just keeps dancing to the beat of some Vegas tunes.

We begin the match with Kaitlyn and All Red Everything herself, Eva Marie (who can be seen ordering her teammates out of the ring as if to say she’s got this all on her own). The two circle around before locking up and allowing Kaitlyn to get the upper hand with a waist lock. Eva then elbows out of it and plays up to the booing crowd before turning right around into a dropkick from Kaitlyn. The former champ sends Eva slamming into the corner, following it up with a sidewalk slam for a two count. Kaitlyn proceeds to hoist Eva up and toss her into the ropes, but Eva scores with a nice kick and another slap before looking to tag out. The only problem? Like a crowd of people uncomfortably trying to avoid me as I unknowingly find myself singing along to songs from my iPod in a grocery store, they want absolutely nothing to do with her.

This sparks a feisty Eva to smack Cameron right in the face and signify a tag, but that doesn’t mean Cameron’s going to just do as she’s instructed no questions asked. The Funkadactyl proceeds to shove Eva, but doing so also provides enough distraction for Kaitlyn to get a quick roll up for a two. Alicia Fox now scores a blind tag and spanks Kaitlyn on the butt to get out, as Cameron nails a beautiful headscissors takedown which I will now refer to as “The Chingle Chingle” because it looked so nice I’d pay to see it done again. I don’t think I’m going to get my wish though, as Alicia is now in a corner trying to cower out of some forearm shots. Cameron goes flying into the opposite direction, but leaps up and looks to nail a rope assisted variation of her headscissors. Alicia has other plans though, for she drops Cameron right on her face and oh wow, that didn’t look good.

Tag in to Summer Rae, who locks in her corner foot choke before tagging out to her doppleganger, Rosa Mendes (Seriously this has to be some sort of joke they’re playing to make it hard on Michael Cole, in which case I love both of you even more). Some boots to the midsection, as Aksana now sees legal entrance into the action and drops Cameron back first on the canvas for a two. She reverts to a submission and teases the crowd a little bit, but the fans are rallying behind Cameron. Unfortunately, Cameron isn’t able to tag out just yet as her hopes go “bye bye” for now at the hands (err, kicks) of Aksana. We’re back in the submission again, only this time Cameron fights out and makes the tag to Nikki B!

Nikki charges in with a sick takedown, following it with a clothesline and a dropkick. Clothesline to the corner now, before going for the torture rack! It’s stopped though, as all the Divas now charge in because getting a multi woman match that doesn’t break out in a catfight is about as likely to happen as former WWE Diva, Rebecca DiPietro making a return and becoming Divas Champion. (And yes, I’m well aware that as I say this, by next year Rebecca will probably be putting on clinics at TNA Pay Per Views and I’ll look like a fool, so keep this redux bookmarked guys!)

Back inside the ring, Nikki Bella has Aksana down and ascends to the top rope. Unfortunately (and quite terrifyingly) she then looks over to see a blonde figure menacingly screaming as she charges towards her. Is it Summer Rae? That depends on which of these two blonde women you think is her (Seriously, you have a match involving twins and they’re easier to tell apart from behind at this rate). To me though, it appears to be a wild Rosa Mendes getting that camera time before she’s taken down by Nikki, who is then taken down by Aksana in return. Aksana is… she’s doing something… wait, what’s going on? My entire life is flashing before my eyes as I just looked up and saw Aksana… THE Aksana, drop Nikki with her new reverse eye of the hurricane elbowy move (technical terms only here, people) and cover…

You guys, she’s hooking Nikki’s legs and I don’t know how to form a sentence right now. Have I been transported to some alternate universe where this poor Lithuanian woman just trying to make a better life for herself in America is being threatened with relentless shovel beatings? Because something has clearly lit a fire under her enough to score a… victory?! This sudden sexy saxophone music hits that I don’t think I have ever heard play at the end of a match before and the five non Total Divas kind of look too shocked to even celebrate their victory. Alicia looks as if she’s seen a holy ghost flash before her and Summer seems to be confused like she thinks they lost again and have to rush to the back to let the Total Divas celebrate. No Summer, you won! Take it all in! Nobody knows what’s going on, but dammit Aksana you of all people just made my birthday Raw something I will remember and I feel like I owe you something in return. Did anyone ever tell you what a Llama was? I guess I don’t mind being the chosen one.

And now for the rest of the show, first starting off with Aksana, Alicia Fox, Kaitlyn, Eva Marie and… okay I lost count. There’s a lot of Divas here who are all probably in the match we just recapped so check them out as they celebrate New Years with Xavier Woods and co! (Note: I now see Rosa Mendes and the Bellas so I think I got everyone.)

And up next we pay a visit to Naomi and Cameron who now seem to have their own funky nameplate titantron! Small victories everyone. They’re distracting Brodus Clay in his match against R-Truth, and it proves to work because R-Truth gets the win as all three of them (plus Xavier) dance in the ring.

You can also check out Summer Rae as she manages Fandango for his Intercontinental Title match against Big E Langston. Does the glitzy pair now have a shiny new accessory to add alongside Summer’s expensive dance shoes in their luggage?

And now we come to the one and only Stephanie McMahon, who can first be seen backstage alongside husband, Triple H, as well as Brad Maddox. The power couple basically plug that they’re going to have special announcements pertaining to the Royal Rumble later on.

And speaking of major(?) announcements, here’s the final video which features Stephanie making the blockbuster announcement that Randy Orton will defend his WWE World Heavyweight Title against John Cena at the Rumble in a historic bout that will be groundbreaking in that it will be contested in a traditional showing with no stipulations or interferences! It will have one fall to a finish in which the winner can only be named by pinfall or submission! …so in other words, it will be a regular singles match that we see about five times per show. (But Stephanie really has a way with words to make it sounds monumental, so I had to echo her no matter what).

Thoughts: Where do I even begin? Alright, so when I first saw we were having a five on five Total Divas vs. Regular/Anti Total/Non Total/Whatever you want to call them Divas, I wasn’t particularly thrilled. Don’t get me wrong I was still looking forward to it because it at least would feature Divas outside the usual five or six, but I just figured it would be our usual Total Divas victory. Needless to say, I was immensely surprised at how much I enjoyed this. It felt different, and personally, WWE did a lot of things right in this match that I’d been wanting to see for a while.

First off, they let the Total Divas lose. The reason why I didn’t really care to see this match at the start was because I had seen the same showing with a different number each time and it always ended the same way. We need the sides to feel evenly split and I won’t say tonight went a long way in doing that, but it certainly went far more than it ever has before. Thumbs up!

Secondly, they allowed Aksana to get the win. I’ve said in the past that Aksana isn’t one of my favorite Divas in particular, but I can’t even hate on her for the upset. Another one of my gripes with this feud was that half the Non Total Divas team had been basically piling up losses for years that I didn’t buy them as a threat to such a high profile-esque stable. By allowing Aksana to pin Nikki tonight, it has gone to fix at least one of them by making me feel like seeing Aksana win isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility. Is it still believable? I mean, I guess anything is possible no matter how many times you lose because all it takes is three seconds to score a win, but regardless of that, I found it to be fun and unexpected. It was something I would gladly take over seeing the Total Divas plow through the competition again (and I say that as a fan of all five of them).

Thirdly, they finally gave Eva Marie the okay to portray a heel in this faction like she did through most of the actual show. Whether or not they were forced to due to the reaction she gets, I don’t know or care. It makes the team way more interesting to me when they’re not all one big happy family, and in my opinion, this was an even better showing for her than Tribute to the Troops. I know I’m going to get the whole thing of “all she did was a kick and a slap”, but she looked a lot more fluid out there than she ever has. She didn’t seem lost, and she played up to that crowd. Say what you want behind the reasoning she gets booed, but the fact of the matter is that she gets booed at all. Not many Divas (or Superstars to be honest) elicit a response due to either poor booking and/or lack of opportunities, but Eva is making it work. Personally, I want her to become primarily a manager for the time being, either for another Diva or a Superstar in need. Any unover heel on the roster could benefit from having her in their corner, and it would also give her time to train in NXT so that when she does have matches, she does even better each time she’s out there.

Fourth, they displayed actual tension amongst the Total Divas. I kind of hit on this in the paragraph above, but Total Divas works better for me when they’re split into faces and heels amongst them ala the days of Nattie and the Funkadactyls opposite Brie, Nikki and Eva. I don’t want to see them all get along with one another and basically always be in the forefront of the title picture, especially if they’re only going to fluctuate between Brie and Nattie as challengers for AJ. I have nothing against either of course, but it gets kind of stale just bouncing back and forth between them when you could be giving opportunities to Nikki or Naomi, even Cameron to be honest for something a little different. Hopefully they fully go along with Eva being heel, although it’s kind of damned it you, damned if you don’t because even if they flipped Kaitlyn and Eva in order to make the dispositions line up, it would look weird seeing Kaitlyn now teaming with the women she’s been facing for the past month. I’m honestly not sure where we can go from here, but I hope it involves something different heading into 2014. There are still a lot of kinks to work out in this division, but tonight felt like a step forward (to me at least) instead of a step back or no step at all. For an end of the year show where things of prominence don’t usually happen, I’ll take it!

Happy new year and until next time,

Bobby

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