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On The Apron: Big trucks, bigger feels

crying show

Every week, On The Apron brings you features editor Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s observations about the latest developments in and around WWE.

Before we kick off this week’s On The Apron, a brief announcement. I’ve been writing more and more installments of the column in a list-esque format as of late, instead of the wordy diatribes on which On The Apron was founded. I’ve decided to stick with this going forward because a) everybody loves lists, just ask Buzzfeed and b) it lets me talk about more angles of a given week of WWE television than I can in an editorial-style piece. So, much like Montell Jordan before me, this is how we’ll do it from now on. Cool? Cool.

1) Big Show is into trucks now? I mean, okay.

Big Show has genuinely been a delight to watch as of late. Paul Wight has given a really dumb storyline more pathos than it objectively deserves, throwing tear-stained hands on the regular and convincing people that sure, your malevolent bosses are perfectly and legally able to purchase your mortgage without your consent! Last night’s Raw offered up a pair of bookending gems. The show began with Big Show apparently standing outside a seedy club, the brick wall behind him surprisingly well-lit, spewing invective at The Authority (because the McMahon-Helmsley Faction is so 2001) after supposedly hacking into WWE’s live feed. I like to imagine Show is quite familiar with a Unix system, and was really stoked to find out that HE KNOWS THIS.

Anyway, Show was cut off and not heard from again until the end of Raw, where he drove the front cab of a big rig into the arena, a distraction that allowed Daniel Bryan to busaiku Randy Orton faster than the camera could cut over to catch him. This is wonderful, because not only is Show the most convincing as a main-event player he’s been in some time, but this turn of events also displays WWE’s continuously poor handle on how to create working-class heroes. They’ve gone to the “guy gets fired, shows up anyway because he can still buy a ticket” well pretty often over the years, but another of WWE’s favorite devices is “guy can operate heavy machinery, because he is a hero of the people.” Steve Austin did it with multiple vehicles (for he is the saltest of the Earth), Kurt Angle did it, and now it’s Show’s turn. Still waiting for Mark Henry to drag a truck into the arena rather than driving it, though.

2) Curtis Axel just wants Dad to love him

And I’m not saying that to make some off-color, woefully obsolete Curt Hennig joke either. While Paul Heyman was backstage going Full Ultimate Warrior and nearly going into convulsions trying to wring the last possible drops of dramatic tension out of the overlong Heyman-Punk feud, the real star of the show was Axel. His dopey reactions are some of my favorite bits of Raw every week, and last night offered up a montage of them. Seriously, he went from trying to make the same stern face as Ryback and failing, to laughing at Heyman in places where jokes weren’t really made, to just nodding along like a fifth grader who’s trying to put on the façade of giving a shit about anything the teacher’s saying. Watch him the next time he’s onscreen, and tell me he doesn’t look like he turns to Heyman the minute the camera gets shut off and goes “I do good, Pop Pop?”

Maybe it’s the fact that Paul Heyman has been one of my favorite pro wrestling personalities for a long time now, but I’d like to imagine that he just smiles, goes “Yes, Joe,” and pats him on the head in response. That’s the world I want to live in.

3) R-Truth as Guy on CTA Shilling Socks

Oh man. Ohhhhh man. Last night, R-Truth was given the task of shilling WWE Shop items in the middle of the show. Setting aside the quaintness of TV hard sells in the online era, he reminded me of a forgotten story. There was this guy on the CTA Red Line here in Chicago who, during my freshman year of college at least, would ride the rails north and south all day long hocking anything he could. His wares ranged from single socks to bootleg DVDs of Dora the Explorer episodes to a lot of pornography, some of which you could describe as gently used. My point is that R-Truth would kill the shit out of that character. If only I could trust WWE to nail down the difference between “R-Truth, weird guy who’s constantly trying to sell you stuff” and “R-Truth, ethnic caricature who’s constantly trying to make money BECAUSE HE’S BLACK GET IT?!?” If only.

4) Tag teams!

The exclamation point doesn’t quite cover it. WWE has dealt with a weird thing over the past decade with tag team wrestling, where they can never get it right all at one time. After most of the Attitude Era teams either broke out as solo stars or left WWE, they’ve had a terrible time trying to build up more than one tag team. It’s always been one focused project, with a few haphazardly assembled jobber tandems around it to constitute a “division.” Cryme Tyme saw this, as did the Rhodes Scholars for the majority of their run. Right now, though, there are a number of established crews who could keep things really interesting going forward. You have Goldust and Cody Rhodes as champions, with The Shield, The Usos, Prime Time Players (wherever they’ve gone), Tons of Funk, The Real Americans, and Bray Wyatt’s Family whenever they’re integrated deeper into the show at large. That’s a pretty good assemblage of guys, and hopefully WWE will pursue this direction. A four-way TLC match with those first three and Cesaro/Swagger would be fantastic, I’m just saying.

5) Where’s Damien Sandow?

I haven’t read anything about him being injured, and I miss him a lot. That’s all. The lack of the WWE’s intellectual savior has left me with the feelbads.