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The Postgame Analysis: Monday Night Raw, 8-26-13

What's My Motivation Here?

I don't remember who it was that told him this. Probably Terry Funk. I don't even remember which of his books it was in. Probably his first. But I distinctly remember a point made by Mick Foley that's stuck out with me more than anything else I've ever learned about the psychology of professional wrestling (and we're obviously paraphrasing here): it doesn't matter if the heel is right. It doesn't matter if his motivation makes sense. It just matters that THEY think it makes sense.

That seemed to be a running theme tonight: establishing motivation, albeit to greatly different extents.


In some cases, it's OK if the heel has a pretty good point, because...they're a fucking heel. I don't care if you have a good point, I still want to see your head get kicked off your goddamn shoulders. Yes, Triple H makes a valid point: Daniel Bryan did insult him personally. And Bryan did insult his wife. A lot. And his father-in-law. But while the fist shot fired- Triple H stealing the title from Bryan- might be "just business" to Triple H, but it's extremely personal to Daniel Bryan. And it should be. That's why the heel is still an asshole, even though he makes a technically valid point: he started it. 

Triple H, in one quick line, also reminded us of The Shield's motivation: in setting up the handicap match between Bryan and The Shield, Hunter told Bryan, "I'm gonna give you the gift of justice." Let's not forget that The Shield's ethos has always been twisted. All that matters if that THEY think it makes sense, remember? Who's to say their idea of justice doesn't align with who Triple H wants to be champion? Besides, they've had their personal issues with Bryan many times already. This is working for me. They strayed from having a motivation for too long. This has refocused them, as well as reinvigorated their push.

Meanwhile, we didn't really learn anything new about the motivations for CM Punk and Paul Heyman in their blood feud. But it was still somehow furthered: Heyman's screams at a shackled Punk as he savaged him with the kendo stick bordered on the homoerotic (no, I don't mean that as a bad thing; given their backstories a part of Heyman feeling like a jilted lover makes some sense): "I loved you!" "I murdered myself for you!" In another instance of the heel having a valid point, Heyman did everything for Punk, only to be put on the sideline. Punk gives no fucks, he just wants as much of Heyman's blood as he can get. 

And that's why we love him.

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In a weird twist, nominally the top three storylines right now all (nominally, I say, because there's really a top two and then everything else, but the third one is for the World Heavyweight title, so that's...something) feature the wrestler on one side acting as an avatar for whom the feud is really with.

Orton as HHH's avatar makes a lot of sense: Orton fits the profile of what a WWE champion is supposed to look like, both in storyline and in that weird amalgam of backstage realities and our (often very wrong) perceptions of them. I'm sure many are thinking this is yet another way for Hunter to get himself over and on top, and really, do yourself a favor and lose that thought. Triple H is perfect in this role because he represents the face of the corporate structure that Daniel Bryan's star-making fight is truly against. Orton is perfect in this role because he's just vapid enough to represent the in-ring realization of that corporate imagery. 

Curtis Axel is an odd, shoe-horned fit into the Punk/Heyman feud. Lesnar worked perfectly in that role because despite his one-time desire to star in "Raw: The Brock Lesnar Show," his ego has nothing to do with having the spotlight on him, in and of itself. As long the spotlight is on him slaughtering someone, he doesn't care if it's on Heyman's behalf. But in the understatement of the summer, Curtis Axel is not Brock Lesnar. He's just kind of.....there. Axel is, however, improving if nothing else than by virtue of spending so much time around CM Punk. 

The most nonsensical of these, however, is Rob Van Dam as the wrestling representation of Ricardo in his feud against Alberto Del Rio. As I said last week, I like it. It's goofy, it makes no sense, and sometimes that's fine. It's just interesting in how it gives us yet another example at the same time of a high-profile wrestler (though Axel is a stretch to be considered as such) merely representing a non-wrestling person of interest.

Reality TV, Meet "Reality Era"

So, is AJ on the long list of divas that Punk has banged? If so, has any research been done on whether or not the ability to cut scathing, grievance-airing promos an STD? Because AJ basically just cut the Diva division version of the "pipe bomb" promo. In a show in which the main storyline features the real-life corporate power structure keeping the little indy darling from being the top guy, somehow the storyline most borrowing from reality/"reality" this week was AJ hijacking the weekly Total Divas commercial/segment to tell them, and all of us, what we already know: what a load of shit this is. 

Too bad the Bellas completely ruined it by acting like obnoxious cunts through the entire thing (yes...."acting"....sure). Seriously, one of you- no, I don't care enough to remember which one- is dating John Cena, who was the in-ring target of the "pipe bomb" promo. He sold it like a champ. By doing the same, the Bellas could have taken a brainless reality show that's shockingly getting respectable ratings could have actually led to something. But they no-sold it because they're awful, and it's dead on arrival.

Back to Basics

Last but not least, this week's Raw featured a return to what's been one of the bright spots of the three-hour Raw: multiple good, long matches, now paired with a handful of shorter matches that were pointless in and of themselves, but at least are giving midcarders some direction even if it's silly. By my count, we got about 45 minutes of aired wrestling tonight, a marked departure from last week's episode that was very light on in-ring action. 

Cody Rhodes and Miz v. Damien Sandow and Fandango was a pointless, nothing match that at least continued Fandango's now-correct direction as a vapid, Zoolander-meets-Dancing with the Stars direction. Same with Titus O'Neil v. Swagger: they're continuing to give us a reason to cheer the PTPers and thus allow them to capitalize on the mainstream attention surrounding Darren Young (what little there may still be after those first few days) without being obnoxiously obvious about it, by giving us a reason to cheer them. 

Though the trend of giving away World Heavyweight title PPV matches on free TV in the preceding weeks is obnoxious, it's not like anyone's buying the show to see that title defended, anyway. I'm torn between hating the horribly overused "distraction leads to heel getting rolled up" finish and liking that RVD and Del Rio gave us a solid match without really giving the match away seeing as how it lacked a conclusive finish.

As discussed earlier, Axel is improving just by virtue of proximity to Punk. Their match was a little dry, but it was about 8 aired minutes of solid, with a clean finish before the appropriate post-match screwiness. 

We also saw two pairings that rarely, if ever don't produce. Randy Orton and Christian is pretty much an automatic three stars, and this was no exception. I'm not much of a match rater, but I'd put the 13 minutes we saw of roughly 16 minutes at about ***1/2. The face/heel roles reversing did nothing to negatively affect their excellent in-ring chemistry.

 Orton has improved as a worker; I enjoyed the way he worked his babyface moveset into his heel style in a way that downplayed his weaknesses. He's always been technically and athletically proficient, but concerns about his boring in-ring heel work can wait another week after a good match with Christian in which, yes, he slowed down from his fast-paced, fired-up babyface style but didn't keep going to the headlocks after the first couple minutes. 

Finally, I'm not crazy about three straight episodes (Smackdown included) ending with Orton getting the upper hand on Bryan with an RKO, but the preceding Bryan/Rollins...well, essentially singles affair before the immediate beatdown by itself warranted a near 4-star rating, highlighted by a fucking absurd top-rope release German suplex. 

See you next week for the Postgame Analysis. 

Comments

  1. I like the cut of this guy's jib.

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  2. Yet again, another fabulously written piece. I vehemently agree with you, and kudos for giving AJ Lee the credit she deserves for articulating one of the best diva promos I've ever heard.

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  3. I like it, well done. Let's play this out and see where it goes.

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  4. It was indeed a good piece.


    However, I will admit to being confused by AJ's promo. Yes, it was good, and it made the segment. But...um...isn't she supposed to be a heel? Was that a face turn? Or are they going to gauge fan reaction and then respond accordingly? Or, is this the first step in a bigger plan for her?


    Yeah, I know, I'm probably reading too much into it. I just like my wrestling lightly sprinkled with something resembling reality, and I also like to understand what's supposed to be going on...at least with characters in whom I have an interest.

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  5. It came across as a turn for me. Passionate, sympathetic, and straight up honest are certainty babyface characteristics. If she ends up staying a heel, then yeah, this promo will end up being worthless and confusing. But I'm pretty sure it leading to a face turn.

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  6. Great column. Looking forward to this one next week as well.

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  7. It would have helped if it were just one group of the divas she cut the promo on but both the heel and face divas from the show were out there so it's tough to tell what the aim was. Damn good promo though.

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  8. Once again Mike, you deliver the goods. Solid breakdown of what was a pretty entertaining show tonight, keep it up.

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  9. Good column - re: the advice Foley received about the heel always believing he was right, it was given to him by Michael Hayes.

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  10. I'm kinda hoping it's an even heelier turn from here, a slow burn version of Mark Henry's faux retirement.

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  11. Keep this dude. I like him.

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  12. Part of me hopes the AJ promo makes Nattie finally go over the edge and waste the Bellas. I don't get why there's this feeling women's wrestling has to be booked differently than men's wrestling. Replace assholes with cunts and you've got it done.

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  13. "I martyred myself for you!" Not "murdered".

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  14. While it came across as a turn to all of us...in the WWE universe they probably consider it to have been a heel promo, the same way Trish Stratus was considered a heel when she came out and ripped into the Diva Search contestants. Or how Woman's Champion Trish was supposed to be jealous of Christy Hemme since Hemme got a playboy shoot.

    In the WWE Universe, the woman wrestler who wants to actually be a wrestler is a heel, while the women who prefer to strip or dance in their underwear are considered the faces.

    That's pretty much been their dynamic since they've first introduced a Divas division.

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  15. I'd like to think promos like that are designed to draw the ire of a certain group of fans while allowing the others to praise her, similar to the CM punk promo where obviously he was playing a heel at the time and it was designed to enrage the cena fans while everyone else was right up there with him.

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  16. "Too bad the Bellas completely ruined it by acting like obnoxious cunts through the entire thing (yes...."acting"....sure)."
    THIS THIS THIS.

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  17. I quite enjoy the dichotomy of the this with the PG rant as well. They go very well together. Excellent work to both you and PG.

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  18. Oh man. That would piss me off so much. Though now that you say it, I have trouble believing that they won't go that route.

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  19. Like it Mears. Good job

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  20. a type of sail.

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  21. I think if you look at how Nattie played it, it was a heel promo.

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  22. I don't think the 'purposefully' sabotagted it. I think they just have no fucking clue how to sell a promo.

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  23. Punk was just told to air his grievances. It's just that a good portion of the audience shared those same grievances.

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  24. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGuHMGVlOeA

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  25. Well done. I enjoy this type of recap much more than a play-by-play type rundown of the show. Keep it up.

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  26. Hahaha!

    Promote that man.

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  27. Oh right. I forgot to be a dick. Carry on then.

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  28. Oh, such foul language on this board...

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  29. What are you trying to say, you don't like Scott? Huh, motherfucker?

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  30. One piece of advice: change your first name to "Paps".

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  31. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8MO7fkZc5o

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  32. That does make more sense.

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  33. Obviously I'm on Scott's blog so I do enjoy reading him. I think other writers on his blog should try something different than play by play since that's what Scott does best (and he does it very well). I enjoy this "AV Club" style analysis of a show instead of just a straight recap. I haven't seen it done much with wrestling and I like that it's being attempted on the blog.

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  34. Okay, take it easy Harry Nilsson.

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  35. I really liked Heyman's ranting when he beat on Punk. Love it when a guy is so invested in his character, you actually BELIEVE what he's saying/doing (take notes, John Cena).


    Give that man a new Dangerous Alliance, dammit! Cesaro/Swagger or a true heel PTP.

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  36. I skipped over the divas garbage but if they want someone to rail against the shallowness of the divas division 1) they should probably pick someone who isn't so attractive and someone who got over based on ring work, aj got "over" by acting like a crazy person in other people's angles and being hot...and 2) who's the focal point of her rage? The bellas? No one gives a shit about them...this is a fucking ttrain wreck but at least aj is working a divas angle and not fucking up something good.

    Otherwise I thought this show was great

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  37. "I skipped over it but let me criticize it..."

    So many things wrong with that paragraph.

    1. "over" deserves quotes because...? She IS over. Has her own merch that sells well, a million twitter followers, cheers or vocal reactions for over the last year. Be it statistical or anecdotal, there is plenty of proof that she's been over for a long time. And by cutting last night's scathing promo, she is bound to be more over now than ever.

    2. She can't help being attractive, but she's not being portrayed as some sort of goddess or sexy ideal. She's not simply eye candy.

    3. She may have been over before having longer matches, but she and Natty are, by far, the best on their active roster. If they give them 10-15 minutes for a match, I guarantee a 3+ star match.

    4. No one gives a shit about the Bellas? Well, tell that to Vince and Co. who keep on putting them on TV. Tell the E Network. And tell the fans who reacted enthusiastically last night for a female promo that tore into the twins.

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  38. There are a couple typos in here that are driving me insane and my shitty work computer won't let me fix them. This is fucking agony.

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  39. 100x better than the other review that was written by a 13-year-old mark.

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  40. Jobber! Your AJ-hate really knows no rationality, does it? First off, you could take away the quotation marks, because AJ is OVER. Over as Bryan or Punk? No, but pretty much more over than the majority of the male roster, and the most over diva since...I dunno, was Trish really that over in her run? I sorta feel like Trish gets a nostalgia whitewashing where we all remember her as this huge star, but the only things I remember people popping for during her run was A) Bending over in the locker in front of HHH and B) Getting teh Cena treatment against Mickie James at Mania 23


    Anyway, major digression there. What I'm saying is AJ is the most over diva (getting crowd reactions, selling merch, etc) that they've had in forever.


    As for the ring work stuff, dude, which divas have performed better in the ring than she has? Her matches against Kaitlyn were f'n fantastic. She moves fast and crisply, she's constantly pulling out shit that you NEVER see in WWE Diva's matches (shining wizard, that kick-ass submission finisher), and she sells like a pro. She's a really good worker.


    And that "crap" last night was her cutting an entertaining, confident promo that half the goobers in the lockerroom couldn't touch on their best day. And teh crowd was into it. Because AJ is over.


    Was she being overexposed during that GM run last year? Totally. But honestly, GMs who aren't the McMahons are pointless anyway and doomed to be garbage. The fact is that AJ is really good at her job, and, well, Jobber, you really need to get onboard and LIGHT IT UP.

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  41. Save some space for me on the Mears bandwagon! Good stuff man.

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  42. Tl;dr but hey I get it. You're a wwe divas fan. Good for you. I would rather ffwd and use the time I saved to watch some kind of classic match on YouTube but hey if you're into the wwes version of women wrestling and find the divas angle something you like great. By all means, if you think its for-yyou, then enjoy your wwe divas.

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  43. The completely unnecessary mf-bomb by Satan is a tip-off that he was jumping to an insane conclusion for comedic effect. Nothing personal.

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  44. This was too long to read? What else is, nutritional facts? A warning label? Jesus, if that was too long, I guess you can skip my articles. Or anything else more wordy than a comic strip.
    He made four correct and concise points. Quit conflating things you don't want to see with "no one wants to see this." I couldn't care less about the Divas either, but AJ cut a great promo last night. And she's a legitimate in-ring worker.

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  45. Lookit me! Im cooler than you because I watch KLASSIK RASSLIN instead of WASTING my time on KURRENT KUNTS!

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  46. I'm flattered that your first post ever was to troll me. So please, by all means, continue to enjoy your wwe divas

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  47. Guess I'll have to take your word for it.

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  48. The only smart thing to ever come out Hayes' mouth.

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  49. First post? I seriously haven't used Disqus to post on rspwfaq yet? I.... I am shocked and appalled.... at myself!

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  50. You have to do no such thing. Watch and decide for yourself. And you don't have to do that, either. Frankly, were I not reviewing it I'd have skipped over this segment, too.
    But if you express a really strong opinion about something you tell us you didn't watch, and everyone else finds your opinion to be bloviated and misinformed, you don't get to play the indignant cool-guy card.

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  51. I got the gist of it, blah blah blah I earned my spot and worked hard blah blah blah your just on a reality show blah blah blah... I didn't miss anything. Theres just a handful of posters that will rush to ajs defense anytime. If the wwe divas are their cup of tea, hey, obviously Vince is aiming thr divas at some type of demographic so tthey should watch away. I don't care either way because I dvr'd it and I thought the rest of show (outside of Sandow jobbing for the 4th straight time) was great.

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  52. I'm upset that Big Show has seemingly forgotten about his iron clad contract!


    The end shot of the Shield awkwardly stopping and starting their fist bump powers was pretty hilarious.

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  53. Andy's review was very well written and more of a play-by-play style of review. Just because you don't agree with his opinions, doesn't make him a
    "mark".


    I like Mike's piece as well, it works as a follow up to the more detailed review.

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  54. The Love-Matic Grampa!August 27, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    I feel your pain. Typos drive me up the wall, especially after I've checked and double checked and one or two still slip through.

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  55. I still kinda miss the Daniel Bryan and AJ dynamic. They had awesome chemistry.

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  56. I miss her and Ziggler, broke them up way too soon.

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  57. You could give the same treatment to any piece of dialogue/monologue ever written and make it seem infantile or simple-minded. Blah blah blah, nobler of the mind, blah blah blah. We get it, Hamlet, you don't know if you care about being alive or not.

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  58. I dont think anyone is going to confuse aj and the bellas with Shakespeare

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  59. Agreed, but I also don't think anyone is going to confuse "blah blah blah" with a legitimate critique. It was a good promo. Sorry you didn't care, like it, watch it, think no one cares because you don't, or whatever version of the same blowharded point you've been trying to make.
    Like I said, I wouldn't have watched either had I not been reviewing it, but I did. And it was good.
    /

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  60. I think its safe to toss any wwe diva segment in a blah blah blah. But again, its obviously aimed at some demographic so like anything else-on TV someone must be watching. I ffwd through the whole segment and couldn't give two shits so like I already said, I'll just have to take your word that it was good.

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  61. I think what it all boils down to is that jobber assumes AJ uses coupons.

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  62. Another great read. Kudos, Mr. Mears.

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  63. Same here, the lack of continuity (re: Show's contract) is maddening.


    I mean, I know it's hardly the first time, but it's just so LAZY.

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  64. I just saw the exchange here. And this is why, Jobber, you don't comment on things you supposedly don't care about. You didn't watch the segment and don't watch any divas segments, so why comment in the first place? I don't get it. You threw some jabs at a talented performer and several logical rebuttals followed. It backfired.

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  65. It might be more of a case of not learning when to sell a promo. I got the vibe that they think they have to be the Heathers 24/7 when they're out there and not take a moment to be Veronica.

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  66. Yeah, I read on WON that this was to intro AJ as the Big Bad for the last set of episodes for TD's first season.

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  67. Plus she gots DEM ABS mothafuckah

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