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Now, please click through to enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for December 11, 2012. The title to a Best And Worst column has never been more appropriate.
Best: Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah
Last night’s Raw started with Dolph Ziggler standing on a ladder, talking about how he was going to win his match against John Cena and go on to be the World Heavyweight Champion, and it was only the second or third most e-fed thing on the show. Ziggler’s got a lot of charisma and knows how to talk, but he’s never quite figured out how to talk compellingly on a microphone in front of people. He rushes through what he’s saying and spends too much time when he gets where he’s going, and … I don’t know, it doesn’t work. He’s pretending his 2010 Miz promos are 1984 Ric Flair, and the disconnect between what he’s saying and how he expects us to react is too much to handle sometimes.
So add that in with another Sheamus promo about how OIM GANNA BE THE WORLT HEAVYWEIGHT SHAMPION and it feels like two people auditioning for the same part. It’s like they’re doing an improv exercise. The back and forth reminded me too much of Fred Williard and Catherine O’Hara doing ‘Midnight At The Oasis’ in Waiting For Guffman. “Who’s gonna be the next World Heavyweight Champion?” “YOU DON’T HAVE TO AAAANSWEEERRRRR.”
Big Show stepping out and just kinda Spider-Manning them with a “blah blah blah blah blah” was perfect. Show’s the best current example of how a guy can take the horrible things WWE has him do and turn it into a realistic character. He’s a huge guy who was made to be a joke for the longest time, had to deal with direct, public humiliation to keep his job and spent a few months being pissed about it. Now he’s settled in to a comfortable spot where he’s accepted that life is the way it is, and he’s confident enough to say he’ll knock everybody out, but still self-loathing enough to think the world’s going to collapse beneath him. And it might, because wrestling is weird and everybody at work is crazy. That’s awesome.
And while we’re making Guffman references, the rest of the show made me feel like this.
Worst: The Wade Barrett/R-Truth Match Was The Tree Falling In The Woods With Nobody Around To Hear It
I tried really hard to remember something that happened during the Wade Barrett/R-Truth match, and this is what I came up with:
1. Another goddamn “Vince goads Vickie into making decisions” segment, because Vince thought that was funny when he did it the first time and now just shows up to shows and saunters in like, “SO, WHEN ARE WE DOING THE ME AND VICKIE THING AGAIN, RIGHT NOW, DURING THE MATCH ENTRANCES, OKAY”
2. Kofi Kingston trying to make fun of Antonio Cesaro for “carrying a purse” and getting shut down with “you couldn’t pull it off,” although I wish he would’ve went with “the only thing I’ve ever seen you wear is Jamaican-themed underwear and bright yellow breakaway pants, shut the f**k up.”
3. The ending, where Kofi runs into the ring, attacks a tired, unsuspecting Wade Barrett, then hops away in celebration like Daffy Duck. Because he is the good guy.
4. The entire thing being rendered pointless by the later, much-more-effective Kofi/Cesaro one-on-one match.
So, did Barrett and Truth actually wrestle? Does it matter? What is the sound of one hand clapping?
Worst, Or Possibly Best: How Sorry John Cena Is About AJ Seeing Justin Gabriel’s Dong
AJ finds out she’s got a match with Vickie Guerrero, so she skips around backstage excitedly telling everyone about it. She even hugs Kaitlyn, who proves that she’s the most underrated actor in the company by selling it with the appropriate babyface response of “okay, you used to be my friend and this is nice, but you’ve been a b-hole to me recently … still nice though, and kinda weird.” I think they had AJ greet Aksana first so we wouldn’t think the Chickbusters were getting back together. “We” meaning “Brandon.”
So then AJ goes into the men’s locker room, where John Cena is huddled up (?) with a bunch of guys including Justin Gabriel in a towel, and Cena kinda nervously holds a shirt in front of her (?) until he can usher her out, apologizing profusely to the others. A few questions here. Firstly, what the hell were they doing? Did AJ interrupt a circle jerk? And if she did, why did Cena hold up a towel in front of her body? He wasn’t trying to shield her from seeing naked guys, right? He was shielding the naked guys from seeing her, because they’d … I don’t know, get boners? Is John Cena the boner police? Does he just not want HER to be the one giving them boners? And why make a bunch of exaggerated I’M SOARRRYYY faces at them the entire time? One of the people they work with came into the wrong locker room, and all they were doing was sitting in a circle near the door. It’s not like she walked in on Ezekiel Jackson shaving his nuts, or whatever. It seemed like a thing where a normal person would just be like, “hey, let’s talk about this outside, you probably shouldn’t be in here,” then return with a “heh, sorry guys, m’beautiful girlfriend” when they’re done. Is Justin Gabriel gonna spend the next 40 minutes lecturing Cena on how THIS IS HIS PRIVATE TIME or whatever?
That would’ve been pretty funny, actually. And this segment should’ve ended with Stan Hansen emerging from the showers to whip her in the ass with his cowboy hat until she fled the room.
Best: ‘Staching Cody Rhodes
+Rhodes all around! The Cody Rhodes Mustache accomplished three amazing things:
a) It made him less beautiful, which is important if he wants to be “delusional WWE heel #4,000” like they want, and not an actual beautiful guy who is right about it and makes us feel bad,
b) It gave him a hook to get over, which he’s never had despite several years of being great at his job, and
c) As has been said on Twitter, it turned a Raw crowd into a Chikara crowd for five minutes and had them chanting “CO-DY’S MUS-TACHE” clap clap clapclapclap.
That’s spectacular. The mustache being really, really ugly helps. I feel his pain, though, the only way I could grow a full mustache is if I started right now, and kept growing until I was dead. Even then, it’d just be the same amount of mustache, just grown over in a weird arch over my lip. I guess now we know why Dusty and Dustin have been clean-shaven forever.
Best: The Crowd Cheering For The Usos
The actual tag team match itself was really good, if you ignore Awful Jerry Lawler’s Awful Jerry Lawler Commentary about how he wants to give Rosa his dick as a Christmas present. It was four tag teams that could use television exposure — the woefully stereotyped-into-a-corner Prepico, the enjoyable-but-only-outside-of-the-ring Primetime Players, the popular-with-jerks-like-me Rhodes Scholars and the we’d-be-huge-if-the-WWE-Universe-watched-the-B-shows Usos — getting a purposeful 10-minute slot to show their stuff. They were wrestling for a reason, everybody got to look good, and they even had stuff happen during the commercial break to push that WWE App. That’s all very good.
The most heartening thing was the crowd responding well to the Usos, who have been around for three years (!) with one of the best entrances ever, accompanied by a championship pedigree and absolutely nothing else. If you want diversity on your show, you’ve got this stellar Samoan tag team languishing in the minor minor leagues, one bad Creative meeting away from being the Dark City Fight Club, ready to go. They yell OOOO and the crowd yells SOOOO. It’s easy. People want to do it. I want to do it right now. I want to run out onto my balcony and yell OOO and have the mailman or whoever yell back SOOO like I’m Pee-wee Herman on the payphone in Texas.
The TLC pre-show should be the Usos and somebody doing something, instead of “please tune in to see Alicia Fox wear the same amount of clothes she always does, but Santa-themed.”
Best: Unbelievably, The Best Part Of Raw
If you missed the Divas match, you missed one of the best parts of the show. The match itself wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was competent — especially Alicia being the first of three people on the night to use a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and Eve countering Alicia’s dumb corner roll-up by just standing up, grabbing her leg and yanking her off the top — and it featured the NEW HOTNESS in pro wrestling: Eve Torres’ post-match insult routine.
Credit where credit is due … Eve topping her disingenuous pageant smiling after victories by bringing the photographer into the ring to photograph her posing on their dead bodies is maybe the best thing somebody’s ever done after a win, and that includes haircuts, snake-lying and $100 bill mouth-stuffing. Look at this:
The With Leather interview helped a lot, but I’m officially on the Eve Torres train. Quick, hire somebody with a competent idea of how to write likable female characters so Eve can work this gimmick in situations that matter.
Best: TLC Is Looking Pretty Fun, All Of A Sudden
After a Hell In A Cell that felt like the previous six months of pay-per-view in cages and a Survivor Series card that was just Hell In A Cell mashed up into a ball, TLC is looking fun. The CM Punk/Ryback rehash has been changed to a much more dynamic, unpredictable thing — Team Hell No and Ryback against The Shield in a TLC match where pinfalls and submissions count — and the undercard, John Cena-laden though it may be, has me intrigued.
Big Show and Sheamus are good-to-great in the ring together, and I have no reason to believe that Sheamus’ big “I look like I was beaten to death after every match” thing won’t work when he’s spent 20 minutes being punched and chaired. I hope he doesn’t win, but the matches are good, so as long as he keeps his mouth shut, I can’t complain. Wade Barrett should win a title and R-Truth shouldn’t, Rhodes Scholars are taking on Car Stereo in a tables match (which will be glorious no matter how it goes, because “Sin Cara”) and even the Cena/Ziggler match has enough intangibles that Waiting And Seeing Where It Goes™ can happen.
I’m looking forward to it. I might even write the report, unless somebody ridiculously famous decides to step in and fill in for me. What’s Jose Canseco up to lately? Does he watch wrestling?
Best/Worst: Sheamus Versus Dolph Ziggler
Speaking of Sheamus looking like an abused dog in every match, the Sheamus/Ziggler match was predictably boss, at least until the ending. My favorite wrestling matches are the ones that feel organic, like two people actually fighting each other (in a magical world where pro wrestling is real and things like Irish whips still make sense, I mean), but there’s something to be said for well-executed video game wrestling.
Video game wrestling can go wrong really easily. When I say “video game wrestling,” what I mean is that thing where guys just kinda run and jump around into each other doing moves, and it escalates and escalates until somebody pulls off THE MOST MOVE and wins. Dragon Gate six-man tags are the king of this. Nobody really sells anything, and there’s no reason for them to be running and flipping upside down and falling off the top rope into Burning Hammers or whatever, but they do it, and it’s fun. I sat through the entirety of TNA FINAL RESOLUTION on Sunday, and Mike Tenay kept mentioning how wrestlers are only successful if they can hit “a string of moves,” and that’s kinda where it goes wrong. AJ Styles selling wristlocks for 20 minutes, then backflipping into DDTs and backflipping into kicks and backflipping into backflips doesn’t work because he’s not going all the way in either direction, and is trying to be organic and video game at the same time. You’ve either got to sell the wristlock at the 20 minute mark, or you’ve got to start backflipping 5 seconds in.
Sheamus and Ziggler found a more comfortable middle ground, doing a lot of those purposeful WWE “sells” where you hold your head or leg or arm and kinda roll into position for the next thing. Like, if you’re wrestling Sheamus, you should probably never “try to escape” by rolling onto the apron and just sitting there. But it works, because they just ran at each other and jumped around and did flying Ace Crushers II to the outside during the commercial break and I was fine with it. Sheamus hits hard and Dolph likes to exhibit being hit hard. I could’ve lived without the assy DQ finish that should come with a post-it note reading “PAINTED OURSELVES INTO CORNER SORRY,” but whatever.
Worst: Yep, These ‘Walk In On Something That Looks Like Sex’ Jokes Are Still Hilarious
Vickie Guerrero was backstage getting ready for her match, and Hornswoggle entered with The Great Khali to ask her if they could NOTHING. So she mentions that she’s “tight,” and allows the two least athletic people on the show to help her stretch out. You know, because having someone hyperextend your leg while someone else pulls your arms back as far as they’ll go is how leprechauns and Indian giants get swole. Vince McMahon walks in and IT LOOKS LIKE SEX, YOU GUYS, because I guess Vince followed his “WHEN AM I GONNA DERIDE VICKIE” conversation with “WHEN CAN I FURTHER DERIDE VICKIE, WHAT IT IF LOOKS LIKE SHE’S GETTING CORNHOLED BY THE GREAT KHALI.”
The only moderately funny thing is imagining that Vince thinks they were actually all f**king and that WWE cameras were filming it, which is why he got mad about Raw being a family show. If you weren’t sure whether or not Vince actually watches WWE shows, there’s your answer — he thinks extreme sideshow MMFs are a part of his flagship show.
It’d explain the Bashams, at least.
Worst: The Gooniest Shield Promo Ever
Okay, so the Most E-Fed award goes to The Shield for the worst non-Miz part of the show.
Three guys in an “undisclosed location” which is clearly backstage at Smackdown and/or in that restaurant wrestlers eat “find a camera,” introduce themselves, explain their stable name and tell us why they did what they did. I love that the video was “found footage” or whatever and was all spliced up with alternate shots of them making Zoolander faces, but was edited enough to include nameplate graphics. I also like that it made it look like they’d taped the promo five or six times before getting it right.
Seriously, the f**k is this?
Seth Rollins won’t stop yelling, Roman Reigns won’t stop licking his lips like he’s LL Cool J in the ‘Doin’ It’ video and Dean Ambrose makes me feel like Mark Brendanawicz left his job at Pawnee Parks And Recreation to become a pro wrestler. Maybe they should’ve filmed it a sixth time.
Best: Zack Ryder Missing His Moves And Getting Shut Down Is Always A Best
Sorry to fill this week’s report with numbered lists, but this clip of the Alberto Del Rio/Zack Ryder match has two really awful things in it:
1. Ryder doing a sunset flip, then just keeping his legs spread eagle instead of putting them on Del Rio’s arms. That’s the whole thing keeping Del Rio “pinned,” nerd, otherwise he should just be able to nonchalantly raise either shoulder. You aren’t sunset flipping a turtle, he’s not just gonna lie there on his back confused. LEARN HOW TO WRESTLE ARGH
2. That moment just before Ryder goes for the Broski Boot and gets armbreakered (armbroken? armbrokered?) where the camera cuts over to Del Rio just as he’s holding up a big sign that says “OKAY ZACK, NOW IS WHEN WE WILL FINISH THE MATCH, RUN AT ME AND I’LL MOVE, OKAAAY GO.” Forget a Botchamania subtitle, they held on Del Rio calling the spot long enough for him to read a Chuck Lorre vanity card.
That said, I cannot give a Worst to anything that ends with Zack Ryder in pain, desperately clinging to life. And hey, the crowd seemed into him for the first time in forever, so maybe it’s time to move him beyond the “jilted, bunghole ex-boyfriend who can’t get over it” and back into the more comfortable role of “jobber who isn’t very good and doesn’t win, but people like him.” One of those things benefits your wrestling show, and the other just makes me mad as f**k on YouTube.
Worst: “The Muppets” As Social Media Ambassadors
I love The Muppets. When they guest hosted Raw last November, I gave them nothing but Bests. Sheamus is related to Beaker! Jack Swagger is emasculating Fozzie Bear! The actual Muppets are fun and important to the education and creativity I’ve been able to cobble together in life, so I would never speak ill of them.
I would, however, speak ill of the random dude working at Disney who gets stuck updating the Muppets Twitter account in character during Raw. There is something really wrong about Kermit the Frog hashtagging “sheesh.” There’s something even worse about the people who taught me to count and share shilling John Cena matches. Here are a few choice Tweets from their Social Media Ambassadorial run:
It got pretty weird.
Worst: How I Want AJ/Vickie To End Vs. How WWE Wants AJ/Vickie To End
I wrote a lot about wrestling fans and the dichotomy of them wanting great matches for free all the time, but wanting all the good great matches to be saved for pay-per-views and built up properly, because delayed, earned gratification is way more rewarding than disposable main-eventer tag main-events and rushed-through conclusions for nobody.
At the risk of being a terrible wrestling fan, AJ getting her hands on Vickie should’ve been the very end of a long, division-defining story. Vickie should be the boss at the end of the game, and AJ should have to do more than roll up Tamina once and bed John Cena to get her way. Ideally, AJ would work her way through Tamina, maybe Askana, maybe even Eve Torres and the Divas Championship (and if you want to get Greek about it, her former best friend Kaitlyn and herself) before getting the match with Vickie. And the match with Vickie shouldn’t be a MATCH, it should just be Vickie trying to flee, AJ beating the dog shit out of her for a few minutes, pinning her decisively and ending her happy story. Here, it’s just a stupid cog for a Brad Maddox story that nobody wants or understands, and the impact of AJ finally turning that corner and getting her heart’s desires is lessened by the fact that we more or less saw it for free (with a swerve tacked onto the end) on Raw. And also all those other times she’s beaten up Vickie. But you get what I’m saying.
Worst: Brad Maddox
Here’s where the disconnect between what the audience feels and what WWE commands the audience to feel whether they do or not comes back into play … Brad Maddox has a pretty interesting story going on where he’s a fame-monger trying to become a big WWE star by any means necessary, so he uppercuts Ryback in the gonads and walks around backstage filming himself for YouTube. The problem is that WWE already paid off that angle by having Ryback Ryback Maddox and send him off in an ambulance. That was his “comeuppance,” or whatever. So when you have him steeeep through the curtain acting all strange, expecting the audience to be all BOO BOO NO BOO IT’S BRAD MADDOX HE’S A DIRTY CHEATER, it’s not going to happen. He got beaten up by Ryback and got beaten up again when he randomly came back to fight Orton. He’s seen as a non-factor by pretty much everyone watching.
So the idea of having Maddox pop in as the ref and earn his spot with Vickie or whatever is good, but the way he took so much time to do everything (like he was milking some imaginary heat) was insufferable. Not in the way where I want to see him get beaten up, but in the way where I don’t understand. Vince hates Vickie, but he gave her AJ’s job, then puts her in a match with AJ to punish her and benefit AJ. He also hates Brad Maddox and thinks he ruined a PPV and doesn’t deserve to be a WWE Superstar, but he controls all the hirings and firings still, so he brings Maddox back as a referee, and Vickie uses him to win a match she was put into by Vince as punishment to get one over on AJ.
This is all extremely entertaining and easy for me to follow.
Worst: John Cena Seems Like He’s Great At Relationships
Remember earlier this year when AJ was flipping out because of how she’d been treated, and CM Punk thought she was kinda crazy but cautiously comforted her anyway, because she needed some help and it seemed like the right thing to do? Remember how they had chemistry together, and Punk seemed genuinely interested in having sex with a lady, and AJ threw herself into him all gung-ho? Remember how that led to a really interesting Punk/Daniel Bryan/Kane love quadrangle that evolved Kane as a character, allowed Daniel Bryan to thrive in the stupidest of possible situations and set up AJ as a complex female character who could psychologically manipulate and control the people around her?
Here’s AJ flipping out because of how she’d been treated, and John Cena feeling annoyed and pushed into some obligation to comfort her, and he can’t do it without rolling his eyes at the camera, and there is no impression that John Cena could ever find a woman interesting or worth his time. The only thing they’ve done to build to it is “John Cena,” and the only thing it will result in is “John Cena.” AJ will move forward as “crying girlfriend of John Cena, who is put off by her at all times.”
Yeah John, the best way to get a person to stop crying is to just go STOP CRYING, SERIOUSLY, STOP CRYING, STOP IT, STOP IT RIGHT NOW, NO FOR REAL STOP CRYING RIGHT NOW. I don’t know, ass, maybe she has a reason to cry. She was just manipulated into a shitty situation by your bosses. You, the guy who once got sold into Nexus slavery by your promotion, the guy who was almost literally murdered with fire because of a misunderstanding between your friend and the woman he had a crush on, the guy who has pretty much had to deal with evil General Manager characters 24/7 for the last 10 years, you can’t understand why she’s upset? You just roll your eyes and be all UGH CRAZY CHIX, AM I RIGHT at the camera?
Next time Cena’s in the ring talking about how he WILL NEVER BACK DOWN FROM A CHALLENGE and will STAND AND FIGHT LIKE A MAN or whatever, they should have a Diva come out and just say “calm down, just calm down, just calm down” at him until he bursts into tears and hugs them.
Best: A Similar Moment That Is The Opposite Of This Segment In Every Way, Also From A Show For Kids