– Please make sure to leave a comment on the report. Facebook likes and Twitter shares are huge. These take forever to write, so if you want me to keep them up instead of just posting tweets about Skip Bayless from Jose Canseco or whatever like a normal popular sports blog should, do your part.
– Thanks to Casey of the WWE Magazine awareness-winning Hammerlock Dialectic for pics and gifs.
– If you’re one of those people who got to the report early and don’t see all the pages, please consider spending some time listening to today’s epic edition of the With Spandex pro wrestling podcast. It’s about the greatest fan fiction of all time, Adventures In Bitchsitting, and deals with Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle as single fathers. It’s amazing, and you should hear it (plus it’ll by me a little time).
Enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for June 11, 2012. Three hours of it. Jesus.
Worst: Vince McMahon Doesn’t Watch Raw
Last week (and during at least 100 other columns) I wrote extensively about how WWE’s kayfabe corporate ladder makes no sense. Vince McMahon is the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, but he was ousted as COO by a board of directors and replaced by Triple H. John Laurinaitis is the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and was the interim general manager of Raw, and he leveraged that against Triple H and became general manager of both television shows, giving him power (occasionally) over both Vince AND Triple H, but not the board of directors. Now Vince is returning to Raw to give Laurinaitis a job evaluation. You can pull the “stop thinking so much about it” card if you want, but when you add A and B together its comforting to get C, and not “37” with a remainder of fart.
When Triple H relieved Vince of his duties, he removed Vince from “day to day operations”, which included sh*t like making matches, evaluating peoples’ jobs and firing people and getting into matches with contracted wrestlers on a whim because of personal vendettas. Triple H began using his power to fire people on a whim because of personal vendettas and have a bunch of matches. Laurinaitis used his power to fire people on a whim because of personal vendettas and wrestle John Cena in the main event of a pay-per-view. Now Vince is back to fire Laurinaitis. There are only two explanations:
1. Vince doesn’t watch Raw and has no idea what’s going on, but he’s too proud to admit it and people are too terrified to correct him.
2. The Board of Directors is Moppy, Eugene, the Boogeyman and Freddie Prinze Jr. and they make decisions by sitting in their own filth and screaming until somebody shows up to help them.
Imagine any other show operating under these rules. Imagine if Joffrey ordered Ned Stark’s execution for plotting to steal the throne, and then 10 episodes later Ned shows up in a limo and orders Joffrey’s execution, but before it can happen Don Draper shows up and you think it’s gonna lead somewhere, but he just disappears and nothing is resolved. You would f**king hate that show.
It’s not even fun to watch. St. Valentine’s Day Massacre-era Vince got a lot of credit for putting his body on the line, not being afraid to look like a wimpy asshole and generally doing anything he’d ask his talent to do. 2012 Vince just seems like he’s above it all, and he shows up to make a few insider references and make fun of whoever he hates this week and either gets beaten up or dies at the end and nothing gets accomplished. Last night’s Raw was maybe the worst ever evidence of St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Vince’s erosion as a constructive part of the show, and proof that he’s forever a quick-fix Special Guest Star and will never be that guy again.
Big Johnny saying we’re approaching the 100th episode of Raw was pretty choice, though. I wonder if he signed Mantaur to an ironclad contract?
Best: Who Cares If Lord Tensai Isn’t Over, He Beat The Sh*t Out Of Sheamus
Welcome to New Japan, fella.
I don’t know if Sheamus tells people he’s wrestling to just punch and kick him as hard as they can, but it’s something about him I legitimately love. It’s what made the match with Otunga a few weeks ago better than it should’ve been, and part of what makes his non-WrestleMania-bullsh*t matches with Daniel Bryan great. The match with Tensai on last night’s show wasn’t anything to write home about, but by the end of it Sheamus looked (moreso than people usually look) like he’d been in a fight. When Punk shakes his left arm a bunch and holds it to his side and grimaces, it looks like he’s selling. Look at this picture of Sheamus immediately following the pinfall:
That’s not selling, that’s a guy bleeding from the face, trying not to roll his eyes back, collapse and yell JESUS CROIST FELLA. Tensai beat the red dye out of him, and if those welts on Tensai’s hilarious babydoll stomach are any indication, Sheamus gave it right back. That’s one of the major things missing from pro wrestling these days — the idea that these guys are hurting each other to win, and not 1) pretending to fight, or 2) doing that weird YOU HIT ME OKAY NOW I HIT YOU GRR LET’S SO WHO’S TOUGHER thing. Also missing from wrestling: fat guys and ugly guys. This match had it all!
Worst: Nobody Cares About Sakamoto
There was a lot to process and digest on Raw, from the complicated social implications of the AJ As Crazy Chick angle to the simple “f**k you, nerdlinger” of Seth Green’s favorite Seth Green-related Raw moment, but I think the one thing we can all agree on is that nobody gave Splinter’s ass about Lord Tensai beating up Sakamoto.
Last week I mentioned how funny it would be if Tensai shoving Sakamoto out of the way was the quickest-ever version of the WWE manager/valet break-up story, but nope, here we are spending 5 extra minutes watching a guy who isn’t over beat up a guy who has never gotten character development beyond “he WORSHIPS Tensai!” The announcers kept hammering that home, didn’t they? He’s beating up this guy who WORSHIPS him! He WORSHIPS Tensai! And the dumb guy in the nWO red and black shirt behind the announcers keeps smiling and trying to make Too Sweet and Diamond Cutter hand gestures at the screen because he’s bored and waiting for the next thing to happen.
I know you aren’t starting a Sakamoto/Tensai feud, so wouldn’t it have been just as easy to write Sakamoto out by just having him never show up again? Worst case scenario, Tensai could say “I got rid of the guy who worshipped me”. I don’t need to watch him get Wataru Sakata’d.
Worst: Really, Teddy Long Is Your Matchmaking Genius, Really
When Teddy Long started speaking I began chanting “tag team match, tag team match, tag team match, tag team match”. When he mentioned there were four former champions on the show, that became TAG TEAM MATCH, TAG TEAM MATCH. It ended up being a Fatal Fourway (probably because Teddy didn’t want to give Johnny his awesome idea for a tag team match, or because Randy Orton and Undertaker are both out and Teddy hates making tag matches without them), which was fine, but Johnny took credit for it and Vince thought it was a great idea.
Hey, you know why you think it’s a great idea? Because it’s what you always f**king do. A great idea would be something we haven’t seen (or something we haven’t seen in a while), something fresh, something that would make us go “wow, they’re doing that on Raw? I should watch this!” Not “midcard guys have a match to get a match”. Teddy should’ve proposed a system of statistics to justify title shots and show placement on the basis that WWE is sports entertainment and therefore should have as much emphasis on “sports” as “entertainment”. Or he should’ve just put Christian and Dolph Ziggler in a tag team match against sports and entertainment. Who cares?
Best: CAW CAW BANG F**K I’M DEAD
Made all the better by the “I just checked on R-Truth … HE AIN’T DOIN’ SO WELL” later in the show. Sorry you got punched once, Truth, but that is a straight-up “Wicked Witch dies if she touches a small amount of water” situation for a pro wrestler.
Worst: Layla Is Awesome And Nobody Notices
I went through this a lot with LayCool, but at least LayCool were grating and obnoxious and you were supposed to hate her. Now she’s infusing the Diva’s division with nearly everything it’s been missing — charisma, in-ring storytelling, athleticism, and avoidance of Kelly Kelly Hawaiian Tropic obviousness — and nobody cares. Nobody.
She doesn’t even get the HOLLAAA HOLLAAA pop Kelly gets. I don’t want to pull the “WWE Universe can’t handle a woman of color who isn’t a monster” card, but damn, she’s about a thousand shoot times more gorgeous than an average woman, she’s got a legitimate personality and she can do things like hop from the bottom rope to the second rope and back for a crossbody without killing herself. What would happen if Kelly (or Brooke Tessmacher, for that matter) tried that? She’d smear off in two and you’d have a Kelly on one side of the post, Kelly on the other and an orange paste on the rope.
I’ll talk more about this when the AJ stuff comes up, but WWE crowds are easily conditioned and have been trained through years of 40 second Divas contests that they aren’t supposed to invest in these women emotionally and that women’s wrestling is a relaxing period between moments of actual action. It’s disappointing at best and sorrowful at worst, and if Layla looking like she’s about to have her head split open in a Saw trap before getting Glammed Slam doesn’t make either of them seem more important, I don’t know what to do. Just keep doing what you’re doing, Layla, somebody will notice.
Or you’ll get released and find a job in TNA, and take Gail Kim’s place as the lady who can’t really wrestle but seems like she’s awesome.
Best: Santino And Ricardo Should Probably Feud Forever
They’re perfect for each other, and they should have the same rating in the video games.
I’m giving Santino and Ricardo a Best and a Worst here, because they represent a great conflict of emotions I feel when watching Raw. I LOVE comedy wrestling. Guys like Kikutaro, Stalker Ichikawa and Pierre Abernathy are among my favorites. I rag on Santino for taking the easy route too often, but he’s got good comedic timing, and when his material hits (like when he scared Ricardo with the Cobra and made him run face-first into the ring post) I love it. Ricardo probably has something to do with it … Santino needs a comedic foil, and without Maria or Beth Phoenix or Vladimir Kozlov around to play off of, it’s good to have an opponent who isn’t worried about looking cool and LOVES TO BE ON TELEVISION.
I think comedy wrestling is valuable and could be an important part of a great primetime wrestling program in the United States. The only problem is that WWE has the worst idea ever of what’s funny, so in the end all the little stuff the performers do to make an impression gets washed away in a sea of the most base, stupid, obvious sh*t they can find. Case in point:
Worst: Topical Justin Bieber References
Wrestling comedy works when wrestling IS the comedy. When wrestlers play on the obvious tropes of the sport, like when Ebessan wrestles in slow motion or Jackson Florida tries to rope walk and f**ks it up gloriously, it works. When wrestlers attempt to be funny independently of wrestling (but still within the confines of a wrestling show), it doesn’t. Well, most of the time. Most of the time it’s Triple H and Candice Michelle getting blowjobs at a cookout. Occasionally you get Derrick Bateman, ZUMBA master, but not often.
Santino ripping off Ricardo Rodriguez’s tuxedo to reveal a Justin Bieber shirt did not work. At best, it was a two-year old joke that would’ve worked a lot better when he was a wormy teen on YouTube and not a world-traveling pop idol that millions of people love. At worst, it’s a throwback to those weird moments at the Greensboro Coliseum where Dusty Rhodes or whoever would disrobe J.J. Dillon and he’d be wearing women’s underwear and stockings and garters, and 6-year old me would be all “that’s weird” and the only perspective I was given was an arena full of wrestling fans going LOL YOUR GAY. It made me a homophobic little asshole for most of my childhood. GOLDUST KISSED A MAN, THAT’S GAY, BEAT HIM UP. Now I just think, “so? Ricardo Rodriguez likes pop music. The only weird thing about this is that he’d wear a printed t-shirt under a tuxedo. What’s your point, Santino?” And if you wanna be homophobic about it, what’s gayer, a guy in a Justin Bieber shirt or a guy who wants to humiliate his rival by ripping off his clothes?
Best: Once You Go Bryan, There’s No Point In Tryin’
Revealing fact: Daniel Bryan’s molten promo from Raw was not uploaded to WWE Fan Nation’s feed, but the “AJ kisses CM Punk” and “Mr. McMahon tells Daniel Bryan he’s never finished anything in 18 seconds” clips were.
Daniel Bryan rules. If you’re agonizing over my “Daniel Bryan rules” paragraph already, move on to the next page. The guy’s been my favorite wrestler for going on 12 years now, and it makes me happy to see him disproving every imaginable detractor by continually improving, being the best guy on the show at the things people said he couldn’t do (listen to the crowd during Bryan’s speech, then listen to their middling “woos” when Punk is talking) and being the real Voice Of The Voiceless by being brave enough to say what we’re all thinking — that the WWE Universe is voiceless because they’ve got nothing intelligent to say. See also, the guy with the YOUR FIRED sign. That had FIRE on it.
The most compelling heels are the ones who believe what they say, and as outlandish as it may be, say something believable. The most compelling babyfaces are the ones who can hear that belief and stand strong enough to say, “here’s where you’re wrong”, and mean it.
so uh, unfortunately,
Best: CM Punk Gets Shook
A few talking points from the Punk/Bryan verbal showdown:
1. Daniel Bryan continues his role as the Voice Of The Voiceless by saying what needed to be said: since Punk blew up last summer, he’s changed. He’s become that soulless, pandering asshole up top who throws his weight around and tries to look like the coolest and smartest and toughest guy on the show. Punk smirks, in the way that Summer Of Punk Punk never would, and says “the only thing that has changed about me is nothing”. I guess Titus O’Neil is writing his comebacks now.
2. Bryan points out that Punk is a sellout. Punk’s response is “funny coming from the guy in a YES YES YES t-shirt”. You know, the t-shirt WWE had to appropriate from Barbershop Window because the WrestleMania and Raw crowds in Miami wouldn’t stop yelling YES YES YES throughout the entire show, even when Bryan wasn’t in the ring. The shirt Bryan had to announce in a blushing promo at the end of a dark match to thunderous applause. The one the voiceless raised their voices and demanded. I guess Punk’s suggesting that we shouldn’t listen to those people, or maybe that they want to buy that shirt with an ice cream bar on the front that f**king nobody demanded.
3. Punk hasn’t changed since last summer. But, as my good friend Casey said, “you sure put on Triple H’s jacket, didn’t you”.
4. When Daniel Bryan calls Punk out on this stuff, what happens? Punk doesn’t “pipe bomb” him in response like he should (or like everyone assumes he could), he backs up and starts insulting the way Bryan looks. Calls him “goat face”. Hey, you know who else doesn’t pay attention to criticism about himself and calls them ugly queers for “hating” on him?
The CM Punk who can’t stop Jim Halperting at the screen and digs crazy chicks is not my Voice. The guy who convinced him to go vegan is.
Worst: Having To Explain This AJ Thing To Everybody
and now for the super preachy part of our program,
One of the downsides of writing a column where you aren’t afraid to say “hey, it’s 2012, you should probably stop stereotyping ethnic groups and treating women like possessions” is that people who aren’t ready to make that evolutionary step get increasingly into shutting you up. Usually it’s denial (“it’s wrestling!”) or passive aggression (“oh great, guess I’m gonna have to read about women’s rights again! /dismissive wank”). The truth is that people who’ve already made up their minds that bad life decisions are normal or okay aren’t in the position to be swayed toward the light by a f**king wrestling column, and I’m okay with that.
Here’s where I stand on the AJ story. Officially. I like that AJ has managed to become the most fully-formed character on the show, good or bad, and that she’s allowed a more complex emotion than “bitch” or “pointing”. There’s a real story going on … AJ seems “crazy”, but we can’t yet pinpoint if she’s shoot bonkers or using it to her advantage, misleading people in one direction so she can herd them in another. She’s a woman in a main-event storyline involving three important male WWE Superstars and she’s getting main-ish event TV time. She’ll get action figures and 8s-by-10 on Shopzone and she’ll probably be in the next video game. That’s awesome for her. She’s a good wrestler, a beautiful woman and a pretty solid soap opera actress. She deserves success.
It’s also not a bad thing to have a female character be evil or crazy. A woman, real or fictional, can be evil, crazy, a bad role model or an objectively awful person.
My major problem is as follows: the evil or crazy or bad role model or objectively awful person can’t come from the fact that she’s a woman, or constantly reference it. That’s part of the problem with AJ. She’s crazy, sure, but that forks into Michael Cole going “ughhh, PSYCHO ALERT” whenever she appears and CM Punk wearing “I DIG CRAZY CHICKS” t-shirts. One is upset not because she’s crazy, but because she’s a crazy woman (see Cole’s “have you ever been able to figure out what a woman is thinking” conversation with Jerry f**king Lawler). The other doesn’t like that she’s crazy (see the constant eye rolls and heavy sighs) but likes that she’s hot, so he’ll live with the crazy. Much like the Eve “scandalous bitch” stuff, it’d be nice if a woman could have character traits, good or bad, or have her flaws or bad decisions pointed out or used for stories without them all boiling down to “she’s a woman”.
WWE audiences are conditioned to do what WWE wants, and right now they don’t want you to see AJ as a crazy person, they want you to see her as a crazy chick. That’s why she has to kiss Kane instead of just weirding him out. It’s disappointing.
also, stop saying “indian style”
Best: Jerry Lawler, Pizza Hero
On the flipside, how f**king hilarious was it to see Jerry Lawler going “oh wow that looks like a fun idea” to the Domino’s Pizza commercial, ordering a pizza online during the show, getting really excited about it and then waiting like an hour and a half for a pizza that never arrived? At least when they sponsored Subway they put Jared in the front row and had a delicious Subway sandwich wrapped up with a 77-ounce soda on the announce table.
They should replace Lawler, and have the excuse be that he was so good at Pizza Hero that Domino’s hired him away. Replace him with Scott Stanford, and have a segment where Stanford drags his finger across the back of an iPad and mumbles “is this where you put the hot dog”.
Best: Ziggler/Christian Is What Ziggler/Kofi Pretends To Be
It helps that Christian is a thousand times better than Kofi Kingston (Rutherford PS Hayes is a thousand times better than Kofi Kingston), but the last couple of minutes of the fatal fourway for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship were awesome. It had everything I want in a Raw match — selling on offense (the spear sequence beginning with Christian pulling up out of a run because his ankle hurt was wonder), Vickie Guerrero as a useful part of the match (distracting people, instead of blatantly climbing up on the apron and point-shoving the referee), Dolph Ziggler getting a relatively clean win with his finish — and I couldn’t have asked for more.
The early parts of the match had a lot of important stuff too, like Jack Swagger losing (I don’t like it, but I’m used to it) and Great Khali no-selling kicks to the leg only to be felled by an attack to the leg, then losing straight up to Christian’s terrible f**king frog splash. If CM Punk’s Macho Man elbow wasn’t in direct contrast to Macho Man’s elbow, Christian’s frog splash would be the worst looking thing in WWE. Either move your body naturally a la a frog or just stay still and splash the guy, don’t jump off with your body at a 45 degree angle and expect me to consider it grace.
Worst: Great Khali Is The Weakest Giant Ever
Maybe this should be a best. I have strong memories of seeing El Gigante when I was a kid (remember, I was an NWA/WCW kid) and thinking WHOA THIS IS THE BIGGEST DUDE EVER NOBODY CAN BEAT HIM, then seeing a few Gigante matches and thinking “oh, anybody with forward momentum or ability to bench the bar could just grab him by the foot, tip him over and pin him while he helplessly flails on the ground with his eyes bugged out and his mouth open”. Khali manages to look even worse than that, like when he grabs Jack Swagger by the head to repeatedly ram him into Ziggler in the corner, only it’s obviously Swagger running back and forth and trying to keep Khali’s fat dumb hand from slipping off.
Khali is so big and weak he can’t make living look realistic. He looks like the fake octopus Bela Lugosi wrestled. When he falls down, it looks like somebody toppled over the World’s Tallest Man wax statue at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Worst: Stop Walking Up The Ramp Backwards
I love Ziggler getting the win and am excited to see him challenge for the strap at No Way Out (even if Sheamus only has good matches with other hosses) (and Daniel Bryan), but I swear to God if WWE made me the general manager of Raw the first thing I’d do is whip up a power point and have a companywide webinar about not walking up the f**king ramp backwards. 90% of WWE problems begin when a Superstar backs up the ramp without looking. I don’t know why they keep doing it. If you want to look at the ring, do it from closer to the ring.
It’s especially bad when heels do it and babyfaces rush out and attack them, because WWE has built up this weird anti-hero thing where every good guy has to be stupid and aggressive. So I’m pretty happy that Sheamus just walked out and talked some trash to Ziggler, but I’m inclined to believe he’d PLANNED to run out and attack him, but couldn’t get over the sh*tkicking Tensai gave him.
Best And Worst: Do Not Let Vince McMahon Have Segments With Black People
I need to divide this up into smaller Bests and Worsts, as it was one of the most perplexing two-twenties of television on record.
Best: Vince should’ve interrupted Natalya with “you’re the one that farts, right” and then walked away.
Worst: So the Funkadactyls aren’t called “Funkadactyls” because they needed a different dinosaur thing with “funk” in front of it, they’re Funkadactyls because they are funky and sound like f**king pterodactyls. Man, I can’t remember the last time I wanted two WWE characters to shut up so badly*. They sounded like the main character’s wacky friends on a Disney Channel show.
Worst: As if Vince McMahon calling John Cena his nigga wasn’t enough, here we have Vince disco dancing to magical theme music with two cartoonish black ladies who have their worries satiated by funk. Do not let Vince McMahon have segments with black people. He doesn’t understand that they are people and it never ends well.
Best: This is the best use of Zack Ryder in at least six months.
Best: President’s Day
I’m just gonna keep screencapping these guys for posterity. Hopefully the Ryback angle ends with all the jobbers he’s faced turning into some weird jobber Mecha Shiva and taking him down.
I don’t understand how wrestlers work for WWE. I like when they’re advertised as “local talent”, because it lets me believe WWE scouted the area for expendable guys to feed to Ryback as an exhibition, because they didn’t want their developmental guys getting hurt. But these guys have names and entrance spiels, and can make decisions like entering second and deliver promos on the way to the ring. How does this work? Why do Derrick Bateman, Titus O’Neil and Darren Young have to battle it out in an NXT triple threat for a match on Smackdown but f**king Rutherford Hayes gets a showcase match with mic time on Raw? When was the last time Derrick Bateman spoke on Raw? That guy is your developmental ace! Your NXT protagonist!
Anyway, I’d like these guys a lot more if they weren’t a direct ripoff of my two favorite e-fed characters, a tag team of Middle Eastern historical re-enactors I created called “President’s Day”. George Washington Qatar and Ibrahim Lincoln. Lincoln’s finisher is the John Wilkes Boot. Somebody put me in charge of the TV wrestling.
Best: FEED HIM MORE
Ryback’s response to these Chatties Cathy was to put them in the ground and demand THREE jobbers. I know “feed me more” is his catchphrase, but why does he want to only fight jobbers? Is this a Kimbo Slice angle where he can kill these pathetic little white guys, but as soon as he gets into a match with, I don’t know, Tyson Kidd he’ll get kicked in the head once and die? Are we Stuntman Mike-ing Ryback?
Whatever we’re doing, I’m not bored of the Ryback squashes like everyone else seems to be. I loved seeing him come around the corner and assassinate that President. I dig seeing him lift guys and march around with them, even if the “Goldberg” chants are asinine and from a crowd wherein a solid 60% weren’t alive to see Goldberg. That sh*t was 8 WrestlesMania ago. I like the chumps who won’t stop mouthing off, I like their wacky names, I like watching good men die. But maybe we should let Ryback murder Darren Young or something so the Internet doesn’t try to go all Lord Tensai on him.
Worst: Do Not Let Vince McMahon Have Segments With White People (Or Dwarves)
The only good part of this was the BE A STAR poster hanging in the background. The guy is palsied for Christ’s sake. I’m not above making fun of the less fortunate (neither is Cena, with his “cripple” remarks later on in the show, which were pretty hilarious coming from Mr. Make A Wish) but man, Gregory Iron better be happy he never got that Royal Rumble spot. We’d be in for six years of hilarious videos of Vince parking a short bus sideways across a bunch of handicapped spots and stumbling out with hook hands beating mindlessly against his chest.
Best: WOOP WOOP WILLIAM REGAL ALERT
I didn’t mention this earlier, but if the John Laurinaitis GM storyline ends with him getting fired, the only way it can be an improvement is the insertion of William Regal. Although after hearing the fifth episode of With Spandex maybe “the insertion of William Regal” is also a bad idea.