– Before you read the Raw report, make sure to check out UFC vet and UFC.com writer Danny Boy Downes’ spectacular Best And Worst Of Money In The Bank 2012 report. Writing alongside you is the best, so thanks for letting me do it.
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Without further ado, please enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for July 16, 2012.
Best: The Terrifying Notion That John Cena Could Swoop In And Steal Your Relevancy At Any Moment
I think I’ve found a way to stop worrying and enjoy the “coolest person in the room” slash “Triple H’s jacket buddy” babyface CM Punk.
Punk’s biggest strengths have always been 1) a massive, massive ego and 2) sounding like he believes everything he says. Part of the reason I haven’t been enjoying him since … well, last August, is because so much of what he began to say sounded like deeply-scripted fan-pandering. Why are you calling John Laurinaitis an “ugly dork” or whatever when he represents the soulless chain of command you fought so hard to get in a word with edgewise? You got at least 20 opportunities to stand across from the Worst Man In Wrestling and tell him what you think, how you feel, how ALL of us feel about Hawaiian Tropic models and bodybuilders getting signed and pushed at the expense of hardworking people like yourself who toiled in armories and civic centers across the country because they love pro wrestling and you’re calling him an ugly dork? The voice of the voiceless became the Voice Of The People In WWE Shirts On Tout, and that was depressing.
All that being said, I’m enjoying the slow, steady burn of CM Punk as a guy who can hold the top championship in the pro wrestling world for almost an entire year uninterrupted and still not get treated like the ace of the promotion, because there’s always someone more important than him to focus on. That’s what Eve said to him point blank last week — he’s not as important to WWE as The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Triple H or John Cena. Punk responds with NUH UH I’M THE BEST IN THE WORLD, because to him, to a WRESTLING FAN, being the champion means you’re the best and most important. But the casual fan world has moved beyond that, and they only care about what the big names are doing, whether they’ve got a title belt or not. In fact, having a belt means you’re on the show less frequently than guys like Alberto Del Rio. The biggest perk of being champ now is getting on the first page of the roster slideshow on WWE.com.
I can start to identify with Punk again because he’s starting to realize it. He’s too proud to face it, but being the “best in the world” is f**king meaningless and having the respect of THESE PEOPLE gets you nowhere. His brain won’t let him think something else, but now people like Eve and Big Show — people who have been systematically treated like dogshit by the WWE brass — are saying it to his face. He’s a cog in the machine that runs to sell John Cena t-shirts.
If Raw 1000’s title match leads to something more important at SummerSlam, let it be Emotionally Indifferent Corporate Dynasty John Cena taking on the Voice Of The Voiceless who took on the monster from the inside and got lost within it.Subscribe to UPROXX
Best: Hey, That Wasn’t A Bad Little Tag Team Title Match
I’m hoping somebody in the back hooked Vince up to one of those A Clockwork Orange torture chairs to watch last week’s Raw and screamed LOOK AT THIS, LOOK AT HOW BAD THIS IS, WHAT ARE YOU DOING until he broke free and screamed ALL RIGHT DAMMIT and put some wrestling on his wrestling show.
“R-Truth and Kofi Kingston versus Darren Young and Titus O’Neil” should not be a good wrestling match, but with the upward momentum of the NXT crew and the addition of TAG TITLES DEFENSE in capital letters, it turned out pretty well. Tag matches are great for hiding individual weaknesses, so no matter how bad of a wrestler Titus might be going one-on-one with someone, he’s pretty fun when he’s just wearing a sparkly custom t-shirt, doing a wacky dance and running in to hit bodyslams.
I also really enjoyed this as a rare example of WWE creating and executing an unimportant midcard wrestling story. R-Boom have the tag team championships. Upstart team The Prime Time Players have a new manager who can worm them into a title match. They face a few other undercard teams (PERM, The Usos) and show nothing but cowardice in the process, walking out on matches or using shortcuts to win. They finally get their shot against R-Boom on Raw and try to use those same shortcuts, but the champs are a better team and overcome it, winning the match. The Prime Time Players look more important for having had a title shot, but not as important as the champs, BECAUSE THEY AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE AS IMPORTANT AS THE CHAMPS. Applause, everybody. Do this more often. Do everything else less.
Best: Kofi Kingston’s Skeletor Gear
I shit on Kofi a lot in this column (because with John Morrison gone he’s the worst Jumping Guy on the show), but his Skeletor from He-Man trunks were tops. It succeeded in doing three important things:
1. Getting rid of Kofi’s still-awful “smiling black guy” logo without compromising the aesthetic completely
2. Gave me my first ever reason to like Kofi Kingston by topping Cody Rhodes’ Triforce boots in the nerd specificity department
3. Introduced that swank powder blue and lavender color scheme to WWE
I only wish R-Truth had gotten rid of the airbrushed jeans and coordinated. He’d make a pretty great Trapjaw, and the colors would match. At least throw on some green and yellow and start gurgling during your promos. Little Jimmy as Orko is a given.
Best: Zack Ryder Tries To Survive
Destiny was texting when Zack Ryder entered, and without looking up she started singing along with his entrance theme. Then she looked up and said, “I don’t like him. I like his song, but he sucks.”
My reaction to Zack Ryder was a brief explanation about how he was cool for maybe six months last year, then me going OHHHH SHIT YOU BOUT TO GET RYBACKED MOTHERF**KER when Alberto Del Rio showed up WITHOUT A CAR and WITHOUT RICARDO GETTING HIS OWN RING INTRODUCTION because serious business. I wanted it to play out like the ADR/Sin Cara matches (kick wham armbar), but was pleasantly surprised when Ryder got to fight back without having to get in a bunch of spots. It played out like a guy trying to survive, and less like people taking turns hitting moves. That’s great, and one of the reasons I fell in love with Ryder circa his matches with Santino on Superstars back in the long long ago.
Best: Rey Mysterio Is Back, And His Legs Work
Guess what? When you let one of the best wrestlers of all time heal up so he isn’t trying to do lucha transitions on grandpa legs, he is AWESOME. AWESOME TO THE MAX.
I’m really, really excited to have Rey Mysterio back, and not just because I’m going to SummerSlam. How bad did that ONE rad headscissors takedown make Sin Cara look, seriously? Mysterio was moving fluently and naturally, and I’m totally down for him to finally get a quick, month-long feud with Del Rio where he can stay healthy and come out on top. Then we can move him into a main event thing with WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION DOLPH ZIGGLER and SHOULD PROBABLY PAY ATTENTION Sin Cara for that mask record they want, and by WrestleMania Sheamus can be back to losing to Great Khali in pre-show battles royal.
Rikishi “looks great” but Vickie Guerrero’s a cow? Okay, Jerry.
Best: Heath Slater vs. Gran Uso
I want to formally applaud WWE for their choice of randomly occurring legends over the last two months. If I was making a list of guys I’d want to see on an all-time roster, Vader, Piper, Sid, Diamond Dallas Page, Bob Backlund and Rikishi would all make the cut. When this started I was so sure Slater would be getting Cobra Clutch’d by Sgt. Slaughter and Fist Dropped by Jerry Lawler every week, and I’m happy to say I was wrong. Next week’s Raw 1000 group should be more of what we’re used to — Bret Hart, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley — but this One Man Band World Tour was really cool.
I still hope Slater gets jumped by a bunch of legends on Raw 1000 only for Wade Barrett to show up with the Nexus (including Daniel Bryan) in tow to literally beat the piss out of them. I also hope Ricky Steamboat is involved.
Best: RIP Umaga
I never thought I’d say the words “Aww, Samoan Spike. Awww” and make a frowny face, but when Rikishi busted out his Samoan Spike in tribute of Umaga my heart grew three sizes. I didn’t get to write this column when he was around, but I loved Umaga (and Armando Alejandro Estrada) and still list his Last Man Standing match with Cena from the Royal Rumble as one of my favorite matches. Hell, I even loved 3 Minute Warning.
I also never thought I’d say “Jesus, Rikishi is looking FAT”, but here we are.
Best: Raw Just Got Heartwarming, You Guys
Heath Slater video package to in-ring Heath Slater promo to brief Rikishi match with Umaga tribute to RIKISHI DANCING WITH HIS SONS TO THE TOO COOL MUSIC was one of my favorite five minutes of Raw this year. I get mad at lot watching wrestling. I get bored, or I get excited, or I run upstairs to jump on the computer to tell people what I thought about whatever, but I very rarely watch wrestling and smile. This moment made me smile, because sometimes wrestling should be about love, and “wedding proposals” are “people making out” are not the only kinds of love.
In a better world, this moment would lead to the Usos incorporating Samoan Spikes and Sitting On People into their moveset en route to a WWE Tag Team Championship win to honor their family and heritage, and not just be another example of the Usos never being as cool as their dancing. They’re talented young guys, and talented young tag teams (that make sense) should be nurtured. That being said, I’m not gonna front — when the lights went down, I said “oh man, when they come back on I hope Grandmaster Sexay and Scotty 2 Hotty are in the ring with him”. I said that.