Oh hi mark.
– For those of you who only show up to read Best and Worst (shame on you), I’m back from my nearly week-long vacation in sunny southern California for a mix of Dodgers baseball, Brady Bunch house visits and mark photos with SoCal Jack Skellington and have returned to my post as the Raw reviewer who is extremely positive about everything but only likes Alberto Del Rio. Before I start, I want to give another thank you to Andrew Johnson for filling in on The Best And Worst Of WWE Night Of Champions and to Diego “the only Dr. Cube that matters” McCafferty for The Guest And Worst Of Raw 9/19. They did a fantastic job filling in, and if you haven’t read those recaps yet, please do so.
– Like I said, this is my first column back in two weeks, so I am going to absolutely badger you to f’ing death for comments, Facebook shares, Twitter retweets, Google Plus plus-ones, Friendster wall posts (does Friendster have a wall? I can’t remember), Xanga rants and Diaryland entries in the support of Best and Worst of Raw. They are appreciated, and if I don’t get enough of them I’m turning With Leather into an indecipherable mass of misdirecting Stephanie McMahon Nude Click Here links and Free iPod announcements.
– In case you need to be bribed, and because last week nobody here liked her enough to include a gratuitous picture, here is Smackdown’s A.J. doing a split.
Enjoy the Best and Worst of Raw for September 26, because it’s all downhill from here.
Worst: Good Luck With Your Lives, America
Two weeks away from pro wrestling, and what’s the first thing I come back to? The very first thing? It’s Michael Cole introducing the ominous Hell In A Cell structure for a Hell In A Cell-themed pay-per-view full of Hells in Cells happening this Sunday by announcing its square-footage and declaring it larger than most American homes. Is that supposed to be awe-inspiring? I was homeless for a while as a child. I spent the rest of it in apartments and bad neighborhoods one step away from Section 8 housing. Thanks, WWE, for reminding me that instead of spending money to help somebody who isn’t a Troop or a Make-a-Wish, you spent x-thousands of dollars to build a 3,500 square-foot thing for the Spirit Squad to wrestle in.
All right, enough negativity. Maybe we’ll start off with a match, and I’ll be able t-
Best: In The Interest Of New Dynamics
I’m settling in to the reality that Theme From Triple H is going to start every Raw (and that it won’t suddenly be one of the funny ones, like Mystikal’s version from back when WWE made albums that sounded like rape threats, i.e. “Forceable Entry”) and that my continuous bitching about how he is Literally the Parasite from Superman and drains the life energy of anything he touches isn’t helping anybody. I wouldn’t have reacted well to Night of Champions. While I never seem to enjoy Raw’s 20-minute opening monologue, I did enjoy seeing and hearing some of the characters who never get to speak out of story air their grievances and act and react like people who might be doing this for a living.
Dolph Ziggler, should he be allowed to continue talking about things in front of people, could develop into a truly great pro wrestling speaker. He’s good at sounding natural while sounding grander than natural, he just never really seems to have anything to say. Even when he’s threatening to kill Hugh Jackman’s wife and send him on a 2,000 year journey of immortality to Xibalba (which he absolutely should’ve) he still never sounds like he’s going anywhere with it. Last night as a good step forward, and he had a legitimate issue that wasn’t being responded to. So did Cody Rhodes, who got nine staples in the head from a Randy Orton ringbell shot on Smackdown and wondered why Miz and Truth get fired for worked punches and Orton can get away with Assault With A Deadly Weapon. Christian didn’t have a point and was just being a whiny jerk, but that’s awesome for him.
I hate hate hated Triple H’s responses — when H said he didn’t go crying to management when Randy Orton attacked his wife, I wanted Cody to respond with “what about the time Chris Jericho beat you for the WWE Championship and you threatened to break the referee’s arm if he didn’t reverse the decision?” Or anything. Triple H’s entire career is one part Married The Boss’s Daughter and one part Pointing At My Dick With Shawn Michaels. Also, telling somebody to “man up” only works when you’re wearing Confederate flag shorts. But at the same time it was nice to see him interacting with people other than Cena, CM Punk and Kevin Nash. If this is the character he’s going for, and by God it looks like it is, he should occasionally have to talk to the people in the mail room.
Worst: Triple H Is Worse Than The Anonymous Raw General Manager
Again, I think this is the character he’s going for (and my opinions here are based solely on what they’re giving me on the show), but damn, Triple H is turning out to be more or less the least effective authority figure of all time. Giving Christian three high-profile matches for pissing him off? Maybe Chris Masters should’ve given up working hard for a year to become a good pro wrestler and dropped a 20 to the production team to get them to play his theme when H is trying to talk. Putting an injured Cody Rhodes in a battle royal where he’s got to beat 9 other guys or lose his championship? Firing Miz and Truth for interfering in his match and then apologizing in a way he didn’t love?
Ken Anderson from Impact Wrestling gave an interview with Pro Wrestling Illustrated (or they just said he did, I’ve never been sure how that works) that attempted to explain why people on Impact were always turning on each other, had some interesting thoughts on face/heel dynamics.
There’s this thought that, in wrestling, it needs to be black or white. You’re either a good guy or a bad guy. I don’t know anybody in my life that is wholly evil or wholly good. With Breaking Bad, or Sons Of Anarchy, or Weeds—you look at these shows and there’s a guy who is a chemistry teacher who sells meth. Is this a good guy? By society’s standards, no. But we look at the TV show and we can sympathize with him. So I don’t know what the answer is. But I do believe that sometimes in the wrestling business, it’s almost forced. And it can be insulting to the wrestling audience, whereas on a TV show like Sons Of Anarchy, you decide. But in wrestling, it’s ‘Hey, I’m the bad guy. Boo me,’ or ‘I’m the good guy. Cheer for me.'”
That’s all true, but to quickly address why this does not explain wacky TNA consta-turning,
1. TNA’s idea of “character development” is having a guy carry a football
2. Shut up
The problem with what’s happening in the current WWE is that it feels like they mixed up their two notecards, and now it’s “Hey, I’m the bad guy. Cheer for me.” and “I’m the good guy. Boo me.” It’s like the only thing separating good guy from bad guy is whether or not they say “you people” in promos and hold the tights. That’s it. Nobody’s getting attacked with baseball bats in the parking lot, nobody’s talking about the hard times of the common man. When a Walter White or a Don Draper does something immoral, we’ve got seasons of moments and situations and backstories to explain why, and justify why, and that keeps us interested in what’s happening and where it’s going. WWE has made a point to ignore their own history and retcon everything so we’ll forget why we booed and start cheering, or vice versa (Sheamus is a great current example of this), so when they have a guy like Triple H do something immoral, people just keep cheering, because they’re already cheering. It’s what Chris Jericho got so pissed off about with Shawn Michaels. Shawn could lie about injuries and manipulate people, but nobody’s paying attention and they “like” Shawn Michaels. It’s regressive bullsh*t, and even the people who see that and try to rise above it can’t, because you can’t put a Walter White on “Malcolm In The Middle”.
It sucks that the bad guy characters can’t go to the person in charge with a reasonable complaint and have it be heard. The job of the good guy is to rise above their cheating and lies, that’s why he’s the good guy. If the bad guys are trying to stay employed in a safe work environment but they don’t like the fans, and the guy who likes the fans can abuse power and hurt them and fine and fire them arbitrarily without consequence, Jesus, who is the bad guy? And more importantly, doesn’t that leave us with nobody to cheer for?
No Idea: Cody Rhodes’ Voice
I’m not sure what he’s doing or why he’s doing it, but I love it. I cooooould … [sniff, shake head] listennnn to himmm talk [nod for no reason, wave arms] all dayyy.
Best: Battles Royal, The Way To Brandon’s Heart
I love battles royal. They’re probably my favorite thing about wrestling, which doesn’t say a lot for my taste in wrestling.
Sure, a battle royal is just a string of important moments held together by a glue of guys leaning back in the corner while one-or-more other guys hold their thighs, but think of it from a fan perspective — In the first match of Raw I got to see my favorite wrestler in the world (Bryan Danielson), I got to see dos Caras (not Alberto Del Rio), I got to see Sheamus eliminate dudes with double-axehandles to the face and both John Morrison and Alex Riley got to appear on Raw with me barely noticing they were there at all. That’s a win by almost every definition. We even got an appearance from Ted DiBiase, which means at least 15 or so fans got to have a DiBiase Posse Tailgate Party before Raw. I want to go to one of those so bad and bring a pack of Tofurky and see if Daniel Bryan will show up and hang out with me.
By the way, if you don’t know about the DiBiase Posse, you can find out by watching the following video, but I have to warn you: the first 45 seconds of this video may make you want to kill yourself.
He should pay Virgil to stand by the grill and menacingly hold out napkins in a fan.
Oh, another good part of the battle royal is that we got almost 20 seconds of Drew McIntyre.
Worst: Drew McIntyre
If I didn’t know Drew McIntyre only hooked up with beautiful, socially rude vegans I would start a rumor that he’d gotten a hold of a time machine and gone back to candy-van teenage Stephanie McMahon, because holy sh*t what could Drew McIntyre have possibly done to deserve the cold boogers on a paper plate treatment he’s been getting this year? This is one of those situations where if you take a step back from the “why aren’t you using him?” talking point, it becomes “why are you paying this guy to be a wrestler if you hate him and don’t ever want him to wrestle?” The guy is talented, and I’m starting to think Superstars was just a Last Starfighter situation where the best performers get rocketed off into outer space.
Look, if you don’t want him to be the “chosen one” or whatever that’s fine, let him pay his dues. But you’ve had Snooki win a match at Wrestlemania and Michael McGillicutty hold a championship this year, put McIntyre in a tag team with Tyson Kidd or whoever and let them lose a good match to Air Boom every now and then. If you’re so dead-set on making McIntyre look worthless, at least let his worthlessness make somebody else look good.
(also, regarding that Tiffany/CM Punk segment, Punk should’ve responded with “why don’t you eat some bacon, what’s your problem, you should try being a human being”)
Best: Sheamus Verse Zeke(ial)
I think I speak for everyone when I say “hosses squaring off in the middle of a battle royal” is always great. It’s become a staple of modern WWE Battle Royal Style, and I think the best use of Ezekiel Jackson since that backstage bit where he talked about Sun Tzu with Brian Kendrick was as the large guy nobody cares about who got the f**k clubbered out of him by The Great White Man Sheamus. Now Zeke should have a Smackdown match where Mark Henry dispatches him like a bitch so we can pack up his stuff and ship him off to the next WrestleReunion.
Worst: Easy There, Big Guy
I wasn’t sure if Sheamus was trying to go over the ropes or hook his feet so he wouldn’t go over the ropes, but I was getting fever flashbacks of Test getting hung up in the ropes against Eddie Guerrero and just hanging there for 15 minutes. I’m not sure what anyone here was going for (the Christian run-in seemed wrong, mostly because of this and the weird forearm sequence between Sheamus and Cody that preceded it), and one of the great reasons why I’m not a pro wrestler is because if I found myself in this situation I’d just sorta collapses in the ropes and hang there in shame until somebody cherry-picked me and dragged me to the back.
Best: Dave Harvard
I hate that Jerry Lawler’s month-long “have personality, you sh*ts!” diatribe ended with Otunga and McGillicutty disappearing until they could come up with personalities, but if it leads to David Otunga doling out bad legal advice backstage and dressing like he’s in a military barbershop quartet, I’m all for it. You can’t see it in the WWEFanNation video, but Otunga missed his mark in this segment by about five minutes, and just stood there motionless until Mrs. Engstrom or whoever whispered “DID YOU SEE THAT” to him from backstage. The conversation it led to was even better.
Laurinaitis: “You went to Harvard Law School!”
Otunga: “Yes, that’s right!”
Laurinaitis: “David, you have a law degree, you’re a lawyer who went to Harvard.”
Otunga: “Yes, I am a lawyer who has a law degree from Harvard Law School.”
I don’t know if Vince stumbled onto some “Seinfield” reruns in the middle of the night and thought Jackie Chiles would make a great pro graps character or what (forgetting, of course, that he already had Clarence Mason), but I hope the Chekov’s Reiterated Gun of David Otunga: Lawyer keeps going. I want to hear his thoughts on Kelly Kelly. “So we got an attractive woman, wearing a bra, no top, walkin’ around in broad daylight. She’s flouting society’s conventions!”
Also, six months from now Michael McGillicutty should show up in coveralls holding a wrench and start yelling I’M A PLUMBER, LOOK AT ME, THIS IS MY OCCUPATION.
Worst: “Capricious” is WWE’s Favorite Smart Person Word
Unrelated, but YouTube is a great place to find out about wrestling things you’ve forgotten. For example, I remember the CM Punk/Kelly Kelly romance angle from WWECW, but did you know they also did a thing where Candice Michelle liked him? Completely random. Almost as good as that CHIKARA-esque CM Punk/Rosa Mendes segment that I wish I would’ve been around to write about.
Best/Worst: Jerry Lawler’s Ass Is Bleeding
It’s not every day when a pro wrestling show gets “anal bleeding” to be a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, so I gave it its own piece, which you should read. It features great feedback about morals and ethics and carnal forbearance from a guy named Joe. Joe what, you may ask? Uhh… just Joe.
To the editor of this story… Who gives a damn what you think?… Morales are just another way to be an uptight prude… They Got every ones attention, therefore gained an audience… That’s what a show does… Obviously you don’t have a show pumping in millions of dollars, so why not shut the hell up??????………….
I don’t know what this guy’s got against Pedro Morales, but to address some of his concerns, I’ve got to admit that I laughed the hell out loud when this moment happened. Maybe it was Booker T’s “whut da hail….” Maybe it was Jim Ross just kinda looking away in shoot disgust. Maybe it’s because normal Michael Cole would’ve just said “OH YEAH J.R., WELL I BET HE’S GOT ANAL BLEEDING TOO? YOU HEAR THAT J.R., JERRY LAWLER HAS ANAL BLEEDING BECAUSE OF THE HEINOUS ATTACK OF MARK HENRY… OR SHOULD I SAY THE ANUS ATTACK OF MARK HENRY” and I would’ve went “ughhh” and changed back to It’s Always Sunny reruns. But no, Michael Cole had to work a deadpan delivery of “anal bleeding” with a straight face and shock me into IRL LOL.
All that being said, this is the last time I want to hear about Jerry Lawler’s asshole.
Worst: Kelly Kelly and The Ropes
I don’t want to harp on this every week, but Kelly, if you’re afraid of the ropes or you can’t hit them properly, just back up and run forward to do your moves, or at least pivot your run before you hit them and run back. It’ll look a lot better, and people will say you’re great at “Muay Thai” or something.
Worst: Yeah, Beth Phoenix Deserves Another Title Shot
What has Beth Phoenix done for me lately? When she was off-screen during the appearance and eventual storyline-abortion of Kharma (and that’s “storyline-abortion”, not “storyline abortion”) I kept saying “Where’s Beth Phoenix? She’s awesome. She should be wrestling.” I remembered her hanging out with Santino and making Melina kick herself in the back of the head. Then I get my wish, and somehow Beth has turned into one of the regularly worst characters on the show. She has zero motivation. She wants to get rid of the blonde Barbies. She has blonde hair and wears roller derby dresses alongside her other blonde friend who is always in pink. All she’s accomplished is two consecutive pay-per-view losses. She gets the pin here, and is somehow granted a third match.
Meanwhile, Natalya is right there. She has even less development, because Jesus, why would she hang around with Beth here? She isn’t really doing Beth’s “dirty work” so she doesn’t qualify as a henchman, and she never gets any of Beth’s opportunities. Beth says that only the cute, perky girls get opportunities, and she continues to say that as she enters her third consecutive pay-per-view title match. Natalya hasn’t gotten sh*t except about a minute 45 of beating on the Chickbusters since July. She’s better in the ring than Beth right now, she looks better than Beth right now, and she broke out that crazy leglock submission I put in the Best and Worst header. She even got one of those midriff-baring tops that’ll make somebody on the Internet call her hot when they never see her and fat if she’s on TV for more than five minutes.
What I’m saying is that we should’ve moved on to the Natalya portion of the “doom”, or at least had her wreck Eve a few more times. Speaking of,
Best: WWE’s Highest Flyers Volume 2, Featuring Eve
Best: The Great Khali’s Wig = Split
I’m happy I missed Night Of Champions and last week’s Raw to avoid 150 paragraphs about Triple H “burying” people (example: “The lady at Terra Burger didn’t fill up my fry cone all the way to the top, she buried me!”), but holy mary mother’a god am I said to have missed Mark Henry, your new World Heavyweight Champion. Mark Henry is my favorite thing about wrestling right now, period. He is every good memory of Vader showing up, shrugging off the Z-Man’s dropkick and powerbombing him into a state of prolonged unconsciousness from my childhood manifesting itself as this massive Self-Proclaimed motherf**ker who picks up guys like The Great Khali and puts them down in their graves.
If you didn’t enjoy Henry standing over a fallen Great Khali and yelling IF I’M GONNA PAY A FINE EVERYBODY GONNA PAY (or the equally amazing YOURS IS FAKE, THIS IS REAL, YOURS IS FAKE THIS IS REAL argument with a replica belt guy in the audience on his way out) there may be no hope for you. I don’t care if my Daniel Bryan fantasy booking for Wrestlemania never comes true, I just want Mark Henry to treat guys like this until he decides it’s time to retire.
Worst: The Oral History Of Hell, By John Cena
The only thing bad about Mark Henry ending a guy in a minute and a half is that John Cena trots out early and doesn’t know what to say or do. I zoned out somewhere near the intermission of his Hell In A Cell declaration last night, but I think it went something like this:
except it took him 8,000 words to say it. I wanted to type a big joke sentence like “I WILL WALK INTO HELL THIS SUNDAY AND ALBERTO DEL RIO WILL MEET ME IN HELL AND CM PUNK WILL ALSO BE THERE, HAVING SOME REASON TO BE IN HELL INSTEAD OF HEAVEN, WHICH I DON’T UNDERSTAND, AND WE WILL FIGHT THE DEVIL HIMSELF FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP OF HELL” but CHRIST, what the hell was he even saying? The crowd seemed to like him there, but he was just miserable. Maybe he thought they were going to hate on him, and he was going to do the defiant “belt over the head” thing he does when he’s in hostile territory? You’re the WWE Champion, dude, why are you still trying to Never Give Up? You won, you don’t have to give up. You won. Why are you still on Alberto’s jock for being such a piece of sh*t? YOU WON.
YOU WON THE MATCH.
Best, Sort Of: John Cena Vs. Christian
I’m happy that clip starts with a replay of Cena’s backdrop to Christian, because it was the best. Christian is one of those guys who can have an entertaining TV match with anybody, and I liked what they did, but it sorta reeked of going through the motions. When Alberto and Punk came to blows and the action spilled back into the ring, Christian set up for a spear and ran right into Cena’s little hoppy sidestep he does to pick guys up, and I thought “okay, here’s the part where they get out of each others’ finishers”. I just wish this meant more. Or wasn’t being used as a punishment backdrop. Or… I don’t know what I want it to be, I just don’t like anything happening with Cena right now and my mind drifts back to Christian as ECW Champion or even his Total Nonstop Matches against Orton and I let it play itself out. Yes, Christian as ECW Champion is my Virginia Venit holding two mugs of beer in her underwear in a field.
Worst: English Is Not Alberto Del Rio’s First Language, Guys
Alberto Del Rio is my favorite Raw superstar (remembering that Mark Henry and Daniel Bryan are on Smackdown, Derrick Bateman is part of the 162 episode season of NXT and Ricardo Rodriguez isn’t technically a “superstar”), but I’m going to give him a worst when he deserves it — putting him at the commentary table where he has to ad-lib quickly with somebody like CM Punk is a terrible, terrible idea. People use “cringeworthy” to describe some of what Del Rio does, and I’ve never seen it… I don’t think his disingenuous in-ring things are “cringeworthy”, I don’t think his character is cringeworthy at all … but stuff like “I’m going to kick hyour BUTT” doesn’t fly, and nobody sitting at the table is interested in setting him up for anything better. It was worth a cringe, and that sucks.
You know what I’d do? Whenever Alberto has to be on guest commentary, have Ricardo sit down next to him and respond to every question with a long, Spanish answer.