Editor’s Note: As some of you may’ve noticed, we didn’t do the predictions contest namedropped in last week’s column. Instead, we’ve decided to set up a contest you can’t lose! All you have to do is drop a comment on the column below (a real one, preferably, not “I’m leaving a comment!”), tweet the URL of The Best And Worst Of WWE TLC ’11 out to your followers and make sure to include an @WithLeather at the end so we can see it. Do that, and you’ll be one of two people randomly selected by me and probably Bill to win 50 bucks. That’s it. You’ll get it on one of my Cleveland Indians checks and everything. So do that!
Okay, first things first:
– I’m not Brandon. Brandon isn’t here. He’s off in search of the world’s only vegan Chocolate Wonderfall into which he can dunk a mess of candied tofu, so until he’s done with his walkabout, I’m filling in for the Best and Worst of TLC. I’m Bill Hanstock from Progressive Boink, SB Nation, and/or Baseball Feelings. Tomorrow, you guys get the esteemed Justin, also from Progressive Boink, for Best and Worst of Raw. It’s a regular Progressive Boink week here! By the time Brandon gets back, we’ll be rating lesbians or talking about waterslides or whatever.
– It’s customary to plead for comments in these things, so if you’re reading this, please do take ten seconds of your time to leave a comment, even/especially if it’s just to let Brandon know how much better he is at these.
– All internal gifs are courtesy of Jerusalem at Punchsport Pagoda.
– Just as an advance warning, this recap contains zero (0) pictures of anyone named A.J. (Or does it?? SWERVE)
This show was way better than I expected it to be, so let’s get right down to business!
Worst: Oh, ‘Twas The Week Before Christmas, ‘Twas It?
The show started off with a really terrible video package aping the classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and sort of half-tangentially, half-hamfistedly working in rhymes about the WWE Superstars and the matches that would be on the upcoming card. Look, we all know how good the marketing geniuses are who make these packages for the WWE, but this had nothing to do with anything. It’s likely that the guy editing this all together was doing a straightforward TLC intro package (you know, those ones where they talk about how gosh darn brutal the whole thing is), and then suddenly an associate producer burst into the room, looking harried, and yelled, “Did you know there’s some kind of HOLIDAY coming up this week?! Oh, that’s great. That’s just perfect!” And then they’re up until 4 AM getting the faux-“IN A WORLD…” voiceover guy to come up with a slant-rhyme for “Ziggler.”
Worst: He Is No Longer Perfection
Dolph Ziggler is obviously the best (we’ll get to much more of than in a moment, hang on), but the “I AM PERFECTION” intro to his theme music was far and away the best part of that theme. It’s all well and good to have Vickie come out and introduce him, because Vickie’s great. More Vickie! But that simple little thing gave me plenty of enjoyment, and it was taken away from us before its time.
Worst: Casual Racism
We would be treated to the mother lode of casual racism in a later sketch, but it was nice of Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole to give us a wee soupcon of needless bigotry while introducing the Spanish announcers. You know how they pan over to the Spanish announce table and we get treated to a few brief seconds of people talking passionately about something before being cast back into the doldrums of the regular team? Well, they did that, and Lawler followed it up with a bemused, “Could they talk any faster, Cole?” To his credit, Michael Cole kind of just went “uh” and then changed the subject. Yes, they probably could talk faster, King. You’d still be a bigot.
Best: Zack Ryder’s Weird Body
In some ways, Zack Ryder’s weird body could be considered a Worst, because he’s got a realy weird body and if you think about it too long you might get a little creeped out. I’m not even talking about his hair color matching his skin color like he’s Bart Simpson come to horrifying life. I’m talking about the proportions and shape(s) of his body. He’s surprisingly tall, but almost imperceptibly so. He’s got a physique that’s somewhere in-between Jack Swagger and JBL. He moves around like he just heard about “moving around” recently and is eager to give it the old college try. I look at the guy and kind of can’t believe he used to be a Fake Edge. Not that Edge’s body was particularly weird or anything, but Edge at least looks like an actual person you might see, rather than a man made out of different types of sausages.
Big Best: Dolph Ziggler, Obviously
This was an opening match that got absolutely everything right. You’ve got a guy that people want to see win, even if they don’t know why. You’ve got a midcard title at stake that people want to see change hands. You’ve got a straightforward wrestling match on a gimmick PPV. Most importantly, you’ve got the best heel in the world that people absolutely hate and want to see lose. The Zack Ryder vs. Dolph Ziggler match from WWE TLC 2011 is this generation’s Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake vs. Mr. Perfect match from WrestleMania VI. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen Beefcake/Perfect. To most fans, that was the match where Perfect’s undefeated streak came to an end, and it was basically brilliant, in large part due to Mr. Perfect, obviously.
Ryder/Ziggler is the exact same dynamic, played to a T. There’s the inexplicably popular guy with an odd gimmick who can’t wrestle super-well, and the guy who’s willing to bump like a ping-pong ball and pull out every dirty tactic in order to get the crowd to boo him and cheer the other guy. Hell, this match even had Ryder catapulting Ziggler into the turnbuckles! (Ziggler tried to get over the top buckle and ding his head on the ringpost, a la Perfect, but didn’t have enough oomph.) They pulled out all the stops here: Ziggler dropping ten elbows in a row just to be a dick, Vickie cheating, Vickie getting ejected (walking backwards down the aisle with her arms out going “Doooooolph! DOOOOOOOLPPPHHH!” was amazing), Ziggler even trying to pull the tights on a roll-up, everything you could think of or want in this match. I loved every second.
Best: A Finishing Move That Looks Like A Finisher, And Not Like Sexual Assault
Ryder did a great job in his biggest match of actually delivering his finisher, the Rough Ryder, as it’s supposed to be interpreted: that of a jumping leg lariat. It helps that Ziggler sold it like death, however, but getting your finisher to look right goes a long way toward getting it replayed a bunch on television and making it a legitimate move. “Jumping leg lariat” isn’t the most impressive-sounding finisher, but it’s a lot more impressive in execution than “that move where I advance my pee-hole toward your face as rapidly as possible.”
Bonus Best: Zack Ryder’s Dad
Best: Michael Cole, Forlorn and Speechless
It’s good that the end result of Michael Cole’s two years of yelling at people the internet likes is to be sad and quiet for two minutes. It’s not enough to justify all the yelling in lieu of just being an effective heel, but I enjoyed sad ol’ Michael Cole, unable to handle another man’s happiness.
Worst: It Is Not Actually A Very Big Deal At All, You Guys
Hey, have you heard about Twitter? WWE has! They want you to use it all the dang time! Go crazy, folks! They wouldn’t shut up about what was trending all night, but it’s funny they never mentioned once that Kim Jong-il had been “compromised to a permanent end” (by U.S. troops hidden sneakily inside his frail old heart I guess). During the Ryder/Ziggler match, Cole and Lawler mentioned that #WWETLC was the number one trending topic in the world. Lawler dropped a “Do you know how big of a deal it is to be trending worldwide?” Oh yeah, you’re totally in lofty company there, dudes. You’re up there with important world events like #womenbeshoppin and #uevernoticehow and #PrayForSelena.
Booker T is sort of known for yelling inexplicable or inappropriate things at random times. So of course when he was beat down backstage by Cody Rhodes and straddled by Bill DeMott as a means of strange rescue, he would bug out his eyes and scream what sounded like “JAILBOY!” right before the camera faded to black and cut to the weirdest Slim Jims commercial ever.
Worst: Slim Jim Is Scamming Us All
According to Rey Mysterio, Big Show, and…oooohhhhh. Hm. Let’s say…Eve? Probably Eve. Possibly New DCU Wonder Woman; I can’t keep up. Anyway, apparently Slim Jims are one of the most requested snacks by U.S. troops serving abroad. I guess they’re experiencing severe sodium shortages in EVERY OTHER COUNTRY. Anyway, apparently for every two beef-flavored salt sticks you purchase, a free Slim Jim would be donated to the troops.
That’s all well and good, I guess but how much does a Slim Jim cost to produce? Like five cents per 10,000 or something, right? Just ship over some Jims, dickwads. You can probably send like forty crates to each platoon and you won’t notice they’re gone. Also, am I really supposed to believe that Slim Jim is accurately tracking these sales? Slim Jims are sold out of a raggedy box on the counter of a 7-11. It’s not like they’re even part of a given store’s inventory. That “Take a Penny, Leave a Penny” tray may as well be labeled “While you’re leaving a penny, cram a ton of Slim Jims into your backpack because no one will notice or care.”
Neither Best, Nor Worst: Primo And Epico?
Since we’re all old friends by page three, I figured it’s time to level with you guys: I haven’t followed WWE — especially, ESPECIALLY SmackDown! — super closely since moving to LA a couple of years ago. I read Brandon’s column, obviously, but even that doesn’t cover everything that happens on television. So when Primo and Epico were announced, I literally had not a single idea that this was a tag team that existed. I know who Primo is, but I don’t know Epico from Adamo and I don’t know who their Shelley Martinez v2.0 valet is. I know who Hunico is, but not Epico. Can’t tell an -ico without your program, I guess. They were responsible for two bests, though:
Best: Primo and Epico’s Galavision-Style Theme Song
Man alive, does their theme song rule. It almost sounds like it could be the theme song for a spectacular telenovela in the vein of “Los Heroes Del Norte” or something similar. On a related note, “Los Heroes Del Norte” is amazing and you should watch it, even if (ESPECIALLY if) you don’t speak Spanish.
Best: Actual Tag Teams, Like With Matching Tights And Everything
Tag team wrestling is good, and it’s fun, and it’s nice that WWE has at least two tag teams now that are enough of a regular thing that they have matching (or at least similar) tights. The tag team title match between “Air Boom” and “Primepico” was solid, harmless fun. They even did solid, harmless high-flying moves. Whenever I see Evan and Kofi in small doses like this, I’m reminded that they’re both impressive as heck at what they do, and perhaps they’re currently in the perfect role. Good for them. If being the WWE’s personal penny loafers is what gets you a paycheck, it beats working for a living.