My good friend Justin O’Connor from Progressive Boink was live at the show, so I’m letting him handle the first page. Take it away, friend.
First: A Personal Anecdote
Before I get into the Michael Cole Challenge, I’d like to take a minute and relay a personal anecdote. Brandon and I have been friends for about ten years. It’s been a friendship fostered by an encyclopedic, co-dependent reliance upon pop-nostalgia humor as a coping mechanism. Back in 2007, we met up with a bunch of friends in San Francisco to attend Ring of Honor’s “Chaos at the Cow Palace.” The day before the event, Brandon and I insisted upon being taken to the house from Full House. We couldn’t have given any less of a sh*t about Lombard Street or any of the other famous landmarks. We were in San Francisco and we were going to validate a childhood spent watching TGIF by visiting the Full House house. Our friends were kind enough to oblige, so we piled into a touring van and spent some time in the early afternoon driving out to Broderick Street.
When we arrived, the two of us NES Max turbo-buttoned our way out of the van, looked toward the house at the purported address and our smiles both did that thing from cartoons where someone gets hit with a mallet and their teeth fall out like piano keys. It wasn’t the house we’d remembered. For whatever reason, we both shared a distinct vision of a different house used in later-season establishing shots of the neighborhood skyline. Our friends all insisted we were at the Full House house, but we wouldn’t relent. We both felt bad about seeming so unappreciative of our friend’s efforts to placate our immaturity, but even though it was admittedly kind of neat to see A Full House house, it wasn’t THE Full House house. Not the house we’d remembered, anyway. We just knew we couldn’t be so sure of something only for it to not be real.
My point is, seeing The Rock live in 2011 was like my visit to the Full House house. He’s still A Rock, but he’s not THE Rock. He delivered his Rock catchphrases and performed his Rock mannerisms, but I was hoping for something else. It’s certainly not his fault for not being able to live up to the expectations I’ve cultivated for him in my brain, and I’d be lying if I tried playing it off like being there live was anything but really cool. I guess I’m just never going to be satisfied when reality ends up being nothing more than a vague approximation of how I expect things to be in my brain.
Worst: The Michael Cole Challenge
So I attended RAW live last night, and prior to the show, upon hearing I’d finally be afforded the dramatic conclusion to Michael Cole’ Presents “The Michael Cole Challenge” (a Michael Cole Joint,) I fervently texted Brandon asking if it’d be possible to do the segment’s “best/worst” write-up. I figured it couldn’t possibly be too difficult to riff on bad wrestling. Besides, I’ve read enough live WWE reports in my time to understand the process. I’d establish how Michael Cole is more like “Michael Something-That-Rhymes-With-Cole,” and make a few derisive barbs toward the children in my section for being “total marks.” I figured the whole thing would pretty much write itself. It wasn’t until this morning when I realized I’d have to actually choose between giving the segment a “best” or a “worst,” since “an autistic child’s fever nightmare” wasn’t a viable option for a segment qualifier.
Essentially, the whole experience turned into one of those wrestling segments where if I were watching it alone in my apartment I’d spend twenty uncomfortable minutes trying to pluck invisible chiggers from the nape of my neck. Then my mom would walk into the room, followed by every girl I’ve ever made out with. Being there live was a whole different beast, since instead of being able to distract myself with Wikipedia articles, pornography and pornography about Wikipedia articles, I was forced to marinate in the shame of having paid legal American tender in exchange for the privilege of becoming a willing participant in my own mental schadenfreude.
And I know I’m being a tad melodramatic, because I certainly didn’t go into the Michael Cole Challenge with high expectations. I knew it would be bad. It just ended up being that rare kind of bad where it managed to hit upon everything I can’t stand about comedy in wrestling. I know it’s foolish to measure the standard of humor in wrestling against sophisticated fare such as ‘Community’, ‘Arrested Development’ or ‘Drexel’s Class’, but at the same time I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to expect humor to be predicated upon the idea that a f**king joke (even in theory) is supposed to be funny.
See, if there’s one thing I hate about pro wrestling more than any of the other things I hate about pro wrestling (including myself for watching it,) it’s the oft-repeated, childish insults directed toward either a wrestler’s physical appearance or personality. The thing is, I don’t ever expect WWE to be progressive or accepting of anything not set in stone as a sociological folkway, but at the same time I don’t think its unreasonable for them to not use those things as fodder for derision. Its also just f**king lazy, unacceptable writing. Like alluding to Lucky Charms whenever someone’s Irish. Who still laughs at that bullsh*t? In this instance, Jim Ross is fat, so he looks like a parade float. Jim Ross also sells barbeque sauce, ergo his breath must smell like barbeque sauce. Holy sh*t, Cole! I haven’t witnessed such a scathing character assassination since Stephanie called DJ a double-geek-burger-with-cheese!
Worst: or “So Far Past the Known Quantification for Worst that the Needle On the Worst Meter Broke, the Glass Shattered and Now I Have Mercury Poisoning.”
Another thing I hate is wrestling “dance” segments. Usually they’re reserved for periods of a RAW where the roster has to tread water until Vince McMahon stops chasing around an intern with poop-filled underwear on a stick. In TNA, the equivalent is for Abyss to go to the ring and bleed for ten minutes, but I digress. I guess I simply fail to see the appeal in transplanting the most uncomfortable moment of any white person’s family reunion into a program about men who travel from building-to-building in a pseudo-reality where members of the Mexican aristocracy engage in class-warfare against the bassist for a Dischord band. At the very least they could make the experience authentic by affording me an open bar and the opportunity to score pot off a reception hall busboy.
I know I haven’t written much about the segment itself, but there’s not much to say about Michael Cole’s monopolization of television time that hasn’t been written already, and if I start delving into my theory about how the perverse humiliation of a crippled sexagenarian serves as a means for Vince to attain an erection, I’ll just end up bumming myself out again by fixating on the mental imagery of him and HHH pinning Jim Ross to the ground and rape-dressing him into an undersized sailor costume. Besides, by the time CM Punk’s music hit, the segment had dragged on for so long, I was certain WWE had found a way to shatter the concept of a linear timeline. Or maybe I was just really, really drunk. In either case, I guess I’ll never know what the gaping maw of Infinity smells like, but I’m willing to bet it smells like barbeque sauce!!!
(The gaping maw of Infinity is Jim Ross’ stomach.)
(Jim Ross fat.)