Best: Punk In Chicago
I adore the relationship between CM Punk and Chicago, and wish more wrestlers were allowed to have that sort of connection. It’s part of what I love about independent wrestling — when I’m watching a show in Austin, a lot of people on the show are FROM Austin, and there’s a feeling of community that sorta bubbles up and fuels the shows … so when a guy like Robert Evans finds his way to CHIKARA or Ring Of Honor, he feels like one of “our” guys, even though he’s from Canada. It’s why I donated $25 to Beyond Wrestling to get ACH to the East Coast. Not because I think it’s cool to like wrestlers nobody’s ever heard of or make references you don’t get, it’s because I love what I get to see here and I want to show it to the world.
That’s what Punk gets to do with Chicago. He wears the flag on his underpants, for Christ’s sakes. Instead of being humiliated or having Vince pull props out of his ass in a skit every time they roll through, Punk gets treated top shelf, and even when he was a dastardly heel (which I still sorta think he is, secretly) he didn’t pull a bunch of I’M ASHAMED TO SAY I’M FROM CHICAGO shit like most guys. WWE employs so many people from so many places, imagine if they let every wrestler show his pride like that? They could have fan engagement as strong as the one in Chicago or Rey Mysterio in San Diego across the country. Let Heath Slater be huge in West Virginia because he’s the only guy FROM there and Jamie Noble sucks. Let Miz LOVE Cleveland, not feel like he has to insult it.
(edit: actually that is a pretty realistic Clevelander)
Worst: The Easily-Felled Jack Swagger
I’ve expressed it before, but one of my least favorite things about wrestling is when guys get put into gauntlet or Royal Rumble or elimination matches of whatever kind and suddenly can’t take more than a move and a half without collapsing and dying. Punk’s kick to the head DOES have a legitimacy to it (in that kicks can unexpectedly knock you out, not that Punk’s kicks look good) (because they really don’t) (just saying), but it’s a shame to see Jack Swagger go down to the match’s first solid blow.
I was hoping that we’d continue the “Punk is a ring general” thing from TLC and have him advance through the guys in the gauntlet using his brain, not just thigh-kicking them over and over until he can hit Go To Sleep. I wanted him to, I don’t know, wait for Swagger to choke him in the ropes 20 seconds into the match and then hold Jack’s arms and make a bunch of gagging noises and convince the ref that he didn’t break at 5. Something like that, I don’t know, I don’t want to get my fantasy booking all over you, I just more readily buy that the stringy 200-ish pound world champ of no great power or submission prowess could get over on these guys with his mind more realistically than with his kickpads.
Best: Dolph Ziggler’s Catapult Of Doom
It happens at the 8:40 mark in the video. Ziggler, man #2 in CM Punk’s gauntlet match, goes for a dropkick. Punk counters it into a catapult into the corner, historically one of the worst moves in wrestling. It’s that thing where you grab the guy like you’re gonna Boston Crab him but put your knees in his ass like a fulcrum. You fall back, and your opponent stands up slowly and awkwardly hops headfirst into the turnbuckles. It looks terrible 95-ish percent of the time.
Last night, Dolph Ziggler redefined the catapult by springing up and colliding with the top buckle like he’d been shot out of a f**king cannon. It was magic. I know a lot of independent wrestlers who make sure to comment about how Ziggler is a terrible wrestler who doesn’t know what he’s doing, but Jesus, I just don’t see it. He paints wrestling in broad strokes, and while I could see his selling eventually becoming the Matt Striker On Commentary of wrestling pratfalls, I don’t know, I feel like I need my strokes to be broad. Maybe that’s why I like joshi.
Ziggler is awesome, and I’ve yet to be thoroughly convinced otherwise. He does wrestling well the way I’d like to see wrestling be done well. He deserved that victory lap around the ring with the WWE Championship and a Money In The Bank-style blown kiss to a sour-faced CM Punk whether he only gets that aborted sorta-reign with the World Heavyweight Championship on his resume or not. I don’t want to see him do anything stupid like beating Punk for the strap next week, but I hope Ziggler gets three things in the remainder of his career:
1. A name change, because Christ, still?
2. A run on top, and to not get stuck in that Hennig/DiBiase role of having to make the Hogans and Bossesman look like wrestlers.
3. A chance to admit he’s from Cleveland
Best: Accidental Heeling
Like I mentioned on page 2, John Laurinaitis excels as the evil heel who will pretend like he’s doing the right thing until he’s dead in the ground. His ejection of Swagger and Guerrero for their interference, a babyface act, completely ruining Punk’s chances of winning the gauntlet and getting a match with him, as heel as the day is long, was masterful. He knows what he’s doing, and hopefully he won’t have to change it up when everyone comes around to knowing it too.