Best: I’m With The Band
It feels weird to say, but I think the three hour Raw thing is working out. I was having a conversation with the lovely Megan Simon about the difficulty of doing live Raw Watch Parties, with the major reasons being 1) people who are interested in Raw want to know what’s actually happening on Raw, so when you talk over it it kinda ruins it for them, 2) Raw is pretty boring and therefore hard to be funny about for hours straight and 3) the show got bumped up from two hours to three. Her response was, “UGH, people watch that for THREE HOURS?” It sounds pretty horrible when you put it that way.
But yeah, three hours is doing more good than bad, I think. Three hours of the same commercials on loop make the third hour hard to watch because you’ve been brainwashed into thinking this pizza is at least DOUBLE what we’re charging (or whatever) and some parts of the show (the Divas, opening segments, overused finishes) haven’t moved forward. However, a lot of the show HAS, and after “longer matches” and “the tag team division,” my favorite part of the three hour Raw is when guys like Heath Slater suddenly get a POSSE.
This is probably the most obvious thing I’ll ever type in this column, but I am in for-real love with WWE’s undercard heels. Rhodes Scholar is predictably amazing, but here we’ve got Heath Slater throwing in with the two most down-on-their-luck guys still employed by WWE (Jinder Mahal and the woefully underused Drew McIntyre) to form a gaggle of nicknamed cretins hellbent on … well, not really DOING anything, but “making an impact”. They caused Heath Slater to lose a match to Santino, but they beat him up afterwards and talked into a microphone, so that’s something, right?
The best part is Jinder Mahal being “the Maharaja”. Evan Bourne should learn how to play the sitar and steal the courtesan’s love from him.
Best: Sheamus Vs. Damien Sandow Was Off The F**king Hook
For all the shit I talk about Sheamus as a character, he is a BOSS in the ring, and this match with Damien Sandow was one of the best matches I’ve seen on Raw all year. An absolute high-point, and if the Best Of Raw And Smackdown 2012 DVD comes out next year and omits this in favor of TRIPLE ADDRESSES THE WWE UNIVERSE I’m throwing my television through a Best Buy window.
Everything worked. Even the finish, which should’ve been dumb and regressive, worked pretty well as Sheamus getting in an opportune killshot on both dudes instead of systematically decimating them. One of the things Sheamus does best is allowing his opponent to legitimately beat the snot out of him, which is why his matches against people like David Otunga end up still pretty good, because Otunga forgets the awkward irish whip shit and just throws clotheslines. Sandow takes advantage of that by beating ALL of the snot out of Sheamus, and everyone’s better for it — Sandow looked like a million dollars, Cody’s interference lets Sandow lose without a hook to complain that he didn’t on the level, and Sheamus’ win means something, because he worked hard and earned it against the odds. Just great pro wrestling all the way around. If Sheamus never spoke he’d probably be my favorite wrestler.
For more on the greatness of Damien Sandow, here’s a random 411 Wrestling commenter.
I don’t get that from Sandow, at all. I see a guy who is overhyped by “smart” fans because he checks off a lot of boxes on the create-a-wrestler cheat sheet. I think he comes across as a gimmicky, made-up phoney, and I don’t see any real personality or audience connection coming through that cookie-cutter exterior, whatsoever. Besides all that, Damien Sandow is a terrible fake name for that character, and he needs to work on his costuming.
Yeah, his costuming is almost as bad as his workrate! Take that, wrestling!
Best: How Hard Cody Rhodes Is Working To Make Sure We Know WWE Came Up With ‘Rhodes Scholar’
Of course, my very favorite moment of Raw was the nonstop instance from Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes that they’d come up with their tag team name, and that NOBODY IN THE WWE UNIVERSE, ESPECIALLY ANYBODY WHO WRITES ABOUT WRESTLING ON A COMEDY SPORTS BLOG, COULD’VE COME UP WITH THEIR TEAM NAME. The idea is that they didn’t let the formal WWE Universe decide the name a la Team Hell no via a Raw Active Twitter hashtag fartfest, but the way they kept saying it, specifically saying that NOBODY other than them could have EVER named that team made me feel more directly heeled at than I’ve ever felt. I want Jack Swagger to come back in an astronaut suit and be all, “I DECIDED TO BE AN ASTRONAUT, NOBODY CAME UP WITH THAT IDEA BUT ME, JACK SWAGGER”.
And hey, I didn’t really name the team. They’re “Team Rhodes Scholars,” which doesn’t make any sense. I called them Rhodes Scholar, because one of them is Rhodes and one of them is a scholar, and because “team” is f**king implied.
Best: JR Appreciation Night Actually Turned Out Pretty Well, Considering
Speaking of Jack Swagger, I was terrified that WWE was going to prematurely ruin my hard sci-fi arc and bring back Jack Swagger four weeks into his “extended time off”. Something about the combination of Jim Ross, Oklahoma and Michael Cole repeatedly going OH MY SOMEBODY MIGHT SHOW UP YOU NEVER KNOW WHO MIGHT SHOW UP triggered me.
I actually had a lot of problems with this segment, but the promo work was so good between Punk and Ross I ended up barely caring what they were saying. Nobody showed up (besides Punk, which didn’t warrant a WHO COULD APPEAR teaser), Punk continued to regurgitate the same couple of facts he’d like us to consider (he’s the WWE Champion, he deserves respect) and JR continued that weird story of Punk needed to beat John Cena in 500 different ways in 501 different towns to prove he’s the Best In The World. The two biggest problems of course being
1. They are pretty directly saying JOHN CENA IS THE BEST WRESTLER IN THE WORLD, but if they said it out-loud they know people would boo, and
2. FOLKS LIKE STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN AND TRIPLE H AND MICK FOLEY EARNED RESPECT! Austin earned it by shoving a celebrity guest, being sacrilegious in a wrestling promo and selling t-shirts with a bunch of slogans on them about how tough he is. He didn’t have to tell you how tough he was, even though he did and had a vest with SOB on it in sparkles, because he EARNED IT! Triple H earned it by being Shawn Michaels’ friend, not bailing when the rest of the Kliq bailed and eventually marrying the daughter of the guy who owns the company so he could get his ex-girlfriend fired and spend the next 10 years being the toughest and coolest and smartest guy in the room. He didn’t TELL you he was the King Of Kings or That Damn Good, he earned it! Mick Foley became WWE Champion when Stone Cold Steve Austin ran in and beat Foley’s opponent with a chair. Then he won it again using a forklift with a camera on it. He earned it!
Think about it, Punk. All you’ve done is win the ECW Championship, the tag team championships, the Intercontinental Championship, two Money In The Bank ladder matches, three World Heavyweight Championships, last year’s Slammy Award for Superstar Of The Year and two WWE Championships, including one that changed the direction of WWE and another that you’ve held for almost an entire year. You’ve got to EARN the title of Best In The World, like John Cena did when he lost to a retired actor at WrestleMania and wore a pink shirt because “cancer”.