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That should do it. Please click through to enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Hell In A Cell 2012, and to not enjoy its actual pre-show.
Worst: John Cena’s Pre-Show Q+A
If there’s a worse way to spend 30 minutes, I’d like to see it.
I’ve got a Worst a little later for the Atlanta crowd and how dead they were, but who can blame them? Their night started with half an hour of John Cena calmly responding to Touts with sentences like, “CM Punk calls himself the best in the world, but Ryback says ‘feed me more,’ they will wrestle later tonight”. That was the most controversial thing he did or said. At one point he mentioned how he was excited to see the main-event because nobody can exploit a weakness like CM Punk. Didn’t you (YOU) arrange this match to see Punk get his ass beaten? Didn’t you say that out-loud? It was an impossibly pointless exercise in letting a WWE crowd see John Cena since they really weren’t going to “see” John Cena, and I can’t shake the feeling that it would’ve been better for all of us if they’d just let John wander out with a t-shirt gun during one of those 8-minute video packages.
Let me put it to you this way: John Cena stood in the ring and talked about stuff tangentially-related to him (at best) for 12 minutes, which is the same amount of time four over wrestlers got to compete for the tag team championships in the blow-off match to a tag titles tournament that lasted over a month. If that doesn’t work, try this: as a lot of people in our Hell In A Cell live thread pointed out, John Cena tossed Dolph Ziggler out of the ring, then got mad at him for not being in the ring. John Cena’s brain in a nutshell, everybody.
Best: Randy Orton’s Complete Inability To Function Or Handle It When Something Goes Mildly Wrong
I don’t know if it’s the voices in his head, “intermediate” explosive disorder or the natural tendency of his child-tempered, bag-shitting true self to shine through, but nothing brings me greater Botchamanic joy than watching Randy Orton lose control of his mind and body when somebody does something wrong. Remember when Kofi Kingston didn’t properly sprawl out for the punt, so Orton just yelled STUPID at him a bunch?
Alberto Del Rio went to the top rope to hit a heel’s favorite transitional move (I like to call it the “jumping nothing” … Tully Blanchard used to Jumping Nothing into raised feet on the reg), and Orton was supposed to turn around and dropkick him. That would’ve set up the finishing sequence and carried the very, very good match to its logical end. Instead, Orton just watusi’d for the enjoyment of nobody, ADR jumped and landed near him with VICIOUS NOTHINGNESS and Orton just shrugged and semi-dropkicked his way through it. It wasn’t the most terrible thing ever, but Orton’s “derp, okay WRESTLING MOVE” was great, and if it isn’t in the first 30 seconds of Botchamania 217 with the NES Thunderbirds shuttle launching music behind it I’ll eat my Internet.
I really enjoyed the match itself. Alberto Del Rio’s entire thing should be “I’m going to break your arm, and I can do it from anywhere,” so when he starts falling off the top rope into armbars and jumping and snapping your arm with his knees it really means something. Also, Ricardo Rodriguez continues to be my favorite part of any show and should be the highest paid person on the roster. Make-A-Wish kids should be requesting Ricardo Rodriguez.
Best: My Initial Reaction To That RKO, or
Worst: That Awkward Replay Hesitance
Best: I wasn’t expecting Del Rio’s corner enzuigiri to be the finish, so when he went up too high for it and came down into an RKO, I flipped out. Cutters out of nowhere — I’m talking cutters from ridiculous positions like this, not a guy getting beaten up for 12 minutes and busting one out for a lame win — make my heart swell, and Del Rio crashed and burned like a champ. If I was booking WWE (and I will not ever), I would construct Orton storylines based solely on who has something in their moveset that could unexpectedly end up as an RKO. For the longest time I wanted Orton and Ziggler to RKO/Zig Zag each other simultaneously for a double KO. Better yet, run Ziggler and R-Truth vs. Orton and The Rock and have them quadruple-KO each other.
Worst: Maybe I’ve watched too much wrestling, but you can always kinda tell when a move didn’t go as well as they’d planned, because they don’t make as big a deal out of it as they should. When Shawn Michaels kicked Shelton Benjamin’s head off in the Gold Rush tournament, the announcers practically vomited blood onto the announce table and demanded 75 replays. When Orton hit the RKO on Del Rio last night and it wasn’t really what they wanted, they stuck with “WHAT A MOVE” and “RANDY ORTON IS DANGEROUS”. JBL sorta innocently snuck in a “I WANNA SEE THAT AGAIN,” and nobody responded to him. Then they jumped to the replay, but put like 4 unrelated clips of armbars and stuff before it. To me, that feels like code for “a producer need like two minutes to decide if it was okay to rebroadcast, because God,” with a side of “from our angle it looked like an asshole”. Something was off.
That spinning armbar into a powerslam was on point, though.
Best: Everything About The Tag Team Championship Match Before The Horrible, Horrible Finish
And then, the match we’d all been waiting for.
The first 12 minutes and 30 seconds of the Team Hell No versus (Team) Rhodes Scholar(s) tag team championship match was glorious. It felt like the first 12 minutes and change of a 40 minute classic, with the good guys trying to work together and running into problems and the bad guy team trying to isolate and destroy the champs but not being good (or lucky) enough to make it happen. Ideally the +Rhodes on Daniel Bryan would’ve been the beginning of an epic 15 minutes of Midnight Express ass-whomping from the challengers, building to Kane as a literal House Of Fire* and D-Bry using the last of his strength to help out an important moment and give his team the victory. It would’ve cemented Team Hell No as the Aces To Beat in the finally functioning tag team division, would’ve kept Rhodes Scholar as a threat for future title matches and would’ve given legitimacy to that number one contenders tournament you used to resuscitate a fourth of your roster.
Worst: The Horrible, Horrible Finish
Instead, the referee thought he was working Saturday Morning Slam and disqualified Kane for briefly punching his opponents. That’s it. Are we that worried about people taking pinfalls? How many times do I have to write the 50/50 booking paragraph? Wrestling isn’t real, so you can let a guy like Damien Sandow get beaten by a guy like Daniel Bryan and still make money with him in the future, you just can’t be wishy-washy about it and book stupid disqualifications and ref screwjobs, because then you live in a world with no consequences, and if we wanted to spend hundreds of dollars investing in a world where everything sucks and nothing matters we’d collect comic books.
I’m interested to see if they book a rematch for Survivor Series (in three weeks, which is totally enough time to create compelling, episodic stories), but I’m also interested in directly telling WWE that shit like this is why I do everything I can to avoid dropping 50 bucks on pay-per-views. I’m going to get the pay-off for free on Raw, right? You’d rather have my TV ratings than my PPV dollars, right? Enjoy me not having a Nielsen box, WWE.
Best: The Miz Brings His Worker Boots
If God exists, he’ll give Miz one of those six-week vacations where everything clicks. The last time he was gone, he recovered from his weird Howard the Duckness and became an adult. He got leaner, he got a haircut that made him look less like an 8th-grader and he grew a little facial hair. Being a fake marine will do that to you. He shattered the perception that Miz was always just gonna look like that.
Now, he needs to do it with his in-ring and mic work. Miz showed us a massive upside when he was the Shawn to John Morrison’s Marty, but he plateaued. He grew very quickly in every aspect of his game and leveled out, and a year or so of wrestling Daniel Bryan tricked us into thinking he could evolve into a top shelf worker. Sorry, I don’t like typing “worker,” but I don’t know how else to say it. Sometimes people go to wrestling school and suck, so they take a few weeks off and come back to it without the pressure, and it just clicks. I’m hoping that’ll happen with Miz one day. He’ll figure out some really basic stuff, like “don’t repeat spots” or “don’t tense up so obviously when somebody’s about to land on you” or “don’t add a full turn to face the hard camera if your move is about catching dudes by surprise”. Because you know what? Last night he looked a little better than normal, and dammit, I want him to Iron Man land on his plateau and shatter it.
The same goes for his mic work. WWE, if you’re reading this (and I know you are), don’t get comfortable with Mizanin being “good” on the microphone. Set him up with Foley and Terry Funk and Flair or whoever and teach him how to sound like a real dude when he speaks, because all the reality TV handsomeness and voice projection in the world won’t help you if you sound like you’re reading fan fic.
Worst: Do Not Let Kofi Kingston Speak Into A Microphone Again Ever
THEY’RE GOING TO CALL HIM “THE WILDCAT” KOFI KINGSTON, AREN’T THEY.
Speaking of somebody who needs to sound like he didn’t just waltz out of Liquid Colors, Best And Worst Of Raw favorite Kofi Kingston got on the microphone, thanked The Miz for bringing out “the wildcat” in him, dropped a little third person on us and low-rent YES’d his way to the back. I’m the last wrestling columnist who’s gonna raise his eyebrows at stuff like this, but I sincerely do not need to know about someone bringing the wildcat out in Kofi Kingston.
Kofi was fine in the match, I’ll give credit where credit’s due (even though his S.O.S. is the most ridiculous-to-set-up move ever because he takes 20 minutes to get his arm around their waist and the guy taking it shouldn’t have to just stand there like he doesn’t know what’s going on) (and even though he did Trouble In Paradise “with the good leg,” because I guess you don’t need two legs to do that and/or it hurts more to kick a guy with an injured leg than it does to put your entire body weight on it, pivot and jump around on it) (even though his shirt said “I CAN FLY” instead of my suggestion, “I CAN JUMP”) (and he goddamn said Miz brought out the wildcat in him) … wait, where was I again?
The only upside to this is that if Kofi becomes The Wildcat we can throw some jaguars on his trunks and get rid of the smiling black gyy caricature. Although now that I think of it, it’s a pretty terrible way for WWE to say “we think the black guy is from the jungle”. Who knows where it’ll go? Maybe they’ll bring back Chris Harris. I’d be down for hearing another knock-knock joke.
Worst: OH MY GOD CHEER FOR THE GOOD THINGS THAT ARE HAPPENING
Antonio Cesaro had his United States Championship rubber match with Justin Gabriel and it was predictably good, but Atlanta was on their hands. Theories include:
1. Neither guy was from the United States (although that didn’t stop them from chanting U.S.A. on Raw)
2. WWE audiences pay to see wrestlers, not to see wrestling, so even if the wrestling’s good, they don’t care about it unless it’s being performed by guys they wanted to look at.
3. WWE audiences have been conditioned to not care about an undercard guy until the announce team and/or The Internet trick them into it with a fun hook or catchphrase (see also, “yes”).
4. That Georgia Dome match between Hogan and Goldberg happened 200 years ago and everyone who loved wrestling and watched it then is dead.
5. John Cena hyped them up by talking about Twitter and scandals for half an hour.
Actually, that’s just one big theory. All of those are correct.
Best: R.I.P. Justin Gabriel
When I was a young wrestling fan, I loved the top guys. I was a little Stinger. But at the same time, one of my favorite things to do was discover new, cool wrestlers and cheer for them. I did it with 2 Cold Scorpio. I did it for Jushin Thunder Liger when he first showed up. I did it with The Juicer, but I guess that’s not something I should be explainabragging about.
There have got to be kids like me out there today. Some random WWE kid who likes John Cena and buys the Sheamus Wrestling Buddy and laughs because it says fella, but who also goes “whoa” when Justin Gabriel does a top rope Lionsault or springboards into a European uppercut from Cesaro on the outside. A kid who thinks Tyson Kidd is really good and wonders why he isn’t on Raw. Who liked Daniel Bryan before he was a goat-faced comedy master because he was a little blandish guy who was really good at wrestling. I make a terrible habit of underestimating the WWE Universe, but damn, how great would it be if we saw more fans like that, and fewer shirtless dudes crotch-chopping on Tout?
Maybe my parents were just good at teaching me how to love and be interesting. I don’t know.
Worst: WWE’s Interpretation Of Halloween
As anyone who read last week’s Best And Worst Of WWE Raw report will know, Destiny and I had a WWE-themed couples costume for Halloween. She dressed up as Kane, and I dressed up as THE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS. On top of that, Anarchy Championship Wrestling’s Halloween show was last Sunday, with most of the roster dressing up/wrestling in costume. It was fun, but the costumes never came at the expense of the action or drama. It was just a happy thing to do, because wrestling is usually pretty sad, and happiness makes it way better.
So when Raw started last night, Destiny asked me, “do you think the wrestlers will dress up in costumes?” My response, as jaded as it sounds, was: “No. They don’t ever have fun like that. If anybody’s in costume, it’ll be a backstage comedy thing with Santino and a bunch of Divas in costumes”. Then, because sometimes the jaded wrestling fan is correct, the only people who showed up in costume were Zack Ryder and Santino in a backstage comedy thing with Eve.
I can’t really articulate what I want to say about the segment, other than Zack Ryder should go f**k himself and Eve shouldn’t feel bad, because Ryder, Santino and Teddy Long are the three shoot stupidest people in WWE. Ryder being a “witch” because he was dressing up as Eve was terrible. The dialogue with Eve being a witch “but with a letter changed” or whatever was misogynistic, backwards-ass slut-shaming WWE horseshit. Do any of the breast cancer research and awareness organizations know how WWE actually treats women? And on top of it all we had Santino in a not-exactly-topical Lady Gaga costume singing ‘Born This Way’ (subtle) and Ron Simmons doing one of those stupid, extended delay “damns”. Just show up and look at them and say “damn,” dude, that’s your thing, the anticipation doesn’t make it any better. Is there anybody at home watching, rubbing their hands together going “AW MAN I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL HE SAYS DAMN”?
The next time Ryder shows up and says “EVE YOU’RE A PUNT BUT WITH A C INSTEAD OF A P IF YOU GET IT, WOO WOO WOO YOU KNOW IT” she should kick him so hard in the balls he vomits sunglasses and choke him out.
Worst: Titus Driver ’12
As I’ve mentioned a few times, Titus O’Neil should not be pro wrestling on television.
The guy is just terrible in the ring. I love the Prime Time Players, but if their entire gimmick is going to be “black guy tag team,” there’s nothing Titus is doing that JTG or even Big E Langston couldn’t do better. The PTP/Car Stereo tag team match last night was perfectly acceptable because tag team wrestling tends to hide weaknesses like O’Neil’s, but man, watching him substantiate The Luck Of The Sin Cara by driving him onto the crown of his head was pretty brutal.
Maybe it was just a botch and we can MS Paint Sin Cara over 1960s Spider-Man some more. Maybe he just got his head lodged in one of Titus’s traps or something. What I’m getting at is that putting Sin Cara and Titus O’Neil is the least safe idea ever and WWE should have it on their security checklist between “take the keys out of the forklifts” and “don’t burn the Undertaker with fire explosions again”. Props to Sin Cara for still being able to walk, I guess.
I’m also really sad that Titus didn’t paint Darren Young’s face onto the back of his head.
Best: Sheamus Vs. Big Show, And How A Finish Can Change An Entire Match
I almost fell asleep on the couch watching Sheamus and Big Show. It was what it should’ve been — an escalation of the Sheamus/Mark Henry match, with Sheamus trying to throw the bombs that normally destroy guys and hitting a brick wall and being forced to up his game — but so much of it was classic Big Show plodding that I couldn’t stay interested. I stuck with it, though, and I’m glad I did.
The finish to Show/Sheamus was BOSS on every level a wrestling finish can be, and it caused me to reevaluate the entire match I’d just watched. You know a finish is effective when it makes you change your mind about plodding. It was perfect. Show didn’t cheat to win or take shortcuts. He did what he said he was gonna do: he wrestled as a “true giant” (which JBL would ABSOLUTELY NOT F**KING SHUT UP ABOUT), took Sheamus’s best shots, survived and knocked him out. Sheamus didn’t take Show seriously enough and got brought right to the precipice of giving up before morphing into SUPER DEATH-BRINGER SHEAMUS and going for that great last Brogue Kick. That shit was INTENSE. That’s where Sheamus really shines … he’s the derpiest guy in the world when he’s trying to read WWE dialogue, but when it comes to looking like he’s gotten the piss beaten out of him and FIRING UP he is the KING. I thought he was going to kick Big Show’s heart through his back. And then, the big moment. Show took advantage of Sheamus yelling BROGUE 10 times before throwing a kick, side-stepped it at the last minute and took him out. A clean pin, and more importantly, an EARNED pin. Super boring, and retroactively the best match of Big Show’s life.
I hope now we can move Sheamus away from the WWE Championship for the calendar year and away from Alberto Del Rio feuds and challenges for the rest of his career.
Best: I Am Ready To Love Big Show Again
Remember when John Laurinaitis fired The Big Show and he had that mopey, beggy thing in the ring? Remember how he came back and the story of his contract signing was kinda stupid, but the result was a fresh, frank Big Show who told John Cena exactly what we were thinking and kicked his ass all the time? For like a month and a half, Big Show was my favorite WWE Superstar. After last night, and especially after last night’s post-match interview, I might be able to call him that again.
I am desperate for legitimacy and sincerity in my pro wrestling. Show won his match clean, following up on the promises he’d made over the last few weeks, then delivered a succinct, sincere statement about how he’d overcome his demons and was ready to defend his title against anything that comes his way. That’s rad. That’s so much better than, “Mexicans, am I right fella? Me gran’ma blah blah blah” or “HOW ABOUT WE DO IT RIGHT HERE TONIGHT” or any variety of WWE Main-Event Speak.
I hope Show holds that belt until [stock response about Mark Henry reemerging and killing people].
Worst: JBL’s Entire Thing During The Divas Match
The Divas match was “good-ish” on the Divas PPV Match We’re Used To scale and pretty hysterically terrible otherwise, made slightly worse by the deader-than-dirt crowd and WAY, WAY worse by JBL.
I don’t even know how to explain it. He turned into John Wayne or something. I know “Divas” isn’t the most forward-thinking thing to call women who wrestle, but it’s what they do, and JBL made it worse by calling them “ladies”. The “ladies title”. It wasn’t horrible like the Zack Ryder Witch thing, but it was weird, especially when he followed it up by saying he wasn’t allowed to look at them because he’s married (“they all look the same!” he joked). Is the purpose of the Divas to be looked at? I mean, honestly. You’re a wrestling announcer, friend. Your job is to watch the wrestling and identify what’s happening and who is doing what. If you or your wife can’t differentiate “Kaitlyn with an armbar” from “I want to tittyf**k the blonde,” the problem is with you guys and your marriage, not with the women in the ring or anything they’re doing.
I don’t want to sound like I’m being melodramatic about it, but it hurt the match a lot. JBL’s a great, knowledgable announcer and the Divas division needs that if it’s going to be any better than it’s been.
Worst: Eve Torres Finds A Way To Make Me Miss The Moonsault
Somewhere John Morrison is shaking his head at you, Eve. Just drop a knee. Just drop a f**king knee. You are not meant to flip, forwards or backwards.