– I decided to write two Best And Worst columns this week because I hate myself. Please make sure to leave a comment, click the like button and share the column with wrestling fans you know. We want to make sure to keep bringing in new people to the community, so we don’t end up with ten people telling me everything I write is great.
– Thanks to Casey of Hammerlock Dialectic for pics and gifs, as always. More excited to get a mark photo with him at King Of Trios than Tommy Dreamer.
– If you just tune in to With Leather for the wrestling reports, make sure not to miss With Spandex episode 6, where I talk to WWE Superstar Derrick Bateman about N64 WWF No Mercy mods, the Cleveland Indians, star ratings and a weird fan fiction where he and Kaitlyn go out for paninins and AJ is their waitress. It’s a good time. Also, come to the site for more than the wrestling reports, jerk.
Anyway, enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE No Way Out ’12. Yes, I ordered the poster.
Best: Scott Stanford, Voice Of The WWE
WWE YouTube channel pre-shows are a great idea, even if the feed I was watching was choppier than a f**king Kobashi/Kenskee match. The highlight for me here, as it always is when he’s around, was the inclusion of Mr. Scott Stanford on play-by-play. I don’t think I can come up with a hyperbole big enough to explain how much better the Stanford/anybody team is than Lawler/Cole. I’m the guy who has on multiple occasions referred to Disney’s The Country Bears as the “greatest movie ever” and I can’t exaggerate hard enough to put it into words.
Stanford sounds like a real sports announcer (because he is), and I could never picture him in his underwear getting barbecue sauce poured on him as a gag or imagine hearing him shout over a match to get himself over because Gordon Solie wouldn’t do those things god dammit and in kayfabe, an announcer should be worrying about how well he’s announcing and literally nothing f**king else. Stanford’s so good he makes me curse more. I don’t find anything to get upset or indignant about … I don’t care if Matt Striker is taking 8 minutes of a 6 minute match to explain the specifics of a ligament tear, all Stanford’s got to do is say “Regal counters, looking to cover” and I’m at peace.
Hey WWE, you want legitimacy? Let a guy who talks about sports talk about sports. Your dumb thing is supposed to be a sport.
Worst: Brodus/Otunga Was Pretty Okay Until They Raw’d The Hell Out Of It
It may’ve been the fact that I was watching a pixelated slideshow of recap images, but I thought Brodus Clay versus David Otunga was pretty solid while it lasted, considering that “Brodus Clay” and “David Otunga” have historically been the two worst wrestlers on the roster since developmental. I remember watching Brodus botch lateral presses as the G-Rilla. Now they’ve both amassed enough personality to go through the motions and still come out with something enjoyable.
Unfortunately, the ending they went with was the “THE HEEL HAS HAD ENOUGH, HE’S LEAVING” thing that mid-80s NWA taught me is supposed to lead directly to the babyface chasing the heel down the ramp, grabbing him by the head and tossing him back in the ring. Now it’s just the end of the match. I don’t know why they had to protect Mr. Impromptu Pinfall David Otunga from a Funkasaurus squash, but hey, maybe they’re planning to do something deeper with him than “travel thermos” in the post People Power WWE.
This was not the last instance of No Way Out looking like an okay episode of Raw.
Best: LET’S GO ZIGGLER
One of two things is happening here:
1. Dolph Ziggler has been great in the ring long enough that crowds have picked up on it and want to cheer him
2. Sheamus is such a limpdick Heavyweight Champion that WWE crowds will turn anyone who wrestles him into a mega babyface (see also: Daniel Bryan)
Either way, the New Jersey crowd doing a REEEARGHHH cheer of approval for Dolph Ziggler’s entrance and chanting LET’S GO ZIGGLER pretty consistently throughout the match warmed my heart. It’s the gripe I’ve been sharing for years now — if a guy is good at wrestling, all you really have to do is put him out there and let him be good at wrestling. Eventually the crowds will notice and WANT to see him be good at wrestling, and if he isn’t a complete block of wood he’ll find his place. It helps that Ziggler’s exactly the Badly Named FCW Male Model WWE has tried to make a gross of in the past. It also helps that he’s made of Flubber.
Worst: Let’s Not Go, Jerry Lawler
Jerry Lawler heard the crowd chanting “LET’S GO ZIGGLER” and quipped about how the crowd was going crazy with “let’s go Sheamus” chants. Nobody is chanting for Sheamus. At some point you’ve got to stop saying what’s coming in through your headset and observe what’s actually happening. If you aren’t, take it in the other direction. When the crowd’s chanting “GOLDBERG” during Ryback’s match, laugh about how this crowd really thinks Dawn Marie’s got herpes. You were friends with Kaufman, right? Make an Alzheimer’s patient’s understanding of wrestling chants your roaming booger.
Best: I Don’t Like That Result, But Zig Zag Man Right There Is The Real Deal
Main-event style WWE matches in the modern era sorta live and die by the success of their nearfalls, and Ziggler/Sheamus had a few great ones. I don’t think anyone watching though Ziggler was leaving as Heavyweight Champion, but the facebuster off the top and that DASTARDLY callback to WrestleMania and the worst on-screen moment in the history of my fandom were off the charts. Seriously, when Vickie got up on the apron for a good luck kiss my heart started beating faster and my head started sweating and time slowed down and I almost Somewhere In Time time traveled, but then the Brogue Kick didn’t connect and I didn’t have to go to the mental institution. Unfortunately the very first thing that happened at No Way Out was the most exciting.
If the crowds are really coming around to Ziggler, don’t wait. Pull the trigger on him. If he stays the cool heel guy who bumps crazy and makes everyone look good and you don’t push him up to the next level, he’s going to FOR REAL be your new Mr. Perfect. Or your new Billy Gunn. You’re gonna be filming a 2-disc Dolph Ziggler DVD 20 years from now and everybody’s gonna be all maudlin in it, shaking their heads and wondering how a guy this good had one 11-minute technicality title run.
Put the guys who are good at this on top. Use the ones who aren’t as townspeople.
Worst: Tuxedo Matches Are Almost As Bad As Blindfold Matches
When Michael Cole made the “this Tuxedo Match will join the ranks of OTHER great Tuxedo Matches like Tony Chimmel and Howard Finkel” joke at the beginning of this match, I feel like everyone involved should’ve just sorta sighed and went “yeah, okay, sorry” and Vince could stomp out and yell SHUT IT DOWN, SHUT IT ALL DOWN DAMMIT
I want to enjoy comedy matches, but like I said last week, comedy in wrestling only works well when wrestling is the comedy. When the comedy is “look at his underwear”, not so much. I’m pretty sure looking at the funny guy in his underpants isn’t aimed at my demographic, so I can only complain about it so much, but Jesus. Two guys slowly taking off each others’ clothes while fussing at each other in exaggerated accents isn’t particularly fun or funny, even if the climax is Santino revealing that he can do the Cobra with his leg. That was pretty good. He should get a WWE title match on Raw and come out in nothing but trunks with snakes on both of his arms and legs. Just Ultimate Punch the shit out of people with his snake body. Wear a snake on his head, too, like some f**ked up Medusa Howie Mandell and just tumble at people until they die.
But hey, real talk: I would wear those Alberto Del Rio underpants. Not gonna front.
Best: A Wild Tag Team Match Appears!
I was making notes as the show went on, and right here on a piece of notebook paper I’ve written “Abraham Washington – What is his job? Dopiest dope that ever doped” because of that pre-show thing where he revealed he’d accidentally let PERM’s tag title rematch clause expire. Of course, that ended up being a part of the story (which we’ll talk about later, in all caps) so I’ll give a random best to a fatal fourway tag team match featuring 8 guys who never get to be on television in non-squash, non-“police officer” roles getting a showcase match on a pay-per-view out of the blue.
Best: The Intercontinental Championship, AKA The Easiest Thing To Make Important In Wrestling History
It is. The WWE Championship has been held for 40 years by the standard-bearers or whatever, but the IC title has been held by guys we love so much they had to get a belt. Guys like Macho Man Randy Savage, the WWF version of Ricky Steamboat, Owen Hart, Mr. Perfect and post-Crisis, pre-Zero Hour Chris Jericho. And sure, since the Attitude Era it’s fallen into a weird, inconsistent funk and ended up around the waist of dudes like Carlito and goddamn Test, but it doesn’t matter — the second someone gives hope to the Intercontinental Championship, we buy it. We desperately want to buy it. It’s the easiest thing to make important in wrestling history.
So even though the story for the last year has been “Cody Rhdoes has the old version of the IC title but never defends it, lost to the Big Show, whoops wait beat the Big Show again, now Christian won a battle royal and ?”, I’m happy to see two talented young wrestlers of import having a 12 minute pay-per-view match because they both want the Intercontinental Championship. How easy is that, nerds? Cody didn’t even need to create any embarrassing Christian video packages.
Best: Christian, The Little Brother Of Wrestling
Christian, as many people have pointed out, is the “little brother” of wrestling.
That’s not to say he’s bad at wrestling. He’s great at it, and at the risk of becoming the 2010s version of Diamond Dallas Page, he can put together a good-to-great match with almost anyone. The problem is that everything he does seems like a lamer version of someone else. When he does the spear, it’s because Edge did the spear. Edge was TERRIBLE (f**king TERRRRIBLE) at the spear, but Christian’s isn’t any better. When Christian does the frog splash, it’s decidedly more Chavo than Eddie Guerrero. When he does the Tomikaze, it takes him the length of a Divas match to set it up. I guess the question is this — is it more important to be great at what you do, or good at having done it?
It’s not exciting for most, but I like WWE putting belts on people they want to keep as champions. CM Punk’s title reign aside, they seem to be sticking to their guns with Sheamus as World Heavyweight Champion and now Christian as IC Champ. If you let them be champion for a while, it means something when the titles change. Now if we could just get those Gotham Museum Pennies to matter, we’d be set.
Worst: Triple H Said Some Stuff
He sure did.
Here’s what he said: “Brock Lesnar, we should have a match at SummerSlam instead of you suing me, unless you’re a weenus”. He said “this business” about five words in. I hope Lesnar’s response is, “What? No, I quit. Stop being stupid. Give me your money.”
Best: MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS
As (maybe) the Internet’s leading NXT fan, if you told me a year ago I’d be marking out for a tag victory for Darren “Black John Cena” Young and Titus “Make It A Win” O’Neil (on pay-per-view, no less … against Tyson Kidd, the single most underrated guy in WWE, no less) I would’ve “Worst’d” you or Minus Five Starred you or whatever it is we do to show displeasure online. I would’ve fake tweeted you saying you smell like a butt and you eat your own butt and sent it to the Torch.
But yeah, the Primetime Players got a big win on pay-per-view and will get to challenge Kofi Kingston and anyone he can find with two working feet for the WWE Tag Team Championships. That’s pretty cool. And hey, better yet:
Best: Lowercard Matches With Angles That Make Sense
This was, somewhat predictably, my favorite part of the show. Abraham Washington explains somewhat stupidly to PERM that he’s let their tag titles rematch clause expire, so they have to win a match against three other teams. Before they can make the save and keep the Primetime Players from winning, AW grabs them by the feet and keeps them from breaking it up, giving Young and O’Neil the victory … because AW is working with Young and O’Neil, doesn’t give a horse’s shit about PERM and was waiting them out to weed out a challenger. That’s strong, basic storytelling for at least 6 WWE Superstars (counting Rosa and AW) who never get it. If guys on the very bottom of the card were given simple, easy-to-follow stories on the reg, chances are fans would have more interest in them, you’d have a better chance at a random undercard angle catching fire and everyone on your show would have a reason to be there besides “we’re also wrestlers”.
And while you’re at it, why not showcase a few other teams of interest? The Justin Gabriel/Tyson Kidd pairing could go a long way, with Kidd being one of the best pro wrestlers around and Gabriel looking enough like a Twilight character to get some Robert Gibson-esque heart posters in the crowd. They can be a London and Kendrick pairing that DON’T put pot smoking over keeping their dream jobs and f**k up their lives. The Usos are second generation guys who could really use a spotlight, if only in the hopes that one day they’ll be as cool as their entrance. Yes, I learned how to do the entire thing. Yes, I practiced.
This probably should’ve been saved for a really great Raw segment, but whatever. Keep everyone’s momentum moving forward, and eventually we all get where we’re trying to go.
Worst: Booker T Saying Young And O’Neil Were “Fruitbooty-ish” And “A Little Sweet” For Wearing Pink Trunks
F**k you, Booker. Nobody cool and hetero has ever worn pink in WWE, right?
Especially that last one.
Worst: Stop Hanging Layla Out To Dry
Speaking of “forward momentum”, could we give Layla some?
I’ve complained about it a lot in the past, but Layla is
1. Better in the ring than any Diva who has held that belt and is at least as good as Beth Phoenix
2. Is super, super pretty
3. Has a unique, enjoyable personality in and out of the ring
4. Has a couple of cool movez
5. Has a good foreign accent, not the Aksana one
So WWE needs to wise up and give her a segment or a backstage moment or SOMETHING to get across that she’s not just a pointing smiling lady and can offer us more than the Kellies Kelly of the world. I don’t blame WWE audiences for not getting behind her yet, because they HAVEN’T given her segments like this (at least on Raw), she spent a year being the worst of the worst female heels with Michelle McCool and still uses that awful heel Diva music. Get her something to clap along to, let us hear her say words so we’ll swoon and stop tossing her out there with infinity symbols on her gear and calling it character development.
Also, let her dance. That shit was 0.9 Bugs Bunny, but at least she’s doing something.
Worst: Sin Cara And Hunico Again? Again? Seriously?
Hunico came to play, looked about a dozen times better than Mistico and deserves to be more than the fake Konnan guy on the homosexual (?) tandem bicycle ride, but I sincerely do not want to see Sin Cara wrestle Hunico again. Again, this would’ve been a good enough Raw segment. What are they doing here that they haven’t done 8 or 9 times before (on television) to justify dropping 50 bucks to see it? The same spots, the same moodlighting, the same finish. It’s just drab. It makes high-flying cruiserweight action look like WWE Cruiserweight action. It makes lucha libre look like Super Astros. Stop making the cool things less cool so more people will like them.
If Mistico is moving at 60% speed and only wrestling the super safe guys who won’t hurt him because he’s not back to 100% yet, that’s fine … let him wrestle Hunico in the dark match, or at a house show. Pair Sin Cara up with someone and put them in a tag match against Hunico and Camacho, and only let Hunico touch him. Hell, put Hunico in a ridiculous mask and call him something stupid so it looks like Cara’s doing that Rey Mysterio WCW thing where guys like Super Calo show up and you’re all GASP A RIVAL FROM MEXICO because you’ve never seen him before and don’t yet know he’s just f**king Super Calo.
Best: Good Job Staying Off The Ring Apron, Camacho
Camacho stood by the ring and looked concerned for most of the match, but I’m calling bullshit — there’s no way Camacho can see what’s happening in the ring through dark blue mood-lighting AND dark sunglasses. He should’ve stood with his back to the ring and made concerned faces at the front row for the entirety of the match. Then for the finish he could climb up on the guardrail, and someone up front could elbow him off.
If I get put in charge of WWE Creative (and the way this column is going, I totally will), the first thing I’m doing is telling Camacho to grow out his hair, giving him some lavender island pants and advertising him as SON OF MENG. That is instant money. And when he eventually turns face, we call him Mengzooky.
Worst: What’s With All This Filler
All in all, this pay-per-view’s unadvertised elements included:
1. A Ryback squash
2. A Sin Cara/Hunico match
3. A tag team match between a bunch of guys who never get to be on TV
4. A lengthy Triple H monologue about This Business
If you ignore the pre-show, this ended up being like 15 minutes shorter than a 3-hour Raw. All we needed was a quarter hour of “special looks” at Callie Thorne in ‘Necessary Roughness’ and we’d be set.
Best: Daniel Bryan, As Awesome As His Pay-Per-View Poster Suggests
The least surprising Best of the column goes to Daniel Bryan and CM Punk having a good match together. As a favorites-playing nerd, I’m not happy that My Boy D-Bry Right There keeps losing these title matches and think WWE Champion Daniel Bryan being chased by underdog challenger CM Punk would be a way, way better story than “Punk always wins and a bunch of people including Kane have girl problems”, but I like the matches and am gonna do my best to not complain too much when they happen. By the way, who’s that former World Heavyweight Champion with a hundred YES signs in the audience and making the crowd chant YES along with basically every single strike in the match? The pale, boring “indy” guy whose Ring Of Honor schtick wouldn’t play in front of a larger WWE crowd. Just saying. (Will just keep saying.)
The most surprising Best of the column is the next one:
Best: Kane Is Working His Ass Off
What universe am I living in where Kane is an important cog in making a triple threat match featuring the Best In The World and the Actual Best In The World work?
Kane brought his f**king boots last night, and despite him being my second least favorite wrestler ever I would be a fool to not give him a Best for it. I didn’t think the match was anything special (on the Derrick Bateman Match Rating Scale I’d give it an “eh, it was pretty good”) but Kane made it work, being where he needed to be and doing what he needed to do with enthusiasm and force, even nailing the wacky overacting stuff at the end without dipping too far down into “rolling Paul Bearer into the freezer” territory. He looked energized, and if he wants to keep being this guy I’ll keep an open mind the next time they shoehorn him into a Good Wrestling feud.
Worst: Is Daniel Bryan Floating Around In The Phantom Zone Right Now Or What
Credit to @The_Real_RJ for that. Bryan gets Punk in the Yes Lock and it gets reversed, so he breaks the hold. He goes for it again, Punk reverses and pops him with a GTS. Punk goes for a pin, but before he can, Kane reaches into the ring and pulls Bryan to the outside. Apparently this small gesture caused him to go all The Darkest Hour and turn to ash, because he was nowhere to be found for the last five minutes of the match. Not during the finish, not during the AJ-gets-knocked-off-the-apron
and suffers a miscarriage, not during Punk’s Chris Jericho Memorial Run Around The Ring And Get Everyone To Cheer For Nothing celebration. He was just … gone.
They should keep him off television for the next six months until they return to this arena, then start off the show with the ring crew coming down to set up and finding him passed out on the floor. I mean shit, Kane could’ve at least chokeslammed him on the floor or something. Or punched him. ANYTHING.
Best/Worst: AJ’s Main Event Run Continues, Whether We Like It Or Not
At the risk of restating the same thing in every column, the AJ angle is questionable-at-best, but if she’s truly got (kayfabe) full control over what she’s doing and is purposefully manipulating people to get what she wants — and by all indications, that’s what’s happening — I guess Michael Cole saying cuckoo is worth having a fully developed female character with legitimate main-event screen time on WWE television. If they were doing this with Eve I’d probably hate it, but I like AJ, so I lean toward optimism when she’s getting a shot. Her apron bump was dumb, but knowing she was faking it (and that Punk was totally f**king in on it, regardless of how surprised he acted) made it something. I like her as Chaotic Neutral.
That being said, the most annoying thing about No Way Out was the crazy amount of time-killing filler, even in the major storylines. Who is AJ really with? Obviously the answer is CM Punk, but they didn’t say it in a way that’ll keep me from another month of Kane romance stories, or keep them from dragging on the speculation for another month and (probably) changing their minds. The Vince stuff at the end of the show still didn’t make any sense. For the 15th time it was an episode of Raw, giving me enough to keep me watching and beating me to death and burying me in the desert with the stuff I can’t understand.
Worst: I’m With You On These Squashes, Ryback, But They Can’t Be Identical
The problem with the Raw motif is how little WWE seems to trust its audience to understand. I don’t blame them, I guess, but there’s no reason to do half a dozen Sin Cara/Hunico matches that happen in exactly the same way and end the same. There’s no reason Funkasaurus should’ve had 22 identical squash matches, and there’s no reason why the Ryback versus Mouthy Local Jobbers thing has to happen EXACTLY THE SAME WAY EVERY TIME. I like Ryback. I like the jobbers, and I like them acting dumb. I like the big backdrop and the double muscle buster thing but I liked them more the first time, and the second time and the third time. The lateral press with the jobbers is always the same, the screaming is the same, everything’s f**king identical.
Chant Goldberg all you want, but when Goldberg was running through guys he mixed it up. 30 of his first 100 wins were against Jerry Flynn, sure, but occasionally he’d wrestle a guy like Roadblock or a William Regal type to let us know he could beat ANYBODY in two minutes flat, not just the smallest, least threatening guys they could find. Ryback beating jobbers like this is a great introduction, but unless he’s doing something creative with/to them, using them as an entry point to actual competition or literally ANYTHING with constructive, forward momentum he’s gonna become boring. We get it, you’re mad that your biggest new stars are little independent worker guys, you don’t have to beat us over the head with it.
Maybe they work when Mason Ryan doesn’t because they can do more than one thing?