– If you’re unaware, I’m helping Best and Worst of Impact columnist Danielle with her new wrestling site, The Mandible Claw. There’s a new post up every weekday, and so far we’ve done a pretty rad podcast (which I’ll help host every week) and an incredible piece on Vickie Guerrero by Ari Amaru. This is seriously worth your time. Go read it, and keep reading it.
– Comments, shares, likes, and what-have-you are appreciated. Showing this column to wrestling types you know is the only way to keep it moving forward. Otherwise I’m stuck writing WrestleCrap entries in 2013 like some kind of weirdo.
– GIFS courtesy of Jerusalem at Punchsport Pagoda.
And now, Raw goes OLD SCHOOL! I bet you aren’t tired of hearing that yet. The Best and Worst of Old School Raw is after the jump.
Best: Old School Raw Should Just Be Regular Raw
This is the first edition of “old school Raw” I’ve gotten to write up since moving the Best and Worst of Raw column over to With Leather. Here’s what I wrote about the concept back at AOL FanHouse back in November of 2010:
I had trouble coming up with “worsts” for this show. Originally the worsts were “John Morrison still exists, R-Truth still exists, Eve looks like she has a mental disease when she knuckles up and blows the roof up.” I haven’t had this much fun watching wrestling in a while, and it wasn’t just the legends. It was a return to when wrestling could be fun, when the graphics were easy to read, you wanted to see what would happen in the matches, and the personalities made you smile. The ghost of Lord Alfred Hayes says “promotional considerations paid for by the following” and I mark out. It’s easy. It’s not just nostalgia, I’m marking out because what you’re doing is good.
1. I sincerely do not miss that late-2010 Raw vibe where John Morrison was translating French into animal fart jokes to get over on Maryse and R-Truth was trying to have a second hit to … get over on Maryse. It was the worst. In fact, the only thing I miss is Maryse.
2. This Old School Raw was … not that Old School Raw.
So when I type “Old School Raw should just be regular Raw,” I don’t want every episode to feature Sgt. Slaughter wandering out and getting punched by whoever, I just like the aesthetic. The ring looks better. The red, white and blue ropes are visually stimulating. The logo is a thousand times better. I prefer the simplicity of the set over the SCREENS A’FLASHIN’ thing they normally do, the old Raw theme is better than TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT BIKE BIKE BIKE BIKE, the graphics (as mentioned) are pleasant and easy to read … I don’t know, it just seems like the right direction to take the show in 2013. It could give the dreaded “PG Era” a specific look instead of just being “whatever we did from 2000-2010 but with Twitter handles.”
I also would not mind if every episode featured somebody punching Sgt. Slaughter.
Best: It’s The Undertaker, You Guys! Or
Worst: Hey Undertaker, The Rock Has Wrestled 2 More Matches Than You This Year
We finally made it to the fireworks factory!
So, the Undertaker
has hath returned. If those pictures of him from the live events are any indication he’s not in fighting shape yet, but that’s okay, because we’ve got a month until WrestleMania and he can just live inside his spiky shell suit for a few weeks. Remember when he did an entire Mania build with his head shaved, so he just wore fright wigs and hoodies all the time? Remember when he was randomly the Phantom of the Opera for a while? He’ll be fine.
I’m a little sad that Punk didn’t draw from his history with the Undertaker as reason for the challenge, instead going for the easiest and laziest possible WWE storyline: doing something because of “you people/each and every one of you,” then having to win a tag or fatal fourway match to substantiate it. Of course, the upside is that we could get a cool, monthlong CM Punk/Undertaker feud that gives Punk something to do besides complain in the direction of more household-friendly stars and lets Taker do something besides “feud with DX” for the first time in FIVE YEARS. Man, even Hornswoggle didn’t hang around those old weirdos that long.
Worst: Big Show Didn’t Have A Punch The Last Time He Wrestled Undertaker
I liked Randy Orton’s motivation for wanting to fight Taker again. He almost pulled it off when he was a plush-bodied rookie, so now that he’s the SNAKE MAN WITH RUTHLESS SNAKEGRESSION he’d have a much better chance. I mean, he’s got a powerslam now! I liked the Sheamus talking point of “welp, I beat everybody, might as well give this dude a shot,” too, although I would’ve preferred a well-placed “OIL FOIT ‘IM.”
The other half of the opening segment was less successful, I think. CM Punk is suddenly straight edge again? That’s cool. I mean, I want him to yell at people for drinking 24/7. The Punk in my head is still that guy yelling WHORES at strippers because he’s a colossal dickbag who thinks “taking off your clothes and dancing in the strip club” is horrible, but “taking off your clothes and pretending to fight in a strip club” is great. But where’d it come from? He hasn’t been nominally straight edge since what, the Jericho feud? That was the worst. I’m worried that they’re bringing it up again now so they can shoehorn in some “Taker you’re an ALCOHOLIC” thing to buffer the feud instead of the embalming and sacrificing on symbols and limo kidnapping we’d prefer.
Show’s was the worst, though. He fought Undertaker at WrestleMania before, in a handicap match with
Lord Tensai in his corner. He lost that, but HO HO HO WAIT A MINUTE, back then he didn’t have his signature finish: THE PUNCH. Yes, WWE fans, Big Show would do better in 2013 than he did in 2003 because NOW HE’S FIGURED OUT THAT HIS HANDS ARE BIG AND CAN BE USED TO PUNCH PEOPLE. Dude was NINE YEARS into his career in 2003 and hadn’t figured out “punch.” Good luck, Show. In 2023 when you discover “kick,” you’re going to be unstoppable.
Best: If You’re Gonna Have Cesaro Lose All The Time, At Least Make Him Look Good
In case you were wondering, no, I didn’t enjoy watching the United States Champion lose to somebody who is not the United States Champion without the goddamn belt changing hands for the 1500th time in the first two months and change of 2013 Raws.
What I did enjoy, at least, is Antonio Cesaro getting to look like a tough, competent wrestler before going down. When he wrestles Randy Orton (as he’s done so many times), Cesaro looks okay, but he also looks like he’s waiting around for Orton to hit his big moves. He’s just finding complex ways to get onto the apron for the rope DDT or jump headlong into an RKO “out of nowhere” that is out of so specifically SOMEWHERE. That wasn’t the case against Ryback, who took as much as he gave, and got the victory at the end of a hot, physical sequence of moves. The European uppercut counter to the Meat Hook was a knockout blow, and when Cesaro set up for the Neutralizer with his El Generico hands waving around everywhere I thought, “wow, are they gonna let Cesaro win?” Of course, they didn’t, and that’s fine if you’re giving Ryback a showcase thing at Mania and relegating the US title to pre-show nothingness (or just regular nothingness). At least the finishing counters were cool. Cesaro’s too good to not land on his feet somewhere more interesting than Jobber To The Stars. You know, eventually.
Hopefully. +1 for his old school Bruno Sammartino gear, at least.
Best: THAT’S WHAT HE DO
Mark Henry is the greatest. He’s so good, Zack Ryder’s music hit and my brain went “oh man, this is gonna be SO GOOD.” Because how does a Mark Henry/Zack Ryder match end, 100 out of 100 times? With Zack trying to perform 1-3 of his 3 moves before getting World’s Strongestly Slammed. Why? Because THAT’S WHAT MARK HENRY DOES.
By the way …
If a wrestler in my company wore these trunks on national television, I would fire him immediately. There’s a difference between playing with action figures on a YouTube show and putting a f**king Barbershop Window T-shirt slogan on your ass on global television. I guess I should be happy that he didn’t get somebody to stitch “HEY BROSKIS, REMEMBER HOW EVE TORRES IS A SKANK” across his asshole. Mark should’ve written “be better at wrestling” on a Post-It and stuck it to Ryder’s butt after he trounced him.
Best: The Miz Finally Figures Out The Figure-Four
The Miz gets a competitive win over Dolph Ziggler by discovering Ziggler’s biggest weakness: Raw matches.
He also gets a huge Best for FINALLY figuring out how to do a figure-four leglock. I’ll give it to him, the one he did last night was beautiful. There’s a huge, huge difference between this:
The crowd reaction tells the story. When he tried it that first time, the crowd popped when they figured out where he was going, then kinda had to sit on their hands going “eeeh wooo” while Miz worked it out. Here, the figure four is the big finish, with Ziggler’s bounciness backfiring and finding him stuck in the middle of the ring with a fired-up Miz, dead-set on breaking a motherf**ker’s legs.
This is why babyface Miz can still work … when he’s doing things like applying a figure-four in front of Ric Flair while an arena of people cheer him on, it works. You can believe him. He’s a wrestling fan living this crazy dream moment, getting over on the show off guy because HE’S taking this seriously. It is less effective when he says “lol your gay” into a mic and applies a figure-11, and the only person popping is Maffew from Botchamania, because he’s got the soundtrack to Mighty Bomb Jack on MIDI and finally has somewhere to put it.
Maybe Flair has to be there? I don’t know. Pay Ric Flair to be there every week, somebody.
Best: Ric Flair Vs. Big E Langston
The worst part of this match (besides Ziggler losing, which is becoming as reliable as the sunrise) was Miz bringing out Ric Flair, saying he “makes my corner look a lot better than yours.” F**king Draugr Ric Flair looks better than AJ Lee and that magnificent African-American gent in the Borat swimsuit? The only two reasons for that I can think of are:
1. Maryse is the only lady Miz looks at, so his standards of beauty are SUPER SKEWED, or
2. Miz is still Accidentally Racist Mike from ‘The Real World: Back To New York’ and has just never had an opportunity to find a Puerto Rican lady or a black guy attractive. This could also be why he’s engaged to a French Canadian with the blondest hair in history.
Anyway, the BEST part of the match was the outside-the-ring showdown between Ric Flair and Big E. Langston that started with a JACKET BULLWHIP ATTACK~, ended with a Miz dropkick and featured about 30 “MOTHERF**KER” faces in-between.
If you weren’t sold on Ric Flair being around every week with the Proper Figure-Four thing, keep him around so he can attack people with his clothing, attack, then cower from them. You can be pretty awesome sometimes, Ric Flair.
Worst: No, You Hang Up. No, YOU Hang Up.
The objective truth is that aside from Rock yelling HARLEM SHAKING HONEY BOO-BOO IT WAS CAWLLDDD!! for no reason, this year’s first Once In A Lifetime II was a hell of a lot better than last year’s “throwing gnomes into the river” fest. They kept it serious for the most part, said what needed to be said, and only took up 15% of the show instead of 40. So that’s good, right?
See, this is the problem with doing Once In A Lifetime a second time. The quality stuff Cena’s saying about how he promised everybody he was gonna beat the Rock and didn’t so he needs his redemption is REALLY GOOD, but it’s also a cop-out. The gravity of last year’s match is that it was only going to happen once, and if Cena didn’t pull it off, he’d NEVER get a chance to do it again. He’d have to live with his failure for the rest of his life. It happened, and Cena’s life went into a terrible tailspin that saw him … uh, beat Brock Lesnar and win Money in the Bank and the Royal Rumble. Now he’s getting another shot, and just like everything else in Cena’s life — firings, championship losses, whatever — he just shows up and gets what he wants. Lose a once in a lifetime match? It’s cool. We’ll just do it again. This is why I stopped collecting comic books. They kill people and ask you to give a shit, then bring them back in a year. They build up 20 years of history, reboot it all, try something else for a year, then reboot it again. Nothing has gravity. Nothing has consequence. We’re just fake people going through the fake motions. Why should you care about us? Stimulus response?
The Rock was fine, but he absolutely cannot handle a conversation with another human being. Here’s a brief transcript, as I understood it:
Cena: “I NEED to win this match. I need it more than anybody!”
Rock: “That’s true, you need this match more than anybody! More than anybody except THE ROCK!”
Cena: “Your time is up, my time is now!”
Rock: “No, YOUR time is up, and MY time is now. Because it’s THE ROCK’s time!”
Cena: “uh … my shoes are untied”
Rock: “JOHN CENA YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED BUT THE ROCK’S SHOES ARE UNTIED more”
Cena: “slow catchphrase”
Rock: “slower catchphrase”
It was the “you hang up. No, YOU hang up” of wrestling conversations. They were just saying “I’m gonna win because I really want to” at each other until somebody’s music played. Conversational musical chairs. It was serious, and that’s good. It was “intense,” and that’s good. They said it was important, and that’s good. But it wasn’t good. Does that make sense? I’ve got to stop giving Bests for Not Pissing Me Off.
I guess I can only expect so much honesty and reason from two guys who just get everything they want. Imagine if Willy Wonka opened his factory and Veruca Salt won every Golden Ticket. That’d be the WWE main event scene. CM Punk would be Charlie, his Grandpa would be Colt Cabana and they’d have to fart a bunch to keep from being chewed up in Vince McMahon’s ceiling fans.
Best: The Lance Armstrong Line Was Good, But It Could’ve Been Better
I’ll give it to Rocky, responding to Cena’s INSPIRATIONAL SPORTS QUOTE~ from Mike Tyson with an inspirational sports quote from a dude who was lying was choice. At the same time, I wish he’d gone with something along the lines of “sorry, the Rock doesn’t know any quotes from rapists.” He could’ve followed it with “hey everybody, John Cena likes rapists!”
Worst: Jack Swagger Beats Up Three Old Men With A Slab Of Balsa Wood
Isn’t Jack Swagger’s beef with minorities and people who are misconstruing the Constitution? Why does he suddenly have a problem with the army, the plumbers union and the mentally retarded?
Worst: You Guys Know You Can ERASE A Dry Erase Board, Right
It feels like I’ve been reviewing the same show for the last two months. Last week on Raw, The Primetime Players lost to Team Hell No. Daniel Bryan was wearing a blindfold and Kane had one arm tied behind his back. Somehow losing a HUGELY LOPSIDED match earned the Primetime Players a rematch on Smackdown, only this time with KANE in the blindfold and BRYAN with one arm tied behind his match. They managed to win that one — by surprise, with a roll-up, because they aren’t good enough to win one of two different severely handicapped matches straight up with wrestling moves or power or anything — which earned them a THIRD match against Team Hell No, this time with NO handicaps. They lost that clean, in about three minutes. So … rematch on Smackdown?
I joke a lot about the WWE Creative Team having a dry erase board that just says basic shit like ORTON BEATS CESARO that they accidentally leave up for a month, but man, they’ve left up the entire show for a month at this point. Are they writing on that thing in permanent marker? The Players trying to get Ted DiBiase as their manager so they can do the MILLIONS OF DOLLARS gag with greater legitimacy is a good idea, but not if you aren’t going to let them do it. What purpose does this serve for anybody? Daniel Bryan and Kane get their rivalry stalled another week, the Players look like a joke, the tease of awesome, weekly Million Dollar Man content is pulled out from under us, and no challengers to the tag team titles have been created, suggested or furthered. What are we doing?
Best: The Million Dollar Man, Forever And Always
All that said, I can’t ever give Ted DiBiase a Worst for being the Million Dollar Man. Stuffing $100 into Darren Young’s mouth was great, as was Daniel Bryan hanging back to steal it, because I guess he looks like that because he’s poor? I don’t know. I wish DiBiase had stuck around to actually be Titus and Darren’s manager, especially if those Deadspin-friendly WE WANT VIRGIL chants had led to the PTP wearing Virgil costumes and being called THE VIRGILS had happened.
Let’s just go all the way with it. Have DiBiase recruit them as manservants, then have him pal around with Zeb Colter. Because get it.
Worst: Welp, At Least We Got To See Drew McIntyre Wrestle For Almost 20 Seconds
New theory: Jerry Lawler’s heart attack freaked WWE out, so now they’ve got an unspoken “fat guys can’t be out there more than 2 minutes” rule, both to protect the health of said fat guys and to keep somebody ELSE from going down to body failure on Raw.
There was one good thing about this match: Tensai (who I refuse to call “Sweet T” in the same way I’m not ever calling somebody “Slam Master J”) switched out his Fruit Roll-up trunks for a black singlet and now has a full breakaway-pants tracksuit to match Brodus. Okay, two things: Naomi is my jam.
There was so much bad to share, though. The continuation of Punishment Funkadelic’s “we’re the team that wins now” push, 3MB’s joke only being allowed to extend as far as “we are 3MB and we like music, supposedly,” Drew McIntyre’s 10 years of pro wrestling experience being used in a roll that Steve the f**king Turtle Weiner could’ve done, the works. The Honky Tonk Man gets put into a match, gets over on the young stars and never has to take a bump in the process. Thank goodness the f**king HONKY TONK MAN looks good, right? Is losing to Jerry Lawler’s Elvis impersonating cousin and having fat guys dance on your grave better or worse than being shoved on your ass by Flo Rida?
Worst: Not Every Legend Was A Good Guy
I’ve written about this before; about how WWE brings back legends and they default to “fan favorite” whether they were an affable good guy or the worst person in history because the passing nostalgia of “I remember this thing” is more important than history or precedent. It’s confusing.
I mean, imagine that you work in an office. Imagine that when you were young and just starting out, there was a weird guy at your job who always took shortcut, openly betrayed and assaulted his co-workers, told everyone else at work how stupid they were every day he was there and was eventually fired for stealing or doing drugs or reaching an insurmountable level of personal embarrassment, or some combination of the three. Imagine that you didn’t see him for 15 years. Now, imagine that he just shows up again to that same office, wearing the same clothes he was in when he was fired. You’ve experienced about a 75% turnover in the last 15 years, but there are enough people still working there who remember every awful thing this dude did. His only reason for showing up is to do the same stuff you hated him for 15 years ago. Would you clap your hands and welcome this guy back because you “remember” him? Of course not. You’d call the f**king police, right?
WWE’s insistance on everybody being beloved when they’re gone is concerning, but I guess when you put an IM MEMORIUM to Test at the beginning of Raw when he dies, you might as well keep going. It works for nebulous guys like Vader and Sid because they were AWESOME, but the Honky Tonk Man? Really? There is no universe where somebody should see the Honky Tonk Man and want to clap for him.
Worst: Thanks A Lot, Justin Roberts
I’ve been waiting for
NXT winner Fandango to debut for SO LONG. I’ve been cheering this guy since he had two Os in his name. And now the time comes for him to FINALLY debut on Raw, and I don’t get to see it because Justin Roberts can’t commit to a name read? I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL FIND YOU AND CHOKE THE SHIT OUT OF YOU WITH A TIE IF YOU MESS THIS UP AGAIN
On a serious note, did they SERIOUSLY hype a guy with videos for months, change his name after the first week, devolve his ability to speak and have him refuse to do the (second?) job he has kayfabulously agreed to do because some chump can’t say his name right? I mean, I am still all about Fandango, but God, they turned him into Simon Dean before he even wrestled.
Best: That Was My Second Favorite Kofi Kingston Match Ever
Here’s a Tweet you should see before every Kofi Kingston match: