– Comments, shares, likes and Facebook pokes or whatever are appreciated. Sharing the column with new eyes every week to ensure I never go a week without someone reading one line of one column in two years of columns telling me I’m a smark-mark who doesn’t know anything about wrestling is the most important thing in the world to me.
– Re: The Best And Worst Of King Of Trios, it might not be happening. I know, I know. I’ve done this thing since becoming a full-time blogger where I turn everything fun I do into work. I can’t watch wrestling without it being work, I can’t watch TV without it being work, I can’t travel, etc. Every time I sit down to write about Trios I remember how great it was, and how much fun I had, and how little I want someone on a forum somewhere linking it and calling me gay slurs because Mr. Touchdown isn’t 6-foot-5. I may end up keeping that for myself.
– If you’ve only bookmarked the Best And Worst tag, consider looking at the rest of the site from time to time, would you? Sure, the sports are real (why would anybody like REAL sports), but I’m still writing about them, and if you put up with my Kofi Kingston opinions here, maybe you can put up with my thoughts on Rampage Jackson or whoever somewhere else.
Anyway, please enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for October 1, 2012.
Best: Holy Crap, A Tag Team Tournament
Somebody out there loves me.
I like sports, so when wrestling does something that allows me to formulate “real sports” stories in my head and follow them as they happen, I love it. Battles royal are a great example of this. It’s just a bunch of guys in the ring, but you have to consider allegiances (both established and temporary), pre-existing rivalries and intangibles like managers or eliminated participants on the outside. It’s less the execution of a story and more of a contest, and that’s a nice change of pace from the holding-the-tights and purposeful-countout rigamarole of wrestling TV.
Tournaments are the same way. So many Bests happen naturally because of a tournament set-up … a lot of wrestlers get involved in one big, lengthy story that can go in any number of directions, and not only do you get to enjoy wrestling, you get to enjoy the anticipation of wrestling. This is why we like pay-per-views so much. We know the matches ahead of time and can make predictions, argue, fantasy book, whatever. I feel like the weekly shows, even the bad ones, could benefit from having their cards announced a week in advance.
Best: Tag Team Synergy
Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara having lucha tag team masks is the GREATEST. Capital letters. I’m the kind of guy who gets off on tag team partners having matching tights, so of course I’m gonna lose my mind when half of Mysterio’s mask is Sin Cara’d out and half of Sin Cara’s mask is both Rey Mysterio-themed and strapped the f**k to his throat so nobody rips it off this week.
I got distracted during most of the first hour of Raw, but I had a fun moment revisiting the PERM/Myscario match on WWE Fan Nation this morning. It starts somewhere near the end with Sin Cara in trouble, and my brain goes, “it must be hard telling Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio apart now that their gear coordinates”. Then I remembered one of them wrestles in a shirt. TAKE OFF THE SHIRT, REY. Being fat-bodied when you get older is a luchador tradition, you should know this. El Dandy looks like a ridiculous old Mexican Peter Dinklage with a barrel body and you don’t see him wrestling in a shirt, he is MASCULINELY CONFIDENT ABOUT IT. F**ker wears a vest with no shirt. Own it.
If that fails, L-W-Own it.
Worst: Again, A Show-Opening Graphic Could’ve Accomplished This Just As Easily
One of the most telling things about Raw opening segments is that they very rarely get uploaded to WWE Fan Nation. They’re important enough to take up 25 minutes of your first hour, but they aren’t necessary to catch everybody up to speed when they’re watching 90 second video clips the next day? What does that say?
To me, it says that they’re a waste of time. Starting the show with a graphic that says TEAM HELL NO WILL BE TAKING ON WWE CHAMPION
JOHN CENA CM PUNK AND DOLPH ZIGGLER followed by Michael Cole reading the words and adding “because General Manager AJ Lee made the match, because her job is to organize shit like that” would be perfect. Then you get 25 more minutes of wrestling, or hey, if you want to sell it to WWE Creative, 25 more minutes for backstage glarefests and political jokes. Whatever you want to use it for. What I’m getting at is that every minute of TV is an opportunity to sell your product, and filler should never happen.
Also I’m saying that if I knew an episode of Raw had a 45 minute tag match on it, guess what? I’m finding that f**king Raw.
Best: Antonio Cesaro Just Made Brodus Clay AND Ryback Look Like A Piece Of Shit
Antonio Cesaro is a beast. I never liked Claudio Castagnoli this much. I love that he showed up to WWE after a weird false start and was all, “oh, hey, I’m a popular, well-known guy from the indies. What’s that you’re saying? Most popular indy guys are 5-foot-8 spot monkeys? Maybe so, but hold on let me EFFORTLESSLY LIFT A 400 POUND MAN AND SPRINGBOARD OFF OF SHIT AND BE 6-5 AND FULL OF MUSCLES AND F**K YOU I’M ANTONIO CESARO F**K YOUUU”.
I remember a few months ago when WWE had all these concurrent “unstoppable winning streak” guys at once, and I wrote about how they needed to have Cesaro, Brodus Clay, Ryback and Lord Tensai all just wrestle each other until one was Goldberg and the rest were nobody. Welp, on last night’s Raw Antonio Cesaro beat Brodus Clay clean in ONE MINUTE by throwing him around with a smile on his face, and in another match Ryback tried to show off his incredible strength by failing to lift Tensai’s doughbody. I think that means Antonio Cesaro wins.
Poor Brodus, though. Maybe it’s time for him to give up the tracksuit, pick back up his philosophy books and throw in with Team Rhodes Scholars. I’m at least hoping for a mournful sit-down with Brodus next week where he puts his head in his hands and announces that funk is no longer on a roll.
Worst: Sheamus Talking, Fake Twitters For Lay-Up Questions And ‘Debate’ Segments In General
You guys don’t need to read me nerd-raging about this segment for 10 paragraphs, because in the grand scheme of things (and in the last eight months of Sheamus) it’s not the worst, most insulting or least purposeful thing they’ve done. So I’ve put together a list of things I enjoyed about the segment and things I didn’t, and I’ll ask you to draw your own conclusions.
What I Liked
– Booker T being the host of a debate, because 1) he can barely talk, and 2) there is nothing he’s more enthusiastic about than putting on a serious “hosting voice” and emceeing an event. See also that time when he was in charge of the Raw Roulette wheel and got REALLY INTO IT.
– Big Show’s point of view. Sheamus can’t kick that high, and he should probably be able to brute force Sheamus to the ground and murder him with something because his finisher is a goddamn punch, and how hard is that to land? Just keep trying until one connects. Boom, instant Dead Sheamus.
What I Didn’t Like
– WWE has no idea how to handle politics. They’re always doing debates, having Sunny sit on a Bill Clinton impersonator’s lap and pretending he’s the real guy or bringing out “Barack Obama” to wrestle. Here’s a quick bit of advice for WWE: YOU ARE A WRESTLING SHOW. If you want to support a candidate, use your millions of dollars to donate to their campaign. That’s your right. You do not necessarily have to be “wrestling” about it when you do it.
– Needing The WWE Universe to supply questions like “what do you think of your opponent” and “who has best movez” for a debate. That’s got to be the worst part of being a WWE Creative Team member. You’re tasked with searching #SheamusShow for questions and you have to skip all the good ones (like “Big Show, will you drive your car to the arena at Night Of Champions or do you fear Sheamus will steal and shit in it”) in favor of “do you like wrestling RT if u agree” and “what is you’re are favirote color”.
– Sheamus not wearing any pants to a formal debate. At least Rhodes Scholar had the wherewithal to bring this up later.
– Sheamus not being able to go one segment without doing something prejudiced as f**k. Here he can be seen pretending to be Mexican by holding a plastic Rey Mysterio mask to his face, which would be fine I guess if he hadn’t drawn a CHEECH MUSTACHE ON IT.
Also, saying “arriba” for no reason, because that’s what Mexicans do. Man, Sheamus has got to be the most casually, verbally-insulting racist character they’ve ever done. He just demeans everyone’s culture and smirk-snarks about it so everyone cheers. Big Show should’ve just screamed THIS GUY’S A RACIST and punched him in the face to thunderous cheers.
Worst: AJ Lee Is A Horrible Person, And
Best: Wade Barrett Gives AJ A Little Real Talk
WWE’s YouTube channel combined these segments into one, and I guess they go together in that one is about AJ interacting with someone who cares about her well-being, and one is about her interacting with somebody who has absolutely zero time for her shit.
In the first one, AJ introduces her “executive coach” to Kaitlyn, who was minding her own business and tying her shoes in full wrestling gear with her boobs hanging out because she’ll be “ready to go next week”. Anyway, without provocation, AJ launches into this big apology about how she’d treated Kaitlyn badly and hoped they could be friends again. Then, for no reason, she starts troll-facing and cackling like Vickie Guerrero about it, laughs in Kaitlyn’s face and bails. So, uh, has anyone figured out if we’re supposed to like AJ yet, or are we supposed to just keep liking her less and less until they can remove her from the GM position without complaint, release her unceremoniously and pretend like she never got herself over? Seriously, the previous segment featured a guy pretending to be Mexican on Tout and AJ might still be most morally-unenjoyable person on the show.
In the second segment, Wade Barrett speaks for the trees and calmly tells AJ that she sucks at her job because she doesn’t make any sense and lets her personal issues get in the way of professional successes. Then, like Wade Barrett should, he politely excuses himself. AJ just stands there derp-facing and doing nothing because Wade is totally right, then later takes out all her frustrations on a board-appointed coach because she’s got an inferiority complex or whatever and only lords her power over the lowest-level employees … referees, NPCs, etc. When someone like Wade or Vickie Guerrero gets in her face, she cowers or screams like a 10-year old. She’s gone from being the most progressive female character they’ve ever had to being a terrible, 65-year old man’s interpretation of what a “young woman” is — irrational, incapable of handling pressure and at the mercy of the powerful boys. Just awful.
Wade f**king rules it, though.
WWE Fan Nation wants you to believe that Ryback handily defeated Tensai with two “Meathook” clotheslines. It, uh, didn’t exactly work out like that. Here’s what they missed. If you need to throw some ‘Rescue: The Embassy Mission’ music behind it, go for it.
WWE’s got a thing where they’ll do something cool on Smackdown, and if they like it enough, they’ll do it again shot-for-shot on Raw. This was an attempt to recreate the magic of Ryback throwing Tensai’s slippery dugong body around like a child’s on Smackdown. At some point between last night and last Tuesday, that stopped working.
Poor JR tried his best to rationalize it, being all TENSAI BLOCKED IT, HE BLOCKED IT I THINK and Cole went to the “another weapon in his arsenal” well, but it was too late, mostly because Antonio Cesaro shoot lifted a heavier dude like it was nothing like 20 minutes earlier.
I can’t wait for Jarry Lawler to come back so we can pronounce things correctly.
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”.