– Comments, shares, likes, what-have-you are greatly appreciated. It takes less than one second from your day and helps me continue to get paid for writing hacky Watchmen references and John Carter jokes in a wrestling column on a sports blog. I love you, and if you don’t want to hit me in the head with a brick, this is your best way to show me.
– As always, thank you to Casey/THESTINGER of Hammerlock Dialectic for GIFs.
– If you missed out interview with Eve Torres, be sure to check that out here. Or, you know, find the 411 Wrestling post that copied in paragraphs from it and reported it as exclusive news. Part of it is about punching Doink The Clown in the face, it’s pretty great.
– Repost: My trip to WrestleMania XXIX is officially being planned, so if you’re anywhere near the New York/New Jersey area and want to be Wrestling Bros In The Snow with me next April, start scheduling it now.
And now, please click through to enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for October 22, 2012.
Best: Let’s Start Every Raw With A Boss Tag Team Match, Please
Rey Mysterio returned from a near-fatal bout of T-shirts Disease to open the show as part of the tag team number one contenders tournament finals, and now I’m going to react to the next six months of show-opening CM Punk promos with COME ON JERKS WHY SPEND THIS 20 MINUTES HAVING A GREAT TAG TEAM MATCH, GAWD etc.
It was simple, effective storytelling. WWE’s been pushing the importance of tag teams recently, so it makes sense that the team who stayed healthy and got a non-tournament win last week to stay warm would take it. Think about it — Rey getting sick cost his team momentum. They didn’t even wear the matching gear they’d been rocking for the first 3/4 of the tournament. Sandow and Rhodes didn’t have to pull any dirty tricks to get the win, they simply stuck to their isolate-and-destroy gameplan, didn’t take any unnecessary risks and trusted each other. Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow need to be tag team partners forever, because Christ, how hard must it be to find a physical and intellectual peer in WWE? Cody Rhodes used to team with Bob f**king Holly. His next partner pretended to be rich, but loved wearing camouflage and “goin’ muddin'”. He needs to sit in the tag division with Sandow and wait for Godot whether the dude ever shows up or not.
I know everyone is into the idea of a Rey Mysterio versus Sin Cara match at WrestleMania so they can break the masks record or whatever (I’m bringing my Saturyne mask just in case), but I hope they allow Car Stereo to regroup after this loss and team a little more before they split. One of the cool parts of this match is that either team winning would give us something great for Hell In A Cell. If Rhodes Scholar won, we get the obvious cool heels versus wacky babyfaces thing. If Car Stereo won it’d be just as good, because Kane and Mysterio work together well, Kane vs. Sin Cara would be hilarious on several levels and Daniel Bryan is good enough at wrestling to make Sin Cara look like Mistico. Plus, Daniel Bryan versus Rey Mysterio is a thing I need in my life.
Best: The Crowd Chanting A Rhodes Scholar Pinfall
No, seriously, watch that video. Cody Rhodes drops Mysterio with +Rhodes and covers, and the crowd chants ONE, TWO, THREE~ along with the ref. For the smarmy bad guys. This happened for three reasons:
1. It was the first match of Raw, so the crowd still loved being live for pro wrestling and hadn’t yet been beaten down with 2 hours and 45 minutes of in-ring promos and commercial breaks.
2. It was really good, and sometimes by the end of a good match you don’t care so much about who wins, you’re just happy to have seen a really good wrestling match.
3. Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow are cool. Think about it. Who’s on top of WWE right now? An aging dorky guy in jorts and Breast Cancer Awareness clothes. A stressful, abrasive guy in a hoodie with no pants with a below average man’s physique. A guy so white they call him GREAT WHITE who plays with toys on Raw and can’t speak without sounding like the type who’d crack up at your forwarded list of lawyer jokes. Look at the undercard. A guy with a funny accent who wears a snake puppet on his arm. A guy with a YouTube show who calls himself the Internet Champion. A guy who talks to an invisible child. Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow are smart, physically fit pro wrestlers who win matches with violence and cunning instead of cowardice and shortcuts and don’t give a f**k what the trogs in the WWE Universe think about them. Out of all of those people, who would you most like to be?
Best: A Sneak Preview Of My Halloween Costume
I don’t want to reveal too much until the costumes are finished, but there are only so many people in the world who’d get excited about this, so here’s a sneak preview of my Halloween costume.
Yes, it’s a couples costume. Yes, Destiny’s dressing up like you think she is.
Worst: At Hell In A Cell This Sunday, CM Punk Will Be Compromised To A Permanent End
I need another John Cena promo like I need an asshole right here:
I love that even the WWE Fan Nation video labels it as “John Cena explains giving Ryback an opportunity to face CM Punk”. He doesn’t. No amount of explaining can logically justify Cena battling back from surgery and passionately demanding the match at Hell In A Cell only to stop when the contract’s in front of him on a clipboard on a table in the ring without retconning it completely or giving Cena a social depth he absolutely does not have. If Cena had said, “I think I’m going to be medically cleared next week, but if I go slamming into a cage a week after that I could be out for a lot longer, so I need to take it easy for a few months and just pin Miz or whatever so let me send the most dangerous dude I can find after this guy who pissed me off,” that would’ve been something. What he actually said was, “please buy Ryback brand hot dogs”. That’s it.
What does he even say? He says Punk tells the truth, but that everything Punk has said is false, because the only real avenue of change is putting the strap on the most muscular guy he can find. That’s not change, bro, that’s the status quo. Didn’t you wrestle Batista like 7,000 times? You should know this.
Ryback works (like Goldberg originally worked) because he doesn’t spend 20 minutes explaining himself at the top of every Raw, he just comes out and picks up two guys at once and kills them, says his catch phrase a bunch and bails. How funny is it that they’ve commandeered John Cena to be Ryback’s 20-minute promo? We don’t need Cena going RYBACK IS THE MORNING AND THE EVE-A-NING STAR and pointing a dramatic finger a la Cooper Anderson, we need Ryback showing up to repeatedly maim folks and properly pick up Tensai. That’s it.
Best, Briefly: Raw Is McGillicutty!
I’ll save the Kofi KingStans reading another expository paragraph they’ll skip and say that I enjoyed the what, 70-ish seconds Michael McGillicutty was on Raw. If you watched the post-Conor O’Brian, pre-Seth Rollins NXT Redemption you’ll know that Gilly has been working his ass off to get as good IN the ring as David Otunga is OUT of it. The crowd still doesn’t get who he is because he isn’t flipping a towel behind his back, but he’s precisely the hand you want in the ring to make your Intercontinental Champion look like he could beat somebody in a fight.
By the way, Trouble In Paradise is now officially just Starship Pain. Kofi either misses by a foot and kicks the air in front of them (like he did last night … in theory he should’ve been kicking hard enough to move McGillicutty’s hands backwards, hitting him in the face and allowing everything to look like its supposed to) or he kicks through their skull like he’s trying to connect a foot behind them. But yeah, no, Kofi Kingston’s awesome.
Best: Raw’s Supporting Cast
I’m really loving how the three-hour format of Raw is starting to open up opportunities for guys like Justin Gabriel to make (and be an important part of) Raw. Antonio Cesaro has become such a fantastic vessel for showcasing undervalued talent that I’m starting to develop a weird reaction: when I see him walking to the ring, I’m interested to know who he’s wrestling, and I make sure I stick around to see the entirety of it. When the hell did I start watching Raw like THAT?
I think if they were gonna go the Cesaro Wins/Other Guy Scores An Upset In The Rematch/Rubber Match At Hell In A Cell route they should’ve done it with Tyson Kidd instead of Justin Gabriel. Regardless, it was the latest in Cesaro’s string of solid-to-fantastic 5-minute matches on Raw, and I was legitimately surprised and excited to see Gabriel pull off the victory. I was all, “what, is he gonna kick out? Even Cena couldn’t kick out of Gabriel’s 450,” and then, “OH SHIT WAIT DID HE WIN THE UNITED STATES TITLE,” and then “oh, right, everything is non-title always” but with a SMILE on my face. You guys are really corrupting my ability to be smarmy about everything.
Kidd and Gabriel have gotten a lot of visibility from these matches, so hopefully after the (I’m assuming YouTube pre-show) match at Hell In A Cell, we can get them onto the show as a cool tag team and feed them to Rhodes Scholar or Car Stereo for a guaranteed 10 minutes of great Raw. While I’m forcing monkeys to fly out of my butt, let’s bring up Kassius Ohno already and give Antonio Cesaro a domestic running buddy. And whatever you’re gonna call Sara Del Rey. “Madge,” or whatever.
Worst: I Am Going To Emerge From The Shadows And Garrote Whoever Tried To Get A Boring Chant Going During Gabriel/Cesaro
Remember a couple of weeks ago when CM Punk escaped through the crowd and someone touched him in the back of the head, so he turned around and KENTA’d an innocent bystander? Remember how nothing happened, and WWE just released a statement that said (more or less), “it was the heat of the moment, sry”?
My new professional goal is to become so important to the wrestling ecosystem that I can randomly wander into the crowd during Raws and hurt people. For example, when I hear a lone voice going BOOOO-RINNNNGGGG during an Antonio Cesaro/Justin Gabriel match, I want find that person and throw them down a flight of steps. TMZ will write about how I “SAVAGELY … ATTACKED” him and Deadspin will wonder whether or not it’s a work, but I’m more important than some unimaginable asshole ruining 5 of somebody in his section’s 20-ish minutes of good wrestling experience and will be defended for my actions.
I would also like to follow this person home and throw them through a window, but that’s Triple H popular, not Punk popular.
Raise your hand if you came here specifically to read my take on the whole “AJ resigns as GM” thing. Okay, now put it down, I hate you.
The only thing I enjoyed about the night’s AJ Lee content is how nobody in WWE could pronounce “fraternizing”. It’s like somebody in WWE Creative had a birthday and got a Word Of The Day calendar, October 21’s word was “fraternizing” and they thought it was SO GREAT and wrote EVERYONE TO SAY IT. I love pro wrestlers, but expecting them to articulate a four-syllable word multiple times isn’t a good idea. Even the smart-sounding wrestlers like CM Punk say shit like “I hope you understand the levity of the situation you’re in”. The only wrestlers allowed to break three syllables going forward are Sandow and Otunga. A year later and I’m still marking out for that time he said “fastidiousness”.
So, the AJ thing.
Without going too deeply into it, the end (?) of the AJ Lee General Manager story is as sudden and underwhelming as its beginning. When AJ played along and let Daniel Bryan think he was marrying her, only to pull the I CAN’T MARRY YOU BECAUSE I GOT A JOB AND A WOMAN CAN’T DO BOTH card at the last second, it was terrible. It was the beginning of the end for the AJ character, turning her from a compelling, complex pro wrestler with a bright future into the pretty, teenage Teddy Long. She became the zero calorie Stephanie McMahon, showing up to tilt her head to the side and ALMOST trick us into thinking she was the same person we loved six months ago, but not really. Here, she’s exiting the way she entered: abruptly, out of nowhere, and contextualized in Bad Female Decision Making. When she got the job, she announced it during a wedding. When she lost it, it’s because she “had an affair”. Can a woman get or lose a job because she’s good or bad at it, and not because of how she relates to the boys at work?
I love Paul Heyman and Vickie Guerrero, but more ridiculously classified Position Of Power stories are the last thing we need, especially when the people involved are the same people who were in every other story like this. Vickie Guerrero, Paul Heyman, Teddy Long, Vince McMahon. Just like how a Major League Baseball team hires terrible f**king Bobby Valentine or a player from the 80s because they’ve heard of them instead of doing 20 minutes of f**king research and finding somebody with actual managerial skills and ideas, WWE is missing a long list of storytelling opportunities by going back to a broken well and creating a “managing supervisor” title that nobody understands, not even THE GUY WHO CAME UP WITH THE TITLE AND IS THEORETICALLY PAYING SOMEONE TO FILL IT. On the WWE hierarchy, Managing Supervisor falls somewhere between Interim GM and Celebrity Guest Host.
It’s all a circle-jerking waste of time and talent. If AJ goes back to being a wrestler and helps anchor the slowly-improving Divas division, great. If Heyman Ceti eels his way into Vince’s brain and ends up in charge of Raw at Vickie’s expense, great. But skip the condescending “poor girl tryin’ t’make somethin’ of herself an’ messin’ it up b’cause of th’ cute boys” shit and hire someone with a short-term memory or access to a tape library to do your job interviews.
Worst: This Isn’t Going To End With John Laurinaitis Coming Back, Is It
I’m going to keep these candles burning until it happens. You hate CM Punk, right Vince? CM Punk is the only guy John Laurinaitis was bad to, and even that was Punk’s fault. He earned his job and ran a tight ship. He fired John Morrison. NO GENERAL MANAGER IS AS GREAT AS JOHN LAURINAITIS.
Best: Sheamus Verifies My Theory About Him Being A 5-Year Old
Last month, I came to the conclusion that Sheamus was a 5-year old. Via The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 9/10/12:
I’ve been trying to figure it out for months, and I think I’ve got it. I don’t hate the Sheamus character because he’s a good guy acting like a bad guy. Being an “asshole” or whatever. A lot of good guys do that, and I like them anyway. I don’t hate the character because he’s racist or offensive, despite how much as I hate that stuff. I hate the Sheamus character because he’s trying to be the voice of a common WWE fan who wants to live vicariously through their favorite superstars, doing what they can’t do and saying what they can’t say, but is missing that completely and acting like a five-year old.
That’s it. He’s a f**king five-year old. He responds to questions and situations like a kindergartner would if he’d pulled a Big and gotten his brain put into the body of an albino gorilla, or whatever. That’s why he says “si senior” when he answers Ricardo’s questions and snickers about it, because a five-year old hasn’t learned what a f**king piece of shit that makes you yet. A five-year old thinks Jeff Dunham is funny. He thinks a jalapeno in a sombrero going “ay yi yi” is hilarious, because Mexican people aren’t like him. A five-year old would hear “do you swear” and think it means “say curse words”. What living grown-up with a functioning f**king brain makes that joke? It’s like writing “yes please” under “sex” on a job application.
On last night’s Raw, Sheamus verified this theory by getting super excited that Josh Mathews was holding a stuffed animal, then reacting to the threats of The Big Show by holding a doll in his face and making it say things. Big Show’s response was the exact “oh my god if you knew any better I would bodyslam you onto the merry-go-round” response you’d get if a kindergartner showed up at your job and called you stupid-head for a month while everyone you work with cheered.
WWE should reveal that Sheamus is sensitive to the bullying epidemic because he’s got Jack disease.
A Shocking Best: Daniel Bryan Vs. Dolph Ziggler
When I talk about how I don’t like watching Kofi Kingston wrestle Dolph Ziggler, it’s about how Dolph’s biggest strength is his defense, and he needs someone with great offense to play off of. It’s why his matches with Chris Jericho were kinda underwhelming … Jericho’s offense has looked terrible since day one. That “run by you and touch your head with one of my hands so now you have to JUMP WITHOUT PROVOCATION AND OOHHH BULLDOG” stuff is terrible. The Lionsault hits with the impact of a guy jumping into bed. Going EEYAHH! before you do something doesn’t always make it look like it hurts. Jericho’s a GREAT wrestler, one of the best of his generation, don’t get me wrong, but that particular aspect of his game has never been top shelf.
Daniel Bryan’s entire game is top shelf.
It’s easy enough to just say “Daniel Bryan is a great wrestler so of course this is good,” but it’s all about the offense. Bryan’s offense is tight, crisp, powerful without being “stiff”. Stiff is overrated. Stiff is what guys do when they don’t know how to do it right. Pro wrestling isn’t about proving how tough you are, it’s a fake underwear fighting entertainment show. Whether Daniel Bryan is “stiffing” guys or not is irrelevant — he LOOKS like he is, the same way Bret Hart looked like he was, and that makes Ziggler’s ridiculous defensive selling look purposeful. Ziggler flops around because Bryan’s MAKING him flop around. He’s not whiffing a dropkick and making Ziggler stop drop and roll. Everything connects, everything makes sense, and everything is beautiful. This, for example:
JR had to call it “unorthodox” like it was a Rob Van Dam “hold my foot for a minute so I can step over and kick you” thing when it absolutely is NOT unorthodox, it is orthodox as f**k, it’s just that nobody else is doing the basic shit that makes pro wrestling look great, so you can’t call what Daniel Bryan’s doing the norm. It’s not the norm. It’s the EXCEPTIONAL norm. Best possible norm. Daniel Bryan is the George Wendt of WWE is what I’m saying.
Ziggler carried his end of it, too. If you don’t believe me, watch him go sailing over the top rope into the post and then STRAIGHT TO THE G.D. FLOOR.
If The Zig Zag Man Right Here is gonna kill himself, let him do it for a reason. Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler should wrestle each other in a Best Of However Many They Want series, and the next time one of them holds a championship belt, their first epic feud had better be with the other. Train your guys to do this, WWE. This exact thing they’re doing.
Worst: Matt Striker Needs To Be Fired So Hard I Can Barely Explain It
If WWE Creative was smart, they’d pull Matt Striker aside, put him in some Grand Wizard sunglasses and let him manage every undercard heel because I have never enjoyed someone less on a wrestling show. If Matt Striker accompanied Stan Stansky to the ring, I would be rooting for the other guy to rip off their heads. I would instantly turn into my mom, threatening to stab Sweet Stan Lane with the heel of her shoe if he got close enough to her at the Greensboro Coliseum. If Matt Striker managed Damien Sandow, I would be writing 10 paragraphs a week about how Damien Sandow was worthless and needed to be fired. Matt Striker’s combination of snark, theater kid presentation and dough-face give me a legitimate feeling of rage in my body I cannot deal with.
There is zero f**king reason why any Scott Stanford shouldn’t replace Matt Striker, Josh Mathews or Michael Cole during a televised wrestling segment. Zero. They’ve got Lance Russell hanging out filming app promos backstage while Chris f**king Cruise hosts Raw. Total bullshit.
If you don’t get the Matt Striker hate, listen to his Dr. Evil impression 30 seconds into this video.
Best: Sandow And Rhodes Have Cracked The Dumb Segment Code
The only real highlight to the Newly Tag Game (ughhh) was Rhodes Scholar showing up to fart in the general direction of the ring, announce that they weren’t going to participate and make two grown adult men who talk for a living think “gentrification” is a rare word.
That’s a trend that should continue. It’s why I got so mad when Sandow accepted Jared’s meatball sub. Sandow and Rhodes should be smart enough and, more importantly, dignified enough to say nuts to the backstage WWE comedy segment. When Yoshi Tatsu and Johnny Curtis are playing Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in a Santino YouTube video, that’s fine. Those guys should be funny. They aren’t important. When Daniel Bryan and Kane are doing anger management skits on Raw, that’s also fine. Those guys should be funny, because the WWE Universe is trained to accept “funny and not directly mean to us” as code for “cheer for these guys”. Rhodes and Sandow should only be funny on their own terms and make each other laugh. If Hornswoggle tries to lure them into Little People’s Court, Rhodes Scholar should just glare at him until he’s willed into oblivion. Those are the guys I want to see as WWE’s top heels. Guys who are good at wrestling and not afraid to be up their own asses about it. That’s what the Four Horsemen did. They didn’t wear suits and ride in limos because they were independently wealthy, they wore suits and rode in limos because they made a ton of money WINNING AT WRESTLING. It’s your fault for being jealous.
Okay, there were two highlights.
Worst: WWE Mystery Storytelling
I like that the Who Attacked Kaitlyn storyline has reached its denouement, that Kaitlyn continues to be on my television (‘sup, Kaitlyn) and that the blonde mystery assailant didn’t end up being Rikishi. I also like that we’ve finally gotten around to it just being Eve, so we can move forward with jiu-jitsu heel and MISTRESS OF DISGUISE Eve Torres as the division’s Big Bad. Additionally, I like backstage fights that end up in catering. YEAH HIT HER WITH SOME POPCORNS!
What I don’t like is how WWE pays off mysteries. You’re probably thinking of the Higher Power type stuff here, and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about backstage attack segments, or whodunits that don’t really require pay-per-view payoffs. They’re all the same. Somebody gets attacked, and nobody can figure out who did it. So they spend like four weeks asking each other about it, getting into fights about it, mentioning evidence they think they might’ve found, whatever. Then suddenly one day they just have EVERY PIECE OF EVIDENCE IMAGINABLE and that’s the end of the story.
For example, Kaitlyn got attacked a month ago. She somehow got surveillance footage of the hallway where she got attacked but couldn’t see her attacker’s face, because I guess she couldn’t also get the footage from the previous hallway, or the locker room, or that person entering the building in a blonde wig or whatever. Weeks go by and nothing really happens, then BAM, Kaitlyn not only figures out that it was Eve, but she’s got access to e-mails and iPad passwords and PHOTOS OF IPADS and everything. Hey WWE, do you guys not know how an outline works? You can pace yourself. You don’t have to write your shows like Saw movies, where nothing makes sense for 88 minutes until you get to the big video package exposition in the final two.
I was gonna complain about how Kaitlyn found out about all this, too, because it’s the least face thing to do ever, but if I learned anything from my Glee Sports On TV column research it’s that going through somebody’s phone and personal belongings is fine if you think they might be doing something wrong.
WORST: John Cena Will Defend You, Little Lady
I wish John Cena was the WWE Champion. When he’s champion, his only story is YOU WANT THIS BELT YOU COME GET THIS BELT, or he’s promising to WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP FOR ALL OF US and BELIEVE IN DREAMS or whatever. When he’s NOT the champion, his stories are the most godawful thing imaginable, from his Nexus-arranged “firing” to Kane kidnapping Eve in the Wambulance.
Here, John Cena exits the WWE Championship picture and goes straight into his rehab story, a thing where he crudely and unprofessionally asks his boss out on a date on national television, goes on the date with her, then gets confused and upset when that causes problems. But it’s okay, because he’s a TOUGH GUY WITH A HEART OF GOLD and will hug poor little helpless waif AJ and make things better by talking to her bosses. Because that is a normal thing you do in relationships, and not creepy and controlling and weird at all! F**k, you’d think a guy who just five months ago made out with his best friend’s, got that guy’s back broken and ended up blaming and berating the woman for letting it happen would know better than to chase tail on Raw.
As sad as it is, that hug is the cherry on the shit sundae that AJ’s character has become. In three months she went from a character who ended Raw by putting CM Punk and Daniel Bryan through a table and cheering over their unconscious bodies to being a damsel in distress, whimpering about her life and being comforted in the arms of John Cena. What can you even say?