A few things before we place our votes.
– Be sure to read The Best And Worst Of WWE Hell In A Cell before reading this week’s report. Yes, there was a pay-per-view on Sunday. Another one!
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Enjoy the column, or at least the first 90 minutes.
Best: Skipping The Monologue
I turned on the show a minute or two late and saw Randy Orton walking to the ring. I just assumed he was (slowly) walking to the ring to (slowly) start the prerequisite 20-minute scene-setting play that starts with “Last night, at Hell In A Cell…”, turns into a tense staredown™ between Orton and Mark Henry and turns into a Raucous Night Here On Raw with a Teddy Long tag team match or Triple H getting game all over everybody. That’s the horrible thing about being a modern wrestling fan — you’re “being too negative” if you think like that, but Jesus, it happens that way more often than not. Your brain is tuned to negativity, so even though I was pleasantly surprised to see the show starting off with a match (and not only a match, a match between Orton and a guy I really like), that instantaneous happy turned into “oh great, here’s Drew McIntyre to lose in 20 seconds”. They surprised me again, and that became the theme of the show: defying my expectations.
Okay, “boring labor disputes” was also a theme, but work with me here.
Starting the show with a tight, six-minute Drew McIntyre vs. silent Snake-rate Randy Orton is great. McIntyre got to look like he belongs out there for the first time in months and Orton looked like a better wrestler for having beaten him. Sure, there was a “Randy Orton can barely move, the stuffed Jun Kasai doll from DDT could probably pin him right now” vibe hanging over the match and yeah, by not being able to beat a near-cripple Drew Mac looked less effective than a stuffed animal, but the difference in 100% Orton and 0% Orton is a frowny face and nobody’s paying that much attention. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction (toward Dolph Ziggler, away from Chris Masters) for McIntyre, and maybe we’ll get a rematch that brings back the swank RKO counter to the Future Shock DDT.
Best: THAT Is How You Take An RKO
Speaking of RsKO, every wrestler on the roster should watch how Drew McIntyre takes it and makes it look (and sound) like thunder and try to get as close to it as possible. One of the ways you know you’re great at pro wrestling is that you can take something mundane and inherently fake and make it look like murder. Why do you think Bret Hart was always trying to dismantle the ring with his ribcage running chest-first into the top turnbuckle? Why do you think Mr. Perfect jumped straight up and backflipped every time somebody chopped him in the corner or kicked him against the ropes? Selling what’s going on in the ring (in its actual definition, and not just grabbing your hair and making Michelle Tanner face every time you get a two count) makes THEM look better for dishing it out and YOU look better for being able to take it and get up, even if you get up later. This is why El Gigante’s “heyyyy what’s going on NOW??” face every time he got touched never helped anybody.
Worst: I Am Not Cheering For People Who Beat Up Guys Who Are Held Back
On the last page of The Best And Worst of Hell In A Cell, I talked about how lame it was for Triple H, the Coolest and Best and Most Macho person in professional wrestling, to run out in his dress clothes and throw hands at a couple of guys in handcuffs. There was a similar, less hilariously-awful version of this on Raw, when Mark Henry came out to taunt Randy Orton with the World Heavyweight Championship and got jumped (by the face) and Orton only got in his good shots when Henry was being held back by 10 guys. Orton dumped Henry over the security railing (over, not though, because he is not a beast) and we got to hear “Voices” for the third time in ten minutes. That might be its own Worst, actually.
Orton’s never been the most honorable guy, but I’m increasingly tired of the people we cheer being the ones who assault people cheaply and indiscriminately and the bad guys being the ones who are concerned about it. In today’s wrestling world, Macho Man Randy Savage would’ve been the anti-hero for crushing Ricky Steamboat’s throat with a ring bell, and Steamboat would be seen as a “baby” or a “woman” for not coming back hard or fast enough. And we would’ve booed him for having George “The Animal” Steele in his corner. Miss Elizabeth would either be a “bitch” character or constantly pointing at people, I haven’t decided.
Best: John Morrison!
I’m not afraid to give my least favorite wrestlers Bests when they deserve them. Last night’s Raw was the best use of John Morrison since Rey Mysterio put on his Samwise Gamgee mask and carried him up the slopes of Mount Doom. Whereas Drew McIntyre is a complete wrestler who probably shouldn’t be losing every match he wrestles, Morrison’s strengths are clearly his defense — it’s not exciting to see him whiff Starship Pain by a foot and a half or slap his leg before the kick comes all the way around, but it is exciting to see him twist his way out of being thrown off the stage by Sheamus, or dodge a CM Punk kick with Eddy Gordo Capoeira or counter out of a biel with a corkscrew. I don’t buy that being able to run toward a trash can and jump over it without slowing down translates into deadly offense, but if a guy can do that with a trash can, he can probably do it with Mark Henry.
I’m also not sold on Morrison’s ability to look like he’s hurt, but I love how well he falls. He falls like a person might in a Tony Hawk game. I’d say put him and Ziggler in the ring against each other all the time if it didn’t make them look like they were wrestling in a bounce-house. Or like they were on MatRats, depending on your level of reference.
Best: Mark Henry Is Done Witchoo
One of Mark Henry’s big talking points as World Heavyweight Champion has been that he’s not stronger than he was 15 years ago, but he’s smarter, more ruthless. After beating Randy Orton for the second time in a row at Hell In A Cell, Henry tried to induct him into the Hall Of Pain and got attacked repeatedly with a chair for his troubles. He fled, and when he came out for his match and tried to rub his championship in Orton’s face, Orton attacked again. So what does Mark Henry do? He remembers that he’s beaten Randy Orton twice in legitimate, clean pay-per-view title matches and says he’s done with him. What reason would Henry have to keep getting into situations where Orton forgets to take his pills and freaks out on IED and tries to beat him to death with a table leg, or whatever? Henry’s the champ, he’s beaten the former champ in a rematch, and now it’s time to get into a really big car and run over the Big Show’s leg. You’ve seen the Pulp Fiction commercials for Vengeance: give Mark Henry his wallet back, Orton, it’s the one that says Fat Motherf**ker.
If we time this right we can have Henry run through (over) the Big Show at Vengeance, let him World’s Strongestly Slam a returning Kane at Survivor Series, eat a bowl of cereal in the skull of The Undertaker at TLC and squash Yoshi Tatsu (or whoever) in the token “this guy’s getting a title match, are you serious bro” Royal Rumble defense. If he does that, he should be able to tread water until we get the Daniel Bryan match at Wrestlemania. I’m going to keep reminding you to do this until it happens, WWE.
Okay, here, fine: Daniel Bryan wins, but loses on Raw the next night when Triple H cashes in his Triple H In The Bank briefcase. There, now you’ll do it.
Worst: Shiny Happy People
Lord, look at this.
That’s the graphic they used for the “we appreciate THE WWE UNIVERSE and LOCAL CITY” side of the main-event 12-man tag. That picture of Sheamus looking like he was animated by f**king Terrytoons is everything wrong with smilin’ hoss Superstars, and God, from what rejected Just My Luck poster bin did they pull that Mason Ryan photo? It looks like they got it off his MySpace. Look at his hair, he looks like President Johnson. How weird is it that the only guy not smiling in that group photo montage is John Cena? This is the guy that is so into calling people gay he photoshops their faces onto Wendy’s bags. That guy, the guy that slapped Stephanie McMahon on the ass and spraypainted “poopy” on JBL’s limo. That guy is the least happy guy in the photo.
Maybe he’s just preoccupied, and secretly trying to rebuild Candice Michelle’s face in a magazine cutout collage.
Best: This Is A Stable I Can Get Behind
For all the times they’ve mentioned Vickie Guerrero’s managerial services in the same breath as Bobby “The Brian” Heenan, this is how you do a Heenan Family. Dolph Ziggler is your Mr. Perfect, Cody Rhodes is your Adrian Adonis. Alberto Del Rio is more or less “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Jack Swagger is an amazing Ken Patera (no, seriously) and David Otunga is muscly and wrestles like a tryout student so he’s Hercules. I don’t know who Christian would be, and I don’t want to give him the Red Rooster.
But yeah, it’s like they decided to put all of my favorite wrestlers in a group together and add Jack Swagger. All they needed to do was put Otunga in his zip-up sparkling Nexus hoodie they never f**king sold on Shopzone and I’ll throw in 100%. Now all you need is to position them against a team of mid-card babyfaces that don’t include John Cena and you’ve got a printing press for money programs throughout the year, at least until you split them up and color-code the sides. Don’t make the same mistakes you made with the nWo, or at least don’t make the mistakes you made with The Corre (spelling their name weird and making their t-shirts look like Hostess cupcakes).
Worst: Why Did You Make Jack Swagger Speak Next To Last
One of the best thing about Raw’s Legion of Doom (not the Road Warriors, the actual Legion of Doom, the group of bad guys from the Superfriends who couldn’t accomplish even basically evil tasks) is the way they speak, and how different from each other they sound. I liked the batting order for this promo, with Alberto leading off, because he’s the most important person in the group, followed by Christian, because he’s the best in the group at getting a point across. The WWEFanNation YouTube video jumps from Alberto to Otunga to make room for Triple H, so it misses the best part: Cody Rhodes taking literally 45 seconds to say “this isn’t a conspiracy”. I can’t even spell it out phonetically, it’s like he transported the message to space with the Very Large Array from Contact and was decoding the alien response with his nostrils. Everything he does is so wonderfully extraneous. Eventually he’s going to morph into Lucien Callow and Fagan.
Cody was followed by Dolph, who is clearly great at conversational speaking but not completely sure what cadence he’s supposed to be using for the WWE Universe. Watch him in the Zack Ryder videos; he’s got a great memory for dialogue and can speak clearly, but it’s normal person speaking, not “Chris Jericho speaking” that the kids in the back of the arena can follow, assuming they aren’t just waiting for the pause to yell WHAT because their parents were brother and sister before they got married.
To tie this back in to the worst, Jack Swagger had like four words to say and he spat them out like Cindy Brady, and I don’t know whether he’s got a legitimate labor beef with the WWE front office or if he wants me to help him find Kitty Karry-All.
Super Worst: Triple H Hates Babies
Triple H is the king of seeming nonchalantly-confident in a point of view backed up only by the most basic blanket statements. Remember when the crowd was chanting CM PUNK, CM PUNK for three months, and Triple H refused to take him seriously because he had to “get over with these people”? He’s doing that again, except now his only response to growing unrest in the locker room, labor disputes and/or persons with work-related problems is “you’re being a baby”, sometimes phrased as “you’re being a girl”. Girls and babies are the problem.
Triple H’s point is this: The world of professional wrestling has always been full of back-stabbing and gang beatdowns and sneak attacks, so instead of complaining about it and trying to change or alter the world, you should make a stand and fight it out, something that makes you a man. In the real world, a company with a “Be A Star” anti-bullying campaign probably shouldn’t have their most popular and important guy saying “fighting is the solution to problems” multiple times every week, but in the actual pro wrestling world to which he’s referring, it’s even worse.
Triple H is telling a group of wrestlers that they’re unsuccessful because they aren’t fighting enough, regardless of the fact that nearly all of them wrestled at or in a Hell In A Cell the night before. He continued to tell them they should fight out their problems when he came to the ring for a Vote Of Confidence, immediately following a six-man tag match involving F**KING ALL OF THEM. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who fired The Miz and R-Truth FOR FIGHTING TOO MUCH. They weren’t getting noticed, so they stopped complaining and started beating people up. Triple H fired them and would not accept their apology because if they “do the crime” they’ve got to “do the time”. How are the wrestlers supposed to win? They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and if they mention it they get dressed down verbally, dragged around by the tie or figuratively instructed to suck the boss’s dick.
To summarize, Triple H is the worst person in the world and the only person we’re supposed to be cheering.
Maybe Even Worse: Chicken Does Not Need to Be Fritos
I don’t want to get all “healthy” and “compassionate” in this wrestling report, but Christ almighty, if you are the kind of person who sees a chicken nugget matted into the shape of a Frito’s Scoop and think to yourself, “wow, I’d like to eat that, it’ll let me get slightly more ranch sauce in my mouth”, you are depressing and should stop being allowed to eat. You know what else lets you pick up dipping sauce? A F**KING NORMAL SHAPED PIECE OF CHICKEN. Is your dipping sauce WATER? Will it not rest on the part of the chicken you’re trying to eat long enough for you to get it into your mouth? Are you dipping your chicken, running a f**king obstacle course and then trying to eat it? And furthermore, why are you buying food from a restaurant that thinks a black woman going MMM HMMM GIRL LEMME TELL YOU about fried chicken is a good idea for a mascot in 2000-goddamned-11?
Best: The Scut Farkus Affair
I was a little disappointed that Natalya and new Divas Champion Beth Phoenix had a tag team match and it was against Kelly Kelly and Eve instead of any other female wrestlers in the world (seriously, the ChickBusters were right there), but it quickly turned into a Best when Kelly Kelly tossed tag team wrestling out the window and went Full Ralphie on Beth. I think the inner self-loathing that was around when Kelly was an exhibitionist with an abusive boyfriend or part of a Sister Wives dance troupe controlled by The Miz bubbled to the surface, and seriously, watch it, she’s Ralphie. She’s the innocent little blonde bullied to the breaking point. Her punches even look like Ralphie’s. All it needed was Kelly yelling YOU ROTTEN NO-GOOD DAMN NOTHING while she bloodied her pinned-on mittens. The best part is that this makes Eve Randy. She should hide under the sink so Triple H doesn’t kill Kelly.
I’ve been in great defense of Kelly lately, and good decision or bad to have her snap like this, it’s the first legitimate moment of character development she’s had since she won the Divas Championship and cried about it. I also like that her hand was still cocked straight up in the air during her entrance, and hope she adopts a Dr. Strangelove thing where it has a mind of its own and just sticks itself up against her will.
Downside of all this: another Kelly vs. Beth match, when we should probably be moving on and giving other women a chance to be a thing.
Best: This Shot
That’s a solid art direction, and they didn’t even need a big sign over the ring to point to for the video packages.
Worst: Xenophobia! Yay!
Tell me if your brain was swimming in the same stream of consciousness as mine. The segment begins, and:
1. Jinder Mahal? Why is Jinder Mahal in the ring?
2. Santino’s back! Okay! Cool!
3. Oh good Santino’s gonna talk, this should be funny, I remember the time he accused Ray Mastrio of being “the Batman”
4. he’s speaking in jibberish to make fun of a foreign language
5. welp, now I remember why watching pro wrestling is supposed to be embarrassing
6. wait, the match is over
He used to be a stereotype, and now he’s making fun of stereotypes, so, uh, progress? No, I was incredibly sad to see them go in the Ching Chong Ching Chong Danny Devito, Ching Chong The View, Ching Chong with Santino, who might as well have told Jinder to “go back to Mexico” before beating him in 30 seconds. The bully (who really ought to try Being A Star) is more fun loving than the way too serious victim, so we like the bully more and he gets to win. WWE really learned the wrong thing from the Piggy James angle, didn’t they? They should just go all the way with it and have Santino walk up to Kelly Kelly, call her a cunt, slap her in the face and then explain his actions by doing the Cobra and making everybody cheer.
Best: More Fat Guys On Raw
Brodus Clay got a video package! NXT season 4 winner Brodus Clay! 
Brodus not only getting a spot on Raw but a video package to put over his colossal fatness is a great decision for WWE, and a building block in my argument that somebody woke up and realized they could make money with Mark Henry and his Heavyweight Championship isn’t a reward for time served. Clay will be perfect in Viscera’s old role of a guy who is too big for Evan Bourne, but not good big enough for John Cena. Less arrogant hairless models, more seven-foot guys who look and act like Donkey Kong.
Worst: Yo Dawg, I Heard You Like YouTube
Pay no attention to the only visible comment being “kayfabe lives!”
Does WWE not understand how videos work? They could’ve just said “here’s a video posted on YouTube earlier today” and shown the video, they didn’t have to put a YouTube around it. Additionally, who told Michael Cole that a video posted on YouTube was an “exclusive”? Was it private? Oh here, I’ve got this exclusive Ray William Johnson video where he talks about who would win in a fight between ninjas and unicorns and he never pauses between sentences, it is a With Leather exclusive.
I’ve read a lot of people online this morning talking about how this was another example of conflicting realities, like when Phil was talking to Paul, and I disagree. Miz and Truth identifying themselves “not as The Miz and R-Truth, but as Mike and Ronnie” didn’t seem like a big deal to me, because not even the tiniest mark baby thinks R-Truth’s real name is “R-Truth” or “The” is Miz’s first name. It’s not so much Hunter Hearst Helmsley suddenly being “Paul”. In fact, I think establishing that R-Truth is Ron Killings and reminding folks that The Miz is Mike Mizanin are both great ideas, because in a world of FCW renames it’s not a terrible idea to give a guy an option. Just don’t overdo it, and the next time you try, try a little harder with the presentation. Too bad they couldn’t have given related video nods to Maffew and The Suicidal Dragon, as they are literally the only Internet wrestling people I know.
Best: Tag Everybody Against Everybody, This Is Awesome
When the main event was announced online a few hours before the show, I posted something derisive on Twitter to the tune of “oh great, a 6-on-6 tag team match a month before Survivor Series, good job BRAINIACS lol” (it was better than that), and I am humbled to report that the 12-man tag main was off the f**king chain. I loved it. It was like a glorious wad of House Show stuck to the slippery facade of Raw main events that have to involve a run-in or go somewhere — ten of WWE’s best guys and David Otunga and Mason Ryan got to go head to head to head to head to head to head and just be kick-ass pro wrestlers.
It was beautifully staged. The Smilin’ Raw Do-Gooders team got to take turns being the “face in peril”, even Cena, who came into the ring with five specials saved and ended up shoulderblocking himself into the corner to get stomped on by everybody. Evan Bourne got an outstanding little run with Jack Swagger that made me forget they’d fought twice a week from January of 2009 until like two months ago, and even the Dolph Ziggler/Kofi Kingston interaction didn’t space me out too much. Cena wasn’t super, Mason Ryan contributed to the match by lifting, and David Otunga made me laugh out loud by interrupting a finisher blitz with a goddamn neckbreaker. What happened to your bad spinebuster with the legal name? “The Verdict”? Shouldn’t you be using that NOW THAT YOU ARE A LAWYER.
Regardless, the “everybody hits their finishers” part of a multi-man tag is right ahead of “everybody takes turns diving” on my list of overused wrestling tropes I mark the hell out for, and for modern WWE crowds who are only interested in 1) seeing you and 2) seeing you do a finishing move, it must be Heaven on Earth. If you could give me an exciting half-hour match with a hot crowd every week I would never complain about your show again, even if the remaining 90 minutes were Wrestlicious.
Worst: This Is Not The Time For Your Mark Photos, Lady
I don’t know if she was trying to time it with the commercial breaks or what, but this is right after Mason Ryan welshed Dolph Ziggler out of the ring. Oh who am I to make fun of this lady, I once took the exact same picture in front of JBL’s car.
Best: Sheamus Tearing Sh*t Up
Holy sh*t was the Sheamus vs. Jack Swagger interaction in the six-man a beautiful thing. Swagger punched Sheamus into the corner, so Sheamus responded by forearming Swagger all the way across the ring diagonally to the other corner. Booker T mentioned Sheamus having TRUE GRIT. It was the best part of the show, unless you count the gold lamé thing Kaitlyn was wearing that I’m gonna point out in a minute. No, Sheamus continues to get over by being a guy who just beats the sh*t out of people, and that is the easiest to do and least common thing in modern big leagues pro wrestling. We didn’t like Goldberg because he drove monster trucks and had cool shirts, we liked him because he showed up, destroyed people and left without doing any dumb sh*t to ruin it. When he started doing dumb sh*t to ruin it, we stopped liking him and he had to wrestle Kronik in front of nobody for the enjoyment of no-one.
Worst: Michael Cole’s Understanding Of Labor Relations
Michael Cole (and I’m paraphrasing): “A vote of confidence is not legally binding, but here’s how it goes down: Triple H has to ask the WWE Superstars for a vote of confidence, and if they vote NO Confidence, he has to either appoint somebody else to take his job or resign! Those are the only two options!”
Nicely summarized, Mike. I also would’ve accepted a loud farting noise.