– Comments on these reports have been down lately, due in part to our new comments section requiring registration and due in another part to me writing 600,000,000 words about wrestling and not getting it up until four in the afternoon, but go ahead and leave us a comment if you aren’t a total jerk. Leave us one even if you are. I’d appreciate it. I like talking to you about the wrestling.
– AJ picture in the intro is not necessary because she’s actually on the show this week, and oh man you guys is she ever on the show.
– All animated gifs are via the Punchsport Pagoda at Something Awful.
– WARNING: I like the Muppets a lot, so if you’re one of those “meh, the Muppets” types, I don’t understand you and we should make that clear now. For more information on me and Muppets, please consult the 50 Greatest Muppets list I helped write at Progressive Boink a few years ago. This happened on an Internet before slideshows, so you should be able to enjoy it without trauma. When you’re done with that, read the second half of it.
And now, the Best and Worst of Muppet Raw.
Worst: So Are We Tired Of This Asshole Yet Or What
My problems with The Rock have been written about at length in not only this column, but in lengthy g-chat conversations with The John Report’s John Canton and throughout the entirety of the wrestling Internet, all the way back to when I was an online four-year old making Jeff Hardy banners for myself at Wrestling Uncensored. I know you like him, and I know that his ALL REAL NON-GAY MEN PRESS THEIR SHOES TO BUTTS AND WORSHIP OUR ASS-WHIPPING LORD rings true when a John Cena t-shirt reading “John Cena” infuriates you, but I think I speak for at least myself and everyone live at Raw when I say holy sh*t, why did it take you six f**king minutes to say “I’ll be John Cena’s tag team partner so he can see how good I am up close”?
And it’s not that he took six minutes. Cactus Jack took six minutes to say “Tommy Dreamer is stupid for not selling out”, but he made a point and peppered it with colorful dialogue. The Rock said literally nothing except that he 1) didn’t want to be John Cena’s partner, but 2) he hates Truth and Miz, so 3) he guesses he’ll do it. He just filled in the gaps with meandering sh*t like LET THE ROCK TELL YOU THIS! or AND THE ROCK SAYS THIS! If you disagree with me, listen to that crowd’s diminishing returns. At first they’re like WOO OKAY YEAH VIDEO OF THE ROCK, but by the four minute mark or whatever when they cut to the crowd for awed expressions it’s just people waving at the camera and not paying attention.
I don’t even know what to say about this guy anymore. Are you seriously still enjoying the content he provides? I love the hell out of Stone Cold Steve Austin, but I was brave enough to admit that the Redneck Triathlon made me stupider for watching it and the sheriff ATV only happened in a dark, alternative universe. You can’t be liking this. I don’t believe The Rock wakes up in the morning and rushes outside in his pajamas to start stomping his mailman in the asshole (then continues this trend non-stop until his body gives out from exhaustion and possibly hunger and he collapses into sleep), and if I learned anything from Hogan vs. Flair or WWF vs. WCW it’s that any dream match cool enough for an unlicensed, blurry-photos MS Paint Pro Wrestling Illustrated cover story has no resolution greater than sadness and lingering disappointment.
You had to come back because you hate the Miz and R-Truth? Didn’t you talk to the Miz like, once? You helped him win his match at Wrestlemania. Have you ever even met R-Truth?
Best: A Minute Or So Of Henry Vs. Punk
I can’t say Mark Henry vs. CM Punk was a “good match” or anything, because it lasted about a minute and a half and ended when Alberto Del Rio somehow thought a clothesline and an elbow drop had put Mizark in the red (he was in the yellow at best), but I liked what they were doing while it lasted. As his matches with John Cena or Samoa Joe back in the long-long ago taught us, CM Punk is at his best when he’s taking on a guy who is just a little bigger, stronger and better than him. If you put him up against somebody WAY bigger than him he falters (see any of his matches against Kane or The Big Show … although those might not be his fault), but if you keep it in that “lower half of six foot guy who can throw him around” territory he’s golden.
I really liked Punk flying off the ropes to land on Henry’s back and throw elbows. I like how Henry can realistically take punishment without it seeming forced. Remember when anybody would hit Bill Goldberg, and he’d take a step back and raise his arms and shake his head around and bug out his eyes? Have you ever noticed how when somebody tiny punches the Big Show he starts shoegazing? Those are unrealistic depictions of pain absorption. Mark Henry just kinda gets hurt, then toughs his way through it and does something strong. That’s good (and probably a by-product of years of him being MVP’s loser friend who just can’t seem to beat Ted freaking DiBiase) and helps give me that nervous “Randy Orton’s about to win this match, isn’t he” stomach without it making me throw the hell up.
Worst: To Face The WWE Champion, You Must Beat The World Champion
Here’s a quick hierarchy of title belt importance in WWE, TO WWE, as far as I can tell:
1. WWE Championship
2. arbitrary goals caused by things being “personal”
3. everything else that has ever happened
4. World Heavyweight Championship
5. Zack Ryder’s Internet belt he bought from somebody on the Internet
6. resolution to non-personal interoffice issues
7. Intercontinental Championship, when they remember it
8. Diva’s Championship and accompanying “battle royal -> PPV” sticky note
9. anything we forgot in #3
10. United States Championship five years from now when we’ve finally got the Benoit stink off of it
11. those belts from Spencer Gifts with skulls on them, but the skulls are wearing bows so you know it’s a belt for girls
12. the old version of the tag titles
13. the current version of the tag titles
and sure, there’s a pretty big gap between 1 and 4, but there’s no reason why you should have to beat a World Champion to get a shot at a guy holding a different belt. Why wouldn’t Punk just challenge Mark Henry for the World Heavyweight Championship? Why not do this exact same match with Punk vs. Brodus Clay, or at least someone who doesn’t get inadvertently made to look pointless by being a prop in the more important show’s stage production?
Best/Worst: Fight Back, Ricardo
I like Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez a lot, but even I’m tired of seeing Ricardo take finishing moves. I don’t want to see it anymore. It’s reaching Ziggler vs. Kingston levels of repetition. Please just have Ricardo get stretchered out for six months by a Ruff Ryder or whatever or have him throw on the Chimaera hood and start busting out corkscrew moonsaults on dudes like he’s the Maximum Champ of Battleground Pro.
(yes, that’s a real thing)
(okay, because you asked, here’s a hierarchy of independent pro wrestling title belts:
1. Absolute Champion of Absolute Intense Wrestling
2. Maximum Champion of Battleground Pro Wrestling
3. Intense Champion of Absolute Intense Wrestling)
Best: Kermit Is Better At This Than You
I can’t figure out whether “sad” or “awesome” is the correct adjective, but Kermit the Frog is literally a green felt sock on a squatting guy’s hand and he’s a better actor with better facial expressions than most of the WWE roster. I mean, look at it directly — compare Kermit’s face when Jack Swagger threatens to slaughter and eat him with any post-match “upset” Jack Swagger face. It’s not just Kermit … compare Miss Piggy’s line reads with Vickie Guerrero’s. I love you, pro wrestling, but Jim Henson puppeteering is on a different level. At some point I stopped wishing for a Muppet Raw and started wishing for wrestlers on The Muppet Show. It’s like going to the museum to look at René Magritte, then turning the corner and walking into one of those rooms where some chump put 400 alarm clocks in the ground.
I only had two Muppet-related disappointments on the night — one, that Jim Henson isn’t still alive, but that’s a disappointment I have every day, and two, that the show didn’t begin with Scooter knocking on a door and saying “five minutes to promo, Mr. Cena!” Okay, three: Sam the Eagle didn’t show up to talk about politics with Kane. And nobody totally 1970s (like Bernadette Peters) showed up to wear Mary Poppins clothes and tap dance or sing Vaudeville or whatever.
Best: The Biggest Heat Of Jack Swagger’s Career
I’m not ashamed to say that I laughed my ass off at Kermit all night. “Concerned Kermit face” is one of my favorite things in the world, and if you didn’t laugh at his little arms flailing around while Jack Swagger held his mouth shut, I don’t know what to tell you. Look at him go … just that gif gives me more fight drama than the last five years of John Morrison. Swagger’s got a weird way of having charisma when you wouldn’t expect it, like when he kinda-sorta chatted up Trish Stratus, and I think I figured it out. Swagger is a guy who has been good at everything his entire life. He was good at wrestling, he married a porn star, he won a variety of trophies … but PRO wrestling is different, and even when you’re a tall, muscular, great athlete you still have to publicly speak and act and express emotions. I feel like that stuff stresses Swagger out, and you can see the hamster running in the wheel in his head sometimes, like he’s going “okay now I’m supposed to pose to the crowd, now I’m supposed to Vader Bomb Evan Bourne, now it’s time for the roll-up”. When he’s chatting up Trish or threatening Kermit, those are things he ENJOYS, as any red-blooded American American American man would, and he goes natural with it and excels.
Swagger has too much of an upside to go the way of Snitsky, and is the number one example I could name of a guy who needs a gimmick shift to “being himself turned up to 11”. Push-up ankle-locking-ad-nauseum Jack Swagger isn’t Jake Hager, and if we ever find out exactly what Jake Hager is, it’s going to be f**king awesome. Worst case scenario, freak him out with hoverboards and drive him into manure trucks until he figures it out.
I remember being so excited for Santino segments. Now his music hits and I just go “oh great, here comes racist-ass stupid Santino”. If I’m a wrestling hipster for anyone, as I’ve been called for liking Zack Ryder better when he was underground, I’m a hipster for Santino. Once Santino started being the “funny guy” to people without a sense of humor, he stopped being the funny guy to the rest of us. I miss the Glamarella days when he’d make John Cena laugh in the middle of a segment. Kermit had to start going “uh huh, oh yeah, is that so” between Santino’s sentence because the guy playing him probably could not f**king believe that this is what constitutes the funny part of their live show. And this isn’t even REAL KERMIT, it’s Weird Sounding Muppets Kermit.
By the way, if you clicked that link, please notice John Cena Rising Above Hate. The best thing about wrestling in 2011 is that Cena has mostly stopped using “YOUR A FAGGOT” as his response for everything. Jesus Christ, that was the worst.
Best: Miss Piggy, Selling Kelly Kelly
I like how they couldn’t go 30 seconds into Muppets without having Miss Piggy and Vickie Guerrero interact. Calling Vickie Jack Swagger’s mother was one of the most legitimately funny things on Raw in forever, but my favorite moment of the segment post-Kermit-getting-Swaggermouth’d was Kelly Kelly appearing to kiss Kermit on the mouth, and Miss Piggy’s reaction. It doesn’t do much for Kelly’s reputation when she decides to waltz up in her Digital Playground Pirates costume and french the guest livestock without context or provocation. Piggy should’ve kicked her ass. All we needed was a backstage segment where the Bella Twins grab Gonzo’s arms and seductively tell him how they’re HUGE FANS of his circus act only for him to turn them down because he prefers chicken vag. And then he hooks up with Kelly instead.
I’m sorry, Kelly, I know you don’t have a chicken’s vagina, but these jokes are too easy.
The Best Best Of All Time: AJ As Kitana
Like many of you, I recognize that AJ is a beautiful young woman and assumed her “HEY PALS I’M A GAMER GIRL VROOM VROOM STAR TREK BEEP BOOP” thing was just a way to get her over with that crowd who believes Olivia Munn loves StarCraft and isn’t just posing naked with an Xbox controller to take your money. Last night, in the same ring where Brie and Nikki Bella dressed as the Super Mario Bros. because they were “major league butt kickers”, AJ dressed as Kitana from the Mortal Kombat series and, in nearly every definition of a masterstroke, tried to f**king levitate Tamina with her fans.
Do you understand what this means? It’s all real. AJ is actually this person. Look at her, she did the stance and everything. The fans would’ve levitated her, too, if this had happened in CHIKARA. How do you come to terms with this? It’s like meeting Santa Claus and finding out he actually brought presents to your house for like 10 years before you stopped believing in him. It’s like meeting John Cena and finding out he never gives up IN REAL LIFE. AJ, beautiful young pretty AJ with her size 0.3 waist and optimistically five-figure pro wrestling salary knows who this Mortal Kombat character is and could reference her like I might. I’ve never been so happy. Congratulations, AJ, your little fan waggle moved you into my FAVE FIVE. From now on I’m referring to you as “my girl AJ RIGHT THERE”.
And in case you were wondering, AJ, Archibald Peck, Portia Perez, Miyako Matsumoto, Akira Tozawa.
Worst: Ol’ Hollow Eve
And way, way over on the other end of the believable costumes spectrum we have battle royal winner Eve Torres, who explained via WWE.com Exclusive that she chose Robin because “not a lot of people know this, but Robin was a master of the martial arts”, and because she trains in jiu jitsu she feels a special connection to Robin, and I guess not Batman or Nightwing or Lady Shiva or Batgirl or Talia al Ghul or Catwoman or the f**king Creeper or the 100,000 other Batman-related characters who know martial arts. She feels a connection to the one who has a shiny “sexy” version of his costume at the Halloween Express. The Batman character who pops his coochie before he does a handspring onto guys. That guy. Deep connection.
While we’re at it, as much as I liked Kaitlyn as Dog: The Bounty Hunter and Aksana as the world’s least athletic Morticia Addams, how many more times are we going to have a battle royal to decide the number one contender to the Divas Championship? Is there no other way we can get to this point? Eve won a battle royal to be named the same amount of contender she was two weeks ago. Good job, Eve! What’s the purpose of the other Divas if only Kelly Kelly, Eve and Beth Phoenix get title shots? Wouldn’t it make sense to give Alicia the win here, since she beat Natalya on last week’s Raw? What about giving the shot to someone like AJ and giving them a chance to get a crowd response by actually accomplishing something? If you felt something stronger than, “well here’s Eve again”, you’re lying. Nobody cares about this or likes this. Hell, give it to Nikki Bella, I’d rather see Beth trying to thwart Twin Magic with brute strength than see her pretend the Eve-a-canrana or whatever is a legitimate part of a moveset.
Another thing: girl battles royal where you can toss out your opponent through the ropes instead of over them are pro wrestling’s version of rec league softball where if you walk a guy, the girl batting behind him gets to walk too. Completely stupid. You’re just assuming the girl isn’t any good at softball. Eve can spring backwards off the top rope, but she can’t put a little effort into picking somebody up? Come on. Rey Mysterio is as short as these women, shouldn’t people be allowed to boogie board him under the bottom rope during Royal Rumbles?
Best: SummerSlam Closure
During the Cee Lo Green Oompha-loompic performance portion of the Best And Worst Of WWE Summerslam 2011 report, I wrote the following:
Worst: Why Is Alicia Fox A Sailor
Nobody else was wearing a sailor hat. Cee Lo Green isn’t a sailor. What are you doing, Alicia Fox?
Last night on Raw, Alicia Fox competed in the Divas battle royal and guess what her costume was? She bought her costume for this in August. Not since Test showed back up to mention Triple H stealing Stephanie from him have I felt so relieved by a moment of pro wrestling closure.
Best, Oh God This Is So Best: Beaker O’Shaunessy
All of the buys. All of them.
I have a working theory substantiated by 500 episodes of Muppet Babies that it’s impossible to put Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker on screen and have it not be great, and last night continued to prove it. Every moment of this was great, from the idea that a Wellness Tested company is allowing a puppet to cook for them what amounts to blue meth to Christian wanting to meet Muppets but feeling insulted by them not wanting to meet him back (and shoving down Beaker’s head and calling him a nerd) to the coup de grâce: Sheamus BEING A STAR and revealing that he’s distantly related to Beaker. When you approach a Muppet Raw your brain types things like, “they should make Breaker and Sheamus interact because they look exactly the same LOL”, but when they actually do what your brain typed it’s a revelation. All we needed was Sweetums putting Sheamus through the security barrier.
Best: Wade Barrett Vs. Evan Bourne
The counter sequence between Polish Abolitionist Barrett and Evan Bourne was so swank it almost made me forget about John Morrison dumping his life’s sandbag on Wade last week and ruining his “I can do the Wasteland in all SORTS of crazy ways” routine. Barrett’s resurgence as an Actual Guy is making the Nexus devotee in me very, very happy, and guys like Bourne and Trent Barreta are instrumental in making the Wade’s Strongest Slam look devastating. Bourne gave the move his best Family Guy sell, and if Wade could keep dropping guys head-under-feet like he’s powerbombing them I could start buying Wasteland.
Worst: I Was Saying Boo-Ourne
In accordance with its Talent Wellness Program, WWE has suspended Matthew Korklan (Evan Bourne) for 30 days effective immediately for his first violation of the company’s policy.
A few things to counter the “wait, what” reaction of nearly everyone reporting this:
1. Lots of pro wrestlers do drugs, not just performance enhancing drugs, because lots of people do drugs, so don’t ever be surprised when you catch your Aunt smoking pot or find out Evan Bourne got suspended.
2. Bourne spent a lot of time in Dragon Gate when he was Matt Sydal, and if you think “Mid-Breath Gym” isn’t just code for “jump in this Saw 2-style pit full of steroid needles” I’ve got a trios team from Mexico I’d like you to book.
3. His partner is a fake Rasta guy.
Meanwhile, Mason Ryan, clean as a whistle! Hopefully this will be the only time Bourne gets suspended for something like this and the tag titles don’t suffer (hahaha), and the worst thing that comes from it will be those “Evan Bourne likes to get HIGH” jokes when he’s 38 and doing shooting star presses for chants in TNA.
Worst: I Don’t Even Like The What Chant When Muppets Do It
Some post-Henson Muppets work better than others. Kermit is doing okay. Ernie from Sesame Street, not so much. Statler and Waldorf have suffered a lot, and despite Dave Goelz being funny and great at his job, a lot of their “oomph” came from Henson’s inert need to go as far and elaborately with a pun as humanly possible. Henson would just kinda say something sh*tty and go HO HO HO HO about it and it ruled, but now they seem less like heckling old men and more like a old age comedy team going through the motions. Making jokes about the “what” chant, as funny as “old people can’t hear” may be, is not the way to compensate for that loss.
Honestly, if Jim Henson was alive today and sitting next to me at a show doing “WHAT” chants I’d turn on him in a heartbeat. I still haven’t totally forgiven him for changing that original version of Big Bird that looked like Jimmy from South Park, and that happened like ten years before I was born.
Best: Brodus Clay, Existential Fat Man
Brodus Clay as the philosophically demanding pro wrestler is a great idea. I want to hear him scream his way through “the world is so exquisite, with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look Death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides” and then sit on Derrick Bateman’s chest as hard as he can.
If he starts dressing like Carl Sagan as well, that would be a plus.
Worst: Take It Home
The Alberto Del Rio vs. The Big Show match ended up being a pretty well-structured big man vs. little man match and better than it had any right to be, but Jesus, it felt like it was 45 minutes of front facelocks and somewhere near the rising-action-to-commercial-break I started zoning out. Remember, I’m the guy who thinks that 19-minute Flair/Steamboat wristlock sequence is the greatest thing that ever happened in wrestling. I don’t know, I just didn’t dig it like I should. I liked that WRESTLING in all capital letters was happening, and on a show with seven matches I don’t for a second want to be that guy who chants “boring”. I’d rather have the most boring wrestling in history than the most exciting backstage walking, but when I’m multitasking hard enough to start figuring out Riddler trophy puzzles in my mind you need to take it the hell home and move on to the “losing to the punch” part.
Wait, hold on
Worst: Wait, Don’t Take It Home Like That
Alberto Del Rio’s corner skip into Weapon Of Mass Destruction made Destiny do one of those subversive “I can’t believe we’re watching this dumb thing” laughs, and I couldn’t blame her. On a night when the United States Champion and Tag Team Champions got pinned clean without losing their championships and the unstoppable monster World Heavyweight Champion was in danger of losing to the spindly, mouthy guy in the Big Trouble In Little China shirt, watching the WWE Champion get punched in the face and pinned by a guy they’ve spent 20 minutes building as “not even 50%” means something is terribly, terribly wrong.
“Pinning the champion in a non-title match to earn a title shot” is right behind “Divas battle royal” on WWE Creative’s list of story ideas, but that wasn’t even what was happening … Zack Ryder has been trouncing Dolph Ziggler for a month, only to lose his one actual title shot. The tag champions lost to set up a multi-man tag that might not even happen thanks to Bourne’s suspension, CM Punk was trying to beat the Heavyweight Champion to get a shot at a different Heavyweight Champion and Big Show just F**KING PUNCHED THE WWE CHAMPION IN THE FACE AND PINNED HIM AND DOESN’T SEEM TO CARE ABOUT IT. None of that is building to something. Imagine if the Divas had a battle royal and the winner got to face Beth in a non-title match, beat her easily, then never mentioned it again. What is going on? This isn’t an issue with storytelling, this is an issue with you knowing what a goddamn story is.
Last night’s show should’ve had at least three title changes. That’s not a good thing, but at least I could’ve rationalized it if you’d pulled the f**king trigger.
Worst: CM Punk Refusing To Be A Star
I actually stated writing this as a “Best”, because just like last week, Punk is getting closer to what he was during that month or so when wrestling was cool again, but I rewatched the clip and had to change it to Worst. There’s just something unsettling about the way Punk’s been going about things lately. I want it to be a continuation of his Cult of Personality theme, the theme that he’s being a self-involved prick but he’s so charismatic that we follow along with him and accept his warped interpretation of what’s good and bad about the WWE Universe, but it isn’t. He’s beating up a vulnerable guy to get what he wants because he’s got some personal vendetta against him two months after openly saying Del Rio was right for cashing in Money in the Bank on him. Del Rio just doesn’t want a match with him. That’s ADR’s entire angle. Not only does Punk, the good guy, bully Del Rio, the bad guy, into getting what he wants, he makes sure to deride his ethnicity the entire time.
Listen to him, goading Del Rio on in condescending Spanish, as if Del Rio doesn’t speak English. “Comprende?” Throwing water in his face. Calling him “amigo” with a verbal wank every chance he gets. It sucks. It’s the “evil foreigner” trope taken to this weird 2011 place where you aren’t evil for what you do as a foreigner, but for being a foreigner at all. It’s weird, and it’s beneath any version of Punk we’re supposed to be cheering, but what makes it terrible is how much the crowd loves it. Del Rio was a coward to have Ricardo cost Punk his match against Mark Henry, but Punk’s “revenge”, especially when played up by Jerry Lawler, scoffing and boasting about how Del Rio is getting what he deserves, is a terrible message for a terrible generation. Claim “shades of gray” all you want, but when you deal with the most base, simple stories of good versus evil and never provide a deeper meaning I didn’t have to pull out of my ass for this column, the colors are black and white. Gray just makes people forget what black and white used to look like.
Best: Fozzie Bear As Jim Halpert
My biggest want for Muppet Raw was Mark Henry scooping Fozzie Bear off his Muppeteer’s hand and World’s Strongestly Slamming him in the middle of the ring. My second biggest want was Rowlf, possibly operating on Triple H and making jokes about it.
I got neither of those things, but I did get Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger trying to mutilate Gonzo while Fozzie stood back like a wimp and watched. I also got Jack Swagger’s amazing “HAM SANDWICH, WOCKA WOCKA” line earlier in the night, which puts me one thrown tomato away from hitting for the Fozzie cycle. I hope these segments are special features on the The Muppets DVD, so I’ll have something to watch if “fart shoes” is as funny as that movie gets.