– If you love The Rock and think he’s the best wrestler of all time, be sure to leave us a comment. That should cover my commenting hype-beg for the week and entitle every living human who isn’t me or Billy Jack Haynes to post something.
– An important thing to remember while reading this report is that I had a weekend literally full of awesome wrestling. I spent Friday night and Saturday and Sunday mornings at Wizard World Austin loitering around Darin Childs’ table in the 1600 aisle, commissioning professional art from my favorite wrestler in the world. Saturday night I went to Anarchy Championship Wrestling’s Lone Star Classic, which featured Portia Perez winning their heavyweight title only to lose it an hour later. ACH ended up with it, which was the second happiest thing that could happen. Also, the Nasty Boys were there. Sunday was CHIKARA’s High Noon iPPV. I was too worn out by then to cover it effectively, but it was one of the best shows of the year and Peck/Cabana II was simultaneously the best and worst match in history. So then Monday night comes along, and it’s three hours of Raw getting Rocked. My brain may not be processing this correctly.
– Oh, and before I forget, after the jump you can see four of my five (or six) favorite WWE Superstars appearing in one segment together on Friday’s Smackdown. Why am I not Besting and Worsting this show instead?
– For further reading when you’re done with Best and Worst, please consult:
But read my thing first.
My good friend Justin O’Connor from Progressive Boink was live at the show, so I’m letting him handle the first page. Take it away, friend.
First: A Personal Anecdote
Before I get into the Michael Cole Challenge, I’d like to take a minute and relay a personal anecdote. Brandon and I have been friends for about ten years. It’s been a friendship fostered by an encyclopedic, co-dependent reliance upon pop-nostalgia humor as a coping mechanism. Back in 2007, we met up with a bunch of friends in San Francisco to attend Ring of Honor’s “Chaos at the Cow Palace.” The day before the event, Brandon and I insisted upon being taken to the house from Full House. We couldn’t have given any less of a sh*t about Lombard Street or any of the other famous landmarks. We were in San Francisco and we were going to validate a childhood spent watching TGIF by visiting the Full House house. Our friends were kind enough to oblige, so we piled into a touring van and spent some time in the early afternoon driving out to Broderick Street.
When we arrived, the two of us NES Max turbo-buttoned our way out of the van, looked toward the house at the purported address and our smiles both did that thing from cartoons where someone gets hit with a mallet and their teeth fall out like piano keys. It wasn’t the house we’d remembered. For whatever reason, we both shared a distinct vision of a different house used in later-season establishing shots of the neighborhood skyline. Our friends all insisted we were at the Full House house, but we wouldn’t relent. We both felt bad about seeming so unappreciative of our friend’s efforts to placate our immaturity, but even though it was admittedly kind of neat to see A Full House house, it wasn’t THE Full House house. Not the house we’d remembered, anyway. We just knew we couldn’t be so sure of something only for it to not be real.
My point is, seeing The Rock live in 2011 was like my visit to the Full House house. He’s still A Rock, but he’s not THE Rock. He delivered his Rock catchphrases and performed his Rock mannerisms, but I was hoping for something else. It’s certainly not his fault for not being able to live up to the expectations I’ve cultivated for him in my brain, and I’d be lying if I tried playing it off like being there live was anything but really cool. I guess I’m just never going to be satisfied when reality ends up being nothing more than a vague approximation of how I expect things to be in my brain.
Worst: The Michael Cole Challenge
So I attended RAW live last night, and prior to the show, upon hearing I’d finally be afforded the dramatic conclusion to Michael Cole’ Presents “The Michael Cole Challenge” (a Michael Cole Joint,) I fervently texted Brandon asking if it’d be possible to do the segment’s “best/worst” write-up. I figured it couldn’t possibly be too difficult to riff on bad wrestling. Besides, I’ve read enough live WWE reports in my time to understand the process. I’d establish how Michael Cole is more like “Michael Something-That-Rhymes-With-Cole,” and make a few derisive barbs toward the children in my section for being “total marks.” I figured the whole thing would pretty much write itself. It wasn’t until this morning when I realized I’d have to actually choose between giving the segment a “best” or a “worst,” since “an autistic child’s fever nightmare” wasn’t a viable option for a segment qualifier.
Essentially, the whole experience turned into one of those wrestling segments where if I were watching it alone in my apartment I’d spend twenty uncomfortable minutes trying to pluck invisible chiggers from the nape of my neck. Then my mom would walk into the room, followed by every girl I’ve ever made out with. Being there live was a whole different beast, since instead of being able to distract myself with Wikipedia articles, pornography and pornography about Wikipedia articles, I was forced to marinate in the shame of having paid legal American tender in exchange for the privilege of becoming a willing participant in my own mental schadenfreude.
And I know I’m being a tad melodramatic, because I certainly didn’t go into the Michael Cole Challenge with high expectations. I knew it would be bad. It just ended up being that rare kind of bad where it managed to hit upon everything I can’t stand about comedy in wrestling. I know it’s foolish to measure the standard of humor in wrestling against sophisticated fare such as ‘Community’, ‘Arrested Development’ or ‘Drexel’s Class’, but at the same time I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to expect humor to be predicated upon the idea that a f**king joke (even in theory) is supposed to be funny.
See, if there’s one thing I hate about pro wrestling more than any of the other things I hate about pro wrestling (including myself for watching it,) it’s the oft-repeated, childish insults directed toward either a wrestler’s physical appearance or personality. The thing is, I don’t ever expect WWE to be progressive or accepting of anything not set in stone as a sociological folkway, but at the same time I don’t think its unreasonable for them to not use those things as fodder for derision. Its also just f**king lazy, unacceptable writing. Like alluding to Lucky Charms whenever someone’s Irish. Who still laughs at that bullsh*t? In this instance, Jim Ross is fat, so he looks like a parade float. Jim Ross also sells barbeque sauce, ergo his breath must smell like barbeque sauce. Holy sh*t, Cole! I haven’t witnessed such a scathing character assassination since Stephanie called DJ a double-geek-burger-with-cheese!
Worst: or “So Far Past the Known Quantification for Worst that the Needle On the Worst Meter Broke, the Glass Shattered and Now I Have Mercury Poisoning.”
Another thing I hate is wrestling “dance” segments. Usually they’re reserved for periods of a RAW where the roster has to tread water until Vince McMahon stops chasing around an intern with poop-filled underwear on a stick. In TNA, the equivalent is for Abyss to go to the ring and bleed for ten minutes, but I digress. I guess I simply fail to see the appeal in transplanting the most uncomfortable moment of any white person’s family reunion into a program about men who travel from building-to-building in a pseudo-reality where members of the Mexican aristocracy engage in class-warfare against the bassist for a Dischord band. At the very least they could make the experience authentic by affording me an open bar and the opportunity to score pot off a reception hall busboy.
I know I haven’t written much about the segment itself, but there’s not much to say about Michael Cole’s monopolization of television time that hasn’t been written already, and if I start delving into my theory about how the perverse humiliation of a crippled sexagenarian serves as a means for Vince to attain an erection, I’ll just end up bumming myself out again by fixating on the mental imagery of him and HHH pinning Jim Ross to the ground and rape-dressing him into an undersized sailor costume. Besides, by the time CM Punk’s music hit, the segment had dragged on for so long, I was certain WWE had found a way to shatter the concept of a linear timeline. Or maybe I was just really, really drunk. In either case, I guess I’ll never know what the gaping maw of Infinity smells like, but I’m willing to bet it smells like barbeque sauce!!!
(The gaping maw of Infinity is Jim Ross’ stomach.)
(Jim Ross fat.)
Back to me, because for some reason I haven’t started trying to kill myself yet.
Best: Cody Rhodes Version 1
The wrestling pessimist in me assumed the emasculation of Cody Rhodes by the coward Randy Orton two weeks ago on Smackdown was the end of a great character — after all, the classic Intercontinental Championship hasn’t moved or been used since it was reintroduced and the dipping points of Legacy’s career are always punctuated by Orton beatdowns — but I was pleasantly surprised to hear he’s been emancipated and won’t be completely dropping my favorite speaking-style in pro wrestling. You can see the remnants of it in the ring, too. Watch when he wins the match … he does the WWE standard “arrogant guy glare into Herman Cain smile”, but when he gets up he sorta cocks his head and opens his mouth like a velociraptor. I feel like a guy’s personality should be based (at least loosely) on the things that’ve happened to him before. John Cena shouldn’t be afraid of anyone because he has congenital insensitivity to pain can beat everyone easily. Randy Orton shouldn’t stop intermittently exploding on folks because the fans are cheering, and Cody can move forward from facial trauma without forgetting how internally nutso it made him. Well done, everybody.
Also, how great is it to see him winning matches cleanly? I don’t know if Kofi messed it up or if his body only spins clockwise, but Cross Rhodes looked devastating. It needs to be more “I’m twisting your body around and destroying your face on the ground” and less “what Carlito used to do”.
Best/Worst: Hunico And The Island Of Magic
I like the MS Paint drawings of Sin Cara that show up in Botchamania as much as the next guy, but the Sin Cara/Blackface parts of this match were tight. It was weird to see them going at it full-speed and leaving Cody and Kofi to mess stuff up. I like where the Hunico character is going, especially when he gets teamed up with the Latin Freebirds and nobody ends up waving to me from a riding lawnmower, but there are two minor worsts happening:
1. I can’t recognize him. When they posted the Survivor Series team graphics I thought it was Chavo Guerrero for five full minutes. It helps that they put his name in Wolverine font all over the stage for a few seconds before he enters, but still, he should’ve at least kept the sparkly jacket.
2. Nothing seems more like TNA than a Hispanic guy in a wifebeater and bandana walking to the ring grabbing the front part of his baggy jeans while Mexican restaurant music plays. Nothing. He also gave me a Konnan vibe (made worse when Kofi started doing front somersaults before his clotheslines), which makes me remember WCW’s penchant for putting Mexican guys in one-button flannel shirts and assuming all Hispanic people are friends, and bad-era Thunder-WCW just brings me back to TNA.
But no, I like him. But what do I know? I think they should make FCW the WWE television roster and let John Cena banter with the Rock in front of a few hundred people in central Florida.
Worst: Kofi’s In A Weird Place, Isn’t He
Evan Bourne’s suspension is hurting Kofi Kingston worse than it’s hurting Evan Bourne. Kofi doesn’t look like he knows what to do, lugging that big Batcave penny down to the ring on his shoulder, pumping his fist and telling people to “come on” while they glance over his shoulder to see if the little metro guy who’s way better than him is peace-signing anywhere in the background. He’s entered that post-Orton-MSG-push, pre-Dolph-Ziggler-constancy period again, and they should keep him teamed with Sin Cara or someone else of a flipping nature until Bourne “overcomes injury”. Call them “Fall Down Go Boom”.
Or, better yet, put Daniel Bryan in these matches and let Kofi spend the next six months losing dark matches to Drew McIntyre.
Worst: Santino Playing WWE ’12 Like It’s Tecmo World Wrestling
I’m sure there’s a TV trope for it somewhere, but there’s nothing worse than watching somebody on TV “play a video game”. They hold a Dreamcast controller and jam the buttons as hard as they can, sometimes putting it on their thigh and rapping it at full speed (never touching the d-pad), or they hold it face-high and swing it back and forth until somebody walks in and is all “what’re you doing” and they say something asinine and inaccurate like “I’M PLAYING SUPER MARE-IO BROTHERS I JUST GOT TO LEVEL 10 AND BEAT THE WIZARD”. And you’re like “no part of this is right, Patrick Duffy”. It’s amazing to me that video games are a billion dollar industry and nobody in movies or TV has ever f**king played one.
That was Santino last night. Just hammering the buttons as fast as he can as The Rock does complexly-mapped moves. It reminded me of those kids at the arcade who’d wander up to Street Fighter II without any money and wait for it to get to the demo, then move the joystick back and forth and slap their little fat hands into the buttons like they were playing. Then you walk up to them and they just kinda stare at you for a second before turning around and leaving. Basically watching the highest rated show on cable last night made me feel like I was 12 years old at a goddamn Hills department store, so thanks for that.
Worst: Zack Ryder, Do You Get It
If you watched Zack Ryder do his Zack Ryder thing for three hours last night and aren’t tired of him, I don’t know what to tell you. Back when he wasn’t on TV and I was always saying “use him in this segment instead of x”, I didn’t mean use him in EVERY segment instead of x. They’re using him instead of x and y at this point, and six months from now it’s just gonna be a split-screen where a left-facing Zack Ryder in a “take care, spike your hair” poncho and “are you serious bro” cowboy hat holding a “woo woo woo” koozie says “bro” repeatedly to a right-facing Zack Ryder wearing QR code pasties and plastic sunglasses with “internet” along the side.
Worst: Mason Ryan Isn’t Strong
Point 1: When you’re little, you assume muscles = strength. As you grow up and discover ESPN 2, you realize that guys who are trim and ripped have made themselves so largely because of vanity, and that the truly strong people have muscular arms and legs but also heads and necks and torsos shaped like barrels. A lot of your strength comes from your core, so if you want a lot of strength, barring any sort of natural genetic mutation, you’ve got to have a lot of core.
Point 2: I love and miss leather vested, “I’m here to make money” Dave Batista, but one of my worst live wrestling memories was being in the crowd for Armageddon 2002 and watching him try to powerbomb Kane. I’ve seen Kane (who is not “cut” by any stretch) scoop up the Big Show and carry him around on his shoulder. Here I was watching Mr. World Fitness Batista struggle to get a jumping Kane higher than Celestial Moon bellybutton tattoo without dropping and killing him. He struggled and struggled, and everybody booed.
So now when I see Mason Ryan gorilla press people, it makes me sad. He doesn’t really “press” them, because he isn’t really strong. I don’t want to get all “secrets of pro wrestling revealed” on you, but all Ryan is doing is balancing the guy on the top of his head Nat-Geo style and waiting for them to press themselves up on his shoulder. Normally I wouldn’t care about something like this, but when your entire thing is being strong and lifting guys, you’ve got to be strong and able to lift guys.
Best: Just Let Dolph Ziggler Wrestle Everything
Christian is injured, so Dolph Ziggler is taking his place on Team Barrett at Survivor Series. I would’ve went with Cait Sith, but whatever.
Anyway, assuming that the Zack Ryder “hey bro will you bro my petition for a Bro-S title bro at Brovivor Series” thing happens, this will be the second pay-per-view in a row with two Dolph Ziggler-related matches on it. As someone who loves watching the guy wrestle I’m all for it, but part of me wonders whether or not that spot couldn’t be used for somebody else, both to make someone else look important and to let Dolph settle on making his United States title run mean something.
This is a great place to shoehorn in Brodus Clay, isn’t it? Have him stand there all scary on the ring apron, blocking an entire section’s view, have him crossbody Sheamus or whoever to eliminate them in shocking fashion and just stand around growling like the Bear Hugger-looking motherf**ker he is when Team Barrett wins. That’s easy. Or, let one of the Nexus guys throw back in with Barrett. Heath Slater or Justin Gabriel could carry a part of the match before getting eliminated in spectacular fashion, couldn’t they? Or bring back Skip Sheffield here. Give William Regal a pay-per-view payday. Put Derrick Bateman on Barrett’s team and Titus O’Neil on Orton’s to make NXT still seem like a thing. And seriously, that’s at least five reasonable ideas I could come up with in the time it took me to write a stream-of-consciousness paragraph. I love Ziggler, but damn, there are only so many spots on these shows.
Worst: The Physics Of The Anaconda Vise, And Also This Is So Stupid
I could be completely wrong about this, but the Anaconda Vise isn’t supposed to hurt your arm, is it? It’s a choke. You pin the guy’s head between their arm and yours and you choke them.
Michael Cole returned sometime around here to reclaim his spot at the announce table, and he did so with his arm in a sling, never once mentioning that he’d been choked. So… in WWE terms is the Anaconda Vise an arm submission, now? Because seriously, bend your arm like that and hold it up to your head. That’s how an arm normally bends. Unless you’ve got pecs like Mason Ryan it shouldn’t be able to tear anything in your body. Doing an elbow smash to the head should hurt your arm worse than having it held in elbowing position. Maybe everything I’ve ever known about Hiroyoshi Tenzan is a lie, or everybody at Raw is dumb and nobody knows how wrestling works.
Worst: The Popular Use Of John Morrison
John Morrison beat Dolph Ziggler in a match last week, for some goddamn reason, and this week felt it still necessary to run down to the ring (in jeans, but without a shirt) to roll Ziggler back into the ring after a match Mason Ryan just won to see him beaten up more. And yeah, Vickie slapping Mason was a cheap way to end the match, but it wasn’t really Ziggler’s doing, and worst case scenario this Mason Ryan fellow beat the sh*t out of the US Champ and made him turn tail and run. It just seemed unnecessary. But you know, “it just seemed unnecessary” might’ve been the running theme on the night, especially when CM Punk is literally saying so into the camera, so maybe this is a best after all.
And if you’re keeping score at home, the United States champion lost to John Morrison last week and Mason Ryan this week after losing, like, five of six matches to Zack Ryder. Ryder’s got his petition going, but shouldn’t everybody be getting US title matches?
Best: Wizard World Dreams Do Come True
Melina Splits: WWE Cleaning House – Notable because WWE is referencing them on television, with the slight chance that Masters, Kozlov and Harry Smith are going to return as part of CM Punk’s “Legion Of The Damned”. Melina, of course, will be at Wizard World Austin. Come on, Wizard World Austin! [With Leather]
From then on, it became a running gag that I was going to hook up with Melina at Wizard World. Well, Wizard World came and went, and like I said, dreams come true.
(no they don’t)
(I’m still trying to figure out which part of my outfit makes me dorkier, the Zelda hoodie, the Totoro shirt or the Minor League Baseball hat.)