– As a prerequisite for this column, make sure you’ve read The Best And Worst Of WWE Survivor Series ’11. It’ll explain a lot of the obvious stuff from last night (CM Punk is champion? Big Show came off the top rope?) without me having to cobble together a video editor and post a bunch of JVC Kaboom Box Kabooms Of The Night.
– Don’t forget, we’re trying to get a regular Smackdown live-blog going, too, so smark that on your calendar for Friday and go back and read the first one.
– Also, be sure to check out my appearance on The Masked Man’s first wrestling podcast for Grantland. I’m pretty honored to show up on the first ever episode, even if I spent most of it talking about D’Lo Brown buying feminine hygiene products.
– If you like pro wrestling, you’ll LOVE Twitter: Follow us on Twitter @withleather, follow me personally @MrBrandonStroud and like us on Facebook. It’s the best and easiest way to know when these columns go up, and it helps me sell you on the rest of the site (hopefully).
– If you read the column or watched the show and have some thoughts to share, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I’m especially interested in hearing what you thought of every segment of the show in the order they occured, relating in no way to anything I’ve typed. But no, if you’re a regular reader I want you to be a part of this every week. Don’t make me start a mailbag.
– Neither A.J. nor Kaitlyn appeared on this week’s show (Kelly Kelly barely even showed up), so I’m including the picture to the right to guarantee my first 18 comments are “oh my god that picture of a.j. are you serious”.
The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for November 11 is after the jump. There are some pretty good wrestling matches in here, so pay attention.
Worst: Okay, Stop Talking About How Fun This Is Going To Be And Do Something
CM Punk’s Survivor Series title victory over Alberto Del Rio was good enough for me to forgive Punk’s post-Kevin Nash trespasses, but last night’s opening monologue, from its insider references (Domino’s real name, really?) to its sweeping declarations of Things Being Different, seemed dangerously close to being more of the same. Of course this isn’t a really bad “Worst”, because sure, if the guy who wants change wins the title he should be allowed a segment to say “okay, now here’s where the change starts”. Next week (and I guess more importantly the weeks after, because next week is just a rematch with Del Rio to get that out of the way) will be a better indicator of where this is going. Or whether or not it will go at all, I guess.
I want to give Punk the benefit of the doubt here because his title victory was the right call and all, but if he keeps criss-crossing applesauce in the ring in that same shirt with his one day of glory stamped on the back, I don’t know. Punk (and WWE, I guess) need to remember that CM Punk’s greatest contribution to pro wrestling is that he can change a thousand times and still be himself. I’ve loved dyed-blonde basketball shorts IWA-MS CM Punk, I’ve loved stuff-shirt ROH Champion CM Punk, I’ve loved purple-haired ECW blue chipper Punk, I’ve loved Straight Edge Society Punk so goddamn hard and I’ve loved Best In The World For Realsies Punk. They all worked, you know? Just because this one worked doesn’t mean you have to stay here forever.
And oh man, how hilarious was John Laurinaitis here, displaying his creativity by setting up basic title defenses? It’s like he was sitting in the back with Teddy Long with a yellow notepad writing “alberto del rio gets rematch” over and over, and Teddy goes “hole on a minnent playa, tonight it’s gonna be Alberto Del Rio, teaming with Dolph Ziggler … against Zack Ryder and … CM Punk” and John just goes “engh no I think this is fine” and walks out. Triple H should’ve ran out in a neck brace and been all “YEAH DOLPH ZIGGLER VS. CM PUNK IS A GREAT MATCH THAT’S WHY I MADE IT FIVE MINUTES AGO”.
Best: We Like The Rock, But We Also Like Other Things
I’ve been rethinking my position on The Rock and his performance at Survivor Series, and I think I’ve come up with a great way to rationalize it. You know that feeling you get when John Cena has a match against anybody, and you just kind ago “okay so John Cena’s going to win”, and it doesn’t matter if it’s 2-on-1 or 8-on-1 or in a flaming Punjabi Prison? Well, if The Rock vs. John Cena is going to be the marquee match for Wrestlemania, wouldn’t his most realistic and believable opponent be another super unstoppable Troops-loving homophobic dude? The Rock and Cena hate each other because they’re exactly the same. They say they “hate” Miz and R-Truth, but they’re like Dr. Manhattan, they’ve long ago given up concepts like hate. Hate requires effort and the idea that you might not overcome it. Everything is preordained. Even their responses. It’s why John Cena spent the last 30 seconds of Survivor Series saying “I’m gonna turn around and you’re gonna give me the f**ken Rock Bottom” and then he turned around, and Rock hit him with the f**ken Rock Bottom. I wish you could see time like them.
So what I’m trying to say is that it’s cool to see Madison Square Garden still chanting WE WANT RYDER with the all powerful nude blue superman standing in the ring. They should film a follow-up scene where Ryder comes to the ring and rips off his toy sunglasses and Broski wig and just screams DO IT until he gets Rock Bottom’d.
Best: Alberto Del Rio, Back On Track (At Least For This Week)
It sucks to say it, but Alberto Del Rio should never be champion again. He works so much better as the guy who feels entitled to be the WWE Champion and is willing to break arms and push people away with his little Yoshi kicks to get it. Observe how weak and pointless he’s seemed for the last month in comparison to last night, where he got to have a good (and short) match with Zack Ryder. He seemed passionate again, purposeful. That’s the ADR I love. The one who has to be consoled by Ricardo. The one who would rather break a Bellas arm than take them to the one Mexican restaurant in New York City.
Next week he should lose to Punk. It should take 25 minutes, and he should spend the next six-to-eight months messing with Daniel Bryan and the rest of the boss wrestling undercard.
Worst: The Jamster Love Calculator
Two huge, huge things about this stupid commercial:
1. What’s going on, Jamster, is your Crazy Frog money drying up? Did you run out of rap titles for your announcer to whitely say? FOR “DOIN’ IT”, TEXT 5544.
2. I get your joke about the girl being named Miley (I read What Would Tyler Durden Do) (no I don’t), but here’s the thing: nobody is named Miley. Miley Cyrus is the only person named Miley, and even SHE isn’t named Miley. Her name is “Destiny Hope Cyrus” because her parents were goddamn hillbillies and that’s the most Oklahoma-ass name you can give someone. She smiled a lot as a baby so Billy Ray called her “smiley”, and, again, because they are hillbillies, that turned into “miley”. The only people ACTUALLY named Miley are three years old and were named after Hannah Montana by their 16 And Pregnant mothers.
Best: Sheamal Agility
Man, I hate it when WWE decides to give a wrestler a talking point. Did You Know?: Sheamus will often take two or three punches just to deliver one! Because he’s stupid, I guess!
But yeah, watching Sheamus come off the top rope for his diving shoulderblock and go into a full forward roll and coming up with the Brogue Kick was a very easy-to-explain kind of Best. Like most of his matches lately this was fine, even with the “Sheamus is smiling now, but he’s got a HOT TEMPER!” pre-commercial hype and there never being a point when you could imagine Jack Swagger winning, but it got really Kurt Angle Solid in its last minute. Also, I think Jack Swagger is pretty great and white.
Best: Jerry Lawler Has No Voice
One of the saving graces of this show was Jerry Lawler not being able to speak. When they’d cut to the announce table he’d be there with his eyes wide open looking all normal, but Cole would be all COME ON JERRY YOU KNOW FOR A FACT THAT VICKIE GUERRERO IS A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN, SHE’S WEARING A BEAUTIFUL ZEBRA DRESS AND I WOULD SAY SHE’S THE SKINNIEST AND BEST CONSTANTLY-HUMILIATED WIDOW I KNOW and Lawler would just kinda cough under his breath and mutter “good match”. I like to think Vickie purposefully dressed as wildlife this week just because she knew she physically couldn’t be called a cow whore.
Lawler should lose his voice every week. Better yet, let’s get a cardboard cut out of him, bend it in the middle and prop it up in a chair next to Booker.
Worst: Heh, Let’s Check In With Good Ol’ TWIT R
Remember back when Michael Cole would make fun of Jim Ross for using Twitter, and in the next breath would tell you to go to @heelziggler or whatever, and it seemed hypocritically pointless and weird? Yeah, that’s gotten even worse now that they see J.R.’s tweets on the social media hub WWE created to get everyone to look at how great they can trend that Cole and the announce team are supposed to be advertising. We’re two weeks away from Cole just saying “I hate Twitter, go to Twitter to find out more” and sucking himself into a black hole.
By the way, if you paid attention to the constant Twitter graphics interfacing themselves into Jack Swagger’s entrance, you may have followed the links and stumbled upon this video:
and this one
Best: IT BEEEGINNNNNSSS
The very best part of any mysterious wrestling video is how people figure it out in five seconds, second guess themselves, then spend however much time they’ve got between the video airing and the thing it’s hyping debuting coming up with every other explanation possible. Explanations for this one (so far) include:
1. The Undertaker, because it’s obviously the Undertaker. Also Sting, meaning “The Undertaker”.
2. Chris Jericho, because you have to “break the code” and figure out that (Y)outube + (2)/1/11 + (J)anuary = Y2J
3. Kane, even though Kane got his own cryptic hype video later in the show
4. Vince McMahon, because of how the kid is dressed (no, seriously)
7. the nWo (none of those make sense, but oh man how bad do I want it to be Batista)
8. Someone debuting, because it says “arriving”, not “returning”
9. The Chickbusters working a new goth gimmick (this one was mine)
10. Brodus Clay, because I guess he’s not debuting tonight
Worst: Hey, Wait A Minute, Where IS Brodus Clay?
Wasn’t he supposed to debut tonight?
Worst: Whoa, Where’s Jonah Hill?
Wasn’t Jonah Hill supposed to guest host Raw? They even had a commercial for him between Donald P. Bellasario and Nickelback announcing him as “the star of the new movie The Sitter“, which I swore had already been out. Does this have anything to do with Brodus Clay, and do Jonah Hill and Brodus Clay vanishing have anything to do with the MYSTERIOUS VIDEOS?
And while we’re on the topic of cryptic (and not so cryptic) return videos:
Best: IT’S GOTTA BE KANE
The best part of Raw for me socially was my girlfriend’s reaction to Kane’s mask showing up in a hype video. Destiny has three pro wrestling storylines she always suggests: 1) Destiny shows up on Raw for some reason and becomes the champ, 2) we find out who the Anonymous Raw General Manager is, and it usually ends up being Stone Cold Steve Austin and 3) Kane comes back and he’s wearing his mask. She watched Kane’s mask drop to the ground on fire with a face like she was opening Christmas presents.
I will welcome the return of masked Kane for three reasons: 1) because Destiny will watch the shows more closely, 2) because maskless Kane has pretty much run its course, and if we’re gonna have Kane around he might as well be stupid old Kane who shoots fire and 3) the return of masked Kane means the “May 19th” storyline is a Spider-Man Clone Saga for WWE and they can reveal that masked Kane was the real one and politico blogger Glenn Jacobs was an imposter all along.
Up Next: KEVIN NASH REITERATES HIS STANCE ON POOPIES >=(
Worst Worst Worst: You’re In Love With Him, We Get It, Now Leave
Kevin Nash took about two minutes to drunkenly slur his way through a ten minute promo wherein he had two attempts to say “Madison Square Garden” and f**ked both of them up. “Manson Square Garden” and “Mansquick Swear Garden” respectively. He said the same thing he always says (“Triple H betrayed our friendship”) and thankfully left out the whole “I got a good reaction at the Royal Rumble” thing that would’ve sent him tumbling quads-first into meme territory.
I’ve given up trying to find the problem. Just bring back Triple H, give them a No Holds Barred Street Fight or a Hell In A Cell or whatever at TLC and put Nash back on a Greyhound to Orlando where he can have fun running around and playing with others of his kind. I think the problem is that nobody believes what’s coming out of Nash’s mouth because NASH doesn’t believe what’s coming out of Nash’s mouth. Can’t he say “Triple H and me were friends and we hugged each other at the Garden when we shouldn’t have, and that started a big thing” without sounding like he’s reading book report off cue cards? Didn’t that stuff actually happen? Why do I need to tell a 50-year old millionaire to use his brain and mouth to speak? Why even continue this at all? Have Nash disappear, bring back Triple H at the Royal Rumble and have Shawn Michaels be all “so were were you” and H points his dick at Hornswoggle or whatever and goes “he did it” and Hornswoggle runs away going AH AH and the crowd laughs. Boom, retconned.
Best: Cody Rhodes Is F**king Awesome
Cody Rhodes is now officially my favorite person in WWE, and possibly wrestling. God damn I love him. If you missed him skunking Mason Ryan at Survivor Series, go watch it. I have spent the better part of a month reacting to Santino Marella’s matches with Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger with, “you guys are actual wrestlers, why aren’t you killing him?” And then Cody gets into a match with Santino and just stops the Cobra with his arm because the Cobra is stupid and doesn’t hurt, murders him with Cross Rhodes and pins him in maybe a minute. It. Was. GLORIOUS. This is what I’ve been asking for.
And the best part wasn’t even the match, it was the immediate aftermath. Cody pins Santino, crawls off of him, looks back with a smile on his face and SHRUGS HIS SHOULDERS LIKE IT WAS NOTHING. Like he’s surprised all he had to do was show up and do his finisher to beat Santino. Like he’s just figured out what I’ve been begging someone to figure out for the last month. I love it, and I’m going to be going WHOAAA-OHH for the remainder of this year, and probably most of the next.
Best: HE JUST SPLASHED WATER ON THAT BOY RIGHT THERE
And the hits just keep on coming.
After the match we learn that Cody Rhodes watches the television program on which he performs and has heard Booker T sh*t-talking him. Being a Clever Girl, Cody asks Booker to say that stuff to his face. Booker doesn’t. So Cody splashes water in his face to see if he’ll back up his words. He doesn’t. So Cody goes from cautious velociraptor to snickering know-it-all as he more or less struts around the ring and up the ramp. Booker T is established as a guy who threatens to beat Cody’s ass in WWE ’12 but won’t say it to his face, and Cody is a motherf**king boss. It was the truly emasculating equivalent to Santino stealing Jerry Lawler’s delicious Subway sandwich.
Best: Kelly Kelly’s Internal Monologue Externalized
Oh. Oh God. So many things to love about this segment.
1. Kelly Kelly saying “Baym! Baym! BYAM!” every time her video game character does a move.
2. Alicia Fox and Kelly Kelly deciding to play video games during Raw and doing so by standing up about an inch and a half from the screen.
3. Alicia Fox playing video games by holding the controller and doing nothing. Couldn’t they have gotten A.J. to fill in here? She knows what a Fan Lift is. I’m sure she could convincingly play a video game on television.
4. Beth Phoenix and Natalya interrupting and complaining that WWE ’12 doesn’t have realistic Diva crying A.I.
5. Kelly and Alicia turning around to stop playing and the camera clearly showing the characters still wrestling on the screen
6. Kelly FINALLY reacting to the Divas Of Doom by saying “uh, anyway” and going about her business
7. Kelly Kelly having the Rob Van Dam leg drop in WWE ’12
I could go on (Kelly and Alicia having propped up the WWE ’12 case vertically in front of the television, Kelly carrying around a huge poster of her Maxim cover wherever she goes) but I’ll just say this is my new favorite bad backstage segment. I can’t wait to pick this up today and yell BYAM while Vader murders Kelly Kelly.
Best: CM Punk Vs. Dolph Ziggler For President
Somewhere near the middle of this match I got bombarded with tweets (Twitter) of “so I bet this match is going to be a Best tomorrow” and “this match is all the Bests” and “I know for certain that Ziggler headstand is going to be a Best”. Two things: you’re right on all counts, and I love that Best and Worst has become enough of a thing that people are pointing them out as they go. That’s the coolest thing, and probably the closest I’ll ever be associated to two of my favorites having a killer 15-minute back-and-forth champion-versus-champion match on Raw.
The match wasn’t perfect — the finish was a little wonky with the Rocker Dropper into a Go To Sleep not working out as planned and there were some unsure moments near the beginning — but it was literally everything I could want out of a WWE Raw television match in 2011. It did everything I gripe about. It gave us WWE’s interpretation of wrestling instead of WWE’s interpretation of bullsh*t. It made both guys look better … Punk looked great backing up his boasts and wrestling with heart, Ziggler looked like he should just hand Zack Ryder the United States Championship as a consolation and wrestle the important guys from here on out. The finish was clean. The crowd was into it. CM Punk broke out an attempted ankle tackle like he’s f**king Hollywood from GLOW. It had moments of hatred and moments of fun, and at one point Vickie Guerrero thought she could Stacy Keibler CM Punk by blowing him a kiss. How much better could this be?
Best: This Kid
Is that Christopher Walken with him?
Worst: Michael Cole, Political Analyst
Cole: “Y’know, CM Punk came out here earlier tonight’n, called himself the Agent of Change … Agent of Change, how’d that work out for OBAMA?”
Uh, he got to be President? Cole’s read of the line had just enough pauses in it for us to hear Vince backstage going “CM PUNK CAME OUT HERE EARLIER TONIGHT AND, CAME OUT HERE EARLIER TONIGHT AND”. At least he left off the “dammit” at the end. Lawler managed a weak “come on” as if he didn’t spend a month daydreaming about what it’d be like if Obama talked to WWE Superstars and Booker got stuck in a LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING loop where you could hear the functioning black man parts of his brain going ERROR, ERROR.
Whether I agree with you or not, “your political opinions” ranks behind “gravy bowl match” on my list of things I don’t want to hear about on my wrestling show.
Best: The Headstand Heard Round The World
Reposted liberally from page one,
I don’t know why he did it, but I’m happy he did. Maybe he thought they’d already crashed to break. “Show-off” characters in wrestling usually just don’t go for pins when they’re supposed to, they don’t break out headstands. He should bring a unicycle to the ring next week and see if he’s got time to ride it.
Best: The First Step Toward Being Interesting Is Doing Things
And like I mentioned before, “having good matches” is really all I expect from a wrestler, and Punk having great matches like this and the one at Survivor Series go a long, long way toward me forgiving him for sh*t like calling Del Rio amigo. I don’t know if his claims of making the WWE Championship interesting again or ending the “hot potato” title changes are legit, but if we start getting EVOLVE-quality storytelling and a title change every week and the matches are great I won’t complain. When people ask me what WWE or pro wrestling needs to do to improve, I’m always drawn back to an exchange from my third favorite Woody Allen movie Stardust Memories.
“But shouldn’t I stop making movies and do something that counts, like-like helping blind people or becoming a missionary or something?”
“Let me tell you, you’re not the missionary type. You’d never last. And incidentally, you’re also not Superman; you’re a comedian. You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.”
That’s it, really. You’re wrestlers. Just be good at wrestling.
Worst: Sell That #HEEL Hoodie, Dammit
I don’t want another situation like the sparkly David Otunga Nexus zip-up, guys, put the #HEEL hoodie on Shopzone so I can buy it and wear it while it’s cold. I will buy two and wear at least one of them every day. I don’t want the “I AM PERFECTION” shirt that looks like the Parks and Recreation throwback logo I can’t wear in public because it looks and sounds asinine, I don’t want a WWE basics with Ziggler on the front because I’m an adult and a shirtless, hairless muscle guy in bicycle shorts on my shirt isn’t the right kind of conversation piece. I want your plain black thing with the plain black letters. If you can make something like that for each individual Rock appearance, you can make this one and sell it to me from whatever 70-dollar ballpark you’re sewing.