– Comments, shares, likes, and especially Reddit submissions/up votes are appreciated. If you aren’t sending me a Christmas present, at least make my column slightly more popular with strangers!
– Next Tuesday is Christmas, so the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw will take a one-week vacation. I’ll still get up an open discussion thread for Christmas Eve, and we’ll pick back up formally on January 1.
– Smackdown is live tonight on the USA Network, so be sure to come back to With Leather and hang out with us in the Super Smackdown Live open discussion thread. I am probably not going to do a Best and Worst report for it, because I’ve already done two this week. If that makes you sad, go read the Best and Worst of TLC again!
– Thanks for a great year of reports, everybody. I couldn’t do this without the generous comments and feedback you guys give me. I love you all dearly.
Please click through to enjoy the last Best And Worst Of WWE Raw column of the year, for December 17, 2012.
Worst: Tell Me I Did Not Just Watch A 3-Hour Commercial For The WWE App
If you read the Best And Worst Of WWE TLC ’12, you’ll remember that it’s what’s being called a, “Happy Brandon” report. Apparently when I’m having a bad day (or, I don’t know, the show is terrible), my reports take a very snarky, negative point of view. When I’m happy, or the show is great, it gets me happy and optimistic and the report reflects that. Less HERE IS EVERYTHING RACIST AND SEXIST and more WHOA CODY RHODES’ PUNCHES ARE AWESOME.
I should warn you up from that The Best And Worst Of Raw 12/18/12 is not a Happy Brandon report.
The Slammy Awards are the worst show of the year. It’s right here at Christmas time, when WWE has an usually long build for Royal Rumble. Most of the time they know people will buy the Rumble for the Rumble, which is why they still wait until 2 weeks before it happens to formally book it, and we end up with, like, Bob Holly world title shots. This year The Rock is wrestling on the show, so if they wait until the PPV pre-show to announce anything other than “The Rock” and “Royal Rumble match,” I’ll be shocked. So if you add all that to The Holidays, when WWE has a pre-taped thing of Hornswoggle dancing for The Troops and CM Punk passive-aggressively hosting a movie as “WWE week” and knows nobody’s going to give a shit about their programming until January, it’s not the best time for a wrestling show.
This year the Slammys aren’t (totally) worked to set up feuds or whateveer, they were voted on with the WWE App. If you didn’t know this, perhaps you saw Booker T’s FRIENDS, LET US ALL TAKE OUT OUR SMART PHONES AND DOWNLOAD THE APP NOW, IT’S OKAY, I’LL WAIT announcement. Anyway, it takes what was already zero f**king fun away from voting on Twitter with hashtags and puts the fate of THREE HOURS OF TELEVISED PROGRAMMING in the hands of whatever kid loves John Cena enough to want to watch him stall between commercial breaks.
I might just review TLC again. First up: Rhodes Scholar insults hipsters!
Best: The Boogeyman Appears And Disappears Having Done Nothing
Here’s what I wrote about The Boogeyman in the Best And Worst Of No Way Out 2007, in a Worst entitled, “The Boogeyman Is Basically The Worst Wrestler Of All Time”:
Boogeyman’s gimmick was dumb but effective, and if he’d had the wrestling ability of a Dolph Ziggler he probably could’ve taken it to God knows where. Unfortunately he had the wrestling ability of Raja f**king Lion and couldn’t make anything look natural, so his matches are full of random choke holds, shimmy dancing and Stinger Splashes where he gets a running start, jumps straight up about a foot away from the guy and then “splashes” down on them with the impact of an Eve Torres moonsault.
For whatever reason I have a lot of oddly positive memories of The Boogeyman, but damn, watching him move around is like an endless loop of Kelly Kelly running the ropes.
Boogey showing up on Raw got me interested, I’ll admit, but then they came back from commercial and he was just … gone. Booker mugged to the camera and asked us to please tell him he didn’t just see that. Why would we do that? The Boogeyman was a wrestler. You worked with him. If Boogeyman showed up and started vomiting Wendy’s on Booker’s lectern or whatever, that would’ve been a Tell Me I Didn’t Just See That moment. What, we have to deny the existence of shitty weird people now?
Funny enough, Boogeyman wrestling anybody would’ve been a top shelf wrestling match on this show.
Worst: Hurry Up And Finish These Matches, We’ve Got To Do More Polls!
I can only get so upset about Damien Sandow losing clean to Rey Mysterio in two minutes on a Slammy Awards show. On a normal show, this would be terrible. Sandow has become a “tag team wrestler,” which means he can’t beat anybody in a singles match, not even other tag team wrestlers wrestling singles. On a Slammy show, it joins every other match as an exercise in going through the motions until the production team is ready to go with their next awards thing.
It felt a lot like somebody set their WWE ’13 game to “quick,” and Mysterio just hit his finish and had to win. While I’m thinking about it, what happened to Car Stereo’s combo gear? That was great, and took the focus off of Rey Mysterio’s Virgil At Conventions shirt.
Best: Kofi Kingston Continues To Do What It Is He Does, Which Is Make You Say “Wow”
… as in, “Wow, this guy has no idea how to wrestle.”
Seriously though, I’ll give him credit. Of the nominees announced, Kofi deserved this Slammy, and his acceptance speech was harmless and nice so good for him. The Maddox low blow and Punk jumping the Rock didn’t make me say TELL ME I DIDN’T JUST SEE THAT, they just made me wonder where characters and stories were going. The Sheamus/Daniel Bryan match (which, again, was shown IN ITS F**KING ENTIRETY) just made me sad again. Kofi’s Rumble save wasn’t as good as John Morrison’s Spider-Man act on the barricade from the previous year, but it was the best thing he’s ever done without Randy Orton having to have a NASCAR.
Worst: Hey Now, You Can’t Steal Eve’s Thing, She Just Started Doing It
The Naomi experiment from TLC is over. She’s back to being a Funkadactyl, and the Divas division is back to being the same three ladies as always. I like Kaitlyn, though, so I’ll continue accepting it for what it is, and secretly hoping that somebody from WWE Creative was at ACW’s Delusions Of Our Childish Days and signed up every woman on it.
The only thing I really didn’t like was Kaitlyn aping Eve’s post-match pose. Not that her DOING it is bad, necessarily, but it’s just that Eve’s only been doing it for two weeks. That’s not long enough for it to become her signature thing, or for babyfaces to start using it to rub losses in her face. Kinda like when DX suddenly has a cherished tour bus, and a week or two later Stone Cold’s destroying it with a girder. Don’t rush to the punchline, guys.
Worst: The Road Dogg Says The Road Dogg’s Two Sentences, As Only The Road Dogg Can!
I think JBL saying “unbelievable!” after Road Dogg said the only two sentences he has ever said as a pro wrestler (“welcome to the dog house” and the “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages” gag) is what turned this into a Worst. I mean, it was the 5th and 6th best members of my least favorite stable ever* giving Jerry Lawler the 2012 Slammy Award for Best Heart Attack Had On Raw, which was fine (Heyman should’ve won it), but come on, JBL, it was pretty believable.
Seriously though, I think there’s one thing in each of these categories that makes me sad. This one was D-Generation X standing around in a circle watching Damien Sandow get beaten up while everyone laughs and cheers. Also seriously, how does Brock Lesnar not win this? Jerry Lawler was fine for all but like a month of 2012 and he came back to his job of sitting and talking quietly. Brock Lesnar came back from diverticulitis AND a nearly decade-long hiatus to break Triple H’s arm. TWICE.
*D-X power rankings
1. Shawn Michaels
2. Rick Rude
3. Triple H
5. Road Dogg
6. Billy Gunn
8. Great Khali
9. The Boogeyman
**Hey, she defeated 9 other wrestlers to become this year’s Queen Of The Ring, that’s pretty impressive.
Worst: Here’s Kofi Kingston Versus Lord WHOOPS IT’S OVER
Much like how I can’t complain about Damien Sandow losing to Rey Mysterio in two minutes, I can’t complain about Tensai losing to Kofi Kingston in one. That was it. They wrestled for a minute, Kofi dodged a corner charge and hit Trouble In Paradise for the win. The post-match celebration and Wade Barrett’s attack lasted longer than the match itself. It’s Tensai/Kofi, though, so what do you want me to do, write a Grantland piece about it?
I like Wade Barrett a lot, but he shouldn’t be able to get another IC title shot just by showing up and elbowing Kofi. Kofi’s response should be, “yeah, we’re wrestlers, I get it, you attacked me, but I beat you at the pay-per-view, so at the Rumble I’m defending against Justin Gabriel. Deal with it.” And then he could try to put on sunglasses and poke himself in the eye, because Kofi Kingston.
1. Big ups to Teagan and Sara for getting a song on Raw, even if it’s their “Liz Phair in the twilight of her career/Why Can’t I?” desperation pop hit.
2. Derrick Bateman and Kaitlyn were robbed.
3. I miss the shit out of Maxine.
4. I’ve read a lot of stuff online about how this award and segment (and everything involved with it) is to encourage the Hoeski-style slut-shaming of AJ. As the guy online who kinda-sorta conducts that train, yeah, I can see where you’re coming from, but this segment didn’t set off any alarms for me. It helped continue AJ’s weird psychological war with Vickie, eased her back into the Crazy = Violent AJ we loved (instead of Crazy = Emotional GM and post-GM AJ) and set up the final segment of the night. If anything, it was a nice way to recap her character arc in 2012, and yes, to continue a theme, the DANIEL IS A GREAT LOVER stuff made me miss the good old days, when YES chants still meant YES.
Worst: The Great Khali Versus David Otunga Is Seriously A Match We’re Having
You don’t want me to share a video of this, do you? This was so bad, the WWE Fan Nation video didn’t even bother to spell it correctly:
The Great Khali vs. David Ontunga: Raw, Dec. 17, 2012
The highlight of the match was probably JBL making Darwinism jokes about The Great Khali and Jerry Lawler getting SUPER EXCITED to jump in and talk about knuckle dragging. You know, during a match between two people of color. Anything can happen in the WWE!
Worst: Natalya, Jack Of All Trades
If you were upset by the video of AJ kissing a bunch of dudes, consider that those people were Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Kane, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler. If you want to know how bad it COULD’VE been, please think about poor Natalya, whose calendar year(s) involved 1) being a part of a team of tough girls who were just jealous of the pretty blonde and could not stop losing to roll-ups in under a minute, 2) begging Mr. McMahon to talk about the Hart Foundation backstage, only to have him walk away making dismissive wanking motions with his eyes, 3) being the girl who farts, and 4) being the “girlfriend” of the sideshow wrestlers, because when Vince thinks of wacky freaks his list goes “Khali, Hornswoggle, Nattie Neidhart.”
Just remember, if you are concerned about a woman on WWE television being slut-shamed, it could be worse — they could just be shamed non-stop for no reason. She is World Wrestling Entertainment’s Jerry Gergich, and I will never understand it.
Also, because I am an asshole, when she started dancing I thought she was going for The Cobra.
Best: WE KNOW WHO THAT IS, TAZ
… and here’s where the show gets good.
The motherf**king NATURE BOY Ric Flair returned to the company that has publicly humiliated him the least (believe it or not) to present the award for Superstar Of The Year, and even though it looks like he’s just coloring the top of his head with a highlighter now, he’s still the best American pro wrestler of all time and I’m going to be happy about it.
Of course, it’s also pretty hard to stop making Impact jokes whenever he appears now, because I spent a couple of years watching him stuff his bones into a man-sized scrotum filled with exploding blood in matches against Mick Foley or Hulk Hogan or whoever, and that’s not something I can just pretend didn’t happen. My favorite jokes so far are the declaration that Flair is here to cast the deciding vote in tonight’s Gut Check (© Chris Sims) and my subconscious fantasy booking where Fortune is about to run out and attack CM Punk.
There is a reason I did not let myself write The Best And Worst Of TNA Impact Wrestling, and it involves me not being able to stop laughing out loud at their 6,000 different company-controlling heel stables.
Best: CM Punk Is Awesome When He’s Right
THIS is the CM Punk I love.
The guy who is pissed off about something, really pissed off for real, deep down in his core, and can tell you about it. Most importantly, the guy who is RIGHT. When the Summer Of Punk hit, we didn’t start liking him because he was a cool personality and had awesome catchphrases and sweet T-shirts, it was because he was saying shit nobody else would say about the show, and he was RIGHT. It wasn’t an “each and every one of you” moment, it was “this company is run by people who don’t care about the audience, and it won’t get any better until Vince is dead and we stop circle-jerking Cena and Rock and Austin and anybody who made us money before right now.” When he yelled in Vince’s face, he was right. When he was running down Alberto Del Rio for being Mexican, feuding with Chris Jericho over whether or not he walked into a building that serves alcohol or calling John Laurinaitis names, he wasn’t right, he was going along with the same shit he rallied against in the summer.
So here, in a moment that absolutely does not make sense and needs everyone involved having I HATE YOU yelled in their faces (the WWE Universe naming John Cena Superstar Of The Year after the kayfabe worst year of his career, then Cena saying something about hustle, loyalty and respect before giving the award to Ric Flair for no reason and bailing), here’s Punk to do it for us. He’s totally right. It’s ridiculous on multiple levels. Cena didn’t deserve the award (or to even be nominated … Show had a much better year than him, for example), Flair hasn’t been around, nobody’s respecting his run as champion and not everybody idolizes Ric Flair now because he’s kind of a f**k-up. He didn’t sarcastically quip “pipe bommmmmb” after it, but it blew Flair and Cena the hell up.
Be this Punk, Punk. This is right.
Best: Punk Versus Flair Was The Best Match On The Show
I really wish the rest of the show could’ve been this good.
This whole segment was great, and totally justified — in addition to Punk being totally right, Flair was justified in making it physical, because Punk started poking him in the chest like an asshole. Flair didn’t cheapshot him on the stage … he brought him to the ring, to do it like wrestlers. When they were in the ring, Flair (the good guy) didn’t take the easy road out and kick Punk in the nuts or whatever, he challenged him to a fight … and PUNK was the one to cheapshot FLAIR. Because good guys and bad guys. Flair came back just enough to look viable without “knocking Punk out” (with a thumb to the eye, unlike Bret Hart KO’ing Punk with one punch without taking any shots himself and barely moving). Heyman had a reason to get beaten up, too … unlike the Triple H or John Cena moments, Heyman wasn’t just “being annoying,” he distracted Flair so Punk could get in the cheap shot. So sure, he deserves to get it. See how f**king easy this is? Say what you want about grey areas and the old school shit not playing anymore, but good guys being good guys and bad guys being bad guys works.
Best: The Shield
Speaking of bad guys, how effective are The Shield right now? When their music hit, and we caught a sight of them walking down through the crowd and went to commercial, I was legitimately excited to see where we’d be when we came back. And when we came back, it wasn’t just “everybody wait until the cameras are back on” … Daniel Bryan and Kane were out to help Flair fight these guys off. WHY CAN THE REST OF THE SHOW NOT BE THIS GOOD. It should’ve just been this whole segment, then a Krusty The Klown Show-style fast-moving credits list of everyone who won Slammys.
I don’t know if The Shield is going to be able to keep up their momentum (them teaming up together to make a run at the Royal Rumble will/would be nice), but man, I hope they keep it up. They got a huge rub from that TLC victory on Sunday, and they kept it going on Raw. It helps that they’re showing up to brutalize people and attack Ric Flair instead of being forced to do faux awards show comedy alongside Santino.
Worst: Ryback’s Non-Stop Hero Entrances
The only downside to the moment was Ryback, who deserves to be out here taking it to The Shield, and all, but God, how many times is his music going to hit in the middle of a fight to announce his arrival? Why can’t he just run out with Daniel Bryan and Kane and fight off The Shield if he hates them so much? Why wait until all of your friends are hurt? I know you’re doing it for DRAMA~, but the pop’s going to happen when he starts running down the ramp, we don’t need to hear 10 seconds of his music first.
Rollins bouncing off the announce table was pretty great, though. Be careful, guys, or you’ll have another Jeff Hardy on your hands. I mean that both the good and bad ways.
Best: JTG’s Brooklyn Nets Trunks, And Nothing Else
Brodus Clay is just sticking around to be half of one of those “big guys square off in the Royal Rumble” spots they love so much, right? Clay squashing JTG is something we’ve seen like five times already, and it keeps getting less effective. Antonio Cesaro should’ve shown up and Neutralized them at the same time.
YOU ARE SHACKLING NAOMI (and Cameron, but mostly Naomi) TO YOUR DUMB IDENTITY, BRODUS, DO SOMETHING ELSE SO SHE CAN CONTRIBUTE.
Worst: I Can’t Keep Giving Worsts To The Same Thing, So Just “The Rest Of The Slammys” And “The Rest Of These 25 Second Matches”
I feel like these matches didn’t even happen. I don’t want to devote a Worst to every minute-ish match or asinine AND THE AWARD GOES TO BOOGERS segment they did, so I’m going to lump the remaining palaver into this one, sad Worst.
I liked the finish to this match enough, but has anybody figured out why Sin Cara still gets his mood-lighting when he’s wrestling singles, and why it goes away when he’s wrestling in a tag? Does Rey Mysterio have to give him a sedative or something before they wrestle to make the blue and orange go away? If the guy’s gotten a reputation for botching too much and he’s already wearing a mask with no proper eye holes, why do you make him do it in the almost-dark? Cut some holes in his mask (I don’t know, like this, maybe?), turn on the goddamn lights and let him do his loosey-goosey ranas without hurting himself.
Best: Sheamus, Babyface For Real, Or
Best: Big Show’s Chair Is Still Hilarious
But no, remember earlier in the report where I was talking about how the Ric Flair segment worked, because the good guys were acting like good guys, and the bad guys were the ones saying and doing things to make us boo? Apparently WWE’s worst line-crossing offender, Sheamus, was taking notes. I can’t believe I’m typing it, but I (for I think the first time ever) am giving f**king SHEAMUS a Best for ACTING LIKE A GOOD GUY FOR REAL.
Seriously, he came to the ring to congratulate Big Show on their match at TLC, offered to shake his hand, and actually shook it. He didn’t pull him in and hit him with White Noise like a sore loser or anything. He tried to peacefully leave the ring, and it was SHOW who tossed out a prejudiced insult to start the fighting. I LOVE YOU, WHOEVER IN WWE CREATIVE STARTED PAYING ATTENTION TO HOW THEIR CHARACTERS THINK AND ACT. It feels so weird giving Worsts to all the matches, and Bests to all the talky in-ring stuff.
Please continue being the guy you are off the show ON it, Sheamus. And disregard the TERRIBLE ASSHOLES in the crowd who chant “what” at you and Show, because they’re barely paying attention and remembered they hadn’t yelled WHAT in a while.
Worst: John Cena, Ruiner
If Sheamus hadn’t been the bigger man seconds earlier, I’d be giving this the most sorrowful Worst I could, but as it stands, it’s just another example of Cena being the company’s biggest butthole.
Did they give us a good reason why Cena is justified in running down and attacking Ziggler while he tries to cash in Money In The Bank? Why is it Cena’s problem? He ran into the locker room to attack Dolph Ziggler a few weeks ago, and Ziggler beat him up. So his response is to jump Ziggler from behind on Smackdown and choke him out. That gets him a TLC match for the Money In The Bank Briefcase. The one Ziggler earned fairly, not the one Cena won by accident and lost cashing in. Cena loses THAT because of AJ, not because of Ziggler. So what’s his response on Raw? To jump Ziggler from behind while he tries to win a match.
You are the worst, John. The worst.
Jack Swagger Of Mars
General Mason Ryan stood at the center of the bridge of his impossible warship, calmly applying baby oil as the million-ton behemoth cruised high above the pink sands of Mars. He made sure to get oil in under the medals he’d pinned to his pectoral, because “general.” “Finally,” he thought to himself. “I have a gimmick.”
“Yafoun a cwarnah f’juSWARE?” he asked.
“Uh, I’m sorry?” responded the ship’s navigator.
Mason Ryan’s eyes closed slightly as he stared down the much smaller man, who was, let’s say, Caylen Croft.
“Oh, uhhh…” The navigator stalled, taking a wild guess at what his hulking, Welsh commander had asked. “We’re … still looking for Jack Swagger. Nothing’s come in on the radar uh, quite yet.”
Mason nodded his head in acknowledgment, and the navigator let out a sigh of relief. Before he could relax, General Ryan snatched him by the back of the head, dragging him out of the navigation chair and into the center of the room. Ryan pulled the much smaller man’s head between his own thighs and used them to hold him there while the General taunted at the other people on the bridge. With a swift motion, General Ryan lifted the man up onto his shoulder for a punishing Argentine back breaker!
“BLEAHGH GHAH BLAHGHHH” the man screamed. After a few moments of carnage, Ryan dropped the man and held out his arms, inviting the opinions of his crew.
“HOWSAT FA FINISH!!!” he asked.
“It’s great, General Ryan, yes sir. Finishing move of the year, without a doubt!” they answered, in that way where you could tell they really meant “nothing you do ever works or impresses people.” Ryan, however, took the compliment and resumed his baby oiling. Compliments are few and far between when you are Mason Ryan, especially when you are on Mars.
A new man (who was, let’s say, Lucky Cannon) settled into the navigation chair. With General Ryan’s ruthless aggression temporarily quelled, he dared start a conversation with the ship’s pilot, who was, let’s say, Maxine.
“Is he always like this?”
“No, not always. This is the first time we’ve seen him in months. That was a pretty impressive display of power!”
“Uh, sure, I guess,” the new navigator asked. “It kinda looked like Caylen jumped for him.”
Maxine The pilot shot him a quick glance, as if to say STOP EXPOSING THE BUSINESS, or possibly just “shut up before the muscle man decides to kill us, too.”
“General Ryan is extremely powerful. You have no idea what he’s capable of.”
“I … I guess not,” the navigator muttered.
“Maybe you should just shut up and chart our course.”
“I’ve never done this before, but … here goes nothing!” The navigator began flipping buttons on the ship’s control console. Suddenly, lights began to flash and warning sirens began to wail. “Oh, oh no, what am I doing, what did I do wrong?”
“You botched it!” the pilot yelled. “That’s not the navigation panel, that’s radar, and our auxiliary power, I think … ugh, I don’t know, I don’t know what I’m doing. I was a candy girl before I took this job. I just hold the thing steady until we get where we’re going. When nobody’s paying attention, I’m probably going to eliminate myself and go do something else.”
“On Mars?” the navigator asked.
“Hey, it beats being on NXT. What’d YOU do before … you know, navigating. Or taking peoples’ spots.”
“I worked the cannon.”
A small, sharp beeping sound interrupted their conversation.
“No way,” the pilot said, leaning over to get a better look. “That’s …” she swooped up the ship’s microphone. “All hands on deck, or … whatever you say, WE HAVE LOCATED JACK SWAGGER, I REPEAT, JACK SWAGGER HAS BEEN LOCATED.”
General Ryan took several lumbering steps forward to survey the Martian wilderness through the windshield of his massive vessel and patted the navigator on his shoulder. “WELL DON!” he confirmed. The navigator smiled.
“Well aren’t you lucky,” the pilot noted.
The ship hurdled through the sky toward the lonely blip. If they kept up this pace, they could reach it by midnight.