– Comments, shares, likes, what-have-you are immensely appreciated. I’ve we’ve got 3,000 comments on the open discussion threads, we can crack 200 on the thing that takes me like 7 hours to write.
– If you didn’t check it out last week, I got together an all-star crew to re-list WWE’s 50 Most Beautiful People In Sports-Entertainment History. The judging panel included Grantland’s Dave Shoemaker, leading Internet Comic Book Guy Chris Sims, WWE Superstar USA Guy and Dale from ‘Greek.’ It was pretty amazing. Give it a flip-through, try not to complain about slideshows and drop a comment, even if it’s to tell me you hate me for not properly evaluating Ivory, or whatever.
– If you live in the Virginia/Tennessee area, I will be attending the NWA Smoky Mountain Wrestling show on the 14th of December, so if you know who I am, come by and say hi. I will need a few people there who are not toothless and yelling at me.
Now, please click through to enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for December 3, 2012.
Best: The First 10 Minutes Of Raw
Raw is about “moments” or whatever, but I think they’d be onto something if they ditched that mission statement in favor of creating moods, or atmospheres. That’s what was important about the Monday Night Wars. Nitro had an atmosphere, and so did those 1997/98 Raws they’re always trying to recreate. ECW was ALL atmosphere. ECW’s best moments were almost always stupid or backyard dangerous — a guy f**king two girls because he’s “hardcore,” holes magically appearing in the ring or ramp, people doing run-ins via light switch — but it all seemed GREAT because they’d created an atmosphere that ECW was the place to be if you were a cool wrestling fan, and everyone bought it. Independent promotions today don’t do what ECW did, because they’re pretending to share in an atmosphere that no longer exists.
WWE is great at creating an atmosphere, and I’m not sure they know it. Remember Brad Maddox versus Ryback? The “moment” was terrible, but that pre-match thing with Maddox wandering out to his death and an ambulance back into the arena was great. They do it at WrestleMania every year, turning forgettable Bad Blood main-events (Triple H vs. Undertaker Hell In A Cell, I’m looking in your direction) into these big epic things we’re destined to remember forever. The first 10 minutes of Raw were about the vibe, with Team Hell No having finally made it over their friendship hump to stand up to these weird swat team guys with shifty motives and try to win a match at the same time. You didn’t know what The Shield was going to do, and the announcers being preoccupied with where each guy was (especially when all three of them were off-screen) made it seem dangerous, and alive. That’s what Raw should be: not necessarily unpredictable, but buzzing, constantly moving, never willing to fulfill or deny our expectations out of obligation.
If we could keep that atmosphere going for an entire show, we could feel engaged in watching how the entire thing ties together, instead of sitting on our hands waiting for the guys we like to show up. How do you do that for a weekly, three-hour show, you ask? By spending longer than a Monday afternoon writing it, and taking away one guy’s power to say NOPE SORRY at the last minute and write DO WHAT WE ALWAYS DO in your margins.
Worst: ‘Moo Kitty Kitty Moo Kitty Kitty,’ We Hardly Knew Ye
Rest in peace, Hip-Hop Track #15. You were too beautiful for this world.
Worst: Roman Reigns Delivering The Worst Headbutts In The History Of Wrestling
I don’t want to just load up the first page with videos, but seriously, jump to the 3:03 mark of this clip and watch Roman Reigns try to headbutt Daniel Bryan.
Holy shit, dude. I don’t want to automatically assume Reigns is the worst guy in The Shield because he didn’t spend five years slumming it in Turner’s Hall, but mother of God, what’s he headbutting? Was he trying to attack Bryan Kabuki Quantum Fighter style and just forgot to take his hair out of the ponytail? He needed the Sassy Gay Friend to pop up in the background. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, WHAT WHAT WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
New plan: Draw some patterns on Kassius Ohno’s arm with a sharpie and let him play Roman Reigns until dude learns how to wrestle on television.
Best: AJ Lee, Pro Wrestler Of Interest
Did you hear the crowd chanting “Let’s Go AJ” during this match? That’s because WWE gave her a character and let her participate in stories that were not “I’M IN THE DIVAS DERVISION,” so people respond to her positively and want to see her win and do things. I’m not going to say it’s “proof” of anything, but it’s a good indication that I have not spent the last two years of this column being full of shit, and that if WWE would invest a little effort into letting their female characters being human beings instead of vaginas on stilts we could have a pretty sweet division.
This is why I’ve been pushing the Chickbusters on you guys for so long. Yeah, they’re pretty, but they’re also ready-made moneymakers. When allowed to play to her strengths, AJ is a competent, scrappy wrestler who you want to cheer for because she’s cute and little and TRYING SO HARD. When allowed to play to her strengths, Kaitlyn is a beefy monster who is also a shoot dork, so she’s gonna mess up a lot, but you’re rooting for her not to. They’re like the world’s sexiest Jesse and Festus, and if you read “sexy Jesse and Festus” and don’t want to cheer for it, you’re doing it wrong.
Tamina versus AJ is a step in the right direction. Tamina was totally dominant, but overconfident, and that cost her. AJ clearly can’t hang with Tamina in the ring, but she’s got more heart, and she’s watched a few tapes so she knows that roll-ups are Super Effective against Diva types. I’ll even give AJ a +1 for stealing Dash Chisako’s offense, because that “jump into your lap and elbow you in the face a bunch because I’m the Compsognathus of lady wrestlers” thing is great.
My only problem was, of course,
Worst: WWE’s Idea Of Building PPV Matches By Having The Same Match Over And Over With Different Finishes
I think the idea of wrestling fans complaining that they’re given too many marquee matches too quickly for free on television instead of having to pay $50 to see them a month later is one of the most confusing things about BEING a wrestling fan.
On one hand, you’re being stupid. You’re getting good, free matches on television, and a desire for delayed gratification shouldn’t mean WWE can only run Zack Ryder versus Damien Sandow on loop for a cycle because you value a hypothetical Cena/Ziggler more than the one happening in front of you. If you don’t run the company, and your paycheck doesn’t rely on that company’s success, why not want the best they can give you all the time? Screw proper PPV builds, just let me see characters I like doing interesting things and yelling at each other about how they should GET IN THE RING or whatever. Right?
On the other, it’s not so much about delayed gratification as it is wanting to be gratified. If Tamina versus AJ happens on free television three weeks into the angle, and they wrestle again the next week, and they wrestle again at the pay-per-view, you haven’t had time to care about the characters in relation to one another and there are no consequences. The matches aren’t telling a story. One doesn’t build on the other. It’s just a series of decided match finishes, executed soullessly and without gravity for the instant call and response of the crowd. It’s a piece of gum when you’re looking for dinner. “Dinner,” as it were, is a match that EARNS the call and response by showing its work in the cycle. It’s rewarding. It rewards you for having watched the show, for giving a shit about it happening. That doesn’t have to be a ridiculously complex Chikara backstory of webbed-together continuities or anything, it can just be having something to talk about with your friends while the match is happening. Like a real sport. Imagine how boring football would be if the only thing you could say is “my team beat your team last week, so your team will probably win this week”. That SUCKS. You want to talk about players and coaches and motivations and histories and backups and blown calls and CUTENESS OF UNIFORMS and whatever else.
So do I want to see Tamina versus AJ? Yes. Do I want to see Cena and Ziggler? Sure. Do I want to see AJ roll up Tamina in two minutes to build to another AJ versus Tamina match? No. I just want one really f**king good AJ versus Tamina match, built on something that matters. Do I want to see Cena beat Ziggler clean two weeks in a row, to build to him beating Ziggler again at TLC? God, no. I want things to matter so I can be EXCITED when these matches happen. I don’t want you to numb my brain until I can only be excited when you tell me to be.
Worst: The Idea That Cheating Adds An Asterisk To A WWE Title Reign, Or
Worst: BRING YOUR BEST PIE-PONS, Or
Worst: I’m Sorry For Everything I Said, I Would Like Heel Miz Back, Please
I’ve written a lot about how babyface Miz is a great idea, because his natural in-ring charisma is kinda built around the fact that he’s a legit WWE fanboy who made it, but … well, I guess I didn’t consider that being a face in the ring means he’d have to be a face on the mic, and that the key to being a popular WWE good guy is emulating Aaron from ‘Full House,’ and … how do I say this … it did not occur to me that Miz would start doing Church Lady impressions and lie detector tests and lose his ability to speak clearly into a microphone. Shorter version, I didn’t think he’d go from being Miz to being John Morrison. Maryse, your breath smells like a rhinoceros butt! LOVE ME, CROWD.
I regret telling you this would be a good idea, and I hope you’ll consider forgiving me.
So … yeah. I kinda liked where Punk was going with the LEAVE MY ARENA, JERKS thing, even if I’d started a non-drinking drinking game for every time he said “you people”. Miz’s music hit, and I got excited. It was a beautifully timed, possibly star-making moment. He’s proven that he can talk, and Punk’s been kinda coasting on the idea that he’s automatically better than everyone else at talking, so a wrestler showing up to crush him in a conversation would be engaging, and a nice flip on the one-sided Summer Of Punk stuff. Instead of CONFIDENT THRASHING, I got a guy dressed as heel Jericho pretending to be face Jericho, mumbling through his words, combining a few of them, dropping a “pipe bon” and more or less shitting an entire Radisson full of beds.
It was embarrassing. I just wanted it to end. Miz showed up in an interview segment to challenge CM Punk to an interview segment, using a hacky, scientifically-inaccurate sitcom plot device he’d hooked up to the Titantron. I expected them to follow it up with a backstage segment where Miz is rubbing his hands together, and Waldo Geraldo Faldo shuffles up and is all “I DON’T THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA, MIZ”.
The very worst Worst of Miz’s star-unmaking turn was his reactions to Paul Heyman. Because he is now a WWE babyface, he had to make fun of Heyman’s voice and call him fat.
Serious question: Why can’t anyone in WWE react reasonably to Paul Heyman? What did he do in the past that was so unforgivable he must be derided and attacked whenever he’s on screen? Is it because he ran a rival promotion 15 years ago? You know you guys kinda bankrolled that promotion, right? Heyman’s character is easy to hate: he’s a manipulative ass-kisser who is in it for himself. Why is that such a hard character to come back on? Why not dissect what he’s saying and make him look like a fool instead of punching him in the face for mentioning the word “children” in a sentence and making fun of him for how he looks? He is f**king feeding you ways to tear him down. It’s the same thing they do with Vickie. She’s a childish, cruel, vindictive person and the only thing you’ve ever got to say to her is “you look fat and old!” I think the reason we liked the CM Punk from last summer is that he was the first person we’d been given to cheer for who wasn’t a colossal f**king dimwit.
If Miz is truly going to be Y2J-Lite, he’ll whip up a “Paul Heyman’s face on a walrus body” photoshop and pipe-bon it on the Tron next week.
Worst: That Time Superman Teamed Up With Superman
Credit and +1 to open discussion thread participant Juby14 for that phrasing.
I know you guys get pissed at me when I bail on Raw segments (because this is MY JOB and you are ENTITLED to my opinion), but I could not possibly give less of a shit about these main-eventer tag team things. They’re the most cut-and-paste things in wrestling history, and unless they’re built around an important moment or game-changing finish (such as, I don’t know, Dolph Ziggler pinning John Cena semi-cleanly to make him look like he’s got a shot in hell at TLC), I’m going to go upstairs and write about hockey stories until it’s done.
John Cena teaming with Sheamus to beat two guys who shouldn’t be haplessly losing matches on Raw, including the 7-foot 500-pound Heavyweight Goddamn Champion of the World, is the most “wrestling fans showing up to see wrestlers and not wrestling” thing I can think of. Cena could’ve stood in the middle of the ring and thrown arm bands at people for 10 minutes and it would’ve accomplished the same thing. I am legitimately more interested in coming up with dick jokes for the Wrangler commercials than I am in watching Ziggler eat another tag pinfall to build to him going backstage and asking for another match, because he can “look good” beating Cena in some imaginary world where rock beats paper and we haven’t seen him lose to the dude 75 times.
Worst: Killing The Big Show White Noise Spot
Again, I’m not asking for Eye Of Tyr continuity here, but how many times can Michael Cole believably say he’s SHOCKED BEYOND BELIEF that Sheamus picked up Big Show in the White Noise? Sheamus has hit Show with White Noise every time they’ve looked at each other in the last month. It’s impressive, yeah, in the same way that Cena picking up Show for the AA is impressive, but that is also a thing we have seen a thousand times. I feel like they could express how impressed they are without pretending they’re seeing something for the first time.
And speaking of the first time seeing something, how about Jerry Lawler pulling the “I just got here/have amnesia” gag two weeks in a row by asking Cole if he saw Dolph Ziggler’s shirt? I know you had a heart attack, Jerry, but heart attacks don’t destroy the part of your brain that allows you to pay attention and that is seriously the only non-bicycle-shorts article of clothing Ziggler’s worn on television since October. It is not a ridiculous request for me to ask that the people who sit at a table next to the wrestling ring 2-3 times a week be as aware of the wrestlers and what they’re doing as me. That doofy girl in the John Cena shirt who wouldn’t stop YOU CAN’T SEE MEing at the camera behind the announcers and shrieked for five minutes when John hugged her probably knows what Dolph Ziggler’s shirt says, and she’d never heard of wrestling until yesterday afternoon*.
*Those are the only people who get front row seats. Dying people, 10-year olds who won’t stop taunting and The Troops. I have been watching wrestling for 85 years and have never sat front row at a WWE event. I got flown to Los Angeles and taken to the show as the guest of the people who make WWE’s video games and even THEN we were five rows back. You have to be someone’s illiterate nephew or Fred Durst** to get front row Raw tickets.
Worst: Jeans That Are Not Wranglers
“I can wear Wrangler jeans without them twisting my balls up like a hair braid. Fine by me.”
Fun fact: I tried to watch Impact Wrestling this week, and the only thing I can remember about it is how Wrangler sponsors them, too, and how wrestling fans must be the top demographic for people who get their dick sliced up by off-brand jeans. Hey Dale Jr., if your jeans are crumpling up your nuts, buy a larger size of jeans.
Wait, no, I remember TNA copying WWE’s copying of them by having the only part of the show I really loved (Bully Ray) turn into Brooke Hogan’s teenage boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks. And ECW GM Tiffany doing the Teddy Long thing where “pro wrestling general manager” and “referee” are the only two available jobs. And Rob Van Dam having Tortoise-itis.