– As of right now, I’m not sure what the status is on the Best and Worst Of Royal Rumble ’12. I’m assuming it’ll still happen, but come to terms with the reality that it may not. Hopefully a Rumble 2000 report, two open threads and a Best And Worst Of Raw report in four days is enough wrestling content to keep you feeling fulfilled. If I keep up this pace they’re gonna sh*t-can me from With Leather and you’ll have to read my reports on Scoop This.
– Comments are loved and appreciated. So are “likes”. Clicking like is even easier than commenting, so at least do that. Last night’s Open Discussion Thread featured over 1,500 comments (holy crap) so we’re gonna start working on the likes.
– A.J. picture only tangentially related.
– The biggest and most profuse Thank You ever goes out to Marty Springall @CranberryNapalm for providing high quality screengrabs while 1) my normal computer is down and 2) WWE Fan Nation is being weird about uploading videos. Couldn’t have done it without you, guy. FOLLOW HIM AS A THANK YOU. Gifs contained within are, as always, courtesy of Jerusalem at Punchsport Pagoda.
– Additional reading: UGO’s Raw Report. I disagree with him about … basically everything.
Worst: This Isn’t Working For Me Because What You’re Saying Isn’t True
It feels weird to watch Raw closely enough to write a 7-to-11 page book report on it for With Leather every week and realize I’ve missed a grade-1 storytelling plot point an arena of wrestling fans have picked up on. Since going behind Triple H’s back to the board of directors last … what, September? John Laurinaitis hasn’t done anything so blatantly heelish that he deserves immediate dismissal and a building full of people booing him. He hasn’t. The crowd is booing him because people they like keep insulting him. That’s it.
CM Punk has spent the last several months screaming in Laurinaitis’s face about how he’s WORTHLESS and PATHETIC and how he’s JUST JEALOUS that Punk gets to be a WWE Superstar, something Laurinaitis wanted but couldn’t achieve. John Morrison randomly waltzed up to Laurinaitis one time and was all, “I think you suck!” Triple H is the only guy with a legit beef against him, and he spent most of the main event segment (blergh) glossing over the whole overt backstabbing thing in favor of talking points like “you are a liar!” and “you put CM Punk in a gauntlet match one time!”
This is the same Triple H who once told a company full of protestors that their concerns about lies and danger were for pussies, and that they should just “suck it up” and do their job because WWE is all about lies and fighting. He’s showing up to condemn Laurinaitis for making people wrestle.
And isn’t that John’s only crime? He made people wrestle. He put CM Punk in matches Punk didn’t like. He let Zack Ryder wrestle when he wasn’t medically cleared, and then when he WAS, he asked him to wrestle again. At what point does this become grounds for dismissal? Does WWE’s board of directors want a guy to make wrestlers wrestle or a guy for whom the wrestlers won’t wrestle? It doesn’t make any f**king sense.
So when CM Punk starts off the show by once again sarcastically trotting out to Halpert the camera and sing Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey” (a song that hasn’t existed outside of wrestling crowds and Remember The f**king Titans since like 1970), all it reads to me as is a guy with an axe to grind against a character trope and a crowd willing to do whatever he says.
As much as I hate to say “hey wrestling, be more obvious”, it might help the constant LAURINAITIS IS THE DEVIL thing if you had him kidnap his own daughter and burn her teddy bear in the middle of the ring.
Best: A Vegan World Heavyweight Champion
Daniel Bryan’s taunt of I’M VEGAN! I DON’T EVEN EAT MEAT! was amazing, although that could’ve been just as true for a vegetarian heavyweight champion. He should’ve thrown in something ridiculously specific like I DON’T NEED VITAMIN D3 TO KICK YOUR ASS, UNLESS IT HAS BEEN DERIVED FROM MUSHROOMS, BECAUSE IN THAT CASE IT WOULD BE BENEFICIAL FOR ME TO SUPPLEMENT MY DIET WITH BEFORE KICKING YOUR ASS. He should wear veganism as a badge and be a super over babyface a la Bret Hart in Canada when WWE comes to Austin and Portland.
Anyway, Daniel Bryan puts me in a unique position as a wrestling fan. It’s sorta like when LeVar Burton tweeted thanking George Lucas for Red Tails, because now he could go to bed dreaming of heroes that looked like him. I have almost NEVER seen a character “like me” in pro wrestling, and to tune in and see this pale ass bearded vegan tapping people the f**k out gives me one of my first ever experiences like this. It feels good. It does. It also makes it really easy for WWE to finally do their Casual Cruelty For Going Against Middle America thing and sh*t in my cereal.
Worst: What DO You Eat?
Case in point: CM Punk saying that if Daniel Bryan doesn’t eat meat, it begs the question… what does he eat?
The punchline here is “dick”, I guess, because CM Punk has terrible personal issues and the most complex joke a wrestling crowd can understand is “lol gay”, but here are a few things I would’ve liked Bryan to have responded with:
1. “Pussy”, followed by a microphone to the face.
2. “Are you calling me gay? Because I AM gay, and I’m going to kick you in the face” followed by a kick to the face.
3. “Mostly vegetables, why, is it weird that I eat corn, is that the coolest burn you could come up with, that I have ordered corn at a restaurant” followed by an ear of corn to the face.
4. “What’re you, eleven? Grow up.” followed by an unrelated shovel to the face
Or just something. Anything other than “did you just call me gay, THAT’S THE LAST STRAW” that they went with but thankfully still sorta-avoided. Number 2 would’ve worked really well because it would’ve given us a compelling, complex gay character in pro wrestling’s classically homophobic niche of popular culture or a scene on Smackdown where A.J. shows up and is all “you’re GAY?” and Bryan responds with “no, but he’s a piece of sh*t and it was awesome to kick him in the face”.
Worst: Hey Guys, Did You Realize Sheamus Is From Ireland
Sheamus interrupted the “lovefest” in the ring to announce that he’d use his chance to challenge for a championship at Wrestlemania to challenge for a championship at Wrestlemania (this is new information!), told John Laurinaitis that he should put his potatoes in a pot o’ gold and Dublin them in a shamrock shake, then tacked “Erin go braugh” on the end of it. He then exited the ring, holding up a sign that read “IRELAND”.
I guess I don’t mind a guy who wears a comically-oversied Celtic cross around his neck whose signature moves include the “Irish curse” who once literally danced with a midget dressed as a leprechaun adopting “Ireland Forever” as his catchphrase, because hey, if every Japanese guy gets a ching chong no speaky engrish so solly gimmick and every Hispanic guy has to ride a lawnmower or a low-rider bike to the ring, why not?
Worst case scenario it gets us one step closer to my fantasy booking where Sheamus gets a romance angle and breaks out I LOVE YA, ALWAYS ‘AVE on television.
As dumb as all this almost was, it was nice to end it with CM Punk saying “hey, we’ve known each other for a long time, let’s cut the bullsh*t and just wrestle” and then having that happen. Characters reacting like human beings to wrestling situations should happen more often.
Best: Wade Barrett’s Skybox
Wade Barrett never seems especially effective in the ring (his Nexas coup blew up in his face, The Corre played out even worse, he tossed Orton down stairs but bailed instead of pinning him, he got R’d-KO in three minutes and tossed out of the Royal Rumble like an afterthought) but outside of the ring he is an absolute dynamo. He could work the “classy wrestler” gimmick, probably by himself, for the rest of his career.
There’s something to like about a guy who wears a gigantic jacket with a rose in the pocket and rents out luxury skyboxes from which to observe his opponents when he’s not scheduled to compete. Right? This is the only wrestler on the roster who you’d be hanging out with and say “hey, let’s go to Olive Garden for dinner” and he’d sorta look down his nose at you and say “oh that’s a great idea, and maybe after that we can clap along to the Buona Festa song and scarf down individual chocolate mousse pies and hang ourselves in the bathroom”. There need to be more people like that. People who will Wasteland you for suggesting we go to the f**king Olive Garden.
Best: Mohawk Jackets
I thought Wade Barrett would be the guy in this segment with the best jacket, but out walked Dolph Ziggler in a sleeveless Thunderdome number with a fur mohawk. Faux fur mohawk, I guess. Faux hawk.
Anyway, the jacket was amazing, and the way he kept his head down as he walked to the ring (at the expense of his usual “slick my hair back and flick it on you” taunt) I thought he was gonna Cody Rhodes it back and reveal a new haircut. Probably for the best that he didn’t, lest we forget last year’s “Is That Evan Bourne’s Big Brother”-Gate.Subscribe to UPROXX
Best: Randy Orton And A Crowd On Fire
I’ve written about it at length before, but Randy Orton is bad-f**king-ass as the Silent Babyface Who Wrestles Heels. The crowd loves him, and he’s managed to maintain that love with an emphasis on in-ring competition and a de-emphasis of Home Invasion and/or Constantly Killing DiBiase And Rhodes stories. Basically he’s cutting out the stuff I hate about wrestling and doing the stuff I love. He’s winning a lot, and yeah, the top guys winning all the time and putting windex on the glass ceiling is kind of a drag sometimes, but f**k it, when your matches make a Raw crowd chant ONE, TWO, THREE along with the pin, win.
Seriously, listen to them when Orton starts Snaking Up and launches into his Hunting RKO appeal. That’s some Attitude Era sh*t right there. Wake Up taunts are great because they give the crowd a few seconds of OH GOD HERE IT COMES HERE IT COMES and make either a finishing move or a reversal of a finisher really pop emotionally. They’re also REALLY hard to do, as witnessed by Zack Ryder’s hopping L-I of supreme silence or the way Miz has to look around to make sure people see him wiggling his fingers in V-formation.
I don’t say it enough, but I f**king love that pre-RKO taunt. Love it.
Best: Orton’s Once Upon A Time In China Roll-Up
I liked the entire Orton/Ziggler match, but a highlight was Orton going up into hammock position in the corner and rolling down Ziggler’s back for a schoolboy in the style of Wong Fei-Hung circa 1991. I’ve seen him do it before, but he doesn’t do it often, and his “oh man you guys I was THIS CLOSE” when he came up from it was just as good. Stop making Cena look like such a P.O.S., Randy.
Worst: What You Think Is Happening To Dolph Ziggler
When I write these columns I try to establish a consensus opinion amongst the readers so I can tell if I’m on the right track or if I’m whiffing something completely. One thing I vehemently disagree on is the Internet’s idea that Dolph Ziggler is somehow in the doghouse, or “losing his push”, or a “jobber to the stars” or whatever. I don’t think this could be further from the truth.
Ziggler is the go-to guy. Go-to like Chris Benoit was for WCW in the 90s. Go-to like Randy Savage was for WWF in the 80s. Go-to like Hirooki Goto.
Sometimes we forget it, but professional wrestling is a job. It’s also a show. It’s also not a real sporting competition, so as fun as it is for our favorites to win and as passionate as we SHOULD get in our support of them, wins and losses, at least from a job security standpoint, don’t really matter. Sometimes a wrestler’s best use is winning a lot, so you can create a character like Goldberg or Cena or whatever that people buy as a big time important guy in big time important matches. Sometimes a wrestler’s role is to have great matches with everyone, so people BELIEVE those important guys in the big time matches deserve to be there.
That’s what Ziggler’s doing. He’s having great matches with nearly everyone he’s in the ring with. He’s going the distance with them, trading nearfalls, holding championships, doing his job. If he shows up on Raw next week and loses to the Funkasaurus in 30 seconds or spends the next six months teaming with JTG in dark matches, yeah, worry for his job. But don’t get upset when he loses a match he just brilliantly wrestled on the biggest wrestling company in the world’s flagship primetime show against a multiple-time heavyweight champion. He’s doing great.