The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 4/9/12: The One With The Three Stooges

Jericho_CM_Punk_Pour_Beer

Pre-show notes:

– I’m back, having missed last week’s show due to WrestleMania and a night doing the sad music Peanuts walk in an airport.

Don’t be afraid to leave a comment on this report. We’ve build a great community of intelligent, funny wrestling fans and you should be a part of it, because seriously, you aren’t gonna find it anywhere else.

– If you’re in the Austin, Texas area, be sure to mark April 23 on your calendar because I will be making my PROFESSIONAL COMEDY DEBUT at a the Monday Night Raw Watch Party, a thing where he play Raw on the big screen, mute it and talk about it/dub it over ourselves. It’s basically the Best and Worst of WWE Raw live. If you miss that, you’re dead to me. DEAD TO ME.

– Big thanks again to Casey/THESTINGER for helping me out with gifs and pictures. Be sure to visit his gifs Tumblr for the stuff I didn’t use. I gave him a page at the end, so be sure to read that when you’re done.

– Follow us on Twitter @withleather, follow me personally @MrBrandonStroud and like us on Facebook.

Please to enjoy the Best and Worst Of WWE Raw for April 9, 2012. Spoiler alert: it is not as good as last week’s.

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Best: Now THAT’S How You Get People Excited About Pro Wrestling

I don’t know how many times I formally begged for any of the WrestleMania 28 stories to erupt into a thing where the wrestlers just have to punch each other, because there’s no sense of urgency to tersely worded in-ring business discussions and try as I might to be an intellectual I’m paying you monies to see guys pretend to murder each other. Triple H/Undertaker didn’t get going until the match, Punk/Jericho didn’t get going until the week AFTER the match and Cena/Rock is scheduled to get going sometime in November.

John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, at least so far, is the opposite of that. Last week’s return was quick and purposeful — without a lot of exposition, dickhead Brock Lesnar showed back up out of the blue and trounced John Cena mopey Ron Washington-esque acceptance of failure with a finisher he’s had stored for like six years. This week, instead of yammering on about how he’s not gonna get mad at Brock and how SOMMA THESE FANS LIKE MEH SOMMUVUM DON’T THAT’S AIGHT he just slapped Brock in the face and they punched each other.

Not enough to ruin a formal match between them or anything, but enough to let me know these guys are mad enough at each other to punch and are trying hard enough to be top shelf pro wrestlers that they’re willing to move beyond the derpy name-calling.

Interest in Brock Lesnar calling John Cena a “beantown bitch” or whatever: 0%

Interest in watching Brock Lesnar put John Cena’s blood on John Cena’s face: 100%

Bloody_John_Cena_WWE_Raw

Best: You Made Me Bleed My Own Blood!

The lack of bleeding in WWE is a blow to wrestling storytelling, but it has one major upside: if it never happens, it means a whole f**king lot when it does.

For example, Cena started getting big during JBL’s title reign and they had a great I Quit match for the WWE Championship at Judgment Day 2005. Cena bled buckets in the match, but you don’t remember it because everybody was bleeding buckets around that time, and any and all JBL + championship + blood thoughts go directly to Eddie Guerrero, as they should.

Now nobody bleeds, because Mattel or Kenner or whoever’s in charge of making the HOOK THROWIN’ EVAN BOURNE doll this year is okay with violence as long as there are no realistic outcomes or consequences. If Joey Mercury had gotten his face split open by an errant ladder edge in 2011 the rest of Armageddon would’ve been far away shots of doctors scooping brain matter off the ground while Michael Cole talked solemnly and Dave Taylor stood around with his hands in his pants.

What I’m getting at is that unexpected blood (especially in the contest of a pull-apart brawl, where things are so hectic you can’t send in a medic to slow things to a crawl) can be a big moment. The only real downside to it is that ever-present wrestling plot hole where they show Brock throwing an accidental punch and being all LOOK HOW HARD IT CONNECTED with slow motion replays, then follow it up with 10 minutes of Santino getting punched flush in the face and being fine. And then everyone else in the history of wrestling being punched in the face and being fine.

Thank God we can write it off as “Brock Lesnar’s punches are super powerful because he did UFC!” and we don’t get any Attitude Era moments where Cena says BROCK YOU PUNCHED ME FOR REAL, NOW THIS IS NOT STORIES IT IS REAL LIFE.

Best: Oh Hey Look, It’s The Guy Who Taught Brock Lesnar How To Shooting Star Press

Every time WWE road agent Billy Kidman is on television, WWE road agent Juventud Guerrera needs to run out and hurricanrana him. I know this would involve 1) finding Juventud Guerrera, 2) giving Juventud Guerrera a job, 3) putting Juventud Guerrera in charge of people, but I stand by my statement.

How much better would Raw be if they sent out Dean Malenko to cloverleaf people who’ve gotten out of control? Jack Swagger gets rough with a referee and Malenko just appears and Ciclopes the shit out of him.

Laurinaitis_Suit_WWE_Raw

Best: John Laurinaitis Owns Teddy Long, Displays His WrestleMania Brother Love Suit

John Laurinaitis outfitted his Executive Vice President Of Talent Relations And Permanent General Manager Of Both Raw And Smackdown office with those pay-per-view and WWE films posters they put in your contract you can’t control, but he made sure to hang up his WrestleMania 28 victory jacket (the one that made him look like The Apostle) and included an engraved date plaque to mark the occasion.

I’m considering doing the same thing to my Team Johnny shirt.

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Best: Tag Team Wrestling With People Who Are Good Or We Care About

The tag team championship match at WrestleMania featured three teams:

– The Usos, who are good but sorta stuck in this modern Samoan thing where they’re not Samoan enough to be mindless savages, but enough Samoan so “Samoa” is the entire point so they can’t be real people or wacky enough to be of Interest.

– Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd, two talented wrestlers with no deeper identity than “haircuts” who got matching gear to be a tag team, so of course one of them was immediately injured.

– Primo and Epico, tag team champions coasting on an ethnic identity they aren’t good at portraying or convincing enough at selling who are so pointless and boring even I don’t like them, and I like everybody this popular.

In contrast, the non-title-related tag team match on Raw last night featured the following:

– Santino, the shockingly popular United States Champion

– Brodus Clay, the fat dancing dinosaur who makes ya laugh and is also 400 pounds and can kill you

– Dolph Ziggler, the Observant Fan’s Best In The World

– Jack Swagger, who is not compelling in any way but is secretly the most interesting man in wrestling, and whose haircut destroys Justin Gabriel’s AND Tyson Kidd’s.

– Vickie Guerrero, who has gotten more shoot heel heat excusing herself once than Mr. Anderson has gotten in his entire career.

So regardless of the match quality, it was an enjoyable thing for the fans because it involved people they knew and are at least used to vaguely caring about. This is how you do it — you put established stars into established situations, pepper it with guys who need broader exposure (Brodus Clay, in this example), make sure at least one guy involved can make wrestling moves look like they hurt, give the crowd a reason to boo or cheer. Easy peasy Lord Tensai Japanesey.

WWE could still save tag team wrestling, because tag team wrestling is the easiest kind to save. When done right, it makes everyone look important and good at wrestling.

Worst: Wait, Is That It

Brodus_Clay_Dolph_Ziggler_Sell_WWE_RawI was pretty shocked to see the match end with Funkasaurus just knocking Dolph down and pinning him like it was nothing. This isn’t meant as one of those WEH THEY’RE BURYIN’ MUH DUDE complaints (Ziggler should probably always lose, because he looks so fantastic losing) as much as it’s me wondering why Swagger couldn’t have just wandered in and booted Brodus in the head to keep things going. They immediately cut to Vickie after the pinfall and she was making the same face as me. Am I a cougar?

If you’re going to have the Funkasaurus effortlessly pin one of your best guys and dance like nothing happened, it’s gotta go one of two ways:

1. A Brodus/Ziggler feud that gives Ziggler legitimacy against guys that big and teaches Brodus how to more effectively wrestle a back-and-forth match against guys that small (because he’s gonna be wrestling a lot more guys that size if he sticks around).

2. Ziggler Zig-Zag-Manning the f**k out of Santino and taking the US Title so Funkarella can be a thing in your tag team division, which we’re pretending will exist.

Worst: I Need To Be Enjoying The Funkasaurus More

I’d like to keep loving Brodus Clay as much as I did when the Funkasaurus debuted, but it’s getting harder and harder in the wake of Bunch Of Mammies Booty Dancing-Gate. Please continue to put more of an emphasis on you being a fat dancing dinosaur who destroys people and less on the fact that you’re a black one.

Best: Lawler’s ‘Reptile Dysfunction’ Joke

Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole both get bests this week, which feels weird to type after like two years of them being the worst announce team this side of “guy from indy promotion” and “wrestler from that promotion who thinks he’s funnier than he is and is really into cussing on the microphone” in wrestling history.

Fun fact: One of the easiest ways to make me happy is to talk about dinosaurs. Cole and Lawler had two great exchanges about dinosaurs:

1)

“He’s called the Funkasaurus, he could be a Brontosaurus which means thunder lizard. I’ve been doing my dinosaur research.”

“You know if I was a dinosaur I would be troodon.”

“What’s that?”

“That’s the smartest dinosaur.”

2)

“You know, I think I want to be T Rex if I was a dinosaur.”

“If you were a dinosaur the only thing you’d do is suffer from reptile dysfunction.”

Also the part about Santino being a Stegosaurus because he has a “walnut-sized brain”. Part of me really loves Michael Cole looking up dinosaurs in the Encyclopedia Britannica and confidently comparing himself to the smart ones, but not as I love Lawler daring to make the bad joke and having it work fantastically.

Editor’s note: Triceratops is the best dinosaur. COME AT ME, BRO.

Worst: Oh God He’s Looking For The Three Stooges Now

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, the “celebrity” “guest” “hosts” for Raw were The Three Stooges. Not the actual ones who’ve been dead for 40-60 years, not even the false Also Stooges like Curly Joe. The ones from The Three Stooges, a Farrelly Brothers join opening THIS FRIDAY APRIL 13TH. Will Sasso from ‘Mad TV’, Sean Hayes from ‘Will & Grace’ and A Third Guy Who Was On An Episode Of ‘Charmed’ Seven Years Ago.

Of course Santino doesn’t know that, and his first task after winning a tag team match against Actual Pro Wrestlers was to sassy powerwalk around stage looking for Thes Threes Stoogeses, becauses theys ares huges starses ins Italies. I can’t do the Santino accent. Anyway, having “The Three Stooges” host the show instead of Will Sasso, Sean Hayes and Charmed Speaking Part was a bad idea, and another page in a torrid chapter of wrestling’s weird inability to decide if it is fiction or reality, and whether or not we should have Robert Wuhl on the show or pretend he’s Arli$$.

Best: WWE Employees Have Never Heard Of Comedy

so was kane in a timeout or what

As bad as guest hosts can be, I sorta loved the WWE Backstage Universe’s response to Santino’s Three Stooges excitement. Santino walks up to Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks and is all HAVES YOUS SEENS THES STOOGESES OPENINGS APRILS THIRTEENTHS and instead of being funny or wrestlery about it, they just go “uhhhh what no” and ignore him. So he Santinos around the corner and runs into Kane, who doesn’t beat him up or do anything threatening really but shows zero interest in The Three Stooges or helping Santino find them.

They should’ve had the Three Stooges no show and just had Santino meander around the locker room trying to meet them and running into nothing but “are you serious, that movie is gonna bomb, have you seen hunger games” and then like 40 minutes of Camacho explaining what the Hunger Games is and why it’s so awesome.

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Worst? Best?: A Video Package Of A Video Package Distraction Causing A Video Package Distraction

The worst lies in Cody Rhodes losing to R-Truth in like a minute and a half, but the Best lies in Big Show using a video package of himself distracting Cody Rhodes with footage of his humiliation and causing Cody to lose a match, effectively distracting Cody and causing him to lose a match. I’m afraid to say he Inception‘d Cody, but I hope next week’s show features Show distracting Cody with a video of him distracting Cody with a video of him distracting Cody, and when Cody loses in the innermost package they cut to him losing in last week’s package and then to him losing in the current week.

Keep this going for a month until we’re watching a video package of a video package of a video package of a video package, and Cody Rhodes is battling CIA agents on snowmobiles and the Cody/Kofi Kingston match on the current Raw takes two weeks to finish.

Worst: The Three Stooges

where’s that video of the monkey peeing in its own mouth when you need it

Best: Lord Tensai Isn’t Racist If You’re Paying Attention

Okay, so, a very important part of Raw I haven’t gotten the chance to write about yet.

There are two major points to make regarding Lord Tensai, the first of which is that yes, Lord Tensai is Albert. Prince Albert, that horrible hoss with the thumb head who got “shave your back” chants because his torso was an Ed Wood fever dream. “Albert” was/is not especially good. Your best memories of him should be the time Val Venis tattooed “VV” on his butt cheek and that he was named after a dick ring.

The thing to remember about Albert is that while he was bad for about 80% of his run, he pulled that Chris Masters thing near the end and started to get really good. He got cut and went to All Japan and then New Japan Pro Wrestling to become GIANT BERNARD, a guy who looked like Albert but he had a descriptive dog’s name, named his tag teams like they were Linda Fiorentino movies (BAD INTENTIONS) and was exceptional at that big clubbering fat guy kind of wrestling. So while he’s truly Albert, you have to remember that wrestlers aren’t always the exact same guy and can get better or worse with time or training.

The other thing is that Lord Tensai is NOT A RACIST THING. This is coming from the guy who thinks EVERYTHING is the racist thing. If you listen to the announcers, they make it very clear that Tensai is a former WWE superstar (acknowledging Albert without yelling ALBERT every time he appears) who went to Japan and saw a ton of success, so he wrote threatening words toward the Japanese on his face (because that’s who he was always facing) and came to be worshipped by some of the Japanese fans, hence his acolyte butler guy. And this week they made it even MORE clear by addressing how Yoshi Tatsu said Tensai wasn’t “real Japanese” by clarfying that he totally is not Japanese, he’s just from Japanese wrestling. Don’t know why Yoshi didn’t speak up when Yokozuna went into the Hall of Fame, but whatever.

So yeah, calling him “Matt Bloom” once would probably remedy these problems, but I reserve the right to defend Lord Tensai’s Japan-themed existence until he starts banging people over the head with gongs or tells Miss Go-rightry that he must protest, whichever comes first.

(note: one of them will come first)

Worst: Albert Chants, Or “Can We Just Go Back To Miami”

Miami’s “thanks for shaving” chant at Lord Tensai was as great as Washington’s “Albert” chants were bad.

Maybe I’ve been on the Internet too long and divorced myself from the abusive marriage to dirt sheetz too many years ago, but nothing screams “I am the bad kind of wrestling fan” like chuckling to yourself and sharing basic wrestling information you just figured out. “HEH, IS THAT ALBERT?” Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that the dude was Albert.

Best: SPIT HAND Is My New Favorite Move

The one thing I hope we can all agree on is the greatness of Lord Tensai’s devastating SPIT HAND, or, as Wikipedia calls it

Clawhold to an opponent’s face, knocking them out in the process, with theatrics[42] (2012–present)

This is the kind of thing I would’ve went nuts over as a kid. I remember having at least five years of wrestling conversation with people about the different colors of the Great Muta’s mist, and how one color blinded you and one color burned, and how if you got the black mist you died seven days later or whatever.

As an adult, I’m okay with the explanation that he’s just spitting onto his hand and rubbing it in your face as an insult, like he’s the pro wrestling Wayne Arnold or whatever, but the kid in me is all HE’S SPITTING ACID ONTO HIS HAND, AND THEN HE CLAWS YOU AND IT BURNS YOUR FACE AND IT DOESN’T BURN HIM BECAUSE HE MADE THE ACID WITH HIS GLANDS SO HIS SKIN IS INVULNERABLE TO IT or something, or maybe it has to do with his tattoos, or it’s ORIENTAL MAGIC.

Kid me was super racist, but bear with me.

Maybe it’s the same thing Rock does when he throws some punches, steps back, spits on his open hand and hits you one last time and it hurts WAY MORE than the others and you go flying. Spit has been shown to temporarily paralyze pro wrestlers (anybody who has ever been spit at stands there contemplating it and holding their face for a minute, so there is precedent) so maybe Albert went to Japan and learned how to not swallow when he wrestled so by the end of his match his mouth would be full, like he’s storing it up.

What I’m getting at is that the Spit Hand is awesome, at least ten times better than a Glovemouth and at least 100 times more interesting to talk about than Alex Riley.

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Best: Chris Jericho Being A Heel By Actually Being A Heel

One of the most flattering opportunities I’ve had since I started writing the Best and Worst of Raw column two Novembers ago at AOL FanHouse is having independent wrestlers approach me for advice on what they could be doing better. Before I continue, let me reiterate: pro wrestlers are basically the coolest people in the world to me and I respect what they do immensely, so despite a little bit of training and a popular column about it I am NOT in the wrestling business and make no claims deeper than being a total mark. I’m okay being that, because if you aren’t in the industry, you’re a mark. There’s no such thing as a “smart” anything.

So yeah, I’ve had the humbling opportunity to throw some advice that way, and the thing I’ve always said is that heel and face don’t really exist on the independent circuit. I mean, they do, but you don’t “get over as a heel” on the indies. The only way you can really find success is being liked by the fans, be it for being a great good guy or a great bad guy. You can make those fat ladies who think it’s real curse at you or whatever, but that’s not getting you a job on TV anywhere. You have to get people on board with what you’re doing, do it well, do it constantly and have enough people say “hey, you should see this wrestler” for someone with a serious bank account to see you.

Wrestling fans who consider themselves smart tend to do this in the big leagues, too, myself totally included. I see a guy like Cody Rhodes and I don’t boo him for the bad things he’s done to Big Show, I cheer him because he’s awesome and the Big Show sucks. Heel and face have very little to do with it, despite how much I can appreciate the learned execution of either of those roles.

That all being said, I LOVE what Chris Jericho is doing with CM Punk lately, partially because of how true to the idea of a “heel” he’s being, and because of how by being an actual f**king heel about things he can alienate the fans who want him to be the bad guy but want to still cheer him for being cool. He’s not cool — he’s reprehensible, doing something you can’t justify even with a laugh, and he’s being SUCH a prick and SUCH a troll and SUCH an unbelievable piece of crap about it that some of the smarter fans don’t know what to do, and they go to the catch-all “X-Pac heat” to find a jargon definition for what they’re feeling.

It’s not X-Pac heat you’re feeling. It’s heat.

In better days, you wouldn’t say “lol how awesome are the horsemen for jumping dusty in the parking lot and breaking his hand, that was great”, you’d say F**K YOU YOU HORSEMEN MOTHERF**KERS DUSTY’S GONNA KICK YOUR ASS. The way this is going, even Chris Jericho’s fans are gonna be yelling CM PUNK’S GONNA F**K YOU UP FOR POURING BEERS ON HIM because it is f**king VILE and unforgivable and it F**KING WORKS.

What wouldn’t work is if, say, they had their most popular good guy wrestler pouring beer on people and the crowd loved it. It’d be even worse if he did his finisher to women for not wanting to drink a beer with him.

Best: This CM Punk Is A Thousand Times Better Than Cool Disinterested Comic-Con Guest CM Punk

I like this guy.

One of the reasons I got on the CM Punk bandwagon so early in his career is because for all his faults, he was an identifiable human being … a pissed off, principled but in-it-for-himself type who tried to be a good person and got overwhelmed to the point of righteous anger at the people who disappointed him. That’s a very human characteristic, and one I’ll buy over “he tells jokes and remembers WWF ice cream bars” any day of the week.

I’m happy that Punk has a story to tell, because that’s when he’s at his best. He’s not “the new Shawn Michaels”, but he’s got Shawn’s ability to get across a pro wrestling story, and Shawn’s ability to turn overacted melodrama into something’s conclusion you wouldn’t mind paying to see.

Jericho trying to force alcohol on Punk to shake him is exactly the same as another storyline that bothered everyone, “Piggy James”. LayCool made fun of Mickie James for gaining a bunch of weight (which she didn’t) (at least not really), mocked her, beat her up, threw food on her. The problem is that LayCool “won” the feud and Mickie James got fired, and there was never a moment when Mickie really got to go off on them and beat the dog mess out of them for the bad things they’d done. If this feud ends with Punk deciding it’s okay to have a drink or two and Jericho being celebrated as the great social mediator, then yeah, it’ll be Piggy James again.

I’ve got a pretty good feeling that’s not where it’ll go.

Worst: Speaking Of The Best In The World, Where The Hell Is Daniel Bryan

They hand out YES! signs in the crowd and make YES! YES! YES! shirts available for sale and they don’t even have him on the show? I know he’s technically a Smackdown guy and they’re telling his story over there, but come on, if I have to see Big Show and Teddy Long on Raw you can at least give me the vegan.

I want to see him make more Hybrid Dolphin faces because he can’t believe how much everyone loves him.

Best: Mark Henry Arbitrarily Beating People Up And Vanishing

Actually forget Jericho, Punk AND Daniel Bryan. Just give me Mark Henry shrugging off monitor shots to pull people around by the leg and World’s Strongestly Slam them to death for the benefit of approaching heels. Mark Henry should never be pinned, and should only lose for stupid reasons like counts-out or ring collapses.

Worst: So What, Is Abraham Washington Just Gone Now

The only problem I had with last week’s Best and Worst of Raw fill-in column from Chris Trew is that Abraham Washington reappeared on Raw and Chris didn’t know who he was.

Just so I can type the paragraph again, I may be the biggest Abraham Washington fan in the world. I thought his run on WWECW as a purposefully awkward talk show host with a Bryant Gumbel voice who would occasionally morph into an angry black man before collecting himself and continuing to soldier through his terrible material was inspired. It’s one of the funniest things the WWE ever did (alongside Derrick Bateman’s double date with the Bella Twins and Gene Snitsky’s wedding poem).

So hopefully you can see how excited I was to write a bunch about Abraham Washington this week, and then Mark Henry comes out by himself and he is never mentioned. Henry sets up a title match for next week, and Abraham Washington never shows up.

What noise does Tony Atlas make when he’s frowning?

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