– Our comments were down by like… 80 last week (and it was a good week!) so prepare for NONSTOP DEMANDS FOR YOUR COMMENTS, LIKES, TWEETS AND SHARES. Help a brother out, all I do is give you free entertainment and make you click five-seven times.
– This Sunday is ACW’s Prom, so if you’re interested in filling in for the Best and Worst of Over The Limit and have some sort of resume (like being a nationally touring comedian or having played Dr. Cube in Kaiji Big Battel) that would make me go “oh wow okay” or some ridiculous amount of Twitter followers that would trick me into believing the first half is true, shoot me an e-mail.
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– Don’t forget to check out the Raw Deal at TJR Wrestling. John’s perspective is easier to enjoy than mine, and contains 100% fewer Excel Saga references.
– Info about our live show:
The Monday Night Raw Watch Party returns on the 21st of May with two (hopefully only two) hours of jokes, wrestling and … well, that’s it. It’s free, and attending instantly makes you one of my best friends. If you can get there, get there. RSVP now. Not enough of my readers live in central Texas, or they’re too jerky to admit it in public.
Until then, please enjoy the Best and Worst of Raw for May 15, 2012.
Best: The Backstage Part Should’ve Been The Entire Opening Segment
As longtime readers know, the scientifically-proven worst way to start a Raw is with a wide shot of the audience and the BROWWWWWWWWWWW intro of “The Game”. Seriously, the show could start with Vince McMahon wearing a WBF muscle-tank, literally pissing down the neckhole of a decapitated Bryan Danielson and I would’ve nudged Destiny and said, “heh, at least it didn’t start with Triple H’s music”.
That said, I really appreciated the brief bumper between Nickelback and Motorhead wherein John Laurinaitis insincerely (or sincerely, if you watch the show like I do) explained himself to Triple H. He didn’t know Brock Lesnar was going to attack! He got right out of the ring as soon as he could! That’s the kind of sniveling boss heel you want, not necessarily the guy who’s gonna bash John Cena in the back of the head with a microphone. It’s the difference between what ‘The Office’ used to be and what it is now. Before, the awkward humor was built around people you might know in real-life situations. Now, Dwight rolls up in a Trans Am full of beets just in time to see Robert California dunking over Meredith and naming a housecat the new branch manager for Dunder Mifflin Scranton.
Even Triple H’s reaction was solid, even if it ended with another one of his weird “I can’t tell my second-in-command anything, I need to stand in a wrestling ring in a suit and explain myself to a bunch of hooting strangers”.
Worst: Triple H Isn’t Telling The Truth
That’s what I didn’t like about last night’s Triple H manifesto … not that it lasted a quarter-hour or that it was Nerd Rage Lighting Rod Triple H talking, that he just wasn’t telling the truth.
This is nothing new for wrestling. In the 80s, Hulk Hogan acted like an asshole to everybody and Heenan and Ventura constantly pointed it out, but you liked Hogan more than them so you pretended like they weren’t telling the truth. Some combination of ages going up and available talent going down has left us here, listening to Triple H say that Brock Lesnar left WWE for UFC and came sniveling back when things didn’t go his way.
Lesnar lost his first UFC fight to Frank Mir. After that he more or less got his shit together and (debatably) worked on some of his weaknesses and ended up as UFC Heavyweight Champion. If he’d “quit at the first sign of losing” he would’ve bailed after Mir, right? And if we want to pretend Mir didn’t exist, Lesnar f**ked with the wrong Mexican and got spanked by Cain Velasquez and got his spleen kicked out by a drugged-out-of-his-mind-on-Bane-Venom Alistair Overeem before he returned to wrestling, and the two important things to remember here are
1. Lesnar was, as Tom Holzerman puts it, “in the throes of a massively protracted battle with diverticulitis”, and
2. Velasquez and Overeem would end Triple H’s actual life within 10 seconds of a real fight.
So why not go with the REAL story? Brock didn’t quit WWE for UFC, he quit to try to make it in the NFL and failed miserably. So he went to Japan and tried to make it big, but it was all based on his previous WWE fame and he was never anything but a novelty attraction. So he got into mixed martial arts and had some iffy successes before getting Super Diarrhea Disease and coming back to scrape the last bit of money he can out of a combat sport where closed-fist punches are illegal. He’s a borderline-retarded albino farmhand who’d have been shot by now if he was a horse, you don’t have to try and make us boo him for being a “flip-flopper”.
Worst: The Problem With Multiple Authority Figures
One of the major problems with pro wrestling in the 2000s is that the big successes of the 1990s were based on three characters:
1. The bad guy who occasionally does good and becomes an anti-hero
2. The evil authority figure who wants to make things terrible for the good guys and anti-heroes
3. The group of bad guys who show up all the time and beat everybody up as a gang because they aren’t tough enough to fight individually.
The 2000s (and now the 2010s) have been built around constructing and reconstructing these characters ad nauseum to try to recreate that success. What made those things a success in the 90s was how different they were from the stuff that worked in the 80s, but that’s another, much longer story.
What happens during the creation of these characters is that they rarely “hit” right away, so wrestling companies create several of them at once and run them alongside one another until one catches on. It’s why we have Brodus Clay, Lord Tensai and Ryback all doing the Goldberg thing side-by-side right now, and why at one point TNA had Dixie Carter, The Board Of Directors, Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Mick Foley, Jeff Jarrett, Sting and Traci Brooks in “authority figure” roles. Anti-heroes don’t work unless they’re up against authority figures, so every anti-hero you create needs their own authority. And if you’ve got 15 anti-heroes, you have to create 15 f**king authority figures. So Traci Brooks is in charge of the Knockouts and Sting can make matches and Dixie Carter is the owner and Jarrett is the founder and they are all governed by the Board of Directors but some of them can overrule them but not in certain situations and it all jumbles up into a big pile of tangled up sh*t and nothing makes sense and everything is meaningless.
That’s what WWE is setting about to accomplish right now. They’ve worried too much about General Managers for years, and while Vince -> General Manager -> wrestlers was occasionally confusing enough, they added second general managers and looped back in the Board of Directors. Now they’ve got a Board of Directors, a CEO, a COO, two General Manager positions and a Vice President of Talent Relations all interacting with and overruling and undermining each other. The Board can remove the CEO from COO duties and appoint a replacement, but the Executive VP of Talent Relations can go to the board and have the COO removed from General Manager duties. The General Managers have wrestling matches to decide who the MOST general manager will be, and Vince gets relieved for making things too personal after 15 years of nothing but making it personal, Brock Lesnar can break the COO’s arm and quit and be entitled to tons of money with no consequences (except a match at No Way Out, or whatever) because the Board has to review it, but John Laurinaitis can fire guys for making fun of his voice and make things personal but nobody can review it and he’ll only be punished if he loses a match he made himself.
What I’m saying is that this is all extremely f**king stupid and somebody needs to come up with a fourth character.
Best: And Now Some Positive Things About Our First 14 Minutes Of Triple H
– Paul Heyman is fun to listen to, even when he’s not saying much.
– Triple H’s robot arm is still funny.
– Brock versus Triple H could be great, because Triple H’s limbs are made out of bone fragments and sticky tape and Lesnar don’t play.
– The over/under was set at 19.5 minutes, and we came in well under that.
– The opportunity to continue with my Hayley gifs gimmick.
Best: A Tag Team Match! With People I Like!
Confession time: I am getting a little tired of tag team matches. Something about WWE title feuds always being advanced with randomly paired tag team matches where the result barely matters and the actual tag team title division being a clown’s asshole, I don’t know. At the same time, what kind of clown’s asshole would I be if I complained too hard about Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Cody Rhodes being in the same match?
This was, predictably enough, the best match on the show. I didn’t have a crazy reaction for it when it was happening, but in retrospect (after 14 minutes of open, 22 minutes of crying in the middle and almost 20 of Ace Ventura jokes at the end) it turned into this beautiful Dreamslam 2 epic of pro wrestling joy. I want to go back and watch it five more times to help me remember that wrestling happened on Raw.
So, some good things:
Best: The Reaction Daniel Bryan Should’ve Been Getting Since WrestleMania
Not every crowd can be Miami, but I loved Pittsburgh (ugh, did I just type that) giving Bryan the proper YES! chants and reactions he should’ve gotten from North Carolina and Chicago and everywhere else. In most places he almost has to remind the crowd to YES! Here, they’re YESSING! when he’s on the apron or whenever he throws a kick. That’s the infectious YES! chant my melodramatic WrestleMania sadness helped birth, and I want to see it nurtured.
And hey, the best side effect of WWE herding all the YES! chants into one segment is that Daniel Bryan has to be in that segment by default.
Best: “Millions Of Dollars” Is The New YES!
As great and fun as YES! YES! YES! still is, it has been usurped by the new catchphrase hotness (not ARRUHARRUHARRUH):
Get on that bandwagon now, folks. You know what the difference is between “Millions of Dollars” and “Woo woo woo you know it”? I don’t think you know the difference, but we know. Millions of dollars. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS AND MILLIONS AND MILLIONS AND MILLIONS
Best: Santino Gets Some New(er) Material
Comedy wrestling — when it works — is the best.
That’s why I’m always willing to give Santino a pass. The birth of The Cobra was fun, and no matter how dumb it is to see guys like Dolph Ziggler get hit with it and collapse into nothingness, it’s still fun to stick your arm out and make a snake of it. Other parts of his act (the trombone dance, the sassy powerwalk) have needed a shellacking for at least a year, so I was very excited to see him
1. Break out some new material, or
2. Pretend he was at a house show and do some of the stuff we don’t see all the time
on Raw. House shows should seriously be like the open-mic night for pro wrestlers. That’s where you should be trying ANYTHING to see if it works, and when you’ve got a solid 10 minutes you bring it on wrestling’s Leno (WWE TV). The diving hot tag to nobody was great, as was his failure to dive through the ropes, even though part of me wanted to see him do the gentle winking Ebessan version where he just sticks his arms through the ropes and yells WHOOSH and not hit them with his stomach and flop around like he hurt himself. I guess that’s just the difference in audience, and why updated Simpsons opening has Homer being hit by the family car and knocked through a Homer-shaped hole in the wall.
Yes, I am pretentious enough to request my pro wrestling comedy be peaceful and subtle. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS
Worst: Let’s Focus On At Least One Of These Belts, Okay Guys
The only Worst for the tag team match is that it features the United States Champion, the Intercontinental Champion and the WWE Champion and none of those belts is the focus or the important part of the story. These guys just seem to be teaming with and against each other because they were told to. There was a brief thing about how Cody thinks the IC title is more important than the US title (it is) and Bryan and Punk are facing off at Over The Limit (on f**king SUNDAY) but the worst thing they did was glare at each other. It seemed like a way to hotshot a champion vs. champion match onto a card with four matches (five if you count the Raw tag team placeholder match) and a way to kill time in a feud between two guys with ten years of history and huge fanbases.
The show was pretty boring, so these Bests and Worsts occasionally lose focus. What I’m getting at is that a tag team match featuring three champions and a guy challenging for the top brass in six days probably shouldn’t be your Raw curtain jerker, and if it is, there should be a reason why. Bryan/Punk and Santino/Cody have nearly the same build right now, and that’s not great.
Worst: Alicia Libre
The less said about the Divas match the better, but Layla looked nice standing at the top of the ramp and Alicia Fox trying to leapfrogs and Mascara Dorada monkey flips made me say, “Oh, honey” outloud. The gif doesn’t make it look as bad as it was because the framerate necessitates it being sped up, but she barely cleared Beth on the leapfrog and then stumbled back into a roll, and Beth just had to kinda stand there and look at her legs for a second before grabbing them and rolling her up to her feet. It was like somebody drugged Ciclope’s drink, and Ciclope ain’t great to begin with.
Oh, and just to say it again, Layla’s music makes me laugh every time. She runs to the ring to protect Alicia and hits Beth with a spinning hairmare facebuster thing (that looked like it hurt her worse than it hurt Beth), and all of a sudden YOU’RE NOT ENOUGH FOR ME/JUST ANOTHER MAN IN LOVE WITH ME blares and Beth grabs her head a bunch because “emotions” and Layla stands there with her hands on her hips nodding and mouthing “that’s right”. That’s right, Beth, you’re not enough of a man for her and also you love her.
Come to think of it, that was the same story she just did with Kelly Kelly, wasn’t it? Hey Layla, here’s some free advice: if you wanna beat Beth Phoenix, just keep rolling her up. You probably won’t have to do it more than once.
Best: David Otunga Is Back!
oh thank god
Things can return to normal now that my favorite character in professional wrestling (narrowly ahead of Maxine and Johnny Curtis as NXT’s Team Rocket and near-sighted tattle-tail Veda Scott), Mr. David Otunga, has returned from his real-life obligations. His thermos still matches his sweater, by the way. A quick Best and Worst of photos from David Otunga’s Raw hiatus:
Worst: This courtroom photo where the person drew him to look like f**king Al Sharpton.
Best: This photo of him and Jennifer Hudson on a roller coaster.
Notice how Otunga returned and Eve’s total screentime was a silent minute at the very end. Never leave us again, David.
Best: People Actually Like The Big Show
And while we’re on the subject of unflattering pictures:
A homemade, airbrushed Randy Orton shirt, a medallion and a Big Show poster that is 15% WWE logos. You, my hilarious little friend, are the sign of the night.
Best?: Kane Versus Big Show Wasn’t That Bad, Really
I remember watching the first few minutes of this match (which is only like, five minutes long) and thinking “wow, this isn’t as bad as I expected it to be”. They fought with a sense of urgency, and while it wasn’t their catch-as-catch-can classic from years ago it was a big man versus big man fight that moved along briskly and (as the Battleship commercials say) had “a heartbeat”.
I might as well have walked out onto my balcony and said “hey, the weather sure is nice!” before a tornado touched down, destroyed my house and dropped me off in the merry old land of f**king Oz.
Hilarious, Hilarious Worst: 22 Minutes Of Big Emotions
And now the centerpiece to the May 14 edition of Raw, nearly a half an hour of John Laurinaitis trying to top that time Ricardo Rodriguez ran over the Big Show’s leg in a car by forcing him to get on his knees and beg for his job.
Honestly? I sorta liked it. Some of that has to do with me loving John Laurinaitis and hating the Big Show, but I thought as a concept it was pretty well done — Laurinaitis was being a terrible, reprehensible boss to one of his employees for a petty reason and not whipping out a chair and having his bald Japanophile manservant hold them down, he was just being a coldhearted prick. It was an exaggerated version of a situation tons of people have been in before … a menial task boss decides to lord his power over you, and as a human being you just kinda want it to be over so you can go back to doing the menial tasks.
I remember my boss at Blockbuster Video telling 19-year old me that I should just shut up and do my job, because I was never going to amount to anything and this was the best I could do. I spent two years as a trainer at Olive Garden (a job I recommend to anyone who wants to go vegan for life and hate strangers), and I remember our management changing and the new boss deciding to “make an example” of me in front of the staff so people would respect him. I remember so many of these ridiculous situations where someone with a sad heart made the purposeful decision to be cruel because their situation in life had become slightly more advantageous than another’s. At no point did any of these people pull down their pants and try to make me kiss their ass cheek, and that’s why I thought the segment worked better than most.
I also thought Show did a solid job of being a blubbering chump. You have to suspend disbelief and assuming TNA doesn’t exist in the WWE Universe and Show has found himself in a Shawn Michaels situation where he’s living paycheck-to-paycheck and can be Virgil’d at any moment, but as a guy about to get laid off from the only job he’s ever had, he did well. I felt bad for him and wanted him to punch John Laurinaitis in the face and go traipsing off to NXT to wrestle Curt Hawkins for William Regal. Just like his feud with Cody Rhodes, one of my least favorite wrestlers elicited enough reason and emotion to get me on his side, and hoping he’d bop the guy I like and shut him up.
All that being said, there is no goddamn reason for you to devote 22 minutes of a primetime wrestling show to us watching Big Show cry about being fired. F**k you.
Best: The Griefasaurus
I loved (loved loved) how Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole put on their most disgusted faces and their most Owen voices to shake their heads mournfully about what’d just happened to The Big Show, and then all of a sudden HERE’S A DISCO BALL and LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THE ONLY LIVE-INGGG and a bunch of enthusiastic introductions. It was like watching Sophie’s Choice on cable and flipping over to ‘The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody’ right at the end. Sophie and Nathan are committing suicide and boom, suddenly Mr. Moesby is doing CRAZY LEGGGGS, CRAZY LEGGGGS
My good will toward the show started running out around here. I don’t remember a lot about the match, other than Dolph Ziggler’s 200th consecutive running jumping headbutt into nothing and the feeling that large chunks of the match were missing. To put it another way, the WWE Fan Nation highlight version is 4 minutes long but still features the cutaway to A.W. and PERM and Mason Ryan (MR. AW PERM?) and the full post-match thing where they bring a bunch of kid plants (or “Littles Jimmy”) into the ring and have them be precociousauruses.
It’s basically time for Mark Henry to show up, World’s Strongestly Slam Brodus and scream at these kids about air bills until they disperse. Yeah, I know Mark Henry just had surgery, but in my brain the hospital version of Henry could still kill Brodus.
Worst: CM Punk And Alex Riley Are Friends
Want proof that CM Punk isn’t cool anymore? He’s hanging out backstage with Alex Riley. And he lent Riley 50 dollars? For what? So he could go to the salon and get the sides of his head shaved like Butthead?
Now at least we have an explanation as to why Alex Riley was trying to narc him out to Chris Jericho last month. Maybe Riley was trying to get Punk stripped and fired so he wouldn’t have to pay up? I’m desperately trying to come up with character motivations and reasons for Alex Riley to exist, WWE, help me out here.
Worst: I Get What Punk Was Going For, But Wow
I’ve narrowed down my opinion on CM Punk to this: I like him as a wrestler, but I hate how he interacts with people.
That’s the opposite of what it was for years. I didn’t like his crummy top rope pedigrees or his weak KENTA rush, but I liked how he screamed at Raven and how much of a dickhole he was to Jeff Hardy and Rey Mysterio’s kids. So I guess the even narrower version is “I like babyface anti-hero CM Punk as a wrestler, but I hate how he interacts with other characters I like”. He spoke derisive Spanish to Alberto Del Rio, he calls John Laurinaitis “stupid” and “ugly” with nearly no provocation and here he is responding to AJ telling him “good luck in your match” by more or less saying “uh you’re a bitch soooo”
And I get what he was doing. AJ is closely tied in to PPV opponent Daniel Bryan and I’m assuming she’ll be involved in their match now, but in the context of the segment (the only context we’re actually provided) she said hi to Punk and he called her unstable to her face. Is that how you’re supposed to interact with people? To skip the pleasantries and go right to pointing out their flaws? AJ’s been treated like shit for months, Mr. Female Empowerment Message CM Punk probably could’ve went to the “hey, are you okay because seriously” well before he went to “f**k off and leave me alone”.
He didn’t call her a hoeski or anything, it just rubbed me the wrong way.
Best: Orton And Sheamus Arguing Over A “W”
Confession: I didn’t watch this match.
What I did see was this match’s ending, with Sheamus pulling Jericho out of the ring, causing Randy Orton to BRO THE HELL UP and get awesome, yelling THAT WAS MY DOUBLE-YOU and other ridiculous LAX Bro nonsense. That’s a Randy Orton I can get behind, a naturally talented guy with a brain disorder who never developed beyond the frat house and is too emotionally immature to handle anything more emotionally complex than jumping and grabbing somebody’s face on the way down. It’s why he makes animal faces and why his merch is three seconds of graffiti away from saying SEX PREDATOR — he’s not tough, he’s sick. Look at his skin!
If I was a heel, I would always feud with Sheamus. He’s Bart and Lisa, swinging their arms around like THIS and kicking the air like THIS and if you happen to get in the way of it it’s not their fault. He’s just throwing Putski hammers and Brogue Kicks, and if you’re a WWE heel you can eliminate 80% of your damage by putting him in situations where he has to spend more than five minutes with someone else you hate.
Worst: Is Anybody Interested In Anything Chris Jericho Is Doing?
Best: Kane And Zack Ryder Take It To The Pre-Show
This gets a “worst” for ensuring that I won’t be watching the Over The Limit pre-show, but it gets a couple of smaller “bests” for continuing the YouTube pre-show concept and for making it a match that needs to happen. I’ve never understood why Ryder took out his wheelchair aggressions on Cena for accidentally save-kissing Eve Torres but didn’t say a goddamn word to the guy who broke his back and sent him wheeling helplessly off a stage. The biggest payback Ryder’s gotten is some ineffective child abuse forearm shots backstage. Counter a chokeslam with a Rough Ryder like we’ve seen you do before and give this goon some forward momentum. Right now the only difference between him and Robbie E. is an electrocuted fish sell.
Here’s an idea for the WWE: either use the remainder of your pre-show to show video hype packages you aren’t going to show on the pay-per-view itself, or save those packages for the PPV and fill up the half-hour with additional matches.