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– Continued thanks to Casey/THESTINGER for helping me out with gifs and pictures. Be sure to visit his gifs Tumblr.
– 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.
– That’s right! We didn’t do a bad enough job the first time to get kicked out of The ND in Austin, TX, forever, so we’re doing it again … the Monday Night Raw Watch Party returns on the 21st of May with two (hopefully only two) hours of jokes, wrestling, wrestlers and dumb bullsh*t. It’s free, and attending instantly makes you one of my best friends. If you can get there, get there. RSVP now, so you can be cool enough to be on a page by yourself with me!
Until then, please enjoy the Best and Worst of Raw for May 7, 2012.
Best: Information Adding Depth To Characters And Situations
A lot of people have conflicting ideas about how they’d write a weekly, episodic pro wrestling show for a publicly-traded international corporation, and while it’s fun to write paragraphs about who you’d fire (Kofi Kingston) and who you’d push (Tyson Kidd) and who you’d put into an old-timey circus cannon and fire at a brick wall (also Kofi Kingston), it’s important to remember that TV wrestling (and basically everything else on TV) can be made better in a few simple ways:
1. Pay attention to continuity. It is your friend and helps you build a universe without just saying things are a “universe”.
2. Have everything happen for a reason, and have it make sense.
3. Maintain character integrity. Steps 1 and 2 are instrumental in this.
4. Don’t feel the need to over-explain things, but don’t be afraid to explain it if it benefits steps 1-3.
5. Fire Kofi Kingston
Or make him work out his chest, I don’t know. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that WWE doesn’t do any of these things (especially step 5) on the reg and it leaves us grasping at straws, desperately attempting to explain ourselves and our favorite characters until one of those glorious tentpoles of fandom happen (CM Punk’s first “pipebomb”, matches like Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus from Extreme Rules) to replenish our faith in the inevitability of the steps happening and making things better.
This is the most verbose possible way for me to explain why I loved John Laurinaitis explaining his Super Dave Osborne voice. People are making fun of him for not being able to speak properly every week, and finally he explains that he hasn’t always spoken this way, he was injured in a match in Japan with Dr. Death Steve Williams because he was once a tough and successful professional wrestler who wrestled Dr. Death. That’s it. That is exactly it. It succinctly explains why he sounds like such a weirdo, excuses a lot of his speaking mistakes AND justifies his position of power in a pro wrestling company. How easy is that? How great would it be if sh*t made sense?
Best: I Don’t Care How Predictable A Best It Is, Jun Akiyama Is On Raw
One of the fun things about doing this column is that some of you think of me when you’re watching the shows and instantly recognize stuff to which I’ll give a Best or Worst. As you may have recognized, there is not a conceivable f**king Earth-2 in existence wherein I fail to give a Best to John Laurinaitis explaining his pro wrestling prowess with a 1990s All Japan Pro Wrestling slideshow full of pictures of him doing the least impressive sh*t ever to guys like Giant Baba and Jun Akiyama. Imagine if Billy Kidman went to Mexico City and showed the audience a bunch of pictures of him headlocking Hulk Hogan at Slamboree 2000 he’s been carrying around in his wallet for the last 12 years.
Instead of showing him chinlocking the guy who gets lumped in with the four pillars of puroresu because “Akiyama” is easier to pronounce than “Taue”, I’d like to suggest a photo of Johnny Ace doing something that (to my knowledge) no other human has accomplished: RKO’ing Mitsuharu Misawa off of Kenta Kobashi’s shoulders.
Worst: What Is CM Punk’s Point Exactly
Despite the shifty nature of the Chris Jericho storyline, I’ve warmed back up to CM Punk over the last few months. Why? Because he’d finally gotten himself out of the John Laurinaitis “I hate my stooge boss and can’t stop telling you about it” angle. Sadly, last night’s episode of Raw plunged Punk back into his role as El Hijo del Triple H and had him confront a guy who barely affected him at WrestleMania and hasn’t talked to him for a month to break out those same tired third-grader insults about how he’s stupid and ugly and doesn’t have any friends.
Like before, I get WHY they’re doing it — they want the crowd to boo Laurinaitis, so they have a guy the crowd likes a lot say BOO THIS GUY over and over until they do it — but I don’t understand what Punk’s point is. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it. The escapism of McMahon/Austin was supposed to give the blue collar people at home a fantasy scenario wherein they’d drive a truck full of beer into their boss’s office and beat the sh*t out of him, and that worked because in no reasonable real-life situation would you think to hold a prop gun with a BANG flag in it to your boss’s head until he pissed himself unless you were an unrepentant psychopath. And maybe that’s the difference between 10 years ago and now. 10 years ago your fantasy was to fill a Corvette with cement until it was destroyed and save an innocent lady from an occult zombie’s Satanic wedding. Now you wish you could call your boss “ugly”.
I really wish Laurinaitis had responded to Punk’s “you’re stupid, you’re ugly and you don’t have any friends” with “I have a great job, I’m happily married and David Otunga is my friend”.
“Pipebomb” as a noun to describe “something CM Punk says” is the worst Worst.
Originally the idea was that the microphone ITSELF was the pipe bomb, because in CM Punk’s hands it could explode and kill you by accident at an arms dump or whatever. That worked because Punk had said unprecedented things about WWE and pro wrestling on WWE television and followed it up with that amazing moment where he got Vince McMahon to scream I DON’T GIVE A DAMN WHAT YOU WANT to a crowd of wrestling fans. The words were not the pipe bomb; the opportunity to speak was.
Long story short, CM Punk talks all the goddamn time now, and calling John Laurinaitis is not a “pipe bomb” no matter how hard Jerry Lawler ‘heh’s his way through it.
Best: Big Show, Get Your Stupid Fat Ass Out Of My Way
I’m not sure I’m fully onboard with the increasingly villainous John Laurinaitis character (in a perfect world he’d stay a thumbs-up slinging, ineffectual boss with a slurpy lawyer friend), but I loved him running into The Big Show backstage and just screaming at him for being in the way. Part of it is because of how deeply I want John Laurinaitis to snap on somebody and Ace Crusher them on Raw, and part of it is because the Big Show is a colossal pile of dogsh*t in an ill-fitting Halloween costume and should feel bad about himself.
The new “make fun of my voice and pay the price” initiative needs to be played hard and fast, and Big Show needs to either be future endeavored or shipped off to NXT to slum it with JTG for the next six months as punishment. There needs to be more payoff than “Eve overheard what you said and is making a mean face at you”.
Worst: Hey Cody, At Least Get Beaten Up A Little Before You Bail
Last year, WWE was milking the “rival’s music plays during a guy’s match and causes him to lose” thing for all it was worth, and as bad as pro wrestling tropes can be they’re worse when you use the same one over and over. They don’t do it as much now because they’re in love with the Purposeful Count-Out Loss, where a heel rolls out of the ring 20 seconds into the match and is all UH UH GIVE ME MY TITLE and bails. The matches are a maximum of 4 minutes long so you’ve got to do it quickly, I guess.
I can’t fit everything wrong with this into a paragraph. Firstly, it happens too often. You just did it on Smackdown, for Christ’s sakes. Secondly, basically the only thing that happened to Cody in the match was Big Show stopping his progress and shoving him away dramatically. And yeah, you did a backflip when he shoved your leg, but you’re the Intercontinental Champion, can’t you just get up? The “bail on a match” trope only works when it’s later in a match and the guy with the belt has realized he can’t finish off the challenger or his goose is cooked. Thirdly, you’re depriving me of an Intercontinental Championship match on Raw, and IC title matches are the f**king T206 Honus Wagner of wrestling. Fourthly, you’re depriving me of the Cody Rhodes portion of an otherwise extremely boring Raw. Fifthly, going to this well too often neuters the sh*t out of your bad guys and makes them look like helpless cowards, which is why you need to group 8 of them together every time John Cena needs a beatdown. If you created talented challengers for us to dislike, we’d invest more time and money into seeing the people we like beat them and be interested enough in your show to talk about whether or not we think that’ll happen. Sixthly, this is one of what seemed like half a dozen matches on the show that went less than 2 minutes. Seventhly, f**k.
Watching wrestling these days is like trying to hold a mound of sand in your hand. Give us a f**king bucket, guys.
Best: Big Show Versus Eve Is A Feud
Through some wild combination of Big Show needing a “WrestleMania moment” (and nothing more) and David Otunga being stuck in court, a 7-foot tall 500-pound guy is feuding with LensCrafters Presents Eve Torres over an impression with a sh*tty tone and whether or not he meant an apology. This is actually happening.
This is the kind of dumb crap that would inevitably happen if I was put in charge of WWE. Sure, I’d work hard to craft a 3-year, dynamic Daniel Bryan versus CM Punk rivalry that calls upon the entire history of professional wrestling, validates the existence of independent promotions and leads each man to redefine an aspect of the sport’s humanity, but hell, the other six stories on the show would revolve around Kane’s problems with the production team and The Great Khali feuding with Scott Stanford over God knows what. And hey, as awesome as that sounds, it does not sound awesome.
Next week Show should throw Eve’s glasses on the ground and stomp them, and she should spend the next six weeks acting like she’s blind.
Best: A.W. Is About To Go Heenan Family On You
I almost gave “A.W. stands for All World instead of Abraham Washintgon” a worst, but I reconsidered. While “All World” sounds like the first thing the writing team shouted out when the head of Creative asked “what should A.W. stand for”, but if it becomes a purposeful motivation for A.W.’s stable creation, I’m all for it.
Think about it. He tried to sign Mark Henry, who is the World’s Strongest Man. He succeeded in signing PERM, who are more or less the most (forgive me here) ethnic tag team in the company. They might as well wear potato sacks with PUERTO RICO written across the front. On Raw, he was joined by Mason Ryan, who, in addition to looking like Peter Gallagher as The Incredible Hulk, is Welsh. If Washington uses the world as his outline, he could stock his crew with a TON of WWE castaways from various parts of the globe (Drew McIntyre, Natalya, Aksana, Ezeikiel Jackson, Khali, Jinder Mahal, Yoshi Tatsu, whoever) and create this huge conglomerate of guys who need a chance and can’t get one because the main event scene is Alberto Del Rio, the whitest guy in the history of Europe and the top six white Americans in WWE.
Worst case scenario, Justin Gabriel gets something to do.
Worst: Dolph Ziggler Versus Kofi Kingston
I started writing this column at With Leather during the Summer Of Punk and was fortunate enough to launch it for a new audience during some of the best Raws in years. That also happened to be during the six-to-eighty year stretch when they had Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston wrestle each other (sometimes in 2-out-of-3 Falls matches, sometimes best 5-out-of-9) on every single show. It was a rivalry so tired I once literally put my television in the toilet over it.
They wrestled again last night, and while it’s been a few months since they wrestled 1-on-1 and I want Dolph Ziggler to win matches on every show and be rich and popular forever, I can’t completely clean the sh*t-stains from the underside of my TV. I don’t want to see them wrestle each other. It’s fine, but I don’t want to see it. About 20 seconds into the match my brain went to a PLEASE STAND BY graphic and switched back on for the Zig Zag. It’s sorta like going to that place where you hear voices, except all I hear is screaming.
Worst: Jerry Lawler Can’t Follow Basic Wordplay
Vickie: “Excuse me! Excuse me! Allow me to introduce you to a man for whom the show does not go on, he shows off! Dolph Ziggler!”
Lawler: “For who the show does not go on? What?”
Best: THE ZIG ZAG MAN RIGHT HERE
That being said, it was nice to see Ziggler get a clean (enough) win over someone of note on Raw, especially after the last month or two of him eating Funkasaurus headbutts. The finish looked phenomenal, due in part to the camera angle and in another part to Kofi having been Zigged-Zag more than he’s brushed his teeth.
This seems like a great place to move Swaggler into tag team title contention, ease Ziggler back into that Punk/Bryan corner of the WWE main event scene or into my fantasy universe where 2005 Ring Of Honor became the new ECW, Adam Pearce never existed and nobody at WWE HQ could find Irish Whip Wrestling’s contact info. Also in this fantasy universe I am Callie Thorne’s love interest on ‘Necessary Roughness’, ‘Necessary Roughness’ is non-fiction and the only character welcome on USA is Rhonda Shear.
Worst: John Cena Dresses Like That At Home Too, I Guess
Okay, so the joke here is that Cena dresses in his one pair of jorts and his biannual gifting of one (1) t-shirt, four (4) wristbands, one (1) headband to be used as an armband and infinite (∞) hats, but I’m willing to believe that a via satellite interview constitutes a work function so Cena would put on his “work clothes” for it. I wish he’d worn his I BRING IT VIA SATELLITE shirt, though.
What I hated about this is how quickly Cena shifted from “my arm is a Gushers fruit snack now” to the same shouty assertion that he will FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT he always does, and how his threats and tone of voice for an upcoming novelty match against a 46-year old suit who hasn’t wrestled in 12 years is the exact same as the ones he used for Brock Lesnar. It continues that weird idea that he beat Brock Lesnar to built to a match with John Laurinaitis, and no piece of the wrestling fan section of my brain can understand it. Cena should’ve just taken the week off. Better yet, Rock should’ve randomly shown up, been all “so hey where’s John Cena, I thought he was here every week” and then launch into a “boo hoo you got beat up by John Laurinaitis and CHICKITY CHINA THE CHINESE CHICKEN” or whatever on the one show Cena medically couldn’t make.
Oh man, how awesome would a Rock versus Lord Tensai feud be? Dude would CHING CHONG so hard he’d break his jaw.
Best: John Cena’s Dream Ride
I love a lot of under-the-radar wrestlers on the WWE roster, and these post-WrestleMania months always make me nervous because there’s no guarantee they aren’t going to say “welp”, slice NXT in half with a sword and send all the people I like to Jersey All Pro or Wizard World or wherever.
Over the last week I’ve seen Derrick Bateman show up on Smackdown only to get beaten worse than I beat him at Scramble With Friends by Ryback, and Maxine show up on Raw only to get flicked in the boob (I’m paraphrasing) and neckbroken by Layla. The upside is that they’re being paid to do what they love on television. The downside is that every squash match feels like a preemptive farewell.
Of course, that’s the wrestling fan in me over-exaggerating. Bateman being mauled by Ryback is no worse than Ziggler being mauled by the Funksasaurus and I’m not worried about Ziggler being sacked, I just want them to do well and stick around long enough to do so. It took Aaron Stevens 10 years of development to show up with a character more dynamic than “the brown haired guy in Michelle McCool’s sexual discipline tag team”, so who knows?
Worst: Kelly Kelly And Layla As Hand Holdin’ BFsF
One of my least favorite things about wrestling (and the reason I made “pay attention to continuity” the first step toward improving it) is how when heel and face dynamics shift, all past rivalries and situations are instantly forgotten. Sometimes WWE wants to do a tag team match with Randy Orton and CM Punk on the same side and doesn’t give a sh*t about that time Punk trapped Orton’s wife on some bus steps and fingered her with his mind.
This happens more (and more obliviously) in the Divas division, where Eve can slap Zack Ryder or whatever and Kelly Kelly instantly thinks she’s “always been a hoeski”. Alicia Fox teams up with Natalya one week and hates Each And Every One Of You, then gets paired with Kelly the next week and is just laughin’ and pointin’ and pinning Natalya in 40 seconds with no explanation. They don’t care about who the women are or anything they do.
Case in point: Kelly Kelly holding hands with Layla and bein’ her best gal pal last night. Let me take you back two years:
“Smelly Kelly” is one of my favorite LayCool nicknames because of how explicitly sexual it is, but subtle enough to pass as a schoolyard insult. Sure, when they’re standing next to Kelly Kelly and saying something smells like rotten eggs and garbage they’re talking about something OTHER than her vagina.
Anyway, Layla never really had a face turn. LayCool were the worst of heels and got mad at each other, then injured each other in their blowoff match. McCool retired and Layla was hurt for a year. She came back with Michelle’s heel music and never got any exposition about changing her ways or mending fences with the Divas, but she was pointing and smiling so that meant “good guy” and now Kelly loves her. Of the two possible explanations:
1. It’s the same lazy boring writing we always get and is nothing to get upset about, because who cares
2. Kelly Kelly is an idiot with no memory
… I’m going with number two.
Best: How Inappropriate Layla’s Music Is
She pins Maxine and a bunch of unseen women yell YAH NOT ENOUGH FOR MAYYY, JUST ANOTHER MAN IN LOVE WITH MAYYY. Diva themes should be about the woman’s relationship with other women, not with the hypothetical men who’d wish to sleep with them. Or, I don’t know, Randy Orton’s theme should have a line in it about how if you’re hot he’s probably down for f**king you, just find a road agent and wait for him out back.
Best: The BLOCKBUSTER TAG TEAM MATCH Finishing Sequence
Match placement is important, and almost ignored entirely. Sure, at big shows they usually sandwich a Playboy Pillow Fight or something between the Undertaker match and the World Title thing, but the worst is when a Raw starts off with an hour and 20 minutes of promos and commercials and Dorito’s Locos Tacos Presents The Lowered Expectations Food Combo Of The Night and a bunch of 40 second bullsh*t affairs and then gives you a 10 minute Teddy Long tag team special 40 minutes before close as an apology.
WWE, I like these matches most of the time, especially the ones with finishing sequences as well put-together as this one, but you’ve GOT to pace this better. By the time this match started I was drifting off into whatever local task I could find, doing laundry, approving pending comments, drawing Abdullah the Butcher in Draw Something, whatever. It was the best match on the show by far and I was barely interested because you’d beaten me down with apathy.
But yeah, that finish was pretty great. I like the continued booking of Sheamus as a guy who keeps winning for the enjoyment of almost nobody. I love how people kinda cheer for him when he’s doing his thing, then cheer TREMENDOUSLY when the other guys they like more beat him up. If he can keep this going and get into Rocky Maivia “Die Sheamus Die” territory he could get a money heel turn out of it. He’s already there with me!
Hilarious Best: Fight Noises In John Laurinaitis’ Office
Oh God, I love wrestler punching noises. MMA would be so much better if Anderson Silva went HUF! HUF! HUF! HUF! HUF! every time he threw punches.
The fight scene in Big Johnny’s office was great because you had four guys throwing punches, so that meant four guys doing a Mario Paint sounding medley of grunts with their punch noises. It was the most “we’re wrestling on the bed I’m John Cena who do you wanna be” thing ever. They could’ve stop-motion animated the scene with wrestling buddies and we wouldn’t have noticed.
Best: The Best Match Brodus Clay’s Ever Been In
Hopefully I’m not the only one who sided with The Miz here.
After comparing Brodus Clay to King Hippo (and adding an unnecessary MIKE TYSON’S PUNCH-OUT!! to kill the reference dead because he’s the Miz), Miz ran down Clay’s act and spend three-ish minutes doing a better job of wrestling him than anyone I’ve seen from G-Rilla to present. Brodus is twice his size, so Miz spent a lot of time kicking him in the knees, sneaking up on him from behind and staying on the attack every time Brodus went down. That’s smart, and this is the most competent Miz has looked in our out of the ring since like last October. It beats the hell out of Dolph Ziggler’s strategy, “run at him and jump”.
There was, of course, the small problem of…
Worst: People Dying So Quickly When Brodus Is On Offense
I’ve figured it out, and this is what I hate about Funkasaurus matches. He just criticals guys with everything he does. When he’s wrestling a guy like JTG or Curt Hawkins you can buy it, because those guys lose to Carlito neckbreakers or whatever all the time, but The Miz is a former WWE Champion who once got shoulderblocked off the security railing and straight into concussion hell by John Cena. The only thing Brodus did to him all match was a suplex and a splash. That’s it? That’s enough to incapacitate you and make you fail at your job? I know the guy weighs over 400 pounds, but a 400 pound guy jumping on your perpendicularly shouldn’t knock you out. Maybe if he was trapping you with his wide body and you couldn’t kick out, or if he was doing the Yokozuna thing and coming off the ropes with his entire ass weight on your ribcage, yeah, that would kill you. But a splash? From like a foot up? I’m not buying that. If people kick out of a Mark Henry splash, Brodus and his memory foam body shouldn’t end you.
Something else that bothers me now that we’re seeing the Funkasaurus in longer matches is the dancing. Brodus starts off every match with a very long dance. He wins quickly, then does the entire dance again, sometimes even longer if they’ve got to segue into a commercial break. So what does it say when The Miz spends three minutes kicking his ass, he hits two moves and is completely fine enough to dance? People complain about Cena’s shoulderblock comebacks and this motherf**ker is dino-dancing for six f**king minutes. At least do a funny “hold on gotta catch my breath” thing before you start claw-handing.
Worst: Brodus And The Cat Have Very Different Reasons For Mother Calling
Brodus Clay: Wants you to call your mama because it’s Mother’s Day. Also asks that you call his mama because he’s dancing a lot.
Ernest Miller: Wants you to call his mama because he’s about to lock the doors of the arena and whoop everybody in here.
More directly, the Funkasaurus wants you to call your mama because it’s a nice thing to do and The Cat wants you to do it because he is about to commit mass homicide with his hands and feet because he hates a building full of people and needs a loved one to be informed of his whereabouts.
Best: Paul Heyman, In Theory
Paul Heyman is awesome. His ongoing feud with Missy Hyatt was my first real consideration of gender roles, he legitimately changed the national pro wrestling landscape for good, good or bad, with Extreme Championship Wrestling and though he started off as a broke-ass Jim Cornette, the Dangerous Alliance was better than anything else that ever happened ever. Love? Religious enlightenment? The birth of your first child? Not as good as the Dangerous Alliance.
Anyway, Brock Lesnar having his feels affected and spending 40-450 minutes explaining his contract demands sorta necessitated a mouthpiece, and Paul Heyman is Brock’s greatest possible mouthpiece. Just listen to the way he says “Brock Lesnar”. The way Paul Heyman says “Brock Lesnar” is wrestling perfection. I hear him say it and I think of that video package they did with crying babies and Latin chanting because Brock was gonna shoot kill the Undertaker and keep him from knowing his unborn child. That’s the Brock Lesnar I want, the one who might seriously be breaking John Cena’s arm, not the guy in the Death Clutch track pants who can’t say “WWE”.
Heyman as an on-air character is the best. He’s probably my favorite non-Scott Stanford WWE announcer of the last two decades, and I loved how much sh*t he’d give Jim Ross over the asinine crap he’d say and get wrong. The thing constituting the “hardcore legacy of ECW” or whatever in 2012 needs to die in a storage unit fire, but Heyman is indisputably one of the most important and least ruined figures we’ve got left. So I want him around, I want him on Raw and I want him saying BRRRROCK, LESSner.
(I do not necessarily want him reading boring, prepared statements.)
That is all.
Best: So Is Common Law Going To End With Them F**king Each Other Or What
My favorite segment on the show was Big Show just sorta standing backstage smirking as the stars of USA’s new hit series COMMON LAW do some loosely-prepared improv about a wrestling show they’ve just learned about. The Wikipedia page (and constant commercials) for Common Law say the plot of the show is “two cops get partnered up and don’t like each other but they do a good job, so the police chief sends them to couples couseling”. For a second I thought the show was gonna be about gay cops, so I’m moving forward assuming this is a show about mouthy gay cops who watched Psych and love it but think it needs more hostage situations.