All day long I’ve had people asking me, “When is the Best and Worst of Raw going up today?” They can’t wait to hear what I have to say about last night’s show, because it featured one of the most unexpected, revolutionary moments in recent memory. If you like wrestling, it’s all you’ve been able to talk about since 11:15 last night. It took me from then until now to put it into words.
But I’m going to try.
So without further adieu, I present to you the coolest thing I’ve seen on Raw in years.
Kelly Kelly won a submission match!
Best: Kelly Kelly Edited Her Submissions Before This Match
Kelly gets a double best (one for each Kelly) for making the ugliest acceptance face ever when she found out she was having a submission match against Nikki Bella. This seemed like the only legitimate Raw Roulette wheel spin of the night, with “Pillow Fight” or some sort of old people food in a children’s swimming pool affair as the obvious Diva choices. I was hoping we’d get “first blood” or like a Coal Miner’s Glove match (that could end with Nikki Bella being bitten by a snake), but submission was good. That’s a good match stipulation, because it adds a layer of storytelling without seeming stupid (something on a pole match) or unnecessary (Evan Bourne and Sin Cara having no count-outs, because those guys are always getting counted out).
Kelly has been stepping up her game recently, even replacing her “anybody female can seemingly do it” cartwheel back elbow with a “very few people can do it” Pleasing Stink Face, so I had visions of Joshi sugarplums dancing in my head. I worked through it in my brain, watching Nikki trying to apply a Spider Twist near the 15 minute mark, only to have Kelly valiantly fight to the ropes and come back to win at just over 22 minutes with a Sol Naciente Kai. We’d usher in a new status quo for mainstream women’s wrestling, Portia Perez would sign a WWE contract and we’d have arm-trap kneelifts and guillotine chokes on every episode of Raw.
Instead, we got a Bella working a Fujiwara armbar for 76 seconds of a 78 second match before tapping out wildly to the first Boston Crab in the history of Kelly Kelly. That graphic is the only way to explain it. Nikki, if you can’t take more punishment than that, you may have epidermolysis bullosa.
Worst: Whatever, I Do What I Want!
Women on WWE television are only allowed to speak as though they are on stage at the Jerry Springer Show, responding to insults from the holier-than-thou studio audience. Watching the Bellas walk up the ramp making “loser” gestures on their foreheads and screaming “IT AIN’T OVER! IT AIN’T OVER!” was sad, and the only things sadder than Kelly holding the belt over her head and responding with five or six “WHAT’RE YOU GONNA DO HUHs” were Eve Torres’ elbow strikes. All it needed was somebody to yell “you don’t know me”.
And while we’re on the subject of Eve and her elbows, holy sh**, here, let me teach you how to throw a Diva elbow strike over the Internet. Punch forward. That would hurt somebody, right? Now punch downward. If somebody was below you, sure, that would hurt them. Now try punching downward, but move your upper arm like you’re trying to punch forward. Congratulations, you are Eve Torres, and you didn’t need OVW and four years of experience to learn her one f**king move.
Fall off of something backwards and you’ve learned the other one.
Best: It’s Sin Cara! And He’s Doin’ Stuff!
Michael Cole tried to explain that the WWE Universe had crashed their servers (with text messages) during Power to the People and that Sin Cara vs. Evan Bourne was the match we’d all wanted to see, but if any of this were true Raw would’ve featured Mason Ryan in black trunks wrestling Mason Ryan in yellow trunks (his 2P alternate). Regardless, we got the closest thing to a WCW Cruiserweights match we’re going to get on a 2011 Raw, and I enjoyed it. I read a lot of things like “underwhelming” and “didn’t live up to the hype”, to which I ask “how much do you expect to be whelmed, honestly” and “what hype” respectively.
Sin Cara got to look good on the live show, and he seems to be shaking off a lot of the early criticism that even I gave into. Bourne got to wrestle someone who doesn’t just kick him in the face for a minute and a half. The crowd dug it, the mood lighting made everyone in the arena want to have sex with Diane Keaton, and we got a better wrestling match than usual. Enjoy it, friends! If they get online and read a bunch of “meh, workrate workrate workrate fart” about it they aren’t going to ever do it again. Praise it, and eventually maybe Evan Bourne will be curtain jerking a Survivor Series against f**king Super Calo.
Worst: So Is It Just Impossible To Take La Mistica
It could’ve had something to do with Bourne being legitimately two and a half feet tall, but it’s concerning that we live in a world where Ted DiBiase goddamned Junior can take a lucha finisher better than Matt Sydal. I think they should try to get over La Mistica as like a time vortex, where Cara starts spinning around you so fast and so thoroughly that you lose all sense of equilibrium and just collapse into mush on your face. This might explain why Cara ends up in a different place every time he finishes the move, because different people can last longer in it. It’s like an existential submission. Have people sell it by developing permanent brain damage. Like, have Chavo Guerrero prepping to pass a bar exam, but then Sin Cara spins around him a bunch and Chavo fails it because he just draws doggies in the margins and drools on himself.
They should bring in Dragon Kid and have him fall on his head every time he tries to do the Christo. So, have it be like the first five or six years Dragon Kid wrestled.
or, more specifically,
Best: The Way Maryse Says “Capitol Punishment”
“Capitolpun-ISHment”. Whoops, just did the anime exasperation collapse.
I don’t mind Maryse having this role on the show. They should utilize her as the beautiful French lady who stands around backstage and interacts with the wrestlers. That’s better than nothing. Her segment was full of little bests, including Maryse considering her love of “purses, SHOES” to be a love of “everything”, Del Rio checking out her ass as she spun the wheel, and Booker’s overly-animated “I don’t make the matches, man. JESS WHO MAKE DA SPINS, AIGHT”. Del Rio and Maryse would be the perfect match as a couple of rich people who get super pissed at mostly-insignificant setbacks, aka “the cast of every show on the CW”.
Worst case scenario we eventually do an multinational Pretty in Pink love triangle and turn Ricardo Rodriguez into the most verbose Ducky in history. But then again that’s my solution to everything. “Make them Ducky!”
Best: Booker T Has Found His Calling
I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed Booker T as much as I did last night, when he stopped being a Poor Man’s Stevie Ray on commentary and became the most prepared-with-a-response hype man in Raw history. I enjoyed every moment of him spinning the Raw Roulette wheel, from his ever-present AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW to the way he just instantly f**king responded to everyone like he was Andy Bernard on The Office.
Kofi Kingston: “It’s going to be a one-on-one match…”
Booker: “I LIKE THAT.”
Booker: “TELL ME YOU DIDN’T JUST DOLPH”
Booker: “NO WAY”
Kofi: “with Vickie Guerrero”
Booker: “YOU DON’T SAY”
Kofi: “banned from ringside!”
Booker: “GET OUTTA HERE”
… and so on. It was wonderful, and I enjoyed how impossibly friendly he seemed. I also liked him turning it completely off to sell R-Truth’s insanity. I can only think of two things that would’ve made it better:
1) Camo face paint
2) Racially slurring Hulk Hogan
Worst: Hmm, Wait a Minute, These Stipulations Don’t Mean Anything
I never thought I’d type this sentence, but the fulfill your fantasy Pillow Fight is pro wrestling’s Chekhov’s gun. You don’t introduce it on the wheel and talk about how much you want to see it if you aren’t going to land on it later. Raw Roulette always does this — there are few things that would get me more excited than a night of matches with legitimately random stipulations decided by chance, but with the exception of the tornado rules in the tag team match, the stips all seemed like unnecessary tack-ons to normal matches or excuses for wrestlers to be beaten without losing their heat. If Del Rio beat Big Show in a cage match it might be a big deal, but not so much when the cage is just there for some low impact/high give No Mercy strong grapple cage smashes and a prop finish. If R-Truth pinned John Cena it would matter, but if he just pushed him through a table unfairly, nobody really cares.
You’re not only sacrificing my perverse need to see Kelly Kelly vs. Nikki Bella in a barbed wire match and Sin Cara vs. Evan Bourne in a lucha libre pillow fight, you’re making your bad guys look like Miz-level wieners who can’t get it done without a bunch of “buts”. And if there’s one thing wrestling should never put together, it’s wieners and buts.
Best: Everybody Hates Jeff Jarrett
Speaking of buttf**king, how about Jeff Jarrett getting name-dropped on Raw for the first time since Vince McMahon bought WCW? And it was exactly like the last time — somebody mentioning how much Jeff Jarrett sucks. Jarrett is like a 40-time NWA Heavyweight Champion, a 34-time WCW Champion, a TNA H-Division Champion and a multiple time Intercontinental Champion, but the only thing he’s going to be remembered for is sucking on mainstream television and bagging Kurt Angle’s cross-eyed wife. Poor guy. Haha not really a poor guy, but you know what I’m saying.
Also, a secondary best goes out to Diamond Dallas Page for showing up and fitting right in with Booker’s zippered dialogue like a couple of walking Legos. Page should probably have Booker’s spot right now, but f**k it, he gets to do Yoga and bag convention floozies for a living.
Worst: Drew McIntyre Gets Work-Shot By the Millionaire’s Club
I didn’t give Shawn Michaels his own best or worst this week because no free-thinking adult human being should be excited to see his “Born Again Can’t Stop Killing Things” reality camping trip with weapons show on the Dirt Network. I didn’t complain when Shawn beat up the tag team champions by himself while a third guy stood there helplessly, even if one of them was David Otunga, because the other was McGillicutty, and it evens out.
But I have to say something about him superkicking Drew McIntyre, if only for that bullsh** D-Generation X thing he did afterwards where he’s all “oh whoopsie did I do that heh heh hey guys insider jokez”. He might as well have whipped off his sleeveless hunting Polo and Katie Vick’d McIntyre’s lifeless corpse. McGillicutty sucks, and Otunga isn’t much better, but McIntyre is GOOD AT HIS JOB and could be contributing to your show, whether you believe Me On The Internet or not. Watching him flatline while Michaels makes Monday Night Wars jokes with Booker T and DDP is pretty obvious symbolic statement about the state of your industry, you dumb jerks.
Somewhere Chris Jericho is hopping onto Twitter to post “uh maybe Drew McIntyre getting superkicked is part of a STORYLINE?? EVER THINK OF THAT” because he used to be McIntyre, and is now Shawn Michaels.
Worst: Kingston Versus Ziggler Again. Really. You’re Seriously Doing This. Kingston and Ziggler. Again. Really. You’re Really Doing This Match Again.
From last week’s Best and Worst of Raw.
I’m not kidding. If they wrestle again, an entire page of Best and Worst is just going to be curse words and a picture of me taking a sh:t on my television.
I’m just starting to make a name for myself with these, so I might as well keep my promises.
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STOP DOING THIS
I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO TYPE IN CAPITAL LETTERS
Best: Mark Henry Charges For Air
“If I charge for air, YOU KEEP YOUR BILL PAID!”
With R-Truth having a string of bad matches and letting his hilarious Little Jimmy persona sorta seep too deeply into mental disease, I might be brave enough to name Mark Henry as the best thing going. What they’re doing with him is perfect, and in just the right size. The cage match stipulation (particularly with the “pinfall, submission, or escaping the cage IN ANY WAY” disclaimer during the introductions) was only there for a stunt, and sure, when Mark Henry came down and approached the cage door I had fever flashbacks of him helplessly shaking the sh** out of that door on Smackdown years ago. But he ripped it off without much effort, it looked good, he dragged the cage door into the ring and bonked the living dog piss out of Big Show with it.
The cage wall collapsed, and Henry nimbly jumped out of the ring and shouted awesome things at people until his segment was over. The one up there was the best, but I also appreciated his “I suck? You over there I’m over here, I’M OVER HERE YOU OVER THERE” to a fan. That’s true, I am over here, and Mark Henry is over there. Mark Henry is TERRIFYING FOR REAL, and if they put any kind of real effort behind maintaining that they can make tons and tons of money off of him for years to come. Or at least make up that whole ten million dollar contract thing. Let him rip off Randy Orton’s head like a second run Big Lots action figure and World’s Strongestly Slam motherf**kers into oblivion for a few years. Then you can do the romance angle with Kharma and write him out. But give him this.
Worst: Wait, What Happened With Mark Henry
Unfortunately for Miz-ark, something much more globally important happened on Raw, and his beefy awesomeness is going to get overshadowed. Such is the state of Monday Night Raw. You either have to do it on Smackdown where nobody’s watching, or do it on the Raw undercard where people are waiting to watch something else. Maybe Mark Henry can get into a worked shoot with D’Lo Brown about which members of the Nation of Domination were the militant separatists, and which ones secretly loved white people and wanted to star in Witch Mountain remakes.
Best: Tornado Rules
I’ve got an idea for maintaining Alex Riley’s momentum: always let him be in the ring with Rey Mysterio. They clicked magnificently as the world’s slowest Speed Muscle, with Riley as the homeless man’s Naruki Doi and Mysterio as a Masato Yoshino who can’t stop setting people up for the Sling Blade. How are these Dragon Gate references working for you? Good?
Basically what I’m trying to say is that I love tag team wrestling and as a child of the National Wrestling Alliance of the 1980s there’s nothing I love more than a hot tag, but sometimes it’s better to just let everybody be in there at once and do moves to each other, and “tornado tag rules” was the only wholly appropriate stipulation on the night. Although hey, what would’ve happened if Kelly Kelly and Nikki Bell had landed on “tornado rules”?
Worst: Cena and Tables Are This Generation’s Laurel and Costello
Poor John Cena. I think part of what’s making Punk’s rise toward dying in a blaze of glory so compelling is how bad Cena’s been about everything since he fell and clipped his head on a coffee table shortly before Wrestlemania. Cena is great in a street fight, especially when he can bleed buckets and choke out Samoan savages with pieces of the ring. If he’s falling into windshields or spotlights or using a crane to murder The Great Khali, he’s good. But tables… he sucks with tables. Remember when he was wrestling Sheamus and just sort of jumped backwards through a table for no reason to lose the match? He did that here, just standing in front of anything he can find in case somebody wants to put him through it. He’s always getting dumped on announce tables, too. He should stay away from tables completely. He should buy TV trays. Or he should just hold his dinner in his lap and eat it on the couch.
I think I speak for everyone when I say “CM Punk should win the WWE Championship, take it to Ring of Honor or Jersey All Pro or wherever and defend it against Ruckus or an interpersonally road-raging Davey Richards or whoever and let Cena wrestle The Rock at the bottom of the f**king ocean”.
Best: Little Jimmy Learns About New Japan Pro Wrestling
I write about what an outstanding and important part of Raw CM Punk is nearly every week. If I’d been around doing The Best and Worst of ROH Unscripted II in 2005 I would’ve talked him up there, too. Punk did something last night that WWE hasn’t done since Daniel Bryan showed up and choked Justin Roberts to death with a necktie — they got people who don’t talk about wrestling talking about wrestling. The Smoking Section is putting up posts with clips from Raw. Jimmy Traina from Sports Illustrated tweeted about how he can’t believe how many people thought Punk’s promo was “real”. Wrestling is … exciting, even if just for today. Even if just from the end of last night’s show until this morning, when you read those July 4th show spoilers.
What Traina isn’t considering is that Punk’s speech WAS real. It comes down to your definition of “real”. WWE is very concerned with making you think what they want you to think. If Kelly Kelly points at you and smiles as she’s trotting down to the ring, they want you to cheer for her. If someone says “each and every one of you” or “you people” into a microphone, you’re supposed to boo. This is supposed to translate into an emotional reaction that is hard to have if you aren’t five. That’s WWE’s reality.
What Punk did was smash a hole in that reality using OUR reality, the reality of the jaded fan on the Internet who wants what you’ve never seen to be the focus of television, and when that happens, wants something else. They didn’t support Scotty Goldman when he was doing picture-in-picture jokes on Smackdown, but they get excited when Colt Cabana is mentioned by name. They get excited when Matt Hardy shows up and blurts out “Ring of Honor”, but give up on him when they realize he’s still just in the WWE, and he’s still just Matt Hardy. That’s how we work, for better or worse. Most of us, anyway.
Punk took what we consider reality — held down wrestlers, pushes for guys who suck, “sports entertainment” replacing “wrestler” on TV, no promotion existing in the eyes of WWE except for WWE, Triple H, Stephanie, backstage WWE and basically everything Chavo Guerrero will be blogging about for the next six months — and used it as a tool to enhance WWE’s interpretation. That’s the genius of last night. Punk took a formula that doesn’t work (“everything else on the show is fake, but this part is real”), paired it with a few other things that don’t work (talking to the Internet on TV, mentioning backstage stuff 90% of your audience has no idea about), and willed them together into something that works by doing something nobody else who has tried has: being great.
Punk’s charisma, delivery, and unstoppable personal honesty gave us the most memorable moment of the year, no matter where it goes from here. When I was 9, one of my favorite wrestlers was the Great Muta. When he left, I asked myself “where did he go?” I found out, and that led me to Tiger Mask, which led me to tape trading, which made me a wrestling fan for life. So who knows? Maybe a kid will go “what’s New Japan Pro Wrestling?” and his dad will look it up on the Internet, and they’ll watch some Satoshi Kojima matches on YouTube and that kid will still be here in 20 years, no matter what John Cena’s doing at Wrestlemania 48.
Supplementary Best: Colt Cabana is Trending
At least he was last night. Colt is the kind of wrestler who should be trending, because if you stumble upon something with Colt Cabana in it there is a 100% chance you will enjoy it. I’ve been in the crowd live for some of his most memorable moments, from the Drano and forks Chair Riot against Homicide in Chicago to his catch-as-catch-can masterpiece against Archibald Peck at this year’s CHIKARA King of Trios tournament, and I can say honestly that if more wrestlers were like Colt Cabana, wrestling would be a better place.
That being said, is there a way we can get Punk to namedrop Matt Classic on Raw and get him trending? The only thing wrestling needs more than Colt Cabana is an indeterminately-old wrestler who hates women and black people doing neck bridges and squats.
Worst: I Am 99% Sure This is a Worked Shoot
I love how the Internet turns into Dwight Schrute and Benjamin Franklin every time something good happens on Raw. They’re so used to calling spots and crash-to-breaks that they forget people actually get paid money to write these shows and are able to come up with something decent from time to time. I would be happy if I never heard the word “worked shoot” again. I cut it out of my life by 700% by turning off Impact, but still.
The Golden Rule, in case you’re new to this: If it’s on TV, it’s part of the show. Remember when New Jack flipped out and stabbed that guy a bunch of times? Not on TV.