– Before you read the Raw report, make sure to check out UFC vet and UFC.com writer Danny Boy Downes’ spectacular Best And Worst Of Money In The Bank 2012 report. Writing alongside you is the best, so thanks for letting me do it.
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– Thanks to Casey of Hammerlock Dialectic for gifs, because he is a true friend.
Without further ado, please enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for July 16, 2012.
Best: The Terrifying Notion That John Cena Could Swoop In And Steal Your Relevancy At Any Moment
I think I’ve found a way to stop worrying and enjoy the “coolest person in the room” slash “Triple H’s jacket buddy” babyface CM Punk.
Punk’s biggest strengths have always been 1) a massive, massive ego and 2) sounding like he believes everything he says. Part of the reason I haven’t been enjoying him since … well, last August, is because so much of what he began to say sounded like deeply-scripted fan-pandering. Why are you calling John Laurinaitis an “ugly dork” or whatever when he represents the soulless chain of command you fought so hard to get in a word with edgewise? You got at least 20 opportunities to stand across from the Worst Man In Wrestling and tell him what you think, how you feel, how ALL of us feel about Hawaiian Tropic models and bodybuilders getting signed and pushed at the expense of hardworking people like yourself who toiled in armories and civic centers across the country because they love pro wrestling and you’re calling him an ugly dork? The voice of the voiceless became the Voice Of The People In WWE Shirts On Tout, and that was depressing.
All that being said, I’m enjoying the slow, steady burn of CM Punk as a guy who can hold the top championship in the pro wrestling world for almost an entire year uninterrupted and still not get treated like the ace of the promotion, because there’s always someone more important than him to focus on. That’s what Eve said to him point blank last week — he’s not as important to WWE as The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Triple H or John Cena. Punk responds with NUH UH I’M THE BEST IN THE WORLD, because to him, to a WRESTLING FAN, being the champion means you’re the best and most important. But the casual fan world has moved beyond that, and they only care about what the big names are doing, whether they’ve got a title belt or not. In fact, having a belt means you’re on the show less frequently than guys like Alberto Del Rio. The biggest perk of being champ now is getting on the first page of the roster slideshow on WWE.com.
I can start to identify with Punk again because he’s starting to realize it. He’s too proud to face it, but being the “best in the world” is f**king meaningless and having the respect of THESE PEOPLE gets you nowhere. His brain won’t let him think something else, but now people like Eve and Big Show — people who have been systematically treated like dogshit by the WWE brass — are saying it to his face. He’s a cog in the machine that runs to sell John Cena t-shirts.
If Raw 1000’s title match leads to something more important at SummerSlam, let it be Emotionally Indifferent Corporate Dynasty John Cena taking on the Voice Of The Voiceless who took on the monster from the inside and got lost within it.Subscribe to UPROXX
Best: Hey, That Wasn’t A Bad Little Tag Team Title Match
I’m hoping somebody in the back hooked Vince up to one of those A Clockwork Orange torture chairs to watch last week’s Raw and screamed LOOK AT THIS, LOOK AT HOW BAD THIS IS, WHAT ARE YOU DOING until he broke free and screamed ALL RIGHT DAMMIT and put some wrestling on his wrestling show.
“R-Truth and Kofi Kingston versus Darren Young and Titus O’Neil” should not be a good wrestling match, but with the upward momentum of the NXT crew and the addition of TAG TITLES DEFENSE in capital letters, it turned out pretty well. Tag matches are great for hiding individual weaknesses, so no matter how bad of a wrestler Titus might be going one-on-one with someone, he’s pretty fun when he’s just wearing a sparkly custom t-shirt, doing a wacky dance and running in to hit bodyslams.
I also really enjoyed this as a rare example of WWE creating and executing an unimportant midcard wrestling story. R-Boom have the tag team championships. Upstart team The Prime Time Players have a new manager who can worm them into a title match. They face a few other undercard teams (PERM, The Usos) and show nothing but cowardice in the process, walking out on matches or using shortcuts to win. They finally get their shot against R-Boom on Raw and try to use those same shortcuts, but the champs are a better team and overcome it, winning the match. The Prime Time Players look more important for having had a title shot, but not as important as the champs, BECAUSE THEY AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE AS IMPORTANT AS THE CHAMPS. Applause, everybody. Do this more often. Do everything else less.
Best: Kofi Kingston’s Skeletor Gear
I shit on Kofi a lot in this column (because with John Morrison gone he’s the worst Jumping Guy on the show), but his Skeletor from He-Man trunks were tops. It succeeded in doing three important things:
1. Getting rid of Kofi’s still-awful “smiling black guy” logo without compromising the aesthetic completely
2. Gave me my first ever reason to like Kofi Kingston by topping Cody Rhodes’ Triforce boots in the nerd specificity department
3. Introduced that swank powder blue and lavender color scheme to WWE
I only wish R-Truth had gotten rid of the airbrushed jeans and coordinated. He’d make a pretty great Trapjaw, and the colors would match. At least throw on some green and yellow and start gurgling during your promos. Little Jimmy as Orko is a given.
Best: Zack Ryder Tries To Survive
Destiny was texting when Zack Ryder entered, and without looking up she started singing along with his entrance theme. Then she looked up and said, “I don’t like him. I like his song, but he sucks.”
My reaction to Zack Ryder was a brief explanation about how he was cool for maybe six months last year, then me going OHHHH SHIT YOU BOUT TO GET RYBACKED MOTHERF**KER when Alberto Del Rio showed up WITHOUT A CAR and WITHOUT RICARDO GETTING HIS OWN RING INTRODUCTION because serious business. I wanted it to play out like the ADR/Sin Cara matches (kick wham armbar), but was pleasantly surprised when Ryder got to fight back without having to get in a bunch of spots. It played out like a guy trying to survive, and less like people taking turns hitting moves. That’s great, and one of the reasons I fell in love with Ryder circa his matches with Santino on Superstars back in the long long ago.
Best: Rey Mysterio Is Back, And His Legs Work
Guess what? When you let one of the best wrestlers of all time heal up so he isn’t trying to do lucha transitions on grandpa legs, he is AWESOME. AWESOME TO THE MAX.
I’m really, really excited to have Rey Mysterio back, and not just because I’m going to SummerSlam. How bad did that ONE rad headscissors takedown make Sin Cara look, seriously? Mysterio was moving fluently and naturally, and I’m totally down for him to finally get a quick, month-long feud with Del Rio where he can stay healthy and come out on top. Then we can move him into a main event thing with WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION DOLPH ZIGGLER and SHOULD PROBABLY PAY ATTENTION Sin Cara for that mask record they want, and by WrestleMania Sheamus can be back to losing to Great Khali in pre-show battles royal.
Rikishi “looks great” but Vickie Guerrero’s a cow? Okay, Jerry.
Best: Heath Slater vs. Gran Uso
I want to formally applaud WWE for their choice of randomly occurring legends over the last two months. If I was making a list of guys I’d want to see on an all-time roster, Vader, Piper, Sid, Diamond Dallas Page, Bob Backlund and Rikishi would all make the cut. When this started I was so sure Slater would be getting Cobra Clutch’d by Sgt. Slaughter and Fist Dropped by Jerry Lawler every week, and I’m happy to say I was wrong. Next week’s Raw 1000 group should be more of what we’re used to — Bret Hart, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley — but this One Man Band World Tour was really cool.
I still hope Slater gets jumped by a bunch of legends on Raw 1000 only for Wade Barrett to show up with the Nexus (including Daniel Bryan) in tow to literally beat the piss out of them. I also hope Ricky Steamboat is involved.
Best: RIP Umaga
I never thought I’d say the words “Aww, Samoan Spike. Awww” and make a frowny face, but when Rikishi busted out his Samoan Spike in tribute of Umaga my heart grew three sizes. I didn’t get to write this column when he was around, but I loved Umaga (and Armando Alejandro Estrada) and still list his Last Man Standing match with Cena from the Royal Rumble as one of my favorite matches. Hell, I even loved 3 Minute Warning.
I also never thought I’d say “Jesus, Rikishi is looking FAT”, but here we are.
Best: Raw Just Got Heartwarming, You Guys
Heath Slater video package to in-ring Heath Slater promo to brief Rikishi match with Umaga tribute to RIKISHI DANCING WITH HIS SONS TO THE TOO COOL MUSIC was one of my favorite five minutes of Raw this year. I get mad at lot watching wrestling. I get bored, or I get excited, or I run upstairs to jump on the computer to tell people what I thought about whatever, but I very rarely watch wrestling and smile. This moment made me smile, because sometimes wrestling should be about love, and “wedding proposals” are “people making out” are not the only kinds of love.
In a better world, this moment would lead to the Usos incorporating Samoan Spikes and Sitting On People into their moveset en route to a WWE Tag Team Championship win to honor their family and heritage, and not just be another example of the Usos never being as cool as their dancing. They’re talented young guys, and talented young tag teams (that make sense) should be nurtured. That being said, I’m not gonna front — when the lights went down, I said “oh man, when they come back on I hope Grandmaster Sexay and Scotty 2 Hotty are in the ring with him”. I said that.
Worst: I Love You Guys, But Enough With The Wedding Proposals
I’m giving Raw 999 a pass on stuff like this, because Raw 1000 is obviously WWE’s next touchstone show where Important Things Happen, so if they tread water this week, whatever. As I see it, a Daniel Bryan/AJ wedding (on next week’s show… Christ) can lead to any number of cool happenings, including:
1. Daniel Bryan and AJ just getting storyline married, allowing them to formally be the Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth of the 2010s. This gets us back to the dynamic that worked so well pre-WrestleMania, gives AJ a reason to stick around and tough it out when Bryan’s mean to her, allows AJ to remain prominent without siphoning Bryan’s heat, yadda yadda.
2. Bryan and AJ are on “The Peep Show” on Smackdown, so any advancement of a Daniel Bryan/Christian Intercontinental Championship feud is welcomed, especially if it leads to neither guy committing to one side of the heel-to-face fence and wrestling their asses off.
3. Sara Del Rey interrupting the wedding as Daniel Bryan’s actual love interest, Royally Butterflying AJ out of her novelty Vans and being all “actually I’m not a love interest, I’m your best student and you should stop doing this dumb romance shit and be the best wrestler ever some more” about it.
4. Dean Ambrose crashing the wedding, preferably with a blimp full of Joker Venom. AJ gets her next logical character step, Bryan gets a cool GUY FROM THE INDIES opponent, Ambrose is instantly cool and important.
5. The reverend rips off a mask, says DID SOMEBODY SAY THREE MINUTES for no reason and the Usos show up and Samoan Drop AJ to death. Okay, that one probably won’t happen.
Pro-tip: If you are a pro wrestler, don’t get married during the wrestling show at the wrestling arena. Guys who work at the post office don’t get married at the post office.
Best: New Miz
In the Best And Worst Of Money In The Bank 2012 report, Danny “Dan Dan” Downes wrote the following about Miz’s return:
I couldn’t give this a best or a worst because, honestly, I didn’t really care. You had to know that someone else was going to be in the second MITB match because even though the original four could carry the match, the WWE seems to always love adding new stipulations to matches. At least this time we didn’t find out via text message.
As true as the last 80% of that paragraph is, I naturally like The Miz (Cleveland represent) and want him to be a good part of the show again. I’m really digging Adult Miz, partially because we get what’s good about him without what’s so overwhelmingly bad about him, and partially because this is the first time since Tough Enough he’s been on WWE TV with a grown-up’s haircut. It makes him look 100% more like a wrestler, and 100% less like a guy from a reality show pretending to be a wrestler. Miz needs character evolution more than anybody in the f**king fake sports world right now, and this is a great, great step forward.
And no, you don’t have a reason to care about him right now, but hopefully that’ll change. His grin to AJ when she dropkicked him off the apron was fun, so maybe he’ll be the one to interrupt the Bryan-Lee wedding. Hopefully Brian Lee will not get involved.
Worst: I’m Skipping The First 20 Minutes Of Next Week’s Show
It was helpful of Michael Cole to announce that during next week’s show, right at 8 o’clock, Raw would kick off their three-hour era with a D-Generation X reunion, and “all of them will be there”. Of course, the graphic just showed Triple H and Shawn Michaels, who I’m pretty sure are “all of them” in modern WWE lore. I mean, if Raw starts off next week with Hornswoggle and Chyna crotch chopping over Rick Rude’s casket or whatever I’ll tune in, but if not I will be shoot skipping the first 20 minutes of the show.
There aren’t a lot of ways it can go, given Triple H’s issues with Brock Lesnar, Brock Lesnar’s appearance on the show being announced and Shawn Michaels firmly settled into his new role as “smaller guy who gets threatened/beaten up for the sake of Triple H angles”. DX reunites, some insider jokez are made, t-shirts or glow sticks or baldspot-covering winter beanies are shilled and Lesnar handcuffs Triple H to the ropes a la Randy Orton and NBTs the shit out of Shawn Michaels. Or, worst case scenario, we get a Lesnar/Triple H in-ring promo where Feels are felt and they go back and forth about how one is scared of the other. Then punches are thrown, Shawn Michaels kicks somebody (probably by accident) and the inevitable Lesnar/H match gets special guest referees or sudden No Disqualification stipulations and … yeah, I’ll see everybody here at 8:22 sharp.
Worst: What Is This Shit You’re Doing With The Ryback Now
This is probably a weak Worst considering the f**king killing fields of last week’s Raw, but my least favorite part of the show was how excited I was for Ryback to Ryback Jack Swagger, then how immediately confused and sad I was that they spent two minutes beating up Ryback only for him to get some Dave Batista-style chest-high powerbombs in and celebrate to his music. What was that? You have Ryback facing off against a guy with a losing streak gimmick. You either:
a) Ryback him, because shit, or
b) Have Swagger f**k him up out of nowhere and win to evolve Ryback’s character and give Swagger some cred for once.
And no matter what you do, you start the match. When the announcers kept hammering home how the match hadn’t officially started yet I knew they were gonna go this route, and I never enjoy it. If the match is scheduled, the match should happen. Shouldn’t the Board Of Directors get super pissed about stuff like this? If the match gets out of control before it starts, don’t you just get it under control, or push it back to later in the show to give it a little heat? I don’t know how wrestle works and I’m not gonna pretend to, but damn, baseball teams wait out the rain delays before packing it in, don’t they?
This just kinda made everyone look bad. Give Ryback the big win in his hometown. You do not have to protect Jack Swagger. He lost to Evan Bourne like 75,000 times last year. This is THE RYBACK.