Similarly to last week, I’d like to cover a few things before we begin.
1. If you like these reports, be sure to click the Best and Worst of Raw tag and read through some of the old editions. I build on a lot of previous points and try not to repeat myself too much, so checking out the older columns helps fill in some of the jokes. If you don’t want to do that, here are my jokes: Kelly Kelly is awesome, I don’t ever want to see Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler again, and … well, actually I think that’s all of them.
2. I’m trying to create a community of people who don’t think I’m stupid for covering wrestling, so if you read this, please consider sharing it with other wrestling fans, “liking” it, giving it a +1 (we have a button for that now) and, most importantly, leaving a comment. Comments are the only way I can tell if I’m doing a good job, and they help me put my own opinions into context. I actually give a sh** about what you say, and you can’t say that about 99% of people writing about wrestling on the Internet.
3. Kaitlyn still hasn’t called me. What the hell, you guys.
4. If you’re the type who just clicks through for these reports, yes, we just redesigned, so there’s a lot more white. A lot more white. If you think hard enough, a rack of machine guns comes flying out from either side of the column. It’s pretty cool, so stick with it.
Worst: The Spinner Is Dead, Long Live The Spinner
With CM Punk chastising John Cena’s WWE Championship spinner title, then winning it and bailing, fate and circumstance allowed us the easiest lay-up belt redesign purpose of all time. Everyone agrees that the spinner sucks (especially now that it doesn’t spin and just looks like something you’d buy at Citi Trends), even the guys who want it. A modern Cena belt would be blaze orange (or whatever) and have eagles and service stripes all over it, even he doesn’t want to carry it around. Looking at it from a purely kayfabe perspective, maybe it makes sense that Vince McMahon would want to wipe CM Punk’s title victory under the ring and proceed with an identical championship, suggesting the Money in the Bank change never happened. That would be fine, but the week-long wait between Vince’s compromising to a permanent end and the belt’s unveiling nerfs that. There’s really no imaginable reason to keep the belt looking like that other than “we’re lazy and don’t want to come up with another belt”.
And trust me, I’m not one of those rubes begging you to bring back the classic “Winged Eagle” design. I’ve always hated that name. Every eagle has wings. That’s like calling John Cena a “legged person”. The “spread eagle title” would sound worse but be more accurate, but I think that’s how they describe the Diva’s title. I’m going to be an elitist and say they should bring back the bright green one with the nameplates Hogan won from the Iron Sheik, or at least the Undisputed Championship circa Brock Lesnar. That looked like something that would come with a Big Lots action figure, and I think that’s what they’ve been going for for the last ten-or-so years.
(Can you tell how poor I am by the stores I’m referencing?)
Best: Rey Mysterio is Working His Little Big Ass Off
Anyone in the know should be able to tell you that Rey Mysterio is our North American Jushin “Thunder” Liger, and that we should be happy to have him around.
Sure, as a fan I get pissed by some of the stuff he pulls (never losing, making people fall into the second rope against any reasonable laws of physics and stay there for no reason, headbutting those kids) but there isn’t a single other professional wrestler who has had the career, longevity and impact of Mysterio in our hemisphere. I compare him to Liger because Liger’s done it all. He’s wrestled (and wrestled WELL) for almost thirty years, competing all around the world and achieving every definition of “success” a wrestling fan could throw at you, even the dumb ones. In kayfabe (sorry to keep using that word), Liger has been successful wherever he’s gone, winning everything from the J-Crown to the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship to the Open The Dream Gate and WCW World Light Heavyweight Championships. Do you know how much ground and time that covers? As a wrestler, he’s earned the respect of his co-workers and is recognized as one of the best of all time, inspiring folks like Mike Quackenbush and, by proxy, everyone Quack trains. As a wrestler observable by the Internet, he’s had an official “five star match” and has wrestled equally as a heel and a face, adapting his style as he ages and as wrestling changes, always remaining relevant and always counted on to be a good-to-great match whenever and wherever. As a wrestler observed by a stupid person on the Internet, he does “cool moves” and innovated the shooting star press. There’s no reasonable way to say Liger isn’t one of the best of all time.
And who comes close to that on our side of the world? Bret Hart won a lot of championships and was a great wrestler, but his influence stayed mainly in that Dungeon in Calgary. Shawn Michaels was great, but a dick. Hogan had success, but wasn’t seen as a great wrestler. Austin’s biggest innovation was doing an Ace Crusher wrong. The Rock kept his talents in one place and stayed the same. Only Mysterio comes close. He debuted in 1989. Can you believe that? He’s competed in different styles all around the world and been important to all of them. When he arrived in ECW and WCW in the mid-90s he changed the game. When he arrived in WWE people thought he was at the end of his career, but he changed up his style and added 10 years and three World Championships. He’s a five-foot tall luchador who has had THREE WWE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WINS. You can see the moves he innovated or perfected in the performance of any young high-flier. He can always be counted on to have a good-to-great match whenever and wherever, as long as you keep that mask on, and yeah, he does some cool moves. He’s nearly bulletproof, and as his knees get worse he seems to get better and better.
Think back over the last few years at all the great work Mysterio has done. The matches with Punk, with Jericho, the Elimination Chambers where he’s a Viking. In the last two weeks on Raw he’s wrestled four, almost five times. There should be a joke here, but there isn’t. He’s just one of the best ever, and we should notice it more often.
Best: The Continued Best of Alberto Del Rio
All that being said, how much do I love Alberto Del Rio as the most confident man in the world, who is also too gun shy to pull the trigger on his Money in the Bank briefcase? I’d love it if they dragged it out all year with Del Rio starting to cash it in, then calling an audible and fleeing when somebody wakes up and jumps on him. Then it gets to be Wrestlemania and the night’s almost over, and like The Rock wins the WWE Championship and Alberto’s either got to cash it in or lose it. I think that’s a compelling place they haven’t gone yet, and a great way to get your money’s worth without having to have every guy who wins it become champion.
Best: This Rey Mysterio WWE Championship Run Is Really Going To Mean Something
Best: Dolph Ziggler
You don’t need me to tell you this, but Dolph Ziggler is the important, destructive Anti-Monitor to John Morrison’s heroic, crappy-looking big-headed Monitor. Ziggler is doing what pro wrestlers should do — he’s making everything he does seem important. When he wins the United States Championship, he treats it like an honor, not just as a thing he wears when he comes out to pin Carlito. When he gets a t-shirt and a song that says “I am perfection” over and over, he adopts that as his gimmick, and instead of just saying “I am perfection” a bunch of times like a lesser wrestler would do, he says WHY he’s perfection. Do you see that subtle difference? A guy in an “I am perfection” shirt sucks if he smirks and says “I am perfection”, but he’s awesome if he holds up the title and screams THIS. STAYS. WITH. ME. after he’s kicked somebody’s ass.
That’s the trap Alex Riley fell into. He started getting a following when he showed up and beat the sh** out of The Miz, but when he had to talk and couldn’t really deliver an ass-whomping outside of tackling and punching, people lost interest. Ziggler can’t fall into that, because he can do everything. Except properly bump on a trampoline, but that’s water under the bridge.
Worst: Dolph Ziggler Only Has Four Opponents
You guys know me well enough by now, don’t you? When Ziggler’s music hit I started saying “please be in a suit, please be in a suit” because I didn’t want it to be a match. When he stepped out in his gear it changed to “be Evan Bourne, don’t be Kofi Kingston. Be Evan Bourne, don’t be Kofi Kingston”. This presents two huge problems:
1) If Kofi Kingston wrestles Dolph Ziggler again, so help me God I will kill myself.
2) Dolph Ziggler only has four possible opponents: Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne, John Cena, Rey Mysterio.
Now, if Ziggler faces Cena or Mysterio, he loses. Always. So with his recent U.S. Championship victory and winning streak going you can’t put him in there against someone who’ll beat him, especially not Cena, and Mysterio is already involved in the WWE Championship tournament. So that adds a modifier to problem 2:
2b) Dolph Ziggler only has two probably opponents: Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne
My brain only let me deal with those two guys, and sure enough we got Bourne. The match was fine, but this is one of those situations where we need to observe that the problem isn’t the brand separation, the problem is that they cast brands based on roles they need filled. Bourne is “guy who can wrestle Dolph Ziggler but not beat him”. Kofi is “guy who can wrestle Dolph Ziggler and sometimes beat him”. Also, “guy who f**king constantly wrestles Dolph Ziggler”. Why not let Ziggler beat Ryder? Or Kozlov? Or think outside the box, put him in there with Michael McGillicutty or one of your NXT rookies. Let him Zig Zag Silent Rage, whose rage was so silent this week we couldn’t even find him. In real sports they don’t just pair up the teams that hate each other and make them play 400 times. Sometimes the Cubs play the Diamondbacks and it doesn’t matter, but it still gives one of them a win. It gives the Diamondbacks a win. You know what I’m saying.
Worst (But Secretly Best, Shh): Derrick Bateman On Raw
There were two great things that happened during the backstage celebration for Rey Mysterio’s title win: The first is a cameo by NXT rookie Derrick Bateman, who earns a “worst” here for two reasons:
1) I like wrestlers who aren’t given a “push” on television, but as soon as they show up I declare them “stale” and “misused” and stop cheering for them.
2) He got covered in alcohol, but at no point flipped out and turned over a table.
Although I guess that only happens when he’s wearing sweet USA zubaz pants. Here’s the first of many Worsts for Derrick Bateman on Raw.
Best: Chris Masters TRYING To Be On Raw
The second great thing was Chris Masters being involved in the handshake line for Mysterio, then wandering around to the back to peek his head in and desperately try to stay on camera during the interview. Watch him back there, he’s amazing. I just wanted him to break out a Joe Swanson YEAH REY MYSTERIO AWRIGHT in the middle of Josh’s question. Also, how hilariously left over were the people back there to wish Mysterio well? I watch this all the time and even I didn’t recognize a couple of them. I expected Braden Walker and “Savannah” to come around the corner. If Tyler Recks gets to be back there, but they don’t have a spot for Ryan Braddock? Where’s Eric Escobar? That guy in the vest, was that Eric Escobar?
Worst: Eve Torres, Never Smooth
I don’t think I’m inaccurate when I say Eve Torres and Keystone Light fictional commercial character Keith Stone have the sexual chemistry of a goat and a vending machine. I can’t keep writing up numbered lists, but there was so much wrong with this segment.
One, Eve Torres is backstage confronting the Bellas about “twin magic” and says she’s ONTO THEM and KNOWS they switch places during matches. This is the first time she’s spoken up about it in the THREE YEARS the Bella Twins have been around. Two, fictional f**king cartoon man Keith Stone wanders in and starts solving their problems, which suggests your “smart, sexy, powerful” women need 2011’s Nigel West Dickens to tell them what to do. Three, Keith Stone is GODDAMNED FICTIONAL and if you want us to pretend Eve Torres and the Bella Twins are real people who have chosen the real sport of wrestling as their career you cannot and should not have them crossing over with f**king Spongebob. Four, Keith Stone’s smooth plan is to draw on the Bella Twins, which was a great idea when Michael Scott came up with it and an even better one when this previously happened to the Bella Twins. Five, Nikki Bella’s “HOWM I SPOST TO GET THIS OFF??” makes her look like the dumbest person in history, because the two easiest answers are “it’s magic marker, you aren’t wrestling this week so just wash it until it comes off, he didn’t f**king tattoo you” and “why don’t you try wrestling in shirts”. Or, uh, “take off the tattoo sleeve they put on you”. Or call Keith Stone’s magical bird and let him do it, because we’re on an episode of f**king “Roundhouse” and why not.
The best thing that could happen here is Nikki Bella wrestles the remainder of her career with tattoos on her arm, because she doesn’t understand hand sanitizer and WWE doesn’t understand how permanent markers work.
Best x 100: Maryse, and Everything She Does
This was Maryse’s reaction to the Keith Stone segment.
I think that says it all. That’s how someone SHOULD react to watching Eve Torres hold Keith Stone’s stones. I like to think this is the moment when Maryse sort of loses faith in humanity and becomes a nihilist. Watch her face for the rest of the match, she just doesn’t give a sh** what’s happening. She can’t believe this is where her life has taken her. She picks back up with the Maryse character when Kelly Kelly (Destroyer of Divas, who took a double axe-handle to the back and a dropkick before hitting all her moves and winning) apes her entrance, and it’s just as funny as the segment reaction. I’ve said it before, but I’ll type it again — WWE, I love independent wrestling and the women who perform it, but I don’t think your only options are what you’re doing and filling up your show with the Cheerleaders Melissa and Portias Perez of the world. If you want to hire Playboy Playmates and Hawaiian Tropic girls go for it, just find the ones who have great personalities. Maryse has so much to offer your pro wrestling show, and it has nothing to do with how many times she can forearm Kana.
Worst: Flaming Carrot Josh Mathews
Who dumped Josh Mathews in a vat of toxic goo before Raw, and how many people does he have to interview before he puts on a zoot suit and starts fighting Batman?
Worst: It Looks Like I Might Not Enjoy This Triple H Thing
I need to disconnect this from your expectations. On the Progressive Boink forums, my friend Justin wrote:
i f**king hate hhh. hey b i am the smarkiest smark. this is terrible. JIM ROSS IS BACK and i hate this “oh haha just jokes guy” hhh so much.
This doesn’t make you the smarkiest smark, the Triple H character is the f**king worst. We didn’t use any asterisks, but I think it’s an important thing to think about. Disassociate Triple H from everything you know about him. Forget the backstage politics, forget who he’s married to, forget who he’s held down under the glass ceiling in his Taj Mahal of glass and just think about him as a character. He’s the strongest and toughest, but he’s also the funniest and coolest. I want to describe him as the original dog from Hell, or at least as some sort of anthropomorphic animated beast on a skateboard (Mondo Gecko, maybe), but I can’t. He out Mondo Geckos Mondo Gecko.
hhh is the guy who thinks of something funny to say afterward and then when he tells his friends the story he plays it like he said the cool hilarious thing during the altercation.
he’s the tucker max of wrestling.
Watching him immediately respond to everything R-Truth said with a BIGGER joke and a BIGGER SMILEY FACE made my heart sink a little. This isn’t going to get any better. Vince McMahon was always about the power strut and the YOU’RE FIRED and the YOU RUNED IT DAMMIT but at the end of the day he let Austin throw him off a cage and he let DX push his face into The Big Show’s ass and he let CM Punk treat him like garbage on television. As much as I don’t want to be that guy, I can’t see anything but H throwing R-Truth off a cage, H pushing Mark Henry’s face into The Big Show’s ass and treating CM Punk like garbage on television. As of now I’m going to phrase a simple “I might not enjoy where this goes”.
Biggest Worst Fathomable: 20 Minutes of HHH Lead to 2 of John Morrison
I don’t want to talk about it. He just makes everything seem so … weird.
Worst: Wrestling Concerts
Most of my feedback for The Best and Worst of Raw is positive (thanks, I really do appreciate your comments, even if they’re “john cena gay”), but one of the major negative reactions I’ve gotten was suggesting Cee Lo Green’s “Bright Lights Bigger City” was a bad theme for SummerSlam. Well, good song or not, Cee Lo will be performing the song live at the pay-per-view, and if you can find me one instance of a musical act making the show better and not tons and tons worse, I’d like to hear it. KISS on Nitro gave us The Demon. Kid Rock gave us 15 wasted minutes of Wrestlemania and that one funny moment where he thinks we’re all going to say “NOW GET IN THE PIT AND TRY TO LOVE SOMEONE” but we hate him so we say nothing. Even Mötley Crüe’s performance on Sunday Night Heat gave us ten years of Test.
Best case scenario: Cee Lo performs the song, Hornswoggle shows up in a fur coat and sunglasses as a joke because they’re both short and weird looking.
Worst case scenario: Cee Lo performs the song, Hornswoggle shows up in a fur coat and sunglasses and Eve stands just to the left and does that terrible coochie-popping thing while it happens.
Best: Good Old “Jim Ross”
Jim Ross being back is a good thing, and it’s nice to have an announcer doing what the WWE wants (getting over the idea of the match rather than “calling the match”) but still being entertaining about it instead of just devolving into GAIL KIM’S A NERD BASTARD, KING. I still prefer my dorky fat friend version of Jim Ross from early-90s WCW, but prerecorded Smackdown vs. Raw Jim Ross snippets played from a tape recorder housed within the head of a Jim Ross scarecrow would be better than Michael Cole.
And uh, speaking of Michael Cole
Worst: Michael Cole, Legends Comedy Wrestler
If we’re fantasy booking, next week we team up three young guys who aren’t doing anything (let’s say Zack Ryder and one or both of the Usos) and put them in a six-man tag team match against 60-year old Giant Baba, “dying of Hepatitis B” Jumbo Tsuruta and Michael Cole dressed as Triple H. Then we have a role for our aging legends, allowing them to collect a paycheck and still draw people to the shows without doing too much or beating anybody important.
I don’t think we’ve moved away from the Michael Cole Character enough to revisit him. All evidence of Michael Cole having wrestled or performed heelish acts on WWE television should be swept under that rug with Chris Benoit’s dead family and Mad Maxine and never be spoken of again. Pretend it happened in the snow globe of an autistic child. Please let this be Triple H’s one moment of humiliating Michael Cole for his trespasses and give me nothing more flagrant than Coachman doing the Charleston and getting kicked in the butt from here on out.
Very Specific Best and Worst: Zack Ryder
Our Man Internet© got to wrestle for a total of 28 seconds, but he got entrance music and managed to get the crowd chanting “LET’S GO RYDER” in less than half a minute, so that’s something. I thought he was going to be stuck backstage celebrating another man’s victory alongside Kevin Thorn and the Straight Edge Society version of Joey Mercury.
Best: ALBERTOOOOOOO DEL RRRRRRRRRRRRIOOOOOOOOOO
My preexisting favorite thing about Alberto Del Rio is how he barely needs to cheat to win. That’s my favorite wrestling bad guy, the guy who is great, he’s just also a jerk. Del Rio takes shortcuts but you rarely see him knocking down referees or holding trunks. Even my parents, notorious for dismissing any wrestler who needs “help”, have to respect a guy who just turns it up and breaks your arm and armbreakers you until you’re done. I like watching him wrestle, because he wrestles WWE style* (whatever that is), but does it a little differently than everybody else.
My new favorite thing is his version of the Stone Cold Steve Austin “talkin’ trash” thing he does when he wins. When he does his entrance he moves his hands around his chest as though he’s asking you to “give it up” for destiny. When he made Kofi Kingston tap out, he got right in Kofi’s face and did the hands really fast, and I love it. Luchadores are like Christmas presents. When they’re all wrapped up and under the tree, they’re equally great. But when you unwrap some you get skateboards and Nintendos (Del Rio) and when you unwrap others you get underwear and socks (Psicosis) or worse, sweaters and jeans (Juventud Guerrera).
*WWE style, as I’ve come to define it, is “going for pins after f**king everything, then being shocked and frustrated when you don’t win immediately”
Worst: HHH on Smackdown
Oh hey, cool, HHH isn’t just on Raw, he’s coming to Smackdown. I can’t wait for his exchange with Cody Rhodes.
HHH: “Oh hey, Cody Rhodes, why’re you wearing that mask? I mean, your face can’t STILL be injured. It doesn’t look like your face is injured at all! I mean c’mon man!”
and then Cody Rhodes says something, but H interrupts him with a louder voice in the middle of his sentence and puts him in a match against Kane. Enghhhhh that’s good wrestling.
Worst: Rey Mysterio Literally Has No Face
I thought last week was evidence that Miz’s brain was healing, but nope, this week he puts on a dress shirt and stares at four different places in the ceiling to say Rey Mysterio literally doesn’t have a face. Irregardless, The Miz should of definately won that match, he’s my favirote.
Worst: John Cena Vs. Rey Mysterio, in Theory
The announcement that this week we’d have a second WWE Championship match tonight featuring John Cena almost made me sigh and turn off my television. I’m a longstanding Cena apologist, but Jesus, what sense does it make for Triple H, a guy who (as far as I know) has no special love for John Cena, to put Cena in a championship match IMMEDIATELY against Rey Mysterio, a guy who (as far as I know) has never had an especially negative issue with Triple H OR John Cena? It doesn’t do Cena any favors because he’s getting a pity rematch against a four-foot tall 118 pound guy who wrestled twice last week and once already tonight. Also, he’s the guy who just LOST the WWE Championship and caused the CEO of the company to get fired because of his failures in a (more or less) clean, one-on-one match. It doesn’t do Mysterio any favors because he’s put himself through three matches to win the thing only to be bitched out of the ring by Vince McMahon last week and pointlessly shuffled into a match against Caucasian Machine this week. It makes HHH look like he’s just going by what he’s seen on old Raws, and makes him look like he doesn’t understand or respect the wrestlers or what they’re going through. It also retroactively makes Vince look pointless, because he not only lost the WWE Championship, he set up a title tournament to reestablish it and immediately had his plans whited out. Nobody looks good, and nobody expects Rey Mysterio, much less a Dino Damanged Rey Mysterio, to beat John Cena. Ever.
Couldn’t they have at least announced it for next week?
Best: John Cena Vs. Rey Mysterio, in Practice
I thought the actual match between Cena and Mysterio was phenomenal. Okay, “phenomenal” might be pushing it, but I thought it was the best in a string of good television matches we’ve been having lately, and that’s a great step forward. The thing that made me like it the most is how Mysterio and Cena played off of each other’s signature moves. For example, when Cena hits the first shoulderblock, the only thing he ever does is 1) hit or 2) miss the second shoulderblock. If he hits it, he continues on with his animation, and if he misses it he does that hilarious leaping Ghostbusters dog thing I love. Mysterio switched it up by dropkicking him in the middle of it. Then, when Mysterio went for something jumpy and flippy, Cena just powered him around right into the Protobomb. It’s the same moves we’re used to seeing, but used organically. How easy is that? And Cena even brought back his crummy Emerald Flowsion. Now we just need to him to break out the Throwback and we’ll have every move I’ve ever seen him do in one match.
There were other, little things. Mysterio taking Cena’s I LOVE DOING THIS flying legdrop as a legdrop instead of a Fame-asser. Mysterio using two specials to steal the STF in a moment that made me go OH! OHHH! at my television. Cena channeling Hernandez and trying to put Rey in the hospital with a sloppy ass Border Toss. It was the kind of match I’ll look back on at the end of the year and be able to actually remember. You know, even if it was completely meaningless
Best: Oh, and CM Punk Showed Up
I should probably start a new page for this. Hold on.