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And now, the Best and Worst Of Raw 1001 (July 30, 2012), no longer lovingly presented by Tout.com.
Best: It’s Not A Pipe Bomb, But At Least CM Punk Is Telling The Truth Again
The reason I’ve been so hard on CM Punk on 2012 isn’t so much because I believe he could be doing “better”, but because Punk’s greatest selling point is how he conveys an honest thought. What made his feud with Jeff Hardy, run with the Straight Edge Society and initial criss-cross applesauce Promo Emeritus great were how truly honest they seemed, especially in a world (or Universe, I guess) where everything sounds heavily scripted and delivered by soap opera robots. When he started smirking at the camera and rerouting every conversation to I WANNA HEAR WHAT THESE PEOPLE THINK he sacrificed that honesty for palatability, and throughout the feuds with Jericho and Daniel Bryan it got worse and worse. The wrestling was good, but the truth was gone.
Last week’s jumping clothesline to The Rock didn’t fix everything, but it did help Punk abandon the slow talking, theater voice thing in favor of the subtle, well-spoken and (most importantly) honest wrestler we fell so hard for. He’s not completely there yet — his explanations to Jerry Lawler weren’t must-see television, and it’s almost like they’re scared to divorce Punk too violently from the crowd so ready to cheer for him — but it’s something, and it’s a step in the right direction.
The trick is to be quiet about the things that are bad by accident and shouldn’t be pointed out (Del Rio renting cars, for example) and honest about the things that are bad and don’t care (Cena’s dynastic reign, Jerry Lawler’s commentary, The Rock’s random check-ins).
Worst: AJ Lee As Stephanie McMahon
Or should I say “AJ Lee as Zack Ryder”, because I’m pretty sure I’m ready to turn on her.
It’s not AJ The Performer’s fault, but the quickest way to make me wish you didn’t exist is to be Stephanie McMahon — a grating, abusive authority figure who says one thing and does another to the rampant, unexplainable joy of the audience. Stephanie can say “only pathetic cowards talk about someone’s children, YOUR CHILDREN MUST BE ASHAMED OF YOU” with a straight face, then punch a guy suing her family for assault to cheers and face no consequences. When she debuted, she was a fresh, new character … an “everywoman” who didn’t look like a waifish fitness model with huge fake tits or an 80s-lady-wrestler-moving-into-the-90s like Ivory or Jacqueline. She was shy, cute, and you kinda-sorta cared about her well-being. She made a black wedding and a Mean Street Posse vs. Test feud some of my favorite Raw moments ever. That’s clutch. But then the machine took over, and she ended up the Super Jacked And In Charge Of Everything Lady H, a homogenized thing the WWE made.
I’m not calling AJ a Stephanie yet, but last night’s show was a really bad setp in that direction. She went from a fresh, compelling female character to another soulless WWE Authority Figure, someone who can very easily have complex reasons for doing what she does but DOESN’T because it’s easier to make triple threat matches and yell I’M THE BOSS at people. She was even dressed like a little Stephanie. All she needed to complete the look were giant implants and a hair crimper.
I’m very willing to Wait And See Where It Goes™, but I sure hope it doesn’t go to I’m a bitch and I’m in charge!
Best/Worst: Even Alberto Del Rio Knows It’s Time To Stop Squashing Santino
The fourteenth match in the Del Rio/Marella Best Of 27 series went to Berto, and it earned both a big Worst and two smaller Bests:
Worst: Honestly, as much as I love watching Santino get his snake arm put through the wringer, how many times do we need to see Alberto Del Rio beat him up? Santino being the United States Champion (a LONG REIGNING United States Champion, helpfully pointed out by Michael Cole) doesn’t even matter anymore. ADR isn’t Sin Cara, you guys, he can work with more than one dude. If you need him to skunk a lower level guy, let him do it to a guy who needs a moment on TV and doesn’t have a championship belt and a popular puppet apparatus to fall back on. Pretty sure Derrick Bateman would do a great job of dicking around with Berto for a minute before tapping out like a wiener.
Small Best #1: Del Rio basically said what I just typed after the match, announcing that he’s only wrestling important matches from here on out and won’t be competing again until SummerSlam. This would be a huge Best if Del Rio hadn’t already gotten 40 PPV title shots against Sheamus and had even a 1% chance of winning this one.
Small Best #2: That stomp Del Rio does where he builds up and jumps and brings the leg down at a right angle is one of my favorite things about wrestling. I could watch him stomp people all day. He’s always on the verge of going in too hard and slipping on them and falling on his ass. It’s great.
Best: Vince McMahon Finally Saw ‘Seinfeld’
Vickie Guerrero continues her 20-year Embarrassing The Widow Tour by engaging Brodus Clay in a dance contest and doing the Elaine Benes thumb dance 15-years after its relevancy, but like everything else she does, she did it with good humor and enthusiasm and made it work.
And honestly, shit, Vickie’s dancing is no worse than a fat guy making dinosaur hands in place before pointing at ladies and ripping off his pants. The only difference is that we’re supposed to like one and hate the other. You’re awesome, Vickie, and I hope Raquel Diaz becomes a big deal soon so you can finally go home and be a normal person and not have to be called a stupid old cow all the time to feed your kids.
Best: Damien Sandow All Day Every Day
Unsurprisingly, the best moment of Raw 1001 goes to Damien motherf**king Sandow for showing up to interrupt the dance contest, beating the dino-shit out of Brodus Clay (for real, with knees to the face until he couldn’t stand up anymore) and breaking his dumb jewelry. He even made a point to calm himself and conduct his entrance theme. Raw has a way of always being super terrible, but pushing through one shoot amazing character or thing to keep me tuning in. Right now, Damien Sandow is that thing. You’ve finally made it, Idol Stevens, and you didn’t even have to be “Lebanese Don Draper” to do it like I thought you would.
I’d love it so much if Sandow could actually win this feud, and not just get suplexed and splashed on the SummerSlam pre-show. I want him to do the same thing to Brodus next week and pin him, then grasp something random like he’s holding a chalice and explain that all you have to do to beat a big fat guy is take out his legs and knee him in the head until he stops moving. He should also point out that no grown man should wear dinosaur jewelry, put back on his Joey Gladstone robe and cartwheel/Hallelujah his way to the back where Josh Mathews is waiting to learn about Fyodor Dostoyevsky.