The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 7/30/12: The Abyss Gazes Also

AJ Daniel Bryan GM Raw WWE

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And now, the Best and Worst Of Raw 1001 (July 30, 2012), no longer lovingly presented by Tout.com.

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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.

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Worst: If You Haven’t Seen It, Here’s The Triple H/Brock Lesnar Video Package Three Times In A Row

Recaps of what happened “moments ago” in an era without Nitro on the other channel are stupid enough on their own, but there is never, ever a reason to show a previous episode’s segment recap video in its entirety more than once. Ever. Showing it during a pay-per-view pre-show and again before the match on the pay-per-view is pushing it. Showing it for NO RAISIN twice on a show where nobody featured in the video appears is creative atrophy and a shitty excuse to waste three minutes of your 180-minute show.

The Triple H/Brock Lesnar segment was bad enough when I had to watch it live last week. If you missed it (and you didn’t read most of that AJ As Stephanie McMahon section from the previous page), Triple H prodded Brock Lesnar until Lesnar snapped on him and broke his arm. H’s arm healed in about 20 minutes, so he challenged Brock to a match at SummerSlam, which Brock didn’t accept because he’d quit, and when you quit a job or get fired you don’t keep working there (John Cena, I’m looking in your direction). Brock sent a representative to Raw to explain the situation, so Triple H punched the representative. That led to a lawsuit, which Triple H dismissed by saying “lawsuits are GAY” and punching the representative again. Triple H says Brock Lesnar is nothing but a bully, then calls him names until he agrees to fight. Having been beaten up on multiple occasions, the representative says “stop hurting me and being a violent weirdo, your kids are gonna grow up to be crazy violent weirdos”, so Triple H goes full Taken and threatens to find and kill him if he mentions children again. This brings out Triple H’s wife, who insults the representatives children and beats him up again. This leads to Brock Lesnar showing up to make the babyface (?) save, only to be beaten up by Triple H.

Do you need to read that paragraph two more times in this report, or did you get it? I’m gonna reproduce it on page 5, for anyone who starts reading later.

Best: Daniel Bryan Is Anchoring Raw

I doesn’t really need to be pointed out again, but vanilla, no-personality-havin’ indy-darling Daniel Bryan is carrying the f**k out of Raw with not only a great 15-minute match, but with a series of segments relying on his personality and super over catchphrase to work. This is happening, and you shouldn’t ever take it for granted.

Worst: #ThoseAreAllTheSame

The “illusion of choice” thing WWE pulls when they do TABOO TUESDAY or CYBER SUNDAY or WIRELESS INTERNET WEDNESDAY has always bothered me. The idea is that we’re supposed to be making a creative decision about what happens on the show, but they only let us do it in one of two ways:

1. By giving us one really obvious, good answer and two terrible ones. This is what Taboo Tuesday was all about, and was some straight-up ‘Legends Of The Hidden Temple’ shit. During the question-and-answer round, Olmec would be like, “GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. WHO WAS THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES? GEORGE WASHINGTON OR A CUCUMBER” and sometimes the Silver Snakes trog would stand there thinking to himself and mumble cucumber, but most of the time they had a basic goddamn brain and answered it correctly. WWE does that with their options, too. TONIGHT VINCE MCMAHON IS IN A STEEL CAGE MATCH AGAINST ONE OF THREE SUPERSTARS. WILL IT BE

A) glacier

B) buff bagwell’s mom

C) STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN

And my dumb ass goes and votes for Glacier, and the final tally is 0.1% to 0% to f**king 99.9% because most people are normal.

2. They do what they did last night and give you three options, but they’re all basically the same thing. DO YOU WANT TO SEE THE DIVAS IN A

A) A LINGERIE PILLOW FIGHT

B) A HIT EACH OTHER WITH THE SOFT PARTS OF A BED MATCH

C) AN UNDERPANTS SLEEPING BRAWL

The three options for Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan were a “No Holds Barred Match”, a “Falls Count Anwyhere Match” and a “Street Fight”. Option B lets you pin somebody on the floor, sure, but otherwise it’s just options A and C, which are f**king synonymous. What, No Holds Barred means Sheamus is gonna start throwing jumping piledrivers and a Street Fight means they’re wrestling in jeans? At least give us “cage”, “table match” and “falls count anywhere” so they can more or less work the same match and still let us pretend we’re voting on something.

Best: Sheamus And Daniel Bryan Beating The Shit Out Of Each Other

For the record, I voted for “No Holds Barred Match” in the hopes that Z-Gangsta would show up for random DVD cross-promotion.

The match itself was phenomenal, and one of the best matches on Raw this year. There wasn’t a lot to it other than Sheamus going from white to pink and Bryan going from clean-bearded to having spit in his beard, but it was two guys who are comfortable with each other in the ring hitting each other with feet and objects until one of them died. That’s great, and the only downside is that every single Sheamus/Daniel Bryan match between four months ago and infinity reminds me of how f**king robbed we were at WrestleMania. Again, it doesn’t ever matter if Daniel Bryan takes a pin if a bunch of great stuff happens in the match he loses.

But yeah, a fifteen-minute back-and-forth streetfight on Raw. If you’re going to have your top guys wrestle each other on free TV, Raw’s third hour gives you some breathing room to make it count. More of this, and less impromptu tag matches and #1 contenders things, please. Explore the story of a guy having to win more than one or zero matches to get a title shot!

Worst: “Uhhhhh I Think, THE ROCK!” – Tout

As expected, the way to get your Tout on Raw is to answer their question in the most basic way possible and say some catchphrases. If WWE asks, “Who is the greatest of all time, The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin?”, don’t say, “considering career longevity, success in a variety of styles and wrestling organizations, importance to WWE’s business history and ticket sales, not to mention their win/loss record against one another at WrestlesMania, Stone Cold Steve Austin is clearly better than The Rock”, say “THE ROCK CAUSE HE THE MOST ELECTERFYING MAN IN SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT IF YA SMALLALALALAOW WHAT ROCK IS COOKIN!” and stare at your screen until the Tout ends.

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Best: The Tragic Punting Death Of Little Jimmy

Daniel_Bryan_Kick_Little_Jimmy_WWE_RawIf you didn’t think Daniel Bryan was the MVP of last night’s show (most valuable player, not the other one), please revisit this segment, wherein Bryan confirms the location of Little Jimmy and briefly befriends him before kicking him to the outside with the camera following the arc of Jimmy’s fall and berating Truth for cradling an invisible child. AN INVISIBLE CHILD~!

WWE only seems to have one joke for Little Jimmy: kick him. Twitter has two: Little Jimmy got “injured” as a way to write him off the show because he failed a wellness test, and the other one about Jerry Lawler wanting to f**k him. I’m a little disappointed that they confirmed Little Jimmy was okay later in the show, which is some Concrete Crypt bullshit.

Worst: Kofi Kingston’s Arguing Abilities / Titus O’Neil Should Not Be Wrestling Singles Matches

I run down Kofi Kingston a lot in the Best And Worst column, and people always ask me why. The two best reasons I can come up with are,

1. I hate John Morrison and he’s not around anymore, so the next jumpingest guy gets his leftovers, and

2. He’s the most “okay” wrestler ever. Nothing he does is really bad … he’s okay in the ring, he’s got an okay look, he’s okay on the microphone, he’s not super popular and doesn’t get cheered when he isn’t “booming” but he doesn’t get booed or What’d, he’s just totally and completely okay. He’s the Deep Blue Something of pro wrestling. When he’s wrestling, you may forget that wrestling is happening at all.

The only thing he’s really bad at is explaining something to another wrestler. I LOVE it when Kofi has to explain shit. He comes to the ring to find Daniel Bryan lying around screaming about wanting a doctor, and his best reaction is, “hey, come on, man!” That’s Kofi Kingston in a nutshell. A guy who wants to help, but he can’t really do anything but gesture at you and tell you to come on, and call you man.

I paired this Worst with “Titus O’Neil Should Not Be Wrestling Singles Matches”, because seriously.

Worst: Rape Jokes

Here’s the part where I have to practice what I preach.

I love Abraham Washington. I loved him when he was hosting a talk show nobody got on ECW, I talked him up forever in the hopes they’d bring him back up and let him do something on TV, and I love every time he shows up with a headset to yell things like YO MAMA to distract Kofi Kingston. That all being said, comparing Titus O’Neil’s unstoppability to Kobe Bryant raping a lady is the lowest possible brow and he should be f**king ashamed of himself.

When we watch wrestling, we have to be okay learning that a wrestler we hate has improved, and in the same vein we need to call out wrestlers we like when they shit the bed. If A.W. lost his job over this it’d be unfortunate, because I want him on TV, but I’d understand and wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. My opinion on rape jokes is officially as follows: I think a comedian should be able to make jokes about whatever he wants, and I think a comedian who wants to make rape jokes is a crappy comedian. A rape joke CAN be funny because of context or sudden awkward inappropriateness (see: David Brent interrupting a training exercise on the The Office to report a rape), but rape jokes are not funny in and of themselves and if you make rape jokes you are a dumb idiot.

So yeah, AW, have my arbitrary “Worst” designation because that’s the worst thing I can give you. Don’t do that again.

Best: Half Of Randy Orton Is Back!

A slimmer, more Jim-Parsons-bodied Randy Orton made his return last night, and as longtime readers of the column may remember I like having the guy around and love the hell out of his stupid “hunting” taunt. He’s impossible to figure out emotionally … last night he was a weird combination of sleepwalking and super excited, and that’s exactly the dude I’d be most afraid of. He’s a normal every day chum, but something’s off about him and you just can’t put your finger on it and then suddenly he’s MAKING SNAKE NOISES AND WHAT AAAAHHHH

Now we just need to quickly get Orton into a storyline that asks him to do more than silently RKO and pin heels, but not to the point he has to talk about it.

Best: A Moment Of Appreciation For The Continued Presence Of Heath Slater

My favorite catchphrase right now is easily “The ONE MAN BAAAAAAND, BAY BAYYYYYY”, almost exclusively for the impossible douchebaggery of the “baby” pronunciation.

I’m extremely excited that Heath Slater gets to stay on Raw and lose decisively to folks, because he makes it look better than anyone. Maybe this is a botched Fame-Asser talking, but I think I prefer Slater’s sell to Zigglers … Ziggler flops around and exaggerates everything and it’s wonderful, but it’s also sorta muddled by his “show off” gimmick to the point where you don’t know if he’s actually supposed to be hurt or just doing his best Shawn Michaels to everyone else’s Hulk Hogan. Slater’s sell is more refined. He can end up in a headstand off a Clothesline From Hell or twist his entire body and spin his hair around to sell a Big Show knockout, but you never see it and go “ha, look at that hilarious sell”. He’s selling the shit out of it AND making it look real. He’s not just falling flat on an RKO, he’s jumping into it like he’s trying to dunk a basketball with his head.

It’s pretty funny to think that aside from Daniel Bryan, Heath Slater is the most important Nexus guy. David Otunga was the cronie to a guy who isn’t around anymore and is off somewhere filming a movie. Wade Barrett got emasculated by everyone important and got hurt, Skip Sheffield is on Smackdown so the “Goldberg” chants won’t be so loud, Justin Gabriel is our backup Tyson Kidd and Darren Young’s one half of the Rape Is Funny tag team. Heath Slater was a focal point of Raw 1000 and had a match with a 9-time world champion on Raw. Who looks like Wendy now, baybayyy?

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Best: MILPH, And Tag Team Matches Going 15 Minutes

I can’t take credit for R-Boom, but if The Miz and Dolph Ziggler from any kind of lasting alliance I’m taking credit for calling them Milph. With Vickie as their valet, it’s even better.

It shouldn’t have been super surprising, but the Christian/”Lionheart” Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler/Mike “The Grown-Up” Mizanin tag team match was fantastic, and if 3 hours of Raw hadn’t been one other good match and 2 hours 20 minutes of commercials and recap videos it would’ve been a really good show. Miz continues to look like an actual, athletic human being, Christian continues to be the most Christian Christian he can be and Chris Jericho has found some semblance of a spark again by being Suit and Sycophants Chris Jericho with Y2J’s moveset. As someone mentioned on Twitter, I’m happy Christian and Jericho could put the “ASS CREAM” incident behind them and work together.

Oddly enough, the weak link of last night’s match was Dolph Ziggler, who just couldn’t seem to vibe like he usually vibes and at one point did a jumping asshole to nowhere.

Worst: Dolph Ziggler’s Jumping Asshole To Nowhere

Dolph Ziggler botch GIF

When you’re a guy who doesn’t screw up a lot, we remember your screw-ups. People love the Sin Cara Botch meme, but outside of being clumsy and just generally kinda falling down he hasn’t done anything remarkably memorable. A good example here is Randy Orton. Remember that time Chris Jericho had a guy in the Walls of Jericho, and Orton was supposed to run up and RKO him, but instead of just doing it he got a running start against the ropes, jumped through the air like an idiot, missed completely and landed in shame? Of course you do. That’s what happened with Ziggler last night, when I guess Christian was supposed to take a Rocker Dropper or counter it into a powerbomb but didn’t stand up all the way so Ziggler just called an audible and executed the JUMPING ASSHOLE TO NOWHERE.

The match ended with Ziggler hitting Jericho with the Money in the Bank briefcase and just kinda standing there grimacing, and the only two things I could think were

1. Man, his body and face are two completely different colors, and

2. JUMPING ASSHOLE TO NOWHERE

Best: Daniel Bryan As Walter Kovacs

Watchmen is one of the three things in this world I love more than pro wrestling, so of course Daniel Bryan’s psychiatric evaluation (complete with rorschach blots) reminded me of issue #6, wherein Dr. Malcom Long tries to cure Rorschach of a mental disorder and ends up having to accept the empty, black meaninglessness of life. In this segment, Dr. Long is played by “guy with stethoscope”, which is WWE’s only possible interpretation of “doctor”, but even that’s better than what he got in the movie.

Anyway, if I was booking Raw (and I should never be allowed to) I would’ve went all the way with it, if only hear Daniel Bryan scream “I’M NOT PUTTING YOU IN THE YES LOCK, YOU’RE BEING PUT INTO THE YES LOCK WITH ME” and to watch Hornswoggle get slaughtered in a men’s room.

“Boobs” and “The Phillie Phanatic” are the other two.

Worst: Jerry Lawler: “THIS CHINESE GUY SHOULD CHANGE HIS NAME TO CHING CHONG CHING”

f**k you

Worst: Lord Tensai, Still

How funny is it that awesome ass Lord Tensai with the Mountain Dew spit hand and plus-sized Great Muta gear had to be “depushed and repackaged”, and what they came up with was “take away his lordship, don’t let him wear as many clothes and make his underwear look more like a Fruit Roll-Up”?

I’m a fan of Albert’s and want him to be a cool and important part of the show, but the momentum is dead and it’s time to wash off the facial scribblings, grow back out some of that chest hair and start making choo-choo noises before you run into people. Or better yet, give us one backstage segment or interview where Tensai explains anything he does so we don’t have to blink through another stupid “HE’S BEATING UP HIS FOLLOWER!” thing. One f**king interview where he says “yes, I was Albert, but now I am SO MUCH MORE LOOK AT MY DEW BREATH” and people are stupid for chanting Albert. One f**king interview where he says “hey, WWE guys sure are tougher than my Japanese competition! Time to try harder!” and he’s got motivation and a reason to do LITERALLY ANYTHING OTHER THAN THIS.

If Tyson Kidd is on Raw five more times this year, he can say he spent 10 minutes on Raw.

Worst: And Now Suddenly Kane Again

I’m giving this a Worst because (1) Kane, and (2) Kane showing up out of nowhere to give Bryan the Red Light Special, but if AJ is sincerely lording her General Managership over Daniel Bryan and CM Punk for treating her like an object for a month, shouldn’t she be really super nice to Kane? He never put his hands on her, he never threatened her, even in a match, she used him for ALT KISSES for a few weeks and he eventually nutted up and said “hey, this isn’t gonna work out, things are complicated”.

Kane should get to be her boyfriend now. That’s how the world should work.

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