I wrote this week’s Best and Worst of Raw immediately following last week’s, so by the end of it you’re going to be tired and not cheering for anything and wishing you could just go home. Or, somebody copy-pasted this week’s Best and Worst to Rajah.com last Wednesday morning and you’ve read it already.
Either way, enjoy. Your comments, thoughts, shares and donations of out-of-print UltraMantis Black memorabilia are appreciated. The only way to affect change in the way wrestling is reported online is to get people to support those trying to change it. Visit Fair to Flair, Dirty Dirty Sheets, the Art of Wrestling Podcast and anywhere else talking about wrestling without a fat head and a lisp.
But, you know, mostly me.
Worst: I Still Think This CM Punk Promo Might’ve Been A “Worked Shoot”
I don’t know for sure, guys, but I think the use of CM Punk’s shoot promo from last week in a stylized video package means, probably, that it was a worked shoot. Can anyone verify this? While we’re on the subject, I think Kelly Kelly shot on Nikki Bella last week with that Boston Crab, Sergeant Slaughter is a legitimate member of our Armed Forces and that The Sandman and Hardcore Hak were two completely different people.
In a loosely related anecdote, I’m originally from Southern Virginia and “hack” there can be a synonym for poop or pooping (as in “I have to hack” or “to take a hack”), so “Hardcore Hak” is the funniest wrestling name of all time to me.
Best: Super Cena is Super Cereal
During previous installments of Best and Worst of Raw and my appearance on TH’s The Wrestling Podcast, I’ve discussed the Voices of John Cena. To recap, they are as follows:
1. The “Heh, I’m just an average guy recapping the events!” narrator voice, where he speaks frankly about wrestling characters (“R-Truth is crazy!” et al.). This is his worst voice, because it’s the one he uses to introduce humorous TitanTron photoshops and call Heath Slater a f*ggot without TMZ noticing.
2. The Super Excited Preacher Voice. This usually follows the Average Guy Narrator and is used to hype up an event or happenstance by including everyone around him. “I want to see this match, YOU want to see this match THEY want to see this match COUNT CHOCULA WANTS TO SEE THIS MATCH EVRAH-BODDAH WANTS TO SEE THIS MATCH!”
3. The Leftover Rapper voice, which doubles as his “serious business” voice. He can’t really sound like a serious human being without affecting the Doctor of Thuganomics tone, which leads to him using phrases like “punk card” or “that’s real talk”.
I like the third voice best, because it allows me to settle into that comfort zone where Cena is making things MATTER~ and I can enjoy his cornball sincerity and white-bread to the point of a Food Lion warehouse delivery. Cena flipped the switch (hip hop phrase) on me last night by amalgamating his first and third voices to recap Things That Are Old Or Had Happened In the Past in a joshing, expressive way to the WWE crowd without losing his stone-faced seriousness. I consider that character evolution. Not only is Cena THE MAN upset about this, Cena THE CHARACTER is upset, and I’ve never seen Cena The Character get upset about anything, really. The closest we got was when Nexus fired him and that lady in the crowd screamed DON’T GIVE UP and he was all “OKAY I NEVER WILL”.
If roles were reversed and Cena had been the one sitting Indian-style on the stage last week waving to Colt Cabana and namedropping New Japan Pro Wrestling nobody would’ve thought it was a “shoot”, because (controversial opinion ahead) John Cena is better than CM Punk at conveying a child-driven Pro Wrestling Reality. With Cena, he’s always a part of the show. Punk sort of drifts in and out of it. I like CM Punk way, way, way more because the parts you drift to when you drift out of WWE are f**king outstanding, but I’m not five years old anymore, and nobody is buying me six sets of sweatbands when WWE comes to the Frank Erwin Center. If I was five and the Internet didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have any idea what CM Punk was talking about and would want the extremely nice super hero to beat the sh:t out of him for being such an aloof, facetious jerk.
The hack. Beat the hack out of him.
Best: Explaining Kelly Kelly’s Offense to The Layman
I realize now that my Fire Pro Wrestling jokes from last week’s column may have gone over some of your heads. I apologize for that, and would now like to explain Kelly Kelly’s offense in a more palatable way. In case you don’t watch CHIKARA (and you should), this is Brodie Lee.
And that’s my girlfriend on the far left in the black tanktop, but focus on Brodie Lee. Notice how he literally (literally) kicks Tim Donst’s face off of his body? Not a lot of guys in CHIKARA (especially during the era of CHIKARA featured) hit like that, so when Brodie throws a kick, it really matters. Guys get hit with moonsault armdrags and wrapped up in transitional cradles from World Of Sport and they sell it like death, but then Brodie kicks them in the face and it’s SO MUCH MORE that selling goes out of the window and they are legitimately fighting to maintain consciousness and a working skull.
In the context of Diva World, every move Kelly Kelly does is that Brodie Lee kick to the face. Kelly jumps in and hits a Lou Thesz Press, Brodie Lee kick to the face. She runs over and forearms the Additional Bella, so the Bella helplessly FLIES off the apron. A smack to the ass, a headscissors takedown, a butt rub and a bulldog later and that Bella Twin has suffered five huge yakuza kicks to the brain, putting her somewhere between comatose and legally brain dead. The K-Driller (or whatever she calls it) at the end was just overkill.
In the future I hope Kelly can consider keeping her number of moves performed to two or fewer.
Worst: Look at Eve, Acting Like She Helped
It’s been established that you can beat a Bella Twin with one basic submission hold, so how funny is it to watch Eve struggle in a BELLA TWIN ARMBAR for a minute and a half, then stand around triumphantly after Kelly has done the work and pretend she contributed? Even at the end where she has to run off the Errant Bella, all she can manage is a Sweet Shin Music and an awkward slide out of the ring, followed by wandering. Kelly made it through her portion of the match without having to take a single offensive move.
In this tag team, Kelly Kelly is the Ricky Morton and Eve Torres is the Ricky Morton’s dead friend he’s forgotten about from elementary school.
Best: Wear Pants With “What’s Up” Written Across the Ass in Chalk? DISCOUNT!
R-Truth shouting about car insurance to “Flo” was great, and it got even better when he made the “I just saved a bunch of money by switching to GEICO” joke. Not because of the joke, but because Flo works for Progressive, and based on my knowledge of car insurance commercials I’ve pieced together the narrative.
Flo from Progressive is extremely passionate and helpful about insurance. Progressive offers a service that compares the rates of other top insurance companies to help you find the best deal. Now, Truth was on the phone with Flo. He was all YOU CAIN’T HELP ME, YOU CAIN’T HELP ME FLO, THIS A CONSPIRACY, but eventually she (on the other end of the phone) relents, and by the time Scott Stanford shows up Truth is all YOU CAN HELP ME FLO, NOW THAT’S WHAT’S UP. Moments later, he mentions saving money and switching to GEICO.
So, Truth called Progressive to get a good rate, got a high one for being an at-risk driver, and Flo found out he could actually save money by going with GEICO’s offer. Who says wrestling doesn’t make sense?
I just wish they’d followed it up by having Alberto Del Rio mention that unicorns and glitter are his destiny.
Worst: Silent Rage is Angry, But Quietly!
Tough Enough winner Andy Leavine (Dugout screen name “LeavineConditioner”) isn’t on the show, but he’s got a video package about how he’s difficult to motivate and has a lot of internal rage, but you can’t see or hear it. Great idea for a character, guys. I can get behind a guy who doesn’t care or try until he’s about to lose, and then he flips out and starts shouting and hurting people. Actually, that sounds exactly like John Cena, so nevermind.
The last guy who worked a “silent but deadly” gimmick turned out pretty great. He won the World Heavyweight Championship! And also did other things.
I was going to make a joke about how his character should be “Guy who won a wrestling game show, but they never had plans to do anything with him other than make him look like a stupid chump and you’ll never see him again”, but I had to delete it because they’re already doing that with Johnny Curtis.
Best: Support Your Local Derrick Bateman
And speaking of wrestling game shows, one of the best things to happen all week was the return of Daniel Bryan’s NXT season 4 rookie Derrick Bateman to NXT Redemption. If you haven’t been watching the show, it’s like watching Superstars with Maryse standing slightly to your right for 48 minutes. Last week’s show had a great Tyson Kidd vs. Yoshi Tatsu match on it, continuing WWE’s weird tendency to put all the subversively good stuff where the fewest people are watching.
Anyway, Bateman’s return to the show didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense (returning from a week 12 elimination in season 4 17 weeks into season 5) but is still worth of your continued, undying support for a number of reasons. The number two.
1. He is from Cleveland (well, Willoughby, but I lived in Bedford for four years and tell people I lived in Cleveland. Besides, Miz is billed from Cleveland he’s from Parma, which is sort of like living in New Jersey and saying you’re a New Yorker).
2. WWE has a tendency to be Paul Blart: Zookeeper funny, but Bateman is shoot funny. I would even say he’s WORKED shoot funny. If you didn’t see his previous stuff, don’t sleep on the funniest WWE segment ever, his double date with Daniel Bryan and the Bella Twins.
I quote “no my pants. No, my pants. NO, my pants. NO! MY PANTS!” all the time, and if you don’t laugh at a bag of change to pay for drinks on a date you aren’t my friend. Do what you can to keep Bateman on this show, whether it be texting in Redemption Points to NXT or however it works. No matter what, it’s better than this:
Sorry, a Darren Young YouTube clip was supposed to be there, but I couldn’t find any.
Best: Evan Bourne Talking
Evan Bourne delivering the “Sgt. Slaughter is here because the Fourth of July” exposition with the panache of season 2 Jan Brady was hilarious to me for some reason. I don’t know what cracks me up so hard about listening to this guy talk. He’s just so little, it’s like Sgt. Slaugther was being greeted by a Squirtle. Seriously, Bourne could’ve just say “Hey Sarge, squirtle squirtle” and put on some sunglasses and it would’ve been the same.
Sarge’s “everybody makes mistakes” comments were also funny, because he used Evan as an example. “I make mistakes, Evan makes mistakes” and Bourne is just standing there nodding his head like “yeah man, I wrestled Delirious in Cleveland one time, we just did finishers to each other for like 40 minutes, it was the f**king worst”.
Worst: Sgt. Slaughter Forgot All His Other Moves
Fun fact (okay, not really fun, but a fact): At 1:36, the backstage segment featuring Slaughter, Evan Bourne and Jack Swagger discussing pledging and mistakes lasted 18 seconds longer than the Slaughter vs. Swagger match.
If you’ve seen any Sgt. Slaughter Legends match, you’ve seen this one. He just sorta walks up and puts the cobra clutch on somebody, they reverse it and he immediately loses. I’ve got to go back and make sure every Slaughter match ever isn’t like this. I’m gonna pop in the Boot Camp Match against Colonel DeBeers and it’s gonna be forty seconds long. I’ll watch an episode of G.I. Joe and Slaughter will waddle up and put the cobra clutch on Cobra Commander before he’s even done explaining things to the Dreadnaughts.
Worst: McGillicutty, Your Tag Team Match, Woof
I want to be more positive about this show, I really do, but there is a string of Worsts coming up that I can control, and I think it has something to do with the New Nexus vs. Santino and Vladimir Kozlov tag team match.
It’s not that McGillicutty (god I hate typing that name all the way out) and Otunga are bad, because yeah, they aren’t great, but if you go to your local church or armory and compare/contrast them with teams like The Texas Hitmen they aren’t that bad. It’s hard to articulate. The match was just … it felt like a waste of time, because no possible part of it could matter. Santino and Kozlov aren’t going anywhere. If they won the tag team titles, they’d do the same trombone celebration and get put in a tag team match eight weeks later with Otunga and McGillicutty, or at best, the Usos. Otunga and McGillicutty aren’t going anywhere, they have the Batman’s Penny title belts because the only other tag team is Santino and Kozlov. Win or lose, they’re just going through the same motions next month.
That’s the worst feeling you can get from wrestling, the feeling that nothing you’re watching matters. Even Wrestling Society X shouted at you until you though the exploding piranha match was gonna be the end of the goddamn world. Tag team wrestling is the easiest thing in the world to make compelling, I just get to feeling like nobody wants it that way.
Worst: #ryderor … Whatever That Was
I’d like Zack Ryder to be a part of the show as much as the next guy, but having him walk out onto the stage, say his catchphrase and smile at the ring until they fade out was not really “part of the show”. He was basically his own Zack Ryder sign. They could’ve cut backstage to a framed picture of him on the wall and it would’ve accomplished the same thing.
Ryder is cool and all, but if you let this momentum pool up and get stagnant before you do anything, we’re going to stand somewhere else, and all you’re gonna have is some dirty ass water.
Worst: Kofi Kingston is The One
I don’t want to dwell on this, but
I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m going to go to bed with uneasy dreams of Dolph vs. Kofi and awaken to find myself transformed in my bed into a giant cockroach. I will give Dolph a small selection of “bests” for his general speaking persona and his attempts to get the United States championship over as something important, but Dear God, the combination of a wrestling birthday cake scenario, Jerry Lawler’s non-stop fat jokes and Kofi Kingston’s feud with Dolph Ziggler is taking me to dark places in my mind. This is going to end with Kofi Kingston atop a giant pyramid fighting off infinite versions of Dolph Ziggler, isn’t it?
I’m going to go watch Hard Knocks: The Chris Benoit Story and eat a pint of ice cream.
Worst: Ha Ha, Look At That Fat Widow
And speaking of eating a pint of ice cream, let’s all laugh at Vickie Guerrero, the fat ice cream eating cow who got her “just desserts” by being pushed into a birthday cake twice! Look at what a fat dumb old ugly idiot she is!
I’m never okay with birthday party segments (Silkk the Shocker’s birthday on Nitro notwithstanding) but I would’ve been okay with Vickie the verbally-abusive, manipulative manager getting humiliated by a guy she’s wronged. Even if he put her through it twice. But man, those Lawler observations take what should be a harmless wrestling segment and turn it into a horrible statement on society. The big “VIVA LA RASA” sign in the background during the segment turned it into something else, and all I could do was picture the ghost of Eddie Guerrero desperately trying to communicate to us through posterboard. Either that or he’s up in Heaven somewhere stuck at the top of a ladder, looking down, yelling WHERE THE F**K IS VICKIEEE
Worst: Weeeeeee, This Triple Threat Means Nothing
In the same vein as the tag team match, the next in a series of thrown-together, emotionless WWE triple threat number one contenders matches had an air of meaninglessness to it, especially after the show-opening and show-closing promos. They’re battling for a shot against Cena at Money in the Bank, but Cena’s planning to fight CM Punk or quit completely, so he clearly doesn’t give a dook about these guys. And then these guys are going to get shoved into the Money in the Bank match itself, to fight again for ANOTHER shot at Cena whenever they want it, but you know what? Cena’s whole thing is that he can’t refuse a challenge, so if, say, Rey Mysterio walked out at the top of the show and said “I want a WWE Championship match with YOU John Cena, HERE TONIGHT” Cena would march out and salute and Ooh Rappadoo and it’d be on. Why put yourself through all of this?
I enjoy a good finisher theft and the match itself wasn’t bad, but taped shows always play like such a bummer. It’s like watching All Japan classics on YouTube. Technically they’re the greatest thing ever, but when you watch them on that pixelated screen in the middle of a bright ass white page with 40 other suggested videos how are you supposed to REALLY enjoy it? I know that’s Kawada throwing a gamengiri (much like I know that’s Alberto Del Rio doing his cross-armbreaker) but eh, whatever.
Best: Wrestling, Yay!
The wrestling on last night’s show wasn’t great, but by the time Miz and Alex Riley rolled around I was happy to see it. Miz/Riley matches are the epitome of “we’re doing what we’ve seen others do” style of wrestling that happens a lot these days, with neither guy really feeling out the process organically and just following a style sheet. Now it’s time for Miz to hit his DDT, now it’s time for the punches in the corner, now it’s time for the backslide. They brought some fire at the beginning, but “fire” is just like arm work: if you don’t bring it back later, it’s pointless.
But still, a nine minute match on Raw, good or bad, is a step in the right direction.
Worst: The Most Edited Thing Ever
And while we’re on the subject of Miz/Riley II, the show being taped gave them time to edit everything to a crisp, and by the time this match was over I almost had motion sickness. They jumped to so many different angles in such a quick succession that I lost track of where everybody was. Watch when they’re on the outside, the camera just zooms in on Miz and holds on him for several seconds. It’s like that episode of “The Office” where Michael and Jan sit on a train car, and for some reason the documentary filmmakers decided to squat and film their legs swinging and mess with the focus. More specifically it was the Ray William Johnson of wrestling matches, where the natural pause between sentences is edited out, and Ray just says PIRATES and then NINJAS and now he’s on the left side of the screen, and now CHUCK NORRIS and he’s upside down and wearing a pirate hat.
That’s what Miz/Riley was. Does that make sense? And it ended with a backslide. Real talk, Miz should be kicking this guy’s ass. Come on.
Worst: Alex Riley’s Signature Hand Gesture
Is anybody else concerned about Alex Riley’s “my dick is more or less this long” appeal? What’s he doing, holding an hors d’oeuvre? And he’s got his shoulder back and his arm cocked back like he’s going to throw it. Just … just make a fist, dude, I don’t know.
Best: Money in the Bank Video Packages
I liked WWE putting over the importance of Money in the Bank, even though they do it nonstop. “Every person to cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase has gone on to become a champion” is the new “were you aware Shelton Benjamin is a great natural athlete”. Regardless, I liked the little video packages featuring highlights of the matches and the Event Horizon wipe to the winners as champions. I was hoping we’d get a video about Mr. Kennedy winning, losing the briefcase to Edge, getting fired, then refusing to exercise for the next three years.
Best: Vulnerable Mr. McMahon
I’ve read a lot of negative feedback for the McMahon and Cena segment that ended the show, especially since the spoilers were out like last Tuesday and we’ve had a week to worry about it. A lot of people complained that it didn’t make sense (which it doesn’t, if you think really hard about it) or that Cena and McMahon’s hammy delivery of “worked shoot” dialogue ruined all the cool stuff Punk had accomplished the week before.
I actually enjoyed it, partially because of the hammy delivery (as I mentioned before with Cena, his “super serious” real talk voice makes me laugh in a compelling sort of way) but mostly because the best version of Mr. McMahon is the one who thinks he might be wrong. Vince pulls this off better than anybody, and is one of the understated reasons why Austin vs. McMahon worked so well. People say “BOSS VS. REDNECK HELLRAISER” and yeah, that was the story, but there was another story where Vince had always gotten everybody to do what he said, and some new guy was f**king it all up, and it was making him SO MUCH MONEY and making things SO POPULAR that he was torn between enforcing his commands and just letting Austin do whatever he wanted. That was interesting. A guy who KNOWS he’s right, but maybe he’s not, and it scares him.
Vince saying Punk was suspended because “well obviously” and “he’s a punk” devolving into “I don’t want to be embarrassed by you” is a pretty complex thing to feel for a wrestling character. Cena’s obviously shocked because everybody knows he NEVER GIVES UP, but he’s got a history of failing in the clutch lately (Nexus being a big one). Punk’s sermon on the mount threw the two most powerful people in WWE (Vince and Cena) into a spiral of doubt, and all he’s got to do is walk into Chicago dripping with revolution and take the championship.
Worst: Does Anybody Remember the Last Time Cena Was Fired
But yeah, the “if CM Punk LEAVES CHICAGO with the WWE Championship you’re fired” stipulation telegraphs the show way too much, especially a Money in the Bank show with Rey Mysterio as one of the guys competing for an anytime contract. Cena loses, Punk has done the impossible, Rey cashes in and sends him packing unceremoniously like so much JBL. That’s the easy booking. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that they renewed CM Punk’s copyrights for a reason, the revolution is going to be televised, and Cena will get to sit at home and make WWE films and be ready when Rocky comes a’callin’ next Spring.
The last time Cena was fired he didn’t miss a single Raw, and just kept showing up until he badgered them into giving him his job back. That’s not exactly a Summer of Punk sort of thing.
Worst: A Quick Word on the CM Punk “Homo” Thing
Punk calling people gay as an insult is a disappointing thing, but the people who seem most upset are Punk’s fans, and I urge those people to remember that their hero is the guy who once yelled WHORES at a couple of strippers and made everybody laugh. We don’t like him because he’s a good, kind person, we like him because he’s a self-righteous piece of sh**, so don’t be happy about it, but don’t get too upset. Hero worship is the worst, and this is coming from the guy who took four different pictures with the Phillie Phanatic.
Also, if you’re saddened and shocked by a WWE wrestler calling wrestling fans “homos”, do not ever attend a locally-promoted pro wrestling show. Because holy sh**.
edited, added disclaimer: I might not have phrased it well enough, but I don’t support anybody calling anybody else a homo and am glad Punk has already apologized for it. I’m just saying if we’re upset at him over this, we should probably be upset about him a lot.
Best: CM Punk Defending the WWE Championship in CHIKARA
I don’t remember if I read it on DVDR or Something Awful, but the best fantasy booking I’ve heard is that Punk wins the title and spends a couple of months defending it in various independent promotions. He goes into the ECW Arena and has like a 45 minute match with Fire Ant and wins it, and just as he’s about to leave music hits, and IT’S TIME TO PLAY THE GAME
That would be the best thing in human history.