The now regular pre-read numbers:
1. The last two editions of The Best and Worst of WWE Raw have clocked in at around 140 comments each, and I can’t tell you how thankful I am to you for that. I love reading your comments, even the negative ones, and the more you comment the more dynamic and engaging this whole process becomes. In fact, I’m proposing a contest: If we can get this shared around to enough jerky forums and Facebook feeds to get to 200 comments (legitimate comments, not +1 or john cena gay, or john cena gay +1) I’ll start handing out prizes. Because I like you, and you’re doing me a favor.
2. I’m officially giving up my quest to get @KaitlynWWE to notice me, so I’m moving on to @WWEKaitlyn, who I’m pretty sure is a fat guy trolling fan sites. I bet that guy would think I’m great.
3. I’m thinking about parlaying this into some kind of wrestling podcast. Is that a terrible idea? I feel like wrestling podcasts are either droll, lispy lists of dirt sheet rumors or wrestlers making inside jokes with their friends. I don’t lisp and I barely have any friends. I think it would work. Thoughts?
Anyway, enjoy the column. I got it up before four o’clock!
Best: The Punk and Triple H Dynamic, While It’s Happening
CM Punk is the one guy who was able to turn “the Internet, people like me there” into a sustainable pro wrestling career. He’s gotten popular recently for saying things that are commonplace online, but rarely voiced on television. Triple H is the living, bloated embodiment of Internet wrestling hatred. He happened to be politicking and effortlessly trouncing everybody during that post-Attitude Era boom period when peoples’ judgmental passing glances needed someone to blame for the wrestling getting bad. He deserves a lot of it, and is burdened by the rest. Nobody has been paired up this perfectly since Vince McMahon’s ready-to-burst, power-strutting boss and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s abusive alcoholic in Magic Shoes. So when they talk, even when they aren’t really saying anything, I listen. More importantly, I want to listen.
And also importantly, they’re addressing some of the things I talked about in last week’s Best and Worst. Punk is saying he came back to Right The Wrongs and facilitate change, but Triple H knows (and we know, if we’re paying attention) that Punk is full of sh** and is an attention whore who came back because WWE is the biggest social platform in wrestling. That’s good. Punk got a few really great moments in spite of the exposition, like messing with H’s tie or his hilarious Jim Halpert look at the hard camera, and that’s enough to keep a portion of the crowd towing his line, cheering him (as part of his Cult of Personality) but allowing the Cena kids to have reasonable, logical talking points when they’re yelling NUH UH CM PUNK SUCKS to the fat, lisping guy behind them.
Think of it like the Sex Bob-Omb vs. Kyle and Ken Katayanagi battle from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. They’re taking pages and pages of dialogue and boiling it down to a stylized monster fight and we can either watch it with a smile on our face or dismissively scoff and wank to our nudged friends about how we don’t appreciate Edgar Wright’s vision. In this analogy, Triple H’s yeti is corporate power and Punk’s dragons are Insider Terminology. Also, this analogy ends with a yeti Pedigree’ing the f**k out of some dragons, and the Katayanagis going back to wrestling Matthew Patel on Superstars.
Best: Triple H Doesn’t Like Your Faaaaaaaaaat Asses
If you read show recaps (and I usually don’t, as I have a tendency to subconsciously appropriate things I’ve read, like the Vickahs guy from Good Will Hunting), but one of the sticking points for people seems to be Triple H’s use of “skinny fat ass” as an insult. Approaching the statement constructively, we find three possible solutions:
1. H messed up and didn’t say what he meant. Not likely, but this is the one most people are going with.
2. H was saying CM Punk was both skinny and flabby, or “fat”. Like Mr. Kennedy. Skinny arms, flabby belly. In Triple H’s mind I think the only thing worse than having a normal human’s build is having regularly-colored Caucasian skin. This is the most likely solution, as H is that guy who doesn’t give a sh** how good you are at pro wrestling’s building blocks, he just cares how you look. Because he’s bi a lot of things, but not bilingual.
3. It was an homage to one of the greatest promos of all time.
There is a 141 2/3 chance this is what Triple H was doing.
Worst: Two, Whenever Triple H Is Not On-screen, All The Other Characters Should Be Asking ‘Where’s Triple H?’
… or, “The Punk and Triple H Dynamic, Afterward”.
What Triple H said about Punk’s physique is true, Punk is skinny and doesn’t have a lot of muscle mass, so even if I don’t agree with his weird lookist, borderline sexual harassment bullsh** I can see he has a point. What I don’t like — and I feel like I’m going to type this into four paragraphs every week for the rest of my goddamned life — is Triple H’s refusal to EVER look vulnerable. Part of being a cool good guy is sometimes losing, so the viewers can get invested in your big moments and believe there’s a chance you could lose again. That’s a fundamental part of drama, and the reason Jackie Chan always gets beaten up by some random dudes at least once in a movie. If Jackie just just indestructible and broomstick-and-ladders everybody to death, we don’t care about him. He’s just Tony Jaa, and he’s cool and all, but we’re done with him in one movie. If you get beaten up, people can identify with you and you get to make movies until you’re 80 and starring in Disney’s Chinaman Babysitter, or whatever that thing was called.
H is in his Chinaman Babysitter phase, but he’s still unstoppably headbutting dudes at the end of Drunken Master II. There is not one single reason why Triple H needed a post promo interview to explain how he wasn’t upset by Punk referencing his wife. Not one. The crowd didn’t suddenly go “oh no, Triple H is a wimp now, we have to boo him”. CM Punk didn’t pull a Rhino and say he was going to f**k Stephanie’s rancid wounds, he just said H is whipped. And then H immediately goes backstage to find Josh and explains that he isn’t. He couldn’t even let Punk get out of the ring before he was making Scott Hall “ooh I’m scared” fingers. The next sentence has nothing to do with the last 15 years of Internet: What the Hell is this guy’s problem? H, how are you helping anybody by doing this? Either show some complex vulnerability OCCASIONALLY or just murder everybody with sledgehammers and sell your Affliction skeleton shirts. Doing that middling thing in the middle makes you look like somebody’s Cool Dad and makes everyone you interact with look worthless. If Punk had said YOU GOTTA AXE YER WIFE and left and you just stood there glaring at him, you might’ve made me wonder what you were gonna do next.
Worst: The Anonymous GM Died On The Way Back To His Home Planet
“May I have your attention please. I’ve just received an e-mail from the anonymous Raw General Manager. And I quote … goodbye cruel world? Huh, that’s weird.”
Worst: That Wasn’t A Battle Royal, That Was A Battle Peasant
I think I made the same face as Kelly Kelly as I watched this. At the risk of Best and Worst devolving into a series of lists (and be aware, I am lazy enough to make that happen), here are five things that were terribly wrong with the battle royal. One, they went to a commercial break and came back with the only people you’d pick to win still going at it, meaning they probably could’ve just done a Beth Phoenix/Eve Torres/Bellas four person “over the top rope challenge” or whatever and accomplished the same thing. Honestly, wouldn’t it improve their real sports presentation if they had, I don’t know, A.J. win? Sometimes the Mariners beat the Yankees, you know? Especially in a game where one base hit ends the game. Two, Eve Torres. Three, why do Divas turn into Delirious in battle royals? The bell rings and they just go BAH BAH BAH BAH BAH and turn and jump over the top rope. Melina literally spent more time walking to and away from the ring than she spent in it. She gets paid like 150 f**king thousand dollars a year. Four, if you’re going to tease me with Chickbusters on Raw, at least let me see them walking to the ring and pointing happily at people.
Five … uh, well, I should probably give this one its own thing.
Worst: Michael Cole Heat
You remember that “how is this helping anybody” talking point from the last page? Yeah, I’m going to be writing that on every page because Michael Cole went Full Wrestlemania again, just as I thought he would when he stood on the table and ended up dressing like Triple H last week. Cole crossed the line from “guy you want to see get his” to mentally unbearable by not only failing to be an engaging heel color commentator but by failing to commentate whatsoever. I can understand doing the “Kelly you’re a whore, nobody cares about your division” thing early in the battle royal, but by the time Eve was getting eliminated and Beth Phoenix was making her power run Cole was just yelling over everyone about how cool it would be to do commentary with his hypothetical twin Mickey Cole. This kind of thing might’ve worked on NXT when we had to put up with Maxine and were living in the shadow of Isis The Amazon, but this is your flagship television show. Bobby Heenan hated Hulk Hogan, and you do you want to know why that worked? Because he didn’t indiscriminately hate everything that was happening. Jesse Ventura thought Tito Santana’s name was Chico and made fun of him for picking lettuce, but he didn’t drift off into fantasy manual labor booking where Chico’s lettuce count was off and he gets fired for being unsatisfactory and then Jesse gets put in charge of the lettuce facility and improves production tenfold. Nobody WANTS TO HEAR THAT AHHH
I’ve heard his stupid “I’ve got a job what’ve YOU EVER DONE” radio rant, so I want to phrase it in a way he might understand, should he ever read this: Michael Cole, you can do basically the same thing you’re doing and contribute positively to the storytelling. Just remember, you are not the story. You are a part of it. You can be Donkey, but you can’t be Shrek AND Donkey AND President Vaginafart or whatever the bad guy’s name was.
Best: Beth Phoenix, Destroyer Of Destroyers Of Divas
This week’s Very Best Of Raw goes to the return of Beth Phoenix as a thing. This attractive, physically dominant, talented professional wrestling worker has been standing in the background of your Jenna Morasca-quality Champagne Bashes for seemingly YEARS, doing nothing. Beth powering out the Bella Twins Andre the Giant-style and forgoing the usual rub and tug of the Divas to snatch Kelly by the wig and throw her to her f**king doom was great, and unless the next two weeks feature vignettes of Kelly Kelly traveling to Japan to learn forearms and GAEA Girl dropkicks this will be the end of K2’s storied championship run.
It’ll be interesting to see if they play up Kelly’s congenital insensitivity to pain. There was a moment I’m going to pretend was important where Beth throws Kelly into the guardrail and does her speech and Kelly’s lying there unconscious, but when Beth walks around the ring to leave they jump back and Kelly’s just lying there with her eyes open, seemingly fine, nodding her head at somebody. My theory: Kelly was not hurt by the attack, and simply “played dead” to get Beth to stop hitting her and leave. It worked, and now at Summerslam Kelly’s going to kick out of the Glam Slam at one and break Beth’s jaw with a cartwheel back elbow. It sounds like I’m joking, but that would honestly be pretty f**king outstanding. I’ll give it five stars if they do the hilarious joshi thing where somebody goes up the ramp and then runs down screaming to do something they could’ve done just as effectively standing still.
Kelly also gets a supplementary worst for her pink lip gloss, but I guess that’s a personal preference. I don’t think someone who fights for a living should look that much like Bridget Marquardt.
Best: Miz And R-Truth
I want to see Miz and Truth tagging all the time. There, I said it. Far too often wrestlers arbitrarily team up with other good guys or bad guys regardless of previous relationships (“hey randy orton you once handcuffed me to the ring post and beat my heart in with a stick, but tonight we gotta face TED DIBIASE AND CODY RHODES so CAN I COUNT ON YOU HERE TONIGHT”, etc.), but Miz and Truth managed to establish their dynamic in the backstage segment without compromising either’s character. Truth is still a pretty nice guy if you don’t openly insult him, and Miz is the kind of guy who’d rather insinuate an insult than result to the YOU’RE WORTHLESS stuff that took a year to build and made Alex Riley punch him in the face. So Miz wants Truth to leave, but he won’t be forceful enough about it to make Truth’s eyes bug out. That translated into a cohesive tag team that made sense and could get a clean win over Rey Mysterio and John Morrison.
That’s the key — they got a clean win. It wasn’t even that underhanded, for once. I got so used to Miz only winning when Alex Riley jumped in and simultaneously bumped eight refs that wins in the championship tournament seemed shocking, and hell, even when he was being pushed Truth didn’t get to pin people clean with his finisher. But there they are, winning, exchanging YEAH WE DID IT MOTHERF**KERS hand slaps and chest bumps. This is good. Also good is a lengthy (for Raw … well, for THIS Raw) tag team match with crisp wrestling and a hot crowd who are SO HAPPY that John Morrison twisted his body over the top rope and slapped somebody with his fingertips on the way down.
Worst: Again, How Is Michael Cole Helping
Here’s a quick rundown of how Michael Cole feels about the wrestlers in this match:
R-Truth: Goofball, because he’s crazy.
John Morrison: Goofball, because he does parkour.
Rey Mysterio: A loser for only holding the WWE Championship for an hour and a half, probably a goofball.
The Miz: GO MIZ COME ON MIZ YEAH MIZ YEAH
So Truth gets buried on commentary for having a character, Morrison gets buried for having a hook, Mysterio gets buried FOR WINNING THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP and The Miz gets inadvertently buried because Cole won’t stop screaming about him, causing us to never want to see or hear him again. This is both teams in a tag team match. Even if Cole wants to do the “THESE MEN ARE NERDS, KING” thing, shouldn’t he pick a side, or at least not openly criticize R-Truth while he’s on The Miz’s team? If Michael Cole had been a part of the Invasion of Normandy he would’ve stood up on the boat, declared the Germans goofballs, then turned around and berated Allied troops because love of country is something nerds do.
Best: John Morrison Got Got
Don’t get me wrong, John Morrison should be buried, preferably with dirt.
In all seriousness, I think tag team wrestling is where Morrison needs to stay. His wacky Tekken offense works well when he’s been standing on the apron for a while and can run in and pull it off because he’s fired up and everyone else is tired (and possibly unable to think or move). I liked him a lot as part of MNM and loved him with Miz, and only started to turn on him when he wrestled by himself and started being stupid as sh** and saying things like “hippopotamus breath”. I’m going to give him another “Best” for his stomping on the ring steps, because it worked really well and got the crowd clapping in perfect unison. Keep in mind that Indianapolis is the crowd that spent the first 20 minutes of the show chanting “Pee Em Sunkspee Em Spunk”, so this is a notable accomplishment.
Worst Worst Worst: Triple H Telling Josh He Needs To Shave
I am not going to devote two sentences to this horsesh*t, so I need to work both “this is the kind of crap a sad restaurant manager pulls on employees to make himself feel important” and “how stupid is it to condescend on somebody for not shaving thoroughly when you have a full beard and spent two years passing off muttonchops as a mustache because you’re a mark for musicians” into one.