– As always, you clicking “like” on this post makes you a great friend of mine. Be sure to leave a comment when you’re done clicking like, even if it’s a comment about how much fun you had clicking like.
– I’m leaving on a plane to California as you’re reading this, so if you live anywhere in the state, make sure you find me at SummerSlam (or SummerSlam Axxess, or tonight’s Giants/Nationals game) and say hi. You should also stop by the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles for Saturday night’s Tournament Of Nerds, where I’ll be a guest judge. It’s a benchmark of my life, so come give high-fives.
– Propers to Casey for his mad GIFfage.
– Don’t forget to follow along with the WWE 13 roster reveal stuff this Saturday, follow me on Twitter and be around for the SummerSlam open discussion thread, starting Friday. Damien Sandow badges will be had.
Anyway, enjoy this week’s report.
Best: Part Of Me Really Enjoys Pun/Big Show Matches
Three important truths about this match:
1. CM Punk matches are always best when he’s fighting back, and not when he’s allowed to control the action. This is why his matches with John Cena were so good (because Cena is an unstoppable juggernaut, and Punk is just trying to do his best). Ditto with Samoa Joe (because pre-Crisis Samoa Joe was an unstoppable juggernaut, and Punk as just trying to do his best. Also, top rope pedigrees).
2. Big Show matches are best when he’s allowed to be dominant, but not SO dominant that he spends 80% of the match standing around spittling at the crowd about how he’s dominant. Show should be in control, but always trying to do the next best thing to put his opponent away. That way they’re asked to avoid his death moves (with a 500 pound guy, anything can be a death move) and you can go really anywhere with it. If you don’t, it’s that boring Kofi Kingston cage match where he just pumped his fist and yelled ARGH I’M NOT NICE for 15 minutes.
3. WWE matches between established guys who’ve fought each other a thousand times are usually better in your brain if you can remember the great stuff they’ve done together before. Punk and Show had that great Straight Edge Society feud with masked Punk, so when they’re in the ring together my brain releases the chemicals that go along with that I watch with a smile on my face.
So I find myself enjoying these two in the ring, sometimes against my will. Punk’s big swingy offense looks a dozen times better on a guy this size than it does against a guy like Daniel Bryan, partially because of Show’s big, swingy selling but mostly because when Punk lazy-kicks Bryan in the head you just want Dragon to snap and beat the f**k out of him because science.
Worst: AJ Is Really Shaking Things Up By Doing Exactly What Every Other GM Would Do
I think we all knew this was coming.
Vince, in all his nWo swivel chair glory, made CRAZY CHIX AJ the general manager of Raw because it’s TIME TO SHHHHAKE IT UP DAMMIT, assuming I guess that she’d schedule bra-and-pantie inferno matches or put Justin Roberts in a Punjabi Prison match against 15 live chickens because she’s unstable. Why Vince would want that for his Raw instead of someone who understood the conventions of wrestling and could work within them to create compelling, unique television is a good question, but “why does this guy run a business where he hit his daughter with a pipe and had his son’s face shoved up his ass” is also a good one and should be answered first.
Anyway, AJ has responded to her general, managerial position with two important choices: wearing pantsuits and always doing the most obvious thing in the world. It’s disappointing. When a CM Punk/Big Show match gets interrupted by Daniel Bryan and John Cena runs out to make the save, the first thing a progressive GM should do is NOT MAKE A TAG TEAM MATCH WITH THOSE FOUR GUYS. This is what Teddy Long would do. There’s an entire generation of wrestlers who grew up watching Teddy Long (and Paul Heyman, let’s be straight) make impromptu tag matches, so now THEY’VE got to do it, because that’s their only interpretation of the job AND it’s the ironic thing to do, so it’s lose-lose.
Also, AJ really needs to stop putting her fingers in her mouth and skipping in the pantsuit. The only gesture you can do in a WWE pantsuit is holding the microphone in your hand about shoulder high and putting your other hand on your hip. This is in the f**king handbook.
Best: Kaitlyn, Regular WWE Television Character
On the plus side, AJ’s rise to prominence, for better or worse, has kinda-sorta-maybe ensured that Kaitlyn gets to be a TV character going forward. She’s not saddled with the poor Maxine “standing in the background of bikini contests and scowl because you’re the pretty one nobody’s ever heard of” thing anymore … hell, during her tag match on Raw Michael Cole abandoned his old NXT talking point of “Kaitlyn is horrible and everything these women are doing is horrible” in favor of “some say Kaitlyn is a future Divas Champion!” And while those statements are interchangeable to most people, one sounds a hell of a lot better than the other.
Here are the two things I love most about Kaitlyn, assuming “lady muscle body” and “Brandon is occasionally a pervert” aren’t applicable:
1. She has a personality. I’m talking an actual personality, one that comes through when she’s speaking in front of a camera. I’m sure Beth Phoenix is an engaging, personable woman in real life, but when she’s on TV her only personality is I AM A WRESTLING LADY!!! Kaitlyn seems like an actual person, albeit one with abs that could pave a sidewalk, and I think that’s kept her moving forward since she showed up on NXT as a giantess’ replacement with about 45 seconds of wrestling experience.
2. She’s the Ricky Steamboat of our generation. No, not like that. One of Ricky Steamboat’s secondary accomplishments was being a wrestler with a wrestling name whose real name was WAY WAY more of a wrestling name. “Ricky Steamboat” was actually RICHARD BLOOD. How awesome is that? “Kaitlyn” is one of those disposable FCW names they should’ve gotten her out of years ago, but her real name is (seriously) CELESTE BONIN. Her wrestling name sounds like a teen girl you’d get a shit-eye from at the mall. Her real name sounds like a Final Fantasy: The XXX Parody character.
Worst: Contract Signings
I was worried that recapping 3-hour Raws would make my hands fall off, but I guess I underestimated WWE’s ability to shoehorn like an hour and seventy minutes of hype packages and recap videos and MOMENTS AGOES and Slams Of The Night. Seriously, this show was shoot 40% recap. I can only type “Nitro isn’t around anymore, those Moments Ago videos aren’t helping anyone, if we like CM Punk we’ll remember what happened to CM Punk, Jesus” so many times.
Contract signings are one of the worst things you can do on a wrestling show, on the list somewhere between birthday parties and in-ring weddings, and part of what makes them so bad is Raw assuming you want to see them REALLY BADLY and will pop for every mention of them until they happen. I think we were reminded five or six times to stay tuned for the contract signing, as if we were gonna suddenly forget wrestling was on and miss the last 45 minutes of a show we’ve already chosen to watch.
Best: People Are Finally Doing Ryback Right
I was worried that Ryback would mire forever in those two-is-greater-than-one jobber squashes, or worse, he’d mire forever in that “beat up Reks and Hawkins but get attacked way too much during it” things that’d push him too far away from the Goldberg mystique he’s seemed to naturally cultivate. I’m pleased to announce that I’m wrong, at least for the moment, and that both Raw and Smackdown made great strides in The Ryback as an Actual WWE Guy.
On Smackdown, he’s got a thing going with Jinder Mahal where Mahal thinks he can beat up two nobodies too, and he CAN, because those nobodies are the worst, and statistically worse at wrestling than Alberto Del Rio’s Hot Cops. I saw you back there as a phony police officer, Cowboy James Claxton, you can’t fool me. On Raw, Ryback became AJ’s other Teddy Long tribute, the “tough guy who beats up people who were rude to me”. Where Teddy would bring out DA CELTIC WARRIAH, SHAMUS~! or RANDEH, ORTEN~!, AJ is using The Ryback. Kane used to be this guy, too. It’s not a terrible place to be, because all those guys are former champions. If we see The Ryback winning the United States Championship in a hot Raw match where the crowd surfs Antonio Cesaro (or whoever) back to the ring to take his beating, we’ll know we’re on the right track.
Also, my heart gets warm whenever I hear the WWE Universe finally doing the FEED ME MORE chant. They still don’t know how to handle his DONE or FINISH IT taunts (maybe they’ve never seen The Fountain), but at least they aren’t leaving him hanging on the important part like they did with Edge and his spear.
Best: Heath Slater Is Back On Raw
HE’S THE ONE MAN BAAAAAAND, BAYBAYYYYYYY~!
Man, there’s nothing greater than that honeymoon period when you get into a wrestler and get super excited whenever he shows up on TV. I’m in that with Damien Sandow, but no wrestler makes me happier just by showing up on Raw than Heath Slater. I love just typing his catchphrase, and I love that he’s added a ridiculous air guitar pantomime to make it a thousand times worse. Cole helpfully explaining that he’s the One Man Band because he “plays all the instruments” (and no other reason, not even attempting to apply a one man band concept to pro wrestling) was off the charts.
Worst: Probably The Most Nonchalant Victory Ever
You know it’s sad when Michael Cole starts in with his “here’s the cover, hook of the leg, shoulders down” thing and it actually ends the match.
You know that honeymoon period I was just talking about? R-Truth was the best character of Spring 2011, but the Summer of Punk came along and Truth went from exciting, nuanced sociopath to Miz’s black friend who can’t even win 2-on-1 handicap matches, and then into crowd pleasing sociopath who pats an invisible child on the head and it’s kinda funny I guess, but it’s not what it used to be. Truth used to be the guy who’d attack John Morrison backstage, then get LEGITIMATELY SURPRISED when he circled back around to find John Morrison injured. That’s the Truth I want. This Truth just hits a couple of clotheslines and Rock Bottoms himself and picks up the win, and the crowd sits on their hands.
The beginning of that paragraph was originally “nobody has ended their honeymoon quite as quickly as R-Truth”, but then I remembered that Brodus Clay exists.
Worst: Shawn Michaels And Roddy Piper, The Backstage Elderly
I’m not sure what was going on when we jumped backstage to Roddy Piper doing a weird Death Of A Salesman thing about not understanding Twitter, and it wasn’t made any better when we panned to the right to find Shawn Michaels lost in a dream (somewhere between his brain and his right eyeball), wondering where Triple H was. It was that joke about Triple H being Poochie from ‘The Itchy & Scratchy Show’ brought to life — when Triple H wasn’t on screen, the other characters were asking, “where’s Triple H?”
I’ve been trying to figure out what’s been bugging me since Raw 1000, and I think I’ve finally figured it out. You know how in real life, wrestlers get brain damage and their bodies fall apart and the people they love die, so they end up like Iron Sheik, just kinda cussing at open spaces in front of him so people will laugh at him, because being laughed at is better than being ignored and forgotten? That’s what WWE is doing with their legends now. Instead of being these larger than life figures from the past who were tougher than tough, they’re comedy guys who show up to yell HEY REMEMBER ME I’M TATANKA before somebody pies them in the face. I … don’t really love it. Piper’s still got a great mind for wrestling, so let’s not waste him on Mae Young-level old folks jokes.
Best: Mark Henry With Olympians
Most adorable Raw moment goes to Mark Henry (not a sentence you type a lot) for his Tout-package about visiting London and taking mark photos with U.S. Olympians. Mark is the greatest, even hurt, and watching him grin while people pretend to karate kick him in the head is the best. Get well soon, Mizark, I’ve got like 50 Bests archived and ready to give you for doing basically anything.
Worst: Stay Off The Internet During Tensai Vs. Sin Cara
The match itself wasn’t terrible (it was only a minute long … unless Jackie Gayda’s under that Sin Cara hood, you can only be so bad in a minute), but there’s no Internet I want to be a part of less than the one reacting to a
Lord Tensai versus Sin Cara match on Raw.
One side can’t stop making jokes about Sin Cara botching everything. The other can’t stop talking about how stupid and boring Albert’s been for more or less this entire WWE run. It’s a guy who had his trampoline taken away versus a guy who had his spit hand taken away. It’s a guy who takes his time and makes sure to hit his video game moves against a guy whose only remaining role on the show is to lose to little guys and go WHAT ARGHHH WHAT. Somewhere along the line Sin Cara became a Diva, and Tensai became a fat, racist Jack Swagger. The reason I don’t want to hear about it is because everyone saying this is COMPLETELY RIGHT, and because both “Diva Sin Cara” and “fat, racist Jack Swagger” would be amazing wrestling characters.
Worst: Remember That Thing I Wrote About Piper Being Either Really Great Or Really Disconcerting?
Piper is telling the truth (and the truth will set you free) when he says there will never be another Rowdy Roddy Piper. Especially not Miz, who I enjoy, but cannot see getting punched in the ear with a chain by Greg Valentine. Piper himself is a mixed bag; he’s undeniably one of the most important, talented and memorable wrestlers in the history of the industry, but he’s not perfect. Early Piper is choice, as is that Wrestlemania-era Piper where we love what he did on the big shows and don’t really remember what he did in-between. The Piper shortly thereafter is terrible, painting himself half black to make a statement on racism and stripping Goldust to his ladies underwear to make a statement on pervert homosexuals. As a WCW loyalist, don’t get me started on I.C.O.N. Piper, who was sleeper holding every imaginable member of the nWo when I just wanted to see more La f**king Parka.
Modern Piper is an encapsulation of that theme. When he shows up he’s either great, or sort of ominously bad. Remember when he showed up at Madison Square Garden and kept rambling and saying goodbye, and we all thought he was going to go back to the hotel and be found dead? Last night’s Piper was a mix, with his awesome “GOD??” reaction to Stone Cold on the TitanTron and his less than awesome “uhhh Alex Riley is TOUGH you know, uhhhh” stuff. Also, as a wrestling writer on the Internet I’m not allowed to tell you what I thought of Piper pinning Miz in 2011 on WWE television. I mean, I have an opinion about it, it just sounds really, really bad.
Last night was the ominously bad Piper. It was … not good. I can only talk so much shit about one of the greatest talkers in the history of This Business, but man, when Piper shows up to do your show and the best thing he’s got is an iron-on T-shirt his grandkids made him with a slogan across it that belongs on one of those BIG DAWG ON THE PROWL XXXL t-shirts (“Real Deal”! “REALITY CHECK”!), just let him wave at the crowd during a commercial break and put Jericho on The Peep Show or Carlito’s Cabana or whatever.
Worst: WWE’s Good Guy Vs. Bad Guy Argument Template
I am so f**king sick of the good guys on this show.
At some point, WWE taught us to cheer for the bully. I tried to explain it to Destiny using Toy Story. Remember when Toy Story was released, and it was really great and creative and didn’t look like anything else in theaters? And now every year we get 30,000 Hotels Transylvania and ParaNormans and Hoodwinked The Third: Tonight’s Gonna Be A Hood Night or whatever? Stone Cold Steve Austin was Toy Story.
Dolph Ziggler comes to the ring with a point, and it’s a good one — wrestlers don’t know when to hang it up, and Jericho’s gonna end up just like Roddy Piper, showing up every six months for a paycheck to be kinda sad and start lonely ass chants when someone should be turning off his microphone. Ziggler’s comments have merit, but they aren’t right… he’s being a dick about it, and that’s why we should boo him and cheer for Jericho. We want Jericho to prove he’s still got it, and that he’s not going to fart on his legacy and namedrop his equivalent to Mr. T on a Raw 20 years from now. We want him to stick up for Piper and tell Ziggler he’s full of shit, because he’s going to prove himself at SummerSlam.
What we get instead is Jericho responding to merited comments with insults about how Ziggler’s hair is ugly (Jericho’s the one with a balding faux-hawk) and how Ziggler’s shirt is pink (Jericho is wearing a sparkling jacket with a popped collar and no pants). A bad guy says something reasonable, so the good guy acts like a child and calls him names. Where have I seen that before?
It’s just agony for me. We need to reboot and restore some moral balance to what’s going on. I can’t keep justifying cheering for the guy who makes sense if the arena and announcers (and fans, and fans on the Internet) think I’m a contrarian for doing so. It just doesn’t feel right. The talking point about wrestling being one of the most pure artistic expressions of simplified good versus evil got washed away with those stupid Vince Russo shades of grey, and now nobody knows how to write a shade of grey, so we’re left with a big blob of shitty grey and nothing to feel or cheer for. It’s why we get on the Internet and yell at each other about wrestling. If the wrestling was good, we’d be okay just getting together and yelling at THEM.
Best: At Least The Match Was Pretty Good
Triple threat matches sorta live and die by WWE’s love of putting three guys into a match, then having one of them lay around outside while two guys fight, so the Miz/Ziggler/Jericho triple threat on Raw wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, but it was a 15-minute match with wrestlers I’d like to see do well in it, and that’s something. Miz gets double XP for hitting a Skull-crushing Finale without turning it toward the hard cam, and watching Dolph Ziggler try to properly sell a shot from the cardboard announce table cover was pretty hilarious:
He should’ve gotten up, ran to the security railing and thrown himself over it into the crowd.
Worst: DJ Pauly D’s Tweets
Oh man, if you thought Charlie Sheen’s Tout updates about how he can’t wait for THE ROCK to face WRESTLER NAME HERE at UPCOMING EVENT were bad, you were probably put into epileptic f**king shock by ‘Jersey Shore’ star DJ Pauly D and Michael Cole’s incessant need to fill us in on what Pauly thought of Raw as it happened. The idea of a social ambassador is that we follow him on the social media sites, right? We don’t need the social media sites on Raw, too. Twitter is not more important than the show you’re putting on. The cast of Les Misérables should not have to perform in front of a giant backdrop with #ONEDAYMORE written across it.
Anyway, Pauly’s tweets were the logical extension of Sheen’s passing interest in Raw, and every single one of them was like a TV-ready Tout from the WWE Universe. Seriously, here are five DJ Pauly D tweets about Raw. Try to find the real one.
Spoiler: THEY ARE ALL REAL
Man, how epic did a 4-minute Divas match feel? I felt like I was in minute 22 of Misawa/Kawada.
In all seriousness, a Divas tag match with a little time featuring Layla and Kaitlyn (featured AJ friends) is exactly the kind of thing AJ should be doing as General Managress. WWE’s Divas aren’t the strongest thing in the ring, but maybe if they worked more than 70 seconds a week they could develop a more natural in-ring thing and more convincingly look like wrestlers of import. This wasn’t bad at all. We got Kaitlyn being a face in peril (important, if we want WWE crowds to recognize or get behind her when Chickbusters Armageddon eventually happens), we got Beth being able to go for a few seconds without losing impossibly to a Kelly Kelly forward roll, and we had time to shine a spotlight on one of the best things in WWE today: Layla El’s stupid, stupid dancing/gentle ass attacks:
A really simple truth about the current WWE roster is that you’ve got enough colorful characters and wacky situations to coast for like 15 years on nothing but “heh, I like this wrestler” and you’re stuck in year 7 of coasting on that weird post-Attutide Era thing when everyone was f**ked up and bland and kinda sad.