Like Max Payne, it’s bullet time.
– Before you read this week’s column, please make sure you’ve read The Best and Worst of Summerslam 2011. It contains important, mostly-positive information necessary to understanding last night’s Raw. I’m just kidding, a mentally handicapped child could tune in to Raw and know what was going on in the first five minutes, I just want you to read and enjoy my stuff. Also, you have to know Kevin Nash is there.
– As always, comments are appreciated. My self-deprecating approach to asking for comments has gone around to being worthy of deprecation, so I’ll try not to beg. I’m trying to form the column around what’s most palatable for everyone, so if it ends up as just pictures of Maryse and a bunch of nerd references you’ll know who won. I’m going to toss a picture of Maryse on the side here, because she never shows up on Raw. Likes, Facebook shares, Plus-ones and Twitter re-Twitters are also appreciated.
– Don’t forget to watch NXT. Maryse shows up there, and I have insider information that Maxine will return as a surprise contestant. MAXINE, people. The show is in week 77 of its 280 week run, so now’s the time to jump on board. Vote Bateman. I can’t write “the big guy barks like a dog” as a worst every week.
Worst: Time To Play The Game
But I’m just kidding. I’m actually going to give Mistah Ayches a “Best” for being largely incidental last night and at Summerslam. The first two weeks of the Helmsley-Helmsley Regime were about how he’s one outrageous dude and totally in my face, but if we keep him as a low key veteran trying to do a good job and occasionally screwing up we might actually get to the fireworks factory. That is, of course, pending little to no more involvement from the Original Dog From Hell (Stephanie).
Worst: Where The Hell Is My Elaborate Ricardo Rodriguez Introduction?
Raw knocked me out quickly with three mild disappointments.
1. Triple H’s music starting the show
2. The complete absence of Alberto Del Rio’s personal ring announcer during his championship declaration
3. Alberto still having the “spinner” WWE Championship belt and neither the giant gold and black undisputed title circa Brock Lesnar nor a beautiful new one
Number one got itself out of the way quickly and number two was made passable by Ricardo showing up later (although he still did his normal ring introduction and nothing special), and the best rationale I can muster for number three is such: Del Rio is so rich that he doesn’t care about having a nice looking belt, he’s more interested in status, so he’d rather lug around the one John Cena and CM Punk were fighting over for months. But man, that thing is still hideous. It will forever remind me of the crimes committed to urban culture by Bumpy Knuckles and Da Trademarc. In fact, almost all of the belts look terrible right now. The United States Championship looks like something you could buy for your truck at a Texas gas station and the tag belts look like somebody put a quarter and a penny into a machine and made souvenirs at the zoo. The Diva’s title has been available since 2008 in the dangling rock necklace section at New York & Company. All we’ve got left is Big Gold and the Intercontinental title, and God knows they’ve probably been trying to turn them both silver for years.
Best: My Name! My Name Ess Albertooooooooooooooooo, et al.
Casual fans hate Alberto Del Rio. You’ll see it in our comments section sometimes. Even smarkier types will say “John Cena sucks, CM Punk is awesome and I like Dolph Ziggler. But I HATE Alberto Del Rio! He’s so arrogant!” or “I don’t know why he’s getting pushed to the moon!” Let me explain to you why Del Rio has become a big deal, fairly quick. He is literally everything WWE could want in a champion right now. I used numbers up top, so I’m gonna break this down in letters.
a) He’s big (6-foot-5, 260 pounds).
b) He’s handsome. But you, you already knew that.
c) He’s a second-generation wrestler, and if WWE has employed Michael McGillicutty for four years Del Rio’s probably already got a guaranteed contract through 2048.
d) He’s from a foreign country WWE visits, so he’s cash money on tours. See also, Sheamus.
e) He’s good at wrestling (at least this kind of wrestling, he was cold boogers on a paper plate in Mexico).
f) He doesn’t randomly hurt everybody he wrestles.
g) He has a convincing finisher he can do to anybody.
h) He has an MMA background (please remember how long Steve Blackman stuck around because of that sh*t)
i) He is HILARIOUS.
I could go on, but i is the important point. i “am” the important point. Whatever. I think he’s been funny since day one, but it’s taken a lot of people to come around and last night was a big jump forward. Del Rio telling San Diego that they were “his people” and that he was going to be a great champion who signed autographs and posed for pictures with their children was great, made even better that he transitioned straight into making fun of Rey Mysterio without changing gears. He’s one-part f**king with people and one-part detached aristocrat who just assumes everyone thinks he’s charismatic and hilarious.
No matter what you think, it’s a better character than most people get. Titus O’Neil played professional football and his character is “black Festus”.
Best: Second Best Sign Of The Night
If this was just words on posterboard I’d say “ha, awesome” and move on, but there’s something unbelievably charming about the effort put into drawing not only a photo-realistic van, but grass and trees and a river. It reminds me of how much effort I’d put into signs to take to shows at the Greensboro Coliseum when they weren’t even taping. I’d draw a hill with Ivan and Nikita Koloff standing at the bottom with a street going up and Hawk and Animal at the top that read “END OF THE ROAD FOR THE RUSSIANS”. I was six, I don’t know why I thought that needed to be illustrated.
The inconsistent returns of the picture-in-picture promos during match introductions always get me excited, because they are the easiest and most effective way to get characters and concepts over without having to sacrifice TV time. I mean, we already enjoyed watching them pose on the stage and walk down the ramp, by the time they’re near the bottom you’ve got a solid thirty seconds to kill before turnbuckle posing and the introduction of the next guy. They should give these to everybody, like a fighting game. I want to hear R-Truth’s thoughts on how Evan Bourne may be a literal Jimmy. I want to hear Jack Swagger say ALL AMERICAN AMERICAN AMERICAN AMERICAN, because that’s the only thing he can say. I want John Cena to tell somebody to “Go home and be a family man!”
The quick and easy steps to improving Raw presentation are (1) picture-in-picture promos, (2) a brightly-colored cardboard wall in front of which wrestlers may be spoken to, (3) talk show segments happening outside of the ring and ring carpet never happening again, (4) Bob Uecker, or Bob Caudle. I know for sure we could make three of those things happen on the reg.
Worst: R-Truth’s Music Returns
Tell me this was a mistake. At least give him a slow, foreboding version of “What’s Up”, don’t just play it without him skipping to it.
Worst: John Morrison’s Terms Are Not In A Wrestling Ring
My favorite part of John-Mo’s picture-in-picture is him challenging R-Truth to a falls count anywhere match, which Morrison referred to as being “on his terms”. The announcers made it worse by explaining that Morrison “feels comfortable outside of the ring”. I guess that explains why he can’t hit normal moves with believability or accuracy; to him, fighting in a ring is like trying to play Super Smash Bros. Brawl on “Final Destination”. It’s just flat, how the hell are you supposed to hit anybody with bombs if you can’t jump around and screw with the physics? It also explains why he excels as a tag team wrestler — he gets to stand outside of the ring for large portions of the match, and that makes him more comfortable, like picturing people naked to get through public speaking.
It’s weird that Morrison becomes this fantastic, crisp athlete jumping around on security barriers but couldn’t hit Viscera with a Starship Pain if you lined the ring with Visceras.
Worst: Cardinal Fang, Fetch The COMFY CHAIR
John Morrison pinned a guy who has been beating him for weeks by suplexing him comfortably into a cushy office chair, then delivering a shining wizard that was mostly absorbed by the padding on the chair. Morrison seriously should’ve held a pillow in each hand and tried to poke Truth in the ribs. I don’t go into my John Morrison matches expecting stiff puroresu strikes, but I’m not being glib when I say Kenny Omega was hitting a 9-year old girl harder than anything from this match. Comments on wacky Japanese kid wrestling videos are always like “HEH THIS KID COULD SHOW THE DIVAS SOME TRICK OR TWO!” but no, they couldn’t, Kelly Kelly was running hard and throwing embiggened forearms at Summerslam — the most impactful thing John Morrison throws is a capoeira legdrop like he’s the f**king koala from American Dad that starts coming down about six inches up and annihilates the one believable part of a leg drop. Kelly Kelly is fine, John Morrison needs to watch some tapes.
Best: Jared From Subway Should Stop Going To Wrestling Events
Poor Jared Fogle can never catch a break. I’m giving a “Best” to his segment with The Miz (which went a little deeper into the reasons why Miz is like he is — he’s not being a dick, he’s just obsessed with being the face of WWE and legitimately believes he could be a better spokesman for Subway than Jared, who hasn’t really done anything but hold pants and talk to D-level gymnasts for the last five years. This explains why Miz would shill for 7-Eleven to the point of talking up John Cena and The Rock, and why he’s always at Kids Choice Awards and doing talk shows and Summerslam commercials and acting affable in a role some do-gooding a-hole like John Morrison should be … but I digress) because how hilarious is it that Jared carries around fresh, fully-wrapped Subway subs, not even in the plastic bag, just wrapped in the paper? Would people not recognize him otherwise? Does Lorena Bobbitt carry around a cleaver and a dildo so she can get free tickets to shows?
Jared’s appearance gets an inconsequential but pretty major “Worst” as well, because I’m an absolute sucker for continuity and most of Jared’s past rivals were or should’ve been in attendance. CM Punk was there. Remember when CM Punk tried to get the Straight Edge Society to abduct Jared? “Bring me Jared from Subway” is one of the greatest phrases ever uttered on wrestling television. Where was Santino, and why wasn’t he running out there to steal Miz’s delicious Subway sandwich? They could’ve made a thing of it and given us a Miz/Santino Superstars match next week on Raw. Who wouldn’t want to see that? Better yet, make it into a huge thing and run a Deep Fryer match at Night Of Champions. I just want Miz to say “Santino, I’m like the New Oven Crisp Chicken Sandwich from Subway … I’m NEVER fried.”
Best: Brie And Nikki Bella Are The New Arn And Ole Anderson
The Bella Twins as quick-tagging limb-work specialists is pretty amazing. I think they learned the first part about working the leg (“if you hurt her leg, keep trying to hurt her leg”) but missed out on the second and third parts (“if you hurt her leg enough, try to win the match” and “have more wrestling moves that hurt the leg” respectively). I wanted Nikki to pin Kelly’s leg behind her back and bodyslam her onto it. This is another reason why you should be cheering for Alberto Del Rio — he spends the entire match attacking guys in the shoulder and arm because his best move is a cross armbreaker. How hard is that? Why would Brie Bella spend two minutes bending your leg around when her finisher is … what is her finisher, a neckbreaker? A facebuster? At least have Michael Cole toss in a “Brie Bella working ONE Kelly Kelly’s legs … you know King, if Kelly can’t walk effectively she’s more susceptible to Brie’s facebuster”.
Or have him work in “I heard Kelly Kelly likes popular music. What a nerd!”
Worst: The Leg DDT
If you have put your downed opponent’s ankle under your arm and fallen backwards, congratulations, you’ve just executed the stupidest f**king legitimate wrestling move in history. You can let a lot of the Bellas moves slide … when they grab Kelly’s leg and drop down three feet to make it bounce on the bottom rope, I’m going to suspend disbelief and accept that it hurt Kelly’s leg. Same with that sorta-spinning toehold they broke out. Sure, they bent Kelly’s leg in a way that it naturally bends (and I’m guessing a gymnast can put her foot near her head, I can do that and I got a negative 60 on the V-sit and reach) but Kelly’s screaming so we’ll say that hurt her too. Not for one G.D. second am I going to pretend like the Leg DDT is a thing.
Here, try it. Lie down on your back and put your left leg in the air. Now bend your knee. Lower it to the ground. Did it break your leg, or did it feel like you took a step? F**king stepping hard is not a wrestling attack. At least contort the ankle or something before you drive it down so it looks like you’re causing awkward pain. Or God, just hold the leg up and kick it with your foot. That’s ten times more painful and you didn’t have to bash your head on the ground to accomplish it.
Worst: Eve Is Probably Still On That Top Rope
Eve Torres went up for a moonsault and perched up there for about an hour and a half. She should’ve started out the match backwards on the top rope in her corner, squatting and waiting for Kelly to finish up and bodyslam somebody near her. She was up there so long I expected her to yell COME ON JEFF GODDAMMIT. Once Kelly had successfully pressed Lou Thesz, Eve fell off the top rope into a back handspring that looked and felt a lot like one of Ashley Massaro’s kip-ups. She got the win, if you could call it that, accomplishing more in one bad instance than Gail Kim did in four years.
Man, can you believe Gail Kim’s been back in WWE since 2008? What the hell happened there? Four years and all I can recall are her making out with Daniel Bryan and clapping happily on the apron from whatever Diva drew the short straw in the 7-on-7 tag matches. I think she “eliminated herself” in like January of 2009 and nobody noticed.
Best: Best Sign Of The Night
This sign made my girlfriend laugh out loud. “Is there supposed to be more to that sign? Did she run out of time?” I love that she capitalized it properly. It looks like one of the signs they give somebody in Smackdown when they don’t have catchphrases or identifiable traits. Like, Undertaker gets “AMERICAN BAD ASS” and “THE DEAD MAN” and a logo but Chuck Palumbo’s sign just says “CHUCK PALUMBO”.
Worst: The Complexities Of Explaining Chyna
This exchange happened moments later when Beth Phoenix and Natalya stepped out onto the stage and golf-clapped for Eve.
Destiny: “Is that the new Chyna?”
Brandon: [long pause] “Come on, she doesn’t look like Chyna.”
But my thoughts went much deeper than that. My first internal reaction was to tilt my head to the side like a dog (or Classic Kane) and say “no, she’s more like the new Asya”. How do you explain that to a casual fan? “She’s like Chyna, yes, in that she is stronger than the other womens wrestlers and she’s supposed to be a great wrestler but never has great matches … and yes, we like her because she’s muscular and looks like she could beat us up, the reason why some people liked Chyna, but she’s actually very pretty in addition to being muscular, the reason why some other people liked Chyna. But no, no she’s nothing like Chyna.”
That makes it sound like I’m sarcastically inferring that Beth Phoenix is Chyna when dear God no, of course she isn’t Chyna. If Beth Phoenix ever ends up on Vh1 having drugged-out celebrities protect her from a belligerent X-Pac and parlays that into a career of foxy boxing and getting cornholed by Mason Ryan-looking pornstars I’ll say sure, Beth Phoenix is Chyna, but no, she’s not right now. Maybe she’s Chyna done right? I almost typed “Beth Phoenix would never wrestle Lita and spend 90% of the time trying to keep her boobs from falling out”, but then I remembered Summerslam. Damn, is Beth Phoenix the new Chyna?
Best: OMG Kevin Nash WTF Thought He Was Dead LOL
The last page of The Best And Worst Of Summerslam dealt with the nervousness of a long-time wrestling fan accepting Kevin Nash and what he has to offer. Commenters hate when I recap previous columns, but this is important. You look and behold a plae horse, and his name that sits on him is Kevin Nash, and Hell follows with him, that sort of thing. I was worried that we were running headlong into something terrible, and that it was going to be my job to stand in the background somewhere like Uatu and watch it happen.
Good news is that we aren’t in TNA anymore.
Watching CM Punk verbally rape Kevin Nash in front of a worldwide audience was one of the happier moments of my self-aware wrestling fandom. It was like a better version of Punk vs. H, because with H you know he’s going to be in charge and around forever — Nash, pardon the pun, seems like an outsider who might not be there next month. He’s not a “guy” we have to deal with, he’s a thing, he’s a big idea in jeans that can’t muster up something better than “you’re skinny and look bad” when Punk eviscerates him for being a selfish, cancerous piece of sh*t. That’s something I can get behind. Yeah, it turns me into more of a Cultist of Personality than I already am, but it feels good. It’s like watching somebody sack Brett Favre in 2010. You wish they would’ve done that more ten years ago, but you’re still happy it’s happening.
I think the overall badness of Nash’s performance really helped. I like to think he gets that he’s not supposed to be the guy you’re cheering, so he shows a little ass and doesn’t give everything he’s got because he’s accomplishing a goal. Being a character. He can’t be TOO charismatic on the mic or people will cheer him, because it’s easy for people to cheer Kevin Nash. He has to say things that are kinda dumb and antiquated (like “hit the weights” … be sure to put the dogs in the pool house first) so we’ll say YEAH PUNK GET HIM instead of “Punk should probably hit the weights”. That’s good pro wrestling, purposefully or accidentally. Nash goading Punk into a fight, then backing down with a wall of security while still standing there like he wants him to get into the ring is GOLD. It doesn’t make me want to see Kevin Nash leave, it makes me want to see Kevin Nash get beaten up.
Worst: What Is Up With Kevin Nash’s Mustache
The most distracting part of Nash was his jacked-up facial hair. Who shaves the top part of their mustache and leaves the bottom? It looked like he was trying for a goatee and just forgot to shave his lip. The left side of his mouth had less hair on it than the right, so when he talked we got these little flaps of Prince beard flapping in the wind. I don’t know if his exposed nostrils were supposed to be threatening or if I just missed some masculine plot point along the way.
Regardless, I’m pretty into Kevin Nash as Dan Connor’s old motorcycle buddy. Maybe he’ll try to convince HHH they should just invest in a bike shop together, but then bail on him and give him his investment money back when he tears his quad again.
Worst: Misappropriating Vanilla Midgets
One of CM Punk’s big talking points for Nash is that he once called the “late, great Eddie Guerrero” a vanilla midget. This is somehow more offensive to Punk than Alex Riley saying death itself sharted in Eddie’s widow’s mouth. Anyway, correct me if I’m wrong, but Eddie Guerrero wasn’t the vanilla midget … Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit were the vanilla midgets. That’s where the “vanilla” part came in. They were super white and very short. Eddie was Latino and had personality to spare. I guess you can’t get heat in 2011 sticking up for Dean Malenko.
He should’ve pointed out every dumb thing Nash ever did. “Kevin Nash, one time you dressed up as Sting and everybody thought you were him, even though you were seven feet tall and had a mane of brown hair and were wearing a Sting mask instead of face paint.” Or instead of saying “you were Oz”, he could’ve said “you walked to the ring wearing a big wizard head as a hat and it made you look nine feet tall, but then you took it off and it wasn’t really your head and you were two feet shorter. This disappointed a 10-year old watching live at home on pay-per-view, because your incredible size was the only thing he could use to justify a goddamned Wizard of Oz character who used Dorothy and a monkey in his entrance”. You know, that sort of universal thing.
Worst: Stephanie Sent The Text, Mystery Solved
Are we still trying to figure this out? She did, right? Did we all come to the conclusion simultaneously, because I think we did. I think “where does Kofi Kingston keep getting pastel underpants” is a bigger mystery than “who sent Kevin Nash those text messages”. I guess the only mystery comes in wondering whether or not Triple H was in on it from the beginning, and I think CM Punk saying “I believe Triple H is innocent” pretty much put H in the Higher Power robe.
To recap popular wrestling mysteries:
Q: Who sent Kevin Nash text messages?
A: A lot of people, probably, but Stephanie
Q: Who raised the briefcase?
A: Big Bossman, shut up
Q: Who’s the man?
A: Vader, and to a lesser extent Sid
Q: Who is the Black Scorpion?
A: An evil magician, but Ric Flair took credit for it
Q: Who ran over Stone Cold Steve Austin?
A: The Rock, but he made Rikishi take the blame
Q: Who is Mr. McMahon’s illegitimate son?
A: Mr. Kennedy, but don’t tell anyone
Q: Who drove the Hummer?
A: Don’t know, don’t care
Worst: Triple Swaggerbomb!
They edited it out of the video this morning. I’m guessing Maffew is picking out the perfect Bubble Bobble track to accompany it already.
Anyway, Alex Riley sandbagging Jack Swagger on a gutwrench powerbomb should lead directly to Alex Riley getting destiny’d by Alberto Del Rio and sent to the fictitious broken-limb waiting room for six-to-eight months. The dude went from promising to flat-out awful pretty quickly and we should retcon it before he’s irredeemable and we have to bring in Matt Borne to play him. Unfortunately I feel like this is going to come down on Swagger, from that “eh, well, uh” and “yeah, that was nasty” commentary that should’ve said “Jack Swagger still managed to gutwrench powerbomb a guy who had gone deadweight on him and that is awesome”, because best case scenario would’ve been Swagger treating his green ass like so much Bob Holly and dropping him on his dome.
Worst: Vince McMahon’s Number One Goal Is To Make Sure Jim Ross Is Always Miserable
Beating up Jim Ross in Oklahoma is some kind of perverse ritual at this point, but taking off his hat and stomping it in front of him just seemed meaner than usual. People usually go to the “Vince McMahon is in the back telling them what to say and do” comment, and yeah, if Vince wasn’t back there yelling STOMP HIS HAT DAMMIT in Dolph’s ear he was doing it from inside Dolph’s heart. I watched the NWA for years and never saw somebody think taking Bob Caudle’s glasses and stomping on them was some great way to get children to hate him. We want to see wrestlers getting into sh*t with other wrestlers, nobody has ever invested themselves emotionally into what happens to Jim Ross, or Lillian Garcia, or Justin Roberts or Mark the Timekeeper. When Hugo gets knocked down on a Spanish announce table bump we don’t go “man, I hope when Christian gets up from that RKO through the table he KICKS RANDY ORTON’S ASS for knocking that fat guy out of his chair”.
The most succinct way to put this is “stop trying to hurt Jim Ross, he’s old and faces physical hardships and frankly nobody cares”. It gets you to stop doing things to Jim Ross AND it hurts his feelings. Win win.
Best: Vickie And Swagger
Pairing up a guy who can’t talk and couldn’t get heat robbing a bank in Acapulco with a woman who can and does by existing is a great, great idea. This is why managers worked so well in the past. You use them to cover up somebody’s weaknesses. Bobby Eaton has the mic skills of Corky from “Life Goes On”, but he always seemed like a challenging bad ass because Jim Cornette would talk him up. Swagger could be the same way. If he’s a 6-foot-forty college athlete who can Doctor Bomb you to death and break your leg, let him be that, don’t make him lisp his way into obscurity for half a decade before you decide he’s worth it. CM Punk seems so revolutionary on the microphone because he’s the first guy in ten years who can talk and not have it sound like he’s remembering his lines. Swagger can’t say the words “Jack” and “Swagger” back-to-back without looking offscreen and smirking to buy himself time.
Vickie should get put in charge of an entire stable of bland looking, hairless athletes and give them a chance to get comfortable in the ring and develop organic personalities. Dolph Ziggler suffered through a Green Ant phase and a cheerleader gimmick before they allowed him to speak like a human being. Guess what? He’s better at that. Swagger probably has a good personality, too, we’ve seen it shine through from time to time (talking to Trish Stratus, showing off his trophies). Mine that and make something of it, even if you have to shoehorn in an “excuse me” before every expedition.
My suggestion for Vickie’s next associates: David Otunga and his black tag team partner.
Worst: Hip-Hop McGillicutty
I have no idea who told Michael McGillicutty to dress up like Rodney Mack before he walked out in public last night, but he should never talk to them again. What’s he trying to protect with that, his male pattern baldness? Otunga is stylish as f**k (I still want that glittery Nexus zip-up hoodie), couldn’t he have pulled McGoobersnatch aside and said “look man, you look like Bubba Sparxxx, take off the hat”.
Best: A Refocus On Tag Team Wrestling
The announcers dug Michael and David (who need to add Michael Tarver to the team and wrestle as “Stella”) into a pretty deep hole with their “I would like to see these guys try to wrestle more” and “the tag team champions should probably defend the tag team titles” talking points, but the biggest and happiest Best of the week goes to those very statements for being the first verification that those Triple H Wants To Refurbish The Tag Team Division rumors might be true. Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne as the domestic babyface tag team of choice for the John Cena Generation is a great start, and they’re the perfect team to go up against the Kings of Wrestling, should that whole thing be true. Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli know their way around an Evan Bourne, and Claudio becomes the greatest wrestler of all time when he’s allowed to work as a base for a high-flying guy. How much do I want to see Hero duck a Trouble in Paradise and spin up right into a knock-out elbow?
And it gets better. Rumor has it that WWE is interested in the Briscoe Brothers from Ring of Honor and Beer Money from TNA, and THAT is exceptional because (1) James Storm is too talented to be in Impact Wrestling and needs to be Sorry About Your Damn Luck on a bigger stage and (2) I really, really want to hear the TV-PG version of a Briscoe Brothers “we’re going to point guns and tell you you’re gonna f**king die” promos. The Young Bucks (formerly Generation Me) and Joey Ryan and Scorpio Sky from Pro Wrestling Guerrilla got tryouts last night. It gets better and better. Soon (sooner than later) WWE could have the most exciting and promising tag division they’ve had since the Smackdown Six, and that is the ring in the Big Top Circus I want to sit near.
Oh, and while you’re at it, sign the Bravado Brothers, and if you’ve got room, their grandmother.