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Please enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for August 28, 2012. Stick around for a live report at the end.
Worst: Jerry Lawler Knows This Isn’t How Raw Usually Begins, But He Has Something To Say
Jerry Lawler, a guy who has sat in on every episode of Raw his misguided loyalty to his ex-wife didn’t cause him to miss, opened Raw by explaining himself and calling someone out, apologizing beforehand because it’s “not the way Monday Night Raw normally starts”. Dude, this is the only way Monday Night Raw ever starts, shouldn’t you know that? Lawler pretending like 20 minutes of talking is an imposition to the WWE Universe is like Lance Storm asking if he could be serious for a minute but not being in on the joke. Jerry Lawler is being SHOOT LANCE STORM.
The actual body of the segment was solid (with 100% of the thanks for that going to CM Punk, which I’ll touch on in a minute), but man, the only thing worse than Jerry’s first words were his last. Punk runs him down for being an out-of-touch, spineless, agenda-heaving old man whose glory days were even kinda cruddy, then challenges him to a match. He tells Lawler to think about it and bails. As he’s walking away, Lawler grabs the microphone and says HEY PUNK, and a moment like that only exists in wrestling so you can follow “hey punk” with YOU’RE ON~! for a big crowd-pumping heatball. Lawler’s follow-up: “I’ll THINK about it!”
That’s got to be the worst wrestling “last word” ever, at least until I can find that clip of Earl Hebner getting his referee shirt ruined and coming back with a threatening, “I GOT ANOTHER SHIRT IN THE BACK!” Why even say anything? As a lot of people pointed out, it was way too much like Zoolander for Punk to not turn back around and ask whether or not Lawler knows he’s loco.
Best: CM Punk, Voice Of The People Who Hate Jerry Lawler
I’m still not totally on board with Punk’s new character direction — mostly because they won’t go all the way with it, and even when they GO all the way with it they pull back enough to still sell t-shirts … this is why he gets a huge crowd reaction when his music hits and they start booing him five minutes later — but I am absolutely on board with his continued quest to run Jerry Lawler’s shitty ass up the river.
Part of what I (and I’m broad enough to say “we”, assuming you think like I do) loved so much about pre-mega-success WWE heel CM Punk is that he was always sticking it to people who deserved it. When he berated Jeff Hardy (and Jeff Hardy fans) for “living in the moment” and being alcoholic pill-poppers or whatever he was RIGHt. Jeff Hardy WAS a phenomenally-talented young man who pissed away his natural gifts and was still somehow rewarded for it, and a hard-working, passionate Straight Edge guy from an independent circuit continually ran down/gutted for talent by WWE benefitted from at least six months of giving oral ass-to-mouth to a hobbling yardtard who’d rather make Aluminumummies than learn how to speak into a microphone without sounding like Arnie Grape. When he said Cena and Dwayne were getting opportunities the less popular guys could use more, he was right. When he made Vince yell I DON’T GIVE A DAMN WHAT YOU WANT at a crowd cheering for pro wrestling, he was right. These were guys who deserved our disdain for whatever misguided Internet pro wrestling reason we could imagine.
Then he started feuding with people who didn’t really deserve it. When he prodded Alberto Del Rio by calling him “amigo” and beat up Ricardo Rodriguez for little-to-no reason for a month, he wasn’t right. I mean, he was in the “WWE babyface” clear, but Berto didn’t deserve condemnation for being Mexican. When he feuded with Chris Jericho, we wanted something way better than what we got, because Punk works best when he’s mad at someone who deserves it, and Jericho was just pretending to deserve it. He feuded with Big Show, but Show was right. John Laurinaitis got called an ugly dork even when he wasn’t plotting evil, because new CM Punk thought BEING UGLY was a reason to be unsuccessful.
So the return to insulting people like Jerry Lawler is a step in the right direction, because he’s right, and people need to hear it. When he transitions this into a full-blown thing with The Rock (which will happen, hopefully, and Cena won’t STF his way into things like he normally does) it’ll be great, because the Rock deserves it, and people need to hear it. They just need to be brave, and to not be afraid of going all the way. That promo that made Jim Rome believe wrestling was real worked because he said it all, not because he said “maybe I’ll do something with the WWE Championship” and explained the rest over a four week build.
Worst: Ryback’s Music
Whoever decided Ryback’s simple, effective theme needed Mortal Kombat TEST YOUR MIGHTs all over it should be fired. It’s probably the same guy who didn’t fork out to buy Goldberg’s WCW Viking Death March and replaced it with a soundalike. I’m surprised they didn’t have him singing YOUUU-UUU’RE NEEEEXT, NUH NUH NEEEEXT over the intro.
If I ever get put in charge of WWE Creative (and it’ll happen soon … I’m already in negotiations with f**king nobody), the first thing I’ll do is initiate an “If you change somebody’s entrance theme, you have to pick a 90s R&B song as the replacement, so stop changing everybody’s themes, stupid” rule. How great would it be to see Sin Cara coming out to ‘Pony’? If they change The Ryback’s entrance theme again, it needs to be one of those movie-ending rap songs from the 90s. “R to the Y to the B to the A!” etc.
Best: Jack Swagger Gets Clotheslined, Is Now Technically Dead
I’m a pretty simple guy. I get called a “mark” by people who don’t really read the column because I talk enthusiastically about the show and don’t break down quarter-hours or give star ratings or whatever. I get called a “smark” by people who don’t really read the column because I … write about wrestling on the Internet? I don’t know. All I really know for sure is that the measure of a great (not good, but great) wrestling moment for me is that it makes me say “oh shit!” out-loud. Ryback’s clothesline to Swagger, as simple and expect as it was, made me go “oh shit!” out-loud.
That’s really it, isn’t it? Things that make you smile and forget you’re supposed to be writing a column about what you’re watching. I’ve turned fun into work, and sometimes Ryback just murders a dude with a move and I laugh and sorta pantomime it in my head because I never truly stopped being 12 years old. I’m a mark to smarks and a smark to marks, but whatever you are, f**k you if you don’t like seeing somebody get their head taken off with a clothesline.
And before I move on to how Triple H is more like Cripple H because JOKES~, I should probably explain myself. I love and respect these guys (most of these guys) for what they do, so I don’t want to see them actually get hurt. I want to see them get WRESTLING hurt. Just like how you should differentiate performers from the characters they play, it’s important to only wish simulated violence on someone. The confusing part about that is that simulated violence only really works when it looks and feels like real violence, and in wrestling you can barely ever tell the two apart. What I tell myself is that my bloodlust is for stiff clotheslines and elbow smashes to Jerry Lawler’s face, and not so much Masada putting gardening skewers in peoples’ heads. Really there’s no difference, and I’m a creep.
Sorry. The good news: Jack Swagger is almost ready for his trip to Mars!
Worst: We’re Countin’ Down Today’s Triple H And Your All-Time Favorites!
The only ways I would’ve been okay building to Triple H’s retirement speech by going back over Triple H’s career in detail are as follows:
1. They had Alberto Del Rio in the bottom right corner in picture-in-picture, yammering on about how awesome Triple H is and how cool it was to see him invade WCW. “Triple H won the WWE title in this match! I remember watching it! Ay dios mio!” or whatever. Something really exaggerated so you know they gave him an index card to read 20 seconds before taping him.
2. They show that entire May 21 Raw match between the Two Man Power Trip and Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho where Triple H tore his quad and just not make a big deal about Benoit being in it because that match was tight as f**k and should be on a DVD, but didn’t make the cut for ‘Hard Knocks’ so it’s probably lost to the ether aside from HOW’S HE EVEN ABLE T’STAND video packages.
3. Triple H actually leaving for any substantial period of time and not just jacking off all over the production team’s dry erase board.