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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.
Worst, For Probably The First Time Ever: Vickie Guerrero
Ugh, that feels horrible. Vickie gets her first Worst in ages for two big reasons:
1. Vickie interrupting the first good-ish Divas match on Raw in FOREVER isn’t a big deal, but the WAY she did it was terrible. If she’d sat at the announce table or interrupted Layla’s celebration at the end she would’ve accomplished the exact same thing, but having her stand on the ring steps, roll her eyes the whole time AND HAVE THE CAMERA CUT TO HER ROLLING HER EYES THE WHOLE TIME at the expense of the match was the WORST. You could almost see the evil ghost of Vince McMahon possessing her, cackling on the inside as Layla and Natalya try their best to put on a decent women’s wrestling match in the WWE cage and get shuffled off-screen for their efforts. YOU WANT WOMEN’S WRESTLING, WELL HEEERE IT IS, DAMMIT
I think women can be exceptional professional wrestlers and love to watch them compete as human beings (and not sexy sideshow acts … B.L.O.W., I’m looking in YOUR direction), plus I’m a big fan of Layla, Natalya and Vickie … but even I found myself distracted by Vickie’s bullshit, not paying to Natalya’s apron trap forearms or Layla’s best attempts at a Dragon Gate roll-up. It sucked a lot. I feel like they purposefully took away my experience, as fleeting as it was gonna be anyway.
2. Her post-match speech was terrible. Vickie has two voices: normal and screaming. Screaming is great, especially during his Dolph Ziggler introductions or whatever, but for any spoken piece of length she NEEDS to use the normal voice. She can work in a screechy EXCUSE ME for emphasis from time to time, but if she screams long enough you can’t really understand what she says, and all you focus on is the screeching. It was a terrible decision, and whoever put together this segment needs to watch it and lash themselves with a belt until they’ve figured it out.
Best: Natalya Remembers What Finlay Taught Her
I don’t want to go too far through this without giving a big Best to Nattie and Layla for busting their asses out there, Nattie in the figurative sense (trapping Layla in the apron, throwing that awesome brutal forearm that made Layla crumple behind it and “hide”) and Layla in the literal sense, what with all the ass busting.
The most depressing thing about the state of women wrestling in the Divas Division is that they’ve managed to collect (and discard) a group of talented women who could make something constructive out of it. The signing of Sara Del Rey is an obvious one, but you’ve got a legitimate division ace in Natalya already desperately clinging to a spot. People are convinced that Beth Phoenix is a great wrestler, so let’s see what she can do against people who really ARE. Layla tries as hard and is better than anyone realizes. The Chickbusters aren’t Speed Muscle in the ring or anything, but they’ve got enough personality to carry them through, and you’ve got women like Paige, Raquel Diaz and at least one functioning Funkadactyl ready to go. The Bellas are off to red carpet land and Kelly Kelly barely wants to be there. Pull the f**king trigger already.
Worst: So Is AJ Fired Now, Or What
Keeping it all in kayfabe and forgetting that everyone’s been fired so nobody should be in charge, Vince McMahon was relieved of his day-to-day duties for making things personal with a WWE Superstar and losing the WWE Championship to Comic-Con in the process. He was replaced by Triple H, who was removed for making things personal with a WWE Superstar. HE was replaced by John Laurinaitis, who got fired by Vince (whatever) for making things personal with a WWE Superstar. Vince replaced Big Johnny with AJ, and now what, a month removed from her position as GM she’s responding to Vickie Guerrero’s complains by slapping her in the face and clawing at her until she runs away.
So … is AJ fired for making things personal?
The truth of the matter is this: they’re making it up as they go, and they pretend like whatever’s convenient is what they’ve always done whether it is or not. But I’m forced to watch this show on its own merits, suspending disbelief and accepting the plots and characters as real life things, and … you know what? When I started this paragraph I wanted it to be an indignant thing about storytelling, but f**k it, I just want John Laurinaitis back. Fire AJ and bring back John Laurinaitis. It’s convenient for you this week. DO IT.
Best: Daniel Bryan, Master Of Skits
If you’re one of those Everyman Wrestling Assholes who thinks athletic pro wrestling is “doing flips and stunts” and thinks people under 6’2 can’t have personalities or be interesting, I hope you’re enjoying the biodegradable Tupperware substitute full of vegan ‘crow’ Daniel Bryan’s been shoving down your throat since January.
WWE backstage comedy skits are the worst, and yet somehow My Boy D-Bry Right There sells them convincingly enough to make them real, providing a desperately needed straight man who also happens to be out of his goddamn mind. That’s perfect. You can’t just stand in the locker room and make faces at Mark Henry’s Hand Son, you gotta get out there and scream in the faces of children in goat masks and threaten Scorpio Sky in Anger Management. You’ve got to put tape over the yeses on your shirt and write NO on them in magic marker so people will buy the exact same shirt twice. Hell, the guy even made a Tout featuring Hornswoggle amazing, and if I was making a list of the most impossible things to make enjoyable, “Tout” and “Hornswoggle” would be a solid numbers one and two.
They’re giving him the ball. He’s not only running with it, he’s gorilla slamming that shit, and the fact that it’s a football will not stop his dunking. Daniel Bryan is the Best In The World, and in a perfect world we’ll stop exclaiming things in his face one day and start chanting it like people who pay attention.
I’m really happy that these anger management segments are (I assume) continuing next week. I can’t wait to see their anger collages. Here’s the With Leather anger collage:
Bestish: This Was Probably The Best Miz/John Cena Match Ever, But Enhhhh
I try not to comment a lot in the open discussion threads (because people who post there read this column, and I don’t want to rehash too many jokes), but one comment I had to leave was about the announcement of Another Goddamn Miz And John Cena match. Miz and Cena are wrestling’s oil and water. On paper it’s fine, aside from there being no realistic way for a guy like Miz to beat a leaping tank monster like Cena, but in reality it’s almost always a draggy thing full of unnecessary taunting, crummy storyline shoehorning and Cena magically coming back to life because our clapping made it so to dispatch Miz like a f**king Imp.
Those things still happened in last night’s match, but Miz is taking himself seriously enough now that it was … better. I liked watching it, even if a character who doesn’t care about secondary titles shouldn’t be pinning your Intercontinental Champion clean and the backstage fallout segment about it had Miz doing his “I beat John Cena at WrestleMania I am the most see whatever” thing again. I guess the best part is that it was good enough of a match to bump Miz/Cena down a spot on my List Of People I Never Want To See Wrestle Again, which currently stands at
1. Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston
2. Kofi Kingston and Anybody Else
3. Chuck Palumbo and Tommy Dreamer (trust me, it was the worst thing ever)
4. John Cena and The Miz
5. TNA Impact
Best: ONE MAN BAND vs. SENTIENT SNAKE ARM For Feud Of The Year
I don’t mind wrestlers pointing out how stupid wrestling is when they’re doing it positively. If John Cena points out that Alberto Del Rio’s cars are rented, he’s pointing out how stupid wrestling is in a way you shouldn’t, sorta calling attention to the man behind the curtain and saying “hey look at how fake this is, everybody”. Comedy wrestling, especially between a man with a snake puppet hand and a guy who advertises himself as a one man band but appears to make no music, can point out some of the stupider tropes of wrestling — people just lying there while you jump on them, taunts, the logistics of a karate strike taking on the life of a snake when summoned by shouting — and make them work. We’re not laughing AT them, we’re laughing WITH them. That’s key.
I loved almost everything about this match. I loved Santino nonchalantly rolling away from the corners (to no crowd response, because they were too busy texting THEY FUKKED UP to the Botchamania guy), I loved the Cobra (I’m assuming not the ASS cobra) being attracted to Aksana at the expense of Santino but learning from its mistakes and putting its opponent away angrily before charging after her, and I especially, especially loved Heath Slater getting upset that Santino’s band taunts weren’t musically accurate. Heath Slater as Pitchfork: The Wrestler would be pretty outstanding. He’s already a ginger nobody likes, that’s like 80% of getting your record onto Pitchfork.
Slater’s in such a wonderful place right now. He gets to be an entertaining part of the show because he’s too good at his job to keep hidden, but he’s not selling a bunch of t-shirts so he doesn’t have to get thrust into romance angles and shit. He’s just a guy who is good at wrestling acting like an idiot with little-to-no toll taken on his body and making lots of money to do it. THE ONE MAN BAAAAAAND, BAY BAYYYYYY
My “joy collage” would just be a picture of Heath Slater playing air guitar.
Worst: LOL @ Aksana Doing Literally Anything
I love Aksana (dancing in a net backstage once gets you a lot of mileage) and think she’s a great second for Antonio Cesaro, but she should never under any circumstances be allowed to stand, speak, wrestle or do things by herself. All she had to do here was walk out to her porno sax and stand still. Somehow she couldn’t do THAT convincingly, and she reminded me a lot of a child at a school play who is ABOUT to remember his lines, but just can’t. There are a lot of pretty women in the world, guys, you could probably find one to remember “hold my arm up like a snake” before she’s been out there for 40 seconds.
Best: Rhodes Scholar
The most hopeful moment of the show came right in the middle, when Brodus Clay and Sin Cara teamed up, meaning two of MY favorite wrestlers, Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes, would be obligated to team up against them. I’d been trying to come up with a funny name for the Clay/Sin Cara team (“Fun Kara” is the best one I could come up with, although “Luchadaurus” has its charm), but as soon as I thought “Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes” my brain went RHODES SCHOLAR and put flashing lights on my fingers so I could type excitedly about it on Twitter. I hope they keep teaming up, because I love them, and I hope they end up finding the nickname and liking it, because I secretly want to be a part of this show so bad you guys.
One of the reasons I like them as a team is because there’s no dramatic reason to be together, which presents even less dramatic reasons for them to split. I loved The Miz and R-Truth together, but their team formed when both guys felt overlooked by WWE management and formed a Suicide Squad to throw themselves at Cena and Rocky. When that didn’t work, they imploded, and Miz Skull-crushingly finale’d Truth on the ramp so hard it made him think an invisible white kid who dominates his life was a good thing. In contrast, Sandow and Rhodes are fast friends because they can carry a conversation. I can’t imagine Sandow can find many pro wrestlers who think moves with Latin names are a cool idea (assuming Triple H won’t do a Daniel Desario ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ thing with him), so I don’t think he’d be quick to sever that relationship. Maybe they’d develop a mutual jealousy or something, but nothing so grand they have to turn on each other. Neither of these guys is up for a Hot New Babyface run any time soon.
I think I just gave myself a happiness seizure imagining babyface Damien Sandow yelling about Wittgenstein’s Mistress to a wrestling crowd and getting cheered for it.
Best: Sin Cara’s Epic Dancing
Oh, the other big highlight of this match was Sin Cara going Full 1960s Spider-Man with his post-match dance party with the Children Of Funkasaurus. Seriously, watch him:
And you wonder why the guy can’t trampoline over the ropes without hurting himself. Maybe the problem is that he’s trying to mimic the dance steps of the little Make-A-Wish motherf**ker to his left instead of keeping his eyes on the hot black girl with rhythm to spare and a Dr. Wagner ass to his right.
Best: Rhodes Scholar Backstage Fallout
I don’t link to these backstage things a lot, but this one features the best guys on the show, so please watch it as much as possible:
– Cody Rhodes namedropping Stephen A. Smith, who also probably thinks wrestling is real.
– Cody misidentifying the Funkadactyls derisively, which is amazing.
– Enough to make me think they’ll continue tagging Rhodes Scholar, and I won’t have to write three paragraphs in every Best and Worst from now until whenever about how they should’ve.
– Damien Sandow winning the NXT promo contest using the word “Perrier”.
– Sandow being so wonderfully lost in his own character I can’t imagine him ever breaking it. Not even when he turns face three years from now and uses Manuel de Sumaya to run down Alberto Del Rio and EVERYONE LOVES IT.
/starts the video over