A few notes before the process begins anew:
– I’ve spent the last few days in rural Tennessee visiting my parents and going to Minor League Baseball games to have my picture taken with wandering miscellanea, so I’ve been a little out of the loop and apologize for any errant e-mail responses or the slight shortness of this week’s report.
– In case you were wondering, yes, tomorrow’s With Leather updates will feature the Best And Worst Of Super Smackdown, because for once I’ll get to write about the show on a Wednesday. edit: Here’s the Best and Worst of Smackdown, in case you missed it (or didn’t know it existed).
– If you read this week’s show report, LEAVE A COMMENT! I don’t want to have to get Jerry at UPROXX to create huge DROP A COMMENT graphics to put at the bottom of every page. Your voice is appreciated, and eventually I’m gonna get these things up to 200 comments on the reg. Also, click that little “like” button and share this jazz with your Facebook friends. Also, bake and mail me vegan cookies.
I will try to get through this report without namedropping my beautiful In Real Life girlfriend. I know how much that bothers you! Please enjoy this week’s Best and Worst of Raw, after the jump.
Worst: That nWo Music Doesn’t Make Me Feel Good
Theme From New World Order makes me feel weird. As someone who was watching live when Scott Hall jumped the rail when Steve Doll and “Mean” Mike “Anus” Enos were wrestling and watching live when Kevin Nash showed up in pretty much the same gigantic J. Crew off-brand clothes he was wearing last night to point out the adjectives and powerbomb Eric Bischoff off the stage, yeah, the nWo brings back a lot of good memories. They were a big reason why my friends at school started saying “oh, cool, you like wrestling” instead of the meaner, homophobic version of that sentence.
I’m also one of those dumb assholes who didn’t stop watching when everyone else started giving up, so the nWo music reminds me of all the Michaels Wallstreet and Horaces Hogan in the world, it reminds me of Randy Anderson begging for his job on behalf of his family, it reminds me of all those increasingly comical fake Stings and Fingerpoking Of Doom and Vince McMahon straining at stool to threaten us with “poison”.
If you want an entrance theme to evoke the proper memories for a 2011 hairlip Kevin Nash, bring him out to his hilarious Kidz Bop Dr. Dre theme from TNA. That song makes me smile, it reminds me of Christmas.
Best? Worst? Screw It: The End Of The Brand Split
Wait, did the … did the brand split just end? C.E.O.O. (© Kevin Nash) Triple H announced that the “best version of WWE going forward” would be Raw featuring the superstars of Smackdown, and my initial reaction is “oh, good, we can stop pretending that these shows are rivals and get back to a properly operating hierarchy where Alex Riley isn’t a thing”. But then the less vaguely-accepting part of me starts to overanalyze it, and I see a couple of huge problems.
Huge problem #1: According to sources I probably shouldn’t be assuming know what they’re talking about, this isn’t being done to merge the shows together, it’s being done to increase exposure for Smackdown guys to get more people buying tickets to Smackdown house shows. While that in itself isn’t a bad idea, it reads a lot like the Texas Rangers showing up to lose an exhibition game to the Round Rock Express. Sure, the guys in AAA (the baseball league, not lucha libre) who perform well can get called up to Arlington as a reward, but a Ranger getting called down to Round Rock isn’t equally as good — they’re being sent there because they aren’t performing, or because the team doesn’t need them.
So when Christian and Mark Henry show up on Raw, that’s good for them. But what does it say for guys like Wade Barrett? They’re almost explicitly being sent down to the minors. Smackdown has always been seen as the B-show, but now they’re gonna have to bring in the Famous Chicken and give away camo Smackdown backpacks to the first 1,500 kids through the gate.
In this analogy, Smackdown is AAA, Superstars is A-ball, NXT is the rookie league and Impact Wrestling is that weird California league where guys like Rickey Henderson go to play when they’re 60. (Ring of Honor is lacrosse.)
Huge problem #2: Clearly defining this hierarchy, especially during a time when WWE seems to be so desperately clinging to what already works, means a narrowing of the main-event scene (and a further narrowing of WWE only seeming to care about the main-event scene) and a hell of a lot of guys who could grow into something special being huddled up and tossed in a furnace. Chris Masters is a fantastic example of this. Masters legitimately busted his ass to become a great pro wrestler, but two years ago somebody decided they weren’t gonna ever have anything for him to do, so great pro wrestler or no he got S-canned. Drew McIntyre is living through that right now.
Compare and contrast that with a guy like John Morrison. Morrison looks a certain way, so they have something for him, even if it plays like nothing. Morrison’s ability to do what most of us consider professional wrestling is shifty at best and he’s got the oral charisma of a fourth grader. He’s established, though, so when they look at the big list of guys to fire they can’t fire JOHN, because people know who he is. That’s weird to me already, and if you lower the number of guys with regular spots on the show from 15 to 7, almost every guy who isn’t already a Morrison spends the rest of their career hanging on for dear f**king life.
Or maybe not. I want so badly for things to run smoothly and be great, because otherwise what am I supposed to watch on Monday nights? Football?
Worst: CM Punk Is [ ] This Close To Being Mr. Anderson
Sometimes I get feedback for these columns from people who just read the boldface and jump to a pretty huge conclusion about how I feel. They’ll say “so, the only person you like on the show is Alberto Del Rio?” or “how could you write a column bashing CM Punk?” This is what the wordy-ass paragraphs are for. To answers those questions, yes, Alberto Del Rio is the only person on Raw I like and I would never write a column bashing CM Punk. I have loved CM Punk since back when he bought his gear at Dick’s Sporting Goods, but I’m cheating you and myself if I blindly give bests to people I already like and worsts to people I don’t.
That being said, CM Punk has sucked a pretty huge dick the last couple of weeks. I don’t want to type that, but man, his nasaly read of “pipe bomb!” and his extended, extended barfing soliloquy weren’t the Punk I love, they were the John Cena I hate. If the point is to eventually have him wearing a sleeveless tanktop with “@$$hole” written across the chest because they want to sell shirts that say “asshole” to children and wackily censor it enough to feel okay doing so, sure, keep having him act like this. If the point is that yeah, he’s the bad guy and we should want to see him get beaten up by the valiant Triple H, sure, go for that, but nudge me enough so I know that’s what you’re doing.
I feel like “they’re cheering him, make him act worse” might’ve won the day over “let’s have a dynamic bad guy”. Because Punk is better than this. I know it.
Best: Dolph Ziggler, And Also Probably Randy Orton
I’ve noticed something about Dolph Ziggler matches; with the obvious exception of his matches with Daniel Bryan, a Dolph Ziggler match usually starts off slow and a little disjointed, but builds into something cool and exciting by the end. Last night’s match against Randy Orton was a fantastic example of that. At first I thought Orton’s Dr. Satan act was going to ruin it, but by the time they were trading near falls and Ziggler was doing things to make Orton’s normal assortment of spots look organic and cool.
The superkick counter to the Patented Punt™ that actually looked like it surprised Orton, Orton’s no-frills set-up to the middle-rope DDT that almost always involves a guy wandering out to the apron for no reason … these all made me stop updating Facebook photo albums nobody reads and watch the match. My reward was an exciting ass ending with Dolph looking like a top shelf wrestler and Orton looking like a guy who didn’t have to kill himself to win a match, but considered that he might’ve.
One of Ziggler’s greatest attributes is his ability to set up his opponent’s finisher, which I guess is why they shackled him with Kofi Kingston for two years. Watch his matches with Mysterio, Bryan or Kingston — watch how he finds himself eating their big moves without standing there and just letting them do big moves. Randy Orton has the most malleable (and over) finisher in wrestling, so why not put them together? Good call, Anonymous Raw General Manager Who May Or May Not Still Exist.
Best: Finally, A Little DDP In That Diamond Cutter
I thought for sure when Orton pressed Ziggler into the air he was going to break out the Rikishi Cutter, but he did me one better: he took Dolph Ziggler’s penchant for bouncing and turned it into an RKO set-up I don’t remember seeing. It looked rough, too, like Orton was actually snapping a guy’s head into the ground, not just jumping and landing together. That’s great. Ziggler’s got an amazing sense of urgency when he gets it going, and Orton’s gangly Cloverfield Monster thing works well with a guy so anxious to attack it. Orton should be using RKO variations all the time, especially in Modern WWE where a Sweet Chin Music set-up means a 99% failure rate.
Worst: NO ALBERTO DEL RIO
From PWTorch, a caricature website with excellent tablet shading that sometimes mentions wrestling:
PWTorch has learned that WWE champion Alberto Del Rio is currently dealing with visa issues, which is why he missed Raw’s weekend house show tour and did not appear on Monday’s Raw episode.
The issue is expected to be “resolved soon” after Del Rio sorts through the government process, say WWE sources.
They should’ve put a scarf on Hunico and sent him out to be Alberto Del Rio for the night.
An episode of Raw without Alberto Del Rio for me is like Christmas without the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Vacation, visa issues, whatever, there’s no excuse to run a show without a pre-taped vignette, possibly from a palatial Mexican estate, featuring your WWE Champion running down the guy he couldn’t stop hitting with a belt last week. Running down verbally, not with his car. And I told you Kevin Nash’s TNA theme made me think of Christmas.
Worst: A Special Look At Alex Riley
“How long have I wanted to be a WWE Superstar? Well I remember watching it when I was a kid. And I remember thinking ‘those guys are special’. I wanted to be special.”
Yeah, but you didn’t really answer the question. I guess “when I was 27” isn’t a great answer.