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.
Worst: Somebody Put “Bad” And “Breath” On The Banned Words List
Listen to the tone of the first words out of Cena’s mouth. You just know he’s going to be terrible tonight. He calls the guy who won the WWE Championship and beat him to sh*t with it last week a coward again and says he’s “somehow mastered the ancient art of douchebaggery”. Like four kids in the crowd cheer. Even the crowd thinks you sound like a troll, John. How hard would it have been for him to say “Alberto Del Rio jumped me last week, beat the hell out of me, I don’t know where he is this week but the minute I see him I’m going to give it right back to him” if you need to breeze past Alberto’s visa issues and do something else on the show? When Mark Henry’s music interrupted him I got excited, but then Mark walked out with that sad look on his face that read “here I am on Raw again, just another person”.
Cena must’ve gotten stuck in Shooting Infant mode with his crack about Alberto Del Rio’s insufficient knowledge of automobiles last week, because holy sh*t, he’s in the ring with a two-time World Heavyweight Champion and the guy who injured Big Show, Kane and Sheamus in the span of about a month and he goes for “you wear too much self-tanner” and “your breath stinks”. He could’ve said “you’re gay, you’re black” and it would’ve been better, somehow.
And honestly, what is the deal with WWE and bad breath lately? First they have that backstage segment where Drew McIntyre et al. were making fun of Vince McMahon for having poopy diaper breath, then they have Alex Riley say death itself shat in Vickie Guerrero’s mouth, and now Mark Henry has breath like a funnel cake stuffed with dog doo. Does creative fist bump a plaque that says “POOP BREATH IS THE FUNNIEST THING” every time they walk into WWE HQ?
I’ve liked Sheamus since he was beating the handshakes out of Goldust on ECW, but I seriously might love him now. He’s a hoss, by a DYNAMIC HOSS~, a guy who shows up and is so big and so weird looking and so rock solid that you can’t help but want to see him destroy. I’m also a pretty hard mark for former blood rivals who end up on the same side to face a common enemy, especially when they aren’t suddenly best friends. Seeing Sheamus run down to the ring to lend his axe to Cena against Mark Henry and Christian was wonderful, because Cena Plus Sheamus are probably the closest we’re gonna get to a Miracle Violence Connection in 2011, and because Mark Henry should fight Sheamus every day.
However, much like the CM Punk point earlier, I’ve got to type this next Worst.
Worst: Me Being A Hypocrite
If I give John Morrison sh*t for something and a guy I like a lot does the same thing, I can’t be a hypocrite, I’ve got to call him on it. Last Friday (Tuesday, whatever) Mark Henry World’s Strongestly Slammed Sheamus onto the steel steps at ringside. On Monday night, Sheamus showed up to prevent a two-on-one beatdown of John Cena by literally sprinting to the ring. You know, with broken ribs. Things got a little better when the match started happening and he was wearing some tape around the waist and selling Christian’s skinny little body attacks, but even then he didn’t seem like a guy with actual hurt ribs. It didn’t help that his signature taunt involves him punching himself in the chest repeatedly.
I get that Sheamus is tougher than the average bear and that yeah, he could theoretically be walking around with something that would make me lie down on the ground and die, but couldn’t he have at least not ran around and forearmed himself in the wound? Move gingerly, for Christ’s sakes. I can’t believe I have to tell Sheamus to move gingerly.
Worst: I Already Made That Match!
John Laurinaitis in story and in real life is the Executive Vice President for Talent Relations in WWE. He’s been with the company since 2001, but even if we don’t know how long he’s been around I refuse to believe he’s going to stand around backstage with Charles Robinson watching WWE’s only segment they EVER USE to build impromptu tag team matches and think he came up with a great idea for a tag match. And he does that thing they do where they put too many pauses between guys’ names like we can’t f**king figure out who’s gonna be in the match. The Teddy Long Announcement Special. There were four guys in the ring, if you put two guys on a team, the other guys are on the other team. It’s gonna be MARK HENRY … teaming with CHRISTIAN… Charles Robinson should’ve butted in with “against Sheamus and Cena, yeah that’s a good match”.
And then Triple H walks in and is all YOU CAN’T MAKE THAT MATCH BECAUSE I ALREADY MADE THAT MATCH. Charles Robinson should’ve said “yeah I made that match too”, and then the camera should’ve panned to the right so everybody on the roster could yell WE MADE THAT MATCH TOO in unison.
Best: CM Punk, The Miz
If I’m putting together a list of my ten favorite wrestlers in the world, both of these guys would be on it. As mentioned before, I’ve been a fan of Punk’s since he was forcing Chris Hero into Winnie the Pooh costumes, and Miz gets a pass for being from Cleveland, and for allowing me to do awesome, constant impressions of him.
That said, it pains me to give a big fat boring worst to
Worst: CM Punk Verse The Miz
Just … woof. I’ve sat here for twenty minutes staring at WordPress, trying to come up with a decent explanation of why Punk versus Miz seemed so bad to me. Some of it has to do with Miz never really seeming to know how to put everything together. Some of it is CM Punk as Smiling Babyface Chris Jericho, so much so that Not Great At Anything Else Twitter Chris Jericho takes offense. Most of it has to do with it being the most 1994 WWE match of the decade, going ten minutes that seem like twenty with the lesser guy dominating and things ending in disqualification as soon as they start moving. Truth messed up by actually getting in the ring and attacking Punk. If he’d grabbed a microphone and said PUNK! HEY CM PUNK, YOU WRESTLER! Punk would’ve dropped Miz and lost by forfeit.
I don’t know. It feels weird to bitch about the wrestling on a show that tried to give us a great amount of wrestling, and yeah, bad wrestling that goes through the motions and accomplishes nothing is better to me than the most hilarious backstage skit, but damn, a long match ending in a bunch of finisher attempts and a screwball finish nobody liked isn’t doing a lot to disprove the whole Mr. Anderson thing.
Worst: If He’s Sin Cara 2, Can We Call Him Sin Dos Caras
I’m fairly certain that the Sin Cara who wrestled Jack Swagger was not Mistico. I think it was Dr. Wagner, Jr. He looked heavier, walked to the ring to Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine” with a bunch of strippers. I’m kidding, of course, but holy sh*t would Doc Wagner showing up on Raw be the coolest thing ever.
No, you can tell when it isn’t Mistico because he does the trampoline well. And look, as much as we like to rag on Sin Cara for messing up a lot and everything that gets reported from backstage, there is one thing Hunico can never do as Sin Cara: Be Mistico. Mistico is occasionally going to fall off the top rope trying to pull off a move, but he’s got a grace and a goddamn speed that can’t be reproduced. THAT is what made him a box office draw. That’s what gave him a comic book and an international following and a direct ticket to WWE programming. He’s special when he moves. Hunico is fine, but it’s not the same. It’s like when WWE signed Ultimo Dragon because they wanted another Rey Mysterio. Do you guys want another Rey Mysterio? Because Mistico isn’t Rey Mysterio, he’s a hybrid of Sabu and a f**king crystalline gazelle and if he’s there, f**k-up or not, he should be on our televisions.
Worst: This Vickie Thing Isn’t Going Anywhere
I think “Vickie Guerrero’s stable of wrestlers and issues with Dolph Ziggler” got created and dumped in a pile with the Beth Phoenix “end of the Divas” story. The initial idea is solid — Vickie has had success as a manager and gets good advice to expand her clientele from a guy who desperately needs to be a part of it. So her old standard gets jealous and thinks she doesn’t need anyone but him, and it causes strife. Right? That’s an easy story to follow.
Unfortunately the only story we’ve gotten to follow over the last few weeks is Dolph yelling at Vickie and the announcers ABSOLUTELY BEATING US TO DEATH IN OUR HEADS with “VICKIE’S GONNA HAVE A STABLE, YOU GUYS, JUST LIKE BOBBY HEENAN!” Vickie fell down last week for some reason, and then this week she walked down the ramp I guess… I guess to scout Jack Swagger? And Dolph interrupted her, and there was more yelling. Why would she wait until the middle of the match to start scouting Swagger? Shouldn’t she have tons of video and like four years of working with the guy to scout Swagger? And why would she do it from the middle of the ramp? That’s the worst place in the arena to scout somebody. They have big TV screens everywhere in the back, monitors and people who watch him for a living at the announce table, even the chairs in the audience are set up to give a clear view of the ring. You’re just staring from a distance at some ropes.
And then that led to a re-up of the worst finish in wrestling, the “I’ve been distracted, whoops now every move causes Maximum Damage”. Although to his credit, one of Jack Swagger’s biggest weaknesses has always been “getting jumped on by a really light guy”.