The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 9/10/12: A Thing About Jerry “The King” Lawler

I feel your pain, Ziggler Shirt Guy.

Pre-show notes:

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– There’s a little bit about the scheduling of next week’s reports at the end of the column, so make sure you check that out.

Here’s the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for September 10, 2012. The bad one.

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Jerry "The King" Lawler Slamburgers

Worst: What Happened To Jerry Lawler, And How Hard It Is To Explain

I slept for about an hour and a half last night. Most of it was spent tossing and turning, wondering how the hell I was going to turn an awful Raw turned tragic into this grand, wistful piece about what Jerry Lawler means to the wrestling community, and how we’re all gonna band together and pray and help him get through it. I don’t know if I can do that. That’s Dave Shoemaker’s job.

Here’s the truth: I hate Jerry Lawler. I love the idea of Jerry Lawler, though. I like the idea that an average-looking, average-sized guy from Tennessee, armed with nothing more than some great punches and an ability to connect with a crowd, put on a shitty-looking crown and became the King Of Wrestling. He doesn’t look like Hulk Hogan. He looks like me, for Christ’s sake, and he’s piledriving Superstar Billy Graham. That’s cool. I think of him getting hit by a car, being the f**king asshole who slapped Andy Kaufman or feuding with the goddamn Batman and I smile, because that’s exactly how dumb and interesting wrestling should be.

Jerry “The King” Lawler from 30 years ago and Jerry Lawler the Raw Announcer are two different things. Jerry Lawler the announcer is destructive to the show he’s supposed to promote. He’s casually racist, cruel to women, blind to logic and determined to keep the bar for compassion and reasoning as low as possible. A lot of this is what comes through his earpiece, but the words come out of his mouth, so I guess he’s to blame. He changes his mind for no reason. He spent most of the last year yelling at Michael Cole over matches full of guys busting their asses to be something in a company who’d rather have a 60+ year old man feud with a non-wrestler about who can make who lick the other’s foot. It’s continuously one of the worst, assiest parts of Raw.

If I switched gears and said, “Jerry Lawler is a legend we all remember him from the Attitude Era, he had a heart attack on Raw and now let’s remember him for all the great things he’s done”, I’d be a liar. I run a sports site, and a big problem with doing that is the knowledge that I have to jump on every tragic thing that happens as quickly as possible and share the most palatable, clickable opinion so you’ll come back and read me tomorrow. As much as I’d like to pretend otherwise, it wouldn’t be out of character for me to just post a bunch of Lawler/Bockwinkel clips and pretend I think God gives a shit about pro wrestlers.

Here’s the truth about last night, as best I can understand it. It was f**king terrifying. Lawler blanked out during the Daniel Bryan/Kane vs. Prime Time Players match, and when we finally got back to Cole it was him earnestly explaining that this was “not part of tonight’s entertainment” and that Lawler had been taken to the back to be looked at by doctors. This, two weeks after the backstage fight with CM Punk gave him “chest pains” or whatever. It wasn’t unreasonable to think, “okay, they’re telling us it’s not part of the story, so it’s part of the story” like they always do. It wasn’t unreasonable to react to their serious voices (or “Owen voices”, as we call them) with “yeah, right”, because they always use them. They use Owen voices when John Cena gets heinously assaulted by whoever backstage. The Attitude Era created a disconnect between reality and fans who could accept fiction as reality, and honestly sometimes it’s easier to just pretend it’s a work as long as you can. Helps your stomach hurt less.

Then, there was the silence.

The silence was the worst part. They came back from commercial and did their matches, hype videos, backstage shots of Rey Mysterio or whatever in complete and utter f**king silence. You knew Cole couldn’t interrupt a 619 spot with news about Lawler being dead, but you were just waiting for it to end and cut back over to him with tears in his eyes. That’s the end to the wrestling tragedy story. Misawa taught us that. Chris Benoit taught us that. Remember when the reports first came out about Benoit and his family being dead, and we all thought, “Oh, they ALL died? Maybe there was a gas leak in his home or something”. Like that could ever f**king happen.

It was like sitting in a hospital waiting room. I remember “Smoke And Mirrors” playing, but I don’t remember anything Cody Rhodes did. I love Cody Rhodes. He should’ve made me happier. But when you’re in a hospital waiting room, Jesus, nothing makes you happier. It’s just a TV you can barely hear, some Highlights For Children magazines and the weird feeling that Death is standing in the hallway, staring at you, waiting for you to drop your guard.

There was a lot of righteous indignation on the Internet about WWE, and HOW DARE THEY~ keep the show going, and how Vince McMahon was/is a heartless monster who only wants our money, and beautiful hero Jerry Lawler was fighting for his life somewhere backstage. The truth there is that there isn’t a right answer. You can’t armchair quarterback a tragedy. The show should go on. The show shouldn’t go on. Whatever. Chances are, everybody backstage gives a shit about this guy, even the ones who don’t care about anybody and just want our money. It’s not our call to make. It’s barely theirs.

John Cena trotted out to do his John Cena thing, and I tried to deal with it. The news kept getting more hopeful. Jerry had the great luck of going down at a WWE event, where doctors and EMTs are ready and waiting. He was responsive. He was breathing. His heart was beating. He was stabilizing. It made me feel like I felt when I was 14, listening to the doctor describe what was going on with my grandmother, wanting to know what to do and how to help but not really being able to hear anything or stop staring at the floor.

They came up with a few hashtags to help us show our support for Jerry. #PrayForJerry. #PrayForLawler. Does that feel right? Am I supposed to Tout about it if he dies?

Pro wrestling fans sorta make their own line for things like this. Sometimes we stand back and don’t want to interrupt. Sometimes we slam our hands on the ring apron during match finishes. Sometimes we heckle, or we stand a little too close to Christy Hemme during mark photos, or we call wrestlers by their real names because we know about them and they owe us for our support and we’re the reason why they’re all here. We jump on Twitter to bark at each other for how we’re handling a tragedy. We think it’s weird to make jokes, but we use hashtags, because hashtags are classy and jokes aren’t. Nobody has the same line. My line and your line aren’t the same. My line and the line of someone exactly like me aren’t the same. We never know where to stop, or where to start, or where we’re going.

So where’s the line, here? What’s the truth? The truth is that I hate Jerry Lawler and don’t want him back in the announce booth, and that whether he can still go or not, a 62-year old man should not be bumping and working a tag match on television. The other truth is that the thought of losing him like this tears me up inside, and that no matter how many asinine, destructive things he says to make my wrestling experience worse, he’s a wrestler, and I love him, and I want him to be okay. I don’t want him to die. I don’t want the guy who got hit by a car or got cussed out by Andy Kaufman or feuded with Batman or piledrove Superstar Billy Graham to be gone. I don’t want The King Of Memphis, Tennessee, to be another barely-researched statistic about wrestler deaths on Nancy Grace. I don’t want all the people who care about him to be in pain. I don’t want Michael Cole’s voice to hurt like that anymore. I don’t want Jim Ross’s hands to shake. I don’t want it.

I want Jerry Lawler the man to recover, be as strong as he was before it happened, and live his life for as long as he can. My opinions on wrestling or what should go where don’t f**king matter. I want his heart to be okay. The heart is usually the best part of a wrestler.

[photo via arda_ocal]

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Best: Heath Slater Should Wrestle The Ryback Every Week Until He Wins

I hated almost the entire first hour of Raw, and obviously everything post-Lawler collapsing was hard to get into, but there was a sweet spot right in the middle where I started enjoying myself. As predictable as it is, that centered around Heath Slater, The Ryback and the Daniel Bryan and Kane anger management stuff with the Prime Time Players. In this interest of this not being the most drab column of all time, I’ve decided to just put all of those moments right here.

Heath Slater ryback clotheslineSo yeah, Heath Slater wrestling Ryback. I’m trying my best to get Destiny on the Heath Slater bandwagon. It’s not working, because she hates his hair. I tried explaining how the hair is actually beneficial to him, because when he gets punched he can just snap his head around and the hair goes flying like his head’s exploding. I pointed out how awesome it is to see him get shoved into the ropes, go through them, flop to the outside and keep moving forward. She laughed at his sell of Ryback’s clothesline, and how he sold a powerbomb by gasping around like a fish and rolling over onto his stomach. She’s not there yet, but it’ll happen. Also I think he might have to stop shouting BAYBAYYYYYY.

The only Worst for this is the Goldberg chant, which, like I mentioned when it very first started, people will continue to chant now because they’re “supposed to”. It’s what all the other crowds do at the beginning of Ryback matches, so the 10-year olds will chant “Goldberg” with no idea who he is or why they’re doing it. You don’t remember Goldberg or Albert you little nerds. People seem really into “feed me more”, though, so maybe it’ll even out over time, and we can start up with the more appropriate chant: “RVD”.

By the way, I’m officially naming September “Convince Someone You Know To Like Heath Slater Month”. I’ll expect a full report about your progress in our comments section on the 30th.

Best: The Hug It Out Video Package

I didn’t think they could make the Hug It Out moment between Daniel Bryan and Kane any better, but they added slow, dramatic piano music to the build-up and ‘Brady Bunch’ style happy 60s music to the hug. Outstanding. This video package is more or less the exact opposite of the rest of Raw.

Best: DragonFire*

My love of Kane continues to grow.

I’m not normally a fan of tag teams being thrown together and put into #1 contenders matches you know they’re gonna win, because you KNOW they’re only together to win the tag titles, but this is working for a variety of reasons. One, their characters have a lengthy, interesting history together. Two, their actual partnership and interaction is the result of weeks of story, which is so competent I’m almost surprised I typed it. Three, they’re clearly having a lot of fun, and get to sarcastically tag each other and accidentally chokeslam their way to victories. Four, the tag team division is getting better, but the belts are 100% garbage pail worthless on Kofi Kingston and R-Truth. Putting them on two guys who need something important to do and can add prestige to what you’re going for is a great call. Five, it will hopefully lead to them staying a tag team, or at least friends, for the remainder of Kane’s run.

I’m not sure I can express how important it is for me to keep Kane in this role. I know we’ve argued in the comments section before about Daniel Bryan being a wrestling ace who should be willing five-star classics out of Sheamus and shit on the reg, but he’s always, always an enjoyable part of the show, and if my girlfriend** and I can enjoy the same wrestling segment on Raw, I consider it a victory.

*This is their official team name. If I can’t get Rhodes Scholar to stick, I’m forcing this one to.

**Sorry for talking about my girlfriend so much this week, Raw was f**king depressing. I spent most of the last hour helping her study for a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist test, with flash cards and binders and everything. This was legitimately more entertaining to me than Raw.

Best: The Prime Time Players Rule

I thought they’d be afterthoughts when A.W. left, but the two worst in-ring dudes outside of Eli Cottonwood in NXT history, Titus O’Neil and Darren Young, have somehow gotten where they need to be in the ring and brought their hilarious NXT personae to a Raw audience. I’m so proud of them. In fact, I’m proud of that entire class of NXT people I love so much (AJ, Kaitlyn, Darren and Titus, Hawkins and Reks for a while, hell, even Matt Striker) for stepping up and proving they can be entertaining parts of a show the average WWE fan actually watches. My only three problems:

1. Maxine is gone and probably never coming back.

2. Johnny Curtis deserves a better reoccurring role than “extra wrestler who appears as filler when something dramatic happens backstage”.

3. NXT protagonist Derrick Bateman carried that show for a season and a half (with the “half” being 10 times longer than a full season) and does not have a regular on-screen role.

Maybe when USA Guy becomes a huge deal he’ll put in a word for his good friend D-Bates.

Anyway, Titus adopting a whistle prop and making football calls to express his feelings on general manager decisions is pretty choice. Also, the afro pick. Also, tucking your custom-made t-shirts into only the front of your custom-made sparkly underpants. Also,

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS

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