– Comments, shares, likes, what-have-you are really appreciated. Especially this week, when there’s a lot of sad stuff to talk about.
– Thanks as always to Casey/THESTINGER of Hammerlock Dialectic for GIFs.
– 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.
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]
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.
So 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.
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,
Worst: WWE Is Really Sorry, Bret Hart
And now, the Worsts.
What are you supposed to say to Bret Hart, really? I think that should’ve been CM Punk’s point. “I’m wearing Bret Hart-colored trunks and kick pads because Bret Hart was great. Hey Bret, you were great. You should probably not be on TV is speaking roles anymore because you shoot had a stroke and look like the bastard love child of Stu Hart and Christopher Lloyd. Do you still have that rubber guy in the electric chair from Wrestling With Shadows in your house? Can I have it?” That should’ve been his entire speech.
Instead, we continued WWE’s weird quest to make crowds boo CM Punk by turning him into “WWE Main-Event Heel”. That means demanding things instead of “earning them”, throwing out a lot of “you peoples” and “each and every one of yous”, and being beaten up all the time/backing down from fights. What’s funny is that Punk was doing a FANTASTIC job of getting people to boo him until he started talking about what a crappy company WWE is. That got people behind him. If he just stopped doing that and got back into how drugs and alcohol make you a lousy person, he’d get all these boos without having to be emasculated by Super Champion and punched out by the elderly.
This Bret/Punk segment was so boring I almost forgot it was on. That’s dangerous ground for a CM Punk segment, because even at his pandering worst, he’s always been inflammatory. I’d rather him call Bret Hart an “ugly dork” or whatever than just say he’s the WWE Champion 30 times.
Worst: No, Seriously Bret, We’re Sorry. Please Do Everything That Makes You Happy.
Maybe it’s regret, maybe it’s a healthy dose of “please get your family to stop suing us for accidentally killing your brother”, who knows, but under no circumstances should 2012 Bret Hart be knocking out your WWE Champion and posing with John Cena at the end of the show. The segment had a lot working against it:
1. “Main-Event Interview”
2. Bret has never been a ninja on the microphone and is a hundred times worse now, so the only kind of question he’s gonna ask is “ehh, so okay, John Cener, you got orn issue with CM Punt” and pausing without pointing the microphone at Cena.
3. It happened at the end of the show, meaning everybody was sitting on their hands hoping Lawler hadn’t died.
4. John Cena monologues are the worst.
The worst part is that Cena’s making a perfectly cromulent point. Punk’s become the thing he hates, a corporate shill who demands things instead of earning them (even though he’s always demanding things instead of earning them). He points out that Punk’s Voice Of The Voiceless campaign was just an effort to make CM Punk a star, which it was, and that he doesn’t really care about what the voiceless have to say unless it’s what HE has to say, which he doesn’t. The problem lies in John Cena being John Cena at the end of this show, screaming about how he’s gonna KICK CM PUNK’S ASSSSSSS at Night Of Champions, and Bret Hart being Bret Hart at the end of this show, calling Punk “punk” a bunch of times like that isn’t his name.
Cena works best when he’s brief and truthful, not when he’s explaining what we should all be thinking. Bret Hart works best when he’s at home and I’m watching his DVDs. CM Punk works best when he’s taken seriously as a champion, and not so much when he’s being humiliated and sent scattering away with his head between his legs because John gave him a talking-to. He should really have a better comeback than “nuh uh, I’m NOT going to lose”. That’s a Miz comeback. Getting punched out by Bret Hart and slithering away with your belt to your chest is also a Miz thing. Stop being the Miz, dude.
Worst: Sheamus, Because Oh My God, Seriously
This might’ve been the worst five minutes of wrestling programming in 2012. Compared to this, Sheamus stealing Alberto Del Rio’s car so he can eat burritos and shit in it is Terry Funk’s “Forever” speech. The first thing wrong with it is that it’s goddamn FIVE MINUTES LONG. The second thing wrong with it is “literally everything Sheamus does or says”.
I’ve been trying to figure it out for months, and I think I’ve got it. I don’t hate the Sheamus character because he’s a good guy acting like a bad guy. Being an “asshole” or whatever. A lot of good guys do that, and I like them anyway. I don’t hate the character because he’s racist or offensive, despite how much as I hate that stuff. I hate the Sheamus character because he’s trying to be the voice of a common WWE fan who wants to live vicariously through their favorite superstars, doing what they can’t do and saying what they can’t say, but is missing that completely and acting like a five-year old.
That’s it. He’s a f**king five-year old. He responds to questions and situations like a kindergartner would if he’d pulled a Big and gotten his brain put into the body of an albino gorilla, or whatever. That’s why he says “si senior” when he answers Ricardo’s questions and snickers about it, because a five-year old hasn’t learned what a f**king piece of shit that makes you yet. A five-year old thinks Jeff Dunham is funny. He thinks a jalapeno in a sombrero going “ay yi yi” is hilarious, because Mexican people aren’t like him. A five-year old would hear “do you swear” and think it means “say curse words”. What living grown-up with a functioning f**king brain makes that joke? It’s like writing “yes please” under “sex” on a job application.
Sheamus is the guy who thinks the last name “Lipschitz” is funny because “schitz” sounds like “shits”. And he SAYS IT, on national television, and is cheered as an hilarious hero. David Otunga is being a pushy “ambulance chaser” or whatever, and that’s fine. He’s supposed to be the bad guy, and you’re supposed to want to see him get his comeuppance. But where’s the joy in seeing him get his comeuppance if he ONLY EVER GETS COMEUPPANCE? He tries to take this guy to court, has to listen to his f**king Jew jokes in 2012, listen to his Hispanic client be ridiculed for the language he speaks, then watch the guy he’s suing for assault and negligence (or whatever) destroy a court camera and/or whoever was behind it with a kick.
So the end of the story is that this childish, asshole five-year old bully thinks he can live his life without consequences, breaks a bunch of shit in court to show how tough he is and gets PUT IN PRISON because you CANNOT LIVE YOUR LIFE LIKE THAT and CANNOT RIDICULE JEWS AND BREAK SHIT AT COURT, right? Oh, I’m sorry, the end of the story is “Sheamus beats up Otunga and Rodriguez easily and he’s tough and great”. It’s infuriating on like 30 levels, and if you’re the type who reads this and thinks “you just don’t know how to LAUGH and ENJOY WRESTLING and HAVE FUN”, take your ECW GM Tiffany ass as far away from me as possible.
The only good thing to come from this segment was this photoshop of Sheamus as Dr. Lipschitz from ‘Rugrats’, courtesy of Zak.
For the record, yes, that is Didi’s hair.
Best: As Always, Tyson Kidd Is Briefly Fantastic
The Montreal crowd was terrible. They had an excuse for the second half of the show, but all they did was sit silently between “whats” and hockey chants. Even Tyson Kidd barely got a reaction, in an environment where “you are from here” is the biggest and easiest source of applause. These are the people who lost their minds when John Cena spoke a sentence in French. It amazes me how people pay so much money to not enjoy wrestling.
Anyway, like the boldface says, Tyson Kidd, as always, was briefly fantastic. He’s a great opponent for Del Rio, because he’s the best non-One Man Band wrestler in WWE at compellingly selling an injury (for more than five seconds) and breaking out (and cleanly hitting) bouncy moments of hope. Del Rio’s all about causing quick, sustained injury and getting caught off guard by guys springboarding at him, or whatever. The truth is that Tyson Kidd’s probably a good match for anyone, because Tyson Kidd is great, and he’d be a huge star already if WWE wasn’t so dead-set on helping Evan Bourne work through his crippling weed addiction.
Worst: I Still Care About You, Kaitlyn, Whether Everyone Else Has Forgotten About You Or Not
There’s a moment during the six-Diva tag (featuring heel Alicia Fox, because why not) where Cole explains once again how Kaitlyn won a battle royal to be the #1 contender to the Divas Title, and how everyone thinks it was a fluke. You know why he mentioned it again? Because that’s the only thing that has happened in the Kaitlyn storyline involving Kaitlyn during this ENTIRE CYCLE.
Seriously, that’s it. Kaitlyn won a fluke battle royal, and you thought there were gonna do a new kind of story about an up-and-comer with connections to the Raw GM getting her first big shot at a “legendary Diva”, but all they’ve done is focus on Eve picking up unimportant wins and pretending to be everybody’s friend. As good as character development for Eve is, why is that happening now? Why is Kaitlyn an afterthought in a six-Diva tag on the go-home Raw for the pay-per-view featuring her big challenge? She’s getting Chris Jericho’d in a feud between Stephanie McMahon’s dog and Triple H. Maybe on Smackdown she’ll jump Layla backstage and drive away in the Paul Heyman/CM Punk clown car, but yeah, maybe not.
Best: Kaitlyn’s Ring Gear
I enjoyed Kaitlyn’s ring gear for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
1. It accentuates the positive, and doesn’t make her look beefier than she is.
2. No animal print, which is a positive thing for any pro wrestler who isn’t the f**king Barbarian.
3. Do you remember Viscera? Remember how when he’d wrestle he’d spend the entire match trying to pull up his pants, and how funny and awful that was? Kaitlyn’s top was pulling a Viscera here, and it was easily the best ever interpretation of Pulling A Viscera.
Worst: CM Punk Is A Paul Heyman Guy, Which I Guess Means Getting Counted Out On Purpose
Being a Paul Heyman Guy seems a lot like being an A.W. Guy.
Jack Swagger Of Mars
All-American American American American Jack Swagger awoke from hypersleep to find the U.S.S. Rhadamanthus motionless, dark, and eerily thilent. Silent.
“HULLO?” Jack bellowed, stepping out of his chamber with his arms held out to his sides, fingers spread wide, taking big stomps across the starship’s cold, metal floor. “Is anybody OUT there?”
Swagger fumbled his thick, taped fingers across the control board, looking for the vessel’s auxiliary power switch. Perhaps if he could bring light into this empty space, he’d open his eyes and find himself backstage at the Bell Centre again, removed from this nightmare exile, looking upward and slightly to the right as Vickie Guerrero, a voice long-gone from his life, muttered explanations of a United States Championship match under her breath and cackled. In his mind, Jack wiped his hands over his face and jogged in place. “Tonight will be the night,” he imagines himself saying. “I’m going to defeat Santino Marella or whoever and win back the United States Championship, a belt that belongs to the All-American American American…”
The voice in his head drifted away as his fingers laced their way through the control prongs of the ship’s antiquated control mechanisms. With images of a cheering crowd and the Swagger Soaring Eagle flashing through his brain, he pushed the stick forward, bringing up the Rhadamanthus‘ bridge lights. The fluorescent lights suddenly illuminated the room, popping with a loud fizz, blinding Jack as if he were opening his eyes on a bright new morning. Swagger moved his arm away from his eyes, and as his sight adjusted he found himself far, far away from the smart, sexy and powerful world of WWE Superstars … he was alone, alone on the U.S.S. Rhadamanthus, lost in God knows where. The light switch then lurched forward, sending Swagger stumbling forward into the ship’s middle turnbuckle.
Jack collapsed to the ground, waiting for the hypersleep tube or whatever to tip over and pin him so he could end today’s 30 seconds of work. He covered his face. How long would this losing streak last? That’s when he noticed something peculiar: the ship wasn’t moving. After staring up at the lights for several minutes, Jack sprang to his feet and Frankenstein-walked to the nearest shuttle window, expecting to find himself lost in a distant starfield. “The engines have stopped, I’m dead,” he thought. “Maybe the hypersleep chamber malfunctioned. Am I out of gas? How long have I been out?” Fear overcame him.
When he made it to a window, and after taking a moment to wipe the glass because his weird mouth-breathing had fogged it up, Jack’s eyes bugged out. The ship wasn’t lost in space at all … it had landed! Jack shook his head and wiped his face with his hands. This was the most surprising thing to happen to him since losing to Evan Bourne those five or six dozen times in a row: the Rhadamanthus had crash landed in a great sea of pink sand.
“Marth,” he whispered.