Welcome to the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for September 13, 2011. Before we begin:
– Be sure to leave a comment if you read the report. If Vince McMahon is ever on his word processor and accidentally stumbles upon the site, it’ll make me look cooler to have 200 comments than it would to have 8. Also, these things take about three and a half hours to build from start to finish, not counting the two hours of wrestling I have to sit through, so your feedback and thoughts are my payment. Money is my payment, too, but I get these four times a month.
– As previously mentioned, I’m headed to Los Angeles on Thursday, so both The Best And Worst Of Night Of Champions and the next night’s Best and Worst Of Raw will feature guest writers. Handling the Night of Champions report will be Andrew Johnson of the popular The John Report, which I think is a blog about bathrooms. Covering next week’s Raw will be writer Diego McCafferty, a man shockingly important to my pro wrestling fandom. Be kind to them and give them the same kind of response you’d give me, only with more curse words. Burnsy will be in charge of With Leather while I’m off taking mark photos with Maleficent (or Andre Ethier, or whoever), so if they do a terrible job, blame him.
– A.J. image unrelated, but important.
Enjoy the report. See you in two weeks.
Best: Bret Hart Is No Style, All Stubstance
Bret Hart, to me, is the Washington Nationals.
I love the Cleveland Indians. I lived in Cleveland for four years and they were my first “hometown” team, so weird racist human being mascot or not, they’re my team. The Washington Nationals are my National League team, or “the team I support in the National League but don’t really care about”. I spent most of a year in Bethesda, Maryland, so I learned to love the Nats and their whistling eagle mascot and their racing Presidents. In wrestling terms, Sting was my Cleveland Indians. I grew up in “Horseman Country” (southern Virginia, right on the border of North Carolina) so pre-Crisis days of the NWA, and later, WCW, were my hometown team. I knew of and enjoyed the WWF, but it wasn’t my thing. It seemed cartoonish and fake to me, but I liked Bret Hart. He was the guy in the Wrestlemania 2 celebrity battle royal who wasn’t a big fat guy and he wore sunglasses, so I thought he was cool. I liked the Killer Bees, too, but that’s like cheering for the Astros and destroys my analogy.
Anyway, I followed Bret Hart throughout his career, but I was never one of those little African kids from the video packages about him being a hero who’d run up to him with tears in their eyes. I liked him, but I didn’t really care. He’d put on good matches against the Rockers or whoever, sure, but I had the Steiner Brothers, so basically everything he did looked like sh*t. That’s what the American League tends to do to the National League (pitchers batting is the “Doink” of baseball, a thing that seems stupid and IS stupid, but started off as a great idea). Unexpectedly complex story short, it makes me happy to see Bret on television and he’s fully welcome to wander out and shrug his shoulders at us through varying stages of stroke madness for the rest of his life. Alberto Del Rio is right about him — he looks like a bum, he looks like a homeless person, his jacket is dumb, his hair is stupid — but I wouldn’t be watching the National League if I wasn’t expecting to be a little bit bored. Also, Jesus Christ, what happened to the Indians?
But no, seriously, if a guy has a stroke, is it still okay to make fun of him for saying “stubstance?” What if you put this music behind it?
Best: Alberto Del Rio Gets Illegal Immigrant Canadians To Clean His House
While running down Bret Hart’s Smodcast get-up, Alberto Del Rio, the guy responsible for about 80% of Raw’s bests between now and whenever CM Punk gets his sh*t together, said Bret looked like one of the illegal Canadians he hires to clean his house. The logistics of that are amazing, and explain why he got an independent wrestler from California to be his Spanish ring announcer. Maybe I don’t understand how NAFTA works, but would down-on-their-luck Canadians make the trek across the entire body of the United States to get a housekeeper or landscaping job at the Del Rio Estate? If I attend a gala at Alberto’s, will I be served berry sangria by a spindly-looking white dude in a Kyle Broflovski hat?
This whole thing is amazing, and another reason why John Cena’s one-two punch of “your richness is a gimmick” and “go back to Mexico” are so disappointing. I hate to keep comparing Del Rio to the Big Bossman, but while nobody ever thought Bossman was an actual Cobb County police officer, we were fully prepared to believe that The Mountie disagreed with his interpretation of justice or that Nailz was a legitimate escaped convict who never had time to change his clothes once between May and December of 1992. This is why we’re watching the show, John. We don’t want “this guy is rich” to be the whole story. That’s Ted DiBiase Jr. We want “this guy is rich, and here are a bunch of ridiculous f**king things he does with his richness”. The Million Dollar Man wasn’t awesome because he had money, he was awesome because he used that money to lure children into street games under false pretenses and make folks kiss his feet. Alberto isn’t rich enough to own a nice car, he’s rich enough to own EVERY nice car, and to bring in non-union labor from countries that make absolutely no sense.
Also, holy sh*t, wrestlers are still telling foreigners to go back where they came from in 2011.
Worst: Johnny Ace’s Only Idea Is Tag Matches
The closest Cena came to being on The Truman Show this week is mimicking what John Laurinaitis was going to say and how he was going to say it on a two second delay from Laurinaitis saying the exact same thing in the exact same way, but the “worst” comes from John Ace’s second-ever executive call being the same as his first — he decided we should have a tag team match pairing up John Cena and Bret Hart to take on the team of Alberto Del Rio and a guy who is not technically employed by WWE.
Either of the other suggested matches would’ve been better (Del Rio vs. Hart in a WWE Championship match would’ve been shoot exciting, and Cena squashing Ricardo would’ve accomplished everything the tag did, sans slow-motion Sharpshooter) and I’m sorta deeply disappointed that Triple H didn’t run out and pull away the mic mid-declaration to make his own tag match announcement. Or Teddy Long. Jeez, counting the Anonymous Raw General Manager (who is still showing up, I’m not losing faith) we have FOUR GUYS roaming around backstage with match-making powers. The last thing I want to do with my column is compare every bad thing that happens to TNA, but this is a hell of a lot like that period where Jeff Jarrett, Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Ric Flair, Mick Foley and like Traci Brooks all could make matches and hire and fire people, but Dixie Carter could overrule them all, but SHE could be overruled by the executive board of directors or whatever and nobody knew what the f**k was happening ever. Next week on Smackdown, ECW General Manager Tiffany needs to show up out of nowhere and put Randy Orton in a tag match without explanation.
Worst: Alex Riley Has Gone From CAW To E-Fed
Every week I’ve got a joke ready to go about Alex Riley being the wrestler you create when you first get the video game and you don’t want to make anyone too outlandish, so you make a buffed up version of yourself with knee and elbow pads and maybe a big cross tattoo on your back, and you play a few matches as him in season mode but you’re not good at the game yet, so you keep accidentally jumping out of the ring or messing up your finisher and having to set it up all over again. That’s been accurate since his face turn (he even has the tough guy music you’d choose), but if you watch the above clip, Riley has evolved past that notion and moved straight into Terrible E-Fedding.
If you’ve never been in an “e-fed” before, it’s a lot like a pro wrestling version of “Dungeon and Dragons” only the monsters are all slight variations on the Undertaker and the Dungeon Master has to win all the time. More importantly, the generic e-fed wrestler has to be sorta big and ripped, be able to reverse anything anybody else tries and have nothing but finishers in his moveset. Riley comes into the ring and does or tries to do the following moves:
1. A running attack you can’t block
4. Implant DDT
And when he’s not doing moves, he’s effortlessly stopping double-team attacks and reversing everybody’s finisher. Not a headlock or an International in the bunch. All he needed to do was a goddamn Fisherman Buster and he’d be the first draft of every e-fed character I’ve ever seen. And the TKO? Seriously? “I want to do a move that’s just like the Stunner or the RKO, except I have to struggle and hold the guy up on my shoulders and spin in place first. Also, the only person who has ever been cheered for doing this ever is Sable, and that was just the once.” Everybody who sucks thinks the TKO is awesome, and if right now you’re sorta mumbling “wull I like the TKO”, get your head out of 1998’s asshole. Teddy Hart called, he wants his taste in wrestling back.
Best/Worst: This Is The Best Episode Of “The West Wing” Ever
Part of what makes Miz and R-Truth such a successful duo is the understanding that everything they do is pre-planned. I’ve mentioned before that The Miz seems less like a wrestler and more like a guy pretending to be a wrestler (an observation that got me quoted by Grantland.com’s The Masked Man in a Fair to Flair podcast), and the Miz/Truth partnership takes that one step further — Miz has roped Truth into his “must see” segments, and now we get situations where they come to the ring doing Vaudeville wordplay or a backstage segment where they take the microphone away from Josh and walk to the ring, communicating and passing off the microphone without even having to look at each other. Truth wears a big jacket (for some reason, which is hilarious to me) and tries to work in a new catchphrase, “ninja please!”, complete with Miz doing a Blazing Saddles-quality “WHAT did you just say?” like any of us though he said nigga.
They go to the ring and do each others’ catchphrases, and there’s just something wonderful about two guys who can’t find someone to listen finding best friends. Miz and Morrison never had that. Watch any old episode of the Dirt Sheet, Miz does his thing, Morrison say something weird about the Palace of Wisdom and Miz just rolls his eyes like Morrison is an idiot (he is) and moves on. Miz couldn’t break up with Morrison fast enough, he got crammed together with Daniel Bryan and Alex Riley, two guys he eventually drove away with hateful demands, but he seems comfortable with Truth, and the demands all seem like a group effort, and Truth could really be his Cowboy Bob Orton. Just a guy with a similar outlook on life who hangs out with him, and even when they screw up they never really come to blows, because who else are they gonna hang out with?
Neither: Miz Vs. Kofi Kingston
This isn’t really meant as an insult to Kofi Kingston, whose offense is limited to donkey punching and jumping, but Miz and Kingston had an exciting enough and perfectly acceptable mid-card match that I’d forgotten happened about twenty seconds after it was over. This sort of proves how bad of an idea pairing Kofi against the same guy every week for months at a time is — there was a streak a while back where Miz wrestled Kofi every Monday, so now, months removed, their match still seems like a tired repeat. If Miz and Kingston don’t wrestle one-on-one again until Wrestlemania 35 it won’t matter, because as soon as they start going through the motions it’s going to feel exactly like this. “Exciting enough” and “perfectly acceptable” weren’t in that sentence to make the juxtaposition with indifference funny, it was actually a completely fine match, and it gets two major bests for me:
Best: Miz’s Appeal Actually Works
I don’t know if they’re prepping for WWE 12 and its Wake Up animations or not, but for the first time I can remember, Miz did the claw-X above his head and did his “Batman running and holding his cape” pose before the Skull-crushing Finale, and it actually led to a Skull-crushing finale. Maybe next week Kofi will stand in the corner clapping his hands and yelling “boom” and actually connect with the Trouble In Paradise.
Best: “I Wish You Would”
Miz and Kofi exchanged some heated hip-toss attempts that sent them both tumbling to the outside, so the production guy stopped eating a sandwich mid-bite to yell GO TO COMMERCIAL BREAK with ham and sh*t falling out of his mouth. Before they could fade to Twix, we got an awesome moment where Evan Bourne and R-Truth came around opposite sides of the ring to check on their partners, and Bourne acted like he was going to start something … so Truth just stares him down and says “I wish you would.” It was the greatest.
Michael Cole says “Mill-guillicutty” and “Jerry Lauer” in the first nine seconds of this video. He is paid by wrestling to talk for a living.
Best: Sheamus Is All Personality
WWE has a terrible tendency to equate smiling with fair play. The best example is Brock Lesnar, a seething beast built out of monster tattoos and log-jogging who showed up out of nowhere and coldly dispatched every fan favorite in his way; the Hardy Boyz, Rob Van Dam, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, The Undertaker and even Hardcore Holly stepped up and were destroyed. Then, sometime in November, when the leaves are dead and the bad decisions really start to flow, Paul Heyman turned on Brock, transforming Brock into the fan favorite. Literally within seconds Brock changed from the unstoppable monster to this weird dick frat guy who smiled a lot and thought kissing Kurt Angle on the mouth was a funny idea. He never recovered, and now in UFC he’s an amalgamation of the two, this big super strong super tough guy who laughs like a bad guy from Final Fight and calls people Mexican as an insult.
Anyway, that’s what’s happening to Sheamus. Sheamus has been smiling a lot, so much that he’s a Kelly away from pointing with one hand and holding a belt over his head with the other, but I won’t pretend like I didn’t go OH SH*T IT’S SHEAMUS HAHAHA OH SH*T YOU’RE GONNA DIE MCGILLICUTTY YOU’RE GONNA DIEEEEE when Jerry Lawler intro’d his tag partner and Theme From Sheamus hit. I still don’t agree with Otunga and McGillicutty being paid to be wrestlers on TV who are only there because you want to tell us how much they suck, but I am 100% on board with Sheamus showing up and Brogue Kicking these worthless dudes into oblivion with minimal effort. Lawler stayed in the ring for about four seconds and somehow got busted open (I’m going to say “being 60” was the reason for that), but he could’ve sat back down next to JR and let the Great Caucasian Sheamus dispatch do it by himself. Sheamus should be getting his ass handed to him by Mark Henry, but he should let literally no one else hand him a goddamn thing.
I want Lawler and Sheamus to be a permanent tag team, and I want their catchphrase to be “it is great to be white”. That’s why you hate Otunga, isn’t it, Jerry.
Worst: Where Exactly Are You Going With This
I thought Lawler saying MCGILLICUTTY AND OTUNGA, YOUR GAY leading to McGillicutty and Otunga losing the tag titles to a couple of gays like a couple of gays was the end of this story. Then, I thought Lawler teaming up with The Internet’s Zack Ryder, lifetime record 1-99, to beat McGillicutty and Otunga in a few minutes was the end of the story. Now we’re stuck in a weird thing where McGillicutty and Otunga keep losing, and their only response is to say C’MON JERRY ARE YOU STILL SAYING WE DON’T HAVE PERSONALITY, ARE YOU SERIOUS before Jerry summons a tag partner and squashes them, and I don’t know where they’re going or how long they’re going to take to get there.
What is this accomplishing? You don’t need a month to say “these wrestlers are bad, you shouldn’t like them”, you can just not have them as wrestlers on your show. Worst case scenario, you have them lose to people you want the crowd to cheer for (Space Jam) and disappear. But this, what is this? Is it leading to Jerry getting turned on by one of his tag partners and siding with Mike and Dave to form the New New Nexus? Are we going to have Otunga bring back Skip Sheffield and Darren Young and whoever to beat up Jerry and dismantle the ring again? Is Triple H going to make Michael McGillicutty strip to his bra and panties and bark like a dog? What is happening, and why is it taking so long? Nobody likes this. Do you like this? NOBODY LIKES THIS.
Worst: Never Forget
They should’ve just played Green Day over a “DID YOU KNOW?” graphic that read “WWE IS THE REASON AMERICA IS STILL A COUNTRY”.
Or, they could’ve just played this.
You’re right, Stephanie, the 3,000 people who died in those attacks are just like when the government told your dad to stop giving Hulk Hogan steroids.
Best/Worst: The Most John Cena Match Of All Time
The less said about the Hart/Cena vs. Del Rio/Rodriguez tag match, the better. Like Kingston/Miz, it was fine for what it was trying to be … Cena wanted to fight Del Rio, but he is suddenly a coward (despite beating CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, and John Morrison all right in a row) and tosses helpless little Ricardo to the wolves. Cena beats up Ricardo, Del Rio flees, Bret Hart comes in and gets a sympathy Sharpshooter to make everybody happy. There’s nothing wrong with that, I guess, but Jesus, it was the most John Cena thing of all time.
Think about it. Ever since Punk hit and Triple H returned to be COO, they haven’t known what to do with Cena, and he’s been falling deeper and deeper into realizations that his world is fake. Remember how in The Truman Show the actors don’t come up with any real excuses for the strange things Truman is seeing, they’re just going about their day and pretending none of it is happening? That’s what’s going on here. The people around Cena are acting in the most John Cena’s Antagonists way possible … Del Rio, a guy who won Money in the Bank AND the Royal Rumble and who retired Edge and Rey Mysterio with straight-up attacking, is doing the thing Cena hates the most: GIVING UP. John Cena does not Give Up. He does not Back Down. Notice how Cena keeps bringing up the rental cars and the fakeness of Alberto, but Alberto never addresses it, he’s just like “I DON’T KNOW WHAT CHU TALKING ABOUT CENA, BUT” and changes the subject. By giving up and backing down, Del Rio is sorta trying to rope Cena back into this world of Good vs. Evil and away from the shades of grey and “real names” of CM Punk.
Do you know what John Cena’s real name is? It’s John Cena.