Oh hi mark.
– For those of you who only show up to read Best and Worst (shame on you), I’m back from my nearly week-long vacation in sunny southern California for a mix of Dodgers baseball, Brady Bunch house visits and mark photos with SoCal Jack Skellington and have returned to my post as the Raw reviewer who is extremely positive about everything but only likes Alberto Del Rio. Before I start, I want to give another thank you to Andrew Johnson for filling in on The Best And Worst Of WWE Night Of Champions and to Diego “the only Dr. Cube that matters” McCafferty for The Guest And Worst Of Raw 9/19. They did a fantastic job filling in, and if you haven’t read those recaps yet, please do so.
– Like I said, this is my first column back in two weeks, so I am going to absolutely badger you to f’ing death for comments, Facebook shares, Twitter retweets, Google Plus plus-ones, Friendster wall posts (does Friendster have a wall? I can’t remember), Xanga rants and Diaryland entries in the support of Best and Worst of Raw. They are appreciated, and if I don’t get enough of them I’m turning With Leather into an indecipherable mass of misdirecting Stephanie McMahon Nude Click Here links and Free iPod announcements.
– In case you need to be bribed, and because last week nobody here liked her enough to include a gratuitous picture, here is Smackdown’s A.J. doing a split.
Enjoy the Best and Worst of Raw for September 26, because it’s all downhill from here.
Worst: Good Luck With Your Lives, America
Two weeks away from pro wrestling, and what’s the first thing I come back to? The very first thing? It’s Michael Cole introducing the ominous Hell In A Cell structure for a Hell In A Cell-themed pay-per-view full of Hells in Cells happening this Sunday by announcing its square-footage and declaring it larger than most American homes. Is that supposed to be awe-inspiring? I was homeless for a while as a child. I spent the rest of it in apartments and bad neighborhoods one step away from Section 8 housing. Thanks, WWE, for reminding me that instead of spending money to help somebody who isn’t a Troop or a Make-a-Wish, you spent x-thousands of dollars to build a 3,500 square-foot thing for the Spirit Squad to wrestle in.
All right, enough negativity. Maybe we’ll start off with a match, and I’ll be able t-
Best: In The Interest Of New Dynamics
I’m settling in to the reality that Theme From Triple H is going to start every Raw (and that it won’t suddenly be one of the funny ones, like Mystikal’s version from back when WWE made albums that sounded like rape threats, i.e. “Forceable Entry”) and that my continuous bitching about how he is Literally the Parasite from Superman and drains the life energy of anything he touches isn’t helping anybody. I wouldn’t have reacted well to Night of Champions. While I never seem to enjoy Raw’s 20-minute opening monologue, I did enjoy seeing and hearing some of the characters who never get to speak out of story air their grievances and act and react like people who might be doing this for a living.
Dolph Ziggler, should he be allowed to continue talking about things in front of people, could develop into a truly great pro wrestling speaker. He’s good at sounding natural while sounding grander than natural, he just never really seems to have anything to say. Even when he’s threatening to kill Hugh Jackman’s wife and send him on a 2,000 year journey of immortality to Xibalba (which he absolutely should’ve) he still never sounds like he’s going anywhere with it. Last night as a good step forward, and he had a legitimate issue that wasn’t being responded to. So did Cody Rhodes, who got nine staples in the head from a Randy Orton ringbell shot on Smackdown and wondered why Miz and Truth get fired for worked punches and Orton can get away with Assault With A Deadly Weapon. Christian didn’t have a point and was just being a whiny jerk, but that’s awesome for him.
I hate hate hated Triple H’s responses — when H said he didn’t go crying to management when Randy Orton attacked his wife, I wanted Cody to respond with “what about the time Chris Jericho beat you for the WWE Championship and you threatened to break the referee’s arm if he didn’t reverse the decision?” Or anything. Triple H’s entire career is one part Married The Boss’s Daughter and one part Pointing At My Dick With Shawn Michaels. Also, telling somebody to “man up” only works when you’re wearing Confederate flag shorts. But at the same time it was nice to see him interacting with people other than Cena, CM Punk and Kevin Nash. If this is the character he’s going for, and by God it looks like it is, he should occasionally have to talk to the people in the mail room.
Worst: Triple H Is Worse Than The Anonymous Raw General Manager
Again, I think this is the character he’s going for (and my opinions here are based solely on what they’re giving me on the show), but damn, Triple H is turning out to be more or less the least effective authority figure of all time. Giving Christian three high-profile matches for pissing him off? Maybe Chris Masters should’ve given up working hard for a year to become a good pro wrestler and dropped a 20 to the production team to get them to play his theme when H is trying to talk. Putting an injured Cody Rhodes in a battle royal where he’s got to beat 9 other guys or lose his championship? Firing Miz and Truth for interfering in his match and then apologizing in a way he didn’t love?
Ken Anderson from Impact Wrestling gave an interview with Pro Wrestling Illustrated (or they just said he did, I’ve never been sure how that works) that attempted to explain why people on Impact were always turning on each other, had some interesting thoughts on face/heel dynamics.
There’s this thought that, in wrestling, it needs to be black or white. You’re either a good guy or a bad guy. I don’t know anybody in my life that is wholly evil or wholly good. With Breaking Bad, or Sons Of Anarchy, or Weeds—you look at these shows and there’s a guy who is a chemistry teacher who sells meth. Is this a good guy? By society’s standards, no. But we look at the TV show and we can sympathize with him. So I don’t know what the answer is. But I do believe that sometimes in the wrestling business, it’s almost forced. And it can be insulting to the wrestling audience, whereas on a TV show like Sons Of Anarchy, you decide. But in wrestling, it’s ‘Hey, I’m the bad guy. Boo me,’ or ‘I’m the good guy. Cheer for me.'”
That’s all true, but to quickly address why this does not explain wacky TNA consta-turning,
1. TNA’s idea of “character development” is having a guy carry a football
2. Shut up
The problem with what’s happening in the current WWE is that it feels like they mixed up their two notecards, and now it’s “Hey, I’m the bad guy. Cheer for me.” and “I’m the good guy. Boo me.” It’s like the only thing separating good guy from bad guy is whether or not they say “you people” in promos and hold the tights. That’s it. Nobody’s getting attacked with baseball bats in the parking lot, nobody’s talking about the hard times of the common man. When a Walter White or a Don Draper does something immoral, we’ve got seasons of moments and situations and backstories to explain why, and justify why, and that keeps us interested in what’s happening and where it’s going. WWE has made a point to ignore their own history and retcon everything so we’ll forget why we booed and start cheering, or vice versa (Sheamus is a great current example of this), so when they have a guy like Triple H do something immoral, people just keep cheering, because they’re already cheering. It’s what Chris Jericho got so pissed off about with Shawn Michaels. Shawn could lie about injuries and manipulate people, but nobody’s paying attention and they “like” Shawn Michaels. It’s regressive bullsh*t, and even the people who see that and try to rise above it can’t, because you can’t put a Walter White on “Malcolm In The Middle”.
It sucks that the bad guy characters can’t go to the person in charge with a reasonable complaint and have it be heard. The job of the good guy is to rise above their cheating and lies, that’s why he’s the good guy. If the bad guys are trying to stay employed in a safe work environment but they don’t like the fans, and the guy who likes the fans can abuse power and hurt them and fine and fire them arbitrarily without consequence, Jesus, who is the bad guy? And more importantly, doesn’t that leave us with nobody to cheer for?
No Idea: Cody Rhodes’ Voice
I’m not sure what he’s doing or why he’s doing it, but I love it. I cooooould … [sniff, shake head] listennnn to himmm talk [nod for no reason, wave arms] all dayyy.
Best: Battles Royal, The Way To Brandon’s Heart
I love battles royal. They’re probably my favorite thing about wrestling, which doesn’t say a lot for my taste in wrestling.
Sure, a battle royal is just a string of important moments held together by a glue of guys leaning back in the corner while one-or-more other guys hold their thighs, but think of it from a fan perspective — In the first match of Raw I got to see my favorite wrestler in the world (Bryan Danielson), I got to see dos Caras (not Alberto Del Rio), I got to see Sheamus eliminate dudes with double-axehandles to the face and both John Morrison and Alex Riley got to appear on Raw with me barely noticing they were there at all. That’s a win by almost every definition. We even got an appearance from Ted DiBiase, which means at least 15 or so fans got to have a DiBiase Posse Tailgate Party before Raw. I want to go to one of those so bad and bring a pack of Tofurky and see if Daniel Bryan will show up and hang out with me.
By the way, if you don’t know about the DiBiase Posse, you can find out by watching the following video, but I have to warn you: the first 45 seconds of this video may make you want to kill yourself.
He should pay Virgil to stand by the grill and menacingly hold out napkins in a fan.
Oh, another good part of the battle royal is that we got almost 20 seconds of Drew McIntyre.
Worst: Drew McIntyre
If I didn’t know Drew McIntyre only hooked up with beautiful, socially rude vegans I would start a rumor that he’d gotten a hold of a time machine and gone back to candy-van teenage Stephanie McMahon, because holy sh*t what could Drew McIntyre have possibly done to deserve the cold boogers on a paper plate treatment he’s been getting this year? This is one of those situations where if you take a step back from the “why aren’t you using him?” talking point, it becomes “why are you paying this guy to be a wrestler if you hate him and don’t ever want him to wrestle?” The guy is talented, and I’m starting to think Superstars was just a Last Starfighter situation where the best performers get rocketed off into outer space.
Look, if you don’t want him to be the “chosen one” or whatever that’s fine, let him pay his dues. But you’ve had Snooki win a match at Wrestlemania and Michael McGillicutty hold a championship this year, put McIntyre in a tag team with Tyson Kidd or whoever and let them lose a good match to Air Boom every now and then. If you’re so dead-set on making McIntyre look worthless, at least let his worthlessness make somebody else look good.
(also, regarding that Tiffany/CM Punk segment, Punk should’ve responded with “why don’t you eat some bacon, what’s your problem, you should try being a human being”)
Best: Sheamus Verse Zeke(ial)
I think I speak for everyone when I say “hosses squaring off in the middle of a battle royal” is always great. It’s become a staple of modern WWE Battle Royal Style, and I think the best use of Ezekiel Jackson since that backstage bit where he talked about Sun Tzu with Brian Kendrick was as the large guy nobody cares about who got the f**k clubbered out of him by The Great White Man Sheamus. Now Zeke should have a Smackdown match where Mark Henry dispatches him like a bitch so we can pack up his stuff and ship him off to the next WrestleReunion.
Worst: Easy There, Big Guy
I wasn’t sure if Sheamus was trying to go over the ropes or hook his feet so he wouldn’t go over the ropes, but I was getting fever flashbacks of Test getting hung up in the ropes against Eddie Guerrero and just hanging there for 15 minutes. I’m not sure what anyone here was going for (the Christian run-in seemed wrong, mostly because of this and the weird forearm sequence between Sheamus and Cody that preceded it), and one of the great reasons why I’m not a pro wrestler is because if I found myself in this situation I’d just sorta collapses in the ropes and hang there in shame until somebody cherry-picked me and dragged me to the back.