– Raw’s 1000+ show run peaks during this report, so read at your own risk.
– Comments, clicking the like button, Twitter shares and whatever else you can do to share this with people on the computer are appreciated. As an added incentive this week, sharing this post on one of these guys will unlock the Jack Swagger “Good Luck On Mars” Badge (pictured, left). If you’re a regular reader of the column, you’ll want this badge like Swagger’s wife wants to pay for a round of speech therapy.
– Thanks as always to Casey/THESTINGER of Hammerlock Dialectic for his stellar GIF additions to the weekly report.
– Also, don’t forget, the With Leather Pro Wrestling Community is having its first get-together at Chikara’s King Of Trios 2012 in Easton, Pennsylvania, so if you’re anywhere in the area or are coming in for the show, let us know so we can high-five you. It’s going to be a grand time. I don’t know if it’s going to be much more than people standing around awkwardly, but it happens in like two weeks so hurry up and say you’ll come.
Please enjoy the Best and Worst of WWE Raw for September 3, 2012: Hug It Out Edition.
Best: Sheamus Is A 40-Degree Day
I loved four big things from last night’s opening segment:
1. Obviously, the ‘The Wire’ reference. ‘The Wire’ is the best show in the history of television and I love it so much I found a way to write 15 pages about it on a comedy sports blog. Punk dropping street legend and Honey Nut Cheerios enthusiast Omar Little’s classic line “you come at the king, you best not miss” was amazing, although you’d think with Punk’s tendency to lean homophobic he would’ve called Omar a vagina and dropped Marlo’s MY NAME IS MY NAME instead. Regardless, more Wire references on wrestling, please.
2. I love how backed into a corner the Chicago crowd is during this CM Punk heel turn. Most crowds are doing that thing where Punk’s music hits and they go crazy, and then he starts You Peopling them and they boo. Chicago has been etched into wrestling history as the one crowd who will love and support Punk no matter what, so they chant his name like it’s July 2011, and when he starts in with the “if you disagree with me you disrespect me, Jerry Lawler’s head is a bean bag full of lard” stuff they’re SUPPOSED to boo, but they can’t, and end up just kinda going “yayyy” and clapping politely. It’s hilarious. Wrestling crowds should never get so into being “wrestling crowds” that they stop reacting to stuff naturally. Every wrestling crowd of any kind in America, I’m looking in YOUR direction.
3. The sad but true fact that the World Heavyweight Championship is the new Intercontinental Championship is finally spoken. When Shane McMahon showed up on Raw, the big gold belt officially became a WWE thing, and all the Rics Flair and Harleys Race you want to assign to it become irrelevant. It’s a lasting testament to WWE being more important than its competitors, and while holding the belt gets you a nice set of words on your Wikipedia page, it’s no more prestigious than holding Matt Hardy’s silver ECW bangle. They can just retcon that shit from history whenever they want. Who knows this better than Punk? There’s a reason he held the Big Gold three times before he got important and held the real one.
Worst: Seriously Though, LOL At Sheamus’ Babyface Promo
Poor Sheamus was doing his best to be a relatable, natural babyface last night and oh man was it hilarious. First he Shameful Thing Lobster Headed dout to the ring to say, more or less, OI SHORE DO LOVE BEIN’ IN SHERCARGO, THE PORTY NEVER STOPS. I’m guessing this is the first time he’s ever had to say “Chicago” out-loud. I had a similar experience the first time I tried to say “taciturn”.
Then Punk starts in on his stuff, and while I think Punk’s a little too confident in his ability to overshadow everyone on the microphone, True Facts state that Punk’s in Chicago and is going to be more loved and comfortable than ever. So Sheamus brings up a few good points (Punk’s going to talk for 30 minutes, Punk’s doing Sheamus what The Rock tried to do to Punk), but he’s so damn Irish and excited he can’t get it out straight. I’m not sure who said it on Twitter last night, but only CM Punk could make Chicago boo the Irish.
They should do a Backstage Fallout segment where Sheamus is riding home on the bus, headphones on, scribbling promo notes on a piece of paper. He puked spaghetti on his sweater this week, but eventually he’ll lose himself in the moment and have his “f**k the Free World” moment.
Worst: Randy Orton Is Dominating So Slowly I’m Starting To Think He Lost A Bet
Is there a way we can just let Randy Orton do steroids? Between wellness violations he had that Kicking Vince’s Head In moment where he was gonna be the next Stone Cold and that great, silent run on Smackdown where he’d wrestle guys like Christian every week and have good-to-great matches, but since coming back as 1/2 Randy Orton he hasn’t done a lot besides stand around and wait for you to run into his moves. At some point during Orton’s stomping last night I drifted off to sleep, and woke up this morning suddenly remembering a bunch of great moments from the match. No, seriously, the Dolph headstand audibled into a Cattle Mutilation thing, Orton’s intensity throwing Ziggler into the ropes for his hanging DDT, all sorts of things. But thinking back I was so goddamn bored out of my mind watching it. I’m pretty sure I got Dark City‘d.
If I could be in charge of WWE Creative for a year, the first thing I’d do is take control of Randy Orton’s character and push it in the right direction. I mean, the FIRST thing I’d do is write a love triangle between Kaitlyn, Raquel Diaz and new Raw General Manager Brandon, but after that I’d go back to the things that made Orton’s character unique (“IED” disorder, his shady past, his tendency to just assume things will be given to him instead of working hard to have them) and turn them up as high as they’ll go. Maybe he’ll come across as a wacky nutbag like when he was doing jumping toe-touches or whatever on Smackdown, but maybe he’ll be that corrupted “new Stone Cold” they’ve wanted so bad … a morally and socially reprehensible character who’s just too interesting to deny. He doesn’t have to drink beers and drive trucks into the arena, he can be his own version of it. Shit in peoples’ bags and lick unconscious lady faces. Whatever. Anything’s better than “popular guy who’s like John Cena, but worse”.
Best: Dolph Ziggler, Master Of The Raw Rematch
One of my favorite moments of the show was Grabbing Of The Trunks-Gate, if only for that awesome moment where Ziggler wanted to roll out of the ring and chose the farthest possible spot away to do so, and the camera cut to Vickie doing this amazing, toothy, goofy walk around the corner to meet him.
That’s their relationship in a nutshell, isn’t it? A guy who thinks he’s the greatest thing ever but secretly knows he’s the captain of the B-team, managed by a woman who says her guy’s the best but secretly thinks he’s about as good as Jack Swagger, so she gets shoot shocked when he pulls it out. That’s a thousand times more compelling than the “arrogant man” and “shrew woman” commentary they get. Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective on what you’re being told to turn a boring character into a great one.
And while that sentence is reminding me, we miss you, John Laurinaitis. Please come back to us.
Best: I Am Emotionally Invested In This Anger Management Story
I wrote about it at length last week, but I don’t think I’ve considered backstage segments “must see” since maybe … hell, I don’t know, Eugene and William Regal were friends? Tajiri was testifying in wrestling court? Some time around then, I don’t know.
But no, the Daniel Bryan and Kane anger management segments should just be a horrible waste of time to secondhand shill a Charlie Sheen show, but they’re great. Daniel Bryan is turning everything he turns to gold this year (so fast the t-shirt people can’t keep up with the funny stuff he says and does) (because he’s the Best In The World) and Kane is at his best in surreal comedy (see also: “suck it”), so it’s heartwarming to see them actually show up with their anger collages and work through their problems. Kane’s anger collage being blank because he feels blank on the inside is strangely moving, even if WWE fans would roll their eyes and say “gay” and it was just a set-up for a fire joke. And yeah, I wish Bryan had worked Roderick Strong onto his anger collage, but I’ll take what I can get.
The best part is that I had NO IDEA where this was going. And oh God, did it go.
Worst: That Funkadactyl Had To Get Drunk, So Cody Rhodes Has To Team With Tensai Instead Of Damien Sandow
As you may be aware, for the next 15 days, Funkateers will be putting their hands together for the lovely Naomi. Funkadactyl Cameron, the one from Tough Enough who thought Melina vs. Alicia Fox was the best match of all time and is way less great than Naomi, was suspended for 15 days for driving drunk and trying to bribe a police officer with $10,000 to not report it. If you’re keeping score: drunk driving and bribing a police officer gets you a 15-day suspension, making a joke about Kobe Bryant 10 years too late gets you fired.
Anyway, I’m guessing they can’t just have Brodus Clay walk down to the ring and wrestle, they have to do the whole goddamn thing every time, so until Cameron returns, the Funkasaurus has to remain in captivity. That means a depressingly low amount of Damien Sandow on Raw (because on Raw, you and your rival can only appear with and in relation to each other). Because of THAT, the fledgling team of RHODES SCHOLAR became Cody Rhodes and f**king Lord Tensai. I can’t come up with a name for them as funny as Rhodes Scholar because 1) Cody isn’t doing his Doctor Doom gimmick anymore, and 2) not enough of you watch puroresu to get my “Bag Intentions” joke.
What I’m saying is that you ruined this for everybody, Cameron. I see no reason they can’t put Alicia Fox in a pair of sparkly ass-lifters and call her “Funkadactyl Vicky” for two weeks. At least let Sandow call her a “Drunkadactyl” one good time before her suspension is over.
Best: This Is How You Use Sin Cara
The tag team match itself was a fun little thing, and helped me notice how much better Sin Cara has been since he started pumping his fists a few weeks ago. Before, Sin Cara was a slow-moving silent guy who just kinda pointed at you and almost put you in wrestling moves before he fell over. Now he seems alive under the mask, probably due to working with that fat little guy in the Jerry Lawler sleeveless-T and learning the value of getting beaten to death by the heels before throwing out a couple of moves and looking spectacular.
That’s what Rey Mysterio’s WCW and WWE runs were built on. You probably remember him hitting springboard dragonranas on Eddie Guerrero or reversing Splash Mountain into a pin against Psicosis. You remember the big flashy stuff he did, and how cool he seemed … but when you go back and watch those matches, Eddie and Psicosis beat the ever-loving dog shit out of Rey for like 20 minutes at a time before he mounted his comeback. Most of his WCW stuff is built around getting FUBAR’d by everyone better than Super Calo before pumping his fists and little and jumping at them all crazy. When he entered WWE he had a mystique of being this legendary high-flyer, but his matches against Chavo were just taking suplexes for 10 minutes before hitting a 619, a move that routinely gets the height of a John Cena dropkick.
That’s what Sin Cara should be doing. Instead of asking poor Hunico to stand there in wheelbarrow position waiting for the next move like he’s in the homestretch of a Dragon Gate sprint, let somebody who DOESN’T really fly, but could in theory — a Cody Rhodes, for example — and let them beat him up until he “defies gravity” or “confounds reality” or whatever and pulls it off. He won’t carry the burden of having to hit a bunch of spots, and fans will leave his matches thinking they’ve seen something special, whether they have or not.
Also, bring back the trampoline. I don’t care if he can’t do it, put “learn how to do the trampoline or GTFO” in his contract.
Best: Trust Fall
I thought for sure that WWE’s only possible payoff to a trust fall in anger management therapy would be Daniel Bryan hitting the ground and Kane deadpanning “oops” or whatever. Then, as if to directly teach me not to assume I know everything that’ll happen, Kane catches him. He catches him, and the look on Daniel Bryan’s face when it happens is the same as mine.
That’s what’s making these anger management segments work so well: they’re defying expectations. At no point in my life did I think WWE would handle therapy, especially “wussy” therapy about collages and hand-holding, as a positive. I didn’t think they’d get something good out if it, and they’ve gotten NOTHING but good out of it. They had the Harold pratfall to make the kids laugh, sure, but it was to further the complex relationship between Bryan and Kane. They had the anger management coach “get angry” for the obvious joke, but it was to help Bryan and Kane take a step back and realize how ridiculous their WWE world of problem resolution is. It’s stupid enough to not take itself seriously, but serious enough to stick. That’s amazing for WWE comedy writers, and even if it’s just Bryan and Kane being funny enough to make it work, I’m giving them a big shiny gold star Best. If I had your job, I’d want to write stuff like this.
And no, even this wasn’t the best part.
Worst: #1 Contender John Cena Is More Important Than Both Champions, or
Best: CM Punk Is Not Going Through These Motions Again
I was really worried when #1 Contender John Cena vs. Additional #1 Contender For Whatever was announced as the show’s main event and a f**king CHAMPION VERSUS CHAMPION MATCH was 9PM filler. And I’ll be honest, I got even more nervous when Punk walked out in jeans and started in on how great Chicago is again, because I thought for sure he’d make the match a CHICAGO STREET FIGHT~. Jeans = street fighting. When he walked out, I thought, “oh, okay, they get it now”. They still haven’t referenced the big WATCH THE ROCK AND JOHN CENA THIS SATURDAY ON NBC IN MUSIC VIDEO FORM FROM A SHOW FROM LIKE SIX MONTHS AGO graphic over Punk’s show-ending angle with Lawler, but I’ll take what I can get.
Punk’s new character is weird, because he’s not Classic WWE Heel CM Punk enough for me to fawn over, but he’s close enough for me to make sure I watch … and at the same time, he’s not totally divorced from Pandering WWE Champion CM Punk, no matter how heelish he acts, and that makes me want to turn away. I feel like I’m only liking him because he’s turned his anger to people I don’t like. When he was Mr. Ice Cream Bars he went from ragging on Vince McMahon and Triple H to insulting John Laurinaitis and Daniel Bryan, and I couldn’t stand it. Now he’s running down Jerry Lawler and Sheamus. Is he good again, or did he just stop f**king with my favorites?
Either way, every wrestler should have Labor Day off. Oh, sorry, they should have Independent Contractor Day off.
Also, I’m pretty sure AJ is the most heel GM Raw’s ever had. Even Bischoff smiled and acted nice to some of the heels. AJ’s just hateful to everybody. If Punk hadn’t told her to go screw and walked to his car she probably would’ve started hitting him.
Worst: Jack Swagger Is Seriously Not The Best Opponent You Could Find, Is He?
So okay, assuming that wrestling is real and everyone’s job is what they say it is, I can imagine how stressed AJ was to have to find a replacement opponent for Sheamus on a commercial break’s notice. At the same time, Sheamus is the World Heavyweight Champion, so factoring out the 10% of guys already booked and the 40% of the locker room pulling that coward act all the time and therefore wouldn’t “man up” for a fight, that’s still 50% of the Raw roster who should be JUMPING at the chance to face the Second Best In The World in a showcase match on the flagship show.
What I’m getting at is that Losing Streak Jack Swagger could not possibly be the best opponent you had available. Sure, maybe my top pick (USA Guy) isn’t ready to go, but anybody’s better than Swagger. Camacho is better than Swagger right now. Camacho doesn’t want that match? Tyson Kidd pinned Tensai, didn’t he? Sheamus versus William Regal would be the f**king best. Or Sheamus versus Drew McIntyre, a guy he’s wrestled a thousand times. DAMIEN SANDOW IS RIGHT THERE. Do that again for all the people who aren’t home on Friday nights and didn’t see Sheamus get carried like he was KC James.
Best: Texas Cloverleaf, Son!
Michael Cole had “never seen Sheamus use a submission maneuver before” (you know, the same thing he said when Sheamus beat Santino with a Texas Cloverleaf back in June of last year, or when he used it against Daniel Bryan in their 2-out-of-3 Falls Match at Extreme Rules … really easy stuff to forget), but any and all emulation of Dean Malenko gets a best from me in these reports.
Best: Good Luck On Mars, Jack
Or, “So Long, And Thanks For All The Lisp”.
In case you’re wondering what all this Jack Swagger Astronaut talk is about, it stems from something I wrote about Brock Lesnar quitting WWE via Tout in the August 20 edition of The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw:
Why is “I AM QUITTING AND LEAVING FOR NO RAISIN” Brock Lensar’s only buffer between storylines? Can’t he just not show up again until he needs to show up again? We don’t see Jack Swagger on every show, we don’t need him in an astronaut suit saying WELL I’M OFF ON MY EXPEDITION TO MARS to explain it.
With Jack Swagger formally announcing to the audience that he’ll be “taking some extended time off” to figure out what happened to him (he’s better than this), now’s the PERFECT time to begin our Jack Swagger Of Mars sub-story. Look for an installment every week he’s gone, assuming he’s actually gone and not just showing up next week dressed as the Mad Hatter, or whatever the hell they’d do with him.
Honestly, there are so many ways you can go with a “former champion gets down on his luck, takes time off to refocus” angle. You can have him come back with a new, more serious persona and f**k people up. You can have him go to Japan, learn to “dominate” the Japanese, shave his head and write some shit on his face. You can have him return with the Swagger Soaring Eagle and make Brandon happy. Anything, really. Just don’t have him go away and never come back, because he’s good at his job whether you want him to be or not.
Also, I feel like I shouldn’t have to keep addressing AJ directly, but damn, you are the worst general manager ever. Brock Lesnar left because “leaving” is what Brock Lesnar does. Chris Jericho left because you SUDDENLY PUT HIM IN A MATCH WITH A STIPULATION THAT HE’D HAVE TO LEAVE IF HE LOST. He didn’t really make that decision. And Punk didn’t “leave”, he took the night off because 1) it’s Labor Day, and 2) you’re always jerking him around with crappy non-title matches. Losing Jack Swagger is not a big deal. Do you cry if Jinder Mahal leaves early? I can’t believe I’m telling you this now and not when you were putting wrestlings through tables, but Jesus, get a grip, lady.
Worst: Layla Vs. The Miz, An Argument I Never Want To Hear Again
The Miz filled in for Jerry Lawler on commentary last night, and I haven’t mentioned it up until now because I’m still not sure what to make of the experience. It was a rollercoaster for me. When he walked out to join the booth, I thought, “oh god, Miz can’t improvise, this is going to be terrible”. Then he proved me right, doing a weird Ed Grimley thing where he said I MUST SAY after too many things in a row, and that gave way to him talking loudly and not getting Michael Cole’s sarcasm. It was unbearable. At some point he settled in and I was able to ignore him. I stopped thinking of him as The Miz On Commentary, and some of the stuff he said was funny.
That being said, his argument with Layla about the Divas division and physical beauty is one of the most f**king unbearable things I’ve ever had to hear in my f**king life. You only get a little of it in the video. Between Miz’s insistence that obviously gorgeous model/dancer Layla El is a “2” and Layla’s shirt with a big glittery LOL on it, it felt like I was listening to somebody read a 4Chan thread out-loud. If you find the entire segment online, I recommend watching it with the sound down, and something more pleasant playing in another window. It works really well with DeBarge’s ‘Rhythm Of The Night’. Layla even kinda looks like the sexy lady version of El DeBarge. Layla El DeBarge. Holy shit.
And come to think of it, the ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ video is also way better than this match. New plan: Stop watching wrestling and watch a bunch of DeBarge videos. This should be Johnny Curtis’ new entrance theme.
Best? Worst?: The Whole Kaitlyn/Eve Thing
The bad: Kaitlyn is still very green, and Eve Torres is a sort of living black hole of wrestling whose pom-pom girl kicks and 45° moonsault opens us up to a new world of terrible Divas possibility. A lot of people like to say she’s “good at wrestling” because she’s mildly athletic, and while she seems like a pleasant, well-meaning person, I would be happiest if she went into reality television on a permanent basis and stopped ruining up to three minutes of my wrestling show per week. There is nothing she can do that David Otunga can’t do better, including wrestling, smarmy backstage segments and having gigantic boobs.
The good: Despite all the horrible commentary, I like that the Divas are getting multifaceted storylines. Instead of simply going with “Kaitlyn wins a battle royal, wrestles the champion”, they’re running concurrent stories … Kaitlyn DID unexpectedly win a championship opportunity (eliminating the more experienced Eve), one she’s enthusiastic about but clearly not ready for. Eve’s been forced to restructure her career from the ground up following the fallout from the Cena/Ryder and John Laurinaitis things, so she’s wedging herself into the Smackdown management hierarchy and pretending to be the old, good sportsman Eve Torres people allegedly cheered. Layla’s fallen into a comfort zone with her Divas Title, but she’s not catching fire the way she expected, and she’s suddenly facing challenges from all around. She’s never been the “experienced, legendary Diva” before, and she’s never been badgered about management issues. To date, her biggest profile thing was against Snooki.
So that’s something, right? An attempt at a story, whether there’s really one or not. I like Layla and I love (for real, answer my letters) Kaitlyn, so if Eve can provide a compelling wedge and maybe give Kaitlyn a fluke win she didn’t deserve, it could be a thing. An actual thing. And maybe Kaitlyn can show up in the latter half of Raw one of these days and forearm AJ in the mouth.
Best: Good Luck On Mars, Jinder Mahal
Just kidding, Jinder Mahal is the worst. Hopefully this is the end of him existing on WWE television, and we can give his spot to somebody who knows how to close the window. Also, Jesus, listen to Miz try his best to call a Ryback match effectively only to be shat on my Cole at every turn.
Fun fact: I almost RAN TO MY COMPUTER and ordered the Ryback shirt, because I am the biggest sheep on the planet. My wrestling t-shirt budget is +$30 this month because Daniel Bryan just put a bunch of NO stickers over his YES shirt. Unfortunately it (like the rest of Ryback) looks a little too “Rob Van Dam” for my taste, so I’m going to hold out and hope they mass produce those Heath Slater “One Man Band” shirts. Or I’ll give up, grow my beard out and buy an Egyptian cotton robe.
Worst: I’M THE HOST OF NXT, THAT’S WHO
And the award for Worst Segment On Raw goes to General Manager Pantsuit for her “who are you?” to Matt Striker when he tried to ask her a question. There are a lot of possibilities here, like maybe pressure is causing AJ to lose her memory and that’s why she thinks Falls Count Anywhere matches are brutal punishment or whatever, or maybe she’s just power hungry and knows who Matt Striker is, she’s just pulling a DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM on him and being awful. That said, taking the segment at face value, AJ just asked the host of NXT, a show she was honored to participate in, who he was.
He’s the guy who presided on your greatest moment ever, you little butthole.
I swear, if cute, affable AJ Lee is gone forever it’ll be the worst loss of character since Mickie James stopped being a psycho, be-skirted lesbian and I’ll never forgive them. Give her back to me, WWE.
In a related note, I miss the hell out of Maxine. #yellowropesforever