Before we begin:
– Be sure you read last week’s Best and Worst of Raw and Best and Worst of Super Smackdown before reading this week’s, because this week is completely different and doesn’t regurgitate any of those old talking points I have to come up with a clever way to say every week for the rest of my life.
– Yesterday was Labor Day, and with Hurricane Irene taking over the east coast of the United States (for one reason or another) things have been a little light here, so I’m going to do my prerequisite begging: If you check out this column, show it to everybody you know who has ever heard of pro wrestling and please, LEAVE US A COMMENT. That’s in capital letters so you’ll see it if you’re skimming. We want to hear your thoughts on the show, we want to know what you thought was funny, we want to know about any bests and worsts we might’ve missed. With Leather sort of lives or dies by your interaction, and I really appreciate it.
Enjoy this week’s Best and Worst of Raw, after the jump.
Worst: So We’re Really Going To Recap This For Four Minutes
Pre-Raw video packages are usually caught somewhere between a Best and a Worst. Sometimes we get something special, like Placebo’s “Running Up That Hill” to promote the Shawn Michaels/Undertaker rematch or Undertaker’s unborn child never knowing his father because Brock Lesnar murdered him in terrifying Latin, but most of the time it’s a loud, color-shaded reiteration of stuff we wished we could’ve fast-forwarded through last week. Nondescript crowd noise with someone speaking over it in a slight echo has become my brain’s signal for “okay, Raw is on”, and this week’s took that so far and so thoroughly that my brain ended up watching like four episodes at once.
Four minutes is how long this video package was. The first four minutes of the show. It took four minutes to explain what’s been going on with Triple H, CM Punk and Kevin Nash — it had to explain how Nash got there, how somebody sent somebody a text about beating up somebody, how everyone is extremely upset about what everyone else says about them and how Punk answered a challenge to demonstrate his bravery by putting on a leather jacket and water-skiing up a ramp to clear a shark in Los Angeles. By the time it ended I felt like I’d just watched them talk again, and when “Cult of Personality” hit and Punk squatted to spout the same balls purse rhetoric he’s been reiterating for a month I realized we hadn’t even started. Nash wandered out, Triple H wandered out, and the segment went on for 17 minutes (including video package) to build to one (1) punch and one (1) firing that could’ve just as easily happened last week when H told Nash to go and he said he wouldn’t because Johnny Ace had hired him.
I think my ability to come up with something new to say about these things is directly proportional to how interesting they’ve been. It has taken them four weeks to do one shove and one punch. I’m guessing with a week to go before Night of Champions they’ll pull off something awesome, like that money segment with Shawn Michaels that finally made H vs. Taker at Wrestlemania seem like a huge deal after a month of pensive staring.
Best: I Have Also Seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2
CM Punk: “You have more excuses than you have nicknames, isn’t that right Big Daddy Cool Diesellllllll? Or Vinnie Vegas! Bearded giraffe. I could call you Oz, maybe Super Shredder, I don’t think a lot of people are gonna get that one!”
It’s official. I feel like CM Punk has patronized me for the first time ever. The only thing that would’ve made it worse would’ve been a “heh”, or maybe Punk using real names to show how smart he is about wrestling, like wrestling news sites that say “PHILLIP JACK BROOKS” is their wrestler of the week. It feels weird and bad to live in a world where somebody can mention the Ninja Turtles on a pop culture show like Raw and have to assume that nobody watching will understand. Honestly, I’m going to guess that more people know Kevin Nash was in Ninja Turtles 2 than know about Oz. If you want to go obscure with your Secret of the Ooze references you can’t say “Ninja Rap” and stand there waiting for a response, you have to reference how Ernie “Keno” Reyes Jr. was in Surf Ninjas, or even better, “Sidekicks”. The show, not the Jonathan Brandis movie. Or you can just reference that scene where Shredder holds out the ooze and Keno bursts through the door to kick it out of his hands, but the door is all the way on the other side of the club so Keno’s gotta sprint across the dance floor and Shredder just has to stand there holding out the ooze like a moron. Or how the police just left Shredder’s body in the garbage. Hold on, I need to write The Best And Worst Of Ninja Turtles 2.
I gave this a worst because of how much I like the Ninja Turtles, but damn, “bearded giraffe” came across as the most awful Internet and/or babyface Chris Jericho thing of all time. All he needed was a Titan-tron video full of photoshops.
Worst: The End Of Text Gate
Kevin Nash snuck into Triple H’s office to send himself a text, instead of just saying he got a text.
oh f**k you.
Worst: I Got A Little Emotional! I Put My Hands On Ya! I Thought Friends Could Do That!
If you didn’t LOL when Kevin Nash busted out I THOUGHT WE WAS FRIENDS!, you aren’t mine. Holy sh**, I’ve been trying to justify Nash’s role in all of this since he showed up and shat in my cereal at Summerslam, but good god damn is he not the most embarrassing human being in the world right now. It’s starting to get sad. Listen to him shout about how he was “trying to make WWE cool again”. How were you doing that, by mentioning texting? By starting “Twitter wars”? John Cena does those things. Is John Cena cool? I am a good enough writer to explain John Cena as a lot of things, but God and inspiration have not created a Muse powerful enough for me to say John Cena is cool. Nobody in pro wrestling is cool.
That’s the one thing nobody can seem to accept, and why Stone Cold Steve Austin riding around on a four-wheeler with a pennant on it or a Planet of the Apes-themed pie-fight have always made their protagonists look like disconnected assholes. Pro wrestling is awesomely UN-cool, which is why the least cool people around (a balding orange guy in yellow underpants who used to be fat, for example) become the most popular. The Rock didn’t get popular being a handsome muscular movie star, he got popular when he wore shirts with gold lamé lions on them, had pineapple hair and made “poontang pie” references to a fat guy in a nightshirt with a sock on his hand. Stone Cold Steve Austin wasn’t cool, he was a violent redneck in jean shorts who couldn’t follow rules and gave a voice to the restless populace his show attracted. Ric Flair was cool, but the people we cheered on to defeat him included a heavyset plumber’s son with a speech impediment and a white guy with a flat-top and USA face paint. I can literally provide examples for the rest of my life.
Best: Nelson Muntz, And Insider References We Enjoy
The two best things to happen in last night’s opening half hour salvo were:
1. CM Punk pointing at Kevin Nash and doing the Simpsons “HAW HAW” laugh
2. CM Punk wishing a fired Kevin Nash the best in his future endeavors
Both of those things happened off-mic. I’m going to be assumptive enough to guess those were Punk’s only two contributions to his ten minutes of Oz Calling, because I want the guy I like to be good at things.
Best: Tag Team Matches Are Happening
Say what you will about Air Boom (and I will), but God bless them for being WWE’s excuse for a refocused tag team division. They still have separate entrances, but at least Evan is lingering long enough to participate in the fireworks. They still don’t have “Air Boom” anywhere on their gear, in their entrance video or their nameplate graphics, but at least they’re being formally announced as “Evan Bourne and Kofi King-stannn, Air! Boom!” They still don’t have tag teams to wrestle, but at least they’re wrestling tag team matches.
Worst: Non-Title Matches
This is a big one for me with two examples on this show: World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton faced Heath Slater and WWE Tag Champions Space Jam took on Jinder Mahal and The Great Khali. Both matches were easily won by the champions, but both matches were non-title.
In the long long ago, I can see the point in having Hulk Hogan wrestle Iron Mike Sharpe and having it be non-title, because Sharpe didn’t beat anybody to earn any kind of opportunity and a title defense against a jobber makes Hogan look like he’s padding his reign with tomato cans. In modern WWE, where “jobbers” only exist in local challenges and every person on TV is a Young Superstar With Great Potential and WWE title belts are props you misplaced and forgot about, there is no reason to have Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne beat Jinder Mahal and The Great Khali in a non-title match. If Mahal and Khali aren’t good enough to compete for the championships, they shouldn’t be wrestling the champions. They could be wrestling Miz and Truth for a CHANCE to wrestle the champions, or we could just say “Khali used to be world champ and is big, so” and add a +1 to Air Boom’s title defenses. Either of those things would be better than that terrible, terrible booking choice that gave us three months of McGillicutty and Otunga losing to everybody but still being champion. This is why those Swagger, Sheamus and Mysterio reigns all seemed so sh*tty — there is no place in our fictional world for a champion who is not at least AS good as his challengers. Bottom line.
Right now your major goal needs to be legitimizing the WWE Tag Team Championships and the men who hold them. Legitimize challengers by having them compete for a chance to FACE those champions, an act that indirectly makes your champs look better because people are giving it their all to have what they have. This is the easiest thing, and the reason a billion-dollar industry was born out of something farmhands and carnival jerks used to plot out to steal nickels from city folk. If Gotch could beat Hackenschmidt 10 times in a row in three minutes or less, why do I give a sh*t about Hackenschmidt’s 11th match? I’m going to ride the ferris wheel.
Best: Khali’s Monster Hand
Great Khali has two great finishing holds
1. Brain Squeeze
2. Touching your head with his big hand
I love Khali’s “brain chop”, even if it’s technically a big festering Worst. At some point somebody who can communicate with Khali needs to pull him aside and say “the only thing we expect you to do is chop, so at least stiffen your hand when you move it”. This isn’t 1950s science fiction, I’m not going to fall down and die because the monster brushed his hands against me. They should at least explain that Jinder makes Khali soak his hands in chloroform before his matches. It would work into that whole “Khali must do whatever Jinder says because Jinder is married to his sister and will leave and shame her if he doesn’t” thing that apparently can’t be solved by somebody in Khali’s family watching Smackdown.
Worst: Alberto Del Rio’s Inconspicuous Absence
As the Internet’s leading supporter of Alberto Del Rio (gonna go ahead and christen myself that so he’ll know who I am when I try to meet him at a San Antonio mall next month) I cheered out loud when I saw him pull up in his car with specialty Alberto Del Rio license plates (license plate number: Alberto Del Rio). It took Michael Cole about four seconds to ruin the experience by saying Del Rio was “inconspicuous by his absence last week”.
Michael Cole is one of maybe seven people who gets paid by WWE to speak for a living. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, as the rest of his job description is “make the wrestlers seem good and important”.
Best: Kelly Kelly, Master Debater
Most people who read The Best and Worst of Raw regularly probably saw this one coming, and felt it from the moment “Challah (Theme From Kelly Kelly)” played and the Divas champion food-serviced the Divas Championship to the ringside area for special guest commentary. One of Raw’s greatest-ever lines of dialogue occurred during the shouting match between K2 and Natalya:
Natalya: “You’re a sorry excuse for a Divas champion and you need to be educated as well as the WWE Universe.”
Kelly: “You’re a sorry excuse for … bein’ here!”
Cole consistently tried to overshadow and ruin everything by mentioning how Jim Ross loves barbecue sauce every time there was a pause, but it wasn’t enough. I could listen to Kelly as Drunk Leslie Knope attempting to argue talking points without knowing facts or having a point until the end of time, and suggest a WWE.com series where they bring in the world’s most literate minds to discuss things like abortion and health care at ringside with Kelly. I want to hear Congresswoman Louise Slaughter say, “Contraceptives have a proven track record of enhancing the health of women and children, preventing unintended pregnancy, and reducing the need for abortion” and for Kelly to respond with “Contraceptives have a proven track record of you even being here right now”.
And honestly, Kelly isn’t arguing the right points here. The point she should make is “Natalya and Beth say they want to educate the WWE Universe, but all they’ve done in the last month is clap, say they aren’t jealous and lose to me”. The point she makes is “shut up, no you aren’t”. The point she should be making is “I got this job because I’m pretty, but a lot of pretty girls have come and gone since I showed up, and I’m still here and winning championships because I worked hard to improve in the ring, and I think the people see that, and that’s why they support me”. The points she makes are “shut up” and “I worked my butt off to get here”, and I don’t want to overstep the bounds of masculine decency, but I don’t think what Batista did to you was “working your butt off”. Speaking of, I think the only way this commentary track could’ve been funnier and worse is if Randy Orton had been sitting at the timekeeper’s table, and every couple of seconds they cut over to him making a face that said “oh man, THIS whore”.
“The WWE Universe does not know any better, okay? The WWE Universe wants candy, and candy rots their teeth out. Beth Phoenix and I are here to educate the Universe on what is best for them, and it may be vegetables.”
That is such a fantastic quote from Natalya. So fantastic, in fact, that it distracted me from noticing Eve as Sin Cara 3 botching lucha transitions. I love vegetables. I’m vegan, they’re all I eat. As such, my quinoa is KANA, my portabella is Portia Perez and my Del Monte is Del Rey. I’ve lived on this diet for years, and it makes me feel good about myself and enjoy nearly everything I eat. When I ate meat (Lita, in this example) it seemed like the right thing to do, but it just didn’t feel right. Vegetables are the best decision.
Worst: Natalya And Beth Aren’t Really Educating Us On Anything
As a vegan who isn’t trying to get over as a heel with a Lifestyle Society I also recognize that a vegan diet may not be for everyone. People who Twitter about what they grilled or have Facebook photo albums dedicated to thinks like bags of marinade might only be able to understand Lita, and something rough and green like Veda Scott might not sit well in their stomachs. They can be taught to enjoy Veda (because she’s cute, and her promos make her sound like Romy from Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion), but coming right out and saying “you don’t make good lifestyle choices and can’t help it because you don’t know any better” doesn’t come across as facts, it comes across as confrontation, something to be booed.
That’s the bad part of this story. Beth and Nattie should should should should should should be educating the WWE Universe on how women’s wrestling can be as entertaining and valuable as men’s wrestling, because it is 2011 and we really should’ve stopped assuming women aren’t human beings a long time ago. The problem is that they’re approaching it the way they approached CM Punk’s Straight Edge lifestyle — as the crazed ramblings of a jealous jerk who is just in it for himself. That works for Punk, but it doesn’t work for two women who are going to live or die by the resolution. Natalya should say “here is why zucchini might be a better idea for your heart than pork” by saying “check out this Bull Nakano match, see how awesome she is? We could be trying to find more women like her”. It’s like Inception, you can’t implant an idea, you have to trick the person into thinking the idea was theirs to begin with. Nattie and Beth aren’t doing that, they’re just saying EAT THE VEGETABLES. That’s why so many kids grow up into adults who still think vegetables are gross. Conditioning, something that 20 years of us accepting Honky Tonk Man as a “great Intercontinental Champion” and not as a f**king worthless Elvis impersonator wrestler should show you WWE is great at.
If I want to convince someone I love to consider what food does below their mouth and not just how good it tastes in it, I invite them over and make them a delicious, filling vegan meal. Similarly, if I want to convince someone that women’s wrestling isn’t a sideshow for panty screencaps and the ass as a paintbrush, I invite them over and pop in a copy of Dreamslam. It’s not right for everyone, maybe, but there’s a guy in the audience who secretly really loves vegetables and needs to see some people who aren’t psychotic a-holes eating them and leading a normal life.
Best case scenario, Beth wins the title at Night Of Champions and I get to write the headline KELLY KELLY F*CKED BY VEGETABLE
Best: Please Leave, Yoshi Tatsu
I didn’t get to give ADR any Bests last week, so this week I’m gonna try to give him one on every page. He shooed away Drew McIntyre to have a conversation with Christian and made Tyler Reks and Curt Hawkins leave the room so he could talk to Wade Barrett. I want Alberto Del Rio’s new job to be making the cast of Superstars leave whatever room they’re in.
Best: R-Truth And The Miz
Watch this clip and tell me it isn’t the exact same promo, down to Truth’s facial expressions and Miz’s inappropriate golf clothes.
Boy, I like epiphalies.
Best: Air Boom Is Bout Bad As A Sneaky Fart
It’s a little bit of air, and then kaboom.
I’m pretty happy that it only took two weeks for somebody to compare Air Boom to a fart, and even happier that the concept of a shart has been introduced into WWE continuity outside of those Sid matches where he accidentally craps his pants. Truth and Miz continue to be the biggest babyface team of 2012 by being the simplest and most effective heels in 2011, ignoring the insider comments and pandering “I’m gonna kick yerrr assss!” stuff everybody else is doing to just interfere in each others’ matches and be a memorable part of the show. This is Miz’s bread and butter — the only reason he got to the position he’s in now is because of how much work he put into making every Dirt Sheet and Miz/Morrison appearance something to remember. Pairing him with R-Truth just gives him the biggest, slowest softball lob ever.
I’m also happy that Miz and Truth get to challenge Swiffer Kaboom at Night Of Champions, and pending a Truth and Miz loss (which should happen) I’m happy to see the feud continue with a deeper reasoning than the “nobody cares about tag teams, well nobody’s booking us in matches, hey let’s face each other and hope it goes well” thing they’ve been cobbling together. This could be the start of something truly wonderful, especially if they bring in Rich Swann as R-Truth’s little brother, Cotton.
Worst: Punk Vs. Truth Was Pretty Good, But You’d Never Know It
Somewhere around CM Punk and R-Truth’s match, Michael Cole’s good will silence and cooperation from last week eroded completely, and the commentary that is supposed to serve as a soundtrack to the action and efforts of the pro wrestlers in the ring turned into Michael Cole trolling some real life version of the Internet and Jim Ross trying to remember why he shouldn’t just kill himself in front of everybody and be done with it. This is actual, verbatim dialogue from the top rated television show on cable.
Cole: “That’s nice I’m glad everybody can have an opinion out here without you calling them STUPID, ALL YOUR OPINIONS ARE STUPID, HOW ABOUT THAT.”
JR: “That’s fine.”
Lawler: “there’s a cover by, r-truth, uh”
Cole: “It’d be fine if it was 1959.”
JR: “What’s that mean? What’s the relevance of your-”
Cole: [mocking JR] “IT’S BREAKIN DOWN IN COLUMBUS HERE TONIGHT.”
Cole: [still mocking JR] “AR-TRUTH”
Cole: “What, Lawler? You’re all excited because you’ve got a match coming up next.”
Lawler: “And I’m trying to get excited about THIS match.”
Also awful was Cole saying “jazz-a-bell” and not knowing what Jezebel is because he’s never read the Bible. Fire all three of them, give Scott Stanford the play-by-play job and let’s all move the f**k on with our f**king lives.
Super Worst: Jerry Lawler Saying Michael Cole Should Calm Down Before He Has A Stroke
He’s sitting next to you.
Worst: So, Uh, About That Contract Signing
Pointing out logic loopholes on televised pro wrestling is sorta like pointing out handicapped people at the Special Olympics, but last night featured a big one — after firing Kevin Nash, Triple H decides to change his match with CM Punk at Night Of Champions and make it no disqualification, anything goes. The big question is this: If you can just say “oh yeah, I’ve also just decided that I can hit you with weapons”, what was the point of the contract signing last week? Was there a “we can add or take away any part of this match as long as we say it in public” clause? If so, why the hell would CM Punk sign it? See, this is how Stone Cold Steve Austin kept getting into matches where Vince and the Stooges would add stips and falls on the fly. I guess WWE contracts are like Apple service agreements, and wrestlers just sign them to keep the square from popping up.
This is great proof that WWE writes their stories as they go. We wouldn’t have to have Jeff Katz organizing “revolutionary three-act storytelling” in his arthouse independent promotion if WWE creative said “this is the beginning, this is the middle, this is the end” before putting it on live television and paying people to act it out. I don’t want to be that guy who harps on wrestling’s equivalent to “those clowns in congress”, but Jesus Christ, what exactly is your job, WWE Creative? Is it to come up with first and last names for people and that’s it? Does everybody just show up and wing it? Is pro wrestling seriously just an improv comedy group with issues, because I’ve been trying to justify it as a sports-themed televisions how for like the last 30 years. If I knew I could show up to a wrestling event and shout “HOSPITAL” and you’d have to stage the next segment in a hospital I would’ve bought a ticket to Wrestlemania negative one and shouted GOOD WRESTLING AND THINGS I CAN UNDERSTAND in 1980 f**king four.
Worst: WWE Stimulus Response
WWE has trained us to expect certain outcomes when we hear certain words. For example, when you hear “non-title match” and it isn’t a Main Event Guy against Heath Slater, you think “okay, the champions are going to lose because it’s non-title and that’ll set up a thing”. The 19th CM Punk and Triple H conversation of the month featured two big ones:
1. NO DISQUALIFICATION
Which has two responses, one being “one of the wrestlers is old and can’t do a lot, so they’re making it no DQ so it’ll be exciting and nobody will really have to bump” and the other being “people are going to interfere in the match”. The first one is a continuation of the No Holds Barred match between Triple H and the Undertaker at Wrestlemania, where if you take away the chair and the sledgehammer and the tables it’s just two guys sitting still for forty minutes. The second one, when coupled with footage of a fired Kevin Nash leaving the arena with John Laurinaitis, conjures up images of the nWo music and Buff Bagwell’s strut-to-kneeling-pose and all sorts of terrible schmozzy sh*t that at best can be aluminum trash can spots and at worst can be you never ever watching again ever.
2. IF YOU LOSE, YOU HAVE TO QUIT
I was okay with Triple H making his match with Punk no disqualification, because why not? Add in some table stuff, give Punk a trash can lid so Triple H can get hit and feel justified in falling down, that sort of thing. Then, Punk did two huge no-nos: he brought up the fact that Triple H has hit people with sledgehammers for years and not killed anyone (wrestling is fake wrestling is fake wrestling is fake) and he said that he’d agree to the stipulation Triple H assumedly has the power to just decide if H agreed to his: that if he won at Night Of Champions, Triple H has to resign as COO.
“You lose, you quit” stipulations are like deaths in comic books. Sure, it’s pretty sad when Colossus died, but guess what? He died like four times before you started reading, and he’s going to die two or three more times when you stop. John Cena got fired twice in a calendar year. Mick Foley lost a retirement match to Triple H over ten years ago … two years ago I saw him wrestle Sting in the main event of a pay-per-view in Philadelphia, and now there are rumors about how he wants to come back. Now CM Punk is either a lock to lose, or the no disqualification suggestions of Vicious and Delicious are dangerously close to coming true, and Night Of Champions is going to be one of those “game changing moments” they keep having that don’t really change the game but book two months of primetime television around backstage quarrels and 50-year olds we’ve chosen not to watch every Thursday for the past five years.
Just… have a good match, okay? Have fun with it and give us something to cheer for besides the talking points we make up.
Best: Zack Ryder Has Sort Of Arrived
I don’t know if a tag team victory on Raw against Medium Dave and M-Dogg 19 alongside an announcer constitutes “arriving”, but you can’t help but feel good seeing Zack Ryder get a video package and a duke on the A-show. Ryder is proof that not everybody who works hard to get better and get themselves over on Superstars for a year gets fired for their efforts, and even though it might’ve been nice for them not to reinforce their “personality is the only thing that matters” talking point to do it, I’m glad they’re giving Ryder a shot.
With the new focus on tag team wrestling, I’d love to see Ryder and Lawler get stuck together as a tag team. Lawler is still a solid hand in the ring, and a is a hell of a lot better and more bearable throwing punches at McGoobersnatch than he is bickering with Michael Cole. Ryder might not have what it takes to be a huge singles star, but he’s definitely good enough of a Santino to make crowds happy when he tags in a hits a few moves. Tag team wrestlers can make a lot of money and have a lot of success without ever really doing anything, and if you don’t know what I mean, ask Robert Gibson, Marty Jannetty or Mustafa. Hell, the fact that I can remember Mustafa existing is a testament to tag team wrestling’s worth. Use Lawler’s history with The Miz to get Truth and Miz a victory on their way to the titles. Give Trouble In Star Press a fun defense on Raw. This is good for everybody.
Best: Best Moment On The Show
The Alberto Del Rio Best Of This Page actually goes to Ricardo Rodriguez. Watch the segment where ADR approaches Dolph Ziggler about helping him take out John Cena. The Bella Twins show up out of nowhere to flirt with Del Rio and he doesn’t care, because he’s got a 10,000 acre estate and rents girls like the Bellas every week (even if he doesn’t know their name) — but Ricardo watches them with subdued glee, then watches them leave, because he’s Alberto Del Rio’s best employee and good friend and you KNOW Del Rio is sophisticated enough to pick the hot Bella (Nikki) and slide the rest (Brie) to his staff.
The wink to Ziggler at the end of the segment said it all. Ricardo gets to hold the WWE Championship while they walk around. Ricardo gets to hook up with extraneous Bella Twins. All he’s got to do is open Alberto’s door when they stop and occasionally manslaughter people with his car. He’s got it made, damas y caballeros.