Your now standard pre-report bullet points.
– As always, you are this column’s voice. Please take the time to drop a comment if you read, and know that you sharing it with your friends (who are hopefully sane, like-minded individuals who appreciate attempts at entertaining wrestling writing on the Internet) is the coolest thing ever and deeply appreciated by the author. I also like “likes” and retweets and +1s, but not as much. Okay, I’m lying, I need those too.
– I paid $55 for this and did not stream it illegally on the Internet. That’s why the screen caps are so pixelated, I have an old TV. I mean a new one. Whichever excuse you believe. Also, to my knowledge, everyone involved in this PPV was 18-or-more years old. And no animals were harmed, unless you count Michael Cole’s weird thing against vegan athletes.
– I don’t have a third bullet point, so I’ll use this space to say “keep Derrick Bateman on NXT”. I don’t know how redemption points work, I don’t know how long this season is supposed to run (we’re on week 40-something right now, I think) and I’m still not 100% on how to vote, but do what you can to keep this guy on WWE TV. Even if it’s WWE TV on the Internet.
Enjoy the Best and Worst of Summerslam.
I feel kinda bad having “America” as my first worst, but watching “legendary guitarist from the rock band Tool” Adam Jones play a sub-Hendrix version of the Star-Spangled Banner to the WWE Universe while eagles and giant U.S. flags fly proudly in the background was one “compromised to a permanent end” away from being nationalistic Armageddon. And when I say “sub-Hendrix” I mean Dok Hendrix, because I Jimi would be spinning in his grave if I thought he was the kind of dead person who watched wrestling. And when I say “Armageddon” I don’t mean the pay-per-view, I mean Jesus was going to ride into the Staples Center on a sky horse and rapture Tool to Heaven. Actually, that might’ve happened, I didn’t see any of the other guys. It’s so bad I can’t even make jokes, I just have to tell you what happened. “One of the guys plays Stinkfist in front of Mt. Rushmore and I think I might die for my country.”
Oh well, I can only complain so much. He played the song and got out of there, and at no point danced with Alicia Fox or wore a sparkling wizard’s cape. I don’t know if you’ve seen the show yet or are reading this blind, but in case you don’t know what I’m talking about, stick around. Big Show has a baby with Rerun from “What’s Happening?” and he sings two songs for forty minutes.
Best: The Best And Worst Of Raw Memorial Six-Man Tag
The unscheduled opening match was Trios Action (© Mike Quackenbush) with Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston and John Morrison on one side, The Miz, R-Truth and Alberto Del Rio on the other. If you read my weekly Best And Worst Of Raw column you’ll know that I could fill eight pages of a multi-pager with asides from this match alone, so here is a quick lightning round Best and Worst recap of the bullsh** I say every week.
1. Rey Mysterio is great, but he never loses and you shouldn’t fall into position for a 619 because he walked near you
2. Kofi Kingston is great at jumping, really great at jumping, not really good at anything else
3. John Morrison thinks he’s great at jumping, but isn’t
4. The Miz is a personal favorite, but always seems like he’s pretending to be a wrestler rather than being a wrestler
5. R-Truth is Ernie Ladd outside the ring, Hardbody Harrison inside of it
6. Alberto Del Rio is wonderful, but he’s got New WWE smell on him so all he’s ever going to do is win championships and seem like a chump
This match didn’t do much to change those declarative numbers, but it was fine. It would’ve been a solid way to spend ten minutes of Raw, if it didn’t leave us with an hour and fifty minutes of Evan Bourne and Alex Riley doing a round robin with Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler. I really need to start doing a Best and Worst of Smackdown, don’t I? It would give me an entirely new set of talking points. Are you aware that Ezekiel Jackson does bodyslams? Did you know that AJ’s hips are the width of my fist? Did you know that is SUPER GREAT?
Best: Alex Riley Is Less Important Than What Wasn’t Scheduled
I will be okay reading one of two headlines today explaining why the Dolph Ziggler vs. Alex Riley United States Championship match happened before the show instead of on it in place of the six-man tag or Cee Lo Green’s mumbly jamboree or the fifteen Twix commercials. The first headline is “Alex Riley fails Wellness Test”. Or, I guess “WHICH WWE STAR FAILS BRUTAL WELLNESS TEST” and it turns out to be Alex Riley. I’m not saying I want the guy to be on drugs or anything, I would just be okay with that headline, especially if they made Hunico cut his hair like Butthead and pretend to be Alex Riley. The second headline I’d accept is something about how the guy playing as Alex Riley decided he wanted to do season mode with Undertaker instead of his create-a-wrestler and deleted him. Maybe Riley can return as a satanic clown or a “merc for hire” character when the guy finds his Raw disc two years from now and decides to play through it again. Best case scenario.
In all seriousness, I hope somebody took Alex Riley aside after Raw last week and said “hey kid, if you’re going to say somebody sh** in the widow’s mouth, you’ve got to be really good and popular so people excuse it.” And Riley’s all “but I’m good and popular” and Road Agent Billy Kidman (or whoever) goes “lol you couldn’t good and popular a flea market”.
Worst: Oh God, Stephanie McMahon
I got an unusual amount of negative feedback for last week’s Best and Worst Of Raw column because of how angry and pessimistic it was. It’s an honest assessment. I’m a longtime wrestling fan who started watching shortly after birth, and I’ve witnessed and lived through everything that’s happened since, including that Wrestlecrap you read about and can’t believe existed. I watched the Black Scorpion pay-per-view live in my cousin’s living room. I laughed with my Dad when the Shockmaster fell through the wall. I have a lot of happy memories of wrestling, especially for the bad stuff (my new goal is to collect every pay-per-view Ashley Massaro wrestled on … we miss you, you crazy punk rocker), but the column’s debut on With Leather coincided with Wrestlemania and the Summer of Punk, so I’ve gotten kinda pigeonholed as the “positive show reviewer guy”. I had somebody tell me I jumped the shark because I didn’t like an episode of Raw. How weird is that? I’ve watched 60,000 episodes of Raw and liked about 14 of them. I love wrestling and can put a positive spin on things, but Jesus, I’m a human being.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I’m going to try not to be so overwhelmingly negative, and that when Stephanie McMahon showed up to confront CM Punk my life started flashing before my eyes. I went into a sort of Internet epileptic shock. I can accept Triple H as a pro wrestler, and when he returns I don’t like it, but I understand it. If Hulk Hogan saunters in and starts cupping his ear to a naked picture of his daughter and “YOU!”-ing every 25-year old on the roster, I don’t like it, but I understand it. When Stephanie McMahon shows up my eyes roll back in my head and my brain shuts down. It’s the only defense I’ve got left. Love her or hate her, she’s got what WWE considers the “It Factor” — when she shows up, everything immediately becomes about her. That’s their definition. Think about everything she’s ever done, from getting engaged to Test to being pretend drugged and pretend raped by De-Corporation X to getting her dog run over by Chris Jericho to making out with Kurt Angle. Think about how every single one of those things ended. Think about how anything she’s doing now can possibly in, no matter how long you wait and no matter how much you see.
Argh, wait a minute, my hands are cramping up. blergh can’t type
Best: Match Of The Night
I think I might’ve known it going in, but Mark Henry vs. Sheamus was the match of the night. Okay, maybe not. But still, the match affectionately dubbed HOSSFIGHT 2K11 did exactly what it needed to do, namely “showcase two big strong guys clubbing the sh*t out of each other” and “make Brandon happy”. The reviews of the match online today have been great. They range from two-star “this was better than I expected” jerks to full-on Bleacher Report slideshows about how Sheamus is better than they thought. I’m not going to continually riff on the Internet’s perception of WWE (other than to say those guys who gave Sheamus/Henry two stars and Orton/Christian six-and-a-quarter can eat a dick), but this one reminded me of why I got into wrestling in the first place: spectacle.
I think it’s an underrated thing to look for in a match, because of how hard it is to accept and difficult to explain. When you’re an eight-year old, you don’t care about workrate. You just don’t. I can name everybody on the ICE Ribbon roster and loved The Great Muta when I was nine, but even my pretentious little ass started out as a little Stinger. I dressed up as Robert Gibson and Hawk from the Road Warriors on nonconsecutive Halloweens. I had the Hulk Hogan workout set and cassette and thought it was crazy voodoo magic when he was all “don’t give up now!” just as I was giving up. I was a little moron, like we all are, and I loved seeing gigantic guys fight each other. I didn’t astutely note how good Brad Armstrong was at putting together a match, I wanted to see Terry Gordy throw a dude. I think that’s the essence of childhood, and a reason other than “gay weirdo” why Vince McMahon and the like keep signing guys like Mason Ryan. We start out with action figures and move on to roleplaying games. That’s the circle of dork life.
Without trying to dissect it anymore, Sheamus and Henry was f**king on-point. Sheamus is like a literate Mike Awesome, moving around the ring like a cat and throwing jumping double-axehandles like a Rachel Summerlyn 1/17th his size. Mark Henry is still nestled in his golden age, moving as well as he ever has despite being BIGGER than ever, and I have absolutely no problem buying this silo-thick motherf**ker annihilating big and “threatening” but ultimately jokey dudes like Kane and Big Show. Mark Henry should do for the heavyweight division what Beth Phoenix and Natalya are claiming to do for Divas — smash flat anybody who says they’re tough but isn’t. Henry should be the measuring stick when The Great Khali is booty-popping somewhere backstage. He should be the one guy an eight-year old looks at, turns to his dad and says “I wouldn’t want to fight him”.
Worst: Understanding The Count-Out Finish
I loved this match’s finish. Loved it. Capital L, even if it wasn’t the first word in the sentence.
A lot of people chalk it up to “wanting to protect” both guys or “not wanting to bury” somebody (whatever that means), but it was perfect. Sheamus entered the match to prove he could “fight” and beat Henry. So when he throws a huge bomb near the end of the match and knocks Henry out of the ring, he does the (increasingly) noble thing by trying to get Henry back in, not wanting to take the “cheap” count-out victory. Mark Henry is able to take advantage of a mistake-by-way-of-sportsmanship, silverbacks him through the security railing and rolls back in without follow-up, happy to take the count-out. Sheamus isn’t out, though, and tries to crawl back toward the ring while a Staples Center full of people who didn’t give a sh*t about him a month ago cheer him on, hoping he can do it. He can’t. Three Six Mafia starts up and Henry bails (again, with absolutely zero follow-up), leaving Sheamus to continue his crawl into the ring, where he keeps crawling up the ropes until he’s on his feet.
That’s BEAUTIFUL storytelling. How do you not see it? It was a functional, non-melodramatic version of Austin and Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13. One guy just wants the W, one guy has something to prove. One guy acts like a coward, the other like a hero. That is basic, perfect pro wrestling. Good versus Evil on a moral level, without having to preface it with a 10 minute “you people” speech to explain who you should boo.
Best: Sheamus Is Going To Work
I loved him when he was killing guys twenty seconds into ECW and wanted him to beat John Cena for the WWE Championship, but even I came to use him as a Swaggeresque example of a guy pushed to the moon (pushed!) before he was ready. But you know what? I think he’s ready. I think he’s going to be an actual, real homegrown star pretty soon. He’s got Miz’s social charisma without Miz’s “thing”, he’s legitimately huge (Conan O’Brien is like 6-foot-four and Sheamus had a good three feet on him), he’s legitimately tough and sure, his skin looks like an envelope, but you know him when you see him. Try picking Eric Escobar out of a line-up. Oh, and he knows how to dress. I’m talking about both the vest ensembles AND the big green cape. He just works, and I’m glad he’s here.
He needs to stop doing that Oskar from Let The Right One In thing where he sticks his tongue out and chews himself every time he licks his lips, but he’s doing well.
Worst: Cee Lo Green Sings Two Songs For Forty Minutes
Wrestling show concerts are what they are. They’re never going to be good. If Derrick Bateman started coming out to “Reckoner” by Radiohead and WWE brought them in to play the track live at Wrestlemania 32 (or whatever) they’d screw it up and make it sound like a Danger Mouse remix of Seether. Or Hinder. Some white trash “er” band. Fer Factory. Anyway, Cee Lo Green, currently-popular musician, wandered out in a goth Macho Man robe and grunted through two of his songs while WWE’s most expendable ethnic Divas botched dancing in the background. It wasn’t very good. Divas always get carted out for these things, and it never works out well. How hard is it to combine beautiful women with popular music? Remember when Maryse tried to kiss Kid Rock on the mouth but he wasn’t paying attention, and by the time he turned around she’d already moved on? That’s the moment that best describes these attempts at Rock N’-things. If Cyndi Lauper isn’t animated and driving Wendi Richter around in a jalopy, I’m not interested.
I think it was sort of hurt by the fact that we heard IT’S ALL RIGHT, IT’S ALL RIGHT, IT’S ALL RIGHT IT’S ALL RIGHT IT’S ALL RIIIIII-HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT before and after every match. It was also hurt by the fact that “F**k You” is now and forever “Forget You”, and by the fact that Cee Lo only had to sing two songs and resorted to pointing the mic at the crowd like that asshole from Say Anything by the middle of the second. Stand still and sing, Cee Lo, I know you can do it, and it looks like it’s hard for you to walk.
Worst: Why Is Alicia Fox A Sailor
Nobody else was wearing a sailor hat. Cee Lo Green isn’t a sailor. What are you doing, Alicia Fox?
Best: Kelly Kelly Brings Her Candy Cane Worker Boots
After 10 or 70 aborted attempts to create the new Trish Stratus (Candice Michelle, Christy Hemme, Maria, Ashley, Eve Torres, I’m looking in all of your directions … especially yours, Ashley), it looks like WWE might’ve finally stumbled upon it with Kelly Kelly. Of course, I’m using the actual definition of Trish Stratus here. Revisionist history writes Trish as the greatest Diva champion of all time, putting on great matches despite being a beautiful blonde. ACTUAL Trish Stratus is a fitness model who went from god awful to endearingly okay despite the fact that she messed up her finisher 9.9 out of 10 times. Kelly Kelly is starting to become endearingly okay.
I thought Kelly was going to get forearmed a few times and mess up a stink face before she got dropped on her head and pinned, but the surprisingly lucid Kelly channeled her Inner-DDP and put together something bordering on fantastic, at least in the way that exhibits at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not can be fantastic. She pulled off that cool schoolboy in the corner, made her hopping backflip look somewhat realistic for the first time ever (possibly by accident) and even added a joshi-esque RAHHHHH as she ran into the ropes and knocked Beth off the apron. And by God, she did it with FORCE. Kelly Kelly ran the ropes with FORCE. Kelly has been afraid of the ropes since 2006. Watching her head toward a rope has been like watching Indiana Jones in a snake pit, and here she is running and screaming and throwing hands. God bless her. That’s the Trish we’ve been looking for. I haven’t been this excited for a goofy Diva babyface since Candice watched a bunch of Susumu Yokosuka tapes and kept hurting herself trying to elaborately cradle Melina.
Worst: I Can’t Believe It, But Beth Phoenix
Never in my life would’ve I have believed that Beth Phoenix was the lesser pro wrestler in a Kelly Kelly Beth Phoenix match. What happened? Beth seemed like her two match notes were “mess with your new outfit” and “stand there”. Where was the domination? Where was the brutality? The Divas Of Future Past angle has just started, so most of us were thinking there’d be a Glam Slam, a Natalya-filled beatdown and pink lip gloss flowing like blood. What we got was an extended squash, with the tough person we buy as a real pro wrestler getting K2’d into oblivion. Really, what happened?
Best: “Can Somebody Explain To Me Why Eve Torres Is Always Around?”
Michael Cole made me laugh out loud by asking this question, one vindicated by the fact that Eve did and contributed nothing during the Kelly/Beth match. Booker (who gets a standing “best” for his RIGHT THERE IS EVE TORRES, AND EVE TORRES RIGHT THERE IS GONNA GET IT ON RIGHT HERE commentary that does nothing but makes me talk like DMX all night) and Lawler tried the counterpoint of “who doesn’t want to see Eve?”, which I guess is a positive thing for them to try because she IS employed and we’re supposed to like her, but Cole’s deadpan “I don’t want to see Eve” and me raising my hand at home were more important. If Eve wasn’t a loosely-associated part of the Blonde Ladies Storylines she’d have been under the sailor hat popping booty behind Dungeon Master Cee Lo Green.
Wrestling Diva hierarchy is a surprisingly prejudiced thing, but nobody notices because they never hire any ethnically-diverse women who can wrestle. If Kelly Kelly pulls a shady-ass disappointing White Power thing on Alicia Fox nobody feels compelled to speak up, because it sucks, but at least we don’t have to see Alicia Fox. If Kelly was getting championship matches while Mercedes Martinez, Portia Perez, Cheerleader Melissa and Athena were dancing behind Cee Lo? I mean, how would you feel?
Best: R-Truth Is Writing His Own Dugouts
For those of you who came to With Leather through these Best and Worst columns and don’t know me professionally, my big claim-to-Internet-fame is The Dugout, a Major League Baseball chatroom webcomic thing where baseball players curse at each other and have pun screen names. I spent four years doing them for AOL FanHouse (in the long long ago, before the Fantasy Sports Girls came) and do them here, and no, I still haven’t figured out why people pay me for them. Anyway, the way I write a Dugout is as follows:
1. Come up with the worst joke ever
2. Find a really wordy, roundabout way of getting to the punchline
3. Put it on the Internet
4. Refresh for comments
5. Repeat step 4
I take that approach with some aspects of Best and Worst, and while I want to come up with another New Gods-type of thing for R-Truth’s backstage segment where he suddenly becomes managed by “Mouth Of The South” Jimmy Hart, then dismisses him because he said the words “little” and “Jimmy” beside each other in a sentence (triggering the brain fart that sends him into schizophrenic mania) is its own Dugout. It is a terrible punchline (Jimmy Hart is little and named Jimmy, R-Truth hates Little Jimmy) with a wordy, scenic trip to the punchline (I’ve got to think BIG, not LITTLE, JIMMY) put on the Internet (cough, I mean my television) and I want to keep refreshing it and watching it over and over.
I want them to keep doing stuff like this forever. Is Jim Powers’ bloated Tito Santana-looking ass still alive? Bring him in as Big Jimmy.