– Thank you for bearing with the semi-lateness of this week’s reports. I managed to attend SummerSlam live, so the report gets that cool live review feature some of you enjoy. The bad part about that is that SummerSlam is half a country and two time zones away from me, so I spent the entirety of Monday on a variety of airplanes. This report’s pretty long, though, so enjoy that, and I’ll have a thorough Raw report ready for you on Wednesday.
– Your comments, likes, tweets, Touts and whatever are appreciated. This column sorta lives and dies by your participation in it, so anything you can do to pitch in and spread the word is appreciated. Shout out to my Reddit homeboys, who I’d talk to all the time if I wasn’t 200 years old and could figure out Reddit. Somebody Reddit for me.
– If you read the report in its infancy earlier today, all the pages have been uploaded and the full thing is a thing. Enjoy!
So at long last, please enjoy The Best And Worst Of WWE SummerSlam 2012, sponsored by THQ. No, seriously.
Best: SummerSlam Axxess, Featuring Giant Daniel Bryan Banners
I don’t want to open a SummerSlam column with wistful introspection or whatever, but four years ago I was watching American Dragon Bryan Danielson wrestle Kenny King in front of maybe 70 people at the Grays Armory in Cleveland. Fast forward to 2012 and I’m outside of the Staples Center at WWE SummerSlam Axxess, taking a photo of a giant banner with his picture on it. We like to talk a lot of shit on the Internet about WWE hating wrestling and not knowing what to do with talent, but the American Dragon is a former World Heavyweight Champion who gets a showcase graphic at their big summer pay-per-view. We’re doing all right.
Of course, they had these big posters for a lot of people (including Kofi Kingston, a picture of Chris Jericho that was at least four years old and one of Miz doing that weird taunt where it looks like he’s scooping something into his mouth), but it’s still great to see. Also great to see were the “and everybody else” banners they hung on the security railings around Axxess, because the more random WWE fans see Damien Sandow and Antonio Cesaro, the better.
Best: THQ Is The Best Organization With The Nicest People In The Entire World And I’m Not Just Saying That Because They Let Me Go To SummerSlam
The only reason I was able to make it to SummerSlam is because the nice folks at THQ thought enough of me to fly me over/down to cover the WWE ’13 events and watch a little pro graps. In a few years when this has happened to me more than once, I’ll give you a jaded “the game looks phenomenal and thanks to everyone who let me play it” copy-paste job, but I’m still new to the experience of being treated like a Somebody so I’ve spent all afternoon drawing pictures of me kissing their boots in MS Paint. Everything you see or read in this report was made possible by these guys, and if they hadn’t thought enough of me to shoot me an e-mail I would’ve half-watched a crummy stream of the show and farted something out on Monday afternoon. I cannot think of a way to thank them enough.
One of the cool things THQ had set up at Axxess (besides this booth, where you could play the game against strangers who only wanted to be Triple H or Undertaker) was a photo booth where they’d take your picture, put it on the cover of WWE ’13, then print it out and give it to you in an XBox 360 box. I will not reproduce mine here for two reasons:
1. They cropped off my fingers to get my face in the right place, which means you can’t tell I’m doing the Keiji Mutoh taunt (everyone was doing wrestling taunts, it was either that or a bunch of crotch chopping).
2. Everyone made fun of me for wondering if they had a PS3 case I could have my picture in. Apparently having a PS3 is frowned upon in video game circles. Who knew? I like Kratos and watching blu-rays. My homework between now and next year’s SummerSlam is to learn how to care about framerate and lag, or something.
Best: Finally, A Belt I Can Mark Out For
If you read the Best And Worst Of WrestleMania XXVIII Live column, you might remember that I use Axxess events to wander around and meet jobbers and have little-to-no interest in doing a “superstar entrance” video or seeing old wrestling props. It’s cool that you’ve got Ric Flair’s robe on display, but unless Ric Flair is IN it, I’m not going to waste valuable “meeting Johnny Curtis” time snapping pictures of it.
At SummerSlam Axxess they had their usual title belts display, and this is basically how my experience sounded:
Me: “wwe championship, okay, world heavyweight championship, ecw championship, tag belts, okay, whatever, let me take a closer look at this and OH MY GOD THEY HAVE THE LAYCOOL BELT GUYS COME HERE LOOK THEY HAVE THE LAYCOOL BELT OH MY GOD” /frantically fumbles with camera
Of course, nobody but me CARES that they have the LayCool title, but I may love LayCool more than both Lay and Cool so it was a treat for me. They even signed it as BsFF. If anybody from Highspots is listening, sell a replica version of this, I’ll buy it in a heartbeat.
Best: Damien Sandow Crashing The WWE 13 Roster Reveal
Another moment like that for me was Damien Sandow showing up out of nowhere during the WWE ’13 roster reveal. Part of being in town for the weekend was doing work, and my intention going into the roster reveal was to tweet out everybody they announced with a joke about their finisher. I had a bunch of them planned. “Announced: The Miz. Finisher: turning to face the hard cam”, or “Announced: Ken Shamrock. Finisher: Telling you to slap him”. Some where better than others. But then they started announcing who was in the game in these big groups, and gave you like 4 1/2 seconds to react to everyone. I think I got out half a joke for each group. Not my finest moment.
Anyway, the event was hosted by Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler and CM Punk, which as you know is a weird cocktail of people I enjoy hearing speak and Jerry f**king Lawler. And I’ve just formally stepped into a Twilight Zone where fun stuff has become work, and instead of just going AAAAH AAAAAAAH at wrestlers I was thumbing a smartphone, so it’s like I’m at a desk in an office somewhere. Then HAAAAALLELUJAH starts up, and my brain goes from work to play in 0.4 seconds and I rush the ring and start screaming about how much I love Damien Sandow. It was great. It’s not something I can turn off, apparently. I’m a grown man and I still can’t handle someone I love standing in front of me. I’m like f**king Hugh Grant.
The highlight of Sandow’s appearance (besides the greatness of him being announced as DLC for WWE ’13) was Punk trying to get over on him with a “I thought I was dumb wearing a t-shirt and jeans, this guy comes out in a robe!” and having Sandow respond with an amazing, “I’ll have you know, this is Egyptian cotton”. A guy with class speaking for intelligent wrestling fans is the REAL voice of the voiceless, you snarky fry cook.
Best: WWE ’13 Is Actually Really, Really Fun
One of the things on my list of things I couldn’t do was take a picture of the screen while I was playing, so I can’t reproduce that glorious moment when I used Daniel Bryan to tap out Comics Alliance’s Chris Sims’ Mankind with a guillotine choke.
I throw a lot of shade at WWE ’12 (short version: I incessantly unlock everything in the first week, then make a bunch of photo-realistic local create-a-wrestlers I never use and never play the game again until somebody I know who likes wrestling visits my house) and am not at liberty (until Thursday, I think) to talk about a bunch of the particulars of ’13, but this game is fun as f**k. It might be the first WWE wrestling game since Here Comes The Pain I play more than a couple of weeks. Just Sandow and Heath Slater matches all day long. I think I said “THIS IS ACTUALLY REALLY FUN” out-loud a few times during the event, which is probably the shittiest compliment to give THQ guys to their faces, but there you go.
So yeah, get this game when it comes out. The worst thing I’ve seen about it so far is that Daniel Bryan doesn’t have his entrance jacket. That’s it.
Best: This Is Seriously The WWE ’13 Panel
I attended the WWE ’13 panel (at the GRAMMY MUSEUM … like 30 feet from Whitney Houston’s National Anthem jumpsuit and an escalator away from Cinderella’s drum kit), and THQ did a fun thing where they didn’t tell us who was going to be there so it’d be a surprise. In my mind I was like, “okay, Punk will probably be there because he’s on the cover of the game, and maybe I’ll get to meet Alicia Fox or whoever isn’t busy”. I get there, and lo and behold the panel is (if you can’t make them out in the picture) Jim Ross, both world champions, the entire Funkasaurus crew, pantsuit-ish AJ Lee, Dolph Ziggler, Mike freaking Tyson and Stone Cold Steve Austin. I sat there the entire time completely and totally unable to believe anything that was happening was real.
The only people on the panel I didn’t get to meet or pee beside in the Grammy Museum’s one bathroom were Brodus Clay and Mike Tyson. Brodus because he bailed early to sell his leg injury (which was I guess more important to do on Saturday than on Raw Monday), and Tyson because being vegan and the star of one of the best Nintendo games ever doesn’t really make up for being the rapist version of The Iron Sheik.
Here is a quick selection of stories from the press junket after party, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. The show starts on the next page, I swear.
Best: Meeting Sheamus And Getting An Apology
Here is the transcript of the time the Best And Worst Guy met World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus.
Me: “I’m only going to meet you so many times in my life, so I need to tell you this … I am a huge Daniel Bryan fan and went to WrestleMania.”
Sheamus: “You probably hate me then.”
Me: “I DO. I wanted to tell you that I’ve been watching wrestling my whole life, and in less than 30 seconds you made me so sad that I almost got up and left a WrestleMania I’d flown across the country and paid 200 dollars to see.”
At that point, he pats me on the shoulder and says (remembering that I can’t really type his voice), “I’m sorry for ruining your WrestleMania experience. But I think we made it up at Extreme Rules.” We talked briefly about how awesome that match was, shook hands again and as he was walking away, he said the two best parts of WrestleMania were not getting sunburned and being in “the pub” before the show was over. Sheamus The Actual Guy is an absolute delight, and I was able to move on from all that weird pro wres hatred I’d built up since April.
The next day he did some stuff with Alberto Del Rio and f**ked it all up.
Best: Paul Heyman Introducing Himself To Me, Because Oh My God
I was waiting patiently to get a picture with CM Punk when one of the guys near me casually mentioned running into Paul Heyman. My brain goes PAUL HEYMAN WHAT WHERE and tells my body to just start moving in whatever direction it sees fit. Heyman wasn’t announced to be there, and I’m not sure if he just showed up to get a free buffet or what, but sure enough, I looked across the room and Paul E. Dangerously was standing right there.
I went over to him in a group, and he started up a conversation. Suddenly, almost in the middle of a sentence, he turns and locks eyes with me, holds out his hands and says “Paul Heyman”, like I didn’t know who he was. I shake his hand, and my response is “uhhhh heh heh” like the biggest goon on the planet. I had some material prepared (“I really like when you hated Missy Hyatt” was my opening line) but he caught me off guard. Thankfully he smiled ear to ear and said, “well THAT’s a response”. I told him the Dangerous Alliance was my favorite thing in the history of pro wrestling (which he said he didn’t understand, because it was so short) and was nice enough to take a picture with my uncool wearing-a-minor-league-baseball-hat-and-a-Dolph-Ziggler-shirt-to-a-press-junket ass and be right up there with Eddie Guerrero on the short list of the nicest pro wrestling dudes I’ve ever met.
I didn’t even remember to talk to him about Missy Hyatt.
Best: Being Impromptu Interviewed by Stone Cold Steve Austin
My other great interaction was with, uh, Stone Cold Steve Austin. It’s been three days and I still thought I was lying when I typed that.
I was in the THQ group, so when personal Godsend Aubrey Sitterson was done interviewing him I’d made enough “you? me? me? you? you? me?” Night At The Roxbury gestures to get in for a conversation. Austin’s thing is being super aggressive and Stone Coldy to everyone who interviews him, so he turns to me and is all WULL HELL SON or whatever, I can’t really remember. I immediately tell him this is huge for me because I was the biggest Stunning Steve Austin fan ever when I was 12 (which is the truth, I wasn’t trying to be all “hey Paul Thomas Anderson, your best movie is Hard Eight” about it). He turns and announces that he’s found the one and only Stunning Steve fan, then asks me where I’d come in from. Thankfully, Texas was my answer.
That leads into several question from Austin about where in Texas I live (and my Round Rock Express hat), how he was born in Austin and how he wishes he could take the L.A. weather and put it south of San Antonio. Aubrey hands me the microphone, and I stand there like an idiot while Austin asks me questions. I guess eventually I derped into the microphone enough that he let me loose, but I can now formally say that the most successful wrestler in history asked me a bunch of questions about myself on camera.
I staggered away with stars in my eyes, about an hour and a half into a two hour thing where I’m supposed to be playing video games.
Worst: I Am Going To Starve To Death
Oh, and to work a Worst into the first two pages and talk about something you care about even less than how goony I was at a respectable luncheon (dinnereon? Meal grammar is like trying to name Pokémon), the only downside of staying and meeting wrestlers in L.A. Live is the barren wasteland of tourist food. Every restaurant is just BEEF SANDWICH WITH CHICKEN SAUCE, FRIED CHICKEN WITH FISH REMOULADE, GRILLED FISH WITH MOOSE SPREAD and so on.
Thankfully (and surprisingly) my best vegan option was at the ESPN Zone, where they had WWE-themed SummerSlam menu items, including a DANIEL BRYAN YES YES YES GARDEN BURGER. In addition to seeing an American Dragon poster outside of the Staples Center, I ate a meal at an ESPN restaurant with his name on it. Here are some pics I took of the menu, which are pretty great:
Fun fact about the Daniel Bryan burger: It’s not vegan unless you get it without the sauce. I got mine with ketchup and mustard, which knowing the ESPN Zone were probably made out of raccoons anyway. And yes, as some of you mentioned on Twitter, the funniest part of the menu is Zack Ryder being listed under “MAIN EVENT” anything.