A few questions before we start.
– Do you know the enemy? You know your enemy?
– Are you familiar with the Best And Worst Of Raw? This is going to work just like that, only for the super special live edition of Smackdown. I don’t normally do these recaps for Smackdown because 1) I am a cool guy in real life who is probably busy on Friday nights and 2) With Leather doesn’t update on the weekends, and if I put it up on Saturday afternoon it will get four hits, and three of those will be from Upstate Underdog. If you like this write-up and share it around and leave me a comment, I’ll try to make a point to work it out somehow.
– If you haven’t read yesterday’s column, please do so before clicking through.
Enjoy our inaugural edition of The Best and Worst of Smackdown by clicking through, and stay tuned for our loosely-related slideshow, The 16 Most Outrabulous Teddy Long Jackets.
Worst: The Assassination Of Ricardo Rodriguez By The Coward John Cena
One of the things that made the Best And Worst Of Raw column controversial when I brought it to With Leather was my insistence that The Rock was an overrated, hateful weirdo and John Cena was an under-appreciated franchise player with good intentions. I justified a lot of his actions as those of a champion trying to be a good man in a world of badness. I still think that people only like Rocky because he’s a big enough star to do a racist Chinese voice or call somebody a cooter but not enough of a tabloid presence to get in trouble for it, but Cena … I don’t know. He’s going through a high school thing.
That’s weird to say about a 34-year old 11-time World Champion, but yeah, he’s turning into the kid from the I Learned It By Watching You commercial. Cena had been wrestling his entire career against guys like Umaga and JBL, these wacky, over-the-top caricatures that threatened to destroy John Cena the Character, but never John Cena the Man. I think the decline started with Wade Barrett, funny enough. Cena got into a feud with a gang of guys from NXT who weren’t supposed to have contracts, but they kept showing up on Raw and beating him up … and eventually Wade Barrett got some sort of weird executive power and arranged for Cena to be his f**king literal slave if he lost a match, then warped that into Cena being fired for disobeying him. Cena, being John Cena, went along with it. Eventually it became too much and Cena attacked, sacrificing his career for nobility … but as it turned out, Cena getting fired meant nothing, because being fired didn’t mean he had to go away. He kept showing up, and by proxy of being around got his job back. Barrett was punished, banished even, and something in the back of Cena the Character’s brain said “Huh. Maybe none of this is real.” Like Truman noticing a light fixture falling from the sky. Cena the Character and Cena the Man started to smoosh together.
It got worse when The Rock showed up. Cena was okay wrestling The Miz, a dastardly blowhard with an evil high school jock familiar who took the WWE Championship under nefarious circumstances~. Then Rocky shows up, and Rock’s been gone for so long he’s forgotten that you aren’t supposed to bring up sh*t you don’t want the fans to think. He makes fun of Cena’s shorts, makes fun of the bright colors of his t-shirts, mocks him for being supported by women and children and more or less calls him a worthless f*ggot for like three months. So Cena has to face simultaneous attacks to The Man and The Character, Miz and Riley from one side, Dwayne Johnson “playing” The Rock from the other. It corrupts him further, and just when you think he’s going to settle into a feud about different sizes of Jimmy with R-Truth, he runs missed-leaping-shoulderblock first into a challenge from CM Punk. Punk costs him a match, sits down Indian style on the stage and disassembles the carefully placed world of kayfabe that John had already been struggling with. John has to lie there in a state of semi-unconsciousness and let it seep into his brain like a baby with Mozart held against his mother’s stomach.
And that has led us to John Cena, August 2011.
Cena is crushed between two conflicting personalities — he still wants to prance out to My Time Is Now and toss his shirt into the crowd, but now when someone tosses it back to him, he understands why. Two years ago he would’ve seen Alberto Del Rio and said “you’re rich and you think you’re better than people, but you aren’t better than people!!!” Now he sees Alberto and says “you don’t even own those cars, do you, this is stupid”. That’s why he’s gotten so childish, but can’t stop hurting people. He’s losing his mind. He’s turning into Kid Miracleman, a megalomaniacal superman becoming less and less bound by the mind of a mistreated but good-natured kid. He’s seeing the world around him for what it “really” is, so the guy who two years ago might’ve said “Alberto Del Rio, get out here right now!” sucker-punches the short, wimpy ring announcer who won’t stop talking when he says to as a “message”.
Worst: The Uh, Assassination Of Wade Barrett Something Something
And in a series of events I can’t compare to anything, John Cena beat Wade Barrett in like two minutes without breaking a sweat for no reasons. Barrett had just come off a big win against Daniel Bryan at Summerslam and sure, wins and losses don’t really matter in WWE, but looking like a chode nobody against the important people does. Couldn’t they have thrown a superplex near-fall or like forty additional seconds of chinlock somewhere in the middle to make Barrett at least look like he deserves to be in there? Cena beat him like he was an NXT week 2 Heath Slater. Although I guess it does further my Kid Miracleman comparison, as Cena calmly told Barrett they had unfinished business and punched him through the skull.
Best: The Dumbest Question Evah Asked
Mark Henry always sounds like he’s reading cue cards during backstage interviews and promos (or when he’s reading poems about it burning when you cry), but something about his Predator head and frank disposition makes them engaging. When Josh is all “MARK HENRY WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT CAGE MATCHES” and Mark responds by calling him a dumb idiot and peppers it with phrases like “flesh is torn!” it gets pretty amazing. Jim Ross said something on Monday about Mark Henry “imposing his mighty will”, and I think he does that as well verbally as physically.
And I know we’ve all shared this thought by now, but how great is it that Sexual Chocolate, the guy who got his cock put in a vice by the Pretty Mean Sisters, had an incestuous affair with his sister, impregnated an old lady with a mannequin shard and was once considered the second most important gigantically fat horny black guy in pajamas on the roster has become one of the most dependable, dangerous dudes in the wrestling world? I hope he gets his Lifetime Achievement Award at Night of Champions, because man, I don’t want to see him get Joe’d by Serpentor.