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.
Best: DAS MY BWAH D-BRYAN
For those of you joining the Best and Worst column for the first time, or for those of you who started reading recently and haven’t realized what a classically-trained ROHbot I can be, Daniel Bryan née Bryan Danielson is my favorite active professional wrestler in the world, and he has been since right around the time he grew a hobo beard, bought a cloak and started airplane spinning people. He also tops a lot of other personal lists, including my favorite title reigns (Ring of Honor World Champion 9/05 – 12/06), the nicest wrestlers I’ve ever met and my favorite famous or semi-famous vegans (a list that includes Billy West, UltraMantis Black, James Cromwell and adorable jazz pianist Nellie McKay). The major reason I’ve wanted to start doing Best And Worst Of Smackdown reports is because of how much I miss writing that “Bryan Danielson is awesome, guys” paragraph every week. Well, here you go.
Daniel Bryan has been on a losing streak as of late, but I’m not worried about it — nearly every loss has been in a good-to-great match, and that’s what I watch Daniel Bryan (and professional wrestling) to see. He’s gotten the best WWE match out of both Sin Caras now, and if I’ve got to see somebody lose to a winded developmental luchador in five minutes I’m glad it’s him. If he ends up losing Money in the Bank to Christian and gets eliminated by Michael McGillicutty in a pre-Wrestlemania battle royal I’m still happy that he’s around and getting paid big money to do what he’s better at than almost anyone.
But I do wish Booker T would stop saying “D-Bryan”, or at least stop calling him D-Bryan fifteen times per sentence. “MY BOY D-BRYAN RIGHT THERE, D-BRYAN COLE, D-BRYAN’S GOT A LOT A GOOD MOVES MICHAEL COLE AN I THINK D-BRYAN WILL WIN THIS MATCH RIGHT HERE.”
Worst: Michael Cole Thinks Hulk Hogan Sucks Because He Doesn’t Even Have Any Hair
Speaking of announcers saying things you hate, holy sh*t, the Smackdown version of Michael Cole, the one without Jerry Lawler to threaten him or Jim Ross to change the subject, is the least constructive wrestling personality of all time. He’s like wrestling’s Ray William Johnson, pointing out only the most obvious things and assuming that makes him a popular genius. I’m used to every aspect of Daniel Bryan being bad (using the Internet, owning a dog, knowing wrestling moves … all signs of a nerd), but he even made a point to say that Sin Cara doesn’t talk. It’s like the Cena thing from the last page, isn’t there somebody at WWE Headquarters who can point out that we shouldn’t say the stuff we don’t want people regurgitating? There was a reason nobody in the 80s pointed out that Hulk Hogan was bald and on steroids. They wanted us to LIKE HULK HOGAN.
If Daniel Bryan wrestles Sin Cara (actual Sin Cara, mind you) you’ve got one of the most celebrated and technically brilliant independent wrestlers of the decade, a guy who came up on your rookie show and made a name for himself with his incredible in-ring performances, going one-on-one on your free, easy to change away from wrestling program against Mexico’s biggest box office draw, a nimble acrobat who (pending him actually being able to do it) can pull off things nobody in your WWE Universe has seen. So why do you boil that down to “this homo nerd who can’t wrestle and sucks is losing to a sh*tty fake guy who can’t even speak English”? If you spent the first five years of the Hardy Boyz saying “these guys are drug-dealing rednecks who didn’t even go to wrestling school, they wrestled on trampolines in their backyard against their mumblemouthed friends, and Matt’s girlfriend has implants and an ugly face and paid for wrestling school by blowing Mexicans” you wouldn’t have sold a goddamn Team XTreme pendant one.
Seriously, there isn’t a wrestler in history who could’ve survived this. This so-called Jumbo Tsuruta, what a goof! He’s not even that big, and he’s got hepatitis, King!
Best: Sin Cara 1000% Rudo, or, WHUT DA HALE
In an attempt to get back to what worked on the show (with the help of a mute button, because christ almighty), Sin Cara showing sportsmanship to Daniel Bryan after the match only to turn on him like the world’s most Smurf-like Mr. Wonderful was fantastic and legitimately surprising. Hopefully (like a lot of people are going to point out) this will lead to the “real” Sin Cara returning in his Mistico white and gold to suppress his evil doppleganger and reclaim his mood lighting. It’ll be just as great as Dragon Kid and Darkness Dragon in Dragon Gate, Lance Steel versus other Lance Steel in CHIKARA, and player one purple gloves Undertaker against player two grey gloves Undertaker at Summerslam ’94.
Now I really want to see Brian Lee as the fake Sin Cara.
Still Worst: Air Boom
I spent the weekend in Bristol visiting my parents, so I didn’t get to do my normal Monday night ritual of settling in to watch Raw with Destiny and enjoying about 45 minutes of her commentary before she gets bored and goes upstairs. I got back into Austin late last night, so a part of our conversation was what happened on Raw, and what I wrote in Best and Worst. I tried to explain Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne’s “Air Boom” tag team name to her, and she responded beautifully:
“Air Boom? Is that like Space Jam? It’s exactly like Space Jam, they just used a different word for Space and a different word for Jam.”
I could not possibly improve on that.
Oh, and here’s another great idea, let them have a conversation with Matt Striker, the least cool person in American history.