– Comments, shares, likes, Reddit submissions and up arrows (or whatever) and the like are appreciated. Pay-per-view Bests and Worsts usually don’t get as much play as the Raw column, and I’ve never understood it. These are the shows where stuff happens!
– GIFs in the column are courtesy of Jerusalem at the Punchsport Pagoda.
– I apologize for the weird execution of the TLC live thread. Some combination of jet lag and the sad stuff that happened over the weekend got me mixed up, and I didn’t get it up and ready like I should’ve. It won’t happen again.
So yeah, please click through and enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE TLC 2012. Spoiler alert: Nobody gets a red light special.
Best: Naomi Wins The Naughty Santa Christmas Panty Whatever
I feel like these YouTube pay-per-view pre-shows should be hard sell advertisements for the pay-per-view … like, they should put a really good match or important storyline development on YouTube for free to try and convince people that 50 bucks is worth dropping on the show proper. I think the only time they tried that was at SummerSlam when they gave Antonio Cesaro the United States Championship. As far as I can tell, WWE’s creative goal is less “succeed at wrestling” and more “have a lot of wrestling and hope you’ll watch,” so here’s a thing you’d see on Raw, except with elf hats.
I loved two important things about the match, though:
1. Eve Torres sauntering up and pimp slapping the shit out of Kaitlyn for no reason, because Eve is suddenly one of the best parts of the show, and
2. Naomi getting the win.
Naomi could be a thing, if WWE likes her long enough. She’s got a lot of natural talent, she seems enthusiastic about being a part of the show, and truly hers is a butt that won’t quit. She’s also stuck in the wheel of the f**king abandoned riverboat that is the Funkasaurus gimmick, so if he can just ease her into non-Funkadactylic clothing and situations (and maybe give her a last name?) we’ll be a lot better off. Plus, hey, it’s a break from the Eve/Layla/Kaitlyn circle jerk that has consumed 2012.
Best: Rhodes Scholar Putting Brooklyn Hipsters On Blast
Jerry Lawler tried his hardest to screw this up by over-explaining it later, but the two most sincerely “hipster” guys in WWE calling out Brooklyn-area hipsters for thinking they’re cooler than they are AND for growing ridiculous facial hair was amazing.
I feel like Rhodes and Sandow are being undermined at every turn by people who can’t follow their lead — Miz ignoring Sandow’s funny improv to make gay jokes, Lawler explaining everything in case we cannot follow super obvious cues — but are succeeding anyway, because they are so completely their characters. Rhodes was born to do things to ruin his good looks for heat, and Sandow is the new version of Ninotchka from G.L.O.W. … a guy who is nothing like his character, but stuck acting and speaking that way forever because it works.
Sandow isn’t as good in the ring as Antonio Cesaro (because who is?), but he remains one of the best reasons to watch WWE programming, because it’s been years since we had a guy who was as legitimately entertaining every time he opens his mouth. He’s never let me down. In five years when he’s a babyface, wearing “I GOT FIVE WORDS FOR YA – CUPIO TE MEAM MENTULAM SUGARE” shirts and calling out heels for being different maybe I’ll change my mind, but let’s hope it never gets to that.
Best: Tables Matches Are A Great Way To Start A Pay-Per-View
I wrote about this a bit in the Best And Worst Of Royal Rumble 2000, but tag team table matches can be the very best of gimmick matches … they provide a context for illogical construction time not afforded to TLC or falls count anywhere matches (because the objective is to do the dumb thing that takes forever to set up), and the inclusion of four guys instead of two (or more) allows for action in one place and construction of plunder in another without everything getting boring or jumbled. Plus, guys falling through tables.
I mean, I didn’t think Rhodes Scholar and Car Stereo was as good as the Dudleys and the Hardys, but it was a hell of a lot of fun, and any sadness I felt watching Mysterio move like a turtle while the announcers bragged about his quickness was lessened by this:
Best: Sin Cara Dies
If I’m Sin Cara, I’m going to learn to stay out of matches involving objects through which I may be thrown. First Sheamus powerbombs him into wellness oblivion through a wooden ladder, and now this. Maybe Sin Cara’s allergic to wood? Or maybe his body is magnetized by it. That’s why he could never stick his trampoline entrance, the planks under the ring apron kept weighing him down.
I know it sounds stupid when I type it, but wrestling would really benefit from somebody putting together a powerpoint or whatever of puroresu and lucha libre, to explain how each style of wrestling could benefit Vince McMahon and his sports entertainment jazz within its own style. For example, a puro guy might not mind being kicked in the face as hard as possible. So why not put him in the ring with Sheamus, let him unload a Brogue Kick that we’d never forget and make him look like the most brutal guy ever? A luchador like Sin Cara might be able to springboard to the top rope and get shoved 15 feet down into a table without hurting himself but break his leg trying to do one of your dumb “everybody jumps” spots. So why not let him do the spectacular thing? I know you don’t want to hear it from a nerd like me, but puro and lucha have a lot more to offer WWE-style wrestling than “Japanese and Mexican people are also here.”
Worst: The Shield 2, Book Of Shadows
The Shield are cornball brothers.
They’re great, don’t get me wrong. I’m going to paragraphically fellate them a little later on, but like I said in last week’s Raw report, these backstage things where they find a video camera and tape over their old promos with a new one (all the while standing super close to each other and pointing the camera around so they can finish each others’ sentences) are just terrible. It’s like Cloverfield without the monster. I keep wanting to still-frame it so I can see if a satellite drops into the ocean behind them.
I honestly think I’d like them more if Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns stopped talking. Ambrose is clearly the best talker in the group, and when you’ve got a guy on the team that good at one thing, you should let him (and I apologize in advance for this pun) take the reigns. Dean’s job is to run his hands through his hair and talk about injustices. Roman’s job should be to look threatening and muscle people around. Seth’s job should be to jump off shit and leap really high to stomp peoples’ faces into chairs. It’s a dynamic that works, but so far the dynamic has been “we’re all the same guy, but there are three of us.”
Also, for f**k’s sake, take the Blue Steel clip out of the videos.
Best: Antonio Cesaro, True International Superpower
Look at that GIF. LOOK AT IT. Pretty soon these Antonio Cesaro blurbs are just gonna be MIDIs of ‘Ode To Joy.’ The guy’s so good, he almost made me like an R-Truth match.
I like what’s going on with Cesaro, and it’s difficult to explain why. As a wrestling fan on the Internet, I’m conditioned to expect the guys I like to be treated badly. I don’t know why that’s the case, but it is. When Daniel Bryan shows up, he’s eventually fine (because he is great), but first he’s got to spend a year losing to David Otunga and Alex Riley and being called a nerd every time he’s on screen. When CM Punk shows up, he’s eventually fine (because he’s very good), but even when he’s winning championships there’s always the chance that Orton will show up and punt him in the head, and he’ll be an afterthought in his own title loss.
Cesaro’s not doing that. They keep putting him in championship matches with guys like Santino and R-Truth, guys who are clearly not in his league, but because he’s new and I’ve enjoyed him in other promotions, I trick myself into thinking he’s going to lose to them. They’re going to job him out to one of the show’s jokes, and the guy I like and the championship that so badly needs to be relevant will keep spinning in the hamster wheel. But he keeps WINNING. Not only that, he’s DESTROYING these guys. I’m starting to get confident about it, and when he gets put into an impromptu championship match on Raw in three weeks against a returning John Morrison or whatever and loses, I’ll have been completely and totally hooked, and the cycle will repeat itself.
The shorter version is this: I love you, Antonio Cesaro, and I hope that you never lose.
Worst: R-Truth’s Post-Match Leg Wound
For those of you who don’t skim, I’m going to include an extremely graphic picture of R-Truth below this paragraph. At some point during the match his leg decided to split in half, and now his knee is missing a huge rectangle of skin and looks like a f**king Vortigaunt from Half-Life. I recommend closing your eyes, scrolling all the way to the bottom, then opening them and scrolling up until you see 3MB. STOP THERE.
For those who DO skim, stop skimming, and enjoy seeing how R-Truth got Chong’d Li without warning.
Best/Worst: Oh No, Did You Find A Way To Make Me Dislike 3MB?
The Worst here comes from an incredibly enjoyable 3MB segment (featuring their outstanding “Jump over Heath’s arms, then hold out ours so he can snake under them” entrance and Slater’s hilarious “YES. YES MIZ, YES REALLY. YES” response) into a thing I had to think about constructively and complainasplain on the Internet.
I’m giving it a Best for two reasons: one, it gave 3MB something to do on a pay-per-view and moved them forward as characters, for better or worse, and two, for once it’s the HEELS who are doing the awful nationalistic thing. That’s progress, right? The guys being racist d-bags here are the bad guys, and we’re supposed to hate them and want to see them get beaten up. Usually it’s John Cena or Sheamus or whoever, and we’re supposed to think they’re cool and right.
The Worst also happens for two reasons: one (and it’s the big one), it didn’t make any sense. It was effective heel heat, but completely out of nowhere. 3MB haven’t really done anything like this before, and they weren’t goaded into it by Miz. How does Miz saying “you aren’t a band and you all suck” translate into “let’s all go outside and harass the Spanish announce team for speaking Spanish”? It’s jumping from point A to point L without the ridiculous amount of letters it’d take to connect the two in-between. Furthermore, 3MB’s never really done anything like this before, and two of its members are international. Sure, Heath Slater can morph into Wes Virginia and throw shade at you for “not speaking American,” but Drew McIntyre is from Scotland and Jinder Mahal is from
Canada India. Wasn’t Jinder yelling at us for being American like, a year ago? You’d think those guys wouldn’t go along so quickly with the “only America is great” talking point.
If I had to pick one over the other, I’d give the overall segment a Best, because it led to the best part of the show, and maybe my favorite thing to happen in the WWE all year:
Best: Alberto Del Rio, Best Friend!
Alberto Del Rio. Face. Turn. YES PLEASE.
My heart has become weirdly attached to the interpersonal relationships of fictional wrestlers, and I may care about how ADR and Ricardo get along most of all. It’s one of the most unique relationships in wrestling history … employer and employee, the employee dedicated to doing anything his boss says because he’s more or less helpless without him, the employer prone to berating and assaulting the employee because he’s a bad person with power issues, but they are basically the other’s only friend and they kinda know it and they’re just gonna get sushi after the show and deal their f**ked-up lives. That’s AWESOME. They’ve got each others’ backs, even when it doesn’t make sense, and Ricardo has finally taken enough bullets that when he sticks up for Spanish culture and gets harassed by bullies, ADR will stomp his privileged ass out of the back and start throwing superkicks because REASONS.
I loved it all so much. The segment was also a great example of how bad babyface Miz is when he talks, but how good he can be when he climbs up off his couch and starts throwing hands. If he could be less funny and more fired-up babyface, he’d be the best. ADR can be however he wants, he just has to never stop being friends with Ricardo.
Best: It Is Time To Do Yes Chants Again
Speaking of friends and people whose relationship I am invested in, Kane and Daniel Bryan have settled into a nice thing where they aren’t necessarily BsFF, but they’re in it together, and here they are. Kane improved Jerry Lawler’s “DID CODY RHODES JUST SAY SOMEBODY HAS DUMB FACIAL HAIR, LOOK AT HIS CATERPILLAR MUSTACHE, DUR HUR” joke by calmly playing off My Boy D-Bry’s “I hate people who repeat themselves” gag with just enough acknowledgement to make it work.
And yeah, if my heart wasn’t warm enough from the ADR save, Kane gets Daniel Bryan into chanting YES again. It is seriously time to move on from No and go back to Yes. Yes is what we WANT to chant. It feels good. I’ve never been able to join in on the No chants because I want to support Daniel Bryan, and the No chants seem to hurt his feelings. It’s the only Daniel Bryan shirt I’ve never bought. I want him to walk into WrestleMania this year for a match for real, and to stick around with a smile on his face while we Yes him to death. That’s what we were trying to do last year.
Worst: Predictably, I Did Not Enjoy Kofi Retaining, Or
Best: Now Maybe Wade Will Stop Doing The Dumb Elbow
The Worst is for Kofi winning. The match itself was fine, and certainly nothing that necessitates me nitpicking it to death here … the only problem I had with it (besides Kofi, because Kofi) is that it smelled too much like a Raw match, stuck in the middle of a pay-per-view with Cody Rhodes murdering Sin Cara, Alberto Del Rio being valiant, The Shield killing themselves and others and a variety of interesting characters finally moving forward from their post-SummerSlam stall.
One thing I hope is that this will be the end of The Souvenir/The Bullhammer Elbow/HE’S GOING FOR WASTELAND/whatever they’re calling it this week. I’ve complained about it a lot before, but it’s one of the worst looking finishes in WWE, and no wrestler should fall victim to it. The crux of it is the elbow, right? So sure, if you’re showing off or your win is secured and you want to make the guy choke himself before dancing out, spinning around and eating elbow, go for it. I’ve seen Bray Wyatt dance with unconscious bodies before, that can be fun. But if you’re going back and forth and you’re trying to win a championship and your finish is HIT GUY IN FACE, just hit the f**king guy in the face. This isn’t a Wade exclusive problem, but that elbow is assy-looking enough for me to MAKE it about him.
It was pretty disheartening to see Kofi beat him clean after Wade methodically decimated him on Raw a few weeks back, and after multiple matches where SHEAMUS couldn’t put him down. But hey, looking on the bright side, this is the only match on the show with a result I didn’t enjoy.
Best: Pretty Much The Entirety Of The Shield Vs. Ryback And Team Hell No
This was pretty much off the hook, largely thanks to the awesome Brooklyn crowd, who would not stop enjoying themselves. If this had happened in front of a dead crowd, it might not’ve been as special. I mean, the match DID have its Worst moments, including Dean Ambrose deciding to make Mike Quackenbush’s faces in his WWE TV debut (GIF’d, right).
What I loved about it so much was that it made The Shield not only look like tough wrestlers, it made them look SMART. The toughness is important … Dean Ambrose chopping Ryback, Ryback no-selling it and staring him down, only for Ambrose to stick his tongue out and try another chop was especially choice, as were Cole and Lawler begrudgingly admitting that The Shield was on their opponents’ level. But the thing I’ll remember is how they came into the match with a gameplan and stuck with it, even when things started to fall apart. Big things like isolating one member of the team at a time and taking out the big guys so they can finish the more reasonably-sized Daniel Bryan. The little things, like going for a two man superplex and making sure their third guy was there to make the pin, because they knew they’d hurt themselves. They wrestled a smart match and didn’t just rely on what they always do (like their opponents) and it paid off. It reminded me a lot of the MVP/Chris Benoit 2-out-of-3 falls match, where MVP did his homework and took two straight falls.
Speaking of falls:
Best: Sin Cara Is Fine, Seth Rollins IS DEAD. CAPITAL LETTERS.
I think the top right table not breaking and just flipping off the pile onto its top makes the fall look even worse. It was like the old Spike Dudley/La Resistance botch on a grand scale, and is great enough to steal Thing We’ll Remember Most away from Roman Reigns saving up a special and getting his OMG moment. See how this all comes together? Dean Ambrose communicates emotions (even when he’s looking goofy doing it, because he’s playing to everyone in the arena, not just the people with camera close-ups), Roman Reigns hulks up and powers people through shit and Seth Rollins kills himself as an exclamation point.
More of this, and less team vlogging about justice.
Best: Naomi/Eve Was Fine, But The Post-Match Is Still So Great
WWE needed to give the crowd a breather after that match, so we got a 2-minute-ish Eve/Naomi match. It was fine, I guess. Naomi got to do her leapfrog toe-touch and show Sin Cara how to do a hurricanrana (close your legs, jerk!), but Eve put her away quickly and that was that.
Frankly, I don’t mind if Eve continues having short, meaningless matches as long as they end with her bringing the photographer into the ring to snap photos of her posing over a dead body. It’s only a week old, but it’s still the f**king greatest, and if I ever meet her I’m going to take a mark photo lying facedown.
Best: Big Show’s Hilarious Monster Chair
What’s important here: Big Show retained. More on that in a second.
I watched this show in the middle of the night last night, and my immediate impression was that the Show/Sheamus match was the weakest of the three they’ve had, and that to my surprise, the chairs stipulation took a little away from the joy of watching two guys hoss the shit out of each other. I know that because I made a little note. When I woke up this morning, I could not remember a SINGLE THING about this match, other than that Big Show went under the ring to get a GIANT COMEDY CHAIR and hit Sheamus with it. WHAT THE F**K. HOW IS THIS A THING AND WHY DID IT HAPPEN.
I mean, I guess if you think about it, it’s no different than Jeff Hardy going under the ring to get a gigantic ladder. WWE supplied 200 normal-sized ladders and also one colossal comedy ladder in case somebody had a death wish. Have they always done this with chairs? Is it just that Big Show is the only guy big and mobile enough to lift one properly, and didn’t have a reason to whip it out until now? Can we do this in other gimmick matches? Does it work both ways? If I want to win a tables match, can I get a tiny model table from a dollhouse and just Irish whip somebody toward it so they step on it and break it? If I get put into a coal miner’s glove match, can I climb inside a giant glove a la Super Mario and just jump at dudes?
Man, if Raw doesn’t start with him sitting in the big chair to prove that it is a chair and not just a flattened Buick or whatever, I’ll be disappointed. BETTER IDEA: Raw starts with Hornswoggle sitting in the chair, then Big Show calmly walks up, closes it and carries it away with accidentally-mashed-up Hornswoggle guts inside it.
Best: Big Show Retains, And What It Could Mean
If I was put in charge of WWE Creative (and I will never be, because I have less than five years of soap opera writing experience and/or would put Jack Swagger in an astronaut helmet on day one), my next step for Show as champion would be a subversion of stories from summer of last year. Sheamus is basically the toughest guy on Smackdown, right? He’s the John Cena of Smackdown. The guy who can take immeasurable punishment and just throw bombs until he wins. He lost the strap to Show clean at Hell In A Cell and lost two rematches. If Sheamus can’t beat Show, who can?
And that’s when the video package music cuts out, and we hear Mark Henry say I’LL FIGHT HIM.
All my money. All of it.
Worst: Because Brooklyn
I can only complain about this so much. The guy has “Brooklyn” in his name and WWE had to work in a contextual reference to the Barclays Center (where I assume clause 1 of the performance contract reads ALL PERSONS PERFORMING IN THE BARCLAYS CENTER MUST REFERENCE JAY-Z AND HOW GREAT THE BARCLAYS CENTER IS AT ALL TIMES). Plus, Heath Slater’s role at WrestleMania this year was to get emasculated by Flo Rida, so losing to a jobber from 25 years ago is technically a step up.
This is part of my problem with WWE nostalgia, though. When they bring back Sid or Vader or whoever, yeah, get excited for that. But when they bring in Doink or the Brooklyn Brawler, you don’t have to pretend like they’re legends, because they are TERRIBLE, and were terrible when they were actually a constructive part of the business. It’s the smarkiest thing I’m going to type in this column, but a team with barely-functioning babyface Miz and maybe-just-turned-for-real Alberto Del Rio on it should not have the Kim f**king Chee winning their fall.
Worst: The Royal Rumble Commercial
It’s a Worst, but a Best kind of Worst. I might be the only one, but I laughed out loud (twice!) at the pitch for Royal Rumble being “The Rock is here, and he is LITERALLY a bull!”
It wouldn’t have been so bad if they’d just shown some bulls stampeding or goring Tito Santana cosplayers or whatever, but to have him Michael Jackson ‘Black Or White’ morph into a bull with MAGICAL EYES who makes HONKING BULL NOISES is so hilariously bad I can barely explain it. If you’re going to morph Rock into one of his tattoos, at least have him morph into the Prometheus control panel he’s got on the other side.
I should probably warn you that TLC is the last time I will be able to joshingly write about The Rock, as he will be returning to WWE television soon, and that puts me in a bad way. If you have any suggestions for GIFs I could use to replace complainy paragraphs about Rock segments, I’m open to suggestion. Ideas: the girl from ‘We Are The In Crowd,’ and/or the biggest pictures I can find of HGH bottles.