Editor’s Note: As some of you may’ve noticed, we didn’t do the predictions contest namedropped in last week’s column. Instead, we’ve decided to set up a contest you can’t lose! All you have to do is drop a comment on the column below (a real one, preferably, not “I’m leaving a comment!”), tweet the URL of The Best And Worst Of WWE TLC ’11 out to your followers and make sure to include an @WithLeather at the end so we can see it. Do that, and you’ll be one of two people randomly selected by me and probably Bill to win 50 bucks. That’s it. You’ll get it on one of my Cleveland Indians checks and everything. So do that!
Okay, first things first:
– I’m not Brandon. Brandon isn’t here. He’s off in search of the world’s only vegan Chocolate Wonderfall into which he can dunk a mess of candied tofu, so until he’s done with his walkabout, I’m filling in for the Best and Worst of TLC. I’m Bill Hanstock from Progressive Boink, SB Nation, and/or Baseball Feelings. Tomorrow, you guys get the esteemed Justin, also from Progressive Boink, for Best and Worst of Raw. It’s a regular Progressive Boink week here! By the time Brandon gets back, we’ll be rating lesbians or talking about waterslides or whatever.
– It’s customary to plead for comments in these things, so if you’re reading this, please do take ten seconds of your time to leave a comment, even/especially if it’s just to let Brandon know how much better he is at these.
– All internal gifs are courtesy of Jerusalem at Punchsport Pagoda.
– Just as an advance warning, this recap contains zero (0) pictures of anyone named A.J. (Or does it?? SWERVE)
This show was way better than I expected it to be, so let’s get right down to business!
Worst: Oh, ‘Twas The Week Before Christmas, ‘Twas It?
The show started off with a really terrible video package aping the classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and sort of half-tangentially, half-hamfistedly working in rhymes about the WWE Superstars and the matches that would be on the upcoming card. Look, we all know how good the marketing geniuses are who make these packages for the WWE, but this had nothing to do with anything. It’s likely that the guy editing this all together was doing a straightforward TLC intro package (you know, those ones where they talk about how gosh darn brutal the whole thing is), and then suddenly an associate producer burst into the room, looking harried, and yelled, “Did you know there’s some kind of HOLIDAY coming up this week?! Oh, that’s great. That’s just perfect!” And then they’re up until 4 AM getting the faux-“IN A WORLD…” voiceover guy to come up with a slant-rhyme for “Ziggler.”
Worst: He Is No Longer Perfection
Dolph Ziggler is obviously the best (we’ll get to much more of than in a moment, hang on), but the “I AM PERFECTION” intro to his theme music was far and away the best part of that theme. It’s all well and good to have Vickie come out and introduce him, because Vickie’s great. More Vickie! But that simple little thing gave me plenty of enjoyment, and it was taken away from us before its time.
Worst: Casual Racism
We would be treated to the mother lode of casual racism in a later sketch, but it was nice of Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole to give us a wee soupcon of needless bigotry while introducing the Spanish announcers. You know how they pan over to the Spanish announce table and we get treated to a few brief seconds of people talking passionately about something before being cast back into the doldrums of the regular team? Well, they did that, and Lawler followed it up with a bemused, “Could they talk any faster, Cole?” To his credit, Michael Cole kind of just went “uh” and then changed the subject. Yes, they probably could talk faster, King. You’d still be a bigot.
Best: Zack Ryder’s Weird Body
In some ways, Zack Ryder’s weird body could be considered a Worst, because he’s got a realy weird body and if you think about it too long you might get a little creeped out. I’m not even talking about his hair color matching his skin color like he’s Bart Simpson come to horrifying life. I’m talking about the proportions and shape(s) of his body. He’s surprisingly tall, but almost imperceptibly so. He’s got a physique that’s somewhere in-between Jack Swagger and JBL. He moves around like he just heard about “moving around” recently and is eager to give it the old college try. I look at the guy and kind of can’t believe he used to be a Fake Edge. Not that Edge’s body was particularly weird or anything, but Edge at least looks like an actual person you might see, rather than a man made out of different types of sausages.
Big Best: Dolph Ziggler, Obviously
This was an opening match that got absolutely everything right. You’ve got a guy that people want to see win, even if they don’t know why. You’ve got a midcard title at stake that people want to see change hands. You’ve got a straightforward wrestling match on a gimmick PPV. Most importantly, you’ve got the best heel in the world that people absolutely hate and want to see lose. The Zack Ryder vs. Dolph Ziggler match from WWE TLC 2011 is this generation’s Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake vs. Mr. Perfect match from WrestleMania VI. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen Beefcake/Perfect. To most fans, that was the match where Perfect’s undefeated streak came to an end, and it was basically brilliant, in large part due to Mr. Perfect, obviously.
Ryder/Ziggler is the exact same dynamic, played to a T. There’s the inexplicably popular guy with an odd gimmick who can’t wrestle super-well, and the guy who’s willing to bump like a ping-pong ball and pull out every dirty tactic in order to get the crowd to boo him and cheer the other guy. Hell, this match even had Ryder catapulting Ziggler into the turnbuckles! (Ziggler tried to get over the top buckle and ding his head on the ringpost, a la Perfect, but didn’t have enough oomph.) They pulled out all the stops here: Ziggler dropping ten elbows in a row just to be a dick, Vickie cheating, Vickie getting ejected (walking backwards down the aisle with her arms out going “Doooooolph! DOOOOOOOLPPPHHH!” was amazing), Ziggler even trying to pull the tights on a roll-up, everything you could think of or want in this match. I loved every second.
Best: A Finishing Move That Looks Like A Finisher, And Not Like Sexual Assault
Ryder did a great job in his biggest match of actually delivering his finisher, the Rough Ryder, as it’s supposed to be interpreted: that of a jumping leg lariat. It helps that Ziggler sold it like death, however, but getting your finisher to look right goes a long way toward getting it replayed a bunch on television and making it a legitimate move. “Jumping leg lariat” isn’t the most impressive-sounding finisher, but it’s a lot more impressive in execution than “that move where I advance my pee-hole toward your face as rapidly as possible.”
Bonus Best: Zack Ryder’s Dad
Best: Michael Cole, Forlorn and Speechless
It’s good that the end result of Michael Cole’s two years of yelling at people the internet likes is to be sad and quiet for two minutes. It’s not enough to justify all the yelling in lieu of just being an effective heel, but I enjoyed sad ol’ Michael Cole, unable to handle another man’s happiness.
Worst: It Is Not Actually A Very Big Deal At All, You Guys
Hey, have you heard about Twitter? WWE has! They want you to use it all the dang time! Go crazy, folks! They wouldn’t shut up about what was trending all night, but it’s funny they never mentioned once that Kim Jong-il had been “compromised to a permanent end” (by U.S. troops hidden sneakily inside his frail old heart I guess). During the Ryder/Ziggler match, Cole and Lawler mentioned that #WWETLC was the number one trending topic in the world. Lawler dropped a “Do you know how big of a deal it is to be trending worldwide?” Oh yeah, you’re totally in lofty company there, dudes. You’re up there with important world events like #womenbeshoppin and #uevernoticehow and #PrayForSelena.
Booker T is sort of known for yelling inexplicable or inappropriate things at random times. So of course when he was beat down backstage by Cody Rhodes and straddled by Bill DeMott as a means of strange rescue, he would bug out his eyes and scream what sounded like “JAILBOY!” right before the camera faded to black and cut to the weirdest Slim Jims commercial ever.
Worst: Slim Jim Is Scamming Us All
According to Rey Mysterio, Big Show, and…oooohhhhh. Hm. Let’s say…Eve? Probably Eve. Possibly New DCU Wonder Woman; I can’t keep up. Anyway, apparently Slim Jims are one of the most requested snacks by U.S. troops serving abroad. I guess they’re experiencing severe sodium shortages in EVERY OTHER COUNTRY. Anyway, apparently for every two beef-flavored salt sticks you purchase, a free Slim Jim would be donated to the troops.
That’s all well and good, I guess but how much does a Slim Jim cost to produce? Like five cents per 10,000 or something, right? Just ship over some Jims, dickwads. You can probably send like forty crates to each platoon and you won’t notice they’re gone. Also, am I really supposed to believe that Slim Jim is accurately tracking these sales? Slim Jims are sold out of a raggedy box on the counter of a 7-11. It’s not like they’re even part of a given store’s inventory. That “Take a Penny, Leave a Penny” tray may as well be labeled “While you’re leaving a penny, cram a ton of Slim Jims into your backpack because no one will notice or care.”
Neither Best, Nor Worst: Primo And Epico?
Since we’re all old friends by page three, I figured it’s time to level with you guys: I haven’t followed WWE — especially, ESPECIALLY SmackDown! — super closely since moving to LA a couple of years ago. I read Brandon’s column, obviously, but even that doesn’t cover everything that happens on television. So when Primo and Epico were announced, I literally had not a single idea that this was a tag team that existed. I know who Primo is, but I don’t know Epico from Adamo and I don’t know who their Shelley Martinez v2.0 valet is. I know who Hunico is, but not Epico. Can’t tell an -ico without your program, I guess. They were responsible for two bests, though:
Best: Primo and Epico’s Galavision-Style Theme Song
Man alive, does their theme song rule. It almost sounds like it could be the theme song for a spectacular telenovela in the vein of “Los Heroes Del Norte” or something similar. On a related note, “Los Heroes Del Norte” is amazing and you should watch it, even if (ESPECIALLY if) you don’t speak Spanish.
Best: Actual Tag Teams, Like With Matching Tights And Everything
Tag team wrestling is good, and it’s fun, and it’s nice that WWE has at least two tag teams now that are enough of a regular thing that they have matching (or at least similar) tights. The tag team title match between “Air Boom” and “Primepico” was solid, harmless fun. They even did solid, harmless high-flying moves. Whenever I see Evan and Kofi in small doses like this, I’m reminded that they’re both impressive as heck at what they do, and perhaps they’re currently in the perfect role. Good for them. If being the WWE’s personal penny loafers is what gets you a paycheck, it beats working for a living.
Best: “TRAINER ROOM”
One of the things I love about wrestling, and about the WWE in particular is the aspect of the constantly-moving venue that is presented to look like WWE lives there. I love that the general manager always has an office with the same stuff in it every week, no matter where they happen to be. I love that when JBL sends Hornswoggle to the hospital, the “hospital” is just a hospital bed and an IV pushed against a cinderblock wall in the arena with the fire alarm and a door to nowhere plainly visible. And I love that WWE has this assortment of professional-looking signage with an adhesive back that they can just stick on a wall and stand Josh Matthews next to. I am dying to know what other signs they travel with. “Petting Zoo?” “Wellness Center?” “Waterslide —->?”
The Worst Worst That Ever Worsted: Santa Claus Heartily Endorsing Racism
Ever since Hornswoggle got his talking skills for Christmas, he’s been falling all over himself to just be a wise-cracking hipster racist. (In case you’re not aware, “hipster racism” is that brand of winking, ironic racism where the gist is “This is obviously racist, so I can say it, because THAT’S THE JOKE.”) Anyway, when this segment kicked off, I was all set to give it a Best, because Teddy Long dressed as Santa Claus, bopping around to music and trimming the tree? That’s great!
It all went straight to hell (IT’S GOTTA BE KANE) when the camera pulled back to reveal Hornswoggle dressed as an elf (which was never addressed, by the way). We started out with Teddy Long assuming the midget is a child, which segued into Hornswoggle talking about his “testes” because Hornswoggle is the living incarnation of the Attitude Era made flesh, before we got right down to the meat of the matter. Horny led with the “SINCE WHEN IS SANTA A BLACK GUY” talking point that never gets old, and then Teddy gave Hornswoggle his gift.
Yep. Teddy Long wants Hornswoggle to be a more efficient and effective racist. Let’s leave off that “ebonics” by itself is a staunchly racist term BY DEFINITION and dig that Photoshopping job. The only thing that box is missing is Al Jolson. By the way, WWE? You’re going to get sued by Rosetta Stone. WWE is the only television program in history to be dumb enough not to go the iCarly/Two and a Half Men route and just make a fake name for everything, including saying “Facespace” when talking about a social media website. You even used their logo and everything, WWE. You couldn’t even think to have the box say, like, “Baretta Stone” or “Blosetta Blone” or anything? You morons.
Worst: RRRRRRRRENDY ORTAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
I’m sure some people are happy about Lillian Garcia being back. These people include Lillian Garcia, Lillian Garcia’s agent, people who love the National Anthem before watching engorged men paw at one another, and people who love jokes about people who have slightly equine features. It was really hammered home for me how much I did not miss Lillian the second Orton came out. Her reading of his name is my all-time least-favorite announcing of a wrestler. Worse than “JYYYYERRRRNNNNN CENA,” worse than “Jeff Harvey,” worse than anything. “Rendy Ortah.” Always “Rendy Ortah.” Lillian Garcia has known Randy Orton for over ten years and has never been aware that his name has an “n” at the end of it. While we’re on the subject of things that are awful, “The Apex Predator” is basically the worst nickname.
Worst: All Of These Theme Songs Are The Same Song
As Randy Orton’s theme gave way to Wade Barrett’s theme before their tables match, I realized that most of the current WWE theme songs are exactly the same. Same whiny singer, same stupid guitar parts, same unmemorable mish-mash. Just lousy. It makes the WWE Network dubstep commercial just that much more amazing by contrast, so that’s a good thing I guess.
Best: Wade Barrett Just Flips A Table Over
There was a point in this table match where Barrett and Orton were brawling on the ramp next to the furiously unimpressive minimalist table array and Orton got behind Barrett, who was standing by one of the tables. Barrett turned around, saw Orton, and simply flipped the table over as fast as he could. He knows how the match is won, and that sort of attention to detail is the kind of thing that makes a match great and paints you as a smarter-than-average wrestler. Of course, Barrett would blow it later on in amazing fashion by jumping towards Randy Orton, which is something that only idiots do.
Most Telling Best: GOTTA GET THESE GLOVES ON
I mostly follow indie wrestling these days, because it’s great. Well, PWG and CHIKARA are great, anyway. You’ll notice that in any wrestling promotion that isn’t WWE, most big cards will see a guy bleed. If it’s an entire card of matches involving tables, ladders, or chairs matches, pretty much everyone will be bleeding by the end of the night. All over the ring, all over each other, and all over the same ladders and chairs they’ll have to use again next month.
That’s why it tickled me so when Wade Barrett got a small, accidental cut on his head during this match and started bleeding, and the referee in the match IMMEDIATELY put on rubber gloves. The WWE wrestlers are tested every couple of weeks for everything from horse steroids to synthetic weed, whereas someone like the Necro Butcher, I would wager, has never even taken a vision test. So you would think that the WWE higher-ups would know exactly what everyone has and whether they’re a danger to themselves or others. Given all of this information, we can only assume that Wade Barrett has the most hepatitis ever recorded in a single man.
Worst, But With A Slight Best: Teddy Long Is The Worst Boss
This is mostly a worst, because Teddy Long has moved from workplace racism to the more standard workplace sexual harassment, as he sits the Bella Twins on his lap and makes them argue over who has been nicer before suggesting they should come up and see him sometime. Teddy Long is awful, basically. The reason I’m giving this a slight best is because of the ad-libbing by the Bellas, who were merely told to argue over one another until Teddy interrupted them. This led to one of my favorite wrestling lines of the year, as the twin on your right busted out a spectacular bon mot saying, and I quote: “I’m the better half. I’m more athletic…” and then trailing off while the other twin tried to think of something. She’s more athletic, everyone. Case closed.
Best: Jack Swagger Doesn’t Know What To Do With His Hands When He Talks
The Bellas departed and left us with a segment to set up the impromptu match later in the evening between Jack Swagger and Sheamus. Swagger clearly, CLEARLY had just been given his script moments before they went live, and we were treated to Jack Swagger furtively trying to remember and comprehend the words that were coming out of his own mouth. He gesticulated wildly with his hands apropos of nothing, made even the most common verbs and articles sound exotic and rare, and generally looked like he wanted to jump out of his own skin. It was awesome.
Best: Kelly Kelly Is Speedball
Kelly Kelly showed up for her match with Beth Phoenix is a bright orange marbled outfit, and proceeded to scream as loud as she could whenever anything happened in the match. Slamming Beth’s head into the ring apron: “RAAAAHHHH.” Performing a bulldog: “AAARRRGGGHHH.” Getting her hair pulled: “NRAAARRRHHHH.” It was strangely awesome.
But beyond that, I realized that Kelly Kelly is the wrestling universe’s equivalent of the comic book character Speedball. She was pretty much a joke when she showed up, and her gimmick didn’t make a lot of practical sense (“I’m an exhibitionist” vs. “I have the power of bouncing”). She slowly got better at what she did and now is fairly respectable and serves a specific and definite purpose within her division (akin to Speedball joining the New Warriors). Her incessant screaming during last night’s match further hammered this comparison home as it hinted at some pent-up rage or a potential dark side. I can only assume that she’ll soon accidentally be responsible for a dressing-room explosion that will decimate the Divas division, and take to secret cutting and wearing bondage gear in order to harness her true potential.
As an aside, her screaming as a surrogate for “I HAVE BEEN PUSHED TOO DANG FAR BY YOU, MISSY” reminded me of when Colt Cabana was put into an uber-serious program against Homicide in ROH and his means of getting into “I AM SERIOUS NOW, PAL” mode was just to yell “HOMICIIIIIDE” over and over again. The moral of the story is stick to what you like doing, kids.
Worst: Alberto Del Rio Is Bad At Counting
Alberto Del Rio is shown in the backstage area, berating his valet, Ricardo. “You have one job, and one job only,” says Del Rio. “And that is to have my food. Have my car ready.” You’re already up to two, Al. He gripes at Ricardo for not having a car for his entrance tonight, and then sends him away for some food. That’s two jobs, and that isn’t even taking into account that Ricardo is his personal ring announcer. So I count a minimum of three jobs.
Best: The Miz Killed Alistair Cookie
The Miz shows up to try to out-brag Del Rio or whatever, but I was too transfixed by his immaculate coat to pay much attention to what was being said. I was trying to come up with the words to describe it, but my esteemed colleague Peter Holby (ALSO of Progressive Boink and more recently, of the Internet’s premiere sandwich review blog, On Sandwiches) hit the nail on the head when he said, “It looks like Miz is wearing the chair from Monsterpiece Theater.” Yes, that is exactly what it looks like. The Miz has laid waste to Alistair Cookie and has skinned the easy chair to wear as a trophy. The Miz is a monster.
Best: Here Is That Meal You Ordered
Ricardo finally comes back with the food, which is inexplicably some orange mush and some leaves of lettuce. Alberto Del Rio is apparently on a baby-food-and-raw-spinach diet, which helps keep him lean. Of course the food winds up in Ricardo’s face, because this is wrestling. Bonus best: when I was double-checking that his name is “Ricardo” I learned that he’s the wrestler formerly known as Chimaera! WHHHHHAAAATTTTTT
Best: Sgt. Cody Rhodes And His Howling Ambushes
Cody Rhodes jumped Booker T again as Booker made his way to the ring. That was awesome, because Cody Rhodes is awesome, and smart, and knows that anything you do to a fella before the bell rings is nice and legal. He also hates Booker T and wishes to cause him pain, match or no match, because that is what bad guys do. PAY ATTENTION, OTHER BAD GUYS.
Worst: I Just Watched A Four-Minute Video Package About This Feud And I Still Don’t Have The Slightest Clue Why The F*ck These Guys Are Fighting
As the great Triple H/CM Punk feud of 2011 turned into the great Triple H/Kevin Nash feud of 2011, I wasn’t ever really able to determine who had what motivations, or why certain things were happening. Now it’s TLC and they’re showing me a video of sledgehammers and ambulances and jackknife-powered bombs and I honestly don’t know what the f*ck. The saving grace of this video package was Kevin Nash yelling “I’M YOUR FRIENDDDDDD” and of course, MAEK POOPIES >:-<<<<<<
Best: I Am Gonna Watch Triple H Fight Kevin Nash In A Ladder Match In The Year 2011 And It Is Gonna Be Awesome
I know it’s hardly the coolest thing for me to say, but I was really excited about and looking forward to this match. I love love love that Triple H’s farewell tour bucket list included “Fight Big Sexy in a ladder match on PPV.” This is something that probably shouldn’t be happening ever, but it’s happening now, and we’re living in the future and get to bear witness to the whole sordid affair. Triple H is bloated and leathery and his hair is thinning. Kevin Nash had his knees replaced with rubber band balls about five years ago so every time he moves it’s like “whups whups how do m’dang knees work again whoops gawrsh.” The whole match was like watching Glenn Danzig fight Kenny Rogers, and it was absolutely amazing. The two dudes decided to go the route of “make everything we do look like it has the effect of ten atom bombs” and in my opinion the whole match worked. It even featured the hardest Triple H has ever hit anyone with that stupid sledgehammer, when he swung it into Nash’s face to knock him off the ladder and through a table. I even loved the horribly botched Pedigree that Cole tried to play off as Nash’s knee giving out after being struck in it too many times by a ladder.
Also, Triple H did a crotch chop and nearly walloped himself in his own peener with a sledgehammer when he did it, and that was amazing, too.
Worst: That’s A Terrible Interview Question
They showed a replay of Miz taunting CM Punk, which led to the immortal question by interviewer Matt Striker: “Miz seemed pretty serious when he said ‘Pipe bomb engaged.’ Your thoughts?” That’s not even an interview question. Why even bother having Matt Striker there if that’s what he’s going to ask? “Hey, that Go 2 Sleep looked like it really put that guy to sleep. Care to comment?”
Best: “I Have Yet To Receive Said Slammy”
It’s nice that even watered-down, pandering CM Punk can make me chuckle. Wondering where John Laurinitis put his purloined Slammy is awesome, and almost makes up for a PPV woefully short on Johnny Ace.
Best: Sheamus Being Beefy And Just Busting Dudes In The Chops
As much as I hate this “Great White” thing, Sheamus remains terrific. He’s a big, beefy, impressive-looking dude who is good at what he does. He socks guys in the face as hard as possible but never ends up Chris Mastersing the Stevie Richardses of the WWE. Sheamus is great to have around and I like seeing him wrestle. I hope he is able to move on to bigger and better programs in the near future. This match also involved a heavy amount of CLUBBERING, which I heartily endorse.
Worst: Big Show’s New Gear
Big Show finally got some new ring gear, for the first time since JeriShow went up in flames. Sadly, it’s a camouflage singlet and gloves to augment his adult Halloween costume wiener-beanie. I’ve seen every Big Show incarnation, from flowing locks and the cover story that he was the product of Andre The Giant’s own ejaculate, to a big guy to smoked and hung around with the nWo, to a business-casual Paul Wight tearing his way through a ring, to a short-haired, cargo-pants wearing world champ, to a bald goofball who did impressions, to a guy in a purple singlet who was part of a great tag team, to…this. This is easily the worst Big Show incarnation ever, and it’s stupid and I hate it. The dude is a million feet tall and weighs a f*cking ton and his finisher is a punch.
Best: This Chairs Match
Mark Henry and Big Show had a mini-chair riot, and that was cool. Then they wailed on each other with chairs and Big Show made like his hand was broke, and that was cool. They had a great big man match that made the most of the gimmick. I hated that the Big Show won the world title with a broken-handed punch, and was all set to give that a worst, BUT THEN
Best IN THE WORLD: Daniel Bryan, World Heavyweight Champion
Right around the time Daniel Bryan got signed by the WWE, I watched “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson win the PWG world title from Chris Hero in a spectacular match. Because every match he has is spectacular. It’s the year 2011 and the world champions of WWE are Chick Magnet Punk and the American Dragon. It’s unbelievable. CM Punk’s awful first world title victory over a badly beaten Edge has prepared me for this title win. It doesn’t feel cheap after seeing how Punk ended up. It just makes me so, so, so happy for the guy. Way to go, you clam digger. Way to go.
Worst: Booker T Didn’t Ask For This Fight?
Josh Matthews interviews Booker in the back, and Booker is still determined to go through with his match against Cody Rhodes, despite already getting jumped twice tonight. Booker delivers a good, short promo, but ends with, “I didn’t ask for this fight, but I’m damn sure gonna finish it.” You didn’t ask for this fight? So why are you fighting? You’re an announcer, dude. You clearly had to sign a contract for the match, given what we know about how matches work based on what we’ve seen on television.
Best: Cody Rhodes Was Mildly Inconvenienced
More proof that Cody Rhodes is great: he jumps Booker T twice, then beats him in a match, then looks angry that Booker T managed to put up a fight. Cody Rhodes for president. Cody Rhodes for life.