It’s like somebody photoshopped out Brock Lesnar. Pre-report notes:
– We’ve got a fresh new commenting system, so if you read and/or flip through the report to read the boldface, make sure to leave us a comment to let us know what you liked or didn’t like about Vengeance, and which shoehorned-in Dragonball Z references in the report you thought were the least unfunny.
– Speaking of comments, With Leather offered a $250 Amazon gift card to the person who could accurately predict Vengeance. Thanks in part to that image up top, nobody could. We still want to give away money, though, so I’m opening it up to you, the participants. Do we award the prize to a random commenter, organize a Raw contest or push the giveaway to Survivor Series and see if anybody takes it home?
– Full disclosure: I didn’t watch this show live. I spent my Sunday night at Mohawk on Red River in downtown Austin watching Anarchy Championship Wrestling’s Beyond Good & Evil, a show that included Rachel Summerlyn dressed as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, ACH and Matt Palmer almost chickenfighting on the ledge of a building, Davey Vega taking one of the sickest German suplexes I’ve ever seen to the bottom turnbuckle and Robert Evans (who looks a heck of a lot like CHIKARA’s Archibald Peck) sitting quietly in the crowd in a Halloween costume for five hours to do a run-in at the end. I’m watching Vengeance this morning and writing about it as I go, so if the Cena/Alberto Del Rio match write-up turns into “heh, so here’s ten paragraphs about ChrisTrew.biz” I apologize.
– This is the third pay-per-view in six weeks. Just wanted to remind you.
Please click through to enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Vengeance.
Worst: Webster’s Dictionary Defines “Vengeance” As
You can tell that three pay-per-views in six weeks has taken a toll on the production team’s creativity when they break out “according to the dictionary, Vengeance means being mad and getting back at somebody” as their big opening statement. They even went with the white words white words red words design choice, which works great for wrestling shows or Katherine Heigl movies. The next pay-per-view cover should be John Cena looking to the right at the top, Alberto Del Rio looking to the left at the bottom and wwesurvivorseries floating in the middle.
I was pretty disappointed to see Mark Henry’s PPV ad speech given to (mostly) Triple H, especially when we got to the CM Punk part and had to hear him say “my brothers” over footage of R-Truth. Also disappointed that if they went with a dictionary definition in the open, they didn’t end the show with an “in conclusion, Vengeance can be compared and contrasted” video package.
Best: Team USA
I was going to give the pay-per-view another Worst for using the most Connecticut Yankee-sounding song from the Real Steel soundtrack as its theme, then going immediately into Jack Swagger’s Connecticut Yankee-ass entrance music, but Dolph Ziggler debuted his American flag-print singlet and I forgot about everything else. I don’t know if he’s wearing it because he’s United States Champion (much like the doomed and sadly-forgotten Sheamus, Champion Of USA reign) or as a show of solidarity when he teams with the All-American American American American, but I love it and hope he keeps wearing it. Kurt Angle pioneered the idea that a 21st century wrestler wearing USA underwear would inherently be the bad guy, and I’m happy we’re far enough away from 9/11 patriotism that we can get back to booing these guys for their bad taste in cheap heat. This is America, jerks, we only like what we’ve already decided to like! Don’t tread on me!
I’m still pretty upset at Swagger’s gear for being red, blue and black instead of white, but Swagger is the most Jannetty Jannetty that ever Jannettied right now, so who cares? I also think Vickie should’ve worn a USA-print dress to support them, especially in Mexico.
Best: Tag Team Wrestling Is Awesome
It is. The 411.com/wrestling/hotnews/index.shtml report called the match “the best damn PPV opening match I’ve seen from the WWE in many months and this was probably the best two-on-two tag match I’ve seen all year long” and yeah, it was good, but I’m not going to go that far. At no point did I accidentally mistake Kofi Kingston for Jushin Thunder Liger, but the match was good, and basically what we were picturing when that “Triple H wants WWE to focus more on tag team wrestling” news bit broke. Four guys got to go full tilt for 14 minutes in a hotly-contested back-and-forth tag team title match that didn’t need anything stupid to go down and made everybody look better. This is why we’re always harping on you to give us tag teams, WWE, thanks to 30 years of formula from Kangaroos to Steiners it’s the easiest way to get the crowd hot and make four wrestlers look like kings even if 2-3 of them have no idea what they’re doing. I’m not convinced Robert Gibson can see straight or read and his best move was kicking his own tag team partner in the back, but in my head he’s a legend because formula.
This match, God willing, will be the end of the “everyone try to recognize Air Boom” portion of the conditioning and we can move on to the weekly title defenses against guys like the Uso Twins and McGillityre and build to an Austin Aries As ROH Champion thing where the top heel teams can try to pick their bones because they’re too into “entertaining the fans” or proving their worth or whatever to take a night off. Ziggler can continue being the best pro wrestler in the company and Swagger can turn face like the Internet is begging, because yeah, we’re supposed to hate Biff Tannen, but we’re also supposed to like seeing him.
I’ve seen it a few times already, but Jack Swagger’s ability to naturally counter Kingston’s Trouble In Paradise is a thing of beauty. He just armpits that sh*t because he’s Too Tall Swagger and locks on the anklelock. Love it. The only thing better is Dolph deciding making the S.O.S look good was more important than having a functioning neck bone.
Best: Booker T Right Here
Evan Bourne tried a shooting star press early in the match and ate knees, then goes for it again to finish off Ziggler and win the match. Booker T, having been right there to see the first one, starts flipping the hell out about the second. WAIT A MINNET, CHECK THIS OUT RIGHT HERE, IS HE GONE DO IT… CAN EVAN BOURNE PULL IT OFF OH MY GOOTNESS
Booker reacts to everything like a television studio audience, laughing at Urkel f**king up Carl’s garage or whatever, then laughing their asses off at him saying “Did I do that?” even though he’s said it a thousand times and the entire garage f**k up was treading water to get to that line. And just like how I’ve watched every episode of ‘Family Matters’ despite enjoying maybe two of them ever, Booker’s enthusiasm is infectious, and by the end of the match I’m right there with him. It works. I don’t know how or why. OH MY GOOTNESS.
Best: Dolph Ziggler Belongs Here 20 Years Ago
I mentioned it a little before, but there’s nobody in WWE right now better suited for pay-per-view double duty than Dolph Ziggler. I’m in the minority of people who look back fondly on the pre-Degeneration X feud Spirit Squad, but the guy has been unarguably on-point in the ring since that unexpectedly awesome match against Batista on, even though that Sheamus-style lull wrestlers get for some reason when they’re too good or too popular too quick and have to be sh*tty and fail for a year and a half. He’s only gotten better. He deserves a better class of wrestler, to the point that I almost want to see him get MVP’d and demoted to Japan where he could trade ridiculous Shining Wizards with Tanahashi in 35 minute New Japan main events. The “almost” is there for a reason. I only watch Raw because I want it to be good, and Ziggler is important to making that a thing.
I honestly believe you could’ve put Ziggler in every match on this show, all in a row, and he would’ve given you as good a performance as anyone who went into their match fresh. Just give him a minute to get his crazy sweaty insta-fro in order. My only problem with Dolph: talk more (and more naturally, because you’re great at it) and if you’re gonna wear a singlet, pull up the straps. And don’t ever cut your hair again.
Worst: Take Care, Explain To Me What You Did To Your Hair
Speaking of bad hair choices, holy sh*t what was going on with Zack Ryder’s hair? I’ve watched enough episodes of Z! True Long Island story to know his hair isn’t thick enough to support spikes without making him look a little bald (I’m in that boat with you, buddy, I was born with hair like Ralph Wiggum), but after multiple “haircut” related shirts I expected them to stick with the look. I did not expect Ziggler to come out looking like a Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth create-a-wrestler who was supposed to have blonde hair but the one hairstyle that worked made the colors come out weird. He doesn’t even look like the same guy.
I like Ryder, but I really didn’t enjoy him last night. This morning, whatever. I think he’s starting to reach the uncanny valley of my ability to enjoy him. As a wrestling fan on the Internet I naturally gravitate toward what’s underground, so like when Punk first shows up in ECW I can cheer him because he’s my guy, but when he starts palling around backstage with Triple H and gets happy to wear daddy’s jacket I stop. It’s an involuntary thing. Ryder’s doing that now. I didn’t like him (and couldn’t recognize him) as an Edge Head, but when he first started fist pumping and woo woo wooing and having great matches on Superstars with nobody watching, I got on board. I was the guy typing “why isn’t Zack Ryder on television” every week in these reports. Now Zack Ryder shows up in a United States title match on pay-per-view with a new haircut and new tights with ARE YOU SERIOUS BRO on the butt and… I don’t know, it feels like they took the cool thing I liked and usurped it. Took the fun idea of a guy and made it into THEIR fun idea, and I don’t like their fun ideas, I like the GUY’s. Does that make any sense? I love wrestlers and don’t trust wrestling promotions. Maybe that’s what I’m trying to say.
ARE YOU SERIOUS BRO trunks just make me think, “are you serious, bro?” Or possibly #areyouseriassbro
Worst: Triple H Interrupts A DiBiase Posse Party
I’m giving this a worst, but I think my favorite moment on the show was the completely ridiculous set-up to the Triple H/CM Punk backstage Main Eventer Banter with Ted DiBiase just kinda standing there making small talk with CM Punk about, as far as I could tell, f**king nothing. I transcribed it for you.
Ted: “So, uhhhh, you like tattoos?”
Ted: /softly touches Punk’s arm
Punk: “I got this tattoo.” /points to entire arm
Ted: “that new”
[eight minutes of dead silence]
[Triple H appears]
Ted: “talk t’ya later” /pats butt
Punk: “Ok thanks!”
looooool what the f**k is that? The only explanation I could come up with is that they set up the cameras to film Punk, then realized he already had his boots tied and his wrist tape on, and they were like 10 seconds from going live and needed somebody for Punk to interact with for a second and DiBiase was the only other person in the room. So the director’s all TED TED GET IN THE SHOT and he’s all WHAT DO I DO and the director’s all MAKE SMALL TALK, but he’s Ted DiBiase and clearly has no idea what constitutes small talk and he can’t talk to Chicago metro native Minor Threat loving video game playing GI Joe tattoo having CM Punk about the sh*t he likes (hunting, football, Posses) but the director’s already going FIVE, FOUR, THREE (silent two, silent one) so he just touches Punk’s arm and mutters “you have tattoos”. He could’ve said “we are both wrestlers” and it would’ve made more sense. Is that the angle, is Ted DiBiase considering a tattoo?
And then Triple H shows up, and Ted can’t be like “hey Triple H, what’s up” because he’s a second generation guy who is like 6’5 and 280 and f**king PERFECT for Triple H but H conversation is for closers, so he just kinda swats his arm at Punk and exits stage left. It’s bizarre and wonderful, and an example of how I only tend to love exceptionally well done or exceptionally badly done things. DiBiase should’ve ad libbed “I’m just gonna be over here eating yer lunch” or “see you never” on his way out.
Best: J.R.’s New Job On The Fabulous Riverwalk
WWE being an hour from my apartment is great, because I’ve been to all the San Antonio landmarks they show and mention. I rode the Riverwalk boat ride thing at Christmas and it was great. You’re on a boat and you’re looking at things, you know? You can’t really mess that up. I also shoot laughed at Michael Cole saying the boat captain was Jim Ross, because the idea of good, old J.R. having to take menial task jobs in whatever city WWE performs in case the GM changes and wants to bring him back on the fly is hilarious.
Worst: So Is Beth Phoenix Still Worried About Getting Raped Or Whatever
Remember when Beth Phoenix pulled a Malibu Stacy on Raw and told Triple H the Divas were just dumb ol’ girls who were worried something would happen to them, and you thought her point was that R-Truth and Miz were going to beat her (or Maxine, or whoever) up, but it kinda sorta sounded like she was talking about rape? You remember, she said “something might happen” and Triple H rightfully said “like what, nothing ever happens to you” and she said “NO, SOMETHING MIGHT HAPPEN” and wink wink nudge nudge him about it? It was weird.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that about a month removed from that we have Kelly Kelly being asked questions by an extremely tall person (at least that’s how it looked, because they tried to cram the camera up her nose) only for Beth Phoenix to show up and choke her to death against a wall. The obvious story here, relating to both Beth Phoenix’s statements at the walk-out and the whole R-Truth and Miz gang attack thing, is that the WWE Superstars didn’t actually feel unsafe in their working environment, they were just doing it to f**k Triple H out of his COO job. The pessimistic point of view is “okay, so this is all about Triple H and none of it makes sense”, with the optimist leaning towards “they probably should have a character clearly state this at some point so I don’t have to assume everything”. The optimist feels this way based on 30 years of having wrestling’s only moment of unspoken inference being the Big Bossman raising the briefcase, and we know how many of you figured that out on your own.
This segment was the Raven/Richards vs. The Pittbulls of backstage Divas segments. If they’d had Kelly back there, had Beth choke her and Eve make the save, it’d have been fine. Instead we got a Kelly Kelly interview about nothing, Beth choking her with multiple people standing around all yelling different things, Eve managing to dispatch ALL of them, and an extended catfight where everyone appears to be wearing the same outfit. Would it kill them to show us a girl in sweatpants? Or workout clothes? Hope Solo doesn’t show up for games in high heels, for Christ’s sake.
Best/Worst: She’s A Great Gal (Theme From Eve Torres)
I’m not the type of guy to keep 18 clearly-labeled versions of the Undertaker’s entrance theme on my iPod and yeah, Eve’s been entering to HOLLA HOLLA (Kelly Kelly’s requiem) for so long I forgot she even had an entrance theme, but Eve’s Vengeance remix made me laugh out loud. I’m glad they haven’t compromised the genius of the lyrics (“she looks good to me”) and just made it sound less like a Jim Johnston “here comes a hot girl 2002” anthem and more like a Patrick Stump “Soul Punk” B-side. Watch, on Monday night they’re gonna be all DOWNLOAD THE NEW FALLOUT BOY SONG “EVE TORRES” FROM ITUNES, TRENDING NOW and that joke is going to be even less effective.
Weird thing I noticed: Female pro wrestlers generally have a song sung by a woman or a song about how they’re a woman as their entrance theme. Do men approach their songs the same way? Does Triple H like Motorhead because they have a boy singer? The only male wrestler I can think of with a woman singing his entrance theme (not counting people with narcissist gimmicks) is Christian’s Waterproof Blonde version of “Just Close Your Eyes”, and they got rid of that version the second he came back. Maybe this is why I like Beth Phoenix’s entrance theme so much. That, and the fact that it sounds like an M83 single.
Best: Eve Torres Is Suddenly Rey Mysterio
Last night featured two occurrences of Eve:
1. I congratulated Rachel Summerlyn on being #34 on the PWI Female 50 and mentioned how that only makes her 23 wrestlers worse than Eve Torres.
2. When I got home I checked a few forums to see how people were liking the show and saw a lot of “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I thought the Eve match was kinda okay!” followed by arguments about how we’ve just had our expectations lowered so much that two women not botching the hell out of everything felt like a “great match” and how that was flawed logic.
It is flawed logic, but I’m going to give credit where credit is due; the women in WWE clearly don’t have a lot of control over what happens and are at the instant whim of a company full of misogynistic creeps who promote or demote based on amount of Hawaiian Tropic photoshoots completed, so they don’t have the luxury that, say, Rachel has where she can go out and choke the sh*t out of Showtime Scot Summers until he bleeds to death because it’s fun and awesome. It’s a different job and the ability to battle through a globe of these lowered expectations and still perform to the best of your ability has to be nigh insurmountable.
So yeah, Eve did a great job last night, I thought. It wasn’t KANA vs. Sara Del Rey. Hell, it wasn’t Portia Perez vs. Lillie Mae, but it was good — legitimately pretty good — and worth a little accolade without qualifiers. Eve’s Rey Mysterio counter to the Glam Slam into a roll-up was the most believable near fall on the show (right alongside Big Show’s Super Chokeslam) and even her slow-mo Christo was fun.
Worst: The Big Show, As Written By Zap Brannigan
Speaking of show, I don’t blame him for it, but how bad was his backstage interview?
“Mark Henry thought I was going to be a bust in his Hall Of Pain! But Mark Henry’s Hall Of Pain will CRUMBLE … like a house of cards! Vengeance … will be mine!”
All he needed to do was add “checkmate” on the end and it would’ve been perfect. Serious question, Mark Henry beat you up and everything, but since you showed up in WWE you had the Bossman raid your father’s funeral and drag away his corpse, you’ve been attacked with tear gas, you got sprayed with a septic tank full of literal sh*t by Eddie Guerrero, Alberto Del Rio had you run over with a car, hell, the Undertaker drove you into the middle of the desert and left you to die. Why are you so concerned with devaluing Mark Henry as a man?
Best: Sheamus And Christian Are Great, But You Know That
Christian vs. Sheamus is starting to feel a lot like Christian vs. Randy Orton did over the summer — the reasons why they’re wrestling are becoming less and less important, but the matches stay good. When a company builds to three pay-per-views in a month and a half, what more can you ask for? I understand the point of view that Christian should be one of WWE’s top good guys, because he’s great at putting together matches like this and his chickensh*t heel thing makes him look weaker sometimes than intended, but I love him in this role. Randy Orton is the silent babyface who fights bad guys, and Christian is the loudmouth bad guy who keeps getting beaten up, but it’s always fun to watch. Little role identifiers like that can go a long way sometimes. Christian’s been around long enough and has done enough to be happy settling into a role like this. He’s a two time World Heavyweight Champion, he’s held the tag team titles about 70,000 times and he almost slept with Lita and got a Canadian dollar out of it, maybe a guy who legitimately loves wrestling would be okay wrestling a lot, and being asked to do it well?
“He’s not winning enough” or “he looks weak” or “he’s being buried” is a really narrow interpretation of someone being “used” wrong. Quicker version: Would you rather have Christian’s WWE career or Scotty Goldman’s?
On a loosely related note, yes, Christian gets another in a series of never-ending Worsts for his hyperslow Killswitch set-up, and after watching Bound For Glory last weekend I’ve been made a little too aware of the Kurt Angle Royal Rumble 2003 style of WWE big pressure situation finisher reversal runs, so as Best as they pulled it off, it was a little (just a very little) Worst. Sheamus spinning around and throwing a blind Brogue Kick would’ve been awesome if Christian hadn’t come running out of the corner into it. Just have him assume it’s coming and be wrong.
Best: David Otunga’s Coffee Thermos
David Otunga put on a sweater and a bowtie and started slurping coffee out of a douchey travel thermos and is suddenly my favorite Parks and Recreation character. It works. The travel mug is the best heel accessory prop in a long time, and while it hasn’t yet reached Jim Cornette tennis racket or Jake The Snake snake status, it’s at least as great as the Paul E. Dangerously Zack Morris cell phone. Somebody needs to bring that back. Also, Otunga needs to start burning people with his hot coffee and smashing them in the head with his mug. Easy feud with Kane, there.
wait, did I just ask for a Kane vs. David Otunga match
Worst: You Know What Else Sucks? When You Can Tell Somebody Else Wrote This Skit
Longtime readers of this column know that The Miz and R-Truth are two of my favorite people on Raw, but just as I have to give Eve credit for a solid performance I have to condemn my favorites for mailing it in. The “you know what SUCKS” segment with Miz and Truth backstage was brutal, and seemed less like the enjoyable Spanky and Stymie back-and-forth from their team’s inception and more like a WWE writer who just got a forwarded e-mail of Yo Mama jokes and thought he would work them into the show. It felt like an improv sketch where you know the performers are funny, but they can’t get anything going and just kinda go “oh is that right” to each other and make you feel tired. It didn’t help that Miz couldn’t get out the word “sucks” every third time without his lisp coming back from whatever grave he left it in alongside Coral to haunt him.
It had its high points (Miz: “NO YOU CERTAINLY DO NOT”) but its low points were pretty low. Nobody else is backstage, guys, you don’t have to stand with your shoulders touching.
But Still, Best: The R-Miz Chest Bump
Yeah, the MizTruth chest bump into taunt is now my favorite wrestling mannerism, right ahead of the Alberto Del Rio self-fanning. If you ever listen to me ramble on incessantly on a podcast you’ll learn how desperate I am to have a friend to talk to about wrestling in real life, almost exclusively to do this bump in public. And yes, as I finished typing that sentence I realized why I don’t have more friends.
Best: John Cena and Undertaker In Wax
They’ve added some clothes to him since I was there, but I’ve been to those creepy wax statues of John Cena and The Undertaker in San Antonio. Here’s a picture of my girlfriend posing with the Undertaker. As bad as they look, they’re actually the best looking wax figures in that terrible museum, which is why they put them out front. It’s very clearly the place where they send the old wax stuff nobody wants anymore, so they’ve got Ron and Harry Potter and Hermione, but they’re very clearly nondescript white people in Harry Potter wigs, so ten years ago they were probably Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, and ten years before that Brandon and Brenda from 90210. They have a pretty good Barack Obama, except he’s covered in white ash, so either he’s the God Of War version of Obama or somebody at Madame Tussaud’s dumped sh*t on him by accident and shipped his drippy, ashy ass to the hottest place in the world.
Also, when you get to the end it’s suddenly about Jesus and is a total downer.