The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 12/19: Our QA Team Drops The Ball!

Hey there, friends!

– As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, Brandon took the week off in order to celebrate his girlfriend Destiny’s birthday. I know some of you might not think it’s a valid reason to skip out on writing jokes about pro wrestling, but it’s something I totally understand. I know when I celebrate the birth of a DT, writing is almost a logistical impossibility. Y’know, on account of the violent, involuntary shaking and the formication paranoia. Keep a vigilant eye out for those silverfish, Brandon!

– Anyway, my name is Justin O’Connor. I’m not Brandon, but I’m a lot like him. Well, in the same way Mega Bloks are a lot like LEGO. I might not be what you wanted, but I’m “close enough,” and since your parents are inattentive monsters you’ll have to just suck it up and find some use for those awful brown and green pieces. Like, say, attempting to swallow them until you get the toys you asked for in the first place. Or until the school places you under precautionary care and you’re not allowed to open a carton of chocolate milk without adult supervision.

– What I’m getting at is if you guys squint really hard and skim through the pop culture references fast enough, you might be able to delude yourselves into not being able to tell the difference. If that doesn’t work, you’re probably best off treating this week’s column like a regular Brandon column; except you just found out he’s underwent severe head trauma and now everyone’s just being polite by telling him how great he’s doing “in spite of his condition,” between giving one another “holy sh*t” eyes. Trust me, it’ll be easier for everyone involved.

– I don’t have any personal stuff to plug, so you’re off the hook this week. Not really though. Leave a comment.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s tell some jokes about pro graps!

Best: Oh Come On. Daniel Bryan Is The World Champion

I’ve got to hand it to WWE. When Brandon asked me to fill in for him a few weeks ago I accepted because I expected two hours of easy jokes about Kelly Kelly wondering how to pour the vodka out of her Slammy award, getting frustrated and throwing it into a pile with all the other expensive stuff she’s been given and doesn’t appreciate. Though, in her defense, the manner by which one procures alcohol from any given object is important. I mean, we can’t expect sinks to just pee into themselves, can we?

At no point during the interim did I expect to be tasked with recapping a show where the opening segment would feature WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION DANIEL BRYAN. Granted, I wasn’t especially concerned until last night’s Pay-Per-View. Not only was the show good of its own merit, but I also had this whole aside correlating Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez to Bertie Wooster and Reginald Jeeves of P.G. Wodehouse fame. Of course, I had to scrap it when that glorious, subservient bastard launched himself through a table made of the wood used to construct those toy planes you get as a prize from the dentist for not being an indignant little shit. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that doing things like “brushing your teeth” and “making an effort to prepare for a writing assignment” simply aren’t worth the hassle.

So not only was I deprived of the chance to pathetically champion my own hyper-literacy (and chew solid food when I’m 30,) but I wasn’t even afforded the consolation of laughing about how Raw began with an awkward John Cena promo. Instead of flailing at random keys to describe how Cena fumbled through an uncomfortable transition from a cringe-worthy Lyte Funky Ones (or whomever) reference into why he’s SO SERIOUS ABOUT HIS UPCOMING MATCH AT THE NEXT PAY-PER-VIEW, WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HIS MATCH AT THE LAST PAY-PER-VIEW BECAUSE HE ALREADY GOT YOUR MONEY FOR THAT ONE, SO F**K IT (UNTIL IT’S RELEASED ON DVD EXCLUSIVELY THROUGH WAL-MART,) I get to talk about how legitimately incredible it was to begin Raw with CM Punk, Zack Ryder and HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS, WORLD CHAMPION BRYAN DANIELSON!!1

Say what you will about how stagnant Punk’s character has become since Money in the Bank (ex: “Punk’s character sure has become stagnant since Money in the Bank,”) but last night’s promo did more to solidify both Ryder and Bryan as championship-caliber competitors in literal seconds than the past few months of television, ostensibly scripted by people who get paid in legal tender, to solidify people like Ryder and Bryan as championship-caliber contenders. The whole thing was so gratifying, I’m not even going to bother getting mad about how borderline-embarrassing it is to feel validated by actually hearing the words “professional” and “wrestling” spoken in tandem by a professional wrestler during the professional wrestling television show.

Granted, the pessimist in me is most certainly waiting for the other shoe to drop, on account of the past ten years of WWE, but right now I’m content to allow the phrase “Daniel Bryan: World Heavyweight Champion” to roll around in my brain like that final moment of perfect, drunken lucidity before “one more shot” turns into a “3 AM hospital visit” and an “involuntary psychological evaluation.”

Best: You Delivered That Promo All By Yourself, John! I’m So Proud Of You!

It’s been said in this column before, but John Laurinaitis is absolutely hysterical. It almost feels like a violation of my Smark Credibility to revile the man as a human being but love him so much as a performer, but there’s just something so funny about the way he mumbles through his segments with absolutely no adherence to any sort of cadence. He just speeds up and slows down his speech patterns with no regard for things like “timing” or “delivery,” and instead of asserting himself as an authority figure, he sounds more like a divorced father trying to discipline his fighting children while not wanting to seem “uncool.”

I don’t know whether it’s natural or if he’s the most brilliant thespian of our generation, but I can’t wrap my mind around how every time he picks up a microphone it’s like he’s just discovering he can do this thing where his vocal chords vibrate and resonate off his tongue, projecting sounds for other people to hear. And every time he manages to prattle off nonsense about “dubduuheee unnivursss” his plastic caricature-of-a-President-mask face lights up like he can’t believe he did it.

His current run as GM in itself was almost enough to make me forgive him for subjecting the world to like a billion straight weeks of watching the lesbian incest twins attempt to bang prestigious celebrity talent like the non-Single Guy guy from Weekend at Bernie’s or whomever, but then he had to go and give me (ME!) a Christmas present in the form of a swank six-man tag. It’s probably the best gift I’ve received since the year my mom got me that box full of non-refundable aluminum cans and liquor store receipts.

Best: Wade Barrett: King Of The Midway Heels

I’ve watched hundreds of desperate indy wrestlers throw themselves through tables, fly off of ladders and get stabbed in the face only to transform magically from robots into blingwads; all in an effort to make names for themselves, and in one fell swoop Wade Barrett plugs Randy Orton in the eye with his thumb, undoes all that and transports me back to a time where I’m marking because George Hackenschmidt is wrestling a bear on the carnival midway. Also, I’m wearing a punched-out top hat and roasting a single bean over a fire in some transient work camp.

It’s such a simple thing, but there’s nothing wrong with going back to the classics. Hell, Wade’s current run works so well specifically because he’s gone back to the drawing board. He’s a heel motivated by a desire to win a championship, because championships equal money, and money equals not subsisting upon cat food once he’s sixty-five years old. Some might call it underhanded, but I call it fiscally responsible.

When did Wade get so good at being an actual wrestler, by the way? He could always talk, obviously, but I’m 100% convinced his in-ring ability holds a direct correlation to how foppish his hair is becoming.

Frankly, I think they should go all-out and fit him for a doublet, frilly shirt and a pair of buckled breeches. Wade could become the 1600′s equivalent to when Brent Albright started wrestling for Ring of Honor and would come out in these ridiculous leather-daddy trench coats. We used to call Brent the “gay basher,” because he looked like an openly homosexual male who wouldn’t tolerate any guff given to him in regard to his sexual proclivities. That’s what wrestling needs if it really wants to get progressive. An openly gay wrestler who doesn’t define himself by his sexuality and will bloody your ignorant nose if you try and start some shit.

Worst: Your Beth Phoenix Match Doesn’t Jive With My Reality

Sorry, but any Beth Phoenix match which doesn’t end in five seconds via Beth employing a Mortal Kombat fatality and ripping her opponent’s vertebrate out through their mouth isn’t a match I’m interested in watching. I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic, either. I understand we’re in the PG era and all, so I wouldn’t be upset if, say, WWE were to pull a Nintendo and only allow Beth to gingerly uppercut Alicia Fox into a pit of Punji sticks covered with diseased animal stool. Sometimes you’ve got to be willing to grant concessions.

Best: Foxy SHAZAM!

I really hope Alicia Fox’s attempt to get “foxy” over as a thematically-appropriate adjective extends beyond the holiday season. I can’t wait until she’s wishing us all a “FOXY Amelia Earhart Day” or whatever.

Best: Jamster

Does anyone think it’s totally hilarious that at this very moment, thousands of parents’ cell phones are being stuffed full of spam texts on account of the Jamster ads they were running last night? Basically, Jamster bought commercial time during Raw and used it to promote their pay-per-text “find out your wrestling name” service. It’s not unlike any of the hundreds of other banal services they offer, but what made this one great was that they went so far as to license the Raw theme and design a partially-obscured knock-off “U Can’t C Me” t-shirt. It was all a thinly-veiled ploy to trick children into charging absurd amounts of money to their parents’ cell phone bills, and they did so knowing full-well that Michelle Tanner wouldn’t be around to educate kids about proper phone etiquette.

Worst: No J.D. Roth, No Dice

Oh, cool! A show on WWE Network called Legends House! I can’t wait to watch J.D. Roth coerce a team of brain-damaged cripples into writhing through a kiddie pool full of cat food where they’ll grope wildly for hidden bottles of Oxycodone! Wait, you mean that’s not the show’s premise? Am I at least going to get to watch Iron Sheik piss himself and threaten to rape the CGI visage of Bruno Sammartino? No?

Yeah, I’ll pass.

Worst: No! Guys! REALLY! I’m REALLY Not From Here!

I’m not even going to bother delving into the logic behind Jinder Mahal’s new affinity for turbans and speaking with an accent for some goddamned reason. I’m content to simply wonder how long this exercise in futility will last before he makes the complete transition from “foreign heel nobody cares about” to “zany foreign heel it’s okay to laugh at.” I assume by January he’s gonna be rocking a gigantic construction paper bindi. And if THAT doesn’t get us to hate him, by March he’ll be strung out in a backstage OPIUM DEN while Tyson Kidd (assuming the role of a timid eunuch boy) fans him with a gigantic fern. I figure by next June we’ll arrive at the zenith and he’ll be relegated to comedy segments where he and the Bella twins (wearing gaudy harem pants) perform Bollywood dance routines set to unlicensed versions of Lady Gaga songs.

Best: The Irish Curse

It’s been like three years since WWE changed the name of John Cena’s finishers in an effort to make their programming more family friendly, and while I see the merit in not wanting to incite angry parents by encouraging children to I can’t help but giggle to myself every time Cole fervently shrieks with delight over the Irish Curse backbreaker. For those of you not versed in penile terminology, the Irish Curse is a scientific absolute TOTALLY INACCURATE MYTH regarding the endowment of those of Irish descent.

In other words, white ppl got small dongs.

Worst: Why Can’t People Learn to RISE ABOVE THE HATE?

I understand a lot of people dislike John Cena. I don’t agree with them, but I understand it. Or, rather, I understood it. Back in 2006? Absolutely! 2010? Yep! Today, not so much. Sure, he’s still cuts promos with the cadence of a Pixies song, and he’s still reliant upon the same set of in-ring skills he’s been using for years, but we’ve reached a point where all of a sudden John Cena is not the primary focus of the show. He wasn’t booked to compete on last night’s Pay-Per-View. In fact, he’s about to tread water for a few weeks in a throwaway feud with Kane since there’s really not much for him to do until they really start the build to WrestleMania. As a rule, once the thing you hate stops doing the things that make you hate it, you should probably learn to get over yourself and accept it for what it contributes to the overall presentation of the thing you love.

What’s happening now is we’ve reached a point where the hatred has become conditional to nothing more than the man’s presence. It’s nothing new. Like, I’m sure groups of derisive Neanderthal teens used to lean against the side of some monolith while making snide remarks about how the Chauvet cave paintings were more like the Chauvet cave gayntings until some clan elder with nothing better to do with his life than give them a hard time busted them for loitering and confiscated their stash of raw materials. And they knew he was just gonna fashion their stone into a rudimentary spear down at the station.

The current attitude toward Cena reminds me of how when I was a kid I’d sing songs about wanting to kill Barney even though I was too old to have ever watched Barney of my own accord, and at no point was I bound to a chair in a straight-jacket and subjected to hours of looping Barney footage. Like, even though Barney might have had way more societal influence than some shitty prehistoric pictures of boars that look like they were painted by an autistic kid during a fever hallucination, he was still just an anthropomorphic dinosaur created to prepare babies for life after breastfeeding. The point is, nobody ever intended for Barney to appeal to my twelve-year old self in the first place.

What I’m saying is Cena’s not our guy. He’s not supposed to be our guy. He hasn’t been our guy for a long, long time and it’s time to accept it and move on. I honestly don’t even remember why we all thought a homophobic rapper in jorts was supposed to be our guy in the first place, but I digress. We have our guys now, and our guys are the current WWE champions. If everyone in the crowd took the energy they put into being mad about John Cena and put that toward responding to people they actually enjoy watching perform, maybe it wouldn’t have taken so long for us to go from “wanting” Zack Ryder to actually “having” Zack Ryder. You know?

Best: Cena Sucks T-Shirts

I’m really glad WWE decided to create a line of defamatory John Cena shirts, because people are far too willing to participate in the perpetuation of their own anger. Frankly, if anyone is dumb enough to drop $30 on a t-shirt, for which the man they claim to hate is going to receive a kickback, it’s probably best they give their money to WWE before they’re duped out of it by some homeless grifter selling bags of enchanted rocks.

It’s the same reason why I hope Rebecca Black goes quintuple-platinum, makes like, a billion dollars and never has to put in an honest day’s work for the rest of her life.

That being said…

Worst: Seriously, Cena. Cut This Shit Out

There’s nothing worse than passive-aggression. If you really don’t care whether the people like you or not, just let it go. Don’t start every promo by doing that irritating “heh, you guys suuuuure do hate me but it’s all good. no big d-ski,” thing. It’s like when teenagers walk around in shorts during winter and SWEAR they’re not cold despite visibly shivering. Either shut up and stick to whatever point it is you’re trying to prove or get over yourself and buy a pair of pants. You can’t have it both ways, guy.

Best: I’ll Walk Through Hell, Fire And Brimstone (But No Cotton Plz)

When Cena came out with that tear in his collar the first thing I thought was “did he buy that at a flea market? And if so, why didn’t he go for big air and rock a swank unlicensed African-American Bart Simpson t-shirt?” Then I figured there must have been an issue at whichever third-world textile factory WWE uses to screen its shirts. Like, maybe the foreman in charge of whipping the child labor came down with a case of tendonitis and had to call out sick that day.

In any event, we’re never going to get an answer to this one, so it’s best to just pontificate and reach our own conclusions. Maybe Kane secretly reviles shoddy craftsmanship and John simply didn’t recognize the inherent danger in wearing a shirt with compromised tensile strength around a closeted fashionista? Maybe Kane ordered a RISE ABOVE HATE shirt off the WWE website, only to receive a postal slip informing him his package wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas? I don’t know! Say what you will. Literally just say what you will and it’ll end up being far more plausible than the logic behind every other Kane storyline, ever.

Or, shit, maybe Kane really wanted Cena to smell his finger.

Worst: Uh, Okay. I Guess We’re Going With Attempted Murder!

You know what never works in wrestling? Sequences where the viewer is left to challenge their own mortality. I can accept deplorable actions in almost every other medium of entertainment, but for some reason “literal attempted murder” is my personal Wrestling Uncanny Valley. I can watch a show like Breaking Bad and rationalize liking Walter White despite his having poisoned a child because I’ve had four years of logical, compelling narrative to come to terms with the fact that he’s an animal with redemptive qualities. I want him to succeed despite objectively recognizing he’s a terrible human being.

Oh. Whups. Spoiler alert. You know, about the whole “poisoning a child” thing. That’s a Breaking Bad spoiler. My Bad.

Anyway, with Kane it’s always been “I’m here. You are too. F**k it. Gonna hit’cha with a chokeslam and then lecture you about why poor people don’t deserve our charity.” That’s fine in a vacuum, but when they make the transition from “hurt you with a wrestling move” to “hold your mouth under a glove and pinch your nose until the noises stop” it creates this weird, uncomfortable atmosphere where real-life logic trumps established canon and eventually we all start wondering why every wrestler ever just doesn’t carry a gun on their person all the time. Which I guess wouldn’t be the least entertaining thing they could do. And hey, if the ratings continue to drop, Vince could always just strong-arm Trent Barreta into staging a Budd Dwyer at the top of the 10 o’clock hour.

Weird & Creepy: King Finds A New Wife!

I wonder if someone backstage found the Kat’s old costume and decided the best way to get Jerry Lawler to stop playing Angry Birds and actually pay attention to what’s happening would be by playing to both his perversion and his senility by dressing Rosa Mendes up like his ex-wife and having her shimmy uncomfortably in front of the announce table for like twenty minutes.

Best: Jimmy, Can You Teach Me To Dance?

I’m not gonna sit here and claim to know anything about Samoan heritage, dancing or the symbiotic relationship between the two, but if I were to hazard a guess I’d probably say that “attempting to maintain synchronicity in a tandem routine” has to land somewhere within the spectrum. To be fair, I don’t know which one of these guys was throwing off the rhythm, but I’m gonna go with Jey, since at no point during their routine did Jimmy half-stand like a doofus with a goofy “oh we’re still doing this” look on his face before squatting back down and attempting to slip back into the motions.

Worst: “Primo Is The Son Of The Legendary ‘Who Cares?’ I Sure As Hell Don’t!” – Michael Cole

Close call everybody! For a second there I was worried we might actually have to learn something relevant to the performers we were watching! Thanks for staying on top of things for us, Mike. It was getting scary

Worst: Santino Got Fa-Haaaa-Haaaaaaaaat!

I don’t know if it’s the unflattering singlet, the burgeoning bloatee or simply the result of being a professional wrestler who tends to not do very much professional wrestling, but Santino is about a greasy mullet and an infinite void of comedic talent away from becoming Danny McBride’s non-union, Mexican equivalent. I’m not necessarily against the idea so much as I’m bummed out by having to watch the transformation unfold week-by-week. Like, after last week they should’ve kept Santino off television for a month or two so he could devote the time required to properly becoming a scumbag.

Best: Josh Mathews Is A Little Douchebag

I loved this segment. Josh Mathews is interviewing Big Show about winning and losing the belt within the span of two minutes. Big Show is doing his best to maintain a labored sense of propriety, because even though he might have lost the title last night, the amount of taint sweat harvested during his match with Mark Henry was enough to open a new pool at the Bergin, New Jersey YMCA. So instead of just letting it go, Mathews obliviously calls Big Show a loser and stands there like an asshole until Big Show replies with a “thanks, dick,” tells him to look up the meaning of the word “tacit,” and walks away.

Either Josh Mathews can’t read social cues and needs to be screened for Asperger’s or he’s the WWE version of that kid in high school who’d blithely call attention to the fact that you were desperately trying to finish a homework assignment three minutes before the bell rang. Burn in Hell, Chris W.

Best: Now There’s A Champion I Could See M’Self Drinkin’ A Beer With

It’s such a small thing, but having the newly-minted face champions enter through the crowd is a perfect way to humanize and endear them to the audience. I guess the idea is to present these guys not as larger-than-life characters, but as legitimate, relocatable members of the audience they claim to represent. It’s sort of like the smark version of when rednecks used to talk about how great it was to finally have a President they could drink a beer with. Except not really, since in this case, two of the Presidents don’t drink, and the third President only drinks fermented rat piss mixed with scented dish soap.

Worst: Yes, Mr. Cole. EVERYTHING Stinks

I guess after tonight we can go ahead and add “wrestlers who grew up wanting to become wrestlers” and “wrestlers who actually interact with the people paying to watch them perform” as qualifiers for what makes somebody a goof. I want to strap Michael Cole to a metal table, clamp his eyes open and force him to watch old VHS recordings of mid-90′s Disney Afternoon until his nose starts bleeding and he dies of a brain aneurysm.

Though I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how clever it was of him to refer to the team of Punk, Bryan and Ryder as “The Three Stooges.” You see, it’s an apt comparison on account of both groups are comprised of exactly three people and furthermore,

Best: Six Main-Eventers, Six Fresh Faces

I can’t tell you how relieving it was to be treated to a main-event consisting entirely of people new to the position. Especially when given free reign to work a solid ten-minute sprint. It was a showcase of a direction the company (should) be working toward, and providing Vince doesn’t either get cold feet due to a lack of instant gratification or decide to appoint a heroic dog as his new top star, there’s no reason they shouldn’t ultimately get there.