– Before you read this week’s report, make sure to stop over and read The Best And Worst Of WWE No Mercy 2012. You guys are always bugging me to do pay-per-view reports, so get over there and comment/like/share and what have you. If you don’t read that, you won’t know what’s going on on Raw! Haha yes you will
– Thanks to Casey of Hammerlock Dialectic for maximum Gif-age.
– If you just tune in to With Leather for the wrestling reports, make sure not to miss With Spandex episode 6, where I talk to WWE Superstar Derrick Bateman. I’m trying to get the podcast over as a thing, so help me out.
Because I promised you two columns this week, enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWE Raw for June 18, 2012. A single tear.
Worst: Mick Foley Is Great, But Not Interesting
… with a smaller, less professional Worst for that angle they shot from as he was walking to the ring. I thought, “Jesus, what happened to Mick?” and then they moved the camera up and stopped framing him to look like Mark Henry’s back.
I think I wrote about this at length the last time Mick was on Raw, but he just doesn’t seem special anymore. He’s a legitimately awesome guy, one of my favorite wrestlers ever, the sport’s greatest feminist and a welcomed addition to any pro wrestling show, but at some point his legendary status as “cool guy who did dangerous shit back in the day” morphed into “one of the old guys from TNA” so he’s actually got to be doing something special for me to see him that way. Rowdy Roddy Piper is very similar. These guys can still really contribute to your show, you don’t need to cart them out every four months for a “heh, remember this guy” Sgt. Slaughter thing.
It also doesn’t help that Commissioner Foley was the worst ever version of Mick, and that includes the Abyss Disappointing TNA Mick and the Lost In Cleveland amnesia version “Swampy” sees. If we’re bringing back past GMs, bring back William Regal next and let him stay forever.
Worst: Tonight On Raw, A Main Eventers Tag Match And A Handicap John Cena Thing!
Raw had a lost of Bests, so I feel bad starting it off with two straight Worsts, but building the show around four unrelated main eventers tagging against each other, booking multiple “wrestler wanders away from the ring” endings and main-eventing a John Cena handicap match that ends with him winning and humiliating an old non-wrestler is the most obvious, predictable, lazy Raw outline ever. It’s what I’d write if I was making a joke about the obvious things I’d see on Raw. That’s a first draft, not what should end up on screen. Wrestling has hundreds and hundreds of predictable stories and moments that work, you don’t always have to go for the same five.
Kayfabe suggestion for WWE: Instead of bringing back all the old authority figures, bring in somebody new who thinks impromptu tag matches and battles royal for title shots are dumb and see what they come up with. CM Punk likes to complain about John Laurinaitis not being creative, let’s see what he’d do with a Raw. Worst case scenario, we get one of those Randy Orton lingerie fashion shows. Best case scenario, we get to see Ryback ryback Colt Cabana and Ace Steel.
Best: Blockbuster Tag Matches Are Great, But Not Interesting
So like I said, the concept is tired, but it’s hard to not enjoy a tag team match involving Best In The World CM Punk, Actual Best In The World Daniel Bryan, Worker Boots Kane and perfectly acceptable World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus. Tag team matches are an easy way to build momentum, and when you put a bunch of guys who can go into them, they can really get going.
I’ve watched so many Raws now and written about them so much that sometimes I start to drift away in the middle of these. I think I played a round of Scramble With Friends for absolutely no reason about three minutes in. That’s my fault, though, because I am a Stupid Dummy with capital letters for not celebrating the first 30 minutes of Raw having 15-ish minutes of Daniel Bryan chinlocks and superplexes in it. This was good, and the kind of thing I’ll find tape of on Thursday afternoon or whatever and really love. More wrestling, please!
Best: “AJ Is Just Like Harley Quinn!” – Everybody
Near the end of the match, AJ skips down the ramp in a f**king Kane mask and some red and black yoga pants and the UPROXX commenting system explodes because that is the exact thing we joked about happening. “AJ should come out dressed like Kane!” we’d say, holding in a deep laugh and downing a 32-ounce Mountain Dew in a Miz 7-11 cup. “We know how to run the wrestling!” And then it happens, and we’re all OH GOD and start frantically digging through our air vents like Jesse Bradford in Hackers.
But yeah, this happened. This really happened. Maybe next we can get a backstage segment where AJ announces she’s vegan, then bites into the face of a living goat.
I don’t know if AJ’s yearly bonus is going to be a card with “several years of employment” written on it, but she’s knocking this story out of the park and leaving everything she’s got in the ring, or in a weird path around it. I’ve never been able to settle on whether or not I like where she’s gone, and I think that inability to focus on a judgment is the biggest compliment I can give her. She’s making something interesting, when by all accounts it should’ve been dismissively wanked away as a worst last month.
If only we could get her in matches against other Divas and remember that Crazy Chick™ is a wrestler description and not a category on OK Cupid, we’d be set.
Best: Combo Finishers
Combo finishes are great, and the kind of thing you try to do with guys in video games before you realize the hit detection is wonky and interrupting the final 0.5 seconds of the Go To Sleep animation with a Brogue Kick just registers as “breaking it up”. WWE Super Tag Teams in main event impromptu tags should be built around how cool their finishes would look together.
The Go To Sleep into the Brogue Kick was great, and convinced even the biggest Daniel Bryan fan (me) that he was dunzo. I want to see more of this. I want to see Daniel Bryan put a guy into the YES Lock only for Ryback to pick them both up and Muscle Bust them. I want to see The Rock and R-Truth do their finishers to a guy at the same time, leading to a triple knockout.
Best: Swaggler Explodes
Watching Raw with my girlfriend always puts things into perspective. Her two biggest observations from last night (before she got bored and wandered away):
1. Kane should pay attention to his matches and stop wandering away and falling in love every time anything happens
2. On Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger arguing: “This is terrible.”
And it is (and Kane should), so while the argument segment gets a Best for Jack Swagger calling Vickie Guerrero a saint, it’s important to remember that the whole thing was pretty terrible. Why are they arguing in the hallway? Why are they standing shoulder to shoulder? Why is a camera man filming this?
The match itself gets a big Best, though, as it was my favorite of the night. Dolph Ziggler wrestling as a good guy is weird and kind of a revelation, because he’s able to do his exaggerated bumping and Evan Bourne Family Guy death sells and look like he’s really being killed, so it’s easy for an audience of 10,000 people to all pick up on the same story and cheer for the same thing. Telling a story to an audience that big is a really under-appreciated aspect of big leagues wrestling, one I started picking up on watching Bushwhacker Luke wrestle in Ring Of Honor years ago. Guys like Kenny King are wrestling for the 20 people in the front row, but Luke is overdoing everything so the people in the very back (of a much bigger venue) can follow along.
Ultimate Babyface Dolph Ziggler could be something special if they
1. Don’t change his hair, ever
2. Give him back I Am Perfection, because f**k you for changing it in the first place
3. Don’t ever let him insult another wrestler on behalf of the WWE Universe
4. Ass roll
What the hell happened to the ass roll?
Best: Paul Heyman Verbally Rybacking Triple H
Oh man, Paul Heyman responding to Triple H by laughing in his face and more or less saying “derp derp” was the most glorious thing ever. Inappropriate Ponytail Theater is a hard thing for me to find joy in (especially with a ponytail as inappropriate as Paul Heyman’s), but he avoided Kitten Pictures and Hayley Williams Gifs territory by saying what needed to be said: No, Brock Lesnar isn’t going to be goaded into dropping a lawsuit because Triple H challenged him to a fight, no, he’s not going to drop HIS lawsuit against Triple H because one of his clients got challenged to a fight, and Triple H is a stupid bully who just starts strangling and punching people every time he doesn’t get his way.
Which led directly to:
Worst: Triple H Has No Point, Should Have No Job
Honestly, when did Triple H convince himself that he was Stone Cold Steve Austin? His point about never wanting the C.O.O. position and having it thrust upon him is Big Bullshit when you remember the last, I don’t know, 13 years of Triple H’s character being THE CEREBRAL ASSASSIN, the guy who would pretend to rape and drunk-marry the boss’s daughter to help her weed him out of power. The guy who had the line “yo the years went by with your lies/the marks, the suits, McMahon” in his entrance theme. The guy who has “it’s all about The Game and how you play it” NOW. That guy. The one who can’t finish a sentence without shoehorning THIS BUSINESS into it. “I’d like a #4 please, because I have always ordered a #4 FROM THIS BUSINESS” etc.
It was weird listening to Cole and Lawler guffaw under their breath about how Triple H had outsmarted the dastardly Paul Heyman, when for all intents and purposes he should be f**ked. That punch to Heyman should be the end of Triple H’s job. Heyman isn’t a WWE employee, and as weird as it was for John Cena to assault John Laurinaitis after he was fired, it was weirder seeing Triple H’s grand chess move be “this guy’s suing you and your company for putting your hands on him? PUNCH HIM”. The Board Of Directors has already fired two other guys for making things personal, and here’s Triple H having never done a single thing impersonally since becoming C.O.O. If Zack Ryder asked him for a raise he’d get thrown through a window and challenged to a Three Stages Of Hell match at Night Of Champions.
Heyman showing up and sticking around in the ring when he should just bail makes sense, because he’s an Ambulance Chaser who knows if he pushes H’s buttons he’ll get punched out on national television in front of millions of witnesses. H is just coming across as the dumbest, most aggressive jock ever and there’s no imaginable reason to cheer for him besides “Triple H is cool I like him”.
Best: Alberto Del Rio Actually Rybacking Santino
“Alberto Del Rio is not medically cleared to compete for the WWE Championship at No Way Out, but he’s TOTALLY FINE to have a non-title match the next night!” – the same doctors who haven’t wellness’d Mason Ryan 75 times by now
Anyway, watching Del Rio “young boy” Santino around the ring for a minute and a half is usually my favorite part of Raw. I’m happy to have him back, especially when he’s calmly avoiding diving headbutts that would make him look stupid and locking on an armbreaker for a victory he could’ve gotten by staring hard enough. There are a lot of little Worsts here — WWE getting into shifty TNA concussion storytelling, the United States Champion being squashed by a guy with no interest in his worthless belt — but ADR should always be considered top shelf and shouldn’t be going back and forth with guys like this like he’s the f**king Miz. He should grab them by the arm, murder them, and move on.
Best: Ricardo’s Cowardly Revenge
Just to recap, Santino Marella spent the last month beating up a ring announcer, culminating in a match at the pay-per-view where he stripped him to his underwear. Alberto Del Rio shows up to defend the honor of his friend and cleanly, decisively beats Santino in a one-on-one match. Why should I be cheering for Santino and not Del Rio again?
Ricardo waiting until Santino was thoroughly beaten up to pounce, attack his arm and make threatening Bro Gestures was great, because Ricardo is a goofy little coward who should be getting booed. I guess the only problem is that he can’t get his comeuppance, because all he’s ever GOTTEN is comeuppance. So this is like… reverse comeuppance? Inverted comeuppance. I don’t know the terminology. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is this is the first time in a while Ricardo’s actually given us a reason to want to see him beaten up, assuming “he’s Mexican” and “he’s got on gay clothes” don’t do it for you.
Worst: Here Are Some Important People From Our Company’s History, Let’s Take A Huge Shit All Over It
I’m not sure why this segment existed.
In theory, it existed to bring out Cyndi Lauper (who looked great as always, and a little like Greg The Hammer Valentine) and Wendi Richter (WWE’s “Wendi Richter”) to celebrate an important time and series of moments in WWE history, to sell a few Cyndi Lauper MP3s in the process and continue Heath Slater’s Legend Killer (where the legend is the killer) Tour. Bringing out Piper makes sense, and allows you to bring closure to one of the great mysteries of pro wrestling lore — why Rowdy Roddy Piper never bashed in Cyndi Lauper’s head with a fire extinguisher.
In practice, you brought out a couple of people who are uncomfortable in a wrestling ring, had your terrible ring announcer do his Terrible Ring Announcing thing all over it (even during the important parts, like when they were trying to pay tribute to Captain Lou Albano), bring out a guy who gets no crowd reaction because you’ve never portrayed him as anything but the Wendy’s looking henchman who sounds weird and gets emasculated by celebrites, and cap that off by bringing out a commonly-appearing legend simply to rag about how old he is nonstop. The only guy who’ll be there next week gets beaten up, nothing is celebrated and nobody looks good. I don’t know why it existed, unless that gothic image of Vince in headphones in a dimly-lit room yelling shit like CALL HIM PATHETIC DAMMIT is true and not a way for the Internet to justify WWE’s occasional abyss-staring blackness.
At least bring out Cowboy Bob to hammerblow Wendi in the back of the head with his cast one good time.
Best: Baaaaa aaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaand
Poor Heath Slater left the ring looking like the least important wrestler of all time, but to esoteric nerds like me he became a folk hero. Ignoring pretty girls in Halloween costumes it was the most memorable moment of the show, and my favorite. I’ve been singing Heath Slater’s hit single all night long and for most of the day, and it works because it doesn’t really have lyrics. You can make it about anything. “I’m the one man baaaaa aaaaaa aaaaand, one man baaaaa aaaaa aaaaand. I like saaaaa aaaaa aaaaand, because I’m baaaaa aaaaaa aaaaanned” or whatever. Just throw a shitload of AAAAA into the middle of something.
I honestly think Slater should get whoever does the themes these days to put a few WWE Network wubwubwubs behind the song and use it for his entrance. He could start calling his finisher “The Drop”. I also think they should make it available as a ringtone with one of those Jeff Jarrett country beats behind it.
Worst: Cyndi Lauper As Masada
At some point during the day you’d have thought Jerry Lawler would pull Cyndi aside and say “hey, I know you’ve never smashed a gold record over somebody’s head before, but hit them with the paper side first, that way they won’t get a bunch of glass in their face, this is all pretend we don’t want to blind and kill people on our TV show”. But nope, there she is breaking a shoot pane of glass over Heath Slater’s head, then pulling it back long enough to slam it back down and do a Crown Of Thorns thing with the jagged pieces. Wendi Richter should’ve pulled out a fat plastic baseball bat with Christmas ornaments stuck to it and jabbed it into his stomach. Piper could’ve Lincoln Logged a bunch of light tubes and Burning Hammer’d him trough it.
My only understanding of how wrestling works comes from the Internet, so I hope Heath Slater is just “paying his dues” and isn’t being given this role as any sort of meta punishment. When he gets fired I don’t want his resume to say
– Shoved by Flo Rida
– Had glass smashed over head by Cyndi Lauper
– Kneed in the dick by Lawrence Welk
Best: AW As The Best Possible Funkette
MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, MILLIO
Yeah, sliding Abraham Washington to the left to be the voice of the Primetime Players was the best unimportant decision WWE has made in years. The guy is money (obnoxious money) and perfect for the kind of OH BOO COME ON BOO thing WWE wants from its midcard heel tag teams. Darren Young benefits by having someone with charisma stand beside him, and Titus O’Neil benefits from not ever having to open his mouth again for anything but dog noises.
I like their entrance and hope it stays elaborate. They need a big explosion between their announcement and their Hip Hop Track #15 entrance theme kicking in. It should just keep getting more and more elaborate every week until they’ve got a dance troupe with sparklers and a mascot and they’re riding jungle cats to the ring.
Best: Rosa Mendes As The Best Possible Rosa Mendes
I (and the WWE Universe) don’t know if PERM are babyfaces by default now or what, but indignant, pointing Rosa Mendes doesn’t have time for a ring apron corset wiggle, and that drops PERM’s television effectiveness by almost 80%. Thankfully they got most of that when Rosa started slapping canvas and … well, look at it.
That makes me want to chant “Primo”, but not in the way you intended.
Worst: The Shocking Conclusion
Raise your hand if you enjoyed seeing heels leave a match because they thought for a moment they couldn’t win. Go ahead, raise your hands. Put ’em up if you like watching purposeful countouts 3 minutes into a match.
WWE’s got this weird sensibility going on where the only two types of bad guys are “unstoppable” and “too cowardly to finish”. As a result, the unstoppable guys seem super fake and the cowardly guys look like wimps, so no believable, compelling heel challengers are created. If a good guy can just call the bad guys whatever he wants and do whatever he wants with them and never faces consequences, there’s no drama created and no stakes, and that’s what gives us shit like Santino having the US title and losing to Alberto Del Rio in 40 seconds. Nobody cares about anything happening. John Cena can get fired and just keep showing up. Laurinaitis can get fired and show back up in a week or two (or on Smackdown) with a no job doing the exact same thing. Or the same job, if you’re Vince McMahon. Nothing matters, nobody has credibility, and only kids who can’t remember much of what happened last week move forward thinking you’re doing a good job.
The easier thing to do here would be LET THE PRIMETIME PLAYERS PIN PRIMO AND EPICO BECAUSE THEY’RE F**KING PRIMO AND F**KING EPICO AND YOU JUST MADE THESE GUYS THE #1 CONTENDERS TO YOUR TAG TITLES. Just let them beat PERM. Why do they need to be protected? You had Big Show beat them by himself. Let the guys you’re pushing get victories and stop 50/50 booking the god-damn out of everything. If nobody looks good, everybody looks bad.
Best: Give ‘Em Hell, Johnny
If this is truly the end of John Laurinaitis, bless him for his work.
Wrestling has been weird for me over the last year. I moved this column over from the ruins of AOL FanHouse just before the Summer Of Punk, and I had this great surge of wrestling positivity beaten to death by Triple H showing up, Kevin Nash showing up, power struggles, position changes, characters being introduced and reran into the ground before we could get to know them, the grand Eve Torres slut shaming and everything else that comes from being a fan … but the one guy who never let me down was John Laurinaitis. I ALWAYS enjoyed him. Hell, even Daniel Bryan, my favorite wrestler for like 6 of the past 12 years, had an 18-second WrestleMania match that almost made me quit the column cold.
But yeah, John Laurinaitis has always made me happy. His Super Dave voice, his goofy smile, his relationship with David Otunga and how easy it was to justify his underhanded shit made him the most fun character to watch and write about. And here, in what might be his last appearance (it won’t be, but work with me here) he’s bringing a FIRE to the crowd and getting all enthusiastic about what he’s saying and doing kinda-sorta Vince McMahon YOU’RE FIRED impressions out of nowhere and being totally believable and impossible to believe at the same time. Just like always.
Thanks for your time on top, Big Johnny. Mail me your People Power track jacket and I swear to God I’ll wear it forever.
Worst: John Cena Triumphant, Part Infinity
No Way Out was the end of the story, right? Laurinaitis gets his just desserts, gets fired and is Attitudinally Adjusted through the Spanish announce table. Confetti, credits.
I was hoping his farewell address on Raw would be like Batista’s, but it turned into this “oh and also before I got fired I booked this” handicapped match with John Cena and blerghhhh. If you can do that, why didn’t you just take a week and book the rest of the shows for the year? Create some weird perpetual motion machine of impromptu tag matches and Diva obstacle courses. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that Big Show bailed on Laurinaitis and left us with “Wrestling Extraordinare” (+1) David Otunga and Big Johnny versus Cena in a handicap match, which can only go one way. And then even Otunga abandons him. That’s a moment I never wanted to see. I don’t like being actually sad for people during these things.
So is THIS the ending? Are we doing a Lord Of The Rings thing where the climax happens and the screen fades out and you think it’s over, but then it fades back in to an epilogue? And then that fades out and you start to get up, but it fades back in and you have to watch a bunch of characters running into John Laurinaitis’ bedroom and hugging him? How many of these endings can we have? Return Of The King had like 15, which is why I’m asking.
They should keep doing Laurinaitis farewell addresses and attacks straight on through Raw 1000, and the 100 episodes after that can be all about Prequel Power.
Best: BEST and WORST Signs On Raw
Check out what made it onto Raw. Look behind the guy in the (awesome) pink shirt.
Worst: Woo Hoo, Fozzy’s Back Next Week
Chris Jericho’s epic Farewell To Relevance Tour continues when he returns to Raw from a month-long flag-kicking suspension with his awful aging man-band in tow. Musical acts on wrestling shows are never a good idea unless they end with someone wrestling as a Kiss character. Also, am I the only one who went “oh, right, Chris Jericho’s gone” when they said CHRIS JERICHO RETURNS TO RAW?
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
We moan, but we’re the ones dumb enough to watch it knowing what was going to happen.
Et tu Otunga?
Arrested Developmental, with the best idea ever:
AJ is the girl in the Jericho vignette Guys!
They checked Heath Slater’s pulse, it was the beat to a Molly Hatchet song.
Somewhere Tamina is getting a phantom coconut headache.
Probably Misses His Old Glasses
I was saying Lou urns
Never been prouder of my mother.
“So he’s rich, handsome and powerful. Why are people booing him? I hope he destroys the blue guy.”
B.A. Star should be a CHIKARA gimmick.
Oh yeah, CM Punk’s on Fallon. I’ll have to PVR that. I’m watching John Morrison on The Kilborn File during that time slot. They what? When? I see.
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See you next week, friends. Five more weeks before I hang myself.