The Best And Worst Of WWE Summerslam 2011

Your now standard pre-report bullet points.

– As always, you are this column’s voice. Please take the time to drop a comment if you read, and know that you sharing it with your friends (who are hopefully sane, like-minded individuals who appreciate attempts at entertaining wrestling writing on the Internet) is the coolest thing ever and deeply appreciated by the author. I also like “likes” and retweets and +1s, but not as much. Okay, I’m lying, I need those too.

– I paid $55 for this and did not stream it illegally on the Internet. That’s why the screen caps are so pixelated, I have an old TV. I mean a new one. Whichever excuse you believe. Also, to my knowledge, everyone involved in this PPV was 18-or-more years old. And no animals were harmed, unless you count Michael Cole’s weird thing against vegan athletes.

– I don’t have a third bullet point, so I’ll use this space to say “keep Derrick Bateman on NXT”. I don’t know how redemption points work, I don’t know how long this season is supposed to run (we’re on week 40-something right now, I think) and I’m still not 100% on how to vote, but do what you can to keep this guy on WWE TV. Even if it’s WWE TV on the Internet.

Enjoy the Best and Worst of Summerslam.

Worst: America!

I feel kinda bad having “America” as my first worst, but watching “legendary guitarist from the rock band Tool” Adam Jones play a sub-Hendrix version of the Star-Spangled Banner to the WWE Universe while eagles and giant U.S. flags fly proudly in the background was one “compromised to a permanent end” away from being nationalistic Armageddon. And when I say “sub-Hendrix” I mean Dok Hendrix, because I Jimi would be spinning in his grave if I thought he was the kind of dead person who watched wrestling. And when I say “Armageddon” I don’t mean the pay-per-view, I mean Jesus was going to ride into the Staples Center on a sky horse and rapture Tool to Heaven. Actually, that might’ve happened, I didn’t see any of the other guys. It’s so bad I can’t even make jokes, I just have to tell you what happened. “One of the guys plays Stinkfist in front of Mt. Rushmore and I think I might die for my country.”

Oh well, I can only complain so much. He played the song and got out of there, and at no point danced with Alicia Fox or wore a sparkling wizard’s cape. I don’t know if you’ve seen the show yet or are reading this blind, but in case you don’t know what I’m talking about, stick around. Big Show has a baby with Rerun from “What’s Happening?” and he sings two songs for forty minutes.

Best: The Best And Worst Of Raw Memorial Six-Man Tag

The unscheduled opening match was Trios Action (© Mike Quackenbush) with Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston and John Morrison on one side, The Miz, R-Truth and Alberto Del Rio on the other. If you read my weekly Best And Worst Of Raw column you’ll know that I could fill eight pages of a multi-pager with asides from this match alone, so here is a quick lightning round Best and Worst recap of the bullsh** I say every week.

1. Rey Mysterio is great, but he never loses and you shouldn’t fall into position for a 619 because he walked near you
2. Kofi Kingston is great at jumping, really great at jumping, not really good at anything else
3. John Morrison thinks he’s great at jumping, but isn’t
4. The Miz is a personal favorite, but always seems like he’s pretending to be a wrestler rather than being a wrestler
5. R-Truth is Ernie Ladd outside the ring, Hardbody Harrison inside of it
6. Alberto Del Rio is wonderful, but he’s got New WWE smell on him so all he’s ever going to do is win championships and seem like a chump

This match didn’t do much to change those declarative numbers, but it was fine. It would’ve been a solid way to spend ten minutes of Raw, if it didn’t leave us with an hour and fifty minutes of Evan Bourne and Alex Riley doing a round robin with Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler. I really need to start doing a Best and Worst of Smackdown, don’t I? It would give me an entirely new set of talking points. Are you aware that Ezekiel Jackson does bodyslams? Did you know that AJ’s hips are the width of my fist? Did you know that is SUPER GREAT?

Best: Alex Riley Is Less Important Than What Wasn’t Scheduled

I will be okay reading one of two headlines today explaining why the Dolph Ziggler vs. Alex Riley United States Championship match happened before the show instead of on it in place of the six-man tag or Cee Lo Green’s mumbly jamboree or the fifteen Twix commercials. The first headline is “Alex Riley fails Wellness Test”. Or, I guess “WHICH WWE STAR FAILS BRUTAL WELLNESS TEST” and it turns out to be Alex Riley. I’m not saying I want the guy to be on drugs or anything, I would just be okay with that headline, especially if they made Hunico cut his hair like Butthead and pretend to be Alex Riley. The second headline I’d accept is something about how the guy playing as Alex Riley decided he wanted to do season mode with Undertaker instead of his create-a-wrestler and deleted him. Maybe Riley can return as a satanic clown or a “merc for hire” character when the guy finds his Raw disc two years from now and decides to play through it again. Best case scenario.

In all seriousness, I hope somebody took Alex Riley aside after Raw last week and said “hey kid, if you’re going to say somebody sh** in the widow’s mouth, you’ve got to be really good and popular so people excuse it.” And Riley’s all “but I’m good and popular” and Road Agent Billy Kidman (or whoever) goes “lol you couldn’t good and popular a flea market”.

Worst: Oh God, Stephanie McMahon

I got an unusual amount of negative feedback for last week’s Best and Worst Of Raw column because of how angry and pessimistic it was. It’s an honest assessment. I’m a longtime wrestling fan who started watching shortly after birth, and I’ve witnessed and lived through everything that’s happened since, including that Wrestlecrap you read about and can’t believe existed. I watched the Black Scorpion pay-per-view live in my cousin’s living room. I laughed with my Dad when the Shockmaster fell through the wall. I have a lot of happy memories of wrestling, especially for the bad stuff (my new goal is to collect every pay-per-view Ashley Massaro wrestled on … we miss you, you crazy punk rocker), but the column’s debut on With Leather coincided with Wrestlemania and the Summer of Punk, so I’ve gotten kinda pigeonholed as the “positive show reviewer guy”. I had somebody tell me I jumped the shark because I didn’t like an episode of Raw. How weird is that? I’ve watched 60,000 episodes of Raw and liked about 14 of them. I love wrestling and can put a positive spin on things, but Jesus, I’m a human being.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I’m going to try not to be so overwhelmingly negative, and that when Stephanie McMahon showed up to confront CM Punk my life started flashing before my eyes. I went into a sort of Internet epileptic shock. I can accept Triple H as a pro wrestler, and when he returns I don’t like it, but I understand it. If Hulk Hogan saunters in and starts cupping his ear to a naked picture of his daughter and “YOU!”-ing every 25-year old on the roster, I don’t like it, but I understand it. When Stephanie McMahon shows up my eyes roll back in my head and my brain shuts down. It’s the only defense I’ve got left. Love her or hate her, she’s got what WWE considers the “It Factor” — when she shows up, everything immediately becomes about her. That’s their definition. Think about everything she’s ever done, from getting engaged to Test to being pretend drugged and pretend raped by De-Corporation X to getting her dog run over by Chris Jericho to making out with Kurt Angle. Think about how every single one of those things ended. Think about how anything she’s doing now can possibly in, no matter how long you wait and no matter how much you see.

Argh, wait a minute, my hands are cramping up. blergh can’t type

Best: Match Of The Night

I think I might’ve known it going in, but Mark Henry vs. Sheamus was the match of the night. Okay, maybe not. But still, the match affectionately dubbed HOSSFIGHT 2K11 did exactly what it needed to do, namely “showcase two big strong guys clubbing the sh*t out of each other” and “make Brandon happy”. The reviews of the match online today have been great. They range from two-star “this was better than I expected” jerks to full-on Bleacher Report slideshows about how Sheamus is better than they thought. I’m not going to continually riff on the Internet’s perception of WWE (other than to say those guys who gave Sheamus/Henry two stars and Orton/Christian six-and-a-quarter can eat a dick), but this one reminded me of why I got into wrestling in the first place: spectacle.

I think it’s an underrated thing to look for in a match, because of how hard it is to accept and difficult to explain. When you’re an eight-year old, you don’t care about workrate. You just don’t. I can name everybody on the ICE Ribbon roster and loved The Great Muta when I was nine, but even my pretentious little ass started out as a little Stinger. I dressed up as Robert Gibson and Hawk from the Road Warriors on nonconsecutive Halloweens. I had the Hulk Hogan workout set and cassette and thought it was crazy voodoo magic when he was all “don’t give up now!” just as I was giving up. I was a little moron, like we all are, and I loved seeing gigantic guys fight each other. I didn’t astutely note how good Brad Armstrong was at putting together a match, I wanted to see Terry Gordy throw a dude. I think that’s the essence of childhood, and a reason other than “gay weirdo” why Vince McMahon and the like keep signing guys like Mason Ryan. We start out with action figures and move on to roleplaying games. That’s the circle of dork life.

Without trying to dissect it anymore, Sheamus and Henry was f**king on-point. Sheamus is like a literate Mike Awesome, moving around the ring like a cat and throwing jumping double-axehandles like a Rachel Summerlyn 1/17th his size. Mark Henry is still nestled in his golden age, moving as well as he ever has despite being BIGGER than ever, and I have absolutely no problem buying this silo-thick motherf**ker annihilating big and “threatening” but ultimately jokey dudes like Kane and Big Show. Mark Henry should do for the heavyweight division what Beth Phoenix and Natalya are claiming to do for Divas — smash flat anybody who says they’re tough but isn’t. Henry should be the measuring stick when The Great Khali is booty-popping somewhere backstage. He should be the one guy an eight-year old looks at, turns to his dad and says “I wouldn’t want to fight him”.

Worst: Understanding The Count-Out Finish

I loved this match’s finish. Loved it. Capital L, even if it wasn’t the first word in the sentence.

A lot of people chalk it up to “wanting to protect” both guys or “not wanting to bury” somebody (whatever that means), but it was perfect. Sheamus entered the match to prove he could “fight” and beat Henry. So when he throws a huge bomb near the end of the match and knocks Henry out of the ring, he does the (increasingly) noble thing by trying to get Henry back in, not wanting to take the “cheap” count-out victory. Mark Henry is able to take advantage of a mistake-by-way-of-sportsmanship, silverbacks him through the security railing and rolls back in without follow-up, happy to take the count-out. Sheamus isn’t out, though, and tries to crawl back toward the ring while a Staples Center full of people who didn’t give a sh*t about him a month ago cheer him on, hoping he can do it. He can’t. Three Six Mafia starts up and Henry bails (again, with absolutely zero follow-up), leaving Sheamus to continue his crawl into the ring, where he keeps crawling up the ropes until he’s on his feet.

That’s BEAUTIFUL storytelling. How do you not see it? It was a functional, non-melodramatic version of Austin and Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13. One guy just wants the W, one guy has something to prove. One guy acts like a coward, the other like a hero. That is basic, perfect pro wrestling. Good versus Evil on a moral level, without having to preface it with a 10 minute “you people” speech to explain who you should boo.

Best: Sheamus Is Going To Work

I loved him when he was killing guys twenty seconds into ECW and wanted him to beat John Cena for the WWE Championship, but even I came to use him as a Swaggeresque example of a guy pushed to the moon (pushed!) before he was ready. But you know what? I think he’s ready. I think he’s going to be an actual, real homegrown star pretty soon. He’s got Miz’s social charisma without Miz’s “thing”, he’s legitimately huge (Conan O’Brien is like 6-foot-four and Sheamus had a good three feet on him), he’s legitimately tough and sure, his skin looks like an envelope, but you know him when you see him. Try picking Eric Escobar out of a line-up. Oh, and he knows how to dress. I’m talking about both the vest ensembles AND the big green cape. He just works, and I’m glad he’s here.

He needs to stop doing that Oskar from Let The Right One In thing where he sticks his tongue out and chews himself every time he licks his lips, but he’s doing well.

Worst: Cee Lo Green Sings Two Songs For Forty Minutes

Wrestling show concerts are what they are. They’re never going to be good. If Derrick Bateman started coming out to “Reckoner” by Radiohead and WWE brought them in to play the track live at Wrestlemania 32 (or whatever) they’d screw it up and make it sound like a Danger Mouse remix of Seether. Or Hinder. Some white trash “er” band. Fer Factory. Anyway, Cee Lo Green, currently-popular musician, wandered out in a goth Macho Man robe and grunted through two of his songs while WWE’s most expendable ethnic Divas botched dancing in the background. It wasn’t very good. Divas always get carted out for these things, and it never works out well. How hard is it to combine beautiful women with popular music? Remember when Maryse tried to kiss Kid Rock on the mouth but he wasn’t paying attention, and by the time he turned around she’d already moved on? That’s the moment that best describes these attempts at Rock N’-things. If Cyndi Lauper isn’t animated and driving Wendi Richter around in a jalopy, I’m not interested.

I think it was sort of hurt by the fact that we heard IT’S ALL RIGHT, IT’S ALL RIGHT, IT’S ALL RIGHT IT’S ALL RIGHT IT’S ALL RIIIIII-HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT before and after every match. It was also hurt by the fact that “F**k You” is now and forever “Forget You”, and by the fact that Cee Lo only had to sing two songs and resorted to pointing the mic at the crowd like that asshole from Say Anything by the middle of the second. Stand still and sing, Cee Lo, I know you can do it, and it looks like it’s hard for you to walk.

Worst: Why Is Alicia Fox A Sailor

Nobody else was wearing a sailor hat. Cee Lo Green isn’t a sailor. What are you doing, Alicia Fox?

Best: Kelly Kelly Brings Her Candy Cane Worker Boots

After 10 or 70 aborted attempts to create the new Trish Stratus (Candice Michelle, Christy Hemme, Maria, Ashley, Eve Torres, I’m looking in all of your directions … especially yours, Ashley), it looks like WWE might’ve finally stumbled upon it with Kelly Kelly. Of course, I’m using the actual definition of Trish Stratus here. Revisionist history writes Trish as the greatest Diva champion of all time, putting on great matches despite being a beautiful blonde. ACTUAL Trish Stratus is a fitness model who went from god awful to endearingly okay despite the fact that she messed up her finisher 9.9 out of 10 times. Kelly Kelly is starting to become endearingly okay.

I thought Kelly was going to get forearmed a few times and mess up a stink face before she got dropped on her head and pinned, but the surprisingly lucid Kelly channeled her Inner-DDP and put together something bordering on fantastic, at least in the way that exhibits at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not can be fantastic. She pulled off that cool schoolboy in the corner, made her hopping backflip look somewhat realistic for the first time ever (possibly by accident) and even added a joshi-esque RAHHHHH as she ran into the ropes and knocked Beth off the apron. And by God, she did it with FORCE. Kelly Kelly ran the ropes with FORCE. Kelly has been afraid of the ropes since 2006. Watching her head toward a rope has been like watching Indiana Jones in a snake pit, and here she is running and screaming and throwing hands. God bless her. That’s the Trish we’ve been looking for. I haven’t been this excited for a goofy Diva babyface since Candice watched a bunch of Susumu Yokosuka tapes and kept hurting herself trying to elaborately cradle Melina.

Worst: I Can’t Believe It, But Beth Phoenix

Never in my life would’ve I have believed that Beth Phoenix was the lesser pro wrestler in a Kelly Kelly Beth Phoenix match. What happened? Beth seemed like her two match notes were “mess with your new outfit” and “stand there”. Where was the domination? Where was the brutality? The Divas Of Future Past angle has just started, so most of us were thinking there’d be a Glam Slam, a Natalya-filled beatdown and pink lip gloss flowing like blood. What we got was an extended squash, with the tough person we buy as a real pro wrestler getting K2’d into oblivion. Really, what happened?

Best: “Can Somebody Explain To Me Why Eve Torres Is Always Around?”

Michael Cole made me laugh out loud by asking this question, one vindicated by the fact that Eve did and contributed nothing during the Kelly/Beth match. Booker (who gets a standing “best” for his RIGHT THERE IS EVE TORRES, AND EVE TORRES RIGHT THERE IS GONNA GET IT ON RIGHT HERE commentary that does nothing but makes me talk like DMX all night) and Lawler tried the counterpoint of “who doesn’t want to see Eve?”, which I guess is a positive thing for them to try because she IS employed and we’re supposed to like her, but Cole’s deadpan “I don’t want to see Eve” and me raising my hand at home were more important. If Eve wasn’t a loosely-associated part of the Blonde Ladies Storylines she’d have been under the sailor hat popping booty behind Dungeon Master Cee Lo Green.

Wrestling Diva hierarchy is a surprisingly prejudiced thing, but nobody notices because they never hire any ethnically-diverse women who can wrestle. If Kelly Kelly pulls a shady-ass disappointing White Power thing on Alicia Fox nobody feels compelled to speak up, because it sucks, but at least we don’t have to see Alicia Fox. If Kelly was getting championship matches while Mercedes Martinez, Portia Perez, Cheerleader Melissa and Athena were dancing behind Cee Lo? I mean, how would you feel?

Best: R-Truth Is Writing His Own Dugouts

For those of you who came to With Leather through these Best and Worst columns and don’t know me professionally, my big claim-to-Internet-fame is The Dugout, a Major League Baseball chatroom webcomic thing where baseball players curse at each other and have pun screen names. I spent four years doing them for AOL FanHouse (in the long long ago, before the Fantasy Sports Girls came) and do them here, and no, I still haven’t figured out why people pay me for them. Anyway, the way I write a Dugout is as follows:

1. Come up with the worst joke ever
2. Find a really wordy, roundabout way of getting to the punchline
3. Put it on the Internet
4. Refresh for comments
5. Repeat step 4

I take that approach with some aspects of Best and Worst, and while I want to come up with another New Gods-type of thing for R-Truth’s backstage segment where he suddenly becomes managed by “Mouth Of The South” Jimmy Hart, then dismisses him because he said the words “little” and “Jimmy” beside each other in a sentence (triggering the brain fart that sends him into schizophrenic mania) is its own Dugout. It is a terrible punchline (Jimmy Hart is little and named Jimmy, R-Truth hates Little Jimmy) with a wordy, scenic trip to the punchline (I’ve got to think BIG, not LITTLE, JIMMY) put on the Internet (cough, I mean my television) and I want to keep refreshing it and watching it over and over.

I want them to keep doing stuff like this forever. Is Jim Powers’ bloated Tito Santana-looking ass still alive? Bring him in as Big Jimmy.

Best: Daniel Bryan Is Maybe The Best NXT Rookie Ever

It’s either him or Maxine, I haven’t decided yet.

But no, there’s a reason Bryan Danielson is my favorite professional wrestler in the goddamn world, and it has little to nothing to do with his chocolate syrup underoos. Dragon (they came so close to calling him “American Dragon”, he had the jacket and the burgundy trunks, argh, do it) can get a good-to-great match out of anybody, even Azriel, so seeing him get an 11:47* showcase match on pay-per-view against another guy who could use a 12-minute slobberknocker in Wade Barrett is a fantastic call. As much as I want to be the outraged guy on the Internet, I think I just want to see Daniel Bryan wrestle for about 15 minutes on every show. I don’t care if he wins or loses, really. I want him to win, but I don’t get doom and gloom about it. At this point in his career he’s at LEAST as successful as Mr. Kennedy (secondary title, Money in the Bank winner, Money in the Bank winner who will probably get speared by Christian in two weeks and lose it) and that’s all I can ask out of my darling indy wrestlers. I wish Barry Sagittarius was as successful as Mr. Kennedy.

Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett was the bomb, but you don’t need me to tell you that. If you’re going to keep aping spots from the Nigel McGuinness series, I would like to suggest the “hide under the ring surprise small package” from Cleveland, the Superman dives into the crowd, and Wade Barrett bashing his face into an unprotected steel post until he has a bocce ball-sized knot on his forehead.

*Thanks, 411 Wrestling.

Best: Allow Me To Fantasy Book Myself

Fantasy booking isn’t my style, but it’s what the kids who read about wrestling come to see, so here goes: If WWE is continuing its love affair with the Internet and keeps cherry-picking talent from Ring Of Honor like its a developmental territory, they should choose Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima as the next story to redo. Daniel Bryan can be Bryan Danielson, Mark Henry can be Morishima. Tell me how much you’d love to see Mark Henry continue his reign of terror until Wrestlemania, where a bloody Daniel Bryan wraps a chain around his forearm and elbows him to death. I want everything, the f**ked-up eye socket, the time keeper’s hammer, everything. The World Heavyweight Championship can sub for the sweet UWF-looking championship ROH had before their belt had to look like something you’d win in Josh’s Extreme Wrestlin’ Fed.

We can keep Wade Barrett as Nigel and have him win the belt on his 52nd try. Ha, I just realized this analogy makes Randy Orton Homicide. How perfect is that?

Worst: Wasteland Sucks

Wasteland is such a terrible finisher it gives me +1 radiation per second when I stand near it. It’s such a terrible finisher I want to fast travel from Megaton to the end of the pay-per-view just so I don’t have to walk through it. I haven’t seen a Wasteland this sh*tty since New Vegas.

Worst: Stephanie McMahon, Lone Wanderer

And the joke continues!

Watching Stephanie McMahon clandestinely walk around backstage just made me feel uncomfortable. Sure, I mentioned my problems with Stephanie earlier in the report, but whenever WWE goes out of its way to show you something, it invariably leads to a terrible thing you should’ve expected. There is zero chance that Stephanie is walking around backstage because she works there and is married to one of the wrestlers. No, she’s back there because somebody’s going to get shoved into a flaming dumpster or have their nuts adhered to a car battery. Somebody’s going to make out with Eric Bischoff while he’s pretending to be Stephanie McMahon’s dad.

Whoops, I just got Advanced Radiation Poisoning.

Worst: Commercials On Pay-Per-View

Did you pay $55 to watch Summerslam? Pay $1 more and enjoy a delicious Twix! Eat it while enjoying an all new episode of In Plain Sight, only on USA. Characters welcome!

Commercials on pay-per-view is a terrible idea, especially when they’re the same commercials we have to see 9 or 1400 times during an episode of Raw. I don’t know if they’re in some kind of binding contract with the iron-fisted Twix people and Big Candy will shut them down if they don’t air the short version of the lethargic homosexual cops commercial x amount of times, but I’m willing to buy a case of Twix if they make it stop. A case, and I don’t even eat chocolate. I’ve seen it so many times I’m starting to see Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston in that car.

Worst: That Puddle Of Mudd Guy Is A Hypocrite

Christian’s secret weapon against Randy Orton was Trevor Moore, star of the hit film Miss March: Unrated Edition. The guy told him to stop being such a vaginal coward and bailed. As a secondary secret weapon, Christian called Trish Stratus to the ring, who proceeded to hit him over the head with an oversized jar of Ass Cream. Christian’s third secret weapon was … I don’t know, punching himself in the face?

I have a love-hate relationship with Edge the character, but Edge the Regular Guy Speaking has always made me mad. Something about the way he talks. He could be telling me I’d just won the lottery and I’d do a mocking “black comedian’s white guy voice” thing and tell him to shut up. Edge calling out Christian for being a coward when he was the “ultimate opportunist” is the best instance of forgotten history accepted as fact because it’s being said by a guy we love since The Rock talked about how he earned the nicknames “The Great One” and “The People’s Champ”. No you didn’t, Rocky, you gave yourself those nicknames because nobody liked you and you wanted to make them mad. Edge, you’re the guy who lovelessly married Vickie Guerrero to get title shots. You speared Tommy Dreamer’s wife and made humping motions while you pinned her. You KIDNAPPED PAUL BEARER AND TORTURED HIM FOR MONTHS, LEADING TO HIS ACCIDENTAL DEATH. Nothing you did was “with style, with panache”, you have star and skull tattoos and wear leggings with mudflap designs on them. Don’t make me make a big list.

Best: Stupid Randy Orton Is Kinda Great

Randy Orton, I guess ideally enough, falls somewhere between John Cena and Triple H on that scale of guys who have to main event everything no matter what. For the longest time, barring that two week span where he’d punted Mr. McMahon and we thought he was going to be A Thing, he was the stalest, crappiest, most boring top shelf guy ever. His signature moves were a chinlock and “stomping”. He wore phony Affliction t-shirts and beat everybody, handicapped or no, on one leg or not. They just kept jumping and springboarding into him and he’d hit his big finisher (which should hurt the same as a drop toehold, if you’re one of those picky “Attitude Adjustment sucks” types).

A couple of months ago, Orton started losing his mind. Not the forced HE’S GOING TO A PLACE WHEREIN HE HEARS VOICES, KING and THAT’S RIGHT COLE RANDY ORTON THE PREDATORY VIPER IS GOING TO A PLACE WHERE VOICES MAY BE HEARD thing. He started doing jumping toe-touches and losing his balance on ringside tables and bordering on the clinically ill. He’s like an R-Truth who is supposed to be tough. At first it seemed like he wasn’t taking things seriously or was doing something wrong, but no, I think he’s just getting good again.

Consider the weird bloody thumbs up at the end of the match. Consider how closely Orton comes to mimicking an actual wild animal, flopping around and seething and making funny faces like a goat might if he was put into a ring with another mean goat. I’m not sure he’s a snake, but he’s something. He’s like Ernest P. Worrell in the body of Evolution Randy Orton. Is the voice inside his head Vern? Is that why Ernest was always talking to the camera and calling it Vern? Was he actually alone the entire time? I feel like Orton’s going to snap Christian down with an RKO and pop up as Auntie Nelda.

Best: Everything About Christian/Orton, Except That One Thing

I’m not going to give this one four and 0.244 stars like some, but I enjoyed the No Holds Barred match and liked that they made an effort to work in a spot or moment for every piece of plunder introduced. Far too often someone like New Jack will bring a Super Nintendo to the ring in his grocery cart and it’ll just lie there on the ground, and you’re like COME ON NEW JACK HIT BIG SAL WHATEVER HIS NAME IS WITH THE SUPER NINTENDO. But he just plays guitar and hits Sal Whatever with it and then stabs him a bunch. That sucks. Orton tosses trashcans into the ring, he DDTs Christian onto trash cans. The table spot is brought back like Paul Heyman’s interpretation of Misawa/Kawada and boom, it gets used. Orton even gets a callback to his The Passion of John Cena I Quit match with the kendo sticks. It was beautifully paced and intelligently worked as most Orton/Christian matches are, except for that one thing.

Worst: That One Thing

Orton controlled the end of the match, powerslamming Christian through the bottom of the table (and making an awesome noise), DDTing him onto garbage, hitting him with sticks. He sets up for the RKO on the steel steps and I say outloud “Orton’s going to lose this match”. My trick knee was acting up, I don’t know. Anyway, sure enough Christian comes up with a stick and swats Orton in the side of the head with it. So what does he do? He turns and springboards off the second rope and jumps toward the steps.

Like, okay.

I don’t want to nitpick every unrealistic finish, and yes, I know irish whips don’t make sense and yes, I believe leapfrogs serve a purpose and yes, I know the Stone Cold Stunner is just bending over at the waist and would hurt less than a punch or any mild irritant. But what the sh*t was Christian planning to do, exactly? There was no possible move he could’ve hit from that position. In a normal match, like the one where he FIRST jumped into an RKO, he could’ve been going for a sunset flip or something. Nope, not here. He was going for a JUMP STOMACH FIRST ONTO THE STEPS. I hate that. I hate it when a guy goes up to the second rope and raises his hands over his head for a double axe-handle and just jumps into a standing position beside his opponent so they can get their foot up and kick him in the face. This was that, but worse, because everybody who works with Randy Orton should know not to jump toward him, especially (especially) when you’re jumping over objects. Christ. You deserved to lose this match, Christian, you vaginal coward.

Best: The First 26 Minutes Of Michaels Vs. Mankind

I loved it. I loved this match. I loved it more than the Money in the Bank match, which only really got my attention because of how important it seemed. This was the first WWE match since maybe Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler where all the transitions and moves had me interested, and I wanted to know what was happening and where they were going with it. I feel like I needed to say that first, because of all the negativity I’m probably going to spill. Most of you reading this report know what happened at the end of this match, but just like Shawn Michaels and Mankind from In Your House 10: Mind Games, the body of the match is so fantastic that years from now it will hopefully be on a DVD somewhere regardless of its finish. The first 26 minutes of Michaels/Mankind was some of the best and most progressive North American wrestling of the 90s, introducing Foley’s signature weirdness into a WWE main event scene full of Bret Hart or British Bulldog types and being one of the first instances of Shawn’s fourth-wall breaking hissy-fit bullcorn. It was great.

So was Cena/Punk II (because I guess only pay-per-view matches get numbers). Cena took my advice (my personal advice, I’m sure) and brought back the change-up on the five moves of doom, getting cut off in the shoulderblocks but still busting out the Protobomb out of nowhere to keep up the rhythm. Everything hit hard, nothing seemed forced, and John Cena broke out not only his Emerald Flowsion, not only a Crippler Crossface, but the most awesome and hilarious dropkick ever. He still had Erik Watts form, but he got UP THERE. Punk is Punk, and even his requisite “springboard clothesline I should probably stop doing because I’m just jumping into other peoples’ moves” worked. I wouldn’t give this five stars, because I have a very stringent star-scale and don’t award anything f**king stars, but for the equivalent of that first 26 minutes it was one to remember.

Worst: The Last 25 Seconds Of Michaels Vs. Mankind

I feel like Michaels/Mankind might be a bad analogy. Let’s try Apocalypse Now. Francis Ford Coppola builds suspense for 150 minutes with some of the best writing, acting and filmmaking you’ve ever seen, and it ends with a bunch of dudes slaughtering an ox. That’s what happened when Cena put his foot on the rope and Triple H didn’t see it. They spent half an hour building suspense with great pro wrestling and then slaughtered a f**king ox. Cena’s weird thing where he argues the call with the umpire continued to happen and Punk just kinda lingered around not getting any crazy amount of cheers because everybody in the building went “okay, that can’t be it, he’s going to restart the match. Okay, Cena’s leaving. He’s going to call him back out when he sees the replay. Hup, okay now Triple H is leaving and Punk’s celebrating. This can’t be it.”

Worst: John Cena Is Never Worn Down, Cole!

I also don’t want to rag too much on the announcing last night, because while they had their moments on unbearable white noise they toned it down when they needed to. The worst moment, though, was Michael Cole saying CM Punk was wearing Cena down with submission holds and Lawler piping in to correct him. “Wearing him down? Heh!” Jerry Lawler has been watching John Cena wrestle for years and he’s NEVER seen him worn down!

I think the problem comes with Lawler’s definition of “worn down”. Maybe he means he’s never seen Cena wanting to give up. The point we all got at home is “John Cena is going to no sell this in a minute, Cole, because he always does that. He just gets up like nothing happened and does his moves until he wins, and then poses on the turnbuckles and salutes and forgets everything happened. For you see, Michael, John Cena never gives up.” How the hell do you have a Hall of Fame job as a wrestling announcer and not know you should avoid saying “he’s fine, none of this hurts”? When did Jerry Lawler become Mark Madden?

Best, But It Almost Feels Like A Worst: Alberto Del Rio, WWE Champion

Something happened, and then,

Okay, so Alberto Del Rio is finally WWE Champion. There’s a solid chance that Triple H (being better and stronger and smarter than everyone) will review the tape on Monday and realize Cena’s foot was on the rope, thereby nullifying CM Punk’s championship win (and by proxy, Alberto’s) and causing the match to continue. This will ruin CM Punk’s day, it’ll ruin Alberto’s, it’ll ruin Rey Mysterio’s because he’s supposed to have another title shot. As anybody can tell you, the most obvious way to go is a big thing at Night of Champions with everyone involved.

That obvious realization makes me pretty scared that Alberto Del Rio is going to keep the title during the Mexico tour and get screwed out of it somehow, making the guy who with a little work could become our generation’s Ted DiBiase (at least more than our generation’s ACTUAL Ted DiBiase) look like a wiener for about the 50th consecutive time. Of course, this is all conjecture and I will have to wait and see what happens before jumping to a bunch of conclusions. I just don’t want to see guys I like getting the runaround by guys I don’t. I think that’s wrestling fandom in a nutshell, isn’t it? You want to see the guys you like do well, and there’s a reason they don’t, and you hate that reason.

That being said …

Worst: Don’t Tell Me To Wait And See What Happens With Kevin Nash


As a person who was watching when Nash debuted as a Master Blaster, as a person who was watching when Nash debuted as Oz, when he debuted as Vinnie Vegas, when he showed up as Diesel, showed up on Nitro to point out adjectives (“play”) and powerbomb Eric Bischoff through things and all the way through the Fingerpoke Of Doom and the paparazzi stuff with Alex Shelley and the tag team matches where the guy who gets the pinfall wins the world title I have had enough of waiting and seeing what happens with this guy. He clearly has a great mind for the wrestling business and could probably be a great asset to the company, but damn, how many times do I have to see this guy pinning Goldberg and unmasking Rey Mysterio before I’m allowed to assume he’ll be terrible?

I don’t want to jump to conclusions. I don’t. I don’t want to be overwhelmingly negative and make you think I’ve jumped the shark. But I lived through a very real wrestling fan reality when Hulk Hogan showed up in WCW in the 90s and replaced my favorite wrestlers with his sh*tty friends (goodbye Cactus Jack and Stunning Steve, hello Nasty Boys and Brutus Beefcake, goodbye forever credible Vader), and I don’t want this to happen with a WWE I’ve learned to love again. I don’t really like it when Triple H pedigrees Zack Ryder and makes him look like a POS. I don’t really like it when 52-year old Just For Men Kevin Nash shows up and instantly trounces one of the hottest new acts they’ve found. And yeah, it could lead to awesome Nash/Punk interaction and a lot of fun stuff, and I don’t know where it’s gonna go. But damn, I want my plane ride to go from point A to point B sometimes without dipping its nose and making me wait to see where it goes.

What I’m saying is that if X-Pac or some form of Billy Gunn shows up on Raw tomorrow night, I’m out.