Wrestling Worth Watching: WWE Raw (10/17/11) and SmackDown! (10/21/11)

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WWE Raw (10/17/11)

Mexican Fans: They were given a mess of a storyline with a failed 90s jobber (Johnny Ace) at the focal point and a main event featuring Jim Ross and Michael Cole, two men whose voices they only hear on TV if directly involved in an angle. Despite that, the crowd’s reaction to everything was absolutely amazing. The WWE should do Raw and SmackDown in other countries more regularly, especially if they can figure out a way of doing them live.

Triple H Has Immigration Issues: Stopping him from delivering a 20-minute monolog. Huzzah!

Swaggler On the Mic: The WWE have been fairly liberal with mic time lately, and it’s resulted in the reemergence of both Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger as the future of the company. Ziggler is just a very good, free-wheeling talker. Swagger, in Mexico, decided to sing the Star Spangled Banner, which was great 1) because of his lisp, 2) because of the crowd’s reaction, and 3), because he lost his place and blamed said crowd. Swagger’s match against Zack Ryder and Ziggler’s against Mason Ryan were nothing too special, but if they’re on the mic, I’m listening.

Jim Ross: Few men in the current WWE can get away with calling somebody else a “son of a bitch.” Few men in WWE history can do it quite like Jim Ross.

Michael Cole’s Horrifying Orange Singlet: BEHOLD!

Jim Ross Makes Michael Cole Tap Out: Pretty much the only positive match-related thing of Raw, which was mostly yakking and fistfights. The Mexican crowd ate it up (I don’t know why), but they deserved better than John Cena’s C-game and an encounter between two American non-wrestlers.

Questionable Decision of the Week: Having the finish between Jim Ross and Michael Cole decide the stipulation for the WWE Title match between John Cena and Alberto Del Rio. Their storyline has been sadly inessential ever since shunting CM Punk to the side at Summerslam, and now they’re going to settle it in a Last Man Standing Match because Jim Ross made Michael Cole tap out to an ankle lock. I’ve always thought that the face works better in his role if he’s at a disadvantage, but Cena, by choosing one of his specialty matches and making Del Rio look chumpy (a shot with the ring steps put Del Rio away for a very fast 10 count), it’s another situation where it looks like Cena can’t lose. That makes things less interesting than they already were, which is too bad.

WWE SmackDown! (10/21/11) (Watch it on YouTube)

The Response to Alberto Del Rio: The scuttlebutt on these here interwebs had it that Del Rio was only WWE champion because of the quick Mexican tour. If that was indeed their intent, it was a great idea. Fan reaction to Del Rio was intense all week long, and his entrance on SmackDown was akin to the Chicago crowd’s response to CM Punk at this year’s Money in the Bank PPV. It didn’t surprise me, considering that Del Rio is 1) awesome and 2) the first Mexican-born WWE Champion ever, but crowd reactions like Del Rio’s are absolute gold.

Mark Henry vs. John Morrison: If John Morrison is on his way out, as many suggest, you wouldn’t know it from the way he bumps around the ring for Mark Henry in this match, which got more play than their Raw encounter. Morrison’s finishing maneuver again looks pretty chumpy when a guy kicks out of it at one, but watching him get wrecked by the still-awesome Mark Henry is the most enjoyable Morrison’s been, for me, since his run as ECW Champion.

Daniel Bryan Won’t Be Shaving His Beard Until WrestleMania: Be still, my beating heart.

Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan: Not as good as their Summerslam-stealing effort a few months ago, but given the constraints of a TV time limit, Barrett and Bryan continue to demonstrate great chemistry (though everybody probably has chemistry with Daniel Bryan). It’s a wonder why their feud didn’t go on longer.

Michael Cole Brings G.I. Bro Up: Which is streets ahead of making fun of Booker T for being in Harlem Heat.

Cody Rhodes: He is awesome. You already knew that. He’s also maybe the first person who has managed to make Randy Orton somewhat interesting to anybody beyond Randy Orton fans since Randy came into his own as a fixture in the main event scene. Granted, Orton is still really boring, but at least I want to see the match he’s involved in.

Máscara contra Máscara: It hasn’t really translated in the ring, but the Sin Cara vs. Sin Cara feud has been an interesting blend of lucha libre and WWE storytelling, the importance of identity and the desire for revenge. In Mexico City, the two Sin Caras collided for what is, I think, the WWE’s first mask vs. mask match, which joins a short list of American lucha de apuesta contests. This match was incredibly important for another reason, too: If Sin Cara (Mistico) failed to have a great match in front of a hometown audience against a guy wrestling his style, I’m not sure how much longer he would have lasted in the WWE. It wasn’t the best match of either man’s career, but it was a good one, the best of either’s WWE tenure thus far. In a nice touch, Sin Cara got to win with his Mexican finisher, La Mistica, a headscissors/armbar combo. If, in a few years, we’ve forgotten all about Sin Cara’s first few months in the WWE, I think this match will probably be the watershed moment where everything went right and things for the former Mistico started rolling in the right direction.

Michael Cole’s Reportage on Sin Cara Negro’s Visage: “He’s normal, with a crew cut.”

To Booker T, this picture represents the ugliest thing in the world.

Beth and Natalya Get Microphone Time: And sound way less awkward than most divas do on the mic. After Beth and Natalya turned heel, it was only a matter of time before they started getting the facetime necessary to establish themselves as the duo the rest of the divas would need to gun for. Adding that submission move was a great idea, and dropping the lame “eat your vegetables” platitudes was wise. Now they’re only about hurting people to cause the fans some anguish.

Big Show Doing Push-Ups: PUSH-UPS.

Ricardo Rodriguez’s Utter Disdain For Mexico: This man can do no wrong. For my money, the best male valet ever (note, there’s a difference between “valet” and “manager”).

Alberto Del Rio vs. The Big Show: Nothing super fancy, and the cross-armbreaker spot used here was better utilized in the match between Sara Del Ray and Claudio Castagnoli, but the Big Show’s first match in four moths is probably his best singles outing in a few years. He was rejuvenated as Chris Jericho’s tag team partner, but he hasn’t looked this surehanded on his own since his run as the ECW Champion, way back in 2006. Somehow, I’m looking forward to his match against Mark Henry at Vengeance, when, previously, a match between the two would make me reconsider my decision to watch.

Questionable Decision of the Week I: Sheamus’ nickname, “The Great White,” is now official, appearing on the TitanTron as he heads down to the ring. Of course, the WWE probably wants it to make people think of the great white shark, but anybody watching with even a modicum of sports history knowledge will associate the nickname with the phrase “great white hope,” which dates back to the days when Jack Johnson, an African-American, was a threat to the heavyweight championship of boxing. When he finally won a world championship, the press actually begged for a “great white hope” to prove Caucasian athletic supremacy. Long story short, if Sheamus starts feuding with Mark Henry for the World Heavyweight Championship, his nickname is going to become a cringe-machine.

Questionable Decision of the Week II: Every diva beyond Beth and Natalya has pretty much the worst theme music since the American Males. Every song–every song–is about how hot the diva is, and is usually sung by some lifeless schmoe who’d be doing the world more good by working late-shift at the local Waffle House. Compare and contrast:

I think my dislike of a lot of wrestlers directly correlates to how miserable their theme music makes me. Sure, talent is one thing, but I can look beyond that when you’re taking up less than 1% of my week. Run afoul of my musical sensibilities, and that all changes. Eve, like Kelly Kelly, Brooke Tessmacher, and a litany of women the WWE’s hired who’ve gradually transformed into wrestlers, have all improved, but with their music and the commentary team reminding me that I’m supposed to like these women because they’re attractive, I tend to look past the positives and detest that which is rammed down my throat.