Wrestling Worth Watching: WWE Raw (10/31/11), SmackDown! (11/4/11) and Webshows
Another week, another tweak: It doesn’t make much sense to split up posts for the WWE’s televised content and their webshows, nor would it be entirely fair to an independent promotion if I spent half of a post talking about their work ethic and general awesomeness and the other half talking about how thankful I am that Maxine and Derrik Bateman actually kiss in a wrestling relationship. So NXT and Superstars are migrating here, to the weekly post about the WWE. Indie promotions and WWE’s developmental company, Florida Championship Wrestling, will get their own post starting next week. TNA and ROH, TV options two and three, will continue to get their own post, and pay per views will receive coverage separate from everything else, even if wrestling threatens to choke the slider bar on the main page out. I’m formulating a full blown schedule of posts for Fear of a Ghost Planet, but for now, much like the early 90s, if it’s the weekend, that must mean it’s time for some wrestling.
WWE Raw (10/31/11)
Before I go into a full-blown recap of Raw, allow me to vent: There are few things in pop culture that I love as much as pro-wrestling, and, of those things, the Muppets are probably tops, so much so that I once had a blog about them. This isn’t really the time or place to get into why I love Jim Henson’s ragtag creations, but I approached Monday Night’s episode with the sort of nervous trepidation I anticipate the new Muppet movie with. Yes, the Muppets are iconic and timeless and capable of making me happy on sight, and yes, two of my favorite things were colliding in ways most people with two favorite things never experience. This wasn’t that scene in Toy Story 3 where Andy had to choose between Woody and Buzz–both of my childhood preoccupations were on my TV screen at the same time. But, going into Raw, I knew I’d only be seeing the Muppets by proxy, Kermit the Frog & Co. as written by a group of people who, if you ask the typical manifesto blogging wrestling fan, don’t know their own product, let alone Jim Henson’s. It’s been a long time–a very long time–since the Muppets did anything resembling the gang’s Jim Henson heydey, and while the film looks like it’ll return them to form, Frank Oz doesn’t seem too convinced, and promoting your film on the same platform used to promote The Goods and the continued existence of David Arquette doesn’t fill me with confidence, either. The hit-to-miss ratio on this episode of Raw was about 50/50, but I’m heavily biased and tremendously optimistic, so feel free to disagree. I won’t be complaining about Santino/Jack Swagger this week, though, as I’m pretty much convinced that the WWE abandoned the Swagger train in 2010 and is never getting back on.
Booking Mark Henry vs. CM Punk: Even though it lasted less than three minutes, it was teased and I want more. If this match doesn’t happen on pay per view sometime within the next five months, I will be very, very sad.
Statler and Waldorf: They were easily the best part of a generally weak show. They were even afforded a private box. Rather than post the miserable bits that led to their best lines, I’ll let the screencap do the talking:
CM Punk Gets Del Rio to Give Him a Match: If nothing else, the segment that saw CM Punk get his title match against Alberto Del Rio at Survivor Series brought back the Anaconda Vice, Punk’s awesome ECW-era finishing submission move that hasn’t gotten nearly enough play since it’s last big moment, a shady submission victory over the Undertaker in 2009.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder: Good match, great finish. Ryder has been more interesting in the ring than on YouTube of late, and that’s probably a good thing. If he gets a US Title match against Ziggler at Survivor Series, in Madison Square Garden, it’ll be the biggest victory the internet and wrestling fans have ever scored over the intelligentsia who are convinced that we’d rather see Mason Ryan in Ryder’s spot.
Questionable Decision of the Week I: Telling the world that the Rock was going to respond to John Cena, only to have him BRING IT via satellite again. I love The Rock as much as anybody else who grew up in the Attitude Era, but watching him literally mail it in from exotic locale after exotic locale is getting tiresome, especially since he’s now robbing time and heat from guys who could actually use the TV time. If the Rock is getting a three hour Raw to himself a week or two before Survivor Series, why does he need ten minutes that could have gone to Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan, or Tyson Kidd? Why should he get that time? The WWE has put a lot of time and money into the John Cena vs. The Rock Wrestlemania main event next year, so much so that the Miz was a sidedish to his own Wrestlemania main event, so much so that The Rock will be the recipient of two very special episodes of Raw. What I’ve gotten from this, beyond one or two very good promos way back in March, is a mostly horrible Wrestlemania 27, a promise for 28, and a Rock so unlikable that I wish he’d either go back to making Disney movies or time travel to 1995, when people were willing to tell him that he sucked.
Rocky’s video promo was so grating that Fear of a Ghost Planet contributor Dante checked in with his opinion on it, as well:
It isn’t merely the fact that The Rock keeps bogarting the spotlight but why he’s doing it. Simple fact would be that those who miss the Attitude Era will buy Surivivor Series and that in of itself is sad. It’s like trying to buy a memory. The Rock should either come back or stay gone. This purgatory of cutting crappy internet promos is on par with Cena’s rap routine and I for one really wish I could see none of them.
Questionable Decision of the Week II: Having John Cena beat the Miz in extremely clean fashion (via submission) despite R-Truth’s interference, then having Cena give Truth an Attitude Adjustment. Bringing the Rock in for a Survivor Series tag team match is the equivalent of bringing atomic weaponry to a Super Soaker fight. I know that the Rock is coming back for the sake of a few extra buys on pay per view, but, like Dante says, that tactic is pretty sad.
Questionable Decision of the Week III: Not replacing Michael Cole with Statler and Waldorf for the week. This video could have happened, but totally didn’t:
WWE NXT: Redemption (11/2/11) (Watch it on YouTube)
The Derrik Bateman/Maxine Romance Video: Took place to the cheesiest wedding song of all time. Somebody producing NXT has a sense of humor, which may explain why the “prize” for surviving what seems like ten years of wrestling purgatory is a spot on the next season of NXT.
William Regal: The only three man booth I want to see is William Regal, Statler, and Waldorf.
The Usos vs. Tyson Kidd & Johnny Curtis: Johnny Curtis, marooned on a desert island after winning NXT Season 4, finally comes back to something like TV after it’s learned that making a lot of puns and getting killed by Mark Henry isn’t an effective means of introduction. He teams with Tyson Kidd, who could probably make a corned beef sandwich look amazing as a tag team partner or opponent, and takes on the Usos, who are pretty much the WWE’s best regular tag team, now that Air Boom is on the shelf for 30 days with Evan Bourne’s recent suspension. Watch this match for the end, which sees Kidd’s attempt at a dive foiled by the Usos, who then launch him into the barricade. Watch this match for Kidd in general, and for Curtis, who ispretty good. Watch it for the Usos. Watch it for tag team wrestling. Watch it because it’s good, and that’s reason enough.
Kaitlyn vs. Tamina: I imagine this is what Beth Phoenix’s matches would be like if she were facing women who didn’t have hollow bird bones and Maxim covershoots. Granted it’s still not a SHIMMER-level masterpiece, but the two women clubbered each other silly, didn’t rely on awkward ass-centric offense, and would be a welcome breath of fresh air on the main roster.
William Regal’s Fascinating Maxine Fact of the Week: The black sheep of the family is an unsavory bishop from the Isle of Bute. He owns a combined trifold factory in Nacker’s Yard (note: I may have misheard him here) and, in his spare time, he likes to take unsavory pictures of Shetland ponies.
William Regal Name Check’s Curtis Mayfield: If he were any more awesome, the sight of him would cause my head to explode.
WWE Superstars (11/3/11) (Watch it on YouTube)
Yoshi Tatsu vs. Tyson Kidd: These two have had the best in-ring feud of 2011, but nobody cares because it’s been on NXT and was over an action figure. Here, on Superstars, they’re fighting because of some tweets the two exchanged, which is better than an action figure, but still stupid and something I’m not going to bother looking for. This was, without question, the match of the week. In a fair universe, Yoshi and Tyson would get to open Survivor Series, but this isn’t 1995, and that time will likely go to the Michael Cole Challenge. Do yourself a favor and put on WWE Superstars this week. It’s only 40 minutes, and 15 of them are spent wonderfully.
Drew McIntyre vs. John Morrison: Two guys struggling to find their footing on the main roster having a very good match on a webshow nobody watches? Must be WWE Superstars. Personally, I think the reports of Morrison’s pending WWE departure are premature, as the WWE usually keeps guys around who they can merchandise and market based on their uniqueness, and while his leaving for TNA wouldn’t hurt them one bit, the kids who like Morrison and the people who think he makes a compelling, likable underdog would probably notice his absence. His losing to Drew McIntyre, official WWE Superstars punching bag, doesn’t make things look too promising, but again, were he on his way out, I highly doubt they’d help him by putting together such an effective highlight reel of the skills he brings to the table.
WWE SmackDown! (11/4/11) (Watch it on YouTube)
Cody Rhodes vs. Randy Orton: Strange, opening WWE SmackDown! with an unadvertised street fight to cap off the feud between Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton, but they did so, and it was good. Fast-paced and intelligently put together, the two beat each other up for around twenty minutes until Cody started using his mask as a weapon, including a sick-sounding shot while Orton was tied up in a figure four leglock. They finally found a way to make Orton’s rope-drape DDT look dangerous and not contrived, and, again, Cody Rhodes makes a strong case for pushing him up the card. In the end, though, Orton won cleanly with an RKO and bagged Cody, cashing in his receipt from a few weeks ago. I’d put this moment and Booker T saying that the sky’s the limit for, of all people, Randy Orton down as a Questionable Decision of the Week, but those slight imperfections don’t mar an otherwise very enjoyable match.
Ted DiBiase vs. Tyson Kidd: Three Tyson Kidd matches this week? I’d say that WWE spoils me, but Kidd lost all three, and I had to hear endless yammering about the stupid DiBiase Posse. Still, this one’s worth it for the finish, where Kidd tries his damnedest to get out of the Million Dollar Dream, but just can’t. Short match, good finish.
Mark Henry Confronts Daniel Bryan Backstage: This was awesome in about 6,000 ways. Henry was great, Daniel Bryan should be getting matches like this, and it’s the first time I think I’ve seen Henry stand toe to toe with a normal-sized human being, which made his size even more impressive.
Daniel Bryan Beard Tracker: Mark Henry may not sweat Daniel Bryan, but his beard does.
Alicia Fox vs. Natalya: Not worth watching for the match, which was good in the way watching a really talented wrestler physically dissect a lesser opponent is good. This match is really only worth watching for the following exchange:
Natalya: (Setting up for the Boston Crab) You stuck your nose in the wrong person’s business!
Alicia Fox: (Should be struggling to get out of Boston Crab; yelling) Your nose is bigger than my nose!
Natalya: (Ignores; applies Boston Crab)
If there were any justice in the world, the referee would have been radioed to change the finish to a Natalya win, but Alicia Fox, whose face gimmick appears to be firing Derek Zoolander level retorts back at her opponent, beat Nattie with a somersault leg drop, which, according to Booker T, looks kind of like his scissors kick (it doesn’t).
Wade Barrett vs. Sheamus: After a pretty good Big Show/Christian angle that saw Christian get chokeslammed, Wade Barrett decided to take Christian’s place in his scheduled match against Sheamus, giving us a much-needed breather from Sheamus beating the tar out of poor Christian. The end result was two big dudes clubbering each other, which is exactly what I want to see out of two big dudes. Entertaining big man match, indicative of tremendous improvement on the part of both Barrett, who no longer looks as green as he did upon his main roster debut, and Sheamus, who is finally settled in to his role as world’s least likely face.
Sin Cara vs. Epico: On the surface, this is just a jobber squash match, but, in the grand tradition of jobber squashes that are more important than they look, Hunico (the former Sin Cara imposter) came down to the ring looking like a skinny version of 1998 Konnan and attacked Sin Cara. Then the two attacked Sin Cara together. Epico and Hunico are a tag team in WWE’s developmental league, Florida Championship Wrestling, and Epico’s debut on SmackDown not only adds a wrinkle in the now kind of stalled Sin Cara/Hunico feud, but gives the company another viable tag team to make some hay with while Air Boom sit on the shelf. Also of note: No botches on Sin Cara’s part. Dude is moving on up.
Daniel Bryan vs. Mark Henry: Was awesome in 6,000 ways, not the least of which was that Daniel Bryan, at several points in time, looked capable of beating Mark Henry. At the end of the match, when Henry was content to just destroy poor ‘ol D-Bry, Big Show waltzed into the ring and nailed Henry with a knockout punch (which I refuse to call the Weapon of Mass Destruction). Henry got the DQ win, then Big Show encouraged Bryan to cash in his briefcase…which he almost did. It was one of those moments where you really want something to happen (even if it’d be better if Bryan cashed it in at Wrestlemania), but the alternative, where Bryan got smashed with a World’s Strongest Slam, was just as good, since it’s no skin off Bryan’s back and further establishes Henry as a guy you have a very limited window of opportunity against. Show and Henry will collide again at Survivor Series, in a match that should end cleanly, but now that the Money in the Bank contract is back in play, I look forward to seeing where Daniel Bryan goes from here.
Questionable Decision of the Week: Other than Rhodes and Natalya losing matches they should probably have taken, none. Very solid episode of SmackDown!, as usual.
Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.