Vickie Guerrero is My Favorite Wrestler: Raw Regurgitated, 6/23

Vickie says "goodbye" to the WWE Universe, Big E. says "America" to Rusev and Roman Reigns says "hello" to Kane. Raw regurgitated, on the internet, just for you.

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While your correspondent’s affection for Vickie is somewhere between “off the charts” and “fanboy”, this segment showed how much in control she was of the reaction to her, playing off of Stephanie’s wickedness (which we’ll get to later) to turn herself face on a dime, not by invoking her husband’s name — Stephanie did that — but his spirit. Part of what made Vickie such a great heel was to never genuinely engage the audience as a direct conduit to Eddie. She never felt like a Guerrero, in large part because she knew doing that would not let her get the crowd to react to her the way she wanted — and WWE needed — them to. She is an all-time great genuine heat magnet, up on the same level as Heenan, willing to do anything (which we’ll get to later,) to give the crowd the pay off it wanted. And because of that, she’ll likely be joining him in the Hall of Fame one day.

Outside of the rise of Sergeant Handsome Prince, the biggest story of the past year is clearly Luke Harper, who has evolved from “weird goon for hillbilly preacher” to “guy who goes 15+ minutes with John Cena on Raw”. His work, and the way the crowd reacts to him, is changing the way the WWE looks at independent workers. Signings like Kevin Steen would have never happened with the Brodie Lees of the world. With the Performance Center and NXT, the WWE has created a factory for creating WWE characters and performers. That’s not to say anyone can be a star in the WWE, or even work out in the WWE, but they are at least licensed and certified in a WWE-style show by the time they appear on the main roster.

On a scale from one to Al Snow as Leif Cassidy, Erick Rowan is about nine-and-a-half Jannettys.

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We’ll be covering Rusev and Lana’s wonderful “your town/country sucks” bit in front of the Capitol building later today, but this — along with last week’s moment with Roman Reigns during the Battle Royal — makes it pretty clear that someone up there (in Titan Towers) loves this gimmick.

I don’t usually complain about anything, or try to keep things in a positive perspective intentionally. Not just as a writer, but as a fan. And it’s because it makes things like whatever the hell they were doing by giving Cameron a live mic go down a lot easier. But seriously, that was awful. Awful.

Bo Dallas, on the other hand, has made an un-BO-leivably good transition from his part of the WWE minor leagues, NXT.

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The relationship between HHH and Seth Rollins seems to be the type of apprenticeship that extends backstage. It’s clear that the WWE has always thought highly of Rollins — he was the first NXT champion — but this is some next level support for him. We often talk about people getting rockets strapped to their back, but it’s very rare to see one performer be groomed for the throne. To see, from the same stable, no less, be there in the same year is something we will never see again.

Other things we will never see again: Rob Van Dam winning a title, that weird sleeveless leather t-shirt Seth Rollins wore on Smackdown!, probably his gloves.

*** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE KEEP YOUR EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** Dolph Ziggler may never be World Champion again, but there’s clearly going to be some sort of elevating for him in the near future. He’s pushed himself to the “Bryan Zone”(though it should probably be called the Ziggler zone now that he’s become a member), where the WWE has to start paying attention to what the crowd wants instead of trying to make them feel a certain way about a certain thing. The goal of the WWE is to get you to react, and preferably the way they want you to in a way that maximizes your interest both in the exact moment and the possibilities of the future. In the same way soccer is a cycle of hope and despair punctuated with moments of ecstasy, wrestling is an exercise in repeatedly getting you to deal with a lot of despair based on the slim hope you might get your very specific moment of personal ecstasy.

Because the finishes and story line directions are pre-determined by a single entity, there’s not an inherent sense that “anyone can win”. And while that’s true of all sports, in  a world where “anything can happen” isn’t just an advertisement slogan but a rallying cry for performers that resonates back to its carnival origins, creating that feeling when the payoff they want you to assume is often intentionally obvious has turned into three-dimensional chess as the viewing audience has become increasingly sophisticated. There has always existed a “game within the game” where the company — meaning in this case, the WWE, but this is still mostly applicable to independent and other historical promotions — where they create expectations that the crowd consumes, making this (the crowd reaction) a “sport” between the company, at least from a marketing perspective.

With this, the belligerents become the crowd and the company, with the company winning if those projects or “players” they’ve invested in become the ones that fans appreciate enough to spend money on, whether its to see them be heroic or get their ass handed to them. And the crowd wins when the people they want to be featured are featured. For years, this feud was won pretty handily by the company, with certain performers pushed at certain time for certain things. Daniel Bryan may have finally changed the dynamic, riding the democratizing wave of social media to maineventing WrestleMania and becoming the next in a long line of performers to enter the larger cultural zeitgeist. This has made professional wrestling even more of a meritocracy than it had been when crazy people were allowed to be stars because they made money.

And while Ziggler won’t ever mainevent another PPV, let alone the biggest show of the year, he has come of age in a time where guys like him can simply become stars — albeit it “jobbers to the stars” — just be being good. Which is nice. *** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY SONIC CHILI CHEESE PRETZEL DOG MILKSHAKE ***

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There will be a lot great things that will be said about Vickie Guerrero over the next few days, and that’s wonderful. But there’s something that should probably said for the passing of the torch to Stephanie McMahon as the most hated character on television. Stephanie has learned to read the crowd as well as Vickie or her father ever has, and with her little sojourn into the mud pit has shown that she is willing to eat the type of shit that made Vickie one of the most secretly beloved characters of all time.

This, everyday:

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While both Jack Swagger and Kofi Kingston can be borderline great in the right situation, watching those two try to get through a match without a botch is like trying to get through a Quentin Tarantino movie hearing the word “fuck”. It’s coming, and it’s probably coming in bunches, but until the shoe drops it just hangs over the proceedings somebody finally just “fuck”s it up.

Whatever Big E. is planning on doing with this preacher voice, please let him doing it on the JBL and Cole show so Vince McMahon will start to like it and let it happen instead of turning him into Reverend D’Von or, worse, Brother Love.

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Sheamus getting the victory in this may end up being more of a spoiler than we realize, if Wade Keller and JR/”Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s theory are right that is. Both have predicted that Sheamus would end up turning heel and having Bryan challenge him for the title at Night of Champions. That this would end up serving as retribution for his 18-second loss at WrestleMania 28 probably isn’t lost on the booking committee, either.

John Cena is also being bandied about as the man who will lose the title to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, which is fine. But they have to be more careful as they get closer to Ric Flair’s record of 16 World Title reigns. It’s not as though Flair doesn’t have some totally bullshit title reigns, but it is almost a lead pipe lock that Cena’s record will be treated with something bordering furious anger if his 17th World Title win/reign isn’t the type of thing that makes a future star and isn’t just a transitional reign to help Daniel Bryan get his heat back after injure.

And if you don’t think Roman Reigns is the one he’ll be passing the torch to, you obviously weren’t listening when he speared Kane to end Raw. That dude is Over Like Rover.