The 411 Wrestling Top 6.30.10: Week 81 – Best and Worst RAW Guest Hosts
Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling’s Top 5 List. What we are going to is take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions. Most of our topics will be based on recent events in the Wrestling World, looking at those events that make us think of times past.
So, on to this week’s topic…
It was one year ago yesterday that the WWE started doing RAW Guest Hosts, with the injured Batista. 52 weeks later, we look back at the best of the guest hosts and the worst in this week’s double Top 5.
So what did our group of writers select? Let’s find out…
WORST GUEST HOSTS
5. Sergeant Slaughter (08/10/09) – In most cases, a current or former wrestler acting as the guest host of Raw has worked out pretty well. However, Sarge is the exception that proves the rule. The former WWF Champion was booked to host the show when it was emanating from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. For some reason, it was decided that his entire hosting stint would consist of turning heel for one night only and burying our neighbor to the north in a series of pointless promos. It didn’t further any short-term storylines, it didn’t further any long-term storylines, and, frankly, it seemed like a petty, mean spirited shot at Canadian fans for their sometimes unorthodox decisions regarding who they will cheer and who they will boo.
4. Buzz Aldrin (05/17/10) – In a weird coincidence, Buzz hosted the show just a week or so after I finished reading Rocket Men, a pretty damn awesome book about the Apollo 11 mission released in the last year or two by an author named Craig Nelson. As a result, I came into this at the height of my Aldrin fandom. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well for poor old Buzz. Though I marked out hard for the recycled footage of him punching an moon landing denier right in the face, the promo that he cut prior to that clip being shown was one of the most bizarre, rambling interviews that I’ve seen in my time as a fan. (And I’ve seen a LOT of Jimmy Snuka’s mic work.) He’s actually very intelligent and still very sharp for his age, but the promo made him come off like a confused old man. Also, he probably has the distinction of being the guest host who was coming on to promote the weirdest item, namely his new Buzz Aldrin-themed iPhone app.
3. The Cast of MacGruber (04/19/10) – I had never heard of these MacGruber people before they hosted Raw, and, once I knew of them, I wished that I never did. I can’t stand it when an actor comes on to a wrestling show and plays his character from his film or television show instead of being himself. It was dumb when Robocop and Arilss did it in WCW, and it was no better when we got whoever these low rent thespians are playing their MacGruber characters on Raw. It might have been slightly better if the characters were involved in entertaining segments, but the MacGruber crew was so horrifically unfunny that any slight chance that I would have seen their movie was destroyed. Also, their appearance set up an angle in which the Great Khali wrestled Vladimir Kozlov. I’m never going to be happy when two of WWE’s worst non-diva wrestlers lock it up.
2. The Cast of the A-Team (06/07/10) – Call it a recency effect if you will, but I remember the cast of the A-Team being among the worst guest hosts in history. Remember what I said about not liking the fact that MacGruber did their guest host spot in character? Well, the A-Team was worse, because they couldn’t even decide if they were in character or not, as sometimes they claimed to be themselves and other times they claimed to be their characters from the motion picture. Their entire guest host gig consisting of very little hosting and a whole lot of lame comedy skits, not a single one of which was funny. Worst yet was the fact that they hosted a THREE HOUR Raw, meaning that we had to put up with them for sixty minutes longer than any other lame guest host.
1. Jeremy Piven and Friends (08/03/09) – Piven was the first Raw guest host who was just outright awful, and he set the bar high for future horrible celebrity performances. (Or should that be set the bar low?) First of all, what has this guy done aside from playing Ellen DeGeneres’ cousin on a sitcom fifteen years ago? On top of that, you’ve got his memorable Summerfest botched line and, perhaps worst of all, DOCTOR KEN. Like the MacGruber folks, I had zero clue who Doctor Ken was before he showed up on Monday Night Raw. Once he appeared on the show, I was introduced to one of the least funny “comedians” of the twenty-first century, somebody who I would honestly pay money to NOT see if I learned that he would be performing in my area. Piven’s appearance almost killed the entire guest host concept for me right out of the gates, but fortunately a few awesome performances saved it in the following weeks.
BEST GUEST HOSTS
5. Bret Hart (01/04/10) – Picking Hart for this list feels like cheating because his guest host gig was part of a setup to make him a regular character on Raw, but the list of absolutely outstanding guest hosts is so thin that I figured I would roll with it. The Hitman’s appearance on Monday Night Raw on January 4, 2010 was more than just another guest host spot. It was an absolutely historic moment in professional wrestling, featuring the man’s first on-camera encounters with both Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon in over twelve years. My hair was literally standing on end during both of those encounters, as they were things that I thought I would never see in my lifetime. Oh, and I hear some other wrestling company had some kind of show that night as well.
4. Dusty Rhodes (08/31/09) – As I mentioned when discussing Sergeant Slaughter, usually wrestlers or former wrestlers do a great job as guest host. Rhodes was probably the best example of it. I loved the fact that he got worked into the ongoing angles on the show at the time, including Randy Orton’s feud with John Cena and the long, on-going tease of dissension in Orton’s Legacy stable. When Dusty as guest host booked his son Cody against Randy Orton for Orton’s WWE Title with John Cena as referee, everybody figured that the American Dream was screwing over prime heel Orton . . . but then it turned out that Big Dust had turned heel for one night only, as the match was the setup for a Horseman-esque beatdown on Cena. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, as Orton attacked Dusty himself as soon as he was no longer of use to the group. Dusty would go on to cut a GREAT promo (that was unfortunately exclusive to WWE.com) explaining how and why he did what he did on the show and managing to turn himself back to a babyface in the eyes of the few people who saw it.
3. William Shatner (02/01/10) – Raw Match Negotiator. William Shatner Sings the WWE Superstars Entrance Themes. I don’t think that I need to say anything more about how awesome the Shat was.
2. Shaquille O’Neal (07/27/09) – Shaq has been a wrestling fan for quite some time and has popped up in numerous guest spots over the years, the first one I remember being when he would occasionally show up for Hulk Hogan’s pay per view title matches during his first babyface run in WCW. As such, it wasn’t a huge surprise when the master of Shaq Fu signed on to host Monday Night Raw. What was a bit of surprise was how awesome he was in the role. His interaction with WWE’s own seven footer, the Big Show, captured the imagination of just about everybody watching to the point that there were serious discussions about getting Shaq back and booked into a pay per view match against Show. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. However, what did work out was the rub that O’Neal managed to give to Crime Time. Even though the E didn’t really follow up on it, hanging out with Shaq on one night built Shad and JTG up to the point that they could literally be considered the number three or four babyfaces in the company for a brief period of time. This was a big win all around.
1. Bob Barker (09/07/09) – I would be amazed if you took a television star from Barker’s generation, put him on Monday Night Raw, and got results that were anything other than awesome. The former host of the Price is Right has been doing live-to-tape television for longer than the majority of people reading this have been alive, and the result is man who can step in and do a great job if you stick him in front of a camera with a microphone, almost regardless of the context or how little he knows about the subject matter of the show he’s hosting. That’s exactly what happened on Raw, with the highlights being Barker not backing down from an angered Chris Jericho and threatening to put Chris OVER HIS KNEE in a great old man moment, an homage to Barker’s role in Happy Gilmore involving Chavo Guerrero, and, best of all, a brief sit-down interview with Bob about his career that had nothing to do with professional wrestling. I don’t think that I ever need to see Bob Barker on a professional wrestling show again, but, for the two hours that I did see it, I could not have been happier. Go Bob!
WORST GUEST HOSTS
5. The A-Team – First, we had Bradley Cooper coming out to shill the movie in a completely obvious and honest fashion. Part of me could respect that he was so obvious about it. He didn’t try to get involved or fake his way through the show, he just promoted his movie and got out. If only more guest hosts were like that… especially his castmates as they went through a laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame story involving them thinking they were their characters and trying to solve the mystery of Jerry Lawler’s missing crown. Well, at least we got Mean Gene trashtalking Josh Matthews. That was pretty good.
4. Jerry Springer – Some people loved the big Jerry Springer Show bit that some of the WWE superstars put on involving tons of love triangles, sex changes, and pretty much every other trailer park trash story used on that show. Me, I found it tedious and not at all entertaining. Why did it happen? Because the WWE people wanted to have fun with Springer? That’s the best they could come up with? Ugh.
3. Cheech & Chong – ’70s comedy duo whose material was based entirely on drug use meet the WWE of 2010 and its PG environment. Instead of weed jokes, we got them eating cereal and having drug trips with Hornswoggle. Yikes. It wasn’t funny and made me long for drugs that could make me forget that I had watched that horrible crap.
2. Sgt. Slaughter – I can accept celebrities being bad hosts, but, usually, when wrestlers host the show, the quality is high. You buy wrestlers (current or former) getting involved in matches or having old scores to settle. The one notable stand-out former wrestler that didn’t mesh well at all is Sgt. Slaughter who, for whatever reason, was called upon to host a show in Calgary, so he was turned heel and came out periodically to rile up and mock the Canadian audience. None of the segments were funny or entertaining and just came off as baffling. Why would a guest host spend the entire show just mocking the fans for no apparent reason?
1. Jeremy Piven and Dr. Ken – These guys wouldn’t have been so bad if their stint as guest hosts hadn’t come right near the beginning of the concept being introduced. If they were hosting now, they’d have a couple backstage segments, maybe a quick in-ring encounter, and mostly be forgotten like so many other hosts. Instead, they dominated the show with obnoxious behaviour and insertion into the main stories of the time. Other hosts did the same, but they were funny, entertaining, or could actually do something in the ring. These two were none of those things.
BEST GUEST HOSTS
5. Dennis Miller – I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only people who liked Dennis Miller as the host of the Slammy Awards. Did his style clash with the show somewhat? Yeah. But he was still funny. In fact, I think I found him funnier because he just didn’t work well in front of the wrestling crowd. He quickly became sarcastic and willing to embrace the crowd’s hatred by throwing in a few mocking words here and there. He used the crowd’s reaction to inform his comments and made me laugh. Then again, I know I’m one of the few that reacted that way.
4. Jesse Ventura – Most of Ventura’s tenure as guest host was forgettable, but he did do something to make him stand out: he got Vince McMahon back on commentary as the two of them reteamed to call the main event. Because of his character, McMahon doesn’t do that anymore, but it was great to hear this old school style from the two of them. Upon reflection, Ventura also got involved with the story a bit, clashing with John Cena and promoting Sheamus as the guy who would take the belt from him at TLC. Ventura played the heel role well and reminded us of how good he and McMahon were on commentary.
3. William Shatner – Shatner. ‘Singing.’ Entrance themes. Nothing else is required.
2. Dusty Rhodes – Rhodes was the best wrestling-related guest host they had as he built on Ted DiBiase’s stint as guest host to get involved with Legacy, pushing his son in a match against WWE Champion Randy Orton with John Cena as the guest referee. It looked like a repeat of DiBiase’s stint, teasing the break-up of Legacy, but it was just a trick to allow the faction to beat up Cena, Dusty even getting in the ring to help and, then, taking an RKO that had Rhodes livid and shocked. While the WWE would wait to pull the trigger on the break-up, Rhodes’s role here was done perfectly, fitting seamlessly into the ongoing story and enhancing it by his presence.
1. Bob Barker – Who thought that the Price is Right would work so well in the WWE? Played for comedy mostly, Barker’s stint as host took advantage of what he’s known most for by allowing him to be more game show host than anything else. His encounter with Chris Jericho (complete with name tag on bare chest) was classic and he took out Chavo with some karate moves. Barker’s presence led to some matches that would have happened anyway and was just very entertaining throughout the show.
WORST GUEST HOSTS
5. Roddy Piper – There have been a few guest hosts that had no business being on the show. Roddy Piper should have been one of the best guest hosts. Instead, we got incoherent rambling that made Piper look like a drunk bum who they picked off the back roads of New York. It was embarassing. It would have been bad whoever it was, but the fact that it was Roddy Piper, one of the greatest talkers and most legendary figures in WWE History, made it really, really embarassing.
4. Buzz Aldrin – I’m going to take Byer’s word for it that Buzz is an intelligent man, because you can be brilliant and not look it. But the interview segments with Buzz were some of the most tedious, boring, rambling segments in the guest host era. There wasn’t even wacky hijinks like in the Springer segment.
3. Cheech Marin & Tommy Chong – Depending on my mood, these guys can be really amusing. I was looking forward to these guys as guest hosts, but they didn’t really do anything interesting or memorable. The letdown is what puts these guys on the list.
2. Jeremy Piven & Dr. Ken – Goodness was this bad. In a way, I’m grateful to these guys, because after this celebrity guest hosts weren’t nearly as dominant on the show. That’s because these guys were so obnoxious, so overbearing, so dominant that I imagine many people switched to something else just to avoid getting a headache. Bad idea here.
1. Al Sharpton – This strikes me as about the last guy you would want as a guest host for a wrestling show. This radical “woe-is-me-I’m-black” preacher grates on everybody’s nerves and didn’t contribute to the show at all. He no-sold the crowd and made no positive impact. He shouldn’t have been there in the first place, which is why I’m giving him the top spot.
BEST GUEST HOSTS
5. Jesse Ventura – I’m a huge fan of Jesse Ventura’s work as a commentator, so it was great to hear him in the announce booth one more time with Vince McMahon. The rest of it wasn’t as great. He put over Sheamus and played a good heel, but the nostalgia from hearing him call the main event (and getting Michael Cole out of the booth) puts him up here for me.
4. Bret Hart – Bret didn’t really do much as a host, per se. I think he booked one match. But the important thing was that he came back to the WWE, buried the hatchet with Shawn Michaels, and kick-started his on-screen feud with Vince McMahon. These were great moments to kick the year off.
3. Will Shatner – Do I really need to explain this? Sometimes, one segment alone is worth bringing a guy in. Will Shatner’s take on the WWE themes was one of those segments. It was wacky. It was bizarre. It was awesome. I’m still waiting for the CD, with covers of Big Show’s theme, The Miz’s theme, and Kofi’s theme.
2. Dusty Rhodes – So he helped Legacy beatdown Cena. Who cares? You know what I care about? The SHOCKMASTER. Of all the random things to show up on television, we have a recreation of the most infamous Wrestlecrap moment ever. Triple H explaining the event to Shawn like too internet dorks (I use that term affectionately), Arn Anderson doing the voice, Santino in the suit copying Shockmaster’s movements, and Dusty exclaiming “It should have worked!” This was comedy, folks.
1. Shaquille O’Neal – I can’t be the only one who saw this episode and was hoping that we would get Shaq vs. Big Show at Wrestlemania. Unlike a lot of guest hosts who don’t really seem to have anything to do with wrestling, Shaq is a lifetime fan, and you can tell he was having fun. He also gave a huge rub to Cryme Tyme, elevating them to legitimate challengers for the super team of JeriShow.