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Gimme the Prize: Reflections on the RNC

24 Jul

RNC Cleveland

“I am the one, the only one,

I am the god of Kingdom Come

Gimme the prize!

Just gimme the prize!”

— Queen

Who wants to talk about the Republican National Convention? I wanna talk about the Republican National Convention. But I don’t wanna talk about the Republican National Convention, because to talk about the Republican National Convention is to acknowledge that the Republican National Convention actually happened: four days of preschool bugout, each vituperative highlight scribbled and shot for embarrassing posterity. It was like a high school reunion where everyone grew up to be, uh, embittered Republicans mired in midlife crises: This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife! Well, how did we get here?!

Ah, but we know how that happened, don’t we? The GOP’s pretended to wear such personae for years. It’s the ultimate conservative fantasy: the angry populist magnate. All Trump did was swipe the template and crank it to a Nigel Tufnel 11. He’s faking it, too, but resonating with the rabble.

His party’s only pandered to that base; Trump, however, empowered it. His central message: “Cluelessness is conviction. Believe what you want, for belief is superior to truth.” And he continues to be its living embodiment. Fact-checkers dog him — in fact, they tore his convention harangue to pieces — but his apostles care not, because his statistics sound right. And besides, they might luck out and get to shoot somebody.

As a spectacle of lunacy, the RNC barely registered as a sideshow. It was more of a toilet-sale blowout at an El Segundo junkyard. Commandeering the dais was a ceaseless procession of “Murder, She Wrote” guest stars, quacking imbeciles, sports-world zeroes, cover bands, one-shtick jabronis, ring-kissers, ankle-suckers, withered emperors, jowly groupies and future Brutuses.

This is your Republican party, folks, flown in from a 1970 Grayline bus to Reno, spiffed in newer, toothsome Solo-cup-soccer-mom skin and christened, in homage to apprentice saint Nixon, the Silent Majority. (Though if you spend any time online, you know they’re anything but silent.)

But it’s a lost, divided party, as evidenced by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who formally endorsed Trump for the nomination in words that must have tasted like an ancient Zima crawling back up his throat. During his speech, party chairman Reince Preibus spat the usual sawdust, but his eyes seemed to beg for a Flavor-Aid dunk tank.

Momentary hero Ted Cruz performed his equivalent of Sid Vicious’ “My Way” by refusing to acknowledge his ex-tormentor as future king. Unfortunately, it was just a premature salvo in his 2020 bid and not a principled stance, although he managed to steal the night’s momentum from Trump’s official benediction and up-yer-bummed it back to the cheap seats, where he’ll continue to live forever.

So the convention was less a celebration of unity than a dysfunctional family reunion, where everyone hates Uncle Donnie, but he’s rich and mean and might cut them from his will. So they endured a lot over four useless days.

Its only relief was Ivanka Trump, given the on-deck spot that final night and for once countering the convention’s madness with love. Hopefully, she escapes her father’s shadow. The candidate was less benevolent with his third wife, Melania, banishing her to Night 1 with a cribbed Michelle Obama speech and throwing her to the press. (His other kids were sprayed haphazardly into the lineup.)

Trump also invoked the wrath of Queen for swaggering out to “We Are the Champions” when “Gimme the Prize” would have been more appropriate to the event’s tenor, followed by a group singalong to “Who Wants to Live Forever,” led by the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln and John Kasich, as the Quicken Loans Arena fainted toward the Cuyahoga. It may as well have done just that after Trump’s concluding Thursday night speech: a botched litany of apocalyptic booga-booga that gave liberals hives, fact-checkers whiplash and Orwell a cheap thrill.

And then, for once, I felt for the Republican party. Because like me, all it could do for now was watch. Bye, Jumbo.

“Monday Night Raw” Post-Mortem

30 Jun

Monday Night Raw
Monday, June 29
San Jose, CA

Do you know the way to San Jose? I’ve been away so long, but now I’m back, and I think I remember the way. Fret not, true believers: I’ve kept a watchful weekly eye on the WWE since last I scratched in, what, December? Jesus.

So I was on hand two weeks ago when Donald Trump seized control of the program, resulting in what the late Gorilla Monsoon (rest his lovely soul) would’ve termed a bedlam, a boondoggle, “total pandemonium.” Last Monday the Donald, resplendent in Gary Hart‘s discarded scalp, stripped the program of commercial breaks (commentators Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole snuck huzzahs for Kentucky Grilled Chicken anyway — fight the power!) and sent the packed arena home with a refund. Ex-chairman Vince McMahon, his easy-street retirement cut short, was forced to reclaim the reins from the draconian entrepreneur at a considerable financial loss, in order to restore the brand to its former snake-oil glory.

Tonight was McMahon’s first night back in the driver’s seat, and he bathed in Californian ire by refusing to give the bronzed throng its money back. (The Long Tail is obviously not among his volumes.) Enough with the gimmicks, the capitalist swine harrumphs before admitting that he admired one well enough to implement it that very night: the weekly guest host. Vince has a lot of celebrity pull, but why aim high when you can pluck one of your own: the injured Dave Batista, who has at least three outstanding beefs to settle — one in particular most paramount.

Batista busts down the ramp to his usual pomp, his left arm locked in a brace, the rest of him coiled tight in a business suit, a smart grey tie hanging from his truck-thick neck. He’s midway into his first public address since Randy Orton and the Legacy duo of Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase stomped his mucus loose a few weeks agoi and put him in intensive care when said trio menace down the ramp looking to start shit anew. Orton, through a mouthful of Southern viper marbles: “Yuh shouldn’t have come back, Batista. What do you think is stopping the three of us from marching into this ring and tearing the rest of you apart?” Good question. Batista supposes it’s the absolute power Vince grants guest hosts. (You listening, Lorne Michaels?) “I can make your life a living nightmare,” he expounds.

Orton snivels in petulance, moaning exposition about his near-death experience with Triple H in a Three Stages of Hell match at this past weekend’s Bash. The immaculately attired guest host reprimands Orton for whining and hints at a distressing Raw fate for the WWE champ: a 3 on 1 Gauntlet endurance test with hand-picked opponents whose identities must remain secret to keep viewers from changing the channel. But, Batista adds, they’re three of 15 superstars acquired in some backroom deal struck before Trump’s departure. Oh, that dastardly Don!

Night of Champions Tournament Semi-Final
MVP vs. Triple H
Orton won’t be defending his title tonight, but he will at Night of Champions on July 26 against the winner of this mini-tournament. The night begins with the collision of alphabets. MVP, called up in a recent draft to make waves on the Monday program, is recovering from a whirlwind weekend with rumored paramour Sherri Shepherd (The View) and a host of Tinseltown glitterati at Sunday night’s BET Awards. Triple H is recovering from something far less glamorous: a leg injury suffered in two grueling face-offs with Orton over the last week. Naturally, MVP focuses with some precision on the sore spot and slithers out of two HHH attempts to floor him with his Pedigree finishing move. The flashier grappler errs, however, when he tries to apply his own match-ending Playmaker. He gets played instead when the grizzled hobbling mess drops a successful Pedigree to put MVP in California Dreamland.

Winner: Triple H

Unified Tag Team Championship
Edge/Chris Jericho vs. Carlito/Primo
Hmmmm. Two major SmackDown heels with enough heat for a Towering Inferno reboot wrest the title through nefarious means from its cooled-off protectors, who instantly invoke their rematch clause. Wonder who’s doomed? I didn’t either. Jericho, as always, is in top linguistic form, showering San Jose in cowflop bouquets, boasting of his prodigious prowess and chiding the gathered’s status as mindless human sludge. Y2J+9 spends much of the match leveling the ex-belt-holders with his dog-eared Roget’s; Edge stands behind the ropes, snarling at anything in his periphery. After a distracted ref misses an obvious three-count, thus robbing Carlito of a stunner over Edge (Jericho shoves him off before that third zebra slap), the incensed apple-spitter goes for a more definitive finisher but ends up slipping on the ropes after a flailing Primo accidentally shakes them. The dazed, wronged Carlito is left helpless to an Edge spear and is knocked flat for the 1-2-3.

Winners: Edge/Chris Jericho

Night of Champions Semi-Final
John Cena vs. The Miz
Cena‘s been positioned in this ongoing angle as a dues-paying ham-and-egger swatting at the youthful, impatient reality-TV bluster-flash of The Miz, who’s been a particular hue-licked thorn in Cena’s side for weeks with his shenanigans, skedaddles, evasions, and cheap shots. Miz doesn’t indulge in much of those tonight. Instead, his attack is methodical and for the most part successful. His capper is a vice-like sleeper that involves a debilitating upright-leg-lock-thigh-squeeze breath-trapper. But rather than tumble into his own dizzy drool, Cena recovers for his “You Can’t See Me” five-knuckle shuffle and an FTF submission hold. The Miz abandons his fruitless quest for salvation and taps out.

Winner: John Cena (Cena will face Triple H on next week’s Raw, a match-up the strangely forgetful Lawler hails as the greatest in history.)

We return to the locker-room plot where Legacy continues to placate the queasy Orton. DiBiase offers salve in the form of a phone conversation with his father, the Million Dollar Man, one of the greatest villains in WWE history (right, Jer?), who is scheduled to guest-host the program next Monday. Happs days are back for reptile-lovers everywhere!

Fatal 4-Way Diva Match
Mickie James vs. Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix vs. Rosa Mendes
It’s too bad Raw don’t broadcast on Cinemax, ho ho. An enhanced quartet vie for the pleasure of tangling with the bleached chanteuse Divas champion Maryse at Night of Champions. Rosa is her usual ineffective self, applauding like a goon whenever Phoenix adds to someone’s medical expenses. Mickie locks horns with gal pal Kelly Kelly — it’s vicious vicious! At one point everyone gets everyone in a chin lock before Beth dominos all three into a turnbuckle. Ass-over-tip pin attempts aplenty, two-counts all around. Mickie finally breaks the pattern by focusing on poor Rosa, silencing her with a DDT and planting her to bloom sometime this autumn. The unconscious Rosa is likely in a better place anyway, where her idol follows every grunt and grit with the sweetest kiss. Maryse may entertain similar fantasies about Kelly Kelly. Sadly, she’ll have to settle for…

Winner: Mickie James

The Big Show vs. Kofi Kingston
Interesting entrance music for both competitors, don’tchathink? The seven-foot Show gets a deep-throated honky tonk chortle perfect for swaggering through a Brobdignagian bar. “I AM CHAMPION!” barks a Vocoder on Kofi‘s island lilt, and this is one instance where it’s true as hell. He’s got the gold draped over a shoulder, sparkling into a wary eye shrouded in Show’s imposing shadow. In this case, the mountain comes to Kofi. “This guy could bench-press a Volkswagen!” enthuses the excitable Lawler, King of Wrestling. The smaller man’s acrobatic agility, naturally, is no match for a whole lumberyard, but somehow Kofi fells the Big Show without the aid of claymores and a police car. When he goes for the pin, Show shoves him toward the rafters like a volleyball. Eventually, the action moves outside the ring with the usual announcer’s-table thrashings. Show attempts to launch Kingston back into play, but the champion wriggles free and leans the mighty oak into a ringside post. Meanwhile, the ref counts down. Neither man returns in time.

Winner: Double countout. Show exits, disgusted.

3 on 1 Gauntlet Match
Orton moves slowly, methodically toward the ring, his calculating mind reeling from the sheer number of possible opponents in the wrestling pool. What torture does Dave Batista have in mind? Well…

1. Evan Bourne
Wow. Wasn’t expecting that. Orton appears relieved at this tiny little hurdle. Looks, of course, are deceiving; Bourne is a high-flying dynamo who regards all the world’s inhabitants as potential trapezes. Evan’s downfall comes when he gets a little greedy with his momentum. An attempted Air Bourne goes awry and Orton secures a pinfall with a Flying Bulldog. Bourne is unceremoniously scraped from the canvas and removed posthaste.

Winner: Randy Orton

2. Jack Swagger
This one’s not all that shocking, but Swagger‘s a formidable opponent nonetheless. In any case, it’s interesting to watch two narcissists go head-to-head. Swagger first stuns Orton physically then mentally as he leaves the ring and stands defiant, smirking on the apron as the referee counts him out. Before he splits, Swagger explains to the bewildered masses, “I wanted to leave a lasting impression.”

Winner: Randy Orton

3. Mark Henry
Aha! But also not that wild. Henry enters with a microphone and informs his creaky, dazed dinner that he wants to make an impression too, mostly of Randy in the earth’s surface. Like Swagger he steps out of the ring as well but is only fucking with his prey cat/mouse-style as he stops the ref at the count of five and re-enters the dragon. Orton drops to his knees and Henry graciously helps him up with a choke hold. Orton’s only defense is a weak slap; Henry retorts with a headbutt and the devastation of a World’s Strongest Slam. Somewhere Orton is still burrowing against his will toward China. Hope he lands near an airport.

Winner: Mark Henry

Raw ends with a satisfied Dave Batista surveying the wreckage of his most despised adversary. It’s nice to see the man smiling again. And now I smile too, because I’m back in action with a fresh bag of stretched adverbs. G’night!