When Donald Trump bought Monday Night Raw in the summer of 2009, then promptly sold it back to Vince McMahon in one of WWE’s most poorly-written, incomprehensible, and financially damaging angles of all time, it opened up a new era for the USA program. From then on, every week would feature a different celebrity guest host whose performances would range from tolerable to off-putting to downright embarrassing. Although ball player Johnny Damon’s stint on Raw was abysmal, perhaps no guest host is more infamous than Jeremy Piven. He was apparently pretty famous, starring in Entourage, but the only performance of his I had ever seen was on Seinfeld as the actor playing George Costanza on Jerry’s TV pilot.
Frankly, Piven gets a bad rap these days for his performance as a guest host. Sure, he clearly wasn’t very familiar with the product, but it’s not like he made anyone change the channel with his mere presence. WWE knew this too and, thinking that a bad thing, also invited the walking, talking equivalent of a spiked shoe to the groin.
Jeremy Piven was introduced with gusto by Lillian Garcia before arriving in a Trans Am and, in a move the WWE Universe would soon regret, unlocking his insufferable sidekick and co-star Dr. Ken Jeong from the trunk. Ken and Jeremy then spent the next two minutes screaming, “Wooo!” and “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” before Raw’s most obnoxious guest co-host ever gave Piven another introduction, this time several magnitudes more annoying. In fact, if you were to go backward through the history of Raw and comb through every episode, up to and including Rob Bartlett’s debut on Raw #1, you would be hard-pressed to find a more consistently irritating performance.
As is customary for guest hosts, Piven and Ken shilled their upcoming movie relentlessly. I guess Vince McMahon was so vehemently opposed to Donald Trump’s commercial-free Raw idea that he decided to make the show itself a two-hour long commercial every week.
The Miz interrupted the proceedings and demanded a rematch with John Cena (who had beaten him at June’s Bash pay-per-view, then the following night on Raw, then again just a week before this episode). Piven denigrated Miz’s reality TV credentials (a year and a half before Snooki would be booked in a match at Wrestlemania) and told him that he did not have, “The Goods.” “The Goods,” by sheer coincidence, was also the name of Piven’s new movie. If his surgeon had given him plugs that cheap, he could still pass for Jason Alexander. Jeremy constantly referred to Mike Mizanin as “Les Mis” (perhaps hoping to score some cross-over appeal with the fans of Broadway musicals in the audience).
John Cena arrived to the delight of Jerry Lawler, who said, and I quote, “Let’s not hesitate to welcome the — John Cena!” Don’t you hate it when in mid-sentence, you realize Cena isn’t the champion? I certainly don’t.
Piven made a lumberjack match between Miz and Cena for that night’s main event. Then, the guest host added a stipulation that would etch him into the history books: If Miz lost, he would be banned from “The Summerfest.” The crowd, which should have been elated that the hated Miz might get snubbed from pay-per-view, instead fell nearly silent, wondering what the hell Jeremy Piven just said. John Cena chimed in for the save, clarifying that it would be Summerslam from which Miz would be barred.
Piven, despite having lost all credibility, nonetheless continued to play the babyface, further stipulating that “Les Mis” would be banned from The Staples Center and Monday Night Raw forever if he lost. Unless Piven owned that Los Angeles arena and sat on the WWE Board of Directors, I would say he was overstepping his authority as guest host just slightly. Then again, this was the same show that two months before claimed that Vince McMahon could go bankrupt if the show he no longer owned lost too much money, so I guess it was fair to play along.
We next saw Piven mid-shill backstage with the beautiful Diivaaaaaaas. Oh, sorry, wrong guest host. Of note is that none of the three Divas involved were the Bella Twins, proving that Nikki and Brie weren’t always the designated skank celebrity groupies. Meanwhile, Dr. Ken continued with his schtick, based on the hilarious premise that he is an Asian-American acting as if he belonged to the predominantly African-American “gangsta” subculture. Or maybe it’s just a bad Chris Tucker impression. Honestly, even if you could forgive his sheer obnoxiousness (which you couldn’t), his persona made cowboy Jimmy Wang Yang look downright cutting-edge.
Later, in a backstage encounter with Chavo, whom Piven called “Charro” for the remainder of the night (Sadly, this was before Michael Cole’s heel character, so he didn’t tear the guest host a new one for making a reference more than five years old), Jeremy made a match between him and Horngobbler. Or Hornbuckler. It was hard to tell whether Piven really couldn’t get anyone’s name right, or WWE knew ahead of time that he’d flub his lines so they worked it into his script.
Instead of a fifth consecutive match between Hornswoggle and Chavo, fans of the Gooker Award-winning feud were thrown a curveball, as the leprechaun was replaced by his cousin, “Markswoggle.” This was exactly five weeks after Mark Henry had joined Raw, turned face, and beaten WWE Champion Randy Orton, ostensibly to start a main event push.
Hornwsoggle’s substitute beat Guerrero handily, but the real leprechaun would appear after the match to deliver another of what the announcers would for approximately the next twenty weeks call, “The Tadpole Splash.” This was why 2009 was arguably the greatest year in Raw history: it made the fans realize that there were far better things to do with their Monday nights, and as a result, millions surely turned off the TV to spend quality time with their kids. If Linda had run on that bit of propaganda, she would be sitting in the Capitol building right now.
In yet another backstage commercial for The Goods, Piven offered to make Randy Orton the special guest ring announcer for the main event (willingly giving Orton a microphone to get the crowd pumped up — yet another sign that Piven had never watched WWE before). Orton yelled at the two, and they suddenly stopped trying to be funny. Why couldn’t this skit have taken place before Jeremy and Ken drove out to ringside in the first place?
Before the big lumberjack main event, we were told that Sgt. Slaughter, the American hero, would be hosting Raw next week. In Calgary. Which is in Canada. Slaughter would spend the whole night taunting the fans about how the USA was great and Canada sucked, which still went over with the crowd a lot better than this night’s guest hosts.
Just as the main event was about to start, Piven and Ken revealed that they were Randy Orton fans and had picked all of the lumberjacks specifically to gang up on Cena. Needless to say, all of the lumberjacks were heels, including Carlito, who a month earlier had split up with his babyface brother and therefore hated John Cena again. Also a lumberjack was Chavo Guerrero, who, despite having been set up, pummeled, and embarrassed for the guest host’s amusement, still agreed to do his dirty work for him.
See how it says, “Raw” on the big screen on the entrance ramp?
The very next week, it would say, “Summerslam: 2 weeks away” at all times. Sadly, WWE found out the hard way the importance of providing its guest hosts a glorified Teleprompter so they wouldn’t mess up the pay-per-view names.
Equally sad was the fact that the odds were so stacked against John Cena, being surrounded and battered by enemies, that he came up short in a long, hard-fought bout. Obviously, I’m only kidding, as Cena made quick work of Miz anyway, beating him for the fourth time in 5 weeks. To make matters worse, Miz didn’t pull a Big Show and attempt to murder the guest hosts by throwing them off a balcony (although John Cena would come close just minutes later). Maybe he already figured that his exile from Raw would last all of 6 days and 22 hours.
Still, the lumberjacks were not done, as they stared down Cena from the outside, providing a distraction while Jeremy Piven himself ascended the ropes and leaped at Cena, only to be caught in mid-air and used as a battering ram against the lumberjacks as they ran in.
Before John could deliver the AA, though, Dr. Ken struck Dr. Cena (PhD in Thuganomics) from behind, then begged him off for 84 entire seconds before Cena lifted him into the air and threw him over the ropes onto the remaining lumberjacks who, along with Ken’s own head, helped to break his fall.
With the Miz already forgotten about and the guest hosts in a heap outside the ring, Michael Cole wrapped up the infamous Jeremy Piven episode by plugging two separate projects from our guest host, declaring that “John Cena just tossed the goods all over Randy Orton’s entourage.” It’s just a shame that whoever booked Dr. Ken wasn’t sent to the gallows to hang over this travesty of an episode.