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SMARK Country: Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest, Put Raw’s Writers to the Test

Last week’s Monday Night Raw featured a guest spot by Need for Speed and Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul. In the past, these guest spots have been extreme hits or misses. But this one was short and sweet, showing Paul drive Dolph Ziggler to the ring in a Shelby Mustang, getting a huge pop from the crowd. Not only does this further Paul’s Need for Speed push, but works as a diss to Ziggler’s opponent, Alberto Del Rio, who used to drive to the entrance ramp in badass automobiles. Paul stuck around for commentary and had decent chemistry with Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole and JBL. If this and the Betty White guest spot from a few weeks ago are any proof, WWE’s creative wing has finally cracked the formula with how to make these celebrity appearances work.

Now, at the height of the Raw guest appearance shtick (2009-10), these episodes were either pure gold, or a poo-poo panini. Here are some of their best and worst attempts at this.

Bret Hart (thumbs up): This one might seem a bit unfair, as a former superstar knows exactly how to work the crowd. But this being the first time Bret confronted Shawn Michaels or Vince McMahon on live television (since the Montreal screw job at Survivor Series ’97), this made for a memorable night. More than a few people got misty eyed seeing the Hitman and the Heartbreak Kid hug and squash beef.
Sgt. Slaughter (thumbs down): Once again, a former superstar knows exactly how to work the crowd…or they should. Slaughter’s random heel-turn and attempts at inciting the Canadian fans in attendance came off as not as vile or even smarmy, but just plain sad. There’s only one longstanding babyface that can cross the border into Canada and instantly become a heel, and I already mentioned HBK.

Shaquille O’Neil (thumbs up): When getting a mega star from another sport to guest host Raw, it helps if that star is a lifelong wrestling fan. Shaq had charisma, he didn’t feel awkward interacting with the WWE superstars, not to mention seeing him and Big Show at a standoff trying to choke slam each other was worth the price of admission. JTG and Shad Gaspard of Cryme Tyme should thank Shaq for the humongous pop they got that night and subsequent push because of it.

Rev. Al Sharpton (thumbs down): This was just ill-conceived from the start. I can only assume Vince McMahon was looking for controversy. But Rev. Sharpton was so stiff, dry and uncharismatic, he seemed to be purposely turning his personality down to a 1 to not incense the masses.

William Shatner (thumbs way up): Because it’s Bill Shatner, that’s why.

Jeremy Piven/Ken Jeong (thumbs way down): This was one of Raw’s first guest host episodes. It also was one of, if not, the worst of all of Raw’s guest spots. What makes it disheartening is that I like both actors. But from their dominating nearly every segment, to the painfully bad Doctor Ken segment to Piven’s screw up of names (SummerFest), it is a wonder that they kept going with the guest host gimmick after this abomination.

What are your picks for the best and worst of Raw’s guest hosts? Share them in the comments!