This past month, ever since I returned to writing my Tuesday Reviews, I've been mentioning and occasionally explaining the WWF's apparent evolution into an entirely different beast. Things were still similar enough to keep the brand familiarity in place, but there appeared to be some major league gears shifting behind the scenes, changes being made to ensure the future of the WWF would be every bit as exciting and meticulously planned as the past. Now perhaps I'm being a bit too hard on a mere single week's program, but it certainly looks to me like the fed's taken those plans and dropped a big healthy log right on top of them. That's the only real excuse I can come up with for a RAW the likes of which we saw this week.
So, to summarize, I didn't like the show.
RAW results appear in italics, with my comments following in the smooth, sexy plain text that enters your dreams every night. You know it does...
Vince McMahon and the "entire" WWF roster surrounded the ring, with McMahon actually growing the nuts to enter it!! At their bosses bidding, the Undertaker, Kane, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and the Rock entered the ring, the representatives for team WWF at this month's PPV. Vinnie-poo booked the match at Survivor Series between the WWF and the Alliance as a regular, five on five, Survivor Series elimination match, before Shane and Steph barged right in. Stephanie produced odd screeching noises from her mouth for several moments, before Shane translated, claiming one WWF Superstar would defect to the Alliance tonight.
I guess everybody loves a mystery, eh? I can't help but admit this interested me more than a little, though I had my doubts about how things would play out. The "turncoat from within the WWF" is an angle that's been played out already, not to mention one that couldn't have really turned out well no matter which main eventer they'd chosen. Still, it had me asking questions at the end of the first segment so I guess it did its job in that respect.
Something that really surprised me during this whole introduction was how sickly and thin the WWF roster looked while surrounding the ringside area. With the main eventers plucked from the ranks, you had the Big Show, Billy Gunn, The Hardys, Edge, Crash Holly, the APA, Funaki, Spike, Tajiri and not much else. For a federation that boasts possibly the greatest roster in the history of sports entertainment, that's quite unimpressive. Of course, a large chunk of the team is out on injured reserve, but for the sheer number of names they've got on staff right now, that kind of a showing is almost unforgiveable. I didn't think the WWF looked ready to fight their way out of a wet paper sack, let alone a "do or die" situation in just a few short weeks.
Edge defeated Rob Van Dam to retain his Intercontinental Championship, capitalizing on a missed Frog Splash with his impaler DDT.
A solid match, but one that should never have been booked in the first place. Edge and RVD are both possible breakaway stars, both faces, and both enjoying a large chunk of fan interest. Each had an important match at last week's No Mercy PPV, and each has a great chance at carrying the WWF well into the new millennium as multiple-time World Champions. So what did a little one-on-one match last night do? It made the fans choose between them, and as a result pretty well deadened the crowd noise. Instead of giving both men the rub they so desperately need at this stage to keep themselves on the rise, this match actually detracted from their individual heat. Edge looked traditional and lost when countered with RVD's explosively original offense, and Mr. Monday Night looked weak and undependable after cleanly dropping one to the perceived minor threat.
Sure, they gave us a great match, but who's to say they wouldn't have had a great match six months down the line, when one or the other has turned heel and they've both had a solid amount of time to define themselves in the eyes of the fans? Mistakes like this one only serve to chip away at the foundations that will be supporting the entire federation in the years to come.
The APA played cards with a clean-shaven Perry Saturn. Bradshaw even took a moment to poke fun at Faarooq's run as WCW Champion years ago. Before this blazin' good time could get off the ground, though, referee Teddy Long told the drinkin' buddies that Chris Jericho was organizing an all-WWF meeting backstage. The usual suspects made tracks toward the locker room where the meeting was to be held.
A fun little prod at history here, referencing Faarooq's old run with the WCW Title as Ron Simmons and then, only moments later, bringing Teddy Long into the picture. For those who don't know, (or remember) Long managed Simmons and Butch Reed when they dominated WCW in the early '90s as the ferocious tag team called "Doom." Seriously one of my all time favorite teams, and one they could probably make use of in the future. Hmm, Booker T... Faarooq... could it happen?
I barely recognized Perry Saturn without his trademark facial hair, and actually mistook him for Big Vito in that silly leather cap. Why they would've chosen Vito out of all the WCW talents floating in Ohio Valley limbo at this point is beyond me, but that's who he looked like so that's who I thought it was. Back to Saturn, though, his character's floating face down at the top of the fishtank by this point. Raven shredded moppy, Scotty 2 Hotty presented him with a new one, the angle was forgotten and now he's into full nosedive mode. Another angle I thought had strong potential (building upon the roots of his old "idiot intellectual" gimmick from the last of his WCW days) gone straight to the land of raspberries. And you wonder why I worry where this Jericho thing is going.
The Hurricane and Mighty Molly defeated Yoshihiro Tajiri and Torrie Wilson, when Molly took advantage of the men's distracted status in the corner and pinned Torrie with a handful of tights.
Another clean match, but a lame duck through and through. Tajiri didn't really come out ready to give it his all tonight, and the match as a whole suffered. The Helms reversal of Tajiri's handspring elbow into a superkick to the back of the head was sweet, but nothing much else was really noteworthy. Molly spent most of the match selling Torrie's sad little offensive flailings, but regained her heat with the pinfall in the end. A throwaway match with some solid heeling to close it out. Unmemorable.
Chris Jericho did his best to motivate the ragtag group of WWF superstars that bothered to show up for his little speech. At the opportune time, The Rock made his appearance, berating Jericho and continuing their bitter public rivalry. The two traded remarks, with Rock summing it all up by claiming "I was winning the big one when you were getting your ass whupped on Monday Nitro by Juventud Guerrera."
Actually, Rocky's got his facts a bit goofy here. Jericho's feud with Juventud Guerrera lasted throughout the spring and summer of 1998, while The Rock himself never won the "big one" (in this instance, the term "big one" refers to the WWF World Title, the only World Title within his reach at the time) until November of 1998. So, it's safe to say Jericho was no longer "getting his ass whupped on Monday Nitro by Juventud Guerrera" when The Rock was busy winning the big one. Actually, if you want to be honest, Rocky didn't really win any big ones until the midway through the year 2000, as his title wins over Mankind (resulting in his first three reigns) were all under heavy dispute and never clean. It wasn't until Backlash 2000 that the Rock cleanly won the WWF Title, when Chris Jericho was well beyond his WCW days. Nice try, though, it was close.
Now that I've proven my historical abilities, (and love of the WWF Title History site) as well as the fact that I have absolutely no life, I guess I should move on...
Personally, I'm getting more than a little bored with the Rock's current character. Sure, he's stepped it up tremendously in the ring over the last couple years and for that I have nothing but praise for him. However, his character outside the ring has really begun to suffer. He's nowhere near as inventive as he used to be and often comes off as less the cool, in-control veteran and more the cocky, conceded ass hole. He's no longer somebody I can really justify cheering, and it's a feeling I think is spreading through the majority of the WWF's fans. Even though it'll likely slow him down in the long run, I think Jericho's becoming more and more the fan favorite in his feud with the "People's Champion."
Y2J barged into Kane and the Undertaker's locker room, giving them hell for missing his all-WWF meeting earlier in the night. When the Undertaker took personal offense, Jericho calmed him down, stating "you aren't the one I'm afraid is gonna jump ship tonight."
Probably my favorite segment of the show, which should tell you something. This went a long way towards developing the kind of relationship characters like Kane, the Undertaker and Chris Jericho have with one another behind the scenes, and gave us something to think about later in the night. If even the Undertaker doesn't know his younger brother well enough to claim he's WWF through and through, what does that say about the Big Red Machine himself? He didn't even chime in to retort. Waranhayt devoted an entire column to this very sort of thing several months ago, after a short segment in the WWF New York arcade with Kane, and he did it more justice than I ever could here.
One of the few instances where I'll admit a backstage segment served its purpose, though its impact was severely lessened by directly following the Jericho / Rock segment moments earlier.
DDP replayed last week's segment in the ring, merely replacing "Kane" in his sentences with "The Big Show". Naturally, he suffered the same fate.
Hear that kids? It's the sound of a push dying... Let's bring back the Triad. Couldn't hurt at this point, right?
Backstage, Kurt Angle and Vince McMahon had a meet and greet with one another. Angle stressed his loyalty to the WWF, soothing Vince's worries, and left with a 2x4 in hand to take care of Austin.
And the parade of backstage bits continues. I guess at this point they were really throwing everything up on the wall to see what sticks. No real point to this segment, other than to throw fans off Angle's trail as the evil, evil fellow who'll soon turn his back on the WWF. Once again Vince managed to cut loose all the tension in his lips and watch them flap in the breeze for far too long here. That's my creative way of saying he talked too long. See, this is what a Bachelor's of Fine Arts gets you, folks. All this and a bag of chips.
The Rock and Chris Jericho successfully defended the WWF Tag Team Titles, defeating Test and Booker T when Test gave out to the strain of Y2J's suspiciously Boston-Crab-resembling Walls of Jericho.
This one may as well have been Booker and the Rock vs. Jericho and Test, as the tag team partners ended up striking one another more often than they did their opponents. It's not the way I would have chosen to continue the Rocky / Jericho feud, but it's doing the purpose just fine as is, I suppose. Besides, where's the fun in an entirely predictable WWF card from top to bottom? Guess that's why I didn't order No Mercy last month. Oh yeah, the match...
About as good a way to keep things fresh in the fans' minds as any. Everybody in attendance was just chomping at the bit to see one of the champs turn here, and they managed to keep the fan interest piqued throughout with just that as bait. It still looks like the smart money's on Jericho making the big turn, but I wouldn't quite count the Rock out just yet. They both showed big time heel potential here, though, so the WWF won't be in any kind of trouble no matter who makes that big turn. Just so long as they keep them the hell away from the Alliance. For the love of god...
Kurt Angle made empty threats towards Stone Cold Steve Austin, thrashing this way and that with his 2x4 before instructing Austin to visit the dark gates of hell and storming out of the room.
See my comments on Angle's backstage meeting with Vince earlier on.
Lita defeated Stacy Kiebler with a very sudden Twist of Fate.
Man oh man, did Lita tear herself apart last night. I'd be surprised if that leap from the apron into the barricade didn't punch out a couple ribs considering the way she landed, and then Matt followed it up with an absolutely brutal elbow directly on the point of her nose. There's no real way to simulate the kind of lurch your head takes backwards after taking a hit like she did last night, and it's incredible she was still standing to finish the match. But then again, Lita's a trooper. Remember that vicious powerbomb she took from Eddie Guerrero on the concrete floors within her first couple weeks with the company? She'll be right back into the mix of things if she keeps that mentality. Hey, wait a minute... did I mention Eddie Guerrero? I guess that makes two weeks in a row I've expressed an interest in a little Latino Heat sending the raging emotions between Matt and Lita into a straight up boil. I wonder if that means something.
As for the match, well, neither Lita nor Stacy are really well known for their extensive movesets. I'm not even sure Stacy's been properly trained to take bumps, but that didn't stop the WWF from throwing her all the way over the top rope and down to the floor last night. If they're planning to continue the 1-on-1 women's matches, they should break out the Women's Title and strap it on Molly for the time being. At least then they'll have something to be fighting over. Aside from the storyline development between Lita and Matt, this was worthless.
Kurt Angle retained the WCW US Title, forcing William Regal to tap out to his Ankle Lock.
Not quite the classic we saw between Angle and Rhyno last week, but still worthy of US Title contention in my book. Regal's new music sucks like few hath sucked before. It's not quite to "Ass Man" or "X-Factor" levels, but it's close. Some additional, terrible vocals would really seal the deal. Nothing from this match stands out for me.
Shane McMahon defeated Vince McMahon in the street fight, after everybody we'll be seeing in next month's PPV main event interfered, Kurt Angle turned and joined the Alliance, and everyone did their own tiny little pee-pee dance in the center of the ring.
A great free tv main event, pretty much completely up to and surpassing the standards I had for it. I'd even venture to say this was better than their WrestleMania encounter, with more back and forth action and much, much less Linda and Trish. Of course, the spot of the whole show was Shane's ugly ugly Shooting Star Press onto the prone garbage can. Seeing as how there's only a handful of people in the world who can hit that one without killing themselves, (or at least breaking a bone) Shane should be commended for even attempting it. Then again, with that kind of a landing maybe it's too soon to say. I'm amazed he didn't snap his arm in two or dislocate a shoulder, landing like that. Can't blame Vince for getting the hell out of dodge, either, as I sure as hell wouldn't volunteer to be Shane's target for one of those.
I worried for a moment Shane was gonna try another shooting star from the top rope through the announce position, but luckily enough that sick premonition never came true. Also a nice reversal of Shane's attempted sequel to the Van Terminator, as there's no way Shane could've made the jump he set up... or could he? Guess we'll have to wait for the impending rematch. And then the run-ins proceeded.
If you need a refresher as to why this Kurt Angle turn made absolutely no sense and continued to lash the bloated corpse of WWF continuity beyond the point of recognition, you should take a look back at those history books. They did the exact same thing with HHH after WrestleMania, and it made just as much sense then as it does now. I'm glad it wasn't Jericho they turned, as the whole show had led us to believe, but at the very least it would've made sense in the storylines in that instance. Then again, who really cares about continuity, right? I mean, that's the kind of stuff that only the really die-hard old school fans pay attention to, isn't it? Hey, Vince... quick note; take a look at your audience. The only ones who seem to be sticking around are the really die-hard old school fans. Turn them off and you're in real trouble. Just a little something to think about.
Overall Grade: D
Call it harsh if you want, I just can't get over how blah this entire program was. This must be assistant writers' month, because I don't see how some of these gaping storyline holes could've slipped past anyone who's ever been in charge of programming in the past. This RAW didn't give me any excitement to see much of Thursday's Smackdown, nor did it give me any real interest in the upcoming Survivor Series elimination match. It all appears to be leading toward HHH's big return, and that'll be good fun, but what happens if they stay true to form and muss that up as well? Do we just tread water and wait to try it all again with Benoit in early 2002? It's a tough spot to be in, and this week's programming decisions have worried me.
until then, i remain