Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Ringside Shadows #181: The Tuesday Review for 10/30/01

I suppose I could start out this week's RAW recap with a tired, overused phrase like "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." but I think a lot of the dramatic meaning would be pretty drained once it was revealed I was merely talking about last week. Sure, the booking was lame and contrived. There were once again way too many McMahons dominating my TV screen and the Undertaker was still no-selling his way through the main eventers who weren't busy. But hey, if that's what it takes to get matches like we saw last week, I'd be more than willing to sit through every bit of it with a huge, shit-eating grin on my face. The matches we saw last week were long, they had a point, and they delivered on almost every occasion. A pity, then, that the same phrase can't be applied to this week's show, isn't it?

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Ringside Shadows #180: The Tuesday Review for 10/23/01

Historically, the RAW after a Pay Per View is a big one. An eve full of reflections on the prior night's events, a night to trot out the new champions and perhaps grant rematches to the old. It's something you can count on, almost without fail. Even so, last night's RAW pretty well threw the pattern for a loop. Instead of keeping themselves in the past with constant recaps of the No Mercy results, the WWF blazed forward from the very get-go, instantly hyping fans about next month's Survivor Series and all but forgetting the brief basking period most new champions are allowed the evening after their victories.

In a way, I've got to applaud the WWF. They've realized the ball has been pretty consistently dropped these last few months, and the PPV undercards have really suffered due to a lack of build. Why was there a Hardys / Hurricane & Storm match this past Sunday night? Eh, they weren't doing anything else. So, instead of dwelling in the past, they moved right along into next month's PPV, not wasting any time on such trivial matters. And, again to their credit, the quality of last night's matches was top notch. Mick Foley promised clean finishes, and though I didn't believe him right away, the gratuitously marketed author actually came through for us.

But hey, once again I'm getting ahead of myself..

RAW results appear in italics, with my comments following in the heavenly plain text you've come to admire.

Joined once more at the hip, (to the popular disapproval) Vince McMahon strode triumphantly down the entryway with his wife Linda and wasted no time in going after the little empire his children were attempting to build. When Shane and Steph popped up under the "WWF.COM" sign at the top of the ramp, Vince played his trump card. He proposed a "winner take all" match at Survivor Series, and left it at that openly vague description. Shane had no choice but to accept. A few more hollow threats were made, before the segment limped to the finish line, a short fifteen minutes after it began.

OK, so there was a bit more to it than that. I just don't feel like typing out all the matches they booked in the opening minutes, as I'll be covering them later. I'm sure there was an easier way to say "Jericho teams with the Rock tonight" than sending the entire McMahon family out there to flap their gums at one another. Was it really just a few short years ago that the only member of the First Family you'd see on TV was Vince, and even he was kept to an inactive role? I never thought I'd be on my hands and knees begging for him to sit back down behind the announcer's table, but here I am. This is the first I've seen of Vince in months, as I missed Smackdown and couldn't afford the PPV, and I'm already counting the minutes until he's back off the television.

Seriously, these opening promos are almost absolutely worthless. Perhaps I'd be a little less jaded if this was the first one we'd seen in weeks, but following up last week's horrendous Foley / Stratus segment (which did absolutely nothing, as Trish wasn't in the lingerie match after all) with another promo, teetering on the edge of widespread boredom, isn't such a good choice in my eyes. This could've been kept to five minutes, with the spoken word performances held to a brief "Winner takes all at the Survivor Series." You know something's wrong when the opening promo takes up a full two and a half pages on the WWF.COM writeup, and the first match gets four lines.

Lita and Trish Stratus defeated Molly and Ivory when Lita nailed her trademark moonsault.

Probably the best women's match we've seen all year, which isn't saying much at all. In Molly and Ivory, you've got two women who know what they're doing. Lita is carryable, as evidenced by her match with Molly last week, while Trish is still confused as to which corner she should be standing and clapping from. Molly continued her streak of whup-ass last night, once again pulling out all the stops and solidifying her position as the top worker in the female ranks. Beautiful vertical suplexes last night from the Mighty one, and she doesn't have to worry about losing much heat, as it was Ivory who took the pinfall. I have nothing bad to say about this match. Short, simple, clean, and with minimal catfighting.

Backstage, cooling down from his grueling opening promo, Vince invited Rob Van Dam to join the WWF. When RVD hesitated, McMahon told him "You're either with me.. or you're against me" and booked him in a match with the Big Show.

You could hear the collective sigh of disappointment from the crowd here, when it was announced Van Dam's opponent would be Paul Wight. Personally, I've got no problem with it, especially considering The Wrestling Observer is claiming his original opponent was meant to be the Undertaker. I dislike the Show, but lately I dislike the Taker even more, and if they'd put Van Dam in there against him, it's almost a guarantee he'd be losing some big time ground before the night was through. At any rate, good interaction between McMahon and Van Dam. Would've been a-ok with me if Vince hadn't just finished his friggin' hour long promo to start the show.

Matt Hardy went looking for Lita, accidentally stumbling upon a topless Trish Stratus in the women's dressing room.

I dig this angle. Matt's getting some quality time to develop his character, and he's grabbing ahold of the opportunity with both hands (no pun intended.) Now if only we could get Eddy Guerrero back in there to add a little more tension to the Lita / Matt romance...

Edge and Kurt Angle had a casual chat backstage, until Rhyno appeared from out of nowhere, giving Paul E. the opportunity to shout "GORE!" x3. Angle had to be forcibly restrained.

See, this is the kind of stuff we need to be seeing more of backstage. No more "hey, Debra's cookies really suck ass!", a little less "Oh my gawd! There's the Undertaker! And he's WALKING!", a big cut on the length of the "here comes a limo... ah wunder whose in d'ere!" Just simple, to the point, storyline advancement and character development. In about a minute's combined time, we got two segments that did more for me than that whole opening fifteen minute McMahon-fest.

It's good to see Edge and Angle are both returning to the respective characters that made them big, with minor tweaks on both sides to make them functional faces. Rhyno's also been taking big strides lately, re-establishing himself as the irresistible force in the World Wrestling Federation.

Tajiri defeated Kidman, capturing the WCW Cruiserweight championship after a fierce set of kicks to the head.

This is just what these guys needed to kick off the feud a number of folks have been demanding over in the Oratory Forums. Great historical references throughout by both JR and Paul, regarding Torrie and Kidman's past together, which leads me to believe this'll be more than just a one shot deal. The match itself was given everything it could've asked for, a solid spot near the top of the first hour, plenty of time to tell a story and a clean, red hot finish. It's too bad the crowd didn't get excited about this one until the finish, as these two really worked their hearts out to give us a good performance. Tajiri seemed ready to mail it in, but Kidman would have none of it and kept the pace blistering throughout, even providing an "if, then" statement for himself; if you can't powerbomb Kidman, then you can't suplex Tajiri. I swear, the poor kid took at least a half dozen reversals for his trouble and didn't even get to land the damn suplex when all was said and done.

Like I said earlier, plenty of time here meant Kidman was given the opportunity to do what he does best; tell a story in the ring. The nearfalls started about midway through and built to a tremendous pace by the end of the match, to the point where I really had no idea who was going to come away with the gold. If the WWF doesn't turn this into a full blown feud, they're bigger morons than I thought.

DDP made a motivational live appearance, lecturing the live audience about the perils of losing. When he was interrupted by Kane halfway through his speech, Page tried to work his magic on the Big Red Machine. Unfortunately, Kane wasn't about to bend over for the cameras and shout "Thanks, DDP!" He merely chokeslammed the former WCW Champion and left amidst fire and brimstone.

Hey, somebody realized that "pearly white smile" gimmick really doesn't work if DDP's completely obscuring his mouth with a microphone. Major kudos to the guy who thought that gay little earpiece mic was a good idea, it's perfect for the gimmick. With a little tweaking, this is something that could get over in a major league way (not that it wasn't over to begin with.) Some of the little things were missing throughout this segment, and one of them really bothered me for one reason or another; the camerawork. If they're really serious about continuing this gimmick, they need to adopt a more conventional infomercial camera angle. The "in your face" WWF camera style is really inappropriate here. Maybe even something silly like a blatant audience plant or a cheesy little namebar at the bottom of the screen, proudly exclaiming "Diamond Dallas Page" would be enough to get this thing completely off the ground.

The interaction with Kane was priceless, as Page didn't even flinch when red fire shot out of all four corners of the ring. I didn't realize it until the moment they were face to face, but this gimmick has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Raven's Flock. If only Kane had thought a moment, nodded to himself and said "You know, DDP, you're right!" instead of chokeslamming him to hell, this could've been the start of something great. Think about it; the cheeriest stable in the history of wrestling. They'll kick your ass and feel super about it!

Kurt Angle captured the WCW US Title, defeating Rhyno with an Ankle Lock after a highly competitive matchup.

This could mean one of two things. a) Rhyno is on the verge of breaking through to the upper mid-card, where he'll slowly destroy all of the opposition on his way to the main event. OR, b) Kurt Angle's career is in serious trouble.

Maybe it's C, "all of the above." Regardless, this was an unexpected little gem, probably the match of the night. Rhyno's really getting into his new character, inventing new maneuvers like that gore into the turnbuckle or his unbelievably vicious snap spinebuster, which I'd thought was a one time deal when he debuted it last week against Chris Jericho. He's becoming less "that guy who tackles people" and more the wild animal of the WWF, which is a role he's perfectly suited for. He completely dominated the offense of this matchup, which says a lot, considering he was taking on a man not two weeks removed from a World Championship reign.

Man, but Angle has one of the most beautiful moonsaults in wrestling today.

Anyway, a great match, (barring that goofy neckbreaker which saw Angle turn one way and Rhyno turn the other) and something absolutely worthy of the tradition behind the WCW US Title. Even though the promotion's defunct, as is the belt, former champions like Ricky Steamboat, Sting, Roddy Piper and Barry Windham must've been smiling Monday Night. This is the kind of legacy they fought to build.

Bradshaw squashed The Hurricane, winning the WWF European Championship in the process.

Not my cup of tea. I'd be surprised if it was anyone's cup of tea, honestly, since it was effectively the same match we saw between these two last week, albeit minus the tag team partners. The cheesiness was overpowering in this match, and almost wholly unwarranted and stupid. I didn't think anything could bring me down from the high presented by the first hour's matches, but this did a pretty good job of it. The pattern of WWF stars destroying their Alliance opposition in fair fights was becoming blatantly obvious by this point, and it wasn't making me smile nearly as widely as Mr. McMahon, or... at all. How do you build a big PPV clash between the two federations if it's this damned obvious who's gonna walk away with the win? Let's just hope they don't follow this up with a very special "all run-in" Smackdown, highlighted by a truckload of Alliance victories. The WWF booking confuses me greatly.

Kane and the Undertaker shockingly defeated Test and Booker T, following a Kane chokeslam and tombstone.

Hey, isn't that move banned nowadays? I spent this match playing with my cat. At least he'll sell when the little mouse on a string we've got hits his nose.

Rob Van Dam beat the Big Show in a Hardcore Title match, hitting the first decent Van Daminator of his WWF career and following it up with the five star frog splash.

Just about precisely the role The Big Show should fill. He did it for Chris Benoit, he did it for Booker T and now he's done it for Rob Van Dam. As long as the Show's built as the immovable object, (as opposed to Rhyno's irresistible force... hmmm..) it'll be a major league victory for anyone who topples him. Like I said, Benoit and Booker got big time boosts from solid victories over him, and I'd be surprised if RVD doesn't get the same. Unfortunately for The Show, it doesn't bode well for his singles career, as the only thing he's really good for is putting over other guys. I'd be genuinely surprised if he holds any significant singles gold again.

Chris Jericho and The Rock defeated The Dudley Boyz for their WWF Tag Team Championships by pinfall, after the Rock hit the Rock Bottom on D-Von.

Again, not exactly my cup of tea. Jericho and Rocky are still trying to keep the tension in the air and doing a good job of it, but I really wish they hadn't drug out this tired old situation yet again. The warring pair of singles wrestlers are forced to work together as a tag team. They win the World Titles. One star costs them the gold. They war some more. It's just too everyday, too commonplace for the special kind of feud I think this Rocky / Jericho schpeel really is. Still, I suppose it made for some nice visuals at the end of the show, though the match wasn't anything to really write home about.

So what we got in the end was a surprisingly superb set of matches, a couple needlessly long promos, more title changes than your usual program and something of a direction for the Survivor Series. Though I have no idea how Vince got it through his head that we're more likely to buy a PPV when there's absolutely no question in our minds who's going to win...

Final Grade: B

And I'm honestly bushed. I absolutely nailed this month's preview, correctly predicting 100% of the No Mercy results, so you'll excuse me while I do a little superior dance over here in the corner...
until then, i remain

Saturday, October 20, 2001

The World's Greatest WWF No Mercy 2001 Preview

It's a strange birth this month, with the WWF returning to their "Bizarro WCW" roots, delivering two tremendous main events and a somewhat uninspired undercard. Not even JR had much to say about the non-World Title matches in this week's Ross Report, resorting to the old cliches of "this one should be fun", or "this could surprise", even falling back on the old standby "I like this one." Just once, I'd like to hear the ol' Oklahoman speak his mind, free of the pressure to promote and hype the WWF machine. "Gawd, but Sunday's Chyna / Nicole Bass matchup is gonna suck a set of mule nuts! I think I can guarantee you these horse-faced freaks of modern medicine won't be setting the world on fire this Sunday. Head for the bathroom when Chyna steps out with that dumb ass bazooka."

Hardy Boyz vs. The Hurricane & Lance Storm
WCW Tag Team Championship

Any indications would have had Shane Helms teaming up with his good buddy Lance in a grudge match with the Acolytes here, yet instead they're somehow crammed onto the card against the Hardys, winners of the WCW tag straps on a fluke a couple weeks ago. It's pretty easy to connect the dots here and realize an APA run-in is almost an afterthought. They'll probably demolish the Hurri-cycle too, which is really a shame. But unlike my partner here, I actually get a kick out of some of Hurricane's comedy spots. I mean, c'mon, how can you not enjoy a guy Helms's size trying to chokeslam the Big Show? It's a nice change of pace, so long as they keep him active in the ring all the same. Which leads me to my next point; even though there isn't so much of a build for this match, we can most certainly look forward to some fantastic work between the ropes. With the Hardys and Helms already very familiar with one another through OMEGA (that's right, I'm stealing fellow Oratory member Justin T's thunder here, with an OMEGA reference), and Storm still working on a bit of a high after his superb match with Jeff about three weeks ago, things should be blistering both on the mat and in the air. As long as the overbooking is kept in check, this should act as a tidy little curtain jerker, but I don't think a title change is in the air.
Winners: The Hardy Boyz

Dudley Boyz vs. Big Show & Tajiri
WWF Tag Team Championship

Perhaps the only interesting thing the Dudleys have done recently is put Torrie through a table, and even that was forgotten in a rush. They're directionless, repetitive and slowly losing their credibility thanks to all these handicap matches. What the Dudleys really need right now is a heel tu-.... what? They're already heels? Shit, I'm fresh out of ideas then. As long as the Show keeps the mat in his corner warm through this match and Tajiri feels like working, things should go smoothly for the viewing audience. I'd like to see this lead to a "Big Show on a pole" match between Tajiri and Spike somewhere down the line, not just because the two smaller guys could really put on a great show with one another, but because I'd love to see the tremendous visual of the Big Show stuck on top of a large steel pole. I guess it would be interesting watching them try to get him down, too. Hm. But I'm getting wayyy off the topic. Standard fare will transpire here, with an ending that's likely to be shady and / or involve the Alliance. The Dudleyz get the nod here, possibly using the title belt or a low blow to take out the Big Show yet again.
Winners: The Dudley Boyz

Torrie Wilson vs. Stacy Keibler vs. Trish Stratus
First-Ever Lingerie Match

I'm sure somebody out there installed a TV set with PPV in their bathroom for the sole purpose of viewing matches like this one in privacy. And hey, far be it from the WWF to let them down. I suppose I should be looking on the bright side; at least Mae Young remains far, far away from these things anymore. The kids will get their entertainment here, and those much more mature members of the audience won't have too long of an interruption in their regular schedule of sweaty men rolling around with one another in their underwear and shouting a lot.
Winner: Torrie Wilson

Test vs. Kane

I actually think this one's gonna be a lot closer than you'd think it would be, as Kane has yet to catch up to his brother in terms of both suck and blow. He'll still sell, makes an effort on occasion and doesn't refuse to job. In other words, he's got a lot of growing to do in big brother badass's eyes. I'm in complete agreement with you as far as Test's growth over the last few months into something worth watching. Though he often botches that big boot to the face, he's still putting forth an effort and shows willingness to improve. He's most definitely been working on his skills during his off time, and it's slowly starting to pay off. I no longer think of him as Diesel 2000, so that's one hell of a step in the right direction. It's pretty safe to say one of the brothers Grimm is taking a fall tomorrow night, while one is walking out with his hand held high. One guess as to which one is which.
Winner: Test

Undertaker vs. Booker T

Well, it's put up or shut up time for the WWF with Booker T. If they're serious about keeping him in the main event and plan to give him any kind of push somewhere down the line, he needs to go over in this match. Badly. They were on to a good thing in the weeks after Summerslam, when they sent him out there to completely destroy anything in his way. He got over as a supreme badass, the ultimate dickhead heel. He talked a big game, but then he went into the ring and backed it up with his actions, and audiences were livid to see him pinned. Unfortunately, as Dave mentioned, he was pinned... again, and again, and again, by the Rock. Yeah, so that didn't go anywhere. But I still believe there's promise for him, especially with Steve Austin remaining with the Alliance. The two have great chemistry together, and their characters are such a natural fit for one another that I'm amazed it's taken them this long to make the connection.

So, if the WWF honestly wants to use that whole "the Taker's just no selling so it means that much more when he finally jobs" excuse, that's fine by me. But this better be one of those instances when he throws that pride to the floor and gives it his all to finally put somebody over. Unless Booker comes out of the curtain a changed man, this match is going to disappoint. He's been slumping ever since he entered the WWF, and even when he was in the main event over in WCW, he was a shade of his former self. The big Suckah himself looked solid in the ring on RAW, but god only knows if that's gonna carry over this Sunday. And when the bell rings? Hey, I remain optimistic... but I'm not stupid.
Winner: The Undertaker

Christian vs. Edge
WWF Intercontinental Championship - Ladder Match

I've been pleading since day one for the WWF to keep Christian out of the Alliance, and after a slow start with the gold, they've chickened out on the Christian heel character and stuffed him into the Alliance like so much breading in a bloated turkey on Thanksgiving day. I don't know how, but this feud's been lost in the shuffle, which really makes me worry about what's going to happen in the follow through of the Jericho / Rock angle. Nevertheless, both guys are working their hearts out here, as they know this is the angle that'll either launch their careers into the atmosphere or plunge them into the bowels of Metal and Jakked for eternity. It's really too bad that the bookers have decided to cloud things up with so many useless swerves and developments, as it's really faded what should've rightfully been one of the year's most memorable feuds.

As for the match, again Dave's right... this should tear it up. You've gotta figure, working together for so many ladder matches in the past, with the inevitable breakup in the backs of their minds these guys must've come up with dozens of cool spots that they decided to save for themselves. This feud really needs another couple months to make it important, but things are already dragging along. It may be time to just cut the losses and salvage what you can from the wreckage. Edge gets his revenge and the angle blows off for the time being Sunday.
Winner: Edge

The Rock vs. Chris Jericho
WCW Championship

This is the one that's building all the hype, all the interest, all the buzz about tomorrow night's event. As you said, both guys have adequate reason and motivation to turn, and the crowd appears more than willing to buy into whichever direction the bookers should choose. The smart money's on Jericho, but therein things get a little complicated. Y2J really, REALLY needs the win here, if he ever hopes to be accepted in the main event. He needs to shake that 'choker' image in the absolute worst way, and this is the time and place to do so. In sharp contrast, the best way I can see for Jericho to turn here is by throwing a temper tantrum after dropping the big match. The Canadian soul has been showing much more character evolution than the Rock, integrating a more hard-edged set of maneuvers into his ringwork and tweaking the image of his character on TV. Then again, the heel Rock isn't very different from the face Rock... he just has longer sideburns. They're both conceded pricks, and they both rely heavily on catchphrases to do the work for them. It's a really tough call regarding who turns, and one I'm not nearly certain about making.

The action between the ropes, though, will be fantastic. Rocky's work has been steadily improving for years, to the point where he's now absolutely able on his own in the ring. Jericho, too, has been on an upward swing of late, though that may have as much to do with his luck in opponents as it does his own effort. Regardless, the bottom line here is Chris Jericho's absolute need to go over clean. It won't matter if he wins with a chairshot, because he still would've choked in the big match and had to rely on outside interference to save him. Just like I stressed above, Y2J really needs the win here, and I'm quite sure that fact hasn't been missed by the WWF creative team.
Winner: Chris Jericho

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle vs. Rob Van Dam
WWF Championship

Rocky / Jericho should by all means be the main event Sunday night, and I'm really hoping they give Y2J his spot in the sun and make that big switch. However, I don't think this match is quite as predictable as one might think it would be. Here's my reasoning; the WWF's on a downward slope in terms of viewership. They're losing their hold on the cable TV ratings, and the fad is winding down. Right now they're thrashing this way and that, desperate for something, anything, that fans will latch onto. Right now it appears they've found that special something in the form of Rob Van Dam. Fans love him because he's different, and the WWF loves him because the fans love him. They're really trying to make every RAW one you can't afford to miss right now, and if RVD walks out with the gold tomorrow night, the following night's programming will seem that much harder to overlook.

Speaking personally, this angle's really hooked me. I don't know which way they're going to take it, and I like it. Sure, you've got the Scott Kieths of the world out there, proclaiming "Austin pins Angle! Dewey defeats Truman!", and I can't really argue with that. After all, that prediction is without a doubt the most likely. But if the WWF's as worried about the ratings as they've let on lately, I really think this one's got much more of a chance to surprise than anybody's giving it. Hey, who's to say Angle won't shock us all and win the title? I seem to remember a certain Mankind / Austin / HHH Summerslam a few years ago when everyone had all but written off Mankind in their predictions, and the poor fool walked right in and won the gold. The WWF has a real knack of bucking you just when you're most confident they won't. Tomorrow's match really has me guessing, but I'm gonna have to go with the safe pick.
Winner: Steve Austin


It's notable that this is the first WWF PPV in quite some time that I can remember going without 'SOLD OUT' status. In the close of an era that saw tickets to such events going on ebay and with scalpers at nearly double the initial cost, this doesn't bode well for the future. We all knew it was coming, and we've seen the writing on the wall. It's becoming "unhip" to be a wrestling fan once again, and that's both good and bad for those of us who stick around for the in between years. It's good, because the WWF will slowly start to gravitate away from what entertained the short term fans. They'll give their hardcore fan base more of what it wants, which is (for the most part) quality wrestling and believable, unpredictable angles and storylines. On the down side, however, ratings ain't gonna be going up any time soon, and the Federation itself is going to have to close those storm shutters and avoid pricey mistakes at all costs. Production values may go down, and business won't be good for the insiders. But, if the fed keeps chugging along, doing what it does best and nothing more, the mood will eventually change yet again to its favor. The dual main events for No Mercy stand as a perfect example, especially in contrast to the unorganized undercard. There's quite a bit of solid storytelling going on between Rocky and Jericho, RVD and Austin, & Austin and Angle. These feuds will without a doubt produce some solid, memorable matches. It's what got the WWF thus far, and what will keep them afloat when pickins are slim down the road. On the other hand, weak, underdeveloped matches like this Big Show / Tajiri vs. Dudleys tag matchup were hurriedly booked, and really shine as an example of bookers' concentration on a few select feuds and not the big picture. This was, for the most part, a product of this last rush of popularity. It's something they're gonna have to work on if they want to survive in the years to come.
until next time, i remain

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Ringside Shadows #179: The Tuesday Review for 10/16/01

It should've been a big week for Raw... the arena booked was filled with the always-hot Canadian fans, the "next big thing" (in this case, WWF No Mercy) was less than a week away, and nearly all the matches for the PPV had already been announced and set up. With so many of the usual distractions out of the way, it should've been a rare opportunity for the WWF crew to sit down, concentrate, and deliver a thoroughly memorable RAW. So why did the entire show leave such a bland taste in my mouth?

Instead of the exciting new program RAW had started to move toward in the last couple weeks, this week's show took a couple big steps backward, edging back in the direction of the overly-vocal, underly-physical episodes we've seen so much of over the last few years. With a few shining exceptions, last night just came off as a bunch of guys going through the motions, not the involving, believable story I've come to expect. Instead of an unpredictable, electric atmosphere we got the same old crew switching places at their own leisure. Eh? Booker T's taking part in the main event? Oh, I guess we may as well throw the Undertaker in with Kurt Angle then. The way things developed was almost lackadasical, not to mention dull. But hey, that's not to say it was all bad...

RAW results appear in italics, with my comments following in glorious, sheep-shearing plain text.

Mick Foley entered the ring, plugged his new book and mentioned the name of the town he was visiting before Trish Stratus interrupted, wearing a black leather trenchcoat for good measure. Both she and Foley surpassed the usual quota of "stratus-faction" utterances, before Trish did her one trick and stripped down to the cheers of many. She asked to be included in this Sunday's Lingerie match between Torrie and Stacy, and Commissioner Foley was quick to oblige.

Gag me with a sweaty gymsock. It's been less than a week, and already I'm thinking Mick made the wrong choice in coming back to the roster. Maybe he was having a bad day, (then again, maybe it was me) but Foley just didn't come off as entertaining as his usual self here. He relied too heavily on the beaten catchphrase path, and not nearly enough on the kind of unique comedy that really set him apart from the pack. Add to that an absolutely worthless Trish Stratus return, stripdown and ogle-fest, and you get all sorts of bored viewer points. This is the kind of segment that makes me wish Nitro was still around... at the very least, they'd have something going on that wouldn't land me dirty glares from the girlfriend.

Which leads me to my next point... why, exactly, is Trish interested in getting involved with this match? The only reason I could possibly see is so she can turn heel and join the Alliance, which wouldn't really come as much of a surprise. Granted, Stratus is much better suited as the heel seductress, but we've already seen just about everything she's got on several occasions. What's to make this one any different? Hmph, maybe the WWF will play their old standby; "Let's change the rating of this PPV to "M," so people will think somebody's getting naked!"

The APA, along with Jacqueline and Tough Enough's Nidia, wandered around backstage, before the Hurricane and Mighty Molly turned up. With the aid of the "Hurri-cycle," they tore down the APA's backstage office and scooted away. All that was missing was a well-timed "toot toot!"

From my perspective, this little segment's a pretty good representation of the whole night. At first it had promise, but things went a steady downhill from there. You had the solid babyface toughguys and the goofy superhero tweener, already signed for a matchup later in the night, looking to add a little spice to the mix. The camera caught sight of the little rope tied between the Hurri-cycle and the set, and Faarooq and Bradshaw just kind of stared in bewildered silence as Helms slowly turned on his vehicle, waited for it to properly warm up, shouted a few words, then sputtered away. Really bad, almost reminiscent of the whole Raven / Saturn "moppy" affair of a few weeks back.

What they needed was something to give the match an extra kick, but without the insult to both the Acolytes and the fans that last night's display delivered. I'm thinking something along the lines of Hurricane stumbling over the APA's mock doorstep and inadvertently destroying their entire set-up (a'la Pee Wee's Big Adventure at the biker bar), before fleeing to the Hurri-cycle and narrowly escaping with his life.

About 40 minutes in, RAW delivered its first match, as The Dudley Boyz w/ Stacy Kiebler soundly defeated the Big Show in a handicap brawl. After the match, Yoshihiro Tajiri ran in, countering the Dudleys' attempts to 3D him through a table and allowing the Big Show to hit aaaAAHHHTHECHOKESLAAAMMmm through a table instead.

About what you'd expect from a match that guarantees the Big Show will be in the ring throughout. I'm surprised the Dudleys didn't try to grab a pinfall after their whassup drop, as it was a crotch shot last week that took the Show out of action for more than three minutes. Mayhaps they found that chink in the big man's armor. Tajiri's run-in was short but sweet. Good to see him climbing the ranks so quickly, effectively hitting two of his big finishers on the Tag Team Champions within seconds of one another. Doesn't say much for the competition for the belts, though. If the Big Show won, would he have been tag team champion? Would he have chosen Judy Bagwell as his impromptu partner? How about Kenny Kaos?

The "entire" Alliance flooded the ring, (minus their OVW counterparts) announcing William Regal would be the new WCW commissioner. Regal was given a moment to say thank you, before being shuffled to the back of the ring for the remainder of the night, negating the impact of last week's main event heel turn. Steve Austin then took the mic, and proceeded to tally the votes he'd collected earlier to decide who his tag team partner would be for the evening's main event. The final tally read something like RVD: 1, Booker T: 3412. In a remarkable landslide, Booker would be climbing in the ring to join Austin at the eleven o'clock hour. Perhaps feeling sorry for "Mr. Monday Night," Steve granted RVD a shot at the Rock's WCW World Title later in the night.

So much for that new personality I was hoping Austin had debuted last week. I enjoyed it at first, but his current character is beginning to grind away to nothing in my opinion. Half of what made Austin so memorable was the fact he wasn't just another guy stepping between the ropes and pretending to hit another guy. He was somebody who looked like he took things deadly seriously, both in and out of the ring. He was his character, and that's why it was so believable, so easy to buy into. For a while after WrestleMania, Austin didn't lose sight of that attitude, but somehow slowly digressed into just another guy with a microphone. Fortunately, his ringwork remains solid and exciting, but who's to say how long that's gonna last?

Interesting that Regal's been appointed WCW Commissioner. I know of a certain Nature Boy who might dispute that claim. Say, isn't next month's PPV taking place in North Carolina? Isn't the Raw the next day, and the Smackdown the day after that also in North Carolina? Probably just wishful thinking. I just know I'd rather see Regal feuding with Flair right now than Regal going one on one with Foley.

Finally, it's great to see Booker and Austin finally having some interaction. As two of the few remaining solid heels, they've got too much common ground to be kept away from one another. If they only feed off of and grow from being around each other, as they did last night, why keep them apart? And don't tell me there isn't money in that feud a ways down the line, after Austin takes care of RVD and a returning HHH. Now that I mention that, what's Stone Cold's problem with guys who use three initials instead of a regular name?

The APA made good on their promise to whup the Hurricane's ass, after a Bradshaw clothesline sent Shane Helms's head somewhere up to the stadium's second tier.

The popularity of the APA defies explanation. These guys have been faces since the end of the whole Ministry of Darkness angle, rarely changing a thing about their characters, yet they've never cooled off in the eyes of the fans. I guess if it ain't broke...

Quickly, somebody remind me why Nidia was at ringside? I think I blinked and missed her, what with all that hiding behind the Acolytes during their ring entrance and complete lack of presence throughout. Hey, at least Maven got some TV time and a solid rub to jump-start his career. I'd be surprised if we ever see Nidia again.

Back in the Alliance locker room, Kidman was heard openly questioning Steve Austin's tallying of the votes earlier in the night. Tazz confronted him about the issue, challenging him to a match in the ring later in the show.

Waitaminute, what's this...?? Divisions in the Alliance? It's about friggin time. Next step; expand the roster.

Backstage, Chris Jericho continued that gradual slip into his old heel habits, mispronouncing Michael Cole's name and telling us all he's ready for the Rock this Sunday. Rocky interrupted, telling Y2J to stay out of his way, before heading to the ring for his title defense.

As if there was any doubt... great to see Jericho slowly implementing the things that made him such a successful bastard during his stay in WCW. I don't think he'd washed his hair all week, and it really gave his look that weaselly little edge it needed. The crowd was eating this up with a kitchen utensil, acknowledging their native son with one of the night's biggest pops. I was worried how the crowd might react to the Rock, seeing as he's opposing their fellow Canadian and all, but they seemed to be slightly more in favor of the people's champ after all.

Rob Van Dam defeated the Rock by Disqualification after Chris Jericho's interference.

Just what Van Dam needed to complete his elevation to the main event. He controlled this one from start to finish, leaving the Rock with almost no offense of his own and passing the word along to anyone who hadn't figured it out beforehand that he's truly arrived. Still, probably the highlight of the match came during a brief flurry of Rock offense. When he hit that DDT and Van Dam stayed almost vertical, it was like someone had doused the audience with gasoline and finally got around to lighting a match. There was no looking back for any of the men involved from there.

Tazz did the J-O-B for Billy Kidman, following a brutal match that must have lasted upwards of two minutes.

Well, I can't argue with the outcome. Kidman nets the clean pinfall, after a few decent reversals and absolutely no illegal objects or outside interference. Unfortunately, the match is up there as one of the year's shortest. While I appreciate the efforts of the WWF booking team here and realize the match's length got chopped up tremendously due to low time, there really isn't a reason to even bother having the match if it's just gonna turn out like this. It's a joke... neither guy has the time to properly tell a story and interest the crowd, and Tazz comes off looking like a complete wuss for building himself up as such a hard ass both on WWF TV and in Tough Enough, only to drop a match like this against a perceivably minor threat like Kidman. Give them five minutes or don't bother next time.

Chris Jericho defeated Rhyno by disqualification after Mike Awesome and Raven ran in. Afterwards the beatdown commenced, a payback for Jericho's interference in Rob Van Dam's WCW Title match. Rocky made the save, only to deliver a Rock Bottom to Y2J as soon as the ring had been cleared.

The highlight of the evening. Jericho and Rhyno had an intensely physical match, coming to a peak with that absolutely ruthless release spinebuster that left me wondering how Jericho could've possibly avoided a concussion. Chris is doing things almost flawlessly with this turn, even altering his moveset bit by bit to gather more heat from the crowd. Unfortunately, the exception thus far seems to be his Liontamer / Walls of Jericho finisher. If he's going to be perceived as a real threat in the future, especially as a heel, that one needs to come off as a much more physically demanding move. It's a big part of what made him so impressive in WCW... not only could he reverse almost anything into it, but once he did you were almost pleading with his opponents to tap, so you didn't have to watch their suffering any longer. Once the Rock made his run in it was almost color by numbers, and neither guy went outside the lines. A great way to build interest in Sunday's matchup, and something I couldn't have seen done successfully any other way.

Live in NYC, DDP attempted to turn heel to mixed results.

Shot... dowwwwn in a blaze of glory..

Edge defeated X-Pac in a non-title match, after countering the X-Factor into the Impaler.

Not much more to say about this one, really, except I can't give X-Pac props enough for sticking it out through the shit early on and emerging with this wholely entertaining and convincing heel role. He's once again one of the most underspoken parts of the roster, returning to the impressive ringwork that gained him fame early in life and rounding out his current character almost perfectly. I love a good heel, and right now X-Pac is a good heel.

Backstage, Edge hurriedly told Christian their mother had been in an accident. As the two rushed to the exit of the arena, Edge was jumped by members of the Alliance. Christian quickly took advantage of the situation, absolutely destroying his brother and telling him the only accident their mother had ever made was Edge himself.

Just as realistic and brutal as this needed to be. I'm not a fan of involving real life problems such as the sickness of a loved one or a death in the family in the wrestling program, (see the Undertaker and Paul Wight episodes) but it actually worked to perfection here. Christian looked legitimately pissed throughout this segment, reverting back to the character we were all floored by when he initially turned on his brother, and giving their ongoing feud a shot in the arm. I just hope this doesn't mean Christian's joining the Alliance.

Paul Heyman was proud to announce Christian as the newest member of the Alliance.


Backstage, Kurt Angle emerged from his locker room wearing shades and an American flag bandana. The Undertaker just groaned and headed towards the ring.

Where was this guy over the last month and a half? This is the Kurt Angle fans slowly fell in love with, the guy that you just look at and think "god, what a dork." They didn't care about him when he suddenly became a Rocky clone or a psychopathic Austin hunter. That wasn't the Angle they wanted in the main event. Dare I say his title reign would've been a lot more successful if he'd continued acting this way throughout, instead of trying to look cool and crack jokes alongside The Rock.

Steve Austin and Booker T defeated The Undertaker and Kurt Angle when Rob Van Dam delivered a five star frog splash to the immobile Olympic Champion.

Man oh man was Booker on tonight. Especially with Angle, the five time former WCW Champ really clicked and gave it his all whenever he was actively involved in the match. Everything from his axe kicks to his selling for the Undertaker looked solid, and it's good to see such an effort from somebody who isn't commonly considered one of the usual suspects. If nothing else, that's giving me hope for the future. The man is money in the bank.

Pretty good match, which is standard for RAW these days. I could've done without the Undertaker's inclusion, but with three very good workers to pick up his slack, it's pretty close to justified. Nice hot finish that leaves a lot of room for interpretation and guessing going into this Sunday's three way main event. The crowd certainly didn't like that he chose to hit Angle instead of Austin, and they didn't hesitate to let him know. That means there's just as much to gain by reaffirming RVD as a heel this Sunday as there is by turning him solid face. Yeah, the finish gets my approval.

Final Grade: C

Just about average. I remembered this one as being a bit worse than it actually was, on second glance. Great advances made on the Jericho and Van Dam fronts, giving us plenty of stuff to consider going into this Sunday's PPV extravaganza. As usual, Dave and I will be around Thursday or Friday for "The World's Greatest" PPV Team, so be sure you don't miss that one. I've also got something brewing in the pot with Marcus Madison, but that one'll be exclusive to The Oratory, so keep your eyes peeled there as well.
until then, i remain

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Ringside Shadows #178: The Tuesday Review for 10/9/01

It's been a bad week to be me, loyal readers. My girlfriend's grandfather passed away after a long sickness Friday evening, and though I wanted to join her for the long drive home, I couldn't afford to miss a day of work. More importantly, I didn't think the business I'm working for could afford to lose me for a couple days. In a piece of bitter irony, I learned Monday morning that this same business, one I moved across the country to join, is going under and won't be able to keep me on staff beyond the end of the week. Add to that my former landlord's attempt to screw me out of my $500 deposit, and you get an unpleasant Q. So, to say the least, I was looking to RAW for a much-needed escape. Luckily, what we got was exactly what I needed; a little reminder why I even bother every Monday night.

The WWF promotion machine's been in full swing all week, hyping the hell out of this RAW. Overzealous announcers even pulled a Schiavone, claiming this week's episode could "alter the future of the federation." Well, to a degree those claims were accurate. It's been some time since I've found myself this hopeful, this interested about the direction of the current scene. That evolution I mentioned last week? It's continuing, starting to take a more visible shape now. The clean finishes continued, proving the WWF is serious about losing that "every TV match ends with a run-in" stigma that permeated most of 2000's broadcasts. More importantly, the WWF took some risks with proven talent, taking them in a direction we might not have expected. It's shades of what made the program so exciting to watch in 1997 and early '98, during the reign of Russo.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. RAW results appear in italics, with my comments following in glorious plain text.

Programming opened up with our weekly dose of six-man action, as the Dudley Boyz (with Stacy) and Tazz were soundly defeated by Tajiri (with Torrie), the Big Show and Spike Dudley. After the bell, Stacy and Torrie teased a catfight before the Dudleys had enough and planted the beautiful Ms. Wilson into the soft, fertile soil that rests below a Federation table. Locked into the Tazzmission, Tajiri was forced to watch the entire ordeal. Cue stretcher job.

The match itself uneventful and short, it was the post-clash events that took the real steps forward here. Tazz here continued his attempts to reclaim that "bad ass" persona that defined his run in ECW, though a quick job to a stiff Tajiri kick won't get him too far in that category. At the very least, the Human Suplex Machine has direction. Torrie took a rather nasty powerbomb through the wood, landing almost directly on her lower neck, but to her credit she sold it like a champ and didn't flinch on the way down.

For someone being built as a literal mountain, the Big Show sure bowed out early from this one. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but it seems pretty strange to me that it took everything in Booker T's arsenal to even make a dent in The Show's stature several weeks ago, while here he's taken out of the match in its entirety by a simple low blow. Now, I'm far from a fan of the maligned Mr. Wight, but I do think he has an important, specified role in the company. In the right hands, he can be used to put over almost anyone as a god, (see Benoit, Chris) but those few heroic victories mean next to nothing if he's discarded like so much loose paper in throwaway matches like this one. Little details like this one really do add up in the end...

Stephanie McMahon made her triumphant return to RAW, but only managed a few words before Chris Jericho hit the "play" button on his patented countdown video and stepped between the curtains. As the two verbally sparred, Shane joined them unexpectedly in the middle of the ring. The trio threw sexual innuendos back and forth for a while, before Y2J ponied up and challenged the siblings to a 2-on-1 handicap match later in the evening. Stephanie vetoed that right away, replacing herself in the match with "The Whole Damn Show," Rob Van Dam. This action went over well with Jericho, who chose The Rock as his partner almost without hesitation.

A really weird, offbeat segment. Shane never really established much verbal opposition to Y2J, which made the immediate booking of a match later in the show seem almost empty and meaningless. Chris and Stephanie certainly have a special kind of chemistry together, but the WWF's been exploiting that for far too long. With the events that unfolded later in the show, it would appear this is a fact that I'm not alone in noticing. For a segment that ate up roughly ten minutes, all we got out of this was a match later in the night. Not really worth the investment, if you ask me. Would've been better suited as a short, sweet backstage vignette.

Rob Van Dam, Booker T and Test shot tough words at one another in the Alliance locker room.

Interesting how RVD managed to sidestep his complete lack of credible World Titles, while knocking Booker T's five runs as WCW Champ. Regardless, he and Booker have some nice vibes together. I'd be surprised not to see a feud develop out of this little conversation somewhere down the line. Speaking of which, I'm wondering why we haven't been seeing more of Booker and Austin together, as the two seem to share similar mindsets in regards to this whole Alliance thing.

DDP's "Positive Page" gimmick ran its vignette total to three, showcasing a woman name Jennifer and her plight with obesity. Featuring herself in a manner that gave new meaning to the term "camel toe," Jen told us how her meetings with DDP helped her to lose weight, impress her husband and regain her self confidence. Page himself then chimed in, fixing us all with that eerie smile once again.

If the WWF wants Page turned heel in just one fell swoop, they just need to repeat this commercial next week... replacing Jennifer with a hairy, sweaty middle-aged man.

The production crew's experiments with weird lighting and coloring effects continued here, as Page took on a glow not unlike that of the original Orange Goblin himself, Hulk Hogan. I lost a bit of interest in the gimmick this week, as the fed seemed to take the easy way out with this exhibitionist instead of letting DDP carry the segment himself. Still, the schpeel was over mightily with the wild Indianapolis crowd, and the cheesy finish with that yellow circle was absolutely priceless.

Booker T and Test lost the WCW Tag Team Titles to The Hardy Boyz, after The Undertaker flattened Booker with a Last Ride.

A surprisingly entertaining matchup. Test actually worked his ass off here, making himself and the Hardys look like gold along the way. Now, I'm usually of the school of thought that thinks it's out of line for a face team to win the gold in a manner such as this (with Lita interfering throughout and the Undertaker's actions resulting in a title change.) However, last night proved to be a slight exception, as Booker and Test actually came off quite a bit stronger as a result. Not only did they fail to break the rules for the duration of the matchup, the duo actually seemed to have the match put away before the Taker made his well-timed interference. Come to think of it, the WWF is actually flip-flopping the roles for this upcoming Booker / Undertaker matchup, as it was an almost unprovoked run-in by the face that cost the heel the belts he should've retained by all means. Should be fun to see how the fans swallow it.

Christian joined the announce crew to call the next match, eventually costing Rhyno the match against his brother Edge due to a disqualification. After the match, Rhyno fell short on his gore attempt while Christian was speared en route to delivering a chairshot to his long-time tag team partner.

Christian went back to his old school heel persona for a while here, giving a ringside child his sunglasses before reconsidering and taking them back. I loved it. Otherwise a piss-poor match, especially considering those involved. Rhyno's return to form appears to have been tossed by the wayside, less than a month after those gears were set back into motion. Ho hum...

Shane McMahon and Rob Van Dam defeated The Rock and Chris Jericho after Jericho accidentally hit the WCW Champion with a steel chair. After the match, Rocky and Y2J exchanged words and, later, blows in the backstage area over the way the match had turned out.

It was "WholeFNShow" who first mentioned it on the Oratory Forums, but the thought came to me as well, moments after this match; Rob Van Dam has, in the few short months he's been in the WWF, pinned Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and now The Rock. Give me one example of a guy that's rocketed that fast to stardom. Not even Angle himself, nor the mighty Bill Goldberg can lay claim to that gigantic of a push within months of their initial arrivals. Granted, RVD had quite a bit of hype backing him up on his way in, but so did Jerry Lynn and that didn't seem to affect his push in the slightest. I'm getting away from my point. The WWF has a ready-made star here. They know it, the fans know it, the workers know it. They've even got a legendary main event feud sitting in their laps with Austin / Van Dam, and don't think the interest in that one's gone over their heads either. Thus far they've played their cards just right, and RVD's rise to stardom remains meteoric. However, it's always important to remember that such things are extremely fragile... even the slightest mistake could shatter the whole aura surrounding this guy, and I don't think that's something the fed can gamble right now. This feud's money in the bank, and it's on the way... just don't be surprised if the writers pussy-foot around it for a little while longer.

The match itself stood strongly, but that was to be expected as the workers are no slouches. Rocky's been on a steady incline in terms of ringwork over the last year, a trend I was glad to see continue upon his return from Hollywood, and he put it to solid use here. Even Jericho, who's been slumping for nearly a year, put forth a great effort. Shane continued his innovative offense this week, delivering a unique bulldog into the ringsteps on the floor, and Rob Van Dam continued to surprise by finishing yet another match without getting overly spotty. Jericho's blade job was almost perfect, and the camerawork was dead-on for the fateful chair-swinging... too bad the Rock blatantly stuck his arm in front of his face on the follow-through.

A nice touch on the post-match, as the Alliance cheered "RVD" throughout the locker room... marching directly past Stone Cold Steve Austin's door. Not too subtle, but still very effective.

And then, of course, was that big backstage segment with the Rock and Chris Jericho. Though they were two completely different situations, I couldn't help but liken this segment to one I saw on Saturday Night's Main Event twelve years ago, when Randy Savage turned on Hulk Hogan. We've all been anticipating this Jericho heel turn for ages, and it's good to see the WWF isn't going to rush it. If anything, it would appear they're letting the fans choose how this is going to turn out, with both men partially to blame for the way things turned out. Of course, I'm fooling myself if I think the WWF's going to turn the Rock heel... but it'll be a fun ride, nonetheless.

X-Pac defeated Scotty Too Hotty with the X-Factor, successfully defending his WWF and WCW Cruiserweight Titles.

A nice bit of heeling here, with X-Pac tricking the fans into buying a false finish before cheap shotting his way to a transparent victory. Too short to enjoy.

Mighty Molly defeated Lita with a beautiful bridged rollup.

Talk about wonderfully booked. Molly was given almost exclusive control of this matchup, covering up for Lita's shortcomings by limiting her offense to a few trademark maneuvers. Chances are, if you were to look up "Carry Job" in a book of wrestling terminology, this match would be cited. A nice lead-in to the main event, and a great way to re-establish Molly.

Debra wondered if William Regal might allow her presence at ringside for tonight's main event. Regal would not.

I was surprised Regal didn't challenge Debra to some sort of match on the fly, as that's how he's dealt with any and all of his duties as Commissioner over the last month. "What's that? You want a different ref for your matchup this evening? Well, you'll bloody well get one!! When I stomp your heathen arse all along the apron with these royal British wrestling boots!! Ye mackerel!"

Steve Austin was successful in his bid to regain the WWF World Championship from Kurt Angle, winning by pinfall after William Regal's interference and a stone cold stunner.

I saw the Regal turn coming as soon as he approached the ringside area. I'd be willing to wager I wasn't alone.

For a free-tv match, this was stupendous. Not match of the year quality, to be sure, but absolutely breathtaking all the same. Austin seems to have moved forward to yet another personality, rediscovering the sharp-edged attitude that made the "Two Man Power Trip" such a success, and growing his goatee out to further drive home his renewed dedication to the old regimen. An interesting shift in his offense, as well, focusing the majority of his offense on Angle's knees and not the neck. I almost expected Austin to win the match with a Sharpshooter or Figure Four, he was spending so much time on those legs, and sure enough halfway through the match he'd locked in an absolutely brutal Boston Crab. When Angle reached the ropes, Austin pulled a page out of Shinjiro Ohtani's book and drug him back into the middle of the ring before sitting right back down on the crab. Excellent stuff, which never fails to turn a crowd against you.

A lot of fun subtle touches in this match, like Angle's Lou Thesz press or rolling German Suplexes, but my personal favorite was the little "fuck you" Austin threw to Earl Hebner, after the assigned official consistently forced Austin to break a hold that was in the ropes. The final minutes of this match were almost on auto-pilot, which serves as a testament to how familiar these two have become with one another. I'm half surprised Angle was down for the count after a single stunner, especially considering he took how many at Summerslam, three? Austin's actions post-match were bone-chilling. Dropping to the ground and simply staring that icy-cold stare at his defeated opponent. I already like this new Austin a whole lot more than that last one.

It's great to see Regal as a heel again, as he just doesn't work as a face. I only hope they keep him out of the Alliance... they're starting to get a good balance of faces and heels, both in WCW / ECW and the WWF. It's almost like they're separate promotions again. That's good.

Now, I'm just gonna come right out and say it; this wasn't the greatest RAW ever. Not by a long shot. What it was, however, was an average first hour followed by a great second hour, and a giant step above what we'd been seeing for the past couple weeks. If the federation can continue to perform at this level and above in the coming weeks, it can't be long before they're on a tremendous roll again. Hey, they might even achieve something in a few months that they aimed for this week; the best RAW of all time.

Final Grade: B+

And I'm spent. I suppose this should've been a Wednesday Review, shouldn't it? As always, your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Just toss me a line and I'll do my best to get back to you in a timely fashion. Thanks for giving me a read, and I'll see you next week.
until then, i remain

Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Ringside Shadows #177: The Tuesday Review for 10/2/01

I wonder...

The date was December 7th, 1999, and the issue was number 93. The subject line read, simply, "The Tuesday Review." I wonder how many readers took a look at my subject line for this week and were instantly swept back in time to that last month of the twentieth century. I'd be curious to see how many Ringside Shadows fans I've still got from the last time I did a column devoted solely to current events.

At any rate, this issue sets off what I'm hoping will be a real return to form for the old Ringside Shadows schpiel, initiating what could be termed a "return to my roots." It will also, ideally, give me a reason to get back to my weekly pace, something I've been sorely neglecting for the last six months. As you math majors will surely have figured out by this point, I've only written a measely 84 columns in the last two years. That equals out to an average of 42 columns per year, which falls about ten away from hitting one post a week. Throw in the fact that fellow Orator Xavier Von Erck posted somewhere in the neighborhood of an inhuman 60 columns this year, and I've got some explaining to do. But hey, that explaining isn't getting done here, in this unnecessarily long intro. Opening monologues should never ramble on for this long, unless they take place in a WWF ring just after the opening RAW fireworks. Let's just say I'll be trying my damndest to commit myself back to excellence every week, and leave it at that.

Raw, this week, continued its slow evolution towards something new. There's seriously something in the air these days, be it a by-product of the unusual amount of clean finishes or the general air of moving forward that's filled the States since the events of July 11th. Regardless of the reasoning, the WWF is definitely going through a change of environments. It would seem we're taking both a step forward and a step backward at the same time, as elements of what made the NWA so great in the late '80s are coming into the mix right alongside character development and ingenuity the likes of which have never been seen. More now than ever, the WWF is resembling a work in progress, and I'm becoming more and more anxious to see where it's all going.

Diving in to the events of this past eve, RAW results appear in italics, with my comments following in plain text.

Kurt Angle spoke to open this week's program, giving Steve Austin a piece of his mind before focusing his attention on the Dudley Boyz, an action which brought The Rock out from behind the curtain. Rocky laid out an open challenge to the WWF Tag Team Champions, a challenge which was accepted by Shane McMahon moments later. As Shane and the World Champions discussed Strudels in great depth, the Dudley Boyz themselves blindsided the faces. Moments later, Kurt Angle had been put through a table and Rocky was prone on the mat, the victim of a 3D.

Pretty standard stuff here, establishing the evening's main events in no particular hurry and killing about twenty minutes in the process. I'm not a fan of the long opening monologue, (a fact which I'm sure surprises you, considering the book I wrote to open up this week's column) and when the end result is nothing more than the booking of a couple one-shot title defenses, I start to develop a real problem. There's really no excuse for the under-utilization of great workers like Kaientai, D'Lo Brown, Eddy Guerrero or Jerry Lynn (prior to his injury) when the first quarter of any particular program is used primarily as fodder for the Rock's latest catchphrase. Speaking of which, where is Latino Heat these days, anyway? It's been quite a while since we've heard anything about his condition. Ross Report, where are you?

Paul Heyman received a fax from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

God, but this shit was annoying. And I don't mean the "oooohhh, that Austin, I hate him and will pay money to see him beaten for this" kind of annoying, either. This was annoying in a way that only the Big Bossman, Mideon and Viscera were considered capable of in the past. With that said, however, so long as this isn't continued on next week's program, I'll learn to live with it.

The Hurricane defeated Spike Dudley with a variation on the twist of fate, after Mike Awesome interfered on his behalf. Post-match, the WWF's resident superhero unveiled a new hurri-cycle, and was joined by Molly Holly for a victory lap around the arena. Or something.

A tight little match, too short to really accomplish anything for either man in the long run. I can't believe they're trying to sell fans on Spike Dudley as a serious wrestler in Andre the Giant's old ring duds, but stranger things have happened. Just look at the career of Ed Leslie. This mini-storyline with the Hurricane is fun, even if they are both being handicapped by the WWF's bizarre time restrictions on their respective in-ring repertoires. If this were the Spike Dudley who challenged Mike Awesome for the ECW World Title a couple years back, taking on the Shane Helms who chased Chavo Guerrero, Jr. throughout WCW's last year, the matches would be shining examples of what makes cruiserweight action so breathtaking. Alas, it's no use crying over spilt milk, and seeing as how the angle itself is pretty intriguing, I don't really have that much to be complaining about.

I'm genuinely interested in seeing how all this turns out, as I'm sure are the WWF fans, but I fear it's only downhill from this blowoff for poor Spike Dudley. He's descending into the pit of the non-directional character, and the added weight of the Big Show isn't helping matters. I also fear we'll see a Big Show / Spike vs. Hurricane / Awesome matchup before this is all said and done, which will no doubt serve as the only proof one needs that WCW's former Giant is a form of terminal cancer for the promise of any match. If that one sucks, ain't nobody else you can blame.

No worries, though, as Molly looked damn foxy in that superheroine outfit.

Paul Heyman received another fax from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

As the night progressed, I actually found myself pretty consistently amused by the guys just behind the announce position when these faxes came in. They all stared in a sort of dumfounded, innocent amusement, as Heyman climbed up on the table to deliver his lines directly from the printed page. I kept waiting for one of them to make some sort of gesture towards the camera, explaining that Paul E. wasn't really getting faxes sent to ringside, but that signal never came. Hey, not even a jolly crotch chop was offered from those poor fools in the front row. What's WWF viewership coming to?

Rob Van Dam, Booker T and Test defeated The Undertaker, Kane and Chris Jericho when RVD took advantage of the referee's ignorance of the legal man and rolled up Y2J for a clean pin.

Am I the only one who thinks it's absolutely hilarious that they're playing up Stephanie McMahon's back problems, only about a month after she had those gargantuan hooters stuffed into her chest? Just a little something fun to think about...

Not as bad as it could've been. This got pretty sloppy near the end, as everybody took a turn hitting their signature maneuver and the words "legal man" completely vanished from everybody's memory, but the meat of the matchup was about what I'd expect. The Undertaker's still putting forth a renewed effort, and while he remains far from where he should be in terms of selling, at the very least he's entertaining with that dominating offense.

And how comical was that horrifyingly bad Last Ride attempt on Test? If you'd told me earlier in the day that I'd be watching one man sit on another's face in awkward silence for nearly fifteen seconds, I'd have probably deleted your mail alongside the rest of the spam AOL sends me without a second thought. Seriously, though, I think time froze for just about everybody Monday night, as the Taker ssllllloooooowwwly... leaned... back into the ropes... and selflessly took in everything Test had to offer. Get a room next time, guys.

Torrie, Stacy and Lilian did that whole "cat fight" thang, with Lilian slipping back into her native tongue for a spell. Saucy!

Veeeeery interestink.... but shtoopid...

The Rock successfully defended his WCW World Title, defeating the Dudley Boyz when he put Bubba Ray through a table.

Easily the night's best match. This one was handled exactly how it should have been, with The Dudleys functioning like a well-oiled machine. Everything these guys did was a page from the book of "Building Crowd Tension In Three Easy Steps," from the multiple near-misses early in the match to the late false finish and following conclusion that sealed the deal. I actually bought the Dudleys' chances here, and that's the kind of thing the WWF really needs to focus on in the long run.

DDP continued his spooky-as-hell "Positive Page" gimmick, smilin' all the way.

I really dig this one so far. It's really unsettling when Page hits you with that grin so often, almost to the point where I'm averting my eyes from the screen when he does it. Last week I was laughing, this week I was thinking "ok, man... cut it out..." Another angle I'm genuinely interested in seeing played out. Are they doing some sort of post-production on his teeth to make them that bright? It's almost inhuman.

Stacy and Tazz defeated Torrie and Tajiri when Ivory ran in, DDTing Torrie and allowing Stacy to cover her for the win.

Quite a disappointment, especially when I realized Tajiri was in a mood to really give us his all last night. Every one of the half-dozen moves he hit was sharp as a nail, and the segment he did with Stacy's ass was the kind of stuff I miss seeing him doing on a regular basis. Torrie and Stacy should be denied ring apron access for the foreseeable future. What a terrible way to kill an otherwise-promising little gem.

Christian provoked fans in the middle of the ring, before X-Pac introduced himself and the two had a little "meet and greet." Edge interrupted X-Pac's interruption, poking fun at the former DX member's problems establishing himself and his own brother's problems with bed wetting. Albert finally put a stop to the little mess, wiping Edge down the entrance ramp and into the ring. Christian prepared for another one man con-chair-to, but the APA hit the ring before any further damage could be done.

I have no idea where they're going with this one, long term. Well, scratch that, I do have one idea... but it's a longshot and not really worth mentioning here. Christian's character has taken something of an odd turn over the course of this last month, going from a tweener/face to a solid, threatening, vicious heel to a frightened, egotistical heel IC champ. Last night he was so close to channelling the spirit of one of my all-time favorite heels, the "Nugget" Owen Hart, that it was almost uncanny. He had that crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, but I'm not sure he was 100% sure what to do with them once he had them there. With just a little more mocking, he could've led them to chant "Christian Sucks" to an incredible degree, which would've only intensified when he chimed in with an enraged "I don't suck, I'm cool!" Ahh, well. He's young still.

William Regal forced Lance Storm to tap out after a match of roughly five seconds, finishing him off with the Regal stretch and setting his gaze upon the fax machine, which was softly chirping on the announce table. Paul Heyman read Steve Austin's message to the commissioner, who responded in turn by knocking the former owner of ECW on his ass.

Well, there's one way to completely kill any of the giant advances made by Storm's match with Jeff Hardy a couple weeks ago. William Regal is in a really strange situation right now, playing the same character that was booed out of buildings four short months ago, only getting cheered for his efforts these days. He's also far from the necessary component he was in those days, busying himself in the midcard instead of making last second modifications to gigantic PPV main events every month.

Regal's interaction with Paul E. post-match was pretty much the only real way I could see them reasonably explaining the whole deal with the fax machine. He needed some heat, and he gained some heat by putting a stop to the noise that had pestered us all night long. And like I said above, as long as we never hear that damn tone again that job will remain done. So which move do you figure busted him open? My money's on that ultra-tight dropkick early in the match.

Kurt Angle defeated Shane McMahon with the ankle lock, retaining his WWF World Title in the process.

Your standard Shane McMahon free TV matchup. Unique offense, predictable ending, no big trademark Shane-O bump. We actually got a surprisingly strong taste of the ol' McMahon psychology here, with a noticable concentration on Angle's neck throughout the duration of the match. Those reverse European Uppercuts to the base of the skull looked mean as hell. Borrowing a page from the book the Dudleys and Rocky were reading aloud earlier tonight, the crowd was treated to some nice, tense moments as Shane dropped that big elbow and Angle kicked out a 2 7/8ths. I don't think they played the Van Dam card up as strongly as they should have, but I'll admit that the frog splash from the apron was mighty fine nonetheless. An awkward finish, but the tension and psychology of the match itself more than make up for that. Not as strong a free TV main event as we've ever seen, but certainly worth the price of admission.

Despite some questionable decisions in the length of the Helms / Dudley and Storm / Regal matches and a few nonsensical character definitions for Lilian Garcia and Rob Van Dam, the night actually came off feeling a little bit above average. More than a bit of that is due to the two strong main events sent our way in the form of Rocky / Dudleys and Shane / Angle, but I'm willing to bet just as much of that is a result of the movement towards this new WWF that I mentioned in the opening of this week's installment. I have no idea where they're going when it comes to the Survivor Series card, but it's still a little early to start worrying about that at this stage anyway. A slightly above average show for the WWF, enjoyable enough for me.

Final Grade: C+
until next time, i remain