Well, we all knew it was coming... some sooner than others. The WWF has once again loaded up with all the talent in the world; the strongest grapplers, the best talkers and the most interesting personalities. And, unsurprisingly, it's taken all that insanely powerful ammunition and managed to shoot itself directly in the foot. It's a tough lesson to be learned, but a lesson nonetheless, that without a solid storyline and an interesting direction, no roster is strong enough on its own to keep fans tuning in every week. Not today, anyway. Take a look at the WCW of 1999, they had a tremendous roster including Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Bill Goldberg, Chris Benoit, Booker T, Eddy Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Scott Hall, Jeff Jarrett, Kidman, Juventud Guerrera, and a whole truckload of talented luchadors. What happened with it? Terrible, terrible booking and worthless storylines created without a doubt the worst year any major wrestling promotion had ever seen.
Boy, when I'm drawing parallels to WCW of 1999, you know things have really taken a turn for the worse...
But the sad thing is, the WWF was actually halfway out of the hole they'd dug for themselves before that first bell rang this past Monday night. They were coming off a super-hot week of returning talent, changed directions and surprising turns, and the internet was abuzz regarding their next big move. Flair's new role made sense, and fans wanted to be there to see the first sparks fly in his renewed relationship with Vince McMahon. Jerry Lawler's reunion with Jim Ross was the common fan's wet dream, as the two had worked so well together in the past that many called them the greatest announcing team of all time. Steve Austin was a face again, and it felt right. Kurt Angle was a heel again, and he was once again entertaining. Chris Jericho was sliding back into the persona that made him famous. It seemed like things could've run on auto-pilot for months without any kinks in the system, but somebody decided to tinker with the machinery.
When you've got a hunger deep down inside your belly, this week's RAW results are there to satisfy you. Coated with peanutty italics, your WWF RAW results make a perfect companion to my comments, themselves smothered with chocolate and lovingly sprinkled with plain text.
Footage from earlier in the day showed Ric Flair chastising Vince McMahon for withholding information from him on Smackdown! last Thursday night. The two came to a sort of mutual understanding, agreeing that they'd never keep anything from one another in the future.
Just about a week ago, Ben Miller posted a superb column at the Wrestling Observer where he told the WWF, in no uncertain terms, why Flair's use at the end of his WCW tenure was such a failure. Put simply, Flair doesn't work as a backstage personality; his largest strength is his arena charisma and his interaction with the live crowd. If this run with the WWF is to live up to everything it could be, they need him out in the ring as often as possible, stylin', profilin' and doing what he does best. So, without question, that column was the first thing in my mind Monday night, as I watched Flair confined to three short segments, two of which were backstage. And I don't think I'd even count the third appearance, as it consisted of the Nature Boy shouting "Whoo! Here's Kane!" and not much else. Maybe somebody needs to forward Mr. Miller's words to the WWF writing crew, as his is most certainly a firmer grasp of what makes the average wrestling fan tick.
Vince McMahon and Kurt Angle entered the ring, where Vince reminisced about ass-kissings in the past and forecasted several more ass kissings in our future. If we were extra good, Vince promised, we might even get to see one later in the night. Kurt Angle then took the mic and told us he would win both of his matches at Vengeance. Vince spoke lovingly of Steve Austin, and after considerable effort, finally broke the good news to the live audience; "Stone Cold" was invited to become the second member of the "Vince McMahon Kiss My Ass Club" later in the night. Somewhere in Africa, a wild monkey howled.
...and Vince sets right out to erase everything he'd established not five minutes prior. I really doubt he and Ric Flair sat down and went over the finer points of McMahon's pitch to include Steve Austin in his new club, so there goes the whole idea of the business partners not keeping anything from one another. As for the "VMKMA Club," I thought it pretty well served its purpose last week and had no qualms about its inclusion somewhere in the middle of that program. It helped to further the idea of Vince as the selfish, egotistical man in power, which is something that paid off later in the program, when he turned full heel. So, in that manner, the segment was a success and it could've trotted off proudly on its way to becoming just another footnote in the pages of history as far as I was concerned. I didn't even really have a problem with the possibility of seeing it included again this week, with Austin as the unlucky employee, so long as it was kept short and simple, was restrained to the middle of the broadcast, and ended with McMahon unconscious on the mat. Unfortunately, my wishing star wasn't shining too brightly Monday night...
William Regal and his band of misfits watched Vince's announcement from the locker room, deciding they were best off doing everything together throughout the night, in case Austin attempted to collect some sort of revenge for their actions on Smackdown. Ric Flair then entered the room, and informed the merry men that they were each wrestling in singles action later in the program, and no outside interference would be tolerated.
Everybody but Buh Buh Ray, I guess, as his match appears to have been moved to Smackdown! due to time restraints. Imagine Vince telling Buh Buh his match would have to wait until tomorrow, moments before climbing into the ring himself, removing his pants and dancing twenty minutes away in a bare-assed frenzy. I'm sure that little chat went real well. This segment was about as good as it could've been. Short and concise with a touch of character development thrown in for good measure. Smiles all around.
Christian defeated Jeff Hardy, pinning the blue-haired wonder after a fall from the top rope. Hardy was arguing with his brother, at ringside, when Christian recovered and shoved Matt into the ringpost. He then rolled into the ring and collected the easy pin. Surprisingly, Lita made no attempt to deliver the Lita-canrana in this match. After the match, Team Extreme began its split, with Lita walking out on the bickering boys.
Too quick of a match to be anything worth remembering two weeks down the line, as Jeff was resigned to selling his Survivor Series injury throughout. Still could've been something special given the proper amount of time, but alas.
I'm really cooling off quick on this whole breakup of the Hardys thing. On one hand it's a good thing, as this team's been belly up in the water for months now. The shakeup provided by the breakup (oh, that's a phat beat... word) should breath new life into the duo, but I'm not so convinced they're gonna make it. Both have some serious work to do in terms of developing identifiable personalities and making their words mean something on the mic, because as it is right now they're both different facets of the same personality. Matt's the conservative part, interested in building a grounded offense, while Jeff's the liberal part, interested in flash over substance. They both need to round out their games a bit and put some emotion into their words in the future, if they plan to go anywhere at all.
And, of course, the tag division is all but dead once these guys go their separate ways.
Rob Van Dam defeated D-Von Dudley with the five star frog splash, holding onto his Hardcore title along the way.
D-Von really worked his ass off in this one, and came out looking more a competent stand alone worker and less "one half of the Dudley Boyz." Though it was all in a losing effort, what he pulled out piqued my interest a lot more than anything we've seen from the midcard during the last few months. He's got to do something about that weird spazz-o selling he does, though. It's a bit weird.
William Regal pissed on the Big Show's leg
Hey, it made the match later on in the night make more sense than Regal's match with Tajiri last month. No complaints... let's just try to avoid a string of "Regal pisses on..." segments in the coming weeks.
Torrie Wilson defeated Stacy Kiebler in a bra and panties match to retain the WWF Women's Championship
Boy, I'm glad they're finding time to put these things on every week, while the cruiserweight title lies undefended in a corner somewhere.
The Rock entered the ring, shouted all the catchphrases, and predicted he would be emerging from Vengeance with the unified World Title around his waist. He went on to graphically describe Vince's woodland encounters with several of nature's creatures, stories which were met with an uncomfortable mix of emotions from the audience. Chris Jericho interrupted story time and cut his best promo since arriving in the WWF, explaining that he'd realized the people's adulation wasn't getting him anywhere and officially turning full heel.
What a bizarre promo Rocky cut. Between Vince's willingness to bare all for the almighty dollar and Rocky's fixation on antlers, this past Monday was one of the kinkiest programs I've ever witnessed personally. And I'm not just limiting that to pro wrestling programs, either. I really have no idea what Rocky's promo was supposed to do... was it supposed to make Vince look like a loser? Was it meant to make the Rock look stronger? Was it meant to get a big pop for the return of Al Snow's stuffed, mounted deer head Pierre? Who knows... all that I know is that he was drowning out there, and Y2J made a major save.
Maybe I'm getting caught up in the excitement of his rejuvenated heel character, but Chris Jericho was in rare form Monday night. Not only did he explain everything we needed to know about his big turn, but he did so in a manner that didn't bore fans or get caught up in hyperbole. And hot damn, I'm looking forward to their match at Vengeance now, though I fear the end result. Without a doubt, Jericho's promo was the high point of RAW, so it's all downhill from here.
Edge successfully defended his Intercontinental title against Test, winning by disqualification when ref Teddy Long was pulled in the way of the champion's offense.
Man, is Edge caught on something or what? He seems completely primed for a high profile shot toward the top, with everything from a popular theme song to a polished look to above average ability in the ring, but there's one piece of the puzzle missing, and I can't quite put my finger on what it is. He's going nowhere, when he should be on a rocketship to the roof. Maybe it's these constant rematches with Test.
Vince was seen backstage, rubbing his ass in a most distressing manner and fantasizing about Steve Austin, when William Regal interrupted his thought process. Regal asked Mr. McMahon to cancel his match with the Big Show, but McMahon couldn't help him. Instead, he whispered something into the goodwill ambassador's ear and the two shared a good laugh. Moments later, Regal defeated the Big Show, KO'ing the big man with a pair of brass knucks while Booker T ran in and caused a distraction.
...so Booker T was Vince's big surprise? Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Vince just finish a fucking war with Booker T and company? Less than three weeks ago, even?? Come to think of it, wasn't it just last week that Vince had a huge bone to pick with Regal, Christian, the Dudleys, Test, and RVD? See, there's a little something here that's missing... it's called continuity, or the lack thereof. And it's one of the chief reasons things haven't been making a lick of sense lately. It was something of a pleasant surprise to see Booker T again, but it's only been two weeks and we're already overwriting the whole point of booking last month's PPV main event. Maybe they should've waited a couple more weeks before trying to undo that one, hm? Is it really this hard to keep track of past storylines?
Vince and the Undertaker had a little chat in the locker rooms, with Vince refusing to deny his intentions last Thursday on Smackdown, where he nearly flattened the Undertaker with a chair. He told the deadman that for eleven years, he'd always respected him, and that the two of them were a lot alike.
A seriously strong, back and forth promo between Vince and the Taker, that developed both their characters just a little further. This is the kind of thing that's missing from the Hardys' roles right now; depth. Vince is an ass, but he says what he thinks and he doesn't deny his own actions. It gives him an extra deceptive edge, something that makes him the real devil of the WWF. A good segment, one that I wouldn't have minded if we hadn't already seen Vince fifteen times that night.
Lance Storm was shown mopping the floors of WWF New York
Before the next match, Ric Flair announced that we wouldn't be seeing a handicap match, but rather a tag match, and Rocky's partner would be Kane as he took on Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle. Several minutes later, the Rock pinned Chris Jericho thanks to a firm DDT. After the match, Rocky destroyed Y2J until Kurt Angle drug his partner from the ring.
You're kidding yourself if you think the crowd wanted to see anyone other than Austin tagging up with the Rock here. It was a nice change of pace to see the match ended with a "regular" maneuver, and not relying wholly on a finisher. That's one of the things that I really enjoy about puroresu; the fans have been taught to believe that any one maneuver could become the straw that broke the camel's back, whether it's a wrestler's signature maneuver or not. Thus, when both men are weary and nearly defeated, and one lands a desperation german suplex or enziguri, the ref's count is much more exciting, because the match could conceivably end there. That's something that I'd really like to see brought back to American wrestling, but it'll take a while to break viewers from their pre-established school of thought. The match itself served its purpose, which was to give the Rock a bit of payback for the constant beatings he's suffered at Jericho's hands. Like the Hardy / Christian match, this is nothing I'll remember much of two weeks down the line.
Mr. McMahon once again bore bare ass on cable television, in an odd segment that's pretty much drove a stake into the still-beating hearts of long time fans everywhere. When all was said and done, Steve Austin did not kiss McMahon's ass (though his cheek did get pretty close to contact), and he ended up taking off his belt and beating red stripes into McMahon's pale posterior. With that, the remaining members of the Alliance chased Austin into the crowd, leaving ol' JR giggling like a little schoolgirl over what he'd just seen. At Vince's insistence, Kurt Angle drug the Oklahoma native into the ring and just as he was about to go headfirst into Vinnie's cushions, The Undertaker apparently made the save. Unfortunately for JR, though, the Taker had second thoughts and it was the dead man who turned, rubbing Ross's lips deep into his boss's rear as the show went off the air.
Guess we better take that Undertaker "Desire" video out of circulation, hm?
I really hope this is something I never see again. It wasn't funny, it wasn't entertaining, and it didn't make me want to tune in next week. Even the Undertaker's turn was worthless, as he's become the fourth major star to switch allegiances in seven days, and that isn't even including Jericho. Which leads me to my next point... with the Undertaker now a heel, what does that say for recent turns like Jericho and Angle? Though I hope I'm proven wrong, I can't see this Undertaker turn doing anything but harming those two, and possibly helping himself. I mean, who's he got to feud with? Both Austin and Rocky are spoken for, and unless the Undertaker plans to kick Y2J or the Olympic Hero out into the cold, he doesn't have anything to do. A feud with Kane might be in the cards, but by this point we've seen it before so many times that it wouldn't be worth the time of day.
Things look bleak.
Overall Grade: D-
Aside from Jericho's promo this show was forgettable, almost from top to bottom, with a few segments going beyond the call of duty and actually making me embarrassed to be a wrestling fan. If he was privy to these plans a couple weeks ago, I completely sympathize with Mick Foley's decision to part ways with the WWF, as there's absolutely no explanation for this kind of utter crap. Vince has almost instantly killed the interest generated by Ric Flair, making him a non-player not a full week into his new run. He's stagnated the main event card, and he's shown us his ass two weeks in a row. I guess the good news is it can't get much worse than this... right?
until then, i remain