After a set of unfulfilling episodes, promising the stars but delivering only broken dreams and an uninspired means to end the WCW Invasion, the WWF set out Monday night on their long quest to pick up the pieces and recapture the hearts and minds of their core audience. So did they succeed? It's hard to say. A few lessons have been learned, of that there can be no question. The amount of time devoted to the family McMahon has taken a sharp plunge. There's interest in where the storylines are going after this Sunday's Survivor Series. The sheer number of belts floating around the federation is about to be cut almost in half. Unfortunately, for every lesson they learned this past week, the WWF has left at least two more unattended. In short, the rehabilitation may have already begun, but we're still just one poor week away from being right back where we started.
As always, this week's RAW results appear in italics, with my comments following in the plainest plain text money can buy...
Kurt Angle opened the show on the stick, hoping to bait Steve Austin from the locker room with disrespectful comments geared toward the Boston Red Sox. After giving up on the indirect approach and straight up calling Austin out, Angle was instead greeted by Edge, who challenged him for his US Title right then and there. Edge took home the gold with a rollup, after Kane's brightly coloured fireworks mesmerized the Olympic Champion. Post match, the scorched one entered the ring behind Angle, locking him in his own ankle lock.
A really hot and cold segment, in my eyes. Though Angle's back to the dorky heel character that fans slowly grew to love this summer, he's also unfortunately fallen back on the cheap heat provided by a few knocks at the local sporting establishment, as evidenced by his commentary on the Boston Red Sox. I've personally never cared much for that method of turning the crowd against a wrestler, but this week was an especially extreme case. Speaking as someone who hasn't followed baseball since the strike in the early '90s, I had absolutely no idea what players and / or events Angle was referencing in his opening monologue. Thus, I thought it was completely dull and worthless. Not only that, but it sent Angle right back to the role he was filling about five months ago. How is the character we saw last night any different from the character we saw facing off against Chris Benoit at Wrestlemania? Everyone in pro wrestling must evolve in some way, no matter how minute, just to stay afloat. At this rate, Angle's a stone.
In sharp contrast, however, was the way the segment closed and led directly into a match. That, I thought, was simply genius. Not only is it a tried and true method of building intense interest in the card right away, but it delivered unto Edge the tremendous rub of defeating a two time WWF Champion. Sure, it was cheapened a bit by the way Kane's fireworks led to the end of the match, but by that point the work had already been done. Edge had kept up with Angle throughout, and proven himself a worthy candidate if and when a slot at the top of the card ever opens up. The match was a bit short for my taste, but you can't really argue with those kind of results. A great way to open the show, and a flawless way to give the crowd something to get excited about.
Test & Booker T lost the WWF Tag Team Championships to the Hardy Boyz, when Jeff pinned Booker after a Litacanranna
Not quite what you'd expect from this kind of talent. The match just felt like everyone was going through the motions, hitting the signature maneuvers, waving at the crowd and calling it a night. A fun little acknowledgement of things to come after match had ended, as Matt looked more than a little bothered to see his brother so friendly with Lita during their celebration. Matt's getting more character development these days than Lita, Jeff, Booker and Test combined... not that it's a bad thing, though, as he's playing this new character just right. He flirts with the divas with ease, but gets jealous when his own brother's in the same immediate area as Lita. Sounds like somebody I know, and I'd wager it sounds like somebody you know too. The boy's got potential. Let's just hope they handle this breakup a little better than they did Edge and Christian.
Hugh Morrus and Chavo Guerrero, Jr. asked Mr. McMahon if they could join the WWF after the Survivor Series. Vince calmly told them "no, thanks." The three then shook hands, and handled themselves like true gentlemen.
Hey, at least they got some TV time. That puts them in a better position than Mike Sanders.
Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Tazz after a hard evening's work in the ring, reversing the Tazzmission into a Stunner for the three count.
I'm wondering if there's something wrong with Tazz's conditioning, because this is the second time in the last month he's done the job in less than two minutes. Maybe he's making up for all those squashes he was granted while on the road to the top in ECW. Maybe Austin didn't want to look like a wuss, taking three minutes to pin the orange and black attack when it only took Kidman two. Whatever the reason, it's getting a bit out of hand. Build him into something competitive or don't waste my time.
Backstage, the McMahon siblings publicly fired Chavo and Hugh for their insurrection, before giving Sunday's big match the whole of their attention. Everything ended badly, as Shane left the room and multiple hissy fits erupted only seconds later.
Damn, but Shane looked like a BAD ASS in that extreme turtle neck, complete with sleeve rolling action.
Other than that god awful long necked sweater, I had absolutely no qualms with this segment. The firing of Chavo and Hugh was a good way to bring things up to the present. We've been conditioned to think the wrestlers backstage can't see what's on the monitor unless it's happening in the ring, and that's just silly. Austin and Angle's shoving matches were a great addition, and went a long way toward re-establishing the ongoing relationship between them. Stephanie's screeching was kept to an all time low, and the feeling of a promotion falling apart at the seams really permeated the air. It doesn't say much for their chances at Survivor Series, but it's entertaining enough to watch nonetheless.
The Dudleys did not wrestle Scotty 2 Hotty and Albert.
Should I really dignify this one with a comment? Stupid...
Rob Van Dam defeated the Undertaker, but not before the Taker failed to sell for both RVD and Booker T simultaneously.
Following hot on the heels of the best match he's had since WrestleMania, (last week against Kurt Angle, in which the Taker not only sold, but did so convincingly and through the entire match) the Undertaker fell back to his old devices once again this week. But that's not to say the entire match was crap. The first few minutes were actually pretty entertaining, with RVD delivering the kind of spot that's likely to find its way to RAW's opening credits later this month. I'm speaking, of course, of his jump from the Titan Tron.
But it wasn't long after that the Dead Man turned back the clock and played that pesky "No Sell" card, getting a two for one value in both Van Dam and Booker T. Tell me there's an excuse for that, and I'll unzip and piss on your shoe right here. Seriously, I've got to go. It's been said that the Undertaker doesn't sell for a lot of people, because "that way, when he does, it really means something." And, granted, that's a valid point. Take a look at last week. What does it say for the newest crop of main eventers, though, when they can't even hold a torch to this old guy as a tandem, let alone singles? At this point, the Undertaker should be struggling to keep up with his younger rivals, not dominating them without even breaking a sweat. Wrestling fans are famous for their ability to suspend their disbelief, but this is a bit ridiculous. Could've been a great match for both men, but instead it turned into just another excuse to criticize the man on the motorbike.
Mick Foley entered the ring, and told fans that no matter who won at The Survivor Series, he'd be out of a job. So with that said, he went about making the most of his last week in power. He signed matches to unify every one of the WCW titles with their WWF equivalents, with the exception of the World Title and the Cruiserweight Gold.
Hands down, the best promo Foley's cut since last winter. Probably had something to do with it having some sort of direction, a little something more than "Hey, go out there with Trish and book her into Sunday's Lingerie Match. And make it last about fifteen minutes." Foley pulled out some genuine emotion with this one, bringing back fuzzy memories for anyone who saw his first World Title victory and wrapping it all up with a harsh dose of reality. Mick wasn't on the program when the WWF hit his home turf. He also made a change I couldn't agree with more, drastically reducing the amount of belts in the coalition. Bravo, should've been done the instant they decided against giving WCW its own show. It's interviews like this one that remind me of how much I miss the guy with one ear. Aside from killing himself in the ring every night, this is what Mick did best.
The Big Show and Christian went to a no contest, after the majority of the nWo B-Team ran in.
So, what was Regal whispering to Christian backstage prior to this match? "Hey, let the Big Show squash you. I'll send in DDP and the Dudleys to hit him. It'll be fun." Someone with a quicker judgement than I might compare this match to the Undertaker / RVD match earlier in the card, but I'd have to disagree. Where the Undertaker was refusing to sell for two men who have each wrestled as singles in a PPV main event within the last six months, The Big Show was battling three guys who haven't done much of note lately, and are perceived as minor threats at best. And on top of that, he ended up selling for them anyway. As for squashing Christian, I'd ask you to compare Edge's younger brother's standing on the card to that of Rob Van Dam, or even the Big Show himself. No matter how much untapped potential he has, there's been absolutely no reason for fans to believe he should have any sort of chance in this match. For the Big Show to remain useful, he has to be believable as a monster. It has to be a major event when he loses, as it was when he was cleanly beaten by Chris Benoit and, later, RVD. That event starts to get a lot less major when he drops matches to workers barely holding onto midcard status. In a way, he needs the occasional squash to "refuel" his credibility.
Now, to answer your questions before they've been asked, no... I didn't think this was a great match. But it didn't pain me to watch, either. The RVD / Taker match did. End of story.
William Regal lost his bid for the WCW World Title when Tajiri spit mist in his face outside the ring. The exhausting performance lasted nearly three minutes.
When the first bell sounded for this one at quarter to the hour, I thought we were about to be pleasantly surprised by a lengthy, brutal, well planned war between Regal (who's proven himself in the past to be a hellish submissions grappler when properly motivated) and the Rock (who's taken tremendous strides in an insanely short period of time.) I imagined a story centering on Rocky's knee or back A classic, skull-cracking collision that would both elevate Regal's stock with a surprisingly competitive match and reaffirm Rocky's stance at the top of the wrestling world, surviving Regal's onslaught to emerge victorious. I dreamed of Gordon Solie, crimson masks, and the old NWA. And while I was daydreaming, Regal threw a few punches, Tajiri spewed his mist, and the Rock collected a quick pinfall. So much for that...
Post match, The Rock called out Steve Austin. The two looked into one another's eyes, borrowed catchphrases, used proper grammar, smiled and sang a duet.
Meanwhile, I was staring at my television in much the same way a deer looks toward the oncoming headlights of a speeding automobile. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and, judging from my co-workers' banter this morning, I wasn't alone. The last time I saw something this odd and out of place, I absolutely tore it apart in the next day's Tuesday Review. And then I looked at the ratings, where it had absolutely cleaned up. That was the now-infamous "Rocky, this is your life" skit, and I'd imagine I'll remember last night's little duet with the same kind of fondness I've dedicated to the entire Rock'n Sock debacle for the next few years. If nothing else this was mesmerizing, because Austin had that crowd completely eating out of the palm of his hand. Uncanny.
After that bizarre little ditty, Rocky delivered a Rock Bottom unto Austin, and all hell broke loose. When the dust settled, Chris Jericho was behind the Rock with a steel chair, but chose to pass on the opportunity.
If I had my druthers, this would've gone the other way. Jericho would've swung the chair before Rocky even turned. It needed to happen, because now the Alliance doesn't seem to have a shot in hell. Jericho, Rocky, the Undertaker and Kane are all cool with one another, while the Alliance is in a total panic. In my opinion this could've been more interesting if both teams went into the big brawl in disarray. But hey, I guess that's why the WWF's writers are the WWF's writers and I'm not. And hey, why haven't we seen any footage of the Big Show with the rest of his WWF comrades? Hmmm...
Overall Grade: C-
Below average, but only barely. The storylines are getting interesting once again, with the Alliance living in misery and the whole Jericho / Rock thing far from over, but the matches have taken a turn for the worse. Things started off hot, with Kurt Angle taking on Edge, but went downhill from there. I mean, for god's sake, three of last night's matches didn't add up to more than ten minutes of TV time. That's inexcusable.
So the Survivor Series is suddenly epic, thanks to all this unification business, but I can't shake the feeling that those matches should have been done immediately or else saved for Wrestlemania. It's all been thrown upon us too quickly, everything fitting together too nicely to feel right. Edge vs. Test to unify the North American Titles? Hey, weren't they just feuding a couple weeks ago? The Dudleys vs. The Hardys to unite the tag titles? Their feud's been going on for years. And hey, what's that? No matter what, when the dust settles, there won't be a single old school WCW star holding gold. The assimilation's already complete, regardless of how Sunday's main event turns out.
And god, what was up with that whole "Margaritaville" duet?
until then, i remain