Monday, February 25, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 02/25/02

Following up on what was considered (by yours truly, at least) to be one of the finest RAWs in recent memory, the WWF had no choice but to disappoint this week. With that said, the show, on its own, was still very, very solid. It's been said that time flies when you're having fun and the phrase was certainly true last night, as it was already almost eleven o'clock and I felt as though the program had only just begun.

Without a doubt, last night belonged to the heels. From the nWo running rampant over everyone and everything that got in their way to Chris Jericho's continued mockery of HHH to Mr. Perfect's inspired performance against Steve Austin. Even the Undertaker got a bit of the action, absolutely destroying Arn Anderson in what would've been a silly and needless segment under any other light. Yeah, it was a bad night to be a good guy, but that's the way it's supposed to be, going into the biggest event of the year. They're doing everything right with the nWo thus far, (well... OK, that little chat with the standup was pretty hokey) giving them the opportunity the "Invasion" never had; an advantage. WCW's old flagship angle has been handled exactly the way it should have been, pushing all the cheers aside and turning them legitimately heel in only a few weeks. I can only imagine what's in store for next week.

Not the super show of one week past, but still way above average in my book.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.5

Monday, February 18, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 02/18/02

I'm not really what you'd call a promo man. Over the last couple years, I've sat back and complained as RAW went through its endless cycle of 40-minute opening monologues. I've whined as Nitro shoveled out another tiresome Hogan / nWo tirade. I've often wondered aloud why it's so difficult to fill an entire program with captivating action between the ropes. But even I had to step back and give last night its props. With one glaring exception, last night's build was phenomenal. In just two short hours, the WWF has erased lingering memories of the disappointment from No Way Out... instead replacing them with excitement and anticipation for the next few weeks' worth of build toward Wrestlemania 18. I'll even admit to paying full, undivided attention to a Hulk Hogan speech for the first time in over a decade.

Simply put, from the moment The Rock stepped into the ring until the moment the nWo left triumphantly a few minutes later... well, that's the kind of stuff that makes you realize why you're a wrestling fan in the first place. For ten electric minutes, you could forget that Hogan's about 85 years old and that the Rock is still way too reliant on his catchphrases. You could sit back and enjoy the moment effortlessly, and when Rocky hit a sudden Rock Bottom, you could find yourself sailing through the air, on your way to your feet. And then, just when the bookers appeared incapable of doing wrong, they pulled out the book of cliches. How is the nWo's destruction of the Rock's ambulance any more underhanded than Steve Austin's treatment of HHH, as he dropped "The Game" in an automobile from high in the air? In my eyes, it was a flagrantly unnecessary segment... but not nearly enough to erase what we'd seen before.

And in the meantime, we saw action in the ring that put the previous evening's PPV to shame. Kurt Angle is once again untouchable, putting on a nonstop show from start to finish. Steve Austin's acknowledgement of the crowd's need to say "What" was kept brief. The Hardy Boyz, Lance Storm and Christian gave us all we could've asked for on a free-TV tag team match. Ric Flair and the Undertaker previewed events to come. And a dream shattered, as Mr. Perfect missed his patented "gum slap" prior to a match with Kane.

Surely, this was not a flawless performance... but it's about as close as the WWF will ever get. I'm almost salivating at the thought of WrestleMania now, which is quite a leap from the mindset I was occupying prior to nine o'clock. Thumbs WAY up.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 9.5

Sunday, February 17, 2002

The World's Greatest WWF No Way Out 2002 Preview

Well, it was almost becoming some sort of tradition. For the last couple years, the WWF's No Way Out card has been something of an unspoken favorite in the eyes of both the fans and the "smarts", showcasing both the storylines that will become a part of Wrestlemania's headlines and a string of matches worthy of one of the "Big Five" PPVs. Between Stone Cold's memorable first collision in a cage with Mr. McMahon, Chris Benoit and the Radicals' first PPV on the roster or Cactus Jack's first foray into the cell, there's always been something humongous to draw viewers in like flies to this otherwise-casual event. And once they've taken a glimpse at the main attraction, the undercard has made it a must-see. Granted, this year's No Way Out card is not missing that big, loud catch. The arrival of the nWo is an event of earth-shattering proportions, and you're a bold-faced liar if you say it hasn't cued the tingles to bounce their way down your spine, no matter how much you hate Hogan, Hall and Nash. No, the problem here doesn't have anything to do with the main draw.. more with the undercard and its ability to keep folks in front of their sets for a lengthy period of time. Do Edge and William Regal still have that much more to prove between the ropes? How about RVD and Goldust, can their very different styles mesh into a solid match, or will the clash of styles be too much to overcome. How about the Tag Team Title match? Are either of these teams even Title-calibur? Am I asking one question too many here?

Jazz vs. Trish (?)
Women's Title Match

One title I've really been surprised with these past few months has been this women's title. While the rest of the Federation is intently interested in the actions of Vince McMahon, HHH, Stephanie and the nWo, the Women's division has calmy begun a nice pace of its own and stuck to it. The ongoing feud between Jazz and Trish was strung along to perfection, with Jazz finally taking the gold we all knew she'd inevitably claim a few weeks back on RAW in convincing fashion. With a few more solid title defenses, she could really become the monster she's been cut out to be since day one. And, while Trish wasn't my first choice as champ, she played her role to absolute perfection.. I've got to hand that to her. If this one's actually on the card, it'll be unexpectedly good once again, with Jazz coming out of it intact. Let the squashes continue.
Winner: Jazz

Hardys vs. Billy & Chuck vs. Dudleys vs. Storm & Christian vs. APA vs. Scotty & Albert
#1 Contender's Match

Hell. Leave it to the WWF to take Billy Gunn, stick him in a tired cliche of a gimmick with Chuck Palumbo, and make him actually somewhat watchable for a change. Now, I don't think I've ever been a fan of "Mr. Ass", whether he was occupying the gimmick of one half of the Smokin' Gunns or even Rockabilly himself. It just didn't work, because no matter how much of a natural athlete this guy supposedly was, he just froze when that red light came on. Maybe it's the fact this is an easy gimmick to nail, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing Gunn and Palumbo in the ring anymore... and it's not just to see how badly Billy will screw up this week. C'mon, admit it. Their promos have been hilarious, their mannerisms are dead on, and they've been winning all the important matches. The crowd loves to hate them, and they're actually serious competitors in the tag team title hunt. So what does all that add up to? A whole handful of factors the other teams in this little brawl don't have. Gunn and Palumbo are on fire, and if the WWF's keeping an eye on the pulse beating through their veins, they know these two are surefire draws for the Wrestlemania tag shot. Sure, it's tough to mark perennial favorites like the Dudleys and the Hardys out of the picture on a whim, but we've seen so much of those two teams over the last two years, their welcome has worn quite thin. It might be a stupid wager, but I'll take it. Homo and Phobia to go all the way.
Winners: Chuck and Billy

Edge vs. William Regal
Intercontinental Title Match / Brass Knuckles on a Pole Match

This'll be the third month in a row for Edge and the Gentlemanly British scholar, and don't think the seams that were showing all those moons back at Vengeance haven't already burst by now. As I noted at that month's preview, both these guys have been floating directionlessly at the Intercontinental level for way too long. Both have tremendous potential, but for one reason or another haven't been able to capitalize with something worthy of a larger push. With Edge, they've tried and it hasn't worked. His new, serious, unstable personality seemed to be a step in the right direction at first glance, but hasn't really evolved any from that point of first contact. Sure, he's run in with an angry look in his eyes, but he's still the same guy who was running in with a smile on his face two weeks ago. What's there to make this Edge stand out from the old one? Regal.... well, Regal has never really recovered from the unveiling of his hideous new entrance music. And while there's every reason for this to be a solid clash in the ring, for some unspoken reason it's likely to crash and burn once again. Edge is my pick to take home the gold, but will it really make an impact on anyone at all? For both their sake, I really hope so.
Winner: Edge

Rob Van Dam vs. Goldust

A raffle, under any other name, is still a raffle. There's really no telling where this one might go, whether it's to unforeseen heights as a tremendous psychological melding of styles, or to unimaginable depths as a horrid, horrid abortion of a match. The two men's styles aren't usually found in opposition of one another, Van Dam's extreme innovation and Goldust's bizarre mix of old school theatrics and over-the-top new school inversions. I'm not sure if that's because it's a foregone conclusion that the two will clash and create a sick match, or because nobody's ever really thought of it. Thus, this is an increasingly difficult one to predict. If these two will be meeting again at Wrestlemania, a victory for Goldust makes the most sense. After all, who's going to be interested in a rematch if they already know that RVD can put the gold weirdo away without breaking a sweat? However, if this is just a once-off deal, Van Dam needs the victory to get his momentum rolling again. So, where do I think it's all going? Let's just say it doesn't look like there's a line forming alongside "Mr. Monday Night" for the honor of his company one month down the line.
Winner: Goldust

Tazz & Spike vs. Booker T & Test
Tag Team Title Match

I'm still having trouble swallowing Tazz & Spike as tag team champs, which doesn't bode well for the set of ECW alumni thus far. I dig the idea of both as short, underestimated badasses, but the push they've been receiving has actually worked to tear them down more than it has to build them up. While they've managed to retain the gold all month, they've come off as more fluke champions than anything else. Tazz locks in the Tazzmission early on, but always manages to have it countered, and Spike's "Dudley Dog" always seems to conclude with the smallest Dudley clutching his lower back on the floor. Still, while I see the gold removed from the hips of these two pretty shortly down the line, I don't see it done by the T&T duo. Booker's better suited in singles action anyway, and Test's only now getting used to his new character. The match could be something special if everyone comes ready to work, but I wouldn't count on anything.
Winners: Tazz & Spike

The Rock vs. The Undertaker

Talk about a strange set of circumstances. Three months ago, to even think that the Undertaker's character would be more inspired, more entertaining and more fitting than the Rock's would be nearly blasphemy. Today, though, such a statement doesn't seem nearly as out of place. With the "People's Champion" badly in need of a shakeup and the Undertaker just hitting the crest of the wave created by his heel turn, there are a couple different ways this one can go. I'm predicting a Rock heel turn sometime in the next few months, but I don't see it going down here. After all, who's going to boo Maivia for beating down on one of the federation's top heels? No, I'd imagine if they're going to do it anywhere, the People's turn will go down on the big stage next month. So where does that leave this match? In a word, flat. The status quo isn't in any big danger of being destroyed here, and what we'll be left with is a decent, if predictable, matchup between two of the all time greats. We'll see some signature maneuvers, some foreign objects and a couple entertaining spots out on the floor, but nothing really moving one way or the other. And I'm seeing something along the lines of a Rock losing streak coming to the forefront here.
Winner: The Undertaker

Triple H vs. Kurt Angle
#1 Contenders' Match with Special Guest Ref, Stephanie McMahon

Easily the match of the night. With Angle simply owning the ring as he has over the last few weeks, and HHH still occupying that slot near the top of the list of modern workers, the only real variable here is Stephanie herself. It wouldn't be the first time a guest ref has ruined an otherwise-stupendous matchup, and there's little doubt it wouldn't be the last, either. The question here isn't whether or not she'll interfere with the finish, it's just how often she'll become physically involved. Will she be attempting to mend bridges with her old flame, or will that beastial roar from RAW turn into a downright feeding frenzy here on PPV? It's a tough call, with my instincts leading me to believe the latter. She isn't likely to side directly with Angle, though the Olympian may take things the wrong way, but she'll no doubt factor into the outcome of things, making an otherwise easy prediction just a little bit tougher. Even though the cards seem stacked against HHH, I really can't see an Angle / Jericho or Angle / Austin main event working right now. If Helmsley loses his shot here, he'll manage to regain it in the next couple weeks. In my books, though, he never loses it to begin with.
Winner: HHH

Steve Austin vs. Chris Jericho
WWF Title Match

I was really questioning the motives behind this one before this last week put all my apprehensions to rest. Jericho looked dynamite on RAW, collecting the most solid chorus of booes since turning heel in the WWF, and leaving one heck of a lasting image in fans' minds going into the PPV, standing atop Austin with a beer can emptying on the Rattlesnake's back. Sure, he turned back into a bitch for Smackdown, but for one fleeting moment we had a glimpse at greatness. For one second, he was the cocky, arrogant, annoying heel from WCW. The guy who, no matter how much you hated it, managed to kick all his opposition's asses and hold onto his gold. That's the guy I'd like to see more of, and that's the guy the crowd wants to really take a bite out of. If that's the Chris Jericho who comes out to work this Sunday night, we've got one hell of a road to Wrestlemania in front of us. Otherwise, Steve Austin's got a cakewalk to the glory. Yes, Jericho's in an interesting position, but certainly not an alltogether new one. He's headed into the event, the World Title around his waist, with almost nobody expecting a win out of him. Remind you of a certain Kurt Angle only one year ago? Does anybody here remember my prediction of that match? Anyone at all? Bueller? I went with the Olympian, and even though I was wrong, if I had to go back and do it all again, I'd still pick that gold medal wearin' jerkoff. What can I say? I like the underdog, and my choice in pre-Wrestlemania championship matches is a testament to that. Jericho wins it, and goes on to meet HHH in the World Title match they should've had 2 years ago.
Winner: Chris Jericho


There are a couple key matches that are gonna make or break this PPV. No matter how good we all know Angle / HHH is going to be, there's a lot that could go wrong in the tag team title match. While the everything looks good for Austin / Jericho, can the same be said for Rocky / Undertaker? And where's the Goldust / RVD match going to figure into the scheme of things? Unlike the last couple years, which have been rock solid on paper, 2002's No Way Out is a highly volatile mix from top to bottom. This one could really rock the boxers or suck a whole carton of eggs, thanks to one make-or-break match. And, while it's tough to call an event like that, it's also just as tough to predict where it's all going at Wrestlemania... which is one occasion where I'm more than happy to just sit back and let the writers surprise me for a change.
until next time, i remain

Monday, February 11, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 02/11/02

It was a strangely paced RAW this week, to be sure. With the World Champion defending his title early in the first hour and the physical main event going down at the top of the second, it was crystal clear that HHH and Stephanie were meant to be taking center stage on this night. And that's not to say the storyline wasn't deserving of the final spotlight on RAW... hell, if there ever were an angle deserving of main event glory, it would be this one. This split's been building for more than two years, which really says something when you realize how short-lived it appeared back when it was first launched. No, the angle's a good one... I'm just the kind of guy who complains every time the main event doesn't include wrestling of some kind.
Interestingly enough, was it me... or did Hunter really come across as a prick heel at the end of that segment? I don't know, there's something about physically destroying a man standing up for his daughter that really bugs me. Even if that man is Vince McMahon (dammit). I also found it funny that decided the best image to describe RAW on its main page was that of an enormous Stephanie ready to devour her former lover's head.

(note: with the original posting of this contribution, I included a photo of Triple H standing on the entryway, a furious / enormous Steph glaring down at him from the Titan-Tron directly behind his head)

Still, even though it didn't take the limelight last night, the wrestling and progression of in-ring storylines was dead on last night. Goldust's offense didn't take any tremendous steps forward in the last week, but he went back to his mind games and steered away from useless run-ins, so I won't complain.

Chris Jericho is officially over as a heel World Champ... but has it come too late? Regardless, he was in rare form last night, destroying Steve Austin through and through, and really getting under the fans' skins with that little beer-drinking display. Too bad they've saddled him with the russian legsweep as a finisher now... I've always had problems swallowing the credibility of that move as a finisher.
Kurt Angle's become one hell of a ferocious heel, though his promo left a lot to be desired. I really, really like the Olympian when he's in "kill all" mode, and he's leaving nothing to be desired in that department after absolutely brutalizing the Godfather in a minute-long squash.

Finally, Christian and Rob Van Dam gave us all a glimpse of what's to come in the future of the WWF. It was spotty, sure, but it was damn good fun all the same, and that frog splash to seal the deal came out of nowhere. Handled correctly, we could be seeing a rematch down the line for the World Title. Here's hoping, right?
When all was said and done, I was very pleased with the way things turned out. The singers were on stage way too long, but if that's the worst I can complain about, it's a good sign. Thumbs up.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.5