Monday, November 18, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 11/18/02

I was actually moderately pleased with the way the booking at this year's Survivor Series turned out. I'd rather have seen a new face go over Triple H, as over the last six months we've learned that nobody can hang with him except HBK, but the time was right for a final Michaels title run and if he's willing to defend it on TV, I'm willing to let the legend have one more dance on top.

While we're remotely on the subject of Trips, I've got a pretty large bone to pick. Every single time he was mentioned last night, it was in a pleasant light. Huh? So what, exactly, changed between Sunday night (when fans were rabidly screaming for his blood) and Monday night? We endured month after month of this guy as Eric Bischoff's buddy, the "sadistic" man who didn't know when to stop when it came to tormenting Kane's past, the champion everyone wanted to see without his title. I didn't enjoy it, which you should know if you've been reading the RAW Review for more than a week or two, but it was something. Usually when a heel turns face, they give us some sort of motivation to change our feelings about him / her. At least he didn't show up and ruin the main event.

HBK's interview to start the show was long winded, and not really what he needed to get himself over the notch as a "comeback kid." I'm with Justin, if I had to endure just one more "neeeewwww" out of that guy, I was about ready to switch the channel. At least it isn't something he can use every week, right? Unless he keeps doing something new every night, and continues to inform us about it. "Last night I gave my kid a neeeeewwww diaper!" Still, fun to see him interacting with Bischoff and RVD... talk about three guys you never, ever, EVER thought you'd see in the same ring together. This year's been full of moments like that.

The Dudleyville reunion was fun, though I was flinching every time D-Von got a tag into the ring. This story's followed every step in the WWE's "Guide to splitting a tag team," just a little slower than usual. From what I've gathered about the federation, the rule goes something like this; once a heel, always a heel. If one half of a tag team turns, only to later reunite the tandem later on, the same guy will inevitably screw his partner once again. So enjoy the 3Ds while they're here, because I've got a feeling they won't be around for long. Fun while it lasted, watching these two hit all their signature spots again.

And WHEW! Rico isn't fired yet!

Didn't care much for the Stacey Kiebler segment. The whole reason this Testicle thing worked in the past was because Test himself thought the name was retarded. He did it to appease his girlfriend, but his heart wasn't in it... and that's why it was so damn believable. He quit looking like a postured wrestler, surrounded by glitz, glamour, pyrotechnics and entrance packages, and started looking like a real guy in an overproduced world. Once you see him cutting serious promos in the middle of the ring, telling us all to embrace the Testicle inside ourselves, it's the beginning of the end. Thin jokes like that can only go for so long before they get stupid and fans abandon them in drones. Remember "You're Welcome"?

Storm and Regal are continuing what's become one of my favorite angles. They're sort of borrowing a formula from horror films with the way this has progressed, albeit inadvertantly. Because of the speed with which it's taken place, the camera's never really caught a great shot of Regal and / or Storm snagging Dreamer with their boot. All you see is a commotion, then Dreamer spastically twitching on the mat, grasping his jaw as though it's been dislocated. In various horror films, directors completely refrain from showing you the monster, instead allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks. It's been argued that this makes the monster vastly more horrifying than anything special effects could come up with, and that's a belief I happen to agree with. It's just that in this instance, William Regal's foot is the monster and Tommy Dreamer's jaw is the damsel in distress.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but they're handling Scott Steiner's entrance into the fed perfectly. I wouldn't have done a single thing differently. They're pushing him as a live wire, somebody who cannot and will not be controlled, neither by his opponents nor the censors, Vince McMahon nor Jim Ross. Case in point; the minute he reached for a mic, JR made a quick comment along the lines of "Giving Scott Steiner a microphone on live TV is like handing a loaded gun to a nine year old." In one sentence, he successfully pitched Scotty's gimmick to the millions watching at home. They don't know what this guy's going to do next, so if you watch long enough you'll probably get to see something you're not supposed to. They're simultaneously building intrigue for their next broadcast and covering their tracks if the guy does anything completely ridiculous. And, stop me if I'm wrong, but that wasn't Y2J interrupting Steiner's big moment in the sun last night. It was the Lyin' Heart. That was vintage WCW Chris Jericho if I ever saw it, saying what everyone at home was thinking, but doing so in a way that made him look like a complete and utter ass. I LIKE this feud.

Victoria as Women's champ isn't gonna fly.

What a grotesque match Al Snow and Chris Nowinski had. Week after week, I can't believe that Nowinski's still within his first year with the company. I've addressed it before, but the one thing that stands out head and shoulders above everything else with this guy is his incredible level-headedness and presence of mind. A few weeks ago, when a promo didn't start off on the right foot, he remained calm and talked the crowd into hating his guts. This week, a few spots were close to being botched and would have come off horribly if he hadn't covered for them the way he did. He just knows what to do in almost any situation, and that's a rare talent to find in a rookie. Even the Oratory's hero, Chris Benoit, didn't seem to know what to do when Kevin Nash tore his quad in the middle of a match several months back. But then, the only person who didn't look like a chicken with his head cut off in there was our current champion, Shawn Michaels.

I'm getting off track. If he can remain healthy, Chris Nowinski is a future main eventer. He's got a gimmick that works, and he LIVES it. He knows how to control a crowd, what to do when things go wrong, and when he should make the transition from moves that wear an opponent down to moves that convince an audience the end is near. His matches could still use a little work, but he's far from the worst worker on the roster. Given the amount of ground he's covered in the last few months, he could be nipping at his superiors' heels sooner than you think.

Sick match, but Al Snow looked like he was actually giving a damn again. Gone was that blank stare, that "do I really have to do this??" body language. He looked like a guy who'd been seriously pissed off, and good GOD I hope I'm never on his bad side. What an absolutely horrific dropkick in the corner that was, followed by the only strike he's ever thrown with that bowling ball. If that didn't shove Mr. Harvard's nuts up into his throat, he's EXTREMELY good at covering for it.

I like Batista with Ric Flair. Now let's take them away from Triple H and go the Lesnar route again, with the twist of Flair playing the mentor, not the agent. Or not... I could see this going any number of ways. And, what was that...? I think I finally heard a sound when the former Deacon was in the ring. If he's going to continue to steamroll over guys of Kane's magnitude, he's gonna hear a lot more about it in the next few weeks.

A strange main event, but interesting all the same. There were spots that looked awkward, as the combatants weren't sure who was in the ring, who was on the floor, and who was about to land a forearm in the small of their back. I still enjoyed it, if just for the freshness of the three together in the ring. Everything played out well in the end, and I especially enjoyed the segment with all three men hitting one another's finishers (complete with Jericho rolling around the ring holding his abs, post-frog splash.) RVD bumped like a man who wanted to die, especially at the end of the match on the floor, and it made his heroic comeback that much more impactful. I'm really looking forward to seeing him face HBK next week, although I have reservations about the way they'll play it out. I've liked the last few weeks of RAW, but not so much that I'm willing to forget what we saw in the months prior. I don't trust the bookers just yet.

All in all a very solid program. We saw several feuds kick started, and the month already has a specific direction. There's a million directions they can take this, and the majority of them look pretty good from where I'm sitting. Thumbs up.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 6.75

Friday, November 15, 2002

The World's Greatest WWE Survivor Series 2002 Preview

We've got a lot of faces here, yet only a few matches. Taking a quick peek up at the name adorning the front of MSG this weekend, I think I can wager a guess as to why. We're doing the Survivor Series thing, but we don't want to go so far as to commit to any old school, team-elimination rules matches. I can dig it, especially since the guys they've lined up to partake look to be good enough to make that dated, outlandish format actually work. Honestly, top to bottom, this card's pretty well balanced. There's a taste of suck, a match or two that could go either way, and a couple big money matches that will more than likely deliver. I've been relatively pleased with the progress RAW's taken lately, with Smackdown slowing its stride a tad over the last month, but still delivering a couple quality matches a week. Before you can take the giant steps again, you've got to master those baby steps once more.

Billy Kidman vs. Jamie Noble
Cruiserweight Title Match

I'm noticing some similarities to the enormous initial run of TAKA Michinoku in the push of Jamie Noble here. He's giving us good to great matches and wrestling a style that's designed to wake fans up, grab their attention, hold onto it, and steal shows. Yet, he still gets thrown into PPV matches at the last second, if at all. The title he carries has a little more value than TAKA's old prize, thanks to the tremendous amount of talent the division inherited from the WCW buyout, but the problems with management are still there. It's too bad, too, since fans are as receptive to this division as they've ever been. All they need is a really kickass storyline to play with, and the cruisers in general will be through the roof. And maybe, just maybe, we'll have a prayer of seeing that Michinoku Mysterio dream match that's been just out of grasp for years now.

In reference to the match, Kidman and Jamie should entertain. These two have matched up well together in the past, and while they haven't done anything remarkable with each other, they'll put on a fun show all the same. I could really care less about Billy-bo's character right now, in all his vanilla glory, and if a wrestling junkie like myself can't get into him what does that say about his chances with the general public? Maybe if they'd give him some personality, a character flaw, a quirk, SOMETHING to set him apart from the gaggle of other guys who used to wrestle in cut-off jeans. Noble, at least, they're TRYING with. That's why he's my pick here.
Winner: Jamie Noble

Jeff Hardy, Bubba Ray and Spike vs. 3-Minute Warning and Rico

Maybe they should've put a special stipulation on this one; winner gets a push that means something. This is like a who's who of also-rans in the WWE right now, feuding with one another because... hey, nobody else is. Not that I blame them in any case except Rico's. The Samoans 2k2 had their big chance to reach for the stars, and they slipped up. Now they're just "those two guys who used to run in from the crowd after three minutes." Jeff Hardy had similar chances, which seemed to affect him in the worst way imaginable. The guy just doesn't look like he cares (or knows) what he's doing anymore. His character's sailed off into way, way left field, and his matches are a poor satire of the style he once defined. Bubba's off rehashing the dancin' fat man gimmick, last used publicly by Dusty Rhodes, and little Spike will ALWAYS be the honorary punching bag for all of the WWE. Rico's a little different. Unlike the others, he's never really been given a chance to show us what he can do with a high-profile spot, and I tend to believe he'd manage to put something worthwhile together if he ever did. He's got a unique, standout style in the ring. You'll never overlook him in a crowd. And he can talk. It's a recipe for success, guys, and you're letting it go to waste...

The interactions between these six on TV have been about what you'd expect. Nothing to write home about, but better than another backstage segment with Triple H and Kane. So long as they don't try to book this as a 45-minute marathon of a match, it'll be watchable. Everyone will hit their signature spots (except Rico, because they haven't seen fit to GIVE him a signature spot yet), the fans will chant for tables, someone will go through the pre-cut wood, and we'll move on to the next match. I want to see them give this one to the 3-minute men, just because I think their act has much, much more promise than the Dudleyville / Hardyburgh connection.
Winners: The Three Minute Warning

Victoria vs. Trish Stratue

Victoria knows her way around the ring. Trish is carryable. The match should be pretty decent, with Fit Finlay continuing his attempt as road agent to make the Women's division worthwhile. Let's just steer clear of too many video packages, backstage segments, interviews, hallway run-ins, what have you. Victoria's a good wrestler, but a stinky, rotting, grotesque actress. Let's allow her to wrestle, and allow the viewers to breathe a sigh of relief.

I'm putting my money on Trish here. Jazz will be back soon, and you've gotta have a big time face as the champ so she can stiff the shit out of them again. My, how this division has missed Jazz.
Winner: Trish

Edge & Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie & Chavo Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit

What, like I can say anything at all here. This is exactly the kind of match I want to see on a card I'm paying $30 for. The way these three teams have interacted over the last couple months has been almost flawless. The Guerreros are the absolute heels, Rey & Edge are the clean cut faces, and Benoit / Angle represent the tweeners. They've all been shown interacting with one another logically since the tournament's end, and any combination of two of these teams would make sense in a tag title match at this point. Throwing all three of them in there together not only makes sense, but also serves as a great segue into both the Men of Mystery / Los Guerreros feud and the Benoit / Angle singles blowoff in the next couple months. I don't think there's any way they can screw this up. Even an overbooked finish, or a goofy turn wouldn't be enough to make this one suck. The guys involved are just too good.

I'm going with the faces as victors here, but wouldn't be surprised to see Benoit and Angle come together as a cohesive unit and just OWN the other guys. And that's something else I really like about this build. Benoit and Angle have been handled as two main eventers thrown into an uneasy alliance since day one. They've completely pushed the fact that, if these two could get along, they'd be untouchable. But as their tempers flare, so do the chances of their opposition. It's a can't miss formula, and I love it. Applause! Applause!
Winners: Edge & Rey Mysterio, Jr.

Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show

Rumor has it both of these two have some aches and pains coming in to this one; Brock nursing a rib ailment, Show working with a bruised arm. I understand Lesnar's picked the big man up for an F5 at house shows, but it'll still be interesting to see if he can get the big man up with all the hot lights pointed at him. I don't think anybody has any illusions about the quality of this match. We're not gonna see anything to rival Flair / Steamboat, nor will we see anything that will compete with the three way tag match from earlier in the show. What we'll see is two big guys, throwing punches at one another, wearing each other down and trying for a big, high impact spot to finish things.

Of course, the real story here is IN the story. Is Paul Heyman about to betray his client, turning the champ face? Will Scott Steiner show up and make things a no contest? Will Lesnar accept his first defeat? Lots of possibilities for something to change, but it's the idea of everything remaining the same that's captured my mind. Brock's not ready to turn face yet, nor should he separate from Paul. Sure, it's got the makings of a great story in it, but this would be pulling the plug a bit early. And, unless the writers are blind, deaf and dumb, Steiner's headed to RAW.

I'm doubting the Big Show will be the first man to pin Brock Lesnar. The champ retains.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

Triple H vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane vs. Booker T vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Shawn Michaels

This could really kick ass. You've got six huge names in the ring at one time, in a brand new gimmick match that's been built with more vigor than the second coming of Christ. By all means, the sheer intrigue alone should be enough to carry the audience through this one. Add to that the fact that none of these guys are slouches in the ring, and you're mixing something worth a peek. Then again, this could really SUCK ass. You've got six big names who aren't familiar with one another, one of which is attempting to return from four years away from the ring due to a broken back. You've got one of the most unpredictable wrestlers on the planet in Rob Van Dam, who can give us a match of the year one night, only to mail it in the next. You've got Kane, who still hasn't convinced me he's a main eventer and just finished up a couple unmemorable matches against Triple H. And you've got the champ himself, who's the object of nearly everyone's ire lately and has been taking a suspicious number of losses in the last couple weeks. But you've also got Chris Jericho and Booker T, who have been absolutely scorching the last couple weeks, and both look ready to step up to the challenge in a big way. It'll be... interesting... I can say that.

I'm not so crazy about the rules. Any match where wrestlers are confined to a small area, within reach of the other guys, is a little silly. I didn't like it when they'd dangle guys from the cieling in a cage, I don't like it now. Then again, I suppose it's the best way to keep this from becoming a major league clusterfuck. This way, you've at least got a few minutes of one-on-one before somebody new comes in and things start to get crazy.

So let's see who's got a chance and why. Kane; nuh unh. He had his shot last month, and it didn't go anywhere. As far as I'm concerned, his feud with Triple H blew off with that mysteriously non-title casket match. RVD; same story. I'd give him a better chance than the big red machine, but not by much. He'll last a while, though, so as to maximize the chance he'll pull some absolutely insane and memorable spot out of his ass. Shawn Michaels; The wild card. I sincerely doubt they'll put the gold on him, since he's asked to work such a limited schedule, but I wouldn't rule it out either. He'll keep things together, at the very least, and may eliminate Triple H from the runnings. Chris Jericho; in case you missed the RAW Review, I LOVED the way they built Y2J at the end of the show. It not only boosted his stock and made him seem like more than just one half of the tag team champions, it threw a whole new variable into the outcome of this match. He feels like a legitimate challenger now, but I'm still betting against him. If there were ever a way to get the gold off of Triple H and onto Jericho, this would be it, but it's not gonna happen. Booker T; Probably the best bet in terms of challengers. I like his chances, especially after a strong couple weeks of build, but it might be rushing things to cash out his push this soon. Finally, Triple H; the most likely suspect. Come on, like he WOULDN'T jump at the opportunity to put himself over five of RAW's main event-level contenders at one time. I hope to god he loses, but I'm not counting on it. More to the contrary, actually. Trips is coming out on top here, but just barely.

Like I said, this could kick or suck. It's all up to a few variables to determine the fate of these six. Here's hoping for a great match, the fed could certainly use it.
Winner: Triple H


I'm more than a little upset to see Lance Storm and William Regal missing from this card, since they've been giving us something worth watching on RAW lately. But then again, I guess that whole "strike while the iron's hot" thing is overrated anyway. Or maybe they'll find themselves thrown onto the card at the last minute, and I'll be left looking like a tool. Either way, I'll find a way to carry on with my life. There are a few other faces I'd like to see on this card that have gone unnoticed, but for the most part the bases are covered here. This won't win any awards for "greatest PPV of all time", but it should be relatively solid. The good looks to outweigh the bad, so that's a good sign. And who knows, maybe Jeff Hardy and the Dudleys will come out and put on the match of their lives tonight, completely shoving my pessimism about their match back down my throat. I'd take it, anything to freshen things up a little.
until next time, i remain

Monday, November 11, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 11/11/02

I actually dug this week's show. There were certainly missteps and Victoria's character is falling like a rock, but this is a big step forward from the horrors of Katie Vick and the necrophelia contained therein.

Jericho / Christian and Kane / RVD started off incredibly slow, but once things started to lift off, it built to a sweet climax and wound up being a great opener for the program. I absolutely loved the way they played Jericho off last night, ruthless and focused. He's the kind of dominating heel they need in the main events, a guy I actually find worthy of holding the World Title. Triple H, unfortunately, I can't say the same for any longer. He's become so stagnant with that title, it's like an afterthought any more. Any wonder nobody buys the legitimacy of that gold strap? Anyway, good match that got enough time to tell the story it needed to. I'm not excited about Jericho and Christian breaking up so soon, but the way it was handled was ideal. Nobody loses any heat with a breakup like that.

Lance Storm and Jeff Hardy really clicked for the first two thirds of their match, with the last bit booked out the ass and surprisingly lazy and sloppy. Storm is just the kind of guy Jeff Hardy needs opposing him in the ring, a mat-based technical heel who knows how to take control of a match. He dictated the flow of that match, dominating the majority of the offense, and when the time came for Jeff to hit a big spot it actually meant something. Of course, there were some strange moments where the Canadian heel didn't really seem to know what to do with his opponent, but I'll let that slide on account of this is the first one-on-one meeting they've had in the ring. Give these guys a little time to get used to one another, something worth fighting over and a high profile slot on the show. You'll have a couple new faces at the top of the midcard.

I like the direction they're taking with Tommy Dreamer and the UnAmerican leftovers. Dreamer is the ideal scratching post, and these two have claws that need sharpening. Keep it up, I'm enjoying it.

I was hoping Terri would refuse to head out to the ring, so we could finally relieve ourselves of the horrid presence she brings to the show every week. Seriously, I'd rather watch Mark Henry than her. I'd rather see Viscera making a triumphant return to the ring than bear another few minutes of her horrifyingly altered body. I'd rather see MAE FREAKING YOUNG than... wait. No, I don't think there's anything that can make me clamor for more Mae. I guess Terri isn't that bad after all. Or maybe she's just not the single worst thing in WWE history. Though she's close...

Victoria should stick to the wrestling, and leave the acting in her past. She was already awful when they first gave her lines, and now they're trying to expand her theatrical portfolio?

Not sure why fans have been so unreceptive to Batista thus far. Last week we could blame it on the lame crowd, but this week's audience was red hot.. yet still nothing for TAFKA Leviathan. Maybe he looks too postured, or maybe we haven't been given a reason to care. I maintain that he'll get somewhere in the future, they've just got to find something that works for him... this whole Brock Lesnar v. 2.0 thing just isn't it.

I'm over the Three Minute Warning. Their moveset was cool once, interesting twice... but lame and overdone by now. They're slowing down as the enthusiasm dies and they dive into the midcard, and I still don't know which one is Rosey and which is Jamal. I'm impressed the red-haired one could get Bubba up for that altered samoan drop, but other than that I could've done without the match.

Man, that Nowinski / Snow match was odd. Nowinski's still a great heel, despite the slight need for some fine tuning, and really stands head and shoulders above Maven now. Of course, he's also had several months' worth of time to develop while Maven sat, injured on the sidelines. I still love the feud, it was just an off week for those involved.

Booker and Triple H had some good interaction backstage. I'm really happy to see them moving Booker away from the comedy act and more towards the aggressive, violent man he portrayed just after last year's Summerslam. The match was a step below what you'd expect, with neither guy really seeming to know when everybody would come barreling down the entryway. Of course, we get a kick-wham-pedigree conclusion (who saw THAT coming??), and then all hell breaks loose with the Elimination Chamber hard sell committee. There's certainly enough talent in there to make this one good, which is something they did their best to prove during RAW's final moments. And, lo and behold, just as I thought they were gonna close the show with Shawn Michaels' shaking ass once again, here comes Chris Jericho to finish things off the way that most made sense. What's that strange noise? It's applause, coming from my direction. That's what's called a bookend, folks. You start the show with an angle that promotes the upcoming PPV main event, and close it with the same angle. Chris Jericho looks like a legitimate challenger for the title now, and it only took like 5 minutes of programming time.

I legitimately enjoyed this one, and can't believe how far they've come in just under a month. Keep it up. PLEASE!

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 6.5

Monday, November 4, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 11/04/02

Man, we weren't even past the opening credits before I found something to whine about. I remember a few years ago, when Vince was still flaunting his "Attitude", that opening sequence was a thing of beauty. So many quick, subliminal flashes, so much to absorb. I swear to god, they changed that thing every week. It was the attention to detail that really made the product such a complete package, and I loved it... sometimes more than I loved the shows that played afterward. So I tune in tonight, and what's the first thing I see? A long shot of the Big Show. The Big Show. Uhhh... gang? Didn't we trade him to Smackdown two full weeks ago? Maybe I'm nitpicking, but it reads to me like the reason they're screwing up so many of the big things is because they've quit caring about all the little things.

The boys from the islands weren't half bad tonight. For that matter, neither was Jeff Hardy... though I can't believe that tard's still walking. Of all the bumps he took last night, 90% of them were on that little spot between his neck and upper back. Not really the way you want to land. I think he and Ric Flair are having some sort of competition, to see who can make the viewers wince and cover their eyes the most often in the span of one match.

You know, I've always enjoyed seeing Ivory in the ring. Once she got past that whole storyline where she'd carry a ribbon everywhere with her, she's been steadily impressive between the ropes. Take a look at the way she woke the crowd up with that nasty slap in Trish's face, then carried the entire weight of the match, up to the finish. She knows what she's doing, but unfortunately suffers the same shortcomings as Molly. She can make herself look good, and she can make her opponents look good... but whenever she's losing, it looks like she's trying to fall behind. She'll bust her ass to tear into an opponent, and then all of a sudden can't come up with a way to avoid a series of punches and a bulldog. Sure, I'd much rather see Ivory and Molly than Terri and Stacy, but a flaw is a flaw.

If they aren't careful, they're gonna turn Randy Orton face again before he returns. These "RNN Updates" are hilarious, and the crowd's starting to eat it up.

Holy shit, who lit a fire under Lance Storm and William Regal last night? After that less-than-inspiring Scott Steiner vignette had finished, these two absolutely opened up on poor Al Snow with some of the most believable offense I've seen in months. If you'd never seen good psychology in action before, this was your chance... Storm started off the party, bending Snow's leg the wrong way around the edge of the apron, and they never gave the guy a chance to rest afterwards. Shit, even my leg hurt after that match. Segment of the night goes to William Regal, for locking in a reverse chinlock, grabbing ahold of Snow's injured leg, and then quickly standing up. Al had to WORK to return to a vertical base that time, and Willie R. wasn't offering any help. Thumbs up all the way, I'll watch shit like that all night long. Could've asked for more in the way of a finish, but it's getting these two over as stiff, ruthless, Brainbuster-esque bastards and I love it.

Wow, all those weeks of build and the crowd was still dead for Batista's RAW debut. Then again, the crowd was dead for pretty much everybody else's intro, as well... not to mention their matches, and their outros. Come to think of it, this crowd was a pretty solid piece of shit from start to finish.

Booker T cut the best promo I've ever heard him utter last night, finally completing the look as a main eventer. I don't have any illusions about his role at Survivor Series, but it's nice to see that he's still got more in the tank than a few "Suckaas" and a Spinaroonie. And I finally got to see him use that "Don't hate the playa" line against Trips, which is something I'd been waiting for since he started saying it religiously in WCW. Good segment, despite Kane's goofy run down the entryway. I don't know what it is, but I laugh every time I see him trying to haul ass. He looks like a ninny.

OK, so can we trade Hurricane Helms back to Smackdown now? Preferably without the superhero character? He's steadily gone nowhere since jumping to Monday nights. Test's new 'do isn't as bad as I'd feared, and he's got a new finisher to boot. A particularly sinister looking one, at that. This "Testicle" angle might actually go somewhere.

Christian and RVD put on a nice little match. Same complaint I had with the Regal / Storm vs. Snow / Dreamer match, the finish seemed a little hurried. Otherwise we got some quality stuff, telling a less detailed story with the leg. King inadvertently made me snicker, as RVD went for the top rope, wondering "How can RVD move so fast with that hurt leg?!" My thoughts exactly...

Chris Nowinski kicks ass. That's all there is to it. I was really dry to the guy when he first started getting all that attention, but I've come around to him. Last night he was calm, he was in control, he didn't even start to panic when the crowd didn't take the bait right away, and sure enough... it paid off. That whole segment was gold, and it gave Maven a return the likes of which he probably didn't deserve. It wouldn't have made sense with anybody else, though, and the bald, black-browed TE1 champ played his role better than I expected. This feud's got money in it.

And the main event continued the trend, which is shaping up to be a theme for tonight, of decent matches with poor finishes. For the most part, the offense in this one was solid, with Booker T taking the credit for most of that. Then we get to the last minute of the match, and suddenly everybody forgets how to wrestle. Shawn Michaels is in for the Chamber, he's planning to walk away champion, yadda yadda. I'm glad to see the guy back, but I don't buy him as World Champ for a second. He may take Triple H out of the equation, though, which would be super good news for the World Title itself.

Actually a halfway entertaining show this week. The mentions of Ms. Vick were a bit too frequent for their own good, and the finishes needed some major work, but I'll take this over the show we got two weeks ago. I'm pleased to see progress.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.5