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

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