Jacqueline vs. Trish vs. Victoria
Bless their hearts, they've actually tried to build us a women's division again this month. Despite no appearances from Molly or Jazz, the division's two strongest wrestlers, we've seen no shortage of Women in the month of December. I'm somehow simultaneously glad and horrified about Jacqueline's appearance here. On one hand, she's a face we haven't seen in a serious position in months, and could potentially thus add some new flavor to the division. It also means her fluke victory over Victoria early in the month had more behind it than a cheap, home-arena pop. Then again, it's fucking Jacqueline. I don't buy her false bravado, and I don't like seeing her in the ring, whether it's as an official or a wrestler.
Trish and Victoria have had plenty of opportunities to familiarize themselves with one another in the ring, and with Fit Finlay refusing to give up on the division, still run the chance of putting up a good fight Sunday. So long as they don't overthink this or try to make it into something it will never be, the match will be a success. It won't be poetry, but it won't be ugly, either. Trish needs the gold back, but I'm afraid it'll kill every bit of Victoria's momentum, considering how horribly she's been squashed this month.
Edge vs. Albert
Albert hurt Rey's knee. Edge is Rey's partner. So they fight. Tell me how anybody thought this angle shouldn't have gone to Matt Hardy, and I'll tell you they're an idiot anyway. We KNOW Matt and Edge can have a killer match, it would be fresh, it would be a series with legs. But instead we get Albert, taking V 1.0's slot at the last second. A guy who has one angle in his future, the whole "Loser shaves his back match" ordeal. Blegh. This isn't getting Edge anywhere, and it's sure as hell not building new stars the crowd wants to see.
The only way I'd be happy with the outcome of this match is if Crash ran down to the ring in Edge's place, completed the job of shaving the gorilla's back, and proceeded to win an impromptu "Pink slip on a pole" match while Albert sold the razor burn.
Chris Benoit vs. Eddy Guerrero
Hell yeah. Two of my all-time favorites are getting a chance to show us what they've got. It's always disappointed me that these two never got the high profile, PPV match they deserved during the two breakups of the Radicals, and now they're finally getting that chance. With any luck, this'll be the start of a long-running, classic feud that puts both men in a spot that CAN NOT be ignored. Eddy is, bar none, the best heel in North America, and Chris needs someone of that stature to solidify his character and position outside of the ring. It's time to ditch all that "tweener" nonsense, he's either a full-throttle face or a greasy, prick of a heel.
There's nothing more I can really say about this match. If it goes longer than ten minutes it'll be sweet. If it goes longer than fifteen, it'll be classic. If it stretches over three months, blowing off at Wrestlemania, it'll be truly ideal. If Benoit wins, this feud doesn't go any further than tonight. If Eddy "cheats to win", we're in for a fun ride. Guess which one I want to see?
Winner: Eddy Guerrero
Kane vs. Batista
This has the potential to either skyrocket the new guy's career or sink it like a stone. He came to RAW, packaged with a steamroller of publicity, fanfare and vignettes. He looks like a guy who could kill you with just a stern glare. He's got Ric Flair in his corner. And he's done nothing to separate himself in the ring from anybody else in the lower midcard. Now, some of the blame should go to the WWE for giving him such short, spontaneous matches and protecting him to a fault. However, Big Dave needs to take some of the blame himself. When that red light's gone on, when he's heard the opening bell, he's stumbled. He hasn't looked as impressive as you'd expect. Where Brock Lesnar debuted and immediately proved that he had a moveset we'd never seen before, Batista's come in, thrown a few punches and delivered a powerbomb or two.
He's got his work cut out for him with Kane, who's wrestled virtually the same match for upwards of two years now, and who weighs enough to make any sort of power offense difficult. If Batista can manhandle the big red machine convincingly, finishing him off with something that DEMANDS the audience to jump out of their seats and shout, then he's gonna go places. If he continues to freeze up under the limelight and offers up another ho-hum, run of the mill match, it's the end of the line. Either way, he's my pick for this one.
Christian & Chris Jericho vs. Booker T & Goldust vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Lance Storm & William Regal
WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP - FOUR WAY ELIMINATION MATCH
I love it. The sudden resurgence of the tag team division is the best thing going on RAW today. The Canadian Chris's have the kind of chemistry we haven't seen since Christian's first big tag team, his legendary pairing with Edge. Booker and Goldust, a team I've been critical of in the past, have the kind of momentum going right now that some guys would kill for. The Dudley Boyz are just coming off a recent popularity spike, thanks to D-Von's unexpected return to the fold, so they'll bring all the crowd noise you could ask for. And Regal / Storm are the best of the best at the moment, working their asses off and giving us something fresh every week. I didn't care much for the clusterfuck at the end of RAW promoting this one, but the talent involved can't help but make up for that.
This should be really, really good. While the urge is certainly there to see this one develop into a TLC-style spot match, I'd actually rather see it kept as a solid, serious elimination WRESTLING match. I'd imagine one of the heel duos will dominate this one, taking the bull by the horns and really driving the other teams to match their effort. The Dudleys are an afterthought, I don't think there's any way they're getting the belts back at this point. They're hot at the moment but I'd rather see them prove they've got more in the tank than the same old spots and a few more tables. So they're my pick for the first team eliminated. Christian and Y2J are tentatively my second choice. I like them as champions, and I like the pairing.. but I think they've got more promise as singles than a duo. I'd call Booker and Goldust as the third team out, despite the push they were given Monday. Dustin has a sore back and Booker needs more than a tag team title. He should be feuding for the top spot. So that means I'm going with Regal and Storm. They deserve it, they're on the longest roll, and it's about friggin' time for both guys. If they don't take it, then Jericho and Christian will retain. I don't think either of the faces have a serious shot at it.
Truth be told, I'm almost looking forward to this match more than I am Benoit / Guerrero.
Winners: Storm & Regal
Kurt Angle (w/ Brock Lesnar) vs. Big Show (w/ Paul Heyman)
OK, this one's not gonna tear down any walls. Kurt won't drag a match of the year out of the Big one, but he'll give it that old college try all the same. And I think he'll be able to give us as good a show as the current Smackdown champ's ever going to get. Remember when Bret Hart made Diesel watchable? When Shawn Michaels gave us an entertaining match with Sid? I'd certainly classify Angle as being in league with those two, and Paul Wight lands somewhere in between Diesel and Sid.
Of course, the real story here is how they'll handle the holy grail of this year, the elusive Angle vs. Lesnar feud. It's easy to say they're planting the seeds here, and then look toward Wrestlemania and the one-on-one match there. That takes half the fun out of the equation, though. Sure, it's sweet to have a killer match as the payoff... but it doesn't mean anything if there isn't an equally kickass storyline to keep us excited all the way there. I won't even begin to speculate about how they'll start things off here, I'll merely take solace in the fact that Paul Heyman is booking it, and not RAW's infamous crew.
It's a tough call. Do we give Angle the World Title and allow Lesnar to chase him down the home stretch, or do we go the alternate route, and make it a meeting of the two-time champions? I'd much rather see the former, and that's what I'm gonna have to pick. This one's as easy to predict as a flip of the coin.
Winner: Kurt Angle
Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP - BEST OF THREE FALLS MATCH
I really hope this one doesn't turn out as transparent as it appears to be. Because right now it's reading like a poor book, straight from start to finish with no twists, turns or surprises. Shawn wins title, Shawn defends title and is screwed over by Triple H, Shawn chases Triple H, Shawn loses payoff in three falls, Triple H resumes domination of RAW brand. I've read instruction manuals with more intrigue than that. So, I'll give the writers the benefit of the doubt and say "expect lots of surprises!!" ...because, otherwise, it's really gonna suck.
Realistically, this will be awkward. There's little or no flow between the sequential falls. They're gonna have to wander back to ringside after, presumably, fighting to the back and doing a lot of junk brawling in their street fight. Then they'll have to wait for the steel cage, unless it's set up prior to the match, where the goal is to escape from the cage. At which point they'll then need to return again to the ring, ladder in tow, to retrieve the title. Yeah, it doesn't make much sense to me either. But, I guess, if anybody could make it work it'd be Shawn Michaels. I didn't take Hell in a Cell seriously until he climbed inside for the first time, and he carried the Undertaker through that one.
Bottom line, if HBK works his ass off and Triple H doesn't walk out with the title, this will be fun. And it sure as hell better be the blowoff, because if they try to sell us on this again at Wrestlemania I'm not sure I'll be buying. My faith in the booking squad is probably better than it should be here. Michaels retains, just to keep people guessing.
Winner: Shawn Michaels
With this month's show emanating from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, I had a chance to attend this show live but opted not to. First and foremost, the tickets were absolutely ridiculous. I could get really good seats for one pay per view, or I could get really good seats for two house shows, a RAW taping and a Smackdown taping, and still have money left over for gas. Up next, well... I have to work on Monday morning. And it's a drive across the state, so I'd be out late. Third, there's the previously mentioned televised shows. I'll be skipping the house shows, but will be at RAW and Smackdown. Finally, I just didn't think this was a PPV I'd be kicking myself for not attending the next day. I still hold that standpoint. Maybe HBK will do something amazing. Maybe that tag match will be really good. Maybe I'll miss a title change. In another year, who else will remember what happened? I'd rather see two shows like that, and save a little cash along the way.
until next time, i remain