Monday, January 27, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 01/27/03

Bit of a step down from last week, but I'm glad to see the trends that were developing before the Rumble have stuck around this far. It's a long cry from the worst RAW I've ever seen, and while it felt like things went into a holding pattern, that's not completely unexpected, all things considered. They took some big steps last week, and it was perhaps best to just let them simmer for an extra seven days.

Jeff Hardy, unfortunately, lost a little bit of that extra spring in his step this week. His angle's still interesting, if just because it's fresh and unexpected, but his ringwork still has a long way to go before I'll start saying nice things about it. I'm tempted to say he needs to tone down on the highspots if he's going heel, but then again I'm all about trying fresh things. I'm torn between my need to see something untried and my knowledge that fans are always going to cheer the small guy who takes all the risks.

Teddy Long's still a great mouthpiece, but I couldn't get into his anti-superhero tirade this week. I mean, come on... how can you overlook Luke Cage? Wait, scratch that.. Luke Cage sucks. But hey, Spawn's a black guy. Or, he was a black guy before his skin was melted off and he went to hell. Unless they changed all that, too, since Spawn's blown monkeys for a couple years now.

Am I getting off track? Nice, solid match between D'Lo and Helms. It was competitive most of the way through, and Brown didn't come across as a pussy... so kudos from me. Helms took a nasty spill on his powerbomb reversal near the match's climax, but it paid off for him when he hit that plancha to the floor and blood flew out of his mouth. Really cool visual, though I'd think twice before trying it out again.

Man, I'd already composed half of my paragraph about the women's title match, and how I didn't miss the hardcore division one bit while it was gone, and then these two went out and kicked ASS! Trish's biggest strength has always been her selling, along with her willingness to fold herself in half to put over just about anybody. So, I guess it makes sense that she'd shine especially bright in a hardcore setting. My only real complaint here was the match's finish, as Stratus absorbed all that offense, only to take a fall after a notably weak tumble to the floor. But hey, the right person went over again and the match was outstanding for free TV. And Jazz made her f'ing return! And she picked up right where she left off, tearing the living HELL out of the division's dominant face. It only took her about fifteen seconds to remind me why I missed her so much... if you don't make her submissions look good, she'll FORCE YOU to. Holy lord, did that STF look brutal.

I don't care about the Three Minute Warning. They haven't given me any reason to. So why are they still wasting time at the top of RAW's first hour? Hey, while we're on the subject, why are they being made to look stronger than Storm and Regal, the reigning champions, who have been kicking ass for the last few months? Oi, just when I thought they were starting to get it. I loved the whole 'no tables under the ring' schtick, especially when JR said "....but there are ALWAYS tables under there!" I don't know, I just thought it was hilarious. Otherwise, I'd have rather lived without this segment.

I'm running short on time here, so I'll skim over the Tough Enough segment. I'm glad they didn't blow their wad right away with the standing SSP, as that's something that's gonna tear the roof off the place when it's unveiled. I don't know how they convincingly kept Tommy Dreamer face after turning on the two newbies, but I'm glad they did. It matched his personality to a tee.

Aaaand we had the requisite beatdown to close the show. A little uninspiring, since it was pretty much the same thing we saw last week. But then again, it's also nice to see them building a dominant heel stable at the top of the card. I like this. I can tolerate Triple H like this. I dig this. Big time props to the writers for throwing in that little nugget with Jericho at the very end, picking Steiner's bones clean. Went right along with his character, and gave next week's match for the #1 contender's spot some extra momentum.

Sorry for the rushed nature of my writeup this week, I'll be back in full effect next time. Above average show, slightly less appealing than last week's.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5.7

Monday, January 20, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 01/20/03

I almost completely enjoyed RAW this week, which makes that two weeks in a row of incredible steps for a show that was sorely lacking over the last six months. There still remain plenty of big issues which need to be tackled, but the biggest step of all appears to have been finally made. They're concentrating more and more on competitive wrestling matches and physically-involved storylines, and less on ill-conceived, contrived, nonsensical backstage stories which do nothing to further those involved as athletes or serious competitors. Hot DAWG, I like the sound of that. It's making me happy, just saying it.

I was actually relieved they kept Steiner around in the main event scene this month. While I'll be a little testy if they try to stretch this feud to Wrestlemania, it's good filler as Scotty's still over enough to merit the shots and looks the part of a potential heavyweight champion. I haven't ordered a WWE pay per view since Wrestlemania, so I didn't see the Steiner / Trips match everybody's tearing to hell, but I'm not surprised to hear about the way it turned out. Shit, a guy takes a year and a half away from the ring and is immediately thrust into a World Title match upon his return to big time wrestling. Hell yeah, he's gonna have some ring rust. The WWE's just as much to blame as Steiner for that, they should've put him on the road for a little while before booking him in a thirty minute co-headlining slot on one of the four biggest PPVs of the year. If they'd kicked him out on his ass after one pissy match (a'la Kronik), they'd have a lot of explaining to do considering the amount of talent they've retained over the last few years after something similar. Hell, Bradshaw's been putting on godawful matches for YEARS and he's still hanging around.

I was seriously expecting a Jeff Hardy heel turn from the moment he came out to the ring, as he was wearing a black t-shirt instead of a white one. Really. I was even going to comment on it, and how ineffective it was in single handedly turning him heel... but then the little putz actually DID turn. And he put on a really strong match with RVD beforehand, even. Who the hell is this guy, and where has he put the Jeff Hardy we saw throughout 2002? And why hasn't he thrown away the key yet? Credit where it's due, despite a couple blown spots these guys gave us a nice little acrobatic TV match. I loved Jeff's impromptu counter to RVD's midair springboard dropkick, as well as the hot series of nearfalls that led to the finish of this one. It wasn't a five star classic, but it was kickin' for free tv.

They followed that up with a nice, old-school "cheat the faces out of their belts" angle between the Dudleys and Storm / Regal. These guys are giving us some entertaining stuff, with the Dudleys especially surprising me by remaining fresh longer than the date stamped on the outside of their package. I do have one major gripe about this division, however. Remember Armageddon? That little PPV they ran on December 15th, roughly a month ago? There were four teams competing in an elimination-style match for the tag team titles on that card; Jericho & Christian, Storm & Regal, Booker & amp;Goldust, and the Dudleys. I mentioned in my preview of the event that the four teams were sharing in the revitilization of the RAW Tag Title scene, and remarked how nice it was to see. Well, now there's one other thing these four teams have shared; the Titles, over a thirty day period. All four of these teams have held the gold at one point between Armageddon and the Royal Rumble. Four teams, one title, thirty days. That's absolutely INSANE. There's no possible reason for the belts to be switching hands as often as they have been lately, and I'm afraid all the hotshotting may endanger that something special they were reaching for at the December pay per view. Otherwise, game on. I love seeing Regal and Storm kick ass, and I love this mid-80s style booking.

I don't really care about the women's division any more. They've done good by finally ripping that microphone out of Victoria's hands, but now there's just nothing really going on. Aaaand she's nuts for wrestling in a backless shirt. At least Trish wasn't in pajamas, like she was last week.

I'm still waiting for Eric Bischoff's big announcement. Why couldn't they have made a trade or something, and announced the Austin arrival as a big surprise even later in the month. Lord knows Bischoff's going to need every little surprise he can get his hands on. A trade would've made sense, as you could've had a new main event-level face in the mix, and the suspense would be that much stronger for Smackdown, since we'd want to know who Steph would be getting in return. Can't win 'em all, though, and I'll enjoy seeing the Rattlesnake again, whether he's on the red show or the blue one.

Booker T and Goldust put on a show with the Three Minute Warning last night, with Booker especially coming off like Superman. He looks like he's starting to give a damn again, which is nothing but good news for his fans. I've cooled down to him a lot since the summer, when he should've been given his shot at stardom, but if he's motivated again I'm sure I won't have any problem warming up to him in a hurry. For those keeping score at home, I finally learned which one was Rosey and which was Jamal. The guy with the rosey red hair is Jamal.

Test and Jericho were doing their best to give us something worthwhile, when all this overbooked silliness went down with Stacy. They tried their best to send along the message of "oh my god, this is legit," but showing a replay of Stacy getting her arms up and Jericho hitting the ringpost dead-on didn't really help that claim's validity. Even my girlfriend Autumn, glancing at the screen to see why nobody was talking, noted how bad an idea those constant replays were. I don't like the hints of a Jericho face turn, as I think he's finally starting to really come into his own as RAW's omnipotent heel and such a turn would spoil the year's worth of momentum this run's got going for it. I also fear they're toying with the idea of discontinuing the Jericho / HBK feud in favor of Y2J / Test. Which is a piss poor idea, especially now that Jericho and Michaels are at the boiling point. Please, please, don't kill this one now. Not after we've seen just how perfect a fit it is for both guys...

I was overjoyed to see Teddy Long back behind the stick again. Even after a couple years underneath the black and white uniform, I kept expecting Ron Simmons and Butch Reed to come down the entryway, reunite with their pinstriped comrade, and bring Doom to WWE. So, naturally, when I saw him on the entryway with D'Lo Brown, it didn't take more than a moment for all those thoughts to come rushing back into my mind. I seriously love this angle, as it's the kind of 'risky storyline' that can not only gain the media attention Vince was hoping for with Katie Vick, but can also inspire honest debate about racism in sports. I love angles that give you something to think about after the show's gone off the air, and that's exactly what we're seeing here. In addition, somebody upstairs noticed D'Lo was stumbling with the mic, and they gave him the best mouthpiece available to fill the void. Bravo.

I'd imagine several people are wondering what I thought of the union of Batista, Orton, Flair and Helmsley, considering my devotion to the Four Horsemen. Let's get it out in the open, once and for all. I love, love, LOVE this angle. A dominating heel stable is precisely what RAW, HHH and Flair needed. It's what Randy Orton and Batista needed to put themselves on the map. It's perfect for the situation, and I'm very happy they didn't rush into it. It's virtually flawless, just so long as they don't hold up those four fingers. These are not the Four Horsemen, although they might pass as a worthwhile impersonation. The stable effectively has two leaders; Ric Flair and Triple H. That ain't the Horsemen. Flair IS the Horsemen, he's the undisputed leader, sheriff, only name in town. Triple H is too big on his own to take part in the group. And that's that.

I'm really looking forward to seeing these guys tear through RAW. I'm eager to see where they take it next week. I'm very happy with what I'm seeing. Thumbs up.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.2

Saturday, January 18, 2003

The World's Greatest WWE Royal Rumble 2003 Preview

Oh, my. It can't have been thirty days already, can it? How's everybody doing this fine winter's eve, morning, or afternoon (depending on your time zone)? Me, I'm just peachy. I've got a weekend coming up, and it's been a relaxing Friday here at the office. Just about the perfect way to wrap up a work week. And since I'm in such high spirits, I have no problem letting you know that you've tuned in to the longest running PPV Preview column in the world (claims subject to any sort of verification), the World's Greatest WWE Preview.

So I was a little rough on last month's PPV. Taking a look back, now that hindsight's in full 20/20 mode, can you say I was wrong? Armageddon was a shell of a show, despite two big World Title changes, but the build toward the Rumble has been a little more solid than what we were seeing prior to the big "A" thirty days in our past. RAW's been, surprisingly, a much stronger show this month while Smackdown coasted along with the Dawn Marie / Al Wilson fiasco. Then again, the introduction of Team Angle and a World Title shot for Chris Benoit have ensured at least partial enjoyment of the Thursday night fights. We've got two title matches this month, and all of the participants have a legitimate reason to be there. Add to that the Rumble match itself, which I've always loved, and you've got a pretty decent-looking card going in. The WWE's done very well with their premiere events over the last nine months, giving us a Summerslam and Survivor Series to remember, and it feels like they'll continue that trend here.

Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie

God DAMN, why can't this thing just end? It's like watching a week long, clothes hanger style abortion, live as it happens. With Al Wilson as the nurse on call. It's like the WWE didn't learn their lesson from the whole Katie Vick affair. People don't like watching anything about funerals, dead or dying people. Especially on a program that's supposed to be centered on athletic competition. Folks REALLY don't like watching that shit when two people start fighting over it. It's uncomfortable. It's silly. It's bound to fail, even before they film the first scene. Hell, I saved the shot on the Smackdown main page earlier today, featuring Dawn sneaking up on a mourning Torrie, seated in front of the casket, with a lamp held menacingly above her head. Not because I wanted to remember the angle, or because I cared who won this, but because it's one of those images that's so incredibly stupid, it actually becomes funny.

Who's betting Al Wilson rises from his grave at some point? I don't give a fuck who wins this match, it's pissing me off to even see it on the card. Why don't they have a casket match and get it over with? Or maybe the Undertaker will wheel ol' Al down to ringside? Who cares?
Winner: Let's say Torrie, so this mess can end

Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show
Winner Enters The Rumble

This looked to be a big money feud during the weeks after the Survivor Series, with Lesnar really breaking out as a face during his run-ins on the Show during Smackdown. Unfortunately, some of the air's been let out of the intensity between these two, and I'm feeling like this one's become something of a lame duck matchup. We've all seen Lesnar F-5 the big man, so we know it can be done. He showed us at the Series how easily he could manhandle the big man, so there's no point in learning that lesson once again. I guess the point I just keep coming back to is how these two don't have anything new and exciting to show us any more. Going in, the big question was if the Next Big Thing could get the Show up on his shoulders. Now, there's nothing left that's unanswered. Needless to say, this should serve as the blowoff to the feud between Paul Heyman's first client and his largest. And, as if there's any question as to the finish, Brock's gotta come out on top.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

Dudley Boyz vs. William Regal and Lance Storm
World Tag Team Championship

I'm really glad to see Regal and Storm holding the belts. I've always loved a good, competitive tag team and that embodies Storm and Regal to a "T". So long as they don't turn them into pussies, as they've been hinting over the last couple weeks, this title run should be very solid. They've got the natural atheticism and personality to get them over as convincingly difficult opponents, and they're both born heels. Storm can lean on Regal a little as the team's mouthpiece, and Regal can count on Storm to really put them on the map in the ring. I've really grown tired of the cowardly heel over the last five years, seeing as how that's what EVERY heel has regressed to, and if they're held to the same standards as face teams in that respect, Storm and Regal will build a legacy for themselves. They shouldn't back down, and their use of the knucks as a finisher should be limited at best. That's the way you'll get the fans to really loathe them as champions.. by proving that they can compete with the top faces without relying on foreign objects and outside interference. They can beat 'em at their own game.

Well.. that was a little tangent. Anyway, this should be a really nice match. These two teams have never had a chance to really sit down and put on a match with each other, and I'm anticipating some fireworks this Sunday when they're finally given that opportunity. The Dudleys have reached the peak of their current wave of popularity, so it's the right time to give them the title shot. Storm and Regal, despite recent involvement with Lawler & Ross, are still regarded as a tough duo. I've no idea where each team could go from here, and I'd put my money on the foreigners as a better long term investment for the company. Thus, we've got the champs retaining their gold.
Winners: Storm and Regal

Scott Steiner vs. Triple H
World Heavyweight Championship

If you're a regular reader of the Oratory RAW Review Crew, you'll know that I've enjoyed the build to this one. It's funny how we haven't thought of it this way, but with very few exceptions, every World Title match over the last few years has been built almost the exact same way. Sure, there have been deviations to convince us we're watching something fresh and new every month, but what it all comes down to is a surprisingly familiar formula. Heel attacks face. Face retaliates in scathing promo. Heel comes down to answer challenge. Face challenges heel "right here, tonight." Heel backs off. Face and heel exchange wins in a series of handicap and / or tag matches. PPV Main event serves as blowoff singles match. Instead, what we've got with Steiner / Hunter is a taste of something different. With Hunter nursing an injured leg all month and Scotty still rusty between the ropes, it's no surprise they backed off the physicalities a bit, but I think it all worked out very effectively.

Think about it; instead of exploiting both guys when they're at their weakest in the ring, the WWE built them up by showcasing their more readily available positive aspects. Steiner was still a little rough in the ring, so they gave him few opportunities to show off his hulking physique. Hunter's thigh was sore, so they gave him the chance to play some mind games with his opponent. Both guys look like they've got a shot this Sunday night, and neither one looks weak. How much more of an ideal situation could that be? I don't have to like either guy to say I think their feud has been handled better than I'd expected.

I'd like to see the gold off Triple H's waist, but I don't think Steiner's the right guy to do it with. The impact of his arrival has already worn off, and fans are starting to say "OK, he's a moron on the mic and he's got a big body.. is there anything more to this guy?!" They'll have an offbeat match, to say the least. Steiner's always worked better against lighter guys, as they're much easier to throw around the ring. Trips is not as light guy. If anything, he's about the right size for Steiner to have a little difficulty handling him. I don't think we'll see anything as decisive as a kick-wham-pedigree, but I'm not expecting the belt to change hands in the end. Maybe Scotty S will get himself disqualified, allowing HHH to keep the belt but maintaining the 'out of control' personality that's such a key to his character's success.
Winner: Triple H

Royal Rumble Match

I've always been a big fan of huge battle royals. There's just something in the air, a certain unpredictability, that makes it fun to watch. There's so much to look at, so many things going on that you'll never get bored with it. This is the WWE's real proving grounds. Forget King of the Ring, everybody who's anybody in the WWF proved themselves in the Royal Rumble. Hulk Hogan. Ric Flair. Bret Hart. Shawn Michaels. Steve Austin. The Rock. Triple H. Hell, Andre the Giant won the Royal Rumble before it was even called the Royal Rumble. Instead they just threw a bunch of guys in the ring at Wrestlemania 2. Now, there's no question a few names are missing from my list of who's who in WWE history. Mick Foley has never won the Royal Rumble, nor has Kurt Angle. Randy Savage was never victorious in the match. It's not the be-all, end-all of building yourself as the biggest man in the wrestling world, but it sure as hell helps.

With that said, there are a couple big names trying to cement their spot in history this year, with perhaps three contenders emerging as true possibilities. You've got Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels. Jericho and Michaels have been lighting the world on first over the last few months, between their meetings on the way to the Elimination Chamber and their confrontation just last week during the closing moments of RAW. Therefore, there's no question in my mind that these two will be at each other's throats from start to finish. It'd be really cool to see HBK eliminated midway through the match, only to have Y2J thrown out at the tail end, but now I'm playing the role of booker myself. If they're as serious about this feud as I think they are, both guys need to put on the show of their lives. But they also need to take each other over the top rope. Brock's almost a lock to put this one under his belt.

Oh, and did I mention I'm two for three in calling the results of the Rumble match? Just thought I'd throw that out there.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle
WWE Championship

I'm not sure what more can be said about this match that I haven't covered already. Chris Benoit is one HELL of an athlete, and Kurt Angle is the living embodyment of professional wrestling. He's a complete package, from head to toe. He can take any situation and thrive on it, as he proved with his promo at RAW X a few nights ago. He can't be touched in the ring, and he can run circles around anybody on the mic. He's holding the WWE Title, he's defending it against a guy who deserves to be the champion, and everything is right with the world.

These guys have had some real barn burners in the past, and with the added carrot of the WWE Title dangling in front of their faces, you've gotta believe they'll turn it up just a little bit more here. This is a match that's been years in the making, and even though the end result is all too obvious, that won't detract from my enjoyment of it in the least. Team Angle is a perfect compliment to Kurt's character, and they'll be the deciding factor here. I don't know, I just keep getting visions of Angle tapping out to the crossface while the ref is laid out on the floor. Call it a hunch.
Winner: Kurt Angle

In Closing...

Looks good on paper. If Dawn / Torrie is kept short and the Rumble runs a little long, it'll be a great sign for the evening. There's nothing really earth-shaking that seems ready to happen here, which could mean it's the calm before the storm... but don't go making bets on that one, either. These matches could all go either way and turn out well, which is a very good sign for any PPV. I remain optimistic about the future of the WWE.
until next time, i remain

Monday, January 13, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 01/13/03

I literally laughed in my chair last night during the women's title match. That crowd was SO dead, it was like this odd, sports entertainment-themed episode of the Twilight Zone. Or maybe like that empty-arena title match the Rock and Mankind had a couple years ago, without all the goofy camera angles. Honestly, this was as dead a crowd as I've ever seen and the girls just panicked. Nasty match, with little redeeming value. Victoria won with an out of the blue finish, and Trish took the requisite bump after the match. The way she can fold her body in half the wrong way while taking a mean bump is just crazy. I guess that's why they have her doing it every week. Piss poor opener for what turned out to be a pretty decent show.

For probably the first time, Maven actually looked somewhat decent in the ring last night. He took a beatdown, handed out some offense of his own and didn't pull the whole match down in the process. Otherwise, this was a pretty throwaway tag matchup. I still like Nowinski a lot, though he hasn't gone anywhere lately, and still have a little bit of hope for D'Lo's new angle. He tries to pin the illegal man, then shouts to Nick Patrick "You won't count because I'm black!!" It could go somewhere or it could go nowhere, because it's something that was previously labeled as too risky, and I for one am glad to see they're at least taking the risk. Sometimes you have to twist the old rules in the process of inventing the new ones.

Good GOD, Raven looks like shit. I'll acknowledge that he needed a change, but it sure as hell wasn't that shitty titty haircut. Nor is it those new, classic-style ring tights. Raven's always been a guy who struck me as having a really cool, if somewhat out-there, fashion sense. I dug his wardrobe when he was grunge. I questioned his logic when he painted an ankh on his face, but accepted it. I really liked his red dreds, and I thought the black paint under the eyes and bleached dreds were another half-step in the right direction. Now he just looks like a nasty old guy with a horrible haircut. Add to that the fact that they're jobbing him with no mic time to Jeff Hardy, instead of giving the guy a fucking CHANCE, and... well, it's no wonder we all bought into the rumor they'd released him several weeks ago.

Sean O'Haire looks like something out of the trench coat British bands of the early 80s. Give him some classic Cure or Joy Division to come out to the ring to, and he'll have a chance. I don't know about his character, nor that of Nathan Jones, for that matter... both seem like they're based around too much fiction to get far, but I guess we'll see. I thought O'Haire had a great look when he was in WCW, so I'm anxious to see him active again, if nothing else. And hey! They're trying to build new names, so I can't fault them for that. Cheers!

I could've lived without Vince's involvement with the show until the very end, when he got into it with Bischoff. It was fun, seeing the stars sneak out to follow the successful lead of the Dudleys. Perfect ground for Chris Jericho to make an appearance. I actually thought to myself "Why doesn't the rest of the roster come out and ask for what they want?" after Bubba and D'Von got their way. If nothing else, RAW's use of Y2J has been perfect for the last few months. Every chance they've got, they've reinforced him as a cocky dickhead, and I love it. They haven't shoved it in our faces, but they've kept us reminded.

I was glad to hear they'll be giving RAW another kick in the pants within the next month. This has the potential to be a fun couple of weeks, but I wish the Vince had chosen the right GM to replace with Shane. Steph shouldn't have grabbed Smackdown! in the first place.

I can go either way on the weightlifing segment. All night, whenever they mentioned the whole bench press thing, I kept thinking about this skit they did with Dino Bravo back when he was trying to get over as the "strongest man on Earth" or something. I guess he'd recently bench pressed a ton of weight, and was aiming to do it again live on WWF TV to get himself further over. So they pulled out the bench and a ton of weight, promoted the hell out of it and finally Dino laid back to do the deed, with Jesse Ventura there to spot for him and Alfred Hayes calling the action. He pulls the bar off the rack, instantly struggling. He looks like he's fighting for his life, and Ventura finally says enough's enough, and helps him get the thing back up on the rack. There's a moment of silence, then Jesse and Alfred start celebrating, telling us "he did it! he did it!" Then they cut away and never mention the incident again.

So I guess it's safe to say I'm glad they didn't try any legitimate bodybuilding last night. Besides, seeing Trips flailing around the ring with that one piece of shirt stuck on his arm was fun enough as it was. Not sure why Scotty tore his clothes off... maybe he was planning to make Hunter the next of his "freaks"? But it pushed Sunday's big event, so all's well that ends well.

I was happy as hell to see they closed the show out with the angle that's absolutely stealing the spotlight. I've been loving every minute of the war between Michaels and Jericho, from the moment they hinted at it the Monday before the Survivor Series, up to the activities last night. They're both so incredibly perfect for this story; Michaels, the veteran, understanding how to get completely under Jericho's skin because Y2J is so much like he was. Jericho, the young star, hungry and anxious to enjoy the main event as soon as possible. Shawn is gonna be over as a face no matter what he does, and the audience loves to hate Chris. It's a match made in heaven, and I'm pleased as punch they haven't dropped the ball.

A slow kickoff, but a strong and steady build to the conclusion. I dug this.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7.1

Monday, January 6, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 01/06/03

I really liked the way they kicked this show off. Then again, I'm a big fan of seeing the heels dominate in a convincing manner, and that's definitely what went down right here. Well... let me rephrase that. I liked the way this was booked. The execution left a lot to be desired. Batista's just failing over and over again, no matter where they throw him into the mix. He was convincing and promising when he kicked the living hell out of Spike several weeks ago, but shit... I bet I could look pretty menacing facing Spike Dudley, too. He's willing to bend himself six ways from Sunday if it'll get somebody else a little bit more over. He's the guy they feed to someone if they want them to look like the hand of god. The other two Dudleys... aren't. I like what they wanted to get across here, but it fell flat on its face.

Nice follow through, though, with Storm and Regal picking off what meat was left on Bubba and D-Von's bones. That sharpshooter kicks so much ass, I doubt I'll ever get tired of seeing it. Oh, and kickass slow-motion replay of Bubba doing a blade job. Now all the kids at home know to slide your forehead across the razor, not the razor across your forehead.

I could've lived without the women's match this week. I really dig Victoria's music, though.

Man, this Michaels / Jericho feud is MONEY. Their characters play so well off of one another; both cocky, arrogant bastards. They've both done some impressive shit, and I think this whole competition deal could really, really kick. Think about it; Jericho and Michaels, two guys who will doubtlessly go down in history, trying their best to outdo each other every step of the way. Here's hoping they give this the slow burn it deserves, and don't just hotshot it at the Rumble and move both guys on to something else. I'm loving every minute of it.

Randy Orton was priceless, too, kicking Michaels until he realized he was supposed to have an injured shoulder. Then gripping it, grimacing and trying to sell us on the whole ordeal. I like this guy...

GREAT old school tag match between Regal & Storm and Booker & Goldust. Both teams came off really strong, with several close nearfalls, and the heels got as clean a victory as we're likely to see from them. It always bothered me how it's ok for the faces to use a chair and win the match, but when the heels start to do the same it's meant to be so disgusting and terrible. So Regal uses brass knuckles... hell, 90% of the Hardys' wins in 2001 came following interference from Lita. So long as the ref doesn't see it, everything's fair. These two deserve the belts, they're on a big winning streak, they're fresh and they can put on a great match. I can't think of anybody else I'd like to see holding the gold.

Chris Nowinski wasn't so impressive last night. But then, that's what happens when you're thrown into something without much rhyme or reason. Then again, I guess it's ok to have a random match here or there. Test is dead weight, watching his gimmick start to age with each passing day. That's the problem with banking your entire success on a single joke. It's what would've happened if Mankind had brought out Socko before and after every match, spent each one of his interviews reminding us of Socko's presence, and traded in his sweatpants for a glamorous, airbrushed portrait of Socko on wrestling tights. Used sparingly, a joke can be a nice little addition to a successful formula. Overdone, that same joke can kill your heat faster than you can say the words "Katie Vick."

I don't have any illusions about the way Steiner / HHH will turn out at the Rumble. With that said, I think the way they're handling the build is refreshing and worthwhile even if it's not going to break down any new walls. We've become so used to matches built solely around physicality, traded wins in tag matches and assaults from behind that a calm build like this seems almost out of place. Look at the bright side; they're promoting Steiner's biggest plus (his build), while downplaying his biggest minus (his conditioning). Triple H is holding his own, even if he doesn't look like a World Champion, and both guys look appear to have a legitimate shot at winning it. I'll take that over ridiculous soap opera storylines any day.

There's no reason in the world why Rob Van Dam isn't holding the RAW World Title right now. I'm not his biggest supporter, but I've got eyes and ears. I can put two and two together. Nobody on the roster is quite as over as RVD, and absolutely nobody looks as much like a champion right now as he does. He's hungrier than the rest of the team, leaner. He can move around the ring, and looks like he's fighting every match as if his life depends on it. If they don't take advantage of the situation soon he'll either give up hope, lose his heat or both. Then we'll have TWO Jeff Hardys on the roster.

Pretty good main event, though I didn't care for it as much as I did the tag title match. Still, it was cool as hell to see HBK hit Randy Orton with some chin music. I swear, every time he hits that it's like this monumental passing of the torch. Orton will be able to tell his grandkids "Hey... I took a superkick from Shawn Michaels." And the crowd went home happy with the finish.

All in all, a somewhat uninspired RAW. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it... it was just there. Some nice steps forward for the Jericho / Michaels feud, and mega points for putting the belts on Regal and Storm, so I'll call this above average and be done with it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5.6