Monday, February 24, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 02/24/03

As I was experiencing it, I wasn't terribly impressed with RAW last night. I knew the majority of what I was seeing was what I'd hoped for, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right. Upon closer examination, (and after a night's sleep) I've come to the conclusion that, even though I wasn't thrilled at the time, this actually was a show to get excited about and I'm a putz. I think I was letting the bad parts of the show cloud over the bright, shiny moments.

Bischoff looked like hell warmed over last night, but managed to maintain a shred of dignity by reminding us all that even though Stone Cold kicked the life out of him last night, he's still the guy signing paychecks at the end of the day. I'm really, really glad they're allowing this "owner / rattlesnake interaction" to take on a life of its own, rather than attempting to mimic the successes of the past. I'm really excited to see Austin doing something new, and by whipping the pants off the GM on his first night back, they pretty much delivered that. There won't be any physical tension between these two, as there was between Austin and McMahon, because we all know Eric can't hold a candle to him. What we should see, instead, is a psychological war. Seeing as how that's Eric's real strength, I'm not so sure Stone Cold can win on that battlefield. And you can bet your ass I can't wait to hear the first verbal showdown between these two, given their history together.

It just occurred to me; Vince McMahon is working a really strange gimmick. He's a face on RAW, as he's to thank for the match between Bischoff and Stone Cold on PPV, but he's a heel on Smackdown due to his screwing of Hulk Hogan. Not that I expect him to become a regular visitor on either program, I just thought it was worth mentioning.

I was enjoying bits and pieces of Rocky's big opening monologue, but on the whole I thought it ran about ten minutes too long. It's been a while since we've seen RAW open with such a lengthy verbal piece, and I wasn't pleased to see the old convention make a return. I'm really digging his character, as they haven't gone the easy way out and taken him back in time four years by reviving the exact same "People's Champion" that was held the belt going into Wrestlemania XV. Instead, they've really listened to the crowds and created an all new Rocky, one that has a legitimate reason for turning on his supporters. I loved the little observations he threw in at random throughout the promo, mocking the audience, and the new entrance package was absolutely perfect, not to mention totally appropriate. Just, for my money, I would have rather seen a longer Hardy / Nowinski match than an extra ten minutes of fluff for the Rock.

So much for that string of great Women's matches, which was looking to hit five in a row this week. Jackie's worthless, I've been saying it since she was brought in to constantly take her shirt off during a feud with Sable. Somebody needs to let her know her tits look ridiculous, and that she'd be doing herself a favor by looking into a new line of work. Because this whole wrestling thing...? It's not gonna work out.

Jazz's new music is horrid. And I can't believe they replayed her "promo" from last week, where she wandered away from Victoria and just sort of hooted, howled and hollered. Yeah, REMIND us what a complete idiot we felt like seven days ago, when we first saw that.

Test... yeah. I'll pull out one of the few catchphrases in my arsenal here; if I want porn, (or in this case, pseudo-porn) I'll stroll down the street and rent something from the curtained section of the video store. If I'm watching a wrestling program, I'm interested in seeing some wrestling. Test visiting the Girls Gone Wild bus isn't really what I'd categorize as wrestling. Stupid segment, full of more shameless cross promotion than our weekly updates on Rajah.

I didn't crack a smile during the Goldust segment, nor was I really entertained by it. Stupid.

Ditto for Lance Storm vs. Kane. In a couple years they'll get serious about Storm as a singles competitor, and won't understand why the crowd doesn't accept him as a kickass ring general. Here's a clue; it's because you're worthlessly feeding him to guys who have proven they'll never draw. Storm got in, I think, a kick or a punch during this one.

Randy Orton worked his ASS off in that tag match last night. He's really showing a drive to prove himself as something notable at the moment, and I for one am loving it. Take a look at the bumping he did for Booker and Scotty Steiner, and you'll realize he's to thank for 75% of that match's success. I was very happy with the way this one turned out, from the ref's extreme bias against the faces (OK, he quit chastising Batista and Flair for both being in the ring illegally because... Scott Steiner came into the ring?) to the clean finish. This went a long, long way toward establishing Booker as a main event player, as not only did he work for almost the entire match, but he came up with a clever reversal to seal the win without ever making a hot tag. I liked everything about this match.

Chris Jericho was hilarious in the mixed tag match last night, marching into the ring with an agenda and throwing all the world's intelligence to the wind. I watched as he casually strolled from his own corner to the opposing team's and yanked Stacey off the apron as if he were paying his electric bill or something equally as everyday. He may as well have yawned while he did it. Then he smacks Test with a chair directly in the ref's line of sight, sits down on a BRUTAL Liontamer and doesn't let up for a second while the faces attempt to make their saves. I loved watching Christian's easy dispensing of Jeff Hardy, since that's something you almost never see these days. When's the last time you can remember a save as wholly unsuccessful as that one? Not only did it give Christian and Jericho a tremendous boost for planning their attack so meticulously, it also proved that the most obvious result to a set of circumstances is not always the one you'll see. I love an atmosphere like that...

Unfortunately, they'd have been better off wiping Hardy / Nowinski from the dry erase board than putting on what we saw last night. I refuse to believe any two moves are powerful enough to put a 300 pound man down for the count after three seconds in the ring, apart from a horrific botched spot that ends with a compound fracture or something. I don't like it when Austin does it with his stunners, (note that I'm talking about wrestlers here, which excludes his match with Bischoff Sunday night) and I don't like seeing Jeff Hardy do it with a reverse Twist of Fate and a Swanton.

I've gotta give props to Rocky and the Hurricane for putting on a dynamite backstage segment. Nothing but good can come out of a promo like that.

Morley has gone from one silly name to another. First he was Val Venis, and now he's traded his first name for "Chief?" What's wrong with promoting him as "Sean Morley, Chief of Staff" or just "Sean Morley" when he's in the ring? I can understand why the talent might call him Chief Morley, but he looks like a moron going out there to the ring with the ring announcer introducing him by that name. Regardless, he's bulked up considerably, which Triple H has taught us can be both a good thing and a bad thing. He didn't get much of a chance to show us which way it was last night, though, jobbing out to Jerry frigging Lawler. I swear to god, Lawler looks every bit of fifty five years old out there with that poor physique and droopy skin. There's no way in hell he should be competing as a regular athlete, let alone going over talent that's much younger, stronger and more versatile. What does that accomplish, really?

The battle royal drug in places, but all in all was very satisfying. It was a breath of fresh air to see Christian and Storm in there so long, not to mention Booker T. Christian especially looked great, as he had an honest chance at winning it before Rocky came in and dumped both he and Kane simultaneously. Booker looked tired during the meat of the match, as he should have considering he'd wrestled and won a tag match almost completely by himself an hour earlier. It was interesting to see who interacted with who here; Jericho dumping Test and then nonsensically eliminating himself to get away. Rocky and Scott Steiner facing off for the very first time. The Hurricane and the People's Champ extending their confrontation from backstage. RVD ducking out surprisingly early. Though it lagged noticeably for a couple minutes, I thought the whole thing came together very well. The Rock on commentary was especially great, and totally fitting of the character he's trying to play.

Oh, and you know I loved who was left when the dust settled. Despite Rocky's debut, there's no mistaking the facts; last night was Booker's night to shine. I can't wait to see where they go from here.

I'm still not as foaming at the mouth about last night as my fellow RRCers were. Rocky and Booker were priceless, Jericho and Christian gave us a great night, and the Hurricane and Randy Orton really stepped up, yeah. That's all well and good, but we also suffered through two completely unnecessary squashes, a match featuring a victorious Jerry Lawler, that TERRIBLE Goldust segment, a nasty Women's match and that stupid Test GGW vignette. It's nice to see so much good going on, but it'd be even nicer if we could go without the stink of so much bad. All in all, I'd call it a couple steps above average but not even close to perfection.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 6.85

Saturday, February 22, 2003

The World's Greatest WWE No Way Out 2003 Preview

WWE No Way Out is the name, and high profile returns seem to be the game. We've got Hogan. We've got Rocky. We've got Austin. We've got... Bischoff. It's like it's the 1999 main event scene all over again here. And, just like the PPVs of that dearly departed '99 season, The World's Greatest are here to do their worst with the WWE's best as of February, 2K3. Now just pop a squat, cause what we've got to say might take a while.

As I alluded to in the intro of this... intro.. we've got a lot of big names making their celebrated returns to the ring. And while that usually means lots of ring rust, forced angles to explain their comebacks and retarded storylines, thus far everything's gone pretty well phenomenally. Hogan made a huge return, in the kind of moment you'll remember years after the fact, to state that he'd signed a new contract. Austin came back because Bischoff pursued him, and his friend JR asked him to as a favor. Rocky's returned between movies, and the fans are hating him because he left them to chase a few motion picture offers. Everything makes sense, nobody's running into their opponents with tractor trailers. Austin hasn't driven anything enormous to the ring. This is one of those few moments where I'll say I'm eagerly anticipating every one of these comebacks. They've been done well, and should pay off very strongly. Then again, we've got the return of Kevin Nash and the possible debut of Bill Goldberg on the horizon, so this ecstacy could be short lived.

Billy Kidman vs. Matt Hardy
WWE Cruiserweight Championship

They kinda theived this storyline from Disco Inferno, back in WCW, but whatever. The gimmick here is that Billy's Cruiserweight title is on the line, so long as Version 1.0 can get himself below the division weight limit. Matt's really starting to come into his own here, resurrecting Chris Jericho's gimmick from WCW and doing a pretty good job at that. He's the cocky heel who gets all his wins against guys who are visibly much smaller than he is. He's working a moveset that's cruiserweight-friendly, so the matches should be cake. All he needs now is a long list of challengers, which may be the only thing that holds him back. I've enjoyed the little spots they've thrown in here and there, featuring Shannon Moore doing his damndest to help Matt get into shape. They've eaten up just a tiny bit of time, and served to keep the angle fresh in the fans' minds. I'll applaud that kind of attention to detail enjoy every time.

I pulled out an old tape of the last Nitro broadcast the other day, just for old times' sake, and couldn't really believe the difference in Kidman. He looked like he was really having fun on that last broadcast, and as a result he was a much more approachable babyface. The fans liked him, and he appeared more confident in himself. And, halfway through the match, he performed an INSANE slingshot shooting star press off the top rope to the floor. It's like Vince said about Bret; "WCW wouldn't know what to do with Bret Hart," well the WWE doesn't know what to do with Kidman. Hell, they don't know what to do with the entire division, while we're at it. But it looks like they're still willing to learn. Should be a good match, my money's on Matt. He needs this win.
Winner: Matt Hardy

Chris Jericho vs. Jeff Hardy

So much for "Testicles," I guess. Looks like I can say the same for Jeff Hardy's rejuvinated heel character, since he didn't turn on HBK during their tag match on RAW and that was prime "heel turn" material if I've ever seen it. Honestly, I'm quite relieved if just for this match. Jericho has more reason to be facing off with Jeff Hardy after one week of build than he ever did with Test. The whole Stacey-meets-chair incident came off as forced, and the Y2J promo afterwards was a little awkward. He didn't say it with his mouth, but he said it with his actions; "Why have you taken me out of the ring with Shawn Michaels?" And, for what it's worth, he was right. Test has NOTHING to do with HBK, while Jeff's suddenly being portrayed as his big protege. It's all part of a bigger picture, and even if he was starting to go somewhere in the weeks beforehand, Test just never really fit into it.

I'm gonna say it before Spinner does; Chris Jericho is YOUR GOD. Haha! Sweet! Watch now as I run circles around the ring in celebration, a'la Mick Foley. Seriously, though, he's been the most solid performer on the show since jumping prior to Summerslam. And he's been especially white hot lately, giving us a great series of promos opposite Shawn Michaels and cleaning UP in the ring. This is a guy I love to hate, and he's slowly building a legacy for himself within the WWE, despite an apallingly slim number of title shots. Poor Jeff Hardy doesn't have a shot, but as long as they keep it under ten minutes we should get some solid stuff. Any longer, and little Jeff's gonna lose all the wind in his lungs.
Winner: Chris Jericho

Lance Storm & William Regal vs. Rob Van Dam & Kane
World Tag Team Championship

No argument about this one. Storm and Regal have continued kicking ass and taking names, successfully moving beyond their association with the Dudley Boyz with the titles still around their waists. Meanwhile, RVD and Kane have been steamrolling their opponents as convincingly as you'd expect a tag team comprised of main eventers to. That's why it'll mean even more to see Regal and Storm go over clean in this one. Instead of beating a couple guys who haven't accomplished anything on their own, they'll have taken out two former World Title contenders. I've felt that the WWE hasn't really understood the premise of tag team wrestling for years now, always throwing teams together at the last minute and hoping for something good. The heels cheat when the ref's back is turned, the faces charge blindly into the ring and keep the ref from seeing it. In the end, either the face in peril makes the big tag and they take it home, or the heel brings a steel chair or belt into the ring and they retain through cowardly measures. It's so formulaic that it's almost sickening.

With these two teams they've actually got the majority of it right. Regal and Storm have cheated in the past, but they've also come across as ferociously competitive wrestlers who can just as easily get the job done legally. On the same hand, RVD and Kane both look like guys who should be wearing gold of some kind. They've broken the cliche of the two former main eventers who suddenly lose half of their strength when put into a tag team. Though there's no illusions about the fact they'll be breaking up sooner rather than later, they still look very strong as a duo.

While Monday may have cast some doubts about their current compatibility, rest assured that RVD and Lance Storm have had very good matches with one another in the past. Regal is a monster when he wants to be (and he currently wants to be), and Kane is decent for a big man. This won't be the greatest tag match in the history of man or anything, but it'll be good fun anyway. I'm looking forward to it.
Winners: Lance Storm and William Regal

The Undertaker vs. Big Show

The only match on the card I'm not looking forward to, and with obvious reason. They've done a good job of promoting this, keeping the PPV collision fresh in the audience's mind with those goofy presents without even putting the Big Show on TV until the very end. I don't like either of these guys, but whatever. I suppose if they've both gotta be on the card, why not put them opposite one another?

Let's be frank; this isn't going to be fun to watch. If JR were announcing the match, we'd be almost certain to hear the words "methodical," "deliberate" and "hoss" at one point or another throughout the match's progression. That's like the holy trinity of suckass. Maybe if he started feeling randy, he could pull out a "slobberknocker," which is a true personal favorite. We're coming up on Wrestlemania, and I'd assume we'll see a rematch there, so I'm gonna go with the Show. Heyman's gotta have another surprise or two up his sleeve.
Winner: The Big Show

Triple H vs. Scott Steiner
World Heavyweight Championship

It should say something about how loaded this card is, that the RAW title match is three matches from the night's conclusion. That's not to say anticipation is low for this meeting, so much as it says the remainder of the card is just that much bigger. Despite the kind of criticism he's received since his abysmal match at last month's Royal Rumble, I think Scott Steiner's still serving a good purpose on the roster. Though I'd much prefer Christian or Eddy Guerrero in the World Title matches, Steiner looks the part a whole lot more than they do. There's no question he'll be laying down again here, so he's effectively adding just a little bit more to the prestige of the RAW title. This is the guy who owned the WCW World Title throughout the majority of their last year in business, and he's doing what he can to make Triple H's belt mean something. For a title that many have said means absolutely nothing, I think that's one hell of a contribution.

I don't think anyone's expecting something off the charts here. And if you are, prepare to be disappointed. Scotty's missing a lot of what made him so exciting in the tag scene all those years ago, and he's still visibly hampered by a decaying body. Triple H is working his way through multiple injuries, and should logically hold onto his title for just one more month before taking some time off to heal. There's no question that this is going to look like two guys trying to work through the pain, because that's exactly what it is. Even at that, this is a match I'd rather sit through than the Undertaker vs. the Big Show.
Winner: Triple H

Brock Lesnar, Edge & Chris Benoit vs. Team Angle

What a nice collection of talent we've got here. I'm a little surprised Edge and Benoit got the nod as Lesnar's teammates, and not Los Guerreros.. but whatever. This is one of those rare "either / or" situations, where they're gonna get a good result no matter who they pick. Benoit's been a machine lately, really forcing himself into the main event scene once again, and Angle's been a tremendous champion. They're doing this Lesnar / Kurt build as well as I'd hoped so far, and this is just another step on the way to that inevitable meeting at WM. I'd imagine we're gonna see a lot of teased physicality between the two of them, only to have Angle frantically tag out or something along those lines.

I'm eager to see what Benoit and Lesnar can do with Team Angle in an elongated environment, and to see how much of their past success Angle and Edge can relive with one another in the same situation.

You know, just thinking about it, this match pretty much embodies why Smackdown is killing RAW with such regularity. You could mix and match any two of these six guys and give us a lengthy feud with a sweet series of matches. Benjamin and Haas are really stepping up in the spotlight, despite some early hesitations, and.. well.. you know what I think about the rest of these guys. This is a tough winner to call, but I'm gonna go with the face lineup. C'mon, you didn't think I'd really choose against Benoit.. did you?
Winners: Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit and Edge

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Eric Bischoff

Thus far, I think they've pushed all the right buttons with this one. They've covered Bischoff's firing of Austin, pretty much nailing down the Rattlesnake's motivation for a return to the ring. They've presented Eric as a somewhat knowledgeable fighter.. maybe more of one than he really is. They've kept us in suspense, awaiting Stone Cold's first big appearance on the big screen. Now it's all come down to the performance and the follow through. I don't think this will work as an attempt to catch the Austin / McMahon lightning in a bottle for a second time. They tried that when Ric Flair was in charge, and I think the audience made it very clear that they're interested in new ideas, not rehashed storylines with different faces. These two could have a very interesting dynamic together, but only if they head for the road less travelled. But I guess time is the only indicator as to the way that's going to play out, hm?

This could really suck. I remember watching Bischoff take on (and beat) Ric Flair, and it was worthless. He really looks like a goon in that ring when he tries to book himself as a serious competitor. Then again, he's not in charge of the end result in this match, and that could really be his saving grace. Eric's been a bright spot on RAW since coming in, losing the demeanor that made him such a bore in WCW and growing a great personality. I can't say how well that new character will translate to the ring, but I'll try to remain optimistic. When you consider he'll be going up against one of the greatest ring generals in history, I think his chances are pretty good.

As an aside, wouldn't it be great if they booked Austin to lose this match, and he walked out again the next night? Not gonna happen, but I thought it was funny.
Winner: Steve Austin

Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock

I'm a big fan of the heel Rocky. With that said, the heel Rock we've seen over the last month isn't really the same guy I was expecting. He's had his moments of greatness ("Lookit the tongue! Lookit the tongue!"), but on the whole hasn't really slid effortlessly back into the Corporate Champion that was such an entertaining guy all those years ago. Regardless, I'll applaud the WWE for finally swallowing their pride and realizing that people are sick of the Rock spewing the same catchphrases he shot at us when we first turned him face. This is one instance where they really wanted to bring him back to enjoy the fanfare and promote his new movie, but realized what a mistake that would have been. Thumbs up to whoever made that obvious call. Hogan, meanwhile, is just inexplicable. This guy was the bane of every WWF "Attitude Fan's" existence when he led the nWo to stardom. He was the butt of their every joke, and mocked (rightfully so) at every turn. So, when the McMahons give him a call and bring him back as a heel, what does the crowd do? They fucking EXPLODE. No jeers, no paper cups thrown at the ring, no piped-in heat.. they jump out of their seats and start to froth at the mouth. I wrote it off as a short time thing, and I think the bookers did too. But then, when he made his return just after the Rumble, the reaction was the same. I really don't know how to explain it, the guy's got an aura. He's still something special after all these years.

I'm not expecting poetry out of this match, but I am expecting a certain amount of electricity. There's a vibe about most of Hogan's big matches, something that lets you overlook the fact that he's really very poor in the ring and just enjoy the moment. It happened with Randy Savage. It happened with the Ultimate Warrior. It happened with Roddy Piper, and with Goldberg. That vibe only intensifies when he's got a clear-cut role to play, as he does this weekend. Hogan's the face, and Rocky's the heel. And I doubt anybody's going to get a mixed reaction from the audience this time. Hogan goes over, moving on to meet Vinnie Mac at Wrestlemania.
Winner: Hulk Hogan

In Closing...

No Way Out has traditionally been a really high impact, meaningful event. In 1999, when it was called "St. Valentine's Day Massacre," it gave us our first match between Vince McMahon and Steve Austin. The next year, we saw Cactus Jack take on Triple H in a Hell in the Cell match. The same year spotlighted the first WWF PPV for the Radicals, Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko. 2001 gave us that classic Austin / Triple H 2 out of 3 falls match, and 2002's event saw the infamous return of the nWo. It's an important event, as it defines the kind of momentum we'll be seeing in the weeks to come with the Federation building toward WrestleMania. Over the last few years, it's almost become an event as big as the spring tradition it precedes. No Way Out is something that's traditionally better than it should be, and this year's model carries that tradition along nicely.
until next time, i remain

Monday, February 17, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 02/17/03

Much like several of my counterparts, I don't have a whole heapin' helpin' of thoughts in regards to this week's program. Yeah, like you haven't heard that from me in the past... only to scroll down and see I've written a dictionary or two anyway. Truth be told, though, I was largely indifferent to this week's show. Nothing stood out as particularly unholy or unbelievable. Hey, I've got a job to do, though, so I'll put on a tough face and brave my way through it just for you guys. Who loves ya?

RVD and Lance Storm have had a very good match or two in their past, but it just wasn't happening last night. They couldn't really connect in the ring, and wound up merely going through the motions, pushing out a somewhat disappointing match. I'm all for seeing both of these guys on the screen, as they've been consistently good, but maybe we oughtta hold off on any immediate singles rematch plans. I really enjoyed the finish of this one, as RVD almost took the loss cleanly but fought back and landed a beautiful five-star to nab the win. Even though I'm all about the way Regal and Storm have been built as credible heels, I can understand them losing a match or two in this manner. Both guys looked strong, and brass knuckles were in no way involved with the match's conclusion.

I'll agree with Corey on the subject of Victoria's music. Even though I hear it every time I flip past MTV, I still think it's a genuinely cool entrance song, and fits Vicki's character perfectly. Kudos for the WWE team, for snapping that little gem up before it hit American airwaves.

Speaking of which, Victoria has suddenly become a very solid character? I'll applaud the fact they didn't drop her like a bad habit when she was first struggling her way through promos, as she's now on the verge of a potentially huge program with Jazz. She really embodies her character, and Steven Richards is a great accessory to her package. What I'm not a very big fan of is Stevie's new tights. I can see those are supposed to be eyes around his lower abs, but why do we have to go the extra step, and allow his manhood to fill out the 'nose' of that hidden face? Yuck.

I would've killed the guy in the crowd who dressed up like Hogan last night, if he were sitting in front of me. Yeah, way to stand up every time the camera cuts anywhere near you... what a little bitch.

Jazz looked great again last night, if perhaps a step behind where she was last time. I was a bit disappointed we didn't get to see Jackie strapped into the STF, as she's legitimately one of my least favorite visuals in the world. All in all, I think this was our fourth straight week of very good women's wrestling, and I'm honestly intrigued to see where they take it from here. Jazz vs. Victoria should be a seriously great PPV faceoff, if they can keep Jazz from making a fool of herself on the mic. I think I'm still shooting liquids out of my nose, after unexpectedly snorting my way through the end of that segment. "Bwahhhhh! Ahhhh... wahhhh!" indeed, Jay.

Rodney Mack had an uninspiring match for his big debut, apart from his nasty botching of the finish. I'd much rather have seen D'Lo continuing his "oppressed black man" role than this... I mean, D'Lo has a lengthy history of being mysteriously forgotten in WWE. If there's anybody on the roster who has an honest reason to play that role, it was Brown. And now they've gone ahead and released him... whoopty shit. This angle doesn't mean as much to me as it did last week.

Jericho and Christian weren't near their usual level of kickass against HBK and Jeff Hardy last eve. It was cool to see the handcuffs again, and the sweet chin music into the steel chair was great stuff. Otherwise, I could've forgotten about it and moved on. GREAT bitter, post-match promo from the heels, though. I'd like to see more of that from these two, and less of the Edge & Christian throwback.

Big round of applause for Terri last night, for throwing on more clothes than I think she's ever worn in her entire life. Let's keep it that way.

The big man tag team match produced everything I could've expected of it, plus a little bit extra. Booker came off looking like gold again, and Steiner didn't look half bad either. I'm all about seeing Booker / Trips at the biggest event of them all, as they just need a tiny bit of a boost to really put their feud over the top. Not sure where they can take Scott Steiner from here, but I guess that's why I keep tuning in; to find out. I think he's far from outlived his usefulness, and I maintain that his signing was a good move.

Finally, we got Bischoff vs. JR. Let's see, what was it I said last week? Oh, yeah...

'Though he's one hell of an announcer, Ross is not a performer. He doesn't have the authority in his eyes that an Eric Bischoff, Vince or Shane McMahon does. Behind a microphone, JR is the voice of god... in front of a camera, he's a slug. Let's keep him doing what he does best...'

So, I guess, somewhere in there I was leading to a triumphant return to the squared circle for good ol' JR. I wouldn't have really minded if they'd done this at the top of the first hour or something, but using it to headline the last show before an important PPV is just asinine. I understand they're building Austin / Eric as RAW's #1 match at No Way Out, and need to build it without giving away Austin's return. This segment did a good job of satisfying those requirements, but it shouldn't have been the fucking main event. The day they change the name on the marquee to 'WWE presents two non-wrestlers drinking beer and pretending to hit each other and break things' is the day I'll quit complaining about stuff like this. It's also the day I'll quit tuning in.

An unremarkable show, leading us in to a PPV that looks really good. That's a bad taste I've got in my mouth, and it's all thanks to our buddies on RAW. There was some good, but not quite as much as the bad.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.65

Monday, February 10, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 02/10/03

I can't really say the words to do Curt Hennig justice. Nor can WWE, apparently, as they decided to go with the tried and true "ghosted photo for a couple seconds" technique. He'll be missed, without question, but I can't help wishing he could've rode out a little higher on that horse. A great athlete who was just starting to rediscover himself when he was dropped from the WWE roster about a year ago.

Bischoff kicked off the show with a promo that embodied everything his character should be. He was intense, he was in your face, and he didn't give a shit if he stepped on you to get where he wanted to be. Between this and his last segment at the bars last week, when he broke that beer mug over the kid's face, he's been outstanding as a believable, strong character. A great heel and exactly the kind of person who should be in a position of power like that. I even enjoyed his kicking JR out of the announcer's booth, as it logically furthered their ongoing storyline. This "administration vs. the announce crew" feud has been a serious undercurrent to RAW for months now, and though it's gotten out of hand in the past, I'm glad to see they're still running with it. I don't want to see JR winning any more matches, but I like seeing him face off with Bisch in a battle of the minds.

Unfortunately, JR's absense meant more King for us. As a graphic designer, I can't help but be offended by the typography on the cover of that book he keeps shilling. God damn, it makes me want to throw up. It's like they laid the whole thing out in Microsoft Paint. Fire whoever crapped out that horrid piece of ass.

Though I'm nowhere near a fan of the King (what, you didn't already GET that impression?), I can't help but admit it was nice to hear him and the Coach up there together. I think the program's become way too oversaturated with those same two voices, and it was a cool change of pace to hear two different voices playing off of one another in the booth. Coach got on my nerves for a bit, but once he'd warmed up and shaken those butterflies out of his stomach, he and Lawler got along well. By the end of the program, I'd forgotten JR wasn't there.

Somebody pulled the emergency brake on the Jeff Hardy turn. I guess you can't really turn a guy heel if all the girls are gonna wet themselves whenever he takes off his shirt, so we've taken a step backwards since last week. I think his look is really becoming conductive to a serious heel run, if he'll just get off that kick of slapping blacklight powder all over his face every match. I really liked the extra-greasy, blood-red hairstyle, and the paint-coated brow / eyes can go over really well if he wants it to.

Booker looks motivated, that's a good sign. The crowd was eating up the early moments of this match, with the major league flurries of offense, and it was short enough to maintain their interest throughout. I wasn't crazy about seeing D'Lo in there, as I think Mr. Brown has a long way to go as a heel, and a squash like this isn't going to help his chances.

I'm so glad to see Jazz back on the roster, and she seems to have made a dramatic impact on the women's division. Four weeks ago, I was ready to just throw my hands up in the air and say goodbye to the title as a whole. It'd stagnated horribly, to the point where it wasn't even being defended on any kind of schedule. Then, three weeks ago, we got a great street fight between Victoria and Trish... and BAM, Jazz made her return. Now we're coming out of our third straight week of solid women's action, and I'm glad to see those sparks of life once again. The WWE is doing a great job of putting her over as the ruthless, unstoppable force in the division, picking right back up where she left off. Give me more of this. Keeping up this pace, she'll be rivalling Benoit and Angle if not surpassing them.. but, to their credit, Molly's letting her pull off a lot more than I'd imagine Albert or the Big Show would. But hot damn, if that isn't the best STF in North America. It makes my neck hurt, just watching it.

Aaaand the show then took a nosedive. RVD and Kane worked in a forgettable match against the Three Minute Warning. Insert your own fresh weekly "these guys suxors lol!!" phrase here. I'm running out of creativity. You know, in about three years, when RVD has undergone several major surgeries and his best years are behind him, I'd bet any amount of money the WWE creative team will be sitting around a table, wondering "why didn't we use that guy when we had him?" I've stated several times in the past that I think Rob's the only logical World Champion on RAW, and he's so far out of that title hunt, it's not even worth a joke. He's RIGHT THERE. He's the only guy who wrestles like he gives a shit every week, he's the most popular member of the roster, and he's got the skills in the ring. The only thing he's lacking is any sort of character, and that didn't slow down Brock Lesnar.

I didn't like the way the whole firing thing worked out. I thought I saw a glimmer of hope, and a rare positive surprise, on the horizon at one point... but it wasn't meant to be. When Vince told Morley he'd have to win a match later in the night to retain his job, I was just DYING to hear him say "in one corner, it'll be Chief Morley... and in the other.... Errrric Bischooffff!" The match wouldn't have kicked any asses or taken any names, but from a storyline point of view, it would've been flawless. Setting the hungry wolves loose on one another. The one who wanted it most would take the prize, and the other would be... for lack of a better phrase... dead meat. That would've been classic Vince, too, but like I said; wasn't meant to be. To sum up this segment, imagine me sticking my tongue out, making that weird "tphhtttttt" noise, and giving a thumbs down.

I guess the whole ordeal with Morley and the Dudleys served as a decent enough blowoff to another of those underlying plot threads that I keep mentioning. It didn't keep my attention so well, but then again I'm not really a big fan of blowouts. Sean-o took some man-sized punishment, and I was just waiting for somebody... Regal and Storm... Jericho... ANYBODY... to run to his aid. Never happened.

Batista's finally starting to show some emotion, and I think he turned a bit of a corner last night. He didn't look like the big guy, trying to look like a badass and posturing himself whenever possible. He looked like the big guy, who'd just as soon kick a hole in the side of your head as look at you. That's the kind of emotion, ferocity and physicality he needed to be showing from day one. I'll applaud the segment, because I'm still crazy about this stable, but if they change the name to "EVILution," I'm going to lose my mind. Why would anybody even consider that notion? Good to see Booker getting some more face time, now they just need to do a little bit to establish that he took that beating in a "Scott Steiner.. holy shit... I'm gonna kill you guys next week" way, and not a "Tommy Dreamer... holy shit... I'll lay down for one of you in fifteen seconds next week" way. I'd also like to applaud Randy Orton's ability to tear the crotch out of his pants. Masterful stuff.

Y2J and Jeff Hardy were giving us something worth watching until they both kind of fell asleep halfway through. The crowd's attention was elsewhere, as well, though that doesn't really give them an excuse. Seriously, watch the first half of this match, grab something to eat, then watch the second half. You'd swear there's this big, forty five minute, epic series of nearfalls in between or something. Both guys look like they've blown the hell up.

I was betting on JR as the new GM, but was apparently mistaken. And actually, this is one thing that... while cool... wouldn't have been very good for the product. Though he's one hell of an announcer, Ross is not a performer. He doesn't have the authority in his eyes that an Eric Bischoff, Vince or Shane McMahon does. Behind a microphone, JR is the voice of god... in front of a camera, he's a slug. Let's keep him doing what he does best and try to improve areas that NEED improving.

What the hell happened at the end of this promo? Great christ, it's like they decided to shit all over us, by returning a couple of their worst-received angles and storylines all in one big chunk. After HLA and the return of the Vince McMahon KMAK (because all great klubs are spelled with a capital "K", and backwards letters and stuff), I was expecting Kurt Angle to drive a milk truck down to the ring, with Katie Vick strapped to the hood and Paul Wight dragging behind on a coffin. In the uncanny words of Vince himself, I wish this segment would've "Bisexualed its ass right outta here." The end result was what I'd wanted, Bisch back in power, but I wish they could've come up with a better way to do it.

So what we're left with is no visible change to the status quo, a greatly reduced Bischoff character, (sure, he didn't kiss ass, but he should've told Vince to take that job and shove it when the idea was even proposed) and... what? Nothing else? I was riding high on last week's show, but I just can't say the same this time around. It was mediocre, average at best.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5.25

Monday, February 3, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 02/03/03

Maybe it was the half bottle of wine I went through in the last thirty minutes, but I found last night's RAW to be absolutely excellent. It did seem to go slightly downhill as time ran out, but on the whole that was a really strong two hours' worth of material. Me likey the writing, and me likey the timing.

I had fun listening to that poor Spanish announcer, performing both the voice of Eric Bischoff and Chief Morley. No wonder the WWE never tours south of the border; to them, everybody's got the same voice. And not only that, but it's a boring, emotionless voice that rarely changes pitch. I'd love to hear him perform a woman's part, or try to keep up with two guys when they're arguing.

My silly, rube mind thought that whole Spanish-overdub thang was all part of an elaborate angle being set up, at first. No dice, man, no dice.

I'm all about seeing Test and Christian in singles action. Test looked seriously motivated last night, and in so doing outshined most of the roster with just two minutes of airtime. Triple H hasn't looked that good in YEARS. He seems to be moving toward a more serious attitude and look, and that's definitely something I can get behind. With RAW overflowing with good heels that have nothing to do, (D'Lo, Orton, Batista, Christian, Nowinski, Rico and Steven Richards all spring to mind) it's gonna be good to have a solid face they can play off of. So long as he doesn't get complacent and forget why he's looking good all of a sudden, Test's got the ammunition to do something with this shot.

Great backstage segment between RVD and Kane, teasing both guys as heels and quietly testing the crowd's reactions. You just KNEW something was going to come of it when Kane ran off last week, and I'm glad they didn't just drop it by the wayside. Big ups all around here, especially for going that extra mile and playing their emotions off one another in a match later in the night. That's what I'm TALKING about!!!

I can't believe Rosey tried a split-legged moonsault, and didn't kill several people ringside in the process. He can do some crazy stuff for a big guy, but he's got no personality and has found his way into a nowhere tag team that's only together because they're both of the same nationality. Think about the repercussions if they tried that with any other group of people than the Samoans. Hey, here they come down the aisle now; it's Ron Simmons and D'Von Dudley, the blackies! Oh, I see Tajiri and Funaki tagging up... let's get a big round of applause for the slants!

Eh, whatever. I'm usually totally opposed to such blind PC rage, but it's just something I thought was a little off-kilter. The match was all I'd expect from two teams I'm not really that high on to begin with. Three Minutes have faded from sight really quickly, despite the WWE's most valiant efforts, and I'm always a much bigger fan of the Dudleys when they aren't boring, predictable, crowd-pleasing faces. It was nice to see somebody reverse the 3-D, (it's about time) but I don't really care about the end result.

I really liked the concept behind the Bischoff skits. They're successfully building interest toward Austin's return, keeping Bischoff's character a strong heel, and finishing it all off with a moderate payoff that doesn't involve giving Stone Cold's return away on free tv. I'm never really pleased when they try to do the "hyuck, look, it's the locals in their bars!" bits, so that drug this down a ways for me, but otherwise I enjoyed it. Eric's limo driver looked like that guy from the X-Files who had a siamese twin that lived in this big cavern in his side, and came out after dark to kill people. Good for a laugh when they're on an abandoned road in the dark, trying to figure out where they are. I kept waiting for suspenseful music.

"The Evolution" sounds good to me. I kept waiting for them to say "and THIS is the evolution... of the Four Horsemen." But, thankfully, they never did it. I love the old school aura they're surrounding these guys with, showing up when they feel like it and just obliterating whoever happens to be in the way at the time. They don't come down riding vespas, or wearing silly matching outfits. They don't swing around painted sledgehammers or anything, they just surround a guy and beat the living hell out of him. And it's not even a WWE-style beating, it's the kind of pummeling that you'd actually expect a guy to pass out from. Good stuff, it gets the thumbs up from me.

To address Dave's comment about Triple H's "coal into diamond" thing... I was actually thinking of Richard Pryor and Christopher Reeve in Superman III. But hey, to each his own, right?

I was really impressed with the Victoria / Molly match. Unfortunately, I'm in the not-so-vocal minority on that one. Despite the fact these ladies have been busting their asses, giving us some great matches on free TV lately, the receptions they're gathering usually gauge between slim and none. Victoria does seem to get a nice "Oooo!" for her vicious finisher, but that's pretty much the extent of it. Maybe it's got something to do with poor Molly's wardrobe... she was dressed like a pregnant woman last night. Maybe they should start calling her "Momma Molly Holly." Or something.

I still love seeing Jazz on my set, and though I'm really intrigued about where they're going with this, she seemed restrained last night. Maybe somebody said something to her about her brutal treatment of Trish last week..? Guys, no! That's why we LOVE her!!

Storm, Regal, Booker and Goldust really clicked last night. Just about everything looked really tight, with a few exceptions, and even the bizarre finish came off great from where I was sitting. I was eating this one up with a big, wooden spoon. It's great that the heels went over cleanly, which is almost unheard of these days, and I won't contest the breakup of the Booker T / Goldust team. Nope, not one bit. Hurry to the main event, Booker, while you're still motivated!

The Kane / RVD matchup didn't have the heart behind it I was expecting. They didn't look like they cared, which works as a sort of antithesis to what these "teased tag team breakup" matches are usually supposed to be. I approve of the way they put RVD over as the guy who was going to eventually win the match, since he's got a lot more potential than Kane, and the whole schebang with Jeff Hardy came off flawlessly. I really like seeing him as the directionless loser, who just wants to kick a little ass and makes the mistake of attacking the wrong guy over and over again. They've got to go somewhere with it soon, though, before he's eternally branded as a gimp, but for now they've got my attention.

Yeah, and then they pull that shit with Goldust and the electrical boxes. GAHHHH...

Jericho / Steiner was a lot better than I thought it would be. It wasn't a five star, holy god, break out the VCR, tell the grandkids about this matchup, but it was solid. And damn if Jericho didn't come off looking just as strong as, if not stronger than, he did when he came in. He kept up with Steiner, worked a logical psychological match centering on Scotty's back and jobbed gracefully. I got caught up in a bit of nostalgia, watching Scott attempt a lame-looking powerbomb... I thought back to when this guy didn't have 57" arms, when he didn't bulk himself up to the point of being nearly immobile, when he was head and shoulders above everybody around him. I remembered my heart skipping a beat when he introduced me to the hurricanrana. I remembered shouting out loud when I saw a Steiner Screwdriver for the first time. And then I came back to the present, and just shook my head. He's not worthless now, but damn... he was SO good in the past.

Overall, I LOVED this show. It's not quite MC Hammer on crack, but it was certainly something funky. Seany likey.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.75