We opened the show with Lilian Garcia's rendition of the National Anthem, which she's had plenty of time to hone in on after singing it prior to every WWE event in the last three years. Nice camerawork, zooming in on a patch of audience members who stood, nearly asleep, with their hats still firmly placed over their heads throughout the song. I'm far, far, far from the most patriotic person in the world... but if people are dying out there in the name of freedom, the least you can do is wiggle that fat arm up above your head and remove your hat. Despite the visible losers, it was still cool to hear an old "U-S-A!" chant take off as the show opened up.
We then dive right on into an Austin segment, as I notice almost immediately the lack of an entrance ramp and predict the arrival of a Stone Cold vehicle before the end of the show. Perhaps combining a half dozen played-out, overdone angles all into one segment, Austin bitches at the boss, stages a one-man "sit in" in the middle of the ring, delivers stunners to fellow wrestlers for no reason, confronts a row of policemen, is barred from the building and defies authority by returning later in the evening. In a truck, no less. I was reaaaally hoping this Austin / Bischoff feud would amount to something new, but this watered down "Stone Cold vs. The MAN" storyline we're getting is already on my nerves. Eric's a guy who built an empire around his own ability to recognize Vince McMahon's mistakes and avoid repeating them himself. So why would he, as a character, even THINK about handling Steve Austin in the exact same fashion as Vinny Mac? It's stupid, and I'm sickened by how quickly they've fallen back onto this old storyline again. The segment did nothing for me, apart from the moment Lance Storm ran in and tried to pin Test before he recovered from the stunner. Well... that, and Rocky's timid guitar-based intimidation. See, guys, that's called "performing in character." It works, because that's something you can believe these two guys would do.
The mixed tag match worked very well in my eyes. Everything was tight, everybody matched off together relatively well (despite some noticeable hesitations between Trish and Victoria), and the right team won. The match was a bit short for my money, with a damned stupid finish (Richards was so stunned, after Trish gently pushed off of his chest with her feet, that he couldn't move the three feet to break up the pinfall?) but I'll take what I can get. The story between Trish and Jeff Hardy is going in a different direction than I'd hoped, as she looks to be into it. From what I read last week, I was under the impression that she didn't appreciate the rainbow-colored Hardy's affections, which sent my little mind a-spinning with ideas. I came in this week, just waiting to see Jeff try for another smooch, only to be pushed away and spiral into further lunacy as a result. I guess the whole locker room's just one big orgy waiting to happen, though, and Trish doesn't mind another partner. Great closing segment on the "ramp", with Jazz flattening both of her opponents. Trish, especially, seemed legitimately blindsided by her rival, and it lendt a sense of realism that gave the whole bit a nice little edge to it.
Christian and Scott Steiner had a surprisingly good matchup, as well. To my ears, the audience seemed to become extremely vicious midway through, hounding Scotty whenever he took over on offense. Big time kudos to both guys, regardless, as they worked a very well put-together match and turned around what could've been a horrible segment. Steiner focused on power, while Christian told a great story centering around Steiner's neck and came off looking much more successful than I ever would've predicted. Though he lost the match, Edge's little brother gained a little bit of legitimacy by giving last month's World Title contender a close call.
I was digging the Booker T & Goldust / Ric Flair & HHH match until we hit the commercial break. Shortly after we came back from those "words from the sponsors," things fell apart. Like Corey, I noticed the lack of a racial overtone to this match, and thought I saw the golden opportunity they would use to replace it at Wrestlemania when both heels started to tear into Booker's leg. I would've LOVED to see them work an uphill battle sort of angle at 'Mania, focusing the entire match on Booker's struggle to compete with a leg injured at the hands of Flair and the Champion. But alas, once again I was reading far too much into things, and by the match's conclusion Booker was strolling around, hitting legdrops and pinning the champ as though nobody had even brushed up against that leg of his. Nice little post-match promo by Trips, giving us more to think about going into Wrestlemania than we had after four weeks' worth of build.
The Jericho / HBK segment was almost a classic, and to it's credit remained very, very good. I'm really a fan of the cool, collected Y2J. There's a certain honesty that always leaks through the facade he attempts to put up, and whether it's purposeful or not, it's perhaps the one really original facet of his character. I hated that checkerboard outfit, and it's struggle to avoid ripping at the seams almost ruined the moment for me, but the animosity these guys share made up for it. The faceoff wasn't as electric as it was about six weeks ago, when the bookers decided to let Jericho waste time with Test and Jeff Hardy, but there's still some weighty stuff about to go down between these two. I'll enjoy their match at WrestleMania, no doubts whatsoever.
I like RVD / Kane vs. Storm & Morley, despite the sudden dropping of the obvious Dudleys vs. Storm & Regal match that was built toward, for two reasons. One, I like the Dudleys 100% more when they're heels. And two, I can finally see this leading to the big Kane / RVD split and feud that Justin's been praying for over the last fifteen, twenty RRCs.
Finally, we got the heavily promoted "Rock Concert," which delivered in spades. The way he maneuvered that audience from loving him to screaming for his blood within half a minute was simply amazing. All of his songs sounded remarkably similar, but the rotating lyrics more than made up for that. I was digging the HELL out of this until the last couple songs. I think it was right about the beginning of his cover of I'll Do it My Way that I said to myself "OK, that's enough. Let's wrap it up..." Then we cleaned it all up with, what else, Austin's truck on the entryway and Austin destroying Rocky's precious guitar. I mildly appreciated the swerve, delivering the Hurricane in the driver's seat and not Austin, but that was spoiled when the police nonsensically arrested him, paving the way for the obvious.
I'd have much rather seen the Smackdown snippets interspersed throughout the show, rather than thrown in at the very end. The last moments of RAW should leave the viewer hanging, begging for more. It should be dynamic, it should leave a major visual in their mind. Instead, we saw some video packages, then JR and the King wishing us well as the show faded to black. Not really what I'd call momentum, more like a moratorium.
I'm excited about WrestleMania, but not based off of what I saw Monday night. We got a couple good TV matches, nice segments between Y2J & HBK, and Jazz, Trish and Victoria, a great Rock promo and nothing more. That sounds like an above average show to me, but nothing instantly memorable or legendary. Needed a swift kick in the ass, and a little IMAGINATION in the Austin segments. Is that too much to ask?"
Overall Score: 6.75