Saturday, April 26, 2003

The World's Greatest WWE Backlash 2003 Preview

We're into month two with the three man rotation, here at the World's Greatest, and I've gotta say it still feels sweet to have John back on the crew. If we hear from the illustrious Sir Spinosa before the week's out, we may actually live up to our promise of an all-admin preview squad, eh? Nice, nice, that'd be nice. Otherwise, I guess we could always do the old Freebird / Triad angle, where there's never a set roster and any two members of the team can defend the titles as they see fit. I'm rambling. It is most certainly nearing the end of April, and once that magical date of 4/27/03 rolls around we'll have yet another WWE pay per view on our hands, in the form of Backlash. Not really an event I've ever been too fond of, myself, as the federation has traditionally dropped all its big bombs at WrestleMania or the RAW just after and is left scrambling to put something together for their next PPV. And, for the most part, that trend seems to have continued this year.

You've got some really, really uninspiring television coming out of the RAW brand, where Chris Jericho was bound to blow off his killer feud with Shawn Michaels and Triple H looked all set to give Booker T a PPV rematch, but the cards shifted at the last second and killed both of the highly anticipated Mania rematches. You've got a tag division that's going nowhere (though I'm eager to see the new French Connection they've been promoting on TV), a women's division that's running out of steam, and the Rock wrestling one more match before he gets the hell out of dodge. Smackdown looks to have fared much better, though its contribution won't be enough to save this show on paper. It's great to see Sean O'Haire back on the big stage, and the John Cena / Brock Lesnar angle has been built very, very well. In all honesty, there really are a lot of variables out there for this one. I'm just not excited by most of them.

WWE Tag Team Titles
Team Angle (c) vs. Los Guerreros

These guys gave us a pretty solid match at 'Mania. I like everybody involved. They've built the feud substantially, over a very long period of time. So why can't I get excited about this any more? On one hand, it's the same match we've seen dozens of times before, on the other... it's a helluva lot better than what we're getting out of RAW. If they could just combine the tag divisions from both RAW and Smackdown, we'd have a semi-competent scene going on, especially with the upcoming introduction of the Frenchmen. As is now, we've just got a couple bland divisions boasting their own unique belt and no crossovers. This is the blowoff, so the Guerreros take it.
Winners: Los Guerreros

Trish Stratus (c) vs. Jazz w/Theodore Long
Women's Championship

The women's division took the plunge after WrestleMania, losing track of the intriguing three-way feud over the gold and settling into another Jazz / Trish one on one series. Not that I should be complaining too loudly, as the end result will be a few solid women's title matches, I'm just overwhelmed by the feeling that we've seen it all before. They're trying to freshen it up a teensy bit, aligning Jazz with Teddy Long, but in the end it's all the same old story. Jazz is bigger than Trish. Trish is spunkier than Jazz. The hit each other, and roll around on the mat with fists full of hair. Refs split them up and simultaneously cop feels. Cue the PPV matchup. I've got Trish retaining, she needs to finally beat a non-injured Jazz in a major singles matchup.
Winner: Trish Stratus

Sean O'Haire w/Roddy Piper vs. Rikishi

On one hand, I'm really enjoying the relationships between Piper & O'Haire and Rikishi & Snuka. It's a relatively cool idea, relating the past with the present in such a manner, and the personalities they've chosen to experiment with are just about perfect for the situation. Rikishi and "Superfly" have the whole bloodline thing going, and Roddy and Sean both work the same intellectual, scheming villain schpeel. It's a dual set of mentoring relationships, and so long as it doesn't lead to a tag match (or worse yet, a singles match between the old timers), it's only going to be beneficial for all involved. The main thing that's holding this thing back is a mix of how dazed and confused poor Snuka looks and how decrepit and out-of-shape Piper's become over the last couple years.

The match isn't in danger of launching anyone into the stratosphere Sunday night. Rikishi's losing a step or two as time goes on, but he can still keep up for the most part and is much more versatile than any other big man on the WWE's roster. O'Haire's always been a sort of diamond in the rough in my eyes, but it's just a matter of getting him in the ring, surrounded by the right kind of vibe, so that the fans can really step back and take notice of him. I doubt this will be the big breakthrough match he needs to take that first step, but it's bound to get here somewhere soon. O'Haire's got more of a future. He goes over. But I'm not telling you anything you don't already...
Winner: Sean O'Haire

Rey Mysterio vs. The Big Show

Oh, man. Why they booked any sort of interaction between these two in the first place was more than enough to blow my mind, now they've taken it a step further and put them opposite one another on pay per view. Remember when WCW released an action figure for the Giant, and where most of their figures came with an accessory (a bat, a trash can, whatever), the Big Show came with a mini Rey Mysterio, Jr? God help me, I almost spent the money on it based on the premise alone. But then I realised I'd be buying an action figure loosely based on the likeness of Paul Wight, and I came to my senses.

Oh, right. The match. This will be very ugly. Mysterio needs to be facing guys with the ability to perform a slow jog without blowing up. His offense is going to look like crap, because nobody's going to buy it. That, and he'll have to handicap himself, to avoid doing anything the Show just isn't physically capable of. I guess a rematch with Matt Hardy was too much to ask. Come to think of it, rematches in general were too much to ask this month.
Winner: The Big Show

RVD & Kane (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz
World Tag Team Titles

Well, at least this one should have some heat. The Dudleyz are trying extremely hard to make this angle work, and that's something which should be commended. Unfortunately, it's really time for the whole thing to blow off an move on. RVD is starting to cool down a little bit as he realizes he's stuck in the midcard for another few years, but he's still the biggest money man RAW will have left once Rocky leaves at the end of the week. Even Goldberg hasn't been able to put a dent in RVD's heat, despite the writers' best efforts. Give him another couple weeks teaming with Kane in a dead-end tag team, and maybe that status quo will finally change.

If they can keep Kane out of the ring for most of the match, this should be entertaining to watch. Van Dam and the Dudleys are all relatively sound athletes... they won't be giving us the match of a lifetime, but they won't be sucking out our will to live, either. They wrestle compatible styles; the Dudleys as power-based offense, Rob as a flying, heavyweight-meets-lightweight-meets-martial arts hybrid. All Kane really needs to do is hit the flying clothesline, tease the chokeslam and take a 3-D before rolling out to the floor and staring at the lights for a little bit. The Duds should probably win here, but the Frenchmen need a credible face champion team to face off against, so I'm going with RVD and Kane.
Winners: Kane & Rob Van Dam

Brock Lesnar (c) vs. John Cena
WWE Championship

They built this match better than Brock / Angle. Not that I think Cena has more of a chance at winning this thing than Kurt did at WrestleMania, but the motivation behind their collision is just all around superior to the clash of the amateur champs in Seattle. They didn't muddle things by nonsensically involving Paul Heyman or the Big Show. They didn't bring in John's twin brother to trick the champ. They stuck to two guys who don't like one another, giving each other hell week in and week out. I'm a sucker for that kind of buildup, and it's something they've done well with Lesnar at least twice now; here and with his Summerslam match against the Rock. I'm glad John went over Benoit cleanly (surprised to hear that?), as it really gave him the extra "oomph" he needed to move up from midcarder to legitimate main eventer. This match is a great example of what Smackdown's done correctly in the past month, as opposed to what RAW's done poorly. Instead of screwing fans over and giving them a six man tag in the place of two big matches involving their top stars, Smackdown's developed a whole new star in a very short amount of time.

I'm eager to see how these two match up in the ring Sunday night. They know this is a real "do or die" situation, not only for Cena's future in the company, but for the rest of the young talent waiting for their chance. If these two go in there and steal the show, maybe (just maybe) the higher ups will get the message that there's money in other places than the past. That, done properly, a storyline that doesn't involve multiple twists and turns can draw money. With all that weight on their shoulders, will they carpe diem and kick ass? Or will they choke under the pressure? I'm more interested in that result than the result of the match itself, which is pretty damn predictable.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels & Booker T vs. Triple H, Ric Flair & Chris Jericho

So let's take a closer look here; you had two SURE FIRE barnburners all set up for their rematches at Backlash (Jericho / Michaels II and Hunter / Booker II), and one returning, aged superstar. Where the real logical thing here would have been to play the tension between the "clique" a little longer and deliver the money matches everyone wanted to see, instead they threw it all together into one big, convoluted mess of a RAW main event and said "we're good to go." Ric Flair is a living legend, but he shouldn't even be active as anything more than a speaking talent at this point, let alone wrestling in a major match on pay per view. Keep the shirt on, keep stylin' and profilin', keep strapping guys into the figure four... just stay out of active competition, Ric. On that same side of the coin, Kevin Nash doesn't look like he's in any sort of ring shape either. If it takes a man a full minute and a half to perform a run-in, which is honestly no exhaggeration, that doesn't say much for what his portion of the match is going to look like.

More than anything, I'm just pissed off that the WWE has once again dangled that carrot in front of our faces, only to yank it away at the last second. Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels were setting the place on fire with their feud, before it was mysteriously downplayed for No Way Out. They then managed to salvage the whole thing in time to steal the show at WrestleMania in what was just about the perfect set-up for a big Jericho victory this month, only to have the whole thing scrapped once again. This is the same thing they did with Hunter's feuds with Kurt Angle and Steve Austin in mid 2000 and early 2001. Right when it looked spot-on, like the angle was airtight and unstoppable, the whole thing just disintegrated into thin air. When you lay it all out, here's what the match looks like to me; on one side you've got a crippled guy who's getting up there in the years, a bonafide legend who's reinventing the way he wrestles and an also-ran who just can't get that big victory. On the other, you've got two guys who've always hated each other and an icon who's trying to tarnish his legacy by wrestling years longer than he should. Not something I'm excited about.
Winners: Triple H, Ric Flair, Chris Jericho

Goldberg vs. The Rock

They had me pleased with this one until last week, when it all sort of fell apart. Goldberg doesn't look unstoppable anymore (he just looks like an ass), and Rocky doesn't look like nearly as solid a heel as he did beforehand. As Corey's been alluding to in recent issues of the RAW Review Crew (I'm starting to look like John C here, shilling like there's no tomorrow), the big question here is how the Rock will keep himself the heel and Goldberg the face. Fans are catching on to the fact that Rocky's much more entertaining as a heel... and they're cheering him as a result. If they're like me, they don't really see Goldberg as the machine that he was in WCW, especially after that whole ordeal with the muscle car Monday night. He's lost a lot of the intimidation factor that really defined his character in the old Atlanta promotion. He looks like a lost animal, lashing out at anything that moves, more than a determined warrior.

I think the match should be where the real definition is made in that matter. If Goldberg comes out and he's lost a lot of mass, he wrestles a poor match and he acts like a guy who doesn't belong in the ring, then it's all downhill from here. If he comes out, acts like a professional, and delivers a solid match then there's still a chance for him. I hate to see the Rock lay down again, especially after he finally got the big clean win he needed over Austin at WrestleMania, but there's really no alternative here. Spear, wham, Jackhammer, pin.
Winner: Goldberg

In Closing...

A disappointing card, especially considering how good WrestleMania turned out. It's really silly, for a show that's traditionally been the "rematch card," to feature absolutely no rematches whatsoever from last month. Jericho / Michaels, especially, really wrote itself here and was completely neglected. I'm extremely interested in the kind of response Brock and Cena get for their match, but the rest of the card's just a grey area for me. I don't really care too strongly about any of it. But I've still got hope for next month.. let's just hope it isn't unfounded.
until next time, i remain

Monday, April 21, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 04/21/03

I'm curious... why, exactly, did I burn up two hours of my life in front of the television last night? I can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wasn't entertained by more than a few unscripted moments during last night's show. I watched the entire broadcast of RAW, start to finish, and saw every physically involved athlete experience an off-night in the ring. I listened as the writers delivered uninspired story twist after uninspired story twist. I saw the federation slowly collapse upon itself, and I saw no attempt made to slow its fall. If anything, I watched World Wrestling Entertainment plant more explosives around itself, even as the surrounding walls began to cave in. What a ridiculously poor show we saw last night, and very few involved aren't at least partially to blame.

The Hurricane and Chris Jericho jerked the curtain off its hanger, delivering what should've been a nice throwback to the higher-speed, counter-heavy cruiserweight style of WCW's prime but instead served only to fail on several levels. The Hurricane's been in a real slump in the ring lately, consecutively sucking wind in the middle of the squared circle in every match since since he got that first big rub from the Rock over a month ago. Where he was once one of WCW's brightest prospects for the future, he's recently been blowing his biggest chances at stardom with a frightening frequency. Don't get me wrong, I've always been a big supporter of Shane Helms... but I'd be allowing that personal affinity to get in the way if I tried to deny the fact he's been a lame duck between the ropes over the last few weeks. Even Chris Jericho, the one man who's really given the Rock a run for his money on RAW lately, came up short last night. The match just didn't click, and the post-match beatdown with Flair didn't get me up and off my sofa either.

Rodney Mack isn't giving me any reason to feel one way or another about him, and Teddy Long's act is growing more tired by the minute. I loved this angle when they kicked it off with D'Lo Brown around the Royal Rumble. So why does it feel like we still haven't taken any steps with it? If you're gonna pussy foot around the issue, then don't even bother in the first place. If you're going to tackle it head-on, then get off your ass and do it. Squashing a jobber isn't going to set you apart in my eyes, it just proves that the writers are panicking and returning to an extremely old form. If this sets some sort of trend, and we see the return of jabroni matches to regular programing, you can count me out. Saying "Playa" fifteen times a minute and siccing a very pale-skinned black man on "the white boys" doesn't entertain me. Challenging the historic mistreatment of minorities in pro wrestling, as well as the complete lack of non-caucasians in the upper echelons of WWE (whether it's on-air or off-air) is where the real meat is.

OK, there's a little bit of light shining through. The WWE has ackowledged that Booker T and Shawn Michaels have never been best buddies. I'll retract my comments about continuity from a couple weeks back.

The Lita situation was just silly. Eric Bischoff is a dick, sure, but he almost turned himself face by constantly suggesting that Lita disrobe in front of a live audience, largely comprised of middle aged males. If you're looking to do the creepy, misogynistic, power-mad boss who didn't get any attention from the girls when he was in high school, you needn't look further than the angle Lita had started with Paul Heyman about a year ago. That angle had promise, and it maintained the status quo by getting Lita over as a face in peril and Heyman over as a despicable slimy heel. Or, even better, Bisch should just watch Vince McMahon's regular day to day backstage activities. Art can imitate life, folks, and he's living proof. Why the writers thought fans would cheer Lita for quitting RAW, rather than showing them her naked body, is beyond me.

Another brief glimmer of light came in the Test / Steiner v. 3MW match, as Test showed an unreal feat of strength by gutwrench powerslamming Rosey. And the fans, for their part, absolutely EXPLODED for it. Though I wasn't there live and couldn't say for sure, that seemed to be the biggest pop of the night... which should say something. They went nuts for a guy performing a very impressive showing of strength in the middle of a match, and sat on their hands when Kevin Nash came out and chatted around with Triple H and HBK in the main event's aftermath.

Something that struck me last night; when's the last time Scott Steiner played the babyface in peril during a tag match? It must've been years since I last saw him dragging his body over to the other corner, desperate for a tag. Strange to see. No matter, though, as he was well enough to tag himself in from a neutral corner (?!?! How'd THAT fly??) and single-handedly finish the match a few minutes later.

We were then graced by a few minutes of underwhelming "Rock Concert II" and a fun surprise appearance by Gillberg, before the show promptly shat its pants, tore them from its body, put the soiled garments on its head and ran around in a chaotic little circle for the rest of the night. Naturally, Goldberg made the big run-in, which was somewhat deflated by broadcasting his arrival to the arena and not doing it as a spur of the moment run-in / beat-down. He resisted the urge to put his arm through the glass of the Rock's hummer limo, ran to the ring and fought with security with the kind of reckless abandon that would make all of Three Minute Warning's first appearances look utterly and completely safe for all involved. I'd be surprised if one of those scrawny security guards didn't leave the arena with a broken bone or two. The Rock then attacked from behind, which prompted Goldberg to perform one of the worst-acted "dazed turnaround into the finisher" segments I've ever seen. And then he stood up a whole ten seconds later, as if nothing had happened. OK, I defended this guy when he first came in. After seeing that, I'm saying fuck it. Get this match at Backlash out of the way, then send him the way of Jeff Hardy.

We then go backstage, and Goldberg gives me the first of the night's two unplanned, unscripted, unwanted "laugh at others' misfortune" comedy moments of the night. Way to prove to the world that you can't drive a clutch, Billy. And it really made the moment that much better when you climbed out of the driver's seat and jogged like a six year old girl out of the arena. Good lord. Boy George has a manlier run than that.

On one hand, I'm glad to see such emotion coming out in the angle involving the Dudley Boyz. It looks like they're really getting into their roles and trying their best to make this a killer angle. On the other, I'm just not interested by it. I think it officially ran its course last week. Cool of them to allow Jazz to pick Trish's bones after the match, though.

Feeling once was not enough, the Rock and Goldberg then paraded their way back out to the ring, where Rocky unleashed a series of the nastiest chair shots I've seen in some time. Honestly, it's like we were at the 1999 Royal Rumble all over again, only this time Mick Foley was in better shape and he didn't stay down long enough to make it so dramatic and incredible. I give it about three days before all the old "I would like to congatulate Al Snow on his contract with La-Z-Boy, which is odd because we all know Al doesn't sell chairs" jokes to come around again, this time in reference to Goldberg. What a tremendous dick.

By the time we got to the main event, I already knew how it would turn out. For a World Title "Wrestlemania Rematch," they sure went out of their way to avoid promoting it, both prior to and during the show. Then they add a special ref, which almost always spells death for the challenger. Then that ref allows two additional heels to remain at ringside during the match. How much more obvious do they need to be? Still, it was great to see the crowd buying the nearfalls, even if I personally wasn't. These guys were all over the place in there, and didn't look nearly as tight as they did in Seattle. Come to think of it, I wouldn't really want to see a new world champion after a match that failed to live up to its expectations the way this one did. Kudos to Triple H and Shawn Michaels, though, for delivering that second unplanned, unscripted, unwanted "laugh at others' misfortune" comedy moment of the night, as Trips inadvertantly pantsed Shawn just prior to a nearfall during the match's closing moments. Even though we watch guys roll around, hugging in their underwear every week, it's still funny when one of them accidentally loses his pants. Shawn stopped dead for a second, looked around, and then struggled to repair them as the match patiently waited for him to return. Good stuff.

Post-match, Nash s...l...o...w...l...y meanders to ringside, helps Trips to his feet, and then gets crotched for his trouble. Well, there goes all the tension and intrigue that made last week's closing moments so interesting. Plus, it took Nash a full minute and a half to get down the entryway and into the ring, and they're trying to sell us a PPV that features him WRESTLING in the MAIN EVENT!?! Come on...

I'm gonna go all symbolic on your asses with my grade this week. If you're a longtime RRC reader, it may look familiar to you.. it's the score we collectively gave the Katie Vick episode of RAW in mid-October, which was the only episode I've ever seen that I'd dare call worse than this one.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 1.125

Monday, April 14, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 04/14/03

Last night's show was wholly mediocre. There were a few teeny things I really liked, a few teeny things I really didn't like and about an hour and a half's worth of things I was entirely indifferent towards. The program didn't inspire me in one way or another, it came off (aside from a few exceptions) as pretty bland. The fact that they really amplified the whole "thin roster" problem I've been pointing out over the last few weeks didn't help things. This an episode that focused entirely upon half a dozen people, most of whom have been in or around the main event for over six months running now. I've pretty much got my mind made up to give this show a four already, but let's see if the segment-by-segment analysis can help me lean one way or the other.

Nash comes out, talks a good game, goes on twice as long as he needed to, and winds up separating Shawn Michaels and Triple H. It was a nice hot opening to the show, but like I said... it went on way too long. The whole segment gets a thumbs up from me, though, due to the inadvertantly accurate impression Nash did of the Ahhnold Prank Calls reel midway through the interview. "STOPPIT!!" I think I pissed myself when he did that. If you've no idea what I'm talking about, Click on over hea. We'll wait.

This thing with Test and Stacey is getting really stupid.

The Jericho / Test match itself was a real throwaway, and didn't really do anything for either guy. Jericho gets a win over a fresh midcarder, but only after he's thrown around the ring for a few minutes, and Test loses cleanly to a move that hadn't led to a successful pin in nearly half a year. So Jericho looks weak, despite a win, Test looks weak because of the method in which he lost, and the crowd gets deflated because the match wasn't up to the usually high standard of either man. Plus, Y2J shaved off the goatee and Test beat up a random guy in the crowd. Bad things, man.

Trish, Jazz, Ivory and Victoria gave us a good showing, and proved that there's more depth to the Women's division than I'd previously given credit for. It's good that they're slowly adding a few new names to the list, and they're doing so based on actual ability in the ring. God knows, if I had to suffer through another Terri, Stacey or Jacqueline match, I'd have taken my own life. I'm undecided on what sort of impact the alignment with Teddy Long is going to have on Jazz's career, but if it means a Title run and a little further noterieity, why not give it a shot.

Why the hell did I watch the entireity of that Austin-merch infomercial? More importantly why did I record it as though it were a regular part of RAW? Why was it more important to announce a closeout on old Austin shirts and leftover WrestleMania programs than to show us another match? If you listened closely enough, you could actually hear "Willie the Worker" grinding his teeth backstage during this segment.

The tag title match started off on the wrong foot, but built to be an excellent brawl before the final bell had tolled. I could've lived without the first five minutes, but when they started exchanging nearfalls neither of these teams looked back. What's more, they wrestled one of the most believable no-DQ matches I've seen in ages. They didn't immediately fall out of the ring and fight around the arena once the bell sounded, nor did they completely change styles and revert to a brawl mentality. They stuck to what they know best, wrestling, and adapted a few weapons to that style when appropriate. Add an increasingly hot series of false finishes, a great bit of tension with the Dudley Boyz, a difficult decision to predict, and the most over man on Monday night, RVD, and you've got a great TV matchup. I was happy with this, despite the poor opening moments.

It was especially fun to watch that Rock segment last night, armed with the knowledge that they'd taped it earlier in the week. I kept waiting for Coach and Lawler to stumble over their lines and get interrupted with an answer before they'd finished their question, or for the video to skip, Milli Vanilli style. "If ya smell.... If ya smell... If ya smell.... If ya smell.... If ya smell... ((video abruptly cuts to black, then to a shot of an unprepared Coach and Lawler))" Way to take the only surefire success you've had on the show in months and flush it for a week, gang. The Rock's been the shining light of RAW since returning to Monday nights, and they make the call to pre-tape a segment with him. Whatever.

Christian gets DQ'd for a low blow, wrestling against a man who's known for delivering a swift kick to the groin whenever the referee's back is turned. Hell, it's one of his signature maneuvers... he's even got a special name for it! There's no justice in America today. Christian then goes on to call out Goldberg in one of the funniest promos in recent memory. "Take off that wig... and while you're at it, take off that bra and panties.... and come out here. What, is it that time of the month? Is there a sale at JC Penney?" Good stuff, to which Goldberg responded by going two-for-two in the "holy god what a vicious spear" department. Honestly, it seems like he's amped it up a little bit for his WWE run, and I'm anticipating seeing him in the ring. Just like last week, this didn't bother me. Christian's laying down for Goldberg when the day's done, sure, but he's establishing an identifiable character and keeping himself fresh in the fans' eyes (as well as the bookers') at the same time. I'd much rather see him in this position than in no position at all.

Chris Nowinski has aligned himself with Rosey and Jamal. There goes my interest in his character. I'm with Jay, it was funny beyond words to watch Scott Steiner taking part in an intelligent debate while wearing sunglasses, a long bleached goatee, no shirt and a bizarre, chain mail headdress. But... at the same time, it held my attention. Which is more than I can say for any of the presidential debates. Let's see if we can get Dubbya to attend a debate dressed like "Big Poppa Pump" in 2004. Oh, and it's nice to hear about all the countries Scott Steiner has wrestled during his illustrious career. I knew his arms were big, but big enough to pin an entire country?

The main event was offbeat, for some reason I just can't put my finger on. Flair bounced around, looked old and called spots on-camera. Triple H didn't seem all that motivated. The Hurricane looked out of place in the ring with the Nature Boy, and Booker T wasn't exactly on fire. In addition, the crowd seemed to collectively fall asleep. In short, nothing went over well here. I'm glad that World Title match was scheduled for next week, to allow for a little bit of promotion, but would much rather have seen it scheduled for Backlash.

The post-match action was superb. No matter how many times they use that old cliched "oops, I thought the bad guys were behind me and I hit my friend" angle, I'll always eat it up. Plus, this time you've got the possibility that it wasn't an accident, especially when Booker took down Shawn Michaels after falling victim to an errant Nash forearm. I like this storyline, now that they're addressing the history between Nash, Michaels and Booker. After the show went off the air, I gave the angle a lot of thought and what I came up with is this; I'd rather see Nash, Michaels and Helmsley, three guys I'm sick of, wrestling the main event and working a storyline that's interesting to watch, than watch Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero and Kurt Angle, three guys I'll never get sick of, wrestling the main event with a horrendous backstory. That's the bottom line, as far as I'm concerned. It sucks to have to watch the same old players doing it again, but the storyline is good so I don't have that much to complain about.

Lukewarm episode, with a hot tag title match and a nice finishing angle. Four and a half, at best.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.5

Monday, April 7, 2003

WWE RAW Review: 04/07/03

Strange night, and again I was noticing how thin the established roster is. Sure, you've got diamonds in the rough out there in never-never land, working quietly on Heat and waiting for their chance to either; a) get that big push to the top in WWE or b) go join NWA: TNA. But on the unmistakeable whole, there are about a dozen guys and three girls (four if you count Stacy) who just sort of rotate around, swap dance partners and teammates, and clog the show. Several of these guys I have no problem with, as they're still over and busting their asses to maintain their spot... several others, though, have been stale for ages and aren't doing anything to help dig the federation out of the deep, nasty rut it's stuck in. Somebody needs to take a step back, look at the big picture and shake things up in time for these brand exclusive PPVs. Else fans are gonna get really bored really quickly.

Trish and Jazz were really lighting it up last night, until Trish busted her lip, whispered something to the ref and Jazz, and was then treated with kid gloves for the rest of the match. Whatever, I can understand taking it easy with somebody who's a little shaken up, but with somebody like Jazz who lives and dies by her ultra-realistic, brutal style, that's just gonna destroy the match. And, sure enough, the last couple minutes were uninspired and paled in comparison to the hot opening moments. Trish again couldn't get up to do the Acid Drop without assistance, and then the ref was in poor position at the end, missing Jazz's foot on the ropes. I kinda figured where they'd be going with this when I saw it. Decent match with a poor ending. Bonus points for including the first successful double axe-handle I've seen in years.

Nice brief nod to past continuity (albeit bizarre continuity, which was never mentioned again) by showing Rock's acknowledging of Trish backstage. Remember when these two smooched a couple years back, then tagged together the next week and kind of avoided each other after that? Weird. Unfortunately, this was the only thing they did all night that even IMAGINED the use of the word 'continuity'. Still, a nice way to build toward Hardy / Rock later in the night, even though nobody buys the Stratus / Jeffy H romance.

RVD vs. Morley was decent, though neither guy was really out there to turn anybody's head last night. Nice splash to the outside onto Lance Storm by Van Dam midway through the match, and I'm gonna agree with Jay here... nice to see a match ending on a non-finisher spot. Especially when it looks as wicked as Morley's DDT did. It was cool to see Storm and Morley functioning together like a team throughout the night, working together to accomplish the common goal.

Nowinski's promo was so out of place that it attracted the attention of my girlfriend, using the computer nearby. "If he's supposed to be the bad guy, why is he making so much sense?" she asked. I didn't have an answer for her. Funny, though, now that I think about it. Scott Steiner really IS a good analogy for America. Both used to mean something in the past, but have since become so unweildy and full of flash that they've lost the substance, intelligence and all around clear headedness that made them so cool in the first place. Nowadays they busy themselves attacking the smaller guy, beating him up because they can and ignoring the important issues (why WASN'T Steiner on WrestleMania? Does he care?). And this is all coming from a guy (me) who supports the war... albeit not for the reasons Bush & co. have presented. Is this a tangent? I think this is a tangent. I don't like Iraq, but I don't really like Scott Steiner either. And Chris Nowinski was the face from where I sat last night. Incredibly stupid segment.

Like Samir, I noticed that they snuck in Goldberg's career-ending mule kick during his promo package. Interesting. It was nice to get a quick recap of Billy Bo's career, and I've gotta say that WCW's footage has never looked better. The WWE production team remains incredible.

Christian's interaction with the Rock was golden, pretty much reaffirming my love for his character. Rocky almost made a complete face turn here, playing the part of the seasoned veteran handing down his knowledge to the next generation, then easily slid right back into his flawless heel character. Nice, appropriate, impassioned speech from the Great One about making the most of your oppotunities.

Ironically enough, he then went on to face Jeff Hardy, the guy who's had every chance in the world and has screwed it up just about every single time. Tonight's match was no exception to that rule, and couldn't even keep up with Rock's earlier match against the Hurricane (in which Helms became winded, panted his way through the middle of the match, and came back for a strong finish). Hardy was all over the place, and even the Rock couldn't do anything with him. It's singles matches like this that make me realize just how strong a glue Matt really was to the brothers' tag team.

I enjoyed everything about the Rocky / Goldberg interaction, even Christian's death at the hands of the beast. Hey, if it's getting him into the spotlight, I'm all for it. And it's not like he really lost any credibility by taking that spear, either. He was caught completely by surprise with a move that KO'd the Rock last week... anybody in the WWE could've taken that move and laid down, so why not Christian? Of course, the segment would've been infinitely cooler if Christian had calmly stood up, taken off his shirt (revealing a steel plate covering his mid section), grabbed a mic and shouted "Hey Bischoff! I quit!" But hey... I guess WWE's stolen enough of WCW's old storylines for now. Rocky's refusal to accept the match at Backlash was classic, and just about summarized all the great stuff we saw here.

Then they follow it up with Kane vs. the Dudley Boyz. Man, if the WWE ever decides to go for a "Handicap World Title," Kane had better be the first champ. Sweet Jesus, it's like every other week this guy is on the wrong side of some sort of two-on-one matchup. He's got more experience with handicap situations than he does with regular one-on-one matches. So the obvious question is this; why can't this guy, who's done this kind of match hundreds of times before, come up with a formula for making one watchable? This sucked, but at least the Dudleys went over clean. This is how every two-on-one match should end, regardless of the participants. You could have Duane Gill and Spike Dudley taking on Brock Lesnar, and I'd still want to see Spikey and Duane on the offense for the majority of the match.

Lance Storm follows the match up with a mean looking dropkick off the top rope, through a chair, into RVD's face. Funny how he pulled that out, just as we were having a discussion in the forums about who has the best looking dropkick on the show. For the record, Storm got my vote.

I found the Bischoff - Austin Truck thing to be a nice little bit of heeling. The way they did it, just out of the blue, was the only way it would've worked. Plus, JR quit! If I had to choose one of the two RAW announcers to cut, it wouldn't have been him... but whatever. For my money, JR / Heyman is a much, much stronger combination than JR / Lawler. With that pairing, both guys seem to know what they're talking about, and they have a mutual animosity towards one another that comes through on the air, and as a result makes the broadcast that much more interesting to listen to. Both guys speak with emotion about what's going on in the ring, (and not what's under Stacy's dress) and give the show a much more professional feel. Unfortunately, King isn't the one who left the team. Oh well, give it time... right? Personally, I'd rather see Joey Styles or Mike Tenay on PBP than the Coach, but... whatever. He's passable.

Sylvan Grenier and Rene Dupree are coming to RAW. Well, the tag team division needs more life but I don't know if another low-personality politically-based heel team is the way to go with it. I think Storm and Regal / Morley are filling that role nicely. I found it hilarious right off the bat that they're cashing in on this recent trend of France-bashing, mainly because I think the trend itself is downright hysterical. Now, if only they can get these guys to come down to the ring wearing berets and calling themselves "The Freedom Fries," we'll have something. And they can use "les moutons de bebe" as their catch phrase, even if it doesn't make any sense. They've got my permission.

Main event was good, and worth the hype. I expected less Shawn than we got, which is a happy surprise, and Booker got his second pinfall on Triple H in three weeks. So doesn't that establish that he's still a threat, and they need to go ahead and book the rematch for Backlash? I don't like all this talk of a tag team main event involving these four (six?), as it'll only serve to rob us of two vital things; HBK laying down for Y2J and Triple H dropping the belt to Booker T. Not that I'm counting on either of those, but whatever. It was nice of them to surprise us with a Hurricane run-in... too bad it amounted to exactly dick. Why didn't he just run into the ring, lay down, stand up and then throw himself over the top rope? It would've saved Trips the hassle of throwing punches at him. And while I'm at it, if they really wanted to surprise us, they would've had Hurricane jump out of the limo before performing his run-in.

Closing up shop, Nash is back, and he's dyed his hair again. I'm relieved he isn't using the name Diesel (only the music), as that would be about as stupid as calling yourself "drqshadow" or "The Hurricane" in public. I kept flinching every time Nash threw that big boot, as we all know what happened the last time he tried it. And there we go, Jericho's officially not aligning with big Kev, as I'd hoped in last week's writeup.

OK, let's look at the continuity of this booking. Y2J and Triple H are tagging together. These guys have a rivalry that's been well documented for YEARS. Even before the McMahon-Helmsley era, these two have been at each other's throat... but they at least tried to cover that before the match. Ric Flair and Triple H... well, that's poor booking from last year, so we won't even get into that. Booker T and Shawn Michaels. Let's try to think about the last time we saw these two together. Oh, yeah! Shawn superkicked Booker's lights out! And the time before that? OH! HBK superkicked him, threw him out of the nWo, tore his shirt off and virtually spit on him in what was alluded towards being a racially-motivated maneuver. Remember that promo where Goldust warned Booker that Shawn doesn't like "his kind"? Yeah. So these two are tagging together without even questioning one another now. And oh! Here comes Kevin Nash! Let's see, who was he out to destroy the last time we saw him? Hell, who was he kicking when his quad exploded? Booker T. And now here he comes, charging down to the ring in defense of Booker and Shawn. Nice.

And that's just the main event. If I went in-depth on the entire broadcast, we'd be here all night. Let's get ahold of somebody with at least a fleeting knowledge of the history of the product to overlook the shows before they go live, hmm? Mmmkay.

Strong main event that capped off a subpar show, with another new arrival that casts deep, dark shadows over the main event scene. If they restrain Nash to a heavy speaking role with little or no wrestling, I'll be a much happier puppy.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.25