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

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