Right off the bat, we break the glass and there's Steve Austin. I wonder, if this guy's retired from active ring competition, why is he still wearing those bionic knees to the ring for his promos? He wasn't active last night, aside from climbing the turnbuckles and flipping the bird or drinking beer. If that's putting too much strain on his knees, the knuckles of his middle fingers must be in terrible shape after all this time. How long have we got until he comes out with little braces on both of those guys, too?
Austin gets right to business, reintroducing the intercontinental title and deeming it "the most important belt I ever won." That's instant credibility there, and perhaps the only way they could've reintroduced the thing without completely screwing its historical status. I loathe the idea of a battle royal, since I'm such a big fan of tournaments, but it's at least something to look forward to at Judgment Day. Considering the two main events we've already got lined up for that show, (Trips / Nash and Brock / Big Show) anything that can be done to help is a very good thing. I'm curious as to which former IC champs they've still got on RAW, as off the top of my head I can assume RVD and Kane will be otherwise occupied, defending their tag straps. Right now it looks like the battle royal will consist of Chris Jericho, Christian, Lance Storm, Goldust and... maybe Chief Morley. Did Val Venis ever win the IC title? Please, someone, tell me the Godfather won't be making a triumphant return for this event.
Lawler / Morley ended in about the only way it really could have. They booked themselves into a corner by creating the match in the first place, as everyone knew Lawler had to win, but Morley needed to come off as somebody who's got a fighting chance in singles competition. It could've only ended in two ways; JR interfering to give the win to King, or Lawler turning heel and aligning with Bischoff. That, or they could've done something completely out of left field and genuinely surprise the audience by putting Morley over clean. Considering the third option wasn't really an option, I think they went with the next best choice. Morley had the match put away cleanly before JR illegally interfered and cost him the win. Lawler didn't look TOO strong, though I've gotta question the logic of holding back on the active piledriver ban for him. That was one of the laziest, sloppiest, most dangerous performances of the maneuver I've seen in quite a while, and the man used it as a freaking TRANSITION MOVE. One second they're standing around, the next we've got a piledriver being delivered without even a punch or a kick to lead into it.
Bischoff and Austin as co-GMs is working surprisingly well thus far, with the most notable side effect being Austin's return to the unpredictable character that rocketed him to stardom. For the longest time, he's been too concerned with coming off as a face and doing what the fans would like to see him do, ignoring the very premise that got him into that position in the first place. When he stunned Coach from out of nowhere this week, it was a nice change of pace. It's like somebody I hadn't seen in a long, long time had come back into town for a prolonged visit.
Last night housed probably the best match we'll ever see out of Kane and RVD as a tag team. Everybody looked good in that match, as they all bumped around the ring for one another and gave us a really competitive, heavyweight-themed tag matchup. RVD did the brunt of the work, managing to recover from a leaping backside kick that missed by roughly three miles, and eventually putting the match away with a well timed and beautifully executed frog splash. I've always been a much bigger fan of Eddy Guerrero's splash, but I'll give credit where it was due. A nice solid TV match, with a clean finish that didn't make anybody look bad. That's good for the tag division and good for you and me.
I like the way the fed's begun using the talk show gimmick once again. Though the idea was eventually bastardized beyond belief, (eg: Jake's Snake Pit, The Undertaker's Mortuary) it was originally stupendous, with Roddy Piper really leading the way in his pit. So long as they keep it down to just Y2J and Roddy Piper every week, and don't go talk show crazy again (eg: Test's Testicle Hour, Hurricane and Friends, the vaChyna Monologues) I'll dig it. I'm not super crazy about the way they're emphasizing Jericho as a talk show host and not a wrestler, because he's the best thing going on RAW at the moment, but he'll find a way to make it work for him. He always does.
Then again, it only took them two weeks to get to the natural storyline of "guest gets angry, beats up host and destroys set," so I'm hoping we haven't seen the end of this little trend already. Nash was inspired enough to cut a great, emotional promo, before the now-notorious long brawl with Trips. They get an "E" for effort, since both guys were clearly trying to make this a heated feud, but when you throw two pieces of crap together and they make an interesting sound... in the end, they're still crap. The crowd grabbed my utmost respect by immediately turning on the main eventers, especially Nash, to the point where even JR and Lawler had to acknowledge it. At the moment, I thought the crowd was chanting "You both suck", but Samir's translation of "Diesel sucks" sounds more likely.
That whole segment was a prime example of the writers completely misreading their fanbase. The entire thing was just hysterical. Two guys, with the most beautiful heads of hair I've ever seen, bloodying one another in and around the ring as the crowd cuts loose with the hatred. Nash even turned to the audience and raised one fist in triumph, which was met by an overpowering chorus of boos. Jesus, I haven't heard that many boos since the original "goose" thread in the Oratory Forums.
Lance Storm was in orbit last night. That Canadian crowd was so pro-Storm, it wasn't even funny. Kudos to WWE for allowing him to come out waving a Canadian flag and soaking up the cheers, despite being a heel for almost his entire run with the company. It's nice to let some genuine emotion slide into the script once in a while, isn't it? Too bad he jobbed to Booker, but I've got no problem with that. These two have put on some damn fine matches in the past, (notably in WCW, when Storm was on his title-collecting frenzy just after his debut and Booker had just won the World Title) but this one didn't hold a candle to them. Wasn't it possible for them to cut out about five minutes from the beer bash and grant this match a little additional time?
La Resistance looked passable. I've seen better teams, but I've also seen much worse. That they came to the ring wearing berets deserves immediate applause, though. You've gotta admire a couple of guys with balls that big. Tommy Dreamer stole the spotlight with that crazy cool DDT / Neckbreaker combo, but eventually laid down for a few cane shots. I really like that they're putting these guys against Steiner and Test right away, as it's giving more substance to the tag division and giving the new team a little time to get over with crowds before their imminent title feud against Van Dam and Kane. Nice to see a rare moment of solidarity between Test and Steiner, too. 99% of the time, that segment would've ended with Scotty suplexing his partner from behind, for inadvertantly costing them a match earlier in the night. I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe there is life in the tag division's future after all.
I am completely disinterested in the women's division again. Trish has lost so many matches against Jazz in the long run, that it's hard to imagine she deserves another title shot at Judgment Day, even after losing this match through questionable means.
Goldberg's got new tights to go with his new music. Why didn't they use "Rip Em" as his theme music again? Is the WWE too good for Megadeth? I was cringing the moment they even mentioned this match, because this was Goldberg, this was Canada, and his opponent was Canadian. Far from a perfect equation. Surprisingly enough, though, he came out to a pretty decent reaction that sustained throughout his appearance. Either the WWE's become uncannily good at canning heat, and they've also mastered the art of superimposing members of the audience, (mouthing "Gooooldbeeeeerg") or he was genuinely over. Though I'm still unhappy to see him no-selling chair shots on a regular basis, they've still got something worth investing further interest in with him. My major question is why the ref counted a pinfall and sounded the bell after Goldberg speared, jackhammered and pinned Rico. That's right up there with Scott Steiner tagging himself in from a neutral corner to win a tag match a couple weeks ago. Poor officiating or poor writing, your call.
The show then wrapped up with Austin's promised "beer bash", in which Goldberg had to have become mind bogglingly drunk. Where Austin usually pours beers into his mouth, delivering most of the payload onto his chest and spitting out the rest, Goldberg downed about half a dozen cans in under a minute. His eyes glazed over, he then stalked around the ring merrily, climbing the turnbuckle (nearly falling a couple times in the process) and roaring a goofy drunken roar at the live crowd. The show then spiralled completely into lunacy, as about a hundred random people in Steve Austin t-shirts poured from the backstage area with red cups full of frothy liquid pleasure, and surrounded the ring. And the WWE stayed with the live footage for a full five minutes.
Seriously, what the HELL? That had to be among the most bizarre closing moments I've ever seen on RAW. Otherwise, a pleasantly offbeat show. They made some mistakes, but they also kept me entertained. It was a solid episode, with a few storylines that could go somewhere. I'm not entirely enthused, but I'm not feeling alienated either.
Overall Score: 4