I've been saying it for a few weeks now, but Steve Austin's really coming back into full swing as a performer. He's begun to blur the lines between a heel and a face once again, which was a key element of the "Austin 3:16" character that took him to the main event in the late '90s. More importantly, though, he's regaining his emotion during promos. Last night, Austin really appeared to believe what he was saying. He was working the mic with devotion and enthusiasm, and it radiated around the arena. Stopping Triple H mid-spit was classic Stone Cold, and illustrates a big part of why I'm having no problem accepting him as co-GM. He's allowing his character to slide into the role, abusing his power in methods that make sense when compared to his own history. Though he overlooked a few former World Champions in his short list, it made the promo feel that much more off the cuff and honest. I'm getting tired of the whole "losing my composure" line, but that's serving to phase out the "What" trend that I so despised, so it's for a greater good in the long run and I still can't grasp why he wears those knee braces everywhere.
Rico left Three Minute Warning. Good. I've only seen him active in the ring about four times, so I can't draw any sort of conclusions on his ability as an athlete, but any time you move a wrestler from a non-active capacity to an active one, it's a good thing. Especially when you've got a small roster and an entire PPV to fill within thirty days. Now if we could only get to business on doing the same thing with Nunzio.
Austin and Bischoff made the most of their little segments together. The whole vomit spots were silly, as they always are, but Austin plays a great loud, obnoxious, "hey! this guy feels like shit, so let's fuck with him!" pseudo-roommate. This segment probably went over well in college dorms around the country. And, for the record, "hair of the dog" actually works. Bisch should've taken a sip.
I wasn't as impressed with Christian's new 'do as Justin was. On one hand it's a good thing, because it symbolizes to the fans that this is a fresh start, and maybe they'll forget all the aborted pushes the guy's endured in the past. On the other, he looks about ten years younger now (which is bad, considering he looked to be about 25 with the mane) and he still dresses like a thirteen year old girl attending her first Lollapalooza. Jericho got a laugh out of me, dubbing his new television screen the "Jeri-tron 5000," and the collective audience quickly glanced at their watches to begin the countdown until the thing is destroyed. It's a proven fact... any time you aknowledge something expensive in or near the ring, it's like bringing a birthday cake out there with you. The damn thing's gonna wind up in pieces, no matter what.
RVD and Kane vs. the Canadian C's was very much underwhelming. I generally enjoy everybody who was involved in this match, discounting Kane, but these guys just weren't clicking out there. Nice hot series of nearfalls at the conclusion, but it was too little too late. RVD's moveset is slowly growing stale, and his popularity is beginning to diminish. This is what extending an "unlikely pairing" angle over the period of six months can do to someone. On the flip side, Booker T looked motivated as hell out there. I'm really looking forward to an extended program between he and Christian, as I'll enjoy that no matter what the end result may be.
A sincerely moving promo between HBK and Flair backstage. Love him or hate him, there's no denying that Ric Flair can emotionally captivate an audience better than anyone else. Shawn Michaels could've said just about anything here, so long as he kept a straight face, and the segment would've soared. This felt good.
Rodney Mack and Spike Dudley almost shot the "White Boy Challenge" wad with their match, but managed to give us an extremely entertaining battle all the same. I was genuinely surprised by this match. Everybody knew it'd either be Spike Dudley or Chris Nowinski strolling out from behind that curtain, when Mack called out to the locker room, and I think I actually heard a collective moan from the audience when Spike emerged. Within the course of five minutes, though, these two had the audience on the edge of their collective seats. Maybe that's an old formula working to perfection, maybe that's two underappreciated talents doing their jobs, all I care about is the end result. Great TV, but come on... who taps out with one second remaining? There's not a soul alive who can't withstand the "pain" of a million dollar dream for a single second.
I did chuckle over the name of the move, though. The "black out"? Classic. I'm also wondering how long we've got until Booker T busts out a "Don't hate the playa" on Theodore Long.
I blinked and missed the Resistance / Unlikely Whiteys matchup. I did catch the aftermath, though. I was just waiting for Stacy to split like a wishbone, with those two tugging at each arm. What a stupid, cartoony moment that was... and they capped that off by playing Kid Rock's hideous cover of ZZ Top's "Legs," her theme song, as she strode out of the ring alone. Wouldn't life be much more entertaining if the real world were accompanied by entrance music?
It really sucks that Lance Storm pissed someone off backstage. C'mon, he was involved in the IC battle royal for about fifteen seconds, and landed absolutely zero offense against Goldberg here. There's no reason to crush ANYONE that difinitively in such a short amount of time, whether it's Lance Storm, The Rock or freaking Ralphus. I wish they'd just finish with Storm and release him so he can be productive in another fed, because it's become painfully obvious they'll never let him amount to anything in WWE. That really sucks, too, because he was incredible when WCW let him run with the ball upon his debut there.
Flair and Triple H did just what it needed to do. It would've been nice to get a fluke World Title victory out of the Nature Boy, but in the back of your mind you had to know it wouldn't have been good in the long run. Somewhere down the line, a face is going to benefit enormously by finally defeating Trips for his coveted World Title, though Kevin Nash is NOT the right guy to do so. I'm glad they're letting this title gain some prestige, rather than passing it around like a hot potato every couple of weeks. Every part of this match was screaming upset, which only served to fuel the fire underneath the South Carolina fans. A fine match, considering the obvious limitations, that kept the audience hot throughout and delivered that glimmer of hope, if just for a short time. I really wish they would've aired the post-show segments, rather than moving right along the Kevin Nash and the HIAC announcement, though there's still a chance we'll see all that next week in recap.
This Hell in a Cell match is going to suck hairy, sweaty, dirty, smelly donkey testicalia. And yes, I just combined the words "genitalia" and "testicles" into one horrendous new word. That's my way of showcasing just how horrid this World Title match will be.
Despite the promise of a much darker day on the horizon, I enjoyed this show. It was above average, through and through, and though I was disappointed in Flair's loss, I understood the reasoning and enjoyed the moment all the same.
Overall Score: 6.5